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April 30, 2001 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Death of Johnny Valentine, WCW Nitro delayed

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN1083-9593 April 30, 2001

If you ask most wrestlers from the 50s through the 70s to do word association, and give the term, "physical toughness," probably the name that would be mentioned most often, would be Johnny Valentine.

Valentine, who likely went more places and held more regional titles at a time when they really meant being the top man in a territory that did real business, than any wrestler of his era, passed away at the age of 72 at about 3 a.m. on 4/24, the same day as Lou Thesz' 85th birthday, in Dallas. He'd been suffering numerous physical problems with his back and his heart which dated back, some of which dated back to the 70s, over the past year, which had gone heavily publicized.

Valentine was known in the 70s as the greatest wrestler never to hold the NWA world heavyweight title. He's largely credited with driving a rebirth of the Mid Atlantic territory in the early 70s which eventually spawned wrestlers like Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat, who were to take the business to new heights as far as in-ring quality was concerned. That was hardly the only link between Flair and Valentine.

On October 4, 1975 near Wilmington, NC, a Cessna 310 plane carrying Flair, Valentine, David Crockett, George Woodin (Tim "Mr. Wresting" Woods) and Bob Bruggers crashed when it ran out of gas trying to make an emergency landing. Apparently, for whatever reason, Flair switched places in seats with Valentine. In the crash, while Flair, sitting directly behind Valentine, suffered serious injuries including a broken back, he was able to return to the ring and become by most accounts the greatest in-ring performer of his era and possibly ever. Valentine was far more seriously injured, largely because he was sitting in the seat Flair had moved from, thus changing the entire course of pro wrestling history. Valentine broke his back in three places, and never walked again, ending his career while still one of the biggest names in the game at the age of 47. Most felt due to his name and his style he likely could have been a top babyface, had he not been injured, after a big turn, in the Carolinas, St. Louis and anywhere else he would have worked, probably until the McMahon expansion era. Valentine held the United States title, which the promotion has just created, largely for him, at the time of the accident. On November 9, 1975, when they held a tournament for the vacant title at the Greensboro Coliseum, won by Terry Funk over Paul Jones in the finals, Valentine was brought out in a wheelchair and the throng of 16,000 fans who hated him for so long, gave him a several minute long standing ovation.

Real name John Anthony Wisniski, he was born September 22, 1928. His son Greg, real name John Wisniski, Jr., who saw very little of his father growing up since he was travelling around the world, became a major wrestling star in the 70s and 80s. He had a similar style to his father, concentrating on hard forearms and elbows and being a heel who never backed down and stood there and took punishment. While a good worker in his prime and a successful star for many years, he never possessed his fathers' ring presence or charisma. When Greg started his career, he had to use other names such as Johnny Fargo and Babyface Nelson before Greg Valentine. He worked briefly as Johnny Valentine Jr., but Johnny nixed it, feeling it would make him seem too old to be a headliner if the public knew he had a son old enough to be an active wrestler. Later, when the two appeared in some of the same cities, he was billed as Johnny's younger brother.

Valentine started his career in 1947, and the early years were hardly a cakewalk. He went to South America for an unscrupulous promoter, who left him stranded there. Valentine literally, with no money, had to work his way back, from South America, through Central America, making money for wrestling (which in those days was far more popular in most countries than it is today but more on a low paying club level) and saving enough to move farther North until returning to the United States. Somewhere along the ways he ended up in Ohio, which was the hot wrestling territory at that time due to Buddy Rogers, and became Rogers' hottest rival.

At 6-3 and 250 pounds, Valentine was a big man with long arms that delivered sledge hammer like blows. He was from the school of thought that if fans didn't believe the match to be real, he wasn't doing his job. That meant hitting the opponent as hard as you could with every blow. He'd avoid punching to the face or the ear, but would pound on a man's chest and back, and he believed in taking as much, which is why his matches with Wahoo McDaniel in the Carolinas became legendary.

Among the wrestlers, Valentine was known as the master ribber. Some of his pranks would be considered cruel and very much sadistic by today's standards. He wasn't necessarily loved, or even liked within the profession, and he was feared, and was thought by many to be very different. But he did command tremendous respect. Many wrestlers didn't like to work with him, because he was tougher on the guys who wouldn't fight back. He was quiet, even eerie, in the dressing room to wrestlers he didn't know. I can recall in the early 70s when he came to Los Angeles for a brief run, and in a TV match, pounded the hell out of one of the job guys in a manner that wrestlers of that era in this part of the country weren't used to taking and the guy was literally, not as a work, screaming for him to lighten up, which, as you can imagine, was like lighting a fire on gasoline.

In the 50s and early 60s, he often worked with Rogers, the premier in-ring performer and top drawing card of the day, both as a tag team partner and later, after turns, as his most hated rival. They did the same routine in one circuit after the other, and many credit them with reviving St. Louis after one of Sam Muchnick's rare down periods when the business was in the toilet due to no television. He was a frequent opponent for the NWA world heavyweight champions of the era, such as Lou Thesz, Gene Kiniski, Dory Funk and Jack Brisco as well as the other headliners of the era like Fritz Von Erich and Dick the Bruiser. There wasn't a territory he worked, with the possible exception of the WWWF, where he was a major star but was never the top star, where he didn't have runs as both the top face and heel.

His in-ring style was totally different than anything today because of that belief in realism, to the point he often would bore audiences in new areas not familiar with his style. Valentine would take a whip into the turnbuckles, but he would never do what would be considered high spots, or bounce off the ropes, because he considered those moves as unrealistic. His typical match would see him taken an opponent down and punish him on the mat, often for as long as ten minutes, sometimes as much as 30 minutes if a lengthy match was called for. Sometimes he would eye an opponent and give him that glare, not locking up for minutes on end. It wasn't the "heel stall" to get cheap heat that say, a Larry Zbyszko was known for, but a cold still point that built intensity before the explosion of flesh that he'd tease coming, that was bound to come, and that people were starved for before he would give it to them. He would then do the big sell, which would consist of allowing his opponent, usually the babyface although Valentine turned often, just pound on him as hard as he could. Fans in the Carolinas, where Valentine ended his career and because he is credited with building the territory, for some reason his legend lasted there among older fans more than any other part of the country, recall his wars with McDaniel, who threw the hard chops that later became the Flair trademark. He would allow McDaniel to pound on him with chops to the chest and McDaniel was a big powerful man, as hard as he could, for several minutes, before coming back with his own stiff blows, usually forearms or hard punches to the upper chest. By this point, nearly every night, the crowd would being going berserk. The common theme in wrestling was that he was the type of a wrestler who took a while to get over in a territory, but once he was over, he stayed over for a long time. The Carolinas had always been built around fast-paced (for that era) tag team main events, and Valentine's style wasn't well received at first. George Scott, who was the booker, had patience, and re-educating the audience to a more psychology oriented style, and in doing so, the territory grew larger than it had ever been. He, learning from Rogers, was also a master of backstage political manipulations to stay over, which are, and always have been, a major part of the business.

Valentine's health problems actually began a few years before the plane crash, as he suffered a heart attack on March 15, 1973. At the time, he was headlining mainly in Texas and St. Louis, and it led to one of the few cases during the Sam Muchnick era when a main event was changed as Valentine missed a match scheduled against Terry Funk. He returned a few months later, trained harder, watched his diet and got in better shape for his final big run in the Carolinas.

We will have a more lengthy career retrospective of Valentine in next week's Observer.

First Boston Credit Suisse released a revised earnings projection report on 4/18 showing the World Wrestling Federation Entertainment's financial fortunes have been greatly revised downward largely due to its share of the increased projected losses sustained in the first year of the XFL.

In its previous estimate, the WWFE had projected a $38 million loss, as its share of total league losses. The league is owned 50 percent by WWFE and 50 percent by General Electric (NBC).

The latest revised report lists the WWFE's share of losses at $38 million just for the quarter and $60 million for the fiscal year which began on May 1, 2000. With $1.1 million in losses for start-up in the 1999-2000 fiscal year, it would seem to indicate XFL losses as of the end of this month would total anywhere from $61 million to as much as $121 million, depending upon how much of the losses was NBC's responsibility in its contract, based on this revised report. WWFE will officially release both its quarterly and annual report in May, at which time these projections would be verified. Until the report is released, the WWFE is not allowed to comment on outside projections.

The projections on the report for the fiscal year that ends on 4/30 is that the annual profit for World Wrestling Federation Entertainment will be approximately $29 million. While it pales next to the profit margin of the previous two years, it is still probably the fourth most profitable year in history for any pro wrestling company. WWFE had projected earlier this year a wrestling and wrestling related businesses profit margin of $86 million, roughly the same level as last year, in which the company earned $85.7 million in profits, a figure the company appears it will actually slightly exceed. That number figures in $7 million for the Owen Hart wrongful death settlement, with the increased profit due to a number of factors, most notably a better television contract with the Viacom deal and increased revenues from higher ticket prices to live events and more PPV product. For the 1998-99 fiscal year, profits were $56.4 million. That was before the addition of Smackdown to the line-up which added greatly to the weekly advertising income. The company was not profitable during most of the mid-90s due to the nosediving of popularity of pro wrestling and the WWF itself between 1992 and 1996 until it came back strong after a very creative 1997 year and the ascension of the Stone Cold Steve Austin character.

However, the current quarter, covering months February through April, would according to the report be the first quarter WWFE lost money in since 1997, with estimated losses of $15 million, on a combination of $23 million in profits from the wrestling and wrestling related side and $38 million in losses on the XFL during the season. Because it is seasonal, with the entire season taking place in this quarter, the bulk of XFL losses every season would mainly be from only one of the four quarters.

These losses came during a quarter which included the biggest event in company history, Wrestlemania X-7. The majority of Mania income would be on the books for the first quarter of the fiscal 2001-2002 year because PPV money usually comes in about 90 days after the completion of the event (actually some comes in much later than that). However, big money events such as the Fan Axcess and the huge live revenues of the Astrodome event would be part of this quarter's books.

The huge losses if the decision was made to continue the XFL, would be expected to be far greater for WWFE next year because NBC is expected to pull out. This may mean WWFE would have to assume a greater percentage or as much as all of the losses next year. Vince McMahon, when publicly stating for the first time this week that NBC wouldn't be involved in televising the games next season, said those details of how a pull-out by NBC would affect its 50 percent ownership of the league have yet to be worked out. The advertising revenue without NBC prime time exposure would be far lower and also far more difficult to sell as existing advertisers, such as Gillette, have publicly stated they have little interest in coming back for a second season, and realistically, you'd be looking at cum ratings of 1.0 to 1.2 ratings points per week with two Sunday afternoon games. A combination of the greatly declining ratings pattern of the league's first season and where the numbers ended up with a soft advertising market that shows no signs of turning around make a second season look even worse going in. Based on crowds declining in every market except San Francisco (largely due to the novelty of Pac Bell Park), attendance would be expected to decline from the levels of this season while costs likely would remain relatively stagnant. Because the product would be perceived of as "cold," as opposed to "hot" as it was at least for a week or two this season, items like merchandise would also likely decline. Because NBC was under contract for two years, they would have to pay a huge penalty to break the contract, reported in some places as $45 million. There are some start-up costs that wouldn't be incurred in a second season, but there would be added costs running into the tens of millions if they were to add two new franchises as they have talked about. About the only way this can make sense is if the league starts selling off the franchises, so local owners will be taking the losses, cutting down WWFE's expense, as well as keeping the league afloat financially with revenue from selling teams.

One strong positive for the quarter was an additional $3 million in revenue from opening the merchandise store at WWF New York.

Because of the strong opening ratings, the league averaged for the regular season a 3.3 on NBC, a 1.3 on UPN and an 0.8 (0.65 national rating) on TNN, however when ratings declines finally settled in late in the season, those numbers were 1.5 on NBC, 0.6 on UPN and 0.3 on TNN. For the past several weeks, the UPN game was the lowest rated prime time show of the top five networks. The WWFE's claim that UPN raised ratings over the network average, something many media outlets have repeated without checking, is in reality that UPN had never broadcasted Sundays so there are no numbers to compare it to, but it was also, by far, the lowest rated night of the week for any network. TNN did increase over its Sunday afternoon rating in the same time slot last season, which was an 0.6, for the season entirely due to the 2.4 first week so while that claim is true, it's misleading. The XFL drew less than an 0.6 the final four weeks of the season with the number declining every week. There were a lot of misleading figures bandied about for the championship game, won by the Los Angeles Xtreme, on 4/21. The fast nationals listed the rating at 2.1 with a 4 share, however that was taken from 8-11 p.m. The game itself started at 8:15 p.m. because an NBA game, which drew much higher ratings, went long. If you take the NBA game out, it appears the real rating will be in the 1.9 range.

McMahon did an about-face on the subject of Jesse Ventura in a Los Angeles Times interview this past week, saying, "I think Jesse was unfairly criticized by a lot of people, myself included. He made a lot of contributions and was very supportive of the league, in spite of the media jumping down his throat. He wasn't brought in for his football knowledge, although he does know football. The mistake we made was not putting a football expert in with Jesse in the first place. Once we teamed Jesse with Mike Adamle, I think those two, with Matt Vasgersian, made for an outstanding team. I would love to see those three come back."

Ventura himself on CNBC, when asked about the league, once again blamed its business problems on the media and heavily praised the players themselves, saying the NFLPA screws players out of the league due to the nature of the salary cap and minimum salary. Ventura was asked why he didn't quit, since his approval numbers as Governor dropped since he was associated with the league. He said he never considered quitting and said if he's asked to return for next season, he would do it. He heavily praised McMahon as a visionary and a gambler, so the two are apparently on good terms again.

McMahon said that next season, games would be played only on Sundays, and there would be a 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. game, saying that is when viewers are used to watching pro football. The thought is that UPN and TNN would air the games. UPN's contract expires at the end of this season and the games have become the lowest rated show of any kind in prime time on network television, however UPN may bite the bullet for a second season as a concession since WWFE's Smackdown is still far and away the highest rated program on the network and the show that likely saved the network. While those are the traditional NFL time slots, the reality is, the XFL drew its strongest ratings on the much maligned Saturday night and the 4 p.m. Sunday "traditional pro football time slot" drew by far its weakest numbers, and that's with TNN practically building all its promotions around the league this season. McMahon said that next season they would having longer training camps and be more organized before the season starts, plus it is said they will market more on players and their legitimate backgrounds (there was a strategic policy to not market this last season because of the feeling that most of the players were NFL washouts and they didn't want to call attention to their legitimate backgrounds after college) as opposed to building around players gimmicked names such as "He Hate Me."

The Wall Street Journal ran a cover story on the league's disappointment, calling it "one of the biggest flops in television history," on 4/23, two days after the championship game. The story noted that before the season ever started, much of the NBC Sports division was against it, largely due to the reputation McMahon's programming had garnered in the media since its more "in-your-face" style and audience turned the company's sagging fortunes around in late 1997 and 1998. NBC claimed the pre-season and early-season attacking the NFL was not supposed to be part of the marketing strategy, and a senior executive claimed Dwayne Johnson and Jesse Ventura were taking orders from McMahon to do so. The reason it stopped was because Tony Ponturo, the sports/media VP at Anheuser-Busch, one of the league's major sponsors (whose contract, instead of make-goods, when ratings fell below projections was a refund policy based on a percentage of revenue spent and audience delivered, making the ratings decline even more costly), told NBC to stop criticizing the NFL saying making enemies of the NFL was "not good marketing."

It said that McMahon and Dick Ebersol shifted strategy after the second week when pressured to end the games at 11 p.m., eliminating pre-taped scripted pro wrestling style vignettes. They also, because of the media criticism, decided against airing shots of cheerleaders from what Matt Vasgersian joked was the "cleavage cam" from above looking down. And the decision was made to cut all on-air ties, eliminating all WWF performers except McMahon and Jim Ross from the telecasts, a decision that eliminated interest among wrestling fans, which in the long run probably made no difference, but in the short-run served to erode ratings. Just as McMahon was the person responsible for the original ideas, he was also the person who made all the key decisions about the changes after focus groups that were shown broadcasts complained about the wrestling like content. Ebersol, apparently, still felt differently, thinking the wrestling connection was the key to attracting the young viewers he had promised and failed to deliver, but the two didn't clash over the decision.

The story said the XFL did a second marketing campaign based on attempting to attract football fans, but ratings continued to slide. After the 3/17 game drew a 1.5 rating, NBC made the decision not to bring it back next season.

It noted some advertisers were happy, in particular the Army, which saw website traffic increase greatly after commercials during the games aired and signed up hundreds of potential recruits at live events.

The conclusion was that McMahon and Ebersol made a huge miscalculation assuming the young audience that liked make-believe WWF would like unscripted football.

The Gallup poll survey released on 4/20 which showed pro wrestling as the least popular among 11 sports tested could not have come at a worse time for the industry.

The survey, which has certain minor flaws that we'll get into, will serve to further the belief that pro wrestling isn't as popular as its ratings indicate, and appeals to a low rent audience and thus mainline advertisers with high dollar products will use it to continue to shy away from it, making it a less attractive television property in spite of often strong ratings.

Why the survey found pro wrestling far less popular than any of the sports tested were for partially due to one reason. The survey was done only on adults. Where pro wrestling, skews strongest, actually WWF, is teenagers. This wasn't the case with the former WCW which actually skewed terribly weak among teenagers. While the exact methodology of the survey wasn't released, there is a possibility pro wrestling came up short in its appeal to people with higher incomes largely due to the age group factor as opposed to pro wrestling truly being a sport with a low-rent appeal. Because most people's peak earning years are between the ages of 40 and 55, and pro wrestling's appeal no longer hits that age group strongly (it once did) and skews younger, for that reason it would not proportionately hit the upper income consumers at the level of the other sports surveyed. There are ways to factor that one based on the methods and we don't know if they were taken. That variable may have been factored out as it was with the college education question. The survey found pro wrestling fans were less likely to have been college graduates than any of the sports surveyed. Now, since pro wrestling has far more appeal than any of those sports based on its total percentage of fans (not total fans because no doubt football would be more popular in that age group as well) between ages 18 and 22, where people likely wouldn't have graduated from college because they may still be in it, that could be a statistical flaw. However, the methodology they used, which was comparing people who already graduated college and what they enjoy, takes that variable out of it and there is a good chance that same method was used in examining the appeal within those of a higher income level.

In addition, pro wrestling in recent years has clearly lost popularity among sports fans because it got far away from any attempt at portraying itself as sport. A similar survey in 1983, you know, before Vince saved the industry from the smoky buildings, showed pro wrestling the fifth most popular sport in the country among sports fans. While far more fans attended pro wrestling live in those days, more because there were so many more live events held because cities ran weekly in many parts of the country and at least monthly in almost any city of decent size, from an economic standpoint, the industry has probably grown eight to tenfold. Now there is PPV, much higher ticket prices at live events, and growth of all forms of merchandising which was, largely non-existent in this country prior to the mid-80s.

The sports surveyed, in order of popularity, were pro football, major league baseball, college football, figure skating, college basketball, pro basketball, auto racing, golf, ice hockey, tennis and pro wrestling. Of those, only 15 percent of sports fans described themselves as having any interest in pro wrestling. The second lowest rated sport surveyed, tennis, had 28 percent. Traditionally in polls such as this, when rating sports that fans disliked the most, wrestling, due to the worked and violent aspect of it, always rated with boxing, not listed in this survey, as the most disliked major sport even when wrestling was among the most popular at the same time.

Of all the sports surveyed, on a consistent basis, pro wrestling scores better when it comes to TV ratings than all of the other sports except pro football. Due to its nature, its fans watch the major TV shows religiously, while only the most hardcore of the sports fans watch every single event from their sport religiously. While casual wrestling fans make of the largest chunk and are regular watchers, their numbers pale in comparison to casual fans of other sports' major events. An example of this is with the exception of Ice Hockey and tennis, these sports all are able to peak their seasons for big events that draw bigger ratings than the biggest pro wrestling events. Even that may be misleading because the biggest pro wrestling events air on PPV and generate more money than most of your major sporting events do through television rights fees. A Wrestlemania on free television would not draw the rating of the Super Bowl, or probably the NBA or NCAA basketball championships or the biggest Bowl games (but it would outrate most Bowl games), but it would outrate the biggest auto race, any figure skating event except the Olympic finals and any golf tournament with the possible exception of a grand slam event involving Tiger Woods when he's at his ratings drawing peak.

Although pro wrestling markets itself as having more female fans than most other sports, the survey disputed that, actually showing pro wrestling female interest by percentage of total audience to be ahead of only auto racing. Wrestling skewed strong among African Americans by percentage of total audience, actually topping every sport except pro basketball (not that it had more African American fans than other sports, just that its fans are more likely to be African American than other sports), which is not considered a strong point among advertisers. Its audience base among adults, rather than being across-the-board as with almost every sport, was heavily concentrated among those under 30 (clearly WWF domination showed here as WCW's audience based was similar to most sports and not heavily young male oriented). It fared particularly badly past the age of 50, which is no surprise if you attend live events, and also explains why history is of such little relevance. It also explains why former superstardom in the game means so little, as compared with the 70s era when the audience was much older and wrestlers who were past 40 were often the biggest draws because reputations carried over longer. In many sports, even today, players from the 60s and 70s, when the older fans grew up, are bigger celebrities than most of the current stars. Certainly that's the case in boxing, baseball and golf where most of the best known names are long since retired (or in golf, many of the most famous names on the seniors tour have far more name value today than nearly anyone but Tiger).

In education level, to say wrestling fared poorly would be kind. Compared to the general public, adult sports fans who liked pro wrestling only had college degrees one-fourth as often as a similar number of tennis fans (which explains why USA network could make more money for low-rated tennis broadcasts in the Raw time-slot), and one-third as much as every other sport surveyed except auto racing, and even that sport had 70 percent more likelihood of fans having college degrees. As far as attending some college, the disparity was far less severe, but it still ranked the lowest among all sports tested. Pro wrestling fans are 47 percent more likely to have never attended any college than similar adults among the general population. When fan base is figured by location of living, pro wrestling skews higher among those living in urban areas than suburban or rural. Tennis skews high urban, but very low rural. Hockey draws very high suburban, decent urban and very low rural. Auto racing is low urban and high rural, which again shows the belief that the pro wrestling and NASCAR demographic are similar is a fallacy. Pro basketball skews higher urban than pro wrestling as well as suburban but lower rural. The others sports are even across the board. As far as where fans are located, the part of the country affects interest in pro wrestling only to the degree that there is a strong concentration in the East and a weak concentration in the Midwest. In surveys during the 80s, the South, which has an average concentration now, always came out very strong (regional territories historically were very strong in the South, and now they no longer exist), while the West Coast, now average, always came across poorly. The East was always strong with the popularity of the WWWF and later WWF, although not as strong per capita as the South.

The Gallup survey rundown of pro wrestling and its fans was not kind: "Of the 11 sports tested, professional wrestling has the fewest fans, with only 15% of Americans claiming to be fans. Wrestling fans are heavily skewed toward the youngest Americans--30% of 18-29 year olds are fans of the sport, with the numbers falling sharply to just 14% among the 30-49 year olds, 10% of 50-64 year olds and 7% of those 65 and older. Wrestling fans tend to have less formal education, as 22% of Americans with a high school diploma or less are fans, compared to just 6% of Americans with a college degree. Similar patterns are also evident by income (ouch)."

These last two sentences are killers at this point in time because it justifies a lot of prevailing beliefs that will keep stations from wanting pro wrestling even if they believe they can draw ratings with the programming.

A second announced delay in the re-launch of WWFE's new property named World Championship Wrestling has caused a lot of talk within the business.

Just days after the first month's schedule was released in last week's Observer, the WWF office canceled all the announced dates and at press time, there was no timetable for the re-launch.

Jim Ross spent the latter part of the week in Atlanta, meeting with prospective employees, including performers, announcers, road agents, and production people, both to begin negotiations to hire new employees as well as get a better understanding from former employees of the now-defunct company as to who the company should and shouldn't hire. There were meetings with more than two dozen people over a three-day period.

According to the WWF office, the plan now is to move back to Wednesday night tapings weekly for an 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday night time slot on TNN. The latter period isn't etched in stone. Ross did tell people he met with that if the ratings were to be strong in that slot, he was hopeful TNN would give the show a more favorable time slot, although those at TNN don't want the network pigeon-holed as the wrestling network so they are at this point adverse to it. On his Ross Report, Ross hoped for a mid-June start date, which appears to be the earliest possible scenario. Others in the company say there is far more pressure on this being successful than before, due to the disappointment of the first season of the XFL. Clearly, the company doesn't want the perception of having two straight promotional failures (although this one won't garner anywhere near the publicity of the XFL to the mainstream) literally months after there was a perception in entertainment that Vince McMahon had the midas touch as a promoter for his ability to reach people nobody else in television could reach. Secondly, a failure within the pro wrestling realm will be more damaging, because today's business perception may not be that WWFE can expand out of wrestling due to the XFL, but they are the masters of their domain, the wrestling industry. Company officials have said they are hoping for mid-June or July, but no dates have started being booked and there is no starting timetable. The move from taping on Saturdays, as was the second plan, back to the original Wednesday plan, was largely Vince McMahon listening to the production crew which was unhappy at the prospect of having to work every Saturday night away from their families. The production crew largely works six-days per week with Saturday as the one day off. As mentioned last week, Saturday would be cheaper from a transportation standpoint (Saturday stay-overs for flights), as well as far easier to draw fans to a live event. The positive of a Wednesday taping is that the finished product should be stronger with several days of post-production possible as opposed to doing a show basically live-to-tape with very limited time to cover up mistakes.

The main concerns on launching this new operation are that with the roster as it is today, the new group would have a very strong crew of undercard talent but would be very weak when it comes to potential headliners, combined with the weak time slot. In addition, whatever momentum there may have been stemming from the strong television angle on 3/26 on the final episode of Nitro, has waned with the lack of follow-up or appearances of what people perceive to be the main WCW talent, none of whom are under WWF contract, on Raw.

There has been some contact with a few of the wrestlers under contract to Time Warner regarding buyouts over the past week, with offers of 50 cents on the dollar as buy-out terms. Most of the wrestlers we've contacted in that regard over the past week have still heard nothing at all from Time Warner, although the word is out for everyone to lay low because it is known the company will jump on any loophole to relieve itself from the contracts. Numerous wrestlers that would be considered "on the bubble" or even those WWF seems to want have not heard anything about their status either from Time Warner, such as a timetable of being cycled out, or from WWF about any potential interest. Part of the reason for this could be that WWF hasn't been able to make anyone official offers because of the existing Time Warner contracts, so everything has remained at the stalemate we wrote about last week.

Zero-One's second PPV event on 4/18 from Budokan Hall in Tokyo looked like a disaster with two days left. Sky Perfect TV, faced with no advance sales and a terrible line-up, was ready to pull out. The advance in the building was terrible as well. Shinya Hashimoto was able to get Mitsuharu Misawa & mid-carder Takeshi Rikio from NOAH to work the main event against Naoya Ogawa & Kazunari Murakami, which actually made sense coming off the Misawa vs. Ogawa confrontation at the 3/2 show.

PPV numbers aren't in, but the main event being the first in-ring contest between two of the country's biggest stars made people believe they'd at least be respectable coming off a strong 1.4 buy rate for the debut show. The announced crowd was 13,000, not a sellout, but a solid showing with a great walk up, for Misawa's first match back at Budokan Hall, the site of most of his most famous career matches, in about one year. Rikio really stepped up in stature with his performance in the main event and Hiroshi Hase, who did color commentary for the PPV, said he was the MVP of the show.

Overall, the show was good. It wasn't on the level of the first show or the recent WWF PPVs as far as overall excitement, nor the recent EMLL show (which will likely be reviewed here next week). It was short, and weird, but the main event delivered. But it was very different than what people probably expected.

1. Tatsuhito Takaiwa (Zero-One) pinned Naomichi Marufuji (NOAH) in 13:05. Another great performance by Marufuji to open the show. Crowd sees him now as the real deal. Marufuji did a huracanrana where both guys took a bump over the top and outside, and followed it up with an Asai moonsault off the top outside the ring that nearly killed Takaiwa. After a missile dropkick and a top rope kneedrop to the arm, Marufuji went for an armbar. He later went for a plancha but Takaiwa caught him and slammed him to the mats outside the ring, nearly losing him. Marufuji did an incredible series of moves for near falls. Takaiwa, who looked a little rusty from not working regularly, got a near fall with a death valley driver and went for his triple bomb, but Marufuji blocked the second one and hit a high knee and a frog splash more than halfway across the ring for a near fall. He went for a Frankensteiner off the top, but Takaiwa blocked it and power bombed him off the middle for a near fall. Marufuji came back and went for his unique finisher that I can't even explain, but Takaiwa blocked it and turned it into a tombstone piledriver and finished him off with a hard lariat. ****

2. Naohiro Hoshikawa (Zero-One) beat The Cobra (Gyoji Takano) in 8:07. It was billed as Hoshikawa against a mystery opponent. Cobra, coming out with his old mask, old ring outfit (which doesn't fit nearly so well) and New Japan ring music, was both NWA and WWF jr. champion in the 1983-85 post-Tiger Mask era (wrestling the likes of Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith, Kuniaki Kobayashi and Bret Hart) and his real name was also said immediately. He unfortunately had to follow a guy who revolutionized in-ring style, and was always the poor imitator even though he had some really great matches and ultimately the gimmick failed. But he's hardly a junior heavyweight now, and was terribly out of shape visually looking like some guy who lifted when he was young but hadn't done anything in years. Now 42, he actually didn't do that badly, including a picture perfect moonsault and still had is agility, but match had no heat because he looked so bad physically. Hoshikawa is a good worker, and hit a great tope. Cobra used two tombstones for a near fall. He then did the same spot Kane did with Funaki on Raw where he went to do a last ride but dropped him backwards, but unlike with Kane, this wasn't planned and Hoshikawa landed right on the top of his head. At that point he just wanted to get out of there, and used a back suplex and a reverse armbar for the submission. Cobra didn't seem to be even reading the same book, let alone on the same page when Hoshikawa went for the finish, seemingly having no idea what was coming. Finish looked real bad. 1/2*

3. Alexander Otsuka (Pride/Battlarts) beat Takashi Suguira (NOAH) in 7:29. Suguira shaved his head and got rid of his amateur singlet. He actually looks like a miniature Fujita and is already a much better worker. They mostly did the amateur style early. It was good, but not anywhere at the level of Angle and Benoit. Suguira got a mount and slapped the hell out of him. Then they two started head-butting each other really hard. Suguira opened up a small cut on his own forehead, but Otsuka, who was bloodied bad recently in a match in the last King of the Cage in California against Guy Mezger, bled like crazy, doing the Benoit vs. Regal spot that I doubt they'll be doing in WWF. It was pretty sick. Otsuka did a german suplex for a near fall while Suguira came back with two Karelin style gut wrenches and a spear. A second spear saw Otsuka catch him in a guillotine, but Suguira popped out of it. Otsuka then went for an armbar, which Suguira powered out of, an ankle lock, which he escaped, and then finally a shoulderlock (like a chicken wing) to get the tap. Very logic well worked match that the crowd really got into. After the match, Otsuka went heel saying NOAH shouldn't have sent him a guy with only four months experience. ***1/4

4. Sean McCully defeated Shinjiro Otani in 4:50. There is an explanation to this stupidity, although maybe not a good one. The idea is that people know Otani is a great worker, but they don't take him seriously as a tough guy so he can't draw on top (now if you're sharp, you'll remember his title challenge to Sasaki on 2/18 drew a good buy rate with a lackluster build-up and sold out Sumo Hall). So the idea is, he'll lose to a shooter, then go to the God Inoki in Los Angeles and train in real fighting, and come back and use new legitimate moves (as opposed to those fake pro wrestling moves that he does so well) so he can be taken seriously. Hey, I get a headache from that type of thinking, too. Both wore gloves. To make matters worse, McCulley is this little guy with a bad body, like 5-6 and 187 pounds and kind of flabby, and Otani is like 230, which is too big for him, but he's not flabby or anything. Otani got a few early submissions and rope breaks to give it the real aura. McCulley then hit Otani with this totally fake punch that Otani sold like he was knocked silly. At least he sold it great, but that is his specialty. Otani came back and staggered him with a high kick, but McCully came back with a kick to the back of his head, knocking Otani down, got the mount and maneuvered into an armbar. Really bad overall. There is nothing worse than shoot style when it's done badly and it's obvious the people see through it and aren't suspending their disbelief. 1/4*

5. Hashimoto & Tadao Yasuda defeated Tamon Honda & Masao Inoue (NOAH) in 9:02. Yasuda is up to 304, but still is in tons better shape than in New Japan. Fans were really into Hashimoto and as bad as Yasuda's Pride match with Masaaki Satake was, it did get him over a lot bigger. Yasuda started with Honda, who the crowd got into since he is a three-time Olympian in Greco-roman so he's got the "real" aura. Yasuda bulled him into the corner and started throwing punches, actually taking the totally boring aspect of the Satake fight as a shoot, and turning it into a trademark pro wrestling high spot. Guess what? The crowd loved it. Honda went for a guillotine from the second charge. Honda & Inoue took so much criticism for not being good enough for a PPV semifinal, so they were really fired up. They really weren't good, but the crowd got into them as underdogs responding to criticism so the match had heat, plus they were into Hashimoto & Yasuda. Hashimoto did his usual great fiery comebacks kicking the hell out of Honda and later Inoue, but parts of the match were sloppy. It was a weird finish. Hashimoto chopped the hell out of Inoue, who must have suffered a separated or dislocated shoulder. He was in tremendous pain and asked for the match to be stopped pretty much out of nowhere when Yasuda was on him. Crowd bought the finish because it was pretty clear the injury was legit. **3/4

6. Misawa & Rikio beat Ogawa & Murakami in 6:40. I'm sure this was totally different from what fans expected, since Misawa's Budokan main events were always long, and instead of doing the All Japan style, they did a more real fighting oriented style. Unlike in the Otani match, it was done well and worked great as a change of pace. Misawa got the huge pop. Misawa's chin was all raw from the Takayama kick three days earlier. Rikio and Murakami were great, doing that really stiff exciting style that the fans got into. Murakami is really a find. He may be the best brawling style guy around. People loved how rookie Rikio stood up to Ogawa and fought his takedowns. Finally Ogawa used his STO (judo takedown) and was about to kill Rikio from the mount when Misawa ran in with the elbow. Place went nuts. Misawa outwrestled Ogawa for about 30 seconds until he was taken down with a judo hip toss, Ogawa got the mount and went to punch until Rikio saved. That was really all they did with each other but it came across like it was enough. Murakami tagged in and pounded on Misawa, who hit three Tsuruta/Thesz style back suplexes (the same finish of a famous early 90s match where Tsuruta pinned Misawa in the same building) and got the pin. Afterwards it was the big pull-apart brawl with Hashimoto also involved. ***1/2

A second good show, but the future is in doubt. Without Misawa's last second appearance, the show would have died. Both Yuki Kondo and KENGO, the two biggest stars (not two best fighters) from Pancrase did an interview during intermission. They announced the next show on 6/14 at Osaka Castle Hall would have KENGO in a martial arts match. Misawa said because NOAH will be touring at that time, that his wrestlers can't appear on that show, although he said that before this show as well. Without him, it is doubtful the show will be on PPV and Osaka is a hard city to draw without a killer line-up.

There was an interesting irony this past week in Memphis. For all the years when the WMC-TV show was doing those incredible ratings, its press coverage was largely non-existent. But this week, the temporary taped shows, called "Opening the Vault of Classic Memphis Wrestling," drew tons of media coverage including a front page article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

The first episode, as all the episodes will be, was hosted by Dave Brown, Cory Maclin, Jerry Lawler and Jimmy Hart. Hart spent the whole show reprising his old early 80s character and being afraid of Lawler, apparently hopeful something will come of this and they can reprise the huge angles from that period when Hart brought heels in for matches with Lawler in the glory days). Some of the interplay was said to have come across forced and cheesy at times with Hart reprising his early 80s character. They aired a lot of classic footage of people like Lawler, Nick Bockwinkel, Eddie Gilbert, Tommy Rich, Jackie Fargo and others including a segment where they called up Fargo on the telephone and Hart and Fargo got into an argument and Fargo hung up on Hart. Future shows are expected to have phone conversations from people like Randy Savage, Terry Funk, Bill Dundee, Steve Keirn, Billy Wicks (a huge draw in the early 60s with his feud with Sputnik Monroe, who actually held the cities attendance record for a baseball stadium show until WWF broke it when the much larger Pyramid opened), and Hulk Hogan, and they are hoping to bring in others, like Lance Russell or Jimmy Valiant in live for a taping or two to reminisce. With the show airing an hour earlier than usual due to NBA basketball in the traditional 11 a.m. time slot, it did a 4.1, which has to be considered a very strong number because of the time slot change because the show had a good deal of local pub. Whether the show will do ratings short-term is a question, but there may be a good shot since most major stars in pro wrestling including Austin, Rock, Flair, Hogan, Savage, Angle and even Undertaker early in their careers (with the exception of Flair and Savage who were in during their primes) worked the territory and the television studio and there is strong tradition in the time slot. It is doubtful the show will be able to pull in numbers long-term.

The shows, which they are going to attempt to market to tape collectors, have a commitment from the station through the end of June, at which point somebody is going to have to come up with a business plan for doing the show that the station accepts.

The basic economics are this. Under the contract that Randy Hales signed with former General Manager Mason Granger three-years ago, just before Granger left the station, Hales was being paid $925 per week by the station, and the station was also paying production costs of $1,000 per weekly episode in the studio. The station was selling between $3,000 and $3,500 per week worth of advertising, making the show a money maker. In addition, both sides shared 50/50 on about $1,200 per week in selling banner space on the broadcast. However, they could use the one hour as infommercial time and sell it for $3,000, thereby making more profit for the station even though the infommercial wouldn't deliver any ratings. Of that approximately $1,525 per week the promotion took in, $500 went to announcer Brown, $250 to announcer Maclin, $300 to Brandon Baxter, the lead manager, who handled company publicity and worked as former promoter Randy Hales' right-hand man and assistant booker, and the rest was left over for Hales' profit as promoter and paying the rest of the crew for TV work.

Making wrestling far less attractive is that the station would have to foot a $100,000 annual insurance premium if it were to run wrestling in the studio from this point forward after OSHA came in and inspected the studio. This is combined with the fact selling advertising for wrestling is expected to get a lot harder this year, again cutting down the revenue. Also cutting into the profit margin for the past year was a lawsuit settlement for Peggy Gilbert, who sued the station, believe it or not, over a wrestling angle where Brian Lawler (Grandmaster Sexay) claimed that Doug Gilbert was really the son of the milkman and not Tommy Gilbert's son or something silly that was clearly taken far too seriously. Ironically, Gilbert was later fired when he did an interview against the script talking about Jerry Lawler and young girls, which, during the time period when Jerry Lawler and Hales were on the outs, nearly wound up with Lawler suing Doug Gilbert and the promotion as well. When filling out the new budget, Bill Applegate, who recently left WMC-TV as General Manager, analyzed the aforementioned numbers and put nothing aside from studio wrestling for the new year as he was planning on cancelling the show when the contract expired.

The meeting last week with Brown, Maclin, Hart and Lawler with the station saw them not have a detailed proposal, so all the station would agree to was to keep the show on the air with the old classic tapes until they could work out a business plan.

Even if they had come up with a plan, because of the OSHA inspection, the studio is being closed six to eight weeks for renovations. The story going around about the studio being shut down is accurate as to why, temporarily, there is no live wrestling, but the economics will make it a challenge for the studio wrestling to return. What isn't accurate is that anything is decided after July for wrestling on the station.

The four left the meeting basically told that the station would be interested in playing a taped wrestling show in the traditional time slot. They didn't rule out a return to the studio, but for the reasons mentioned last week as well as the economics, weren't hot on it either. The four are interested in trying to put something together. It is a given the station is no longer going to pay a rights fee for the broadcast. Doing two shows every other week would cut the costs to WMC-TV down to about $26,000 per year, meaning even with the insurance costs, the show itself could squeak out a profit for the station but not nearly what the station could make from paid programming. The studio setting would at least lower the cost of television production for the new owners, but the new owners would have no revenue to do things like even pay the announcers unless they could use the show to promote profitable live events and pay people off the gate. Taping away from the studio would increase those costs greatly for a new promotion. There would also have to be the additional costs of $80,000 for renovating the studio if they were to continue to do taping that the station would want the promoters to pay to continue the show. The four all want to run regular shows off the television to generate revenue as in the old days of a territory, something Hales largely had stopped doing because he felt they were no longer economically viable as the market simply wouldn't draw for wrestling unless WWF talent appeared on the shows.

Raw on 4/23 did a 5.07 rating (4.87 first hour; 5.25 second hour) and a 7.8 share, nearly identical with the previous week for about 6.56 million viewers.

The peak rating was a 5.57 for the eight-man tag main event with Edge & Christian & Austin & HHH vs. Hardys & Undertaker & Kane. The far too short Benoit & Jericho vs. Angle & Regal match did a 5.46 and Show vs. Test did a 5.36. The largest audience gain was for the main event (+766,000 viewers) and biggest loss was for Stratus vs. Ivory (-355,000 viewers).

Smackdown on 4/19 drew a 4.2 rating and 7 share, putting it in its usual fourth place for the night ahead of FOX and WB. Considering Undertaker & Kane vs. E&C was the main event, and with strong opposition including one of the final weeks of Survivor II, it's a good rating. Survivor did a 16.5, CSI did a 14.8, Friends (first-run) did an 11.4 (which has to be very disappointing) and Millionaire did a 10.3 as the opposition.

Weekend numbers saw Live Wire at 1.08, Superstars at 1.06 and Heat at 1.7.

Galavision Lucha Libre on 4/17 drew a 1.6 Hispanic rating.

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4/18 Jackson, TN (Memphis Championship Wrestling - 4,000): Rodrageous b Spanky, Simon Diamond b Seven, Shooter Schultz b Pete Gas, Russ & Charlie Haas b Christian York & Joey Matthews, APA b Ekmo & Matty Smalls, American Dragon b William Regal, Crash & Molly Holly b Steve Bradley & Victoria, Lance Cade b Joey Abs, Chris Benoit b Kurt Angle-DQ

4/19 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (New Japan - 1,685 sellout): Wataru Inoue b Hiroshi Tanahashi, Minoru Tanaka b Katsuyori Shibata, Silver King & Dr. Wagner Jr. b El Samurai & Kendo Ka Shin, Michiyoshi Ohara & Tatsutoshi Goto & Super J b Shinya Makabe & Osamu Nishimura & Shiro Koshinaka, Satoshi Kojima & Scott Hall b Robbie Rage & Takashi Iizuka, Keiji Muto b Jushin Liger, Yutaka Yoshie & Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi & Riki Choshu b Hiro Saito & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Scott Norton & Masahiro Chono

4/20 Tokyo Yoyogi Gym (RINGS - 3,670): Jiro Wakabayashi d Naoyuki Kotani, Yasuhito Namekawa b Wataru Imamura, Fedor Emelianenko b Kerry Schall, Jeremy Horn b Iouri Bekichev, Bobby Hoffman b Ryushi Yanagisawa, Gustavo Machado b Kiyoshi Tamura

4/20 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (New Japan - 1,650 sellout): Silver King & Dr. Wagner Jr. b Wataru Inoue & Katsuyori Shibata, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kendo Ka Shin b Katsushi Takemura & Shinya Makabe, Michiyoshi Ohara & Tatsutoshi Goto & Super J b Tatsumi Fujinami & Shiro Koshinaka & Jushin Liger, Scott Hall & Masahiro Chono b Manabu Nakanishi & Yutaka Yoshie, Yuji Nagata & Osamu Nishimura & Takashi Iizuka b Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Scott Norton, El Samurai b Super Delfin, IWGP jr. title: Minoru Tanaka b Takehiro Murahama

4/20 Mexico City Arena Mexico (EMLL TV tapings): Pierrothito & Torito b Cicloncito Ramirez & Tzuki, Alan Stone & Chris Stone & Virus b Ricky Marvin & Volador Jr. & Super Kendo, Ringo Mendoza & Olimpico & Felino b Gran Markus Jr. & Veneno & Violencia-DQ, Fuerza Guerrera & Blue Panther & El Signo b Atlantis & Los Villanos III & IV, Ultimo Guerrero & Emilio Charles Jr. & Bestia Salvaje b Rayo de Jalisco Jr. & Negro Casas & Lizmark Jr.

4/21 Waco, TX (WWF - 6,719): Essa Rios b Jerry Lynn, Lita b Ivory, Matt Hardy b Perry Saturn, Haku b Raven, Tag titles: Undertaker & Kane b Steve Austin & HHH, Crash & Hardcore Holly b Kaientai, European title: Eddy Guerrero b Test, Jeff Hardy b Dean Malenko

4/21 Tyler, TX (WWF - 3,960): Hardcore title: Rhyno b K-Kwik, Spike Dudley b Brooklyn Brawler, Albert b Billy Gunn, Chris Benoit b Val Venis, Kurt Angle b Chris Jericho, Steve Blackman & Grandmaster Sexay b Bull Buchanan & Goodfather, Big Show b Big Bossman, Dudleys won three-way over X-Pac & Justin Credible and Edge & Christian, Bradshaw b William Regal

4/21 Kasugai (New Japan - 4,000): Shinya Makabe b Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hiro Saito b Katsushi Takemura, Silver King & Dr. Wagner Jr. b Katsuyori Shibata & Kendo Ka Shin, Michiyoshi Ohara & Tatsutoshi Goto b Jushin Liger & El Samurai, Yutaka Yoshie & Robbie Rage & Shiro Koshinaka b Super J & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Scott Hall, Keiji Muto & Jinsei Shinzaki b Tatsumi Fujinami & Osamu Nishimura, Masahiro Chono & Satoshi Kojima & Scott Norton b Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi & Takashi Iizuka

4/22 Albuquerque (WWF - 10,638): Grandmaster Sexay & Steve Blackman & Crash & Hardcore & Molly Holly b Bull Buchanan & Goodfather & Steven Richards & Val Venis & Ivory, K-Kwik b Brooklyn Brawler, Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn b Jerry Lynn & Essa Rios, Kurt Angle b Chris Benoit, Undertaker & Kane & Chris Jericho b Steve Austin & HHH & William Regal, Big Show b Big Bossman, Raven b Haku, European title: Eddy Guerrero b Test, Hardys won four-way over Dudleys, X-Pac & Justin Credible and Edge & Christian

4/22 Tsu (New Japan - 3,500 sellout): Wataru Inoue b Katsushi Takemura, El Samurai & Katsuyori Shibata b Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kendo Ka Shin, Jushin Liger & Shinya Makabe b Silver King & Dr. Wagner Jr., Tatsumi Fujinami & Osamu Nishimura & Shiro Koshinaka b Super J & Michiyoshi Ohara & Scott Hall, Yuji Nagata b Robbie Rage, Yutaka Yoshie & Manabu Nakanishi & Takashi Iizuka b Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Scott Norton, Keiji Muto & Jinsei Shinzaki b Masahiro Chono & Hiro Saito

4/23 Denver (WWF Raw is War - 13,686 sellout): Jerry Lynn b Steve Bradley, Hardcore Holly b Race Steele, Essa Rios b ?, Billy Gunn b Chris Michaels, Haku b Michaels, Hardcore title: Rhyno b Spike Dudley, Kaientai b Bull Buchanan & Goodfather, Submission match: Chris Benoit & Chris Jericho b Kurt Angle & William Regal, Big Show b Test-DQ, Dean Malenko & Perry Saturn & Eddy Guerrero b Raven & Steve Blackman & Grandmaster Sexay, Trish Stratus b Ivory, Steve Austin & HHH & Edge & Christian b Undertaker & Kane & Hardys


Special thanks to: Cool Ry, Josh Upchurch, George Guida, Jeff Marek, Jeff Beecher, Lou Pickney, Andrew Lowery, Bryan Alvarez, Alex Marvez, Tom Jozwiak, Manuel Gonzalez, Joe Silva, Phil Jones, Paul Bradbrook, Trent Walters, Monty Schneider, Shawn Colton, Dave Republic, Aaron Dias, Rob Moore, Paul Sosnowski, Bob Magee, Craig Allen, Jeff Salazar, Mike Blum, Kyle Wolf, Richard Lowery, John Tovar, Gene Restaino, Tim Harshmann, Josh Nason, Aaron Saxton, Tom Walters, Dan Cruickshank, Trent Van Drisse, David Pordy, Dan Parris, Larry Goodman, Marv Rubin, Paul Bradbrook, Jane Childs, Ian Lindsey, Steve Gerwick, Erica Rosas, Daffyd Denatale, Bob Barnett, Sheldon Goldberg, Mike Lano, Stewart Dougall, Kevin Lowery, Trey Tompkins, Ryan Harwell, Wes Jones

MEXICO: Bryan Alvarez' description of the Charly Manson injury is that he was near the top of a ten foot ladder and there were these two ghetto tables stacked up outside the ring. AAA Psicosis tipped the ladder over and Manson slipped. He didn't fall down straight on his head. He fell more like a pescado, and did a twist on his vertical axis on the way down, landing on the right side of his body. He hit his head on impact, but he didn't land head-first. It wasn't as gruesome as the Sid Vicious broken leg. The bump itself didn't look as scary as that he didn't move a muscle after impact. It seriously looked like he was dead

Antonio Pena announced TripleMania IX would take place on 5/24 in Acapulco at the Bullring, which is the first time AAA has run such a big event in that city. There is some talk it may be the company's first PPV show

La Parka Jr. beat El Hijo del Espectro in a mask vs. mask match to headline the AAA show on 4/20 in Tijuana. Espectro is Antonio Hernandez Jr., actually the son of the original El Espectro, Antonio Hernandez, who I remember as a kid working in California, and he would be the first cousin of promoter Antonio Pena

4/20 at Arena Mexico was starting to rebuild new angles with Ultimo Guerrero & Emilio Charles Jr. & Bestia Salvaje over Rayo de Jalisco Jr. & Negro Casas & Lizmark Jr. where they set up a Rayo vs. Guerrero program. Apparently the semi was excellent with Fuerza Guerrera & Blue Panther & El Signo over Villanos III & IV & Atlantis. 4/27 has Salvaje & Guerrero & Charles Jr. vs. Satanico & Shocker & Black Warrior on top.

ALL JAPAN: The All-Asian tag team title will be revived based on two matches. The first takes place on 5/20 at Korakuen Hall with Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Masa Fuchi vs. Mitsuya Nagai & Masahito Kakihara. The winner of that match will face a New Japan mid-card team on the 6/8 Budokan Hall show to determine the title.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: This group will be running their first annual Jumbo Tsuruta Memorial show on 6/10 in Yamanashi, which is Tsuruta's home town

The group is also running a major show on 6/24 at Nagoya Aiichi Gym

. After such a disappointment for the first TV show drawing a 1.9 rating, the company got some needed good news as the second show, on 4/13, airing at 1:55 a.m., drew a very strong 2.8 rating.

NEW JAPAN: The annual Super Juniors tournament will take place from 5/18 to 6/4 with the finals at Osaka Furitsu Gym. Appearing in the tournament will be Minoru Tanaka, Jushin Liger, El Samurai, Shinya Makabe, AKIRA, Dr. Wagner Jr., Silver King, Shocker, Chris Candido, Wataru Inoue and Katsuyori Shibata. New Japan is also booking its next PPV show on 6/6 at Budokan Hall. Brian Johnston, Scott Norton and Robbie Rage will also appear on that tour

The final three matches for the 5/5 Fukuoka Dome show were announced and there is nothing to them. The opener will be Hiroshi Tanahashi & Wataru Inoue vs. Shinya Makabe & Katsuyori Shibata, plus they've added a six-man which is just to get guys on the show with Osamu Nishimura & Yutaka Yoshie & Shiro Koshinaka vs. Michiyoshi Ohara & Tatsutoshi Goto & Hiro Saito. The other bout, which is really strange, is Yuji Nagata vs. Rainy Martinez. Martinez is a "B" level shootfighter from Arizona who is a protege of Don Frye. He did one UFC in 1997 where he lost to Jerry Bohlander in 1:22. I'd heard the idea the first announcement of Nagata's opponent may be a work and they'd announce a bigger name later, and hope that is the case because what a waste. Also heard that there were problems getting the match they wanted, which would have been Mark Coleman. That may be the idea they would want Nagata to go over since Coleman scored that clean win at the Osaka Dome on 12/31 in the tag, but at this point, that would be short-sighted since Coleman showed so much pro wrestling potential. Last I heard is they actually were going to do Nagata vs. Martinez, billing Martinez as someone with experience in seven different fighting sports. They are billing it as a death match of sorts, with no time limit, finish must be via knockout, ref stoppage or submission, no pinfall finishes nor count outs. Only moves banned are chokes, low blows, biting and hair pulling. The angle is that Kazuyuki Fujita, who was supposed to face Nagata, hates New Japan and won't appear on the show. That sure makes it one smart move to give him the IWGP title if he's not appearing on the Fukuoka Dome show. They've also combined two matches into one, so BATT vs. Team 2000 will be a six-man with Muto & Hase & Taiyo Kea vs. Kojima & Tenzan & Chono. Kea vs. Kojima was originally a single. My guess is that politically, they couldn't come up with a finish to it as a single because of the interpromotional aspect so it's easier in a six-man because you can always beat Hase if need be to get out of it, or if you want impact, you could beat Muto or Chono, but it isn't an All Japan coming off a big tourney having to job to a New Japan guy right after Kawada put over Muto

The announcement of Katsuhiko Nagata signing actually took place on 4/19. At the signing, they announced that Nagata's next big match would be at the world Greco-roman championships in Madison Square Garden

Fujita will miss the 5/5 Fukuoka Dome show to instead work the 5/27 Pride show at the Yokohama Arena. They seem to be building Fujita against Yoshihiro Takayama of NOAH, so in that sense they are protecting Fujita as well as Takayama while still putting them in Pride, which kind of gets wrestlers over as real shooters just by participating in it (except Kendo Ka Shin)

The 4/19 tour open at Korakuen Hall before 1,685 paid, saw Yutaka Yoshie & Yuji Nagata & Riki Choshu & Manabu Nakanishi over Masahiro Chono & Hiro Saito & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Norton on top when Nagata made Saito submit to the Nagata lock. After the match, Yoshie said that he was leaving New Japan for Zero-One. They did the first singles match in years between Keiji Muto vs. Liger with Muto winning with the shining wizard in 16:36

Choshu has pulled himself from the rest of the tour and his place will be taken in every advertised match by Tatsumi Fujinami. The storyline is that Choshu is going into intensive training on the island of Saipan in seclusion for his Fukuoka Dome match. That means he's not even doing the booking on this tour. Told a lot of fans are really upset because Choshu was considered the biggest drawing card on the current tour with Muto working few dates and Kensuke Sasaki off. Most expected both in their cities when buying tickets and even though Fujinami from a rep and legend status should be equal, he doesn't mean anywhere close to as much with the ticket buying public

4/20 in the same building before 1,650 paid was headlined by two junior heavyweight matches, both New Japan vs. Osaka Pro. Tanaka retained the IWGP jr. title beating Takehiro Murahama (who probably should have won Rookie of the Year last year) with an armbar in 15:51. Said to have been a great match, although Tanaka took such a hard kick to his head that he was opened up and needed three stitches and missed some matches. He likely had a concussion and is expected back in the ring by late in the week. In something of a surprise, New Japan prelim wrestler El Samurai beat Osaka Pro's biggest star, Super Delfin, with a chicken wing in 14:16

Kensuke Sasaki is taking the next two tours off as they are doing one of those New Japan angles where since he lost to Norton and Shinya Hashimoto, he is going away to train to come back with a new gimmick, new look and/or finisher to kind of freshen up his character

Chono announced he would create a Team 2000 heavyweight title. Just what they need in the company is more dilution of their heavyweight belt after putting it on Fujita

Jinsei Shinzaki worked on 4/22 in Tsu in the main event teaming with Muto over Chono & Hiro Saito. After the bout, Team 2000 attacked Muto & Shinzaki and Liger made the save. They are doing the same angle as picked up business in IWA, where Muto asked Liger to join BATT but Liger wouldn't shake hands and left

Fujinami announced he would be in the G-1 tournament this year

4/9 TV did a 10.7 rating.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: On the RINGS 4/20 show at Tokyo Yoyogi Gym before 3,670 fans, Kiyoshi Tamura lost again in the first round of a middleweight championship tournament that was largely created for him. Tamura, who strangely fought without gloves on, which meant he was going into a fight without the ability to punch to the head, lost a majority decision to Gustavo Machado, a protege of Marco Ruas. After the fourth loss in a row by Tamura, including a one minute loss in Abu Dhabi last week, Tamura announced he was quitting RINGS (technically, his contract expires this week and he won't sign a new one), where he was the biggest drawing card. He said he wouldn't fight again until an injury to his left middle finger heals completely. In the other middleweight title tournament match, Jeremy Horn beat Iouri Bekichev of Russia with a triangle armbar in 50 seconds. They also had two heavyweight tournament matches, where Bobby Hoffman won a unanimous decision over Ryushi Yanagisawa and Fedor Emelianenko of Russia, who beat Ricardo Arona in the King of Kings tournament, armbarred Kerry Schall in 1:47. Next show is 6/15 with Ricardo Arona returning after his triumphs in Abu Dhabi

Atsushi Onita announced he would be starting a new promotion, which at this point doesn't have a name, in July. The idea is to promote an ECW-style of brawling wrestling using Masato Tanaka as the top star along with Gedo & Jado

The W*ING reunion show drew a sellout 1,800 to Differ Ariake as they brought back many of the wrestlers from the former group, headlined by a Bunkhouse death match with Mr. Pogo & Freddy Kruger (usually but not always Doug Gilbert) & Kintaro Kanemura & Mitsunobu Kikuzawa over Mitsuhiro Matsunaga & Winger & Ryo Myake & Hideki Hosaka as well as Gedo, Jado, Shoji Nakamaki, Hideki Hosaka, Leatherface and Masayoshi Motegi worked underneath. They announced they would re-start as a promotion in August after the success of this show

Cima blew out his right knee on 4/21 and is out of action

Gaea drew 2,800 in Osaka on 4/22 with Crush Gals over Kyoko Inoue & Aja Kong (now called Super Maniacs 2001) in the main event while Sugar Sato & Chikayo Nagashima won the AAAW tag titles over Akira Hokuto & Mayumi Ozaki.

HERE AND THERE: Stu Hart's condition was actually far worse than we had intimated last week. Hart was expected to be released from the hospital early last week after they had let him home for a few hours on Easter Sunday. He was kept in the hospital until being released on 4/23 due to a delayed heartbeat. They've adjusted medication but he'll be on an oxygen tank for a few weeks. May is a rough month for the family because this will be the two year anniversary of Owen's death. He was having trouble breathing on his own due to the fluid build-up in his lungs and around his heart from edema and diabetes. There is a chance if the condition isn't cleared up that he'll need a pacemaker, or in a worst-case scenario, a heart transplant

As expected, Eric Bischoff is resurfacing running Matrats.com, the Calgary-based wrestling television product aimed largely at the younger audience by marketing 14-to-21-year-old pretty boy types (many of whom can do tremendous moves in the ring). Bischoff was named Executive Vice President of Development. Matrats.com did a taping largely for Bischoff and Jason Hervey several weeks back. His role will be to attempt to put together business deals, including to raise capital, as well as work with Mandalay Sports for television deals and handle much of the business and marketing as well as being the company spokesperson and have creative input in all facets of the business. Bischoff's role is to attempt to sell this project in a way that it would have enough appeal to young people and wrestling fans, but not be so similar to current wrestling to have to face the negative reaction toward the term pro wrestling that television stations and the ad community currently have. There is no planned start date or TV deals on the table. The idea is to put together a product that can make money from television syndication, as the first idea (hence matrats.com) of making money through the internet is already a dead issue. Because of the current view of pro wrestling, unless you are Vince McMahon, it is impossible to do this with a "wrestling" product for all the reasons talked about here every week as it regards advertisers shying from the product and stations wanting to be paid for airing the product which companies can't make back selling ads or deriving revenue from house shows as they could in the 80s. Far more than the collapse of ECW and WCW, the biggest story in this business is that, and it will also be the biggest story for UFC or Pride or anyone who attempts to produce a television product to fill the void of the lack of alternative televised wrestling products, is the current economics of television

Speaking of Bischoff, if he had been able to acquire WCW as was expected, besides Rob Van Dam and Don Callis, who have admitted being pretty close to deals but told to keep it quiet, I believe Joey Styles was also under consideration as an announcer and John Muse was going to be given the job of head booker of the cruiserweight division, which would have been kept largely separate

There were internet reports during the week regarding Hogan having closed a deal with Universal to start a new promotion. As it turned out, no deal has been finalized. Hogan's next meeting, where he expected to get an answer one way or the other is still 5/1. The idea would be to tape one hour television shows at Universal Studios in Orlando and syndicate them based on Hogan's name, doing 80s style build-ups for heels to oppose Hogan

As it regards other attempted start-ups, such as the one by Jerry Jarrett and J.J. Dillon that has certainly been talked about, the economics of doing a competitive wrestling television show are $500,000 per week just in production, then you have to figure in wrestlers pay, travel, etc. You have to figure a way to get that revenue back, and advertisers aren't going to come close to making that up unless you deliver WWF ratings, especially now when advertisers are not looking at backing an unproven product and many now won't touch a wrestling product including WWF. The key is marketing a product that advertisers will back and that a network will promote, then, even more importantly, being able to sell that product to the public. Even thinking about PPV before you get those hurdles cleared is living in a fantasy world. Right now, there is no easy winning formula, unlike 18 months ago when there was a strong base of wrestling fans patterned to watch certain wrestlers at a certain time every week you could build from and all you had to do was not insult those fans with a bad product

Inside Edition filmed a piece over the weekend with Lawler talking about his departure from the WWF. WWOR-TV in New York, the UPN affiliate which basically has the doctrine of having to do a wrestling story every Thursday night (with the idea of keeping the Smackdown audience) will, in a break from the normal policy of doing these pathetic non-stories, will also be doing a feature on Lawler after leaving

There were two stories that came out on the same day involving deaths where pro wrestling was tied in that couldn't have come at a worse time in the wake of the Lionel Tate murder publicity (I know of one station close to a deal that specifically mentioned the Tate murder as to why it no longer wanted to air pro wrestling). On 4/10, Alberto Serrano, a psychiatric patient at the Savannas Mental Hospital in Port St. Lucie FL killed four people and seriously injured two others going on a rampage. Pro wrestling should have nothing to do with this except that the lead in the AP story stated "A psychiatric patient who wanted to one day become a professional wrestler..." The 33-year-old is being charged with beating to death two men who were 87 and another who was 74 by breaking their necks in all three cases, as well as breaking the spines of two of the victims. He also is charged with killing a 47-year old nurse by pummeling her in the head, causing her to die of brain injuries, and leaving her in a pool of blood. He also injured two other women. The second case was in Queens, NY involving a 14-year-old and his 10-year-old stepbrother, who according to the story, "apparently suffocated during some pro wrestling-inspired roughhousing," the term used by authorities who charged the older boy with manslaughter. The description of the death is that the older boy used a bearhug from behind until the younger boys eyes rolled back. The 10-year-old, Ushane Thompson (the brother's name was not listed in the New York Daily News story because of his being a juvenile), was nicknamed Stone Cold for the obvious reasons

Chris Ford (Crowbar) on Observer Live on 4/19 said that if he didn't get picked up by WWF that he would concentrate on going full-time as a physical therapist. He would likely continue to wrestle indies on weekends, but would retire from anything farther than a two hour drive except for Jim Kettner

CZW is attempting to put together a two-day tournament on 5/18 and 5/19 in Sewell, NJ bringing in junior heavyweights from around the country. Speaking of CZW, caught a tape of the match that has been talked about a lot over the past week with Nick Mondo & Jun Kasai vs. Johnny Kashmere & Justice Pain from 4/14 (video is available at rfvideo.com). It is ridiculously sick, with guys taking bump after bump on broken light bulbs including a power bomb over the top rope onto a fluorescent light tube that shattered on impact. Kasai and Mondo's backs in particular looked like hash, and were bright red from all the blood loss. Kasai had such a deep cut near his elbow that you actually saw both bone and muscle through the cut. It's funny, because by people talking about it, and this in one week has already become one of those underground classic tapes like the Kulas deal, it encourages more people to do it and the next group of people who duplicate will likely get nothing more than a rise from 400 fans, just like a 15-foot balcony dive isn't even talked about anymore but people are doing them every weekend. I was so sad watching the footage and the close-ups of the cuts backstage were actually worse than the match itself. Sometimes when old-timers talk about the skill and art of wrestling being gone, while they aren't wrong, it's just one of those things that changes and wrestling did have to change to survive. But this aspect of the direction is not a change that will help the business survive, but will give it such a horrible reputation, and a deserved horrible reputation, at a time, for the saving of this industry, that the people within it should try and reverse the public perception for the long-term good of the industry

Penthouse magazine has canceled its pro wrestling column that was written by Bryan Alvarez. The cancellation was due to two factors, one the perception that pro wrestling is past its peak in popularity and the second is that with only one company, and that company not cooperating with the magazine, they couldn't get photos of the top stars. WCW had in the past cooperated with the column

Lex Luger appeared on an Atlanta talk radio show talking about performance enhancing drugs in sports. He didn't confirm or deny any personal use, and talked more about his own situation. Said he's got one year left on his contract and phrased it like, since WWF wasn't offering big guarantees, he was going to sit out the year before "thinking about signing with the WWF." Nice way to phrase it. He said he thinks another network will start a promotion because even at the end WCW drew better than average cable ratings and was cheap programming. Unfortunately, it's no longer that cheap if you consider production costs and salary costs to run a company. He said it's proven steroids stunt growth in kids so it's insane for kids to take steroids and said he tried creatine, but only got bloated on it

Terry Funk is headed to Germany on 5/18 to work a show for Tony St. Clair

XPW ran 4/21 at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles before about 1,000 fans for "Scene of the Crime." Basic cluster with mic work before and after every match and run-in finishes in just about every match. Super Dragon and Rising Son of Revolution Pro in the opener were said to have looked good, being by far the best match on the show. New Jack and Major Gunns got the biggest pops. A few of the guys looked good but a lot came across as amateurish. Sabu beat Messiah in a cage match in the main event

Some talk of them being interested in Vampiro and ICP for their May show

Cael Sanderson of Iowa State may have won 119 matches in a row (40 this season) and won his third straight NCAA title, but he only managed to share his second Hodge Trophy this season. The award as the best college wrestler of the year, named after Danny Hodge, an Oklahoma sports legend who is considered by some as the greatest college wrestler ever and went on to be considered by most historians as the greatest junior heavyweight champion in the history of American pro wrestling, dominating the NWA version of the title, which was really what was considered the only real world junior heavyweight title in the game, for virtually his entire pro career (1960-1976). Sanderson is the first man ever to win two Hodge trophies, for the best collegiate wrestler of the year, since he won last year. However, in what was probably the most underplayed heroic sports story of the year, Nick Ackerman of Simpson College couldn't be denied co-honors. Ackerman's NCAA Division III championship this year blows away any story about courage and determination in the history of wrestling that we're aware of, since he had both legs amputated below the knees as a young boy, came into the tournament as a huge underdog, and stopped Nick Slack's 60-match win streak in the championship match. When USA Today interviewed him about being handicapped, he said he didn't like that term. The reporter asked him, then how would you describe yourself, and Ackerman responded, "How about national champion.

A group called WrestleXpress Entertainment announced that on 10/20 in Coventry City, England they will have a show with Vampiro, Van Dam, Corino, Juventud Guerrera, Psicosis and Sonny Onoo plus British wrestlers from the FWA and UK Hammerlock

AAA is back talking about running 5/18 at the Olympic Auditorium

San Francisco Lucha Libre on 5/27 will have a show at Mission High School in S.F. with Mil Mascaras, La Parka, El Hijo del Santo, Tinieblas Jr. and a non-wrestling appearance by Rey Misterio Jr

Nova's appearance for FWA in England was on 4/21 in Bolton before 608 fans. He got a big reception and beat Doug Williams in the main event

You've heard of doing two title changes in a row, but Border City Wrestling actually did three on its 4/18 show in Windsor, ONT before 965 fans. Rhyno went in as champ, but with his WWF contract, it was going to be his last date with the company. So he dropped the title to Tommy Dreamer when ref Scott D'Amore (and promoter) turned on Rhyno. Then D'Amore (how about that) beat Dreamer when Otis Apollo and Bobby Clancy interfered. Sinister Minister and Mikey Whipwreck then showed up as a surprise as Whipwreck pinned D'Amore to end the night as champ. Next show on 6/6 has Whipwreck, Dreamer and Davey Boy Smith appearing

A jury convicted a father of child endangerment for allowing his stepson to jump off a roof onto a flaming table in a much-publicized backyard wrestling match near Cleveland. Douglas Harrington was sentenced to four to six weeks in prison. His stepson, 16-year-old Andrew Tausch, jumped 18 foot from the roof through a table, suffering burns on 20 percent of his body when his clothes caught on fire. Harrington's attorneys tried to defend their client telling the jury he wasn't responsible for his stepson's action and the boy was just mimicking what he's seen on pro wrestling videos.

MMA: While not announced, two matches that have been negotiated for the 5/27 Pride show at the Yokohama Arena are Guy Mezger vs. Vitor Belfort and Dan Henderson vs. Allan Goes

Matt Lindland, who faces Ricardo Almeida at the 5/4 UFC PPV, captured the U.S. nationals at 187 pounds in Greco-roman wrestling on 4/14 in Las Vegas as well as being named Outstanding Wrestler. Lindland, coming off winning a silver medal at 167, went up 20 pounds so he could closer to his UFC fighting weight, and won five matches in a row beating Quincey Clark 4-3 in the finals to capture his fifth national championship. The next stop for Lindland and Henderson will be the trials to select the U.S. team that will compete in the world championships which will be held later this year in Madison Square Garden. To the best of my knowledge, this would be the first wrestling show of any kind at the world's most famous arena not promoted by a member of the McMahon family since the 50s

The trials are 6/22 to 6/24 in Cincinnati. Several MMA fighters and at least one pro wrestler will be invited to the trials. Frank Trigg, a veteran of Pride and Shooto, placed fifth out of nearly 70 competitors in freestyle at 167 to qualify for the next step. Shawn Sheldon (Shooto) placed second in Greco-roman at 119, Dennis Hall (Shooto) won at 127 (in fact, he was never even scored upon in the tournament) and Dan Henderson (UFC, Pride, RINGS) rebounded from his loss to Clark to place third at 187 behind Lindland

Jose "Pele" Landy vs. Dave Menne to create the first 185 pound champion will be one of the matches at the 6/29 UFC show from the Continental Airlines Arena. The two had an incredible match last year on a WEF show. The plan seems to be to have several of the matches for that show ready to be announced on the 5/4 PPV, which will be a first for UFC to build several matches for the next show on a show.

WWF: The 5/5 Insurrextion PPV for the United Kingdom and Australia has a loaded line-up which will be Austin vs. Undertaker for WWF title, HHH vs. Kane for IC title, Benoit vs. Regal for the Queens Cup, Jericho vs. Angle, Dudleys vs. X Factor vs. Hardys vs. E&C, Bradshaw vs. Show, Battle Royal with Lita, Stratus, Ivory, Jackie and Molly Holly for a title shot at Chyna, Guerrero vs. Test for the European title, Crash Holly vs. Malenko vs. Spike Dudley for the lightheavy belt, Sexay vs. Rhyno and Bob Holly vs. Saturn

Bouts added to Backlash on 4/29 are all three Dudleys vs. all three X-Factor dudes and Guerrero vs. Raven for the European title

Raw on 4/23 in Denver was kind of one of those just a day in the office shows. They tried to put too much on, since they had all these storylines to push for the PPV or get across and keep going. The result was that everything on the show was rushed and no messages seemed to get over. Undertaker & Kane came out for the opening interview basically laughing about Austin & HHH calling themselves the most dominating team in the WWF. They challenged them to a non-title match. Instead, E&C came out. They hit the ring, and of course got pounded on, which allowed Austin & HHH to come through the crowd and pound Taker & Kane and beat them down with a million chair shots. The trainer claimed Taker & Kane were too banged up to wrestle on the show, which of course, meant they'd be in the main event and they still wouldn't sell for E&C. As they were pounding on E&C, I was waiting for the Hardys to make the save, but that would require them being elevated and those guys are still only used for fodder to feed the big fish. Rhyno gored Spike in 1:38. X-Factor and other Dudleys were out. X-Factor's music badly needs to be changed. Spike did the former acid drop, and neither Ross nor Heyman would give it a name, so whatever it was called by Michael Cole, which may or may not have been Dudley Dog, is being reconsidered. I think Ross may have called it a bulldog. Kaientai beat Buchanan & Goodfather to keep the RTC losing streak gimmick. Kaientai wore John Elway jerseys in Denver to make sure they got the face pop. Taka fell on Buchanan when Funaki gave Buchanan a missile dropkick from behind. Show confronted Vince to ask if he really meant it when he called him the biggest disappointment in the history of wrestling. Vince said he didn't. So he lied. He then showed a tape of Test laughing about Stephanie. Stephanie was with Vince and got mad, so Vince ordered Show to wrestle Test. I thought this set-up was pretty clever. Unfortunately, they later had the match. Austin & HHH came out for a long interview. HHH did a long diatribe about how everything in the world belonged to them. Austin was insulting individual fans to get that Flair heel heat. They challenged Taker & Kane to come out, "knowing they were injured." Instead, Hardys came out. What happened? HHH & Austin laughed at them. That would have been okay if Hardys came out and got some offense on them, but instead, after being laughed at, Taker & Kane came out and Austin & HHH ran, and Hardys seemed like little punks starting fights for the tough guys to finish. Foley was back at WWF New York doing some comedy and plugging his book. They said he had one contract left giving him power to make one Raw main event so he made the eight-man. Benoit & Jericho beat Regal & Angle in a submission match in 2:03 when Benoit made Regal submit to the crossface. They spent far more time on hype than delivering. It's very hard for these four not to have a good match, but giving them 2:00 and forcing them to rush through submissions so fast they mean nothing did accomplish that. Right at the finish they cut immediately away like it all meant nothing. Very sad. Trish was on the show to push the new Divas video. Show beat Test via DQ in 2:36 when Shane hit Show with a chair as Show had Test up for the choke slam. Show didn't sell the chair shot. Match was horrible. Vince ordered Trish in a match with Ivory and if she loses, she has to join RTC. And I thought those dudes were Vince's most hated enemies. Raven & GMS & Blackman did a comedy interview. Raven's interviews are definitely not ghetto. Malenko & Saturn & Guerrero beat Raven & GMS & Blackman when Guerrero pinned Raven clean with an Oklahoma side roll in 3:22. The heel champ pins babyface challenger clean before the title match. Not that it matters since nobody is buying the PPV to see Raven win the European title, but it still makes no sense from a booking standpoint. They could have eliminated this, the Show match and the Trish match and given the submission match 15:00, it would have been super and the ratings would have been higher to boot. The funniest part of the six-man was ref Jack Doan somehow couldn't help but get in Raven and Saturn's way on just about everything they did. Stratus pinned Ivory in 2:05 with a mistimed facebuster. Very bad. Main saw E&C & Austin & HHH over Taker & Kane & Hardys in 7:37 when Austin gave Matt a stunner and HHH pinned him. The finish was changed that day. Not sure what the original finish was, but it may have been Taker using the last ride on Austin and Matt pinning him. Match had very good heat and it was a good match. The stars never really put over the mid-carders and watching it there was a clear distinction between who the stars were and weren't. I don't think anyone was elevated by association, nor hurt by being made to look "not top level" as the Hardys have been in most of the matches and angles of late. Maybe then can just copy how WCW booked the Filthy Animals to show how to get babyfaces over (hopefully everyone sees past that sarcasm)

There was a ton of controversy regarding what Show said on the 4/16 Raw to Shane regarding his match with Kaientai. It appeared on TV he used the word "gooks," since it was bleeped, which is a negative racial slur on Japanese. Later in the show, Heyman made a point to bring up that he actually said the word "goofs." People who did hear it unedited and turned the sound up as loud as possible say there was no way you could honestly say which word he said. Ross told Slam Sports that Show said goofs but didn't enunciate the word well so there could have been confusion. He said that he and Heyman later in the show brought it up again so there would be no confusion. However, on the Smackdown show when the segment was replayed in Nashville, the word was bleeped again, which, if nothing else, would give the audience the impression the word he said was not goofs. After the taping, the decision was made to re-edit the footage and what aired on television was a jump cut, eliminating the sentence so nothing would be done to keep the subject alive, which was the smart way to do it because I was shocked when I heard they replayed the interview, even bleeping the word, in Nashville

Regarding the IC title going to HHH from Jericho and then getting it back from Jeff Hardy so quickly, that was largely because the battle plan was to put the tag titles vs. WWF and IC belts as the main event for Backlash with whomever loses the fall, loses their belts. That necessitated HHH getting the IC title. WWF did this on September 24, 1995 with Kevin Nash (WWF champ) as Diesel and Michaels (IC) vs. Yokozuna & Owen Hart (tag champs) which ended with Diesel & Michaels winning when Owen "no-showed" but then showed up late and was pinned (Bulldog was put in his place). Because Owen wasn't in the match and was the one pinned, that excuse was given to end up with no belts changing hands in a match that guaranteed a title change. Wouldn't you know the buy rate fell from an 0.7 for that show to an 0.4 the next month

In what has to be a first for the WWF, a WWF contracted wrestler placed last week in the U.S. wrestling championships in both freestyle and Greco-roman. Brian Keck, who is wrestling in OVW and not exactly making a lot of noise there, which is probably one of the reasons the WWF didn't even publicize this, placed third in Greco-roman at 286 pounds, winning the consolation match on 4/14 in Las Vegas over Paul Devlin 6-1 behind eventual winner Rulon Gardner. Keck lost his first round match, 4-3, and rebounded to go unbeaten the rest of the tournament. Keck also placed eighth in freestyle the next day, winning five of six matches. He would have been the only wrestler who placed in both categories (more because almost nobody entered both categories). That means Keck will qualify for the wrestle-offs in Greco-roman for a chance to represent the U.S. in the world championships, although he'd have to beat Gardner two out of three matches to make the team. He fell one match short, which he didn't wrestle, taking an injury default in the match he needed, of still being eligible for the team in freestyle, although that would have been a longshot. If you understand the specifics of training for one sport, it's really amazing Keck was able to pull this off, because the training he's doing now in Louisville is for a completely different style to say the least. Wrestling at the nationals level isn't something, even if you are very talented at it, that you can simply show up and compete with the guys who have trained specifically for it all year, especially in both freestyle and Greco when you're not in competition yourself, and are in peak shape for that sport. Numerous people that have competed in the nationals have later gone into pro wrestling, but Keck would be only the third active pro wrestler that has gone back to legitimate wrestling and placed in a national championship. Dan Severn won AAU nationals in both freestyle and Greco-roman in 1993 and 1994. Prior to 1992, if someone had done pro wrestling, they wouldn't have been allowed to compete in amateur in this country because pro wrestlers were considered professional athletes. Yoshiaki Yatsu (who may fight in the next Pride PPV), who was one of the biggest names in pro wrestling in the 80s, went back to amateur (he had made the Japanese Olympic team in 1976 and 1980) and won the Japanese freestyle nationals in 1986 at 286 pounds, but was ruled ineligible for the 1988 Olympics by the IOC, which ruled pro wrestling as a professional sport at the time, and Yatsu never competed again

Speaking of OVW, the 6/27 show in Louisville at the Gardens is being called "The Last Dance," since the building is being torn down four days later. Undertaker will work that show. Foley will be brought in for an appearance at the 5/3 TV tapings in Jeffersonville, IN. B.J. Payne & Damien regained the Southern tag titles in OVW from Brock Lesnar & Shelton Benjamin at the 4/22 TV tapings. Benjamin was attacked earlier in the show by Johnny Spade & Sly Scraper (Sylvester Terkey) so Lesnar defended them in a handicap match. An injured Benjamin came in when Lesnar was getting doubled on, but ended up being pinned

Robbie Dicks (Slick Robbie D) was released from his developmental deal. He was a guy who in another era could have been a pretty decent territorial heel, but with one company, since he wasn't improving as quickly as others, there are only going to be a few slots opening per year and that's the reality of the developmental deals is the majority aren't going to make it

TNN purchased the cable rights to reruns of FOX's "Mad TV" show, and when making the deal, claimed they did so because their research shows that WWF fans, who carry the station's ratings, like comedy sketches and are going to, starting in September, aggressively trying to cross-promote the show with WWF. Unfortunately, as USA learned and McMahon himself has learned, wrestling fans are a unique breed who seem to like wrestling but not much else distinctly. Attempts to cross-promote other products that don't involve marketing wrestling personalities to wrestling fans traditionally haven't been successful

The unnamed "local talent" that did the submission skit on Smackdown with Angle were Nick Dinsmore of OVW (the pale guy who actually looked the most minor league of the three standing there even though he's a good worker), Race Steele of HWA and Doug Basham, who comes out of Louisville and works at Ford Motor Company but some in Louisville say is more talented than anyone in OVW. The guys who did the Dudleys gimmick and were attacked by the X-Factor on Heat were Trent Acid and Johnny Kashmere of CZW. I saw Acid on a Big Japan tape and he was really good

WWF sent the APA, Crash & Molly, Regal, Benoit and Angle to Memphis Championship Wrestling on 4/18. Benoit vs. Angle, which was the main event, ended in a DQ on Angle (why they have to do a DQ for a house show main event is beyond me) when the Haas Brothers attacked Benoit and York & Matthews made the save. Said to be a good match with a bad finish. Regal put over the 5-6, 170-pound American Dragon while APA beat The Island Boys (Ekmo & Matty Smalls) and Crash & Molly beat Steve Bradley & Victoria. Bradley is the only WWF developmental wrestler who has a following in Memphis. Simon Diamond and Dawn Marie started together in that territory on this show. I don't believe they have a WWF developmental deal yet but am not sure. Lo Ki is also expected in this week

WWFE is spending $7.5 million to rebuild the marquee and arch that once framed the Paramount Theater in Times Square. The five-story gateway on Broadway and 43rd is scheduled for completion in June and will lead people right into the WWF New York restaurant. There will be a gigantic WWF logo on the marquee

What has been expected for some time became official in that the FCC voted to allow one company to own more than one broadcast television network. The vote allowed Viacom to not have to sell UPN after buying CBS. Viacom's argument is that if UPN was cut loose, it would quickly die. The vote was 3-1 in favor of changing the old rule, which was put in place because the Government thought it was a bad idea if so much power over the airwaves was in the hands of so few people, which, basically, is what has already been happening. The ruling was worded that nobody could own two of the big four (ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS) but that a company could own one of the big four and one of the other two (UPN or WB). The next move in consolidation of media power appears to be AOL/Time Warner, which already owns the former Turner empire of cable stations (TNT, TBS, CNN, etc.) as well as WB to purchase NBC from General Electric

Bob Magee of Wrestling Fans Against Censorship alerted us that the PTC claims about Pep Boys, Exxon and Papa John's pulling out of Smackdown was misleading because Exxon and Papa John's never advertised on the show in the first place. In reading the PTC alert, they didn't claim they had pulled out but simply said all had agreed not to advertise on Smackdown which is the same semantic problem from the start. He also said the PTC has not produced any written proof of their claim that Pep Boys had pulled out. There was a Pep Boys ad on Raw this week, although it's not unheard for sponsors to pull out of Smackdown and continue to advertise on Raw, despite how hypocritical such a decision is. He also noted that five companies the PTC has claimed had pulled out of advertising on Smackdown had ads appearing on the show since 1/1, noting Con Agra (which it is well known reversed its position on pulling out of the show after first deciding to pull out), 1-800-Call-ATT (ads on three shows this year), M&M Mars (ads on three shows plus sponsored Mania), Burger King (ad on one show) and Military agencies (ads on four shows). A lot of the confusion revolves around national ads purchased through WWF and local ads purchased on a single or group of stations in a geographical area but not by necessarily the national branch of a company

C. DeLores Tucker of the PTC advisory board wrote a letter to Nickelodeon critical of them for inviting Chyna to be a presenter at the Kids Choice Awards. She used Chyna having posed for Playboy as her reason she wasn't an appropriate choice

On last week's Raw show when it aired in the UK, they edited the tape differently and cut away from Austin stalking Lita to actually show Jeff getting pedigreed and pinned by HHH. They used the same commentary which didn't acknowledge the pin as it was happening but fans saw the set up and finish

WWFE had some motions granted and others denied in an attempt to get Nicole Bass' lawsuit against both WWFE and Steven Lombardi thrown out several weeks ago. In the lawsuit, Bass alleged that she was repeatedly accosted by employees and representatives of the WWF including Tony Guerra (sic), Earl Hepner (sic), Paul White (sic) and Billy Gunn while in a state of undress saying male performers were not subject to similar intrusions. She brought up a May 10, 1999 Raw TV show when Sean Michaels (sic, I swear, if nothing else, her lawyer needs to at least get names spelled right) called her Mister and simulated a sexual act with his microphone directed toward her buttocks. Vince Russo apologized and promised nothing like that would ever happen again, but she complained the WWF took no action against Michaels nor instituted a policy to prevent things like that from happening. She claimed on May 15, 1999, while on a flight from JFK Airport to England for the No Mercy PPV, Lombardi made repeated sexual overtures toward her and wanted to touch her chest. She claimed she refused, but he groped her breasts. When she claimed she would report what he did to the WWF, he threatened her with a "receipt" (wrestling terminology for payback in some form). Lombardi threatened her with physical harm if she reported him so she didn't report the incident. She claimed Lombardi repeated the threat of a receipt on more than one occasion and that WWF was well aware of Lombardi's "longstanding reputation for sexual harassment and abusive conduct." She claimed she was hit over the head with a guitar that wasn't gimmicked, as they were supposed to be, which caused lacerations to her head (on the May 24, 1999 Over the Edge PPV). The WWF failed to provide her with medical attention (this actually took place on the night Owen Hart died and the medical staff was attending to him since her incident took place about 20 minutes after Hart's fatal fall). She claimed she later found out they intentionally didn't gimmick the guitar to find out how tough she was. The WWF in attempting to dismiss the sexual harassment claim didn't claim Lombardi never did what was stated, but that she doesn't allege that her rejecting Lombardi's advances adversely affected her employment status with the company. They claimed she couldn't legally press the claim unless Lombardi or another member of WWF linked tangible job benefits to her rejection. The WWFE claimed that harassment would have to have been more than one isolated incident but a series of incidents done by a supervisor of someone with authority over the individual, claiming Lombardi didn't hold such a role. She also claimed discrimination because she wasn't paid equally with male wrestlers (there is an obvious answer to that one). They attempted to throw out the claim because she sued in New York and many of the incidents took place outside of New York, but the court ruled New York was the site of some of those actions. Lombardi argued claiming the statute of limitations on assault and battery are one year and had expired. The court failed to throw out her assault and battery claims, but did throw out her negligence claim against the WWF. The final verdict was that her equal pay claim was thrown out, the claim for battery against Lombardi was thrown out due to the statute of limitations and her negligence claim was thrown out. All other charges WWF attempted to have thrown out were denied by the court

Slayer is producing a new entrance song for Test. They were given a choice to do a song for Test or Angle, and they felt they just couldn't do one for Angle

WWF The Music increased to No. 57 on the charts during the week before Easter with 32,671 units sold. Virtually every CD on the chart went up as it was a huge week in the music industry, but the WWF increase was greater than the chart average

The current plan seems to be to turn Chyna heel as womens champion

The Calgary and Edmonton tapings on 5/28 and 5/29 will break all gate records for Alberta as they are charging $80 ringside. Last year when they came they charged $50. Calgary sold out in 40 minutes, which was 10,581 paid for $563,900. While not the largest crowd in the history of Calgary wrestling because of seats blocked off for the stage, it is the largest gate. Even the famous Calgary Stampede PPV show in 1997 failed to sellout

Local wrestler Johnny Devine will be doing a dark match that week as will another local named Ali

In the XFL "Million Dollar Game," Josh Wilcox, who has done some pro wrestling in Oregon, including at one time having a WWF developmental deal and later did a few matches with ECW in New Orleans after he played last season with the Saints, including an angle where he turned on Tommy Dreamer, caught the first touchdown pass for the L.A. Extreme and did a people's elbow on the football as a touchdown celebration. He also did an interview where he thanked people in ECW

In Memphis Championship Wrestling, they are doing a gimmick where Victoria is the commissioner after being personally appointed by Regal

A few notes from Raw. There was that long break during the main event intros. For the live crowd, HHH & Austin went to the back for some reason while E&C cut a promo knocking local sports teams. It was like HHH & Austin weren't going to be background while E&C did the promo. That's why, several minutes later, Austin's music was still playing, because he came out a second time

Media Week had an article on 4/23 noting that UPN was looking at a bad year for up front ad sales, pointing to weak ratings overall, failure to produce any significant hit shows and Star Trek: Voyager being in its last season. The article also discussed that News Corporation (which owns FOX) may buy into the company, now owned by Viacom. To do so, under the current laws, would require News Corp.

to sell the New York Post because it would give them ownership in two stations and a newspaper in the same market, although perhaps the FCC could change those rules as well. The article pointed to declining ratings of Smackdown (it's actually down two percent for the season; nothing to be alarmed about; and that's probably entirely due to Survivor competition although there are signs of an erosion in ratings for the future)

Terry Taylor was turned down for a front office job in the new WCW

Johnny Ace signed a multi-year employee contract with WCW just before it went under. The backstage employees are actually allowed to collect their money and if they get a job with WWF or another company that starts up for another job, can "double dip." The wrestlers, as independent contractors, as strange as this sounds, have the 90-day cycles which will be exercised shortly, and can't work anywhere while getting paid by Time Warner

Smackdown on 4/17 in Nashville drew 7,277 paying $238,005. This crowd wasn't exactly a positive sign since it was only half full for a TV taping. House shows on 4/21 in Waco, TX drew 6,719 paying $183,877 and in Tyler, TX they drew 3,960 paying $96,264. This would be the first under $100,000 gate I believe all year. House show on 4/22 in Albuquerque drew 10,638 paying $346,760. Raw on 4/23 in Denver drew a sellout 13,686 paying $429,301. The 4/23 Smackdown in Denver was also packed, although the paid would have been smaller since the Smackdown stage blocks usually about 1,000 to 1,500 more tickets than the Raw stage. Merchandise for the week was $393,052 which is a whopping $9.27 per head, which seems to indicate the current characters are really over as personalities. Waco had the Undertaker & Kane over Austin & HHH tag title match with a simultaneous double choke slam finisher as the main event. They put them on before intermission so the show actually closed with Jeff Hardy over Malenko in a match where Saturn, Matt and Lita all got involved. Tyler had a rare localized angle in the final match on the show, billed as a Pride of Texas match. Winner had to kiss the losers' flag with Bradshaw (Texas flag, not American flag) vs. Regal and of course Bradshaw won clean and Regal had to kiss the Texas flag to end the show. Angle pinned Jericho in the advertised main event. Sucks to be them headlining the worst drawing gate of the year. Albuquerque was a six-man headliner with Undertaker & Kane & Jericho over Austin & HHH & Regal when Jericho pinned Regal after a lionsault plus Angle pinning Benoit when Regal interfered.