PWI UPDATE ARCHIVES

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 18-24, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 11-17, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 4-10, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 27-December 3, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 20-26, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 13-19, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 6-12, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 30-November 5, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 23-29, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 16-22, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 9-15, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 2-8, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 25-October 1, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 18-24, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 11-17, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 4-10, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 28-September 3, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 21-27, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 14-20, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 7-13, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 31-August 6, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 24-30, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 17-23, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 10-16, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 3-9, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 26-July 3, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 19-25, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 12-18, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Weeks Of May 29-June 4 and June 5-11, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 22-28, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 15-21, 2009
THE TURN SPECIAL EDITION: 2009 Hall of Fame Inductees
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 2-8, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 24-May 1, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 17-23, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 10-16, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 3-9, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 27-April 2, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 20-26, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 13-19, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 6-12, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 27-March 5, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 20-26, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 13-19, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 6-12, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 30-February 5, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 23-29, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 9-15, 2009
THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 2-8, 2009

OLDER ARCHIVES
PWI Update Archives: 2008
PWI Update Archives:July-December 2007
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
PWI Update Archives: June 2006
Older Archives

Newer Archives

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 18-24, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Happy belated holidays to everyone and my sincerest apologies for the delay. In step with the Christmas break last week, The Turn took the liberty of enjoying the holiday with friends and family and proudly brings you a special Monday edition of your favorite time killer.

Sooo … heard any good rumors over the past few days?

It’s funny, when I heard that there was a good chance that Bret Hart was actually considering a return to wrestling—let alone WWE—I immediately dismissed it as wishful thinking. Even while adhering to the Stu Saks maxim of never saying never, this seemed to be as close to a “never” situation as there ever was. Seriously, for a time there it actually felt the only way Hart would make it back to WWE was in a car driven by Randy Savage with the Ultimate Warrior tied up in the trunk. In short: never.

Sure, Hart has flirted with the idea through interviews and, to be fair, he was never set off into exile like the other two men mentioned above. No, Hart’s lack of involvement with WWE was a conscious, personal decision of which he has never indicated any regret. Displeased with the direction of the industry (specifically, then-WWF) Hart walked away knowing he accomplished everything he intended to when his career started and left a legacy any wrestler would be proud to call his own.

Yet, it was never Hart that I, personally, felt sorry for during his self-imposed sabbatical; it was us. See, we were the group being hurt the most during the absence of a great talent and mind like a Bret Hart, Sting, Undertaker or, perish the thought, Shawn Michaels. When any of these guys are away from the industry for any extended period of time, the business suffers for it. Like it or not, they bring something to the industry that any number of John Cenas could not: experience and credibility.

Hart may, in some respects, outshine the prestigious list mentioned above if not because of what he accomplished during his career, but also because of the unknown that comes with a nearly decade-long absence from the spotlight. Should we expect a bitter, nasty Hart whose every attempt at humor or humanity is truly a veiled shot at WWE? Perhaps we’ll see a reticent Hart interested in moving away from his past and, to some extent, bringing closure to the sordid history that helped bring about his retirement? I could not begin to guess and that’s precisely what’s going to make this most entertaining.

Tonight’s episode of Raw should be eye-opening at the very least. With Hart’s rumored return to the company coming next Monday, tonight will be the organization’s best opportunity to move forward any storyline that could follow as well as be the marketing opportunity of all marketing opportunities. Two unfettered hours to promote the biggest return in the past 20 years of wrestling will definitely test the mettle of the WWE marketing department as well as the creative team. Truly, this could be a genuine turning point for the company.

Of course … it could all fall through and we’d be left with the guy who played Urkel promoting his work with a charity that provides dental retainers for cats.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (12/18)
We’re never for the little guy beating the big guy shtick that Smackdown is, once again, pushing on us via the Rey Mysterio Jr.-Batista feud. However the 12/18 match between the two actually left us impressed. Not only did Mysterio Jr. utilize an inside cradle to pull off the victory, but Batista made it look damn good. In the end, Mysterio Jr. was the number-one contender to The Undertaker, Batista was crabbier than usual and all was odd with the Smackdown world.

WWE Tribute To The Troops (12/19)
John Cena defeated Chris Jericho in the main event grudge match on Saturday night’s sixth annual Tribute To The Troops special, airing this year on NBC. Easily one of our favorite events of the wrestling year, the broadcast always seems to be a great time for the troops and allows writers like us an hour or so of mindless television. One thing that dawned on us this year, however, was how crappy it must be to find out that you’re the rulebreaker slated to go against the fan favorite in the main event. That’s pretty much a guaranteed loss, no?

Raw (12/21)
There aren’t words to describe our level of disgust with the way D-X has been phoning it in of late. While the gag ended years ago and, quite clearly, the duo exists solely to sell T-shirts and other related crap to those who do not need (nor should want) it, their “Little People’s Court” segment on Monday night signaled a new low, even for them. Someone needs to roll up a newspaper and smack the jackasses who greenlight this crap on the nose while pointing out that it’s not funny. You know the stuff people think about wrestling when they make fun of you for watching wrestling? This is it.

ECW On Syfy (12/22)
Hey, remember how big we were on Jack Swagger and his upward momentum and ability to carry his ECW success across brands and become a viable rulebreaker with the potential to be a main eventer? Yeah … well … our bad. Someone got the late season call-up to the bigs only to start the next season in Double-A ball, no? Nevertheless, welcome back to ECW, Jack. You can always tell your fan about the cup of coffee you had with Raw and how you always really wanted to be with ECW, anyway. Right?

Impact
No Impact this week as it was Christmas Eve. But, no worries fellow fans, we get treated to a four-hour (yes … you read that right) episode recapping 2009’s greatest moments this Thursday night on New Year’s Eve.

And Finally … Happy 55th birthday to “The Genius” Lanny Poffo who, believe it or not, it still writing poems and limericks. Only now, he does so to raise attention to actual social issues and not the ire of the paying customers.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 11-17, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Last week’s biggest story was something I consciously chose to not cover in the intro of “The Turn” for reasons I’m still not entirely sure of. Whether I was waiting for more information available, hoping that the news was somehow incorrect, or simply in disbelief that it could happen again, the name Umaga—actually, Eddie Fatu—did not appear anywhere in the column.

My emotions upon hearing the news that yet another professional wrestler had passed away at such a young age under circumstances not entirely clear were varied. You’d think that by this point given my years of being a fan and now a writer, I would be used to situations such as this; but, to be honest, it never gets any easier. And, each time, regardless of who it is that meets an untimely and unfortunate demise, one of my first instincts is to think back about what I’ve said about the person.

It’s really a strange phenomenon that I would imagine only folks who write about professional bullfighting, base jumping or some other inherently dangerous sport would experience. Only difference is they expect the odd mishap that could end up with a competitor dying in the performance of their skill; we, on the other hand, lose our competitors while they’re on the road, in hotel rooms or struggling with leaving the industry behind. It’s a weird industry with weird phenomena and we’re weird for following it.

So, with the passing of Umaga—never one of my favorite wrestlers—my selfish mind immediately went into scan mode to not determine whether I’d crapped on a man who died only a few years older than I am, but just how many times I did. And, in doing so, does that make me a bad person? Have I spoken ill of the dead? Does it even count if you do it while he’s alive? And, perhaps the worst thought one could have: Who’s next?

Maybe that was it. Perhaps it was the underlying guilt I was feeling about tearing into a guy more often than not and now, suddenly, he wasn’t just a wrestler with a painted face and taped thumb; he was a son, brother and friend who had left behind many people that cared about him. Who the hell was I to criticize a guy on a weekly basis? He worked his ass off, sacrificed what we would call a “normal” life all for the opportunity to entertain snot-nosed jackasses like me who could rip him from the comfort of my office desk.

It was at that point of self-reflection and pondering that it occurred to me that not only was I not a bad person … I’m a writer. My approach to covering the industry is to call it as I see it, give the opinion of someone living on the fringe of the industry and blatantly point out my biases where they exist. Fatu’s job—which he did well—was to make myself and fans everywhere dislike him, plain and simple. The guy I trashed as a Samoa Joe ripoff wasn’t Eddie Fatu, it was Umaga, a poorly developed character with no real future aside from the occasional squash job and comedy routine.

I think that’s where it’s easy for both fans and writers to get lost in the extraordinarily fine line between the industry and reality. Personally, I feel awful for the entire Fatu clan as well as anyone who knew and cared for Eddie. They’ve lost someone integral to their lives and will now live everyday with the void that it brings. Professionally, I did my job. I didn’t call the man out, I called out the persona and the company that forced it on us. Call it like I see it, live on the fringe, admit bias; that’s what you want and what we all try to provide.

We must move forward as a fan base and continue to be as objective as possible in our assessments and as ravenously supportive in our biases as we can be. While the sobering reminders of the fragility of life always accompany situations such as this, I genuinely believe we would all be doing a great disservice to those competitors who risk everything to entertain us. Eddie Fatu will be mourned and missed, Umaga was meant to be disliked and I’ll continue trashing the trash and collecting the cash.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (12/11)
Hey, Batista and Rey Mysterio Jr. met up—again—on Smackdown last Friday night in what was billed as a street fight but really turned into an ass kicking contest that, apparently, the masked-one did not receive an invitation to. Mercifully, the mini-feud between the two appears over due to Batista’s pursuit of The Undertaker and the World championship. Where Mysterio Jr. goes from here is, quite honestly, anyone’s guess.

Raw (12/14)
Sometimes comedian, full-time talk-over-your-head artist Dennis Miller hosted the special three-hour Slammies episode of Raw on Monday night and word is he and WWE head Vince McMahon did not see eye-to-eye backstage. Who would’ve seen this coming? They're like F. Scott and Zelda—they don't come home ’til March. Yeah, we didn’t get it either.

ECW (12/15)
Damn, we love us some Paul Burchill. Seriously, we killed this guy constantly but, you know something, after showing up on ECW as The Ripper with his sister in tow, no less, and being unmasked by The Hurricane consider our tune changed. Whether it’s just our bias toward wrestlers in poor disguises or if we just appreciate a poorly planned ruse, we’re certainly proud of Burchill and his embarrassingly bad plan. Well played, lad.

Impact (12/17)
Welcome back, Roxxi. For your efforts you enjoyed a well-deserved victory over ODB followed by a beatdown at the hands of the same opponent. Actually, it’s good to see Roxxi back in TNA, at least for the time being. She was always one of our favorites and actually is quite adorable with, you know, hair.

And Finally … Ready to feel old, fellow fans of the original beast known as ECW? A happy birthday to former WWE champs “Stone-Cold” Steve Austin and Rob Van Dam. Austin turns 45 today while “RVD” sees the end of his thirties on the horizon at age 39.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of December 4-10, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

You know who I miss watching wrestle? Jay Lethal. Sure, I know he’s still a featured member of the TNA roster. and, yes, I recognize that right now he’s in the midst of kicking off his Black Machismo Invitational. But, I found myself wracking my brain this morning on the way into the office in the hopes of determining when the last time I saw Jay Lethal wrestle a match.

I bring this up because two things struck me last night as I sat watching Impact. First, that TNA—although still pre-taping—has yet to get down the whole “cueing for the camera” thing. Never have I seen so many interviews where the wrestler goes from zero-to-60 after the camera is thrown to them. It’s fantastically bad, and I love every second of it.

Secondly, and more importantly, it occurred to me that one of the greatest live matches I’ve ever seen—and I’ve seen quite a few—was between Jay Lethal—pre-Machismo—and Sonjay Dutt during TNA’s maiden tour of local venues. The two men put together a match that left the audience at the former ECW Arena breathless and at the same time begging for more. Plus, I threw around my PWI credentials to get ringside seats, which rocked. So, really, the match could’ve been garbage and I still would’ve loved it.

As I, and my PWI colleagues, have opined time and again, Lethal has all the tools to be one the greats of this new generation of wrestlers. Despite feeling as if he’s been around for quite some time, the man is still only 24 years old. In that regard, as I’ve argued, watching this “Black Machismo” phase of his career is palatable. You have to look at it the same way your folks did when you grew out your hair and listened to crappy emo music: it’s just a phase and he has his whole life ahead of him. Oh, they may have had their doubts, but they loved you just the same.

Enjoying Jay Lethal in any form is something we can all rally around, so that doesn’t worry me much. In fact, the knowledgeable wrestling fans around the world tend to separate the man from the persona at some point in their careers. Kane is not Isaac Yankem and Kevin Nash is not Vinnie Vegas … unless they anger me and I need to remind us all of the evil dentist and 7-foot … pimp? I’m not sure what Nash was thinking, but that’s for another 1,000 words.
One day, Jay Lethal will simply be Jay Lethal. He’ll be as charismatic and entertaining as anything Machismo-related. I still stand by my assertion that one day this man will be TNA World champion, assuming he stays with the promotion that long. I have no doubt in my mind that Lethal is the type of guy bookers salivate at having on the roster and, at times, bury to keep in check. He’s that good.

My hope is that eventually the persona of the real Jay Lethal gets to shine through at some point not too far down the line. The “Black Machismo” angle has succeeded in getting him noticed in what was once a company full of mid-card cruiserweights and not, you know, old heads that can’t let go, as it currently is. He’s separated himself from the pack and now it’s time, in my opinion, to remind the world just how good Jay Lethal truly can be.

The week in televised wrestling:

Smackdown (12/4)
While this may come off as bashing, we truly mean for it to be viewed as concern. Is it just us, or has the Hart Dynasty put together a string of disappointingly sloppy victories of late? Listen, we’re okay with them bending the rules and taking liberties as they see fit, but we never expected the wrestling to not be tight. It will get better, right? It has to… right?

Raw (12/7)
As admitted fans of Sheamus, we’d like to use one cautionary tale if we could in the hopes that he truly appreciates the opportunity he’s been given. We’ve seen this happen time and again where guys are given the spotlight against the big guns (like John Cena) and slither off into oblivion (or, ECW) afterward. Our advice to the pale one: Realize that you will not win this one, but start putting down stakes in the main event world. Plan for the future now.

ECW on Syfy (12/8)
Remember how excited we all were when Tommy Dreamer achieved his dream of winning the ECW title and making all the dreams of his childhood come true? Dream. Anywho, those times have passed and now the only remaining ECW original likely not in prison, dead, or dead in prison continues to get the holy hell knocked out of him on a weekly basis. Tuesday night, it was WWE newcomer Lance Archer’s turn to pick up the quick W while shaving a few months off Dreamer’s life. While we all love seeing the underdog succeed, we tend to forget that it’s the crippling beatings that made them an underdog in the first place.

Impact (12/11)
In the era of regurgitated angles due to overexposure (who would’ve ever thought we’d wish for the days of one show a week?) our least favorite are those that involve wrestler’s wives, hence the angle involving Krystal and Bobby Lashley with Scott Steiner is particularly annoying. Add to it that it looks like Steiner drew a sketch of Krystal’s face on the front of his tights with a Sharpie (that’s sooo 1990s) and you’ve got all the makings for a weekly bathroom break.

And Finally … Think you can do better than the brilliant minds at PWI? Always wanted to give us the full force of your crap but couldn’t decide which medium would give you the most direct line to our souls? Well, suckas, we made it easy for you. Head over to http://prowrestlingillustrated.blogspot.com/ and enjoy the PWI family’s first foray into the blogosphere. There will be original posts, musings, and discussions among all who participate and the extremely personable, and relatively well liked PWI staff of writers, editors and, occasionally, legendary publisher and would-be power forward for the Knicks, Stu Saks. Check it out early and often. It still has that new blog smell.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 27-December 3, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

As a personal rule, I generally try to avoid talk of two things: politics and religion. I have a good deal of friends that I greatly respect and enjoy and yet would be my diametric opposite on both topics. Regardless, I still feel it best to steer the conversation away from those two topics.

However, there are times when even I—master of avoidance—have to call crap on someone regarding politics and, you, Jesse Ventura, win the prize. Pimping his new television program Conspiracy Theory where the former governor of Minnesota (nice job, gophers) waxes wacko, Ventura went off—yet again—on the great conspiracy that was … the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Yep … he’s still on that and does not appear to be backing off it anytime soon.

Listen, I’m all for anyone and everyone giving their opinion on just about anything in this country. It’s kind of one of the things I genuinely like about being an American. Hell, I spew garbage weekly and get paid for it; it’s a pretty sweet gig. But, despite my crush on the First Amendment, I have to take issue with Ventura’s position.

It’s not that my political beliefs allow me to see things differently than the former governor, but it’s more the nagging feeling I get that the big man is getting way too much mileage off his self-created controversy. There comes a point where one has to start questioning the veracity of his beliefs compared to the ink it gets him in mainstream publications.

This week, Ventura nearly started an all-out brawl when he abruptly left an on-air interview on the Opie And Anthony satellite radio show.  Immediately, mainstream publications picked up on it and, naturally, reported that it was Ventura’s beliefs on the terror attacks that spurred the animosity—and that he had a show airing soon.

Suppose there’s no such thing as bad publicity, eh? So, here’s to you Jesse. I liked you so much better when you were knee-deep in feather boas or hunting Predators.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (11/27)
Initially, we were torn on the idea of repackaging Festus into his current persona of Luke Gallows. Frankly, we can’t remember the last time it worked in any way, shape, or form in WWE, at least not in the short amount time between angles that Festus Gallows is getting. But, this instance feels refreshingly different than others past. By pairing Gallows with C.M. Punk and his built-in fanbase, WWE is giving the man immediate credibility and more face time than he would’ve likely gotten otherwise. Similarly, in acknowledging that yes, kids, the man you see now used to be Festus but has turned his dark, flawed life around thanks to Punk’s tutelage; WWE is not insulting our intelligence. We don’t know that Gallows will end up as anything, but we like the start.

Raw (11/30)
Aside from the occasional reality show urination scene, nightmarish rumored porn tape, and little to hang his tiny hat on aside from being a novelty in a Mike Myers movie franchise, hosting this past Monday night’s episode of Raw was the single greatest achievement in the life of Verne Troyer. Offering up U.S. champion The Miz to an extraordinarily nimble and angry Mark Henry, well, that was just the best thing he could do for all of us. Overall, there really wasn’t much to Monday night’s broadcast that Troyer could control. Unfortunately for him, the show could’ve gone on just the same with anyone in charge.

ECW on Syfy (12/1)
Trent Barreta and Caylen Croft made a rather impressive debut on Tuesday night’s broadcast of ECW and, if we at “The Turn” can offer any advice to the up-and-coming duo, it would be to make their own future in the brand and to not wait for anyone to hand them anything. Far too often we hear of wrestlers crediting themselves with rising through the ranks and making their own path, however that’s usually just a footnote in the Wikipedia entry detailing said wrestlers’ demise. When ECW was billed as the next great developmental territory for WWE, we really wanted to believe it. Every now and then, it seems like that’s precisely the case; the story of Barreta and Croft makes us feel like this is once again the case.

Impact (12/3)
Remember when Dixie Carter was hellbent against ever appearing on TNA television? It was all about the talent and the wrestlers and there was no reason for her to be part of any angle, recall? Hey, it’s not that we don’t mind seeing her on television and, in fact, she’s a wonderfully well-spoken and intelligent owner but … but … are the faux-shoot interviews really accomplishing anything? Regardless of who they trot out to pump up the new direction of TNA—and subtly further storylines—the fact remains that fans are going to watch TNA to see how the Hulk Hogan—Jeff Jarrett—Sting power struggle plays out. Mrs. Carter’s presence neither bolsters nor detracts from the level of intrigue that the potential train-wreck we call TNA brings with it. Still, if there is a silver-lining to the interview segments, it would have to be the wonderfully creepy close-ups of Mike Tenay nodding knowingly.

And Finally … This upcoming Monday, December 7, would have been the 51st birthday of one of the greatest short-term villains in WWF history: “Ravishing” Rick Rude. Known best for singled-handedly keeping the screen printed tights industry afloat during the 1980s, Rude’s career reached its pinnacle when he defeated The Ultimate Warrior for the Intercontinental championship at WrestleMania V. After brief stints with WCW, ECW, and, again, WWF, Rude retired from wrestling in 1994 and, sadly, was gone by 1999.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 20-26, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Happy day after Thanksgiving to one and all!  If you’re reading this column, you either enjoyed a nice, tryptophan-induced nap following a hearty meal, or you’re perusing your Blackberry while in line at some monument of U.S. consumerism hoping to grab the best and cheapest deal possible.

Hopefully, you were able to make it back safely from Walmart this morning and they still had one last half-price futon in stock that would totally complete the bedroom you’ve constructed in your folks’ attic just until, you know, you hear back about that marketing job you’re totally overqualified for but probably won’t get because it’s all “political.”

Sorry … had a bit too much of Grampa’s special spiked eggnog last night. The holidays always bring out the best of my giving nature, and the worst of my liver’s ability soak up nog. I’m sure your futon is lovely and that the company will call any day now. If not, you’re probably too good for them anyway. Feel better, kids?

Enjoy “The Turn”—as good as leftovers with only half the guilt.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (11/20)

Easily, the most valuable person in the Smackdown brand—if not all of WWE—that is not named Undertaker would have to be C.M. Punk. While you may not see it the same way solely because the guy not only isn’t carrying gold right now, but is actually stuck in the mid-card (for what reason we’ll never know), we urge you to take a closer look. Desperate for new talent to step up and assume the mantle of “go-to guy,” Punk is using his star power to singlehandedly help build up the perennially disappointing R-Truth while consistently delivering top-notch promos and matches. Do we ever see an Edge or Triple-H doing something like this? The guy is willing to put the company first, and we admire the hell out of him for it.

Raw (11/23)

We have to admit, as much as we poo-pooed the idea of top-tier WWE talent being used to help elevate new, up-and-coming stars (see above), the direction the company’s Monday night program is taking is surprisingly refreshing. You know, assuming they stick to the plan. With guys like Sheamus (heading into a WWE title match with John Cena), Kofi Kingston (bubbling feud with Randy Orton), and the clever “Breakthrough Battle Royal,” it genuinely appears like Raw is actually committing to something of a youth movement. Thanks to bat-crap crazy guest host Jesse Ventura, this week’s Raw was a winner. Next up is reality television star and former Mini Me, Verne Troyer.  Well, you know what they say—there’s no small roles only small … ahh, screw it. That’s too easy even for our dulled minds.

ECW on Syfy (11/24)

The years-long quest by Shelton Benjamin to capture championship gold greater than that of the top mid-card variety (we’re talking Intercontinental and U.S. titles) could finally … finally … be reaching its ultimate conclusion at WWE’s TLC pay-per-view. In the “Ladders Match” portion of TLC, current ECW champion Christian will be defending the gold against Benjamin in the first title match for the brand on a WWE pay-per-view in over three months. While it may be a stretch to think that Christian actually will lose the gold (he’s just been too damn good of late), it’s not so tough to imagine that ECW’s offering could be the match of the night. Christian has become a bona fide ring general over the years and Benjamin’s supreme athleticism and ability to rise to the occasion—while somehow not winning—has all the makings of a classic bout definitely worth watching.

Impact (11/26)

All right, when faced yet again with a unique opportunity largely of its own doing, we sincerely hope TNA takes very seriously the implications that come with the latest installment of the Feast Or Fired match. Sure, not having it happen on Thanksgiving night, which would, oh, make sense, TNA will be holding the contest at its Final Resolution pay-per-view on December 20.  It’s not that we have anything substantive regarding storylines or angles that we’d like to see TNA run with, but rather a general hope that a match with such amazing opportunities—three guaranteed title shots and one big, fat pink slip on the line—isn’t bungled as it has been in the past. Too many guys were allowed to use their title shots as collateral in their angles that it got to the point where fans could not determine who had what at which time. Realistically, the results of the 2009 “Feast Or Fired” match should launch four separate and distinct angles with which Hulk Hogan’s infinite creativity should be able to mold into highly watchable television, right?

And Finally … The Hulkamania—Let The Battle Begin tour is making its way to an arena near you. Assuming you’re someone who is near the former convict colony that gave the world the likes of vegemite, Paul Hogan, and the basis for Outback Steakhouses everywhere. That’s right, you’re going to have to get your folks to cash in their 401(k) in order to get down to Australia if you’re so hankering to see Hulk Hogan—looking every bit his 74 years—wrestle the allegedly retired 106-year-old version of Ric Flair. Plus, the last scheduled show is tomorrow, so you’d better get your hustle on. If you can’t swing a trip around the world with such late notice, check out the website (http://www.hulkamania.com.au/index.php) or, even better, do a quick Google search of the images of the events. The gratuitous Flair ass-shot will haunt your dreams.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 13-19, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

There’s a wonderfully subtle socio-economic theme when it comes to making a villain in wrestling. I’ve spoken to this at times in the past, but seeing TNA Legends champion on Impact last night re-ignited one of my more sacred beliefs about the industry.

My first sacred belief about the industry, which I must credit to legendary publisher and rangy softballer Stu Saks is, quite simply, “Never say ‘never’”. I’ve never forgotten that piece of advice and am reminded of it every time someone mentions Randy Savage. The second sacred belief I hold as true as ever—credit, this time, to Eric Young—is that, Villains are made by insulting the masses in a finely tailored suit.

It’s as time-honored a tradition as any in the industry that I believe is rooted in the long-held belief that nothing is easier to hate than someone who thinks they’re better than you — and there’s no better way to show superiority in wrestling than by wearing a three-piece suit.

Ric Flair, Chris Jericho, Triple-H, Batista, the entire Main Event Mafia, and now Young all used the power of the suit to make you hate them. Put a guy in tights and/or a mask and he’s king; wrap him in Armani and he’s everything that has ever been wrong with the history of mankind, ever.

Honestly, I hope this never changes and couldn’t see any reason why it ever would. Perhaps the fact that the suit has, in some respects, made “the man” throughout the years and now is available to the likes of an Eric Young says something about the image’s staying power in an ever-changing business. Nothing widens the gap in the class divide like the sinister villain in classy threads holding you back.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (11/13)

Listen, we try our damndest to not harp on things we find trite or painful to watch. Actually, wait, that’s precisely what we do … but, so what? It’s worked for nearly four years now and since none of you have the initiative to complain, we may as well keep at it. Where were we going at first? Ah! That’s right: Even the biggest critic of women’s wrestling on the whole had to at least be intrigued by a match-up between Natalya and Mickie James, right? These two women, at one point, were considered two of the top competitors in the sport. But, alas, their painfully bad offering last Friday night on Smackdown just goes to show how far womens’ wrestling has fallen in today’s industry. As crabby as we can be, we generally don’t try to write anything off completely but, Divas, consider yourselves on notice.

Raw (11/16)

Survivor Series is, oh, you know, two days away and we still have yet to wrap our collective minds around the triple-threat match for the WWE title involving the members of D-Generation X and current champ John Cena. All three are driven and proven main-eventers who could easily carry matches on their own, yet WWE chooses to put all the big eggs in a basket that may not be big enough for their egos alone. So, what gives? Our guess is that someone is going to have to come out of this as the villain. It’s easy to assume that Cena will be booed unmercifully, but wouldn’t it be great if he finally, finally played into that and gave the fans a reason to hate him? How satisfying would that be? The answer: pretty damn.

ECW on Syfy (11/17)

We’ll be the first to admit that we haven’t exactly been fair to Paul and Katie Burchill ever since the former lost the pirate gimmick and the latter decided that she just “didn’t like him like that.”

We felt there would be big things in his future, but then he was never really given anything to work with as far as an angle. We chastised him for failing to take more initiative with the direction of his career, and crumbled with him as he was relegated to clean-up duty on the third brand.

But, then there came the light at the end of the ECW tunnel. Finally, a chance to make a name for himself by unmasking The Hurricane and cementing his place … oh … lost, again, eh? Enjoy TNA, Pat Barchull.

Impact (11/19)

How awesome is it that Bobby Lashley and Scott Steiner don’t get along? Quite honestly, with all the good that’s going on around TNA right now (hey, there’s some) it’s easy to lose sight of the greatness that is two phenomenally muscle-bound men with amateur backgrounds way, way in their respective pasts. Think of what a Lashley-Steiner feud would have been like while both men were in their primes? While Lashley may still be on the fringe of that time or, possibly, still moving toward it, Steiner’s best days are clearly in the past.

Alas, today, we’re treated to a battle between competitors who abhor speaking on microphones and likely have to pay someone to scratch the middle of their backs. This is going to be so bad it’s good.

And Finally … Fifty-five years ago Sunday, Roderick James “Jess” McMahon passed away at the age of 72. The patriarch of the McMahon dynasty entered the professional wrestling business in the early-20th century, leaving a lucrative career in boxing promotion behind. Following his death in 1954, Jess’ son—Vincent J. McMahon—assumed the family business, started the Capitol Wrestling Corporation, and the industry would never, ehhh-ver be the same a-gain.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of November 6-12, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Hey, a silver medal is still a silver medal, right? I mean, sure it’s not a gold but, if there’s enough time left in the race, you still have a shot at taking the top spot, right? Actually, in this case, the mere fact that Republican candidate for Senate Linda McMahon currently sits in, essentially, second place among likely candidates is, very honestly, a huge deal.

Huge.

As I reported both here and in PWI, McMahon’s candidacy for the seat from the great state of Connecticut was the ultimate underdog story. Well, as much of an “underdog” as a multimillionaire with one of the most powerful families in the state can be. Still, to say that McMahon had arguably the toughest road to traverse on the way to the election would be an understatement.

In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, McMahon led long-time incumbent Senator Chris Dodd by a 43 percent to 41 percent margin amongst likely voters; the overall leader amongst candidates was Republican former U.S. Representative from Connecticut’s second district, Robb Simmons. In order to face off with Dodd in the general election, McMahon would have the very difficult task of defeating Simmons in the primary.

To be fair, McMahon’s surge in support could be attributed to any number of variables. Be it a groundswell of support amongst voters who also happen to be wrestling fans, the novelty of having a pseudo-celebrity run for office, or, most likely, the increasing level of disapproval with Dodd’s job (seriously, who proposes massive changes to the Fed coming out of a recession? Look it up, kids), McMahon has a golden opportunity to make things interesting.

With the 2010 election now less than a year away, and the primaries even closer, it’s safe to say that the eyes of political analysts—and wrestling fans—should be firmly fixed on the Nutmeg State and the happenings of the next few months. Don’t expect either Simmons or Dodd to take the high road when directly challenged by a woman who once feigned a catatonic state on television so her husband could grope women a third his age. Come to think of it, there may be no better storyline coming out of Connecticut this next year.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (11/6)
Was it just us, or did the grudge match between Matt Hardy and Batista seem excessively long for Smackdown? Correction: Did the grudge match between Matt Hardy and Batista seem excessively long for any match involving Batista? We’re not sure—and far be it from us to question the all-knowing WWE—but were fans really clamoring for a long Batista match? There’s a reason why the Ultimate Warrior was never in an iron man match. Small doses, minimize the botches, hit the music, and that’s all she wrote.

Raw (11/9)
If Ben Roethlisberger’s hosting of Raw last month didn’t play well across the pond, imagine how solidly this week’s episode from Sheffield, England, led by Ricky Hatton, fared over here. In a word: bleh. Boxing fans—of which “The Turn” staff can be counted—understood the importance of Hatton’s appearance and respected his place in the sport. For the other 90 percent of the country, Monday’s night was a toss-away episode worthy only of TiVo. Add to that the fact that the night really contained very little of consequence (apparently WWE doesn’t like to give it away on foreign soil), culminated by yet another D-X match, and you’ve got the recipe for a yawner.

ECW (11/10)
Every once in a while, a wrestler competes in a match that rightly could be deemed as a “character win.” A big-match victory where a competitor is victorious when virtually no one believes they have a shot to win can take an unknown up to mid-card status and a mid-carder into a main-eventer. Although we’ve always admired Christian regardless of the level at which he competed, his ECW title retention Tuesday night over a heavily favored William Regal showed us something we have not seen in the man in quite some time. It was a gutsy effort that only reinforced our belief that the man belongs on Monday nights. Any doubts the viewing public (and by “viewing public” we mean the McMahons) have about Christian’s ability to carry an angle should have been obliterated with that performance.

Impact (11/12)
Last week, Jay Lethal announced that he will be taking on a different legend of wrestling’s past on upcoming episodes of Impact as part of the inaugural “Black Machismo Invitational,” presented by Hulk Hogan’s TNA. Up first for the former X division champion and “man we all had such high expectations for prior to the gimmick infringement-So Cal Val-Guru angles” was former multi-time tag champion and owner of the most bitchin goatee in the history of wrestling, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. Sadly, the downward spiral of Lethal continued as the 53-year-old Neidhart dusted off the running powerslam for the victory. For those of you keeping count at home, that makes it: Credibility—1, Lethal—0.

And Finally … Ladies of the 1980s can rest a bit easier this weekend; there’s one less tomcat out on the prowl for your company. That’s right, with Jerry Lawler turning 60 yesterday, those ladies born after the Carter administration and before the Clinton era have officially become too old for the man with a sweet tooth for blondes and baggage. But, rest assured Generation Y-ers, your body glitter and black club pants won’t go to waste. This Sunday—November 15—marks only the 57th birthday of bearded dirty ol’ man Randy “Macho Man” Savage. So, another three years of creepiness on that front.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October30-November 5, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

A bit of explanation is needed, I feel, regarding last week's intro. My intention, at that time, was to examine TNA's shocking signing of Hulk Hogan and the impact it would make on not only the company at large, but, specifically, the future of one Jeff Jarrett. In that regard, I felt like I was able to get the basics out regarding my feelings on both matters. Still, I chose not to go in to the specific influence I believed Hogan, Bischoff, and Kevin Arnold's older brother were going to have on the TNA brand of televised product.

The simple fact for that is—and, trust me, I realize the hypocrisy of this next line—we have yet to see the end result. Funny premise seeing as how I took so much time posturing as to things that have yet to come. But that's the beauty of being a writer and why I'm on my end and you're out there. Deal with it.

As Hogan's signing pertains to Impact, I would recommend we wait until there is some sort of discernable indication of the creative direction of the company before calling it out. Although many of the players are the same, TNA is certainly not WCW. Furtherv—and this may be the ultimate leap of faith—you'd have to imagine that someone, somewhere with some stroke saw how WCW was run into the ground and will not allow TNA to go in that direction. Hell, nearly everyone not named McMahon who helped aid with the slow death of WCW will literally be under the TNA company umbrella; just compare notes, for God's sake!

So, while I'm still not thrilled at the prospect of 1980s and ’90s wrestling legend-turned-2000s-reality-TV star and billionth runner-up for father of the year being a part of the industry again, the truth is I have no say in the matter. What I can do is watch TNA's every move and see where the company heads in the coming months with the legend as part of its televised storylines. Then, and only then, will I feel comfortable attacking—or, possibly, lauding—the finished product.

 
The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (10/30)
Okay, so we'll admit that we prefer our Batista as a jerk if we have to have a Batista at all, but we at "The Turn" are completely conflicted on the latest "David vs. Goliath" angle WWE is pushing on us. We've gone on the record time and again discussing how much we dislike the pint-sized underdog (Rey Mysterio Jr. here and, basically, throughout his entire career) taking on and, at times, taking down the muscle-bound rulebreaker (the aforementioned "Animal"). That being said, this angle takes on an even lazier feel when, yes, last Friday night there was a mention of a certain Eddie Guerrero during what was otherwise a solid mike segment. Still, while we're not huge on either Batista nor Rey, we'll watch because, well, we have to. You should check it out to see if WWE does anything different this time around.

Raw (11/2)
Remember when the rebirth of the Osbourne clan was interesting? Recall fondly a time where looking into the lifestyle led by an absolutely fried metal star and his curiously untalented brood was required viewing? Sure! We all do. As unabashed fans of all things Ozzy, we hate to admit how painful it was at times to watch Raw on Monday night and see the "Prince Of Darkness" meander through two hours of something he knows so little about.  Overall, the evening felt like WWE once again missed the pop culture boat and simply picked a name who was told he was interested in hosting. In the end, Chris Jericho was triumphant in a triple-threat match between himself, Big Show, and WWE champion John Cena.

ECW (11/3)
If we can offer one bit of credit to TNA, it's that the company knows when to cut ties with talent it really does not see much of a future in building. You may think that's the case with virtually any promotion and, to an extent, that is true. But, for every Lance Hoyt of the world, there's about 10 Mike Knoxes, so take that into consideration. We bring up Hoyt here because a man bearing a striking resemblance to him, yet going by Vance Archer, enjoyed a very impressive debut with ECW this past Tuesday night. Archer would seem to fit the WWE mold perfectly in that he's big, not particularly slow, and easy to build the company's traditional "big = unstoppable until Triple-H wrestles him" persona. While we don't see Archer making the move to one of the two big brands anytime soon, he does provide a nice infusion of intrigue into Tuesdays. I mean, where else can you find a man who is tall and kicks people?

Impact (11/5)
There was a period of time a few years back where, arguably, TNA had some of the best televised wrestling broadcasts in all of North America. Last night's main event—which featured Daniels (who is not the attacker, by the way) and TNA World champ A.J. Styles (who can't help but be attacked) with Samoa Joe as the guest referee (way too slow to be the attacker)—should have served as reminder of TNA's glory days of only a few years ago. The wrestling was crisp and exciting, the dynamic between the three was still rock solid, and, until Hogan makes his full-time debut, this is just about the best thing going on Thursday nights.

And Finally… Perhaps a better stand-up comedian than professional wrestler, co-headliner of WrestleMania II King Kong Bundy turns 52 tomorrow. Tape up your ribs out of respect.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 23-29, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Alright. Let’s start out this week’s edition of “The Turn” with a little game. Everyone who didn’t have the worst and most publicly humiliating week in the industry, take one giant step forward. Not so fast, Jeff Jarrett.

Wow. Wowy, wow, wow, wow. Soooo … who saw that one coming? I will readily admit that I was certainly not expecting TNA to Mahoney-up and make, easily, the biggest move in company history on a down week in October. But, alas, the legend of legends Hulk Hogan now calls the Impact Zone his home away from home, and he’ll be bringing perennial houseguest Eric Bischoff with him.

No way this can fail, right? I mean, Hogan has never been known to allow his infinitely expanding ego to disrupt a promotion. No, if there’s one man who puts the good of the organization ahead of his own, it’s Hogan.

Sarcasm aside, my first instinct when I heard the news was to quit giving TNA CPR and call the time of death, but that seemed too easy. While the odds may be stacked against a Hogan-Bischoff led (oh, and don’t let “reports” fool you—they’ll be in charge) TNA winning over enough fans to reach WWE levels, I’m not ready to pronounce the organization as WCW-lite. In fact, Hogan coming back to wrestling could be the best thing that ever happened to jackasses like me.

It’s one thing to kill TNA on a weekly basis for not making the most of its situation or allowing the same guys to trot out to the ring and give the same schlocky promos; add Hogan to that situation and it basically sets me up for years to come. Hell, I started a college savings fund the day TNA announced Hogan’s signing because I knew TNA would keep me knee deep in topics.

For example, what is the current line on how long it takes Hogan to win the TNA World title? My guess is that he’s there three months before capturing the gold. Another thing to look forward to is the first “major acquisition” Hogan helps bring in (we’re betting on Ken Anderson), as well as the first, former “major acquisition” to hit the bricks. A Hogan-run TNA promises not only controversy each and every week, but hours of head-scratching storylines and angles. Hell, I am genuinely excited to see where this goes.

Oh, please don’t confuse my excitement with an endorsement of the move. Dear God, no, I don’t think it’s a good idea in the least and I’m certainly not a fan of Hogan, Bischoff, or Kevin Arnold’s big brother Jason Hervey. All three disappoint me in ways that I could not possibly fit into a 1,000-word column. I’m looking at this through the eyes of an auto racing fan: a phenomenal crash is far, far more entertaining than a safe victory.

As I alluded to in the opening, it’s easy to think that Jeff Jarrett is having the worst week of anyone in the business right now. After everything he gave to TNA over the years, to have the higher-ups bring in Hogan and Bischoff at a time where he is persona non grata around the arena has to be devastating. With no other options in the industry aside from TNA, what choice does Jarrett have other than to stay the course and try to work his way back into Dixie Carter’s good graces? That, my friends, is the essence of the 1990s expression, “Sucks to be you.”

In the end, I applaud TNA for going so far against the grain that it likely ended the company’s viability before it ever really took foot. Plus, I want to thank them for giving me a front-row seat to the slow and glorious demise of the organization’s credibility; an organization, mind you, that once called Adam “Pacman” Jones a champion.

I thank you, my kid’s future university thanks you, and fans around the world thank you, TNA.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (10/23)
It would be easy for us to sit back and question why Intercontinental champ John Morrison doesn’t get more play as a potential and future main eventer. By this point in his career, you’d have to figure that if the powers-that-be saw enough of the tools of a future World champ, Morrison would be closer to the bottom of the card than the top. We’re certainly not ready to write him off just yet, but early broadcast matches against Mike Knox—like last week’s—doesn’t exactly give us tons of hope.

Raw (10/26)
Remember when WWE used to paint WCW as a second-rate network of yokels more interested in “rasslin” then the more honorable professional wrestling of the Attitude Era? Yeah, so do we. Funny thing about that is that this week’s guest hosts—NASCAR drivers Kyle Bush and Joey Lagano—were clearly an attempt to tap into an audience the company very clearly eschewed for years. Sure, the duo referred to Kofi Kingston as Kofi Johnston, but who’s keeping count, right?

ECW on Syfy (10/27)
We were very optimistic for a Christian-Yoshi Tatsu ECW championship match and, you know what, their bout on Tuesday night completely validated that excitement. Both men put on a pay-per-view quality contest, especially for a brand that can only get a spot at a pay-per-view by purchasing a ticket like the rest of us. We’re not sure how, or if, ECW can keep this going, but it may be in their best interest to find a way.

Impact (10/29)
Who is beating the stuffing out of A.J. Styles and what is this mystery man’s motive? And, more importantly, was that Vince freakin’ Russo on screen last night and dear God what was he doing there? While we’re all saps for a great “mystery attacker” storyline (our cash is on Sting), seeing Big Daddy Russo on screen last night really threw us for a loop. Why in the world would he be on television, in an angle with the World champ, with a spoken line, no less? It’s as if he feels the need to make sure people still know he’s calling the shots for some reason. Hmmm.

And Finally … Happy belated birthday to Paul Orndorff. “Mr. Wonderful” turned 60 yesterday and, likely, could still whoop each and every one of us.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 16-22, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

There are few things in the industry that genuinely shock me anymore. I feel that over the years of both being a fan and writer, I’ve seen enough to know two things: 1. Never say never, and, 2. Virtually nothing is off-limits. Still, there was one event that occurred this week that, admittedly, threw me for a loop and, ironically, is probably the most compelling story involving WWE in years.

Never in my wildest dreams—although I tend not to dream about wrestling—did I imagine a McMahon leaving WWE to pursue a venture outside of the industry. Earlier this year, Linda McMahon resigned her post within the corporation in order to pursue a U.S. Senate seat and while that may seem permanent, I believe it’s safe to assume that if unsuccessful in her bid, there will be a desk waiting for her in Stamford. However, it was the shocking resignation of Shane McMahon earlier this week that truly staggered me.

While Shane’s role with WWE had changed over the years, his influence both onscreen and off was evident. He was everything Vince would have been were he 20 years younger. And, although people more connected than myself are now claiming the writing was on the wall for Shane, his seemingly permanent departure can easily be viewed as one of the more monumental moments in the company’s history.

The common belief among analysts has been that the reins of the company would have eventually gone to the McMahon-Levesque clan, so Shane’s departure was probably a good move for him in the long run. If that truly were the case, which seems logical, then I would have to agree with the educated consensus. Plus, of the entire group, Shane may be the only one with enough ability and pedigree (pardon the usage) to make a name for himself outside the company. So, in those regards, the move is shrewd and he’s certainly his father’s son.

Still, it’s tough to imagine a WWE without “Shane-O Mac” somewhere in the fold. The possibility of course always exists that even if Shane doesn’t return fulltime he could make the odd appearance, but that could be dictated by the level of success he enjoys away from the industry. As fans, we have to come to terms with the very real possibility that the days of that goofy-ass dance and ridiculous bumps are long gone.

If this is, in fact, the true end of the Shane McMahon era then let me be among the first to wish him well in his future endeavors and thank him for the good that he brought to WWE and urge him to take the garbage that he was responsible for with him on his way out. The keys to the doors of the asylum are now officially in the hands of the folks who thought blowing up the boss was a great way to get publicity. Thanks, Shane.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (10/16)
Was Smackdown really hurting for unlikable characters so badly that the re-emergence of Vickie Guerrero was truly necessary? We’ve tried to ignore her for the past few weeks, but the inevitable push of her boy toy Eric Escobar seems like we’re going to be seeing much more of the former Mrs. Copeland on a weekly basis. Add to that the fact that she’s clearly digging for dirt on current GM Teddy Long, and suddenly Smackdown is back to a place we had hoped was actually over as of this summer. At this point, the best we can hope for is that Vickie’s involvement is limited to the current angle and will be as temporary as possible.

Raw (10/19)
Try as it did, the go-home broadcast of Raw prior to this weekend’s Bragging Rights pay-per-view really didn’t have the intended effect of pumping us up for Survivor Series Lite. For those of you that find the concept behind Bragging Rights too complicated, let us break it down: It’s a regular pay-per-view with a 14-man intrabrand tag match. That’s it. If anything, this week’s Raw left us with an endearing vision of what John Cena could actually be as a wrestler when given the opportunity. His match with Triple-H on Monday night—possibly his last for Raw if he loses this weekend (the stipulation being he leaves the brand)—was as good as any he’s had since joining the main roster.

ECW on Syfy (10/20)
Listen, we’re not fans of Bragging Rights, as evidenced above, but someone needs to let ECW general manager Tiffany know that when you’re last in line and someone with a better spot offers you “cutsies,” you take them. On Tuesday night, Chris Jericho—captain of Team Smackdown at Bragging Rights—made it known to Tiffany that he would be scouting ECW talent for possible inclusion on his squad on the card. Her enlightened response: “Not interested.” For those keeping score at home, Tiffany’s brilliant executive decision now raises the ECW representation on the card to zero. Good call, Tiff.

Impact (10/22)
What in the blue hell happened to Kurt Angle? First he congratulates Matt Morgan on an admittedly well-fought match at Bound For Glory. Then, he uses the fan favorite ramp on Impact last night to come out and jaw with prime TNA acquisition Desmond Wolf and comes off as virtuous. What gives, Kurt? Sure, we’re fans either way, but you have to let us know whether we should hate or root for you well in advance so that we can alter our signs accordingly. For his troubles, however, Angle was nearly decapitated by Wolf later in the night, almost fulfilling the latter’s promise to break the former World champ’s neck. Should be a good one, folks. Keep an eye on where this goes.

And Finally … Best wishes go out to Smackdown lead announcer Jim Ross on a speedy recovery from another bout with Bell’s Palsy. The man has been an icon for so long and brought more attention to the affliction than would normally be seen. Here’s to hoping he’s recovering well and back behind the mike in no time.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 9-15, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Say it ain't so, Lou. Say it ain't so.

When news officially broke on Wednesday that wrestling icon—and if you think about it, the word "icon" really does fit here—Captain Lou Albano passed away at the age of 76, I was met with a strange, comforting feeling that generally does not accompany news of that nature.

Naturally, I retired to my lavish study (or, bathroom) to determine why I wasn't more upset about the news. It didn't take me long to realize what it was about this situation that made it seem different than all of the other wrestling deaths we've experienced as fans over the years. Albano—who gave us so many strange and wonderful memories—lived a full, long life. That was it! Plain and simple. 

We didn't lose a guy in his prime to circumstances we may never fully understand or appreciate. We lost a guy who gave so much to the industry while simultaneously carving out a niche in pop culture that will live on far longer than any of us. Captain Lou's death is sad and it's perfectly acceptable to mourn, however it's not the head-on tragedy that we as fans have been confronted with of late.

Looking back, it's easy to see why the mere mention of Captain Lou's name is so relevant, despite not being part of the mainstream industry for decades. He was a part of what is commonly looked-back on as the new "Golden Era" of wrestling. For better or worse, he was a key figure in Rock ’n’ Wrestling as well as the advent of WrestleMania. Yet, as many people outside of the industry associate him with Cyndi Lauper and Super Mario Brothers as we do with wrestling.

The guy did it all and lived long enough to look back on his contributions. In this regard, it's easy to celebrate the life of Captain Lou rather than look at what potential he left on the table. While Captain Lou will be missed, we would all be foolish to not simply take a moment to appreciate what he brought to wrestling during the latter half of his career as well as those of us old enough to remember his in-ring days. In this regard, the guy can deservedly be called "icon."

Besides, the guy stuck rubber bands to his face! How could you not love that?

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (10/9)
The oil-and-water award of the week easily goes to the main event offering from Smackdown last Friday night when former World champion C.M. Punk, for lack of a better phrase, out-foxed Batista (a shocker, we know) which resulted in a count-out victory for the straight-edge grappler. From our perspective, neither wrestler seemed particularly enthused about the contest. Add to that the fact that both, when at their bests, have so drastically conflicting styles that there was little chance of this match even working. Still, there's no doubt in our minds that this will be milked for all that it's worth, whatever that may be.

Raw (10/12)
Never mind that for some reason Divas are being traded left and right, what about guest co-host Maria Menounos actually competing in a match? While we at “The Turn” are still categorically opposed to the guest host gimmick, we cannot even begin to get into how much we loathe when celebrities attempt to get in the ring with the talent. Yet, here, Menounos came off relatively well in that she didn't look any worse than her competitors, which … ooh ... wait ... ahh … we just realized something. What does that say for the, you know, “trained” professionals? And, the downward spiral that was once women's wrestling in WWE continues.

ECW on Syfy (10/13)
Not really sure what to make of Zack Ryder's semi-turn against William Regal during Tuesday night's ECW. On one hand, the guy is immensely talented and would be a fine addition to the roster of fan favorites in ECW and, eventually, one of the other two brands. On the other hand, the guy comes off like a massive clown that is one really uncomfortable moment away from being the next Rico. While we still won't affix “The Turn” seal of approval on Ryder, we do tend to appreciate talent wherever it exists. Let's keep an eye on this one and see how it plays out.

Impact (10/15)
Is there any chance, whatsoever, that the current run of Matt Morgan being the exiled member of the Main Event Mafia is all just a clever ruse by the MEM to help destroy the band of brothers TNA World champion A.J. Styles has assembled? And, by “any chance” we mean that we are willing to bet that Matt Morgan is your typical, Russonian plant that we have seen time and again for years. While we have been wrong in the past, this whole angle just stinks from the top down of overly-processed intrigue. Of course, Style's shrug-away of Sting last night could be a precursor of things to come, but we're still going to bank on Morgan being the guy.

And Finally … With the memories and stories of Captain Lou Albano's life pouring in from all corners of the globe, we found that the recollections of Paul Heyman have proven to be some of the more touching and downright entertaining out there. Free up some time, pour yourself a second cup of coffee and check out the latest Heyman Hustle at http://www.heymanhustle.com. Always a good read.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of October 2-8, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

This week’s guest host of Raw—quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger—held his own in the land of giants and giant personalities. And, despite not being much of a Steelers fan myself, I actually found “Big Ben” to be affable and, at times, downright watchable on the broadcast.

Naturally, the intended byproduct of having a popular athlete in the midst of his current season host Raw was that major media outlets—including all pertinent sports channels—would undoubtedly cover the event. And, to delve a little deeper, these stations would then broadcast the images to the ever-so-coveted 18-34 male demographic thus giving WWE the old double-dip of publicity it craves.

Unfortunately, though, did anyone catch the coverage of Roethlisberger on Raw as the major sports outlets presented it? Because, you know, I did and shockingly it wasn’t presented in the greatest light.

It’s one thing to get the publicity you’re craving, and it’s something completely different to get it at the expense of your own industry’s eyelash-thin credibility. Guess what WWE: They weren’t presenting Roethlisberger’s appearance as a legitimate sports story. No, they were not laughing with you, they were laughing completely, totally, 100-percent at you.

The WWE has the feel right now of the nerdy kid in high school that joins the talent show with the hopes of winning over his peers; it never works out like it does in John Hughes’ movies. The fact of the matter is that the guest host is irrelevant in the long run. It’s the ends that WWE cares most about and, in that respect, the idea is failing. Sure, they enjoy the weekly bump in viewership numbers, but how many of those folks are going to stick around after the sideshow ends? My guess is not very many.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (10/2)

Alright, here’s our gripe with the Smackdown 10th Anniversary program that aired last Friday night. It may have just been our overly suspicious minds here at “Turn” headquarters, but didn’t it seem weird that the broadcast was largely dominated by wrestlers who try their absolute damndest to avoid working for that brand? The mere fact that WWE anchored the broadcast with a six-man tag match in which four guys were from Raw was a slap in the face of all fans who call Smackdown their brand of choice. Overall, however, the show was fun and a nice throwback to a ten-year-old experiment gone right. Plus, satellite or not, seeing The Rock have anything to do with wrestling is always special.

Raw (10/5)
Wow, it’s so painful to even write this but we at “The Turn” always will give the devils in this business their due and recognize something big when it happens. With that being said, congratulations go out to The Miz on capturing the U.S. championship from Kofi Kingston Monday night on Raw in what ended up being a surprisingly entertaining match. Since he’s stopped dressing like a hipster Bill Belicheck, The Miz has seemed to turn a corner in his career and is loudly making his way toward legitimacy as a wrestler. While he still wouldn’t crack any of our Top 10 (or 25) lists, it is a welcomed change of pace for arguably the most annoying rule breaker in the business today. Hell, that should be a distinction in and of itself.

ECW on Syfy (10/6)
Although ECW champion Christian alluded to it on Tuesday night’s broadcast of ECW, does anyone truly believe that Yoshi Tatsu would ever have a shot at winning—and holding—the brand’s title? Like, you know, ever? We didn’t think so. See, here’s the zany thing we’ve picked-up from following the company lo’ these many years: image means more than talent. Did we just blow your mind? Didn’t think so, either. The fact that Christian acknowledged on Tuesday night that Tatsu is the most deserving contender was telling enough but don’t rush right out and buy his nameplate for your replica ECW title belt (assuming you’re the guy to own one of those). Call it a hunch.

Impact (10/8)
Something about Amazing Red’s X division title win over Samoa Joe last night on Impact just makes the world feel right. Red is a worthy and exciting X division champ and it will be nice to see him run with the title for a bit. And, conversely, Joe is so over that division that he’s probably better off being a guy without a belt fighting in solid programs and matches. We’re okay with the way it turned out, overall. The intrigue comes in that the Bobby Lashley-Joe feud took an interesting turn with Lashley essentially costing Joe the strap through interference. While we like Lashley, we’re about as sold on his wrestling ability as we are Joe’s athleticism, which isn’t saying much. Their submission match at Bound For Glory will either be one for the ages or a sloppy mess.

And Finally … Perhaps the most entertaining event of the fall is quickly coming up and tickets are going fast for Ring Roasts 2: Terry Funk. Following up on the success and raucousness of last year’s roast of The Iron Sheik, the event is quickly becoming a must-see spectacle. Held at the Crowne Plaza hotel on Friday evening, October 23, in Jamesburg New Jersey, the event will be hosted by Bill Apter and feature some of wrestling’s greatest names all taking shots at the hardcore icon. Event organizer James Soubasis summed up the excitement preceding the event by saying, “I can’t even explain Terry Funk's impact on this business. He is loved by all. Wrestlers have contacted me from all over wanting to get in on this Roast.” Promising a great night of stories and memories, Ring Roasts 2: Terry Funk has a variety of ticket packages still available and will be well worth the trip. Further information can be found on the event’s Web page: http://www.ringroasts.com/index.html

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 25-October 1, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

As I prepared to sit down and write today’s intro to the column, I figured it would be an easy, “low-hanging fruit” type of day. Hell, this is the week that saw the phenomenally divisive Al Sharpton host Raw. Quite honestly, anyone could sit down and convey the feelings they had while watching WWE’s flagship program take yet another massive step downward into the great abyss.

Simmering venom building in me, I sketched out some notes to assist with my double-barreled attack on WWE, its choice of host, and how this latest move made the least sense of any thus far. Then … something happened. I received an e-mail from an overseas viewer of Raw who asked a very significant question: Who is Al Sharpton?

With that, I stepped away from my notepad and just let it all sink in as gradually as possible. There are folks in the world who not only don’t know who these people are, but have far less a vested interest in this guest-host promotion than we in the States do. On top of that, there are probably people in the States asking the same question each week: Who is this guy?

Since its inception, I’ve been against the guest-host idea. It felt—and feels—desperate, meandering, and entirely hokey all at the same time. Not once, however, did I consider the impact something like this would have on WWE viewers outside of the U.S. It’s well established that overseas viewers as well as those in Canada and Mexico make up some of the most loyal fan bases for the company. Indeed, WWE is a truly international phenomenon with global appeal.

Foreign fans flood arenas and venues worldwide during WWE’s tours and load up on merchandise and memories. And, for all their troubles, they’re rewarded with a program showcasing someone they’ve likely never heard of, nor have any interest in watching. It’s the ultimate lose-lose situation.

WWE will likely never lose the overseas audience, but it seems like only a matter of time before that demographic takes a hit, in no small part to weak Monday night programming. Pretending for a second that viewers in Europe care in the least that Ben Roethlisberger is hosting Raw (he is, and they don’t), what is their incentive to truly invest time in the program?  
 
Perhaps I’m making too much of this (and feel free to let me know if I am at pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com), but I can’t imagine the e-mailer is alone. Now, I’m certainly not advocating that WWE bring in hosts that will exclude the U.S. audience in favor of the overseas fans. That would just be horrible business and accomplish nothing. But, I know that each week I watch Raw moving forward, I will now consider which members of the WWE Universe WWE is excluding.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (9/25)
Talk about having the hand of god singling you out for a promotion. When Mr. McMahon—oh, who is bad again at the expense of the fine folks of Oklahoma—awarded Drew McIntyre a contract last Friday night on Smackdown, it could easily be considered the biggest moment in the young man’s career. It’s not that we’re particularly intrigued by McIntyre, but with such lofty anointments comes even greater expectations. Congratulations, Drew, you’re officially on “The Turn’s” radar. Now, don’t screw it up.

Raw (9/28)
As mentioned in the intro, Al Sharpton was the guest host for this week’s episode of Raw, which predictably led to more uncomfortable moments and fan ire than any guest host to date. It also led to Raw’s lowest ratings—3.11—in quite some time. The evening was punctuated by a gauntlet match that saw John Cena take beatdown after beatdown before ending the show on top. Yet, very little could conceivably top Sharpton dancing with the Bellas during a backstage segment that was cringeworthy at best. Next up on the slate for WWE’s black hole of entertainment: two-time Super Bowl champion, Ben Roethlisberger. What, wasn’t Pacman Jones available? We hear the fella’s looking for work.

ECW On Syfy (9/29)
Okay, kids, let’s put on our sucker hats for just a second and ask, quite possibly, one of the dumbest questions we’ve ever put in this column that has been chock-full of dumb questions over the years. Why, if ECW general manager Tiffany was unavailable for any period of time, would the Board of Directors hand-pick an active wrestler—currently pursuing the brand championship—to serve as general manager? Think about that for a moment because it could easily be one of the laziest pieces of storyline development we’ve seen in a very, very long time. Even if it’s later revealed that somehow acting ECW general manager William Regal worked the system or was responsible for Tiffany’s injuries, would that still leave us with a situation that makes any sense whatsoever?

Impact (10/1)
The inevitable clash between the Main Event Mafia and World Elite came last night when the WE attacked Kurt Angle after his match with Hernandez. We’re going to go ahead and call this feud for the MEM right now, seeing how it’s hard to imagine them not coming out on top. Perhaps more intriguing than this feud is the building blood feud between Mankind and Mankind Jr. that opened the show. Will the Mick Foley-Abyss feud ever truly put to rest all the snickers that followed the “Monster’s” eerily similar gimmick throughout his career? Probably not, but you know that something awesomely gruesome is going to happen here, so it’s definitely worth a watch.

And finally … Anyone looking for independent wrestling videos and merchandise that also helps a good cause should check out female wrestler Amber O’Neal’s website this month. Indy darling O’Neal will be donating 10 percent of all revenue from sales on her website to breast cancer research. With October being breast cancer awareness month, there’s never been a better time to help contribute to a very worthy cause. Head to www.amberoneal.net for more information.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 18-24, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Once, in my youth, I actually enjoyed the benefits that come with a truly “mutual” breakup. “Impossible,” you say? While I will concede that there may be some truth to that, let me illustrate what I’m talking about because there was something that broke earlier this week which completely stinks of “mutual” breakup-ness.

Not wanting to hurt each other’s feelings, my then-girlfriend and I, essentially, chose a reason to breakup that was neither pertinent nor accurate and used that as the vehicle to end our union. There was no pre-planning or discussion, just a spark being ignited in an argument that allowed each of us to simultaneously see a way out of the relationship without looking like the jerk. It was a moment of sheer clarity and perfection that few, if any, miserable couples get to enjoy.

I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. Both of us proceeded with cautious optimism as we packed up the other person’s crap from our respective apartments. We both hid the excitement that comes with getting out of a dead-end relationship, preferring to take the proverbial “high road,” false as it may have been. In the end, we both went our own ways and had great lives.

This memory resurfaced earlier this week when I was given the news that TNA and Jim Cornette had parted ways “amicably.” I take issue with this for a couple of reasons. First, when has anything ended “amicably” in professional wrestling? In the years of watching and reporting on wrestling only Ric Flair’s “retirement” comes to mind, and even that seemed testy after the fact.

Secondly, when has Jim Cornette ever done anything “amicably”? God love the guy—and I count myself as a fan—but there’s no way he didn’t pull a Jerry Maguire on the way out of the TNA offices. I like to imagine him dressed in character, knocking chachkes off people’s desks with his tennis racket on the way out, but I’m fairly certain it didn’t go down like that. In the end, however, TNA is out a charismatic figure that brought some good to the program in the extremely limited role he was provided. This kind of leads me to question the purpose behind the move.

Chalked up by both sides as simply a matter of not fitting into the creative direction of the program (a status I’m sure Cornette doesn’t mind being tagged with), Cornette was truly the least of the promotion’s problems. Perhaps the journey to reforming TNA into a more structured program starts with something like this, but I can’t say I’ve got the greatest amount of faith in that.

Still, I’ve always been a great believer that promotions should spend as much of their capital on talent over personalities, as possible, so if this parting-of-ways is financially motivated, so be it. Whatever the actual case may be (ahem … Russo … ahem), TNA got a whole less colorful this week and I truly hope that there is some sort of discernable improvement or creative move that indicates this cut was truly “amicable.”

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (9/18)
Batista’s triumphant return to Friday nights actually both mentioned and glossed over something tremendously interesting that we at “The Turn” believe is worth exploring. Perhaps it was simply meant to be a sidenote in his top-of-the-show rant, but Batista raised a good point when he mentioned that his contract expired with Raw and he was free to choose the brand he preferred to call home. Why hasn’t the issue of intra-brand free agency been addressed by WWE until now? Could Batista potentially be the Curt Flood of WWE? Look it up, folks.

Raw (9/21)
Cedric The Entertainer was the latest guest host of the infomercial that is Raw on Monday night and performed admirably during his two hours at the helm. While we at “The Turn” have yet to start the petition to remove the “sports” from WWE’s patented “sports entertainment” moniker, we’re getting close. Cedric was fine and, suckers as we are, the “match” between himself and Chavo that involved multiple masked impersonators admittedly made us chuckle, we’re about ready to tap on this guest host gimmick. Next up—and we kid you not—Al Sharpton. Send your e-mails to pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com.  May as well start that ball rolling now.

ECW (9/22)
We’re still not sold on the Zack Ryder experiment that is ECW despite a relatively sound title match with Christian on Tuesday night. At best, Ryder seemed like a serviceable villain to Christian’s seasoned fan favorite. He played up the role well but really didn’t do anything so spectacular to make us want to anoint him as part of the next wave of main event talent or, conversely, someone worth moving to Monday or Friday nights. To be fair, this was Ryder’s first taste of a show-highlighting main event, so that should be taken into consideration. But, assuming he’s not jettisoned off to the ECW mid-card, Ryder will need to show a bit more.

Impact (9/24)
Call us suckers, but last night’s touching moment between newly crowned TNA World champion A.J. Styles and Sting was not only a good piece of television but, likely, was supposed to happen a long time ago with a different wrestler on the receiving end of the “Icon’s” torch passing, no? Wasn’t this supposed to be Samoa Joe all along? Anyone else recall Sting coming to TNA and making it known that he was there to help elevate the next generation of stars and how high he was on working with Joe? Soooo … TNA … wha’ happened? Sure, we love Styles but did he really need this? More than Joe?

And Finally … Today actually marks two historic events in the waning days of the vaunted Monday Night War era. We’ll leave it up to you to determine the effect each had on their respective companies. WWF’s flagship Raw Is War jumped from the USA Network and debuted on TNN on this date nine years ago. On the same night, Vince Russo captured the WCW World title by defeating Booker T on Nitro. Discuss.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 11-17, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

So, it’s official. The world of sports entertainment has finally found a bedfellow more repugnant, superficial, and controversial than itself: politics.

Sure, there has been WWE’s foray into voter registration drives such as the “Smackdown Your Vote” campaign and, yes, I’m well aware that men such as Jesse Ventura and Jerry Lawler have both held and are actively pursuing public office.

Still, there’s something about now-former WWE CEO Linda McMahon’s announcement earlier this week that she will seek a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut that seems to trump them all.

On one hand, I give the McMahons credit in that they tend to go “all in” when there’s a mindset about something. “Let’s blow up Dad!” Done; “Anyone feel like jumping off the Titantron? ”Sign up Shane; “The floor recognizes Senator McMahon of Connecticut?” Hey, now Mom will have something to do in her spare time. For better or worse, the McMahons, generally, don’t half-ass their ventures, assuming that venture doesn’t begin with an “E,” end with a “W,” and have a “C” in the middle.

Further, the family made the obvious choice as to who would make the most credible candidate. Hey, who are we to say that playing a catatonic basket-case who slugs her cheating husband in the Mahoneys on their own television show isn’t qualified to be a part of the most exclusive and revered legislative body in this country? Hell, at the very least she could run Alaska assuming she could handle a rifle from a helicopter.

Point is, people have been elected to greater offices with less practical experience. Our own president was a junior senator from Illinois for only three years before his election last November. Propelled by voter dissatisfaction with the direction of the prior administration, he won the highest office in the land during one of its most tumultuous periods with little more than a savvy marketing campaign and grassroots support. Who’s to say that given the right moves, McMahon could not do the same in the “Nutmeg State”?

My concern, not being a citizen of Connecticut but rather a writer who intends to follow this story and milk it for all its worth, is that McMahon gets a fair shot to outline her views on the issues affecting the constituency and isn’t simply dismissed because of her background.

Being taken seriously is difficult enough when a celebrity (of sorts) espouses her positions on hot-button political topics. Doing so after three decades in the professional wrestling business is exponentially harder. McMahon, as of today, will also be the only female entering the Republican primary race which, like it or not, is going to lead to another gaggle of unnecessary prejudices that must be overcome, fair or not.
In the end, the odds may not be in favor of McMahon becoming the new junior senator from Connecticut, but here’s to hoping the primary process is allowed to play out before voters make their decision. McMahon is battle-tested and worthy of at least a look in Connecticut. Still, if I can offer any bit of advice it would be that she keeps her husband as far away from her campaign as possible. No point in making it any easier for her opposition than it may already be perceived.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (9/11)

Few wrestlers come with built-in credibility the way The Undertaker still does 19 years into his WWE career. That’s right, we said 19 years as if you didn’t feel old already. Heading into Breaking Point last Friday, ’Taker once again stole the show in anticipation of his World title match with C.M. Punk. Although the “Dead Man” would not be able to pry the gold away from Punk following a pseudo-“Montreal Screwjob” revisited, his mere presence on Smackdown makes the program solid. Add a very angry, well-rested Batista to the mix (see below) and Friday night could regain its spot as WWE’s most watchable program in no time.

Raw (9/14)
As we alluded to above, the major announcement coming out of Raw on Monday night was that a now fully recovered Batista would be moving to the Smackdown brand full-time once he resumes a regular schedule, which brings to an end a lost opportunity as a member of the Raw roster. We’d like to think that Raw’s loss is Smackdown’s gain in this transaction, but it’s really hard to view it as a loss for Raw. The big man didn’t pan out as expected for a brand so desperately looking for new blood to push and it’s a safe move to have “The Animal” back on Friday nights. Let’s call this one a draw. Oh, and how awesome was it to see Trish Stratus back in WWE as a guest host? Hell, how great was it to just see Trish Stratus?

ECW (9/15)
We at “The Turn” have never hid our love of all things tournament- and/or battle royal-related. There may not be a bigger group of suckers for either of the two weeding out systems than those folks who make this column possible each week. With that being said, something about ECW’s number-one contender battle royal on Tuesday night didn’t sit right with us. Perhaps we would’ve liked a little more William Regal-Christian feud, or it could be the fact that winner Zack Ryder is primed for the spotlight, but whatever it was we didn’t get the same feeling this time around. Still, it will be nice to see a new face chase the belt, albeit it Ryder’s.

Impact (9/17)
Unfortunately, our opinion of the TNA Legends title—which was never really that high to begin with—continues to go south and not for the reasons you may expect. While we fully acknowledge that the strap is essentially a way to appease the elder statesmen of TNA, what makes us most uneasy with the whole thing is that there’s really no appeal to watching the competition. All of the excitement and intrigue that usually come with championship matches is missing because, primarily, it’s not viewed as a major title. Sure, the promotion wants you to believe it is, but how could it be? It’s obviously not on par with the TNA World title, yet it doesn’t feature the type of ingenuity or athleticism that comes with the X division. It is merely a way to keep the highest paid guys on the roster coming to work and, guess what, TNA, it feels like it.

And Finally … On this date a shocking 53 years ago, WWE Hall of Famer The Fabulous Moolah captured her and the promotion’s first ever Women’s Championship by defeating Judy Grable in the final match of a tournament to determine the champion.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of September 4-10, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

First, allow me to send my sincerest gratitude up to the godforsaken frozen wasteland that is Buffalo for one of my favorite writers, Dan Murphy, who filled-in for me last week. I hope to properly thank him someday with a few pints of the Philadelphia region’s finest adult beverage.

Living up to the jet set lifestyle I’ve created for myself, I took a rather impromptu mid-week vacation to celebrate the end of the summer in the U.S. and the start of college football season last week. See, the fine institution of higher education I attended for my undergraduate degree did not have a football program, so I’m forced to root for teams to which I have no other affiliation than the fact that I spend boatloads of PWI cash to follow them. Brilliant plan, eh?

While the trip was excellent on all accounts, a particularly interesting moment came when I stopped in the CVS in lovely Mishawaka, Indiana, to pick up some FAA-friendly toiletries for my return flight home. In order to get to the well-stocked travel-size bins in the back of the store, I had to pass through the magazine aisle which, naturally, piqued my curiosity.

Now, being a magazine nerd amongst other magazine nerds, I’m willing to bet my next admission will not seem as strange as it should. See, whenever I go through a magazine aisle, the first thing I do is look for the latest offerings from the PWI family of publications to make sure we have adequate shelf-space and are not buried behind other books or misfiled. It’s a sickness, what can I say? Still, it’s not as bad as my next little quirk, which is that I always, always, open to the editors box and look for my name under the writers’ section.

Always. Even on the advance copies I receive for, you know, working for the damn place.

Until I see my name in the block there’s something of a nervous anticipation that comes over me as if I expect to see that I’ve been released from the company via worldwide publication. Sure, that would be a hell of a way to go and I’d kind of like to see legendary publisher Stu Saks off me that way, just not yet.
As I went through my general ritual at the CVS in Mishawaka, Indiana, and got the much needed rush that comes with not only seeing your name in print in a magazine but doing so in an area very far from home, I felt good and powerful. I was a writer in this magazine in this CVS some 600-plus miles from PWI headquarters.

Hell, at that very moment I was the most famous person in that CVS. You know where everyone elses’ names were? That’s right—on their badges. No one else in that CVS was a published writer with his own columns. I would’ve bought the magazine right there and autographed it for adoring fans if they were so inclined to meet the most famous man in that square mile of Mishawaka, Indiana.

Someone needed to see this. Someone needed to see my name in the magazine. It’s appeared there, literally, dozens of times in the past, but not while I was looking at it in Mishawaka, Indiana. At that point, I pulled my sister aside into the aisle and showed her my name—our family name—in all its printed glory. There … I’ve been validated as the biggest celebrity in CVS. I was king of the pharmacy!

Her response: “So?”

You can always rely on family to bring you back down to earth. Oh, my ritual won’t change, but I may just hold off on the autograph sessions for the time being.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (9/4)

As virtually everyone expected since WWE’s stunning announcement two weeks back, Rey Mysterio Jr. was toppled in a match with John Morrison for the Intercontinental title and will likely be taking, oh, let’s say 30 or so days off to recover. Touched on briefly here a few weeks back, Mysterio’s suspension is quickly becoming one of the more controversial and confusing moves the company has made. Public spats between Mysterio and WWE and questions as to the policy enforcement have only made a murky situation less clear. This is worth keeping an eye on in coming weeks although the end result is still the same: Smackdown is without one of its biggest names for at least a month.

Raw (9/7)
The best part of Monday night’s hosting job by gameshow legend Bob Barker: the trademark mini-microphone. The worst part of Monday night’s hosting job by gameshow legend Bob Barker: the hosting job by gameshow legend Bob Barker. Although the man was an icon of everyone at “The Turn’s” childhood, it just felt weird. This guest host gig on Raw is getting stranger by the week. Next up, sure-fire one day WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus. That, coupled with the fallout from Breaking Point this weekend, should provide a nice rebound week for the brand.

ECW (9/8)
There are, essentially, two ways in wrestling to make a villain a hero: 1. Have him come to the aid of a fan favorite thus garnering the goodwill that comes with such a move, or, 2. Have a fellow villain beat the pudding out of him for some reason. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the turn of Shelton Benjamin on ECW this week. Unfortunately for the multi-time champion, his route came via the second option when Sheamus laid the wood to him following their tag match against Yoshi Tatsu and Goldust. In our opinion, Benjamin always worked better as a fan favorite, so hopefully this change of events will bode well for him.

Impact (9/10)
Last night, fans were treated to the ending of one of TNA’s top tag teams and the official elevation of Hernandez to upper-mid-card status. Sure, that’s like offering your girlfriend a “promise ring” in wrestling terms, but when you have the likes of Kevin Nash, Scott Steiner, et. al. ahead of you with literally nowhere else to go, this is as good as it gets. With the World Elite’s addition of Homicide to its ranks, the group only gets stronger. Still, this is a good move for Hernandez. He’s got the stuff to work on his own and will now have the chance to show it. Also, kudos to Eric Young for breaking out a suit, which, as we all know, is the trademark of any villain.

And Finally … As America remembers the horrific events of September 11, 2001, we at “The Turn” would like to make note of one tragic connection between that day and the sport of wrestling. Former collegiate wrestler Mark Whitford was a New York City firefighter who was lost while heroically trying to save others. A movement is now in place to have the highly decorated collegiate wrestler inducted in to his alma mater’s hall of fame. Also, his family is putting together a scholarship in his name. To read more on Whitford’s career on the mat and service to the country, check out www.nj.com .

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 28-September 3, 2009

By Dan Murphy

Another Friday is upon us, which means it’s time to kill at least part of the workday here at The Turn. Call it a special Labor Day Weekend gift if you’d like, but your regular Turnmaster, Frank Ingioisi, has been called back to Parts Unknown for reasons unknown, leaving you safely in the hands of your eccentric uncle, Dan Murphy.

Settle in. Relax. Minimize those other windows. Log off of Facebook. Pour yourself a refreshing beverage. And let’s talk some rasslin’, shall we?

The cat is officially out of the bag on the worst kept secret in wrestling. Last Friday night, Jeff Hardy lost a steel cage match to C.M. Punk. Per the stipulation of the match, Hardy was forced to leave WWE. Of course, most fans had known for months that Hardy’s WWE contract was coming to an end and that Hardy was planning to take a break from wrestling to try his hand in reality television.

Hardy and Punk wrestled a great match, capped with a dramatic battle on top of the cage. Hardy hit the canvas, Punk hit the floor, and the master of the swanton made his swan song. As women, children, and various and sundry Peroxwhygen fans wept and tore their emo-black garments, Hardy apologized for losing. He said he wasn’t saying goodbye forever, and that he would be back again some day, essentially channeling the spirit of Frosty the Snowman. Of course, it’s hard to explain how Hardy can be so sure he’ll be coming back again, since his leaving was ostensibly because he lost a match with a loser-leaves-town stipulation. It’s not like he can just come back after that, can he? I mean, not without donning a mask and winning his job back like The Calgary Kid, right? I digress.

So Hardy makes his fans cry then walks off into the sunset, only to get walloped in the head by Punk, further upsetting Hardy’s grief-stricken devotees and further establishing Punkas the most hated man in WWE.

I say, good for Punk. He did win the match, after all. Shouldn’t the guy who wins a match be the one who gets to celebrate? It was Punk’s moment. Just a few days after retaining his championship in a car crash of a match at SummerSlam, Punk did it again with a clean win over the former champion. Considering how Punk was treated like a fluke champion throughout his first reign, it’s about time for him to grab the spotlight and remind people that he’s the champion. He’s the guy who won the match. While Hardy’s competing with Matt Riviera for a VH-1 reality show spot, Punk is poised to lead the most exciting brand in wrestling, and ready to move on to face “The Phenom” in a feud that promises to be epic.

Jeff, thanks for the memories. We hope you get to marry a millionaire or get made or what-have-you. As for us, we’re ready for the Punk era.

Now, let’s talk about the boob tube …

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (8/28)
You’ve got to be impressed with Chris Jericho and The Big Show. They beat MVP and Mark Henry on Raw, and then beat Cryme Tyme on Smackdown. Boo them if you must, but you can’t say they’re not fighting champions. The curious thing is that they still seem more interested in wrestling singles matches than tag matches (this match started as Jericho vs. Shad). Let’s start acting like more of a team and less like two guys paired together due to circumstances. A double-team finisher isn’t too much to ask for, is it? It sure beats a closed-fist punch to the head.

Raw (8/31)
What a week on Raw! Not only did we get to hear Dusty Rhodes’ old “Common Man” theme song, but we got a Shockmaster callback, too! It’s nights like this when we don’t feel as bad for wasting our formative years watching bad wrestling. Of course, that “bad wrestling” was still more entertaining than a lot of what we see on prime time today, but again I digress. Dusty schilled DVDs, clowned with D-X, then orchestrated an attack on John Cena before being laid out by Randy Orton. The guest host idea has been a mixed bag so far, but the gimmick works a lot better when the host is a Hall-of-Famer like “Big Dust.” Too bad we didn’t get a splotch appearance, though.

ECW (9/1)
Two major events took place on a relatively low-key edition of ECW on SyFy. First, Sheamus got the best of Goldust in their surprisingly entertaining feud, winning a No-DQ bout against the son Dusty apparently won’t abuse his power to help. Secondly, Vladimir Kozlov and Big Zeke teamed up to destroy two ham-and-eggers. Both events please us. Shared ancestry notwithstanding, we at “The Turn” are very high on The Celtic Warrior, and are pleased to see him raise his game against the former I-C champ. And all Vlad and Zeke needs is Paul Ellering to be the most imposing team we’ve seen in 20 years or so.

Impact (9/3)
Hernandez looks like he’s on the path to superstardom in TNA, but this burgeoning feud with World Elite has us uneasy. No offense to Eric Young, but at this stage of his career, Hernandez needs to set his sights a bit higher. Momentum is a tricky thing in this business, and the last thing he should do is squander the momentum he has in matches against Young, Kiyoshi, Rob Terry, and the rest of the so-called Elite. For Pete’s sake, Hernando, cash in that briefcase! Swing for the fences before you’re meteoric rise fizzles out on you.

And Finally … Congratulations go out to my pal Shawn “Don’t Call Me Gavin” Spears, who recently teamed with Idol Stevens to win the WWC tag team title in Puerto Rico. Mr. Spears is a class act, and he’s bound for more stateside success in 2010—you heard it here first. Thanks for sticking with your substitute Turner, boys and girls. Mr. Ingiosi will be back next week. Cherish the time we spent together … though you’ll be reading Frank, I know your thoughts will secretly turn Murph-ward.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 21-27, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Ever so much to discuss this morning, it hardly seems fair that we’re restricted to only 1,000 words. But, alas, I’ll make the most of it and try to address the top three items I found to be newsworthy in a week that has traditionally been the unofficial vacation date for much of the industry over the past few years. In order of magnitude to their respective organizations, let’s jump right in with:

Rey Mysterio Jr.—the reigning Intercontinental champion—has been suspended for 30 days for violating WWE’s Wellness Policy in a still undisclosed way. To say my perfectly chiseled jaw hit my expensive Italian marble floor after seeing this yesterday would be a massive understatement. First, there really hasn’t been any tangible accusation backing up anything like this against Rey throughout his career, which makes this all the more puzzling.

Further, Rey is a proverbial cash cow for WWE. On the chart of high-flying, teen-loving wrestlers, Rey is the link between Jeff Hardy and Evan Bourne.

Perhaps most maddening, he was best friends with Eddie Guerrero, whose life was shortened, in part, due to substance abuse. Allow me to reiterate that: He was best friends with Eddie Guerrero, whose life was shortened, in part, due to substance abuse. While it has yet to be determined precisely what part of the Wellness Policy Rey was caught breaking, the hard truth is that his actions were egregious enough for WWE to not only shelf him, but make it known to the public.

Although I’ve never, personally, been much of a Rey fan throughout his career, I fully appreciate his role in the industry and what he means to his employer, which only raises my level of disappointment. He’ll get his second chance (see last week’s column) as he should, but it will be interesting to see how short a leash he’s put on by WWE following this first suspension.

The second issue of the week that doesn’t seem to be getting the ink it deserves is the very real possibility that Sting could be on his way out of TNA—and professional wrestling altogether—following Bound For Glory. Promotional posters emerged this week with a picture of a contrite-looking “Stinger” under the banner “The Final Curtain?” With speculation being that Sting’s current TNA deal expires following the event, we could be nearing the end of an exemplary career.

Finally, for fans of technical wrestling and the phenomenally pale, word is that “American Dragon” Bryan Danielson has left Ring of Honor and will sign a deal with WWE shortly. I, for one, love the move if only because we’ll get to see Danielson on a more regular basis and the masses will finally get to see the man behind the indy legend. To be fair, there’s also a lot about the move that makes me uneasy. WWE generally isn’t a great breeding ground for light heavyweight talent, plus I can already picture someone in costuming dusting off feathers on Ricky Steamboat’s old gear .

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (8/21)
The Hardy Boyz reunited for the 6,000th time last Friday night to pair with John Morrison in a victory over C.M. Punk and the Hart Dynasty on Smackdown in the go-home event prior to SummerSlam. While it’s always fun to see the guys back together, it really did nothing for either guy. If anything, the impromptu reunion somewhat overshadowed the ascent of John Morrison from goofy mid-carder to main eventer. Still, everyone looked fine in the end and fans were treated to a fun, if not substantive, main event.

Raw (8/2)
In case there were any doubts, D-X is officially dead. We realize that we’ve made this call a few times over the past couple of years at “The Turn,” but this time we’re serious. As if the buildup behind this latest return of D-X wasn’t painful enough, the sight of Vince McMahon pairing with the group and John Cena coming to the rescue at the end of the night should have made that pit in your stomach feel just a bit deeper. There was nothing good about it and we can officially, definitively say beyond all reasonable doubt that DeGeneration X—past its prime by many years—is over. Oh, it will be on your television, but you won’t care.

ECW (8/25)
The best feud in all WWE right now may actually be the one taking place over the ECW title between William Regal and Christian every Tuesday night on SyFy. The wrestling, at times, leaves something to be desired, but there’s something about seeing two guys who genuinely want out of ECW beating the stuffing out of each other that warms the heart. You may get no better entertainment than that which you receive from two seasoned competitors looking to better their situation within the company, which is precisely what both Christian and Regal are looking to do. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Impact (8/27)
TNA president Dixie Carter made a rare appearance on Impact last night to drop a couple of major bombshells on the audience, notably that TNA would be developing a new program for Spike TV and that the promotion would also be promoting Bobby Lashley’s MMA fights. In conjunction with the new three-year deal TNA signed with Spike TV, these moves are perhaps the smartest business decisions the promotion has made since shacking Jeff Jarrett up with Karen Angle to keep him off television. What? You don’t think that’s a work? Hell, it may not be, but the result is still the same, eh?

And finally … Twenty years ago today, at the second annual SummerSlam pay-per-view event, The Ultimate Warrior exacted revenge on “Ravishing” Rick Rude by defeating him to recapture the Intercontinental championship. An even more astonishing fact, the match lasted more than 16 minutes and was the second longest contest of the evening. For a wrestler best known for face paint, incoherency, and the physique of an action figure, a 16-minute match is as “Ironman” as it gets.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 14-20, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Last night, perhaps the master of hyperbole and the greatest proponent of the exclamation point in the history of spoken language was officially replaced at a job he was seemingly born to do. That’s right, fans, Don West’s days as the easily excited color man for Impact are now just a distant and fond memory.

No longer will it seem like someone at the announce table is being tasered when even the most innocuous of happenings in the ring take him by surprise. Never again will we be treated to the exasperation and bewilderment that came from his observations of a six-sided ring or a change in wrestler’s attire. I’m fairly certain the man could give himself a heart attack over his excitement at reading the instructions on a bottle of shampoo. In essence, Don West was more than just an analyst; he was part analyst, part hyena, and all nuts.

God love the man, I say. We at “The Turn” beat him up a bit at times throughout his tenure as TNA color guy, but we also backed him up when needed. Wrestling needs crazy and West brought it to the table each week. He was Tony Schiavone after six pots of coffee and, deep down, you loved that about him.

Apparently, and I’m waiting on confirmation as to the veracity of this, West was actually promoted to head of TNA Merchandising and that is not just a storyline. It’s a return his glory days of home shopping (go to YouTube.com, type in Don West, and enjoy). Who wouldn’t buy TNA merchandise from a guy like this?

Fare the well, Donald. For the rest of the day I will make it my goal to go absolutely bat-crap crazy over the most banal of events, and I encourage you all to do the same.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (8/14)
JTG was less than impressive in his phenomenal loss to The Big Show last week on Smackdown. We’re not sure whether he stole Vince McMahon’s newspaper from the doorstep, left a flaming bag of poo at the base of Triple-H’s custom bus, or whatever, but he certainly didn’t appear even the least bit viable as a singles wrestler. Still, whenever you have a situation where a company starts putting members of a named tag team out there in singles matches, it’s a good indicator that it’s an audition for marketing and creative. In a time when WWE’s main programming could essentially focus on three to four wrestlers (it basically already does), it’s safe to imagine that the company will be taking long looks at members of the current talent roster to see if they have that “it” factor that could transform them into stars. Fans of Cryme Tyme should be excited to see one of their guys get the nod this past week, yet we wouldn’t recommend re-upping your fan club membership. Another result of situations like this is the team usually a team break-up, so don’t be shocked if that happens, too.

Raw (8/17)
Freddie Prinze Jr. was this week’s offering for special guest host and, although it pains us to say it, he may have been the best one yet. We know, we know—we killed WWE when they brought the man in as a writer for the Smackdown brand, but we have to now admit that the guy proved something to us Monday night that, to date, no other guest host has: He watches. Now, we’re not saying he ignores his ridiculously hot wife each Monday night (like most of us do) to catch a few hours of wrestling, but he clearly follows the industry and its history enough to act as a serviceable guest host. Plus, anyone who can take an inverted backbreaker from Randy Orton as well as Prinze Jr. did on Monday night deserves a special gold star next to his name. Jeremy Piven’s cross-bodyblock was impressive, but Prinze Jr. clearly took a bigger risk and a much more devastating bump. Well played, Mr. Gellar, well played.

ECW (8/18)
We at “The Turn” are afraid that we’ve watched enough ECW since it was artificially resuscitated back in 2006 that, at least in our own minds, we’ve become apologists for the brand. Sure, we’ll come out here and hammer the product when it deserves it, but talk around “Turn” HQ this week was less about the fact that ECW is essentially dusting off the same program each week and, now, barely scrambling the placement of the matches, but rather whether the idea of an ECW brand is good. Here’s the thought: A small roster allows all of the talent to get maximum TV time and, if impressive enough, they’ll win over the fans and get promoted to one of the other two brands. In theory—which we’re sure is what’s bandied about backstage when the ECW heads give us yet another Paul Birchill match to kick off the show—this is good. Think about it: C.M. Punk, Jack Swagger, Mark Henry, and Matt Hardy have all used ECW to get either their first step into or a welcoming back to a bigger brand. Maybe it’s working? We’ll start stirring the Kool-Aid … now.

Impact (8/20)
For a minute there last night—just a minute—didn’t it feel like we were headed for another “I lost my smile” moment? Ahh, in the annals of televised cringe-inducing moments, is anything better than a professional athlete leaving the sport and, really, the only life he’s ever known? We would argue that there is nothing other than seeing your father cry that makes a man feel more uncomfortable. Last night, A.J. Styles—physically and emotionally defeated—attempted to announce his departure from professional wrestling. Rife with emotion and personal conviction, Styles was convinced that the lifestyle was not worth the trouble and he’d be better off away from the business. Fortunately for fans of Styles (of which “The Turn” can be counted), a paint-less Sting showed up to give the old Don Corleone-Johnny Fontaine treatment to the former NWA World champ. It appears that Sting’s words were effective and Styles will not be leaving for the time being, which is good news for both TNA and the “Phenomenal” one’s legacy.

And Finally … Want to feel old? Consider this: It was 30 years ago today that Dusty Rhodes defeated Harley Race for one of his three NWA World championships.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of August 7-13, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Second chances.

I swear sometimes this stuff just writes itself. Still, I got to sit down and put it all on virtual paper so it can be virtually sent to my virtual editors who virtually give a crap about what I write so long as it’s: a. on time, and, b. entirely free of euphemisms for parts of the human anatomy. Aside from that, I’m given carte blanche each week to offer up my thoughts. It’s a beautiful thing, really.

So, back to the original point: second chances. Brought on by the fact that as a native of the greater Philadelphia area, I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that the self-proclaimed “gold standard” of professional football, the holier-than-thou Philadelphia Eagles brought in one of the most controversial players perhaps in the history of the sport, Michael Vick. From a football standpoint, I don’t get it. From a PR perspective, it makes even less sense.

Needless to say, reaction here in Philadelphia is split between the “he’s-paid-for-his crimes/second-chance” crowd and the “this-guy-is-the-scum-of-the-earth” crowd. While I’ll choose to not offer my stance on the issue, I will admit that I’m taking great joy in watching the human drama unfold. Naturally, as I subjected myself to sports-talk radio last night in anticipation of this column, my thoughts turned to our industry, where second chances generally occur within your first six months of employment.

With only a limited amount of space in which to work, I’m not going to attempt to address all of the causes or explanations that go into why professional wrestling should be viewed as the most forgiving of all entertainment industries. It would take months of research and, perhaps, a sexy book deal (hint to my publisher, unless Dan Murphy’s already written it) to get me to do something like that.

No, what I’d like to do this morning is ask for some audience participation. I’m going to do something that happens far too infrequently in this country. I’m going to urge you to think about the situation and come to your own conclusion. Shocking, I know, but that’s what makes me the 47th most controversial wrestling writer in the industry, just ahead of some kid who writes scripts for his backyard promotion in Reading, Massachusetts, and just behind the trained chimp TNA has writing Impact.

Turn down the volume on whatever episode of Battlestar Galactica you’re watching right now, put down the RC Cola, close your eyes, and really think about our industry as it is currently constituted. Open your eyes after you’re finished and keep reading … I’ll wait.

Okay, now thinking back on what you just envisioned, how many of the top performers were beneficiaries of “second chances”? Be it from legal, drug, or personal issues, there is a rather large and distinct group of performers who have come back from less-than-savory issues to make a career for themselves in the only industry they know. Does it make them bad people? Did they deserve such a shot? Do you, perhaps, own a T-shirt or two with their likeness on it?

My point today is to hopefully encourage passionate yet rational discussion of things like the Michael Vick re-instatement, especially in light of the way our industry operates. Like it or not, in a profit-driven industry—be it football or wrestling—there will always be a taker for an existing brand. Would wrestling be better off without some of the wrestlers who are maybe on their third, fourth, or 10th chances? I don’t know, but I’d sure like to discuss it with you.

Send your thoughts on this column or, frankly, anything you’d like to: pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (8/7)
This is the C.M. Punk we’ve been promising all along and, unfortunately, in the WWE view of things the man isn’t getting the opportunity to really pour on the condescension that makes this angle work. He’s coming off a bit too Matt Striker (sans chalkboard) and not pretentious enough. He’s not a guru; he’s just better than you … and us, to be fair. We’re getting the sinking feeling that much of what you hear Punk saying is what Matt Hardy would’ve been saying had his “my-brother’s-a-successful-screw-up” angle panned out. Let Punk be Punk.

Raw (8/10)
We’ve all but given up on the guest host idea working out for WWE (although they haven’t) so in order to make peace with the insanity that has become Raw, we’re going to do something we’ve never done before: praise Miz. That’s right, generally the bane of our existence—although we do recall admitting he wasn’t terrible once—The Miz snuck his way back on to the Raw roster this past Monday night by competing as the masked Calgary Kid and defeating Eugene—yep, the one you remember—in a “Contract On A Pole” match. Frankly, anyone who pulls the old Dean Malenko-Ciclope mask trick (done hundreds of times before) is okay in our book, if only for one night.

ECW (8/11)
Tyler Reks is an intriguing competitor for the ECW brand and someone we’re going to keep an eye on in the coming weeks. While there’s nothing that really jumps out and grabs us about the guy, we’re still a bit interested to see what this guy will be able to do if given the chance. To be fair, though, we tend to be suckers when it comes to new talent in WWE. We’re always hoping the next guy will be The Next Guy, so it may color our initial inklings. Still, Reks has our attention for now and should make ECW fun for a little bit.

Impact (8/13)
So, let us get this straight: Matt Morgan wanted to be a part of the Main Event Mafia solely to reach the pinnacle by screwing over the Main Event Mafia? Two questions come to mind: 1. Does he realize he’s still Matt Morgan and, more importantly, 2. Does he realize he’s still Matt Morgan? Kudos, we suppose, to TNA for trying to take Morgan from the scrap heap and build him up the way they had always hoped they could have with Lance Hoyt, but we’re still not feeling this transition. Here’s to hoping we’re wrong and Morgan pulls off the upset in the three-way main event with Kurt Angle and Sting at the worst named pay-per-view in history, Hard Justice.

And Finally … Happy 59th birthday to, depending on your perspective, either one of the most over- or underrated champions in the history of WWF(E), Bob Backlund. For those fans who can remember wrestling all the way back to when Hulk Hogan became WWF champion, Backlund was the guy who held the title for five years before losing it to The Iron Sheik who then lost it to Hogan. Backlund remains today as divisive a figure as ever, with fans either remembering his run fondly or with disdain.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 31-August 6, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

“SummerFest”? Ouch.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (7/31)
We’ve actually encountered some dissent amongst the masses regarding the fact that The Hart Dynasty was thwarted by one-time WWE castoffs Cryme Tyme in its effort to become number-one contenders to the Unified tag title. Our best—and constant—advice to those of you jonseing at breaking out something pink and/or black is to just stay patient. The current feud between the Harts and Cryme Tyme—which seemingly ended with the latter’s victory last Friday night on Smackdown—is good for all parties involved. Look at it like this: the current champions—Chris Jericho and Big Show—are already bona fide rulebreakers who draw enough audience heat that anyone you put against them will look like the fan favorite. Cryme Tyme, for all their flaws, is mostly beloved by the throngs who pay to go to WWE shows. We believe that were the Harts—young, exciting, and oh, so Canadian—to go up against the incumbents, they would come off looking way, way too fan favorite for our liking. Let them gel and develop everything further. They’ll be there eventually; they’re all too damn good to not hold tag gold at some point.

Raw (8/3)
While we suppose the actual story from this past Monday night’s episode of Raw was either the deconstruction of the program by guest hosts Jeremy Piven and Dr. Ken or, rather simply, the deconstruction of the push the now banished Miz was apparently receiving, we found something else far more disheartening. Following his fool’s beatdown at the hands of Legacy, Triple-H naturally tossed a few choice threats toward his much younger counterparts. Although it wasn’t much more than your basic revenge foreshadowing, there was one phrase he used to punctuate the rant that perturbed us verily: “[a]nd, if you’re not down with that …”. Listen, our insider sources haven’t tipped us off to anything specific, but that certainly appears to be Triple-H opening the door for a Shawn Michaels return and the 735th DeGeneration X reunion in the past three years which, frankly, stinks. Fact is we all expected HBK to return at some point but, c’mon, WWE; you’ve got a whole group of Harts just waiting—nay, begging—to pick up where Uncle Bret left off. That, friends, is how Mr. Michaels should return. Anything less should p-triple asterisk you off as much as it does us.

ECW (8/4)
In the past, we’ve compared ECW to the morning after a night of drunken shenanigans. You genuinely try to piece back together the events of the prior evening and when you finally, actually do so you’re first thought is ultimately, “no way it happened like that.” Well, wipe the puke off your shoes and kick your best friend’s sister out of the futon: the Wild Turkey drunk that is rambling ECW is back. For a brief period earlier this year, the brand really began to seem as if it turned something of a corner. It had an engaging and stunning general manager in Tiffany, The Miz and Morrison were two of its hottest representatives, and the Tommy Dreamer ECW title chase was as compelling a storyline as the brand had since its 2006 resurrection. By comparison, Tuesday night’s show offered furtherance of the Hurricane’s return to super heroism, a rambling opening segment with Abraham Washington and Zack Ryder, and teasing of a Vladimir Kozlov-Ezekiel Jackson pairing. Sure, we got an ECW title match between now-champion Christian and then-champion Dreamer, but it was lacking at best. Now, we’re well aware that the brand works with what it’s given, but it feels even more like WWE is leaving the smallest cub to fend for itself in the wild. Raw gets guest hosts, Smackdown gets autonomy and ECW gets Paul Birchall breaking the fourth wall to chat with you, the viewer.

Impact (8/6)
Parse it whatever way you want, the joining of the Main Event Mafia and World Elite last night was good for one person and one person only: Eric Young. It wasn’t good for Kurt Angle, it wasn’t good for the rest of the World Elite, and it certainly was not good for us fans. If this situation plays out as we see it happening, this could be Young’s masterpiece in TNA. He will officially have gone from agoraphobic faux superhero to villainous mastermind in record time, and we don’t exactly have a problem with that. No, what irks us at “Turn” headquarters is that there are too many similarities to angles past—driven by writers past—to make us comfy with something like this. Follow along if you will: there is a relatively popular rulebreaker faction staffed with main event talent that begins to expand well beyond reasonable capacity and add guys whose family members would hesitate to pay to watch perform. Sound familiar? Hey, for better or worse anything faction-related in wrestling that has a direct correlation to He Who Shall Not Be Named will always draw NWO comparisons. And, until we’re proved differently there’s a great level of justification in doing so. But, in the end, we still believe it will be Young who will benefit most from this latest unholy union. He’ll finally get the cred and facetime that he both deserves and has been looking for these last few years.

And Finally … Two birthdays in the industry to celebrate tomorrow if you are feeling up to it. Grab a case of Molson, head north until cops are Mounties and the cash is purple, hang a left and start asking for where Scott D’Amore’s birthday bash is. The former TNA backstage guru turns 35 tomorrow. When you’re done there, follow the swath of destruction left by Brock Lesnar to his wife—former Diva and Playboy cover girl—Sable’s shindig celebrating the big 4-2. You know what makes a great gift? A knife tattoo on the sternum.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 24-30, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

If last night is any indicator—and I think it may be—Bobby Lashley is still as rough as they come and it may be a little bit of time before he blossoms into a professional wrestler. That may seem like a ridiculous statement to make given the fact that the guy’s a trained amateur who, you know, cage fights in his spare time, but follow me here: It takes more than size or athleticism to be a professional wrestler.

The guy still is not comfy picking up a microphone and telling the world what he thinks on a wrestling program. He seems to be trying too hard to remember what he wanted to say rather than just saying what the moment brings. Quite frankly, I don’t want to see Lashley go the way of Scott Steiner where he’s all bulk and you just pray he doesn’t get the mike because you know he won’t make sense and will likely insult some ethnic group in the process entirely inadvertently.

He may still get there or, honestly, he may not. It’s really a crapshoot at this point. But, fans will still love him for the time being and turn against him at some point. It happens all the time, so hopefully Lashley doesn’t get discouraged when it does here.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (7/24)
God bless the woman, but does Maria have the absolute worst taste in men or what? You really don’t think that the girl could have done worse than Santino Marella but, ever the over-achiever, she goes and shocks the world by associating now with … Dolph Ziggler. Really? It actually hurts us to report that fact but apparently Maria sees something in Ziggler that literally everyone else in the world does not. It’s sure not about the charisma the guy brings to the table because, you know, he’s just obnoxious. And, well, not to turn out the lights on the guy’s second go-round with WWE early but he doesn’t exactly scream “staying power” does he? So, the guy is painfully annoying and very likely peaked professionally at this early stage of his life and, apparently, that’s exactly what the former Playboy Playmate is looking for in a man. If that’s the case, we’d like to officially announce to all the jackasses from high school who “rocked” while the rest of us went to college that, yes, you too can score a model.

Raw (7/27)
On Monday night we have to admit that we were pretty confused to see the on-again-off-again promise of Brian Kendrick switch back to the “off” position, rather emphatically, in a ridiculous squash loss to U.S. champion Kofi Kingston. The highly touted, albeit highly unusual, Kendrick seemed poised to eventually make a move in either of the U.S. or Intercontinental title divisions at some point as a singles wrestler if only given the opportunity to succeed. The talent always seemed to be there and, for once, the opportunity seemed to finally catch up to his ability. Yet as if we were living in the mid-way point of a M. Night Shymalan movie, everything became painfully clear a mere 96 hours later when WWE announced the release of Kendrick on its website. What led to the release is certainly up for speculation, but at least we now know why the guy wasn’t even given a shot Monday night.

ECW (7/28)
We find the plight of Paul Burchill very comical, in a somewhat tragic way. When he was a straight-up villain, fans thought he was boring. Then, he makes the gradual, albeit odd, transition from nasty rulebreaker to running punchline for partner William Regal by transitioning to a man who believed he was a pirate. Nevermind the fact that he was totally, and blatantly, ripping off of Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow from the Pirates Of The Caribbean series. The fact is it was easily the most entertaining period of his WWE career. Yet, fans griped at the silliness of it all. Now, WWE gave him its sure-shot, use-in-case-of-emergency gimmick—pissed off foreign guy with a hot girl—and fans still don’t get into it. Color us confused; you don’t like Burchill in any form yet many people talk about how great Burchill could be, if … “if” what, at this point? They’re running out of people for him to be and you to reject.

Impact (7/30)
There seems to be an awful lot going on each week during Impact which could be both good and bad. Having Mick Foley capture the Legends title as part of the main event: good. Having The British Invasion win tag team gold: brilliant (just like we said they would). So, you’d figure that’s enough for one night, right? Well, apparently you’ve never watched Impact. Last night saw a Samoa Joe-Hernandez match, a six-Knockout tag match, promos galore, a monkey riding a unicycle, and I believe someone discovered Jimmy Hoffa buried underneath one of the entrances. We’ll go on record as still being glad TNA has two hours and we generally like much of the roster but—and this is becoming a bigger “but” each week—the show has no flow or logic to it. It’s great to have a lot of ideas; bad to put them all out there at once. It’s like watching a four-year-old plan a meal. They basically just put everything they like on the table and hope you eat something.

And Finally … Do you hate when you read that WWE has just hired the most recent: A) Over-sized monster with limited wrestling ability, B) Vapid swimsuit model who wonders if Hulk Hogan still wrestles, or, C) Legion of Doom castoff? Well, in that case you’ll likely not be wishing a happy 47th birthday today to Johnny “Ace” Laurinaitis, Senior VP of Talent Relations for WWE.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 17-23, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

I’m desperately wracking the recesses of my great and powerful brain to figure out what, precisely, ZZ Top brought to Raw this past week that say, oh, any old GM/host/time filler could not have.

See, I’m of the weird opinion that if you do something different or attempt to be unique in this business it should probably have some sort of novel or quantifiable affect on your product. Pepsi Kona capitalized on the soft drink manufacturer’s caffeine-loving customer base … until parents’ groups and, you know, doctors pointed out that it may not be a good idea. So, they pulled the coffee-flavored drink and moved on.

In that case, the gimmick didn’t catch on in the way the company had hoped and, in fact, had something of a regressive effect on its credibility. Remember, for every great idea you see emerge from an industry there are usually hundreds of failures that led to it.

So, perhaps in the end this weekly guest host initiative that WWE has implemented on its top program will pay off some sort of dividends. Realistically, I can’t see that happening as I tend to give the fans more credit than the company does. Guest hosts can do only so much for a program before they simply become part of the scenery.

In fact, my feeling is that a guest host can actually do more to hurt a broadcast than help it. For one, they’re not wrestling people; they may be successful celebrities at other aspects of the entertainment industry, but that doesn’t mean that it will translate to good televised wrestling. LeBron James and Sidney Crosby are both athletes, yet that doesn’t mean that Sidney could cross you over like LeBron or LeBron could piss and moan when he didn’t get a call like Sid does (sorry, Pittsburgh, go cry in your Cup about it). Point is being under one umbrella does not make you uniquely qualified to jump from one area to the next under it.

Next week’s host is Cleveland Cavaliers center and sure-fire basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal who, at least, has a great interest in professional wrestling and may be one of the most charismatic public figures in the sports world. At best, Shaq’s presence will give us a brief respite from the slow grind that is summer episodes of Raw the prior few weeks (both the Seth Green and ZZ Top episodes drew a 3.5 ratings number). While we can’t imagine the Cavs are going to allow they prized off-season acquisition get anywhere near the action, he should at least be an interesting watch.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (7/17)
It’s funny, when he was a goofy faux-Doors knockoff rulebreaker, John Morrison was successful, yet never seemed destined for anything more than mid-tier status. Now, call it what you will, but there seems to be a renewed level of focus on the man that makes us finally—finally—believe he’s a bona fide world title contender. All the tools are there and, apparently, all he was lacking was a sound ass-kicking from The Miz to get his professional life in order. A clean pinfall win over WWE World champ C.M. Punk last Friday night on Smackdown only furthers our belief that if there is a next “Big Thing” in WWE, it may actually be Morrison.

Raw (7/20)
We’ve ranted in the past about how theme or gimmick matches should generally have something to do with whatever they’re titled, hence the Legs and Sharp Dressed Man matches this past Monday night on Raw naturally perturbed us just a bit. The former had absolutely nothing to it aside from being chock-full of attractive, scantily clad Divas whereas the latter saw a leprechaun undress the former ECW champ. Essentially, we had two matches titled after ZZ Top songs with little-to-no point to them. The silver lining, we suppose, is that at least WWE got this out of its system before a pay-per-view.

ECW (7/21)
Remember when WWE was pushing William Regal as not only a legitimate world title contender, but also a serious main eventer on Raw? Apparently, neither does WWE as Regal has now become an also-ran on the ECW brand as evidenced by his opening match loss to Yoshi Tatsu on the aforementioned group’s Tuesday night offering. We get that sometimes after a guy goes on a 60-day company encouraged vacation that he has to earn his stripes before getting back into the spotlight, but Regal’s been around too long for this kind of rehabilitation. We’re not suggesting that he should be headlining Raw, but this just seems excessive.

Impact (7/23)
The marriage of Taz and Samoa Joe was something that, obviously, everyone expected yet that shouldn’t diminish how truly cool this could end up playing out. Joe needed a different edge to his persona that, inexplicably, moved haphazardly from his bloody-towel, “Joe’s Gonna Kill You” days of only a few years back and Taz should provide that spark. Sure, at some point the student will undoubtedly toss the Emperor down that shaft in the Death Star, but it should be an enjoyable ride in the meantime. Next issue at hand, getting Joe some new ring attire that doesn’t make actual guerrilla soldiers clothing seem preferable. That’s some hideous stuff going on there.

And Finally … It may be a day late, but allow us to wish a very happy belated birthday to former Diva and current insanely hot reality TV star Torrie Wilson who turned 34 yesterday.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 10-16, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Wow, what an amazing week of stuff that just went down across the board in wrestling. I mean, honestly, I could probably fill up at least two columns worth of my thoughts on the events of the past week, which is impressive given that we’re usually mired in the post-WrestleMania, pre-SummerSlam funk that is these middle months.

Should I do it? Should I sit here and write two—that’s right two—columns worth of the greatest weekly wrestling update on this website? Aww, you’ve convinced me … but no. I’m paid handsomely to write one column a week so that’s all you get.

Sorry, I’m suffering from a bout of early-morning, Last-Thing-I-Saw-Before-I-Fell-Asleep-Was-Booker-T-itis. Speaking of my good friends in Orlando (how was that for a segue?) let’s dive right in; what, in your opinion, was most distracting about Impact last night? Here are the options: Kurt Angle’s creepy faux Randy Couture look complete with striped bikini tights, Scott Steiner’s tragic loss of mobility in the ring, or the fact that TNA has gone completely hack by selling ad space in the ring?

For me, it had to be the last option, although Angle’s goofy-ass beard/Peter Boyle hairdo certainly didn’t help. I don’t know why TNA turning their ring—their unconventional, still-has-no-point-to-two-extra-sides, ring—into the hood of a stockcar. Nothing really edgy about that. Kind of just makes me sad. Keep an eye for GNC’s advertising on the back of trunks coming soon.

The second thing that caught my attention this week was WWE’s mind-numbing campaign of “Guest Hosts” for Raw. Listen, I like Seth Green quite a bit; he’s a local guy who I find genuinely funny. That being said, did I ever expect—nay, want—to see him on Raw or in a wrestling ring? No. Did his presence give WWE the ratings bump they were looking for? No, the numbers actually went down from a 3.7 to a 3.6. Does next week’s broadcast led by 1980s super-band ZZ Top get you as excited as WWE hopes you should be? Unless you’re 50 and have been growing a beard since the band was popular, I’m guessing not.

What in the good lord’s name is WWE thinking? Seriously, I’m at a loss with this. Frankly, I don’t care what’s going on behind the scenes or if there is any offered explanation for having ZZ Top as part of a broadcast. I really am just baffled as to which demographic WWE is trying to reach and even with that why they would go this way. I get the feeling that they’re looking to grab anyone willing to come on a wrestling show, pimp whatever it is they’re doing, and play along. So very, very sad.

And then there’s Brock. Ohhh, what I would’ve given to be a fly on the wall of the locker-room in which Dana White and Mr. Lesnar had their post-fight “discussion” after UFC 100. For those of you who missed it, Lesnar unified the UFC title by defeating Frank Mir at the pay-per-view event only to go all-out wrestling-style rulebreaker by trash-talking his defeated opponent, taunting the fans, and ripping the sponsors. In WWE he would officially be entrenched as a villain; in MMA, his antics aren’t something tolerated nor encouraged.

The stark reality of the whole situation is that he crapped on us as wrestling fans … twice … and he’s going to crap on the MMA fans, too, at some point. I’ve said it time and again, the guy’s in it for himself and until someone puts him in his place he will never realize that the sport—be it football, fighting, or whatever—is bigger than him. The guy is physically blessed and quite talented but as petulant and impulsive as anyone I’ve ever seen.

There’s your quick rundown of the bigger events of the week. I could go on for hours and hundreds more words, but let’s get to the Spam and potato flakes of the week.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (7/10)
The slow phase-out of Jeff Hardy is in mid-stream on Smackdown and corresponding directly to the ascent of C.M. Punk as a pseudo-rulebreaker champion. Making no bones about publicly discussing his unique status with WWE, Hardy seems well on his way to being taken out of the primary angles if not off TV altogether. Yes, that does sound insane given how popular he has been over the past few years, but you have to imagine that the “will he, won’t he” act regarding his re-signing with the company is wearing thin on WWE. It’s worth keeping an eye on how this plays out, especially from Jeff’s standpoint.

Raw (7/13)
One of these days, WWE is going to hit it big with a chosen reclamation project. The flavor du jour on Raw now seems to be Mark Henry who throughout his association with the company has seen main event pushes on nearly every brand but the big one. Now given his chance to target top-tier talent, Henry seems rejuvenated to the extent that we believe he may just make it as a top guy on Raw. Then again, given the status of Raw of late that may be like being the best player during a very mediocre time for a professional sports team. People will look back on your time and think, “Wow, was he really our best?”

ECW (7/14)
We’ve never been big on Vladimir Kozlov, but it just feels right having him as a big, nasty villain on the ECW brand. In defeating ECW champ Tommy Dreamer in a non-title match, and then dispatching would-be savior Christian following the bout, Kozlov cemented his place as the top rulebreaker of the brand for the time being and, honestly, it doesn’t bother us one bit. Sure, we’re still not fans of Kozlov per se, but he seems to have found a place with ECW that he did not have anywhere else in the company.

Impact (7/16)
You’d think after being in the business for nearly 73 years—and using the tactic himself on so many occasions—Sting would not be distracted by lights and ominous messages to the point of losing the advantage in a fight. Yet, last night on Impact just that happened when during a beat-down of Samoa Joe following his bout with Kurt Angle, Sting was apparently distracted by a promo for someone with a fondness for black and orange, the number 13, and warning us that we’ll survive if he lets us. Joe quickly took advantage and choked the Stinger out while the mystery man still did not make an appearance. We’re not quite sure how Tazz—we’ll go out on a limb and say it’s him—is going to fit into TNA, but we’re still excited. One of our all-time favorites here at “The Turn” and a genuinely good guy, Tazz will likely take a non-wrestling role with the promotion and, our guess, is that you’ll see that come Sunday at Victory Road, regardless of the non-compete status.

And Finally … Thanks to our good friends at Sports Illustrated for pointing out that 15 years ago today Hulk Hogan—in his first match—defeated Ric Flair to start his first of six WCW World reigns title at the promotion’s Bash At The Beach pay-per-view.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of July 3-9, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Monday night, one of my personal favorite wrestlers made a special appearance as guest host of Raw for the evening and, quite honestly, I had flashbacks to my youth. No, my father never pushed me into a match with a kid from the neighborhood in which I was clearly not ready like Ted DiBiase Sr. did to his son on Monday night, but I think every guy my age can relate in some way.

Whether it was trying out for the baseball team, standing up to the class bully, or asking out the just-hot-enough-for-you-but-not-exactly-pretty girl you sat next to in Algebra, we’ve all been encouraged by our pops to leave our comfort zone and strive for something better. It was a cool moment on Raw this week and something I had hoped would happen ever since the junior DiBiase made his debut with the company.

Funny sidenote to all of this: About 15 years ago my own father actually stepped into an elevator and standing there was Ted DiBiase. After finally placing his face, my dad turned to DiBiase—then at the height of the Million-Dollar Corporation angle—and said, “Hey, I know you. My kids love your show,” which apparently made the man laugh. According to my father, DiBiase couldn’t have been a nicer guy. We still have the autograph. Of course, my father should have had my brother challenge me for ownership, but what can you do?

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (7/3)
“Just say no.” With those three words, C.M. Punk may have provided WWE with the only acceptable angle with which it could exploit Jeff Hardy’s sordid past while keeping the fans intrigued. In the past, we’ve hammered angles that have brought external issues—such as suspensions or personal struggles with substances—into any televised angle. Our concern was that in doing so, WWE was in a way mocking its own system of testing and punishment to the point of making it seem like, well, a steroid suspension in baseball: “Oh, you’ll go away for a bit, but once you’re back all is not only forgiven, but now you’re interesting (see Ramirez, Manny).” But, in this case—more so than with baseball—we’re willing to see this angle through, assuming that’s the direction it goes, primarily because we like both Punk and Hardy. Still, this has all the makings of a Hardy bury-job and a Punk turn any moment now, which is only half-good.

Raw (7/6)
It wasn’t exactly a shocker when neither Triple-H nor John Cena emerged victorious Monday night in their highly anticipated match for the number-one contendership to the WWE title. With Cena getting the best of “The Game” in their highest profile matches, we couldn’t see the former “Doctor Of Thuganomics” (he’s just letting that degree go to waste, isn’t he?) pulling off the hat trick on a non-pay-per-view. Hence, we are left with a triple-threat main event at Night of Champions with Orton defending against Hunter and Cena in a WrestleMania 24 rematch, which spurred the thought: Does it feel like WWE is having an inordinate number of triple-threat matches lately? There’s something to be said for the entertainment value that comes with a well-paced triple-threat match, but does it even compare to a solid one-on-one bout with the gold on the line? We think not. For us, WWE growing some stones and making a choice on who should be fighting for the gold—rather than tossing everyone in the mix—would be a victory in and of itself.

ECW (7/7)
We at “The Turn” could eventually come to like Abraham Washington, but, again, we have a gripe with what seems to have become an unnecessary and, frankly, lazy booking tool by WWE: the wrestler talk show segment. It’s one thing when it’s used to promote a guy who you feel has the potential to develop into a nice persona, it’s another when it seems to be used simply to kill time and push a guy you don’t appear to know how to push. Washington is charismatic and goofy all at once, which should be enough. Yet, over the past few years WWE has taken the idea so beautifully pioneered by the likes of a Roddy Piper or even Brother Love (yes, we’re intentionally excluding The Barber Shop) and made it so commonplace that it has zero effect. Essentially, WWE is doing to the wrestling talk show gimmick what TV networks do to actual talk shows. When there are too damn many folks, we can’t tell them apart and just stop caring. Don’t make us not care about Washington before we have a chance to see what he brings to the table.

Impact (7/9)
We’ve gotten some e-mails regarding our lack of coverage of The British Invasion angle in TNA and the effect we expect the group to have on the tag division. Here’s a nice, big mea culpa on our part if only because we’re actually enjoying very much the direction the Brits are taking the TNA tag division which—God love Team 3-D—had become predictable and stale. Maybe it’s just us, but British wrestlers tend to make the best villainous foreigners. Sure, The Iron Sheik was awesome, but there’s something about a wrestler who portends to be “proper” yet bends the rules that riles up a fan base like no other. It’s like a really sneaky butler that you want to see get the crap kicked out of him if for no other reason than he reminds you of the snooty professor from Back To School. So, chalk us up as fans of The British Invasion and pardon the lack of coverage to date.

And Finally … A piece of wrestling history was made 10 years ago tomorrow, July 11, at WCW’s Bash at the Beach. Randy Savage captured the WCW World title in a Vince Russo-special: the old tag team match where the guy who gets the pinfall is the new champion. The victory would actually end up being the final title win and reign for Savage’s career, despite a brief stint with TNA five years later.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 26-July 3, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

A very happy belated Independence Day to all of the American readers out there and a very sorrowful belated, “Sorry We Whooped Your Tail” Day to those “Turn” fans across the pond. Lately, we only get one day a year in the U.S. where we can all pat ourselves on the back for something the government did (albeit 233 years ago), so we take advantage of it by blowing crap up and dusting off the guy who sings Proud To Be An American.

In honor of this past weekend’s celebration of all things American, I decided to spend my evening last night mentally debating which wrestler of the past 20 years was the most patriotic American. Arguments were made (by me) for many of the competitors who chose the good, ol’ U.S. of A as the basis for their in-ring persona. But, in the end, a dark horse of sorts emerged and after much consideration, he seemed like the right man to hold the title.

In the end, I boiled my choices down to two men who based a large portion of their careers around a love for the red, white, and blue. Naturally, my starting point was the incomparable Hulk Hogan and his love for all things American. In the 1980s, Hogan was the epitome of all things American. He loved rock and roll, beautiful women, being a champion, sun tanning, vitamins, headbands, and performance enhancing supplements. What’s more American than that?

I’ll see your sun tanning and raise you a phenomenally limited vocabulary, a beard, and a two-by-four.

That’s right, my choice for the most American of all wrestlers—over the past 20 years—has to be “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. Seems ridiculous to think he could head up any list aside from one raking the most boring ring attire, but if you really give it some thought, Duggan is as American as it comes in the industry. Born in the Catskills Mountains region of New York state, Duggan has made a living off of pride of his country and the ability to stir the fans into a frenzy simply by mentioning its name.

Sure, he abandoned the U.S. for Team Canada briefly in WCW, but who hasn’t thought about heading north of the border when things got rough? Plus, how can you not welcome back with open arms a man whose entire vocabulary consists of, “U.S.A.,” “Hooo!!!,” and “Tough guy”? Add to that the fact that the only thing he carries around more than the aforementioned two-by-four is an American flag and you’ve got the most Americany American this side of America. For God’s sake, he’s got “Hacksaw” in his name. The only way it could be better is if his name were “Hacksaw” Bald Eagle Lincoln.

He may never hold another title after this completely arbitrary and non-existent designation I’ve given him but, honestly, who would want to try and top that? Congratulations, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan—I salute you.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (6/26)
The slow heel turn of WWE World champion C.M. Punk continued last on the 6/26 episode of Smackdown heading into The Bash. As the special guest referee in the main event tag team cage match between the team of Edge and Chris Jericho and the duo of Jeff Hardy and Rey Mysterio Jr., Punk “inadvertently” cost the fan favorites the contest by distracting Hardy—conveniently, his opponent the following Sunday—long enough for the “Rated R Superstar” to land a spear. Perhaps even better was Punk’s faux-sentiment in urging the fans to give the vanquished Hardy a round of applause. This is going to get much, much better the further toward the dark side Punk moves. Enjoy it. We will.

Raw (6/29)
The only thing that “Trumped” (get it … because of … you know, the guy … he ran the show … ah, forget it) Batista serving as the guest host for last Monday’s episode of Raw was that in one final exhibition of his power, former owner Donald Trump orchestrated a talent trade before selling the program back to Mr. McMahon. Headed to the Raw roster were Gail Kim, Alicia Fox, Jack Swagger, Mark Henry, and Evan Bourne, whereas a handful of pocket lint and six pieces of hard candy went out in return. Naturally, Raw’s roster benefited the most from Trump’s moves and all five acquisitions should be solid contributors if given the opportunity.

ECW (6/30)
A little over a year ago we at “The Turn” received an e-mail message (at the always full pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com) from a reader in the U.K. letting us know that eventually, once given the chance, Sheamus O’Shaughnessy would not only impress, but likely one day hold championship gold in WWE. Well, needless to say, Sheamus’ debut last Tuesday night on ECW did nothing to dispel the premonition from across the pond. While we’re not quite ready to crown him champ just yet, Sheamus was impressive in his first televised match for the company and should be worth keeping an eye on in the coming weeks and months.

Impact (7/2)
Remember when you loved the enigmatic Sting who used to appear as if from nowhere, attack all the baddies, and then disappear just as mysteriously? Well, that’s the guy on Impact right now and, frankly, it’s pretty damn cool. With his former Mafia cohorts in the crosshairs, Sting appeared at the end of Impact to clear the ring and confiscate the TNA World title before disappearing into the darkness. Have we seen it before? Sure. Is it something of a retread? You betcha. Is it awesome? Uh-huh, assuming TNA doesn’t try to stretch it too long. It will be good if there is a beginning (now), a middle (soon), and a natural, comfy end (shortly after that).

And Finally … Props go out to reader Glenn Courtney of the cleanest city on the face of the planet Toronto, Ontario, for pointing out that in addition to our impromptu tribute to Michael Jackson in the 6/26 edition of “The Turn” there was yet another connection between Bubbles’ owner and professional wrestling. From the years of 1984 to 1986, WWF Championship Wrestling actually used Jackson’s “Thriller” as its theme music when showing footage of Hulk Hogan’s WWF title winning victory over The Iron Sheik. Check it out for yourselves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEOsK7PAm6w. Thanks, again to Glenn for pointing it out. If we had some “Turn” related SWAG to pass out, this would totally be the place to do so.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 19-25, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

“That’s it?” I questioned loudly from my couch on Monday night, which was followed with a very reasonable, “That’s the whole damn angle?” What I hammered here last week as being little more than a pointless publicity stunt and ratings grab proved to be just that as by night’s end new Raw “owner” Donald Trump had fleeced “former owner” Mr. McMahon by selling him back his beloved program at double the cost. Case closed, angle dead, see you next time we need cross-promotion.

Here’s the kicker to it all: The damn thing worked. Raw pulled in a 4.5 ratings figure for Monday night’s broadcast, compared to the prior three hour figure of a 3.7 and the 3.9 it draws for a two-hour show. The massive leap in numbers leads me to draw one of two conclusions: A) Fans who generally won’t tune in did so to follow the Trump angle, or B) Fans who loathe commercials were drawn in by the lack of advertising (part two of the evening’s gimmick). Either way, the McMahons’ calculated risk worked and I look like a jackass for ever doubting it. Such is life, I suppose. I figured we fans wouldn’t put up with such schlocky broadcasting but, alas, we did.

Update: Were I to make the decision today based on reader input, Ring Of Honor Wrestling would have been the fifth addition to the weekly breakdowns. The response from other indy promotions was virtually non-existent and, once again, the ROH supporters came out in full force, which is awesome to see. But, due to the turmoil surrounding Ring Of Honor’s weekly broadcasts I’m going to hold off on adding them just yet. If the promotion’s broadcasts can weather the current storm they’re facing, I’ll be happy to review it here each week.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (6/19)
C.M. Punk was in your classic, damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation last Friday night on Smackdown and, damned if he didn’t take advantage of a pummeled Rey Mysterio Jr. to grab the victory in the main event. Lambasted as he has been lately due to his sudden appreciation for shortcuts to victory, we can’t fault Punk on this one. Following the match, the champ pleaded his case with Jeff Hardy who appeared at ringside to challenge Punk’s victory. Asking, “What would you want me to do?” Punk immediately convinced us of the simple fact that he’s the champ, he likes being the champ, and will do anything to stay champ. We’re still not behind his motives completely just yet, but we can see the light more this week than last week.

Raw (6/22)
Monday’s commercial-free broadcast of Raw was a novel idea and worthy of a one-shot experience. Thank goodness for the innovation that is DVR because without our self-imposed pauses the night would have felt like one long walk to the ring and oddly placed camera angle. Still, in a night dominated by the question of brand ownership and finances, there were a few solid moments of wrestling that were worth catching. Specifically, the last-man-standing match between Randy Orton and Triple-H for the “Legend Killer’s” WWE title likely stole the show from an actual wrestling perspective. A surprisingly satisfying draw—along with Triple-H’s attack on the champion in the parking lot later in the evening—left the door open for genuine progression of an angle that rears its head once a year yet has never been given long enough time to develop.

ECW (6/23)
There’s something to be said for going back to what works for you despite how badly you think it’s in your past. For some, it may be realizing that your range isn’t exactly what you expected it to be; for Gregory Helms, it may just be a mask and cape. For a man whose greatest singles success in WWE came as a notoriously chippy “Don’t Call Me Hurricane” Helms, Tuesday night’s possible resurfacing of his former super alter-ego seemed a bit odd. Still, it’s hard to think of a time where Helms was more beloved and entertaining. Sure, it has a bit of a short shelf-life to it, but at this point anything that can be done to make ECW more compelling backstage would be welcomed with open arms by the fans.

Impact (6/25)
So, the long, inevitable move to allow Sting’s conscience to lead to his ouster from the Main Event Mafia came to a head last night when the fallout from Sunday’s Slammiversary played out. Newest Mafia member Samoa Joe took his place amongst his MEM brethren while Sting—who was allegedly left in the dark about Joe’s joining—was unceremoniously relieved of his membership privileges by the other members. While the removal of Sting seemed like a foregone conclusion, the addition of Joe and the manner in which everything was accomplished was very well done. TNA pulled off the initial set-up very well in this case, however now the promotion is saddled with the massive task of actually continuing this angle in a meaningful and logical way which is far easier written here than accomplished there. Keep an eye on the progression of this angle. Every competitor involved is going to have a piece of it and there will be ample room to develop personas, assuming the powers-that-be want to see that happen.

And Finally … We’d be foolish to not at least acknowledge the relatively shocking death of pop star Michael Jackson yesterday afternoon in California. While not having a tremendous influence over the wrestling industry at any point in his career, Jackson was the inspiration for a little-known WWF wrestler in the mid-1980s. Seriously. We’re not kidding. Run a search of the legendary “WWF Michael Saxton” and enjoy. It’s just as uncomfortable as you’re thinking right now.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of June 12-18, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

It’s amazing that I’m about to write the sentence that follows, but: Donald Trump is a far bigger media whore than Vince McMahon. Period.

That’s right, I wrote what you all had to be thinking after Monday night’s debacle. We have finally found a man so self-centered with such an obtuse view of his importance to society that he actually shadows the ego of a man who once blew himself up for ratings. How damn egocentric do you have to be to pull that off? Seriously.

What seemed like a fine little sideshow for WrestleMania 23 is now appearing to rear its poorly quaffed head once again. As if in an effort to lend creditability to a wholly incredible angle, McMahon had to pick a known commodity, so I can understand that. But to go back to a well that, quite frankly, wasn’t bursting with fresh ideas just seems more contrived than usual. Fans aren’t tuning in to see Donald Trump regardless of how much money falls from the rafters.

Still, I think my favorite part is how they’re literally playing up the notion that Donald Trump has been a wrestling fan his whole life. Listen, he’s only as big a fan as his options allow. Were Dana White to come calling (which he wouldn’t), “The Donald” would have been a “huge MMA” fan all of his life. Hell, if Covergirl called, he’d go on record as being a huge fan of makeup his whole life. He’s a businessman; it’s what they do. Remember, some businessman once green-lighted Crystal Pepsi and swore it would be a new phase in soft drinks. I believe you can only find it on eBay today.

So, here we are, fans. Sure, we’re getting an uninterrupted broadcast of Raw on Monday night, but is that worth it? Essentially, it’ll be two-thirds of a pay-per-view with slightly less disqualification victories, hopefully. Is this angle really something we should care about, or is it simply a way to both steer the direction of the program back to a McMahon-centric angle as well as grab a headline or two during the weak summer viewing period? Probably a bit of all three, actually. Naturally, we’ll all tune in to see how this train wreck plays itself out because we’re fans, and that’s what we do.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (6/12)
We at “The Turn” haven’t felt comfy with C.M. Punk’s recent approach to capturing and holding world championship gold, and last Friday’s Smackdown evidenced that many of you see things the same way. For the first time since his brief flirtation with the New Breed, Punk came off as, well, kind of an ass, and the great fans in Biloxi, Mississippi, let him know just that. The conflict that comes from Punk’s new world view is a bit tough to accept. We know he’s great when the fans love him, but, as any ROH aficionado will attest, the man’s even better when you hate him. Perhaps we should all just sit back and enjoy the long overdue metamorphosis.

Raw (6/15)
Is anyone having a better year than Randy Orton? The guy always seems to come up huge when the stakes are highest and, naturally, this past Monday night was no different. In the four-way match for the WWE title, Orton prevailed over The Big Show, John Cena, and Triple-H to become a five-time champion. It may be too early to throw our support behind one competitor for 2009 Wrestler of the Year status, but what the hell—it’s a nice Friday here in Philadelphia. Think long and hard come voting time, fans. This guy continues to impress every time he steps into the ring and could very likely go down as this generation’s top guy, with apologies to Mr. Cena.

ECW (6/16)
Remember when his name was Finlay and he loved to fight? Yeah, that guy is back and, as you may expect, it’s pretty damn cool to check out on ECW. The once, and apparently current, brawler from Belfast ditched his plastic bowlers cap and inflatable shillelagh and turned against both Christian and Tommy Dreamer at different points in the night. But, just to keep things interesting, Finlay also beat the cheese out of Jack Swagger for good measure. Doesn’t all feel right with the world today? Finlay dislikes everyone right now and, for some reason, that just seems like the way it should be.

Impact (6/18)
The final episode of Impact before this weekend’s Slammiversary pay-per-view from lovely and historic Ann Arbor, Michigan, not only left fans excited for the event, but also added a few intriguing matchups to the card. Perhaps most interesting is the addition of a mid-card bout between Sting and Matt Morgan for a spot in the Main Event Mafia. More specifically, Sting’s spot in the MEM. We suppose what makes this interesting is that when Sting signed, and subsequently re-upped with TNA, one of his primary goals was to work with younger guys and give them opportunities to shine. Thus far, it really hasn’t happened to the extent we expected, and while it’s not that we feel Morgan should be the guy to reverse that trend, it would provide a cool twist to the current direction of Impact.

And Finally … A sad farewell to the great Mitsuharu Misawa, who passed away last weekend during a tag team match in Hiroshima. Reports were still sketchy as of this morning, but the belief is that Misawa suffered a spinal injury following a belly-to-back suplex that actually brought on cardiac arrest. Regardless, the wrestling world lost a great pioneer and innovator at the very young age of 46. “The Turn” sends its condolences to the family, friends, and fans of the Pro Wrestling NOAH founder.

THE TURN: Skewering The Weeks Of May 29-June 4 and June 5-11, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

First, let me apologize for my absence last week as I’m sure your Friday snarkiness quotient was thrown way off by not having this brilliant tome to sit down and read whilst eating your Golden Grahams. Papa Bear took an unscheduled vacation that did not allow me access to a computer let alone the week of wrestling. But, sometimes these things happen and it’s up to me to make things right.

God bless DVR.

So, after a week’s worth of watching wrestling and catching up on last week’s events, I bring you a “Turn” first that will either go really well or painfully bad. Each blurb below will connect an angle from the past two weeks to show: A) What happened, B) Whether there was any sort of progression or development, or C) If the angle was dropped altogether in the span of seven days.

The cool thing about doing this is that we’ll very likely shed light on the absurdity and lack of continuity many of the current angles take. Or, sadly, the incremental movement with which these angles inch along will be showcased in all their slow-ass glory. Either way, we’re doing something different and tying up loose ends, which, in my opinion, is awesome.

Plus, please keep sending the suggestions for the possible new addition to “The Turn” recaps. The response thus far has been great and we all appreciate the input. Send your recommendations to: pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (5/29, 6/5)
Often times we’ve extolled our unabashed love for all things Chris Jericho. No, we’re not getting the “Aytolla Of Rock ’n’ Rolla” of old, but this new, completely despicable version of Jericho is, in many ways, a better and more developed type of rulebreaker. Essentially, you toss a guy out there in a suit with the mike ability of a Jericho and we’re sold. In the two weeks leading up to WWE’s Extreme Rules pay-per-view, Jericho was at his best, bullying then-Intercontinental champion Rey Mysterio Jr. and threatening to not only take his title, but also his mask. Hell, we all know this is a rehash of their WCW cruiserweight days, but who cares? It could’ve been that good. On the May 29 episode, Jericho artfully dissected both Mysterio Jr. and, oddly, Mickey Rourke, who was at ringside. The night culminated with Jericho—posing as a Mysterio Jr. fan—attacking the champ prior to the main event match. A week later, it was Mysterio Jr.’s turn to exact some revenge, taking out Jericho following his victory over R-Truth. So, here, the angle moved nicely heading into the pay-per-view. Both guys had their moments and stayed on course.

Raw (6/1, 6/8)
The Vickie Guerrero era is officially over, and while her weekly presence on-screen was not something we at “The Turn” will look back on with fondness, we have to applaud her for being a good sport throughout most of it. In fact, the last two weeks were probably among the most degrading televised sendoffs since Lita’s unmentionables were sold off by Cryme Time at Survivor Series 2006. As if being compared to a pig wasn’t bad enough, the June 1 episode of Raw saw Vickie compete—and win—a match with Santino Marella in which pig slop was used to emphasize the porcine comparison. Still, it was one week later when things got weird. Apparently flustered by her treatment in WWE, Vickie abruptly quit the company—for realsies—and announced it during Raw. Naturally, this prompted husband Edge to show up and rub salt in the wound by demanding a divorce. Hence, the long, long saga of Vickie Guerrero came to an end. The villain got hers, all angles were completed (you know, except for the whole Santino thing), and all is right with the world.

ECW (6/2, 6/9)
Like him or not, there’s probably no hungrier wrestler in WWE today than Tommy Dreamer. At the ripe old age of 85, Dreamer goes out each week and leaves everything in the ring, all in the hopes of grabbing a bit of the spotlight as well as entertaining the masses. At this point, everyone knows the travails of Dreamer and his “Win Or Leave” self-ultimatum. On the June 2 episode of ECW, the final broadcast before Extreme Rules, Dreamer was victorious in a grudge match with Paul Burchill, only to suffer a beatdown—both physically and verbally—at the hands of Jack Swagger. The following week, newly minted ECW champion Dreamer attempted to sign a contract extension with WWE, only to be interrupted once again by Swagger, as well as suffer a pretty nicely timed turn by Christian. Still, Dreamer was able to re-up with WWE and should be a nice face for the ECW brand seeing as how, you know, he was actually in ECW.

Impact (6/4, 6/11)
We at “The Turn” are actually loving the Shane Douglas, petulant veteran angle on Impact, although history leads us to believe this will either be short-lived or wander aimlessly without end. In the meantime, let’s sit back and enjoy the splendor that is a guy with an amazingly off-base assumption that TNA owes him anything due to his history with the promotion. Douglas’ sense of entitlement and righteousness is absolutely perfect for the angle. On the June 4 broadcast, the former “Franchise” made his intentions known by both attacking Christopher Daniels—a man he swears did not deserve a second chance—and cutting a scathing promo about TNA management. Last night, Douglas backed up his promise to make life in TNA difficult by attacking A.J. Styles and Daniels following his loss to A.J. in a grudge match. This angle feels like it is just getting off the ground and could actually have some life behind it. Frankly, anything with Styles and Daniels is gold, and something tells us that Douglas will not be the only disgruntled former employee to emerge.

And Finally … Global Championship Wrestling will be holding a card tomorrow night, Saturday, June 13, at the Palmerdale Community Center in glamorous Palmerdale, Alabama. Bell time is 7:30 and the night’s main event will feature GCW champion Micah Taylor squaring off against much-traveled Johnny Swinger for the strap. Tickets run only $10 and are still available for purchase at the venue.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 22-28

By Frank Ingiosi

Okay, we get it: You were treated poorly by a venue and a professional sports team. For the love of all things holy, Vince McMahon needs to let go of the fact that his organization—despite booking early—lost out to the NBA in this past week’s booking fiasco at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. It happened, it’s over, let’s all move on—right?

Well, no. See, this is wrestling and any mainstream facetime you can steal from legitimate programming is a victory. While this may seem a harsh observation of WWE and the industry as a whole, let’s be realistic: Professional wrestling is not on par with professional basketball in America.

Financially, it cannot be argued that wrestling is a viable venture when compared on an event-by-event basis. A solid playoff run (multiple home games complete with concessions, souvenirs, etc.) by an NBA team can net the franchise upwards of $75- to $100-million in revenue. A comparable string of Raw tapings could not even come close to that amount (WWE’s total live event revenue—for all programming—for the first quarter was $64-million).

Further, a venue such as the Pepsi Center knows that its loyalties rest with the highest bidder, which in this case is the hometown team. Toss in the fact that the Nuggets had the entire power of the NBA behind it—albeit a poorly run NBA (fodder for another discussion)—and there was no way that WWE was getting the arena for last Monday’s broadcast. Zero. Zilch. Nada. None.

So, I can’t really fault WWE for making the most of its public spurning by the Pepsi Center and the McMahon-orchestrated feud with Nuggets owner Stanley Kroenke. Outlets like ESPN actually addressed the story and had McMahon on the program to plead his case. But, with that all behind us, I’m kind of hoping that it’s over and we can just move on.

Do I believe that will happen? No. Should it happen? Absolutely. My biggest concern throughout all of this is that the loyal fans in Denver aren’t hurt because of all of these shenanigans. For all its faults, WWE can put aside grudges in the interest of business, so hopefully a return engagement in Denver is not out of the question. The fans should not suffer because two massive corporations—with even bigger egos—could not get along. Both sides made this situation personal, unfortunately, but here’s to hoping cooler heads prevail in the long run and the fans of Denver don’t get the shaft.

Finally, keep sending your recommendations as to whether I add Superstars, Ring Of Honor Wrestling, or any other widely known, televised wrestling program to this column. I’m not looking for YouTube videos or Uncle Billy’s Podunk Wrestling Federation footage from your local public access channel; it has to be a group with a following, on television, that you believe would be intriguing to the masses. Send your suggestions to us.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (5/22)
There’s a particularly disturbing—albeit likely accurate—story making the rounds online right now that perennial number-one contender, and former WWE champion, Jeff Hardy’s contract with the company has expired and he’s currently working off his last angle before leaving the company for an extended break. We say this is disturbing because not only has Hardy become a main-eventer and someone we genuinely enjoy watching, but also because it seemed like WWE had become something of a stabilizing force in Hardy’s unpredictable life. Hopefully, the situation will be resolved with the best interest of Hardy—and us—in mind. Hey, we can be a little selfish, right?

Raw (5/25)
Ken Kennedy—a health insurance salesman’s dream—returned to WWE on Monday night and immediately made his presence known as a legitimate fan favorite by siding with the good guy “Lakers” over the hated “Nuggets” in the main event. Kennedy, who has long been considered the next big main event competitor, has missed significant time over the past three years due to numerous nagging and long-term injuries. We at “The Turn” have always been staunch supporters of Kennedy, whether he was annoying us with his shtick as a villain or, well, annoying us with it now as a fan favorite. Here’s to hoping everything goes well with this latest return and Raw finally gets the best the man has to offer. You know, at least until Triple-H gets back and Kennedy gets knocked back down to the mid-card.

ECW (5/26)
Wow, even if you don’t like Tommy Dreamer you actually have to feel for the guy. Even if it would be a hit to the brand’s representation at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view, the night was supposed to belong to Dreamer and Christian fighting over the ECW title. It would either be Dreamer’s finest moment as part of WWE or his ultimate swan song. He would go out as the working man’s runner-up or finally capture the gold that has eluded him for so long. Either way, Dreamer looked like he would have the spotlight at the former-ECW-only pay-per-view, right? Well, no. See, Jack Swagger—who we don’t mind—is now part of a three-way match for the gold—which we do mind. This was supposed to be Dreamer’s night regardless of the outcome. A third party was unnecessary and a pretty crappy move by WWE.

Impact (5/28)
Okay, Victoria, Raven, and Shane Douglas walk into a bar … you’d think one of them would’ve seen it. Ba-dum-bum. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, we’ll be here all week. Seriously, what a strange night for TNA. Formerly exiled stars Shane Douglas and Raven make their grand re-appearances for the promotion, both as creepy rulebreakers, whereas the lovely Victoria (although we hear she’ll go by the name Tara in TNA) very well may be the fan favorite savior of the Knockouts division. Sure, we knew in advance that this was coming, thanks to, well, TNA itself (it loves spoiling its own shows through its mobile service), but it was still interesting to see the appearances. Our money is on Victoria lasting the longest with TNA. There’s more for her to do, plus both Douglas and Raven tend to have short shelf-lives.

And Finally … For our extremely mellow wrestling fans out in British Columbia, NWA-ECCW will be holding an event tonight, Friday, May 29, at Bridgeview Hall in Surrey. Doors open at 7:30 with an 8:00 bell time, and the main event is slated to be current champion Memphis defending the NWA-ECCW title against Bishop. Tickets are still available and for only $15 (which we believe is like $1.74 U.S.) you can grab a front row seat for the action. Check out the promotion’s website for more info: http://www.eccw.com

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 15-21

By Frank Ingiosi

Is Superstars worthy of inclusion in “The Turn”? That is the $10 question of your Friday morning.

It’s not like I’ve tried to make this an uber-exclusive club where only the fanciest of organizations can join. Hell, remember Wrestling Society X? That was here for a bit, remember? I actually had to ask people about their insight on whether X-Pac could be the face of a franchise. That’s like building your baseball team around your mascot; it makes no damn sense. No one’s going to pay to see nine Mr. Mets take on nine San Diego Chickens … or are they? Mark that one down as a possible new and exciting venture desperately in need of investors.

One thing working against Superstars is that, frankly, a lot of people out there don’t see it. Again, remember TNA Xplosion? There’s a fair chance that not even Dixie Carter could find it on a dial in any of her seven mansions (that number could be wrong, but who’s to question?). I’m forced to ponder, if a show exists and no one sees it, does it really exist? Heavy stuff for the Friday before a three-day weekend, right?

Plus, what about the oft-overlooked Ring Of Honor on yet another channel that exists only in the magical land of unicorns and universal healthcare, HDNet. Should they get a seat at the table, too, or is it only because Superstars is produced by WWE that it would be given consideration? So many choices and yet I have absolutely no interest in making them. Cue, as we say in Philadelphia, “yous.”

I’m going to leave it up to you, the reader, to let me know whether you would like Superstars, or any other larger promotion with a television deal, to have its very own place among the other brand reviews. I’ll only consider adding one, so make it good. If there’s no consensus, we’ll stick with the four staples below. Mob rule applies.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (5/15)
“We haven’t seen something like that since Dolph Ziggler beat Jimmy Wang Yang.” Wondering why that would be the lead for the Smackdown recap? The answer is simple. See, that phrase should be the punchline to some obscure joke, yet it actually reflects a random, time-filling result from last Friday night’s broadcast—one that was pretty solid, if not bottom-heavy. The final WWE broadcast prior to Judgment Day last Sunday, Smackdown adequately set-up what would be its offerings to the pay card later in the weekend, which was fine. We suppose what bothers us most, though, is that for quite a while Smackdown was putting together the best WWE programming throughout the entire two hours. It was like an album where you could listen to every song without skipping ahead. Now, after being gutted and restructured due to the draft, feel free to skip around to catch your favorite parts. It may get better in the future, but for now it’s feeling a lot like a one-hit wonder.

Raw (5/18)
We wish we had the type of unadulterated hate that many of our fellow fans—especially those on the “Internets” using “the Google”—currently possess for the Santino/Santina angle on Raw … but we don’t. In fact, we were pained to see the awkwardly European Santina lose her Miss WrestleMania title—and suffer a vicious beatdown at the hands of Chavo Guerrero—this past Monday night. Even worse, losing the sash and tiara to none other than Vickie Guerrero was like salt being forced into our eyes. As if it weren’t painful enough to follow Vickie’s lead as GM, now she’s gone all Debra McMichael on us. Yeah, we said it. Still, we simultaneously celebrate and mourn the passing of Santina’s reign and hope she has a safe trip back to whatever part of Santino’s psyche she currently resides.

ECW (5/19)
ECW is starting to feel like the morning after an all-night drinking binge: You kind of recall bits and pieces of what happened but things are so scattershot there’s no way all of that happened, right? After pulling our collective heads up off the pillow and gaining our bearings Wednesday morning, we were able to recall something about Christian getting injured, still wrestling, and finally giving Tommy Dreamer his ECW title shot at Extreme Rules next month (which, I believe, we predicted here). Also, there was something about the Hart Foundation with a much hotter valet. Ooh, wait, Tiffany. We remember that Tiffany actually came off like a competent general manager, too. Whew. We know we say this every time, but this time we mean it: We’ll never get that ECW drunk again.

Impact (5/21)
We at “The Turn” usually hate the aptly titled “go home” shows prior to pay-per-views, however last night’s Impact wasn’t all that bad really. Mick Foley has solidified himself as one of the top heels on the broadcast, the Main Event Mafia seems ready to implode at any moment, and Jeff Jarrett is coming off like the savior of the promotion. Overall, last night was a fine couple hours of wrestling heading in to Sacrifice this weekend. A couple of points worth noting: The X division title match will steal the show, yet again; Jarrett will do something semi-villainous; Mick Foley will not leave as TNA World champion; you will like Sting more on Monday than you do today.

And Finally … In honor of Memorial Day weekend—and the unofficial start to summer here in the U.S.—we go to our 50th state in search of entertainment. If anyone happens to be in the greater Honolulu area and is looking to check out some great indy wrestling, Action Zone Wrestling will be holding its Pride & Glory card tomorrow evening, May 23, at 7:30 PM in the Tiger Muay Thai Gym. Admission is a steal at $7 and tickets are still available. Check out the promotion’s MySpace page for more details: http://www.myspace.com/azwhawaii.

THE TURN SPECIAL EDITION: 2009 Hall of Fame Inductees

By Frank Ingiosi

Once again we come to you from sunny, scenic Blue Bell, Pennsylvania—home of free lunchtime margaritas, the best pizza fries you will ever taste, and the headquarters of Pro Wrestling Illustrated—to induct the members of the Turn Hall Of Fame class of 2009. In only its second year of existence, the THOF selection committee was faced with the daunting task of sifting through a record number of fan nominations. In doing so, we at “The Turn” believe we have come to a consensus on a very impressive—albeit unusual—group of inductees for this year’s class.

Once again, our criteria for induction were simple: wrestlers and/or builders—those who shaped televised wrestling, those who provided us, the fans, with constant and memorable entertainment throughout the course of their careers. There were, once again, no restrictions on who could be nominated and fair consideration was given to all nominees. Today, May 15, 2009, we induct the second class of your nominees into the THOF. Again, they will be immortalized with a plaque on the wall of “Turn” headquarters (which is not nearly as nice as the PWI digs) as well as our undying praise and gratitude as forevermore they can proudly be called a THOFer.

As it was last year, the selections were taken entirely from your nominating e-mails. Again, you decided that this year’s nominees were worthy of selection and we couldn’t argue with you, the fans, if we tried. This year’s class joins the superb inaugural group of Bobby Heenan (“Builder”), Dusty Rhodes (“Wrestler/Builder”), and The Rock (“Wrestler”). An impressive class to be sure, but we’re confident that the crop of recipients this year will both rival and surprise as well.

Without any further ado, here is the Turn Hall of Fame class of 2009. The builders were shut out this year as we have our first class of only wrestlers.

Sting (Wrestler)
Whether he was the bleach-blond surfer dude with more neon spandex than a grown man should own or the don of a mob-style family of main eventers, Sting has provided fans with compelling moments time and again throughout his career. The high point, however, came during his one-man assault on the NWO while part of WCW. Fans tuned in weekly to follow the antics of Hollywood Hogan but they stayed on the dial in hopes that the dark and mysterious Sting would make his presence known.

It is nearly impossible to imagine over the past 20-plus years in which Sting was not only a viable world championship contender, but even more so a major draw of the live crowds. Considering the fact that he accomplished all of this while not appearing on WWE programming makes Sting’s career all the more impressive.

Because of his contributions to televised wrestling as a wrestler, Sting is inducted into the Turn Hall of Fame, under the “Wrestler” category.

Arn Anderson (Wrestler)
Few men in the history of professional wrestling have done more by saying less than Arn Anderson. Still, when the bruiser from Georgia spoke, you couldn’t help but feel his presence through the television. Seeing Anderson joke or smile was a rarity; seeing the man crush an opponent or blatantly break the rules to aid a partner was a regular occurrence.

Known primarily as the enforcer of arguably the greatest faction in wrestling history—The Four Horsemen—Anderson seemed at ease with his role as the man behind “The Man.” Anderson made the most of his position, garnering both individual and tag titles with what would become a longtime partner in Tully Blanchard. Success would follow Anderson upon leaving WCW for a brief stint with the WWF in 1988. Still, it seemed that regardless of where he wrestled, Anderson was the captivating thug that fans either blindly loved or hated ferociously.

Because of his contributions to televised wrestling as a wrestler Arn Anderson is inducted into the Turn Hall of Fame, under the “Wrestler” category.

Rey Mysterio Jr. (Wrestler)
In keeping with the theme of wrestlers making the most of their situations on television, Rey Mysterio Jr. has blossomed into not only a bona fide main eventer, but also one of the most marketable wrestlers on television today.

Once considered a solid mid-card wrestler able to pull off a quickly paced match in WCW, Mysterio Jr. proved the doubters wrong by both playing the role of giant killer and, eventually, world champion. Commanding more television time at this phase of his career than any other point, Mysterio Jr. holds a privileged place among the WWE brands. A staple of Smackdown, Mysterio Jr. was sent briefly to Raw, only to capture the Intercontinental championship and take it back to Friday nights as a result of the post-WrestleMania draft lottery. More at home on Smackdown, Mysterio Jr. continues to bring an excitement and electricity to the program that was lacking in his absence.

Because of his contributions to televised wrestling as a wrestler, Rey Mysterio Jr. is an inductee into the Turn Hall of Fame, under the “Wrestler” category.

Thanks to all of the fans who nominated and defended their choices for the Turn Hall of Fame class of 2009. Some surprising choices this year but, really, that’s what makes the industry—and you fans—so great. Opinions may vary but, in the end, we can all agree that greatness is constant and should be recognized. We at “The Turn” are excited to see what your nominations look like next year but, in the meantime, feel free to send your comments, concerns, gripes to pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com and we will try to address them over the coming 12 months. It is your opinions and suggestions that keep “The Turn” going each and every week and for that we thank you.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of May 2-8, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

I’m bringing back the old-school, quickie “Turn Quiz” for your enjoyment but, mostly, to help educate the masses. Today’s quiz consists of one multiple choice question. Please choose the answer that best fits. Let’s begin:

1. What pairing—that would never occur on its own in nature—should not be encouraged at any cost?
A. Peanut butter and canned tuna fish
B. New York Mets fans and deodorant
C. WWE and The View collaborating
D. All of the above

Since viable arguments can be made for all of the choices, the correct answer here is D—all of the above. But, for the sake of this column, let’s focus on option C and, specifically, the role of View panelist Sherri Shepherd as arm candy to one MVP. My first instinct, upon seeing this partnership was to wonder, “Hey … what the hell is up with this?” But, after careful consideration and deliberation I’ve gotten to the point of, “No, really, what is this?”

If you weren’t convinced that the McMahon family will do anything—and I mean anything—to nab some of that sweet, sweet mainstream spotlight, the inclusion of the dimmest bulb, on the dimmest talk show, should seal the deal. Congratulations, WWE: You’re dating the ugliest broad in the popular group just so you can be cool by association.

The Week In Televised Wrestling:

Smackdown (5/1)
We were treated to a restaurant-quality match last Friday night on Smackdown in that fatal four-way to determine the number-one contender to Edge’s World championship. With all the makings of a classic, Friday night missed opportunity complete with run-ins and a sloppy finish, the match actually was quite good and avoided all of the aforementioned pitfalls. When all was said and done, Jeff Hardy had once again become the number-one contender to the top prize of the brand and was slated to move on to face Edge at Judgment Day. Initially, we weren’t behind the “Jeff Hardy As A World Champion” movement and, to be honest, we’re still not sold on him being worthy of such rarified air. But, the man does have some damn entertaining matches and that’s really what it’s all about, right? Should be interesting to see how he holds up at Judgment Day.

Raw (5/4)
The best way to describe Shane McMahon’s Monday night would be: nothing lost, nothing gained. Well, nothing lost aside from the use of his legs. Okay, let’s amend that: nothing—aside from walking and running with your children—lost, nothing gained. See, that fits much better! By taking on Legacy sans any sort of backup, Shane showed that sometimes it is better to be smart than brave. Was there any doubt that the guy was going to get his million-dollar ass handed to him on Raw? A bit of advice for Shane since we’re sure he’s at home patiently waiting for this column to post: Chivalry only goes so far. You’re not really defending the honor of your family, its business, or anything when you willfully take on a suicide mission. Plus, are we fresh out of McMahons or what? With Linda acting as the face of the legit wing of the family and everyone else having either been punted in the head or crippled by stairs, this angle may have extinguished itself on Monday night.

ECW (5/5)
Tommy Dreamer Unemployment Watch: Five weeks and counting. Of course we don’t intend to be cruel, but in a down economy such as the one we’re all experiencing in the U.S., shouldn’t Mr. Dreamer not affix his employment status to whether or not he wins a watered-down version of the title he so craved at one point in his career? Seriously, this guy has kids to feed. Just sign a new contract and continue on down that golden road toward an unceremonious retirement one day. We at “The Turn” love Tommy and would not want to see him wind up without a gig solely because his pride got in the way. Plus, what else is there to do? It’s not like his resume includes extensive HR or technological experience. Plus, the market for homemade kendo sticks doesn’t exactly exist, so we can safely scratch that. Stick with what you know, that’s what we say.

Impact (5/7)
Ahh, there’s the TNA we know and sometimes love. In an otherwise entertaining program that featured intrigue involving the TNA World tag team title tournament and The Motor City Machine Guns quest to unmask Suicide, a 10-man tag team match involving the Main Event Mafia and Frontline capped off the evening. We’re fairly certain if there was time, TNA would’ve added a 20-man match of some sort to make sure the entire current roster and anyone above a certain height in the audience could’ve been part of the broadcast. Still, the main event did bear some interesting fruit by show’s end in that the teasing of a Jeff Jarrett return to the dark side continued when he took out partner Mick Foley mid-match, allowing Sting to steal the victory for the MEM and, more importantly, a spot in the TNA World title match at Sacrifice.

And Finally … For those of you keeping track—and the e-mails indicate there are more than a few—the announcement of the Turn Hall of Fame class of 2009 has yet to be revealed and for good reason. We received requests from a few readers to extend the deadline for submissions and, being the benevolent leaders we are, we obliged. The formal announcement of the THOF class of 2009 will now take place next week, May 15, 2009 in an effort to allow the last few groups to get in their nominees. So, send in your remaining recommendations by this Sunday, May 10 for consideration.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 24-May 1, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

I’m in a nostalgic mood today and I can’t quite determine whether it’s because guys like Ricky Steamboat are still wrestling, “Playboy” Buddy Rose—another name from my youth—passed away earlier this week, or possibly because I’m checking out the final two shows that the remaining members of The Grateful Dead will be playing at the historic Philadelphia Spectrum this weekend. Whatever it is, there just seems to be a sense of history in the air right now and I, for one, love it.

I’ve never been a big fan of riding the nostalgia wave for too long but, in increments, it’s always nice to remember times past that were fun and entertaining. When DX reunited for the first of their “one-night” engagements, I was excited; now, it makes me sad. Remember the Voodoo Kin Mafia? Again, clever for a little bit, then you just felt bad for Konnan and Ron Killings. Not all revivals are a good thing, of course.

But, for the time being, I’m willing to accept that Mick Foley is the TNA World champion, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan is still gainfully employed in a job that doesn’t require a shirt, and somewhere, The Rock is expressing his profound love for wrestling to a blogger while simultaneously distancing himself from the industry.

Ahh. And so begins springtime in Philly.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (4/24)
When any of the WWE programs originate from outside of the country, fans are generally treated to a program filled with top-tier talent in non-consequential situations. Think: house show with Cockney accents. The same could hold true for last Friday’s episode of Smackdown coming to you from sunny London, England. The go-home show for Backlash featured a Big Show-Undertaker match as well as a preview of the main event for the pay-per-view when Batista paired with Shane McMahon to take on Rhodes and DiBiase Jr. Still, when the biggest championship on the line is the much-heralded Divas title (which was drafted to Raw, we thought) you’re getting a glorified house show. Sorry, England, for, you know, this event … and the whole revolution and all. Figure we’d cover everything at once here at “The Turn.”

Raw (4/27)
There’s really not much better, in our humble opinion, than seeing The Miz look like a jackass. This guy’s not all that bad we’re sure, however did you ever have someone whose mere presence drove you into a frothing rage? Think Jeff Jarrett in WCW or Sid Vicious anywhere. You just know whatever they say or do is going to make you angry to the point of exhaustion. Yeah, The Miz now holds the keys to the crazy car. So, to see him come out on Monday night and take shots at John Cena—who was allegedly nursing injuries from Backlash—pained us if only because it appears that we’ll be getting more Miz than ever. Naturally Cena didn’t respond seeing as how he wasn’t at the show … right? Well, no. See, Cena popped out during the main event to distract The Big Show meaning that there’s a good chance—shocker—he was there all along. Don’t worry, Miz, it’s not that Cena was so injured he couldn’t respond; it’s just that you are so inconsequential as to not even warrant a reply. Ouch!

ECW (4/28)
Tommy Dreamer’s contract watch has now hit the six-week mark. For those of you who don’t follow ECW—and, again, numbers indicate it’s most of you—Dreamer has given himself until the end of his current WWE contract to win the ECW title or else he will leave the company. For anyone who owns a calendar, six weeks would coincidently take us right up to the first week of June and the Extreme Rules pay-per-view. Don’t want to spoil anything, but we’re comfortable going with the assumption that Dreamer will somehow be involved. Just a guess, really. But, perhaps, the greatest thing to come out of Tuesday’s night easily was the latest repackaging of Vladimir Kozlov, who is now either: A) Russian militant, or, B) Sylvester Stallone in Demolition Man. Either way, if seven-feet of giant did not instill fear into the hearts of opponents, we’re not banking that military rank will do much either. But, hey, Sgt. Slaughter made a very nice, albeit alliterative, living, right? Comrade Kozlov can’t be far behind.

Impact (4/30)
Pretty cool return of The Amazing Red on Impact, although the news of the night has to be Kurt Angle setting up the next installment of a Jeff Jarrett led faction by putting his spot as don of the Main Event Mafia on the line at Sacrifice in the Ultimate Sacrifice match (it’s cute because it has the name of the show in the title). That’s right—whoever pins Angle in the match will take over control of the third most powerful entity in Orlando: Number-two being Dwight Howard but only coming in behind the frozen tidbits of Walt Disney. A few months back this would have actually been a legitimate prize but now it’s damn near punishment. Still, Jarrett will likely make it his purpose in life to gain control of the Mafia through a turn or otherwise. There’s really not a faction the guy doesn’t like or feel needs his presence. He’s like a bad angle vulture.

And Finally … Stuck in Heath, Ohio tonight with nothing to do and some spare cash in your pocket. In that case, head over to Captain Jack’s and check out the Micro Wrestling Federation card for the evening. Come for the hot wings, stay for the “Micro People” wrestling. http://www.microwrestling.com/about/

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 17-23, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

I was always a believer in Bobby Lashley back when WWE was swearing up and down Tresser Boulevard that he was going to really—really—be that next “big thing” they had been promising since Brock Lesnar passed on the gig.

Lashley seemed to have all the tools in the ring and was working towards developing his promos and establishing his on-screen persona when he somewhat abruptly left WWE for reasons still a bit unclear. Whether he was unsatisfied with his role in the company or, as others suggest, he left in protest of the firing a girlfriend or, possibly, WWE decided to simply cut its perceived losses, the end result was the same: The next, next, next big thing would have to be someone else.

Naturally, as with all highly competitive athletes, Lashley continued in his pursuit of sport, swearing this time that MMA was his new first love. He assured fans and promoters alike that his time with wrestling was, at least temporarily, on hold and MMA was how he was going to make his name. Hell, it worked for the guy whose black trunks and boots he was being pushed to fill, right?

All seemed set in the world of Bobby Lashley. He was a full-time MMA fighter with outside business interests and a loving family at home. It’s precisely those elements that make his apparent return to professional wrestling—through TNA no less—all the more perplexing and, in some ways, disappointing. And, although I’ve lambasted Brock Lesnar in the past for toying with wrestling fans, my disappointment with Lashley is a bit different in that the man truly did not need this, or so it would have appeared.

So adamant was Lashley about his leaving the sport and focusing on MMA that it just seems strange he would choose such an obscure time, occasion, and method to return to wrestling. There was really no hype or presupposition that it would be Lashley appearing at TNA’s Lockdown which, although providing a nice surprise, seemed out of place for the angle he appears to be entering.

Not quite “main event” enough for the Mafia and having zero allegiances to TNA that would warrant a spot on the Frontline, Lashley’s acquisition seems, again, all the more curious. The question then would have to be raised: does Lashley have that proverbial itch to return that needed scratching or, more simply, does he just need the scratch? TNA does tend to pay handsomely for name recognition and to ignore the possibility of that entering the equation would be ridiculous. Still, it couldn’t just be about the money, right?

I suppose what disappoints me most about the situation is that Lashley—unlike Lesnar—didn’t really lead fans on to anticipate his return to the ring, at least not at this point. Upon first leaving WWE he teased at a move elsewhere, but when that didn’t materialize following his non-compete ending you had to figure he was serious about life outside the industry. And all indications were that he was doing exactly as he had hoped he would and wrestling was merely but a footnote in his past (you know, like The Rock but without all the stifled shame). Apparently the allure of working for TNA was too much for the man to take.

Understanding full well that situations change and people are absolutely free to do as they please in their careers, part of me wishes that Lashley simply never came back to wrestling. It’s not that he has some great legacy that could be tarnished by a return, or that I don’t want to see him compete, but rather he had all the makings of a guy who successfully left the mafia and turned his life around. But, I suppose it’s true that every time you think you’re out you get pulled back in. See, there is something good to come out of The Godfather III.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (4/17)
We’ve tried very hard to avoid mentions of Dolph Ziggler but, alas, his surprising win over MVP—and painfully obnoxious persona—forces us to address the situation at hand. Much like all fans, we have the same questions surrounding Ziggler as we did Ken Kennedy when he started with WWE. Does he love his own name? Is he supposed to be a brash self-promoter? When will the next Behind Enemy Lines be available on VHS? Sadly, we still don’t get Ziggler and probably never will. Amazing how WWE makes something like the Spirit Squad seem clever by comparison, eh?

Raw (4/20)
Although some fans may be frustrated with the continuation of the Triple-H-Randy Orton feud, we at “The Turn” urge you to take some comfort in the fact that this angle appears to be heading to a close sooner than expected. If you have not figured out the formula by now, here it goes: big match, TV fallout, secondary match with added stipulations and/or people, fallout with new sub-angles, tertiary match (if necessary), addition of a midget. You can’t lose with that formula, we swear by it. Currently, this angle is in the “secondary match with added stipulations and/or people” phase, so we should expect the obligatory fallout but, barring any unforeseen McMahonization of it, a comfy ending shortly thereafter.

ECW (4/21)
The Hart family tradition was upheld Tuesday night when Natalya was defeated by Hornswoggle—yep, the guy from under the ring—in a match of her own making. Of course outside interference allowed the diminutive member of the Raw roster to pull off the upset, but the record books will forever record it as a win for Hornswoggle and loss for Natalya. Remember when her dad lost to Sky Low Low? Oh, that’s right, he didn’t because he was Jim freakin’ Neidhart. Weak.

Impact (4/23)
Mick Foley … or, wait, allow us to correct that … TNA World champion Mick Foley is at odds with Jeff Jarrett over the direction of the organization and that animosity spilled out last night on Impact. Jarrett chose to play the role of booker by putting the champ in a four-way match at Sacrifice in order to defend his title; the champ, however, slated Jarrett for a Cactus Jack Smack Attack match with Scott Steiner later that evening. Essentially, that type of match would be called a weapons match for anyone above the age of 10. In the end, it was Foley who stood tall by taking out his aggressions—via a steel chair—on a defenseless “King Of The Mountain.” We wonder who will get one of those four slots at Sacrifice?

And Finally … Fans in the greater Lawrence, Massachusetts, area can check out Chaotic Wrestling’s card this Saturday night at the Plains Community Center. The evening will feature Chase Del Monte squaring off with Scott Reed for the CW title as well as Demon Ortiz defending the CW New England strap against Alex Arion. Bell time is 7:00 PM and tickets can be reserved at the promotion’s webpage http://www.chaoticwrestling.com/index.htm.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 10-16, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

It’s not often that I run a “what to watch”-style segment in this column, but there are a few things I feel are worth catching this week if you haven’t already.

First, check out Vince McMahon’s appearance on ESPN’s E:60 that aired earlier this week. For a company that refuses to recognize wrestling as a sport and a businessman that swears that his product is anything but a sport, it was a very uneasy—yet highly entertaining—15- minute segment.

Finally, if you can find it, check out WWE Superstars, which is actually a pretty nicely boiled-down version of a wrestling program. With solid matches and top contenders, Superstars proves a good watch for those who get the WGN network. Of course, if that doesn’t work for you, you could always head over to the company’s website and check things out there, but what’s the fun in that?

Asking you to check out more wrestling than what is offered is nuts, I know, but sometimes you have to sift through the filler to get to the good stuff. Yes, of course I realize that it’s only a matter of time before Superstars becomes Heat-lite, but in the meantime enjoy the little bump it’s receiving.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (4/10)
We at “The Turn” are, generally, pretty big slappies for Edge. Hell, the guy makes it easy these days—he’s just that good. But, as blasphemous as this may sound, John Cena’s put-down of the “Rated R Superstar” was spot-on last Friday night when he pointed out that the former World champ was more interested in wasting time than accepting his part in history. Edge’s over-played routine blaming the world for his ills and accusing those who beat him of either cheating or stealing from him is tired and long past the days of entertainment. Hey, Edge, here’s an idea: Don’t lose the damn gold in the first place. That way you won’t have to gripe about losing the strap in the first place. Eight-time former world champion also means seven-time current loser. Jackass.

Raw (4/13)
The annual WWE draft took place on Monday night with Raw, shockingly, getting the most—and arguably best—picks of the lot. The rundown of who went where was such: Raw picked up MVP, Big Show, Matt Hardy, Triple-H, The Miz, and Maryse; Smackdown grabbed Melina, C.M. Punk, Kane, Chris Jericho, and Rey Mysterio Jr.; ECW stole the show by winning Vladimir Kozlov. In the end, Raw was left with two world champions; the female titlists switched brands, as did the mid-tier men’s champions in the U.S. and Intercontinental holders. Yet with all of this, the strangest moment of the night may have been that a match was held between World champion John Cena and ECW champ Jack Swagger with two draft picks on the line. Wait … ECW is so meaningless as to barely have a showing at WrestleMania yet so important as to dictate such an important draft-night decision?

ECW (4/14)
ECW’s world-class acquisition Vladimir Kozlov ran his undefeated streak as a full-time member of the Tuesday night brand to one when he defeated Jack Floridia in a contest for the ages. Yes Sir, Kozlov—the guy we were once sold as being a legitimate contender for the WWE title—is now crushing guys with names loosely resembling a state. Watch out, Steve Nebrasker—you’re next! In more intriguing news, Tommy Dreamer lost in his most recent bid to remain in the ECW title chase prior to the expiration of his contract. Eliminated in a triple-threat match, Dreamer will now have to find another way to strive for relevance. Listen, Tommy, we are big fans, but it’s probably in your best interest to not win this title. Sweet, sweet retirement would probably look better on your resume than this watered-down version of the ECW title. It’s like scoring a date with the prom queen … 25 years after she was crowned. She’s just a soccer mom now, dude, and you can get a soccer mom anywhere. Ride off into the sunset with your head held high and your waist bare.

Impact (4/16)
Something stinks in Orlando and, for once, it’s not Impact. Ahh … just kidding, it is Impact that’s crapping up the happiest place on Earth. But, to be specific, it’s not so much the entire program (we still dig the Sting-Foley feud), but rather the direction the Main Event Mafia-Frontline angle is taking. Last night, the latest member of Frontline was revealed to be none other than a returning Christopher Daniels much to the delight of the fans at the Impact Zone as well as an extraordinarily jubilant A.J. Styles (really, it was kinda uncomfortable). Yet in the end, it was Jeff Jarrett making the call in favor of the MEM when a controversial finish (shocking, Mr. Russo) occurred in the main event match between Daniels and Kurt Angle with the man-advantage at Lockdown on the line. Jarrett gave the MEM the win and made Don West—a master of innuendo—look like a genius as he was casting doubt on the allegiance of Jarrett all night. Our guess, given the mess that was last night: Look for a turn on Sunday that makes the 1996 Bash at the Beach look like anything WCW gave us in 2001.

And Finally … Still devastated about the Brett Favre situation? It’s okay—there’s still life in Wisconsin, we promise. In fact, we recommend getting over your cheesehead blues by taking in both frames of the Brew City Wrestling weekend doubleheader on April 24 and 25. Headlining will be BCW heavyweight champ T.C. Washington and NWA Heartland States champion Dinn T. More. Tickets are still available and run $15 for each night. Check out the BCW website for more info: http://www.brewcitywrestling1.com/

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of April 3-9, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

We at The Turn try ever so hard not to come off as pickers of nit. And after taking in that Undertaker-Michaels classic, we’re willing to forgo complaining about the remainder of what was by most accounts an underwhelming spring classic.

Instead, we’ll merely ask whether or not you noticed … that several Divas had already been eliminated from the battle royal by the time Howard Finkel finished explaining the rules of engagement over the PA system? … that JBL’s pre-match and post-match gum-flapping lasted twice as long as his one-sided loss to Rey Mysterio Jr.? … that just when you thought WWE couldn’t devalue tag team wrestling any more than it has, it knocked the title unification bout down to dark match status? … that referee Scott Armstrong could be heard instructing Triple-H on how to wrap up his match against Randy Orton? On the flip side, we also wonder if you noticed that … The Money in the Bank match featured many more innovative uses for ladders than in previous years? … that HBK dipped liberally into Ric Flair’s bag of tricks while battling The Undertaker? … that while most wrestlers in the Money in the Bank ladder match rushed each other as soon as the bell was rung, Shelton Benjamin’s first act was to immediately slide under the bottom rope to survey the situation from ringside? … that Beth Phoenix obviously knew that “Santina” Marella was in fact Santino in drag, yet Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross, and Michael Cole didn’t?

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (4/3)
With all the excitement and shenanigans the week before, we at “The Turn” failed to properly welcome Gail Kim back to WWE. One of the most talented female wrestlers in the industry today, Kim was best remembered for winning the WWE women’s title in her first official match with the company back in 2003. Kim parlayed that success in to being stuck as Jeff Jarrett’s arm candy and then holding the TNA Knockout’s title for far too short an amount of time. But, at least WWE knows how to use her, right? Plug her right in on Friday nights to chase a belt shaped like a pink butterfly. Maybe they could hire Wendi Richter back and make her a pyrotechnics specialist. Chyna as a hand model? C’mon, we’ve got hundreds of them!

Raw (4/6)
Monday night we fans were treated to the first in-ring work—on Raw—of one of the greatest wrestlers of the past few decades. We at “The Turn” love a good surprise as much as the next guy, but just seeing this man return to WWE television after such a prolonged absence had to have given even the most cynical WWE critic goosebumps. Of course we’re talking about the great … Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat. Sure he wrestled the night before and, yes, we shelled out the same $55 as you did to catch it, but the work he put in on Monday night should have served as a lesson to those he competed with and against. Oh … and Batista came back. Ropes shook, grown men wet themselves, the end.

ECW (4/7)
Do you like smoking hot Divas that add more to the show with the mute button on than were you to actually hear what they’re saying? Devastated when Josh Matthews was thrown on the proverbial scrap heap? Afraid that at your advanced age you may just not be that “extreme” anymore? Do yourself a favor and check out the new ECW complete with Tiffany as general manager and Heat’s former host as your sit-in announce team member. That’s right the new, “don’t come to WrestleMania unless you buy a ticket” ECW. Remember, you can’t spell NEW without ECW … assuming you remove the C … and slide the E down one spot while adding the N to the beginning … but that W gets to stay right where it is! That’s right, you can’t spell NEW without that steadfast W!

Impact (4/9)
The most recent episode of Impact should help explain yet again why we here at the Turn are so critical of TNA. After Sting vs. Foley, Booker T vs. Samoa Joe figured to be the most compelling individual battle at Lockdown. Yes, we know their confrontation if it happens at all will occur within the Team Jarrett vs. Main Event Mafia match, but with Booker so enraged at Joe for kidnapping Sharmell, and Joe so angry for … well, just because, we expected their match on Impact to be one of the most violent in the build up to Lockdown. Instead, Joe squashed Booker (with Angle at ringside) in a three-minute throw-away match during which Booker got in no offense. Way to set the stage for a major PPV.

And Finally … For “Turn” readers in the Hawkeye State, next Friday—April 17—3XW Wrestling will be holding it’s April Showers Of Power card at the Des Moines Social club in fabulous Des Moines, Iowa. Doors open at 7 PM with bell time a half-hour later. The evening’s main event will showcase 3XW Wrestling champion Casanova and 3XW pure wrestling champion Jeremy Wyatt putting both of their titles on the line in a tag match against “Delicious” Devin Carter and Tyler Cook. Tickets are still available, so check out the 3XW Wrestling website for more information: http://www.3xwrestling.com/Home.htm

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 27-April 2, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Man, I love this time of year. For the past couple of years I’ve always trumpeted how this weekend—WrestleMania weekend—was my favorite. There’s just so much going on in both the world of wrestling as well as all sports that it’s a TV junkie’s dream. Keep your pizza guy on speed dial, pick out your comfiest loungewear, and just enjoy.

You’ve earned it.

For every minute of ECWCW you’ve suffered this year. For every Russonian angle that left you with a bald spot from scratching your head so damn much. Hell, you’ve earned this weekend and so much more. Still, this year’s installment of the “Granddaddy O’ Them All” takes on a different feel than years past. For the first time in a while, I can’t see what the WWE horizon will look like in the weeks and months following ’Mania.

Will Shawn Michaels become the highest profile member of The Undertaker’s streak or will that run actually come to an end? Will Randy Orton bring World championship gold back to Raw, or will the McMahon-Helmsley Era (Part One-Billion) return to prominence? Just how many breasts will be exposed during the Divas battle royal (I’m setting the line at three … don’t ask how, just choose). What could JBL possibly do to make history in an Intercontinental title match with Rey Mysterio Jr. (My guess: slight of hand)? Still, this is what makes WrestleMania weekend so exciting, even in years where the drama is minimal. Everything is up for grabs and, unlike the early days of the card, nothing is ever as you expect.

In recent years, the art of the pay card—at least how WWE does it—has diminished to little more than a third hour of Raw with an unsatisfying finish or two thrown in for good measure. Pay cards used to be events and worthy of their ridiculous price tags, but no more. ’Mania, however, always seems to deliver something that mitigates the feeling of buyer’s remorse you have when the cable bill arrives. Everyone’s had that, “Holy crap! That was $55?” moment that is quickly quelled by, “Well, they did hang the Big Bossman from a cage. Guess it was worth it.”

So, enjoy the weekend, my fellow fans. Mark out like you haven’t in years. Don’t be afraid to break out that old Mr. Ass shirt you’ve been hiding since sophomore year in college. We’re all wrestling slappies this weekend and that unity may be the best part of it all. Happy wrestling New Year!

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (3/27)
’Mania Culpa: Originally, we liked the dark turn the Hardy brothers’ feud was taking heading into the springtime classic. Matt brought Jeff’s outside issues into the ring and made a hell of a point of painting his brother as loose cannon with little regard for the wellbeing of those around him. In recent weeks, though, not only has the heat all but completely died off, but Matt’s psychotic make out session with a dog resembling that of Jeff’s dearly departed pooch was just weird. The match still could be very entertaining but only because of the talent level in the ring.

Raw (3/30)
Can Triple-H ever be a villain again? We’re all for the finality of the whisper campaign surrounding the McMahon-Helmsley relationship, but is “The Game’s” credibility as a rulebreaker completely shot? We don’t care who he picks on or pummels with a sledge hammer; from this point on, Triple-H is just the boss’s Teflon-coated son-in-law. Defending your family is all well and good, but after the united front showed on Monday night between father, son, and son-in-law to close Raw, we’re going to call it for Triple-H’s rulebreaker credibility. Time of death: 11:04 PM.

ECW (3/31)
Listen, we’ve accepted the fact that ECW—for good or ill—exists and will continue to be bastardized at all costs by the powers-that-be in WWE. But, looking past the fact that there is no ECW title match at ’Mania, how embarrassingly bad was Tuesday night’s final show before the big event. There was a grand total of two—that’s right, one more than one—matches on the night and half of that duo was a match pitting the Bella sisters against each other. Hot? You betcha. Worth your time? No dice. It’s one thing when we don’t care about ECW; it’s something far, far worse when it’s evident that WWE feels the same way.

Impact (4/2)
Did … ahh … did the guy with the machete just steal Booker T’s wife? Unfortunately, it looks that way for the former Legends champion. As if squaring off with his former employer wasn’t bad enough (more on that later) Booker T now has the unenviable task of hunting down the Samoan Rambo and retrieving his kidnapped wife. We at “The Turn” wish we had some advice for Booker but we have little to no experience in retrieving loved ones from potentially insane mercenaries with a point to prove and the diligence to paint a tattoo on his face.

And Finally … For anyone not headed to either WrestleMania 25 or the ROH show in Houston this weekend, there’s always the exceptionally cool Legends Of Wrestling Fanfest headed up by the Booker T Fights For Kids Foundation. You probably heard of the event primarily because of the allegations of event sabotage (which, sadly, appears to carry some validity) flying back and forth between Booker and his former employers up north but what you’d be missing is a pretty cool event. Tickets are still available for those interested. For more information, check out: http://www.bookertlow.com/

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 20-26, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Randy Orton is the greatest villain of my generation, period. I challenge—nay dare—someone to make an argument to the contrary as well as offer up who is better than the “Legend Killer” right now.

I generally try to not come right out and blatantly throw support at a wrestler not named Flair, but Orton has earned it. The guy tiptoes the line between cheesy, 1980s WWF-style villains and the new wave of the petulant punk with an immense feeling of entitlement. For every ridiculous stare-down session, Orton weaves together an acid-tongued promo that would make The Rock in his heyday stop and listen.

The guy is just that good. And, more impressive, he’s only 28. Theoretically—assuming they don’t need him for the sequel to 12 Rounds at some point down the line—he could continue to be this good for another decade. That’s like stumbling on a great pitching prospect in baseball on the verge of his breakout season. WWE has been smart enough to build around the guy and stake its future on a man who, only a few years back, didn’t appear as if he’d have much of one.

In most sports, talent can be overshadowed by a negative attitude and the ability to bring down a locker room. Athletes are cut free for far less than the antics that Orton has pulled throughout his time with WWE, yet the company—with dollar signs in its eyes and heart—stuck with him. The upside to a guy like Orton was too temping to simply pass on what appeared to be a narcissistic head-case.

But, it only stands to reason that such outside negativity would make a guy like Orton more valuable. WWE already had its hero for the foreseeable future; all it needed was the someone to occupy the darker side. Orton is to all things evil what John Cena is to the lighter and fluffier side of WWE, and that’s fine. Both men are the pillars that WWE and, perhaps the industry, will be built upon for years to come and that may be one of the wisest moves McMahon and company has made in the organization’s history.

So, I’m calling you all out: Who’s a better villain than Randy Orton? Sure, guys like Edge, Kurt Angle, and even Triple-H have their moments, but do any compare to what Orton has been able to achieve and at the pace he has been able to do it?

Also, keep the e-mails coming in (pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com) with nominees for The Turn Hall Of Fame. The response has been solid so far, but there’s still plenty of time to make a push for enshrinement of your favorites.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (3/20)
It’s a good rule of thumb that if WWE is able to purchase your history and/or library of film and photo you will be inducted into their Hall of Fame. Hell, for all we know it may be a clause in the contract for the sale. Last Friday night it was announced that the Von Erich family would be the next inductees into the Hall which seems odd as the overall contribution of the clan to WWF/WWE operations isn’t exactly the high point of their illustrious careers. Sadly, we get the feeling that there’s a bit of pandering going on here, which is shocking, we know.

Raw (3/23)
Not to belabor the solid performances of Randy Orton, but the moments that closed out Raw on Monday night were some of the most intense and entertaining that WWE has offered in quite a while. With Triple-H handcuffed to the ropes, Cody Rhodes, Ted DiBiase Jr. and Orton took their turns dismantling the champion, leaving him just conscious enough to see Orton deliver a vicious DDT to a pleading Stephanie McMahon before planting a kiss on her lips and a sledgehammer in “The Game’s” forehead. If you weren’t excited for WrestleMania 25, go back and watch this melee again.

ECW (3/24)
Has anyone else realized that there will not be—as of this morning—an ECW title match at WrestleMania 25? Now, it’s likely that current champ Jack Swagger will be involved in some way (say, a dark match or as a lumberjack in the tag title unification bout), but it doesn’t exactly lend credence to WWE’s pushing of ECW as a legit brand when its top guy doesn’t even get a slot on the biggest card of the year, does it? For those who don’t believe in ECW, there’s virtually nothing WWE can do to change their opinions; for anyone who still held out hope, this certainly doesn’t help.

Impact (3/26)
It was announced last night that Lockdown’s co-main event will see two teams of four square off in the six sides of steel, once again and, interestingly enough, the captains of each team were determined last night as well. Kurt Angle and Samoa Joe will head the respective groups against each other, with Angle looking to get his hands on Jeff Jarrett before Jarrett turns (which, c’mon, is going to happen) and Joe looking to murder someone with a machete. All of that and yet this match still fails to compare solidly to the pending Sting-Mick Foley bout on the same card, which was also furthered last night by a scathing dual promo between the two.

And Finally … Next weekend there will apparently be some large event taking place in Houston, Texas, that you may, possibly, have some trouble getting tickets to. If that’s the case, or spending a mortgage payment to see an all-Diva battle royal doesn’t exactly meet your entertainment needs, Ring Of Honor will be holding its Supercard Of Honor IV at the George R. Brown Convention Center in that very same city on Friday, April 3. Tickets are still available and there is an 8:00 PM bell time.

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 13-19, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Every so often, TNA gets it right. Rarer still are the nights when TNA gets it really right. Last night, TNA got it really right.

As someone who approaches the promotion with nothing but “tough love,” I can be hard on the group at times. But, rest assured, it comes mostly from a place of wanting TNA to succeed and, mostly, to be better more often than it stinks. Every promotion will throw a clunker out there at times, but the organizations that keep folks coming back each week are those that shift the odds into our favor.

Fans need to feel like we’re on the cusp of something good each time we plop down to catch an hour or two of wrestling. Even if it’s the second show after a pay-per-view—where all the fallout of the prior event is passed and the buildup for the next really hasn’t begun in earnest—fans want to believe that what they’re getting is integral, exciting, and entertaining. Far too often, TNA doesn’t feel that way.

Last night’s progression of the Main Event Mafia’s internal drama over Kurt Angle’s ego and Sting’s questionable allegiances really set the stage for a very nice program. Although, opening the show with the MEM griping each week can be—and in some ways, already has become—old, TNA pulled it off very well last night. Capped off by a solid main event that saw Mick Foley ignite a feud with Sting, which is slated to culminate at Lockdown was rather exciting, albeit expected.

With all the intrigue book-ending the program, TNA did well with the remainder of the broadcast as well. Setting up a “Champions vs. Champion” feud between TNA World tag champs Beer Money Inc. and IWGP tag team champions Team 3-D—again, for Lockdown—was excellent, as was the opening match of the night between The Motor City Machineguns and No Limit. Sure, we could all do with less of The Beautiful People (Daffney—you’re so good … why?) but, hey, you’re willing to look past some of the silliness when the rest of the night is so good.

Point is, these are the types of nights that justify my “tough love” approach to TNA because they show that they have it in them to put on a great show. TNA fills the void for me left by my beloved Philadelphia Eagles every January: a weekly, inconsistent product afraid to take the big risks that thinks the world of itself and damn the critics who say otherwise. It’s like football season year-round! Now, if Samoa Joe could only throw-up each time he gets close to winning the title and Jeff Jarrett could give elusive, one-word responses to interview questions it would make my life complete.

Finally, keep sending in your Turn Hall of Fame nominations. I’ve received some really great nominees thus far and feel like this year’s field could be stacked. Remember, send in your nominees—and your opinion supporting them, if you’d like—to pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (3/13)
Listen, we don’t care when it happens but a loss is a loss is a loss, period. The fact that Smackdown was attempting to salvage the unsalvageable Vladimir Kozlov’s undefeated streak—which ended previously on Raw—by stating that he’d never lost on a Friday night (on Smackdown obviously). Well, we’re willing to bet he’s never lost on a Tuesday night in Regina, Saskatchewan, but it’s really not something to build an angle around. It’s flimsy at best and WWE at its worst. This, again, is why the undefeated angle to any storyline is lazy and never works in the end.

Raw (3/16)
It was bound to happen, but even as the feud between the Colons and Miz and Morrison finally reached a logical near-end point it still felt right. The two teams will square off at WrestleMania 25 in a title-unification match which took an even odder turn Tuesday night when the Bella sisters—accidentally covered in freshly spat apple—split their allegiances between the teams. Actually, now that we think of it, that may be the best thing, if only for one night. The only way we’ll be able to tell the Bellas apart may be by which belt they support. As of April 6, forget it.

ECW (3/17)
Welcome back to Tuesday nights, Evan Bourne. The much-heralded star with the breathtaking “Shooting Star Press” (we’re not here to fight over whose move it is, okay) made his triumphant return to ECW following recovery from an ankle injury. With only a few weeks until ’Mania, it’s going to be difficult to squeeze Bourne into any scenario, let alone one that makes sense. But, it would be wise for WWE to try and find a way for Bourne to be a part of the event. The fans love him and when the fans love a guy they tend to buy copious amounts of crap with his likeness on it.

Impact (3/19)
Despite our open affection for Booker T, we never really warmed up to the whole Legends Championship idea in TNA. From the outset, the title had the stink of pre-occupation all over. It felt contrived, silly, and simply a way for those pulling the strings to placate a roster filled with former world champions who are now employed by a company that boasts two singles championships, one of which was essentially not for them (c’mon … X division champion Booker T? Doesn’t sound right, does it?). But, with A.J. Styles now holding the gold—and honorably, we might add—we’re willing to revisit our initial inclinations and see how this progresses. It may end up that we were right all along or, possibly, Styles could remind us just why we are excited to see this roster created in the first place.

And Finally … For fans in the Tulsa, Oklahoma area, this weekend Compound Pro Wrestling will be ushering in its first weekend event under new COMPOUND champion Brandon Groom and COMPOUND tag team champs Superbad. Both new titleholders captured the gold during last Saturday’s Night Of Champions XIII card. For more information on the event and promotion visit http://www.compoundpro.com/.

Remember, if you would like to see your promotion’s upcoming events or special notes here in “The Turn,” forward along your information to pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com and we’ll bring it to the masses.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of March 6-12, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

Awww … hell … yeah. As you all get in the mood for WrestleMania 25 and the “big football game that we’re not allowed to mention here because the psychopaths at the major football league in America would sue us and leave longtime publisher and part time superhero Stu Saks as a mere mortal hobo”-like hype that surrounds it, we at “The Turn” once again look to cash in on your excitement.

That’s right: Turn Hall of Fame nominations, 2009.

For those of you new to this concept or with the long-term memory of your grandma Gladys, here’s the deal: You nominate, you vote, we induct. It’s really just that simple. This is what we’re looking for:

1. There are no specific categories. We’re not looking for the “best” or “worst” of all-time, but rather folks whose body of work on televised wrestling is worthy of inclusion in THOF. Look for overall contribution to either the betterment or detriment of televised wrestling.

2. Consider all televised wrestling over the past 20 or so years. Yep, that’s right—if there’s an indy promotion in your state that has been running a show with one wrestler who you feel deserves mention, nominate him (or her). Better yet, if you have a link to an online clip of to their greatness, forward that along as well. It could only help your nominee’s chances. We’ll do the legwork from there.

3. There are two possible ways to get into the THOF and that is either as a wrestler or as, what we’ll call, “builder.” Builders would be the folks that may have stepped into the ring on occasion, but are best known for the stuff within a show that helps make it more of a, well, television show.

Nominate whomever you see fit regardless of their status as legends of the industry. Think Barry Horrowitz deserves a spot simply due to the fact that he got his ass kicked weekly on television—nominate the man. Does the Shockmaster earn enshrinement for both falling through a wall and owning a glittery Stormtrooper helmet? That’s up to you. Maybe it’s time to give the devil his due and nominate Mr. McMahon (you know, the guy WWE swears is just a character and not at all like the boss) for induction. That’s your call.

Nominees will be accepted up until April 24 with the 2009 class of THOF inductees being announced on May 1, 2009. Last year set the bar pretty highly with The Rock, Bobby Heenan, and Dusty Rhodes as the inaugural class. Shoot an e-mail to: pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com, and let the nominations begin.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (3/6)
Smackdown’s biggest and most important feud going has nothing to do with Triple-H’s bloodlust to avenge his family, nor the schism in the Hardy family, nor Sly and the Family Stone, or anything from All In The Family. Nope, the best angle—by far—is the buildup to the Shawn Michaels-Undertaker match at ’Mania. The opening salvo came last Friday night when “HBK” antagonized the “Dead Man” via video, leading ’Taker to give a trademark diatribe about Hell and such. Pure brilliance to say the least. No wrestler in the modern era may be better at turning a phrase than The Undertaker. We’re setting the early line on this being the match of the night on April 5.

Raw (3/9)
We’re still not sure what creeped us out more this past Monday night on Raw: JBL winning the Intercontinental strap from C.M. Punk or Triple-H going all Jack Torrance on the Orton household. We’re leaning toward giving the gold star for the evening to the WWE champion who tore through Orton’s house like a man who legitimately wanted to beat him with a sledgehammer. Oh, and what the hell was up with the 1600 people or so popping out of every corner of the house like it was a police academy shooting exercise? Either Orton is running some sort of complicated human trafficking ring or WWE sent way too many production crew members to the shoot … and they were rifling through the “Legend Killer’s” house.

ECW (3/10)
No one said Christian’s WWE return would be easy; we just said that it should’ve been easier than it has been thus far. Still, it’s nice to see the man get a spot in the “Money In The Bank” ladder match at ’Mania. “Captain Charisma” earned a slot in the classic of recent years by winning a tri-branded battle royal Tuesday night on ECW. For those scoring at home, that brings the list of competitors to: C.M. Punk, Kane, Mark Henry, MVP, Shelton Benjamin, Kofi Kingston, and Christian with one spot remaining. Also, for those of you keeping score at home: stop … nerd.

Impact (3/12)
Heading into Destination X this weekend, TNA has solidly—and perhaps achingly—built up the internal turmoil of the Main Event Mafia’s top two guys, Kurt Angle and Sting. And, while the two intend to settle their differences this Sunday, it is all but certain that this feud will still be taking place in some manner come Monday morning. Actually, the biggest and most important wrestling event this decade takes place in the same night and is only getting a moderate amount of publicity. Aren’t we all glued to our sets each Thursday night hoping to see some advancement in the “One Night With ODB” competition? Sunday night we shall have our answer and ODB shall have her companion. Screw the title matches, thumbtacks, and inevitable turns, we want—nay, need—to see how this turns out. There are no winners, folks. There are no winners.

And Finally … “The Turn” is looking to profile indy promotions and the talent that compete in them in upcoming “And Finally” sections of this very weekly column. Rather than randomly picking them, we’re again asking for your input. Please send a link to your promotion of choice as well as notice of any upcoming events or just feel free to pimp one of your wrestlers (or selves) and we’ll put it here. Send the info to: pwi_ingiosi@yahoo.com and check back weekly for updates.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 27-March 5, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

I still don’t get it, although you’d think I would know better. All of the local professional sports teams (save for the world champion Phillies) pull this type of nonsense more frequently than they would like to admit. Bring in a guy with one obvious attribute and build him up to mythical status despite the obvious lack of any other discernable talent. And, as much as I hate to hammer a guy as often as I seem to here, Vladimir Kozlov fits that bill perfectly.

Perhaps what brought about this latest condemnation of all things headbutty was the massive Russian’s disjointed, yet clean, victory over The Undertaker last Friday night on Smackdown. Of course, I give ’Taker credit. The man can make any stiff in WWE look, at worst, serviceable in the ring (see: Khali, The Great) and Kozlov was no different. And, yes, we’d love to believe that beating ’Taker while the “Dead Man” was attempting his trademark “Old School” ropewalk maneuver had some psychological element to it about the passing of time and “The Phenom” becoming predictable.

Maybe the intent was to show that brawn will beat brains every time in WWE. Could it be possible the company was sending a message to the former-world champion that his time at the top has passed and he would be wise to leave the torch at the door on his way out?

In a word: No.

This wasn’t anything more than prolonging a storyline for a few more nights until the natural ending of the angle could come to fruition. If the greatest shock in the Undertaker-Kozlov-Shawn Michaels angle is a Smackdown victory for the guy in the middle, then so be it. But, what I found to be most disappointing is that there was no real need for the match to end that way. Have Kozlov go nuts and get disqualified by beating ’Taker with everything not nailed down. Hell, the company doesn’t mind DQ wins at pay-per-views, so what’s a sloppy Friday night?

My pain comes mostly from WWE’s constant attempt to legitimize Kozlov as a wrestler capable of pulling off such an upset. He’s not that guy. If the company insists on ramming him down our collective throats for the foreseeable future, at least play up his strong suits, whatever the hell they may be.

In the end, the fact remains that Kozlov can, and did, beat The Undertaker cleanly. In a career marked by the highest highs, you wonder where this L fits among the lowest lows.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (2/27)
We at “The Turn” have tried to stay above the whole John Cena divisiveness issue throughout the better portion of his career. When he stinks, we make it known, and if he does something well, we’ll point that out, too. It’s kind of our thing around here. But, has anyone else noticed that when Cena does not have the gold around his waist, his game kind of goes to mush, as it did last Friday in a loss to The Big Show on Smackdown? And, more so than usual, for the haters out there. He’s making rookie mistakes, taking his focus of the task at hand, and allowing others to dictate his position in the ranks. Not even John Cena the neon spandex wearing rookie looked this confused.

Raw (3/2)
On behalf of lawyers everywhere, we at “The Turn” would like to apologize for the angle-killing influence they have on the Triple-H-Randy Orton bloodletting. On Raw this past Monday night, fans were treated to the obligatory tease heading up to WrestleMania by having Orton take legal action to prevent the unholy beatdown he deserves from “The Game.” So, as we’ve seen hundreds of times before, if Triple-H touches Orton first—without first being physically provoked to do so—the match will be off. Hence, expect the next month to be filled with plenty of Hunter’s angry snorts and Orton doing just enough to not break his end of the deal. Bleh. Here’s to hoping that these two end up in a cage at ’Mania. Only fitting.

ECW (3/3)
A fond farewell to the oddest incarnation of a persona we’ve seen in years, The Boogeyman, who received his “We wish him well in all his future endeavors” posting earlier this week. Showing great range in the way he ate worms, or would play with worms, or even would look at worms; The Boogeyman certainly earned his keep in WWE. Sure, we sell more “Turn” merchandise than WWE did with their highly successful giant alarm clock-bag o’worms promotion of late-2007, but the man is worthy of enshrinement somewhere by someone at some point. It was a fitting end to this chapter of the Boogey-Era this Tuesday night when the painted-one was squashed by Kane like so many of the worms he mutilated.

Impact (3/5)
Every so often, TNA tosses out a gem of a night to us lucky fans, so it’s worth noting that last night’s broadcast was both surprisingly solid and mostly entertaining. Sure, it just wouldn’t be a Thursday night without some sort of Shark Boy genitalia reference or a painful pre-taped segment involving Abyss, but overall, Impact was solid. The bickering atop the Main Event Mafia is becoming somewhat stale although it seems more and more likely that we’re headed for a Jeff Jarrett swerve and Sting exile. Plus, the situation is providing more of an opportunity for guys like Kevin Nash to remind us exactly why we liked them in the first place. On top of that, we were treated to the ongoing metamorphosis of Don West shifting from loveable goof to angry goof. So much hatred; the force is strong with that one. Very nice week by the perennial runners-up.

And Finally … How many of your resumes can boast stints as a porn star, censorship advocate, a porn star, a lackey, and a porn star all while being Canadian at the same time? Our guess is very few. One man who can look back proudly on that assessment of his career is birthday boy Val Venis who turns 38 today.

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 20-26, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

I must admit, there’s a bit of disappointment in the air thanks to the direction the Hardy brothers’ feud has taken. See, originally we at “The Turn” were pretty impressed with the potential this installment of their sibling rivalry seemed to have. Matt was coming from a much more personal place and the overall tone of the angle felt really dark.

Since that time, unfortunately, it appears to have spiraled into little more than Matt screwing Jeff out of victories and Jeff refusing to stoop to his brother’s heinous level. Okay, I suppose we can live with that. It’s really nothing different from your garden variety WWE feud and I suppose that’s where my disappointment starts. Being a natural pessimist, I’m worried not only for this angle, but, eventually, some of the other big pre-WrestleMania storylines being WWE-icized.

Lately, WWE has had a distinct Saturday Night Live feel to it. As any of the last few loyal viewers of SNL can tell you, the sketches start fine (your premise), sometimes have a nice laugh in the middle (the setup), but rarely end with any sort of semblance of completion (no punchline). WWE has a lot of solid premises working right now and maybe one, possibly two, will be seen through to completion. As it stands right now, the Hardys’ feud feels like a sketch headed for a sloppy ending. There may be some great wrestling in the middle (here’s to hoping a cage of any sort is involved), but this probably will not end well.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (2/20)
To say our collective jaws hit the marble floor in our study/wrestling memorabilia room when we heard that Triple-H—the assassin of all things cerebral—was married in real life to the daughter of Vince McMahon would be the understatement of all understatements. Shock. Awe. There was a little bit of everything. Fine … even we can’t keep it up. Sure, everyone in the world who follows the industry knew prior to last Friday night’s interview, but didn’t it just feel good to see everything put it out on the table? Heading into WrestleMania, is there a more compelling storyline? We don’t care if you hate Triple-H as much as you portend to love Randy Orton; you have to appreciate everything about this angle. Could do less with the “IED” references. Kind of evokes imagery that’s trashy even for WWE.

Raw (2/23)
If you have not been paying attention to wrestling for the past few months or years, first let me welcome you back. “The Turn” is the greatest and most insightful piece of wrestling writing on the Internet and there may be no greater sex symbol in journaltainment than our respected leader, Frank Ingiosi. Now, if you’d like to catch up on all things WWE heading into WrestleMania, check out an episode of Raw because there’s a good chance that all the big angles for the silver anniversary of the card will come from that program. Among the litany of hot angles on Raw, the most compelling is easily Shawn Michaels setting his sites on ending The Undertaker’s 16-match ’Mania winning streak. With a victory over former employer JBL this past Monday night, Michaels set up a bout with the abhorrent Vladimir Kozlov for the right to face the “Dead Man” in Houston, Texas, on April 5. Think about it: “Mr. WrestleMania”—who ended Ric Flair’s career last year—could be the man to squash the greatest streak in the industry’s history. Wow.

ECW (2/24)
Sooo, fans of Christian … umm … bad week, eh? In one of the more confusing “Paint Yourself Into the Corner” moments of recent memory, ECW champion Jack Swagger and newly returned Canuck Christian engaged in a series of matches and encounters leading to a championship match this past Tuesday night— February 24—a month-and-a-half before WrestleMania. We’ll ignore that fact for a moment, focusing instead on how there could have possibly been a positive outcome for the long-term success of either man based on this abbreviated feud. Sure, it could continue, but to have an ECW title match so soon, and to see Christian lose cleanly to the champ, seemed odd at best and potentially crushing at worst. Listen, we get that it’s now up to Christian to work his way back into the semi-good graces of the higher-ups at WWE, but nothing good would have come out of his or Swagger’s loss in this match. Just doesn’t make sense. Shocking for ECW, we know.

Impact (2/26)
What, um, in the hell was that? Seriously. Did Don West just go bat crap nuts on Impact and throw his tablemate Mike Tenay under the constantly running proverbial bus? We’re not completely sure what to make of it, only that as awkward as it was to watch Don West go wackadoo, it was 10 times as awkward to listen to solo Tenay run the rest of the broadcast. The long gaps of awkward silence; it was almost as if Tenay didn’t know what to do or say when he wasn’t being screamed at by the Home Shopping Network guy. It truly was an eerie broadcast last night and, for the first time in a while, it wasn’t Vince Russo’s fault. Who are we kidding? He’s probably behind this as well. While we at “The Turn” won’t openly admit that we miss Don West, TNA just doesn’t seem like itself without him. Make your own judgments as to whether that’s a bad thing or not.

And Finally … Sometimes, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do. Then, he has to realize it was an amazing mistake, make amends, and get back to work. This date in 2001, Jerry “The King” Lawler abruptly quit the then-WWF because of the way they handled their firing of his former wife and Chyna’s infinitely more attractive doppelganger, The Kat. Nine months later, “The King” was divorced and back at the announce table.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 13-19, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

A word or two about the departure of one of my favorite wrestlers—Petey Williams—from TNA. For those who may have missed it last night, Williams was the odd man out in a tag team contest where he paired-up with former Team Canada ally Eric Young to take on Beer Money Inc. The pre-match stipulation was that whomever is the member of the losing team to be pinned would leave the company. And, while that may not seem like punishment to some wrestlers, to a guy like Williams—who has been there for much of the promotion’s history—it’s particularly disheartening.

Once considered part of the cornerstone of the X division, Williams had fallen into some strange situations since Team Canada was disbanded. He seemed to move away from the serious aspects of his persona and take on goofier situations with ease. Bodybuilder? Check. Scott Steiner’s “Mini-Me”? Check. The versatility with which Williams approached his odd trek to unemployment was impressive, albeit short lived.

In reading some of my peers’ takes on the situation with Williams leaving TNA, I’ve found that there is a distinct level of animosity toward the decision by the promotion to not renew his contract. I choose to take a different approach to the situation and see it as an opportunity for Petey to move in a different direction. There really wasn’t much left for him to achieve in TNA as a world title run was as close to an impossibility as anything in wrestling. Moving on—for the time being, at least—can be a good thing. And, while we fans of his will miss having the weekly televised opportunity to see a very good wrestler compete, somewhere deep down I think we all know it’s for the best.

So, on behalf of “The Turn,” I wish Petey Williams—who still has the coolest damn finisher I’ve ever seen live—the best of luck. This is, of course, contingent on him not returning as a masked character.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (2/13)
We’re not yet sold on the Colon brothers experiment on Smackdown (thank you very much, Hardys). It feels like Primo has officially helped rein-in his controversial and underachieving big brother Carlito. Plus, winning championship gold hasn’t hurt the situation either. It’s likely that our reservations in wholeheartedly supporting this situation come from the fact that everyone from here to Puerto Rico knows how this ends. One brother—we don’t care which—eventually turns against the other and we’re supposed to be shocked. Jim Ross will shift from astonishment (“Oh my!”) to the more serious, somber “Mr. McMahon blowed up” cadence to describe the deplorable actions taken.

Raw (2/16)
There may not be medication to treat Intermittent Explosive Disorder, although we would imagine that scrambling the brain of “The Game’s” brother-in-law and following it up with RKO-ing his wife may help cure what ails him. See, it’s very hard to kick folks in the noggin when both of your legs are broken which, ironically, is not out of the realm of possibility when Triple-H gets his hands on the “Legend Killer,” very likely this April in Houston. And, yes, we’re thrilled to finally see the worst-kept “secret” (we use the term loosely) in the word finally be played out on screen. There’s something appropriate about the McMahon-Helmsley revelation being held off as long as it was and then becoming storyline fodder heading into the 25th annual springtime classic. The buildup will be great and the competition should be even better, so much so we won’t even begin to speculate at how uncomfortable the whole thing will feel on April 6.

ECW (2/17)
At one point, Tyson Kidd was one of the most celebrated wrestlers in Canada with a very promising future. The next thing you know, the guy is living up to the massive amount of hype. Of course, we at “The Turn” recognize he hasn’t exactly squared off with Frank Gotch just yet, but that just gives us more of an opportunity to see the intensity and ability with which he approaches the game. Billed as the last graduate of Stu Hart’s famed Dungeon, Kidd is certainly keeping good company by palling around with Natalya. Maybe there’s some truth to the never-ending rumors of a new breed of Harts emerging in WWE? If that’s the case, please let us offer up a few bits of unsolicited advice: Ditch the vest and wisp of hair. Steve Austin can pull off a leather vest and seem badass, but, nobody—and we mean nobody—should have a haircut like that. Ever.

Impact (2/19)
It’s probably a good thing that the fans were required to leave the arena last night for the main event, because they would’ve likely rioted had they stayed for what transpired. In typical Russo fashion, last night’s “empty arena” match ended leaving more questions than answers. Here’s the rub, though: The questions are more along the lines of “Why bother?” The Kurt Angle-Sting power struggle atop the Main Event Mafia had so much promise, as we’ve said time and again. Even last night’s fiasco—which saw both TNA security and MEM members become involved—had its good points. Angle finally appears to be drawing out the darkness in Sting, which we imagine has been his goal all along. Yet, as soon as that psychological tidbit appeared, it was stopped abruptly and pointlessly. This will all make sense at some point down the road, right?

And Finally … Cynics and statisticians would tell you that it’s not much of a shocker that Triple-H won the WWE championship last weekend at No Way Out in the “Elimination Chamber” match. Of the nine times the match has been held, Triple-H has competed in five installments. His record: 4-1

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of February 6-12, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

In a series of recent interviews, John Cena has gone on record as praising Randy Orton—the man who kicked his father in the noggin—as the best wrestler of their generation and easily the best in the industry today. Cena’s response is both sincere and, arguably, accurate. Yet, as with anything the world champion does, it will undoubtedly be met with even parts resistance and support, and not for the reasons you would imagine.

Were I Randy Orton—aside from sharing the same birthday as we do—the first thing I would do is publicly distance myself from Cena’s comments. Bring it on to television and shove it right back in the champ’s face. My goal would be a very simple one: To retain my core audience and, possibly, steal a few out of the Cena camp.

See, the truth is that Randy Orton doesn’t need help getting over with fans. He’s the top villain in the top company of the industry. Having the good guys praise your skills is not a necessity. In fact, given the divisiveness of the messenger, Cena’s goodwill tour could take some of the evil luster off of Orton’s star.

Anyone wonder why the McCain campaign made fewer and fewer public appearances with then-President Bush prior to Election Day last year? And, to be fair to the 3.4 out of 10 of you out there who supported the former president, Al Gore did the same thing with his impeached former boss in 2000. Essentially, guys that want to carve their own path and avoid the perceived stink of their associates are wise to hammer home the point, ad nauseam, that no one speaks for them (ironically, both men lost their respective elections).

Orton is a professional who no doubt—deep down in the caverns of his pitch-black soul—appreciates his peers’ respect and admiration for his talent. But, to have your archenemy, who is viewed by 49 percent of industry fans as the wresting antichrist, tout your greatness is not something Orton should covet.

The man has “Stone-Cold” Steve Austin potential in that he could be the bad guy that fans root for over any hero in the company. Not addressing Cena’s man crush takes a huge chunk of his rulebreaker cred and destroys it. It’s like seeing Snoop Dogg in a sweater vest. Orton needs to address this, end it, and get past it. I don’t care who he has to kick in the head to achieve it.

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (2/6)
The Vladimir Kozlov “You’re Going To Love This Guy” tour continued last Friday night when the massive Russian won a hastily assembled battle royal to determine the final participant in the elimination chamber match at No Way Out. Does anyone else out there get the feeling that WWE has some bit of buyer’s remorse with Kozlov? The guy never really caught on with the fans as the Ivan Drago-like wrecking machine he was intended to be when he first appeared with the company despite the attempts. Now, he’s your typical big guy with a limited skill set and the charisma of borsch. But, we’ll play along and see how it goes at No Way Out. The guy will likely hold the gold at some point, but we won’t be happy about it.

Raw (2/9)
As bona fide slappies for Ric Flair, we at “The Turn” have tried to stifle mentions of him over the past year seeing as how, well, he wasn’t an active participant of any televised wrestling. So, needless to say (yet we’ll say it), we were thrilled to see that the “Nature Boy” would be making an appearance on Raw this past Monday night to confront Chris Jericho, who had taken a night off from pummeling fans to torment an elderly man. Of course seeing Flair do his Flair routine was nice, but his brief physical altercation with Jericho left us perplexed. We are firmly rooted on the side of hoping that Flair does not return to the ring ever again, but does WWE have something else in mind heading into the silver anniversary of WrestleMania?

ECW (2/10)
Had you gone to bed early on Tuesday night, you would have missed it. Hell, even for the rest of us who were awake, the surprise official return of Christian to WWE seemed to come and go as if he’d been with the company all along. Plunked immediately into ECW title contention, Christian defeated Jack Swagger in a non-title bout thanks to interference from Finlay and Hornswoggle. We’re not saying that the former Intercontinental “Un-American” has to work his way up from the bottom … again … but guys who left WWE simply to enjoy life outside of the business haven’t had to start on Tuesday nights. Rob Van Dam, Chris Jericho, and The Big Show all were treated like royalty when they first returned (or, in RVD’s case, whenever he pops up). Christian goes on to enjoy the greatest amount of individual success and cash a few six-sided checks and his return goes largely unnoticed. Hmmm.

Impact (2/12)
The Main Event Mafia appears to be crumbling right before our eyes and, honestly, we at “The Turn” couldn’t be more disappointed. Every few years wrestling needs a big-time faction to do their thing for a while and make life miserable for both competitors and fans alike. The Horsemen did it for years, the NWO and DeGeneration X were solid, and even Evolution had its moments. While we never believed the MEM would live up to the outrageous standards those other groups set, we still hoped it would be something that was allowed to develop over time into a truly memorable piece of TNA history. What started off so promising has become little more than the angles of its component parts, which aren’t very good. While we’re not ready to call the time of death on the MEM just yet, we’re certainly hooking it up to the monitor.

And Finally … Today is the 12-year anniversary of the now-infamous “Lost My Smile” speech by Shawn Michaels on Raw. The then-champion forfeited the title due to a knee injury and was apparently forced into retirement—for the first time—because of it. He would return a few months later, missing out on a rematch with Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13 in the process.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 30-February 5, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

So, apparently the Hardy Boys hate each other. Wait … is it “boys” or “boyz”? I never get that right. One’s more extreme than the other, I believe. In fact, I’m in the process of changing the S in my last name to a Z solely for the purpose of achieving maximum extremeosity.

I’m losing focus. Let’s steer this puppy back on to the main road and take a look at the dissolution of the Hardys and, easily, the most layered angle in WWE right now. Notice I didn’t say “best” angle because, frankly, we’ve seen this before. Matt and Jeff Hardy have, on occasion, not gotten along on-screen. While the stakes were a bit bigger this time (Jeff being cost the WWE title because of Matt’s actions) the basic premise remains the same: fraternal jealously culminating in physical violence. Psychologists probably have a specific name for that; we just call it “professional wrestling.”

What makes this period of animosity for the Hardy brothers is that both men are better at pulling off the angle. Call it “Mattitude” or whatever sells shirts, but the fact essentially is that big brother Matt is hurt and angered by all the adoration and success his admittedly flawed brother Jeff has received in his latest reincarnation. That, my friends, is proving to make all the difference in this go-round: Matt has a point.

This isn’t the days of the evil Matt Hardy who seemed so uncomfortable in his efforts to come off like a jerk. This is the Matt Hardy who has dealt with the heartbreak of losing the love of his life to his best friend; and then watching them have simulated sex on Raw … and then watching him become a bona fide main event stalwart. This is the Matt Hardy who once he was given the opportunity to seek revenge, came out on the losing side of that feud. This is the Matt Hardy who was the loyal WWE foot soldier when the company wanted him, and mid-card filler when they didn’t.

Enter poor, tortured Jeff who “battled his demons” and worked hard at his “shot at redemption.” Listen, we all know that Jeff has been through a hell of a lot in his life and, to avoid the cliché, has struggled with substances that weren’t exactly on the right side of legal. So, seeing him reach the levels he has is both encouraging and entertaining. But, honestly, both on-screen and off, who was there for him?

I’m not justifying whacking your brother in the head with a chair (trust me, it doesn’t fix anything). But can’t you see, for once, where Matt is coming from?

The Week In Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (1/30)
A strange thing occurred last Friday night in the greater Philadelphia area that essentially confirmed what everyone was thinking. During the main event in which Triple-H was taking on both Vladimir Kozlov and The Great Khali in order to qualify for the “Elimination Chamber” match at No Way Out, there was a commercial break. No biggie, right? Just your average, basic, run-of-the mill commercial break advertising a tag team match between the four men from Smackdown who qualified for the bout. Yep … that’s right: Triple-H was one of them. Now, to say that we didn’t expect Hunter to be in his brand’s main event match at the next pay-per-view would be grossly naïve on our part. But, to purchase airtime on the same channel you’re running a pre-taped show to advertise next week’s show kinda spoils the one we’re watching. Well, that’s just crappy. We’re not sure if it happened anywhere else, but the Philadelphia market was spared the necessity of watching the remainder of the broadcast.

Raw (2/2)
It may just be us, but it’s hard to look at any of Shawn Michaels’ feuds over the last few years and not import some sort of religious symbolism in them. It’s not “The Turn’s” place to say whether that is right or wrong, but it has led to some very intriguing and entertaining battles. On Monday, the thoroughly demoralized Michaels was promised his freedom—both financial and physical—if he defeated his employer, JBL, at No Way Out. Naturally, being the gracious employer, Layfield let loose with a torrent of insults on the “Heartbreak Kid,” who took it and walked away. For a man who has thrown his partner through a glass window, such restraint could only be attributed to a higher force. So, in this instance, we’re comfortable with saying that the angle works. Only 10 more like this one to make up for teaming with God, eh Shawn?

ECW (2/3)
Jamie Noble reminds us of a lot less calculating Petey Williams. Both fight way over their heads and can put on some really great matches when given the opportunity. Now a member of the ECW brand, Noble had no shot on Tuesday night against the suddenly unstoppable Boogeyman. Despite the initial setback, Noble seems custom-made for the new-style ECW and should get much more exposure—perhaps some of it positive—than he did on Raw. This could actually prove to be ECW’s best move since Teddy Long took over the reigns.

Impact (2/5)
Watching Abyss punch a pile of thumbtacks and promise to incapacitate Matt Morgan at Against All Odds this Sunday was a lot like watching a veteran running back that never lived up to his potential break off a 70-yard touchdown run. You always knew the guy had that and so much more in him, yet it never really came to fruition enough to deem him worthy of such lofty expectations. We at “The Turn” always had such high hopes for Abyss, and following his brief NWA World title run in 2006 we felt that he could, finally, be ready for the big time. Well, while that hasn’t exactly materialized, seeing shreds of the old Abyss last night still gave us goosebumps. History tells us to not expect that every week, but here’s to hoping we’re wrong.

And Finally … February 8 may have the most talented roster of wrestlers celebrating birthdays than any other day of the year. A happy early birthday to The Big Show (37), Jim “Anvil” Neidhart (53), and the dearly departed Sherri Martel (who would have turned 51).

 

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 23-29, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

I wanted to take a bit of a departure from the usual this week to recognize an event and the people that always make me proud of my miniscule existence on the fringes of the industry. Being a fan and analyst of wrestling today, it’s easy at times to forget that there is more to the rich history of the industry than just six-sided rings and exploding limousines.

The Cauliflower Alley Club—arguably the most widely respected fraternal organization in the entire industry—will be celebrating its annual reunion April 13-15 at the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino in beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada. The annual event honors select members of the wrestling community for their contributions to the industry over the course of their careers, as well as provides a forum in which fans and wrestlers can interact.

This year’s list of announced honorees are more than worthy of the Club’s recognition and certainly a draw in and of themselves. Names like Luna Vachon, Art Crews, and Akio Sato are all slated to be among those honored by the Club this year. Still, perhaps more than anything else, the greatest appeal of the Cauliflower Alley Club is the opportunity it provides for fans to walk amongst, and occasionally chat with, legends of wrestling.

Longtime CAC member Nick Bockwinkel recently said when asked about what the event means to him, “Even the fans … the fans that come to Cauliflower Alley Club, were often there with us—if they weren’t following us on the road, they were following us in the magazines and on television and they know what we went through. We all like to think that there is some way to extend our lives and our legacies and, through what we did, we hope to be able to do that. The relationships that you develop and that you nurture through your participation with the Club help you to keep your legacy alive and they allow you to celebrate the camaraderie with the other boys and they encourage you to relive your days in the ring with the fans. It is a special event and a special environment.” He added, “The fans have respect for the wrestlers and the wrestlers who come have respect for the fans who allowed them to live this life for so long.”

Those sentiments were echoed by the great Harley Race who added, “You do not have to have a big name in the business or even been on TV to be honored. I have seen young indy talent be honored as future legends and almost every time there was tears in their eyes when they accepted the award. Last year a fan was honored and received a standing ovation because of the years of support she gave the wrestlers. The CAC is everyone’s club, you can be a fan, wrestler, referee, announcer, but everyone is someone at the CAC!”

Perhaps few have a more unique perspective than CAC Executive Director Wes Daniels who told me that once he was able to get past the notion of being accepted by his childhood heroes, the most meaningful part of his time with the Club has been the friends he’s made. “I grew up as an avid professional wrestling fan. As happens to many of us, my interest waned as I grew older; however, it was always nostalgic for me to occasionally run into or hear about one of the stars that I grew up watching,” admitted Daniels. He added, “When I attended my first CAC Reunion, it was amazing. The only thing I can compare it to is walking into a room and, if I were a fan of comic books, being surrounded by Superman, Batman, The Joker, Lex Luthor and all the rest of the super-heroes and super-villains I grew up with.”

The common thread in my interactions with those from the CAC was that the most cherished parts of their involvement with the Club were the friendships that they’ve forged over the years, as well as the good the Club does for the extended industry. Harley Race commented, “I can’t even begin to list all the things they do to assist the people and their families in this business. The medical bills, medicine, scholarships they help with, the list can go on and on. The CAC just keeps on giving and giving!” Race further quipped, “When Karl Lauer first invited me to CAC, I thought, I’m still active in the business, no way am I going to a Club for mostly retirees go! Well, thank god Karl and Nick Bockwinkel stayed on me and finally I took my wife and went. I think that was 17 years ago and I haven’t missed a year since.”

Executive Director Wes Daniels agreed with Race’s assessment. “There are several reasons for the longevity of and the success of our Club. First and foremost, we have never deviated from the original intent of the Club as Mike Mazurki established it in 1965. There are no main eventers in our Club and there are no preliminary workers.” Daniels added, “Every dime that we take in goes towards either benevolent purposes (our Benevolent Fund and Scholarship Fund) or towards our newsletters and publications for our membership. I think that people respect that and appreciate knowing that when they donate money to our Club or spend money on a membership, it does not go into anybody’s pocket—it goes back to them in the form of newsletters or content or it is distributed to those in need.”

The Cauliflower Alley Club is a perfect example of what is so unique and wonderful about the wrestling industry. For fans and competitors alike, wrestling truly is a lifelong commitment. For anyone interested in learning more about the Cauliflower Alley Club or considering attending this special event, more information can be found at the group’s website, http://www.caulifloweralleyclub.org.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 9-15, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

I’m sorry, but she just doesn’t do it for me. Listen, I understand that for some fans, she’s not only an icon of the industry but something of an idealized fantasy girl; yet, for me at least, the mere vision of her on my television screen signals a drastic and immediate drop-off in my interest. In fact, let me go one step further: From a wrestling perspective, she’s as much a show-killer as anyone I’ve ever seen.

Of course, there are some who pine for the days when Stephanie McMahon was an even bigger part of WWE programming than she is now, but, believe me, I should not be counted among them. Easily one of the most divisive figures in all of wrestling, Stephanie—in my opinion—brings much less to Raw than she takes away from it. In the beginning, she was a novelty that embodied everything you’d expect the spawn of Vincent Kennedy McMahon to be. Sadly, the novelty was short-lived, and today we’re stuck with a stale, trite, and utterly unwatchable caricature of that persona.

What drives me nuts, though, is that I can’t figure out what it is this time around that bothers me the most about “Showkilla” McMahon’s role on Raw. Is it the Triple-H thing, still? Well, honestly, no. Hell, the guy’s not even on the same program with her, so at least we can avoid the painful innuendos about their off-screen nuptials. It’s probably well past the time we all should have dropped that gripe, no? So, if it’s not the thoughts of rampant nepotism that bothers me, what is it?

Maybe it’s the way she interferes with the flow of the program and makes herself the center of every angle on the show? That’s a good possibility there, sure. It doesn’t matter who it is, if one person dominates a program to the point of being overexposed, you almost can’t help but dislike them. As de facto ruler of Raw, Stephanie must have a say in everything. It’s just one of the aspects of her job. Still, there’s a certain Tyra Banks-esque feel to the whole damn thing that just makes me ill. If an angle’s not about her, she makes it about her. So, that could be part of the reason, I suppose.

Or, possibly, it could just be that I don’t like watching the apple of Vinnie Mac’s eye at all. In fact, that’s probably the most likely explanation. You know how there are just some people on television whose appearance drives you to either change the channel immediately (think Rachel Ray) or watch until you’re frothed with rage (ditto)? Maybe Stephanie’s just that person for me. Hell, I was the same way with the Bushwhackers. Never had anything personally against the guys, but I absolutely could not watch them.

Finally some resolution! My dime-store psychology has led me to connect an heir-apparent to the largest sports entertainment empire in the world to two semi-toothless Aussies in camouflage. Brilliant!

The Week in Televised Wrestling

Smackdown (1/9)
In a twist of irony, our Smackdown performer of the week (assuming that award existed) would have to go to Triple-H for running the Vickie Guerrero-imposed gauntlet last Friday night and nearly outlasting four opponents in three vicious matches quaintly titled “Triple Jeopardy,” which is just adorable. Hunter fought like a pro for most of the night, finally succumbing to a Big Show who is looking better and better each week in the main event. It only seems like a matter of time before “The Game” gets the better of the irascible general manager, however if all involved can keep up the intensity we saw last Friday, here’s to hoping it goes on for quite a while.

Raw (1/12)
Does anyone else feel bad for Ken Kennedy? Trust us, the guy’s a hard person to genuinely feel sympathy for, but in this case, it may be warranted. Once considered the next great villain and a lock for a world championship reign at some point, Kennedy suffered a string of untimely injuries and, ahem, forced vacations only to come back to shill the straight-to-DVD release of his feature film debut in Behind Enemy Lines: Colombia. What, was the big screen adaptation of Airwolf already taken? Wow.

ECW (1/13)
When you’re right, you’re right. And, when you write for “The Turn” and you’re right, you gloat. It’s our policy and, frankly, we love it. Right here—in the middle of this very column—we extolled the virtues of Jack Swagger as a star in the making. It was heresy to some for us to compare him very favorably to a younger, more engaging Kurt Angle and, although the ECW title isn’t the most prestigious award in WWE, Swagger’s win on Tuesday night validates our point. Bask in the glory that is our greatness. Bask, damn it!

Impact (1/15)
At one point, we wondered why no one cashed in his or her guaranteed title-shot against an opponent who wasn’t either bloodied or barely conscious. Call it bravado or just our desire to see a good fight, but we at “The Turn” always hoped against hope that someone would choose to take a title shot against a ready and willing opponent. Our condolences go out to Hernandez, who chose to do just that last night against Sting and, of course, the rest of the Main Event Mafia. His rise to prominence was as short-lived as our belief that a straight-up match for the gold is a good idea. Kick a man when he’s down, that way he can’t kick back. Teach your kids that very lesson.

And Finally … The man who taught us all that money is both the root of all evil and the salvation from it by subjecting people who could have been your neighbor to some of the most humiliating segments in wrestling history will be celebrating a birthday this weekend. Ted DiBiase—the man we hate to love—turns 55 this Sunday.

THE TURN: Skewering The Week Of January 2-8, 2009

By Frank Ingiosi

I don’t make resolutions. Ever. What is the point of promising yourself to do something that situations outside of your control will dictate over the next 52 (now 51, fatty) weeks? For me, the real measure of a year is looking back on everything that you accomplished during it and gauging whether it was a success.

By my own matrix, 2008 was very good save one thing: I didn’t make it out to as many live events as I would have liked to. I had hoped to get more involved on a local level and really check out some of the up-and-coming competitors in the sport. Instead, I rested on my laurels, relied on you readers to plug me in, and lost the type of perspective that comes from sitting through a two-hour show in a high-school gymnasium.

I lost … I lost my smile.

Worst HBK line ever, but I couldn’t resist. Hell, it gives me an uncomfortable case of the goosebumps just thinking about that moment, but cringe humor works for me. So, as someone who does not make resolutions, I will acquiesce this once and say that in 2009, I intend to check out as many live events as I possibly can. Hopefully, through my tireless efforts, I can get back that smile. Ugh.

Smackdown (1/2)
While we can all agree that there are amazing things that can be done in post-production as far as how a program is presented to the home viewing audience, it’s hard to argue that The Great Khali is still getting actual cheers from crowds wherever he competes. Following his tag team victory with Finlay over Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins last Friday night, the paying customers in the building seemed to legitimately appreciate the work put in by the monster from India, which is quite an amazing turn of events given that at one point Khali was arguably the fans’ most despised man in WWE. The beauty of Khali’s current run as a fan favorite—which we at “The Turn” believe would’ve been slated for Umaga had his body held up—is that it only had the twinge of the cheesy turns of years past. While it didn’t reach the level of a then-muted Kane garbling “Suck it” into a voice modulator, it wasn’t exactly the smoothest of transitions, either. Still, we at “The Turn” can enjoy it for what it’s worth while it lasts.

Raw (1/5)
We received a text message at “Turn” headquarters on Monday night posing the simple question, “How does Goldust keep getting work?” Our short answer was, “Dad,” but that just wouldn’t suffice, so we followed up with, “Brother.” Whatever the case may be, the fact remains that one of the strangest gimmick characters in the company’s—if not the sport’s—history does appear to pop up more frequently than that mystery rash you picked up in Cancun last spring break. Still, the goofiness that is the sudden Rhodes dominance over WWE should not overshadow all the good things that are happening on Raw right now. Kofi Kingston is emerging as a bona fide mid-level star, JBL is making the most of his employee Shawn Michaels, and C.M. Punk chasing down William Regal and the Intercontinental title has the potential to be solid. The only thing that could foul this up would be the return of the most egomaniacal, shortsighted owner in the history of the industry. Good call on that one, WWE.

ECW (1/6)
Rumors, rumors, we love rumors, and there may not be a hotter rumor (with apologies to Mr. Cage) than the one circulating about Kurt Angle eventually coming back to WWE when his TNA deal ends. Of course, if the money is there and both sides feel that it can be profitable, then sure, Angle could eventually return to WWE. Trust us, despite reports to the contrary; if the opportunity was there to make tons of money, we firmly believe that Vince McMahon would piggyback Randy Savage from the hotel to the arena. Still, we at “The Turn” would like to toss out the idea that maybe—just maybe—WWE doesn’t need Angle back now that it has the new number-one contender to the ECW title, Jack Swagger. Minus the celebrated amateur pedigree, Swagger’s got all the bases covered from a gimmick perspective. The latest in a long line of “All-American” wrestlers, Swagger’s talented, mean, and manipulative. And, since we’re fluent in tycoon-speak, let’s break it down this way: he’s younger, cheaper, and less of a headache than Angle. Angle may be the easier draw, but in the meantime Swagger could easily become the safer bet.

Impact (1/8)
A quick glance at the card for Genesis this weekend leaves us at “The Turn” feeling both a bit cheated yet vindicated at the same time. The all-Machine Gun X division title match will take place as predicted here in the middle of this very column, which is awesome. We’re willing to bet whatever credibility we’ve established over the years (which likely makes for a small pot) that the X division title match will be the highlight of the night. You’re going to get the best out of both Sabin and Shelley and, if given the time, we could be on the precipice of a Match of the Year candidate. Of course, they could run the ol’ “finger poke of doom” on us (in which the first phone call you should make would be to your local cable provider for a refund). Yet, as good as we believe Sabin-Shelley will be, the rest of the card doesn’t do much for us, which explains the cheated feeling. Sure, there are some big names and some gold on the line, but Genesis seems too stripped down for its own good.

And Finally … Technically, TNA’s Genesis pay-per-view this weekend will take place in 2009, however it will essentially be the 2008 edition of the event. Normally held in November, Genesis was moved to the January slot last year, explaining the chronological void. This year—the fourth installment of the card—features only one gimmick match: a lumberjill match for the Knockouts championship. In a promotion known for gimmick matches, only one on the card isn’t bad.

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