Wrestling Observer Newsletter Rewind Thread • 2000
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Awwww yeah! Time to get back to reading this shit I waste most of my days writing.

This is not going to be a good year if you have warm, nostalgic memories of WCW or are a fan of Vince Russo.


- It looks like Goldberg will be out anywhere from 10-15 weeks after tearing his arm to shreds in an angle gone wrong on Thunder last week. During the angle, he had a small metal pipe hidden in his fist to help him bust out the windows but during one of the first windows he broke, it flew out of his hands into the limo. And with the camera rolling, he couldn't just stop. So he kept going and struggled to break one of the windows using only his fist and, in the process, slicing his arm to shreds. He ended up getting plastic surgery done on the arm that night and needed 40 stitches to close the wound. Goldberg was supposed to face Rick Steiner at NJPW's Jan. 4th Tokyo Dome show this week, but that's obviously out of the question now. WCW is sending Randy Savage in his place, but it's a big loss for NJPW because his Japan debut was one of the biggest selling points of the show, although Savage is a big enough name that it's a decent replacement. NJPW still hopes to bring in Goldberg for the next Dome show in April. On the WCW end of things, he's definitely out for Souled Out and SuperBrawl and he might not be back in time for Uncensored in March either. Goldberg's injury also leaves a big hole in the babyface side of things. He was scheduled to face Bret Hart again at the next PPV but now it will likely be changed to Sid or Benoit or maybe Flair, although he's still trying to get out of his contract. They also thought about bringing Hogan back but he doesn't feel it's the right time for his return yet so probably not (shit's about to get a lot more chaotic in the next couple of weeks before the next PPV. And poor NJPW to this day never got their Goldberg match that always wanted, although he worked a few matches for AJPW in 2002).

- Sports Illustrated listed the top 50 athletes of the century from each U.S. state, 50-per-state, and several pro wrestlers made the list. Frank Gotch (#27 from Iowa and chosen because during his days, wrestling was believed to be a legitimate shoot sport), Danny Hodge (#26 from Oklahoma, for his amateur wrestling accomplishments), Verne Gagne (#24 from Minnesota, also for amateur wrestling), and Bronko Nagurski (#1 from Minnesota, for being one of college and pro football's greatest legends during the 30s and 40s who later quit the NFL in his prime to be a pro wrestler full-time). Needless to say, most of these names were added for reasons other than wrestling because Sports Illustrated frowns upon that. And none of the bigger stars from the more modern, fake 'rasslin-eras were included. Dave says that's kinda bullshit considering there were a couple of famous Harlem Globetrotters players included, who spent their entire careers playing "worked" basketball games for entertainment, so what's the difference? In fact, one of the Globetrotters on the list was from North Carolina, and Dave doesn't grasp how you can include that guy, but not, say, Ric Flair. But whatever. There were a bunch of other names on the list who have dabbled in pro wrestling (Babe Ruth was a wrestling referee on occasion, Lawrence Taylor has worked a Wrestlemania, Leon Spinks was a former boxer who did a lot of matches, etc.). Dave writes bios for all these people, detailing mostly their wrestling careers rather than their other sports careers.

- Dave announces that they will be doing some Wrestler of the Century and Observer Decade Awards in the coming weeks. As far as Wrestler of the Century, they've narrowed it down to 10 candidates: Andre The Giant, Giant Baba, Ric Flair, Frank Gotch, Hulk Hogan, Antonio Inoki, Strangler Lewis, Rikidozan, El Santo, and Lou Thesz. Of course, this list isn't everybody and if you want to vote for anyone else, feel free. Dave argues his case for any of those 10 guys and also explains why other people (Gorgeous George, Bruno Sammartino, Buddy Rogers, Verne Gagne, Steve Austin, Jim Londos, etc.) didn't make the top 10 list.

- The Jim Carrey movie "Man on the Moon" about Andy Kaufman is promoting itself heavily to wrestling fans. Commercials focusing mostly on the wrestling aspect of the movie aired repeatedly during both Raw and Nitro. The overall movie has gotten mixed reviews, but Jim Carrey has gotten almost unanimous praise for his portrayal of Kaufman. Dave says Lawler did a great job playing himself and Jim Ross did well portraying the Lance Russell role. Dave recaps the story of the Kaufman/Lawler angle back in the early 80s. Kaufman was a huge wrestling fan growing up and was obsessed with Buddy Rogers, and even once got Rogers to appear on SNL with him. He first approached Vince McMahon Sr. about working an angle, but was turned down. Bill Apter suggested he contact Lawler in Memphis and the rest was history. He recaps the women wrestling angle, the first Lawler match, the worked injury that led everyone to thinking it was real which Kaufman sold by wearing a neckbrace everywhere he went for months (he even wanted to wear it on the show Taxi but producers wouldn't allow it), the David Letterman angle, etc. Contrary to how people remember it these days, the angle was never a huge success. It did good business, but it didn't sell out the Coliseum the same way Lawler did against other big stars. Dave also talks about how the mainstream coverage, while a big deal at the time, wasn't THAT big of a story and how WWF gets more mainstream coverage in any given week now than Lawler/Kaufman ever did. And it also led to diminishing returns because Kaufman never wanted to quit and he would literally show up to shows unannounced and Lawler would put him on the show. Eventually, fans kinda started getting tired of it but Kaufman loved it so much that he kept coming back and Lawler would never tell him no and eventually, it even started to hurt business. It wasn't until his cancer diagnosis that Kaufman finally gave up on wrestling.

- Nitro starts back as a 2-hour show next week, which is just in time because this past week's Nitro did the lowest rating of Vince Russo's tenure since he took over several months ago, and it only barely beat the lowest rated Nitro of Nash's tenure. Dropping the 3rd hour should artificially inflate the numbers because it will change the way the ratings are averaged, but it's still not looking great.

- Some big media outlets in Japan held a voting a bunch of year-end and decade-end awards. For Japanese Man of the Century, Rikidozan finished in 14th place, behind names like the Japanese Prime Minister Tanaka, famous baseball player Shigeo Nagashima, etc. It also listed Giant Baba's death as the 4th biggest news story in Japan of 1999 (not just in sports, but overall) and the #1 wrestling story of the decade. Dave lists all the other top 10 wrestling stories of the decade results (formation of SWS, NJPW vs. UWFI feud, Inoki retiring, Ogawa vs. Hashimoto, etc.)

- Insane Clown Posse held an event called Juggalo Championship Wrestling 2 weeks ago in Detroit. There were barbed wire matches, thumbtacks, tables, etc. ICP faced off against 2 Doinks in the main event (portrayed by indie wrestlers Tarek The Great and Truth Martini). King Kong Bundy, Balls Mahoney, Robert Gibson, Ricky Morton, and Raven all worked the show as well. In fact, neither Raven or Balls were advertised. Dave says this is like the opposite of most indie shows where big names are announced but don't appear. ICP had big names and had them appear as a surprise (this was later released by them on video under the name JCW Vol. 1 and features the usual hilarious commentary from ICP).

- Dave gives us some family tree info on the various Samoans in WWF. Afa has several sons. Two of them wrestle as Samu and L.A. Smooth. He has a 3rd son who is 14 who already worked a match in Europe and will surely end up in the business as well (yup, that was Manu). Sika has a son named Matthew who has wrestled a bit in Japan and ECW (that would be Rosey). Sika also has another son who hasn't started wrestling yet and Dave doesn't mention him, but you've probably heard of him.

- Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch are expected to start working for XPW in California later this month.

- The ECW show on TNN on Christmas Eve was the best episode of the show since it began. Cyrus announced he is working for TNN. Two awesome matches. Dave says Super Crazy has gotten over huge and they need to hurry up and push him as a top star because the fans are ready to buy it.

- Notes from Nitro: the show this week was dubbed New Years Evil Nitro and was hot garbage. The tag titles were declared vacant for some vaguely fake-shoot reason and they decided to do a Lethal Lottery tournament for it. Dave says Lethal Lottery was one of the most famous flops in PPV history every time they did it and now it's flopped on free TV also. After all the first round matches, he thinks even if they had been specifically trying to destroy interest in the tag titles, they couldn't have done a better job than this Nitro did. Nearly every one of the matches ended with one of the guys turning on his partner, because basically nobody seems to even WANT to be tag champions. The Wall looks like a "sober giant Sandman after a charisma bypass operation." Then it ended with the big angle of Scott Steiner joining the NWO. Dave thinks it's sad to watch Russo rehashing the same ideas that Bischoff did better a year ago. Then a monster truck ran over Sid's car, presumably killing him but Dave says the only thing in danger of dying is this company if things continue to be this bad.

- Jeff Jarrett faced Chris Benoit in a ladder match at Starrcade and it wasn't originally supposed to be Jarrett. Russo, Bill Busch, and JJ Dillon all asked Ric Flair to return and do it but he refused because, for starters, he wants out of his WCW contract anyway and secondly because they didn't have a long-term plan beyond that match. Then they tried to sweeten the deal by telling Flair he would win. But that backfired because Flair didn't think it was right to beat Benoit when he's so close to knocking on the glass ceiling of being a main eventer, so that led to him especially not wanting to do it. WCW won't give Flair his release and in storyline, he was apparently buried in the desert weeks ago (yeah) so that's the explanation for him being off TV. But Flair has agreed to still work house shows and is trying to be professional about it. His WCW contract expires in Feb. of 2001 but there's a clause that kicks in next month where his pay drops (from $750,000 per year to $500,000 per year) and the contract calls for him to take on a backstage role rather than wrestle. Russo wants him back as a wrestler though, because no matter how much WCW has tried to bury him over the years, on a segment-by-segment basis, Flair continues to be one of WCW's top ratings draws.

- There's a lot of negativity in the locker room towards Vince Russo and Ed Ferrara over making much of the show about themselves, with the Powers That Be gimmick. So this week on Nitro, that was phased out completely and Ferrara's Oklahoma character seems to be dropped also. There's a lot of people who are also still looking at Russo and wondering why things haven't changed for the better. When he was hired, he promised to turn the company around in 6 months. It's been about 3 months so far and absolutely nothing has improved and ratings are still in the gutter and there's no positive signs of anything turning around any time soon. Plus, everyone sees through the "standards & practices" excuse. For what it's worth, Russo *does* have a pretty valid reason if things don't improve for the next couple of months. The whole company was being built around Goldberg and with his injury, Russo actually has a legit excuse to hang his hat on now. There's also a lot of the same complaints about Russo basically booking for internet fans and taking ideas from stuff he reads online and not listening to suggestions from people within the company.

- Scott Hall got a lot of heat from his appearance on Thunder and latest word is he is suspended. If you watched the show, you may have noticed a lengthy part during the opening promo that was hastily edited and they showed vague crowd shots. Apparently, Hall did his old NWO survey ("did you come to see Goldberg or us?" basically). Hall was ordered to try not to get a face reaction and was specifically told not to do his survey thing, but he did it anyway. Goldberg was furious because he felt like Hall was trying to undermine him and get over at his expense and he got into Hall's face about it backstage after. Russo wants the new NWO to get over as actual heels, not "cool" heels that make everyone else look bad. Hall has a knee injury and needs to get it scoped so he's going to be out for a couple of months anyway, so the suspension is pretty much just cosmetic at this point.

- Phil Mushnick wrote another article, mostly focusing on the controversy of Atlanta Braves baseball player John Rocker over comments he recently made during an interview (just check his Wikipedia page if you don't know the story. Spoiler: he's kind of a dick). Anyway, the Braves (owned by Turner) are trying to distance themselves from Rocker's comments and there's been talk about punishing him. Mushnick, of course, tied it to wrestling and said Turner-owned WCW does far worse every week.

- Raw featured a bunch of double-date skits that ended with Mark Henry and Mae Young in one bed and Harvey Wippleman with Moolah in another bed, all in the same hotel room. I only mention that so I can paste Dave's hilarious comment: "There are a lot of gross thoughts in this world, but I can't come up with many worse than having sex in a bed with anyone, let alone Mae Young, while Bruno Lauer is doing Moolah a few feet away."

- Various WWF notes: the Hulk Hogan pinball machine at WWF's Times Square restaurant was recently removed. Matt Hardy recently suffered a broken orbital bone. TSN's "Off The Record" has a bunch of awards for its show. Mick Foley won guest of the year and Edge was named Sexiest Male Guest. Davey Boy Smith missed TV this week claiming he was changing his tire and the car fell off the jack and landed on him, so he's injured I guess. Ken Shamrock is cleared to return from his neck injury but they don't have any plans for him (they never do).

- Someone writes in talking about how the world titles are meaningless. The WWF title changed hands more times in 1999 than it did during entire decades of the 60s and 70s combined. Same thing for WCW's title, which changed hands more in 1999 than the NWA title during the 60s and 70s combined.

- Other letters, mostly about Russo. Complaints about Russo booking things just to shit on his old WWF co-workers (Vincent was renamed "Shane", the "Gerald and Patrick" characters, and of course, Ferrara as Oklahoma. Plus bringing in Steve Williams just to help them shit on J.R. some more). Says it's obvious that Vince McMahon apparently kept Russo's more stupid tendencies in check because he's out of control in WCW without McMahon to reel him in. Other people complaining about the lack of push Russo is giving to the Mexican stars, the dozens of plot holes in every angle Russo books, how Russo doesn't care about even the basic fundamentals of what wrestling is, no logic or long-term planning behind any storyline, and so on and on. Someone else says Russo and Ferrara clearly aren't geniuses and Nitro is nothing but a 2nd rate shitty copy of Raw these days. Someone else writes in and says he actually thinks Nitro has improved but he found Russo's comments about nobody wanting to see Mexican or Japanese wrestlers to be more than a little racist. Someone else doesn't like him using racism to get heat, like the recent pinata on a pole match for instance. TL;DR - WCW sucks, Russo sucks, the sky is blue.

WEEEEEEE!!!! I have a flight today too!!
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[+] 1 user Likes tehgiftofgab's post
If you need some extra reading material, let me know and I'll PM a few more to you ahead of time

Championshit. Get it right!

And to this day I love me some Lethal Lottery! That and anything with 2 rings. Maybe it dates back to my fascination with it as a kid. Good memories doing 2 ring battle royals with Hasbros and Galoobs.

I never read these on Reddit so I'll just ask you here, Peezy: have you ever acknowledged your Juggapast on SC?
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[+] 2 users Like Chris's post
So funny enough, I always post these here first without much editing. Then when I post them on Reddit, I go through, correct misspellings, change a word or two, etc. On the Reddit version, I actually wrote "Championshit (not a typo)" but just never bothered to do it on this post.

And yeah I've acknowledged it a time or two, usually when ICP gets mentioned. Mostly just that I was a big ICP fan at this time. Don't think I've ever mentioned the RJ stuff, I can't imagine anyone would care.

I think you might be surprised but in a long run sort of way, I don't see how the reveal would benefit you in any way. Karma? Do people still care about that?
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I couldn't even tell you how much I have. I'm sure a lot from these posts but it's not like I can cash it in like Chuck E. Cheese tickets or anything

Finish the WO Rewinds, make it known you have a 2nd account, and then sell it to some company who is looking for that shit. If HBK can sell out, so can you!
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Just looked. 155,000+ post karma. Not bad.

I still don’t understand Reddit.
Huh.....Melzer reported you at 500k+ post karma. Weird!!
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[+] 2 users Like Fro's post
Peezy, how long you gonna do these? i'm watching 2001 InVasion era WWF now and would love to read some Dave recaps (not enough to, you know, read the newsletter myself of course).
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Ha my plan is to go through the end of 2001.

After that, I'll have to come up with some new scheme to get those sweet, sweet Reddit points.

Could cover obiturary WOR. Cause Eddie and Benoit were the two biggest just after 2001
I couldn't even begin to do it justice.

I have a different plan I'm working on. Doesn't really involve Reddit. We'll see how it goes.


- NJPW's Jan. 4th Tokyo Dome show is in the books. Despite a lukewarm build, it ended up being a surprisingly big success, selling out the Dome and wasn't heavily papered. WCW officials JJ Dillon and Paul Orndorff were in attendance, along with Chris Benoit, Randy Savage, and Rick Steiner who all worked the show. Benoit had at one point pitched a match between he and Bret Hart for the WCW title on this show, but WCW management shot it down. Instead, Benoit lost to Hiroyoshi Tenzan, while Rick Steiner defeated Randy Savage who was filling in for Goldberg in what was said to be a terrible match. A video was played with Goldberg, showing his arm injury and stitches and apologizing for not being able to make the show but promised he would be there at some point this year. Beyond that, Dave recaps the rest of the show. (Here you go. The 3rd-to-last match of Savage's career. He worked 2 more WCW matches after this. A house show match and a battle royal on Thunder. Then he sorta just showed up in a match in TNA in 2004 and that was it for him. But all of those were bullshit nothing matches. For all intents and purposes, this is the last significant match of Randy Savage's career).

- 1999 was clearly the biggest year in wrestling history as far as major mainstream media coverage goes. By other standards, it's still unclear. Ticket sales are for sure down (WWF is holding steady from 1998 numbers but WCW live attendance has tanked and ECW was declining until late in the year when it leveled out again after they got the TNN deal. TV ratings on average are also down. Again, this is mostly to blame on WCW, because their decline has been greater than WWF's gain. PPV, same story. WWF holding steady, WCW numbers free falling. But revenue-wise, 1999 was the biggest year in history. There's a lot more revenue streams than in the past (internet stuff, video games, higher ad revenue, etc.) that adds up to more money coming in than every before in the history of the business.

- From here, Dave basically predicts the year 2000 for various companies. WWF is huge and only going to get bigger. They already have a built in story for Wrestlemania with Rock almost certainly winning the title at Wrestlemania (lol) and taking his spot on the throne as the biggest star in the industry now that Austin's on the shelf and his career is still in question. Mick Foley is likely going to retire, Austin will return eventually and turn heel. Triple H has finally started to click as a headliner and a lot of the undercard guys have superstar buzz around them. The only things that can really derail WWF right now would be a bunch of injuries or a major scandal. Otherwise, they're pretty much untouchable right now.

- NJPW had better attendance in 1999 than they had in several years, but the company still shows signs of growing stagnant. The old stars are getting older and they haven't created any legit new stars. Shinya Hashimoto's career got wrecked over the last year due to his repeated losses to Naoya Ogawa (particularly the shoot beat down last January) destroying his aura. Old broke-ass-knees Keiji Muto carried the company on his back in 99 but he's working on borrowed time. So things look kinda gloomy there.

- AJPW is basically the same as always. Same guys, one year older, a little more beaten up, still the best in-ring wrestling in the world. Vader gave the company a boost but overall attendance is still down. Misawa is gaining a reputation of not being anywhere near the promoter Giant Baba was, and yet Misawa is still the top star. Dave says an injury to Misawa would be devastating to AJPW right now, and that could happen at any time. The only young star in AJPW who looks to have major potential is Jun Akiyama (needless to say, AJPW has *much* bigger problems ahead of them this year, but we'll get there).

- ECW had an interesting 1999. Early in the year, they were bouncing checks left and right and were extremely close to going out of business before the TNN deal literally saved the promotion. ECW's ratings started far lower than TNN expected, but they have gradually been growing (although still nowhere close to what TNN hoped, even though they're still the highest rated TNN show on Friday nights). The ECW product has been getting better, with more of a focus on in-ring action and good matches and the ratings are ticking up ever so slightly. So things are looking stable for them right now at least (it's not gonna be an easy year for ECW either).

- And then....there's WCW. These days, when it comes to popularity among wrestling fans, they're closer to ECW than they are to WWF. There's a lot of people within the company who openly feel like bringing in Vince Russo was a huge mistake, while others feel it wouldn't be fair to get rid of him after only 3 months. Nitro still does good ratings for a cable TV show, but compared to the numbers they used to do, they've had a HUGE fall. WCW has been in existence for about 12 years and has really only been successful for about 3 of those years. Basically, we all know how much of a dumpster fire WCW is right now. But they still have stronger financial backing than any other wrestling promotion, and for that reason alone, they *should* be the #1 company in the world. And 18 months ago, they were. Now, they're nowhere close and everyone knows all the reasons why. The struggle now is to regain that position and Dave doesn't see that happening any time soon because time and time again, WCW has proven to be a company that stubbornly refuses to ever learn from its mistakes. The forecast for WCW in 2000 doesn't look good at all, Dave decides.

- This week's Nitro was the 3rd lowest rated episode of the show in several years. On the plus side, it's a slight improvement the week before, which was the 2nd lowest rated. So....yay Russo?

- A Lucha Libre show in Mexico featured the debut of several wrestlers based on Pokemon characters. "I guess somebody was going to do that at some point," Dave says.

- Nikkan Sports, one of the biggest sports publications in Japan, had a vote for match of the decade. The winner was Misawa vs. Kobashi from Oct. 31, 1998 in AJPW, which got 21.8% of the vote. Dave doesn't really disagree. He gave it 5 stars himself at the time and it won the Observer Match of the Year award for 1998. Giant Baba at the time called it the greatest wrestling match to ever take place. Second place went to Keiji Muto vs. Nobuhiko Takada from 1995 which was a good match, but was only voted so high because of how big a deal it was at the time (sorta like Rock/Hogan wasn't exactly what you might call a great match, but it's still legendary). Another 1997 match from Misawa vs. Kobashi was 3rd place.

- The film "Beyond The Mat" is in contention for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. The film made the final 12 list for documentaries. A final vote will be done this week to narrow the list down to 5 actual nominees. The movie is expected to be released in theaters in March. The film has also been listed by the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times as being among the best movies of the year, of any type.

- Dennis Coraluzzo is no longer part of the NWA after leaving the organization over a money dispute. Something to do with money owed to NWA champion Naoya Ogawa, among other things (and I don't think I've seen his name since in any of the Observers I've covered. He eventually dies in 2001 so I guess we'll get there).

- MSNBC is filming a piece at Les Thatcher's training school that will focus on him training a student name B.J. Whitmer, which will culminate in Whitmer's first official match, which will also be documented by the show.

- Jerry Lawler is no longer affiliated with Power Pro Wrestling in Memphis (he actually hasn't been for months and I just never mentioned it). Anyway, Lawler is instead planning to run in competition against Power Pro. He has lined up a TV deal on a different local network in Memphis and is working with Nashville promoter Bert Prentice to start up a new promotion. Dave thinks it's interesting, because Lawler works for WWF. And Power Pro is basically a full blown developmental promotion for WWF, and it's weird that Lawler is going to be running shows against them (Lawler ends up taking the WWF developmental deal with him, nearly killing PPW in the process).

- An Orlando newspaper ran a story on Gordon Solie, talking about his health issues. He can no longer breathe through his mouth or nose after his surgery and instead, he now breathes through a hole in his throat. He also can't talk anymore. The story talked about Solie's lifelong love of cigarettes and blamed that for his condition. Smoking is bad, mmmkay.

- Dawn Marie injured her ankle while filming a commercial for the new ECW video game. They were filming a catfight scene with her and Francine when it happened.

- Early numbers are in for Starrcade and it doesn't look good. Seems the PPV did around a 0.3 buyrate which is downright disastrous for the biggest PPV of the year and is only slightly above the recent Fall Brawl PPV, which was the lowest PPV buyrate in the history of either WWF or WCW. So that would mean Starrcade is likely going to make the list as the 2nd lowest PPV buyrate ever. Dave says there's not really a good excuse either because they had months to build up the Goldberg/Hart match.

- As you may have noticed on Nitro this week, Terry Funk debuted doing an angle. Interestingly enough, the angle was offered to Ric Flair first, and Dave lays out what the plan for the angle was, which would basically end with Flair yet again being portrayed as the dumb commissioner and doing jobs to put over Kevin Nash and the NWO again. Flair obviously turned it down, so they offered it to Terry Funk instead and he accepted the role. Flair has been off TV for months now but has still been working house shows, but after this, he was pulled from house shows as well and, once again, his WCW future is in jeopardy. It's no secret that he's been wanting to leave to go to WWF, but WCW won't release him. Speaking of, Hall and Nash are openly wanting to leave as well, but same situation. WCW won't let them because they don't want to give the impression that people are trying to flee the sinking ship, although that's exactly what's happening.

- Notes from Nitro: former Nitro Girl Skye is now a valet for the Standards & Practices group, going by the name Miss Hancock (that would be Stacy Keibler). The tag team title tournament, which Dave calls "the single worst tournament in the history of our great sport" continued to suck and ended with David Flair and Crowbar winning it all, to become the "worst tag team champions in the history of WCW." Terry Funk was introduced as the new commissioner, and the crowd audibly started chanting "We want Flair!" during this segment. David Flair was all over this show, and boy does he suck. Plus there was a bunch of convoluted shit with Buff Bagwell and Kanyon and Vampiro and shit where everybody kept turning on each other and Dave just thinks it was all so stupid and bad.

- Notes from Thunder: Ed Ferrara's Oklahoma character is back and is now feuding with Madusa over the cruiserweight title, just to show how much of a joke that belt is now. The NWO allegedly kidnapped Arn Anderson and had been torturing him for 3 days. Dave wonders if they were making him watch Nitro and Thunder episodes. The Wall faced Jerry Flynn in a "shoot fight rules" match which was said to mean the match could only end by tap out or knock out, but not by pinfall. So of course, The Wall pinned Flynn to win. Bret Hart fought Terry Funk in a hardcore match and Dave thinks it was kinda sad to see Bret out there doing meaningless garbage matches (for what it's worth, Bret was walking around in a fog during all this anyway. He writes about it in his book but this is after the Goldberg concussion and he's wrestling while suffering the effects from it. He also suffered another concussion in this match. This was basically one of Bret's last matches before retiring. Oh, and on that note...)

- Bret Hart suffered a concussion during the match with Goldberg at Starrcade, no word how bad (pretty bad, as it turns out). Speaking of Hart, in the angle on Nitro last week where Sid was run over in the car by the big monster truck, they wanted Hart to drive the truck and even explained where Sid would be in the car so as to not run him over. Hart, as you might expect, pointed out how fucking stupid and insanely dangerous that was (guy kinda has a sore spot for dumb stunts) and told them to hire professional stunt men for that shit because he's a wrestler. Apparently, upon being put in their place, Russo realized Bret was right and apologized to him for even asking him.

- Alternative Press magazine named the Insane Clown Posse its Band of the Year. In an interview in the magazine, they talked about wrestling a little, with Violent J saying, "One thing came out of wrestling. We're addicted to pain killers now. But just on the road. The thing is, we're still, like, super nerds. We wouldn't know how to get any pills ourselves. If we were going to, we'd be asking people, 'Did you get an operation recently?'"

- Perry Saturn caught some heat within the company after doing a radio interview where he called Sting the most overrated wrestler in the business and said he's been doing the same match for 10 years.

- WCW's Ready To Rumble movie is tentatively scheduled to come out in April. Chris Kanyon handled a lot of the choreography for the movie and also acted as a stunt double in some scenes. Speaking of Kanyon, he really put over Lash Leroux during a recent interview, saying that Leroux is married with a family but before his WCW debut, he used to drive 90 miles, both ways, to go to the Power Plant for training every single day (I always liked Lash Leroux, it's a shame his career never really took off after WCW).

- Ric Flair's youngest daughter Ashley made the Cheerleading All-American team in her age group at a cheerleading competition in Nashville recently (that would be 13-year-old, future bad friend Charlotte).

- Magazine fitness model Midajah claimed on her website that she has signed with WCW to be a new Nitro Girl (signed yes, but they had bigger plans than Nitro Girl for her).

- If you thought Starrcade was bad in English, you should have watched it in German. I'll just let Dave explain: "Usually, they get the video feed from the U.S. and German announcing is done in a studio in Munich. Anyway, for the first time, the German crew was in Washington, DC live. The regular commentators were joined by a comedian named Tom Gerhardt, who was very popular in Germany ten years ago because he used to go on stage dressed as a giant penis and pretend to ejaculate on the audience. His fame with that skit was very short lasting. Anyway, he was doing heel commentary to get himself over, calling Disco Inferno gay, talking about Madusa having "nice tits" and said in commentary that none of the punches touch the other wrestlers, that pro wrestling is all fake and they he could beat any of them up. He even stood up when Benoit made the open challenge to anyone and challenged him. This was all done to build to a match where Gerhardt will wrestle Berlyn on 2/12 in Oberhausen, Germany on the WCW house show."

Here, we all know we want to see it:

- Notes from Raw: Stephanie McMahon declared Chyna and Chris Jericho as co-IC champions. Dave says this angle is right out of the 1970s Los Angeles playbook when that territory did a similar angle. It was a flop back then, probably will be again now. Triple H won the WWF title from Big Show, as expected. And the show was in Miami, meaning Rock was insanely popular, more than he usually is.

- WWF's website listed the Hardyz vs. Edge & Christian ladder match as the WWF match of the year. This leads Dave to rant about how WWF pushes their young stars with things like this, while WCW doesn't. WCW's best match of 1999 was Juventud Guerrera vs. Blitzkrieg. But after that match happened, WCW literally never mentioned it again. And in fact, almost immediately after, both guys were taken off TV for a bit and neither of them worked PPVs for the rest of the year, and then Blitzkrieg was quietly released and isn't even wrestling anymore, he has a computer desk job now. Dave says this may be the first time ever that a rookie (Blitzkrieg) is going to get a Match of the Year nomination in the Observer Awards and yet not even have a job in wrestling by the end of that year.

- Vince McMahon did an interview saying that they may be filing a lawsuit against the PTC group. Dave sarcastically says "good luck on that one," but I think he ends up having to eat those words. WWF does end up suing them and settling out of court. PTC had to pay WWF a lot of money and issue a public apology.

- Mick Foley said in an interview that he plans to write another book. In the same interview, he was asked about retirement and said, "I plan to retire soon, but I just don't feel I can leave the company hanging with Steve Austin out. With all modesty, to lose Mick Foley on the heels of losing Steve Austin would put the company in a tough position. So I'm going to hang in there for a few more months."

- The letters section is HUGE this week. Guess they were short on other news and had to fill pages. Steve Sims, the Observer's resident Lucha Libre expert, writes in to talk about the top Lucha Libre stories of 1999 and of the 90s as a whole. Lots of letters about Vince Russo. None of them good. One guy says it's clear who the creative genius behind WWF's popularity is. Vince Russo went to WCW, has shoved Jeff Jarrett down everyone's throats, pushed Meng and Tank Abbott, reformed the NWO with all the same old names, and brought back Roddy Piper, all to no success. Meanwhile, Vince McMahon managed to get Moolah and Mae Young over as bigger stars than any of those WCW names. Everything WCW is doing is basically just copying WWF, but badly. David Flair and Crowbar are basically Al Snow and Head. Buzzkill is Road Dogg. Lex Luger is Mr. Ass. Jim Duggan is Mankind, etc. (come to think of it, looking back at the way those guys were booked at the time, this is actually dead on and it never even occurred to me at the time).

- A whole assortment of letters about lots of other stuff too. Owen Hart. Dynamite Kid's book. Andy Kaufman. ECW's issues on TNN (someone writes in arguing that ECW's ratings are hurt by being on TNN, which most people consider "hillbilly TV." Plus the show in Friday nights and for a show that's trying to attract teenage viewers, you're not gonna get a lot of teenagers who are home watching TV on Friday nights). Someone writes in saying Jeff Hardy is entertaining but he's going to be crippled like Dynamite Kid in 10 years at the rate he's throwing his body off of things. Speaking of Jeff Hardy, a friend of his named Thomas Simpson (who helped Jeff and Matt start OMEGA back in the day) writes in and talks about Jeff. He says he's been his friend for several years and says Jeff doesn't do drugs, doesn't drunk, doesn't party, and takes care of his body. He basically spends a paragraph putting over both Matt and Jeff as hardworking dedicated guys who he knows personally and swears they will be around for a long time and will be incredibly successful.


- We open this issue with the death of Gary Albright, who died after collapsing in the ring during a match at an indie show in front of about 100 fans. Early word is that he suffered a heart attack right after taking a diamond cutter from his opponent. He was a regular in AJPW and was expected to return to Japan to join the company on their next tour. Since he had some down time, he decided to work some indie shows in Pennyslvania while on vacation. After his opponent realized something was wrong, they immediately ended the match and called for help. He was still breathing and moving at that point and an EMT at the show did CPR until paramedics arrived but he was already dead in the ring when they arrived, although they didn't officially pronounce him dead until they got to the hospital. Albright was related by marriage to the Anoa'i family and his father-in-law Afa was at the show and watched it happen and had to call his daughter to tell her that her husband had died. Others said he didn't seem right even before the match, coughing a lot and that he seemed weak. Following his death, AJPW held a 10-bell salute at their next show. Albright mostly made his name in the 90s working for the now-defunct UWFI and Dave recaps his whole career with the usual long obituary, from his amateur wrestling years, debut in the 80s for Stampede Wrestling, brief tenures in WCW and ECW, the UWFI years, then finally his time in AJPW where he came in strong but eventually settled into a midcard role. There's one cool story from his college years that Dave writes that I want to just copy and paste because it's bad ass: "There was an incident his freshman year where the Nebraska strength coach yelled at him about missing weight training sessions, and he went into the weight room, asked what the school record was for the leg press. Remember this was University of Nebraska, known for its huge lineman fed on weights and whatever else they were fed on. He piled the weights on the machine, pressed it, asked the coach if he was strong enough. He then walked away and never went back in the weight room again over five years of college."

- 1999 Observer Awards results are in! Remember, as always, these are voted on by the readers.

WRESTLER OF THE YEAR: Mitsuharu Misawa
FEUD OF THE YEAR: Steve Austin vs. Vince McMahon (2nd year in a row)
TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR: Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama
MOST CHARISMATIC: The Rock (by a landslide)
MOST OVERRATED: Kevin Nash (breaking Hogan's 5-year winning streak)
PROMOTION OF THE YEAR: WWF (first time WWF ever won it, and breaking NJPW's 4-year streak)
MATCH OF THE YEAR: Misawa vs. Kobashi (June. 11, 1999)

BEST WRESTLING MANEUVER: Dragon Kid's Dragonrana

MOST DISGUSTING PROMOTIONAL TACTIC: WWF continuing the PPV after Owen Hart's death
WORST TAG TEAM: Mideon & Viscera
WORST MANAGER: Sonny Onoo (4th year in a row)
WORST MATCH OF THE YEAR: Al Snow vs. Big Bossman (Kennel in a Cell)
WORST FEUD OF THE YEAR: Big Show vs. Big Bossman
WORST PROMOTION: WCW (by a landslide)
BEST BOOKER: Vince McMahon
WORST GIMMICK: Powers That Be (Vince Russo)

- Dave gives a quick run-down of ECW's Guilty As Charged PPV. Very quick, in fact. He just blasts through it with no real detail for some reason. Space issues maybe? Dusty Rhodes made an appearance and got beat down by Rhino. Turns out Rhino was supposed to have a match with Sandman but it was cancelled because Sandman had a family emergency and missed the show. RVD's wife was at ringside, attending her first show since destroying her leg in a jet-ski accident awhile back. And that's basically it from a newsworthy standpoint.

- Bret Hart published a new column in the Calgary Sun and Dave says it's a must-read and reprints it in full. It's basically Bret talking about his concussion and the state of the business. So, let's read it (if I recall, I think this is also re-printed in Bret's book):

Quote:A couple of weeks ago, I ended my column by saying that I'd have some explaining to do. I haven't written since then because I have a lot on my mind and I wasn't sure how to say it. Even if it doesn't come out exactly right I think this is going to turn out to be an important column and I didn't want it to get lost in the holiday shuffle.

The holidays? I hardly even remember Christmas and New Years because of the colossal pulverizing I've been through since the last time I wrote.

The Starrcade match with Goldberg was extremely punishing (Really). For days, I pulled myself up feeling like I'd been beat around like a Samsonite suitcase.

My match with Chris Benoit was very physical, and then I found myself in there with Jerry Flynn, a world class kick boxer turned wrestler who I'm amazed didn't break his own feet with how hard he was kicking me in the ribs. This past Tuesday, I ended up in a hardcore match with Terry Funk and woke up with a big goose egg on my head from when he dumped me out of a trash bin.

Hitman hardcore? In a trash bin? Ah yes, the times they are a changing'...and don't blame me.

I signed an autograph for a guy who asked me the ever present "is it fake" question and I was stunned to realize that I'm not even sure I know the answer anymore. Is what fake? The lump on my head is sure real enough.

I've been doing everything I can to help WCW compete in the ratings war with the WWF and lately sometimes I find myself going against my own personal beliefs in order to be a team player. I ask myself, how far do I compromise in order to help WCW beat Vince McMahon or do I find a personal victory in not bending at all. I'm having a harder time than people think finding that answer.

What I do know is that in an effort to come up with their own version of the WWF's winning formula, WCW hired the WWF's script writers right out from under them. The phrase "script writer" had no meaning in wrestling until very recently. People have always asked if wrestling is scripted and the honest answer to that was no. I never saw or even heard of a script for a wrestling match. But now the first thing they do when you arrive at an arena is put a script in your hand. It's not a script that tells you how to wrestle--although I fear that's not far off. It's a script for all the soap opera stuff, which has taken precedence over the wrestling matches. I find myself memorizing lines and rehearsing scenes. I want to make it very clear to anyone who might still be wondering--and I know there are a few of you--that I never really tried to kill Sid Vicious by running him over with a monster truck (that's fake).

But I could have killed myself screeching out of an arena in a speeding car in another scripted scene (That's real). I'm flooring it, tearing out of backstage, with no time in the scene to even put on a seat belt, and it turns out an icy rain had coated the ramp. There I am, careening out of control, toward a huge trailer truck filled with television equipment. In the last moment, I was somehow able to swerve to safety.

About a week later I was awakened in the middle of the night by the dawning realization that I had a concussion from when Goldberg kicked me in the head (for real) and I'd been walking around in a haze ever since--otherwise there is no way I would have agreed to race a car up a narrow ramp flanked not only by expensive equipment but--by the way--what about whatever people happened to be around?

Then look at Goldberg, who was scripted to punch through a glass car window, ending up nearly cutting his forearm off and now he'll be out of action for quite a while. It's actually sickening to me because in wrestling's proper context, it would never have happened.

I'm a wrestler, not a stunt man. And even a stunt man has time to strap himself in. I'm a professional wrestler and I get paid to wrestle in a ring. What am I doing fighting in the back taking falls on concrete and doing stunts in speeding cars?

And the really scary part was when I realized that I'd done exactly what Owen had done. I made a mistake and before I knew it had done something really stupid--and for what? I was hurt, weary and all I wanted to do was go home for the holidays so I didn't even see it coming. I made it clear to WCW I will never make that mistake again.

Since pro wrestling has turned into soap opera there are very few skilled wrestlers anymore--like Chris Benoit. He showed up barely in time to make it as part of a lost era. Like the ghost of what wrestling used to be and was meant to be. Benoit made an indelible statement with me in Kansas City, one that is best defined not with words but by watching. It is asking an awful lot of Chris Benoit to carry that legacy into the future when wrestling shows today don't pay homage to the past. I tried to do what I could to clean up wrestling and bring it back to what it's supposed to be and things are so far gone now that maybe Chris shouldn't try to be the morality police of wrestling any more than I could.

Since wrestling is scripted now I don't take it as seriously as I used to. I take my matches seriously and I take wrestling seriously but all this soap opera stuff is just--a job. I hope no one actually believes for one second that I'd really beat up Arn Anderson with a baseball bat--or some poor EMT for that matter!

Yet I still get letters from people who call me a fallen hero. They just don't get it that there's no room for heroes in wrestling anymore. I got a letter a few days ago from a woman who was upset with me because she brought her eight year old son to the matches and didn't like what she saw. I'm upset with her for bringing a kid to the matches in the first place. Where has she been? My kids won't watch wrestling. They don't want to. And if they did want to, as a parent, I wouldn't let them. I've said before and I'll say it again. Wrestling is not for kids anymore.

The other day, in Roanoke, a mob of about 30 kids showed up in the hotel lobby clamoring for autographs, all so happy to be there. It made me realize how much I miss seeing kids at the matches. As happy as I was to see them, I was disturbed with the idea that someone might actually be taking them to the show. There used to be hundreds of kids that came out to the hotels every day in all the towns and thousands of kids came out to the Calgary Airport when I brought the world title home to Canada for the fifth time. You don't see that anymore--and that was only three years ago. Feels like a time gone by.

I still take being a positive role model for kids very seriously and I even enjoy the responsibility that goes along with it but now I'm finding other ways to do it outside of wrestling. A couple of months ago, at the Special Olympics, a high ranking official confided in me that they're considering not inviting the WWF back anymore because of the crude content of the shows. I hope the charities I donate my time to won't think any less of my association with them on account of something that I have no control over.

I think about what my place in wrestling is now. After all, I am the world champion. And I look at a match like the one with Goldberg at Starrcade and think, what a hard fought classic battle. A serious struggle between two professionals fighting for a coveted world championship, something long-time wrestling fans can sink their teeth into and think there's still hope and then...then came the ending. Something I have no control over. And it plummets. The ending was even more disappointing to me doing it than it was for people watching it.

Then, I finished Mick Foley's book. I was looking forward to reading about the good old days. As much as I loved the book, and Mick is a great guy and he's a great storyteller, some of the stories in his book are absolutely hilarious. But in my opinion, even Mick missed the point. Great wrestling is not about how many bones you break or how many teeth you lose or being set on fire or walking back to the dressing room with tacks in your back. That's what he did and he's proud of it and he's happy with it and I'm happy for him. But that's not what most wrestlers do. That's not what I do. Mick Foley knows as well as I do that the artistry of wrestling is supposed to be scripted realism. In his book, the point was lost.

No sooner did I close the book than I turned on Stampede Wrestling. What I saw made me embarrassed for my family name. I was disappointed to see that my sisters, Diana and Ellie, would participate in such a farcical performance. When did they become wrestlers? To me, it was pathetic to see 14-year-old kids in the ring. When did they become wrestlers? For kids, they were great, but they're not seasoned professionals. Wrestling is an adult profession often intended for the amusement of children. Here I've been saying that wrestling isn't for kids any more, that there are adult things happening in the ring that aren't for kids to watch any more, and meanwhile, my own family has kids in the ring mimicking the adults.

So what's the point of all this? I'm not sure I know. I just know I've emptied my head and my heart and this is as real as it gets. Maybe the whole wrestling business is pathetic...including me.

- Hey, that was heavy! How about some ratings news? Raw still wins. Nitro is still doing terrible. Last week in Thunder's time slot, WCW aired a "Best of Nitro" year-end special that did a 0.98 rating, which is lower than ECW is averaging these days.

- Dave clarifies at one point that, yeah, this is a packed issue due to the Gary Albright obit and the year-end awards, so that's why all the other news is being blasted through so quickly without much detail. Back to normal next week I assume.

- Good news for NJPW. The TV ratings for their Jan. 4th show were actually up significantly from last year, which is the rare spot of good news in a company clearly on a slow decline.

- WCW reportedly felt so bad about Goldberg missing the Tokyo Dome show due to his injury that they sent Randy Savage in his place and then refused to accept payment for him from NJPW. They also refused to let NJPW cover the cost of plane tickets for everyone from WCW who attended.

- The band Motorhead got a Grammy nomination for Best Heavy Metal Performance for their cover version of Metallica's "Enter Sandman." Why is this wrestling-related, you ask? Because that Motorhead song came from the ECW: Extreme Music compilation album. I may be wrong here, but I'm pretty sure this means ECW is the only wrestling company in history that can say they released a Grammy-nominated album (they lose).

- Reportedly, WCW lost around $10 million dollars during 1999, which is by far the most money a single wrestling company has ever lost during a 1-year period (just wait until he sees how much they lose this year).

- Hogan had a meeting with WCW officials and agreed to return to the company on the Feb. 14th episode of Nitro. In case you're wondering why that date: Raw will be prempted due to the dog show, and thus, Nitro will air unopposed and ratings will, naturally, be up from their normal average. Dave says you can knock Hogan all you want, but he's no dummy.

- Buff Bagwell missed house shows claiming he was injured but then showed up fine to Nitro. Dave says Bagwell has gotten a bad reputation for coming up with excuses to not do house shows or PR appearances, but he always seems fine when it comes time to be on TV. In related news, WCW head Bill Busch has basically started getting the same complaints that Bischoff had before him, with people complaining about double standards (like Bagwell missing house shows while others would be punished or fired for missing shows). Basically, it's the same issues as always: top stars get away with breaking all the rules and it's not fair.

- Kevin Nash and Scott Hall are both still trying to get released from their contracts. Nash in particular wants to work with the Rock and Triple H. As for Hall, he actually was backstage at a recent WWF show in his hometown in Orlando, just visiting friends. He has often shown up at ECW events in Orlando as well, so this is nothing new. But speaking of things that WCW midcarders would probably get in trouble for, there ya go.

- Terry Funk won't be working house shows for WCW, only TV and PPVs. He was brought in as a last minute panic move for the role, because Ric Flair refused to do it. Dave thinks Funk would be more valuable to WCW behind the scenes, helping to train and coach wrestlers, especially the younger guys on things like promos and character.

- Eric Bischoff met with Turner exec Brad Siegel to discuss several things, particularly about buying out the remainder of his contract, likely so he can go start a new company. He's apparently been devising a wrestling project for FOX.

- Vince Russo held a meeting backstage before Nitro that was basically meant to let everyone air out their issues. At one point, Kevin Nash began complaining about the food in catering sucking and also was upset about the rule stating that everyone has to be at the arena by 1pm, which doesn't leave everyone enough time in the day to hit the gym and whatnot. Someone suggested bringing weights to the arena, and then Perry Saturn got involved, saying they can't get a good workout in like that because they need real gym equipment (Dave agrees with Saturn here. So many guys have various injuries and have to do specialized workouts and you just can't get that by dropping off a few dumbbells to the arena and telling them to use those. These guys are supposed to be world class athletes in tip-top shape. They need to be able to work out at a high level). Anyway, the meeting fell apart after that and devolved into a bunch of people arguing.

- They did an angle last week where Jeff Jarrett had to fight 3 veterans in one night: Jimmy Snuka, George Steele, and Tito Santana. Those are just the ones that accepted (and were paid around $2000-3000 for it). King Kong Bundy, Honky Tonk Man, Bob Backlund, and Nick Bockwinkel all turned it down.

- WCW's August PPV is on the calendar for Salt Lake City, which will finally end the tradition of horrible Sturgis PPVs. It'll still probably be horrible. But it won't be horrible in Sturgis.

- Various WCW notes: WCW is sending a few Power Plant guys (Alan Funk and Chuck Palumbo) to work in Harley Race's promotion in Missouri for experience. Larry Zbyszko should be returning to in-ring action for WCW soon for whatever reason.

- Phil Mushnick yada yada new column blah blah. This time he criticized Turner Broadcasting and the Atlanta Braves, who are ordering player John Rocker to undergo counseling due to his racist and homophobic comments in Sports Illustrated recently. Mushnick says this is the same company that used Lenny and Lodi on TV: "Lenny and Lodi, performing on national TV in the roles of hate-inspiring homosexuals, were following the orders of WCW executives on Turner's payroll. Who profits from hateful, ethnocentric conduct, Rocker or Turner?" Dave points out that WCW actually dropped the Lenny and Lodi characters months ago after GLAAD complained.

- Just a note about Nitro being cut back to 2 hours. Dave says, for what it's worth, Bischoff was practically begging for months for Turner to cut the show back to 2 hours and they never would. Then, he gets fired, Russo comes in, and only then did Brad Siegel make the decision to cut back finally.

- At the Thunder taping, during a commercial break, they were doing some crowd work, holding the mic out to fans to say stuff. Some edgy kid got on the mic and said "Owen Hart sucks!" and that was pretty much the end of that.

- The Baltimore Sun ran an article on Nitro Girl Skye, who is now going by the name Miss Hancock. The article said being a WCW cheerleader is the trashiest job on TV so not off to a good start. Anyway, Miss Hancock's real name is Stacy Keibler, she's 20, she has a 3.7 GPA majoring in communications at Towson University, she won $10,000 in winning the Nitro Girl search contest, and she's the hottest WCW/WWE diva of all time fuck you fight me if you disagree.

- In an interview with the man who was originally scheduled to do Steve Austin's neck surgery, the doctor said Austin has a very large spur and neck protrusion compressing his spinal cord, which puts him in significant jeopardy if he continues to wrestle. The doctor said Austin has 8mm of room for his spinal cord, where he should have 18mm. I'm no doctor but that sounds bad. Speaking of, aren't there, like, rules about doctors giving interviews about people's medical info? Anyway, this guy is no longer doing Austin's surgery. He switched to a different doctor and will have the surgery in the next week or so.

- Notes from Smackdown: "Have you ever noticed, it doesn't matter which member of the family it is, that those McMahons always outsmart all the mid card wrestlers. I'd hate to read their contracts." And that very true quote is followed up by this even truer quote: "If they handle him right, Angle is going to be a superstar as a heel." Triple H faced Rikishi in the main event and the crowd was super into Rikishi and Dave is kind of amazed that he's gotten over so huge and thinks this was a star-making match for Rikishi that may elevate him to upper midcard star (yup).

- The Rock did an interview on the Opie & Anthony show that led to some controversy. The story is a little convoluted but the hosts brought on a guy who runs a website that apparently had stirred up some drama due to a racist post making fun of Rock being half black/half Samoan. Anyway, Rock was blindsided by them bringing this guy on and was furious about it, feeling like they were condoning the racist comments. I think. I can't make sense of this story and Dave's explanation is convoluted. Anyway, the site apparently made racist comments about Mark Henry and Jacqueline as well. This leads into a long Dave rant about racism in wrestling and how it still very much exists today (pointing out Russo's pinata on a pole match or WWF's various black caricatures over the years). Anyway, Rock was furious about the whole thing and apparently ripped into some people about it after the show was over (here's the whole episode. I'm not listening to this shit so maybe someone else can make sense of it).

- The situation with WWF and Ken Shamrock is up in the air right now. There were rumors that he had knee surgery but he denied it when WWF contacted him. Then his agent claimed Shamrock DID recently have his knee scoped. Nobody seems to really know, with even people in WWF getting conflicting info. Shamrock also met with Vince McMahon recently to discuss his future. Word is Shamrock wants time away from wrestling to take an offer to fight in Japan and wants WWF to sponsor him, document his training, and build it up on TV while he takes a year to go fight in MMA. And then he would return to WWF full-time after having been shown (theoretically) dominating the MMA world. WWF is willing to let him leave and to train and fight and are leaving the door open for him to return, but they're understandably not interested in keeping him on the payroll for the next year while he does it. Besides, what happens if they build up this Shamrock fight all year and he gets his ass beat? Vince doesn't like doing things that he can't control and isn't making money from. So they're at an impasse right now.

- Turns out Terry Funk was still under contract to WWF when he showed up in WCW. His deal expired in December, but because he never formally left the company, the contract had a clause in it that caused it to automatically roll over for another year. It doesn't seem like Funk even realized it. Anyway, purely out of respect for Funk, WWF decided not to make a big deal out of it and instead granted him his release.

- Jim Ross appeared on the Observer radio show and said that WWF is likely going to put Amy Dumas together with Papi Chulo in the next month or two. He's learning English and she's fluent in Spanish, so they think it's a good pairing. He also talked about being a big fan of WWF developmental wrestlers Steve Bradley and Barry Buchanan. He said Tazz's debut (it will be spelled with two Z's) isn't definite yet and didn't seem sold on the idea of debuting him during the Rumble match. Ross said because of how many guys are in the ring during the Rumble, he wasn't sure having little bitty Tazz out there among all the WWF giants would be the best way to present him in his debut (he ends up getting his own solo match against Angle).

- WWF The Music Vol. 4 fell to #52 on the charts this week. I only mention that because the album came out in early November. This is mid January. And it's still moving 40,000+ copies a week. Nowadays, a 40,000+ week is a damn good first week number and will usually land you in the top 10 on the charts. WWF's was doing those numbers 2 full months after the album had been released. The music industry has changed dramatically in the last 2 decades. Meanwhile, the WCW Mayhem album, which came out 2 weeks later than WWF's album and has gotten better reviews as far as actual music, fell to #143 and has been considered a flop. Poor WCW just can't win.

- Shawn Michaels and his wife Rebecca (former Nitro Girl Whisper) had their first child last week, a son named Cameron Hickenbottom.


- WCW just underwent the most tumultuous 4-day period in recent history. It started when they got word that WCW champion Bret Hart would have to miss the Souled Out PPV due to a concussion. Just a couple of days before the show, Hart's doctor diagnosed his severe migraines and inability to focus as a severe concussion and not only wouldn't clear Bret to wrestle but refused to even clear him to fly or exercise. The concussion is believed to have happened after Goldberg hit Hart with an extremely hard kick during their Starrcade match and he also hit his head on the ground outside the ring during the ringpost figure four spot. Hart finished the match and continued working TV for the next week or two after, although he didn't feel like himself while doing it and didn't realize how bad his concussion was. So naturally, this left the Souled Out PPV without a main event 3 days before it was set to air. The very next day, Jeff Jarrett contacted WCW officials with a similar problem: he had suffered a concussion during the match on Nitro earlier in the week when Jimmy Snuka splashed him from the top of the cage and his doctor also ordered him not to fly or wrestle. That left the show without its semi-main event also (Jarrett vs. Benoit in a triple gimmick match, basically the 3 Stages of Hell gimmick). The PPV was already expected to do one of the lowest buyrates in WCW history and now it was without the top 2 matches.

- So the decision was first made to strip Bret of the title and crown a new champion at the PPV. Russo wanted to do a battle royal, with Tank Abbott coming out at the end as the surprise champion. A lot of people in the company have been unhappy with Russo's booking, which is clearly not turning things around, and the Abbott idea was the last straw for many. People were also upset about Ed Ferrara (Oklahoma) winning the cruiserweight title and David Flair/Crowbar becoming tag champions, both of which were decisions that most everyone else in the company was against. Bill Busch had been second-guessing his decision to hire Russo for weeks while Kevin Sullivan had been openly pushing for the booking position for himself. Busch decided to put together a new booking committee, so that Russo's ideas would be filtered by people who have more, you know....sense. Similar to how McMahon acted as Russo's filter in WWF. It all came to a head on Friday, two days before the PPV, with Russo being removed from his position of total authority, but he was asked to stay on as a member of the committee, which would have also included Sulivan, JJ Dillon, Terry Taylor and Kevin Nash, among others. Russo did not decline the offer but was still weighing his options. But as of press time, he's said to be leaning towards leaving the company rather than taking a reduced role. Ferrara is still planning to stay in a reduced role and he also said he thinks Russo would stay as long as Sullivan wasn't on the committee, but as far as Dave knows so far, Sullivan isn't going anywhere.

- Russo has also been viewed as being inflexible when it comes to his ideas and wouldn't take advice or ideas from anyone else. Some have defended Russo, saying he had bad luck with injuries, especially Goldberg. Dave points out that Goldberg should have never been injured in the first place and it was Russo's stupid booking that put him in an angle where he's supposed to be punching out real glass windows. Like Bret Hart said, they're wrestlers, not stuntmen. TV ratings haven't really done much under Russo. They briefly went up when he arrived and have slightly gone down in recent weeks but for the most part, they haven't changed much since Nash was in charge. But Starrcade's buyrate came in at a 0.3 which is nothing short of disastrous for the biggest PPV of the year. House show numbers are embarrassing. Merch sales are in the toilet. Russo had been promised 6 months to turn things around and was only given 3 but it only took 3 months for WCW execs to see that things were getting worse, not better, so they decided to cut their losses early.

- So......with all that going on, WCW had to figure out how to change the PPV card. To be fair to WCW, as soon as they got word that Hart and Jarrett were out, they announced it on their website, so they didn't continue to falsely advertise them. The match was changed to Sid Vicious vs. a mystery opponent that would be announced by 7pm on Friday. But with all the Russo drama, that deadline passed with no word on who Sid's opponent might be. By Friday night, WCW contacted Randy Savage, who's contract just expired, and asked him to replace Bret in a house show main event against Sid (fun fact: that ended up being Savage's last singles match ever). Then they talked about bringing Flair back and having him beat Sid for the title and then to bring Hogan back the next night on Nitro, but Hogan shot that idea down. Same for Savage, who worked the house show but couldn't agree on money with WCW to return full-time to work the PPV. So they decided against even asking Flair, feeling like the PPV was going to flop anyway, so why waste his return? So then they discussed the idea of Nash beating Terry Funk to become new commissioner and then declaring himself #1 contender and winning the title. Nash shot that idea down, wisely realizing he didn't want that kind of heat, especially since he just regained some booking power back. Immediately becoming the new champion as soon as he gets power back wouldn't be a good look and he realized it. So finally, after considering seemingly a thousand other options, the decision was made to go with Benoit in the main event and to have him become champion. Unfortunately, WCW didn't count on the fact that Kevin Sullivan has more enemies in the locker room than Russo, who most of the wrestlers personally liked, even if they hated his booking.

- In the past, several wrestlers talked about banding together if Sullivan was ever made booker again, which they expected to happen eventually because everyone saw that Russo wasn't working out, but nobody expected it to happen this soon. Benoit in particular has intense personal heat with Sullivan due to the whole Nancy situation and felt he could never work under Sullivan under any circumstances. On Saturday before the PPV a group of wrestlers (Benoit, Guerrero, Perry Saturn, Shane Douglas, Dean Malenko, Konnan, Juventud Guerrera, Rey Mysterio, and Billy Kidman) all got together as a group and went to Bill Busch and asked for Sullivan to be removed from the booking committee or for WCW to release all of them from their contracts. This put Busch in a tough spot, since he had just given the job to Sullivan and if he gave in to a wrestler mutiny, it would basically prove that the inmates are running the asylum. Busch asked for a week to think it over. In the meantime, they booked Benoit to win the title at the PPV. Dave thinks that was a dumb decision, but WCW apparently thought Benoit would "be a mark for the belt" and that he would stay if they made him champion and that if Benoit stayed, the others would fall in line since Benoit is the biggest star and has the most leverage. Turns they misjudged Benoit.

- Busch and others attempted to splinter the group of wrestlers, talking to them individually and trying to turn them against each other. Benoit was told he shouldn't align himself with the wrong people and that they had big plans for him. Saturn was told something similar and that they would put him in the NWO. Kidman was promised a major push into the US title picture, which was enough to sway him and he actually split from the group. Konnan was simply sent home with the threat that he would be giving up a high paying guaranteed contract. Basically, they played divide and conquer and, with threat of losing big money contracts, they got several wrestlers to back down from their demands. WWF is said to be interested in some, but not all of them. It's no secret that, aside from Goldberg, Benoit is the one WCW wrestler that WWF wants most of all. Dave breaks down all the different wrestlers and what WWF's interest may or may not be. Shane Douglas hasn't exactly endeared himself to WWF over the years. Juvi and Mysterio are too small for WWF to do anything with them or pay them near as much as WCW. But Dave thinks bringing them all in at once, as some sort of WCW-invasion type angle would be big money.

- Anyway, Benoit beat Sid to win the vacant WCW title in the main event and cut probably the best promo of his career after. But 18 hours later, it all went to shit. Before Nitro the next day, Busch once again met with the wrestlers who still wanted out and proposed a compromise, saying he wasn't going to fire Sullivan but they would make him booker of the Saturday Night show so that none of the Nitro stars would have to deal with him. That seemed to satisfy everyone. But later that day, Busch called them all again and said they were all being sent home as punishment for their attempted mutiny, except Benoit since he was champion and they had to build the show around him. But Benoit balked at that and said if his friends were being sent home, then he was leaving also. Busch threatened to strip him of the title and Benoit didn't hesitate to say he was sticking with his friends regardless. The group hung around until the company got them plane tickets home, and then Benoit handed the belt to Nick Patrick and they all walked out. On Nitro that night, they were careful not to bury Benoit on commentary but they showed footage of Sid's foot under the rope in order to negate his title win and as of now, the WCW title is still vacant. Russo was also not at Nitro. As for the U.S. title, after Jeff Jarrett was stripped of it at the PPV, they simply awarded it back to him again on Nitro because WCW is a total clusterfuck right now. Benoit and the rest of the group are expected to meet with Busch again soon but it's looking like he's going to grant them all their releases if he can't get them to reconsider.

- Oh yeah, there was a PPV. WCW Souled Out is in the books! They had to do the pre-show before the PPV live. It had been pre-taped days earlier but with the whole card being changed due to all this mess, they couldn't air that. Considering how much the company was in chaos behind the scenes, it was actually a decent show. The first match was Kidman vs. Malenko in a match where you lost if you left the ring. Malenko had a total brain fart and jumped out of the ring to stall, as heels do, but he forgot the rules of the match. Reluctantly, they had no choice but to call the match finished, which Malenko felt horrible about after. Former WWF star Ahmed Johnson debuted under the name Big T and if you're wondering what he's been doing lately, he certainly hasn't been missing meals. Before signing to WCW, Terry Funk had committed to working an indie show earlier that same day and he planned to fly back and be at the PPV in time. But there were problems with his flight and he almost didn't make it in time, leading to even more panic backstage. But he did, although the match was pretty sad because Funk is too broken down these days. And of course, Benoit won the "WCW Queen for a Day trophy" in the main event. Buyrate numbers aren't in yet, but preliminary numbers put it have it well below Starrcade, which is ECW territory when it comes to PPV buyrates.

- Did you know there's other news out there aside from WCW? True story. PRIDE has offered Ken Shamrock a 2-fight deal for $700,000. Shamrock has made no secret about wanting to fight again but he didn't want to give up his lucrative WWF contract, but the PRIDE deal would pretty much offset that if he chooses to leave WWF and take it. He'd basically get paid the same for 2 fights as he would for spending 200 days on the road wrestling. Word is Shamrock is expected to take the deal and WWF has agreed to release Shamrock from his contract so he can go fight for PRIDE. Shamrock recently had arthroscopic knee surgery but is expected to begin full-time MMA training this week and probably finish up with WWF by appearing in the Royal Rumble (nope). He's expected to come back to WWF in 2001 after he spends a year or so with PRIDE and there's been talk of having him make WWF appearances periodically to keep his name fresh. Shamrock is the biggest star any MMA company could have signed right now and Dave thinks this is a huge coup for PRIDE. No word yet on who Shamrock will face, although Kazushi Sakuraba and Bas Rutten have both been rumored. This is a lot longer story, but most of it is MMA related so yeah.

- Monday night ratings were up slightly for both companies but it's actually disappointing because they had no outside competition for the first time in months. No Monday Night Football, no Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, no award shows, etc. so the increase in ratings for both shows should have been higher than they were. Meanwhile, ECW on TNN continues to grow incrementally, and this week they did their biggest rating yet.

- Perro Aguayo announced his retirement tour this week. He will work a final AAA show in February, then work a few final shows in Japan, before his final match for CMLL in March or April (needless to say, it doesn't quite work out like that. He does indeed work his final AAA and NJPW shows but then he comes back to do his final CMLL show and....doesn't stop. He continues to work several times a month for CMLL for the next year before ultimately retiring for real. And even then, he came back for 2 more matches several years later).

- Gary Albright's death seems to have been due to a heart attack from pre-existing heart issues. Dave talks about wrestlers who have died in the ring or immediately after collapsing in the ring from heart issues, as well as people like Brian Pillman who died in part from undetected heart problems and talks about whether a lot of these could have been prevented if wrestlers were forced to undergo a full physical and heart exam before being allowed to wrestle, either from state athletic commissions or the major companies themselves. A lot of these pre-existing issues would likely have been detected if anyone had ever bothered to look for them (fortunately, WWE now does this sort of testing with the Wellness Policy and they have indeed detected heart issues with several people, most notably MVP and Io Shirai).

- If you recall, Atsushi Onita recently made a big deal of going back to school to get his high school diploma (he dropped out as a teen). Well, he did it and is scheduled to graduate next month. He's hoping to run a barbed wire match in conjunction with his high school graduation. He also wants to do an electric exploding ring barbed wire death match in May at whatever college he gets accepted to. Dave finds this hilarious.

- ECW is planning to scale back their road schedule. Despite the TNN show, house show crowds have been dwindling and it's just not financially feasible to run as many shows as they were doing. So instead of 3 per week, they're cutting back to 2 per week. It's going to be a huge blow to a lot of the talent because approximately half the wrestlers in ECW are on a per-night deal so by losing that show, they're basically getting a 33% pay cut.

- Sandman missed the recent ECW PPV as well as several other shows because his sister was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. To make the story even more tragic, his older brother just died from similar cancer a couple of years ago.

- The 1/14 ECW on TNN episode was taped at Center Stage in Atlanta where WCW Saturday Night used to be filmed. Dave thinks the building looked a lot more impressive when WCW filmed there.

- Raven noted that his ECW contract expires in August and said he'd love to stay with ECW if they could make him a good offer but also acknowledged that he's not getting any younger and wants a chance to make big time money. But he also doesn't want to go anywhere and be a midcard guy, he wants to be a top star and said he wouldn't leave just for money. He also said that even if he leaves, he would like the option to still occasionally work ECW shows.

- The revised end-of-year numbers from Turner estimates that WCW lost around $15 million dollars in 1999, which is pretty much the same amount they lost during the entire 3-year period under Jim Herd at the beginning of the decade. AOL is in the midst of purchasing Time Warner for a reported $160 billion, with a B, so losing $15 million isn't really that much in the grand scheme of things for Turner, but WCW is still in heavy cost-cutting mode regardless, flying in less people for shows and there's expected to be another round of firings soon.

- Notes from Nitro and Thunder: more of the same. Dave just doesn't get this company. Plotholes the size of trucks. Guys like Kevin Nash going off-script in promos and saying things that basically just bury everyone around them. No continuity (like saying Scott Steiner still wasn't cleared to wrestle on Thunder, despite the fact that he wrestled twice on Nitro 2 days earlier). Old guys like George Steele, Tito Santana, and Jimmy Snuka being brought in to work matches, which just further solidifies WCW as a company full of old people. Even Terry Funk couldn't summon up a performance to save any of the shows. Anyway, DDP and Bagwell are still doing an angle where Kimberly is teasing leaving DDP. Dave hopes for DDP's sake that Kevin Sullivan isn't booking this since, well, you know. There were also lots of timing issues, missed camera cuts, and you could hear the director at times trying to direct segments. The hazards of live TV.

- Ric Flair recently made news talking about running for governor of North Carolina as a Republican. The story was picked up by a lot of news outlets in the region, as well as nationally by CNN. Dave doesn't buy it. The race is already crowded and Flair has not yet filed paperwork to run and would have to do so in the next 2 weeks if he's serious.

- Various WCW notes: Vampiro brought the Insane Clown Posse with him to Nitro last week. Not only did WCW refuse to allow them on TV with Vampiro, they actually kicked them out of the backstage area as well. Nitro Girl Fyre was recently "Fyred," Dave says. Oh, you cheeky bastard. Asya is engaged to Dale Torborg.

- Steve Austin had his neck surgery in San Antonio by Dr. Lloyd Youngblood. The surgery was successful but took longer than expected because Austin has more muscle in his neck than the average person. Youngblood said Austin should be able to wrestle again but did say that there were early signs of neurological damage from his injury. He said it could be up to a year before Austin can return.

- Kurt Angle is expected to face a mystery opponent at Royal Rumble. Dave speculates that it might be Ken Shamrock (nay).

- In a funny note regarding Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, Dave says: "Ever notice when the two of them are together that Stephanie is sort of convincing in that she's attracted to HHH, but HHH is totally unconvincing of being attracted to her? And he's the better actor of the two."

- WWF had discussions about whether to hire Kevin Nash or Randy Savage if they were to get free of WCW. In Nash's case, it was said that he's doing WWF more good by being a cancer in WCW's locker room and that they don't want that sort of headache in WWF's locker room. Dave thinks if Nash actually got free, they'd still jump at the chance to hire him anyway, because this is pro wrestling and that's just how it goes. As for Savage, he wants too much money and WWF isn't interested.

- Randy Orton, the 19-year-old son of Bob Orton, signed a WWF developmental contract this week. He's about 6'4 and 250 pounds and has a good look.

That Randall will have a classic once in a lifetime match with The Prototype.
I dunno, he'll probably be a flash in the pan. Just cause he's 3rd generation doesn't mean he's gonna last.
That Raw after this issue. Mmmmmhmmm

- WCW remains in chaos this week. The company offered unconditional releases to Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Perry Saturn, Shane Douglas, and Konnan which would free them up to start with WWF as soon as Feb. 1st. A condition of the releases was that they not publicly disparage WCW and agreed not to sue WCW for any reason. But when it came time to actually sign the paperwork, both Konnan and Douglas backed down, due to fear of leaving their lucrative WCW deals and uncertainty over whether or not they'd be welcomed in WWF. Douglas contacted Steve Austin to try to see if there was interest from WWF and was basically given the idea that they would take him, but then Douglas' lawyer advised against it, so he chose to stay. As for Konnan, he claimed he was just sticking by his friends and never actually asked for his release. But Bill Busch felt differently and there's a lot of heat there and Konnan may not be welcomed back in WCW even if he doesn't sign his release. The other 4 men had a meeting scheduled with McMahon and Jim Ross last week but it got postponed due to weather. McMahon told them to keep everything quiet, so all 4 men cut off contact with pretty much everyone else in the business, including Shane Douglas, who was upset at feeling like his friends left him out in the cold and didn't even tell him they were meeting with Vince. When Douglas found out, he called Malenko, who told Douglas they were in Florida. But then Douglas called the hotel they were staying at in Stamford and got confirmation that they were there, so he was upset at being lied to by his friends and claims he's more hurt than angry. He says he stuck his neck out to support them when they all went to Busch together as a group, but then they all cut him off when shit got real. To be fair, they all said that they were under the impression Douglas wanted to stay with WCW. McMahon's idea was to keep everything hush-hush and try to get people to think that all 4 men were planning to return to WCW, thus making it a bigger surprise when they eventually show up on WWF TV. No word on what the plan is yet, but it's believed all 4 men will come in together as a group, in some sort of interpromotinal-style WCW invasion angle. It's believed a deal was reached with all 4 and they should be starting soon, although Eddie Guerrero has been telling people that he may be going to NJPW instead, but it's still unknown for sure.

- Vince Russo also had a meeting with Bill Busch this week, making a series of demands. He either wants to be released from his contract (which still has nearly 2 years on it) or to be given his job back as head booker with full control, and not be forced to work alongside Kevin Sullivan or JJ Dillon. He also demanded he be given another 9 months to continue booking the show without interference from anyone else (when Russo was hired, he was basically told he'd be given a year to turn things around but he just got the boot after 3 months, so he wants the other 9 months). At press time, no decision has been made but Russo wasn't at the TV tapings last week. There's still rumors throughout the company of this person or that person getting so-and-so's job or position and basically no one backstage really knows who's running things anymore.

- WWF's Royal Rumble is in the books and was an uneventful show news-wise, but a great in-ring show. They sold out MSG with a gate of over $1.14 million, making it the 6th largest ever in the U.S. and the buyrate is expected to be monstrous. Cactus Jack vs. Triple H in a street fight was fantastic, but left Dave wondering about how much violence is too much when it comes to satisfying an audience that is totally desensitized to people killing themselves to get a pop. Dave rants again about the dangers of unprotected chair shots to the head and also talks about the use of barbed wire in this match, which the New York state commission had banned ECW from using just a few weeks ago. Gotta love the double standard. Triple H got a gash in his calf muscle somehow. But it was a legit match of the year candidate and probably should have closed the show. Nudity was promised and delivered in the form of 77-year old Mae Young in a bikini contest (Miss Kitty had a bubble wrap bikini). Andy Richter was one of the judges for this. Tazz made his debut against Kurt Angle and the match was on the verge of being really good before ending and Dave thinks they should have gotten more time. Angle in particular came off like a superstar and Tazz got a lot of ECW chants. The Dudleyz vs. Hardyz tables match was really good. Taka Michinoku was legit injured during the Rumble match when he took a hard face-first bump outside the ring. He and Funaki were scheduled to make multiple run-ins during the match but after he was injured, he couldn't do it. So every time he was supposed to do his normal run-in spot, they just kept replaying the footage of Taka getting injured instead while Lawler cackled about it like it was a joke. In case you're wondering, Taka had to go to the hospital and will be out for awhile so...ha ha? Anyway, Rock won the Rumble and will main event Wrestlemania, presumably against Triple H.

- Obituary for Al Costello, one of the most famous Australian wrestlers ever and half of the Fabulous Kangaroos tag team. He was 80 and died from...being 80, I guess. Heart problems, Alzheimer's, pneumonia, you name it. He had it all at the end. Anyway, Dave recaps his career and the Kangaroos are widely recognized for popularizing tag team wrestling back in the 50s, if not outright inventing it. The usual long, interesting in-depth bio.

- And another obituary for WCW wrestler Bobby Duncam Jr. who died this week at 34 years old from a drug overdose. Duncam Jr. had been out of action for several months recovering from surgery and had been off TV long enough that WCW barely felt the need to acknowledge his death. He leaves behind 2 kids and a wife with whom he was in the process of divorcing. He most recently appeared for WCW as part of the West Texas Rednecks group with Curt Hennig prior to his injury. Duncam Jr. was well-known to have pill problems, especially somas, and WCW was aware. At one point, they had forced him to sign a document agreeing to go to rehab and would only receive partial pay until he completed his rehab. He signed it and his wife had also been urging him to go, but he never went and denied that he had a problem. He had been to AA meetings in the past and in recent weeks, with nothing but free time due to his injury and guaranteed WCW money still rolling in, he went into a downward spiral of drugs and alcohol. As usual, Dave recaps his life and career.

- WWF has pulled their developmental territory deal away from Power Pro Wrestling in Memphis (which is run by promoter Randy Hales) and instead given it to Jerry Lawler's new Memphis Championship Wrestling promotion which will be starting this week and will go head-to-head against PPW. The whole story is weird but basically, Lawler convinced McMahon to make the change. Lawler was originally involved in starting up Power Pro with Hales. The promotion was supposed to be run by both of them, but at the time it started, Lawler was still tied up in a bunch of legal mess over the death of USWA. So in all the paperwork, Power Pro was 100% Hales promotion, and Lawler was unofficially helping to run it. But as tends to happen, there was friction between Hales and Lawler and since Lawler wasn't on the paperwork, he had no power over Hales when it came to anything. Plus Lawler was furious over the comments Doug Gilbert made about him on Power Pro TV a couple months ago (about Lawler raping a little girl) and had threatened to sue. So the relationship fell apart and Lawler decided to start his own promotion and got a TV deal on another local Memphis channel to run in direct competition against Hales. WWF not only provided talent to Power Pro, but they also covered some insurance costs and provided the ring they used for TV tapings. WWF is taking their ring back and giving it to Lawler instead. Hales was pretty much running a promotion on no budget, since most of the wrestlers were WWF developmental guys that worked in Memphis and Louisville (in OVW) and the TV station paid Hales a weekly fee for the show. But now he has no more WWF wrestlers and doesn't even have a ring at the moment. The regulars (Steve Bradley, Rico Constantino, Nick Dinsmore, Flash, Robbie D, and Scotty Sabre) have all been pulled and will work Lawler's shows now instead. WWF is sending several other wrestlers, most notably Kurt Angle, to work Lawler's first MCW taping. As for Power Pro, they're in a tough spot. Randy Hales doesn't have money to throw around and they were totally dependent on WWF so if he wants to continue running, he's going to have to find wrestlers who are willing to practically work for free (they continue limping along for a little while longer, but this was pretty much the death blow. MCW doesn't last terribly long either. Both companies eventually come together and do an inter-promotional angle in 2001 but they both still die soon after).

- Ratings are more of the same. Nitro did near record-low numbers while Raw beat them by a bunch. Nitro was coming off a PPV and by all rights it should have done in the 3.7 range. But instead it did a 2.98 which is shockingly low and was the 2nd worst Nitro rating ever. The news wasn't any better for Thunder, as ratings dropped significantly for it this week also. Meanwhile, Smackdown did it's 3rd highest rating ever. ECW also set its all-time ratings record on TNN, doing a 1.24. Still not in WCW range or anything, but ECW ratings are steadily inching up week-by-week (I still wonder what their ratings might have been like if they weren't stuck in the death slot on Friday nights).

- Giant Baba's widow Motoko Baba recently had to pay more than $700,000 in inheritance taxes due to Baba's mansion in Japan and multiple vacation homes in Hawaii which are all valued at more than $8 million.

- Wrestling movie news: Beyond The Mat will open in theaters nationwide in March and Jim Carrey won a Golden Globe for portraying Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon.

- Ian Rotten is starting back up his IWA promotion (they've been shut down since August) and will be running weekly hardcore shows in Charleston, IN. Rotten owns the new building they'll be doing shows at, so he won't run into problems anymore with finding venues that will allow his gorefest matches.

- A promotion called WXO started running TV shows in about 80 markets by buying syndication deals in them. Ted Dibiase is the figurehead CEO of the company. Stan Lane and Chris Cruise do announcing and Barry Horowitz and Barry Darsow are booking it. The shows actually have decent production value and there's clearly some money behind it, but it's already floundering. They already cancelled their 2nd TV taping. They push it as family-friendly wrestling and it's sorta like the old AWF promotion a couple of years ago. The wrestlers are all pretty much just washed up 80s guys or more recent WWF/WCW curtain-jerker rejects (yeah this dies out quick, they never do another taping).

- XPW is running a show in L.A. this week featuring celebrity appearances by KoRn lead singer Jonathan Davis, porn star Ron Jeremy and Danzig band member Josh Lazie.

- Insane Clown Posse's Juggalo Championshit Wrestling (not a typo) will be releasing a video of the event they held last month in Detroit. Raven, Balls Mahoney, Abdullah The Butcher, King Kong Bundy, Iron Sheik, and more all make appearances (if you haven't seen this before, what are you doing with your life? ICP on commentary alone makes this a must-watch). Also on their website, ICP announced that Vampiro is planning to leave WCW to wrestle full time for JCW and they plan to self-finance the company and tour nationally with it. Dave doesn't seem like he expects Vampiro to walk away from his guaranteed WCW paycheck to go wrestle for ICP.

- Following the success of Sable in Playboy, apparently Penthouse is looking for any female wrestler who is willing to pose for their magazine.

- Speaking of Sable, she's currently working on a new show called The Consultants, which will star her, NBA star Dennis Rodman, karate star Jeff Speakman and former WBC boxing champ Jeremy Williams (I don't think this ever came to fruition but even two years later in 2002, I found an interview with her talking about it. So apparently they tried for a long time to get that show off the ground).

- Axl Rotten appeared at a CZW show and cut a promo trashing ECW and using some "ethnic slurs" about Paul Heyman (Rotten doesn't like the Jews apparently. Or at least, that particular Jew).

- At the latest ECW TV taping, they filmed an angle that won't air on ECW TV but will instead air in Japan for FMW. It saw FMW president Shoichi Arai get into an argument with Paul Heyman, with the gimmick being that Heyman stole Masato Tanaka from FMW. Arai eventually attacked Heyman, but was taken out by Balls Mahoney, Sal E. Graziano and Roadkill, who beat up Arai until police showed up. Those 3 guys are expected to travel to Japan soon to work some FMW shows and the angle is expected to make them top heels there.

- Hulk Hogan is now telling people that he will never return to WCW because he was upset with their latest contract offer. He wants to go back under the terms of his previous deal. WCW is planning to do Hogan vs. Luger at SuperBrawl next month but who knows now. Hogan is still under contract for 6 more PPV dates. In fact, WCW is pretty much desperate to get as many big names as they can for the next PPV because the buyrate for Souled Out came in worse than expected and it's now the lowest buyrate in the history of WCW or WWF (and in fact, is lower than any of UFC's buyrates ever also). In fact, the Souled Out buyrate is in the ballpark of most ECW PPVs. So who knows if Hogan is coming back or not, but it's Hogan so Dave says to take anything he claims with a grain of salt (yup. Hogan is back for SuperBrawl, against Luger).

- Ric Flair has been talking about running for governor of North Carolina and has to make a final decision this week. Word is he's leaning against it, despite a lot of mainstream news coverage talking about the possibility lately. A newspaper poll in Greensboro found that 25% of the voters said they would vote for him, while another poll in Charlotte was at 39%. Speaking of Flair, he once again asked for his release from WCW, pointing out that they freely released Benoit, Guerrero, etc. when they asked. But WCW shot it down, so Flair's still stuck.

- Notes from Nitro: Tank Abbott and Torrie Wilson were pretty much the only 2 people on this show who even got a pop from the crowd. Scott Hall was doing his drunk "act" again and seemed to be hamming it up to the point that Dave suspects he was trying to get sent home yet again so he can stay on his couch and collect his check. Terry Funk did an Asai moonsault and Dave assures us that he's not making that up. Christopher Daniels had a dark match try-out before the show. And during a commercial break, Miss Hancock came out and went over to the DJ that spins during commercial breaks and began dancing, which is totally out of character for her gimmick.

- Goldberg appeared on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher and came off like a normal, intelligent person, which is unfortunately rare for pro wrestlers in this sort of setting.

- Doctors have told Bret to stay out of the ring for at least 2 months following his severe concussion at Starrcade last month. He is still not even allowed to fly so he hasn't been able to travel to TV tapings lately either. The plan for SuperBrawl was Hart vs. Sid Vicious for the WCW title but they're clearly going to have to come up with something else now (unbeknownst to anyone at the time of course, Hart's career was already over).

- One of the big issues where Vince Russo and Kevin Sullivan clashed was over how to use Goldberg. Russo wanted to keep the title off of Goldberg for as long as possible, feeling that there's more money in him chasing the belt. Sullivan wanted to put the title on Goldberg immediately, as soon as his arm heals and he can get back in the ring. Dave thinks that, if booked correctly, Russo's idea is clearly the better option. Of course, the caveat there is "if booked correctly" and WCW can't seem to get through a 2-hour Nitro without tripping over their own dicks, much less plan a lengthy and cohesive long-term storyline, so....

- This sort of leads Dave on a small rant about the whole booking mess. The internet department at WCW loved Russo because he kept them in the loop on all the angles and used the WCW website to try to push things, because Russo loves booking for internet fans. Meanwhile, Sullivan never kept them in the loop. It led to a lot of people within the production side of the company praising Russo as a creative genius who wasn't given a fair shake to turn WCW around, but of course, after 3 months, things in WCW were clearly not even close to turning around and in a lot of ways, they were getting worse. But Dave thinks replacing him with Sullivan was also a bad idea because everyone knows how the wrestlers feel about Sullivan and the resulting near-mutiny was predictable. They should have known that guys like Benoit were going to be upset about it and now they lost at least 4 talented young stars because of it who are headed to WWF. Dave compares WCW now to AWA in the late-80s. Everyone wants out and title belts are having to change hands constantly due to unforeseen things (such as your new world champion quitting the day after he wins the belt) and no continuity to anything. WCW is just a toxic mess right now and they're spinning the drain. Now they're in cost-cutting mode and Dave wonders how much longer the suits at Turner are going to want to keep propping up this fledgling shit-show (spoiler: about a year).

- WCW had a legends night show a few weeks ago in Buffalo and came very close to making a deal to bring in Bruno Sammartino, but it got nixed at the last minute. It was the episode where Jeff Jarrett faced 3 legends in the same night and Sammartino was agreeable to being one of the legends and would have wrestled Jarrett. WCW's legal department shot down the idea due to the belief that Sammartino is planning to testify against WCW in a lawsuit filed against them by Nasty Boy Jerry Sags, who claimed he suffered a career-ending injury in a match with Scott Hall. Sammartino's name appeared on a witness list in the lawsuit but Bruno denied that he ever planned to testify on Sags behalf and in fact has asked to be removed from the list. But WCW's legal people still didn't want to take the chance so they shot down the idea of bringing him in for the show. Instead, Tito Santana, George Steele, and Jimmy Snuka all did the show instead.

- The fitness model women who have been hanging around the NWO are Kim Kanner, Melinda O'Hearn, Pamela Paulshock and Tylene Buck (Kanner becomes known as Shikira and was one of Scott Steiner's freaks during this time. Melinda O'Hearn is Midajah, another of Steiner's women. Pamela Paulshock became a backstage interviewer for WCW. And Tylene Buck eventually becomes Major Gunns and later did porn).

- ESPN did a breakdown of the demographics of viewers of both WWF and WCW. Turns out WWF's audience still skews younger. WCW's fanbase is more heavily male and white. WWF has a slightly larger African American following. They're both pretty equal when it comes to Latino popularity, which is crazy considering how much WCW has featured Luchador wrestlers over the years (although always in lower-card matches).

- WCW brought back the KISS Demon character at the Saturday Night tapings, but this time Dale Torborg was playing the role instead of Brian Adams.

- Steve Austin is already working out post-surgery and is running on a treadmill already. He's been told he should make a full recovery but told him he'll need about 6 months to recover. Austin is hoping to be back in 3 months (not even close).

- Notes from Raw: Tazz made his Raw debut choking out Angle again. The show was in Philadelphia and Tazz got a huge response and massive ECW chants. They showed Darren Drozdov visiting backstage, which is really the first real acknowledgement on TV that he was ever injured in the first place. And Rikishi has gotten over huge in record time and the fans are buying into him as a legit main eventer.

- Random WWF notes: Chyna will be appearing on the TV show Third Rock From The Sun soon. WWF New York, their restaurant in Times Square, had their big grand opening last week and basically every star in the company was there. The band Sugar Ray performed, the Rock cut promos, and a bunch of other wacky shit. WWF is considering bringing in Val Venis' sister (and Edge's fiance) Alannah Morley to play a role on TV (didn't happen). Amy Dumas and Papi Chulo worked together in some dark matches last week, and will be debuting on TV together soon.

- Opie and Anthony are still throwing a tantrum about the Rock walking off their show a few weeks ago during an interview so they showed up to the grand opening of WWF New York and tried to get in but were denied entry. Then they started making a bunch of jokes saying that WWF New York serves Owen Hart burgers, which are dropped from the ceiling, Droz Dogs which are served in a cart, and giant steroid filled chicken. On WWF's Byte This show, Kevin Kelly spent half the show trashing Opie & Anthony in response. Dave suspects it's all a work because Rock is scheduled to go back on O&A's show soon and thinks they're just trying to drum up controversy ahead of their big Rock interview after the drama from last time he was on the show. That being said, Dave thinks it would be pretty tasteless for WWF to be involved in any kind of publicity stunt with guys who are making those sorts of comments about Owen and Droz, so maybe it's not an work.

- WWF reportedly paid for 3 commercials during this year's Super Bowl (at a cost of more than $4.5 million) but one of them was rejected by ABC and will air on USA during Raw instead because it was deemed too risque. The other 2 are expected to air during the game (I can only find one of the commercials, and this weird advertisement website is the only place I can find it):


- Longtime WWF front office employee and former wrestler Arnold Skaaland is said to be in bad shape from prostate cancer. (He hangs on for another 7 years. Durable prostate, I guess.)

- Random Dave musing, as he casually wonders how long it will take some of the top WWF stars to start complaining that Chris Benoit "doesn't know how to work 'main event' style" when he starts wrestling circles around everyone there soon (Dave and Chris Jericho recently talked about this on a podcast together. Basically, it was Triple H and that was exactly what he said. Because that's kind of the insecure and paranoid jerk he used to be back then).


- Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko, and Perry Saturn debuted on Raw this week as a group called the Radicalz but it all seemed to fall apart the very next night when Guerrero suffered a serious elbow injury during the Smackdown tapings. The storyline was that they would have to earn their WWF contracts by defeating members of DX in a best of 3 series (which, for whatever reason, they were booked to lose 2-1). Guerrero wasn't even supposed to wrestle because he was already dealing with an elbow injury and hadn't wrestled since a Nitro episode back in November. But for whatever reason, he ended up in the match anyway and sure enough, he royally fucked up his elbow and had to be taken out of the ring, causing them to lose a match they were supposed to win. Later in the night, Triple H beat Benoit, thus making the Radicalz 0-3 against DX. Dave thinks this was pretty stupid booking all around because it basically buried the WCW guys on only their 2nd night in the company. Furthermore, WWF decided not to acknowledge Benoit as the uncrowned WCW champion which probably could have done pretty big business if promoted correctly against WWF champion Triple H. But instead he just jobbed to Triple H in his very first match and they never acknowledged that he left WCW as their champion. They were put over strong on Raw, probably more than WCW ever did with them, and WWF made plenty of subtle digs about how these guys were in front of full arenas for the first time in a long time. But man, the Smackdown taping the next night didn't do any of them any favors. They were paired with Mick Foley, who in storyline was pushing to get them hired. There had been serious talk of bringing back Vince McMahon to introduce them as his soldiers to go against Triple H and Stephanie but they decided to hold off on Vince's return for now.

Eddie gets injured (about the 7:00 mark)

Triple H vs. Chris Benoit

- Anyway, this whole thing has been a mess from the beginning. WWF had asked all 4 men to publicly claim WWF negotiations had broken down so that it would be a surprise when they showed up. All 4 men began telling people, even their friends, that they were going to go work in Japan when in reality they had already signed WWF deals. But word leaked out and finally WWF.com posted a story early on Monday admitting that all 4 would be on Raw that night. WCW gave them full releases last week which is why they were able to debut immediately. Konnan and Shane Douglas were also sent release forms but hadn't signed them yet because there's uncertainty over whether or not WWF is interested. There's no way WWF would give them nearly as much money as what they're making in WCW. If nothing else, WCW apparently wants to keep Douglas around because he's good on the mic, but they don't seem to give a shit one way or another if Konnan stays or goes and he's made some powerful enemies in the company (Dave notes that Lex Luger blamed Konnan for his bicep injury last year, for example). He's basically been buried since the summer of 1998 when he got pretty shockingly over on his own, but WCW shut that shit down quick. If Kevin Sullivan stays in power, it's unlikely they'll be brought back, but Russo apparently likes both of them and if he gets his power back, Dave thinks they'll probably both stay with WCW. As for Benoit and the others, money wasn't a factor anymore, they just wanted out of WCW no matter what. Word is Benoit's WWF deal is around $400,000 per-year downside guarantee, while the other 3 guys are in the $250,000 per-year range, which is significantly less than all of them were making in WCW. But with business doing so good, pretty much every WWF wrestler is making significantly more than their downside guarantees these days so it's kind of a wash.

- Officials in WCW have been trying to downplay it, saying that due to their size, none of them are going to get over in WWF anyway. Dave ain't buying that shit. These 4 guys may not be a huge deal in WWF (they're doing pretty good these days with or without them) but losing all 4 of those guys at once is a huge blow to WCW that has gutted their midcard. WCW's one strength had always been in-ring match quality and for the first time, they're significantly weaker than WWF in that regard now. Dave looks at the WCW roster and it's mostly wrestlers who are past their primes, with reputations for being lazy and unreliable. A few are still good and productive in the ring or on the mic (Flair and DDP for example). Bret Hart's future is in question right now due to injuries. Goldberg is the only genuine young star they've created and even he means far less now than he did a year ago. Jeff Jarrett as a main eventer ain't doing anything for Dave. They have a lot of talented young guys (Shannon Moore, Crowbar, Kidman, Juventud Guerrera, etc.) but WCW has made it clear for years that guys like that aren't going to ever really be given significant chances. Benoit was the best guy WCW had and was the closest to busting through that glass ceiling and becoming a new main event star, and they lost him. Dave says Eddie Guerrero was in that same category, although he's never fully recovered from his car accident last year and Dave says there's other reasons why Eddie is considered sort of a question mark these days (Dave doesn't outright say it, but he's not-so-subtly hinting at Eddie's drug problems around this time). The backstage hierarchy of WCW is still a question mark also. Kevin Sullivan is currently the official booker in charge but that seems shaky at best and there's a lot of talk that he'll be replaced by a committee of Vince Russo, Ed Ferrara, Kevin Nash, Terry Taylor and Bill Banks, with Taylor possibly ending up in the Vince McMahon position of being the guy who filters out all of Russo's bat-shit ideas before they hit TV. Regardless of what happens, WCW is clearly in far worse shape now than it was even 4 months ago and something has to change ASAP. (In retrospect, the loss of those 4 guys was pretty much the death nail for WCW. Things were already bad before this, but this moment is where the wheels totally came off and they never really recovered.)

- Lot of news and drama from the latest Pride MMA show in Japan. Huge show, huge budget, lots of pyro, celebrities (even Eric Clapton in attendance), and the biggest crwod in the history of MMA with over 48,000 in the Tokyo Dome. But the Nobuhiko Takada vs. Royce Gracie main event was a disaster. A boring fight that Gracie won by decision. They basically laid on the ground for 15 minutes while the crowd got progressively louder and louder in booing it. Takada refused to come out for an overtime after the 15 minute draw mark, so the judges just ruled it as a decision in favor of Gracie in order to help Takada save face and it didn't really seem like Gracie was even trying to truly finish him, though he looked like he could have at any time. Ken Shamrock returned and signed his Pride contract, the most lucrative in MMA history and announced he will be returning to fight in May. There's been talk of Shamrock's opponent being Takada but his drawing power is all but dead now. Takada always wants to do worked fights and has pretty much gotten his shit wrecked every time he's done real shoots. There was also a lot of controversy over various rule changes and such in the Guy Mezger match that had Shamrock pissed off and threatening to walk out on Pride. There's a lot more to this whole story but it's MMA sooooooo...

- The Rock's autobiography has topped the New York Times bestseller list, the 2nd wrestling book to do so in recent weeks. Of course, Mick Foley's book is a masterpiece and Rock's book, well....not quite so much. Reviewers rightfully ripped it apart. It was ghostwritten of course and reads like a WWF commissioned book would. It was full of inaccuracies, even about his own family (Rock's grandmother's name is even misspelled repeatedly throughout the entire book). The best parts of the book deal with Rock's life before wrestling, teenage years, growing up around the business, football, etc. Dave basically says this is what would happen if Hulk Hogan wrote a book. A bunch of colorful exaggerated stories that have no real basis in reality. Dave also calls bullshit on some of Rock's childhood stories (like Rock's claim that he tried amateur wrestling in high school, went in the first day having never done it before, belly-to-belly suplexed the star heavyweight with ease, and then decided it was boring and never went back. Sorry, but Dave just ain't buying this shit). Also, he totally only tried steroids once when he was 18 and never again, he's just naturally that way you guys. Rock also tells a story about how he challenged wrestler Lars Anderson to a fight when he was 13 because Anderson didn't want to do a job at his grandfather's tribute show and it turned into a big argument with teenage Rock wanting to fight the big bad wrestler. The fight never happened of course and that's the end of the story in the book. In reality, later that night, some other Samoan wrestlers from the family went to a bar and beat Anderson nearly to death over it, but Rock conveniently left that part of the story out. He talks about how his dad was making hundreds of thousands a year in the 70s which Dave calls a ridiculous exaggeration and says unless you were Andre The Giant, nobody was making that kind of money back then, and Rocky Johnson wasn't making Andre-money. He also talks about his dad being the first African American to hold various titles, including the WWF IC title and Dave points out that, uh, no. Rocky Johnson was never IC champ. He and Tony Atlas were the first black WWF tag team champions (and even there, Dave notes that Sonny King was one half of the WWF tag champions 11 years before that so it's not like Johnson or Atlas were the first black guys to ever hold that title). Rock wrote about how his dad refused to play a stereotypical black character back in those days and wouldn't do "jive interviews" and things like that. Dave points out that Rocky Johnson basically did whatever he was asked depending on what territory he was in. His WWF tag team was called Soul Patrol. He wrestled as Sweet Ebony Diamond, and he did "jive interviews" lots of times. Basically, don't go into this book looking for the truth. Once Rock gets to his WWF career, it's all typical WWF revisionism and defending the company against all the various criticisms they get, and a lot of it ends up being halfway in-character so it's just a mess, and of course, lots of silly exaggerations and inaccuracies there too (for instance, his grueling "35 minute" match with Ken Shamrock at King of the Ring, which of course was really only 14 minutes. Just silly dumb shit like that). TL;DR - this book is basically garbage, but to be fair, Rock didn't really write it so whatever.

- Newsweek ran a big cover story about WWF this week. The typical stuff, WWF is huge, they make a lot of money, should kids be watching this, etc. Jim Ross recalls an interesting story in the article. He talks about the time he was working for Bill Watts back in the territory days and says he was in a bathroom stall and overheard 2 unnamed promoters seriously talking about having Vince McMahon killed (back when he was running everyone out of business). Dave says given how hated McMahon was back then, he wouldn't be the least bit surprised if that's a true story. Otherwise, just the typical article, with a few factual errors but that's expected from mainstream media reports on wrestling.

Newsweek: Why America's Hooked on Wrestling

- Turns out there was a lot of controversy over Mae Young going "topless" at Royal Rumble. The Madison Square Garden people were upset about it because they weren't told it was going to happen. But as it turns out, Young was wearing a body suit with fake prosthesis breasts so she wasn't really topless (and in fact, she was technically covered totally from the neck down), although it sure did look real to fans there live and even on TV. MSG released a statement saying, "Madison Square Garden is disturbed by what transpired at the WWF event on Jan. 23. The event was promoted as being consistent with traditional WWF programs, however there was an international and significant departure within the event which both The Garden and the public were unaware. Today, the Garden has received a guarantee from the WWF that the presentation of the next event on Feb. 28 will be consistent in every way with traditional WWF programs--and for that matter, so will any future event that maybe held at The Garden." Dave says MSG had no real right to be unprepared. WWF heavily promoted that someone was likely to get topless during the show for weeks in advance and the PPV even had an "N" rating which basically promises nudity, so that's on MSG if they didn't see it coming. A NYPost article by (who else) Phil Mushnick said that if Mae Young actually had been topless in the arena in front of fans, the show would have been in violation of city and state morality laws. MSG lawyers are reportedly investigating to determine whether WWF violated their conduct clauses in their contract with the arena. MSG also noted that they have banned some WWF merchandise from being sold in their arena due to it being deemed inappropriate.

- More bad news for Nitro ratings this week. The show did a 2.79 rating, which isn't technically the lowest rated episode ever but it might as well be (they'll be praying for 2.79's a year from now). The real lowest rated episode was a few months ago, but that was back in the 3-hour Nitro days and going head-to-head against both Raw and Monday Night Football. But now Nitro is down to 2 hours and there's no NFL on anymore, so this 2.79 rating is actually worse if you look at it in that context. Interestingly enough, when Nitro ended, a lot of fans switched over to Raw which actually doesn't happen as often as you would think. In recent years, it's seemed like each company has their loyal followings and when one show is over, only a small percentage switches over to the other show. But in this case, nearly 30% of Nitro's audience switched over to Raw as soon as Nitro ended, and Dave pretty much credits that to all the WCW guys (Benoit, Eddie, etc.) appearing on Raw.

- Dave lists some business comparisons, contrasting Dec. 1998 against Dec. 1999 for all the major companies. The WWF numbers are basically what you expect (minor increases and decreases, but nothing significant) but the WCW numbers are something else. It's STAGGERING to see how far they fell in just one year. Average live attendance down nearly 65%. Average gate down 58%. In Dec. 1998, they sold out 35% of their shows. In Dec. 1999....not a single one. Monday night ratings down 30%. And what about buyrate and revenue from Starrcade 98 vs. Starrcade 99, you ask? A whopping 72% buyrate decrease and 67% revenue decrease. This company was already hemorrhaging losses at this point, and it's gonna get *so* much worse...

- While we're at it, things aren't great for AJPW either. Attendance and gate are both down 25%. No sellouts. 30% ratings decrease. NJPW is surprisingly still good on paper, business-wise, but they're just riding momentum from the previous years of being the biggest company in the world. Dave sees the signs and says the downturn is coming. And ECW numbers are down slightly also.

- Dave talks about the recent CMLL "flip-flop" show. Basically, it's an annual show they do where all the heels wrestle as faces and all the faces wrestle as heels apparently. Nothing notable from the show but that's just a weirdly interesting concept to me and it'd be neat to see WWE try that on a one-off show. Sure, it would totally expose the business and couldn't be treated as canon, but in a world where we're getting the weird ass Saudi Arabia Royal Rumble shows, nothing matters anymore anyway. I say just do it at a house show and throw it on the Network for shits and giggles (looks like I wrote this issue up back in April, before the first Saudi show, and now we're a month away from the next one. With Shawn Michaels returning. Like I said, nothing matters anymore).

- Lance Cade, who is the star student at Shawn Michaels' wrestling school, is heading back to Japan to work more shows for FMW and is booked for the main event on 2 shows, so he must have been impressive. Apparently this American Dragon kid ain't coming back with him this time. He probably sucks.

- Quote from Dave: "Atsushi Onita announced he's going to retire in May. Nobody cares this time."

- Apparently Rena Mero is shopping around the rights for her to do an autobiography called "Busting Out: My Life as Sable and Beyond." Dave thinks she's yesterday's news in wrestling and without the WWF machine behind her to push it, the book won't sell for shit, but publishers are apparently bidding on it. And considering her settlement with WWF forbids her from really saying anything negative about the company, he doesn't see how it could even be marketable. Also, some bio she's pushing for herself lists her as "the most popular break-out character in the history of wrestling." Yes, Dave sarcastically adds, when he thinks of the biggest stars in wrestling history, he thinks Rikidozan, Antonio Inoki, Gorgeous George, Andre The Giant, Lou Thesz, Hulk Hogan...and Rena Mero. The bio also talks about her popularity rivaling that of Pamela Anderson and he scoffs at that too. Dave seems to be pretty over Sable's big headed diva shit.

- Harley Race is having back surgery this week and may need neck surgery in the future also. Right now, he can't really stand up for any length of time.

- In Florida, a 12-year-old boy is being tried as an adult for killing a 6-year-old girl doing wrestling moves. The boy claimed he was imitating wrestling moves that he saw Sting do in a Sprite commercial. He's being tried as an adult due to the severity of the beating. The girl suffered a fractured skull and lacerated liver. He apparently put her in a bear hug and slammed her headfirst into a table and then swing her into a railing in the house. WCW and Sprite reps had no comment but WWF's PR guy was quick to point out that they broadcast "don't try this at home" messages, unlike WCW. (In case you're wondering, the kid was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, the youngest person in U.S. history to ever be sentenced to life. It was later overturned in 2004. But then he violated probation and a bunch of other shit and now he's serving 30 years for some other stuff. So he's still in jail to this day. Also, his case becomes a MAJOR issue in the WWF vs PTC battle that wages throughout this year. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lionel_Tate

- Bill Stone, the guy who promoted the disastrous Heroes of Wrestling PPV awhile back, did an interview with the Observer website and talked about what all went wrong. For starters, Abdullah the Butcher bleeding everywhere was unexpected and unapproved. Yokozuna and King Kong Bundy both refused to do jobs. Jim Neidhart missed 4 flights and showed up late and also refused to do a job. Jake Roberts was obviously trashed and everyone knows that story. He said the break-even number was 41,000 buys and they did not meet that goal and said he never plans to get involved in pro wrestling again.

- Rob Van Dam, ECW's biggest star, looks to be out for the next 2 months after suffering a broken fibia during a match with Rhino in a freak accident. He was just doing a baseball slide and his foot caught the mat wrong and snap! Considering all the crazy spots he does, Dave is surprised he got hurt on such a safe, simple spot, but that's how it goes sometimes. This basically wrecks the company's plans for the March PPV, which was to be headlined by RVD/Tanaka vs. Awesome/Sabu. It was expected that RVD would pin Awesome, in order to build to their eventual singles match and RVD's inevitable world title win. RVD miiiiiight be ready by then but they aren't sure and they don't want to chance it, so they've scrapped plans for promoting that match (yeah, RVD ends up being out for 4 months and Awesome ends up jumping to WCW in April anyway).

- New Jack is banged up from years of diving off balconies in ECW and is getting foot surgery this week.

- In New Orleans, an ECW match had Rhino and Steve Corino against Tommy Dreamer and New Orleans Saints player Josh Wilcox. It ended with Wilcox turning heel on Dreamer. The angle got over big in New Orleans, but it aired on TNN and nationally, nobody knows or gives a shit about Wilcox outside of Saints fans. They did an angle where Wilcox claimed he was quitting the Saints and got the crowd to turn on him. In reality, his contract expired and he's a free agent and it's been well-known that he wasn't returning to the team, but it was a pretty awesome wrestling angle that turned him heel in the city he played for (Wilcox never played in the NFL again, but he was a member of the XFL next year).

- Before the recent ECW on TNN taping, the entire locker room came out and they did a 10-bell salute for Bobby Duncam Jr. and talked about how he was good friends with RVD and Sabu (who were noticeably crying during it). Needless to say, this is more than WCW (the company he actually worked for when he died) ever did for him. Speaking of Duncam Jr., the official cause of death is listed as an overdose on the painkiller sentonyl (far as I can tell, I think this is an early version of Fentanyl). He had about 10x the safe amount in his system. WWF wrestler Bradshaw and Sabu attended his funeral. By the way, if you're curious, over the last two years, 6 different WCW personnel have died, only one of which was from natural causes (Brian Hildebrand). The rest were drug overdoses, car accident, and suicide. All of them were fairly young also and Dave says this is yet another scary stat that will go ignored by the industry.

- Notes from Nitro: Ron and Don Harris were made full-fledged members of the new NWO. So much for the idea about not watering down this version of the group, Dave quips. Booker T and the former Ahmed Johnson are now feuding over the letter T, with Harlem Heat claiming he can't use the letter or the theme music because they own it. Dave thinks maybe they'll file a lawsuit against Sesame Street next. What if Booker T and the MG's want to tour again? Ric Flair came out, tried to cut a promo to turn heel, but the crowd just didn't want to boo him and in fact he got the biggest reaction of the show. Lenny and Lodi trashed their Standards & Practices gimmick, calling it stupid and calling WCW uncool and breaking the 4th wall entirely. Dave can't even with this company.

- Various WCW notes: Steve Regal has been released by WCW again. No reason given but ya know....drugs. The DDP/Bagwell angle has been dropped and Dave says it was basically the only good angle in the company right now and since WCW is allergic to doing anything good, that's probably why. Kevin Nash slipped on ice getting out of his car at Nitro and injured his ankle and had to have surgery. He's expected to be out for about 6 weeks but he'll be on TV in the meantime. Because of his injury, Nitro had to be totally re-written right before the show because he was heavily written into the script.

- Former Nitro Girl Fyre has been publicly complaining about being released by WCW. She claims she was fired because she refused to be a wrestler. She says she was hired to be a dancer, not a wrestler, and when she refused to go along with angles where she'd take bumps, they fired her.

- Goldberg did a radio interview recently and said he was originally scripted to use a sledgehammer to bust out the limo windows but he didn't think that was consistent with his character so he decided to just punch them out instead, which obviously resulted in him cutting his arm to shreds. He blamed himself for the mistake, saying he should have just used the hammer and says he's frustrated by the lack of progress when it comes to the injury healing. But he hopes to be back on TV within a month or so. He also talked openly about being unhappy with all the backstage turmoil in WCW. He also said there's 2 people in WCW he hates working with, but he only mentioned one: Scott Hall, who he said is a cancer in and out of the ring and bad for business. When asked about Russo and Ferrara, he said he hated the increase in profanity and sexual content on the show since they arrived and says it makes him feel like a hypocrite when he goes to promote the company, because he tries hard to be a good role model for kids. He spent the last 2 years making appearances and promoting WCW as family friendly, and now he can't say that. He said the most recent Nitro was embarrassing and said WCW needs to take better care of its wrestlers if they want to beat WWF.

- Ric Flair worked some house show main events recently and they did an angle where the figure four was banned. Of course, Flair used it and the matches ended in DQ which the crowds hated. Dave says that might be fine on TV, if it's building to an angle. But to do that on house shows, with no follow-up, is the textbook definition of how to kill a town. Dave half-jokingly is starting to almost question whether or not someone in WCW is actively trying to kill house show business. And it wouldn't surprise him, since most of the shows are booked by guys like Kevin Nash, who hate working house shows anyway, so hey, why not just kill them off so they don't have to do them anymore? It's getting to the point now where attendance is so bad that it's almost more profitable to not even run them (soon it would be, and they stop).

- Undertaker suffered a torn pec while training and will likely be out for another 4 months now. He was due to return soon but not anymore (yup, he doesn't come back until Biker Taker debuts).

- Steve Austin made his first live TV appearance since Survivor Series, doing an at-home sit-down interview during Halftime Heat (Sunday Night Heat during the Super Bowl). Austin was in a neck brace and appeared to be in pain. He acknowledged being engaged to Debra, which is the first time their relationship has been acknowledged on TV. It was somewhat of an out-of-character interview, and they even acknowledged Sammartino and Hogan as icons of the sport the way Austin is now, and Dave is shocked that either of those names would be mentioned in glowing terms on WWF TV. Austin estimated he would be out for another 3-4 months but said he wouldn't come back at all if he can't go full speed. He looked to be in really rough shape and probably doped up on pain meds (he was kinda slurring his words) and a lot of people afterwards felt like it might have been better if they hadn't done the interview and kept him off TV longer (this is just highlights, I can't find the full interview anywhere).

- In the Cactus Jack/Triple H match at Royal Rumble, there was some sleight-of-hand with the barbed wire 2x4. The one that was used on Foley was real barbed wire but at some point behind the Spanish announce table, it was switched out with one that had fake barbed wire, which is what was then used against Triple H.

- WWF produced 3 commercials for this year's Super Bowl but only 2 aired. The other was rejected by ABC. One was a group of babies dressed like WWF characters and the other was a beauty contest. Dave thought they were pretty amusing. Also, subtle reference: in the beauty contest one, the Miss Congeniality winner was wearing a Connecticut sash and the loser who attacked her but still got beat up was, you guessed it, Miss Georgia. The rejected commercial featured old people in a nursing home imitating Val Venis and Godfather and saying "Show me the puppies!" (I can't find that one but here's the baby commercial. The Miss Congeniality one was in Wednesday's post)

- Notes from Raw: Mae Young announced she was pregnant. Aww shit, here we go...

- Taka Michinoku is expected to be out for about a month due to a shoulder injury suffered on that bump at the Royal Rumble that they kept making jokes about.

- Business Week magazine had an article about Vince and Linda McMahon where they interviewed them and talked about producing a WWF spaghetti sauce (wtf) and also talked about Linda pressuring Vince to allow a biography to be written about him. They talked the stock price falling and Linda claims analysts are expecting the stock to jump back up soon when investors realize how strong the WWF brand name is (suuuure). There was also a quote from Vince about how he and Linda make their marriage work. Ready for it? "Her undying love and affection as a wife and as a mother, and great sex." Linda claimed WWF would soon have 24 hours a day of programming (only took 14 years) including an action-adventure show based on Miami Vice as well as a late-night talk show broadcast from the Times Square restaurant. It also had some of the usual revisionist history about WWF and WCW (Ted Turner hates Vince, holds a grudge, thus he used WCW to try to drive Vince out of business. Of course, the reality is that Vince was far more obsessed with Turner than he ever was with Vince). And in an attempt to be extra petty, Vince also gloated about Turner's recent separation from wife Jane Fonda.

- The PTC group is after WWF again. Head of the group L. Brent Bozell released this statement this week in regards to Smackdown: "When the WWF promised to tone down Smackdown, the PTC backed off from targeting advertisers who sponsored the show. The PTC has continued to monitor content through the past eight weeks, however, and a quick survey of these supposedly toned-down shows reveals that the WWF did not follow through with its promise. Accordingly, the PTC is resuming its advertiser education campaign. Smackdown reports will continue to be published on the PTC's web site. There reports will highlight the most offensive content of each show, giving PTC members accurate information to take to the sponsors when they contact them with complaints." The main complaints were in regards to the use of the word "ass" as well as out-of-ring violence like the Acolytes bar fights, people going through tables, and scantily clad women. Goddamn, this group sucks.

- If you have a KU-band satellite dish, you can watch Smackdown live on Tuesdays instead of waiting for it to air on Thursdays. WWF beams the show directly from the arena to Stamford, CT live for immediate editing so you can catch it that way if you have the right satellite. Or just wait until 2016 and watch it live on Tuesdays then.

- WWF cancelled a house show in Indianapolis mostly due to everyone in the company being pissed off about it. Everyone had been forced to stay an extra night in New York for the opening of the restaurant and then due to weather, a bunch of flights got cancelled so basically nobody got to see their families on their normal days off. So a week later, they cancelled the Indianapolis show in order to let everybody finally go home for a minute.

- Honky Tonk Man writes in to talk shit about Jeff Jarrett, Vince Russo, and WCW. Let's just read it:


Quote:I was contacted as well by an indie promoter named Frank Goodman. He told me he'd been on the phone four or five times with Vince Russo throughout the day. Russo was looking for Superstars with big names to spice up the Monday show. He said they had contacted King Kong Bundy and he turned them down, as did Bob Backlund. He said they got George Steele and Jimmy Snuka to go on the show.

Of course you can imagine what my response was. First, I asked why do they want or need us guys when they have so many people sitting at home making more than the $3,000 for what they were offering us? Then I offered them a piece of advice. If you want to get Jeff Jarrett over, good luck. There is nothing you can do for the guy that hasn't been done by both companies except for him to leave the guitar at home. It's death for him. As long as he carries it around, he'll always be a guy who stole someone else's gimmick. Besides, WCW is so deep in a hole that a back hoe can't dig them out. I closed by telling Goodman that if Jimmy Hart or Hulk Hogan aren't involved in the angle, tell them not to even bring my name up.

I called Bundy to check out the story and it was all true. Russo had Blackjack Brown call Bundy to feel him out. Bundy said he would talk to them and Russo called Bundy to pitch him a deal.

I didn't know "Super booker" Russo needed anything other than his vision and his nude women.

Wayne Farris aka Honky Tonk Man

There was a 60 minutes special or something when that kid killed the 6yo.

I came home from school and my mom had it taped and made me watch it. Then said “you and your friends don’t need to be throwing each other around, you could get killed or paralyzed.” To which I replied, “we don’t really punch or kick, and we slam eachother on the trampoline. I could get hurt worse riding a bike or walking infront of one.”
(I pointed to my sister who had staples in her head, stiches on her hand, and a busted lip) Within a 1 week span my sister had been run over by my friend on his bike, she kept stepping infront of it, and a few days later she fell on the road flat on her face walking with her hands in her pockets. She had a bad habit of walking like that.
[+] 1 user Likes DangPlex's post
Wooo!! Getting those posts in advance was awesome at the time but then torture every time you released them on here... it was like binge watching leaked episodes of show and then having to wait like a month for the next new episode lol
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[+] 1 user Likes tehgiftofgab's post

I suggest subscribing to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter so that you dont have to wait! Go back and read decades worth of newsletters, listen to their podcasts with over 20,000 hours of content, and don't forget to rate, comment, and subscribe! Wait, never mind.
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Honestly, WO is so worth it. The newsletters, shows, etc all great. I only listen to stuff with big Dave and it is still worth it and that leaves tons of content I dont touch.

Also, imagine that 1999 WCW sale had gone through. How pissed would you be to spend $75 million on the company that was about to run the viagra on a pole match.
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- Vince McMahon made headlines this week by announcing that he's planning to start his own football league called the XFL. Last year, McMahon failed in negotiations to buy the Canadian Football League. McMahon had been contacted last February about purchasing the Toronto Argonauts team, but McMahon said he'd rather just buy the whole league. Several teams, particularly ones that are losing money in recent years, wanted to hear him out but the majority of team owners were concerned that McMahon would change the rules and pull out of smaller Canadian markets in order to expand into the U.S. so they didn't want to sell and the discussions fell apart. Before that, back in 1998, Vince had inquired about purchasing the Minnesota Vikings, but never made an official offer and it was seemingly never more than just an idea. The new XFL was announced as having 8 teams and will probably end up being the place for players who aren't quite good enough to cut it in the NFL. It's scheduled to start in February 2001. The announcement sent WWF stock prices crashing and McMahon's personal WWF stock worth dropped from $1.66 billion down to $555.9 million overnight. Most people would expect it to bounce back soon, but people said the same thing when advertisers started bailing on WWF, causing the stock to drop, and it never did bounce back even when ratings went up and the advertisers stopped leaving. So who knows. Investment analysts are recommending against WWF stock right now, even at the new low prices. McMahon took the drop in stride, saying brokerage firms that downgraded the WWF stock "don't get it" and could "kiss his ass" which is, needless to say, not normal behavior for a major corporate CEO and probably only damaged the company further. The costs and risks of starting a new football league are enormous, which is why the stock has tumbled. McMahon claimed his company will be running the XFL on its own, saying "We're not looking for partners. We don't play well with others." But other sources on the inside tell a different story and claim Vince is indeed looking for other partners and investors (this was before NBC got on board. Contrary to popular belief, this wasn't always a joint venture from the start, it was purely WWF at first).

- Vince insists that this isn't meant to be competition for the NFL, but he did trash talk them during the press conference, calling them the No Fun League. There will be some rule changes in XFL, like no fair catches among other things. Rumors are each team will have a $2 million salary cap and a 40-man roster. There's talks of incentive-based contracts also. The idea is to keep costs low so they don't lose a shit-ton of money trying to hang with the NFL. Of course, as long as they're paying low salaries, they'll always be the ECW of football because they won't be able to get the best players. Anyone who is actually an NFL-quality player is going to go for the NFL money. Dave lists other failed football endeavors (USFL and WFL) and how they both failed miserably and lost huge amounts of money. Recently, NBC and Ted Turner had talks about starting their own football league but the idea was scrapped when they decided it wouldn't make sense financially. And NBC and Turner both have faaaaaaaaar deeper pockets than Vince McMahon. Anyway, XFL games will be played at major stadiums in major markets like New York, Los Angeles, Washington, San Francisco, Miami, Orlando and two other unannounced cities. Whether Vince can fill up these major stadiums to get people to come watch minor league football remains to be seen, especially during the Feb.-Apr. season.

- And of course, this all leads to questions about credibility. Will the games be worked? McMahon has denied it, but many in the media are skeptical. Dave expects them to establish characters with some of the players, probably worked gimmicks and whatnot, and rely on pro wrestling-style hype which is what Vince knows. But what happens if Vince creates a marketable personality who isn't that good on the field? That's when you have to question whether or not he'll start trying to work the games. Needless to say, Vince McMahon is the greatest promoter in wrestling history but his track record outside of wrestling is, to put it nicely, utter shit. He's failed as a boxing promoter, a movie producer, a bodybuilding promoter, a hotel owner, and more (Dave also mentions the new Times Square restaurant, saying it's too soon to see if he'll make it as a restaurateur. Spoiler: no). A lot of the success of this is going to depend on the television deal WWF can put together.

- Sabu has agreed to a deal with WCW this week, which in turn prompted threats of a lawsuit by Paul Heyman, who has Sabu signed to a contract through 2003. Word is Sabu's WCW deal is for around $400-500K per year, which is about double what he was making in ECW. As for his ECW deal, Sabu claims that Heyman has somehow breached the deal, allegedly due to late payments, and thus it's invalid. While it's true that there have been late payments lately to wrestlers, Heyman claims there was no breach. Even if it had been, Sabu's contract specifically states in the event of a breach that a letter must be written to ECW informing them of such and giving them 90 days to resolve the issue. No such letter was ever written. Any attempt to terminate the contract by legal means has to be filed in court in Westchester County and Sabu has not filed any such paperwork. WCW hopes to debut Sabu at the 2/14 Nitro and their lawyers and Heyman have had a lot of discussions about it, with Heyman alleging contract tampering by WCW. Heyman has said that he is willing to sell Sabu's contract to WCW (since at this point, with all the heat between them and Sabu clearly wanting to leave, why force him to stay?) but said he's not going to release Sabu without something in return from WCW. Otherwise, Heyman has said he will file a lawsuit and restraining order against both Sabu and WCW, which would prevent him from debuting on Nitro. Sabu's best days are behind him and Dave suspects he'll likely just end up another lower-card hardcore division wrestler in WCW. But hey, if the money is good, at this point in his career he's smart to take it, assuming the ECW stuff gets worked out. All of this couldn't come at a worse time for ECW, which just lost both RVD and Jerry Lynn to serious leg injuries. In the midst of all this, Sabu's mother suffered 2 heart attacks this weekend so he's been dealing with that too.

- Time for some best of the decade awards! Dave looks at the results of all the year end award votes from 1990-99 and uses fancy math to come up with a list of winners for all the best ofs of 1990. He explains how the math works but I hate math so if you have any questions, you're gonna have to go read this shit yourself. It actually IS really interesting to see how these points accumulate and how it shapes who wins. While someone like Steve Austin seems like the obvious winner for a lot of categories, he was only a top star for the last 2 years of the decade, so his numbers don't fully reflect that. Anyway, here are your best from the best of the decade of 1990s.

BIGGEST BOX OFFICE DRAW (based on shows drawing 30,000 people or more): Shinya Hashimoto
BIGGEST BOX OFFICE DRAW (based on PPVs that did 1.0 buyrate or better): Hulk Hogan
TAG TEAM OF THE DECADE: Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue
BEST PROMOTION: New Japan Pro Wrestling

- Ratings news: more of the same of course, but USA Network's "Walker Texas Ranger" beat Nitro during their head-to-head hour, which is the first time that's ever happened. ECW on TNN's ratings are down for the 2nd week in a row. And Sting's made for TV movie Shutterspeed was a huge flop. In fact, Raw's rating was higher than Nitro, ECW, and Shutterspeed's combined.

- Several of the female wrestlers in CMLL are threatening a sexual discrimination lawsuit against the company because the female wrestlers are never booked on the major arena shows.

- Shinya Hashimoto and Naoya Ogawa are scheduled for yet another rematch against each other in the main event of the April Tokyo Dome show. They're also hoping to have Kensuke Sasaki defend the IWGP title against Bill Goldberg if he's physically ready by then. NJPW is also hoping to run a show at a 100,000-seat outdoor stadium this summer that would be a mixture of wrestling and vale tudo, because goddammit, Antonio Inoki is going to kill this promotion with his vale tudo obsession or die trying.

- Michinoku Pro will be doing a show honoring the 10-year anniversary of Great Sasuke's wrestling debut, which leads Dave to drop an interesting anecdote: "Not only did I actually see his first three pro matches, but I was in the car with him on the way home from his first match."

- Mil Mascaras is in Japan right now working shows which are being billed as the last time he'll tour Japan before he retires. Dave calls bullshit and says Mascaras will never actually retire (yup, to this day he still wrestles a handful of matches per year, at 75 years old.)

- New Jersey indie promotion Combat Zone Wrestling announced plans for a PPV in June that will feature Atsushi Onita vs. Terry Funk in one of Onita's famous exploding ring barbed wire matches. CZW isn't actually funding the PPV, some other group is funding it I guess and CZW is just the company involved. CZW also said there would be other matches including one match with snakes, alligators, and a piranha in various corners of the ring. The PPV date was announced as the same date that WWF's King of the Ring is scheduled for so there's no chance they're going to get any real buys or even clearance from the PPV providers, for this show. Especially not for a hardcore show, given how much the PPV providers frown on excessive violence sometimes. Funk claimed that he hasn't been any discussions about it but that he'd be willing to do it. He doesn't have an exclusive contract with WCW right now, he's just being paid by appearance. The last indie to take a chance on running a PPV was the Heroes of Wrestling show which was an enormous flop. With WCW and ECW barely turning a profit on PPV these days, Dave thinks this is a bad time to try this.

- Rob Van Dam's injury is a broken ankle and broken fibula and he's expected to be out of action for about 3 months, which is a huge blow to ECW right now.

- Don Callis' gimmick of Cyrus is where he basically plays the role of a heel TNN executive and Dave thinks it's the craziest shit he's ever seen. Trying to get the TV network that carries the promotion's product over as heels that are hurting the company (this goes poorly for Paul in the end. Turns out TNN didn't particularly love the gimmick).

- ECW was planning to hold a PPV later this year in the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY but now they're banned from the building so that won't be happening. They sold out the building last time they were there, but the management was unhappy with the show due to the violence, the crowd chants (specifically "show your tits") and the fact that Paul Heyman cut an obscenity-laced tirade. So now the building won't let them come back.

- Bobby Duncam Jr's. official cause of death is listed as an accidental overdose from the prescription painkiller called Fentanyl. He did not have a prescription for the drug, and had gotten it from a family member.

- The WCW movie Ready To Rumble is scheduled to be released in April. They showed a trailer on Nitro and Dave thinks it looks pretty bad.

- Correction, the DDP/Buff Bagwell angle hasn't been scrapped as reported last week. But both men are banged up so they're off TV for the moment and they'll probably pick it back up when they return. DDP's thought to have a ruptured disc in his back which, if it ends up being true, isn't great news for him (he should call up that ex-wrestler dude that teaches yoga. I bet it would help).

- On Nitro this week, Scott Steiner cut an unhinged promo on Ric Flair and WCW in general. He pointed out that WCW sucks (which is true but Dave doesn't think they should be calling more attention to it on their own show), said people switch over to Raw when Flair is on TV so they can watch Steve Austin, then blamed Flair for getting Austin fired from WCW (Dave is befuddled at that one), and more. Needless to say, ratings numbers are freely available and of course, Steiner's claims aren't even remotely true and in fact, Flair has always been a bigger ratings draw than Steiner. In fact, Flair is still just about the only dependable ratings draw they still have. Anyway, the promo went on so long that they ended up scrapping other segments later in the show. Needless to say, none of it was supposed to happen and it led to Steiner being sent home from TV the next day as punishment, so he's essentially suspended right now, although it's not really a punishment. Everybody basically sees it as Steiner getting a day off the road with pay and of course he'll be brought back.

- Kevin Sullivan is still the head booker, assisted by Terry Taylor, Ed Ferrara, and Tony Schiavone. Vince Russo was offered a spot as one of the writers but refused unless he was the sole person running the show, saying that's what his contract gives him the right to. WCW head Bill Busch has suggested to Russo that maybe they should just part ways, but Russo doesn't want to give up his lucrative contract, so he's fighting to stay and get what he wants.

- Lenny & Lodi have been repackaged as a new tag team that is basically meant to be a Hardy Boyz rip-off. On Thunder it was announced that their team name was Too Excess but that didn't last for long. WCW's legal department nixed the name, apparently feeling it was too similar to the Hardyz whole "2 extreme" thing. No word on what they'll end up being called now (they end up just being called XS).

- Sting and Goldberg both did interviews with the Observer website. Sting expressed frustration with WCW not knowing what to do with him anymore. He also said they talked about him bringing back his old blond flat-top gimmick back but he said he doesn't want to do it. As for Goldberg, he said he suffered a severed tendon in his arm and needed over 31 liters of blood in the transfusion and came within a centimeter of losing usage of his arm. He also talked about his streak ending and said, "from that point on my career went downhill. I believe that to be an indication of the inability of the people responsible there to do their job, I guess." He said he's learned he can't trust anyone in wrestling and said he wasn't thrilled with Russo and Ferrera and the direction they've taken the company. "The new writers we brought in made me sick. I'm not Steve Austin and Bill Busch isn't Vince McMahon," he said. He also hinted at wanting to do MMA and there's been rumors of him fighting in Pride. Dave thinks it's a bad idea because he has so much to lose and so little to gain in a legit fight.

- Hulk Hogan appeared on Bubba The Love Sponge's wife radio show and also trashed WCW, saying they won't spend money to make money and said it was stupid that he wasn't even booked on Nitro for that night. He also particularly trashed Billy Kidman, saying Kidman wouldn't be able to headline a flea market and that WCW needs to stick with guys like himself, Savage, Sting, and Goldberg to bring in ratings. He said it's no wonder WWF is kicking their ass when WCW won't even use Hogan on TV while they have Kidman main eventing shows (which leads Dave to question, since when has Kidman worked a main event? Not on any shows Dave has been watching).

- Latest on Shane Douglas and Konnan is that WCW wants 'em gone. But Douglas is refusing to sign his release that they offered him and Konnan has a meeting scheduled this week, but as it stands, WCW isn't making any effort to bring them back. Probably should have stuck with Benoit & Co. rather than chickening out when shit got real. Now they're stuck in the middle with neither side fighting for them.

- Rick Steiner won the Buckmasters Classic hunting championship, which is a pretty famous celebrity hunting competition that a lot of wrestlers usually compete in. Steiner won the big buck competition. Due to an error in scoring, he thought he lost and so he left before the competition was over to fly to Nitro. But then they figured out the error and realized he'd won but they couldn't find him for the trophy ceremony. Steiner didn't even find out he won until the next day.

- There was a big story in Variety that both CBS and FOX were trying to land deals with WWF for both network and cable shows. On the CBS side, the story reported that the plans were to keep Smackdown on UPN but to move Raw and all other shows over to TNN, which is owned by Viacom/CBS. WWF's contract with the USA Network expires in September 2001 but they have an escape clause that allows them to get out of the deal this year if they want to. TNN is a much lower-rated network than USA (even though they're both available in about the same number of homes) but WWF has enough fan loyalty that Dave thinks most fans would follow the show over to the new channel, although it'll probably still suffer a slight ratings hit. As for FOX, Rupert Murdoch claims they have no interest in wrestling but that's just patently not true and in fact, WWF and FOX have had off-and-on negotiations for the last 2 years. In fact, just before Owen Hart's death last year, FOX made a serious offer to outright buy the entire WWF, but Vince turned it down. As for current negotiations, the story reported that FOX is looking to buy an equity stake in WWF and that Smackdown would move from UPN to FOX, with Raw moving to FX. That would be a huge blow at first for WWF since FX is in about 30 million less homes than USA, although if Raw moved to FX, it would go a long way towards getting more systems to pick up the channel. Also, the FOX deal can't happen for at least 2 more years because UPN still has a contract for Smackdown until then and considering that's the show that is basically keeping UPN alive, they're not going to give it up willingly. This news led to WWF's stock going up sharply when the story came out. But then the next day, Vince announced the XFL, which erased all the gains and then some.

- Royal Rumble did about 600,000 buys on PPV. For comparison, WCW Souled Out a week earlier did about 95,000 and ECW did 80,000 a week before that. This makes it the 2nd biggest Rumble in history (last year did 700,000 buys). WWF was pretty worried about buyrates for Rumble and especially Wrestlemania this year since Austin is gone, but this is a pretty good sign that Wrestlemania will still do just fine without him.

- Smackdown notes: Dave thinks this was the best episode of SD since it debuted. Cactus Jack cut a promo on the Radicalz and trashed WCW (referring to it only as "Atlanta") and saying the reason the Radicalz came to WWF was because they weren't old enough to cut it in WCW. Dave says the perception of WCW as a company full of old has-beens is a real problem and they need to start giving young stars mega pushes, whether they're ready or not, because they *have* to erase that stigma. He says WWF pushed Triple H long before he was ready but it's paying off now and he's become a strong main event star. This is the episode Eddie Guerrero got injured in, messing up his elbow on a frog splash. There was some question over how that match ended because Eddie was supposed to win but after injuring his arm, he kinda panicked and told Road Dogg to pin him to end the match, which they did. But it was an arm injury. Austin damn near got paralyzed and still managed to get his scheduled pin on Owen Hart a couple years ago and there seems to be some raised eyebrows on Eddie for the way he handled it. Anyway, the Triple H/Benoit match was the best match in SD's short history, even though having him (the uncrowned WCW champion) lose to Triple H (the WWF champion) on the very first night didn't do Benoit any favors. But evidently sending the message that WWF is superior to WCW is more important to Vince (yup. He'll prove it again by totally botching the Invasion and he'll still be doing it 15 years later with Sting at Wrestlemania). Triple H also survived the crossface twice and kicked out of Benoit's diving headbutt finisher and Dave just isn't sure what the point is. But either way, Benoit came off like a total star and Dave says WCW has no idea just how badly they fucked up by having this guy on their roster for 4 years and never doing anything with him until it was too late.

- Raw notes: Chyna wasn't on the show because she was filming a guest spot for the show Third Rock From The Sun. The Radicalz turned heel on Cactus Jack and were signed to WWF by Triple H and Stephanie, which led to the main event of the show which Dave says was the best Raw match in a LONG time. Triple H/X-Pac/Benoit/Malenko/Saturn vs. Cactus Jack/Rock/Rikisi/Too Cool. Dave gives it 4.25 stars and said it was one of those nights where everything clicked perfect and the crowd heat was off the charts. Kane and Paul Bearer returned to a monster pop.

- Chris Benoit was on a recent radio show and said the reason they didn't do a WWF vs. WCW champion angle when he came in is because the WCW title doesn't mean anything anymore and has no credibility to start with, so the angle would have been meaningless. He said he was disappointed that he never got to have real feuds with Bret Hart or Ric Flair and said he had been promised repeatedly that he would, but it never happened. He said WCW had asked him and all the other guys who wanted to leave to just sit on it for a week and meet again to re-discuss. Shane Douglas had pushed everybody to wait the week and hear what WCW had to say, but Benoit said he had already made up his mind the day he walked out that he would never wrestle for WCW again even if he had to sit out the rest of his contract.

- ABC 20/20 did a story on Mick Foley and Beyond The Mat, mostly focusing on the damage he does to his body and the effect it may be having on his brain. During production of the story, WWF's PR guy trashed the movie and claimed the scene with Foley's kids crying during his match was staged. Foley was pretty irritated by that and the PR guy eventually apologized for saying it (if you think he's irritated now, just wait till Vince talks shit about Foley's wife).

- Vince McMahon was a guest on Jim Rome's show Last Word. It was mostly WWF-related (and Rome doesn't like wrestling) despite McMahon trying to steer the conversation towards the XFL. Rome doesn't know enough about wrestling to ask good follow-up questions, so he just asked Vince about the usual stuff (is it acceptable for kids, drug use, Owen's death, etc.). Of course, Vince is used to this game and he handled Rome pretty easily since he didn't know enough about the business to challenge any of Vince's responses. Rome was respectful during the interview but after the interview, in his closing comments, he trashed wrestling and McMahon, basically saying it damages society with racism and sexism and corrupts children and all that shit. Dave thinks Rome should have had the balls to say all that stuff during the interview rather than waiting for McMahon to leave and then tack it on to the end of the show when Vince isn't there to defend himself.

Vince McMahon/Jim Rome interview recap

- Shawn Michaels met with Jim Ross last week and expressed interest in returning to television, but it's said his back is worse than ever now (even after the surgery) and they never even discussed the possibility of him making an in-ring return. Shawn also is interested in getting some of his students a tryout.

- Various WWF notes: Undertaker had surgery for a torn pec he suffered weightlifting which should keep him out another 3-4 months. Taka Michinoku will still be out for another 3 weeks or so after suffering a dislocated shoulder at Royal Rumble in that bump they kept replaying. Trish Stratus is expected to start on television in the next month or so, no word on her role yet.

- Letters section is all people with thoughts on the XFL. One guy says it's just another Vince McMahon ego trip and says he's crazy for risking company money to do it (while publicly thumbing his nose at stockholders). Two different people speculate that this is Vince's response to Ted Turner announcing a similar plan last year, though Turner later decided it wasn't feasible and abandoned the idea. (In retrospect, I wonder how much of the XFL was just Vince McMahon trying to prove he could do something Ted Turner couldn't? Vince has always had a pretty unhealthy obsession with him). Someone else says the XFL will never get off the ground so why even talk about it? Someone else thinks Vince might succeed and says to never underestimate him. And most everybody else predicts that this is doomed for failure and says Vince needs to stick to wrestling because that's what he knows and he always fails at every other venture.


- The issue starts with a final look at some business numbers for 1999. First, WWF: attendance increased 20% over 1998 numbers. TV rating average increased from 4.40 average in 1998 to a 6.04 average in 1999 which is a 37% increase. PPV buyrates went up 23%. In 1998, they sold out 33.5% of shows. In 1999, they sold out 63%. Live gate increased an average 52%. So on and so forth. Needless to say, 1999 was by far the biggest year in WWF history. Then there's WCW: attendance fell 46%. Ratings dropped 18%. PPV buyrates fell a staggering 41% which is what accounts for a lot of the red ink in their books this year. Sellouts dropped. Live gates down were 14% and would have been more but increased ticket prices helped keep it from being that bad. On to Japan! AJPW attendance down 3.8%. TV ratings up but the average was skewed by the monster ratings from post-Baba death shows. NJPW attendance was down 5% but TV ratings were up significantly so that's good news.

- Vince McMahon appeared on Paula Zohn's show on Fox News to talk about the XFL. Dave spends a lot of time examining Vince's statement that there will be no drug testing in the XFL, looks at the criticisms of the NFL's testing system, WWF's history with steroids, etc. Vince also said the XFL wouldn't hire players with felony convictions, unlike the NFL, although misdemeanors are still okay. Dave mentions that the WWF does do background checks on new talent already. Vince lashed out at investment analysts who downgraded the WWF stock after the XFL announcement and claimed all the wrestlers in the company are on board with the XFL idea. Dave disagrees and says none of the wrestlers he's talked to are happy about it but of course, none of them are going to tell Vince that. WWF is in the midst of TV rights negotiations right now and are trying to leverage their success to get a good TV deal for the XFL as well. Dave breaks down all the potential issues if WWF ends up on FOX or TNN or stays on USA and how the Smackdown deal with UPN is complicating matters. No one really knows what Vince's plans are with this league right now and Dave talks about the complications regarding team ownership and all the huge hurdles XFL is going to have to get over in order to be successful. With the year of hype for the debut, Dave predicts the XFL will be big when it starts, just from the curiosity factor, but the product better be good. You only get one chance to make a first impression. But no matter how good it turns out to be and no matter how many cool new concepts (like cameras all over the field) he comes up with, the reality is that the NFL has far more money and they will steal those concepts and steal any new stars that the XFL creates. And Dave doesn't see Vince willingly sitting by and being 2nd best for long without fighting back. And that's when Vince resorts to what Vince knows: gimmicks, working storylines, possibly fixing games to protect stars, etc. Following the stock drop, McMahon wrote an article in the New York Daily News explaining his decision to start a league. It was clear from the article that McMahon's knowledge of football doesn't extend past Ernie Ladd and Wahoo McDaniel, football players who later became wrestlers (I think Dave talked about that recently too. Talking about an interview during this time where Vince was asked who his favorite football players were and he answered Ladd and Wahoo, which is about the point that most people realized that Vince doesn't know fuck-all about football).

- McMahon was also on a radio show in San Francisco promoting the XFL but the conversation instead turned to the recent ABC 20/20 story about Mick Foley. The 20/20 piece had talked about all the damage Foley had done to his body over the years and concussions and all that stuff and also featured interviews with not only Foley, but his wife also. McMahon trashed the 20/20 story saying it was a sensationalized negative hit piece. One of the radio hosts pointed out that Mick Foley's wife made some of the strongest comments on the show. McMahon responded and compared Foley's wife's comments to the famous Robin Givens/Mike Tyson interview on 20/20 back in the 80s and said Foley should never let his wife do another interview. "It reminded you of Robin Givens and Mike Tyson doing that interview where poor Mike Tyson is sitting there and Robin Givens is talking all about him," Vince said. (For those of you not as old as me: Givens and Tyson were married in 1988 and they were interviewed together on 20/20. During the interview, Givens basically said "this guy abuses me" while Tyson was sitting there beside her. It was pretty dark and fucked up and made more fucked up by the fact that people turned on her for it. She was seen as a money-hungry fame whore. Anyway, Foley wrote about this in his book. He was none too happy with Vince about it).

- Lots more WCW turmoil this week, starting first with Sabu. He was originally scheduled to debut on Nitro last week but as explained in the last issue, it turns out his contract with ECW is pretty legit and Heyman has him locked down. Sabu claims ECW breached his contract by being late on PPV payoffs but the contract stipulates that any claim of a breach must be filed in court and that ECW then has 90 days to make it right. Sabu has never even gone to court to claim it was breached so until he does, he's still locked into a perfectly valid contract and ECW still has 3 months after that to make it right before Sabu could actually be free. In the meantime, Paul Heyman has pretty much said he's got no interest in bringing Sabu back anymore either, but he doesn't want to let him out of his contract without getting something from WCW in return. So Sabu's in limbo right now (yup this is pretty much it for Sabu and ECW. He works 2 more house shows next week but then he's gone and never returns).

- And turns out there's a similar situation with Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch, who were scheduled to debut for WCW at the Thunder tapings but turns out they both still have valid contracts with ECW also. Neither has been paid in months because they haven't worked but they also haven't filed the legal paperwork necessary to claim breach of contract and they're basically being used as pawns in the ECW vs. WCW war right now. Heyman has no use for either of them but he's not going to willingly let them go to WCW without something for them either.

- More Scott Hall drama, as WCW is in Europe this week. When leaving the U.S. for Germany, Hall got on the plane and looked like he hadn't slept in days. He ended up getting sick on the plane and was "in no condition to perform" on the first night of the tour. But hey, being in no condition to perform never stopped WCW in the past, and so Scott Hall was still sent out to the ring and he *did* perform. As punishment for his behavior though, he was told to put over David Finlay, which he did. During the entire tour, Hall was said to be barely functional every night, but he still went out and wrestled on all the shows. There were also incidents at bars every night with Hall trying to fight people and on one occasion, throwing a cake at his girlfriend. Finally, when they went to leave, he arrived at the airport in such bad shape that authorities wouldn't let him on the plane. So he missed Nitro this week because he was still stuck in Europe while everyone else came back. It totally wrecked WCW's plans because Hall was supposed to be involved in a major angle that would have put him into a triple threat match for the PPV main event. Yes, despite this kind of behavior being common for Scott Hall, he is still booked to be in the main event of SuperBrawl for the WCW title. Anyway, Hall did finally make it back in time for the Thunder taping the next night where they had an interview angle planned where Hall would hit Jeff Jarrett with the guitar (it sounds like this was supposed to be a backstage pre-tape). But Hall was totally shit-faced and couldn't get anything right and talked about breaking the guitar over Terry Taylor's head instead of Jarrett's and the whole thing dragged on for about 30 minutes and literally held up the taping, before they finally made the call to scrap Hall from it. Hall left the arena and they ended up having Jarrett hit Terry Taylor instead. Right now, Hall's future in the company is uncertain, with a lot of people feeling like this might be the last straw (yup, this was finally the last straw for Hall. He does indeed main event SuperBrawl, but that ends up being his final appearance ever in WCW. Hall has admitted in interviews that the whole European trip incident is what finally what got him fired. Turns out that girlfriend he threw a cake at was the niece of TNT President Brad Siegel and apparently Hall had cheated on her while they were there or something and it was a big fight. I dunno all the details, but it was enough that Siegel finally sent Hall packing and refused to bring him back. No matter how hard Nash spent the rest of 2000 trying to change his mind....we'll get to that).

- Hulk Hogan's return to WCW last week has morale sinking again, as a lot of people were upset by his recent comments where he said Billy Kidman couldn't main event a flea market. It pretty much confirmed to all the midcard wrestlers exactly what they've always thought, that people like Hogan at the top are determined to keep them down. Hogan's return led to Chris Kanyon asking for his release. Kanyon has been upset for awhile, citing the fact that he's never been given a push after being there for 5 years, but he is also good friends with Kidman and he said Hogan's comments were the final straw and just proves that the midcard guys will never be able to move up in WCW. Bill Busch offered Kanyon a raise to stay but no word if he accepted it. A lot of WCW guys have seen the way that WWF has actually pushed Chris Benoit as a real star and now more than ever, they want out of WCW for the greener WWF pastures.

- Hardbody Harrison, Bobby Walker, and Sonny Onoo filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against WCW in Atlanta last week. The lawsuit claims all 3 were forced to portray demeaning stereotypical minority roles and also claimed white performers made more money. It also mentioned the example of Buff Bagwell appearing in blackface for a match against Ernest Miller and claimed that racist jokes were often printed out and posted around WCW's offices. The lawsuit also argues that wrestlers should be classified as company employees rather than independent contractors. Dave says there's actually a long history in the Atlanta area, dating back to Thunderbolt Patterson in the 70s, of wrestlers claiming racial discrimination and/or filing lawsuits. Seems to be a pretty common problem there. Harrison claims he lost his job because he's black and is looking to get his contract re-instated. Dave says to be honest, Harrison and Walker are both pretty terrible workers and it's going to be difficult to prove they were fired because of their race. And he thinks Sonny Onoo's involvement in this lawsuit is laughable, since Onoo is one of Eric Bischoff's best friends and was arguably his closest confidant in the company and says that Onoo himself helped create the character he played. Not to say there's not racism in WCW, but Dave is calling bullshit on Onoo's claim.

- Dave goes off on a long and really random side note about wrestling newsletters. He talks about the first wrestling newsletter, called Matmania back in the 60s and talks about how it was the first to start really hinting about things outside of kayfabe, which later inspired Mat News, the newsletter Mike Tenay put out. Dave got a recent copy of Matmania from 1966 and talks about how different it is and....sorta recaps the news. OMG. Dave is doing a Matmania Rewind! Holy shit you guys, we're going meta! Dave mostly just seems to be in awe of everything he's learning about this period of the business that he was too young to remember, especially just from reading results and seeing how big the crowds were they were drawing back then and how they would run twice-weekly shows in Los Angeles, drawing thousands of fans or how crazy the travel was back then. Ray Stevens was working as a regular in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Seattle, and Texas and still found time to fly out and work shows in Australia also. He's also amazed by all the international news coverage in this newsletter, talking about shows in England and France (including one show featuring a 20-year-old giant named Jean Ferre who of course later became Andre The Giant). All told, Dave is just fascinated by how much the business has changed but how it also stays the same. Many of the same ups and downs the business deals with today were apparent in reading this newsletter from 1966 and knowing how things have changed since. Pffft, yeah right. Like there's anything interesting about looking back on old newsletters with the benefit of hindsight...

- WCW Nitro lost the ratings war again this week, except this time Raw wasn't on the other channel. They lost to the Westminster Dog Show instead. Raw ended up airing after the dog show, late at night....and still won. Even the Raw segments that aired after midnight did better ratings than Nitro had done unopposed in prime time.

- Lots of rumors regarding the future of AJPW. Word is company president Mitsuharu Misawa and the owner, Motoko Baba (widow of Giant Baba) aren't getting along and that the company may end up splitting into 2 groups. And if it happens, it's possible the NTV television deal may go with Misawa because pretty much all of the wrestlers are reportedly siding with Misawa in this power struggle. Nobody's really talking about it publicly now so details are scarce (yup, this is pretty much exactly what happens and leads to the formation of NOAH but that's still a few months away).

- Last year, Antonio Inoki announced another show in North Korea would take place this month but it was officially cancelled this week. Dave had been told months ago that it wasn't happening, but Inoki kept talking about it and promoting it as if it was. In the end, Inoki claims the U.S. Pentagon stepped in somehow to prevent the show from happening at the last minute, but again, Dave knew months ago that it wasn't happening. So as always, take anything Inoki says with a grain of salt.

- Beyond The Mat failed to get an Academy Award nomination. It was on the short list to be narrowed down to the final 5 but didn't quite make it. The movie still has premieres in select cities before rolling out nationwide next month. Even though Mick Foley is the star, neither he nor anyone else from WWF will be allowed to promote it because Vince McMahon is the only person in the wrestling business who doesn't like the movie. Foley tried to promote it during an appearance on Good Morning America a few weeks ago and McMahon was furious about it and won't let anyone in the company talk about it. WCW has no involvement in the film, but they're allowing Terry Funk to do any promotion he wants for it and WCW announcers aren't banned from talking about it and in fact they have mentioned it a time or two already during broadcasts.

- Carly Colon, after only a few weeks as a pro wrestler, has already won WWC's Universal title. Must be good to be the promoter's son. Of course, this is early-career Carlito.

- TNN did a media press conference that was also attended by Rob Van Dam and Joey Styles. When asked about his injury, RVD said he has a 3-inch crack in his fibula and a broken ankle joint and it will be about 12 weeks before he can return to the ring. There's been talks of a TV title tournament which means he'll likely be vacating that belt soon. As for ECW, they talked about the possibility of doing special ECW events on TNN in the future. When asked about the rumors of WWF coming to TNN and how that would affect ECW, the TNN exec had no comment. Mmmmmhmm.....

- During a match at a house show in ECW, Justin Credible went through a table and somehow a piece broke off and...went into his mouth and got caught in his throat. Credible, as you might expect, panicked, but fortunately he was able to dislodge it and turned out to be okay. Yikes.

- Various ECW notes: Pitbull #1 came back to work some shows but nobody remembered who he was so the crowd didn't care. Elektra missed a show last week because she freaked out and refused to get on the airplane I guess, claiming a fear of flying. But she's back this week. Gedo and Jado are scheduled to come in for a few weeks to work some shows.

- On ECW on TNN this week, they continued having Cyrus play a heel TNN executive, and he cut a promo saying the network only cares about ECW delivering a strong lead-in for RollerJam. Dave says they didn't just come up with this character for shits and giggles, there's a reason for it and there's a lot of tension between ECW and TNN right now.

- Notes from Nitro: Miss Hancock danced on the announce table during a match (I only include this because good GOD the crush 15-year-old me had on Stacy Keibler in these days is unspeakable). The KISS Demon jobbed to Booker T in a short match. The Demon still gets this big elaborate entrance but then ends up treated like a jobber in everything he does. Apparently WCW has a contract with KISS that they have to fulfill, so he still has to be on TV wrestling but they've turned him into a total jobber because now that Bischoff is gone, WCW has no interest in the character, but they're stuck with it due to the contract. Sid Vicious was cut open legit from a Jeff Jarrett guitar shot and got a concussion that caused him to miss the Thunder taping the next night.

- Speaking of Sid, he was upset with Mark Madden after the show. During Nitro, there was something to do with a three-way match and Mark Madden said that Sid was the "monkey in the middle" of the angle, which is of course just a reference to a kids game. Someone told Sid that Madden had called him a monkey on commentary and he was furious about it and confronted Madden. He tried to explain that he meant no ill-will but maybe due to being groggy or in a bad mood from the concussion, Sid wasn't interested in hearing Madden's explanation.

- After Scott Steiner was suspended due to his promo on Nitro last week, Steiner ran into Ric Flair as he was leaving the building and they had a nasty altercation. No word on what was said but there's obvious heat between the two men, which is what led Steiner to cut the promo to begin with. Anyway, Steiner has been suspended with pay, which most of the other wrestlers are jokingly calling a paid vacation because nobody in WCW is ever *really* punished for anything.

- Despite the trailers looking terrible, "Ready To Rumble" actually got very high scores on exit polls from people who saw early screenings last week (what? HOW? It's so bad....)

- Rey Mysterio appeared on the Observer online show last week and said that Konnan is serving a 2-month suspension, but will be back in April. Guess that's the punishment for threatening to leave last month. Turns out *some* people get punished, just not the top stars. Mysterio also talked about his various knee injuries, including a recent near-tear of his PCL which would have been career threatening.

- Shane Douglas has still refused to sign his release, which would have given him a 60-day severance pay. So now, WCW has officially given him notice that they plan to terminate his contract in 30 days. Basically, both Douglas and Konnan are being punished for being part of the group that led the mutiny when the Radicalz left, but since both of them backed down when it came time to actually leave, now WCW is trying to get rid of them both and they're fighting to stay. Douglas went online and has threatened legal action against WCW if they terminate him.

- Speaking of, Billy Kidman was also on the Observer show and said he chose to stay with WCW after Benoit/Eddie/Saturn/Malenko all cut off contact with him. He openly questioned whether it was the right move and whether or not he should have stayed, but he did. He said he was promised a feud with Jeff Jarrett, but then Jarrett ended up being pushed as a main eventer and now suddenly that's no longer happening.

- Jim Duggan apparently threw a fit backstage at Nitro over something they asked him to do. No word what it was, but Duggan refused, saying that WCW had already made him look like enough of a fool. He ended up not appearing on the show at all.

- The long-term plan for WCW right now is to build up to Goldberg vs. Tank Abbott to headline Starrcade at the end of the year. Abbott has been knocking out people with his KO punch finisher in short matches and the hope is that he'll get over the way Goldberg did. Dave says the problem now will be getting most of the locker room to allow themselves to do clean jobs to a punch. But that's the goal.

- WCW valet Midnight asked for her release and was given it. She's hoping to go to WWF (nope. Disappeared into obscurity).

- Terry Funk has agreed to do an exploding ring match with Atsushi Onita in the U.S. if they can find a way to get it on PPV. It's already been announced as happening later this year on PPV, but there doesn't seem to actually be any agreements in place (yeah, this never happens).

- A small publishing company in Canada is releasing a biography about Bret Hart called "The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be." It's being written by Toronto Sun writer Perry Lefko and Bret Hart is being listed as a co-writer. Hart does write the acknowledgements at the end of the book, but that's it. Roddy Piper wrote the foreword. This is not the lengthy autobiography that Hart has talked about writing at some point in the future.


- Jim Duggan filmed a show called Biker's Court that they were trying to sell for syndication at the NATPE convention last week. Dave says it's like Judge Judy meets Jerry Springer, with bikers as jurors, half naked female bailiff, and Duggan, with his 2x4, as the judge. "A typical episode is a midget smoker who is suing the tobacco companies claiming smoking stunted his growth and asked for compensation for a multi-million dollar NBA career that he didn't have." And yes, I have video.

- Both Bret Hart and Sting went on the recent Germany tour but neither of them wrestled. Sting did run-ins during the shows and Hart did interviews where he talked about his fond memories of Germany and was greeted with loud chants of "Owen!" Bret said he wants his eventual retirement match to be in Germany but said he didn't plan to retire that soon (unbeknownst to him at the time, he was already retired).

- Speaking of, WCW cancelled some house shows that were booked for April in Canada. With Bret still out injured and the loss of Benoit, they felt they wouldn't be able to draw fans to a non-TV event in Canada, so they just cancelled the shows entirely.

- Hulk Hogan appeared on the Don Imus radio show and confirmed he has creative control in his contract and outright said that he won't be losing anymore matches. Well okay then.

- On Raw, Papi Chulo re-debuted using the name Essa Rios and was accompanied by former ECW valet Miss Congeniality, using the name Lita. The match didn't get much of a reaction aside from one spot where Lita did a killer hurricanrana outside the ring, which got a big pop.

- When reviewing Smackdown, Dave notes that WWF has been putting a lot more emphasis on in-ring action in recent weeks and it's working. In the past, during the Russo era, crowds usually died as soon as the bell rang or spent the entire match looking towards the back waiting for the angle. But now they're slowly focusing more on the wrestling and the crowds are starting to react and get into the matches in a big way.

- Regarding WCW wrestlers who WWF may have interest in, here's the lay of the land: WWF reportedly has no interest in Shane Douglas, Konnan, or Kevin Nash, all three of whom have unofficially reached out to WWF in recent weeks through intermediaries. WWF is interested in bringing in Ric Flair if he can get out of his contract, but that doesn't seem to be happening. There's some interest in DDP and he has also given word that he's interested, but WWF won't pay him nearly what he's making in WCW so that's probably a no-go. Everyone else is mostly just watching to see how things play out with Benoit, Guerrero, etc.

- More media coverage on the XFL. A big story in the Philadelphia Inquirer said the NFL is basically the most bulletproof thing in sports and an XFL vs. NFL battle would be like an ant trying to stop an elephant. But they also said don't count out McMahon because he knows his target demographic better than anyone and he's not hindered by having a conscience. But in the end, it said the fact that it's going to be lower quality players than the NFL and the valid concerns that McMahon will try to fix the games will probably sink it.

- Chyna appeared on Jay Leno's show, breaking the unofficial streak of only having WCW stars on it. She came off well, not in character, and was charming and likable and not at all like most wrestlers who appear on talk shows.

- Four of Shawn Michaels' students received tryouts at the Smackdown tapings last week and all 4 were offered developmental contracts afterwards. The 4 students were Lance Cade, Shooter Shultz, American Dragon and Spanky (not sure what happened to Shultz but the other 3 obviously went on to have varying degrees of success).

- The Rock is expected to host Saturday Night Live in March.

- Fun fact, the character of Joey Abs in the Mean Street Posse was supposed to be played by Canadian wrestler Joe E. Legend but the night the gimmick was set to debut, there was an issue with Legend's visa. So the role went to Jason Ahrndt instead (Legend later ended up in WWF for a minute under the name Just Joe and has bounced around the indies ever since).

- Dave recaps a recent news story that talked about the reason Benoit & Co. all left WCW and talked about the downfall of WCW in general. The story noted that Russo was let go because of concerns over the content of the shows he was booking, which actually isn't true. In reality, it's because live attendance was falling at a scary rate. A WCW spokesman acknowledged the concerns over Sullivan being made the new booker as the reason why those guys wanted out and said they were released because "We cannot allow talent to dictate to management how to run the company."

- An absurd amount of letters this week. And speaking of, the first one is someone who writes in and actually thinks WCW made the right decision when it comes to Benoit, saying no matter how talented he and the rest of those guys are, the company can't just give in to ultimatums from employees just because they don't like the booker. Dave says that's simplifying the issue too much, because there were a lot of bad decisions beforehand that led to that moment, mostly stemming from the hiring and then abrupt firing of Vince Russo and all the chaos that caused. Most people in the company felt Terry Taylor should have been made the booker and if he had, none of this would have happened. He also is still amazed that WCW would know all of this was happening and then STILL chose to make Benoit the champion the day before he walked. Dave agrees that you can't let the inmates run the asylum, but it was WCW's repeated fuck-ups that let things ever get that far to begin with.

- The rest of the letters: debates over last issue's Wrestler of the Century stuff, whether WWF and WCW have gone too far with the sexual exploitation of the women, WWF stocks, Rock and Dynamite Kid's books, and then finally one last hilarious letter about Battlebots for some reason:

Quote:How can a family oriented company like Time Warner carry the Battlebots PPV? This event is nothing more than robot cockfighting. Does a robot have to DIE before legislation is made against this barbaric display of android violence? If I want to see robots fighting to the death, I'll hang outside at the bar in "Star Wars" on a Saturday night. I'm forwarding this to Sen. John McCain. I'm sure he'll share my outrage. Then again, I hear he was in the pocket of the Nevada State Animatronics Commission. Shame on you Time Warner.

Kevin Dillon
Albion, New York


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