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January 24, 2000 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: WCW Souled Out review, WCW turmoil, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN1083-9593 January 24, 2000

The most tumultuous four-day period in the recent history of World Championship Wrestling started with WCW getting the word that an injury would cause champion and main eventer Bret Hart to miss the Souled Out PPV. As dominos starting falling one by one, it ended with a new booker, the crowning of a new champion who asked to be released from his contract anyway, and his vacating the title voluntarily some 18 hours later and possibly with several wrestlers leaving the company.

For Bill Busch, who is running WCW, this week will probably become his sink-or-swim week as far as what the end result regarding his respect both in and out of wrestling based on his handling of a chaotic situation, which was still ongoing at press time.

It all started when WCW was told officially late Thursday or early Friday that Hart's doctor had diagnosed his severe migraines and inability to focus as the result of a severe concussion and not only ruled out wrestling on the PPV, but even flying in for television this week or doing any lifting this week. Hart was hopeful of being able to fly in for the Los Angeles/Las Vegas tapings on 1/24 and 1/25, but he wouldn't be able to wrestle at those shows. He was scheduled for another exam this week to determine an estimated time he'd be medically cleared to wrestle but it was believed to be three weeks minimum. As shown on the PPV, it is believed the concussion stemmed from the Starrcade match on 12/19 when Goldberg kicked him extremely hard with a side kick, although Hart also took a bad hit when Goldberg didn't hold his leg while he executed the figure four around the post, causing the back of his head to crash on the floor while executing the move. Hart had continued to wrestle since that point, but was not himself, and recognized days later he had a concussion but kept working not realizing how severe it was until seeing a doctor about it on Thursday morning.

This left WCW in the position without a main event and a world title match to headline the PPV a few days later. Things were compounded when Jeff Jarrett contacted the company on Friday saying he also had a concussion, stemming from taking the splash off the cage from Jimmy Snuka the previous Monday (Jarrett also wrestled the day after the concussion, working a tag team match on Thunder), and had water on the brain and wouldn't be able to wrestle in his scheduled three matches against Chris Benoit. Just like that, the entire meat of the card, which was going to most likely do (and for that matter appears to have ended up doing) one of the two worst buy rates in the history of the company, was gone.

The decision was made to strip Hart of the title and crown a new champion on PPV. Vince Russo's idea was to do a Battle Royal or Royal Rumble on the show, and end with a surprise champion--Tank Abbott. There was a lot of internal unhappiness with Russo's booking and television for many weeks, but the belief was still that he'd have to be given six months to prove whether his ideas would play even though many in upper management were of the opinion his concept of wrestling was not working and wouldn't work and his quick blow-offs of angles on television was doing PPV and house shows no favors. There were also the complaints that the people featured the most on television during the TV shows, whether they be wrestlers or non-wrestlers, were not people who were going on the road which was killing the house show business in competition with WWF, which sends every able-bodied wrestler on the road (and for that matter even ECW which features on its house shows virtually all the same people it pushes on television).

While the idea of making Abbott champion was not the reason for the demotion, it was symptomatic of destroying the foundation of the product and titles in Russo's change in concept of what pro wrestling is, a concept not favored by those in management who wanted the soap operas in addition to good wrestling matches and felt that was also, based on their reaction, what the fans wanted since management had gotten little positive fan reaction or positive numbers feedback to the product in recent weeks. Second-guessing of the decision by Busch to hire him had gone back many weeks, and not all due to what most wrestlers in the company felt for weeks was Kevin Sullivan trying to get the booking position by constantly pointing out why things weren't working, which, in fact, for the most part, they weren't. Busch's ideas were to continue employing Russo on a booking committee that would put more focus on the wrestling product but where his Russo's ideas could be funneled by those with more background in wrestling, similar to how Vince McMahon edited Russo's ideas in WWF.

The Abbott decision, as well as the decision to made Oklahoma (co-writer Ed Ferrara) the cruiserweight champion (which ended up still happening on the PPV but was dropped two days later) and not change the tag team titles from David Flair & Crowbar (which ended up going to an equally well regarded by fans main event calibre team of Big Vito & Johnny the Bull at Thunder), basically rendering all of those belts meaningless, led to a showdown internally on Friday, with Russo being removed from his final decision making position. Russo, who had 21 months left on a two-year incentive-based contract, was invited to stay with the company as part of a booking committee, which would have included Sullivan, J.J. Dillon and Terry Taylor. Bob Mould, who had just quit the company a few weeks earlier because of frustration due to Russo and he having philosophical differences of what pro wrestling was and his ideas generally not being used, was also brought back. Kevin Nash, who Busch described as his best friend among the wrestlers, was also given increased power as a liaison of sorts between the wrestlers and management, a decision that was not popular among what appears to be the majority of the wrestlers, although the heat on Nash was almost non-existent compared to that with Sullivan, even though the company's track record when Sullivan had power was far better than when Nash had power. Russo had not, as of the weekend, declined the offer, but comments he'd made to many during this period led them to believe he was leaning toward leaving the company. However, both Ferrara and Bill Banks, who Russo brought with him from the WWF to help write and put together the TV shows, agreed to stay with the company with diminished powers as television writers. Ferrara still thought Russo would stay as a member of the committee, but not if Sullivan was on the committee. Banks asked to be re-assigned from writing television to working on the magazine and internet site, but was talked into staying as a television writer.

Next on the agenda was how to change the card. Numerous plans were thrown around. WCW, on its web site, on Friday, was far more honest than WWF was in a similar situation with Steve Austin at Survivor Series, announcing very shortly after getting word, that neither Hart nor Jarrett would be on the show, that the world title would be decided on the show and the U.S. title would be decided on at a later date. They first announced they would have a new main event, with Vicious against someone for the vacant title, and Vicious' opponent would be announced at 7 p.m. Friday. But with the problems with Russo going on, that deadline came and went.

By Friday night, Randy Savage, whose contract expired on 1/14, was asked to replace Hart in the main event at the house show in Charleston, WV against Sid Vicious. The plan on Friday afternoon seemed to be to put the title on Ric Flair at the PPV with a finish where Arn Anderson would hit Vicious with an object and give Flair the win in heel fashion, and to bring both Hulk Hogan and Savage back, Hogan on Nitro on 1/17 and Savage as a surprise on the PPV. However, at a meeting with Hogan, who the original plan seemed to be leaning toward before all this, where he'd return for a big singles match with a heel Flair on 2/14 in the unopposed Nitro from the Nassau Coliseum (Hogan himself had talked of later turning heel to work with Bill Goldberg soon after Goldberg's return to the ring in March), both sides were far apart of money. Hogan apparently expecting a similar deal to the one Eric Bischoff had cut him, which at one point his marketability did prove to justify, but it no way does today. Savage and management were also far apart on money. Technically, while putting the title on Flair was strongly discussed including the scenario where Arn Anderson as referee would hit Sid with an object, it was never formally offered to him, and by the end of the day, the plan was decided not to "waste" the potential big quarter hour for Flair's return on a Nitro that could be hyped for a month by debuting him on a PPV that was going to die no matter what.

While WCW was honest to the hardcore fans on the web, the same can't be said toward the masses. WCW Saturday Night has the voice-overs taped late Friday. On the show that aired on 1/15, they were still advertising and heavily pushing the original card, with Hart vs. Vicious and the three Benoit vs. Jarrett matches, despite the company having knowledge none of those matches would be taking place.

At this point the new plan was for no announcement to be made before the show, only that commissioner Terry Funk would announce the surprise challenger before the match. The booking idea at this point went along the lines of, Funk would then lose to Kevin Nash, who would take over as commissioner immediately. Nash would announce the top contender as Scott Hall, but that it would turn out that Hall was drinking in Orlando, FL and Nash would then say the No. 2 contender gets the shot, and declare himself the No. 2 contender, and beat Vicious and become the commissioner and the champion. Nash turned that down, feeling with his increased formal power, the last thing he needed to do without the rest of the wrestlers totally resenting him and morale going into the toilet was to become TV commissioner and world champion the very day it was announced of his new power. Of course, as it turns out, he'll probably have the belt a week later anyway. So the decision was made to go with Benoit, which WCW announced on its web site on Saturday night, but failed to give any other update as to changes in the rest of the card.

What management hadn't counted on was not only that Russo was far more popular than Sullivan, but that Sullivan had made so many strong enemies, with the feeling being he was directly responsible for several of the wrestlers being stuck in the middle of the cards and the lazier and generally older wrestlers keeping their top spots. Sullivan can be blamed for that when it happened on his watch, but that situation continued with every booker the company has had in recent years. Russo was generally liked by the wrestlers personally, although the general feeling was his work up to that point was a big disappointment, an opinion that also changed in some circles for he better when faced with the idea of Sullivan being in power. There was a general feeling that management had promised him six months and pulled the plug after only three, which wasn't fair to him as a person having just moved his family to Atlanta. At the same time, his idea to put the titles on Abbott, who doesn't have the ring experience to do more than about a two minute match and hasn't developed into a strong pro wrestling interview nor was he over yet with the fans although the one punch knockout gimmick probably will get him over shortly, Oklahoma, who was a joke and the tag title mess involving Flair, was a disaster that had started. In addition, Russo was viewed as being inflexible when it came to ideas, in some cases when being inflexible did nobody any good, such as not agreeing to do a dark match main event after TV tapings when Nitro went to two hours and putting babyfaces over at the end of the show (WWF always puts the babyfaces over at the end of the house show, even if it means adding a post-show angle at TV tapings) to send the fans home happy instead of unhappy as they have been usually leaving WCW tapings for various reasons, thus hurting return business in those markets. Few, even his supporters among the wrestlers, agreed with his basic concept of wrestling. In particular, while TV numbers realistically had stayed about even since he arrived, a brief small increase followed by a recent small decrease, and the product on TV was on occasions good in recent weeks and overall better than during the previous Nash regime which dug the company into this hole, the Starrcade PPV number coming in at about an 0.3 was nothing short of disastrous for a show he had ten weeks of television to push and was the company's traditional biggest event of the year built around the company's biggest star, Bill Goldberg, chasing the title. The poor buy rate was largely due to an almost non-existent job of hyping the main event. Many of the house show figures were becoming embarrassing. Russo had been very unlucky booking with so many injuries to constantly work around, in particular the Goldberg injury, but the company itself needed to recognize that many of the injuries were avoidable, the Goldberg and Jarrett ones standing out, because the wrestlers never should have been put in the positions that led to these injuries.

The top star in the company shouldn't be punching through limo windows even with a hidden gimmick because broken glass is dangerous, and the injury risk in the spot that hurt Jarrett was too high (as much for Snuka, who was okay, doing the move at age 56). While some excuses can be made about the sins of the past haunting the company in the present, and there is truth to that, it ignores that if Russo had put together a concept and programs that fans were interested in, the house show business would have been the first place where the turnaround would be noticeable, and it wasn't there at all. And if Russo was able to get one personality over truly, it would have been statistically shown because the merchandise business would have improved if only for t-shirt sales of the one performer getting over. Instead, merchandise business was reaching new lows each successive week.

Long before Russo was replaced, several wrestlers had not so privately talked about banding together against Sullivan, who for whatever reasons (different reasons in the case of each specific individual), was seen as the person who would eventually get Russo's job, although the belief was not this soon. The heat with Benoit, who lives with Sullivan's former wife Nancy and the couple is expecting their first child shortly so the personal heat between the two, ironically mirroring a prior pro wrestling angle booked by Sullivan, is intense. Benoit felt when Sullivan was in power before, he sabotaged his career (remember Benoit's famous losing streak for almost one straight year on PPV when Sullivan was last in control) and Benoit felt there was no way he could work under Sullivan under any circumstances. Benoit's long-time friends dating back to their New Japan days, Dean Simon (Malenko) and Eddie Guerrero had pretty well decided from day one that they'd always stick together in business. Perry Satullo (Perry Saturn) and Troy Martin (Shane Douglas) had also become close with Benoit based on working together over the past year.

The talk that Sullivan would get Russo's spot had been going on internally for weeks, and those who were friendly with Russo, and some who just simply liked Russo because they hated Sullivan more, had urged him to use his power while he had it to cut Sullivan out of power. Russo's response seemed to be along the lines that he could handle the situation.

On Saturday, a group of what was believed to be 15 to 20 wrestlers were expected to confront Busch the next afternoon before the show and all, as a group, ask for contract releases as a protest against Sullivan being named booker. Satullo was the most adamant, since Busch stated at a meeting when he took over as the man in charge, that if anyone was unhappy working in the company, he'd give them their full release.

Being wrestling, about half that group that had promised to stick together the previous day had already changed its mind by the next day. There didn't appear to be any hard feelings over that among the group that did risk their jobs, being that the realization is if that many wrestlers quit at once, many wouldn't be able to find new jobs and most had families to support.

It wound up with Benoit, Satullo, Simon, Martin, Guerrero, Carlos Ashenoff (Konnan) and Pete Gruner (Billy Kidman) going to Busch as a group asking for either their release or for Sullivan to be taken off the booking committee. Ashenoff said he was also speaking for Juventud Guerrera and Rey Misterio Jr., both of whom weren't at the PPV due to not being booked on the card due to injuries. The next day, Anibal Gonzalez (Guerrera), Dionicio Castellanos (Psicosis) and Oscar Gutierrez (Misterio Jr.) talked with Busch. None asked for their release, but they all said that if the rest of the group left, they wanted to leave with them. Castellanos and Gutierrez have worked together with Ashenoff dating back to when they were teenagers training in Tijuana together, through working small-time events together in Southern California and Nortecalifornia, through becoming superstars with AAA and later going to ECW and finally winding back up as a group with WCW. Busch at this point was in a tough position, since he had literally just given the job to Sullivan, and a change due to pressure from wrestlers would in the long run leave the company in chaos because the wrestlers, whenever they got unhappy, which is routine in this business, would try the same strategy if it worked once and might actually stick together if it worked once. Busch was also said to be unaware that any of this was about to happen before it did, or that there was this much heat with Sullivan, which was not a good sign, since it had already been reported as going to happen on several web sites and on at least one radio show by Saturday.

Busch said to the first group before the PPV to give him one week to smooth things over, but did not go so far as to say he would give them full releases in one week if they were still unhappy.

At one point Benoit was going to, since he believed he was leaving, not accept the title. The feeling was it was best for all concerned because as champion that had just been put over for the title, it gave him at least some leverage since nobody else in the group has a current top position. It does make one question the decision to still give him the title after he had asked for his release, but that appears to be a management feeling that he'd be a mark for the belt and that Sullivan in the beginning would be, politically for Sullivan's own survival under scrutiny, be forced to push Benoit to the moon despite whatever personal feelings there might be.

Benoit, being the most valuable member of the group, if he agreed to stay, would severely weaken the group as a whole. There was no indication from anywhere that WCW would remove Sullivan as booker, and there were wrestlers in the group Busch told afterwards very nicely that he'd be sorry to see them leave. There also appeared to be several attempts to weaken the solidarity of the group throughout the day, being that this is pro wrestling and groups sticking together has never been a strong trait in a business with few true friends and a general "me-first" attitude. Benoit was told he was aligning himself with the wrong people and told they had big plans for him. Nash told Satullo a similar not to align himself with prelim guys type of rap and told him he deserved a big push and said he'd work to get him a spot in the NWO. Gruner was promised a major singles push out of the cruiserweight level and into the U.S. title picture which eventually broke him from the group. In a similar divide-and-conquer action, Ashenoff was the one recipient of the scare tactics, being told by Dillon after the PPV show that he was being sent home by management for the time being.

The other wrestlers, while some admired the guts of the guys for sticking together, were not unified totally with the general feeling they were risking high paying guaranteed money contracts that they wouldn't be able to get elsewhere, and with only one other company paying even comparable money and no guarantee all would be able to get positions with that company, that the group wasn't being business smart to risk their jobs largely for what some outsiders perceived was nothing more than loyalty to Benoit (although all of those in the group were unhappy with Sullivan over various things personally and not just due to loyalty to Benoit). There were indications given by WWF through intermediaries although no direct contact because of tampering laws that if the wrestlers were given full releases that they would take some of them, but there were not initial positive reactions regarding all of them. Going as a group would give the WWF a strong interpromotional type of angle where all could be utilized well, as opposed to individually person-by-person where some on their own may not be strong WWF types. Benoit, even without the uncrowned champion angle, was, with the exception of Goldberg, the single most coveted piece of talent in WCW by the WWF. Interest in the others varied, but all have potential to be valuable additions, even in the case of Martin and Ashenoff for their promos. The latter two, on their own, may have had a hard time getting in as singles wrestlers, particularly Martin because of his age and his being injury prone, but would be strong additions in a group invasion type of storyline angle because they, and again Shane Douglas in particular when it comes to being almost a manager role for the rest of them as opposed to an in-ring performer, are the strongest promos which is even more important to get over with the WWF crowd than the WCW crowd. There is also the problem since Martin did not endear himself to WWF management in his previous tenure with the company or in things he said about that tenure afterwards that need to be worked out.

His being so openly vocal everywhere he's been isn't exactly something the WWF looks for in talent, as they don't even use Shawn Michaels these days because he's outspoken outside the ring and perceived as not being a team player. Ashenoff also was in line for something of a push in WWF back in 1991 as a masked super hero type (as the original character to play Max Moon), but ended up leaving on less than stellar terms. There is also the size question, as WWF still has yet to prove it can get smaller wrestlers over (maybe a more proper term would be book to maximize getting smaller wrestlers over) as even one as talented as Chris Jericho, while he has a great ring entrance and is over huge as far as crowd reaction, is still booked in the mid-card category with the Hollys and Chyna and portrayed as being out of his league even with Rikishi, and doesn't play with the big dogs despite a "big dog" reaction, which is a question that needs to be asked about any potential with Guerrera and Misterio Jr. in particular who are tiny compared to everyone on the WWF roster except Kaientai, who are talented but treated as a joke, not to mention Psicosis, Malenko and Guerrero, all of whom are junior heavyweights in a territory filled with deceptively huge men.

For that matter, even Benoit isn't a sure thing for that reason, although it's hard to believe he couldn't run with Rock, Helmsley and/or Austin very quickly, and for the angle to work, as New Japan has shown so many times, it's better to get to that relatively quickly because a traditional slow build would negate this particular angle. The New Japan vs. UWFI angle, which was the biggest short-term money angle in the history of this business, saw the same size problems as the UWFI guys were much smaller, which wasn't noticeable since they always wrestled each other, but was exposed in the ring with the New Japan wrestlers, but that didn't stop the feud from doing monster business before it was booked into oblivion.

Bringing the entire crew in as a group could lead to an interpromotional angle for WWF which would create a lot of interest and heat if handled correctly since those angles done right almost always work. But it's also questionable if they are even thinking in that direction because WWF has dropped the ball in the past when that opportunity presented itself because it would require acknowledging another company as a storyline equal, at least at first, to get maximum value, with wrestlers who work a different style and are as a group smaller. At one point when there were plans on doing that with ECW, the WWF portrayal of ECW, whether correct in the standing of the company at the time or not, was to have WWF's lowest ranked prelim wrestlers feuding with ECW's headliners in a minor WWF Survivor Series program a few years back, which is why that angle never got off the ground. WCW, on the other hand, did so with the NWO angle originally which was one of the most successful pro wrestling angles in history, but ultimately in the long run WCW hurt itself, something New Japan never did under the circumstances, by storyline portrayal of the outside group as being better and cooler than the established company which still hurts the company greatly today. Still, booking that "easy" angle for maximum short-term while not hurting the long-term isn't rocket science either.

While not going in as part of the group, because they didn't ask to be released, individually Jeff Jarrett and Scott Steiner also went to Busch, not so much in protest of Sullivan but to express their feelings that Russo hadn't been given a fair shake.

On the PPV show, Benoit was given the title with a finish where Vicious actually tapped out to his crossface, although Vicious did have his foot on the ropes. Despite Benoit being so respected by insider fans, it was clear Vicious was the more popular of the two in the building, although Benoit was not booed at all. The finish was not geared to create a storyline "out" if Benoit chose to leave, even though it ended up being that way, but was done more to create an issue down the line with Vicious. It was not a great wrestling match, but it was the best one Vicious has probably had since a Madison Square Garden Survivor Series PPV match in 1996 against Shawn Michaels where he won the WWF title. The atmosphere, created both by having the wrestlers in the aisle watching the match, and due to an excellent job of getting the title over and the match as a "contest" over by the announcers, would have been a great start to rebuilding the title had anyone actually seen it. Benoit finished the match, probably doing his career best interview, in getting the belt over and talking about attending his first pro wrestling match at the age of 11 and seeing the Dynamite Kid. Arn Anderson also cut a strong post-match promo. But whatever plus that seemed to be at that moment in rebuilding the title into something that could mean something for drawing power and ratings at some point, was erased within 18 hours.

Konnan was taken off the show, although that angle was planned to drop the six-man and give Kidman the three singles matches planned for Benoit and Jarrett, and had nothing to do with Konnan's asking for his release. Kidman was supposed to receive a monster push with three impressive matches, and while it was put over strongly on TV that story, in the building, it didn't work, but luckily since so few saw it the angle can still be played out as planned. His first match with Malenko, billed as catch-as-catch-can, had rules where the first person to hit the floor would lose. The two were starting to build what would have likely been the best match on the show, scheduled for 12:00, but in a mental lapse, Malenko "heeled" and went to the floor for a breather and based on the match rules, they had no choice but to end it. The bunkhouse match with Saturn was fine, but the third match, with new Revolution member The Wall, served no purpose. It was a bad match with no heat and left Kidman having accomplished nothing. Kidman was hurt in gaining ground as a star by losing to a much bigger man who gave him little offense that fans don't see as a star. The wanted to protect Wall because he's also in line for a major singles push. But Wall gained nothing from it since he was squashed by Sid on TV the next night without even looking competitive and the plan now is to take him off TV for a few weeks and rebuild him as a monster when he comes back.

Before Nitro, Busch met once again with the Revolution members and Benoit. By this point, while nothing was final, it did appear that Gruner's support of the group was wavering and neither Guerrero or Ashenoff were at the show. Busch proposed a compromise, saying that he wasn't going to fire Sullivan from the company because he's got a family to support, but suggested that Sullivan be made booker of the WCW Saturday Night show. The wrestlers were told that they would never have to work the Saturday Night tapings if they stayed, and thus, Sullivan would have no power over their booking. He also asked the group who they thought would make the strongest booking team and they suggested Taylor, Anderson and Russo and the meeting ended amicably with what they thought was a compromise deal. Later in the afternoon, Busch called them in for a second meeting and told all of them except Benoit, who the TV show was scheduled to be built around as new world champion, that they were being sent home, perhaps partially because the group had filed a complaint with the Human Resources Department of Time Warner against road agent Mike Gossett (Mike Graham). The plan was that heel commissioner Nash was going to force Benoit into three title defenses on the show, with Brian Knobs, Lex Luger and a third person whose name we're not sure of, and Benoit was to win all three matches, so clearly they were playing to his ego and giving him the monster push to break away from the group, which would break the opposition to Sullivan. Clearly management felt this was going to work because there didn't appear to be any major hesitation in putting the title on Benoit the previous day. Benoit said, instead, that if they were being sent home, he was leaving and that they were together as a group. When Busch threatened that if he left with the group, he'd be stripped of the title, he didn't hesitate in saying he was staying with the group and at this point the group said that at this point they all wanted a full release or for the company to get rid of Sullivan.

Reports that Benoit threw the title belt in a garbage can and stormed off before Nitro started were incorrect, as actually the group stayed backstage for some time before the company got them new plane tickets home, and Benoit handed the belt to Nick Patrick before leaving.

A few hours later, Nitro started. The announcers put over the match, showing the clip of Vicious' foot on the ropes while tapping out and Anderson, as referee, took the blame for making a bad decision. They did not bury Benoit in the commentary, but did, without quite saying so, give the impression that Vicious was the uncrowned champion. They said the title was held up and an announcement would be made on Thunder as to the status of the belt. This much was a shoot, as WCW, not expecting Benoit to leave, had no plans for what to do and wasn't going to decide until a booking meeting after the show. Russo was not there. The U.S. title situation was handled clumsily, as they simply gave the belt back to Jarrett after stripping him of it on Friday. With no members of the Revolution, The Wall came out, sans Revolution music, with no mention of him being the new member as per the angle from the previous night. Kidman, who beat Psicosis in the opener, was given a huge push in commentary about what a great showing he did and how he's no longer a future star.

On Monday night, Sullivan was said to be very confident backstage, since he obviously got the vote of confidence by management which made its decision. Busch did not give anyone a release and things were left with the idea that they would all come to Atlanta on 1/19 for what at press time appeared to be a final meeting. It was believed, but not confirmed at press time on 1/18, that most of the group would be given releases effective 2/1. It wasn't clear if the releases constituted firings, which given the time frame of the complaint against Gossett could turn it into a potentially tricky issue, or simply a scare tactic trying to get the group to reconsider. It is not clear at press time which of the group was given releases but the only name that came out that was at press time was Guerrero, but others were expecting they would be on the list. In the dressing room at Thunder on 1/18, the group was talked about as if they had failed in their power play and talked about being in the past tense, as if all were no longer with the company and all story line references to the group were dropped. But ultimately, the end result of the story for the group as far as if they succeeded or not will be decided by McMahon, who has both made superstars out of people WCW felt didn't have the charisma to rise past the mid-card (Mick Foley and Steve Austin being the most notable) and has also not pushed many talented performers as well.

An angle was set up the next night on Thunder where the world title would be decided on 1/24 in Los Angeles, with Vicious first having to beat Jarrett to get a match with Nash later in the show. If Vicious failed to beat Jarrett, Nash would get the title via forfeit. Benoit was not mentioned at all in the angle. Speculation from this end would be that Nash would get the title on a screw-job and then defend it against Vicious to headline the SuperBrawl PPV on 2/20 in San Francisco, but at this point that is nothing more than conjecture.

So with all this going on behind-the-scenes, WCW had a PPV to produce on 1/16 at the Firstar Center in Cincinnati, OH, which due to heavy papering, drew a sold out house of 14,132 fans (7,323 paying $238,521 plus another $45,811 in merchandise).

They did a live pre-game show, as the pre-taped version had an entirely different card than would be presented. They did an angle where the Revolution attacked Konnan with five kicks and Konnan was stretchered out. The attendants almost bashed him into the wall carrying him into the ambulance. This was to get him out of the picture so the card could be changed for Kidman to work three matches against three different members of the Revolution, the third being a surprise. The original plan for the six-man was for Konnan & Kidman to pick Torrie Wilson as their third partner (please don't ask me why) and Saturn & Malenko come out without a partner. Early in the match, Wilson was going to turn on Kidman and join the Revolution. At the end, somehow Asya was going to wind up with the Filthy Animals. This was scrapped before any of the problems went down because of the feeling it was too soon to be doing this turn and instead they decided to give The Wall the break as the mystery partner which would be announced at the start of the cage match. They also did an angle where Crowbar and David Flair attacked Vampiro, to turn that match into a three-way dance.

Given all the problems, the show was decent. There was nothing on the card anyone will remember for more than a day or two, but they handled the world title really well under the circumstances even if it meant nothing by the next day.

1. Billy Kidman (Peter Gruner) beat Dean Malenko (Dean Simon) in 2:36 of a total screw-up. This was billed as a catch-as-catch-can match. Originally the ropes were to be taken down for this match, but I guess they decided against it, but the rules remained the first man to leave the ring and hit the floor loses. They were doing some good wrestling when Malenko had a mental lapse (this was not a protest or anything and he felt read bad about it afterwards) and went out of the ring. Tony Schiavone doing the announcing said that Malenko had left the ring so he had lost the match. They went back in the ring like nothing had happened. Schiavone was making the point over and over and you could see ref Charles Robinson get the word the match had already been declared over by the announcers and he reluctantly rang the bell and declared Kidman the winner. -*

Vampiro did an interview and Masahiro Chono interrupted and talked Japanese.

2. Vampiro (Ian Hodgkinson) won a three-way over David Flair (David Fliehr) and Crowbar (Chris Ford) in 10:32. Vampiro and Crowbar worked real hard but Flair was totally lost doing a three-way. Crowbar did a somersault pescado and a splash off the apron. Vampiro delivered a superplex while standing on the top on Crowbar. The two also messed up a DDT spot. Flair had the figure four on Vampiro and Crowbar came off the top rope with a splash and was covering Vampiro but then Flair saved Vampiro. Flair and Crowbar started fighting and Daffney also got involved. Flair collided with Daffney and Vampiro pinned him with the nail in the coffin. *1/4

3. Big Vito (Vito LoGrasso) & Johnny the Bull (John Hugger) beat Ron & Don Harris in 9:33. Most of the match was spent with Hugger getting pounded on. He again looks to have great potential as a worker. The crowd lost interest because it went so long with guys who aren't over, because they did nothing wrong in the ring, and there were heavy boring chants at 7:00. Finish saw Disco Inferno turn on Vito, shoving him off the top rope, but he landed on Ron and got the pin. The gimmick seems to be that Disco is against Vito & Johnny, but he screws up and keeps helping them and they think he's their friend.

4. Oklahoma (Ed Ferrara) won the world's largest cruiserweight title pinning Madusa (Debra Micelli) in 2:56 of a basic disaster. Madusa came out with a jersey of her husband, Ken Blackman of the Tampa Bay Bucs (although she actually wore a Bengals jersey, which is the team he used to play for; for trivia note, it was Alex Marvez who introduced the two of them). They never mentioned that was her husband, only that she must be a fan of his. Madusa screwed up a middle rope dropkick, but hit a second one. He mistimed another dropkick spot. Oklahoma really wasn't that bad, not that he was good or anything. Oklahoma got the bottle, but Spice took it from him. Asya showed up to attack Oklahoma. With three women against him, somehow he still managed to pull the very loose shorts Madusa was wearing for some unexplained reason, although the finish showed why, in a schoolboy for the pin. Why? Because the loose shorts gave the audience a shot of Madusa's red panties. Madusa after the match poured barbecue sauce down Oklahoma's tights. DUD

5. Brian Knobs (Brian Yandrisovitz) retained the hardcore title beating David Finlay, Norman Smiley and Meng (Uliuli Fifita) in 6:11. Smiley and Meng turned on each other right away. It was mainly a lot of garbage can and chair shots, some of which were good and others of which weren't. Knobs hit Smiley with the police riot protecting facial shield Smiley had brought into the ring for the pin. *3/4

6. Kidman pinned Perry Saturn (Perry Satullo) in 10:05 of a bunkhouse match. Actually it was no different than any other match. Saturn didn't know he was doing a bunkhouse match until he got to the building and didn't have any jeans, so wrestled in his wrestling gear. Because he injured his knee badly in a match using all kinds of weapons around the ring in ECW, he didn't want to do that style, and was working on a bad hip. They started out brawling but brawling is the weakest part of Saturn's game. Once they started wrestling it got better, with Kidman using a pescado and Saturn using an elbow off the top for a near fall. They built to a spot where Saturn gave Kidman a belly to belly suplex over the top rope through a table. Kidman used a back body drop while they were standing on the top rope. The finish saw Saturn set up a power bomb, and Kidman reversed it into a DDT. **

7. Booker T (Booker Huffman) beat Stevie Ray (Lane Huffman) via DQ in 6:30. In the weirdest thing, Ray did a video which aired before the match "back in the hood" claiming Booker T had abandoned his friends and showing old friends asking about him. It totally portrayed Ray as the face in this feud. Before the match started, T told Midnight to leave. Match had no heat. T delivered his scissors kick and a uranage before this guy who looked like what Junkyard Dog would have looked like if he was still alive and was shot full of steroids today hit the ring. It was the former Ahmed Johnson, Tony Norris, called Big T, and if anyone wondered what he'd been doing, missing meals isn't one of those things. A few fans chanted "Ahmed." Midnight came out, but then stood at the ring not saving T, with the announcers explaining it was too dangerous a situation. Let's see, she can wrestle Stevie Ray every night, but now it's too dangerous? Ray announced he and the new T were forming the "New and Improved Harlem Heat" tag team. Well, maybe new. 1/4*

8. Tank Abbott (David Abbott) knocked out Jerry Flynn (Jerry Brenneman) in 1:39. They did really stiff body blows and some submissions (it was funny watching Abbott go for submissions on the ground). It was good for what it should have been up until the moment when Abbott missed Flynn on the punch he was supposed to knock him out with. They didn't do a ten count, but simply Abbott was pounding on Flynn with punches and they checked Flynn's hands and stopped the match. *

9. Buff Bagwell (Marcus Bagwell) beat Diamond Dallas Page (Page Falkenburg) in 11:00. Best match on the show. Mainly a brawl all over the place. They ended up in the internet area and each guy smashed a computer together and DDP hit Bagwell with a keyboard. Bagwell put DDP through a table while jumping off what must have been a nearly three foot hung rung of a ladder. Page's back was cut up from the table breaking. Fans were chanting for DDP in this match even though the last time I paid attention, Bagwell was supposed to be this face that was going to be the next Rock and DDP was a heel. They did a series of ten count double knockout spots where they'd both get up. Crowd built for this like they would in Japan. Bagwell did the blockbuster but DDP beat the ten count. Bagwell hit DDP with a police night stick but DDP got up. DDP then gave Bagwell a diamond cutter. Go figure, this time DDP was the one who didn't get up. They did an angle where Kimberly came out but she did nothing and they teased that they didn't know which one she had come out to help. ***1/4

10. In a cage match, The Wall (Jerry Tuite) pinned Kidman in 5:03. Please don't ask me to explain this result. Crowd was far more into a fight in the stands. Kidman turned an attempted choke slam into a huracanrana. Kidman came off the top, but was caught in a choke slam and then pinned. 3/4*

11. Kevin Nash pinned Terry Funk in the hardcore match to determine the WCW commissioner in 7:59. This was a sad one-sided squash match. Funk, who worked that afternoon on a previously arranged booking in Marquette, MI on an indie show, wound up in trouble because of weather problems at the Cincinnati Airport and there was substantial fear if he'd make it to the building in time for the match. He put on as good a performance as would be humanly possible, but there comes a time when it gets really sad to see one of the great performers in history being portrayed as being unable to even garner offense in a match which was supposedly his specialty to boot. Nash destroyed him with a few chair shots and power bombed him through the announcers table. Funk, who bled on the indie show that afternoon, bladed again. The fans booed Funk, which was no surprise based on the storyline portrayals of the characters to the modern audience. Nash openly mocked Funk as a serious opponent from the beginning and didn't sell any of his offense or take bumps. With Funk left for dead, Nash said that if Funk could get in the ring, he'd let him stay commissioner. Funk crawled dead into the ring, and Nash said he lied, then set up three chairs and power bombed Funk through them for the pin. Don't kid yourself, Funk, at 55, with all he's put his body through, feels every blow every bit as bad as you can imagine. To his credit, he carried Nash to his best match in years. **1/2

12. Chris Benoit beat Sid Vicious (Sid Eudy) to win the WCW Queen for a Day trophy in 14:50. Michael Buffer, in the ring intros, said Benoit was 6-feet-tall, which was short of funny. Then he said Sid was 6-11, which was just as funny. WCW created a very good atmosphere in trying to make this seem important. Benoit got most of the offense and Vicious even let Benoit chop him. Benoit worked on Vicious' knee. The fans were strongly into Vicious even though Benoit kept the offense most of the way, combining moves like german suplexes and even a heel hook submission. Benoit did the diving head-butt for a near fall. Vicious came back with the choke slam, but Benoit's foot was under the ropes. Benoit then put the crossface on, but Vicious tapped out while his foot was under the ropes. The pop for the win by Benoit was disappointing, but the post-match interview by him more than made up for it. **3/4

There was good news and bad news from a numbers standpoint from WCW coming out of the weekend. Early figures from the PPV indicate in most markets returning it came in at below the Starrcade numbers, so it was well below 0.3 and probably in ECW country. It is said to be too early to tell if it'll break the Fall Brawl record for the lowest buy rate in history for either of the major companies. Clearly, the internet controversy did nothing to help the show. It probably did nothing to hurt it because the show wasn't going to do any numbers anyway.

Because of Martin Luther King's Birthday, the official ratings for 1/17 are not available at press time, but we do have overnight ratings from the top 40 metered markets that give some sketchy details. Realistically, the numbers aren't as impressive as many will make them out to be (for all the reasons gone into here) but WCW is taking them as if they are, with Nitro doing a 3.7 rating and 4.8 share (3.9 first hour; 3.4 second hour). Raw did a 6.5 rating and 8.9 share (6.5 first and second hour). What this means is that even though the number is misleading (and all this may be irrelevant when the real numbers come in), is that WCW, and possibly WWF as well, will probably try to do worked angles similar to this in the future because of the belief the internet controversy is what added .3 to the ratings. In reality, the speculation probably had zero effect on the rating if you look back. Nitro the day after Havoc grew .21 and it's two hour combined total was a 3.7, and that's not including the main events in the third hour moved to the second which is worth easily .1 and against NFL competition which should be worth another .4 so it's equivalent to a 4.2 today . Nitro the day after Mayhem grew .34 from the previous and did a 3.45 for a two-hour total, equivalent to a 3.9 today. Nitro the day after Starrcade grew .38 from the previous week and it's two-hour total of 3.4 would be equivalent to a 3.9 this week so the increase over the previous week looks to be identical to the average increase over the previous week for the Nitro after each of the past three PPV shows, all of which also did poor buy rates.

The head-to-head quarter hour comparisons saw, and again, these are only the overnights, had Raw at 6.5 (Foley/HHH confrontation) to Nitro at 4.0 (Nash monologue), Raw at 6.7 (Continuation of Foley/HHH deal with Rock & Show involved plus Bossman vs. Test) to Nitro at 2.8 (Chono & J vs. Steiner & Rotunda), Raw at 6.3 (Godfather & Brown vs. Edge & Christian) to Nitro at 3.4 (Sid vs. Wall, Scott Steiner interview) and Raw at 6.5 (Angle vs. Blackman, Bikini tease) to Nitro at 3.3 (Luger vs. Bigelow, Page vs. Bagwell). The other strange thing is that Raw didn't increase at all during the second hour going unopposed, as the final opposed quarter was a 6.5 and the first unopposed quarter was the same 6.5, which indicates virtually nobody watching Nitro switched to Raw after Nitro ended.


In the biggest possible marquee move for supremacy in the MMA world, and for a potential breakthrough in the North American market, Dream Stage Entertainment has offered Ken Shamrock a two-fight $700,000 base deal.

Shamrock had been looking for a deal to allow him to return to MMA, whether it be with DSE, UFC or take a proposed match in Abu Dhabai, but the tough decision was giving up the lucrative WWF income, of which, due to the WWF having such a huge year at the box office, he is believed to have earned in the same $700,000 range this past year. Shamrock had not signed the contract at press time and negotiations were not finalized, but he was expected to make the announcement that he had signed at the 1/30 DSE show at the Tokyo Dome where he would also serve as a color commentator (and DSE hopes to get that tape shown in the United States as well although it won't be on PPV) and in which two of his fighters, Guy Mezger and Tra Telligman, would be participating. In return, based on their agreement in a meeting Shamrock had with Vince McMahon on 12/30, the WWF would be expected to release Shamrock from his contract, which originally expired in February 2000 but WWF had exercised its option to renew it through February 2002.

He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on 1/4, and is expected to start full-time fight training this week and finish with the WWF with an appearance at the Royal Rumble on 1/23 in Madison Square Garden. It is expected that Shamrock would return to the WWF after fulfilling his DSE agreement in about one year and there was talk of him making occasional WWF television appearances over the next year to keep his name fresh and promote his fights.

DSE is looking for Shamrock's name, and his American fame from nearly three years of being a top name in the WWF after being UFC's biggest stars during a period when that sport was a doing well on PPV, to be the marquee in establishing their show as the name brand of MMA, not only in Japan, but throughout the world. To this day, Shamrock's fights with Royce Gracie (the second one) and Dan Severn (the first one) in 1995 were the two most purchased non-boxing sporting events of the decade of the 90s on PPV. The company is hopeful of getting its shows on PPV, which is still filled with political red tape in the United States, although it is much simpler in Canada, and that the Shamrock and Gracie (who is returning to MMA with the same DSE promotion starting with the 1/30 Tokyo Dome show for a match against pro wrestler Nobuhiko Takada which could result in a third Shamrock vs. Gracie match, although nobody has even discussed that match) names on the show would open up the market to both the former UFC fans as well as to the pro wrestling audience that was also a large part of the success of early UFC in the United States. Certainly, a lot of that depends on the WWF, which is doing separate business negotiations with DSE in regard to possibly doing a WWF show later this year at the Tokyo Dome. If WWF hypes Shamrock's fight on its television as something important, and basically portrays Shamrock as the WWF's representative in a mixed fighting tournament, at least a modicum of success is guaranteed because right now the WWF has the ability to hype almost anything it chooses to and make it work. If the WWF chooses to ignore Shamrock's foray into MMA, because Shamrock won't be under contract to the WWF at the time and because the eventual outcomes aren't guaranteed, his name value to the show in the American market would be greatly lessened although it would have no effect on his name value of the match in the Japanese market.

Shamrock, who turns 36 in three weeks, knowing the clock is ticking when it comes to a return to the sport he was one of the pioneers in from an American standpoint, had long talked of a return to the mixed martial arts world this year recognizing that if he were to ever return, he'd have to do it this year. Despite his greater short-term fame and more lucrative income earned in pro wrestling, he'll inevitably be best remembered for being the star of the early UFC PPVs and a pioneer in mixed martial arts. He also established a team, The Lions Den, which was the dominant fighting organization in the UFC at one time. However, the Den's reputation has taken a tumble this past year with Den fighters Pete Williams, Mezger, Jerry Bohlander and Telligman all losing their last UFC matches. The other Den fighter, Mike Burnett, announced his retirement to try pro boxing. Shamrock had talked in interviews in recent months about wanting to restore the Den name back as being the elite of the MMA world.

No names have been agreed upon when it comes to who Shamrock faces, but because of the money involved and because substantial bonuses are involved should he win his fights, neither is expected to be "easy" opponents. His first match is scheduled on 5/1 at the Tokyo Dome, which the company is hopeful would mark its U.S. PPV debut. They are going against a lot of odds because PPV with no television shows building the event (like pro wrestling) or mass media hype (like pro boxing) have never done any numbers. UFC is the aberration and has a track record and this is basically UFC except done in a boxing ring as opposed to the cage.

All MMA type shows with the exception of UFC ultimately failed to draw successful buy rates, which is why many feel the name UFC because of the sizzle from its successful early years is a much bigger marketing tool than actual mainstream interest in seeing limited rules free fighting.

Among the names that have been considered for Shamrock to face are Kazushi Sakuraba, provided Sakuraba beats Guy Mezger on 1/30 (the Sakuraba vs. Kevin Randleman match announced last week for that show is out, probably due to SEG not allowing its heavyweight champion to compete against such a talented opponent) and Bas Rutten, who has not lost a fight in any kind of competition since a March 10, 1995 loss in one minute to Shamrock via submission on a Pancrase show (although the majority opinion seems to be that Rutten was very lucky to win a decision in his most recent match with Kevin Randleman). Shamrock is expected to fight at about 215 pounds, which has been his approximate weight for some time as he trimmed down to prepare for his return, which would give him probably a 25-pound weight advantage on Sakuraba. Many consider Sakuraba one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, whose only loss in MMA competition was in his debut match against a much larger and stronger Kimo. Sakuraba after many wins, finally established himself as a drawing card in Japan by packing the Ariake Coliseum on 11/21 for his win over Royler Gracie.

DSE is trying to market MMA primarily to the large pro wrestling market as it has done to an extent in Japan, as its biggest draws in Japan, Takada and Naoya Ogawa, are actually pro wrestlers, and Sakuraba himself comes from a pro wrestling background. They are interested in using pro wrestlers from WWF and WCW to sell the shows in the U.S. as has been a successful formula in Japan, however WWF has made it clear after the brawl-for-all fiasco that it will not allow any of its wrestlers under contract to do shoot matches. It is highly doubtful WCW would either. Bill Goldberg has expressed interest in doing shoot matches and with his marketability, he'd be able to command huge money to do so, but ultimately it can never happen because the risk to his reputation isn't worth it.

Shamrock compiled a 6-2-2 record in UFC competition and was the company's first superfight champion, debuting on its first PPV show on November 12, 1993 and with his final fight coming on December 7, 1996 before going into pro wrestling. It should be noted that UFC was a very different animal during that period as it is today as the fighters are more highly skilled and the awareness of submissions has increased greatly. Shamrock's strengths as a fighter were his physical power and his submission ability. Kickboxing technique, which Shamrock has trained in for years but is not considered his strongest suit, is far more important and getting submissions against today's opponents is far more difficult than it was against the less experienced fighters of the UFC's primitive period.

Since Shamrock left UFC, his adopted brother Frank became the group's top star. Those who have trained with both will say that Ken is far physically stronger, and tougher particularly in the gym, but that Frank has proven to be a better competition fighter. Ken himself has noted on many occasions one of the reasons he wants to return to UFC is because his record and performance personally disappointed him and he wanted to prove himself, probably more to himself than anyone else, before his time ran out.

There is little doubt he was probably the best fighter of the early period of the UFC with the exception of Gracie, but he was criticized by many fighters for having never won a tournament (ironically one of the ones who was most publicly critical of Shamrock for that, Tank Abbott, also himself never won a tournament). Shamrock's three tournament appearances in UFC ended twice due to injuries and once due to his famous choke loss to the far more experienced at the time in submissions Royce Gracie in the first UFC. It is not a decision that most within MMA would have agreed with. The general feeling among the MMA top heavyweights is to cash in on their fame and try to get lucrative pro wrestling contracts and when the stories about Shamrock going back to MMA started circulating in recent months, the feeling of many asked why should be take the step backwards. However, financially, it's not a backward step and it's roughly the same money for two fights as it was for 200 plus days on the road with the WWF. But he is totally risking his WWF reputation and moniker as the "World's Most Dangerous Man" by going back to a sport he hasn't done competitively (although he's continued to regularly train fighters for it and train himself in it as well) in three years and a sport in which the competition has improved greatly since he left.

Shamrock actually started out as pro wrestler Vince Torelli working for George Scott in the Mid Atlantic area. He wound up migrating to the old UWF promotion in Japan, largely due to meeting and teaming with Dean Malenko in that promotion and Malenko's father was involved with the UWF and they thought he, because he was a tough guy and a very good amateur wrestler, a good prospect for that style. When UWF folded, he went with Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi, a pro wrestling promotion that did worked shoot style matches. He was, along with Masakatsu Funaki and Minoru Suzuki, one of the three founders of Pancrase, which debuted in 1993, which was the first major attempt to market pro wrestling, as a shoot sport, without pre-determined endings for the most part. Shamrock, Suzuki, Funaki and Bas Rutten were clearly the cream of the crop of the fighters in the early Pancrase days. Shamrock won the first King of Pancrase tournament, and dropped the title to Suzuki when the Pancrase office didn't want its world champion risking its company reputation in a shoot match against a pro wrestling world champion (NWA champ Dan Severn, a match Shamrock actually won quickly and impressively although Severn since has claimed he was suffering from strep throat). Shamrock beat Rutten via submission twice, once in 1994 and later in 1995. After Shamrock and Pancrase's business relationship fell apart, resulting in legal action, Rutten became the company's top fighter, never losing the title in the ring and later won the UFC heavyweight title, and also vacated that as opposed to having lost it in the ring.

He started in UFC as Pancrase's representative. In the debut show in Denver, it was clear that he and Royce Gracie were the class of the field, but Gracie, with far more experience in a life of studying submission, was able to choke Shamrock out quickly in both men's second match of a one-night tournament. Shamrock returned on September 9, 1994 in Charlotte after missing a shot at Gracie in the second UFC due to breaking his hand in training, on the show that largely made the UFC. It was built toward an expected Gracie vs. Shamrock final, but neither made it there. Gracie was injured in his first round match against a much larger Kimo, who he still eventually tapped out with an armbar in 3:00. Shamrock, who had torn his ACL just before the tournament but taped it up because he wanted Gracie, won his first match impressively and his second match somewhat lethargically. Even though his scheduled opponent in the final was someone clearly not even in his league, he didn't come out for the final, citing not wanting to risk his career on the torn ACL because his primary goal was to avenge his loss to Gracie. The more famous Gracie vs. Shamrock rematch took place on April 7, 1995, a draw called after 36:06 which was largely Shamrock on top being held in Gracie's guard which was UFC's biggest money match in its history. Shamrock did bust Gracie's eye open and head-butted the cut while in Gracie's guard during the overtime period. This was before UFC had judges so by going the time limit it was a draw, although Shamrock clearly had done the most damage.

Gracie never fought MMA rules again leading to his return on 1/30, leaving Shamrock as the company's biggest star. Shamrock, after giving up the Pancrase belt, then won the UFC superfight belt beating Severn on July 14, 1995 in Casper, WY with a choke in 2:15. He next went to a 33:00 draw with Oleg Taktarov, in another match, like the Gracie match, that had their been judges, he would have won. On February 16, 1996, he beat Kimo in 4:24 with a kneebar to retain the title. He lost the title to Severn on a split decision after 30:00 on May 17, 1996 in the worst performance of his career. He went into the match injured and there were numerous extenuating circumstances regarding the fight. The end result was both men stood and circles each other for 16:00 before locking up. When they finally locked up, Shamrock got the first advantage and had Severn mounted but did little damage. Severn reversed him, and used the gloves to cut up Shamrock's face for a brief advantage, but it was enough to score a close win in a fight that neither fighter truly deserved to win and was considered a dark moment for UFC in general because the much-hyped rematch was so disappointing.

Shamrock returned on December 7, 1996 in Birmingham, AL for Ultimate Ultimate '96 as the most heralded, and probably the best fighter in the tournament, basically pounding Brian Johnston into submission in 5:49 in a fight where Johnston got no offense in, but injured his hand in the process and couldn't continue in the tournament. Don Frye, who Johnston had been throwing around in practice, ended up beating Tank Abbott in the finals of the spectacular tournament, which as it turned out, led to all four eventually becoming pro wrestlers.

Shamrock was under contract to SEG in 1996 for $200,000 per year, and had an option for 1997 that SEG failed to pick up for $300,000 The decision was made because UFC buy rates had started falling combined with some major cable systems starting to not carry the shows and they felt they couldn't afford the big contract. In early 1997, Shamrock as a free agent, received lucrative offers from UFC for $100,000 per fight after UFC realized they were about to lose him to pro wrestling, from New Japan Pro Wrestling on an approximately $300,000 deal to work four Tokyo Dome shows starting with an IWGP heavyweight title program with Shinya Hashimoto where he'd wind up with the title, the first match of which was announced publicly in Japan to amazing fanfare at the time, before the contract had been signed. After the announcement was made, WWF, which was actually the first company of the three to open up negotiations with him after WWF's champ at the time, Bret Hart, was interested in working a program with Shamrock feeling it would boost both his credibility as an athlete and the credibility of the WWF title in the process. WWF offered him the most money and the most long-term security with a three-year contract and a following two-year option period, and he signed, leaving New Japan with a Dome show and having to replace Shamrock with the debuting Naoya Ogawa in the main event (and as things turned out, Ogawa, taking Shamrock's spot, got the mega-push starting from his first pro wrestling match with his non-title win over Hashimoto).

While under contract to the WWF, Shamrock signed a contract with UFC Japan for a match with Nobuhiko Takada on only a few weeks notice on the December 21, 1997 (which ironically turned out to be the day his brother Frank debut in UFC beating Kevin Jackson in 14 seconds). The match ended up falling through, publicly because Takada claimed an injury one week later and said he never agreed to the match in the first place. UFC Japan felt they needed Takada to sell tickets and although this never came out in Japan, Takada agreed to do the show only if the only person he would work with was Shamrock, since both were pro wrestlers. It then fell apart over the next week and never took place.


For 1/10, there wasn't much new or surprising when it came to the ratings. Raw drew a 6.56 rating (6.30 first hour; 6.81 second hour) and a 9.9 share. Nitro drew 3.38 rating (3.81 first hour; 3.00 second hour) and a 4.7 share. Over the head-to-head 66 minutes it was 6.30 to 3.00. Both shows being slightly up from last week should actually, if anything, be labeled a disappointment because there was no competition from Monday Night Football, and the highly rated "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" show ended before the competitive hour of wrestling. In all, there were about 10.8 million wrestling viewers during the head-to-head period, a figure well up from the last few months during football season, but significantly less than the nearly 12 million total viewership the two shows were getting before football season started.

The good news for WCW is that the Hart vs. Nash main event drew a 4.08 rating, which is the company's best main event rated in an unopposed segment in a long time. This was no doubt partially due to WWF not counter-programming against WCW's strength, airing Chyna & Jericho vs. Hollys. Because that was part of a segment where nine minutes went unopposed, it's difficult to ascertain exactly how WWF did against the Hart-Nash title match. Raw's unopposed main event of DX vs. Rock & Mankind & Acolytes did a 6.88 final quarter and a 7.60 over-run.

Once again, while the WWF's rating did increase in the unopposed hour, the switch-over factor was surprisingly small and the WWF's second hour numbers, and thus its overall numbers, while at close to record pace (they were actually doing almost similar numbers going opposed both hours over the spring and summer) aren't the windfall giant numbers that should have happened. Only about 15% tops of the audience watching Nitro switched to Raw at the conclusion of the Hart vs. Nash match.

In the head-to-head quarters, it was 6.81 (Raw open with Rock calling the mutiny on HHH & Stephanie) to 2.30 (Jarrett vs. Steele), 6.49 (continuation of open, Road Dogg vs. Gunn) to 2.59 (Jarrett vs. Santana), 5.93 (Angle & Blackman vs. Hardys) to 2.98 (Abbott/Dillenger angle, beginning of Snuka vs. Jarrett), and 6.00 (Venis vs. Edge) to 3.30 (Jarrett vs. Snuka finish, Hart vs. Nash start).

Smackdown drew its second largest rating in history (trailing only the show Arnold Schwarzeneggar appeared on) for the show headlined by HHH & X-Pac vs. Rock & Big Show with a 5.0 rating overall, and they did a 6.2 rating and 9.0 share in the top 40 metered markets. The first unopposed Wednesday night Thunder on 1/12 drew a 2.62 rating.

For 1/6, Smackdown drew a 4.50 rating for the show headlined by HHH vs. Rikishi, which was actually, due to more people watching television on that night than the previous week, the same 7.0 share as the previous week. A very strong Thunder drew a 2.44 rating for the show headlined by Hart vs. Funk, which was a slight increase over the past few shows. This week the Smackdown share was more impressive being that NBC had first-run programming and Thunder was back in the slot, although the 7.0 share is what Smackdown has been doing almost every week against that same competition. In all, the total wrestling audience that evening was 9.7 million viewers

Weekend numbers for 1/8-9 saw Livewire at 1.4, Superstars at 1.4 and Sunday Night Heat doing another strong rating at 3.99. WCW Saturday Night did a 1.5.

The 1/14 ECW show on TNN coming out of the PPV drew a 1.19 rating and 2.0 share. The final quarter hour (Lynn vs. Tajiri) drew a 1.28 rating which would be ECW's biggest audience to date as the final quarter was viewed in 970,000 homes. RollerJam remained at an 0.74 rating, giving it two straight week at its best numbers in months.

The 1/7 ECW show on TNN leading into the PPV drew a 1.17 rating and a 1.9 share. RollerJam that followed did an 0.74 rating, which is its best rating since its comparatively huge early numbers when the show was debuting. So naturally this was the final week of the two-hour RollerJam, as it's being split to one hour on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. with a college bowling lead-in that will die in the ratings, and the second hour on Friday which appears is just starting to build a little following.

Catching up on numbers, Smackdown on 12/30 drew a 3.99 rating and a 7.0 share. The rating would have been the lowest for the show in several weeks. There's the good way and the bad way to look at that number. The good way is to say the 7.0 share is roughly what the show usually gets and there were a lot fewer people than on a usual Thursday night watching television and the equal share with the lower rating indicates. The bad way to look at it is saying that it was an unopposed show, with no Thunder that night, which should have increased its market share, and that NBC, the Thursday night TV leader, also was running reruns, both which should have led to a greatly increased market share.

Other numbers over the weekend of 12/31-1/2 saw the WWF Eve of Destruction New Years Eve special deliver a 2.17 rating on its first airing. Livewire did a 1.5, Superstars did a 1.3 (its lowest mark since the down days of the company), Heat did a 4.08 (much higher than it's been doing) and the Eve of Destruction replay show, airing after Heat, did a 3.86 (so the repeat showing drew almost double what the first showing which had a ton more hype to it did). WCW Saturday Night was pre-empted due to it being New Years Day.


OBSERVER POLL RESULTS

Traditional Observer PPV poll results based on phone calls, fax messages, e-mails and letters to the Observer as of Tuesday, 1/18.

WCW SOULED OUT: Thumbs up 11 (15.7%), Thumbs down 23 (32.9%), Thumbs in the middle 36 (51.4%). Best match: Diamond Dallas Page vs. Buff Bagwell 43, Billy Kidman vs. Perry Saturn 14, Chris Benoit vs. Sid Vicious 10; Worst match: Billy Kidman vs. Dean Malenko 30, Madusa vs. Oklahoma 16

ECW GUILTY AS CHARGED: Thumbs up 83 (95.4%), Thumbs down 4 (4.6%), In the middle 0 (0.0%). Best match: Yoshihiro Tajiri & Super Crazy vs. Jerry Lynn & Little Guido 34, Rob Van Dam vs. Sabu 25, Mike Awesome vs. Spike Dudley 22; Worst match: New Jack vs. Angel 32, Kid Cash & Nova & Jazz & Chris Chetti vs. Roadkill & Danny Doring & Simon Diamond 15, Mike Awesome vs. Spike Dudley 14

EYADA POLL RESULTS

Results of the poll question on the eyada.com web site. New questions will be up every day at approximately 3 p.m. Eastern time with the results being announced at the start of the Wrestling Observer Live internet audio show the following day along with each week here.

What did you think about the Monday night (1/3) wrestling shows? a) Raw was better 65%; b) Nitro was better 16%; c) Didn't watch Raw 2%; d) Didn't watch Nitro 12%; e) Didn't watch Raw or Nitro 5%

What was the greatest ladder match of all-time? a) Michaels vs. Ramon I 48%; b) Michaels vs. Ramon II 5%; c) Rock vs. HHH 4%; d) Edge & Christian vs. Hardys 38%; e) Jarrett vs. Benoit 4%

Who wrote the best autobiography? a) Arn Anderson 3%; b) Ted DiBiase 3%; c) Mick Foley 68%; d) Dynamite Kid 22%; e) Lou Thesz 3%

Who would you pick for Rookie of the year? a) Blitzkrieg 18%; b) Kurt Angle 20%; c) Lash Leroux 9%; d) Test 23%; e) Shane McMahon 30%

How would you rate ECW Guilty as Charged? a) Thumbs up 36%; b) Thumbs down 7%; c) Thumbs in the middle 17%; d) Didn't see the show 40%

What did you think about Monday night (1/10) wrestling shows? a) Raw was better 65%; b) Nitro was better 17%; c) Didn't watch Raw 2%; d) Didn't watch Nitro 8%; e) Didn't watch Raw or Nitro 8%

What did you think was the best match on the ECW PPV show? a) Crazy & Tajiri vs. Guido & Lynn 16%; b) Sabu vs. Van Dam 17%; c) Dreamer & Raven vs. Storm & Credible 9%; d) Awesome vs. Spike Dudley 18%; e) Didn't see the show 39%

If WCW were to release Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, should WWF? a) Sign both 38%; b) Sign neither 39%; c) Sign Hall but not Nash 18%; d) Sign Nash but not Hall 5%

How would you rate WCW Souled out? a) Thumbs up 15%; b) Thumbs down 27%; c) Thumbs in the middle 16%; d) Didn't watch show 42%


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New message schedule is: Monday--Meltzer on one, Mooneyham on five; Tuesday--Mitchell on two (Raw report), Alvarez on four (Nitro report); Wednesday--Meltzer on one, Alvarez on four and six (Smackdown and Thunder report) and Laible on five (this week with a two part interview with Superstar Billy Graham); Thursday--Mitchell on two (Thunder report); Friday--Meltzer on one, Alvarez on four (Smackdown report); Saturday--Mitchell on two; and Sunday--Makropolous on three, Alvarez on four.

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Upcoming shows covered will be 1/23 WWF Royal Rumble, 1/30 DSE Tokyo Dome (option seven only), 2/20 WCW SuperBrawl and 2/27 WWF No Way Out.


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For those in the Phoenix area, we're on KDUS (1060 AM) every Wednesday morning from 10:10 a.m. for the remainder of the hour taking listener phone calls and talking about the latest wrestling news on Jeff Kennedy's "Players Club" show.

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We also have regular news updates on breaking news at wrestlingobserver.com.

 

RESULTS

 

1/4 Orlando, FL (WWF Smackdown/Heat tapings - 12,652 sellout): Papi Chulo b Tom Howard, Steve Bradley b Alex Porteau, Mike Sullivan b Chris Nelson, European title: Val Venis b Prince Albert, Steve Blackman b Seth Quartermain, Too Cool b Head Bangers, Godfather b Gangrel, X-Pac b Big Show-DQ, Bob & Crash Holly b Chris Jericho & Chyna, Acolytes b Billy Gunn-DQ, Kane b Road Dogg, Kurt Angle b Rock-DQ, Edge & Christian & Jeff Hardy b Dudleys & Al Snow, Test b Big Bossman, Taka Michinoku & Sho Funaki b Rodney & Pete Gas & Joey Abs, WWF title: Rikishi Phatu b Hunter Hearst Helmsley-DQ

1/5 Rock Hill, SC (WCW Saturday Night tapings - 576): Silver King b Barry Horowitz, WCW tag titles: David Flair & Crowbar b Steve Regal & David Taylor, Disco Inferno b Scott Armstrong, Kid Romeo b Mike Sanders, Vito & Johnny b Disorderly Conduct, Curt Hennig b Dave Sierra, Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn b Los Villanos IV & V, Lash Leroux b Al Greene, Booker T b Chris Harris, La Parka b Adrian Byrd, Chuck Palumbo b Rick Cornell, Berlyn b Steve Armstrong, Chavo Guerrero Jr. b Romeo, Flair & Crowbar b Texas Hangmen, Wall b Frankie Lancaster, Elix Skipper b Mark Jindrak, Malenko & Saturn b Villanos, Alan Funk b Sonny Siaki, 3 Count b PG-13 & Guerrero Jr., Norman Smiley b Bobby Eaton

1/5 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (FMW - 2,150 sellout): Willie Takayama (Hido) b Tarek Pasca (Ohio Terik the Great), Misae Genki b Kaori Nakayama, Koji Nakagawa & Gedo & Jado b Naohiko Yamazaki & Yoshinori Sasaki & Hideki Hosaka, Hardcore match: Kintaro Kanemura b Flying Kid Ichihara, Kodo Fuyuki & Kyoko Inoue & Pitbull #1 (Gary Wolfe) & Balls Mahoney b H & Mr. Gannosuke & Hisakatsu Oya & Ricky Fuji, WEW hwt title: Tetsuhiro Kuroda b Masato Tanaka to win title

1/6 Kochi (All Japan - 2,700): Too Cold Scorpio b Masamichi Marufuji, Tamon Honda b George Hines, Masa Fuchi & Haruka Eigen & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi b Rusher Kimura & Mitsuo Momota & Takeshi Morishima, Johnny Smith b Masao Inoue, Johnny Ace & Mike Barton b Akira Taue & Jun Izumida, Takao Omori & Yoshihiro Takayama & Satoru Asako & Hiroshi Hase b Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama & Kentaro Shiga & Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Vader & Steve Williams & Maunukea Mossman b Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa & Masahito Kakihara

1/6 Mayaguez, PR (IWA - 3,700): Ricky Banderas b Gangrel, Andy Anderson & Jesus Cristobal b Head Hunters, Taka Michinoku b Nuevo Gran Apollo (Hector Sullivan), Max Mini (EMLL Tzuki) b Torito (Espectrito I), Luna b Miss Mongol, Savio Vega & Huracan Castillo Jr. b Fidel Sierra & Rastaman, D-Lo Brown b Crash Holly, Billy Gunn & Ricky Santana b Head Bangers, Val Venis b Miguel Perez-DQ

1/7 Lowell, MA (WCW - 3,321): Evan Karagis b Villano IV, Maestro b Villano V, Jerry Flynn b Bam Bam Bigelow-COR, Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn b Chavo Guerrero Jr. & Asya, Guitar on pole non-title: Dustin Rhodes b Jeff Jarrett, Meng b Lex Luger, WCW tag titles: David Flair & Crowbar b Ron & Don Harris-DQ, WCW title: Sid Vicious b Bret Hart-DQ

1/7 Hiroshima (All Japan - 2,050): Too Cold Scorpio b Satoru Asako, Tamon Honda b Maunukea Mossman, Rusher Kimura & Mitsuo Momota & Makoto Hashi b Masa Fuchi & Haruka Eigen & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Masahito Kakihara b Masao Inoue, Takao Omori & Yoshihiro Takayama b Jun Izumida & Akira Taue, Vader & Steve Williams & Johnny Smith b Johnny Ace & Mike Barton & George Hines, Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa & Hiroshi Hase & Masamichi Marufuji b Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama & Kentaro Shiga & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

1/7 Atlanta Center Stage (ECW TNN tapings - 780 sellout): Kid Cash & Nova b Danny Doring & Roadkill, Mikey Whipwreck b C.W. Anderson, Jerry Lynn b Yoshihiro Tajiri, Lance Storm b Spike Dudley, Super Crazy b Little Guido, Raven b Simon Diamond, New Jack b Vic Grimes, Sabu b Justin Credible, ECW TV title: Rob Van Dam b Rhino

1/7 Bayamon, Puerto Rico (IWA - 4,200): Luna Vachon b Miss Mongol, Mini Max b Torito, IWA tag title tournament: Billy Gunn & X-Pac b D-Lo Brown (Phatu no-showed as Brown's partner), Head Bangers b Miguel Perez & Nuevo Gran Apollo, Taka Michinoku & Sho Funaki b Scorpion & Andy Anderson, Savio Vega & Huracan Castillo Jr. b Crash Holly & Rastaman (Leroy Howard), Val Venis & Ricky Santana b Gangrel & Fidel Sierra, Head Hunters b Jesus Cristobal & Ricky Banderas, Head Bangers b X-Pac & Gunn, Vega & Castillo Jr. b Head Hunters, Venis & Santana b Funaki & Michinoku, Venis & Santana won three-way over Vega & Castillo Jr. and Head Bangers to win titles

1/8 Minneapolis Target Center (WWF - 13,579): Godfather b Gangrel, Kurt Angle b Test, Val Venis b Steve Blackman, Too Cool b Bob & Crash Holly, Rikishi Phatu b Prince Albert, Big Show b Big Bossman, Dudleys won three-way over Matt & Jeff Hardy and Edge & Christian, Chris Jericho b Al Snow, X-Pac & Road Dogg b Acolytes, WWF title: Rock b Hunter Hearst Helmsley-DQ

1/8 Utica, NY (WCW - 2,895): Evan Karagis b Villano IV, Maestro b Villano V, Jerry Flynn b Bam Bam Bigelow-COR, WCW tag titles: David Flair & Crowbar b Ron & Don Harris-DQ, Guitar on a pole non-title: Dustin Rhodes b Jeff Jarrett, Chavo Guerrero Jr. & Asya b Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn, Meng b Lex Luger, WCW title: Sid Vicious b Bret Hart-DQ

1/8 Oita (All Japan - 1,800): Yoshinobu Kanemaru b Masamichi Marufuji, George Hines b Jun Izumida, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Haruka Eigen & Masa Fuchi b Takeshi Morishima & Rusher Kimura & Mitsuo Momota, Tamon Honda & Masahito Kakihara & Yoshinari Ogawa b Satoru Asako & Yoshihiro Takayama & Takao Omori, Johnny Ace & Mike Barton b Masao Inoue & Akira Taue, Hiroshi Hase & Mitsuharu Misawa b Steve Williams & Maunukea Mossman, Too Cold Scorpio & Johnny Smith & Vader b Kentaro Shiga & Jun Akiyama & Kenta Kobashi

1/9 State College, PA (WCW - 1,259): Evan Karagis b Villano IV, Maestro b Villano V, Jerry Flynn b Bam Bam Bigelow-COR, WCW tag titles: David Flair & Crowbar b Ron & Don Harris-DQ, Non-title guitar on pole match: Dustin Rhodes b Jeff Jarrett, Chavo Guerrero Jr. & Asya b Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn, Meng b Lex Luger, WCW title: Bret Hart b Sid Vicious

1/9 Fukuoka (All Japan - 3,800 sellout): Yoshinobu Kanemaru b Masamichi Marufuji, Too Cold Scorpio b Kentaro Shiga, Jun Izumida & Haruka Eigen & Masa Fuchi b Makoto Hashi & Mitsuo Momota & Rusher Kimura, Masahito Kakihara & Yoshinari Ogawa b Takeshi Morishima & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Masao Inoue & Tamon Honda & Akira Taue b Maunukea Mossman & Mike Barton & Johnny Ace, Vader & Johnny Smith NC George Hines & Steve Williams, Jun Akiyama b Yoshihiro Takayama, Kenta Kobashi b Takao Omori, Mitsuharu Misawa b Hiroshi Hase

1/10 Kumamoto (All Japan - 3,700 sellout): Kentaro Shiga b Masamichi Marufuji, Too Cold Scorpio b Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Haruka Eigen & Masa Fuchi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi b Makoto Hashi & Rusher Kimura & Mitsuo Momota, Mike Barton & Johnny Ace b Hiroshi Hase & Jun Izumida, Akira Taue & Tamon Honda & Masao Inoue b Steve Williams & George Hines & Maunukea Mossman, Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa & Masahito Kakihara b Takao Omori & Yoshihiro Takayama & Takeshi Morishima, PWF & Intl tag titles: Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama b Vader & Johnny Ace

1/10 St. Louis (WWF Raw is War - 13,923 sellout): Road Dogg b Billy Gunn, Matt & Jeff Hardy b Kurt Angle & Steve Blackman, European title: Val Venis b Edge, Bob & Crash Holly b Chris Jericho & Chyna, Non-title: Hunter Hearst Helmsley b X-Pac, Too Cool & Rikishi Phatu b Head Bangers & Al Snow, Godfather & D-Lo Brown DCOR Dudleys, Test & Big Show b Prince Albert & Big Bossman, Helmsley & Dogg & Gunn & X-Pac b Rock & Mankind & Acolytes

1/10 Buffalo (WCW Nitro - 8,990/5,338 paid): Three-way for WCW tag titles: David Flair & Crowbar won over Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn and Konnan & Billy Kidman, Bunkhouse match: George Steele b Jeff Jarrett, Tito Santana b Jarrett, Cage match: Jimmy Snuka b Jarrett, WCW title: Bret Hart NC Kevin Nash

1/11 Chicago All-State Arena (WWF Smackdown/Heat tapings - 13,253 sellout): Tom Howard b Steve Bradley, Rikishi Phatu & Too Cool b Rodney & Pete Gas & Joey Abs, Kurt Angle b Christian, D-Lo Brown b Buh Buh Ray Dudley, New Age Outlaws b Bradshaw, Too Cool & Phatu b Bob & Crash Holly & Al Snow, Test b Gangrel-DQ, Matt & Jeff Hardy b Big Bossman & Prince Albert, Edge & Christian b Angle & Steve Blackman, New Age Outlaws b Faarooq, Brown & Godfather b Head Bangers, Kane b Chris Jericho, Hunter Hearst Helmsley & X-Pac b Rock & Big Show

1/11 Erie, PA (WCW Thunder - 3,947/2,864 paid): Vampiro b Crowbar, Hardcore title: David Finlay b Norman Smiley to win title, Evening gown match: Madusa b Oklahoma, Champagne bottle on pole: Bam Bam Bigelow b Chris Kanyon, Booker T won three-way over Stevie Ray and Midnight, Jeff Jarrett & Kevin Nash b Chris Benoit & Sid Vicious

1/11 Kagoshima (All Japan - 3,050): Satoru Asako b Makoto Hashi, Masa Fuchi & Haruka Eigen & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi b Rusher Kimura & Mitsuo Momota & Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Johnny Smith & Too Cold Scorpio b Maunukea Mossman & Masamichi Marufuji, Takao Omori b Takeshi Morishima, Johnny Ace & Mike Barton b Steve Williams & George Hines, Akira Taue b Yoshihiro Takayama, All-Asian tag titles: Tamon Honda & Masao Inoue b Hiroshi Hase & Jun Izumida, Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa & Masahito Kakihara b Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama & Kentaro Shiga

1/12 Grand Rapids, MI (WWF - 7,866): Godfather b Gangrel, Kurt Angle b Brooklyn Brawler, Rikishi Phatu b Mideon, Acolytes b Dudleys, Edge & Christian won four-corners over Too Cool, Hardys and Hollys, Test b Steve Blackman, Kane b Prince Albert, Chris Jericho b Al Snow, Cage match: Big Show b Big Bossman

1/12 Sasebo (All Japan - 1,850 sellout): Takeshi Morishima b Masamichi Marufuji, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Haruka Eigen & Masa Fuchi b Rusher Kimura & Mitsuo Momota & Makoto Hashi, Yoshihiro Takayama & Takao Omori b Maunukea Mossman & Jun Izumida, Tamon Honda & Masao Inoue b Jun Akiyama & Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Johnny Ace & Mike Barton b Kenta Kobashi & Kentaro Shiga, Akira Taue & Hiroshi Hase b Steve Williams & George Hines, Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa & Masahito Kakihara b Vader & Too Cold Scorpio & Johnny Smith

1/14 Charleston, WV (WCW - 5,970): Disco Inferno b Lash Leroux, Kaz Hayashi b Evan Karagis, Ron & Don Harris b Big Vito & Johnny the Bull, Midnight won three-way over Stevie Ray and Booker T, Chris Benoit b Rick Steiner, Diamond Dallas Page b Buff Bagwell, Sid Vicious b Randy Savage

1/14 Danbury, CT (ECW - 2,000 sellout): C.W. Anderson b Joey Saunders, Little Guido b Jerry Lynn, Nova & Chris Chetti & Kid Cash b Dupp Brothers, Spike Dudley b Simon Diamond, Yoshihiro Tajiri won three-way over Super Crazy and Prodigy (Tom Marquez), New Jack b Angel, ECW tag titles: Lance Storm & Justin Credible b Danny Doring & Roadkill, Street fight: Tommy Dreamer & Raven b Jack Victory & Steve Corino, ECW title: Mike Awesome b Rhino

1/15 Philadelphia ECW Arena (ECW - 1,850 sellout): Spike Dudley b Erik Watts, Simon Diamond b C.W. Anderson, Nova b Mikey Whipwreck, Danny Doring & Roadkill b Tommy Dreamer & Raven, Super Crazy b Yoshihiro Tajiri, Angel b New Jack, ECW title: Mike Awesome b Spike Dudley

1/15 Tajimi (All Japan - 1,050 sellout): Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Too Cold Scorpio b Masamichi Marufuji & Yoshinari Ogawa, Mike Barton b Jun Izumida, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Haruka Eigen & Masa Fuchi b Makoto Hashi & Rusher Kimura & Mitsuo Momota, Johnny Ace b Tamon Honda, Masao Inoue & Hiroshi Hase & Akira Taue b Takeshi Morishima & Takao Omori & Yoshihiro Takayama, Vader & Johnny Smith b Masahito Kakihara & Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama & Kentaro Shiga b Steve Williams & George Hines & Maunukea Mossman

1/16 East Rutherford, NJ Continental Airlines Arena (WWF - 18,782 sellout): Godfather & D-Lo Brown b Mideon & Gangrel *, Acolytes b Dudleys **, Rikishi Phatu b Steve Blackman DUD, Edge & Christian won three-way over Head Bangers and Too Cool DUD, Kane b Big Bossman *, Kurt Angel b Test **, Chris Jericho b Bob Holly *1/2, Big Show b Al Snow -**, WWF tag titles: New Age Outlaws b Matt & Jeff Hardy **, Rock & Cactus Jack b Hunter Hearst Helmsley & X-Pac ***

1/16 Komatsu (All Japan - 3,200 sellout): Kentaro Shiga b Masamichi Marufuji, Masahito Kakihara b Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Haruka Eigen & Masa Fuchi b Makoto Hashi & Rusher Kimura & Mitsuo Momota, Johnny Ace & Mike Barton b Jun Izumida & Takeshi Morishima, Masao Inoue & Tamon Honda & Akira Taue b Maunukea Mossman & Yoshihiro Takayama & Takao Omori, Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama b George Hines & Steve Williams, Hiroshi Hase & Yoshinari Ogawa & Mitsuharu Misawa b Too Cold Scorpio & Vader & Johnny Smith

1/17 New Haven, CT (WWF Raw is War - 7,924 sellout): Hardcore title: Test b Big Bossman to win title, Godfather & D-Lo Brown b Christian & Edge, Kurt Angle b Steve Blackman, Acolytes b Hunter Hearst Helmsley & X-Pac-DQ, Jeff Hardy b Buh Buh Ray Dudley, Rikishi Phatu b Chris Jericho-DQ, Kane b Prince Albert, New Age Outlaws b Rock & Big Show

1/17 Columbus, OH (WCW Nitro - 10,646/8,150 paid): Billy Kidman b Psicosis, Big T (Tony Norris aka Ahmed Johnson) b Booker T, Vampiro b Disco Inferno, WCW tag titles: David Flair & Crowbar b Shannon Moore & Shane Helms, Tank Abbott b Maestro, Masahiro Chono & Super J (Jeff Farmer aka NWO Sting) b Rick Steiner & Mike Rotunda, Sid Vicious b The Wall, Lex Luger b Bam Bam Bigelow, Diamond Dallas Page b Buff Bagwell

1/17 Osaka Furitsu Gym (All Japan - 3,600): Kentaro Shiga b Takeshi Morishima, Masahito Kakihara & Yoshinari Ogawa b Jun Izumida & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Haruka Eigen & Masa Fuchi b Rusher Kimura & Mitsuo Momota & Masamichi Marufuji, Masao Inoue & Tamon Honda b Maunukea Mossman & Johnny Smith, Hiroshi Hase & Yoshihiro Takayama & Takao Omori b George Hines & Too Cold Scorpio & Johnny Ace, Steve Williams b Mike Barton, Kenta Kobashi b Toshiaki Kawada, Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama b Akira Taue & Vader

1/18 Tsu (All Japan - 1,350): Takeshi Morishima b Masamichi Marufuji, Maunukea Mossman & Johnny Smith b Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Kentaro Shiga, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Haruka Eigen & Masa Fuchi b Makoto Hashi & Mitsuo Momota & Rusher Kimura, Yoshihiro Takayama & Takao Omori b Tamon Honda & Jun Izumida, Mike Barton & Johnny Ace b George Hines & Steve Williams, Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama b Too Cold Scorpio & Vader, Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa & Masahito Kakihara b Masao Inoue & Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue

 

Special thanks to: Dominick Valenti, Bob Nichandowicz, Brad Cook, Steve "Dr. Lucha" Sims, Philip Laine, Frank Mott, Mike Omansky, Shannon Rose, Mike Abbey, Victor Martinez, Mike Samuda, Matt Cail, Georgiann Makropolous, Bryan Alvarez, David Fournier, Chuck Morris, Tim Becklin, Court Bauer, Jeff Bukantz, Manuel Gonzalez, Tommy Fierro, Tom Walters, Walt Spafford, Mohamed Chatra, Larry Goodman, Masanorie Horie, Tim Noel, Dan Parris, Curt Creighton, Tim Larson, Greg Davidson, Phil Jones, Mike Kuzmuk, Mark Stevens, Shane Anderson, Gene Restaino, Joe Silva, Dave Kerstetter, Matt Kerstetter, Jeremy Medeiros, Trent Walters, Jon Briggs, Rich Palladino, Tom Walters, Robert Edlhauser, Jeff Marek, Chuck Langerman

 

MEXICO: Antonio Pena made the following announcement regarding the end of Perro Aguayo's long retirement tour. He will retire from AAA on 2/18 in Puebla. He will then do a one-week retirement tour of Japan form 3/1 to 3/7, and will have one final match for EMLL at Arena Mexico which he's asked from the start to be the building of his last match, probably in March or April. However, Pena said he would not allow Perro Aguayo Jr. to work at Arena Mexico on that show

Hector Garza beat Pirata Morgan on 12/26 in Monterrey to win the IWC heavyweight title on an AAA show. There are a lot of hints that Garza is going to turn heel in a few weeks, probably to feud with Latin Lover

EMLL has drawn so-so of late as both 1/4 and 1/7 at Arena Coliseo did about 1,750. This is traditionally a down time of the year. But last year they were doing sellouts or near sellouts three times per week in the same building. On 1/11 and 1/14, the crowds picked up considerably. They announced the 2/4 show will be a major card since the next day is basically the only national holiday I'm aware of in any country due to pro wrestling. El Santo died on February 5, 1984. On 2/5 in Tulancingo, which was Santo's home town, there will be numerous festivities going on that day including the family giving the local museum a lot of artifacts and the naming of a local highway the El Santo Highway. They unveiled a statue of El Santo in that city on 1/13

The season opener at Arena Mexico will be 2/11

Televisa ran a best of Lucha Libre for the decade of the 90s special on 1/8 (which also aired on 1/15 on Galavision in the U.S.). They aired clips of more than 30 famous matches. EMLL was heavily favored in the show over AAA, and there wasn't even one reference to Rey Misterio Jr., Juventud Guerrera or Vampiro, only two references to Octagon and just one clip of Love Machine & Eddie Guerrero (showing the finish of a match with Santo & Octagon from Chicago). According to the report from someone who saw the show in Mexico, the most prominent thing noted is just how incredible the heat was for every match that aired from 1990-94 and the difference since that point in time. The same in a lot of cases can be made if you watch back U.S. tapes

Yoshihiro Asai announced that he would be starting his Japanese promotion Toryumon in Mexico in February with a combination of new Japanese and Mexican students

Maria Eugenia Solorzano de Rangel, the wife of EMLL referee Roberto Rangel, passed away on 1/7 at the age of 59 due to heart failure. Rangel, who is in his 44th year of being a referee for EMLL is a popular grandfatherly like figure. The funeral was attended by more wrestlers than any of the big name deaths of wrestling legends in 1999

IWRG has one of those losers advance mask tournament ending with Fantasy beating Millonario, who turned out to be 25-year-old Fernando Montes of Acapulco

Blue Demon will be honored at the AAA show on 1/30 in Monterrey which is the annual flip-flop show (where the heels have to wrestle face style and visa versa)

Super Muneco wanted to reform El Trio Fantasia, a major three-man team aimed at kids that was huge in the early 80s with Super Raton & Super Pinocho. The latter man refused to go back saying it was an 80s gimmick well past its day, so the third member will be named Robot Man

Black Dragon won the IWRG middleweight title from Ultimo Vampiro on 1/9 in Naucalpan

Gran Apache announced he and his two daughters (Mary & Faby Apache) would wrestle Gran Hamada and his two daughters (Ayako & Xochitl) in Japan in April.

ALL JAPAN: Some more notes regarding Gary Albright. The reason he stopped doing amateur wrestling in 1986 was because amateur wrestling instituted the 286 pound weight limit in the superheavyweight class. Albright was going about 325 at that point in time and would have had to have dieted down 40 pounds to make weight. His 112-19-4 record (.855 winning percentage) at the University of Nebraska is the fifth best won-loss record in the long history of the school's wrestling program which has produced several Olympians and his 36 pins in one season is still a school record. There were a lot of media outlets that printed that Albright's death in the ring was only the third in pro wrestling over the past 31 years, along with Owen Hart's last year and Mike DiBiase's (which was actually in the hospital after a heart attack suffered in the ring but when Owen Hart died it was reported as if this was the last in-ring death in pro wrestling) in 1969. If you consider a listing of people who either died in the ring (Albright), in the dressing room right after a match (Ray Gunkel), or in the hospital as a result of collapsing in the ring (DiBiase, Plum Mariko) according to various lists we've received, the number since 1950 is at least 39. If there is something to be learned from this, and of course, nothing will be, is that if Albright died of atherosclerosis, or constricting of the arteries and other long-term heart damage (which according to the coroner, that and his severe diabetes were the main culprits), a full-fledged cardiogram may have found the problems. It's a strong argument that wrestlers should have to pass a physical and heart exam before being allowed to wrestle, whether it be a commission exam or a company exam, and whether it be WWF or All Japan or ECW. Brian Pillman is another one whose death was partially due to long-term heart damage which is full-fledged heart exam probably could have picked up

Toshiaki Kawada returned after a several month absence and three eye operations on the 1/17 show at Osaka Furitsu Gym which drew a poor crowd of 3,600 despite the loaded line-up. In a rematch of a legendary 60:00 draw a few years back in the same building, Kawada was pinned by Kenta Kobashi after a lariat in 18:15. In the main event, pitting rare partners, Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama beat Vader & Akira Taue in 14:09 when Misawa pinned Taue after a Tiger driver in 14:09, while Akiyama delivered an exploder on Vader at the same time. Also, in their first singles match since brawl-for-all, Steve Williams pinned Mike Barton (Bart Gunn) in 12:45 with a doctor bomb and a backdrop driver. The other major result saw Hiroshi Hase team with No Fear--Takao Omori & Yoshihiro Takayama to beat Johnny Ace & Too Cold Scorpio & George Hines

Kobashi & Akiyama retained the tag titles beating Vader & Johnny Smith on 1/10 in Kumamoto before a sellout of 3,700 when Akiyama pinned Smith after an exploder

The match on 1/9 in Fukuoka with Williams & George Hines vs. Vader & Smith, which ended in a no contest, was the first no contest ending of an All Japan match since a 1990 match between Abdullah the Butcher vs. Tiger Jeet Singh (I was actually at that match and after seeing it, I can see why they'd never book a finish like that again). Basically Vader & Williams both turned on their partners and left together, and now will form the top foreign tag team to challenge Kobashi & Akiyama for the belts

Vader missed the 1/11 show, and in Japan to miss a show, you have to be somewhere near dead. He injured his shoulder on 1/8 and worked the next two nights, apparently in great pain. Misawa gave him 1/11 off but he was back in the ring on 1/12

Satoru Asako will be out of action for a while as he's undergoing knee surgery

The February tour line-up was announced opening with shows 2/12 and 2/13 at Korakuen Hall. There are a few major shows before the finals. On 2/17 in Sapporo they debut at the new Hokkaido Sports Center in a show that will apparently be treated as a Budokan Hall caliber show. They also have major city events on 2/19 in Nagoya and 2/10 at the Kobe World Memorial Hall. The first Budokan show of the year is the final night of the tour on 2/27. Foreigners on the tour are Vader, Williams, Stan Hansen, Smith, Giant Kimala II and Maunukea Mossman

Hase, since the Japanese Diet (Senate) isn't in session, has been on tour the past two weeks

12/26 TV drew a 2.5 rating.

NEW JAPAN: The company held a press conference on 1/6 with Takashi Iizuka & Shinya Hashimoto largely trying to keep the program with Naoya Ogawa & Kazunari Murakami in the news. There is talk of singles matches stemming from their Tokyo Dome match for either 2/20 at Sumo Hall or 4/10 at the next Tokyo Dome with Iizuka vs. Murakami and Ogawa vs. Hashimoto

The next tour line-ups, which was originally minus both Hashimoto (doing the angle where he's aligned with Antonio Inoki although on 1/15 they did an angle where Tatsumi Fujinami ordered Hashimoto to return full-time starting this next tour) and Keiji Muto (bad knees) begins 2/1 in Tokyo at Yoyogi Gym II with Kenzo Suzuki vs. Kensuke Sasaki and Hiro Saito & Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Don Frye & Masahiro Chono & Super J. Suzuki is going to have five major singles matches on this tour. 2/4 in Sapporo has Genichiro Tenryu & Shiro Koshinaka vs. Sasaki & Suzuki, four singles matches to be picked live that night featuring Team 2000 (AKIRA & J & Frye & Chono) vs. NWO Japan (Saito & Kojima & Tenzan & Scott Norton), plus Shinjiro Otani & Tatsuhito Takaiwa defend the IWGP jr. tag titles against Dr. Wagner Jr. & Kendo Ka Shin, Jushin Liger defends the IWGP jr. title against Minoru Tanaka and Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi defend the IWGP tag titles against Michiyoshi Ohara & Tatsutoshi Goto. 2/5 in the same building has Suzuki vs. Nagata and Sasaki makes his first IWGP heavyweight title defense against Frye. The only match announced for 2/20 at Sumo Hall is Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Suzuki. There will be some title matches, but they won't be announced until after Sapporo

Fujinami is claiming that New Japan won't be using Atsushi Onita in the future

Tenzan, Saito and Kojima held a press conference on 1/17 basically saying they are keeping NWO Japan together without Muto and Tenzan challenged Chono to a singles match. Muto held a press conference on 1/18 working an angle about breaking up with the rest of the group blaming it on his loss to Chono at the Tokyo Dome, but largely that's a cover story to make the group seem "on its own" while Muto rests up his bad knees. Muto said that he didn't know when he'd be ready to return and actually hinted at retirement. The belief seems to be that they'll hold him out until the 4/10 Tokyo Dome show

Also on 1/18, Liger once again said that he'd like to team with Chris Benoit to challenge Otani & Takaiwa for the jr. tag titles

At one point, as a goodwill gesture, WCW was going to fly both Goldberg and his girlfriend in for the Tokyo Dome just to make an appearance. The idea was scrapped because buying two first-class tickets at the last minute would have run into the $10,000 range and they had already taped an interview with Goldberg to play over the big screens

12/25 TV drew a 2.6 rating.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Neo Ladies folded after the 1/6 Korakuen Hall show as protection against those they owe money to. The same basic group is planning on re-opening a new corporation starting with a 3/16 Tokyo show. It was strongly rumored that JWP would fold late this month due to losing so much money, but it appears the Matsunaga Brothers, who own AJW, are going to work a joint angle in an attempt to save them. Starting on 2/11 at Korakuen Hall, the groups will run one joint show per month

FMW ran its first show of the year on 1/5 at Korakuen Hall before an announced sellout of 2,150 which saw Tetsuhiro Kuroda win the WEW world heavyweight title from Masato Tanaka in 22:43 after a lariat, largely because Tanaka is leaving FMW for a few months for ECW. The Team ECW that faced FMW in an eight man tag match wound up being Kodo Fuyuki (who is already back after losing a loser leaves the promotion match on 11/23), woman wrestler Kyoko Inoue, Pitbull #1 (Gary Wolfe) & Balls Mahoney, as they beat H & Mr. Gannosuke & Hisakatsu Oya & Ricky Fuji on that show

The final Neo Ladies show, which Inoue was the top star of, took place the next day in the same building which only drew a few hundred (announced as 1,000 but it was nowhere close) with Inoue wrestling five singles matches, winning the first four before losing to Misae Genki. The main event was a three-on-five handicap match with Inoue teaming with Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda to win again in the main event

Toryumon drew an announced full house of 2,320 to Korakuen Hall on 1/16 for a main event with Magnum Tokyo & Dragon Kid & Masaaki Mochizuki over Cima & Sumo Dandy Fuji & Makoto. It was Dragon Kid's first match back in Japan since his shoulder injury and reports were that he looked 100

As it stands right now, it appears that Benoit and Dean Malenko will be coming to the Michinoku Pro sponsored Super J Cup 2000 in April at Sumo Hall

Ryuji Yamakawa & Tomoaki Honma won the Big Japan tag titles beating Kamikaze & Shunme Matsuzaki on 1/7 in Osaka

Lioness Asuka pinned Dynamite Kansai in their interpromotional match on 1/10 at Korakuen Hall in 23:39 with the LSD (which is not a drug reference but is in initials for Lioness Surprise Driver) Mark II in their first ever singles match. It's pretty well known when Kansai was growing up that her idol was Asuka. Cooga (Miori Kamiya) had her retirement ceremony on this show which included appearances by Jaguar Yokota, Aja Kong and Megumi Kudo

Fuji Network over Christmas week ran a history of womens wrestling special focusing mainly on the top 20 Japanese woman wrestlers of all-time. Although most of these points are well known, the special emphasized a few things. Up until Yokota in the early 1980s, none of the women wrestlers were particularly good workers. Since that time, almost every woman wrestler featured was an excellent worker. The late Jackie Sato was clearly the first true mainstream woman wrestling superstar in the country and it's pretty clear the biggest woman wrestling star ever was Chigusa Nagayo followed by Asuka and that the heat of the mid-80s when they were on top far surpasses any period before or after. The best actual worker pretty clearly from the clips was Manami Toyota, which also shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The top class in the ring would have been Toyota, Kyoko Inoue (when she was younger and much lighter), Nagayo, Asuka, Yokota, Akira Hokuto and Bull Nakano

Atsushi Onita is planning a barbed wire street fight match in conjunction with his high school graduation on 2/27 in Tokyo at the school gym with Onita & Sambo Asako & Mitsunobu Kikuzawa vs. Ichiro Yaguchi & Shoji Nakagawa & Yuichi Taniguchi (who has changed his name to Viking Taniguchi). Onita will also have a match teaming up with his 50-year-old teacher, who once participated in judo, against a masked pro wrestler and one of Onita's classmates. He also wants to do an electric dynamite death match in May at whatever college he gets accepted to. I don't know why that last sentence is so damn amusing

Higo "Animal" Hamaguchi is opening up a new gym with its grand opening 2/23 in Tokyo, and for that grand opening he's going to run a pro wrestling show which features some of his proteges (All Japan's Takao Omori and New Japan's Shinjiro Otani, Michiyoshi Ohara and Satoshi Kojima) plus his daughter will make her debut with the ten count pinfall rules

FMW is building toward a tag title match on 2/25 at Korakuen Hall with H & Mr. Gannosuke defending against Kodo Fuyuki & Kyoko Inoue building up the idea that no woman wrestler has ever held a mens championship in the history of Japanese wrestling

Gaea on 1/16 at Korakuen Hall before a sellout 2,200 was headlined by a battle of legends with Asuka & Aja Kong beating Hokuto & Mayumi Ozaki when Kong pinned Ozaki after a spinning backfist. Sonny Onoo debuted with this group as the manager of Hokuto & Ozaki.

MMA: In a match to determine the best under-170 pound fighter in the world in the main event of the 1/15 World Extreme Fighting show in Rome GA, Brazil's Jose Pele Landy dominated UFC lightweight champion Pat Miletich in 8:00, winning when Miletich didn't answer the bell for the second round. Miletich, who went into the match with a bad back, was dominated and hammered the entire first round. The WEF show drew a sellout 3,000 fans, but apparently promoter Jamie Levine's financial backer said he was pulling out after this show which leaves him having to look for backing. Shooto's Hayato Sakurai, who was considered with Miletich and Landy as one of the best three fighters in the world in that weight class, challenged Landy after the match. In the semifinal on a 15-match, five hour show saw Laverne Clarke dominate John Lewis enroute to a 24:00 unanimous decision in what was described as a boring fight. Two of the RINGS tournament final eight appeared, both winning. Rodrigo Nogueira of Brazil took a 24:00 unanimous decision over Jeremy Horn, by virtue of scoring several take downs. Renato Babalu of Brazil knocked out sometime pro wrestler Brad Kohler at :55 of the second round when Kohler shot in for a take down, Babalu sprawled to avoid it, and with Kohler's head low, he basically soccer kicked him in what looked really dangerous at the time. The main rule difference between this show and UFC was the allowance of kicking on the ground. That does change the fight, and in many ways makes for a more exciting fight, but the Kohler finish was just too scary visually to not cause more problems then it's worth. Kohler had UFC matchmaker John Peretti as his corner man. John McCarthy wound up refereeing in three of the matches on this show

Due to a printing error, the total first place votes for the Frank Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz 9/24 Shoot match of the year from Lake Charles, LA in last week's issue didn't come out. That number was 241

Regarding the DSE Tokyo Dome show on 1/30, the alternate matches (non-tournament unless someone in the tournament gets injured) on the show are Carlos Baretto (a top Brazilian fighter) vs. Tra Telligman (Lions Den fighter) and Vanderlei Silva (a highly ranked under-200 pounder) vs. Osamu Tachihikari (a former sumo wrestler who is a 350-pound out of shape Japanese indie pro wrestler). The tournament is not completely bracketed as they will take the eight winners on 1/30, and re-bracket them for the March Dome show both for maximum box office and also to keep friends (in particular Mark Kerr and Mark Coleman or Tra Telligman and Guy Mezger) from facing each other until it's impossible

DSE announced that it would be running a dream match show on 5/1 at the Tokyo Dome which the matches would be decided to fans voting

The situation regarding McCarthy has done a 180 over the past week. McCarthy, the one television constant on the UFC broadcasts, having been head ref on every show dating back to 1994, was actually the subject of an attempt at a temporary restraining order by SEG against his appearing as referee on the 1/15 World Extreme Fighting show. Just days later, McCarthy had agreed not to referee on the 1/30 Pride show and return to UFC as the regular head referee, but he still did the WEF show. Earlier in the week, McCarthy said he didn't like having an exclusive contract but was willing to continue working UFC shows along with doing other events. He claimed SEG had breached his contract but didn't give details, and said that since the word got out of him doing the DSE show that he got a legal letter from SEG saying they considered him under exclusive contract, whether he worked for them or not, until June of 2001 probably due to non-compete clauses built into the contract. It also appears that Dan Severn is going to debut as a ref on the next UFC show, tentatively scheduled for 3/10

Not sure what he's trying to prove department? Alexander Otsuka, the Battlarts pro wrestler, is going to perform on both the 1/30 Battlarts show at Korakuen Hall in a pro wrestling match (a tag match teaming with Carl Malenko against Yuki Ishikawa & Mohammed Yone) and later have a shoot match at the Tokyo Dome against Igor Vovchanchin, who is generally considered No. 1 rated heavyweight in the world. Although Otsuka once beat Marco Ruas, mainly because Ruas gassed out, he would generally be considered a prohibitive underdog in this match.

ECW: ECW is scaling back on its road schedule. The idea was that once they would get on TNN, they'd try and run four cities per week (they had been doing three most weeks), but it didn't work out on a regular basis and even with the addition of the new TNN exposure, the house shows in September and October were consistently down from the same period one year ago. November was up, largely because of a few big crowds in places like Chicago and other big crowds for the TNN tapings, but some of those TV houses have been papered. Because of a limited promotion staff (mainly run by Lou D'Angelli and Ken Rinehurst aka Lou E. Dangerously and Jack Victory), three shows was too many as the "third" show per week generally didn't draw well. The plan is after the shows already booked, to cut back for the present to running two shows per week and concentrate on promoting both heavily, one of which would be a TV taping. For the non-contract and non-annual salaried talent, this will be a major blow since. For wrestlers and performers who are paid on a per-night basis, which one employee estimated at being about 50 percent of the people in the company, their money is going to end up cut way back to the tune of 33% Those performers can make some of it up by working indies on their additional day off. The idea is that only having to book two cities on every weekend tour, they can finalize the dates farther in advance, giving them more time in each market to promote the shows as well

The 1/15 ECW Arena show drew probably the biggest crowd in the history of the building (estimated at more than 1,850) and sold out one day in advance, largely because Paul Heyman was hinting around to everyone that they were going to shoot major angles on the show. They also sold out Danbury, CT to the tune of 2,000 the previous night with a very rowdy crowd with tons of fights in the stands. At the ECW Arena, the big angle was what appears to be the beginning of Van Dam's run at the ECW title in a long chase where he was laid out by Sabu and Awesome together, which gives Van Dam a grudge run with Sabu before the Awesome match. The show opened with Spike Dudley over Erik Watts in ten seconds. Lou E. Dangerously brought up that Watts was the son of the legend, Bill Watts, who fired "him" to he could start ECW. Simon Diamond beat C.W. Anderson and Nova beat Mikey Whipwreck. The Impact Players came out and said they wouldn't defend their belts and ran down Doring & Roadkill as a mid-card tag team that had never beaten anyone but preliminary competition, but said if they could beat a main event team, they could get a title match. This led to Dreamer & Raven vs. Doring & Roadkill. Dawn Marie took out Francine, and Raven left to see how she was doing. This left Dreamer alone to get killed, and then Rhino, Victory & Corino came out with Rhino interfering leading to Dreamer getting pinned. If they keep Dreamer & Raven together, they can also do three-ways with the teams which would lead to three-way cat fights. Rhino sort of disappeared to make the angle work. Victory & Corino kept beating on Dreamer until Rhodes made the save. It was said that Rhodes pop making the save wasn't that big, but the place came unglued and chanted his name when he began throwing the elbows. Rhino came out to take him out. Finally Sandman made his big ring introduction and made the save. Crazy beat Tajiri in a double juice match, which is what really needed to be done to put a change-up in their matches. This was said to be a good match but not at the level of their best matches. Awesome did a promo, said to be better than usual. He called out Van Dam. The lights went out just as the two locked up and when they came on, Sabu was in the ring. On the TNN show, they tried to explain that Sabu "walking out" when he lost didn't mean he was leaving. Anyway, he's already back and he turned on Van Dam and they destroyed him, ending with both coming off the top rope at the same time putting him through a table. They also beat up Spike Dudley, who tried to make the save, and Sabu also put Bill Alfonso through a table, as they are going to start a program with Fonzie vs. Jeff Jones. Angle said to have been really good. They did another angle with Lynn coming out on crutches but Guido attacked him and put him in a leg lock. Lynn legit suffered what appears to have been a sprained ankle and he may also have a bone spur in his ankle in a match with Guido (actually it was working with Sal E. Graziano) at the house show the previous night in Danbury, CT and will be out for a while, early estimates being six to eight weeks. Angel beat New Jack in a similar match to the one they had on PPV. Vic Grimes took a senton onto a shopping cart and also came off the top rope outside the ring onto a chair. Awesome beat Dudley in the main event with a lot of table spots. Said to be good, but not as good as their PPV match. At one point Awesome press slammed Dudley and threw him into the aisle through two tables. He got the pin after four power bombs

Also in Danbury, CT, the local advertising included Sandman, Van Dam (whose wife underwent another operation on her leg this past week), as well as Candido and Tammy Sytch. Dreamer opened the show saying that Sandman wasn't there due to a family emergency and gave the reason Van Dam wasn't there (while not mentioning the other two), and offered refunds. At that point Corino & Victory attacked him and Raven made the save to set up a street fight, so only a few people went to get refunds

Sandman missed the PPV because he had just gotten the word that his sister was suffering from inoperable brain cancer. What makes this situation that much more tragic for the family is that his older brother just died of cancer a few years ago

The crowd for the PPV on 1/9 in Birmingham, AL at Boutwell Auditorium was 4,700, of which 3,100 was paid with a gate of $80,000. According to both Paul Heyman and Steve Karel, the TV taping in White Plains, NY had no paper other than media trades which numbered less than 200

The 1/14 TNN show was mainly running down what happened on the PPV. It was the show taped at Center Stage in Atlanta on 1/7. That building looked so much more impressive when it was the home of WCW Saturday Night. The best part of the show was the open, where Cyrus was ripping on Joel Gertner in his role as TNN liaison, basically telling Gertner he was no longer allowed to do his middle name sex catch phrases nor run down any TNN programming. It actually sounded like a memo TNN would send (Callis actually wrote it himself) but it was hilarious, especially the part about that stupid Rockin Bowl show. They even got the fans, well at least a few in the first three rows, to chant "RollerJam sux." The rest of the show consisted of clips from the PPV, a few post-PPV interviews, and two basic good mid-card style matches. Crazy pinned Guido in 7:00 with a DDT and Lynn pinned Tajiri in 6:45 with the cradle piledriver. They also hyped Dusty Rhodes and a mystery partner (Dreamer) vs. Corino & Rhino for 1/28 in Fort Lauderdale (Rhodes is also scheduled for the Louisiana shows this coming weekend), said the New Orleans Saints (probably Josh Wilcox and a friend or two, and from what he understand, Wilcox either needs or has undergone shoulder surgery but is considering wrestling, probably in Oregon, during the off-season) are coming to the New Orleans show to get at Rhino and in the line of the night, it was said that no rookie in history has ever sent shock waves through a sport more than Rhino. Well, aside from Rhino having been wrestling for several years, someone ought to remember who was the Rookie of the Year in 1998 for those with short memories

The woman he plays Spike Dudley's groupie is ECW's lighting director Kari Bullock. Of course she really didn't lose her teeth from the clothesline, as she'd lost them years back and they used that fact to play up the angle. Simon Diamond's other manager, called Mitch, is the sometimes invisible ring announcer on TV, whose real name is Mark Benarjick

Erik Watts' appearance was a two-time deal

Ikuto Hidaka should return in one month and Masato Tanaka will be back this coming weekend as he left Japan on 1/18

Paul Heyman is interested in bringing Blitzkrieg in for some matches with Crazy. He wanted him for the ECW Arena on 1/15 but due to a wrist injury he won't be ready to work for another month

For the Florida house show run, the shows will be headlined by Rhodes & Dreamer vs. Rhino & Corino

There was a big fight with TNN, which edited out Joel Gertner's line about his manlihood on the New Years Eve show and even digitized his mouth so you couldn't read his lips

Sabu, who is 36, is unhappy because it's clear he can no longer be the star of the company and his role on PPVs is largely to put people over. Paul Heyman suggested an angle where Sabu was to have said that if Van Dam could beat him, he'd take off his wrestling boots in the ring and hand them to him (an offshoot of something Dynamite Kid did with Chris Benoit right before the end of his career in the dying days of Stampede Wrestling). Sabu didn't want to do the idea so they settled for what they did at the PPV. Heyman said that the angle, where Sabu said he'd walk out the door of ECW if he lost, wasn't meant to imply a retirement or even that he'd leave the promotion

Raven was on Wrestling Observer Live and noted his contract was expiring on 8/25. He said it's way too soon to make a decision about his future, but felt at his age, he wanted a chance to be a top line player and also make the top money, but not the latter without the former. He said he didn't want to leave and if ECW had the money to make a competitive offer he'd love to stay, and also that if he went elsewhere, he'd like the opportunity to, on occasion, still work a few shows per year for ECW .

WCW: The revised end of year estimates are that WCW as a company lost between $15 and $16 million in 1999, which is roughly the amount of money they lost in the entire three-year reign of Jim Herd. Now that Time-Warner is in the process of being purchased by AOL and the figures being tossed around are like $160 billion, figures like $15 million may as well be 15 cents so while it is always good for a division to be profitable, making a profit is hardly anywhere near as important today as it was throughout most of the history of the industry when it was largely a hand-to-mouth business. Nevertheless, Bill Busch is clearly scaling back costs everywhere to make things more profitable. In the past, they'd fly in just about everyone on the roster for TV. Now they get a script ahead of time and almost nobody that isn't going to be used is brought in. There is also expected to be another round of firings coming shortly

Nitro on 1/17 in Columbus, OH before 8,150 paid (and 2,496 comps) and a $200,495 gate was a decent show with the exception of an unbelievably bad Masahiro Chono match. Kidman beat Psicosis in a good opener in 6:43 with a face jam. Anderson did his interview saying he blew the call the previous night. Stevie Ray & Big T (Tony Norris) asked Booker T to come out, and naturally they ended up destroying him. Big T pinned medium sized T after hitting him with the slapjack in 1:39. Big T was so alert that he got off medium T after the count of two. Vampiro beat Disco with the nail in the coffin in 3:52. Some fitness models with horse faces and bodies by science were all over the NWO dudes, in particular Scott Steiner. David Flair & Crowbar kept the tag titles beating Shannon Moore & Shane Helms in 3:01 when Crowbar pinned Helms after a reverse DDT. Helms & Moore, who wrestled with the Hardys in Omega Pro, took awesome bumps here and this was a real good match. Standards & Practices were hanging out for no apparent reason other than to show us they're still around. Nash in an interview intimated that Orndorff and Zbyszko are already written out of the script. Zbyszko was at the PPV and Nitro but never used. Orndorff wasn't there. That isn't exactly the worst move that's been made. Abbott destroyed Maestro with one punch in 13 seconds. Abbott got a pop coming out. Smiley and Meng confronted Abbott after but nothing happened. All the wrestlers came out and they played Hail to the Chief for Nash. Nash did a few jokes ripping on Tenay needing a personality, Knobs needing a brain, Abbott needing a heart and Smiley needing courage acting like he was Oz. He got to do a Vinnie Vegas joke later. Doesn't matter that nobody laughed at his joke. Fans chanted for Goldberg. He gave the U.S. belt to Jarrett. He made some more jokes that went over the fans heads and announced DDP vs. Bagwell as the main event with Kimberly as ref. Chono & Super J (Jeff Farmer) beat Rick Steiner & Rotunda in an excruciating 9:17 when Chono pinned Rotunda after J turned over a pile. Sullivan didn't come out with the Varsity Club nor was he acknowledged. Tenay gave the Japanese story line (Rotunda used to be in Team 2000 and left and they were out for revenge) and tried to give a context to the match. Didn't matter, Steiner was horrible and Chono was worse. They were not selling anything. Boring chants. Way too long. Should have been in the unopposed hour. Chono made it clear that due to all his injuries, he wasn't going to take any bumps. When the Japanese "no-sell" tough spots he tried to use didn't work because he didn't have the pre-conditioned superstar aura going in he has in Japan, he pulled himself off appearing on Thunder the next night. Steiner, frustrated since Chono wasn't selling any of his offense, apparently got a little miffed at J and his version of selling and started firing some real punches in which only made the match fall apart even more. Sid pinned Wall with a choke slam in 2:53. After the match Sid power bombed Vito & Johnny, who Nash told to beat up Sid, and Disco simply walked away rather than tangle with Sid. Scott Steiner did an interview and attacked a plant at ringside who was given a worked bloody nose. He got really great heat building up the University of Michigan on the campus of Ohio State. Luger beat Bigelow in 3:09 when Kanyon interfered and Luger got the bottle and cracked it on Bigelow's head. Earlier in the day, when Luger was booked to do a clean job for Benoit, he had a bad neck and couldn't wrestle. When he was booked to win, the neck must have started feeling better. Finally DDP pinned Bagwell in 7:19 of another good match, although not of PPV quality. Kimberly was the ref and counted slow for both. Buff used the blockbuster but Kimberly knocked herself into Bagwell and pretended to be knocked down. Bagwell tended to her to allow Page to use the diamond cutter and she fast counted Bagwell, but then walked out without Page. The mystery continues

Thunder on 1/18 in Evansville, IN opened with Vito & Johnny winning the tag titles from Flair & Crowbar. Disco managed them and is doing a "Manager of champions" routine. Duggan vs. Hennig ended with no finish after a ref bump. Three Count sang and Smiley beat them all up and yelled at Nash saying he had no courage, then invited anyone from the back to come out. Abbott came, to another big pop. He chased Smiley down the ramp, cornered him, and knocked him out with one punch. Psicosis won a three-way over Chavo Guerrero Jr. and Lash Leroux by pinning Leroux. Kidman beat Artist due to distraction from Torrie Wilson, and the two are scheduled for a major push as a unit. They did the angle with Terry Taylor and Nash to set up the world title match in Los Angeles. Wall pinned Berlyn. Oklahoma did an interview and said he was giving up the cruiserweight title and leaving it for the real cruiserweights, which will apparently be up in a tournament. Kidman will not be in the tournament because of the belief that cruiserweights are another way of saying jobber and they want Kidman to be pushed. Madusa cut a real bad promo and was attacked by Sherri Martel. They had a very bad match, with Martel, 42, looking terrible. It was discussed having Sherri manage the new Harlem Heat but she didn't help her cause and she was only brought in for a try-out. Flynn beat Finlay when Knobs interference backfired. DDP pinned Kanyon in a good match with the diamond cutter. Kimberly came out and teased she was going to undo her top and Kanyon was distracted, allowing DDP to jump him and they left together. Main event was the old Mexican Parejas Increibles gimmick with Sid & Luger beating Big T & Medium T. Big T turned on the Booker (no, not the guy calling the shots) and hit him with a slapjack and Luger racked him. This match was said to have been horrible

Nitro is Heroes of Wrestling on 1/10 in Buffalo, NY before 5,338 paid (plus 3,652 comps) and a $121,604 gate (actual listed gate of $110,549 was the adjusted figure minus $11,000 off the top paid to the Ilio DiPaolo Foundation). The show was better TV than most recent Nitros, but it did absolutely nothing to help the PPV. In fact, it left you almost completely uninterested in seeing the PPV. It also did more to solidify what WCW doesn't need, which is the idea it's the old man's company, than any show to date. A three-way saw David Flair & Crowbar retain the tag titles beating Malenko & Saturn and Konnan & Kidman in 4:37. It started as a tag match with Revolution vs. Animals and then about 40 seconds later, Flair & Crowbar came out. Flair of course ruined the match in the ring. The whole match built to Saturn brawling with Misterio Jr. to the back and jumping off what appeared to be about an 11 foot platform with a splash onto Misterio Jr. (which was supposed to re-injure his knee, and they've done so many angles injuring Misterio Jr's knee that nobody even cares about them anymore). It was clear from how the table broke that there was tons of padding underneath (not complaining because anything to make these stunts safer is good, but it was painfully obvious). Heenan then claimed Saturn had jumped from "50, 60, or 70 feet" although Schiavone called it "15 to 20." Misterio Jr. went out in an ambulance and everyone appeared so concerned that it was never brought up the rest of the show. They also never made another reference to Saturn's dive the rest of the show. Given that they were building the show to the Snuka and Benoit dives which were similar, this was the wrong show to do the stunt on because by the time the show was over, nobody even cared. Then in the horrible segment of the show, Oklahoma came out. He clearly had been watching his Kaufman tapes as he was using the same lines challenging any women to come out. Asya came out but he hit her with BBQ sauce. Madusa came out wearing a blue wig looking really weird. He hit her with a broom using the bristles and she still sold it. He eventually broke the broom on her and grabbed the cruiserweight belt. Heenan had his first good line in weeks seeing the broken broom saying that now Madusa isn't going to have a way to get home. Actually, in a segment that was much better television but more painful to watch, they had a confrontation between Funk, Orndorff, Zbyszko and Anderson, now called The Old Age Outlaws (the very first time you hear that it is funny, the second time it totally buries the product) confronting the NWO. The old guys, hey, that's their gimmick now, cut promos. Zbyszko got a standing "O." Well, he always was a great promo guy. Orndorff was pretty said. Once the NWO made a comeback, Nash carved them up like a Thanksgiving turkey. You have all these old guys who really don't look like they even belong in wrestling in 2000. Then you have these guys coming out with a dozen women with enough silicon in them to make a minis tag team match, and who do you think the crowd cheered. Jarrett, wearing a Tennessee Titans jersey, was the only one trying to get heat. Even though Funk has carried the recent TV, this was one of the saddest performances I've seen of him because he just stood there on the mic, his specialty, playing face, while Nash made him look like an out-of-date fool. When Funk strongly said how if he and Hart don't wrestle each other, he'd suspend them without pay, and then Nash came back not selling it a bit and saying he could use the vacation time and he's saved his money, Funk was dead. If this was scripted, the scriptwriters are killing their babyfaces, which, because of their age, are only a short-term fix anyway. If Nash did this impromptu, well, nothing more needs to be said about that. And for the fans, the only reaction is that if Nash cares so much about wrestling that he'll turn down a world title match and take a suspension and not even care because he has so much money, fans must be thinking, then why doesn't he just go home. Hart seconded the motion. Funk made a comment about how Steiner hasn't been cleared to wrestle, which makes perfect sense since he wrestled in two matches the previous Monday. DDP and Bagwell did a debate. The gimmick was they had five minutes that they couldn't hit each other or they'd be fined $50,000. Like anyone would believe that. They spent five minutes talking about their dick size and then started fighting. In all seriousness, this segment was really good. George Steele (63) beat Jarrett in a bunkhouse match in 1:13. People seemed happy to see Steele who just ate his turnbuckle and waved his tongue and didn't do a thing. Anderson gave Jarrett a spinebuster and put Steele on top for the pin. Stevie Ray challenged Booker T and Midnight. T wouldn't accept his challenge until Ray slapped him. T accepted the challenge for the PPV to zero pop. I mean, it was scary how much people didn't' care. Jarrett was playing both sides of the fence kissing up to both Nash and Hart. Steiner was out there apparently having sex with a dozen women, but he was starting to fatigue as the show went on. Tito Santana beat Jarrett. Santana (46) got a nice pop but that was because Funk worked his ass off in putting him over. It was funny because Funk in his promo said the first match would be a regular wrestling match, the second a bunkhouse and the third a cage, and of course one and two were reversed, which is no big deal except on Thunder, they replayed the segment where Funk said first we'd have a regular match, and then showed the clip of the bunkhouse match, next we'll have a bunkhouse, and they showed the clip of the regular match. Santana beat Jarrett in 2:25 when Orndorff gave Jarrett a piledriver and put Santana on top. Santana physically looked older but had surprising spring in his step, throwing his patented high dropkick and high flying forearm. Abbott challenged Dillenger. He seemed very uncomfortable talking in front of a big crowd, as he kept looking down to the ground rather than at the audience. He offered Dillenger a free shot and called saying quack quack and calling him Duckman (the show Ferrara wrote before Raw). Dillenger threw the punch, Abbott shrugged it off and pounced on him. Security handcuffed Abbott and Flynn kicked Abbott while handcuffed. Jimmy Snuka (whose birthday is May 18, 1943, so he's 56) beat Jarrett in 3:19. Actually Snuka did nothing until the big finish. Benoit, who reffed all three matches, was beaten up before the match. He came back and they set up a spot where Snuka did his splash off the top of the cage onto Jarrett. Even though Snuka did nothing else, it was amazing at his age doing that spot although the end result wasn't worth it since Jarrett got a serious concussion out of it. Benoit then came off the top with a diving head-butt. On the PPV, they tried to credit the concussion to Benoit but then when they showed the replay, it was pretty silly as the head-butt clearly landed on Jarrett's stomach. It was a great spot, but they're having Benoit do that head-butt off the cage far too often. This time was cool because he did it with Snuka. But it's not worth the injury risk to Benoit doing that as often as they have him do it now. Steiner, by this point, was exhausted from all the sex he'd been having, so the Outlaws handcuffed him to some lockers and Funk put soap in his mouth. Hart NC Nash in 10:41. It wasn't good by any means, but it was probably Nash's best singles match in a long time, and even then there were a lot of boring chants, but the match did have good psychology. Anderson hit Nash in the back with a pipe. Vicious ran in and did the weakest kicking a chair into someone's face spot ever. The cage came down and Sid choke slammed and power bombed Hart and Anderson counted three. Fun came out with a flaming branding iron and burned Nash

Thunder opened with Vampiro over Crowbar with a power bomb off the top rope in 2:58 despite interference from Flair. The two guys worked real hard doing big moves. Daffney and David laid out Vampiro after. Anderson tried to talk with David, and then Anderson laid out Crowbar while David and Daffney walked off without Crowbar. Hart did a promo saying he'd quit the NWO. I think WWF did this storyline three times in the last five weeks. Fans still booed Hart even cutting a face promo. Nash came out to his second good promo in the same century. They showed clips of Finlay beating up Knobs for no reason which they said took place on Monday but they couldn't air the tape. Then Knobs won the TV title from Smiley outside. It was freezing out and they were wrestling in their jacket. The finish was supposed to be Knobs running over Smiley with a car. Neither Knobs nor Smiley were happy with that because the risk of injury in a worthless match for a worthless title was way too high. Actually Tony Schiavone told Smiley he would be crazy Problem was, the car barely touched Smiley. At first he didn't sell it, then I guess he realized it was the finish and the guy wasn't going to hit him again, so he laid down. This was really funny, but also sad. Revolution came out. Asya came out with them. I guess they forgot they've already broken them up at the house shows. Saturn and Asya argued again. Abbott did an interview and Flynn jumped him. The cops came. That fink Mean Gene told the cops it was Flynn's fault and they arrested him. Abbott then punched a cop to get himself arrested. At least these two are actually veterans of that jail scene. They portrayed Erie as being Podunk, USA as it being a town so small they only have one jail cell, and they put both in the same cell, and they started fighting each other. I guess they didn't figure how it makes the company look when it's doing a national TV taping in Podunk, USA. Madusa beat Oklahoma in an evening gown match in 1:52. Oklahoma hit her with BBQ sauce after the match and pulled the top of her dress down and then poured the sauce down her top. She then did a promo with sauce running down her chest. Throughout the show they were torturing Hart. Bigelow beat Kanyon in a champagne bottle on a pole match in 4:40. Kanyon hit Bigelow with his belt but Bigelow kicked out. Bigelow won with a head-butt to the groin and the Greetings from Asbury Park. Luger, dressed as Sting, attacked Bigelow and put on a terrible looking scorpion. Lights went out and Sting's music played and they showed the crow. If things weren't bad enough for Bigelow at that point, Kanyon hit him with the bottle. Kimberly did an interview. I thought she retired from the business because this angle was a shoot. Anyway, I just hope Sullivan isn't booking this angle given his track record of doing angles that break up real marriages. Of course Kimberly put Page over big-time in bed. I'm sure everyone wanted to hear that. Then she complained about Gene asking personal questions. Nash was torturing Hart and in the background you could hear the director wrapping up the scene. Now that was funny. Nash & Jarrett beat Vicious & Benoit in 6:34. Benoit was on the top rope and Nash shoved him off and he crashed into the U.S. belt and Jarrett pinned him using the stroke. The final scene saw Hart, who by this point, was actually being cheered, coming out with a pipe while covered in make-up to make it appear he'd been beaten up on. It was the same make-up they used for Arn Anderson, totally exposing that angle. Hart challenged all the NWO guys to come out. Nash & Jarrett came out with bats. Throughout the show, Orndorff and Zbyszko had sympathy for Hart and Funk didn't care. Before this segment, Steiner had already been laid out by the Outlaws. Then it got really silly. Hart was in a stand-off with Nash & Jarrett forever because Funk & Anderson arrived so late. Apparently live it was obvious Hart & Nash were having a hard time not laughing because the timing was so screwed up. Funk came out with a flaming branding iron and Anderson with a bucket of water. Anderson threw the bucket on Hart, with the idea that the make-up would run. Then, the make-up didn't run, but the announcers had to sell that it did. So the idea was Funk & Anderson were so smart they knew it was a swerve. But they still got beat up anyway. Orndorff, Zbyszko, Benoit and Vicious all came so it was basically 3 NWO guys against six babyfaces. It seemed like Nash all by himself had laid out ten guys, but I guess it wasn't quite that bad. But all the faces ended up being laid out and Nash got Funk's branding iron and burned his face. Do they actually believe fans will get behind such an impotent group of faces or is the idea really just to turn the NWO face and run with them against a new group of heels

Ric Flair was asked almost at the last minute to appear on the 1/17 Regis & Kathy Lee show which was never even publicized by WCW. WCW was only mentioned once in the interview and they did plug Nitro and Thunder. Flair made what he called an unofficial official announcement that he was running for Governor of North Carolina (the republican party in that state has discussed that with him of late). This got a lot of publicity in the Mid Atlantic area and was covered very strongly later that evening on the television news as a serious story. CNN talked about it all day the next day, but they weren't taking it seriously. Flair would have to file by 2/7 to be eligible in a crowded race that already has more than a half dozen candidates. Locally reporters were comparing it to 1996 when Richard Petty, who is even more of a legend in that part of the country than Flair, failed in a bid for Secretary of state

The reason Bagwell missed the house shows this past week was because he said his hip was bothering him

Goldberg is scheduled on Politically Incorrect on 1/18 and on the American Music Awards on 1/17

Orndorff is really high on a student with a few months of training named Travis Jones, who is said to have both shootfighting and gymnastics training

Vampiro brought Insane Clown Posse to Nitro on 1/17 and not only did they not allow them to accompany him for his TV match, but WCW kicked them out of even being backstage

Nash is scheduled for the Martin Short show on 1/20

A&E is working on a Hogan biography, like the E! Channel thing wasn't enough

Lizmark Jr., who was fired recently, is now opening up a gym with his father in Acapulco and hasn't even pushed hard about seriously getting back into the Mexican wrestling scene (he may be working indies there because nobody can keep up with that anyway). The attitude of Lizmark Jr., Hector Garza and some of the other Mexicans was always from early on when they saw how they were and weren't being used, particularly after already getting over as superstars in many places, was to just take the money and go along for as long as the ride would take them. When they weren't used, they never made the effort to get Americanized, like Juventud Guerrera, who was at least given a chance, and Silver King who was around when the economy in Mexico was strong and recognizes how wrestling in his native country has changed. Garza and Lizmark Jr. were never there for the larger money, relatively speaking of course because even then except for the very top guys it would be poor money by current U.S. standards, that the top stars in Mexico made in early 90s in Mexico when that business was on fire

WCW is said to be interested in using Don Frye after J.J. Dillon and Orndorff saw him at the Tokyo Dome

The plan now seems to be to bring Hogan, Goldberg, Flair, Savage and Sting all back on 2/14, because Raw is delayed until 11 p.m due to the Westminster dog show, that is, if deals can be reached with Hogan, Flair and Savage

Goldberg appeared on the American Music Awards on ABC as a presenter on 1/17

Fyre of the Nitro Girls was Fyred

Christi Wolfe (Asya) is engaged to Dale Torborg

House shows for the past two weeks saw WCW Saturday Night tapings on 1/5 in Rock Hill, SC drew 576 paid (plus 1,170 comps) for one of the company's lowest gates in years of $12,858, 1/7 in Lowell, MA drew 3,321 paying $61,227, 1/8 in Utica, NY drew 2,895 paying $61,138, 1/9 in State College, PA drew 1,259 paying $32,428, Thunder taping 1/11 in Erie, PA drew 2,864 (plus 1,083 comps) paying $65,973 and the house show on 1/14 in Charleston, WV drew 5,970 paying $121,060. The house show was scheduled with a Hart vs. Vicious title match on top with a strong undercard, and ended up with Vicious over Savage as Hart's replacement. Merchandise for the period of 1/10 through 1/15 was $64,621 or $4.56 per head

The WCW advance for its debut in Winnipeg on 2/26 was just under 4,000 tickets sold at press time. The England tour is doing very well, as at press time there were 8,800 tickets sold in a 12,229-seat London Arena for 3/11, 8,100 tickets for the 19,609-seat Arena in Manchester, England for 3/12 and 8,200 tickets sold in the 12,444-seat NEC in Birmingham for 3/13 with nothing really pushed for the show other than Goldberg and Hart are both being pushed heavily.

WWF: Austin had his spinal surgery on 1/17 in San Antonio by a team headed by Dr. Lloyd Youngblood. On the Raw show later that evening, they had a press announcement by Youngblood who stated the surgery was successful, but it lasted more than two-and-a-half hours, which was longer than expected due to Austin having more muscle than an average person. Youngblood indicated Austin probably could return to wrestling, but did say that there were early signs of neurological damage. He indicated a three-month minimum, and more likely six months to one year, before Austin could return to the ring

Added to the Royal Rumble is the first Miss Royal Rumble swimsuit contest with Ivory, B.B., Terri, Kat, Tori, Jacqueline and Mae Young. They also have a double tables match with Dudleys vs. Hardys and Angle vs. mystery opponent (Shamrock?)

Raw on 1/17 in New Haven drew a sellout 7,924 paying $180,689. Aside from the first 20 minutes, it was an uneventful show. Cactus came out and showed a clip of a September 1997 where he beat HHH. HHH looked a good 30 pounds lighter. He delivered another tremendous promo and called out HHH, who also cut a great promo. Cactus challenged him and HHH accepted, but DX ran out with him for a four-on-one. Rock went to make the save but Show stopped him, but then Show and the Acolytes saved Cactus. There wasn't much else of note after that. Test beat Bossman in 4:11 to win the hardcore title Test when Albert interfered, Test got the night stick and used it with a night stick elbow off the top for the pin. Godfather & Brown beat Christian & Edge in 3:50. Edge accidentally knocked down one of the ho's. He checked how she was doing and in the process, caused Christian to be pinned by Brown after a power bomb. Godfather offered them ho's for the night and the ho's were all over Edge, but he was running for cover being that he's engaged. Bossman and Albert were brawling in the aisle. Bossman threw Albert into a dressing room where he saw Tori topless, or at least he did in the story line. I guess that means he saw her storyline breasts. It's all so confusing. Anyway, Tori was freaked out and ran to Stephanie and was speechless. Luckily Stephanie was a mind reader and spoke for her letting Kane have a match with Albert. Angle beat Blackman in 2:17 when Bulldog returned and gave Blackman a low blow with the kendo stick. So Stephanie outsmarted her husband again. Ever notice when the two of them are together that Stephanie is sort of convincing in that she's attracted to HHH, but HHH is totally unconvincing of being attracted to her? And he's the better actor of the two. Show did an interview kissing up to the fans. He hates the Rock but isn't turning heel. They got all the women in the ring to tease the bikini contest. Ross practically promised a topless semi-living individual by saying it's buyer beware on the PPV. B.B. had her shirt ripped off, exposing her bra, and Ivory had her dress ripped off, leaving her in a slip. B.B. sort of promised being topless and then Mae Young started to strip but Mark Henry, Moolah and Harvey Whippleman stopped her. Acolytes beat HHH & X-Pac via DQ in 3:57 when the Outlaws interfered and the Acolytes were left laying. Rock did an interview and called Show a jibroni about 30 times. Jeff Hardy beat Buh Buh Ray Dudley in 2:46 with the senton. Jeff was great as usual. After the match the Dudleys gave both Hardys the 3-D, and then Buh Buh power bombed Matt off the top rope onto Jeff through a table. Rikishi beat Jericho via DQ in 3:28. They tried to portray it as if Jericho wasn't even in Rikishi's league and had no chance to win. After a ref bump, the Hollys, Chyna and Kitty all came out. Rikishi was destroying them all until Bob hit him with a chair for the DQ. Too Cool made the save, Rikishi gave Crash a piledriver and they all danced. Kane pinned Albert with a choke slam in 1:14. After the match, Albert hinted he was bringing in a dominatrix as his manager. During the show Cactus talked to both Rock and Show and tried to convince them to get alone. Rock agreed. Outlaws beat Show & Rock in the main event. Since Rock agreed to try and get along, he attacked Show before the match started. Show then left the ring and stood on the floor and watched Rock get beaten up. Show eventually tagged in and cleaned house, but Rock hit him with a chair and Gunn pinned him. After the match, Rock gave Show the people's elbow. Even though Rock acted as a heel the entire show, he can do no wrong

Some Smackdown notes from 1/18 in Providence, RI. X-Pac beat Test in a match to determine who gets No. 30 in the Rumble due to help from Outlaws. Snow & Blackman beat Angle & Bulldog when Blackman pinned Bulldog quickly. Matt Hardy beat D-Von Dudley via DQ when Buh Buh interfered. Buh Buh killed them with chair shots. Buh Buh set up power bombing Matt off the stage through two tables but Jeff hit him with a chair and Buh Buh fell off the stage through a table. Matt came off the stage with a legdrop and in landing appeared to catch Buh Buh in the face with an elbow and Buh Buh was bleeding heavily from the eye to set up the Rumble match. Bossman double count out Albert. Outlaws went to the bar that Acolytes hung out in and beat up a bartender who told them Acolytes would beat them and played pool. Rikishi & Too Cool DDQ Jericho & Bob Holly & Chyna. Viscera pinned Crash Holly. Apparently Crash did a great job here as it wasn't that bad. Gangrel beat Edge via count out. All the women came out to watch this match. Mae Young started making out with Edge against his will. I guess she sexually harassed him or something. Main event was a three-way lumberjack Battle Royal match with Show, Kane and Rock. Show threw Rock over the top to eliminate him. Rock came back and Kane threw him over the top (I guess trying to set up that Rock really isn't going to win the Rumble). Kane clotheslined Show over to win. They aired the footage from last year's Rumble with Rock destroying Foley with all the chair shots and HHH said that was nothing compared to what he's going to do to him at the Rumble this year. Foley vowed he'd turn HHH into a human pin cushion. I guess Foley is going through thumb tacks again. Show ended with them fighting and Foley was supposed to piledrive HHH through a table. For some reason the table wouldn't break even though they tried the spot three times (for editing purposes they could splice in only the one that worked so it was okay to do the same spot three times in a row). Foley didn't try a fourth time, and ended the angle and his music played. HHH gave the impression of internal bleeding. Foley's pants kept coming off during this brawl

Raw on 1/10 in St. Louis drew a sellout 13,923 paying $371,016 to the Kiel Center. It was one of the best Raws in a long time, in particular the main event. The show opened with virtually the entire roster coming out showing Rock as the leader claiming they would form a rival company called the World Rock Federation, or something like that in protest over HHH & Stephanie's reign. Basically after a lot of mic work, HHH & Stephanie backed down to their demands including a reinstatement of Mankind and their demands for matches on the show. It started with Road Dogg pinning Gunn in 4:28 after Gunn missed a famouser. Gunn walked out on Dogg after the match to sell the idea that DX wasn't getting along. Where have we seen that before, like with the exception of just about every week on every show? Hardys beat Angle & Blackman in 3:24 when Matt pinned Blackman after a spinning neckbreaker. There was one innovative spot where Jeff went for a huracanrana on the floor, Blackman blocked it, held him and basically whipped his brain into the ring steps. Good TV bout. Venis kept the European title beating Edge in 3:40 with a fisherman suplex. They did an angle talking about Edge being engaged to Venis' sister (this is actually true) but that Edge snubbed Venis for Christian in being the best man at the wedding. Hollys beat Jericho & Chyna in 2:49 when Jericho wouldn't tag in and Bob used his finisher (they used to call it the Hollycaust but everyone seems to have forgotten its name) on Chyna. HHH pinned X-Pac in 3:12 with a Pedigree when Stephanie interfered causing X-Pac to get crotched on the top rope. Real hot TV match. Too Cool & Rikishi beat Snow & Bangers when Rikishi pinned Mosh after his sit-out piledriver in 2:21. Snow then attacked both Bangers with Head after the match. Throughout the show, Mankind was torturing the fake Mankind (Dennis "Mideon" Knight) and threatened to make him watch an hour of Snow matches. I still think that joke was funnier when the torture was watching an hour of Thunder. The funny part of this is the WCW production where before the skit went on the air you hear the 3-2-1 countdown. Godfather & Brown double count out Dudleys in 3:18. Dudleys tried to kidnap the ho's right before the finish. This wasn't good. Test & Big Show beat Albert & Bossman in 57 seconds when Test pinned Albert after an elbow off the top. Bossman and Albert argued after but then Show gave both a double choke slam. Main event started as DX vs. Rock & Mankind & Acolytes. The whole show was built around DX being mad at HHH. Actually, it seems every show is built around that, only they make up at the end and it's a swerve. This week it wasn't a swerve, well, until the next night. So they walked out. Acolytes & Rock ended up doing the disappearing act brawling to the back. So it was HHH vs. Mankind. This was by far the best Foley has looked in the ring since the double knee surgery. It was a dramatic heated ***1/2 match with a surprise finish with HHH hitting him with the ring bell, giving him a pedigree through a table, and another pedigree in the ring for the pin in 10:25. HHH continued to beat on him after the match until he made his comeback and unmasked and did the "bang-bang," although the announcers never made reference to Cactus Jack and the "bang-bang" only seemed understood by a very small percentage of the crowd

Smackdown which was taped 1/12 in Chicago was another very strong show. The show opened with HHH & Stephanie apologizing to DX and asked for Mankind to come out. Mankind Knight came out and he said he was pathetic and they were making fun of him until Mankind Foley came out. He then turned into Cactus Jack and they announced a falls count anywhere street fight match in Madison Square Garden for the Rumble. Knight hit Foley with a chair but Foley did a no-sell spot and destroyed Knight, while HHH ran off. They announced a series of matches favoring DX to show HHH was back on the same page with them. Outlaws beat Bradshaw in 2:58 in a handicap match when Dogg hit him with a chair and Gunn fell on him for the pin. It was very good for what it was. Too Cool & Rikishi beat Hollys & Snow in 4:09 when Rikishi pinned Crash with his piledriver. Another good action match. Snow hit both Hollys with Head after the match and Snow left saying he wants a partner he can count on. Test beat Gangrel via DQ in 2:39 due to Luna interfering and also attacking ref Teddy Long. Test went to spank her momentarily. Test laid out Gangrel with the elbow off the top after the match. Hardys beat Bossman & Albert in 3:23 when Bossman & Albert started arguing and Jeff schoolboyed Bossman. Bossman & Albert fought after. Another good TV bout. Edge & Christian beat Angle & Blackman in 3:37 when Venis came on the screen and stole Blackman's kendo stick and basically intimated he was going to protect his brother-in-law. Edge pinned Blackman with a less than stellar looking german suplex. Chyna told Tori that Jericho wanted to violate her. She freaked out and told Kane. Outlaws beat Faarooq in 1:15. This one wasn't good. Bradshaw made the save after. Godfather & Brown beat Head Bangers in 3:05 when Brown pinned Thrasher after a frog splash. It should be noted that Venis, who rarely appears on this show, was never intimated about being the porn star. They went out of their way to avoid terms like pimp and ho's with Godfather (they were simply "ladies" that accompanied Godfather although there was a crack about being the finest on the streets of Chicago), who hasn't appeared on Smackdown since the advertiser boycott began. When Godfather used that spastic running in the corner move they call the ho train, Michael Cole called it "the train." Kane pinned Jericho in 3:21 after a choke slam. Good match. After watching this match the only thing I could think about is that it's too bad a guy with so much charisma as Jericho can't work. While Kane was pounding on Jericho, Kat stole the IC belt back for Chyna. HHH & X-Pac beat Rock & Big Show in 6:26. They teased dissension throughout the show with Show saying he hated Rock for calling him a jiborni (actually he called everyone in the promotion that). Show was killing both guys and Rock wanted to tag in but Show wouldn't tag. Show had HHH finished and signalled for the choke slam, but Rock slapped his hand like a glory seeker to jump in. X-Pac hit Rock with a with a chair and they got heat on him for several minutes. When Rock went for a tag, Show was always somewhere else. Finally Show simply refused to tag Rock to turn heel, and HHH pinned Rock with the pedigree. Show came back after and choke slammed Rock. It was basic wrestling but it was done real well

WWF is working on a string of six straight sellouts, starting 1/16 at the Continental Airlines Arena and every show through 1/25 in Baltimore is already sold out

The New York Daily News ran a short on 1/18 saying that Austin's surgery was a complete success. Austin was called, and this is a direct quote, "the most successful wrestler ever." Maybe when there's a slow news week, like that's going to happen any time soon, we'll examine that one but somehow two or three great years doesn't exactly compare favorably with Hogan, Inoki or Thesz

X-Pac missed a few shows this past week with bronchitis

Venis was out this past weekend due to a strained neck

Mark Henry is expected to return for the Royal Rumble as one of the 30 participants

Stevie Richards has been medically cleared to return but his ankle isn't up to full strength so he's still being held out

The WWF hierarchy had a meeting regarding making an offer to Nash if he were cut loose by WCW. The mood was very strong not to bring him in and that he's doing the company far more benefit as a cancer in the other locker room. Of course, if he was to be cut loose, this being pro wrestling, eventually there would come a day

Regarding Savage, the feeling continues to do that they are not interested in him at the price range he feels he's worth

To clarify various stories regarding the WWF's contractual situation with UPN and the USA network, the WWF's contract with UPN expires in May, however, UPN has the option to renew the show, and given that it's the show that is credited with saving the network, it is not about to allow the WWF to get away under any circumstances. The WWF's contract with USA expires in September, but again, USA network has the option to renew it, as does WWF have the option to stay on the network

In U.K. ratings, for 12/17 Raw had 290,000 viewers to Nitro's 160,000. For 12/24 Raw had 110,000 to Nitro's 100,000 and on 12/31, Nitro won with 120,000 viewers to Raw's 60,000. For the year as a whole, Raw averaged 323,000 viewers to Nitro's 253,000. The Royal Rumble will be the first WWF PPV show airing on network television (Ch. 4) in the U.K. so it should draw a huge audience. WWF's PPV shows had aired for free on Sky Sports up to this point. Sunday Night Heat also airs 4-5 p.m. Sundays although the U.K. version is heavily edited (language, violence). There are also two versions of Smackdown in the U.K., an edited afternoon version and an uncut late Saturday night version. Sky has also begun showing a weekly WWF Classics show. The first one was from the early 80s featuring the likes of Bob Orton and the legendary Mighty Joe Thunder. Not that many people were around long enough to remember this and almost nobody, since VCRs were in their infancy, had access to videotapes of many different regional offices, but WWF TV in that time period, when judged by today's standards, would be worse then awful. Actually, even by the standards of the time, WWF and AWA TV, which was funny because those two promotions, because they were the New York and the Chicago based companies, and thus got more attention, were horrible compared to most of the wrestling product available on TV but in those days there wasn't much available but the home promotion so there was nothing to compare it with

The Los Angeles Times ran a short book review of Mick Foley's book written by Houston Mitchell (a long-time wrestling fan who has worked for years as a sportswriter for the newspaper including doing a major feature on Billy Graham in early 1992 that was very important at the time). His conclusion was that, "Mick Foley is a funny, intelligent, interesting man with a fascinating story to tell. Don't let any bias you might have against pro wrestling keep you from this book. If you have a friend who is a wrestling fan, this would make the perfect gift.

Jim Neidhart should be starting shortly as a trainer for developmental talent workout out of either Louisville or Memphis

The no-shows from WWF for the two IWA shows in Puerto Rico were Dogg, Henry, Mideon, Phatu and Albert. Dogg and Henry were announced as being injured, which in the case of Henry was the case and in the case of Dogg it was actually due to high blood pressure, but no reason was given for the other no-shows, probably because there wasn't a great reason. Basically they were all banged up and tired and didn't go. Brown, who had a shoulder injury serious enough to miss the WWF house shows over the weekend, still went and actually worked as a one main team in the tournament since partner Phatu no-showed. The IWA offered a $5 discount to a future show to anyone who kept their ticket stubs due to all the no-shows. Those from WWF who did go on the tour were Gunn, X-Pac, Head Bangers, Michinoku, Funaki, Crash Holly, Venis, Gangrel, Luna and Brown. They also used Mexican minis Max Mini and Torito (who are currently in Mexico as Tzuki and Espectrito I) and brought in Miss Mongol (Aki Kanbayashi) from FMW as Luna's opponent. Internet reports calling her Mrs. Pogo were incorrect, which actually I thought was a pretty funny name. The house show on 1/6 in Mayaguez, PR drew 3,700 paying $45,000 and the tag team tournament in which Venis & Ricky Santana won the new IWA belts in a three-way over Head Bangers and Savio Vega & Huracan Castillo Jr. drew 4,200 paying $60,000 in Bayamon, which is down a few thousand fans from the December show headlined by Undertaker. The first attempt at doing a non-WWF house show was on 1/9 in Arroyo, PR and drew a $4,000 house, which the promotion was happy with since they charged WWC prices instead of WWF prices and drew more of a WWC crowd, which is the crowd they'll have to rely on as a regular territory, using the IWA crew plus the Head Bangers stayed. The IWA territory itself is scheduled to open as a three-night per week territory on 1/27 using Vega, Perez, Castillo, Head Hunters, Santana and Fidel Sierra as the main locals and using some WWF talent as special guests. Chaparita Asari is coming in to work with Miss Mongol at the end of the month and WWF wants to send a lot of developmental talent to work full-time in the territory including Tiger Ali Singh and Giant Silva

WWF the Music Volume Four dropped to No. 85 on the charts with 20,929 units scanned. Things fared even worse for WCW Mayhem, falling to No. 193 with 7,299 units scanned. The industry was way down again this past week, as it traditional in January, but the wrestling CD's dropped far more than the charts did as a whole

More on the situation with Rock walking out of the Opie & Anthony show. It may not have been a work to start with but everyone involved is playing it up for all its publicity value and it is now. The answer of what is a work or not is if he came back on the show to build for a big return rating, and guess what happened. Opie & Anthony the next day and then again on 1/14 ran Rock down and wouldn't you know it, they built toward a return appearance by Rock on 1/20. On the 1/14 show they kept insisting that it wasn't fake but then were so obviously building heat for an angle including playing a song parody of Rock which mentioned him having breasts and called him half breed. At this point for him to go back on the show and give these guys pub and build up their ratings and his publicity and then to be commended for standing up against racism is a joke. They went on the air the day after the first incident and were running him down and took a lot of callers and gave the general reaction that Rock was a jerk for walking off the show. They brought up how they've always pushed wrestling and they asked why Rock didn't walk off of WWF TV when DX came out in

black face doing that spoof on The Nation and said it's because he was getting a paycheck from them. They also had several callers bring up my name claiming I said the thing was worked, which if you read what I wrote last week, isn't what I said, but at this point, it certainly seems to be. The fact that the station this is all happening on, WNEW in New York, is the same station that the WWF radio show is being carried on Saturday nights is just another hint

Rock's autobiography will debut at No. 2 on the New York Times best seller list

Tentatively, the 20/20 episode on Mick Foley is scheduled for 2/3

Chyna appeared on the MTV show "Time Out" this past week with a 30 minute segment

WWF was part of a landmark case in international court when a Redlands, CA man had registered the internet name www.worldwrestlingfederation.com and tried to sell it to the company for $1,000 but the court ruled in favor of the WWF

Randy Orton, who is 6-4 1/2 and 250 pounds, the 19-year-old son of Bob Orton, signed a developmental contract. Bob, 49, was hospitalized last week with a perforated appendix and was in really bad shape, but is expected to make a full recovery

The stock is remaining at a low level, closing at 14 1/4 at press time

Tazz' debuted is expected to be right after the Rumble

Helmsley will be taping an episode of "Grown Ups," which is a UPN Monday night show, in a few weeks

House shows for the week saw 1/8 in Minneapolis drew 13,579 paying $351,288, 1/9 in Kansas City drew 8,509 paying $215,220, Smackdown on 1/11 in Chicago sold out the All-State Arena with 13,253 paying $395,561. Grand Rapids on 1/12 drew 7,866 paying $206,001. 1/16 at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, NJ drew a sellout 18,782 paying $440,744. Merchandise over the past two weeks totalled $712,159 or $7.38 per head. For the Minneapolis show they headlined with Rock over HHH via DQ in a title match and X-Pac & Road Dogg over Acolytes. Grand Rapids was almost a "B" level show with no Rock or any members of DX and a main event of Big Show over Bossman in a cage match. At the Continental Airlines Arena, the main event was Cactus Jack & Rock over HHH & X-Pac when Rock & X-Pac both did the disappearing act leaving it as a singles match and Jack pinned HHH after a chair shot. Also Outlaws beat Hardys.