Friday, March 30, 2007

Mania Weekend Finally Upon Us

Well, the weekend that wrestling fans have waited all year for has finally arrived. It's WrestleMania weekend, and for anyone that is heading to the Motor City, you know that its going to be a weekend filled with lots of things to do as well as plenty of bodyslamming come Sunday night. The agenda for the Let's Wrestle crew is as follows:

We ship out tonight about 10pm, with arrival at our hotel about 12:30-1am. We are staying just outside Detroit at a Courtyard by Marriott, the official hotel of our crew, complete with high speed internet and indoor pool and hot tub.

Saturday we'll be up early to pick up our tickets for the Hall of Fame. Section F5 row K, just 10 rows from the stage, which should be a great spot to see all the stars as well as get some great pics for the site. We'll also be then heading to Ford Field, as the Fan Axxess Tour starts at noon on Saturday. From 12-2 we'll hopefully snag some autographs from Chavo Guerrero, Gregory Helms, Kelly Kelly, and Super Crazy. Interesting to note not one of these signing will be in a match at Mania.

Back to the hotel, where we'll get ready for the Hall of Fame, which takes place at 7pm at Fox Theater. It's going to be a long show, you figure with 8 inductees going in, and with presentations and what not, the show should last till at least 11pm, making it about 4 hours, which I think last year in Chicago that is about how long it went. We'll then get back to our room so we can catch the hour they will televise on USA starting at midnight.

Sunday is the day we've all waited for, as our intentions are to head to Ford Field about 2-3pm. The show has a start time of 7pm, so the site will likely be updated in the morning, and then not till after the show. I have mixed views on the show, as I have already stated, I think that last years card looks better, but again, the Michaels vs Cena match could easily be the Match of the Year, and if they go 35-40 minutes, it has the makings of one the better Mania main events the past few years.

If I'm booking this show, here is the way I would roll out the matches:

1. MVP vs Chris Benoit
2. ECW 8-man tag
3. Money in the Bank match
4. Melina vs Ashley
5. Kane vs Khali
6. Batista vs Undertaker
7. Battle of the Billonaires
8. Cena vs Michaels

They had better not keep the McMahon-Trump thing till last, and I think a lineup like above gives a good mix of back and forth. Of course last year they blew it with putting the Candice-Torrie match second to last, making the crowd irate to the point they were chanting "Hogan-Austin."

So that is it for our weekend as it stands. We'll have a lot more updates throughout the weekend, so keep checking back for more content as well as some pics from out weekend at Mania.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Latest Mania News and Notes

WrestleMania is now just days away, and with it there is plenty to talk about in and out of the ring. Here are some of the latest news and notes in the WWE:

* No word yet as to why, but the WWE announced the release of Joey Mercury on Monday. The MNM member was on house shows over the weekend, including the one I attended in Canton, Ohio. There are some rumblings that the release may have something to do with the wellness policy, as Mercury already spent sometime in rehab when MNM was broken up last spring. We'll have more on this as we get to the bottom of the release.

* One guy on his way back is Mark Henry, who we haven't seen since July 15th when he blew out his knee on Saturday Night's Main Event. Henry was part of the house shows over the weekend in Mexico, and was back to playing the role of monster heel. I would expect to see him back on SmackDown when he comes back to the main roster after Mania.

* Likely due to the lack of big names going in, prices to get tickets for the WWE Hall of Fame induction on Saturday night are downright low. Last year and the year before, ticket brokers and fans that wanted to sell tickets cleaned up on the event, but this year, it's a totally different story. Upper level seats on EBay are well below face, and I am seeing pairs of $75 dollar seats selling as low as $31. Needless to say, no Hogan, Hart, Guerrero, or Piper and you have a big reason why no one wants to sit through the four hour show.

* Speaking of the Hall, they will have an hour of it on TV Saturday night on USA. It will air from 11pm to 12am, the same time they did the airing of it a year ago. On another note, with WrestleMania 24 next year in Orlando at the Citrus Bowl, they are looking at having the HOF the night before at the Amway Arena, the home of the Orlando Magic. If this year is any indication, they had better have a big-time name to go in next year, to avoid a ton of empty seats.

RAW 3/26

WWE RAW from Allstate Arena just outside Chicago provided a solid night of action that gives us the last look at the RAW brand before Sunday's mega WrestleMania 23 in Detroit. The main event was a No Way Out rematch as Batista and Undertaker took on John Cena and Shawn Michaels. Of course as I pointed out the other day, Cena was booed heavily in this match, as he will be Sunday vs Michaels. The end came with Taker walking out on Batista, returning the favor from No Way Out. Then, in a move that was done perfectly, Michaels finally superkicked Cena to end the show, and after they did an odd commercial break, they came back to show Michaels at the top of the ramp, giving a shrug with a DX sign to close the show. It was a great way to end the last show before Mania.

The show as a whole did a good job for Sunday, but the one thing I was hoping for was for them to add another match, which they did not. This means unless they do something crazy at the last minute, the following wrestlers will sit on the sidelines for the mega event:

Ric Flair
Chris Masters
Hass & Benjamin
Johnny Nitro
Cryme Tyme
London & Kendrick
Chavo Guerrero
Gregory Helms
William Regal

Now most of those names may not reek of deserving to be on the show, but how you can leave Flair, London and Kendick, and Chavo off the show is a shame. With just 8 matches, you easily could have put 2-3 more on, but I sense that with the card at 8, your looking at a 40+ minute match with Cena and Michaels. I think that the way they are building it, they know that done right it could be the match of the year for the company.

Back to RAW, the open with Coach and Steve Austin was funny enough for me to have to watch twice. The facials for Austin laughing when Coach said that "bald is beautiful" was one of the funniest moments in the WWE in a long time. I think that overall they have done a solid job in building the Austin ref angle for Sunday, and I think that unlike WM 20 when he was in the Goldberg-Brock Lesner nightmare, he will be more effective in this role Sunday night.
As far as in-ring stuff, the divas six-woman match was okay, with the faces getting a win, the CM Punk win over Kenny was solid, and boy, did Punk ever get over with the hometown fans. Hard to believe a year ago he was a "gangsta" in a prop for Mania when John Cena was introduced for his match with HHH.

There was an effective interview with the 8 men in the Money in the Bank match, which also has the possibility of going 30+ minutes Sunday. It got over each man as they all got some mic time with Edge involved with each of them. I thought the Bobby Lashley vs Vince McMahon match was kind of the downer of the night. Coach stated to start the show it would be a No-DQ match, and that anyone that got involved would be fined and suspended. So, five seconds into the match, McMahon has guys running in to help him. Didn't make sense. Of course they had to have a beat down of Lashley, as that will clear him for the win on Sunday.

Then we had the announcement of JR going into the Hall, which shocked me since it was by far the loudest ovation for a guy going in since Hulk Hogan two years ago. JR deserves it, and its hard to fathom that they have tried to move him from the announcer spot on RAW twice in the last few years. Maybe now they will realize how much he truly does mean to the company and to the sport.

Khali took on Ric Flair, which was a quick exchange before Carlito got involved, and then Kane came out with the hook to further their match at Mania, which I have been outspoken about should go no more than 5-7 minutes. Then we had the main event, which again, was about as good as it should have been, and really made you want to see the show on Sunday.

A great show, a great way to wrap up RAW going into Mania. Now with two more TV's left before Sunday, we'll see how the package wraps up as we get set for the show Sunday in Detroit.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Maina 23 Not Shaping up to be as Strong as Last Year

WrestleMania 23 is now one week away. The WWE's biggest show of the year will come to Ford Field, and with it tons of fans all over the world on PPV. I was at WrestleMania 22 in Chicago last year, and again this year will be heading to Detroit for the 23rd edition of Mania. I have been doing enough looking not only at last year's card, but this years as well, and have come to the conclusion that with all they have put into the show this year, I am booking that it will not be as good as the 2006 version.

That may be unfair based on the fact that we have not seen the show yet, but I am going by the matches that have been booked on the card, as well as the fact they have spent way too much time pushing the wrong match - the hair vs hair match with Lashley vs Umaga, aka Trump vs McMahon. I would hate to see the company make a huge error in judgement and make that the last match on the show, as that spot really needs to be reserved for Cena vs Michales.

I would have to think that they have to add at least 1 or two more matches to the card for next week, as right now at 8 matches the card just does not even match up to 2006. Last year they had 11 matches, with a mix of some good (Edge vs Foley, triple threat for the World Heavyweight title, HHH vs Cena for the WWE Title), some okay (Money in the Bank, James vs Trish for the Womens title, Show and Kane vs Masters and Carlito for the World Tag titles), and some just bad (Torrie vs Candice pillow fight, Boogeyman vs Booker and Sharmell). This year the two main events look very strong, but the rest of the card really seems to be lacking that extra push.

I think that if you had an Edge vs Foley type match, that would really push the card to the next level, but instead, they have put a lot of their eggs in the basket of Lashey and Umaga, and while the outside stuff of that match should be interesting, the inside the ring action could be really bad. Chris Benoit vs MVP looks like a squash, Melina vs Ashley is not as strong as last years Mickie vs Trish. The Money in the Bank match is stronger on paper, but the one wrestler that made that match for the last two years was Shelton Benjamin, who is not in it this year.

Kane vs Khali is going to be tough to watch, and I don't really have too many high hopes for the ECW match either, as unless they really pull out all the weapons that should be used in that type of match, which so far as yet to be announced, it looks as if that match will be somewhat lackluster.

So am I down on this years card? I guess with all that I have written about it - yeah, I really am starting to think that the card is not going to be as good as even last year. The two main events are going to really have to carry this card, as the undercard is just not going to measure up. I can see them giving both title matches 25-30 minutes, with the Michales-Cena match getting 30-35 minutes. I also hope they still consider adding 1-2 matches, becuase they still have plenty of big name wrestlers still on the sideline watching.

The Road to WrestleMania Hits Canton

WWE rolled into Canton, Ohio last night, the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame for a house show at the Canton Civic Center in front of what turned out to be a great crowd of about 4-5,000 fans. The sold out show was highlighted by what was at one point going to be the main event for WrestleMania, a WWE Title match between champ John Cena and challenger Randy Orton, with legend Ricky Steamboat as the guest ref. It amazes me to see just how over Cena is at house shows, and by far he was the main attraction for just about every fan at this show. Yet one week from tonight I can bet my bottom dollar that he is going to get booed out of Ford Field when he takes on Shawn Michaels in WrestleMania 23.

The night was filled with some very good matches, with the open being Jeff Hardy vs Kenny Dykstra. I have been impressed with Kenny, and he gave Hardy a solid match that eventually went the way of Hardy with his finishing swanton bomb. Both men worked very hard and gave a solid effort. The second match was Vicera vs Hacksaw Jim Duggan, with Big Vis getting a win by DQ when Duggan used the 2X4 upside Vis' head. Match three was newcomer Daniel Roadeimer vs the now bald Eugene. Roadeimer (may have the spelling wrong on his name, but close enough), looks a lot like Brock Lesner when he first came into the company. He has a lot of green in him, and needs a lot of work, but vs Eugene looked okay and finally got the win with a slam off of a full nelson.

Then was the most odd match of the night, two guys "reportedly" from Canton, who looked like twins about 23-25 years old, a cross between Stevie Richards and Renee Dupree, vs The Worlds Greatest Tag Team - Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Hass. The match was pretty good for two no-names, and again, in an odd book, the two newcomers got the win about 10 minutes in with a small package on Benjamin. We'll know more about these two new guys down the road.

Ric Flair and Carlito vs MNM was next on the show, and again, all four men worked hard with the crowd to get over, and they did. Seems like a shame thar Flair is likely off next weekend's Mania, as he is still so over with the crowd, and you can be in the arena or outside before the show and people will be doing his trademark "Whoooooo." Both MNM worked over Flair quite a bit, and after a hot tag to Carlito and some back and forth, the two faces got the win with Carlito's backcracker on Joey Mercury.

Three matches were held back after intermission, with two of them being matches we'll see next Sunday at Mania. The first was what looks to be a train wreck, with Khali and Kane going at it until then brawled enough to get outside the ring for a double count out. I would not be shocked to see this match held to 5-7 minutes, and it end in the same way Sunday in Detroit. Not much can make this match good. Then they had a Divas match, with Melina taking on her Mania opponent, Ashley. The two went back and forth, and then Mickie came out, threw Melina in the ring as she was about to leave, and Ashley got the roll up for the win. Again, a warm up for Sunday in Detroit.

Then you had Cena vs Orton, which was well done, and after Steamboat got knocked out, a second ref nearly counted out Cena, but he kicked out of a RKO. Then as Orton went for a chair, Steamboat grabbed it, chopped Orton, and then Cena gave him the FU for the win. Again, a great crowd that you could sense loved each and every minute of the card.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

SmackDown 3/23

WWE SmackDown on Friday night was better on TV than it was in person in Cleveland on Tuesday, when it and the ECW shows were taped. At the live taping, there was a huge gaffe in which they basically had to re-do the ending of the Tables match with Bobby Lashley vs Randy Orton and Ken Kennedy. At the taping, the table in which Lashley tried to powerslam Orton through didn't break. They did it twice, and the second time the table actually collapsed. It looked awful, and they ended up putting another table in the ring, and he then powerslammed Orton through the table, making it look good for TV.

The rest of the show was built around the Undertaker vs Batista match for Mania, and they did another good angle in which this week they had Batista throw Booker into Taker as both men were set to do power bombs during a tag match with Batista and Taker vs Booker and Finley. They now are at a point where these two are not really touching other, instead they are just using other guys, like last week when Finley was thrown in Batista. Its an effective angle, and should be a solid build towards Mania in two weeks.

Again, the show live was pretty lackluster. The Jimmy Wang Yang vs Chavo match was okay, with Yang getting a win. As of right now, they are not planning on having a cruiserweight match for Mania, so Yang getting a win here doesn't really do much, unless they change plans at the last minute and do have a match at Mania, possibly using other guys as well, like Gregory Helms, but truthfully I don't see that happening. They also did a match with Helms and Benoit, in which Benoit gets the clean win, building towards his match at Mania with MVP for the US Title.

They also had a tag match for the titles with London and Kendrick vs MNM. There was some thought they would let MNM get the win here, but instead they allowed London and Kendrick to have the clean win, and again, it looks as if we won't have these two long regining champs at Maina, which I really think is a shame. I think that next weeks TV in Grand Rapids for SmackDown had better deliver, because I think this last week was a small step back for this brand as they head into the biggest show of the year.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

ECW 3/20

SmackDown and ECW came live to Cleveland Tuesday night at the Quicken Loans Arena, and while SmackDown was a pretty solid show, ECW still had plenty of flaws as it showed clearly why it is the third brand and the lowest of the three. Many fans departed before the ECW live show hit the airwaves at 10pm, and many more left during the show. The results of the show saw the main event be Bobby Lashley continue his roll as he pinned Chris Masters, one night after breaking the Masterlock full nelson clean on RAW. Kevin Thorn and Marcus Cor Von pinned RVD and Sabu in tag action, Elijah Burke pinned Tommy Dreamer, CM Punk pinned Hardcore Holly, and Snitsky beat a no-name reportedly from Cleveland.

The show is mostly a build right now towards three things - Lashley vs Umaga (aka McMahon) at Mania, The ECW originals vs The New Breed, and CM Punk having a shot at the Money in the Bank Match at Mania. The New Breed keeps talking to Punk about turning, and for some reason I think this might not be a bad move. It would give new life to Punk, a wrestler that I have thought for a while deserved to be pushed, despite what officials say about his backstage heat. As for the Originals vs the New Breed, they would be foolish to have the New Breed lose at Mania, as its more obvious than ever that most of the Originals are going to be gone come late spring early summer. The only one of the group safe is Dreamer, who is tight with Shane McMahon. The rest will either be gone or back in a very limited role.

While thinking about this brand, there is still numerous problems that cannot be solved in one weeks time. I think the biggest problem overall with ECW is that there is not one wrestler on that roster that I would pay to see. Think about the other brands and the wrestler(s) that are pushed week in and week out. These are guys that are basically over with the crowd, either good or bad. For RAW, you have John Cena, Edge, Shawn Michaels, Randy Orton, HHH (when healthy), Umaga, and even some mid-card guys. Smackdown - you've got Batista, Undertaker, Kennedy, Mysterio, and Chris Benoit. They all get a reaction, face or heel. In ECW, there is no one like that. The biggest cheer from the fans on that show week in and week out is Rob Van Dam, and due to his out of the ring issues, they have basically killed any push that he gets.
Bobby Lashley is a decent wrestler, and seems to be a hard worker in and out of the ring.

Problem is with Lashley is that you can't really get behind a guy that doesn't speak. Like his Titantron video states - "Hard Hitting, Soft Spoken." And that's the truth behind Lashley. He is never going to excite a crowd like a guy like Cena, Batista, or nowhere near the reaction of a guy like Steve Austin or the Rock. That's the main deal with ECW, there is not a guy that is even near carrying that roster. You had a shot with both RVD and Sabu, when they were both red-hot in the mid-to-late summer, but then the whole drug deal in Dayton came down, and since then they have both been squashed. It's so bad for Sabu, that many think he won't last another 6 months with the company.

I realize that you can't just get create a guy like the Rock or Steve Austin. Those types of guys don't come around everyday, and if they did, then they wouldn't be on ECW very long before showing up on SmackDown or RAW. What you do need though is a guy that can generate enough to have people want to tune in. Otherwise you've got a bland hour of wrestling that no one really cares about, and that is clearly what you have right now. If you had a wrestler on ECW that people really cared about and wanted to see, you wouldn't see fans leaving the droves after the SmackDown taping ends at these shows. Agree or not, that's why the ECW brand is doomed to fail.

It's Official....WrestleMania 24 Heading to Orlando

The long awaited announcement about WrestleMania 24 is coming later today, and with it one small surprise. It has been said for quite some time that Mania in 2008 would be held in Orlando, Florida, but what is going to come as a bit of a shock is that the event is going to be outdoors, held at the Citrus Bowl, which can hold over 65,000 fans. It will be the first Mania to be held outdoors since the company did WrestleMania IX in Las Vegas at MGM Grand. The event will be held on March 30th, and looking at the average temps in Orlando at that time of the year, your looking at about 81 for a high, and 58 for a low. Of course one worry is rain, which was a threat the last time the event was held outdoors in Las Vegas, but the company got lucky when the rain held off.

The Orlando Sentinel broke the story about the event being held at the Citrus Bowl on Tuesday, with the president of the Central Florida Sports Commission, John Saboor stating the following: "Bringing the Super Bowl of sports entertainment to our community is something that the City of Orlando and the Central Florida Sports Commission have been building towards for the last six months." The article states that WrestleMania 24 is expected to generate about $25 million into the local economy, while creating jobs as well. This year's event is sold out in Detroit, and now it appears with the event being held again in a stadium, that the WWE feels they can sell out a stadium every year, and that is likely why the decision was made to move the event from an arena into a large stadium.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

RAW 3/19

The attitude of the WWE right now is that they are going to do whatever it takes to put over the big stars as they get set for WrestleMania 23, and Monday Night's RAW did just that. The show had a variety of good matches, and the main event with John Cena beating Chris Benoit via tap out was well done, and again, made Cena seem like a mega-star. With the little push that they give Benoit, and the fact he has a lackluster opponent for WrestleMania in MVP, his loss here really meant little. It meant more for Cena, who was teased by Shawn Michaels during the match with sweet chin music, and did the return by almost giving him the FU at the end of the show.

The last moments of the show saw JBL, who was supposed to wrestle Michaels but instead simply came out and cut a great promo to start the show, announcing that next week it would be Cena and Michaels in a tag match in a rematch of No Way Out vs Undertaker and Batista. That may finally be the match that simply sees all four guys just turn on each other, as right now there is no way in my opinion with the way the booking has been that they hand one of these four Mania main event stars a clean loss in that match. Which is good, they should not do that. You can bet that at the SmackDown/ECW tapings tonight that you'll see both Cena and Michaels.

They also continued the breakup and impending feud with Rated RKO - Edge and Randy Orton, as the two went back and forth through the night. First it was announced by Orton that since Edge didn't help him beat Bobby Lashley last week, that Edge's Money in the Bank spot is now up for grabs in a battle royale. That was kind of predictable, as you knew that in the end, Edge would get the spot back, and using the old fake injury to avoid much contact in the battle royale, he snuck in at the end and did win the spot back.

Then later on in a match with Orton and Jeff Hardy, Edge came out, threw a ladder in the ring, and Orton used it on Hardy, causing a DQ. After that though, Orton and Edge argued, causing Orton to be open season for Hardy to use the ladder to deliver a stunning leg drop on Orton to close out what I thought was a strong segment. They also used Lashley as the man to finally break clean the Chris Masters Masterlock full nelson challenge. It again, was a strong segment and no one better with the push right now to get the job done than Lashley. Why do I sense that now all the hoopla with the Masterlock Challenge is over, that we'll see Masters go face sometime soon? Just a guess.

To build the hair vs hair challenge, they used poor Nick Dinsmore (Eugene), who we've not seen on RAW in quite awhile, as a jobber for Umaga. It was after that with Vince McMahon at ringside that they used the hair cutting equipment to shave his head, which was a cool visual and sets up more the big match at Mania for Umaga and Lashley. A woman's bra and panties match with Melina and Candice also was on the show, with then Ashley coming in after Melina won, only to then for some odd reason get near choke slammed by Khali. Then Jerry Lawler, for some unknown reason, showed up to try and stop the choke slam, only to get slammed himself. An odd segment.

That was basically it for another hot show, with the big stars getting the mainstream attention, and next week the mega-tag along with an announced match (that likely won't happen) with Lashley vs Vince McMahon. I'll be live at the SmackDown/ECW tapings tonight in Cleveland, so check for a report on that tomorrow.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Plenty to Talk About as Mania Draws Near

WrestleMania is now less than two weeks away, and the final card for the show has yet to be put into place 100 percent, but we know the big matches, as well as the second-tier matches that will make up the show. On paper, this card looks better in my opinion than last year, with Shawn Michaels vs John Cena having the makings of a very good match, and the World Heavyweight Title match with Batista vs Undertaker should be good as well. I have high hopes for the Taker-Batista match, as I think that the emotion for the bout is there, and with the Taker being the fan favorite, they really can let Batista go and be aggressive and show a little more killer instinct than normal. They have tried to make the Taker-Batista match a face vs face affair, but they are out of their minds if they think that Batista is going to get cheered in Detroit. Remember in 1991 at Survivor Series in Detroit when Taker, then a pronounced heel, got cheered in his WWF title match vs ultimate fan favorite Hulk Hogan? With that said, you don't think that Taker, now a future Hall of Famer and legend won't be the more over face in this match? Think again.

As for the Michaels-Cena match, this should be your main event, as these two have the makings of putting on a great show for the over 70,000 at Ford Field. Watching WWE 24/7 over the weekend and seeing the final few minutes of last year's HHH-Cena match, I recall how pumped the crowd was in Chicago, and the bitterness when Cena made HHH tap out. I have a feeling that the same can happen this year, as already in various matches your hearing Cena get booed again. It's so funny to me that Cena goes the whole year, either as the champion or not, and gets basically cheered, especially at house shows. Then you get to the biggest event of the year, and he can be fighting the most hated heel, or the biggest fan favorite, and he gets booed. It's one of the more bizarre things in the sport I have ever seen. Will Cena lose? He could. Then again, I don't see what they would get with putting the belt on Shawn, as his time as a World Champion in my opinion has passed. They are better off keeping it on Cena, and a possible 2nd main event with Michaels at Backlash would be something they could pull off.

Speaking of which, I am happy that the WWE has decided go ahead and make each PPV a combo of all three brands again, meaning that instead of just watching Smackdown, RAW, or ECW grapplers for $40, now we'll be able to see all three at once, like Mania, Summerslam, Royal Rumble or Survivor Series. Those PPV's always seem to have more of a special feel, and I think now there will be something better to look forward to each month. Add that into the fact we'll be seeing guys go between shows a little more, and the interest level in all three shows should be higher. While some disagree, I think that it will give the company a better chance to build stars, and with guys going up against different guys and not the same old, it will make it better. Just my two cents.

Tonight starts a heavy week of wrestling, both on TV and live for me as we get closer to Mania. At 7pm tonight at a local Marc's store, Kane will be there making a live appearance, and while I have never met him, I am looking forward to him being there. On Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena, there is the SmackDown/ECW tapings, which I will be at live with the wife. Then Saturday, WWE comes to Canton, about 55 miles south of Cleveland, for a RAW house show, where we'll be second row. Then of course the night of the 30th it's time to head to Detroit for Mania. RAW tonight is in Indy, with tons more build for Mania, and another Hall of Fame announcement, which we are expecting to be The Wild Samoans.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

SmackDown 3/16

Finally the WWE got their last night of TV for the week right as they had a very solid SmackDown! complete with a great main event with King Booker and Undertaker going at it. They also made the official announcement of MVP vs Chris Benoit for WrestleMania, and also there was a very good match with Matt Hardy scoring a pinfall win over Ken Kennedy. The night was capped off with the Taker vs Booker match that saw Batista at the announcer booth, and after Finely got involved and Taker recovered, he threw Finley into Batista, which was a cool visual.

The open of the show was "Miz TV" with Batista beating on Miz after Miz pulled a trick of turning off the lights as if Taker was there. It was funny, and at first of course it looked as if Batista would play along, but then he turned and beat on Miz, and laid him out with a Batista Bomb. It was a good open, and a good way to get some more heat on the whole title match on Mania for Taker and Batista.

The other stuff on the show was well done, and it really was some great build towards Mania. The Kane-Davari "match" was not much of a match, but just more of a way to build the Kane-Khali match that is also now official for Mania. The WWE put some pics on their site of the back of Davari, as they built it that Kane did some things off screen to the former Khali manager that caused the injuries.

There was also an okay six-person tag with the tag champs, London and Kendrick with Ashley, vs Melina and MNM. The heels got the win in the end and I am starting to think that they are going to build a MNM vs London & Kendrick match for the big show at Mania. That would be a good match, or they may put another team or two and make it a four way. Whatever they do, they have to find a shot for London and Kendrick.

All in all, they did a nice job with this show. I'll be live at the SmackDown/ECW tapings this next week here in Cleveland, so I will post some thoughts right away on the show, and then do reports on Wednesday and Saturday like normal.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

“Golden Boy” Arnold Skaaland Passes Away at 82

Yet another sad wrestling death has taken place, as “Golden Boy” Arnold Skaaland, died on Tuesday at the age of 82. Below is the article on Skaaland at

“Golden Boy” Arnold Skaaland, a WWE Hall of Famer and a member of the WWE family for over a half-century, passed away Tuesday at the age of 82, with his wife, Betty, by his side.

Arnie was involved in virtually every aspect of sports-entertainment, from grappling to managing to promoting. During the era of the World Wide Wrestling Federation, Skaaland was a stockholder of Capitol Wrestling Corporation, and a producer of live events at the Westchester County Center.

As a wrestler, Skaaland was fearless, taking on much larger men and always giving them a fight. In 1967, he and Spiros Arion won the now-defunct WWE United States Tag Team Championship. He also served as the referee for the famous 1962 match in Japan between “Classy” Freddie Blassie and Rikidozan.

Another generation of fans may remember Skaaland as a manager. He regularly accompanied Bruno Sammartino to the ring during his reigns as WWWF Champion, and later led Bob Backlund to the same title. Perhaps Skaaland’s most controversial moment occurred while managing Backlund; on Dec. 23, 1983, he threw in the towel for Backlund after the Iron Sheik trapped the titlist in the camel clutch – ending the clean-living kingpin’s long reign as WWE Champion.

Skaaland was a legend in all facets of sports-entertainment, and in 1994, he became a member of the first full class inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Wednesday News and Notes; Hall of Fame, WM III, Hardcore Diaries

Mania is now just 18 days away, and plenty of things are happening in and out of the ring. Here are some news and notes that you may find of interest with the mega-event close approaching:

* The WWE Hall of Fame is heating up, as now with the announcement on Monday night of Mr.Fuji, we are up to five men going in, with reports saying that three more are to come.
Sources say we are still to expect The Wild Samoans, Jim Ross, and the Shiek all to get the nod for the event. It's a somewhat weak class in my opinion, and when people look back at this year, they will likely remember it more for Jerry Lawler and Ross going in more than anything else. I guess with Hogan and Piper two years ago, and Hart and Guerrero last year, you had to expect a letdown this year. While the event is a sellout, ticket demand this year is nothing like it was the last two years.

* I am 36 pages so far into "The Hardcore Diaries" by Mick Foley and so far, so good. I read Mick's last two books, and one of the few negative things I can say is that he sometimes rambles on about things that have nothing to do with the subject he's talking about. Mick is also the king of getting mentions of obscure people in his books, like past college friends and school teachers. The book is basically a trek through the last year of Foley in the WWE, with stories of the feud with Edge, as well as the ECW match at One Night Stand, to the awful go around with Ric Flair including this past years SummerSlam. I have really yet to read anything all that shocking, but with plenty of book left I am sure there will be 1-2 things of note in there.

* While I will always consider WrestleMania III the best of all-time, I am a little disappointed by the latest two-disc DVD Championship Edition that they released with the event. I had high hopes going in that there would be tons of interviews, behind the scenes footage, and extras that would make the $18 purchase worth it. Instead, they just put the event on one disc with some 1987 interviews off of shows like Wrestling Challenge and Superstars of Wrestling, and then on disc two it was more of the same, with the event again this time with snipits of interviews from the WrestleMania All-Day access show they did before WrestleMania 16, and pop-ups on various facts from the show. Needless to say, I think the WWE missed the boat on this one.

* There has been a lot of internet talk about what HHH will do when he returns in late summer, most likely at SummerSlam. The latest is that with Rated RKO breaking up, HHH will feud with whoever is the heel from that team, with a match at the PPV event. The Rated RKO breakup is going to not happen till after Mania, but as anyone can see, the foundation for it has been set, and I think that based on what we've seen, Randy Orton comes out of the breakup as the face. Orton has never really been a good face, so it will be interesting how they think this time will be any different.

* Being a huge fan of the Rock, I thought it was about time we saw him on WWE TV this past week, cutting a promo against Vince McMahon on RAW Monday night. The build up was great with him holding the newspaper, and until he did the loud "Finally" I had no idea who it was behind that newspaper. Rock can still be a great draw for anything that he does, much like Steve Austin currently is. Maybe they can work out a deal to bring him back in a referee role or enforcer role for a big upcoming PPV. Bottom line is the more Rock the better.

* Being in the Northeast and in Ohio there is plenty of live wrestling coming up, and the next three weeks yours truly will be very busy. First we have the live taping of SmackDown and ECW in six days at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, then that weekend about 50 miles south in Canton at the Civic Center we have a RAW house show on the 24th. Six days after that we pack up and leave for Detroit for Mania, with the Hall of Fame on Saturday and the event on Sunday. The following day wrestling returns to Ohio with the post-RAW in Dayton. Let's hope gas prices stay low so these treks don't make me go broke.

ECW 3/13

ECW on Tuesday night on Sci-Fi was a quick, three match show that was highlighted by the continued breakup of Rated RKO, Edge and Randy Orton. The premise was that Orton was to take on Bobby Lashley after Edge suggested the match on Monday night to Vince McMahon. Vince agreed to do the match, and then at the start of ECW, Edge and Orton argued, with Orton saying that Edge was setting him up. Edge contended that was not the case, and that he would have Orton's back. The Lashley-Orton match was pretty bland, and Edge ended up getting thrown out of the ringside area when he interfered right in front of the ref.

Without Edge, Orton was pinned clean by Lashley after a few spears and then a powerslam. The show ended simply with Vince staring down Lashley. As I suggested in the RAW review, I am starting to get really concerned that the Lashley-Umaga (aka: Trump-McMahon) match is going to be pushed as the main event, with the match being the last on the Mania card April 1st. There is a lot to offer on the Mania card, and the two big title matches should be pushed as the two true main events, with the Trump-McMahon saga being third last. As stated though before, I think this thing is going to get pushed to the top, which is dangerous considering how bland Bobby Lashley's in-ring wrestling can be at times.

The other two matches on the card was a simple New Breed and ECW Originals battle royal, with Tommy Dreamer getting the push with throwing out two New Breed's for the win. As usual with this one, its a head scratcher considering that RVD really should be the Original that is pushed as high as anyone. If the Originals win, which I think they do at Mania, at least give RVD the pin. Also, at what point do they make this an "Extreme Rules" match, and if they don't - what are they thinking?

Snitsky also made his in-ring debut for the company on TV, and beat up two jobbers fast, which is the exact route they should take with him. After the Mania stuff, I can see Lashley vs Snitsky for about a month as being the main event on TV as well as house shows across the country. They also had a Mick Foley interview, which was about as forgettable as anything Foley has done in sometime. He usually is pretty strong in this role, but here was not really all that good. Another hour of basic build towards Mania.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

RAW 3/12

WWE RAW from Washington, DC on Monday night in my opinion was somewhat of a mixed bag of good and bad. I am already tired of the overhype for the McMahon-Trump stupidity, and making that the last thing on the show really made it drag. I thought they easily could have had that start the 10pm hour, then have the Gaunlet tag match with John Cena and Shawn Michaels vs three different teams be the last thing on the show. Many now feel that the Trump-McMahon thing is being pushed as the main event, much like Lawerence Taylor vs Bam Bam Biglow was for WrestleMania 11. The problem here is that Trump and McMahon are not actually wrestling, and thank goodness for that, and that means that if Bobby Lashely vs Umaga is not very good, it will really drag the whole card down.

Another thing I am hoping for is that they do the right thing and not make Lashley and Umaga the last match on the card. I really think that the spot there should go to Michales and Cena. I thought that they at first should have had Taker vs Batista, but now the hype machine has hit me hard enough to make me change my mind to saying I think it should be Michaels vs Cena.

There was a lot of good on the show, with six matches, including what I thought was a very good match with Randy Orton, Ric Flair, and Carlito. Of course the end of that saw Orton win, and with it clinch the final spot in the Money in the Bank match at Mania. No shock there, and I think with the energy right now with Orton and Edge, the MITB match should be a good one.

And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the show was great from the standpoint of just having the Rock make a quick promo from his home in Miami. What a great surprise, and I think that it seems that he and McMahon have wrapped up any problems they reportedly have had. It was a great, classic Rock-like promo, and it fit the show perfectly. What a great spot for it as well, and you could see that the crowd was eating it up from the moment they realized it was him.

The other semi-shock of the night was the announcement of a "WrestleMania Reversal" pair of matches for next week, with John Cena vs Chris Benoit, and Shawn Michaels vs JBL. Why they would waste the return to the ring in quite some time for a RAW for JBL is beyond me, unless its just a ploy to have him come out, something happen, and then he makes it back at some other point when they can promote it right.

Overall, a good show, but again, I was a bit dragged down by the last segment, which seemed to drag forever with Trump, Lashley, Umaga, McMahon, and Steve Austin. Again, please do the right thing and have this match 3rd last on the card, otherwise you really run the risk of making what should be a very good card go very south in a hurry.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

SmackDown 3/09

WWE SmackDown Friday night was highlighted by four matches, including two with the main event guys from WrestleMania going over against decent opponents - Batista beating Kane, and Undertaker beating Finley. Both men won clean with pins, which is exactly the way it should have been booked as now with less than three weeks left to Mania both men have to be protected to the upmost.

The rest of the show was okay, and the wrestling on the show went from pretty good (Booker beating Matt Hardy) to decent (Kennedy beating CM Punk). I think the important thing as we head to Mania, is that the top guys get protected, while at the same time the mid-level guys don't just get shown up week after week. Both Hardy and Punk showed some good offense, and the two of them losing should not stop them from being a big part of the Money in the Bank match at Mania.

Speaking of which, I still think Orton wins that match, but I can see some serious thought being given to Kennedy as well taking home the briefcase. I think that we'll see Kennedy get a huge push this year, and with it at some point could come a world title. As for the other semi-big announcement on the show, they had a lame Miz TV segment with The Miz, and he had Ashley on. Within a minute or so of the interview, Melina came down as well, and finally we had Ashley challenge her for the title at Mania. That should become offical this week.

The other challenge for Mania which will be more of a squash if its done right, is MVP telling Teddy Long that he wants Chris Benoit in a match for the US Title. Sorry MVP, if the bookers make this done the right way, this should be nothing more than a 4-5 minute match with Benoit getting a rather easy win. The show as a whole was pretty good, and once again we should have a solid week of TV heading up as we get closer and closer to Mania.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

News Update: ECW, Hall of Fame, Mania, Where are they Now

Tuesday's night's ECW was pretty much a lame duck show, with just two matches, and two things that really came out of it - a challenge that we all knew was coming from the ECW Originals to take on the New Breed at WrestleMania, and an interview from Steve Austin that really didn't mean anything. The show of course had the three sluts dancing for four minutes, that meant nothing, not that it ever really has ever meant anything, and they had a run-in from Snitsky during a bad match with Balls Mahoney and Bob Holly. Overall, pretty nothing show that there was not much out of to talk about other than the one big WM match for the brand with eight of the guys involved.

On to some news:

* Looks as if we are all set for the WWE Hall of Fame, as some more names have leaked, and it looks as if this year it will be a class of 5 single wrestlers, one tag team, one manager and one announcer. Here is the class as we've heard it to date:

- Curt Henning
- Jerry Lawler
- The Shiek
- Mr.Fuji
- Jim Ross
- Nick Bockwinkel
- The Wild Samoans
- Dusty Rhodes

That is a pretty big class, and if you are planning on going to the event, look to be there for about 3+ hours, as last year the event ran from about 7:30pm to 11pm. The presenters should be interesting as well, as we know that Larry Henning will speak for Curt, but who will induct him is up in the air. Nick Bockwinkel will be inducted by longtime manager Bobby Heenen. The Shiek will be spoken for by Sabu, but again, who will induct him is unknown. Lou Albano will likely present the Samoans. Jimmy Hart, who has been involved with Lawler in Memphis, could be the presenter for the King. As for Ross, that is a shoe-in, as Steve Austin will get the call there to present him. The most interesting presenter could be the one for Dusty Rhodes. One would think that it would be his son Dustin (aka Golddust) but the two have been back and forth over the years in terms of their relationship. With that, I would say that the nod for a presenter would go to Ric Flair. As for Mr.Fuji, I would bet the likely presenter would be former star Don Muraco, who was manager by Fuji for a large part of his WWE run in the 80's.

* USA TV and the WWE are still talking about putting some part of the Hall of Fame show on TV the night before Mania. The network has shown parts of the ceremony the last two years, but the star power this year is just not there. The last two years the one-hour show has been filled with the bigger names and presenters inducting them: you've see Hulk Hogan, Roddy Piper, Bret Hart, Eddie Guerrero, and Gene Okerlund. I would guess if they did get it on TV this year, the three they would squeeze into that one hour would be Dusty Rhodes, Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross. Not quite the level of the last two years. The entire ceremony will be on the WrestleMania 23 disc set again this year though.

* As suspected, the plan to have Randy Orton in the Money in the Bank match at Maina is still on, as they have posted on that this week on RAW they will have a three-way with Orton, Ric Flair and Carlito for the last spot in that 8-man match. Orton and Edge would have been a better singles match, but they are saving that for down the road. For now, with Orton in that MITB match, you can expect to see Flair and Carlito in a one-on-one singles match on the Mania card.

* If you don't visit often, I suggest you do for one of their new features - "Where are they Now." This week they catch up with Brutis Beefcake. They have had profiles already on past WWE stars like Virgil, Honkey Tonk Man, Greg Valentine, Smash, Haku, and Outlaw Ron Bass. I always appreciate when the company tries to give the older fans a little bit of history and at the same time give some props to the stars of the past.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bad News Brown Dead at 63

The world of wrestling has suffered yet another death, as at 5:30am on Tuesday morning Bad News Allen (Allen Coage), passed away at the age of 63 of a heart attack. Coage died in Calgary. He was a fixture on WWF TV back in the late 80's and early 90's, with some memorable feuds with wrestlers like Roddy Piper (WrestleMania 6), Jake Roberts, and Bret Hart. His biggest WWF win was winning the opening match at WrestleMania IV, a 20-man battle royale. The match ended with he and Bret Hart in the ring, and after shaking hands, he turned on Hart and ended up throwing him out for the win.

Allen began his wrestling career in Japan, and was a heel in Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling. He was known for his Olympic bronze medal that he won in judo. Coage continues a sad stretch in which the world of wrestling has now lost three name wrestlers in the last two months - Bam Bam (Scott) Biglow, Mike Awesome, and now Brown. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

RAW 3/5

WWE RAW on Monday night from Phoenix provided another solid two hours of build towards WrestleMania 23 in Detroit on April 1st. The main highlights of the show was the announcement of Steve Austin as the guest ref for the Bobby Lashley vs Umaga match with Trump and Vince McMahon's hair on the line. I thought with bringing out Eric Bishoff as well as Mick Foley, this was a well done segment. The other highlight was the back and forth between John Cena and Shawn Michaels as they continue their tense build towards their WWE title match at Mania.

The build with Michaels and Cena all centers around when/if will Shawn turn on Cena. They almost had it happen on Monday night with Shawn not helping Cena in his match with Johnny Nitro that ended with Joey Mercury and Edge giving him a beat down for a DQ. Finally, Michaels did get in the ring to help, and the show ended with Cena and Michaels doing another confused stare down, which I don't have a problem with.

The other build that they are still slowly teasing is the breakup of Rated RKO, as Edge early in the show had another run-in with Randy Orton in the opening match with Michaels and Orton. Then at the end of the night when Edge was to take on Cena, Edge asked Orton if he had his back, and Orton finally said "no." This is another great build, and I still think they could do this match at Mania, but I think they will hold off with Edge already in the Money in the Bank match.

Speaking of that, they had the last qualifying match for MITB, and it was to be Carlito and Ric Flair, but in the end it became a sloppy end with The Great Khali coming out and beating on both men, basically wasting the match and having it a no-contest. That still leaves a spot, and I still think they should go with Orton, and further build the tension with he and Edge in the match. Why they would waste Flair-Carlito here I think was a bad move, but oh well.

The scary spot of the night came in the women's title match with Melina and Mickie James, as a good match ended with James trying a huracanrana, but ended up going down backwards and hitting her head pretty hard on the mat, allowing Melina the easy pin. This was a very good women's match, and after the match, Ashley (who was the guest ring announcer), and Melina got into it, and Ashley pushed her down. This of course will further their course for an upcoming match at Mania. As for James, she suffered a stinger, but is okay.

The night was topped off with the Cena-Nitro match, which came about when Edge pulled the backout trick, and as MNM came out, it ended up being Nitro as Cena's opponent. I think as we saw MNM together, it basically clinches we'll see them together in some fashion at Mania. The end with Michaels was also well done, and I thought the whole show continued its strong trend for the upcoming mega card in Detroit in just over three weeks.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Monday News and Notes; Foley, PPV's, RAW, Hall of Fame

Lots of news and notes to get to as we head into another week of WWE TV tonight with now less than a month away from WrestleMania 23 in Detroit. Here's the latest in the world of wrestling:

* TV has been strong as of late, and tonight with RAW in Phoenix, they already have a few solid matches announced that should make it another strong offering. The main event will have Edge vs John Cena. They also will have Randy Orton vs Shawn Michaels, and a women's title match with Melina vs Mickie in falls count anywhere. RAW has been red-hot as of late, and tonight should not be any different.

* Orton will almost for sure be the 8th man in the WrestleMania "Money in the Bank" match, but his qualifying match will likely not be until tomorrow night on ECW or Friday on SmackDown. Tonight in a match vs Michales there is no way to play off a MITB stip, so they will save it for tomorrow night or tape it tomorrow and air Friday. It almost feels like the MITB match is now as high as 4th on the WrestleMania list of matches for the show.

* The big news this past week is that the WWE will now have wrestlers from all three brands on their "B" PPV shows. Already set to appear on the RAW PPV "Backlash" in late April are RVD, Undertaker, and Batista. Flyers for the "Great American Bash," which will take place in July in San Jose had Bobby Lashley and John Cena scheduled to appear. This is a major, and very smart move for the WWE. The lesser PPV's struggled in 2006, and this will give them a much fresher look and feel for 2007.

* Couple of WWE wrestlers that were destined for big pushes on TV now appear to be on hold due to not being even close to ready to compete. Those two guys are Vladimir Kozlov and Daniel Rodimer. There was a few interviews given to Kozlov during SmackDown, but you can bet those will not continue. As for Rodimer, he was slated to be a third man in Rated RKO with Edge and Orton, and his name was even on WWE's web site in house show matches of 3-on-2 vs DX. Once HHH got hurt, plans for that halted, and now the company is saying that he too is not ready to be on TV as of yet.

* Mick Foley's new book "The Hardcore Diaries" comes out tomorrow, and should be an interesting read. The book is being pushed on WWE TV, despite the fact there are points in the book its very critical of things within the company. Seems a lot like Eric Bishoff's book, which I read and thought was not very good nor very well written. Foley is a pretty good writer though for a wrestler, and this should be one to get. There is word that he will not be a part of Mania, and that some of the higher ups in the company want him off the show for what he said about them in book.

* Even with a weaker lineup this year, the WWE Hall of Fame looks like the hottest ticket in Detroit, as the event sold out Saturday morning in about 25 minutes. Most of the pairs and 4-packs were gone within 5 minutes, and scattered singles were all that were left after that. Last year my friend and I in Chicago, picked up two tickets through the box office the day of the show, and you can bet that can be done again this year. Expect Jim Ross or The Wild Samoans to get announced tonight for the Hall.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

SmackDown 3/2

WWE wrapped up another solid week of TV on Friday night with SmackDown! from San Jose, CA. The main event was another cross-over, as ECW Champ Bobby Lashley took on Ken Kennedy with a stip that Kennedy could do whatever he wanted and that if Lashley did, he would lose the title. In the end, Lashley won a decent match with a powerslam. The other highlights included Lashley and Vince McMahon having another in ring run-in about the match with Lashley and Umaga at WrestleMania. Batista cut another promo on Taker, and this time Taker came on the video screen in a graveyard and said he would make the champ rest in peace at Mania.

The matches on the night of note included two Money in the Bank Qualifier matches. The first was a solid match that saw Matt Hardy advance as he took on and beat Joey Mercury. This leads me more to believe that we'll see MNM in a match together at Mania. The other MITB match was a three-way with Finley, MVP and Chris Benoit. After teasing a Benoit win most of the match, they switched it up and had Finley with with some outside help. This advances him on to the match at Mania. That means we have one more wrestler to add, and I expect that to be Randy Orton tomorrow night on RAW to round out the eight.

There was also a womens match with Ashley beating Jillian Hall, which continues her push to face Melina at Mania, and a six-man cruiserweight match with Scotty 2 Hotty, Shannon Moore & Jimmy Wang Yang beating Gregory Helms,
Daivari & Chavo Guerrero via pinfall. The wrestling on the show was good, and everyone is now so pumped for Mania that you can feel a stronger vibe on pretty much all the shows.

Next week they are doing Undertaker vs Finley, which should be good, and a push for Taker as he will likely get the pinfall win here. I can see Batista doing an appearance at ringside or on the ramp to make it look good as they do another stare down. The one thing about direction of this brand right now is really what to do with Benoit. He is stuck in no-man's land, and unless they come up with something quick, one of the companies best wrestlers will be off the biggest shows of the year.

About me

  • I'm Matt Loede
  • From Cleveland OH
  • Matt has been involved in sports media for over ten years, with experience covering the NFL, NBA, and MLB for the past 13+ years.
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