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February 21, 2000 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: 1999 attendence numbers, WCW turmoil, tons more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN1083-9593 February 21, 2000

BUSINESS TRENDS OVER THE YEARS

 

WORLD WRESTLING FEDERATION

 

HOUSE SHOW AVERAGE ATTENDANCE

'94 '95 '96 '97 '98 '99

January 2,880 2,900 4,890 6,843 7,603 11,195

February 3,130 3,590 6,070 4,633 9,464 14,082

March 3,450 3,190 6,553 5,678 10,363 13,404

April 3,370 3,530 4,485 5,425 7,920 12,894

May 3,570 3,440 5,890 5,421 9,382 11,447

June 3,940 3,000 5,028 5,687 9,568 12,216

July 1,950 2,980 4,733 6,343 9,549 12,317

August 2,470 2,300 5,520 5,359 11,311 12,243

September 2,750 1,940 3,872 4,348 8,526 8,593

October 2,880 3,170 4,133 6,122 11,084 11,862

November 3,230 3,200 3,861 7,440 12,341 11,981

December 1,980 3,230 3,500 6,616 12,963 11,974

 

Yr. avg. 2,880 3,039 4,881 5,826 10,006 12,017

 

WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING

 

HOUSE SHOW AVERAGE ATTENDANCE

'94 '95 '96 '97 '98 '99

January 2,040 2,060 3,050 5,494 8,203 8,661

February 1,440 1,960 3,830 3,823 6,879 8,814

March 1,430 2,040 3,720 5,548 8,512 7,934

April 1,440 1,580 3,790 6,024 7,018 6,876

May 1,460 ----- 2,750 4,348 6,379 5,752

June 1,150 2,400 4,070 6,678 8,579 5,874

July 1,740 2,890 3,200 5,346 10,359 5,453

August 1,570 1,800 2,492 5,224 7,879 5,392

September 450 2,140 3,454 6,811 8,086 3,155

October 2,400 2,930 2,963 3,944 7,559 4,628

November 1,380 2,750 4,037 4,777 6,654 4,434

December 2,970 2,730 3,911 7,649 10,243 3,593

 

Yr avg. 1,620 2,207 3,439 5,472 8,029 5,511

 

For the year, WWF increased attendance 20%. Monday night Raw ratings for the year as an average increased from a 4.40 average in 1998 to a 6.04 average in 1999, a 37% increase. PPV buy rates for the year increased from a 1.02 average in 1998 to a 1.25 average in 1999 which is a 23% increase. In 1998, WWF sold out 33.5% of its house shows while the figure increased to 63% of its shows in 1999. Average live gate per arena show increased from $188,482 in 1998 to $286,495, a whopping 52% caused by a combination of the increase in attendance and an increase in average ticket price from $18.84 to $23.84.

While there has been no slowdown in live event sales in reality, since WWF has traditionally drawn better January through March every year and this year was no exception, there was a noticeable drop in Monday night ratings in August, coinciding with the beginning of football season. Raw averaged a 6.57 from May through July, which was its all-time peak. The show dropped to a 5.84 average from August through December which is a significant decline during a period when more people are watching television, and that's with weaker competition from Nitro. During the 1998 football season, the WWF experienced an increase from its summer numbers even going against NFL football and with Nitro still almost dueling then evenly for audience. It is clear that pro wrestling's increasing popularity hurt the NFL in the 1998 ratings, but that it was the NFL that took the bite out of pro wrestling during the 1999 season. The Raw ratings will and have artificially increased in January by having the full second hour going unopposed. From a PPV standpoint, the story was similar in that it was up most of the year, but actually trailed last year, despite much larger TV ratings, during the final five months of the year.

For WCW, attendance decreased 46% for the year, with almost the entire decrease coming in the second half of the year. Nitro ratings decreased from a 4.47 average in 1998 where it actually beat WWF on average for the year, to a 3.66 average, or an 18% drop. But Nitro had strong ratings through March, when it took its first .6 drop over a one month period, then took a second .9 drop between April and June (May isn't a fair comparison because the NBA playoffs screw up Nitro), and a third big drop in October.

WCW buy rates fell from an 0.93 average in 1998 to an 0.55 average in 1999, which is a 41% drop, which largely explains much of the company's red ink. The big drop period came in April and May, after the Hogan-Flair SuperBrawl match did the last big buy rate, and included embarrassing performances for Fall Brawl in September and Starrcade in December.

In all, WCW sold out 15% of its house shows this past year (and only 2% from August through the end of the year) as compared with selling out 49% of its dates in 1998. WCW averaged $166,190 per house show and only dropped to $142,669, a 14.2% drop, because of increasing its average ticket price from $20.70 in 1998 to $25.89 in 1999.

For All Japan Pro Wrestling, the company fell from averaging 2,243 fans per regular house show (Budokan and Tokyo Dome shows are not included in the average) to 2,158 this past year, a drop of a 3.8%. Including Budokan and Tokyo Dome shows, the average per event would be 3,568, up from 3,440 the previous year, a 3.7% increase. The company played to 37.1% sellouts in 1999 as compared with 41.6% in 1998 and 39.1% in 1997. The company's TV ratings increased to a 3.69 average from 3.33, an 11% increase, but that was mostly due to the monster ratings drawn for the February shows after the death of Giant Baba.

New Japan's regular house show business decreased from a 4,124 average last year to a 3,911 this year, a drop of 5.2% Actually, New Japan business was up overall because it played more major shows and including them would be a 5,183 per event average, up from 4,726 the previous year, a 9.7% increase. The sellout percentage dropped from 53.0% to 43.6%. Television ratings increased from a 2.63 average up to a 3.27, which is a solid 24.3% increase, which means New Japan did increase casual fan and major show interest this past year but the rank and file shows were down, which makes sense due to all the injuries to major talent on the regular touring events.

In comparing the NFL's effect on the ratings over the past two season we see a different story. Nitro averaged a 3.75 rating during the four months preceding football and a 3.18 rating against the NFL, a drop of 15.2% while WWF dropped about 9.6% this season against the NFL.

In 1998, it was a totally different story. Raw averaged a 4.66 rating in the months preceding football and a 4.74 against Monday Night Football while Nitro averaged a 4.23 in the months preceding football and a 4.52 rating against football. Both the wrestling audience in 1998 and 1999 and the football audience in 1998 and 1999 stayed relatively stagnant, with football up slightly and wrestling down 2.9% overall, but football slowed what had been growing momentum for wrestling on Monday this year.


Vince McMahon was on a big media day on 2/10.

He was on Fox News Network with Paula Zohn mainly promoting the XFL. He handled himself pretty well, but you could see that she seemed to lose respect for him when he said there would be absolutely no drug testing in the XFL. He said that was based on a lot of experience with drug testing, that it doesn't work, saying the IOC and NFL drug testing programs aren't successful because there are substances like Growth Hormone that can't be detected in tests. While that is true, and it is true the Atlanta Olympics were dubbed by athletes "The Growth Hormone Olympics," it is generally believed steroid use is way down in the NFL since the drug testing got more serious, but it is obviously not a complete answer. He also knocked the NFL's drug testing procedures because there are legal over-the-counter food supplements (certain EAS brand supplements in particular) that players are warned against taking because they contain elements that sometimes lead to positive test results.

Looking at WWF physiques pre-1992 (no steroid testing) and post-1996 (realistically no steroid testing) and the 1992-95 period reveals huge differences in the physiques of the wrestlers which shows that even if WWF was never a completely "clean" promotion, drug testing was at least a deterrent to lessen usage and dosages, and most likely it is the heavy abuse of those drugs as opposed to mild usage that may squeak through a test that leads to the majority of the health problems anyway. It's also no coincidence that the down period of the WWF's business coincided with the period where steroid use appeared to be at its low point. McMahon has still never really proven he can market wrestling without mainly jacked up physiques successfully. The funny part of all this is if people remember, back in 1991 when McMahon talked about instituting drug testing of wrestlers after the trial of Dr. George Zahorian, that he claimed the company would have unbeatable tests and claimed the tests would catch any use of Growth Hormone as new testing had just been developed. In 1992, when McMahon hired Dr. Mauro DiPasquale (who at the time was the guy the world class powerlifters actually used to call up to tell them how to beat drug testing procedures in that sport) to head the program, DiPasquale claimed to have invented a test that would catch usage of Growth Hormone. When I mentioned McMahon claimed to me several months earlier he already had such a test, he laughed about it. Now eight years later, McMahon is on television saying there is no such test.

When Zohn asked him what percentage of the players in his league does he think will have used steroids, he said he had no way of knowing but said they would be getting their players from college football where they also don't drug test (which shows just how little McMahon has researched this football project making a statement like that because that isn't the case). Comparable minor leagues such as the USFL and Canadian League also didn't drug test and among insiders were known as steroid leagues, but they also didn't advertise that in television interviews as their calling card.

McMahon also knocked the NFL, saying they would hire anyone no matter what their background as long as they can help a team win (which is a very fair knock), and said his league would not hire any convicted felons, but did state he'd hire people who had misdemeanors. It should be noted that the WWF now does background checks for criminal records for anyone they hire as talent. I don't know if there is a hard and fast rule where if someone has a felony in their background they absolutely won't be hired, but it is something taken into consideration.

He also said he was mad at the two investment analysts who downgraded his stock because he said they did so without hearing the entire story of what he was proposing. He also tried to imply that the wrestlers of the WWF feel starting an XFL is a good idea. I'd be skeptical if that's the case (so far I haven't talked to one that was enthusiastic about it as a positive), but I'd also be skeptical if too many, or even any, would actually tell him that directly so his saying that the ones he's talked to about it had a positive reaction would be believable.

It's pretty clear McMahon is trying to use his popular WWF programming as leverage to cut a good deal for the XFL with no track record. When talking about any potential dealings with Fox and FX, the three major downfalls are that UPN holds an option to renew Smackdown for another year which makes it impossible to get a show on Fox unless UPN gives up its option which is going to be difficult to happen, because Fox would have less interest in XFL since it already has an NFL contract and because switching the USA network package to FX would result in a greatly decreased number of viewers at least over the short-haul until that network gets on all the major cable systems, and thus temporarily effect all other revenue streams. TNN has an Arena Football contract, but that league is in the midst of labor troubles, and TNN as a network would love to add highly rated WWF programming and XFL could easily be taken as part of the package. However, being on low-rated TNN would greatly diminish the XFL's chances of success plus it would be a major step down when it comes to cable audience from the USA network, which is currently the No. 1 cable network in prime time.

Logic would say UPN would take the chance on the XFL, since the network is trying to build around teenage male demos which would be the XFL target audience, which guarantees it good promotion within the network, but hardly guarantees it success. The World League with similar caliber players playing in traditional off-season had an ABC contract and still failed hard and fast in this country. There are many NFL teams, which draw far more fans, have sweeter rent deals, better merchandising opportunities and most of all, have umpteen times more guaranteed income from the huge three major network television contract and local market radio rights, that still lose money, and only partially because of larger percentage of revenue they pay for talent. Where owning an NFL team pays off for those franchises is not in the annual profit, but in the ability to sell the franchise at a continually inflating figure. If McMahon creates the league to sell off the franchises, that may work out to become a good investment, but the league is first going to have to be prove itself. If McMahon is truly serious in the idea of his company owning all the teams it will make it harder to make money. Nobody in wrestling we've talked with believes that is the case. Then again, many are also skeptical whether McMahon will be able to resist working the games to best get over marketable stars. The most amusing thing about the press conference was when McMahon was asked that very question and rolled his eyes like it was beneath his dignity to even be asked such a question when he's spent his entire adult life working in an industry that does nothing but works its outcomes and the only thing legit he ever promoted, the Brawl-for-All, was a total disaster largely because it really was legit. While McMahon himself has made a rep as a promoter and is putting himself to the public as the guy who would be hands on inn charge of this venture, the real man running things is going to be Basil DeVito, who has a real sports background, mainly in horse racing, and whose strengths according to those with experience working with him are more as a good talker than as someone suited to run a major pro sports league.

Ultimately success or failure of the league as a whole depends on several things, one of which he has a great advantage in. With one year of television hype for the debut, the curiosity will probably be strong at the start but the product had better be ready. If the product is entertaining, ultimately, people will stay with it, and by product I don't mean the caliber of the players and the game, but more the overall atmosphere. If, after the Super Bowl and the college bowls, the general public has had enough football, which McMahon is counting on not to be the case, he could market it great and a great marketer who produces a product the public doesn't want is not going to be successful. McMahon has one giant advantage in that all sports leagues need the mainstream media to convince the public the games are important. Inherently, whether it be the Super Bowl, or Wrestlemania, the success is more a quality of the hype for the product than the product itself. Most sports are hyped by the TV sportscasters and the newspapers, who control a great deal whether the public thinks a game or a fight is important. If they treat it as third-rate, it's importance becomes third-rate. But McMahon has hours of his own television and a large captive audience. For the same reasons he and other wrestling promoters throughout history since the TV era began haven't needed mainstream newspaper stories and TV news coverage to run a successful company, his own self made TV hype on his wrestling shows may make traditional avenues for sports credibility and coverage less important. But wrestling fans also have to accept it and not resent it as an intrusion. Those were all the same reasons why the WBF would work huge and change bodybuilding into a television entertainment form, and it never caught on. That's all the reason to say why wrestling fans should have been interested in auto racing, or for that matter K-1 kickboxing, or Erik Watts or seeing a washed up Sugar Ray Leonard fight, but in all cases wrestling fans saw it as an intrusion on the product and they didn't result in being a captive audience.

Ultimately, even if he innovates new concepts when it comes to the game such as cameras everywhere or the trappings around the game, or creates new stars, the NFL will institute those same concepts and steal those stars. If you're counting on the idea that since he isn't going to try and bid for NFL-calibre talent and thus will keep the payrolls low as a reason this will succeed where the USFL and WFL didn't, that ignores the failure in the U.S. of the WLAF, which was subsidized by the NFL to an extent, had stronger television coverage than the XFL probably will get, and basically had the same level of players. Another question that needs to be asked, like if McMahon can resist the urge to work aspects of the game to protect marketable stars, is how long he'll be willing to sit back and allow the NFL, with its higher salaries, to cherry pick the best of his players once stars are established. He didn't willingly settle for being second best in wrestling.

To combat the fact his stock took a tumble because of belief this league is grounded in ego rather than business, he wrote an article in the New York Daily News on 2/13 defending his decision, which appeared clear his knowledge of football was largely based on players like Don Joyce, Ernie Ladd and Wahoo McDaniel who wrestled in the WWWF during the 60s and 70s. This led to a full point rally of his stock the next day which closed at $11.31 after being as low late last week as $9.75.

McMahon was also on KNBR radio in San Francisco promoting the XFL. He insisted that his company doesn't hype what it can't deliver and said it was a definite the league would be starting in February 2001 and there would be a team playing home games at 3-Com Park. He talked about having cameras in the huddles, on the sidelines, on the cheerleaders and in the locker rooms.

Naturally the subject of wrestling came up and one of the hosts had seen the 20/20 story on Mick Foley. McMahon ripped on the show, and on news people in general (which the hosts, who supposedly report sports news, laughed at approvingly) in the over-the-top voice he uses saying shows like that use the WWF to boost their ratings and then do sensationalized negative stories. He first said he didn't care because he likes the "bad boy" image, then proceeded to complain about how unfair it was. The host mentioned that Foley walked like an 80-year-old man and was a physical wreck and said that while Foley said he'd do it all over again, intimated that maybe McMahon shouldn't have let him do this much damage to himself.

The other host, who was a wrestling fan, noted McMahon saying after Hell in the Cell that he told Foley to never do anything like that again. McMahon acted as if 20/20 had been totally unfair and exaggerated the negatives in the piece and said that he himself sometimes forgets things and gets lost finding his way home. One of the hosts brought up it was Foley's own wife who made the strongest comments. McMahon then compared her on the 20/20 interview to Robin Givens on the famous Mike Tyson interview years ago and said that Mick Foley would never let his wife do another interview (actually both Foley and his wife agreed it would be best to not put her in that position). Foley appeared to also be upset with the way the 20/20 story came out, since he kind of made fun of the idea that his brain was going on Raw the following Monday. He's told people he felt they painted a darker picture of a deal with the devil type of story about him rather than painted a nice picture of him ending his career as a success and that he can retire at 34 on top and on his own terms after 15 years, and that most football players end their careers due to injuries and don't last 15 years. As it regards the upcoming PPV, McMahon said that precautions have been taken and that Foley would not be able to hurt himself like he did the last time in the Hell in the Cell match.


The WCW is turmoil story only seems to get worse by the week, accentuated this week by changes in the situation with Terry Brunk (Sabu), the dark comedy revolving around Scott Hall, Chris Klucsaritis (Kanyon) asking for a release and the potential debut of Chris Candito and Tammy Sytch being delayed due to them not getting a release from their ECW contract.

Brunk was originally scheduled to be a surprise debut for the 2/14 Nitro show, but at this point it appears he won't even be coming in and his future in the U.S. is temporarily in question. WCW was forced to drop all plans with him due to his contract with ECW, in particular the clause which calls for a filing both with Paul Heyman and with the court in Westchester County in any claim of a breach. WCW in a letter to Heyman said that they have no interest in buying out his contract. Heyman had indicated to many that he wasn't interested in using Brunk any longer, but with his own promotion devastated by injuries, that could change.

The Hall story has gotten completely ridiculous. Hall, who, despite his track record was being pushed for the main event on the 2/20 PPV show as a three-way title match with Sid Vicious and Jeff Jarrett, appeared while getting on the plane to Germany that he hadn't slept in days (he had reportedly told other wrestlers the same story), got sick on the plane going over and was in no condition to perform the first night of the tour. Still, he did wrestle, and as punishment, on 2/11 in Hamburg was asked to put over David Finlay, which he did. He got wins over Finlay the next two nights but his condition wasn't described as being much better. There were incidents every night at bars regarding Hall challenging people to fights and even throwing cake at his girlfriend and moaning to many wrestlers about the last break-up of his marriage. As he went to the airport to fly home with the rest of the crew, his conditioned has worsened to the point the authorities wouldn't allow him on the plane. Terry Taylor, who apparently had trouble with him all weekend, tried to intervene, but with no success, in getting the authorities to just allow him on the plane to fly to New York for Nitro. Because of his condition, he missed the Nitro show at the Nassau Coliseum, where he was supposed to be in a major angle to set up the three-way, which led to the booking of a Jarrett-Vicious singles match on the show for the U.S. title and Jarrett winning.

Hall did get back into the U.S. in time for the Thunder tapings the next night in Philadelphia. There are varying stories over exactly what happened due to these incidents taking place just as this issue was going to press. What is confirmed is that in front of the crowd, the show was held up for more than 30 minutes while they attempted to do the scripted Hall promo, which was supposed to end with Hall breaking a guitar over Jarrett's head. Hall apparently said something that he might break the guitar over Taylor's head, and was taken seriously enough that he was pulled from the angle. Eventually, Bill Busch made the call that they weren't going to allow Hall to do the promo due to his condition and he left the building with Evan Karagias and there were rumors going around that this would be the final straw. Terry Taylor instead took a guitar shot from Jarrett. Hall's future in the company was unclear but he was out that night telling people that he hadn't showed up late and felt he had an iron-clad contract but that he might be sat down again.

The Sabu problems led to a second situation with Heyman and WCW over contracts signed by Candido and Sytch. Both have contracts with ECW, and Heyman has in various places claimed to have fired them. Neither has been paid by ECW for several months or been used, but they also have not filed the claim for a breach. Both were scheduled to debut for WCW on 2/15 in Philadelphia, however that was delayed because Heyman failed to send them a contract release. Heyman said that their situation was that they were caught in the middle of a war between his company and WCW.

While this was going on, locker room morale in WCW continued low in the wake of the return of Hulk Hogan after his comments about Billy Kidman not being able to main event a flea market wrestling show. Several mid-card types were upset by the remark, since it confirmed what everyone believed from the start. Kanyon, who has been friends with Kidman for years and was actually responsible for getting him into WCW, asked for his release from his contract on 2/14 citing his own disappointment over not being pushed after five years with the company and in specific, the Hogan remarks, saying that they showed what the top stars really think of the rest of the guys in the company and he claimed he'd be happier working a regular job during the week and doing independent shows on weekend than making bigger money with no chance of upward mobility in WCW. Bill Busch is expected to make a decision whether or not to let him out of his contract by the end of the week, but he was offered a raise to stay. Due to the push Chris Benoit and company have received and the fact they have made a difference in WWF ratings when given the chance, something they were rarely put in the position to do with WCW and when they were, that position was quickly taken away, there is more and more feeling of wanting to be where the action is.


Harrison Norris (Hard Body Harrison), Bobby Walker and Kazuo Onoo (Sonny Onoo) filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against WCW on 2/11 in federal court in Atlanta.

The lawsuit claims all three were forced to portray demeaning stereotypical roles as minorities in pro wrestling and not allowed to get roles reserved for white performers, and also claim white performers earn more money than their minority counterparts. One of the members of the legal team representing the wrestlers is former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers, who campaigned for Governor in 1998 ironically enough on ending affirmative action programs. Bowers accused Time Warner of hypocrisy for promoting racial stereotypes at the same time it condemned the same practices with the suspension of Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker for his comments in Sports Illustrated.

The suit claims WCW violated federal racial discrimination laws, humiliated minority performers and created a hostile work environment. The performers are also suing claiming that wrestlers should receive the status of company employees and not independent contractor status, which would enable them to receive workmen's compensation benefits. Norris, who is claiming that he lost his job because he was black, is looking for his contract to be reinstated. The lawsuit also noted the company's racial policy because a white performer (Buff Bagwell) appeared in black face to promote a match against a black performer (Ernest Miller). The lawsuit claims the promoters continue to push white wrestlers at the expense of minority wrestlers in the scripts and that racial epithets are used and nasty racial jokes are posted at the WCW offices according to exhibits in the lawsuit. The three have also prepared complaints to file with the EEOC office in Atlanta.

There has been a long history, dating back to Claude "Thunderbolt" Patterson, who is Walker's uncle and is a well-known activist in Atlanta, going back to the 1970s, of complaints by black wrestlers that white promoters based in Atlanta and the entire wrestling establishment, because of the sensitivity of racial issues in that city, have been unfair to them. Settling of these issues in some cases have forced wrestlers to be pushed and for almost blackmail purposes of at times minority wrestlers getting and keeping jobs. Not that all of their complaints have not been without validity at various times since this is an industry that has promoted based on racial stereotypes and it was in many territories as late as the 70s and 80s (and in the case of the old AWA, actually never), when black wrestlers were allowed to win regional championships and even later the major world heavyweight titles. But this is a game that has been played in that city for more than 20 years.

Actually, if there has been an ethnic group discriminated against in WCW, it would be the Latinos, since they have proved talent and marketability, but have been stereotyped in minor roles. In the case of Norris and Walker, they are wrestlers of marginal ability, while Onoo's involvement in this suit is almost comical since he was one of Eric Bischoff's closest confidants in the office, was a character that was poorly received due to the stereotypical role that he himself had a hand in creating, and was removed from television because of his alignment with Bischoff and because his character was a bad joke, even if the complaints that talented Asian wrestlers such as Ultimo Dragon, Yuji Nagata and Kaz Hayashi have not been given fair opportunities given white performers or similar ability in the company, have some validity. And we have heard talk that some of Dragon's students may, through Onoo, be pulled into this action to give it more teeth.

Patterson sued both Jim Crockett Promotions and Georgia Championship Wrestling, Inc. in the late 1970s charging both companies with discriminating against him because he was black. The suit ended up in federal court in 1982 with both sides incurring heavy legal fees for several years, and was settled out of court with Patterson receiving $20,000.


To serious wrestling fans from another generation, the death in late 1998 of Uncle Burt Ray, who was considered a pioneer of wrestling newsletters, was probably the most underplayed news story within wrestling of that year.

For many years, people thought that I got the idea of the Wrestling Observer from growing up reading "Matmania," the newsletter that Ray put out. The truth is that Ray had given up the newsletter long before I started reading newsletters. I had never even seen a copy of "Matmania" until well into the 80s, when a reader sent it to me like it was the holy grail. At the time I couldn't really understand what all the reverence was about. My own first experience reading newsletters came at the age of ten. There were two newsletters that stood out, one called "Wrestling Information Bulletin" put out by Ron Dobratz, and the other was called "Mat News" put out by Mike Tenay and Steve Guiremand, the latter of whom became a highly-regarded sportswriter in Southern California. The latter, as irony would have it, was actually printed at the wrestling office of the LeBelle promotion in Los Angeles. And it had what would be the beginnings of inside news and even some thought-provoking articles. It was the only newsletter at the time to say that the 1972 Bruno Sammartino vs. Pedro Morales Shea Stadium Match of the Century was a lengthy snoozefest, or to note that Sammartino, who was at the time probably the most popular wrestler in the country, was actually booed somewhat by the strongly nationalistic Puerto Rican contingent of fans. The local newspaper reports of the show at the time actually headlined with the shock of Sammartino being booed, but the wrestling magazines at the time didn't dare hint at that, in fact, some said the newspaper reports were inaccurate and that Sammartino wasn't booed by anyone. Every other source put it over as an all-time classic simply because of who was in it and because of how big a deal it was at the time. Face vs. face main event matches were exceedingly rare as WWF main events and this one went more than an hour, so it had to be a classic.

I later did learn that while I never saw "Matmania," that "Matmania" was the newsletter that inspired Tenay to do "Mat News." It would make a cute story to then say that Tenay's newsletter inspired me to do a newsletter, but that wouldn't be true either.

I'm not sure what any of this has to do with today other than after Ray's death I was sent a copy of a "Matmania" issue from more than 33 years ago, late 1966 to be exact, and found both it, and the state of the wrestling business at the time, to be completely fascinating.

As journalism, I was disappointed in "Matmania." While Ray wasn't shy about criticizing promoters at all, and didn't hold back his disdain for many of them, which was totally opposed to what everyone else in wrestling would write at the time, there was only the slightest trace of a hint that wins and losses weren't predetermined. Even as a 10-year-old reading Tenay's stuff made it clear that he knew and was writing between the lines about it, and Guiremand would come as close as he could to outright saying so without crossing the line. Ray, on the other hand, would complain, for example, about Tank Morgan getting a title match with Sammartino at Madison Square Garden by saying that he was a wrestler who had lost 90 percent of his matches down South. In the ratings, it was interesting to note that Ray Stevens, who has always been considered by those within the business as the best actual worker of that era, was only ranked No. 17, behind the likes of Sammartino, Dick the Bruiser and Bobo Brazil, who were all huge national names, but not anymore in his league as a worker than Lex Luger would be comparable to Chris Benoit. It was almost a PWI-level writing and ratings system which acted like winners and losers were the most important thing about the business. Based on that, I was surprised in the ratings to see Sammartino No. 5, and not No. 1. He was trailing Gene Kiniski, the NWA champion at the time, who I saw many years later and even then was an awesome worker, Lou Thesz, who was by this point 50 years old and rated No. 2 which I guess speaks volumes for the respect he must have had at the time, Bruiser and Fritz Von Erich.

The newsletter was an amazing endeavor because of the amount of results it covered, and more importantly, how huge the business was at the time and how much it had to cover.

When it comes to visibility as it pertains to merchandise and mainstream media coverage, pro wrestling has never been anywhere close to this level. I wasn't alive during its big popularity boom fueled by network television in the late 40s and early 50s, but sensing what that time was like with the advent of television, the fact there were only a half-dozen stations in every market, and wrestling at its peak aired four times per week in prime time fare on the networks, pro wrestling during that time frame had to be tons more mainstream than it could even dream of being today, just as when visiting Japan for the first time, when all three major companies had network exposure and were doing 15-20 ratings on Friday and Saturday night and the women were pulling 15's on Saturday afternoons, that represents far more of a mainstream following than a 6.5 rating on cable, even if tickets for live shows weren't as hot in that era as they are for the WWF today. I know that everyone I've ever met that was growing up in 1950 knew who Argentina Rocca and Lou Thesz were, even if they had never been a wrestling fan for a day in their life, let alone Gorgeous George, who from a mainstream standpoint was the most famous of them all and at one point the biggest television star in the country, a status neither Hulk Hogan nor Steve Austin ever came close to.

But still, I wasn't expecting to read about wrestling in 1966 and come away thinking that in many ways it was bigger than it is today. It's not like anyone talks about the 60s as anything but a down period between the peaks of the early 50s and the 80s. So here's few notes from one month in 1966 to show just what a down period it was for the wrestling industry.

At that point in history, there were about 30 different full-time promotions that generally ran just about every night of the week in the United States and Canada. Many of those offices ran weekly shows in their major cities. More did than didn't. The promoters at that time like Vince McMahon Sr., Wally Karbo, Sam Muchnick and Roy Shire, who ran major shows in their big cities every few weeks, were the exception to the rule. It's also interesting that all four of those promoters were still around more then a decade later. On every night, there were anywhere from 30 to 50 major league pro wrestling events in the United States and Canada. Today, there are about 50 per month. While there were no million dollar a year wrestlers (nor were there more than one or two mainstream sports stars who earned $100,000 per year), with that many shows per night, you are talking about 600 to 700 full-time pro wrestlers getting five or six nights per week of work. Most were barely eking out a small income, as opposed to today when there are about 150 full-time wrestlers in the United States and Canada who make a very nice income, none of whom work more than 18 matches per month, but nowhere near as many wrestlers either work full-time or can earn a living from the profession. Information in those days was far more difficult to come by, so the amount of people working together as correspondents to cover the business so thoroughly must have been amazing. What today would be called inside information, was largely non-existent.

But in a brief read, some facts about the period, you know, a dead period in the business, were shocking. In a note about a promotional war in Seattle and Vancouver, it noted that Vancouver promoter Rod Fenton was clearly winning the war with his weekly shows drawing 15,000 to 18,000 fans every Friday night. Weekly shows drawing 15,000 to 18,000 fans??? The only place in the last 20 years I ever heard of that was Arena Mexico in its early 90s peak. If you're wondering who the headliners were that were drawing such crowds, the names included Domenic DeNucci, Don Jardine (later famous as The Spoiler), the tag team of Ray Stevens & Pat Patterson (who were flying in regularly from their San Francisco base), Dutch Savage, John Tolos, Gene Kiniski (the NWA champion at the time) and Don Leo Jonathan. Lou Thesz, Bill Miller and Killer Kowalski were all flown in for one show that month as well. The traveling itself surprised me. I was under the impression that wrestlers basically stuck to their circuits. And that was true for the journeymen wrestlers. But in the issue I saw, Stevens, for example, was wrestling as a regular in San Francisco, but also made major shows in the Los Angeles, Vancouver, Seattle and Texas circuits and was being promoted for an Australian tour.

Los Angeles was written up as the wrestling capital of the world at the time. Live matches were held every Wednesday and Friday night at the famed Olympic Auditorium, averaging 4,000 every Wednesday and 10,000 every Friday with Thesz, Brazil, Mark Lewin, Pedro Morales and The Destroyer as the top draws. As hot as wrestling is today, do you think there is even one market in the country that could support shows twice per week and draw 52 weeks a year like that?

The issue also had a long article on why Muchnick and St. Louis did not have the best wrestling in the U.S., which appeared to go against the grain of the common wisdom of the time. When writing about St. Louis, which drew about 6,500 fans for its two shows that month, the newsletter noted "There are at least 100 cities than average more than this." He also knocked Muchnick for not developing new talent for the sport, noting that on his November 25, 1966 show that only one wrestler on that card got his start in St. Louis, and that was Thesz, who had gotten his start 31 years earlier. But it admitted Muchnick's name value within the business as being huge. Ray wrote, "The foremost wrestler in the United States in the eyes of the outside world is Sam Muchnick. As the President of the NWA, he has more or less final say-so on matters dealing with the government. Many people feel that he is the best promoter in the business. The first person I heard this from was Sam Muchnick. As far as that goes, the info dealing with the government was supplied to me by Sam. In short, he is the best promoter in wrestling. If you don't believe him, ask him...I simply believe there are many areas that have better wrestling than his. More wrestling. Better talent. Draw more fans. Add more to the continued success of wrestling."

The international coverage was impressive, and the international popularity of wrestling at that time was mind-blowing. It was impressive that anyone could write with such knowledge of so many circuits at once, all over the world, particularly before the advent of videotapes and satellite dishes. When covering a young wrestler in Germany, Horst Hoffman (who about six or seven years later came to the U.S. and Japan and was a top star in both places), he wrote, "People who have seen both say that if Karl Gotch and Hoffman were to wrestle 100 times, that Hoffman would easily win at least 95 of those matches." I guess, looking back, there was something inside there, in that Gotch's name was used for the comparison and not Kiniski or Sammartino.

There were literally pages of news on wrestling in England, making a big deal about how it is not unusual in England for a 145-pound man to beat a 225-pound man. It said that Dale Martin Promotions in England, with 50 regular weekly cities, was by far the largest promotion in the world at the time. In covering France, which appeared to have a half-dozen shows per night at that point in time (as opposed to basically no known pro wrestling in that country at all nowadays), about the only thing that showed up in the results for that month were that both Frank Valois and Eddie Weicz (Edouard Carpentier) were headliners there at the time. On a show in a place called "Palais del la Mutualite," there was a 20-year-old wrestler in the mid-card named Jean Ferre, who of course later became famous world wide a decade later as Andre the Giant. On that very same card in the semi-main event was a British wrestler named Bill Robinson.

New Zealand didn't have many familiar names to American fans as compared with Australia, but they mentioned a 760-pound man named King Kong (former Olympic games wrestler Emile Czaja, who was a huge star in that part of the world for decades, but judging from a photo, he appeared to be closer to 470 as he resembled a much fatter version of Vader). They did mention that Peter Maivia, the grandfather of The Rock, got his start wrestling in New Zealand wrestling as Peter Anderson.

There was also coverage of wrestling in places like Japan, Korea, Lebanon and Belgium, all of which appeared to have regular full-time promotions. Japan had two at the time and a third was about to open. Japan was where the business went in the other direction. None of these places has any full-time wrestling today. Japan now has 61 pro wrestling companies, although most so insignificant they fall below the radar.

The newsletter didn't have a word about Mexico, but wrestling must have been huge there at the time since it was the heyday of people like El Santo and Blue Demon as movie stars, and Mil Mascaras would have been starting his career.

And then we get to India and Pakistan. Ray wrote, "It is not unusual to have matches drawing anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 fans." It talked about a wrestler named Bhola Gladi who headlined three recent shows that drew more than 100,000 apiece.

There was an article talking about British star Bert Assirati, who has both a legendary pro wrestler and also one of the strongest men in the world, proclaiming him as perhaps the greatest wrestler of the past 35 years. While Assirati certainly had a formidable reputation and legend in England, and was known by wrestlers in every corner of the world as being one of the toughest and most feared bullies that ever lived, like a real-life version of the Tank Abbott/Dick the Bruiser fantasy, the reason given for this is that Assirati suffered so few defeats during his career, which when it comes to pro wrestling, is hardly an indication of anything but yet another fantasy.

Reflecting on all this, another reality set in. Wrestling has always had its ups and downs. Those circuits that we're talking about that were on fire in 1966, many of them were out of business only a few years later. I don't know if it's easier or harder to promote pro wrestling successfully today. It must be harder, because only a few can do it successfully. But for those who can, it is far easier, because there are so many different streams of revenue. It appeared that in the 60s there was so much more pro wrestling on a world wide basis, with so many countries having their own individual circuits not to mention more than two dozen circuits domestically.

Today, Austria/Germany still has the Otto Wanz circuit, which is barely surviving, even as compared with a few years ago. England has its club wrestling, although nothing compared to its peak period, which I suppose was in the 70s. Ditto Australia. France, Belgium, India and Pakistan, with all those 100,000 crowds, and the stories of the same in the Middle East, none even have any form of regular pro wrestling today. Korea, the first country where the national wrestling hero became a famous Senator, ended up being just another country that saw its full-time wrestling circuit go the way of the Roller Derby and the AWA.


The only ratings question of the week was whether or not WCW Nitro would beat the Westminster Dog show on the USA network on 2/14. The answer was negative, and while many people are taking it as a joke, the dog show is a traditional huge ratings getter for USA which is why Raw gets moved back because of it.

Raw ended up doing a 4.32 rating (4.56 first hour; 4.10 second hour) and 12.3 share in the 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. time slot. While the audience declined throughout the two plus hours due to the slot, the share increased throughout with the last six minutes doing a 17.2 share. The Rock vs. Benoit match which started after midnight still drew a 4.52 rating. Nitro drew a 3.64 rating (a horrible 3.07 first hour and a 3.96 second hour) with a 5.5 share, peaking with a 4.36 for the Flair vs. Hogan match. More bad news for WCW is that its top pushed face and top pushed heel on recent television, Vicious vs. Jarrett, pushed above Flair and Hogan as the main event, saw the rating for their match drop more than a full point from the Flair-Hogan rating against no other wrestling competition doing a 3.34 rating for the main event. The USA Network's Westminster dog show did a 3.89 rating over the three hours and a 6.0 share.

Smackdown on 2/10 drew a 5.23 rating and 7.9 share against first-run network sweeps competition making it the second highest rating in the show's history (the show two weeks ago against the state of the union speech did better but that was against easy competition). Thunder on 2/9 did a 2.49 rating and 3.9 share.

Weekend numbers for 2/12-13 saw Livewire at 1.7, Superstars at 1.7 and Sunday Night Heat at 3.36. WCW Saturday Night was up to a 1.8.

ECW on TNN showed an increase to a 1.14 rating and a 1.9 share, with growth in all four quarters peaking with a 1.27 rating for the ending of Raven vs. Credible and the post-match with the Rhodes interview and attack of him. RollerJam did an 0.60.


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RESULTS

 

2/8 Austin, TX (WWF Smackdown/Heat tapings - 12,337 sellout): Lance Cade & Spanky b American Dragon & Shooter Schultz, D-Lo Brown b Head Banger Thrasher, WWF lt hwt title: Papi Chulo b Gillberg to win title, Big Bossman b Mark Henry & Mae Young, Viscera b Sho Funaki, Tazz b Joey Abs, European title: Kurt Angle b Val Venis to win title, Perry Saturn b Grandmaster Sexay, Edge & Christian b Dudleys, Dean Malenko b Scotty 2 Hotty, Non-title: Rock & Cactus Jack b New Age Outlaws, Gangrel & Luna b Prince Albert & Jacqueline, Rikishi Phatu b Chris Benoit-DQ, Al Snow & Steve Blackman b Matt & Jeff Hardy, Chris Jericho b Bob & Crash Holly, Kane b Hunter Hearst Helmsley & X-Pac-DQ

2/8 Mexico City Arena Coliseo (EMLL): Mano Negra Jr. & El Filoso & Alacran b Alan Stone & Motocross & Enemigo Publico, Lady Apache & Flor Metalica b Marcela & La Amapola, Dr. O'Borman Jr. & Halcon Negro Jr. & Rencor Latino b Astro Rey Jr. & Brazo de Oro & Tony Rivera, Brazo de Plata & Lizmark Sr. & Ringo Mendoza b Cien Caras & Mascara Ano 2000 & Gran Markus Jr., Olimpico b Blue Panther

2/8 Croydon, England (All Star Wrestling): Power Ranger b Redneck Reilly, Mal Sanders b Christian Eckstein, Legend of Doom b Karl Kramer, Marty Jones b James Mason, Earthquake John Tenta & Robbie Brookside b Shooting Star & Mad Dog Kimble

2/9 Tunica, MS (Memphis Championship Wrestling TV taping): Jim Neidhart b Dr. Bud, Xena b Downtown Bruno, Jerry Lawler b ?-DQ, Reckless Youth & Blue Meanie b Danny B & Brickhouse Brown, Grand Master Sexay b Curtis Hughes-DQ

2/9 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (LLPW): Sayuri Okino b Miho Watabe, Carol Midori b Aya Koyama, Rumi Kazama b Keiko Aono, Harley Saito b Shark Tsuchiya, Eagle Sawai b Noriyo Tateno, Masao Orihara & Takeshi Ono b Ryuji Hijikata & Shinobu Kandori

2/9 Tlanepantla (AAA - 2,000 sellout): Terry Bolanos & Griego b Aracindo & Condor 2000, El Barbaro & El Violento & Enrique El Salvaje b Rocky Santana & Aladino & Maravilla Espacial, Ovett & Angel o Demonio & Leon Rojo b Kick Boxer & Thai Boxer & Toro Hirokson-DQ, Cibernetico & AAA Psicosis & Maniaco b Canek & Hector Garza & El Alebrije

2/10 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (AJW/JWP joint show - 1,400): Kumiko Maekawa b Kayoko Haruyama, Devil Masami & Akyuto Sae b Miyuki Fujii & Kayo Noumi, Manami Toyota & Azumi Hyuga & Miho Wakizawa b Dynamite Kansai & Yumiko Hotta & Tsubasa Kuragaki, Runyuyu b Nanae Takahashi, JWP tag titles: Zaps I & T b Carlos Amano & Commando Boirshoi

2/10 Matsuyama (Toryumon - 1,800): Nishii b Ryo Saito, Daijyu Kawauchi b Stalker Ichikawa, Chocoball Kobe b Yoshiyuki Saito, IWRG tag titles: Yasushi Kanda & Susumu Mochizuki b Yoshikazu Taru & Makoto, Cima & Suwa & Sumo Dandy Fuji b Magnum Tokyo & Masaaki Mochizuki & Genki Horiguchi

2/10 Bristol, England (All Star Wrestling - 416): Karl Kramer b James Mason, Chic Cullen b John Riley, Robbie Brookside d Christian Eckstein, Brookside & Cullen won four-way over Mason & Eckstein, Pete Collins & Kramer and Riley & Vic Powers

2/11 Denver (WWF - 10,412 sellout): Godfather & D-Lo Brown b Mideon & Crash Holly, Tazz b Kurt Angle-DQ, IC title: Chris Jericho b Bob Holly, Too Cool won three-way over Head Bangers and Al Snow & Steve Blackman, Kane & Cactus Jack b X-Pac & Hunter Hearst Helmsley, Mark Henry b Prince Albert, WWF tag titles: New Age Outlaws b Edge & Christian, Jeff Hardy b D-Von Dudley, Rikishi Phatu b Big Bossman

2/11 Hamburg, Germany (WCW - 6,500 sellout): Booker T b Dustin Rhodes, Norman Smiley b Brian Knobs, Terry Funk b David Flair, David Finlay b Scott Hall, Jim Duggan b The Wall, Berlyn b Vampiro, WCW tag titles: Big Vito & Johnny the Bull b Ron & Don Harris, WCW title: Sid Vicious b Jeff Jarrett

2/11 Osaka (New Japan - 3,500): Wataru Inoue b Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinya Makabe b Katsuyoshi Shibata, El Samurai & Minoru Tanaka b Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Dr. Wagner Jr., Jushin Liger & Kendo Ka Shin b Shinjiro Otani & Koji Kanemoto, Brian Johnston & Tadao Yasuda b Yuji Nagata & Masakazu Fukuda, Scott Norton b Kenzo Suzuki, Hiro Saito & Michiyoshi Ohara & Tatsutoshi Goto b Genichiro Tenryu & Shiro Koshinaka & Junji Hirata, 2 of 3 falls: Tatsumi Fujinami & Kensuke Sasaki & Shinya Hashimoto & Takashi Iizuka & Manabu Nakanishi b Masahiro Chono & Don Frye & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima & Super J

2/11 Washington, DC (ECW - 1,000 sellout): Danny Doring & Roadkill b Dupp Brothers 1/4*, Mikey Whipwreck b Tom Marquez DUD, Nova & Chris Chetti & Kid Kash b C.W. Anderson & Bill Wiles & Simon Diamond 1/2*, Super Crazy b Little Guido *1/2, ECW title: Mike Awesome b Angel DUD, Vic Grimes b Julio Fantastico *, Lance Storm b Raven **, Sandman & Tommy Dreamer & Pitbull #1 (Gary Wolfe) NC Rhino & Jack Victory & Steve Corino DUD, Masato Tanaka b Justin Credible *1/2

2/11 Mexico City Arena Mexico (EMLL TV taping): Reyes Veloz & Sangre Azteca b La Flecha & Sombra de Plata, Pantera & Super Kendo & Triton b Karloff Lagarde Jr. & Virus & El Hijo del Gladiador, Safari & Felino & Antifaz b Black Warrior & Pimpinela Escarlata & Zumbido, El Satanico & Shocker & Scorpio Jr. & Bestia Salvaje b Tarzan Boy & Negro Casas & Emilio Charles Jr. & M.r Niebla, CMLL lt hwt title: Villano III b Atlantis

2/11 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (All Japan women/JWP joint show - 2,030 sellout): Takako Inoue & Commando Boirshoi b Yumiko Hotta & Miyuki Fujii, Akyuto Sae & Tsubasa Kuragaki b Devil Masami & Kayo Noumi, Tomoko Watanabe & Nanae Takahashi b Mima Shimoda & Etsuko Mita-COR, All-Pacific title: Azumi Hyuga b Kumiko Maekawa to win title, Manami Toyota & Dynamite Kansai & Kaoru Ito b Runyuyu & Carlos Amano & Miho Wakizawa

2/11 Kawasaki (CMLL Japan - 896 sellout): Chikako Shiratori b La Diabolica, Max Bunnies I & II & III b Enigma & Tortuga & Mr. Aguila, Super Cacao & Arkangel & Fugaz b Ricky Marvin & Tigre Blanco & Starman, Dos Caras & Fantasma & Solar b Violencia & Rey Bucanero & Ultimo Guerrero, IWA hwt title: Mil Mascaras b Apolo Dantes

2/11 Kawasaki (Battlarts - 756): Carl Malenko b Ryuji Hijikata, British jr. title: Curry Man (Christopher Daniels) b Tsubo Genjin, Mohammed Yone & Naoki Sano b Alexander Otsuka & Minoru Fujita, Katsumi Usuda & Yuki Ishikawa b Mitsuya Nagai & Takeshi Ono, Mil Mascaras & Dos Caras b Daisuke Ikeda & Ikuto Hidaka

2/11 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (IWA): Poison Suwada & Takashi Uwano b Takeshi Sato & Yuji Kito, Katsumi Hirano & Yuki Nishino b Viking Taniguchi & Nakamura, Tadahiro Ishii & Shoichi Ichinomiya b Katsutoshi Niiyama & Hiroki Araiwa, Masao Orihara b Great Takeru, Mima Shimoda b Obachi Iizuka, Bunkhouse match: Leatherface (Rick Patterson) b Freddy Kruger (Doug Gilbert), Tarzan Goto & Kendo Nagasaki & Ichiro Yaguchi b Jason the Terrible & Keizo Matsuda & Yoshiya Yamashita, Hair vs. hair handicap match: Kiyoshi Asano b Freddy Kruger #1 & #2

2/11 Tijuana (AAA): Forastero b Tarot, Neon & Guepardo b Peligro Mortal & Silencio Negro, El Bueno & El Malo & El Feo b Mandingo & Mazambula & Mozambique, Oscar Sevilla & Nino de la Calle & Fifth Dimension b Escorpion Negro & El Apache & Jose Ramona, Mexican national middleweight title: Espectro Jr. b Oriental, El Texano & Kick Boxer & Pentagon b Heavy Metal & Perro Aguayo Jr. & La Parka Jr.

2/11 Fajardo, PR (IWA - 375): Steve Bradley d Jesus Cristobol, Ms. Aki (Aki Kanbayashi aka Miss Mongol) b Chaparita Asari, Andy Anderson b Nuevo Gran Apolo, Head Hunter #2 b Ricky Banderas, IWA jr. title: Mikami b Sean Hill, Rastaman b Miguel Perez, Savio Vega & Huracan Castillo Jr. b Ricky Santana & Fidel Sierra

2/11 Manati, PR (WWC - 450): El Exotico b El Rockero, Maelo Huertas b Rico Suave (Julio Estrada), Dutch Mantel b Black Boy, Rex King b Jose Rivera Jr., Carlos Colon b Ray Gonzalez-DQ, Shane b Jim Steele-DQ, Pierroth Jr. & Invader #1 b Chicky Starr & Victor

2/12 San Diego (WWF - 12,423 sellout): Godfather & D-Lo Brown b Viscera & Crash Holly, Tazz b Mideon, Jeff Hardy b D-Von Dudley, Three-way for IC title: Chris Jericho won over X-Pac and Bob Holly, Prince Albert b Mark Henry, Al Snow & Steve Blackman won three-way over Too Cool and Head Bangers, WWF tag titles: New Age Outlaws b Christian & Edge, Rikishi Phatu b Big Bossman, WWF title: Kane b Hunter Hearst Helmsley-DQ

2/12 Oberhausen, Germany (WCW - 11,000 sellout): Booker b Stevie Ray 3/4*, Jim Duggan b The Wall DUD, WCW tag titles: Ron & Don Harris b Big Vito & Johnny the Bull *1/2, Vampiro b David Flair *1/4, Norman Smiley b Dustin Rhodes-DQ 3/4*, Terry Funk & Smiley b Rhodes & Brian Knobs *, Scott Hall b David Finlay -*1/4, Berlyn b Tom Gerhardt DUD, WCW title: Sid Vicious b Jeff Jarrett *1/2

2/12 Wakayama (New Japan - 1,500 sellout): Katsuyoshi Shibata b Wataru Inoue, Masakazu Fukuda b Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kendo Ka Shin & El Samurai b Shinya Makabe & Shinjiro Otani, Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Koji Kanemoto b Dr. Wagner Jr. & Jushin Liger, Hiro Saito & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Super J b Kenzo Suzuki & Manabu Nakanishi & Shiro Koshinaka, Satoshi Kojima & Don Frye & Scott Norton b Brian Johnston & Tadao Yasuda & Shinya Hashimoto, Michiyoshi Ohara & Tatsutoshi Goto & Masahiro Chono b Yuji Nagata & Takashi Iizuka & Kensuke Sasaki

2/12 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (All Japan - 2,100 sellout): Jun Izumida b Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Haruka Eigen & Masa Fuchi b Makoto Hashi & Mitsuo Momota & Rusher Kimura, Kentaro Shiga b Maunukea Mossman, Giant Kimala II b Masao Inoue, Tamon Honda & Yoshinari Ogawa & Mitsuharu Misawa b Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada & Takeshi Morishima, Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama b Stan Hansen & Johnny Smith, Steve Williams & Vader b Yoshihiro Takayama & Takao Omori

2/12 Norfolk, VA (ECW - 1,300 sellout): Julio Fantastico b Chilly Willy, Super Crazy & Tom Marquez b Dupp Brothers, Little Guido b Kid Kash, Nova & Chris Chetti b C.W. Anderson & Bill Wiles, Raven b Mikey Whipwreck, Masato Tanaka & Pitbull #1 b Angel & Vic Grimes, Tommy Dreamer b Simon Diamond, ECW tag titles: Justin Credible & Lance Storm b Danny Doring & Roadkill, ECW title: Mike Awesome b Rhino

2/12 Nagoya (CMLL Japan - 600): Tortuga & Enigma & Lyguila b Maxx Bunny I & II & III, La Diabolica b Chikako Shiratori, Ricky Marvin & Tigre Blanco b Fugaz & Super Cacao, Rey Bucanero & Ultimo Guerrero & Arkanagel b Solar & Fantasma & Starman, Mil Mascaras & Dos Caras & Alexander Otsuka b Apolo Dantes & Violencia & Ikuto Hidaka

2/12 Imabari (Toryumon - 830): Kennichiro Arai b Ryo Saito, Makoto b Daijyu Kawauchi, Yoshikazu Taru b Stalker Ichikawa, Yasushi Kanda & Susumu Mochizuki b Masaaki Mochizuki & Chocoball Kobe, Cima & Suwa & Sumo Dandy Fuji b Magnum Tokyo & Yoshiyuki Saito & Genki Horiguchi

2/12 Mayaguez, PR (IWA - 250): Steve Bradley b Mikami, Chaparita Asari b Saya Endo, Sean Hill b Huracan Castillo Jr., Savio Vega b Fidel Sierra, Andy Anderson b Nuevo Gran Apolo, Ricky Santana NC Miguel Perez, Ricky Banderas & Jesus Cristobol b Head Hunter #2 & Rastaman

2/12 Memphis (Power Pro TV): Derrick King won three-way for vacant Young Guns title over Chris Michaels and Alan Steele, Tommy Rogers b Robert Gibson, Lance Jade b Bulldog Raines, 2 Falk 4 Sure NC Seven, PPW title: Ali b Seven-DQ

2/12 Nashville, TN (NWA Nashville - 252): Barry Houston b Chris Champion, Big Bully Douglas b Tommy Rose, Shane Morton & Gary Valiant b Quentin Charisma & Faron Foxx, Cassidy "Reilly & Mike Sanders b Damian & Spunkmeyer, Kid Romeo b Air Paris, Colorado Kid b G.Q. (WCW Sonny Siaki)-DQ, Kory Williams & Ashley Hudson b Reno Riggins & Steven Dunn

2/12 Paragould, AR (Memphis Championship Wrestling - 250): Danny B b Chip Diver, Bitty Little DCOR Ron McClarity, Fabulous Rocker b Hammer, Motley Cruz b Gangsta Big (Spellbinder aka Del Rios), Blue Meanie b Bud Ghanja, Reckless Youth b K.Krush, Lumberjack match: Curtis Hughes DCOR Jim Neidhart

2/13 Davis, CA (WWF - 7,996 sellout): Papi Chulo b Sho Funaki, Joey Abs b Brooklyn Brawler, Too Cool b Head Bangers, Faarooq b Al Snow, Bradshaw b Steve Blackman, Matt & Jeff Hardy b Dudleys, IC title: Chris Jericho b Bob Holly, Rock & Rikishi Phatu b Hunter Hearst Helmsley & X-Pac

2/13 Bakersfield, CA (WWF): Godfather b Gangrel, Kurt Angle b Tazz, D-Lo Brown b Mideon, Edge b Big Bossman, Prince Albert b Mark Henry, Christian b Crash Holly, WWF tag titles: Cactus Jack & Kane b New Age Outlaws-DQ

2/13 Leipzig, Germany (WCW - 6,000): Norman Smiley b David Flair, Jim Duggan b The Wall, WCW tag titles: Big Vito & Johnny the Bull b Ron & Don Harris to win titles, Vampiro b Berlyn, Booker b Stevie Ray, Scott Hall b David Finlay, Terry Funk won three-way over Dustin Rhodes and Brian Knobs, WCW title: Sid Vicious b Jeff Jarrett

2/13 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (All Japan - 2,100 sellout): Takao Omori b Takeshi Morishima, Yoshihiro Takayama b Giant Kimala II, Kentaro Shiga & Mitsuo Momota & Rusher Kimura d Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Haruka Eigen & Masa Fuchi, Masamichi Marufuji & Yoshinari Ogawa & Mitsuharu Misawa d Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Jun Akiyama & Kenta Kobashi, Steve Williams & Vader b Masao Inoue & Tamon Honda, Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada & Jun Izumida b Stan Hansen & Johnny Smith & Maunukea Mossman

2/13 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Gaea): Mayumi Ozaki b Toshiyo Yamada, Chigusa Nagayo & Sumie Uematsu b Rie & Akira Hokuto, AAAW tag titles: Sugar Sato & Chikayo Nagashima b Lioness Asuka & Sonoko Kato, AAAW title: Aja Kong b Kaoru

2/13 Cieles, PR (IWA - 300): Jesus Cristobol b Mikami, Chaparita Asari b Ms. Aki, Andy Anderson b Steve Bradley, Miguel Perez b Rastaman, Nuevo Gran Apolo b Sean Hill, Ricky Santana d Ricky Banderas, Huracan Castillo Jr. & Savio Vega b Fidel Sierra & Head Hunter #2

2/13 Fukuoka (Battlarts - 686): Takeshi Ono b Ryuji Hijikata, Katsumi Usuda b Mohammed Yone, Naoki Sano & Curry Man b Ikuto Hidaka & Minoru Fujita, Independent jr. title: Minoru Tanaka b Hiroyoshi Kotsubo, Daisuke Ikeda & Mitsuya Nagai b Yuki Ishikawa & Alexander Otsuka

2/13 Kyoto (CMLL Japan - 800): Maxx Bunny I & II b Tortuga & Nobatito, CMLL Japanese womens title: Chikako Shiratori b La Diabolica, Fantasma & Starman b Arkangel & Super Cacao, Ultimo Guerrero & Fugaz b Ricky Marvin & Tigre Blanco, Mil Mascaras & Dos Caras & Solar b Apolo Dantes & Violencia & Rey Bucanero

2/14 San Jose, CA (WWF Raw is War - 13,300 sellout): D-Von Dudley won three-way over Jeff Hardy and Edge, Road Dogg b Grand Master Sexay, Godfather & D-Lo Brown b Al Snow & Steve Blackman, Chris Benoit b Rock, Scotty 2 Hotty b Billy Gunn, Esse Rios b Crash Holly, Tazz b Bob Holly-DQ, Rikishi Phatu b Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn-DQ, Kane b Hunter Hearst Helmsley & Big Show

2/14 Uniondale, NY Nassau Coliseum (WCW Nitro - 9,169/5,586 paid): Crowbar b Ace Darling, Norman Smiley & Lenny Lane b Shannon Moore & Shane Helms & Evan Karagias, Tank Abbott b Rick Fuller, La Parka & The Artist b Billy Kidman & Vampiro, Rhonda Singh b Mona, Terry Funk b Lex Luger-DQ, Three-way for WCW tag titles: Big Vito & Johnny the Bull won over New Harlem Heat and David Flair & Crowbar, Hardcore title: Bam Bam Bigelow b The Wall, Dustin Rhodes b Chris Kanyon, Booker b Demon, Hulk Hogan b Ric Flair-DQ, U.S. title: Jeff Jarrett b Sid Vicious

2/14 Fukuchiyama (New Japan - 1,700): Shinya Makabe b Wataru Inoue, Masakazu Fukuda & Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Koji Kanemoto b Dr. Wagner Jr. & Kendo Ka Shin & El Samurai, Jushin Liger & Junji Hirata b Shinjiro Otani & Takashi Iizuka, Michiyoshi Ohara & Hiro Saito b Kenzo Suzuki & Kengo Kimura, Brian Johnston & Shiro Koshinaka & Kensuke Sasaki b Tatsutoshi Goto & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Don Frye, Satoshi Kojima & Super J & Scott Norton & Masahiro Chono b Tadao Yasuda & Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi & Shinya Hashimoto

2/14 Kisarazu (All Japan - 2,050): Shigeo Okumura b Takeshi Morishima, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Kentaro Shiga b Makoto Hashi & Masao Inoue, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Haruka Eigen & Masa Fuchi b Masamichi Marufuji & Mitsuo Momota & Rusher Kimura, Akira Taue b Tamon Honda, Yoshihiro Takayama & Takao Omori b Jun Izumida & Toshiaki Kawada, Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama b Stan Hansen & Giant Kimala II, Johnny Smith & Steve Williams & Vader b Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa & Maunukea Mossman

2/14 Kagoshima (FMW): Ricky Fuji b Crazy Boy, Kaori Nakayama b Emi Motokawa, Gedo & Koji Nakagawa b Naohiko Yamazaki & Yoshinori Sasaki, Willie Takayama b Hideki Hosaka, Hisakatsu Oya & Mr. Gannosuke b Jado & Kintaro Kanemura, Balls Mahoney & Kyoko Inoue & Kodo Fuyuki b Lance Cade & Tetsuhiro Kuroda & H

2/15 Yatsuhiro (FMW): Flying Kid Ichihara & Yoshinori Sasaki b Ricky Fuji & Naohiko Yamazaki, Kaori Nakayama b Emi Motokawa, Keiichiro Kimura b S.G. Diablo, Koji Nakagawa b Crazy Boy, Gedo b Lance Cade, Kintaro Kanemura & Jado b Hiskatsu Oya & Willie Takayama, H & Mr. Gannosuke & Tetsuhiro Kuroda b Kodo Fuyuki & Balls Mahoney & Kyoko Inoue

 

Special thanks to: Mark McClain, Gary Burke, Chris Morin, Bryan Alvarez, Chuck Langerman, Mark Stevens, Steve "Dr. Lucha" Sims, Jana Shiffert, Joseph Cabibbo, Jeff Marek, Patrick Jeffes, Alex Marvez, Phil Jones, Stefan Pickshaus, Chris Bryan, John Quinn, Bob Barnett, Anthony Eastman, Wilson Rivera II, Mike Mahoney Jr., Dave Prazak, Dominick Valenti, George Wren, Shannon Rose, Juan Martinez, Mike Lano, Manuel Gonzalez, Gene Restaino, Christian Burns, Benjamin Loehner, Jeff Buss, Tim Noel, Tadashi Tanaka, Larry Goodman, Larry Lee, Dan Parris, Chuck Morris, Robert Bihari, Shootangle.com

 

JAPANESE TELEVISION RUNDOWN

2/5 NEW JAPAN: 1. Ka Shin & Minoru Tanaka beat Liger & Samurai in 12:33. The last 6:30 aired. It was the typical good wrestling but the Yoyogi Gym II crowd was kind of dead. At one point Liger, now in a black costume, kicked Tanaka hard in the face. Tanaka was the star of the match with his various moves into armbars, eventually winning with an armbar on Samurai. Liger and Tanaka had a pull-apart after the match to build to their tag title match which ironically took place one day before this aired on television. ***1/2; 2. Sasaki beat Suzuki via knockout in 6:01. This was really bad. The idea of this match is for Sasaki to beat the hell out of Suzuki, who would get over by taking the beating and never quitting. But Suzuki looked really green on offense and Sasaki isn't someone to carry someone. Suzuki did two spears, went for a third but Sasaki punched him coming in, then punched him in the jaw for the knockout. -*; 3. Hashimoto & Iizuka won a non-title match over Nakanishi & Nagata in 11:32. Iizuka now has a crewcut and looks different. Inoki really wants them to start pushing him stemming from the success of the Tokyo Dome match but he still is a good worker who lacks charisma. The crowd was into Hashimoto's comebacks, and Nagata as usual looked good. Finish saw Hashimoto use the sankakujime on Nakanishi for the submission. **1/4; 4. Tenzan & Kojima & Saito beat Frye & Chono & J in 13:26. Well below New Japan main event standards as the Chono team all looked bad here. Finish saw Tenzan & Kojima do the 3-D on J,and then Kojima pinned him after a lariat. *3/4

2/6 ALL JAPAN: This was taped from the Baba Memorial show at Korakuen Hall. They showed clips of about 300 dignitary types in an empty Korakuen Hall paying tribute to Baba by putting flowers in the ring, including all the wrestlers in the promotion along with The Destroyer. Motoko Baba was weeping pretty well uncontrollably while this was all going on. They noted several members of Rikidozan's family there as well. 1. Misawa & Kobashi & Akiyama beat Hansen & Taue & Omori in 19:10. The final 8:00 aired. The match kept moving but it really looked like almost an old-timers match as Hansen is past done and Misawa and Taue seem to be fading. Kobashi and Akiyama were the entire match. It's really sad when they reunited the All Japan dream trio and couldn't even get a good main event. It built up well at the end with Akiyama doing the exploder on Omori, followed by Misawa giving him a Tiger driver and finally Kobashi pinned him after a lariat. *3/4; 2. Kawada pinned Izumida in 10:12. The last 4:30 aired. It was mainly Kawada beating on Izumida, who didn't look good selling. Kawada's offense at least was good and the kicks were solid. Kawada scored the pin after a kick to the side of the head. *1/2; 3. They showed clips of a Royal Rumble with Destroyer as ref. As with most All Japan Battle Royals, it looked terrible. They only aired about 2:00 worth of a 29:38 match which ended when Maunukea Mossman pinned Masa Fuchi.

 

TELEVISION RATINGS RUNDOWN

This is a rundown on of all performers who have been the focal part of at least three competitive segments so far in 2000 (competitive segments airing from (9:15 p.m. to Nitro's conclusion). The average is based on how many viewers either switched to or away from the show when this performer was featured. A +1.00 average, for example, means that on average when this performer is featured, about 115,800 more viewers switched to the show than switched off the show. Because we are still early in the year, these numbers are very similar to batting averages early in the season among baseball players in that until about the two or three month mark they are often misleading, but by the midpoint they are usually a pretty fair representation. Updated as of 2/14.

 

Performer Up/down Total pts Qtr percentage

Arn Anderson 5-2 +7 +1.00

Kurt Angle 4-2 +12 +2.00

Buff Bagwell 2-2 +8 +2.00

Chris Benoit 4-0 +14 +3.50

Steve Blackman 3-3 +1 +0.17

Christian 3-3 +8 +1.33

Chyna 5-1 +13 +2.17

Too Cool 2-1 +3 +1.00

Crowbar 3-2-1 +3 +0.50

Road Dogg 1-3 -2 -0.50

Dudleys 1-3 +5 +1.25

Edge 3-3 +8 +1.33

Elizabeth 2-0-1 +4 +1.33

David Finlay 2-1-1 -2 -0.50

David Flair 2-2-1 +1 +0.20

Mick Foley 3-2 +2 +0.40

Terry Funk 5-1-1 +14 +2.00

Billy Gunn 1-3 -2 -0.50

Harris Twins 1-1-1 -0 -0.33

Bret Hart 3-2 +10 +2.00

HHH 5-2 +22 +3.14

Bob Holly 3-2 +4 +0.80

Crash Holly 3-1 +4 +1.00

Disco Inferno 3-1-1 +0 +0.00

Jeff Jarrett 6-2-1 +13 +1.44

Chris Jericho 3-1 +8 +2.00

Brian Knobs 2-1-1 -2 -0.50

Lex Luger 3-1-1 +2 +0.40

Dean Malenko 2-1 +4 +1.33

Mamalukes 2-1-1 -2 -0.40

Kevin Nash 3-3-1 +7 +1.00

Paul Orndorff 3-0 +10 +3.33

DDP 3-0 +16 +5.33

Rock 4-2 +9 +1.50

Big Show 5-0 +25 +5.00

Scott Steiner 2-2 +0 +0.00

Sid Vicious 4-2-1 +4 +0.53

Larry Zbyszko 3-0 +10 +3.33

 

MEXICO: The return to Arena Mexico on 2/11 was headlined by Villano III defending the CMLL light heavyweight title against Atlantis. Atlantis won the second fall with the torture rack and held it on after V-3 submitted. V-3 was carried out of the ring by his brothers who work for WCW. The third fall began and he wasn't out and the ref began a 20 count. At this point, Villano V came out wearing V-3's costume and numeral and the fresh man attacked Atlantis' knee and made him submit in less than one minute. Atlantis and Tarzan Boy complained about this after the match. The finish drew tremendous heat, said to be a positive. 2/18 has Atlantis & V-3 as a team in a parejas increibles match against Tarzan Boy & El Satanico

The first singles non-stip match of the new Olimpico vs. Blue Panther feud on 2/8 at Arena Coliseo in Mexico City which Olimpico won was said to have been one of the bloodiest matches in years

Perro Aguayo's real absolute serious final match for AAA will be 2/18 in Puebla teaming with Octagon & AAA Mascara Sagrada against El Texano & Pirata Morgan & Espectro Jr. The final match of his career is scheduled for 3/10 at Arena Mexico with a lot of talk that he will put up his hair against the mask of Fishman, which guarantees a sellout if that were to take place

The AAA King of Kings show takes place on 3/5 at El Toreo in Naucalpan and will also feature a mask vs. mask match with El Hijo del Espectro vs. La Parka Jr., plus Oriental vs. Pentagon

Antonio Pena left this week for business meetings in Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina and Chile about sending talent to those countries

A man arrested in the border city of Reynosa (across from Harlingen, TX) for raping a 13-year-old claimed that he was Octagoncito, but after the story was checked out, none of the wrestlers who played that role were the man arrested

They had a captains fall rules mask match with Los Oficiales against the Death Squadron on the IWRG show on 2/13 in Naucalpan with El Guardia and Cyborg Cop as the captains, which means the match continues until one captain can pin the other captain, who unmasks. Los Oficiales won and Cyborg Cop was unmasked as Martin Barron, 32, of Leon

Haytor beat Sergio Romo Jr. in the hair vs. hair match on 2/13 in Monterrey

Astro Rey Jr. retained the Mexican national welterweight title beating Dr. O'Borman Jr. on 2/13 at Arena Coliseo in Mexico City

Espectro Jr. retained the Mexican national middleweight title on 2/11 in Tijuana beating Oriental on the AAA show.

ALL JAPAN: There are major rumors regarding the future of this promotion. It's been reported that Mitsuharu Misawa, the company President, and Motoko Baba, the owner, aren't getting along and this may split into two groups with NTV going with Misawa, since the name Japanese wrestlers have all backed him in previous power struggles against the Baba family. Insiders are saying very little about this

The new tour opened on 2/12 at Korakuen Hall before the usual packed house of 2,100 with the debut of the Steve Williams & Vader tag team, as they beat Yoshihiro Takayama & Takao Omori to earn a title shot at Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama on 2/20 in Kobe. There was an interesting undercard result with Kentaro Shiga pinning Maunukea Mossman which seems to indicate a knock as Mossman, who standing doesn't seem to be progressing after showing so much potential early in his career

2/13 in the same building had two 30:00 draws on the same show, both in the comedy match plus a Masamichi Marufuji & Yoshinari Ogawa & Misawa vs. Kobashi & Akiyama & Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Vader & Williams in their second match as a team won a non-title match over All-Asian tag champs Masao Inoue & Tamon Honda

All Japan held a ten count ceremony for Bobby Duncum Jr. on the 2/12 Tokyo show

Masahito Kakihara will be out this tour due to a neck injury while Satoru Asako is out after right knee surgery. Shigeo Okumura and Daisuke Ikeda will be working some underneath matches this month to pick up the slack. . 1/30 TV show did a 3.2 rating and the 2/6 show did a 4.6 rating.

NEW JAPAN: The 2/20 Sumo Hall show will be headlined by a 10 vs. 10 main event with New Japan's team of Kensuke Sasaki & Shiro Koshinaka & Shinya Hashimoto & Takashi Iizuka & Junji Hirata & Tadao Yasuda & Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata & Jushin Liger & Koji Kanemoto facing the new Team 2000's Masahiro Chono & AKIRA & Don Frye & Super J & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima & Hiro Saito & Scott Norton & Michiyoshi Ohara & Tatsutoshi Goto

This group is planning a major show for 5/5 in Fukuoka. They are talking about the Fukuoka Dome, but more likely it'll be at the Fukuoka Sports Arena. Right now the smaller arena is still on the schedule. There are also plans of doing a summer show at a 100,000 seat soccer stadium in Tokyo

Keiji Muto officially will also be missing the March tour and begin with a new angle at the 4/7 Tokyo Dome

TV Asahi is talking about running the 4/7 show as a live TV special

Yuji Nagata, Masakazu Fukuda and Kenzo Suzuki look to be forming a trio that will specialize in doing Vale Tudo style matches spots

2/5 TV show drew a 2.9 rating.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Great Sasuke and Ultimo Dragon are putting together the first Super J Cup (an interpromotional tag team tournament) since 1995, which will take place on 4/1 in Sendai with the finals on 4/9 at Tokyo Sumo Hall. The previous two Super J Cups, the first being in 1994, were two of the greatest wrestling shows in the history of this industry. One of the people they are really trying to get into the tournament is Kazushi Sakuraba. Sasuke, Tiger Mask and Gran Hamada are the only wrestlers officially announced for the tournament

Weekly Fight magazine reported that the 3/11 Rikidozan Memorial interpromotional show at Yokohama Arena would have one of three main events, and Antonio Inoki would pick the match it would be, with suggestions of either Naoya Ogawa vs. Genichiro Tenryu, Ogawa & Kazunari Murakami vs. Tenryu and a mystery partner or Ogawa teaming with either Murakami or Tenryu against Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata. Inoki himself is leaning actually toward Hashimoto & Ogawa as a tag team against Tenryu & Nobuhiko Takada

Other matches that have been talked about, although only one or two of these is official, all interpromotional are Yumiko Hotta vs. someone from JWP, H & Mr. Gannosuke from FMW against Tomoaki Honma & Ryuji Yamakawa from Big Japan, Yoshiaki Fujiwara from Fujiwara Gumi against Satoru Sayama from Seikendo, Magnum Tokyo from Toryumon vs. Jinsei Shinzaki from Michinoku Pro, Naoki Sano from Takada Dojo against Alexander Otsuka from Battlarts and a battle of indie vets in Tarzan Goto vs. Yoji Anjoh

Inoki's long talked about North Korea show was officially announced on 2/14 as being canceled. I actually had been told this was the case months ago but Inoki just kept talking about it anyway an came up with an obviously worked reason, that the U.S. Pentagon wouldn't allow the show

Akira Maeda announced he would be promoting a RINGS tournament in the United States this year, similar to the tournament currently taking place in Japan. It would be either 16 or 32 man tournaments, starting with two preliminary tournaments followed by the finals. Maeda said they would all take place in 10,000 to 20,000 seat arenas. It would be the first attempt by a Japanese promotion to actually do a live event in the United States since Antonio Inoki's ill-fated World Wrestling Peace Festival at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in 1995

Tenryu announced that he would be re-starting WAR as a more regular company this year. They only ran a few shows last year

All Japan Women and JWP ran a joint shows on 2/10 and 2/11 at Korakuen Hall. The first show didn't pack the building, headlined by AJW team Zaps I & T winning the JWP tag team titles from Carlos Amano & Commando Boirshoi in 20:33 when Zap I pinned Boirshoi with a double foot stomp off the top rope. The second show drew an announced sellout of 2,030 with Manami Toyota & Dynamite Kansai & Kaoru Ito beating Runyuyu & Amano & Miho Wakizawa in the main event. Also, JWP wrestler Azumi Hyuga won the AJW All-Pacific title from Kumiko Maekawa. They are continuing the angle where Hotta hates the JWP. She was scheduled to team with Devil Masami on 2/11, but refused, and instead teamed with Miyuki Fujii. Hotta and the JWP owner were yelling at each other and teasing a fight and ended up doing a pull-apart. They are saying that Boirshoi of JWP is also against the joint shows as is Takako Inoue, so they are looking like they will form a group. AJW is getting back into the music business as Kayo Noumi, Nanae Takahashi, Miho Wakizawa and Momoe Nakanishi will be taping a CD on 5/24 called "Kiss of World" with a popular Japanese music producer behind them, trying to make them like the Beauty Pair in the 70s and Crush Gals in the 80s which were both cultural phenomenons that brought AJW into major prominence

The IWRG (Naucalpan, Mexico promotion) had its tag team title defended on the 2/10 Toryumon show in Matsuyama before 1,800 fans with champs Yasushi Kanda & Susumu Mochizuki retaining over Taru & Makoto

Mil Mascaras & Dos Caras, finishing up their tour for CMLL Japan, did a double-shot on 2/11 in Kawasaki, wrestling both for that group (Mascaras over Apolo Dantes to retain the IWA title) and doing a show for Battlarts (Mascaras & Caras beating Ikuto Hidaka & Daisuke Ikeda. Also on the Battlarts show, Curry Man (Christopher Daniels) retained the British jr. title beating Tsubo Genjin

The LLPW show on 2/9 at Korakuen Hall was headlined by a match with male wrestlers from Battlarts, Masao Orihara & Takeshi Ono beating another male wrestler, Ryuji Hijikata, and the LLPW's top star Shinobu Kandori. They are building to an Orihara vs. Kandori singles match. LLPW champ Harley Saito defends against Rumi Kazama on 3/8

IWA ran 2/11 at Korakuen Hall with owner Kiyoshi Asano putting up his hair in a handicap match against two Freddy Krugers, with Asano winning with an armbar submission so one of the Krugers (I'm presuming the one who isn't Doug Gilbert) got his head shaved

FMW will run a major show on 5/5 at the Komazawa Olympic Park Gym in Tokyo featuring the ECW (or FMW version thereof) vs. FMW feud. Several ECW wrestlers are supposed to come in on a tour from 3/27 to 4/11 which will include 4/3 and 4/4 shows in Sapporo. Masato Tanaka will return on 5/5

On the 2/13 Gaea show at Korakuen Hall, in the main event Aja Kong kept the AAAW title beating Kaoru in a match where Kong juiced her right arm with a 15 centimeter cut and Kaoru had her front teeth knocked out.

HERE AND THERE: The movie "Beyond the Mat" failed to garner an Academy Award nomination when they were announced on 2/15. The movie will still premiere in Charlotte and Memphis on 3/3, but both the New York and Los Angeles debuts have been delayed to 3/17, which is when the movie will make its national debut. Because Vince McMahon was like the only person in wrestling not to like the movie, the WWF is not allowing any wrestlers to help publicize it even though Mick Foley is the star. A few weeks back, Foley was on "Good Morning America" pushing the movie with director Barry Blaustein and McMahon was furious about that and won't let anyone in the organization talk about the movie trying to pretend that it simply doesn't exist. WCW, which isn't even involved with the movie and has its own movie coming out just a few weeks later, is allowing Terry Funk to do whatever he wants to in regard to pushing it. While the company will not officially do anything to promote the movie, it is said the announcers and wrestlers are also not banned from talking about it when it opens and that both Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan have brought the movie up during telecasts

The Cauliflower Alley Club had its annual meeting on 2/12 in Las Vegas. Among those in attendance were Lou Thesz, Danny Hodge, Kurt Angle, Jim Cornette, Pat Patterson, Lord Alfred Hayes, Tex McKenzie, Dick Beyer, Pampero Firpo, Larry & Curt Hennig, Johnny Powers, Ole Anderson, Gene & Steve Stanlee, Bob Roop, Killer Kowalski, Stan Kowalski, Ray Stern and Johnny Rodz. Lou Thesz has retired as President of the CAC and the new President is Red Bastien

Carly Colon, after only a few weeks as an active wrestler, has already won the Universal title from Ray Gonzalez on 1/29 in Carolina, PR

Among those scheduled for either this past weekend or this coming weekend for the WWC in Puerto Rico besides the regulars have included Rex King, Ram Man Johnny Evans, Alex G, Rukkus, Larry Hamilton, Mohammed Hossein (Lou Fabbiano) and Ricky Fontaine. The headliners remain Carlos & Carly Colon feuding with the likes of Ray Gonzalez, Jim Steele and Dutch Mantel

Lance Russell was back for the second Memphis Championship Wrestling TV taping in Tunica, MS on 2/9. They had interviews with the Acolytes and Chris Jericho both on the show, with Jericho saying that as far as he's concerned, Curtis Hughes still works for him (why they'd even want to remember that one is beyond me). Downtown Bruno said he was screwed out of the WWF womens title and challenged any woman in the back. A woman named Xena then came out and beat him. Lawler was doing a promo concerning an upcoming match with Hunter Hearst Helmsley when Blade Bigelow interrupted him and had a big guy with him, who wrestled Lawler on TV, and the Kick Ass guys attacked Lawler and put up a KAW banner. TV main event was Grand Master Sexay over Hughes via DQ when Hughes first got the pin due to help from K.Krush, but then Gangsta Big (formerly Spellbinder) told the ref who reversed the decision

On the rival Power Pro show which airs live on 2/12, Robert Gibson and Tommy Rogers appeared. Derrick King won the returning Young Guns title in a three-way over Alan Steele and Chris Michaels. They really pushed that kids are allowed at the PPW TV tapings (since Lawler's promotion runs at a casino so nobody under 21 is allowed). Gibson did an interview and talked about the Rock & Roll Express. Dave Brown brought up The Fantastics, but Gibson ran them down. Rogers came out and said the Fantastics were the better team. They ended up in the ring with Rogers winning holding tights

IWA Mid South is running its first major show on 3/4 called "Extreme Heaven" bringing in Christopher Daniels

Jim Kettner's annual Super 8 junior heavyweight tournament, similar to a Japanese style tournament and patterned after the J Cup will take place on 2/26 in Wilmington, DE. This year's Super 8 are Christopher Daniels, Chad Collyer (Michinoku Pro), Shark Boy, Vic Capri, Scoot Andrews, Trent Acid, Jet Jaguar and Jeff Peterson. It's the fourth annual tournament and among those who competed in the previous three have been Billy Kidman, Crowbar, Scotty 2 Hotty, Steve Bradley, Reckless Youth and Matt & Jeff Hardy

Head Hunter #1 is out of action with fluid in the lungs

Jack Cusic, who wrestled as midget wrestler Irish Jackie from 1950 to 1969 passed away on 2/8 at the age of 69 suffering seven massive heart attacks that day while eating breakfast at a Bob Evans Restaurant in his home town of Flint, MI

Indie wrestler Chip Fairway was injured in an auto accident on 2/9, swerving to avoid a deer and being thrown from his vehicle into a creek. He didn't suffer any broken bones but will be out of action for a little while

The Nashville local wrestling war between the NWA group and the Main Event promotion is over. The NWA group, which had been running at a larger arena, returned to the Fairgrounds as part of the deal and got the Main Event TV time slot and as part of the deal, Riggins & Steven Dunn came back to work for Bert Prentice as a heel tag team known as Main Event. Prentice on TV did an angle where he claimed he was the owner of the Main Event promotion from the beginning, double dipping and is now the heel manager for Riggins & Dunn. Chris Champion also jumped over. This is the group WCW is sending developmental talent to, including Sonny Siaki (as G.Q.), Kid Romeo and Mike Sanders. Chuck Palumbo with Mona as his manager, Chris Harris and Alan Funk will be on the 2/19 show

Pennsylvania Championship Wrestling is beginning a series of shows in Leesport, PA at the Family Grand Prix and Fun Center that will be held the final Wednesday of every month, billing it as the family alternative to Thunder with all seats priced at $5

Harry White, fresh off a stint on the Jerry Springer show, actually got married as part of the Cauliflower Alley Club weekend in Las Vegas. White described it as a lumberjack wedding that they he was surrounded by wrestlers who were going to throw him back in if he left. The Great Mephisto (Frankie Cain) walked the bride down the aisle. The minister read the vows out of a WOW Magazine (expect a story in there in a few months)

Best wishes and a speedy recovery to long-time correspondent Bill Needham, recovering from having part of his leg amputated. He was still doing ring announcing for the Tennessee Mountain Wrestling shows over the weekend from his wheelchair

NWA Jersey makes its formal debut as an NWA promotion on 2/19 in Barnegat, NJ at Russell Brackman School with Tammy Sytch, Chris Candido, King Kong Bundy, The Patriot (Tom Brandi), Nikolai Volkoff and Tommy Cairo booked.

MMA: The bracketing for the 5/1 finals of the DSE tournament is, with the bracket in this order, Mark Kerr vs. Kazuyuki Fujita, Mark Coleman vs. Akira Shoji, Gary Goodridge vs. Igor Vovchanchin and Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Royce Gracie. Antonio Inoki was really wanting to get Fujita into the first round match with Gracie. The feeling is that Gracie is the weakest of the eight, but beating him by a Japanese fighter would make the guy an immediate name. Barring upsets, this looks to be Coleman vs. Kerr in the semis which will probably turn into mainly a wrestling match. The other side looks to be Vovchanchin vs. Sakuraba, which Sakuraba is probably giving up too much weight for but he does have a chance. Coleman may win this thing

In a mild upset, 21-year-old Josh Bennett of Kirkland, WA defeated 41-year-old Dan Severn with an armbar in the fourth round to win the main event of a show on 2/8 in Honolulu, HI. It was only the fourth MMA loss in Severn's long career (previous being to Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock and Mark Coleman) and first time he was ever arm barred. Reports are that Severn won the early rounds with several takedowns, but tired as the match went on, and Bennett was able to mount him in the fourth round before the armbar

Ken Shamrock said on Eddie Goldman's No Holds Barred show on eyada.com (which precedes my show on the same station) that he has yet to hear from anyone in Japan about Nobuhiko Takada being his opponent for the 5/1 Tokyo Dome show. Takada on 2/11 said that he didn't want to fight in Pride any longer and wouldn't face Shamrock. Shamrock said he'd be disappointed if he were to face Takada but if that's the match the promoters there wanted to make, then it would be the match he would do

Koichi Kawasaki, who was the infamous man in the middle who made the agreement with Mezger and Shamrock about it being a one-round only fight, only to have that agreement disappear after the 15:00 ended, is no longer with the organization although it was said this was not the reason for his being dumped

UFC schedule for the remainder of the year are shows on 3/10, 4/7 (this show at this point is scheduled for Japan with match-up of Tito Ortiz against either Eugene Jackson, Yoji Anjoh or Kenichi Yamamoto but this is the same day as the New Japan Tokyo Dome show which may in some form affect this show), 5/19, 7/14, 9/15 and 11/10

Another match added to the 3/10 UFC show is Vladimir Matyushenko, a very good wrestler, who has only one MMA loss and numerous impressive wins, facing Lance Gibson, who is said to be a good striker

The annual Abu Dhabai submission tournament takes place 3/1 to 3/3 which is traditionally loaded with big-name fighters

Pancrase is expected to be announcing sometime this week they have taken a better money offer and switching from Skyperfect TV to DirecTV in Japan as a home for their PPV events. The idea is that Pancrase will run fewer shows this year, but every show will air on PPV. DirecTV, which already does the FMW shows and will do the 5/26 Coliseum 2000 show with the Rickson Gracie vs. Masakatsu Funaki main event, has a much smaller universe than Skyperfect which does DSE, ECW and WCW

Bas Rutten blew out his knee and isn't expected to be fighting for some time

Mark Hall has been seen wearing a neck brace due to the injuries he allegedly suffered in the altercation with Shamrock

Shooto announced that its suspension of Enson Inoue was over

K-1's next show is 3/19 at the Yokohama Arena headlined by Andy Hug vs. Musashi. Hug, who is in his mid-30s, is probably seeing his time in the ring is winding down and is trying to make a transition to action movie star and he does have the look. Kenji Kusatsu, whose father was a pro wrestler in the 70s under the name The Great Kusatsu, makes his debut on the show and will probably be billed in K-1 as Great Kusatsu Jr.

ECW: Rob Van Dam did a media press conference along with David Schwarz of TNN and Joey Styles. Van Dam has a three-inch crack in his fibula as well as a broken ankle joint. It is estimated 12 weeks before he can return to the ring. Van Dam said he had just signed a five-year contract with the promotion and an official announcement would be made. They said there have been talks of doing ECW specials on TNN but nothing official. When asked about rumors of a WWF/CBS deal which would result in the USA Network package going to TNN and how that would potentially effect ECW, Schwarz said no comment

There have been a lot of rumors flying around this past week of a tournament for the TV title on the 3/12 PPV in Danbury, CT but that isn't official. The most likely main event seems to be a three-way with Awesome, Tanaka and Spike Dudley

ECW on its MSG network show promoted like crazy the releasing of the ECW video game on 2/15 with an appearance of Van Dam and Dreamer at Software, Inc. in New York which drew a reported 2,000 fans

House shows this past weekend were both non-TV tapings at night clubs in Washington, DC and Norfolk, VA which drew packed houses of 1,000 and 1,300 respectively. This coming week's TNN show will be a second hour taped from Tallahassee, FL and said to have an even better Crazy vs. Tajiri match than the previous one

Apparently the next time in Washington they are going to move to the old D.C. Armory. The shows were said to have been well below par for ECW, particularly for the fans because the site lines in the buildings were bad. In Norfolk, the ceiling was so low the wrestlers couldn't even come off the top rope in three of the four corners and a lot of the usual high spots were impossible. In DC, there was almost a riot at one point as a huge fan was causing a disturbance and due to the size of him, security had a very difficult time with him and didn't even try to kick him out of the building. Another fan hit both Corino and Rhino

Also on the show the Tanaka vs. Credible match had to end early as Tanaka suplexed Credible through a table, and in the table breaking, a part of the table actually went into Credible's mouth and got caught in his throat and he called for the match to end, but he dislodged it and turned out to be okay

Pitbull #1 (Gary Wolfe) returned after a several year absence. The Pitbulls were a regular team here before losing their job after an indictment and eventual plea bargain in a case involving steroid trafficking. He's said to have gained a lot of weight since the last time he was in, and since he hasn't been on TV in years, nobody knew who he was

Julio Fantastico (Julio Sanchez) and Chilly Willie were in for prelims and were said to have looked okay

Super Crazy seems to be getting Sabu's spot as the high flier breaking the tables, although he is already getting banged up just from the last two weeks

Yoshihiro Tajiri was also out this weekend with a shoulder injury

Electra was back so she kept her job after missing last weekend due to freaking out after a problem on an airplane and getting off the plane

Tony DeVito returned to the ring but his hand his still messed up

Spike Dudley missed the weekend because his plane was fogged in missing the first night and they just decided it was best for him not to fly in just for one show

Gedo & Jado are scheduled in for about three weeks starting the first weekend of March, largely to feud with Storm & Credible

TNN show for 2/11 was the first hour from Tallahassee. They started with the Cyrus/Gertner stuff, which ended up with Cyrus demanding a TV title match because the network only cares about the show delivering a strong lead-in for RollerJam (don't think there isn't a reason for the turning the network and RollerJam heel because there always is) and said Spike Dudley must defend the TV title in a handicap match against both Dupps. The match took less time (:13) than to read the build-up with Spike double acid drop and pinning both. Mikey Whipwreck and James Vandenberg (who at this point doesn't have a name) were laughing hysterically and dementedly about the idea of Raven's problems. Dreamer vs. Whipwreck was a really bad match saved by all the twists of the finish. Dreamer had it won when Vandenburg interfered. Raven came out but Whipwreck went to throw powder at Dreamer but hit Raven. The blinded Raven DDT'd Francine (they spent the rest of the show arguing over whether or not it was an accident). Dreamer gave Whipwreck a death valley driver and attacked Raven. Whipwreck set up the stunner but Dreamer reversed and hit a DDT for the pin in 9:25. Dreamer then went storming through the dressing room to find Francine, and threw Mitch against the wall because he said that Raven was blind when he DDT'd her. Raven vs. Credible saw Credible take some hard bumps. The match had no finish, ending when Credible & Storm did a spike tombstone on a chair and Raven was laid out. In the final minutes of the show, Cyrus insisted they get Raven out of the ring because viewers were turning off the dead air and with Dusty Rhodes in the ring, he said Rhodes had been office and he understood. Rhodes got to do his first promo, doing his typical great delivery but making little sense, basically saying it was all about the boys. Rhodes gave the bionic elbow to Corino and Rhodes before Rhino, Victory and Corino laid him out when the show ended just as Sandman came out the entrance way.

WCW: The big unopposed Nitro on 2/14 at the Nassau Coliseum wound up a major disappointment. The show drew 5,586 paid and another 3,583 comps with a gate of $201,800. The show opened with a try-out match with Crowbar over Ace Darling. Unfortunately I was doing a show while this match was going on so can't give a fair appraisal but it seemed good and had the second most heat of any match on the show. They had a new group of Nitro Girls with only two originals. Nitro started with Jarrett & the Harris twins out as the NWO, which made the group seemed very weak. They sent the models to the back to get added heel heat, which worked. Nash was on a screen surrounded by nurses in low-cut costumes. The Harris twins then threatened to dismember Dave Penzer unless Nash was taken off the screen, and the satellite was cut off. But wouldn't you know it, Nash was actually in the building and wheeled out to the old Wolfpac music. Nash got a pop and announced a three-way for the title involving Hall on the PPV. There was no pop live for the announcement of the main event change. Smiley & Lenny Lane beat 3 Count. It was scheduled as a six-man with Lodi, or Idol as he's now called. He was there but he didn't wrestle and never came out and I've got no idea why. Everyone did dives. There were a lot of missed spots but everyone worked really hard. Lane nearly killed himself doing a flip dive and landing short. Karagias, who gets the wrong kind of heat, actually did a corkscrew plancha. Miss Hancock came out, pulled her hair out of a bun and danced on top of the table in front of the announcers. While this was going on, nobody was watching the match, so of course there was no pop for the finish, which was Smiley over Karagias with the chicken wing (Norman conquest). 3 Count danced after the match and lip synched all through the break until Abbott came out and scared all three to death. Abbott beat Rick Fuller quickly with the one punch KO. Abbott got a good pop for running out the 3 Count boys, but his KO punch got zero reaction. It was one of the least over finishers I've seen which at this point isn't a good sign considering the plans. Abbott and Big Al went at it. They are having a jacket on a pole match at the PPV which is ludicrous on every front. Artist & La Parka beat Vampiro & Kidman when Vampiro walked out on Kidman and Artist pinned him after a DDT. Psicosis was scheduled as Parka's partner but he no-showed. They did a multi-part skit where Vito's sister got married. Eventually, just before their match, David Flair & Crowbar & Daffney ruined the wedding and attacked Vito & Johnny with crowbars. Rhonda Singh, who was also called Monster Ripper, her name in Mexico and Japan, beat Mona. Madusa was the ref. Singh hit Madusa from behind and then pinned Mona holding the ropes while Oklahoma counted the pin. Singh came out to Jericho's old music. Funk beat Luger via DQ. At the age of 55, after wrestling the previous three nights in Germany, Funk couldn't carry Luger. Luger still slammed Funk through a table. There were boring chants during this match and actually it was the only one that had any. Due to the way Funk has been portrayed, it's got to be the first time in his career he was positioned as a babyface and not only not gotten over, but actually gotten booed. Funk moonsaulted a chair when Luger moved. Luger was DQ'd for hitting Funk with a chair. They went to do the arm in a chair spot but Anderson pulled the chair away. After the food fight, in a terrible three-way for the tag titles, Vito & Johnny beat Flair & Crowbar and new Harlem Heat when Vito pinned Stevie Ray after David Flair hit him with a crowbar, the object, not Devon Storm. Heat destroyed the Mamalukes after the match, and if that wasn't enough, Flair & Crowbar & Daffney came back out and pounded them and they were all carried out on stretchers. Just before they got to the ambulance, they all recovered and were fine and told their family they would take care of it Italian style. They set up either an Italian Stretcher or Sicilian Stretcher match. All I know is that in the early 70s the term was Sicilian Stretcher match. Bigelow kept the hardcore title beating Wall with the Asbury Park driver. Knobs attacked Bigelow after the match with garbage can shots. Wall choke slammed Bigelow after all that. Rhodes pinned Kanyon in like 90 seconds with a bulldog. Rhodes got zero pop coming out or being announced. He teased the shattered dreams which got a huge pop for the tease as he milked the crowd well but the move itself still didn't get much of a pop. Booker beat Demon quickly with a sidewalk slam. Demon still gets this big ring intro and then jobs in a minute every time out. Apparently they have a contract they have to fulfill to the real KISS for this character, but they don't want to, so they created a character doomed to fail. If that was the case, they should have given Luger the gimmick. Hogan beat Flair via DQ when Luger interfered after a legdrop. It was the same Flair-Hogan stuff from the early 90s. It was the only match on the show that anyone cared about live. It was so weird. Whenever they showed Hogan on the screens, there were mainly boos. Then when Hogan came out, he got a pop that was only slightly below an Austin pop. Nobody booed Flair, but Hogan's cheers were much louder than Flair's. Flair made the match and looked great for his age. But this match getting over was not good for the promotion because they have to rebuild, and these guys are so good at getting crowd reactions they overshadow everyone else. Luger and Liz ran in. Funk ran out for the save, only to get beat up to allow Hogan to make the save for himself on both Flair and Luger. Hogan posed forever and got the same pop, albeit from about one-third the paid attendance he'd have gotten the pop from years ago. Luger came out behind Hogan during the posing routine and hit him in the head with a bat. This was a good idea for an angle. Something happened with Ernest Miller and Maestro next. Nobody paid attention. There was also zero heat for Vicious vs. Jarrett. Earlier in the show Nash announced it as non-title. Jarrett demanded WCW overrule Nash and make it a title match. WCW announced it was a U.S. title match. That made perfect sense, since the world champion should be challenging for the U.S. belt. Vicious had the match won but there was a ref bump and the Harris twins came out and pounded on Sid. Jarrett hit Sid with a guitar shot which busted his head open hardway legit and heel ref Mark Johnson counted the pin for Jarrett. Vicious said he got a concussion from the guitar shot and missed Thunder the next night in Philadelphia

After the show, Vicious confronted Mark Madden and yelled at him. Madden made a remark about the three-way and said that Vicious may be the "monkey in the middle," which is of course a kid game. Vicious was told by someone that Madden called him a monkey and he was very upset about it. Madden tried to explain what he actually said but Sid, I guess with his head busted open and groggy from a possible concussion and jetlagged from Germany, wasn't interested in hearing

In Philadelphia, apparently the hydraulics didn't work and Demon was stuck in his coffin for three minutes before they could get him out

Even sillier is that they taped a promo the night before, after the match with Hogan selling his arm being broken and all taped up but vowing to be at the PPV anyway to get Luger. Somehow that tape was erased

After Scott Steiner was suspended on 2/9, before he left the building he bumped into Flair and there was apparently a nasty exchange between the two of them. The result of this was Steiner being suspended with pay, as silly as that sounds, which wrestlers are taking to me a euphemism for paid vacation. There are various reports as to what caused Steiner to cut that promo, but it's rooted in the feeling that Flair being back hurts Steiner who believes it's his time to be the top heel in the company

Flair is scheduled to meet with Jesse Ventura on 2/16 to help decide if he's really going to run for Governor of North Carolina and if it's worth it in regard to stress on the family among other things

Despite the trailers looking really bad, "Ready to Rumble" got very high marks on exit polls in its screenings last week

Rey Misterio Jr. on Wrestling Observer Live on 2/11 noted that Konnan was going to be brought back to WCW after serving a two month suspension. It is believed Konnan will return on 4/1. Misterio Jr. said that his doctor told him his frequent knee injuries were the result of moves where he landed from some height on both feet, in particular Perro Aguayo style Thesz presses off the top rope or the ring apron either in the ring or to the floor. He's been advised to drop moves like that from his arsenal. This latest injury came close to being a posterior collateral ligament tear, which would have been career threatening

After Douglas kept refusing to sign his release, WCW has officially given him his 30-day notice. WCW apparently attempted to make a deal with him if he were to sign he'd get two months pay instead of one month. Apparently Douglas is being handled differently then Konnan because Konnan has said that he never actually asked for a release (Billy Kidman, who was at the meeting where this all took place said that he remembered Konnan not asking for his release saying that he and Konnan both never specifically asked, but in being there he considered that it was implied) said it but whereas Douglas did. Douglas on the internet is threatening legal action against WCW

Kidman, on Wrestling Observer Live on 2/14, when talking about that situation said that what happened with him is that he basically lost contact with Benoit, Malenko, Saturn and Guerrero and said that was the major reason why he stayed, and still questioned whether that was the best move. He noted that he was promised a program with Jarrett, but when Hart was taken out of the picture, Jarrett was moved up and it ended up being another proposed program with a top guy that never materialized

Juventud Guerrera is expected back in three weeks

Duggan threw a major fit backstage at the Nitro in New York. Not sure what it was about but it was a big deal in that they had made a suggestion for him to do an angle on the show and he flatly refused saying they had made him look like a foot enough already. He ended up not appearing on the show. Flair had to calm him down afterwards

The long-term plans still are to build to Goldberg vs. Abbott as the Starrcade main event. One of the big questions being asked is if Abbott should KO top pro wrestlers with one punch to build it and if he should, what guys that are on top would be willing to go down clean without face-saving endings that would make Abbott into a "pro wrestler," which would hurt or kill the potential drawing power of the match. There is some question if that hasn't already happened by Abbott's participation already, or if the public today will even buy the concept if it's presented well, or if WCW can present it well enough to get the concept (you know, the acknowledgement that pro wrestling is worked but that Abbott is an outsider who doesn't play by pro wrestling rules) they have to understand to make this angle work

Page's injuries were a partially ruptured L-4 and L-5 disc and should be out four to six weeks

The Daily Oklahoman ran a story on 2/4 before Thunder in OKC about Flair

Midnight (Anne Marie Crooks) asked for and was given her release on 2/8 and is looking at going to the WWF. She only had a day-to-day contract

A correction from last week in the Thunder report. The result of the Luger vs. Finlay match was a DQ for Finlay being hit with the bat, not a Luger win

Goldberg is no longer part of the Obake Gym in Atlanta (he had been the owner), which has become the home of several major MMA names including Kevin Randleman and Mark Coleman

As irony would have it, on the same day his lawsuit was filed, at the 2/11 World Tough Man PPV championship show, former WCW wrestler Harrison Norris (Hard Body Harrison) got second place, losing the finals via decision and winning $5,000. He cut pro wrestling interviews all night long and repeatedly challenged Lawrence Taylor, who was doing color on the show. Taylor at one point said about Norris, "I agree with all the white folks--he should be lynched.

On the 1/31 Nitro, when they called the Mamalukes vs. David Flair & Crowbar match a Bensonhurst Street fight, Tony Schiavone noted that was where Mike Tyson grew up. Actually Tyson grew up in Brownsville, which is a different part of Brooklyn. Bensonhurst is an Italian neighborhood, hence the Mamalukes while Brownsville is a predominately black neighborhood

WCW sold about 2,000 tickets first day for the Uncensored PPV in Miami on 3/19, a number that has to be considered pretty weak even though they knew ahead of time that Miami would be very difficult since WWF couldn't even sellout the American Airlines Arena for Raw and it's Rock's home town, and WCW's last TV taping in the building drew poorly

Funk has verbally agreed to do the exploding match with Onita although he's skeptical of its viability as a PPV show (which it can't be if it's on 6/25) or even for U.S. consumption but if there is a deal to release it as TV or video programming for the Japanese market it probably would have pretty strong interest. Onita announced the match for the U.S. saying it would be at a 30,000-seat stadium in New Jersey in June

Stoddart Press is releasing a 128-page Bret Hart biography next month called "The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Will Ever Be" (they messed up the line, not me) written by Perry Lefko of the Toronto Sun with Bret Hart being listed as a co-writer which is already the subject of some controversy. Hart did write the acknowledgements at the end of the book, and Roddy Piper also wrote an introduction, but this is not the lengthy autobiography that Hart is planning on doing at some point in the near future

A TV series starring Duggan called "Bikers' Court" was attempting to be sold for syndication at the NATPE convention last week. It's a worked cross between Judge Judy and Jerry Springer, with bikers as the jurors, a silicon implanted bailiff and Duggan carrying a 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

Both Hart and Sting were part of the German tour although neither wrestled. Sting did run-ins to end the show after the Vicious vs. Jarrett main events. Hart did interviews where he talked about his memories of Germany and a lot about Owen. Loud "Owen" chants erupted and Bret said that he wanted to have his retirement match in Germany, but indicated that he wasn't planning on retiring that soon. They did two tag team title switches as on the 2/12 Oberhausen card, which was a live television show on Pay-TV channel "Premiere World," Ron & Don Harris beat Vito & Johnny, but Vito & Johnny regained the belts on 2/13 in Leipzig. The 2/11 show in Hamburg drew a sellout of about 6,500. The 2/12 show drew a sellout of 11,000 fans while 2/13 drew 6,000. The big local item in Oberhausen was the match with comedian Tom Gerhardt against Berlyn. Gerhardt was the heel, and had both The Wall and the Marmadukes at ringside with him. Oberhausen had been trained to wrestle by Alex Wright's father Steve, who was one of the all-time greatest technical wrestlers ever. After Berlyn won, all the heels attacked him and Steve made the save and popped the crowd using an airplane spin and Gerhardt then turned on the Wall and Mamalukes and helped the Wright family clean house. Then Berlyn, Steve and Gerhardt celebrated together in the ring. The match was said to have been an overbooked dud. Reports on the TV show were that the wrestling was very bad but the crowd was super hot for just about everything. Michael Buffer was even flown in to do the ring announcing in Oberhausen for the Berlyn vs. Gerhardt and Vicious vs. Jarrett matches. He announced Jarrett as a five-time world heavyweight champion. They also flew in Skye, Tygress, Spice and Miss Hancock. They announced a return three-day tour for November

WCW canceled Canadian shows originally scheduled for 4/1 in Toronto and 4/2 in London, ONT because they were house shows and the feeling was without either Bret Hart or Benoit they wouldn't be able to draw unless it was TV and the feeling that Hart wouldn't be ready to wrestle by that time. They also canceled the 6/26 Nitro scheduled in Vancouver, BC because of a problem with the building, as WCW felt the building double-crossed them by putting WWF tickets for an event on sale before their event

Hogan was on the Don Imus show and mentioned how he had creative control and wasn't going to lose anymore matches

Thunder tapings on 2/8 in Oklahoma City drew 5,052 (plus 2,072 comps) paying $126,215. Between this show and the Nassau Nitro, merchandise was $57,620 or $5.42 per head.

WWF: Raw on 2/14 from San Jose, CA drew a sellout 13,300 paying $395,455 in a show that sold out something like 30 minutes after tickets were put on sale months ago. Show opened with Radicals and DX both coming out. Tori had her neck in a brace courtesy of what happened with Kane on Smackdown getting tombstoned. Stephanie McMahon yelled about how all the fans cheered when this happened. They set up an announcement of X-Pac vs. Kane in a no holds barred match for the 2/27 PPV. X-Pac didn't seem happy his buddy Hunter was doing this to him again. Too Cool, Rikishi, Kane and Rock all ended up cleaning house. D-Von Dudley won a three-way over Edge and Jeff Hardy in a pretty good match which through the stipulations leads to Outlaws vs. Dudleys on the PPV in the tag title match. Since it was Valentine's Day, the show built around several skits with Henry and Mae Young, including Young wearing edible panties as her Valentine's Day gift for Henry. Road Dogg pinned Grand Master Sexay clean with the pump handle slam. Godfather & Brown beat Blackman & Snow when Blackman was distracted by Snow trying to pick up the ho's. They teased dissension between the two. Angle and Jericho had a pull-apart brawl with Angle ripping on Chyna, who DDT's Angle on the floor although the camera missed this and Jericho and Chyna left together. Benoit pinned Rock with a german suplex after Big Show pie-faced Rock. The Radicals all left Rock laying including Benoit delivering a diving head-butt after the match. Scotty 2 Hotty beat Gunn due to Grand Master interfering. Outlaws laid out Too Cool after the match. Esse Rios, the new WWF light heavyweight champ, which is the new name for Papi Chulo, with manager Lita (Amy Dumas, formerly Miss Congeniality in ECW) beat Crash Holly. Crowd didn't react to this except when Lita did some moves. She did a killer huracanrana outside the ring (which due to my being in New York at a hotel which didn't get USA network, was just about the only thing I saw on the show). Bob Holly ripped on Crash and then challenged Tazz. Tazz beat Bob via DQ when Crash interfered, and Tazz laid out Crash after. Rikishi beat Saturn & Malenko via DQ when Guerrero interfered and hit Rikishi with a pipe. Main saw Kane beat HHH & Big Show. Since it was no DQ, X-Pac interfered freely, which brought out Rock and Cactus Jack. Finish saw Rock hit Show with a chair and Kane pinned Show after a choke slam. After the TV ended, Too Cool, Rikishi and Cactus Jack all danced in the ring to an overwhelming pop

Smackdown on 2/8 from Austin, TX was a very different show. It consisted of more of a WCW format, ten wrestling matches, with the matches generally lasting longer than WWF television matches do, with no lengthy interviews or angles. What has become interesting is that as WWF has started to place more emphasis on the in-ring product in the last few weeks, the crowd reactions to the wrestling has been off the charts to early 80s Dallas and Mid Atlantic level. Just as recently as two months ago, on WWF TV matches with good action, the crowd, unless it was Rock involved (remember all those dead crowd for HHH TV main events?), generally died the minute the match started, waiting for the next angle. Most of the wrestling was pretty good as well. Papi Chulo pinned Gillberg in a match taped for Sunday Night Heat to win the light heavyweight title, which they are reinstating. Angle pinned Venis clean to win the European title in 3:13 in a good TV match. Saturn beat Grand Master Sexay with the Rings of Saturn although Sexay's legs were in the ropes at 7:14. It was a long match and the crowd pops for the near falls was amazing considering Saturn is a newcomer and Sexay has never been pushed as anything more than prelim comedy. Edge & Christian beat the Dudleys in 5:10 when Christian pinned D-Von with a sunset flip off the top rope. Buh Buh had faked a knee injury so D-Von was 1-on-2. When the EMT's came, Buh Buh grabbed B.B. and ended up power bombing her through a table. He protected her totally on the bump. B.B. laying on her back is the tallest person in wrestling, except maybe for Dusty Rhodes. Malenko beat Scotty 2 Hotty with the cloverleaf in 4:42 when Guerrero shoved Scotty off the top rope. Another good match. Rock & Cactus beat Outlaws in 6:55 when Cactus pinned Dogg after a piledriver. Gunn looked tons better than he has in a long time. Maybe in his entire life. This match had super heat. Luna & Gangrel beat Jacqueline & Prince Albert when Luna pinned Jacqueline after a DDT in :55. Rikishi beat Benoit in 4:07 when Saturn, Malenko and Guerrero interfered and Too Cool made the save and everyone danced when it was over. Rikishi gave Benoit the entire match until he missed the diving head-butt. The action was really good. Blackman & Snow beat Hardys in 5:03 when the Dudleys distracted Hardys and Head Cheese used the old Demolition finisher and Snow pinned Jeff. They later announced that Jeff suffered a cut near his eye and Matt suffered a separated shoulder in the match. Jericho, with one hand tied behind his back, fought both Hollys in a handicap match. The Acolytes came out and destroyed the Hollys allowing Jericho to pin Crash in 1:10. Finally Kane beat HHH & X-Pac in a handicap match at 5:30. Super hot match with Kane cleaning house on both. Stephanie gave HHH a chair and he used it, but Kane no sold it, but they called the DQ. Kane laid out both afterwards as well as a few refs and teased Kane choke slamming Tori forever. When he let her go, the place booed, and then he tombstoned her for a nuclear pop. It has definitely turned into an ECW audience that really gets into the violence against women, whether it's storyline deserved (Tori) or not (B.B.)

A correction/clarification regarding WWF interest in the various wrestlers from WCW who were interested in leaving. At this point WWF officials say there is no interest in either Shane Douglas, Konnan or Kevin Nash. There were no direct talks with Douglas (there was one indirect conversation with Steve Austin as the intermediary) and there was one brief conversation with Bruce Prichard and Konnan and at least one with Vince McMahon and Nash. There would be interest in Ric Flair if he got out of his deal but that no longer is even being seriously talked about. There had been feelers sent by Diamond Dallas Page, but that also doesn't look like it's in the cards because realistically, Page isn't going to be making close to what he already makes in WCW by jumping and certainly not over the long run. That would probably have been true of both Douglas and Konnan. In the case of Benoit, if he is programmed as a top performer and business stays at the current level, he could wind up making more money even though his guarantee is lower. Saturn is likely to wind up making the same or more. Whether Guerrero or Malenko wind up working more dates for less money, as many in WCW have knocked them for their decision based on the idea that is what will happen, depends on how strongly WWF pushes them and how business holds up

The 8.11 rating for the Raw main event on 2/7 apparently caused some people labeled "Vanilla midgets who will never draw a dime" to gain a sort of revenge

Bill Lyon in the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote a column on 2/5 regarding the XFL. He wrote that the NFL is as close to being bulletproof as anything in sports. He described XFL vs. NFL as being equivalent to an ant pounding on an elephant's kneecap. But he did say you can't dismiss McMahon because he knows how to reach a certain demographics and most importantly, he's not encumbered by the weight of having a conscience (that's actually a great line). He wrote, "In the end, the credibility issue is what is likely to doom the XFL. Rassling fans are willing to suspend disbelief at a WWF event. Deep down, they know that while the falls are spectacular and real--witness the spate of fatalities and serious injures as flamboyant acrobatics have come into vogue--everything has been choreographed and rehearsed. The bridge McMahon is trying to build would join entertainment and sports, but it says here that sports fans would be reluctant to buy into it. The prearranged outcome is just another term for the fix. And the talent discrepancy would not sell with the football fan. The XFL might make it. But as a curiosity, mostly. And with a relatively short shelf life. And the NFL would not even bother to rub its kneecap.

One of the keys to the XFL is Michael Weisman, who is going to run the television production. Weisman was NBC's lead sports producer from 1983 to 1989 including having Super Bowls to his credit, and is currently the lead baseball producer for FOX

Chyna was on the Jay Leno show on 2/11, breaking WCW's unofficial hold on wrestling guests on the show. Most wrestling people on talk shows like this wind up being too much in character, or those who are out of character, often aren't that interesting. Chyna made for a rare wrestling person who handles themself like a real person, similar to how Foley comes across on his interviews. In her case, it's harder to take her as a real person because of the physical exaggerations. But she's got a very good real life personality which makes her not come across as part of the freak show the minute she engaged in conversation that due to her profession and physique, not to mention the way they want her to look in public appearances (making the worst dressed list and all for that gown the company designed for her to wear). Having said all that, that clever line about her breast implants being a real estate investment because down the line she'll be able to sell them on ebay for a profit seemed to generate one of those embarrassed "what a freak" laughs from the audience, which probably wound up with the final general public reaction swaying away from her ability to talk casually back to the weirdness that people would assume of her from the physical and professional first impression

The heel turn for the Radicals was apparently devised on Sunday night by Foley and McMahon. Foley asked for the Hell in the Cell match as a swansong and the way the booking changed, it resulted in the Radicals to be programmed with Rikishi Phatu & Too Cool for the 2/27 PPV show. Radicals are expected to start on the road full-time after the PPV

Shawn Michaels' students Lance Cade, Shooter Shultz, American Dragon and Spanky got a try-out on the 2/8 Smackdown tapings in Austin, TX and the WWF offered all four of them developmental contracts. All but Cade (who is in Japan for an FMW tour) were to sign them on the air on the TWA TV show this past weekend

The Miami Herald reported that Rock is tentatively set to host "Saturday Night Live" in March

WWOR TV to promote Smackdown ran a poll asking Who the Greatest Wrestler of All-time was. The winner? The Rock, ahead of Hogan second and Austin third. New Age Outlaws won as greatest tag team of all-time

Ultimo Dragon will be going to the 2/28 Madison Square Garden show largely to create his own angle about his students and the WWF. WCW could do a lot worse than bring in Magnum Tokyo, Cima, Dragon Kid, etc

Multi Channel News on 2/14 ran a story on Chris Benoit leaving WCW and WWF's thrashing of WCW in the ratings and PPV. The article credits the rise of WWF's ratings to a younger stable of former WCW wrestlers (Steve Austin, Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Cactus Jack were all in WCW years ago). The story explained the dumping of Vince Russo as because the storylines had become too racy (which is not the reason at all, the reason was business was dropping at the house shows and on PPV at a scary rate) with WCW spokesperson Alan Sharp saying, "We're trying to appeal to fans of all ages but avoid content that's offensive or likely to alienate viewers." In the story, they credited Kevin Continued on page 10.

THE READERS PAGES

 

BENOIT

I've waited for about a week to compose some thoughts on the recent personnel moves. It appears that everyone that has voiced an opinion on the subject has decided that Bill Busch was totally in the wrong for his decision. I can't understand why this has happened. Sure, Benoit and company are some of the most talented individuals that have ever stepped between the ropes. The question that comes to mind is, Does that talent allow them to make requirements of their employer? Yes, WCW has made major mistakes in the past regarding dealing with talent but I comment Busch for taking a stand. Those four individuals put him in an unenviable position. The lunatics were trying to take over the asylum. To demand that one individual be replaced because of personal issues is not fair to anyone.

Mr. Busch has a company to run and hopefully make it a competitive one. He has made a wrong decision? Possibly. You, me and everyone else were not placed in his shoes to make that decision. We, the armchair quarterbacks, can sit on the sidelines and rake him over the coals for his decision and many have already. Until we are placed in that position, it is totally unfair to Busch to chastise him. Yes, WCW is in trouble to the mainstream fan and seen as a second-rate company but they've been in that position before. I will continue to support WCW. Call me a die-hard or a fool but I won't jump ship because it's cool to do so now. All I ask from this publication and all the others is to remain objective in reviewing this and other situations.

Eric Covil

State College, Pennsylvania

DM: You're simplifying the issue to simply Benoit and company goes vs. Kevin Sullivan keeping his job. There were many decisions made before hand that led to this, all of which were made in panic. From hiring Russo without going through his plans to turn wrestling into a bad comedy variety show and figuring how that would effect house shows and buy rates, which, admittedly, looked like a great move at the time. Then from the decision, which was probably Russo's, to strip Hart of the title which led to every single problem happening. While Hart was probably going to have to be stripped because the concussion was so bad, nobody knew it was this bad at the time and the panic decision making led to Russo being ousted, although he was on track for being ousted anyway. The big decision that can't be justified is the company, with the knowledge of what Benoit had demanded, still put its world title on him, and then, the next day, basically wound up throwing him out without even consideration for its own title and company and asking him to do a job that one would think he was too professional to turn down. Had Taylor been made head booker after Russo, none of this would have happened, and most in the company before hand felt Taylor was the better choice. This was something well known before Sullivan was put in the spot. If Busch was so sure Sullivan was going to turn things around, he shouldn't have backed down, but there were a lot more decisions over the weekend than just that one.

WRESTLER OF THE CENTURY

I already voted in one poll on this subject for Lou Thesz. Then I read your thoughts ont he subject of Wrestler of the Century and I'm re-analyzing the subject based on your insights and some of the other "Man of the Century" votes we've seen lately.

ESPN had Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Jim Brown, Wayne Gretzky and Jim Thorpe. One guy from each of the four major team sports plus an all-around guy from the first half of the century.

Another athlete poll, I think it was AP, went with Jackie Robinson as No. 1 for his social impact. I don't even want to get into this. I remember Joe Louis and Jesse Owens. It was drilled into my young head growing up that Jim Thorpe, Lou Thesz, Joe Louis and Ty Cobb were the real sports heroes and the greatest in their sports. I bothers me that Thorpe's legend isn't felt that much anymore.

In terms of the times, maybe Robinson did for American blacks what Rikidozan did for war-ravaged Japan. But Robinson only represented one segment of a diverse population while Rikidozan lifted an entire nation. The fact is that Rikidozan used a worked form of wrestling, was responsible for starting out Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki. The Japanese wrestlers didn't make serious inroads in the U.S., but when an American wrestler goes to Japan, he does come back a better wrestler. So for social impact, Rikidozan is No. 1 and Hulk Hogan is No. 2.

Hogan benefitted from being the cartoon king when pro wrestling went to that format. He benefitted from PPV. Like "the clown prince of rasslin," Gorgeous George, he made his name on TV. Two no-talents being in the right place with a good gimmick at the right time.

Time Magazine named Albert Einstein as Man of the Century. They claimed Einstein created something from nothing, modern physics. The closest thing we've had to an Einstein or maybe an FDR would be Sam Muchnick, Vince McMahon Jr. and maybe Rikidozan did them one better. He inherited nothing and made something from nothing. He did have an American model to copy but who would copy something so hokey from a barbarian conqueror who had fairly recently dropped history's only A-bombs on his people. No. 2 as a creator would be George, king of the gimmick. He first did his thing around 1948. The "real" wrestling of the first half century was gone and he made the gimmick the game. Wagner started that 52 years ago, whether he stole his gimmick from someone else or not, on six-inch black & white television sets.

Also credited should be the first great high flyer, perhaps Antonino Rocca, and the first mainstream masked wrestler, maybe El Santo. At this point I feel Rikidozan as the "Jackie Robinson" and "Einstein" equivalent (the AP and Time awards) is the best choice for Pro Wrestler of the Century.

After I read your article, I began to lean less toward Lou Thesz because you made such a good case for the other nine. I also looked at the list of those who didn't make your top ten and decided that George still belongs in the top ten, but I couldn't find anyone who deserved to be bumped. The weakest candidate now seems to be Hogan, who based on your eyada survey, would finish No. 1 if it came to a voting today, rather than where I'd put him, which is No. 10 if even in the top ten.

The top 50 Hollywood performers survey pointed out some interesting things. The performers were supposed to be judged on star quality, longevity and their work quality along with acting ability. There is a good comparison to judging wrestling. Star quality is the same and acting ability would equal wrestling ability. For wrestling, I'd also add creativity. With the exception of people like Orson Welles, movie actors generally don't control their characters.

Despite the criteria listed, James Dean made the list. What did he do? Three movies? So did Marilyn Monroe, who was considered a poor actress when she was alive.

George was not athletic and I'm guessing his longevity was short. His star quality and creativity and influence were far reaching. Any reference to early television and seven-inch circular screens sooner or later leads to mentioning Gorgeous George. With his bleached hair, he gave us a lot of copycats, from Buddy Rogers to Ric Flair, except those two guys could really wrestle.

Hogan was manufactured, very lucky and had another top ten candidate in Andre the Giant to boost him. He used television the same way George did, to develop a mass audience and create an image. Except they didn't have steroids in George's day and didn't have an economy that allowed kids to piss away millions of dollars on toys.

Hogan had Andre going for him plus his big body. I suspect the WWF fans grew tired of Hogan like wrestling fans did of George. But Hogan did have WCW after he was phased out by WWF. The difference is, as you mentioned, that George didn't take care of himself while Hogan was smart enough several times to adapt. The more I think about it, Hogan should be in the top ten and Wagner shouldn't, mainly for the key reason you gave, longevity. Terry Bollea may have had more opportunities than Raymond Wagner, but he didn't blow his chances.

Michael Abbey

Regarding the most important wrestler of the century, I narrowed your list down to Rikidozan and Hulk Hogan. Some of the more popular choices like Lou Thesz, Ric Flair, Karl Gotch and Strangler Lewis no doubt individually changed wrestling history in their own way,. However, I just don't see how many one of these men individually were responsible for the degree of change that Hogan and Rikidozan were.

Thesz and Flair were great champions and superb performers, but if they hadn't been there, somebody else would have taken their place, although almost certainly with far less effectiveness and talent. Antonio Inoki, Andre the Giant and Giant Baba were all big names, but I see Hogan as being a bigger name than any of them. Without Rikidozan, there is no guarantee pro wrestling would even exist in Japan. This fact alone could qualify him as being the most important wrestler of the century. And Hogan changed the whole scope of pro wrestling as we know it, something that Flair and Thesz can't lay claim to.

Barry Johns

Rincon, Georgia

I'd like to comment on the most important wrestler of the century. Your choices of the ten most likely candidates were extremely well-argued. I can't imagine my final choice not being someone from that list. My only reservation would be your having left Antonino Rocca off the list. Several of your earlier comments indicate you think he was mainly an ethnic babyface with limited regional appeal. That's not the way I remember it. From the late 1940s through around the mid-1960s, he was probably the best known wrestler in America. Lou Thesz' remarks about Rocca's actual wrestling ability are no doubt accurate, but for sheer mainstream name recognition, I'd place Rocca above Hulk Hogan.

I strongly suspect that Strangler Lewis and Frank Gotch will get less consideration than they deserve, simply because hardly anyone is around today who saw them. That skews the voting, but there's no way around it. Unfortunately, a lot of your younger readers may feel the same way about those who made their name before 1975.

At any rate, I can't see any choice possible other than Lou Thesz. This is based partly on longevity, since he was a dominant figure from about 1937 through the 1960s and in some places into the early 1970s. It's partly on genuine wrestling ability, as there have been probably no more than two or three others who were as good. It's party on working ability. He may not have been the absolute best, but he was certainly in the highest echelon. And it's partly on mainstream recognition. Several others are substantially ahead in this category, especially in the days of cable TV and the internet, but Thesz' name would be recognized by a great many Americans in his day who would have never considered themselves wrestling fans.

A real good case can be made for Rikidozan, Giant Baba, Antonio Inoki or El Santo, certainly within their own countries. But the bottom line is this. Thesz was a whole lot bigger in Japan than any of the first three ever were in the United States. As to Santo, you've already pointed out that his appeal, as great as it was, was generally limited to Mexico and parts of Central America.

Ric Flair would be a good choice. I'm sure many of your readers would vote for him. But he wrestled mainly for one organization at a time when American wrestling was polarized. In the 1950s, everyone knew that Thesz was the world champion. He would come to town, in whatever part of the country he came, and everyone recognized the prestige he brought with the title belt. He worked against the best in every region. He represented the pinnacle of the pro wrestling world, however fictitious it really was. Flair was the champion first of the NWA and later of WCW, working programs with other company employees. He was a champion, but he was never the only real champion. That wasn't his fault. It just reflects the way the business changed. His sojourn into the WWF was largely meaningless.

Admittedly, Flair was also a big star in Japan. But he was not as big a star as Thesz and was certainly less dominant as the top star in the game in his era than Thesz was in his. Flair would be a good choice, but not the top choice.

I don't know why you remarked that Thesz would be the "safest political choice." The fact is, based on longevity, genuine athletic wrestling skill, working ability, world wide fame, mainstream recognition and the ability to sell tickets, he's far and away the logical choice.

Norman Antokol

Wheaton, Maryland

PRODUCT MIX

A lot has been written here and on the net about the proliferation of sex and skin in today's wrestling. When done correctly, the use of women as sex objects works well and though I can't document this, helps to sell the product. I speak from experience because as twisted as this seems, I attended certain house shows in the old USWA because they had cat fights and clothes tearing matches. I think the presence of a sexy woman helps to get over wrestlers. I can't help but think Elizabeth helped Randy Savage's career. Even Steve Austin's career started with a feud over a woman. But I think the big three are overdoing it. Every Nitro, Raw, Smackdown and Thunder has some sort of T&A match. If used sparingly, this stuff will peak interest. Oversaturation will wind up with disinterest.

The WWF drew a lot of heat for Miss Kitty exposing herself at the PPV. I agree if the WWF is going to do this on a show, there should be a parental warning before hand. I'm an adult and I'm a pro wrestling fan. I hated the watered down version of pro wrestling with the cartoons and music videos. The WWF has every right to target their program for people in my demographic, but there should be specific warnings about content for children. I thought the way the WWF handled it was wrong. I think it would have been better in the context of a match like the Sable/Jacqueline incident on the British PPV. Having a heel get her comeuppance in the context of a match by getting exposed tells a much better story than having a woman flash the crowd. It's all about story telling.

You commented about the legality of nudity where children are present. I find this to be a double standard. For the last 20 years I've been a wrestling fan, I've seen everyone from Roddy Piper to Dick Murdoch to Eddie Gilbert to Steve Austin moon the audience. Three months ago, with WCW standards and practices in full enforcement, Roddy Piper pulled down Ric Flair's trunks on PPV. Jake Roberts once pants'd Rick Rude on TV and it looked like Rude was completely exposed. Yet never once have you questioned the legality of this. Why is the Miss Kitty incident any different?

But sometimes it can be too much. The worst, most egregious example of wrestling using sex to sell the product is in the WWF Slam Cam commercial. For a brief moment at the end of the commercial, all of the actors are watching the computer screen in amazement. The teen behind the computer is staring directly at Debra's chest. Now this I find downright wrong. What kind of messages are we sending to the youth of America when we show a guy blatantly staring at a woman's tits? It completely objectifies women. I know a little about how TV commercials are produced and I know things like this are not an accident. It was a planned spot. A director instructed Debra to stand next to a boy and then he instructed the boy to stare at her boobs. I felt bad for Debra. This type of stuff makes me embarrassed to be a wrestling fan. No, it makes me embarrassed to be alive.

Two off the topic thoughts. I saw the E! special on Hulk Hogan and was amazed at how earnestly he could sit down and lie to the camera and re-invent history. Not just him, but all his cronies like Bobby Heenan and Gene Okerlund. I was particularly amazed at the interpretation of the Andre the Giant match. In this and a few other interviews with Hogan and even Vince McMahon, they try to sell this match as the most important moment in Hogan's career and the match that made him a star. I was a wrestling fan in 1987 and thought the match itself was horrible. Hogan had been a huge star for years. I'm not sure why anyone points to this match as the great one, but perhaps because Andre has passed away, it's a nice story they can talk about the concept of passing the torch.

Finally, I read that the Nitro Girls video was doing extremely well in video sales. As bad as it was, I told you it would do gangbuster numbers.

Stan McCord

Brooklyn, New York

It's not the WWF, or any company's, responsibility to do what is best for kids or society. That's a political philosophy that a lot of people, myself included, deeply believe. The last several years, many in our country have wanted to nerf society to make it safer for kids and in many cases, for example cigarettes, for adults as well. Almost as many people are upset about this trend. However, in the case of the WWF, the change in programming standards is due to market pressure and not government interference. While I don't think advertising on WWF or any other risque show will hurt the sales of the advertisers, the executives in those company do. As a side note, I enjoy the shows just as much now as I did when they were over the top.

As to WWF marketing to kids, I think this is a chicken and the egg scenario. By selling toys and video games, is the WWF courting children or are they recognizing that children are watching and trying to make money off that? I would guess it's a combination of both.

As to parental warnings and those lame TV ratings, I think they do the exact opposite of what they're designed to do. When kids see the ratings indicate they shouldn't watch, they become more intrigued by the show. And parents don't pay any attention.

I think the whole controversy boils down to whether you believe the individual should be responsible for themselves and their kids, or that society should be. I guess most people fall in the middle, which is why analogies never seem to work.

Jason Campbell

I wanted to let you know that I've stopped watching wrestling for the last several months due to the lack of wrestling on the shows. Basically, for every reason Bret Hart has given are my sentiments exactly. The only thing I have left as a fan to do is stop supporting it altogether and distance myself from it rather than continue to complain.

Joshua Christie

Phoenix, Arizona

WWFE STOCK

You keep trying to make sense out of the low price of WWFE stock. Wall Street didn't like the football announcement. So without football, add three points to the stock. It would still be at 14. The problem is this is an industry not in favor with Wall Street. Is it undervalued? Yes. So are home building stocks. For example, Toll Brothers has record home sales, record earnings, record backlog in construction guaranteeing higher earnings for the next year or two. Why is toll as such a low price?

WCW can turn it around. It will take years to actually compete with the WWF again. However, they can make money by having decent house shows, which would increase attendance, and decent booking, which would increase ratings, although they won't compete with Raw. Make a million. Lose a million. AOL-Time Warner is valued at $300 billion. Who cares.

Not even taking Monday night's abortion, why did they ever let Scott Steiner talk in the first place? After Monday night, he should have been fired.

Dave Katz

Mt. Holly, New Jersey

ROCK

I recently finished "The Rock Says." It was interesting and entertaining but it was not in the same league as Mick Foley's book. I didn't expect as much as the Foley book and was not disappointed. The Rock has only been in wrestling for a few years, so he has few anecdotes about wrestling. He spends almost as much time talking about college football. I had hoped for some insight into his youth and stories about his father and his grandfather. There was some of that, but not enough. Also, there are factual errors regarding the rise of the WWF, but this is par for the course on early story about the WWF.

He praised Bret Hart for helping him in his early days with the company but avoids talking about the controversy. Unlike Foley, he seems to follow the company line at every turn. At least he avoided the Survivor Series story rather than put the McMahon spin on it. He did talk about Owen Hart.

The book reads as if it was a filtered project. With Foley, it was his own thoughts and feelings, without outside interpretation. I think Rock needed more time and more experience to have a better rounded story.

My biggest gripe is the cost. Foley's book is more than 500 pages and costs $25. Rock's is under 300 pages and costs $26. Hardly an equal value. Still, it was both amusing and refreshing to see my company take this book seriously after the success of Foley's. It is featured at the front of our store, along with the other major book releases. We also got several cases at the start, unlike Foley's. With his book, we only got a handful of copies and were sold out quickly. It took several weeks before we, and the publisher, had enough copies available.

I predicted Foley's book would become a best seller. My co-workers laughed. I had the last laugh. I don't foresee similar success for The Rock. It may see a few weeks on the best-seller list, but not as long. Steve Austin's book will probably be bigger.

Personally, I'm waiting for Bret Hart to write a book. Now, if only some publisher would print "Hooker." And would you happen to know where I could get a copy of Yori Nakamura's shootwrestling book? I'm interested to read it and see if it provides some background into the founding of the sport.

Jeff Nettleton

Springfield, Illinois

DM: I don't know about Nakamura's book.

DYNAMITE KID

I finally received the Dynamite Kid book. I'm a sophomore in high school and I have never read 204 pages of one book in my life. I read this book in two nights and couldn't put it down.

The book is real. It doesn't show the glamorous happy ending style of other wrestling books recently published. Most wrestling fans don't want to accept the reality of wrestling. This book wasn't a bunch of sports entertainment garbage. This was about one man's life in the wrestling business.

I totally disagree with John Molinaro's review of the book. Tom Billington went into his life. His life was wrestling. He gave his physical well being to give the fans their money's worth. It is sad that people forgot about Dynamite Kid because he gave his body to entertain and to give fans great matches, much like Mick Foley, who will also end up with physical problems. This book also gave great insight to life on the road and shows the friendships made while on the road and how most promoters are scumbags and cheats. The book also shows the Hart family in a different light than most people are used to. Dynamite Kid revolutionized the sport with matches against Tiger Mask. I recommend this book over Foley's.

Justin Kimberlin

St. Charles, Missouri

I read Dynamite Kid's book and enjoyed it more than Mick Foley's book, but being from Alberta likely had more to do with it than anything else. I thought the book was quite fair to most everyone involved. In talking with one of the Harts who hadn't read the book, he was only concerned that Dynamite would bad mouth Stu, which really didn't happen other than maybe Stu not saying thank you for the houses that Dynamite drew.

Generally the feeling is that Dynamite Kid killed the territory. Likely the death of the territory was inevitable. But when he had the book they were dropping horrible houses after all the hotshotting he did.

I thought Dynamite was quite fair to Bruce, giving him credit for bringing him over, but he was accurate in a lot of the workrate analysis. I remember when Dynamite and Davey pounded the shit out of Bruce and Davey has since said it was a roid rage kind of thing. Bruce has always said that Dynamite is the best worker in the world even after all the heat between the two.

Trent Walters

Edmonton, Alberta

Just writing in about "Pure Dynamite." What an amazing book. I can't even put it into words. This is easily as good as Mick Foley's book, if not better. The great thing abut the book is that he isn't afraid to say exactly how he feels on certain wrestlers and even family members. Incredible stories and pranks. For anyone who hasn't gotten the book yet, it's a must-buy.

Ed Boggess

AWARDS

I was glad to see Mitsuharu Misawa chosen as Wrestler of the Year and Most Outstanding Wrestler. In the current climate, it would have come as no surprise if Rock or Steve Austin would have won. I also agree the 6/11 Misawa vs. Kenta Kobashi should have won match of the year and was better than their October 1998 match which was voted match of the decade in Japan.

Stuart Rogers

Birmingham, England

 

The Hardys, Edge & Christian had one of the best matches of the year, but in no way did they deserve a feud of the year pick. What was so intriguing about four guys shaking hands and two of them coming to the ring with their stepmother? I'm surprised the Impact Players didn't receive a top tier spot in the tag team of the year voting. The New Age Outlaws ranked No. 7 as heels trying to get face pops. The biggest fluke is Kane at No. 2 for Most Improved since all his best matches took place in 1998 and this year he's been rightfully moved down the cards. Blitzkrieg was a rookie, so how does he fit into that category?

It's amusing that Steve Austin and Rock had votes for Most Overrated when they drew a record Wrestlemania. The only thing underrated about D-Lo Brown is his terrible music, swagger and facials. Jerry Lynn is not an underrated wrestler. He's a strong mid-card wrestler who flirts with main events. His program with Rob Van Dam has temporarily run its course and he has a style clash with Mike Awesome.

While Steve Austin vs. Undertaker is a feud way played out, I'm disappointed it didn't get a match of the year mention for the July Fully Loaded match in Buffalo. Being there and watching it live was amazing, unlike seeing Masato Tanaka vs. Awesome live. Not that it was a bad match, but it didn't seem nearly as special as Austin retiring McMahon after a **** match.

Test should have had more votes than Kurt Angle as Rookie of the Year. And as a non-wrestler, what did Torrie Wilson do better than Dawn Marie?

Tony Schiavone is definitely the worst announcer in the history of our sport. Mae & Moolah are the worst tag team. Who did Sonny Onoo and Sable even manage this year? Give me a date that Steve Blackman even did a full interview.

Kevin Convery Jr.

Kenmore, New York

BRET HART

I wanted to comment on the Bret Hart column that you put in the 1/17 Observer where he said Mick Foley missed the point. He talked about how Foley has gone through hell in the ring and is proud of it, but then said: "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. 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."

While I have a lot of respect for Hart for what he's accomplished in the ring and for the fact he seems to have strong morals, I thought it was stupid of him to say that because Foley didn't get it done the same way he did, that the point was lost. Foley was just telling his story. He wasn't trying to make a point about what wrestling is. In that sense, Hart seems to have missed the point of Foley's book.

Sebastian Kenyon

BATTLEBOTS

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


Continued from page 14. Sullivan with being head booker during the period WCW was beating the WWF in the ratings, and said the move to cut back Russo and Ed Ferrara's power angered Benoit and the other three "young" (which probably isn't the right term for Dean Malenko) WCW wrestlers. Actually it was the putting of Sullivan in the position that was the problem, not the dropping of Russo, as if Russo was dropped and Terry Taylor was named head booker, this wouldn't have happened. In explaining why the four wrestlers were released, Sharp said that "We cannot allow talent to dictate to management how to run the company." The story noted that Royal Rumble drew a 1.6 buy rate and Starrcade drew an 0.32 buy rate

"The Rock Says" was No. 1 on the Los Angeles Times best seller list for this week. It was No. 4 in Newsday, No. 1 in Publishers Weekly and the New York Daily News lists. Foley's book was still on the Daily News list at No. 7, all in the non-fiction category

WWF the Music Vol. 4 was down to No. 106 on the charts this week having sold 15,075 units

The role of Joey Abs was originally planned for Joe Hichlen, but because of a visa problem the night they were starting the character, it went to Jason Ahrndt

Smackdown tapings on 2/8 in Austin, TX drew a sellout 12,337 paying $277,383. 2/11 in Denver drew a sellout 10,412 paying $252,080. 2/12 in San Diego drew a sellout 12,423 paying $293,742. On 2/13, they ran split shows with half the crew in Bakersfield and the other half in Davis, CA. Davis drew a sellout 7,996 paying $191,111 and Bakersfield drew 7,132 paying $206,698. For the week including Nitro in San Jose, merchandise was $491,344 or $7.72 per head

In Bakersfield, Michael Hayes was there and was challenged to a match by Viscera. Hayes turned it down saying he doesn't wrestle anymore, but he was attacked and left laying.