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December 25, 2000 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Blue Demon passes away, WCW talent walks out on tapings, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN1083-9593 December 25, 2000


Alejandro Munoz Moreno, who was a 1960s Mexican movie star and possibly the second most famous wrestlers in that country's history as the Blue Demon, passed away on 12/16 from a heart attack at the age of 78.

Demon, who would probably be ranked just behind El Santo as the most famous cultural wrestling icon in Mexico, starred in even lower budget movies than those which made Santo one of the most beloved and probably the longest enduring wrestling legend in any culture. In the ring, while only a welterweight, Demon was considered in his day and pound-for-pound one of the two or three toughest shooters in all of Mexico and even at that size well known for his shooting ability in the Southwestern United States.

Born on April 22, 1922, Demon started pro wrestling relatively late, at the age of 26, but made up for it by wrestling regularly into his late 60s. Originally from Monterrey, which in the 1950s was the most Americanized of the wrestling cultures in Mexico because the top talent from Texas would headline, and the top Monterrey talent would headline in Texas. Before getting into wrestling, he worked in construction and on the railroad. Trained by legendary Rolando Vera, he started as a rudo in 1948 before making the tecnico turn in 1952, which started his most legendary feud, both in and out of the ring, with El Santo, who was the country's most famous heel at the time. The feud was notable for numerous encounters, the most famous of which took place on July 25, 1953 in Mexico City, where Demon won Santo's World Welterweight title in two straight falls, a title he held for four-and-a-half years during one of Mexico's boom periods in wrestling. The other legendary match that same year was voted Match of the Year in 1953 with Santo & Cavernario Galindo facing Demon & Black Shadow. The Santo vs. Demon feud was immortalized in a song that is still heard frequently in Mexico entitled "Los Luchadores," in which the lyrics talk about a wild brawl with Demon & El Bulldog vs. Santo & Galindo, which turned into something of a Lucha Libre anthem.

He was nicknamed "Manotas," in his prime, because he had incredibly large powerful hands for such a small man and had grip strength that made him considered almost like a Mexican version of Danny Hodge. Along with Tarzan Lopez and possibly Gori Guerrero, he was considered the toughest shooter in Mexico of the era and trained in the ring three to four hours every day to keep up that reputation. His reputation is that in his prime he was a tremendous mat wrestler, similar to current star Blue Panther, but never did the high flying. In many ways, he's just as famous in Mexico as Santo in that everyone in the country knows his name, but not the star Santo was, considered like the Bing Crosby to Bob Hope, which is another reason for the rivalry. Like another of the top wrestlers of the era, Guerrero (Eddy's father), there was always the resentment of Santo, because he was not a great real wrestler and far from the greatest in-ring worker either, and they were trained real wrestlers, yet he was a bigger star.

Munoz Moreno suffered a heart attack while coming back from his daily early morning workout at the gym on a Mexico City subway. He always traveled alone and used the subway every day as he didn't like taxis and couldn't drive at his age. Mexico newspapers, which covered his death huge, had a variety of different stories as to the circumstances. Blue Demon Jr., his adopted son, told the media that he was called and rushed to the scene and that his father died in his arms while receiving medical attention.

As in Mexican tradition, his funeral took place later in the day and he was buried with the mask that he never lost in the ring, still on, the next day in Naucalpan. Many legends of both the film and pro wrestling world rushed to attend the funeral, including Black Shadow, Roberto Rangel, Huracan Ramirez and Bestia Salvaje.

While Santo and Demon starred together in several movies in





Source: Wrestling Title Histories third edition


NWA WORLD WELTERWEIGHT: def. El Santo July 25, 1953 Mexico City; lost to Karloff Lagarde January 31, 1958 Mexico City


MEXICAN NATIONAL WELTERWEIGHT: def. Karloff Lagarde April, 1962; lost to Karloff Lagarde October 1962

the 60s, they never got along. By this point, Santo, who was not the athlete Demon was legitimately, was getting up in years. Demon would do all the tough work in the movie but in the end, Santo always got the credit and top billing. His most famous movie was "Las Momias de Guanjuato) which co-starred Santo and Mil Mascaras (who some would rank behind Santo as the second biggest star in Mexico because Mascaras was far more famous internationally) in the 60s. In all, Demon was featured in 28 movies during the heyday of the low budget campy movie era from 1961 through 1978 starring masked pro wrestlers as crime fighters popularized by Santo, with Demon and Mascaras as the other featured players. His final movie was to introduce his adopted son, Blue Demon Jr., filmed in 1989, but because Demon Jr. was adopted and had a different skin tone, also wasn't a great worker and didn't have charisma, he was never accepted as the superstar that Santo's son was.

When Santo finally turned tecnico in 1963, largely at his own request of the promoters because he was becoming such an idol in Mexico from the movies and he didn't want to portray himself in wrestling as a bad influence on children, he and Demon would never team up, protecting the legend of their feud to the end. Finally in 1968, it was a huge story when they teamed up for the first time. Demon was famous for his never missing a booking, often wrestling in incredible pain, such as not even missing one match with the most painful of all injuries, a broken collarbone.

Demon continued to wrestle somewhat regularly until a retirement tour in March of 1989. The last I can recall him wrestling in the United States would have been in the early 80s, at least for an American based promotion, as he likely may have worked for a Lucha Libre underground group after that point. I do remember seeing him wrestle in San Jose for the LeBelle promotion in the early 80s. It was hyped to death that Blue Demon was coming and quite frankly, most wrestling fans in the city had no idea who he was. But there was a Mexican American contingent that clearly did, as he drew a huge crowd for that time period and the reaction for him was almost Godlike, similar to a Perro Aguayo in recent years. It totally confused virtually all the American fans in the building, who never heard of him, saw posters all over the building for this guy with a Hercules like body, and he finally came out and it was this very short old man, around 60 years old, who still had a surprisingly taut physique, but was hunched over. His opponent (who I can't recall but he was a much larger American heavyweight) nicely sold for as if he was the Godlike creature the fans wanted him to be. He later came back for one famous legends match against retired Rayo de Jalisco Sr., where he won Rayo's mask and revealed him as Max Linares. He had continued to train wrestlers well into the 90s.

Thanks to Kurt Brown and Jose Fernandez for help with this bio.

The anarchy that is the dressing room at World Championship Wrestling totally destroyed the last live Nitro show for three weeks on 12/18 in Richmond, VA.

A series of incidents resulted in three wrestlers walking off the show, Sid Eudy, Page Falkinburg and Kevin Nash, all of whom had key roles in the show, resulting in both Nitro and Thunder shows literally put together on the fly and finishing with a Nitro main event of Jeff Jarrett vs. Lance Storm TV main event before a largely dead crowd. How much of this is and isn't legit is the subject of speculation. With only a few exceptions, most within the company seem to believe all of the incidents were legit. The only overriding question mark is because of timing of certain things as well as the key involvement in all this of Falkinburg, who has done similar angles in the past, well set up, and in similar ways, and has always had a fascination with the late Brian Pillman.

The chaos started, and this clearly was not an angle, when Eudy had some sort of a problem with his role in the show. It isn't quite clear what the situation was. It is believed that Eudy expected the Starrcade match to be a double count out, but did agree to do the job in the end of Scott Steiner, and was not complaining about it after the fact. He was more upset about how he was asked, as when he came to the building expecting the double count out, he was given a piece of paper with his instructions for the show listing the actual finish. He was mad that Terry Taylor didn't come to him specifically to ask about the change rather than put it on a paper. Exactly what he expected or was told would be his retribution to get him to do the job without complaints apparently wasn't going to materialize on television. The plan was to use the TV, since Nitro is off until 1/8 due to pre-emptions, to build the show toward a main event on the Syn PPV on 1/14 in Indianapolis of Scott Steiner defending in a four-way with Rick Steiner, Jarrett and Sid Vicious. Vicious walked out before the show, after hearing what the plans were, and later claimed that his arm and shoulder were injured the night before. He was pulled from all bookings and plans were re-worked for the show, which he was a focal part of, to now build to a three-way title match on PPV.

After the first live match, in a segment which was set up to start with Ric Flair doing an interview talking about the main event, and Steiner coming out in response, Steiner asked if he could tweak the segment and go out first. When he did, he cut a promo on DDP. From a fan perspective, it looked as if it was nothing out of the ordinary, just building for a Steiner-DDP match as the TV main event. Backstage, everyone "knew" Steiner was going against the script of the show once again, and when he said that Page didn't have the balls to fight him, and talked about Page needing a sex change operation, everyone in the dressing room started looking at Page. Page got up in front of everyone and basically said something to the effect that enough is enough, and stormed downstairs. When Steiner came through the curtain, they got into an argument and Page threw a punch, or Page simply sucker punched him, depending on the version of the story one chooses to believe. Either way, it wasn't a good enough punch, because Steiner recovered, took Page down with a bearhug suplex like move, and was putting a terrible hurting on him for a full one minute with Page helpless on his back. It took seven people nearly the whole minute before they could even budge Steiner, and it was said to be a scary scene as he had a death like grip on Page. They were pulled apart and started swearing at each other. In the fight, Page's face was all cut up and bleeding with a deep scratch mark all around his eye and his face puffy and bloody. Steiner was going for his eye as he was pulled off. In the fracas, Steiner injured his ankle and also had swelling above the eye from the punch, but he was able to go out and do his scheduled promo and show closing angle, plus wrestle Cat in the Thunder main event.

Again, the eye could be the key, because what sold people on the Pillman-Kevin Sullivan original worked angle on a live Nitro is that Sullivan went for Pillman's eye, which is what wrestlers in the old days were taught to do immediately in street fight situations. Why Steiner would cut a promo on Page at this point is a question, although he was known to be hot at him, and going against the script by the major stars seems to be a weekly occurrence on a show where nobody has authority over the actors. It is true that Page had refused to work with Steiner because Steiner had insulted Kimberly a few months back, some people pointing out that their problem took place in the same building, "right here, in Richmond, Virginia," which resulted in Kimberly quitting the company because management didn't have the guts to insist Steiner apologize for uncalled for remarks. Many of the wrestlers sided with Steiner because Kimberly refused to work any angles involving Steiner saying she didn't want a mad man to put his hands on her, feeling that Kimberly's attitude was bad and was taking up so much TV time because Bischoff thought he could make a major star out of her during a time period when everyone wanted the next Sable.

Then again, who can blame the wrestlers, because every time Steiner has gone into business for himself, in the long run he's been rewarded, as has most of the unprofessional conduct by major stars in the company. All of the bookers at this point don't want to piss off any of the major talent because nobody knows who will be in charge, but the talent will always get another chance with new management no matter what happens now, and the bookers are all uncertain about their future because none of a longstanding good relationship with Bischoff. The fact the story that Page and Steiner wouldn't work together, causing a change in the main event of the 12/10 house show in Monroe, LA, had just come out, could have led to Steiner's actions, or also been something Page felt he could play on for a shoot angle, similar to his angle with Buff Bagwell many months back, which actually drew a 3.9 rating for a TV main event match before the angle was immediately cut off because it was getting over. Still, most, but definitely not all, believed it to be real, and that includes the ten percent or so who have seen through the shoot angles of the past that fool most of the wrestlers.

When it was over, Page walked out of the building saying words to the effect of "I'm out of here, f*** this place." Nash, surprising to some because he generally was one of the people who made fun of Page because Page takes himself and the business so seriously, left with him, causing more holes in the show since they were also to be doing an angle with the Natural Born Thrillers. Before Page left, Steiner said a few parting words to him, largely about his wife. Page & Nash told people on the way out that they weren't coming back until there was new ownership.

It wasn't the only backstage story involving Page of the night. Earlier, Page, who a week earlier vowed he would work with Mark Madden, but not ever talk with him outside of business, approached Madden diplomatically regarding their problems. One could speculate if he was trying to make amends with Madden all weekend, he may have tried with Steiner as well. Madden wasn't as forgiving, blaming Page for his being suspended on the Nitro nobody saw and claiming that Page had no reason to be mad at him, because it all started when Page called him to complain about his announcing and Page's wife Kimberly started swearing at Madden on the phone. Page denied having anything to do with Madden being suspended but Madden didn't believe him. When Page tried to shake his hand, Madden refused to shake in front of most of the dressing room putting his hands in the air and walking away. There was a lot of divisiveness on this issue as many were hot at Madden's behavior but others told him they thought he did the right thing. Page came off sympathetic to come, for standing up to Steiner in a fight that he had no chance to win, but a common reaction was that all these incidents that involve Page are because he's too much trying to constantly push himself and some noted that in a recent angle when he was supposed to diamond cut one of the Thrillers, he instead diamond cutted several of them.

The scripted ending of Nitro was that it would be revealed that Rick Steiner as the mystery third man in the PPV main event that was teased all show long by Ric Flair. However, due to a breakdown in WCW communication, Steiner never got the word he was supposed to be at this TV. So the show instead ended with Robbie Rage being put under a mask and pounding on Steiner as the mystery man, with the idea that probably on the next new TV show, which wouldn't be at this point until Thunder on 1/3 (unless changes are made and the "Best of Thunder 2000" is moved to 1/3 so the Memphis Thunder taping on 12/22, now scheduled for 1/3, is moved up a week because of all the problems), it would be revealed it was Steiner under the mask. Either way, it's a main event that appears to have zero box office appeal, but nothing in WCW these days has.

Assuming this is legit, and recognizing the company is dead as far as drawing money and upping TV ratings, at some point management needs to discipline this crew for their actions. Steiner, even though he's world champion and someone the company legitimately could build around for a long period in rebuilding the belt, has to be disciplined in some form because it's not a first time offense, nor a second, and he's already been suspended twice this year. The situation with Nash is so far past the point of discipline to being totally comical. Page, if he started a fight backstage, has to be disciplined in some form. However, Pillman was disciplined for his angles, which was used as a reason to prove them legit, but the discipline (being fired as a work to the point he was actually sent a termination notice and used it to open negotiations to go to the WWF, where he ended up in the funniest irony in that he worked the only people in the company in on his work to the point he got a contract release and was able to jump legit) was supposed to be a work.

The saddest part of all this isn't the mess the company is in today because of this, but that the young wrestlers in the company who have potential to be big players in a few years are learning that this is how the wrestling business operates by how the experienced dressing room leaders do their business. However, this is how a destructive wrestling business that doesn't make money operates, and not how a well-run wrestling business operates, and it's pity they may not understand the difference.

When running down the past year in wrestling, it has been one of the strangest and most newsworthy years ever. It has been a great year for one company, and largely a disaster for the few who dared attempt to play on the big field.

As the year comes to a close, wrestling has never looked to have more of an uncertain future. It's so strange writing that, because the years 1992-96 were very tough ones for the industry. None of the major companies were making money. Times were getting tough in WWF before the company switched gears and became the force it turned into. WCW during that period was on at least one occasion, exactly one Ted Turner veto away from being closed down because of money losses. Turner's loyalty to the product paid off as the Eric Bischoff-led company through the introduction of Nitro, paved the way for the strong economic rebound of the industry, with the WWF following suit with the revamped faster-paced Raw built around the creation of new stars. Yet even in hindsight, looking at close the business was coming to what could have been a disaster, the future didn't look nearly as murky as it does today.

While the WWF is past its peak, it's a marketing monster. Far stronger than the 80s model on so many different levels, for the first time in its history, it looks impossible to compete with. Nobody in the business, unless they either work for the WWF, or have economic ties and are supported by the WWF, have futures that could be called stable going into 2001. Even in the 80s when it was by far the dominant organization, it didn't offer certain aspects of the product, the old blood and guts style of wrestling than was popular in many parts of the country, and there was so much strong and marketable talent the company didn't control and plenty of people not working for the company seemingly doing very well. There are only so many jobs for wrestlers available in the WWF and the competition is fierce. One year ago, people were talking about Rob Van Dam as the next breakthrough star in wrestling. Now, he's looking at an uncertain future, and his future prospects are far brighter than the majority of those not in the WWF or WCW currently.

For the past six months, the big story has been about WCW and ECW. What will happen? And as each week goes by, things look and have gotten worse and worse over the short-term at least. Paul Heyman's line of late is that he doesn't fear the future, but the present is really scary. ECW is exactly one great television deal, if the deal provides for production costs and enough revenue to sustain an organization and for that matter create an organization, away from stability. But so is everyone that has attempted to get into the game in the last few years, none of whom have attempted to do something on more than a minor league basis that have survived. The nature of pro wrestling and television is that at no point in history, with the exception of the totally owned WCW group, has a television station bankrolled a wrestling company to where it could survive without other major forms of revenue. With the AOL merger approved almost completely this past week, and that merger combined with the horrible two years of business WCW has had are the probable causes of the sale, WCW appears to be 99 percent committed to being sold. At this point, a sale looks imminent to a group headed by Eric Bischoff, but it is not a done deal and those close to the situation say negotiations are progressing slowly and nothing will probably happen as it pertains to furthering them until after the first of the year because the key players involved in the finalization are going to be taking Christmas off.

At this point in time, not that touring wrestling is dead, but pro wrestling is a television driven business in this country. But does it need live touring to survive? The feeling within the WWF is that the live touring is still the backbone of the business, along with television. Having the big stars come to a city a few times per year ties the local city to the WWF as the home team, and providing entertaining shows, based on reviews, more often than not is like a local city supporting a winning sports franchise. That helps TV ratings, although entertaining television is far more important to ratings then providing good house shows, but in a close race, it's an edge and it's certainly better to provide a good live show than a bad one, or none at all. It bonds fans closer to the product, thus to the big matches and big storylines, concluded on PPV, which is where WCW really shot itself in the foot over the past few years. And, while competing against the production values of hours of free live television every week, can live touring of a company besides the WWF survive? Gate figures from WCW and ECW this year were not a strong sign, regardless of television ratings and exposure. WCW had a great level of exposure and large numbers of fans watching their TV, just not large compared with the levels of two years ago, but still similar levels of viewership to five years ago, which is about the point the company turned it around. It still has great time slots on strong stations. But a bad product that turned off its core audience while failing to interest a new audience has been death. ECW didn't have the exposure, and also failed as a touring company, as noted by its nearly dropping out of the house show touring business as the year has come to a close.

September of 1999 was only a little more than one year ago. But in wrestling, it might as well be ancient history because of how quickly the economy and the world have changed. WCW was already struggling then. We used the term free-fall over the previous year to describe it. Yet, when Vince Russo was hired, there was tremendous optimism. Whether WCW could beat the WWF was never the issue, although people seriously talked about it at the start. The issue was whether WCW could rebound and wrestlers, and fans, were ready for a real fight every Monday and the return of the two-horse race. Instead, so much damage was done that the company went from an estimated $15 million in losses for 1999 to a figure estimated at $60 million this year.

In the September 27, 1999 issue of the Observer, we laid out a prospective course for WCW. Whether it would have been the basis of a successful turnaround is impossible to know. It couldn't have been any worse than what was done. We wrote at that time that the answer was to mortgage the present to hope for an eventual future, a concept we said at the time wasn't likely to ever take place.

Instead, the company went from phase to phase. The first Russo era. A lot of early enthusiasm. Some exciting TV's. But more misses than hits and a destruction of the foundation of the product, the belief that the belts meant something and the characters stood for something. Prostituting the belt for a weekly rating, actually made worse during the second Russo regime, and turns so frequent that people couldn't keep up with, and eventually didn't care, about who to cheer for ruined the bond between the consumer and the company. Fans couldn't live the storyline, because the storyline was made into a farcical movie, perversely entertaining as a stand-alone, but nothing you could sustain week-in-and-week out, instead of a pseudo-realistic weekly drama. Then came the Kevin Sullivan era. The upside was that they attempted to build for the future, trying to create new stars and somewhat reign in the silliness. The bad news was Russo was still popular among the wrestlers, probably most of whom worked to make sure Sullivan wasn't successful, and he had other problems, the Chris Benoit fiasco, the injuries to Bret Hart and Bill Goldberg who could have been the key players in a turnaround, and his biggest problem was that he was in over his head and couldn't write entertaining television shows. The Benoit fiasco killed not only the title belt even worse, but took away a key ingredient the company had going for it, the ability to put on many entertaining matches on a television show. It was also a terrible morale builder. The wrestlers who were in the company saw Chris Jericho, which everyone not blinded by star power of the past knew was a guy who could have been a key player in a turnaround, made into a bigger star than he ever was by leaving. Then they saw Benoit and company come in and immediately deliver a monster rating for the famous match in Dallas. Basically, everyone in the company felt if guys who were never given a chance could become stars somewhere else, they wanted to be somewhere else. And the stars Sullivan tried to create, such as The Wall, were so far from being ready that the public didn't come close to buying them. Russo and Bischoff came back. For a few weeks, there was enthusiasm. But the reality was figured out by many before their first appearance. What was the over/under on how long the two would be able to co-exist? They started in April. By July they were dead, and they weren't exactly knocking them dead in the interim, although some of their TVs in the early weeks were the best TVs of the year, but in doing so, were also destructive to the foundation. While fans for that moment probably enjoyed the TV where everyone gave back their belts as newsworthy and well written, it and other treatment (the David Arquette fiasco if you can point to one incident) of the belts killed the foundation. Russo stayed on, built everything around himself and was a killer to business in doing so. And now Bischoff is the one to pick up the pieces.

Rumors about who Bischoff has as investors run rampant, if it is indeed even a plural. Rumors about how deep their pockets are also run rampant. The belief at this point seems to be the deal was all but a lock (Ted Turner himself privately gave the figure it was a 99 percent chance it would be sold) and the announcement could come at any time. Of course, stories that the announcement would be coming in the next week have been rampant several weekends. A few things are a given. Their pockets, whomever they are, most likely won't be as deep as Time-Warner's, and they, most likely, and again this is all speculation until the announcement is made, don't own the television station they are providing product for. Like USA Network is finding out now, the ratings pro wrestling delivers, even WCW, which still does far better than the prime time average for TNT and TBS, can make a strong difference in the perception and ranking of the network as a whole. Although with the exception of two years, the Turner era of pro wrestling was rife with money losses, bad booking, bad management and frequent management changes and a lack of a consistent direction, it still may be the best economic model for a wrestling company is being owned by the network. And that's likely gone.

If Bischoff is faced with a situation where he needs to turn a profit in a hurry, he's swimming upstream against a strong tide. And to make things worse, the confidence level in him isn't there at the start. He's viewed by many who recognize this lame duck position as horrible to be in, as the savior, because the company needs one so badly. But unlike before, when he was competing against a company that had its own economic problems, and stars used to making big money were looking to leave, and he had a big company behind him that could lose money short-term on big deals and exploded with the right angle, none of these forces are in place this time. The WWF brand is far stronger than ever. The WCW brand is far weaker. And there is no Ted Turner who owns a television station who can be talked into funding a comeback by out spending for the top stars, nor are there a free agent crew of 80s superstars that would mean anything today like Hogan, Piper and Savage, all of whom were practically retired as in-ring performers and thought to be done due to age by McMahon, when Bischoff resurrected their careers and drew big money with them, or what he tried to do with Warrior. There is no big company that owns the programming that is there to pounce on opposition weakness by offering big contracts at first. And there are no Rocks or Austins that are going anywhere. Between the more certain future of being with the big boys, stock options they'd leave behind, and the reality of fighting the political quagmire they've heard so much about, and in many cases been through, Bischoff can't repeat his previous success with the same formula.

He can't tour at first because there is no money to be made. But running TV tapings in the same location harkens back to the days of WCW at Center Stage. It's not a revenue stream. In fact, for a history lesson for those who don't remember Center Stage, WCW used to tape there every other week, in a 780-seat theater studio like setting in Atlanta. They didn't charge for tickets so it was easy to fill the small place up for a while. But in time, even for free, they couldn't fill it. By the end of the run, the company had to spend a lot of money advertising on radio in the local market on shows that for free, were only drawing a few hundred fans.

PPV has dried up with the Mayhem buy rate reaching a new record low level, and Starrcade probably didn't do much better. If there was a company with patience to bring in a new group of wrestlers, give them a flashy look, great writing and acting lessons and have them be a crew athletically gifted enough that after a few years in the ring, a few HHH's, Rock's and Kurt Angle's will be lucky enough to emerge. Make no mistake about it, this is a star driven business and with all the acknowledged greatness of Vince McMahon as a star-maker, he was exceedingly lucky to come across performers with the drive, look, athletic ability, acting ability and aptitude to carry the ball. If one or two guys catch on huge, like Austin did in the WWF spawning the way for Rock, it can make a world of difference, but they have to be given that opportunity and not have their legs cut off by jealous older wrestlers before they get to that level. For all people want to point to Goldberg in WCW, everyone also knows that Goldberg snuck through, and by the time the sharks went after him, he was already established as a phenomenon. But also, the sharks did in the long run get him.

This is the catch 22. Without house shows, a farm system, and working 200 nights per year, none of these men the WWF established as stars would have progressed quickly enough. Again, one can point to Goldberg, but he did it in two minute matches and I don't think people will buy a second Goldberg gimmick as the big thing. None wouldn't have made it with veterans holding them down by not allowing new faces get the interview time and be presented as threats to them in match sequences and results. If Rock would have been in WCW the way the fans didn't care about him after a few months of his initial push, he'd have been discarded as quickly as Prince Iaukea (who was being given a huge push in WCW at the same time when both were over with the audience about an equal amount). But for WCW to put in place what makes the WWF the start-of-the-art in the industry, you are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars spent per year, and there is no way at present to offset that in revenue.

Bischoff's strong suit is as a deal maker and that's something that should never be underestimated. He convinced Ted Turner to take a huge risk and put Nitro head-to-head with Raw. Everyone thought he was insane, and it would cost him his job. Instead, he took a business where everyone was losing money, and paved the way for it to become far more lucrative than it has ever been at any time, anywhere. He convinced Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage and Roddy Piper to join WCW, people who had never even considered going to the small guys down South. Obviously, he got enough investment money together to put together a deal to purchase the company. Two of his other deals that could have been gigantic both fell through at the last minute. A deal to do bi-monthly specials on NBC could have put WCW back in the game when WWF had started dominating, that is, if the specials were good. If the specials were the quality of the product at that time, well, it would have been a great deal squandered. But the NBA strike ended and the deal was never finalized. The deal to split the company and do the Fox vs. TBS could have sparked some interest, but again, it was never completed.

For the good of the industry, I'm hoping I'm missing something here. Or that Bischoff will prove me wrong, and he did prove a lot of people wrong in 1995. But Bischoff proved people wrong only in the short run the first time. Ultimately, spending big money for older wrestlers with limited time left on their drawing power clock was like people predicted, the sports philosophy of trading draft choices for a lot of veterans, getting a couple of winning seasons, and suffering a drought in the standings for years as repercussion. When he was on top, he didn't create the foundation for long-term future success. The plethora of mid-card talent he introduced is now either physically destroyed from a style not suited for long-term, emotionally destroyed from years of confidence shattering non-pushes, or the lucky ones are now in the WWF and propped up the second tier during a record year. And now, when the most important thing is re-creating that foundation, will he have the economic backing to do so? And will new fans, whose rapidly changing tastes in wrestling and increase boredom due to overexposure with even what would have been considered a great wrestling product one year ago, give it a chance when all signs point to a downward cycle. Far more than little ways, or big ways, to improve Nitro, or changing booking or even giving young guys a chance or even lucking out and finding a Rock somewhere, that is the big question facing Bischoff. Ultimately, much of the excitement of a business that seems to thrive best when there is real competition, is depending upon a surprise answer.

In something of a major surprise, New Japan announced on 12/20 that Riki Choshu would wrestle Shinya Hashimoto in a no time limit match on the 1/4 Tokyo Dome show.

While this would indicate and make virtually everyone believe that the Hashimoto firing was a total worked angle to build up to the Dome, some are not certain. Apparently the match-up is the brainchild of Antonio Inoki, who right now appears once again, because of the success of the Pride shows based on his input to matchmaking by using pro wrestling angles to build, to be the most powerful individual in the Japanese scene as he's able to mix and match pro wrestling and shooting, as well as use existing problems to create shoot angles. It was Inoki's suggestion for Choshu to come out of retirement for big shows this year, and that Hashimoto would make his best drawing opponent.

The original Dome plan, which was going to be announced this week, was for Choshu & Manabu Nakanishi to face Keiji Muto & Nobuhiko Takada in a tag team match. Takada had never agreed to the match. They have also changed the Jushin Liger vs. Shinjiro Otani singles match to a tag as Muto & Otani vs. Nakanishi & Liger.

This is where the politics really get tricky. The New Japan vs. All Japan feud, which just started, and could generate a lot of interest in Toshiaki Kawada going through the New Japan top stars, is now in jeopardy because Motoko Baba was assured that Hashimoto working with NOAH was not a New Japan angle but he was really fired. Whether it started off as a shoot and became an angle (and I'd tend right now to believe the opposite, that it was always an angle since it ended up as the very next Dome main event), it clearly is an angle now with Hashimoto working for NOAH, All Japan's arch-rival. Perhaps New Japan feels the potential for business is greater with NOAH, which it is since All Japan only has Kawada while NOAH has many different potential headliners. One would suspect interpromotional business dealings would be easier with a different company because of the problems of dealing with Baba. But this match, combined with the IWGP tournament featuring Kawada, does make the traditional second biggest show of the year in pro wrestling (behind Wrestlemania) into a hot line-up.

WCW finished its most trying year ever in the PPV market with "the granddaddy of them all," Starrcade 2000, the 18th version of the first attempt in many years to produce a live wrestling event in more than one venue.

Starrcade, first established on Thanksgiving night of 1983 at the Greensboro Coliseum, has had more ups and downs than any singular name of a show in history. What was, in its debut, considered one of the great shows in wrestling history grew into an institution in Greensboro, and many blame the death of the hot Greensboro market in 1988 largely on having Starrcade moved to Chicago, a bigger name city, that year. After Vince McMahon established the Survivor Series as the new Thanksgiving tradition in 1987, Starrcade moved to December, usually held on the Sunday after Christmas. It wasn't until 1992, when the company was down, that the Starrcade name couldn't be counted on to drop a strong buy rate. By 1993, when the company was at a low point, in many ways lower than it is even today (except not on PPV) the Starrcade match with Ric Flair putting up his career against the title held by Vader, ushered in a new enthusiasm for the product and the company's biggest gate of a paltry year. By 1995, the buy rate hit a new low for a show built around Flair again chasing and winning the title, this time from Randy Savage, and stellar undercard matches featuring wrestlers from New Japan who were given very little promotional build-up before their appearance, although the consensus was that Shinjiro Otani and Eddy Guerrero stole the show. Starrcade rebounded in 1996 with the marquee value of Hulk Hogan vs. Roddy Piper, and in 1997, drew what at the time was the company's largest live gate in history ($543,000 to the MCI Center) and its most PPV buys in history, topping 640,000--at the time the largest ever for a non-Wrestlemania show, for a Hulk Hogan vs. Sting match that was promoted for much of a full year. The gate record has been broken many times since, but the PPV record was only approached once, for the gimmick match involving Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone.

Three years is a lifetime in pro wrestling. The company on top of the world is anything but there today. A crowd of 6,596 came to the MCI Center, of which 3,465 paid $157,380 for the show on 12/17.

The show itself was better than most of the WCW PPV events this year. Kind of a mixed bag overall. The crowd started off wanting to hate the opener, but the work was so strong they couldn't. Somewhere in the middle, between the multitude of swerves that all looked the same, dead matches, and use of weapons that by late in the show had the crowd numbed, it was looking bad. But a strong tag title match and a main event that was far better than anyone had the right to expect ended it on a good note.

In bringing up history, the irony was, Tony Schiavone talked about the first Starrcade, where Flair won the NWA title from Harley Race, and talked about how far we've come since then before the tag title match. For anyone who actually remembers that show, it was not exactly the kind of comparison that would have been smart to bring up. Kind of like a Bengals announcer saying "look how far we've come since that Super Bowl year." In their attention to detail department, they said that Sid Vicious, who wrestled Scott Steiner in the main event, was having his first match since the spring, forgetting he had what was sort of a match just a few days earlier on Thunder, and had what absolutely was a match a week earlier at a house show.

1. Three Count (Shannon Moore & Shane Helms) won a three-way ladder match over Jung Dragons (Kazuhiro Hayashi & Yun Yang) and Jamie Knoble (Jamie Howard) & Evan Karagias (Evan Kavagias) in 13:51. This must have set the all-time record for numbers of ladders used in the match. It didn't start out good with Moore and Hayashi badly blowing their first spot, and the crowd less than one minute in starting loud "boring" chants. Chavo Guerrero Jr. did commentary and the announcers did their best, after destroying them for so many years, of trying to get the cruiserweight division over. Gimmick was whomever got the contract would get a title shot the next night. Yang was nearly killed with a messed up flapjack. They did a spot where Knoble & Karagias were arguing, since the idea is they are guys who have a high school grudge and are reluctant partners. They did the big dive series, Yung with a corkscrew, Helms with a running flip dive, Hayashi with Kaz special, Karagias with a springboard plancha and Moore with a top rope Asai moonsault. Knoble was pushed off the top of the ladder in mid-ring and took a bump over the top onto everyone. There was an awesome spot where Hayashi leaped up to the scaffold that Karagias was standing on and power slammed him off the ladder all the way to the ground. Moore did a famouser off the ladder on Karagias. Helms did a neckbreaker off the ladder on Knoble. Knoble power bombed Helms off the ladder. Moore clotheslined Yang off the near top of the ladder. The Dragons set up a scaffold like structure using three ladders. Moore did a head scissors on Karagias off a ladder. Match had a ton of innovative spots and big bumps. These guys deserve all kind of credit for putting this one together and hopefully they'll get their due from whomever is running the company. Bout had a strange finish where Moore and Helms were on top and won together, each holding the contract. ****

2. Lance Storm (Lance Evers) pinned Cat (Ernest Miller) in 7:24. The gimmick was that Jim Duggan wanted to be a face, but Storm told him the only reason he still had a job was because of the Team Canada gimmick and when he leaves, he'll be unemployed. Ms. Jones has the most charisma of any of the women left in this company. Cat at one point his Storm with a bottle. Ms. Jones high kicked ref Mark Johnson. Major Gunns did her decent dropkick to Jones. Finally Duggan came out with his 2x4 to a very big face pop. Duggan ran in to save Storm, changed his mind, put down the 2x4, then clotheslined Cat, who rolled over into Storm's maple leaf finisher. Cat actually tapped before Storm even got the hold on. To make things even more confusing, Storm & Elix Skipper attacked Duggan after the match, and guess who made the save? Cat. *3/4

3. Terry Funk, at age 56, won the hardcore title from Crowbar (Chris Ford) in 10:21. Typical backstage weapons match. Probably due to Funk knowing what to do and when, it seemed a cut above the usual overdone backstage brawl. The announcers talked about Crowbar as a kid seeing the Flair vs. Funk match from the New York Knockout TV show, which was one of the hundred or so retirement matches Funk has had in his career. They brawled inside a truck and Crowbar took a bump out of the truck through a table. They traded slamming a door on each others' head. Funk slammed it on Crowbar's head five times. Then, borrowing the controversial spot in the Rock vs. Mick Foley match featured in "Beyond the Mat," Funk handcuffed Crowbar and started hitting him with chair shots. The shots weren't as brutal as the ones Rock delivered, and Funk paced them better (only delivering three at first, later two more). Crowbar came back with two chair shots to the head. Crowbar did a pescado onto a table for a near fall. Funk ended up winning with a chair to the head followed by a piledriver on a car door. **3/4

4. Who knows who won with Kronik (Brian Adams & Bryan Clark) vs. Big Vito (Vito LoGrasso) & Reno (Rick Cornell) in that Reno pinned Vito to win the match in 8:18. The whole storyline here is that somebody was paying Kronik to take over Vito & Reno. The announcers brought up Marie, thereby eliminating her. The bookers have to be one step smarter than the predictable story, so it ended up being Reno. However, Adams throughout the match kept chasing Marie looking for the money, even thought he job wasn't done, while Marie denied it. The crowd was totally dead for all of this and it was the second time they had done a swerve on the show and unlike the first time, nobody cared.. After Reno used his roll the dice on Vito and pinned him, he threw the money to Kronik, who weren't even the ones who got the job done, he was the one. DUD

5. Mike Awesome (Mike Alfonso) beat Bam Bam Bigelow (Scott Bigelow) in 8:36 in an ambulance match. Awesome is apparently in the process of dropping the 70s guy gimmick for the "Career killer" gimmick. Bigelow's knees were clearly hurting. Crowd was dead for the match. At one point Bigelow punched his hand through a window and his forearm was cut up. I hope it was gimmicked because after what happened to Goldberg and seeing the cut, while only minor, I just couldn't stop thinking about all the unnecessary injuries due to wrestlers being asked to do dangerous things and how they've hurt company momentum constantly. Loud boring chant. They ended up on the top of the ambulance and Bigelow fell through the roof, supposedly, since we actually never saw it, to lose. *

6. General Rection (Bill DeMott) beat Shane Douglas (Troy Martin) via DQ in 9:48 to retain the U.S. title. Another match which lacked heat. Both guys had small forehead cuts when it was over but the blood wasn't really pushed hard in the call. Rection missed a moonsault and Chavo Guerrero Jr. came out. See if this makes any sense. Chavo grabbed the chain that Douglas had dropped. He threw it to Douglas. Then he told ref Charles Robinson that Douglas had a chain, causing the DQ. Douglas then hit Rection with a chain. Guerrero then saved Rection, but Douglas hit Guerrero with a chain and did the franchiser on Rection. Awall and Cpl. Cajun ran in, with Cajun comforting Guerrero Jr. and Awall comforting Rection. Someone ought to teach the DOR (Disciples of Russo) that angles work only when they are done to mean something. Pro wrestling is not a series of endless angles that are meant to mean nothing except a pop that they usually don't get when presented in this manner. No matter how hard the talent worked, the scripting at this point was killing the show. 3/4*

7. Jeff Jarrett & Ron & Don Harris beat Konnan (Charles Ashenoff) & Rey Misterio Jr. (Oscar Gutierrez) & Billy Kidman (Peter Gruner) in what was billed as a combination street fight and bunkhouse match in 12:32. Actually, based on the rules, the two are the exact same thing. It was an excuse to set up a bunch of gimmicked props like a portable bar, brooms, etc. to be used as weapons. Think about this. Is their anything sillier than putting Misterio Jr. and Kidman in a New Jack style match? After having already seen Crowbar vs. Funk do a weapons match, there was nothing these guys could do and the crowd was bored most of the way except when they shattered the bar putting Jarrett through it. Harris Twins did a good job in believably selling for guys so much smaller than they are. They spent a few minutes getting heat on Kidman as Misterio Jr. was thrown into a dumpster and Konnan was tending to him. This traditional three-on-one-heat led to a big pop for Konnan's comeback. They cut him off almost immediately with an H-bomb, as in the Harris Twins move and not the former drug of choice in the profession. Misterio Jr. made a comeback using a broomstick. Funny seeing people sell for the dreaded broom bristles. They H bombed him through a table. Kidman was on top for the shooting star when one of the Twins broke a bottle over his head and Jarrett pinned him after the stroke. *1/2

Lex Luger attacked Sgt. Dewayne Bruce during an interview. Bagwell did the interviews as did Gene Okerlund throughout the show. Okerlund was actually getting some of the biggest reactions on the shows with his crabby old man lines.

8. Diamond Dallas Page (Page Falkinburg) & Kevin Nash regained the WCW tag titles from Chuck Palumbo & Shawn Stasiak (Shawn Stepich) in 12:05. Ric Flair came out and said that if Mike Sanders takes a step toward the ring and interferes, that the titles will change hands. Of course this meant Sanders would interfere, just not take a step toward the ring while doing so. Fans chanted "We Want Hall" with Nash acknowledging them. Nash also did a "Hey, Yo" after winning the belts, but he didn't mention the guys' name. The game is actually quite funny if the game is for the wrestlers to show insiders how inept the company is. Let's throw temper tantrums and go into business for ourselves on live TV and what's the punishment? The tag team titles. That said, this was the second best match on the show, probably because it was basic tag team wrestling psychology combined with good work. Page and Palumbo in particular looked really good. Although it wasn't obvious to most people or picked up on by almost anyone, Palumbo was told by Nash and perhaps Page to wrestle like Hall with the idea that since they can't mention Hall's name, if it becomes obvious Palumbo is doing Hall's moves (they want him to start doing the edge as a finisher under the guise it'll get heat and get him over, which it will, but more to keep the "We Want Hall" stuff alive to guarantee crowd reaction to the team, and also, figuring Bischoff will bring Hall back, and there is no guarantee that's the case, that Palumbo is set up as a natural feud to come back for the swerve angle where Hall comes back and immediately turns on Nash, who spent months trying to get him back. Can you imagine anything close to this happening in the WWF?). Page sold most of the way, made the babyface hope spots, looked damn good in the process, setting up Nash's hot tag. Crowd was largely into it, except this one guy who was on camera most of the way in the fifth row who was sleeping. Sanders gave Page a low blow and Stasiak hit Nash with a lame belt shot. Page gave the cutter to Sanders and Mark Jindrak. Shawn O'Haire laid Page out. O'Haire went up for the Shawnton bomb on Nash, but Page crotched him. Nash came back with a high kick and power bomb on Palumbo. ***1/4

9. Bill Goldberg pinned Lex Luger (Larry Pfohl) in 7:19. Bagwell and Bruce came out. By this point, the question was which guy was going to turn on Goldberg. Luger pulled out Knux and hit Bruce and Goldberg with them, but Goldberg kicked out of the pin. Bagwell did the blockbuster on Goldberg, theoretically by accident. Luger went for the rack, but Goldberg blocked it. Bagwell then attacked Bruce, while Goldberg hit the spear and jackhammer for the pin. After the match, Bagwell hit Goldberg with several chair shots. Goldberg was fine a few seconds later. A lot better than their match last month. **

10. Scott Steiner (Scott Rechsteiner) beat Sid Vicious (Sid Eudy) to retain the WCW title in 10:14. One of the few bright spots in the company right now is, moral issues aside, Steiner can be a strong champion to solidify and strengthen the belt. He also carried Vicious to a good match while getting himself over strong at the end. Vicious got out of the recliner twice, once with a rope break and once by powering out. Steiner survived a choke slam and a cobra. Steiner attacked ref Mark Johnson and hit Vicious with several shots with a pipe, but Vicious kicked out. Jarrett came out and went to hit Sid with a guitar, but by this point in the show, everyone knew Steiner was getting it, but Steiner still kicked out. Steiner won with two low blows and the recliner, with the match being stopped by the referee. **1/2

The news wasn't much brighter for ECW on a much smaller scale this past week. Short-term, once again the paychecks didn't come, and a horrible sign was that the 12/15 house show at the former "Madhouse of Extreme," the Elks Lodge in Queens, while it sold out the 800 seats, failed to overflow with standing room as it usually did in the past, with tickets jacked up to $40 and $60. At this point, many of the wrestlers are close to being in a panic. Others were said to not be, since technically paychecks weren't due for this pay period until next week, but they are seven weeks behind. If they don't come by the end of the coming week before Christmas, a lot of people will start to worry, particularly since the idea of this show was to raise needed revenue.

Through a strategic alliance with Farmclub.com on USA Network, there is another attempt to get on the station. But like with WCW, just exposure on the station isn't enough without the right deal. But there comes a point when with no exposure is death, and ECW failing to sellout such a small building in New York City shows just how much the lack of strong TV has created lack of hope among the fan base even coming off a strong in-ring PPV effort. As each week goes by, the ECW name and franchise diminishes in value.

Of the usual crew, almost everyone worked the show except Super Crazy, who was working in Puerto Rico, New Jack, who was there even though he was told not to come and ended up in an altercation, and Chris Hamrick.

ECW was built on starting something and slowly building this tiny organization into something that could flourish as a cult favorite nationwide. While there was perceived growth, and at times, a spectacular product, the momentum gained. While Paul Heyman insists the company will not go under, the clock is ticking. Even with the economic problems, virtually the entire crew worked the show. For most, there are simply no alternatives if they want to stay in the business at this level of fame. The few that do have options are finding out just what a difficult market this is for wrestlers.

The show itself got a mixed reaction. Actually most fans enjoyed the show as an entertaining night, but a lot of what was planned to happen didn't and many were upset regarding the Dudleys not selling anything for the ECW guys, in particular Buh Buh not putting over the C.W. Anderson left hand which they push on television. The show was built around the return of the Dudleys, who worked the main event teaming with Tommy Dreamer over Simon Diamond & Swinger & Anderson and were clearly the stars of the show by leaps and bounds over the regulars. It was built from the recent small angle where Diamond's trio has worked a program with the Dudleys' former manager Joel Gertner. Early in the show, Joey Styles and Joel Gertner did an interview with Christian York and Joey Matthews. Matthews had his arm in a sling selling the "injury" from the PPV show against Diamond & Swinger. The whole group, including manager Dawn Marie, jumped them, leaving Dreamer to make the save. Dreamer bumped all of them at first and went after Dawn Marie, but ultimately was cut off when Anderson took him out with a spinebuster. The Dudleys made the ultimate save doing the wazzup spot on Diamond, which got a gigantic pop. The show later featured a surprise appearance of Tazz. Earlier in the day, the deal must have been finalized as the ECW announced on its web site a surprise star coming. In the tag title match with Danny Doring & Roadkill, two proteges of Tazz at the old ECW House of Hardcore, in their match with Da Baldies, as heel ref Danny Daniels tried to screw Doring & Roadkill out of the belts, Tazz choked him out and they won with their buggy bang finisher. Tazz tried to give them a rub afterwards and apparently did a great job with the interview, doing his old catch phrase with a twist, "Beat them if you can, survive if they let you." Tazz also spoke about the night Doring's mother died and people in the audience were visibly crying.

The rest of the show was typical ECW fare. Jerry Lynn beat York in possibly the best match on the show. Lynn was full-fledged heel with Cyrus, with fans chanting "You sold out" at him. The problem, and this was noted in both this match and Sandman vs. Corino, was that after five minutes, the crowd reaction started dying. Justin Credible beat Kid Kash, and afterwards did a major tease of a break-up with Francine, but they hugged when it was all over. That match was well below par since Kash suffered some broken ribs a few minutes into the match and couldn't do much from there. Rhino beat Spike Dudley again in a TV title match, said to be a better match than their PPV match. FBI beat Mikey Whipwreck & Yoshihiro Tajiri in what was also a good match, better than both of the PPV matches, but the finish is going to be hard to air on television. The planned finish was Guido using the Maritato on a chair. He did the move, but for whatever reason, there was no chair. The ref, thinking it wasn't the finish because there was no chair, held up his three count, and then came down realizing it was the end. In the match set up on PPV, Steve Corino defended the title against Sandman in a last call match, which is a the same as the last man standing gimmick WWF did with the ten count knockout rule. It finished with the old Texas death match finish where both men are knocked out at the same time and the first man to his feet wins. Of course Sandman was about to get up when the ref was distracted, allowing Jack Victory to interfere and Sandman went back down. Fans hated this finish. Credible caned Corino after the match. The idea was that Sandman was supposed to grab the title belt and leave to probably set up the PPV match, but he forget to grab the belt. Sandman and Dreamer are the only remaining key members of the team that actually built the company and no matter how many times he's beaten, with Van Dam gone, he almost always gets the biggest pop on the show. His reaction still blows away anyone of the regulars in the company.

This all led to the Dudleys & Dreamer beating Diamond & Anderson & Swinger on top with a 3-D on Swinger. Match was said to be a lot more comedy than in most ECW main events, with Buh Buh even pulling out his old dancing spots and doing tons of mic work for his homecoming of sorts. For the crowd it was entertaining, but it wouldn't be good for the promotion to air the match based on reports because the Dudleys sold so little for the heels, who were supposed to get a rub from this match to be elevated, and instead came across as stooge jobbers for the Dudleys. Buh Buh power bombed Dawn Marie through a table. Earlier in the match, he also nearly got into it with a fan who held up a negative sign about him in the balcony. Dreamer, the Dudleys, Heyman and even Sandman came out to thank the crowd at the end.



The voting for the 2000 Wrestling Observer Newsletter award will remain open through January 4, 2001 and the awards will come out in the issue dated January 15. I'd suggest if you are mailing, to send all ballots by 12/30 at the latest to insure inclusion. If you are faxing or e-mailing them, do so by midnight on the 4th as tabulation will begin the next morning. Every year we get dozens of ballots in the mail or by fax in the days after the deadline that don't end up being counted and I don't think anyone is going to take us to court and try and change the deadlines in a close race. I know that most people who do these awards work very hard and it's a shame if the votes aren't counted by not being mailed on time. The votes are best on December 1, 1999 through November 30, 2000, so anything before or after those dates shouldn't be considered in the balloting. A more detailed breakdown of the criteria for the various categories is in the 11/27 issue.
















































The annual Japanese Sports Media awards for pro wrestling were voted on 12/18 and from a tradition standpoint, the pick as Most Valuable Player (Wrestler of the Year) would have to be a surprise. The surprise is that Kazushi Sakuraba won the award, not that he didn't deserve it.

It breaks tradition in two ways. First, at about 180-193 pounds, depending on which fight you are talking about, Sakuraba is a junior heavyweight sized wrestler. No junior heavyweight in history, not Jushin Liger or even Tiger Mask were ever given serious consideration for MVP awards. Satoru Sayama in many ways was one of the most influential wrestlers in history because of opening the door to pro wrestling in Japan, which years later spread to the United States, for wrestlers in the 170-pound weight category as well as his strong influences on later styles. Second, many wouldn't even consider Sakuraba as a pro wrestler, and clearly it was nothing in that one would call traditional pro wrestling that won him the award.

Sakuraba got the award for his win over Royce Gracie on 5/1 at the Tokyo Dome in their 90:00 classic, as well as other wins over big names such as Guy Mezger (in a controversial decision), Renzo Gracie and showing so much heart in coming back the same night as the Gracie match and being competitive while giving away close to 50 pounds in losing to Igor Vovchanchyn.

The idea that a pro wrestler clearly established himself as the biggest star in the world of mixed martial arts in a match that no doubt will become legendary in the history of two different industries is a strong point in his favor. In my mind, the award came down to only two candidates, Sakuraba and Toshiaki Kawada. Without question, Kawada saved All Japan, which would not exist without him. While Pride would be nowhere near as over in Japan without Sakuraba's wins establishing the groups shows as arguably the biggest shows of the year to a pro wrestling audience based on TV ratings, even if it isn't traditional pro wrestling, it is doubtful he alone made the difference in the organization surviving. Still, the argument has always favored the successful players on the successful teams in MVP voting, and while Kawada saved a failing team, Sakuraba was the backbone of a group that had struggled a lot to draw until late 1999, but became hot all through 2000. In addition, Kawada was the winner in the biggest ticket selling pro wrestling match of the year in his 10/9 match with Kensuke Sasaki, which was voted Match of the Year. I'm not sure if Kawada for that reason wasn't more valuable than Sakuraba, even if you accept Sakuraba as being eligible for such an award. There is something of a precedent in shoots being eligible for awards as people in Pancrase when it first started out and was the hot new deal in pro wrestling, there were Pancrase wrestlers that won awards such as Yuki Kondo winning Rookie of the Year in 1996 for knocking out Frank Shamrock, and Kazuyuki Fujita and Sanae Kikuta got votes in different categories and two shoot matches were considered for Match of the Year. There is a difference because Pancrase was totally marketed as pro wrestling, and its stars all came from pro wrestling in the first generation as it was pro wrestlers doing generally shoot matches (not all, but most), whereas the second generation of Pancrase now is comprised mainly of people who never did pro wrestling first. Pride's headliners, like Sakuraba, Naoya Ogawa and Nobuhiko Takada are all pro wrestlers, but Pride itself never claimed to be or billed itself under the category of pro wrestling, but instead as Vale Tudo fighting, even though it recognizes as a company its audience is drawn mainly from pro wrestling fans who support the wrestlers in shoot and occasional worked shoot matches.

Sakuraba received 15 of the 22 votes, with Kawada receiving three, Genichiro Tenryu receiving two and Sasaki receiving two.

As for the Match of the Year, while it was probably not the best match of the year, because of the aura surrounding the match, and the fact it was an excellent match, the venue and the crowd, it seemed to me a given that it was going to win. The match got ten votes in the first ballot, while the Sakuraba vs. Royce Gracie match got seven, the 4/7 Shinya Hashimoto vs. Naoya Ogawa match got three and Gilbert Yvel vs. Kiyoshi Tamura on 4/20 in Tokyo and Yuji Nagata vs. Takashi Iizuka on 8/9 in Hiroshima as part of the G-1 tournament each got a vote. In the run-off, Sasaki vs. Kawada beat out Sakuraba vs. Gracie by a 15-7 vote. Guys with Toryumon were putting on better matches at spot shows) than many of these, but they seemed to pick realistic matches that were either real, or were worked shoots with heat. Ogawa vs. Hashimoto, because of the heat, interest and impact (and drawing a peak 24.0 rating speaks loudly and clearly) would have likely won before this match stole its thunder.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima were voted Tag team of the year in a very weak year first getting 11 votes to five for Yoshihiro Takayama & Takao Omori and one for Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi. Generally speaking in the Observer balloting, Japanese teams, and usually All Japan teams, are dominant because of their quality of matches. With All Japan split up and NOAH's only real pushed tag team being Takayama & Omori, it has totally opened the door when it comes to awards for WWF teams, which this year are probably the most deserving. My pick would have been Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka, but they had the junior heavyweight bias thing going against them. It ended with Tenzan & Kojima winning a third playoff over Takayama & Omori by a 13-9 vote.

Kawada was named Most Outstanding, probably as a consolation prize for not getting the MVP award. There are a lot of great in-ring workers in Japan, although most of the best are junior heavyweights who have that bias going against them in these awards. Of the heavyweights, probably Kawada and Jun Akiyama were the strongest picks, and Akiyama was given the Fighting Spirit award, basically hardest worker, probably in the same way as a consolation.

In a strange one, Fujita, who didn't do any traditional pro wrestling after the early part of the year (his biggest match was on the 1/4 Tokyo Dome against Kimo), but did three shoot matches, winning over Hanse Nyman, Mark Kerr and Ken Shamrock, nearly won the award, as in the first ballot he got seven votes to four for Kawada and Tenryu and two for Nagata. However, in a third runoff, Kawada won 13-9 over Fujita. I can't come up with any explanation as to why Fujita was even considered. Anyone watching can see his only claim to fame is that he happened to be in the ring when both Kerr and Shamrock had their bodies short-circuit on them and couldn't function, and the only positive thing is he took a ton of punishment from both before they died and he was left standing.

Takashi Iizuka was named Best Technical Wrestler. While his gimmick is the submissions on the ground, I'd have gone with Yuji Nagata on that one. Nagata actually got seven first round votes to four for Iizuka, three for Minoru Tanaka (actually a better pick but he has the junior heavyweight bias against him), two of Fujita and Sanae Kikuta (Pancrase) and one for Masahiro Chono, Naomichi Marufuji (NOAH prelim wrestler), Koji Kanemoto and Sakuraba. However in the runoff, Iizuka beat Nagata 12-10.

Takeshi Rikioh and Kenzo Suzuki tied 11-11 for Rookie of the Year. Suzuki of New Japan is terrible, even for a rookie. Rikioh of Pro Wrestling NOAH is at least decent. There are probably many independent wrestlers starting out who are better picks, but the awards are tradition based and smaller companies with their limited exposure, especially to the veteran reports who pick these things, aren't going to get strong consideration. As far as the match picks, Rikioh would be my choice. Takehiro Murahama of Osaka Pro Wrestling, who is actually a far better pick but he's handicapped by being from a smaller company, also received consideration with four votes.

Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda were named Most Valuable women, for working on top as a tag team on big shows of so many different promotions, beating Chigusa Nagayo & Lioness Asuka as the Crush Gals by a 15-5 vote.

Also honored in Special Prizes, which are basically equivalent to lifetime achievement awards, were retiring New Japan wrestler Kuniaki Kobayashi, retiring All Japan legend Stan Hansen, retiring Pancrase star Masakatsu Funaki and the late Jumbo Tsuruta. They also gave awards to three amateur wrestlers, Katsuhiko Nagata, Yuji's brother, who won the Olympic silver medal in Greco-roman, and women world champions Seiko Yamamoto and Hitomi Sakamoto.

New Japan ran its second PPV show on 12/14 before a sellout 6,700 fans at the Osaka Furitsu Gym, which included announcing the bracketing for the IWGP heavyweight title tournament.

The report we got was the show was a thumbs up show, and an improvement over the company's first PPV held on 8/30. We'll probably have more on the show in next week's issue after seeing a tape.

The tournament bracketing was announced at the beginning of the show. The top half of the bracket has Satoshi Kojima vs. Kensuke Sasaki, with the winner of that match going to the semifinals against Masahiro Chono. The bottom half has Yuji Nagata vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, with the winner of that going to the semifinals against Toshiaki Kawada. One would expect Chono vs. Sasaki and Kawada vs. maybe Nagata (since they worked together in the tag match on PPV without a finish). Kawada has to go to the finals. I'd book it as Kawada going over Sasaki again, but only if All Japan and New Japan are completely on the same page for the next year. If All Japan still is under the impression they can survive on their own without New Japan's help, it wouldn't be wise putting their world title on Kawada. It would make the 1/28 All Japan Dome show a big deal if you have title vs. title (IWGP champ Kawada vs. Triple Crown champ Tenryu) for the first time in history a the main event.

The show opened with interviews with Tatsumi Fujinami and Koji Kanemoto building up their match. Kanemoto said that when he was a child, Fujinami was his favorite wrestler. Kawada & Masa Fuchi did an interview about the main event, followed by an interview with Nagata and Takashi Iizuka.

In the opener, Super Strong Machine (Junji Hirata) & Kensuke Sasaki beat Masahiro Chono & Team 2000 Machine (Tatsutoshi Goto). Both teams went after the mask of their opposing teammate. Match ended with Sasaki giving 2000 Machine a lariat and SS Machine pinned him after a diving head-butt. Yutaka Yoshie upset Tenzan with his version of a reverse figure four leglock for the submission. Michiyoshi Ohara, needing reclamation after his six second loss four days earlier at the TV taping in Nagoya, pinned Kendo Ka Shin after a choke slam in just 3:17. Kojima pinned Kenzo Suzuki after a clothesline. In an interpromotional match, the New Japan trio of Jushin Liger & Minoru Tanaka & Shinya Makabe won over the Osaka Pro Wrestling trio of Super Delfin & Tsubasa & Takehiro Murahama in 16:46 when Tanaka made Tsubasa submit to an armbar in what was written up as a good match. Manabu Nakanishi beat Osamu Nishimura with the torture rack. Fujinami beat Kanemoto with a figure four leglock in 4:38. New Japan is just killing the junior heavyweights in not only jobbing to mediocre heavyweights, but doing it so quickly. After the match, Fujinami started yelling at TV announcer Kengo Kimura and challenged him to wrestle him. Fujinami and Kimura were tag team partners, and later had a short feud in the 80s. Main event was an interpromotional match where Kawada & Fuchi going to a 30:00 draw against Iizuka & Nagata. Both guys did a lot of near falls and near submissions in the main event, which was said to be the best match on the show. One would suspect the hot spots with Kawada and Nagata in the main event will build for the two of them to wrestle in the semifinal of the IWGP tournament, particularly with the match ending without a finish.

EMLL ran its third PPV as part of its annual year-end Arena Mexico spectacular on 12/15. At this point we only have sketchy reports on the show and there was no newspaper report on the attendance. It definitely wasn't a sellout and it appears Aguayo has done so many retirements that he's now being regarded like Terry Funk and even the local newspapers ripped on the quality of his main event match with Cien Caras.

1. Ricky Marvin & Sombra de Plata defeated Alan Stone & Chris Stone (formerly Moto Cross) in 18:29. In the third fall, Marvin pinned Chris Stone with La Magistral cradle. Apparently this was a really good match.

2. Violencia & Bestia Salvaje & Fuerza Guerrera beat Tony Rivera & Felino & Safari in about 21:15. The match seemingly built up a program with Guerrera against Felino, since both the second and third falls had the same finish with Guerrera pinning him after low kicks. Said to be slightly better than average.

3. Los Villanos III & IV & V won over Dr. Wagner Jr. & Blue Panther & Black Warrior in 22:34 with a clean third fall finish as V-4 used a submission called "cerrajera" on Wagner. Black Warrior debuted a new mask, which was a half Blue Panther mask and half Dr. Wagner mask.

4. Atlantis & Mr. Niebla & El Satanico beat Emilio Charles Jr. & Tarzan Boy & Shocker via DQ in the parejas increibles match, which means teammates that usually don't get along. Shocker's team worked as the rudos since the fans hate Tarzan Boy, and since Charles turned on Niebla at Arena Mexico a few weeks ago. Third fall saw Tarzan Boy get caught by the ref delivering a low blow. Total old-time psychology of having the heel go over twice in the second match and getting caught later in the card. Much of the match seemed paired off, Tarzan vs. Satanico, Niebla vs. Shocker and Atlantis vs. Charles. Also said to be slightly better than average.

5. Rey Bucanero & Ultimo Guerrero retained the CMLL tag titles over El Hijo del Santo & Negro Casas in 25:38. The big spot was actually before the match, when Bucanero & Guerrero chose Tarzan Boy instead of normal partner Satanico to be their second. The heels won clean in the third fall when Bucanero pinned Casas while Guerrero pinned Santo after his reverse superplex which is a huge win to get over the tag champs. Said to be really good

6. Perro Aguayo beat Cien Caras in the battle of ancient veterans in a hair vs. hair match in 8:26. Match was described as very heated, since people in Mexico love Aguayo, but with both men well into their 50s, very little action. Actually a magazine review rated it pretty much terrible. Neither man left their feet. Universo 2000 tried to interfere by Rayo de Jalisco Jr. made the save, and once again with the same finish, Aguayo used a low blow while one ref was distracted and legendary face ref Roberto Rangel simply ignored the foul to cost Caras his hair for the first time in probably six or seven years. In a surprise, Pierroth Jr. showed up at the finish, in a wheelchair. He's been hospitalized for a terrible stomach infection, but said he would be coming back and challenged Aguayo to a hair vs. hair match at the next PPV called "Spring Havoc." Aguayo had said that win or lose, this would be his last match at Arena Mexico. By this point, nobody should believe he'll ever retire.

UFC is going to have an interesting time on 12/22 making a PPV show out of the matches that took place on 12/16.

In what was reported as the best UFC show ever in Japan, which as high praise as it sounds, the entire show contained only 35 minutes of fighting, with numerous surprising quick finishes before a sellout of 1,414 fans at Differ Ariake in Tokyo.

We only have sketchy reports on the show which will aired in edited form on 12/18 in Japan on TV Tokyo, and will air unedited on Japanese PPV on 1/7. Kind of weird to have the best stuff on free TV first, and then a few weeks later trying to get people to buy it on PPV.

It was a bad night for the Japanese and the Pancrase organization. The top four matches on the show pitted the traditional Japanese vs. foreigner match-up, all four matches going quickly to the foreigners. In particular, Yuki Kondo, the top star from Pancrase, submitted quickly in the main event when challenging UFC middleweight champion Tito Ortiz. There was a lot of controversy beforehand about weight. The claim was that Ortiz weighed in at 199 on a gimmicked scale which weighed people four kilograms (nearly nine pounds) under and that Ortiz really weighed 207. Basically the reports from the Japanese side claimed Ortiz brought a gimmicked scale in and from the American side that he simply weighed 199 at the weigh-in. Either way, he went into the cage after rehydrating himself with a good 25 pounds on Kondo, who weighted 193, which was going to play a major factor in the fight, either in power early on, or against Ortiz in stamina if it went long because of the physical stress on the body in cutting and replenishing. This was bad for the organization when its top shooter didn't last long going against a guy from outside the organization. Pancrase allowed Kondo to fight Ortiz, which was first scheduled for September, with the belief that Kondo could beat him, since Frank Shamrock did, and probably the only way he would lose would be via decision in a competitive fight and it was worth taking the risk because if he won, he would become the first Japanese fighter ever to gain a UFC world title.

1. Chuck Liddell beat Jeff Monson via unanimous decision over three rounds (15:00). Monson, the superior wrestler of the two, was unable to take Liddell down. Liddell is one of those fighters who doesn't stand out of a crowd, but is very difficult to beat because he's a very good kickboxer and wrestled in college, thus has good enough balance to avoid being taken down by people his own size.

2. In a huge upset, Dennis Hallman beat Matt Hughes with an armbar in 20 seconds even though Hallman has beaten him before. Hughes, who many feel is right at the top of the rankings in the 170-pound weight class, was going for revenge with Hallman, who weighs less than 160. Early in Hughes' career when he had never lost, Hallman upset him with a guillotine choke in just 17 seconds.

3. Evan Tanner returned beating Lance Gibson in 4:48 when the referee stopped the fight with Tanner pounding him from the mount. Tanner did a number on Gibson.

4. Fabiano Iha beat Daijyu Takase in 2:24 via referee stoppage in a one-sided bout by pounding him with punches.

5. 2000 Olympic silver medalist in Greco-roman wrestling, Matt Lindland, made his UFC debut and apparently looked like a major star by taking down, mounting and pounding pro wrestler Yoji Anjyo into defeat in just 2:58.

6. Pat Miletich retained the UFC lightweight title beating former pro wrestler Kenichi Yamamoto in 6:58 with a front choke. Reports were that Yamamoto didn't look good in this match. Miletich was reported as having broken his ankle in the match, however.

7. Ortiz tapped out Kondo to retain the middleweight (199.9 and under) title in 1:52. Kondo got a few punches and a strong knee in before being taken down, and submitted with a neck lock from the side mount. Although the odds were strong that this match would never happen to begin with, but this pretty well kills any potential marketability of Kondo gaining revenge for teacher Masakatsu Funaki for a stadium match with Rickson Gracie this year.

Current plans for UFC are to run a U.S. show in February and return to Japan in March. It's going to be tough to find a main event for February, since heavyweight champ Randy Couture will be competing in the RINGS tournament so he likely won't want to risk doing UFC. If Miletich was injured, he's out of the picture, plus he's really not a main eventer. Frank Shamrock was at the show, having stayed in Japan since his fight last week, saying that he wanted to return to UFC although it isn't believed he's agreed to return.

Going against a strong football game, wrestling viewership fell to 7.55 million on 12/18, the lowest figure in many years. At the peak of wrestling's popularity, on a strong night, as many as 12 million people combined were watching both Raw and Nitro.

The new low figure was based on both companies drawing numbers at near record lows. Raw's 4.76 rating (4.36 first hour; 5.11 second hour) and 7.0 share was the lowest for the show in its regular time slot since 1988. Nitro's 2.26 rating (2.51 first hour; 2.01 second hour) and 3.2 share barely beat out the 7/3 show (2.24) as the lowest rated Nitro in its regular time slot in five years. That number, coming off the preemption, is even worse news since Nitro has two more consecutive weeks of preemptions. Monday Night Football drew a strong 15.18 rating and 25.6 share against both shows, which may account for some of the record low numbers.

Raw peaked at a 5.36 rating for the proposed McMahon vs. Angle title match, which never took place, and instead was the storyline ambush to write Foley out and build up his feud with McMahon. Its other big quarters which were unopposed were 5.27 for Rock & Undertaker beating Edge & Christian for the tag titles and 5.17 for Austin vs. Regal. The numbers have to be a huge disappointment more for the WWF than WCW. WCW has nothing going and nobody is fooling themselves into believing anything different. WWF is coming off a strong number last week when it had the night to itself, and proclaiming the big number as the sign that the return of Vince to television and the new soap opera with him was a huge hit. This week, the sign seems to be that the rating increase was due only to Nitro being pre-empted, since they came back with such a low number after building TV around Vince for three weeks. If there is a problem, it may be too much soap opera for the tastes of the viewing public in their wrestling show, since most of the reaction to the shows has been good, but the reaction that has been negative is all in the direction of too much talking, and this show, like has been the case of late, opened with a long interview segment (25 minutes) and finished again without a main event match for the third straight week.

The Nitro main event of Storm vs. Jarrett to determine one of the three-men in the Syn main event drew a 2.06 rating, which is only slightly below the company's recent main event average.

Head-to-head numbers saw Raw at 3.98 (Vince & Stephanie interview) to 2.06 (Awesome vs. Jarrett); Raw at 4.71 (Interview continues adding Foley and Angle; beginning of Benoit vs. Jeff Hardy) to 1.87 (Wright vs. Cat); Raw at 4.23 (ending of Benoit vs. Jeff; tons of backstage byplay with Angle, Vince, Foley, Edge & Christian & Debra) to 2.06 (Sanders killing time talking until Flair comes out) and finally Raw at 4.51 (Dudleys & Gunn vs. RTC) to 2.06 (Goldberg vs. Bagwell; Storm vs. Jarrett).

Smackdown on 12/14 did a solid 4.88 rating and 7.6 share, finishing third among all shows in its time slot behind NBC and ABC. With it doing a 5.61 realistic number, it's pretty clear that part of the reason for Raw's decline is because Smackdown is replacing it as the main show of the week in the eyes of the slight majority of fans.

Thunder on 12/13 did a 2.22 rating and 3.1 share, which is about in its normal range.

Other weekend numbers saw Live Wire at 1.1, Superstars at 1.1, and the struggling Heat show on MTV did a 1.81 rating and 2.8 share.

Nitro on 12/12 drew a 1.71 rating (1.49 first hour; 1.93 second hour) and a 2.5 share, which would be the lowest rated Nitro in history. Funny thing is that the main event and post-match with Steiner vs. Awall and Steiner's brawl with Sid did a 2.22 quarter, which is a better quarter hour than most of the Monday night main events do. The huge ratings growth of the show as it went on was a positive, if there can be one on a record low show. It can't be overemphasized how badly WCW dropped the ball by never promoting the move of the show to Tuesday, and there is going to be so much momentum lost by the Christmas and New Years pre-emptions. Of course, this show wasn't going against both Raw and football. On 7/17, when Nitro aired on a Tuesday, it did a 2.36 rating, but WCW promoted that change whereas this one nobody knew about.

Thunder on 12/13 drew a 2.19 rating and 3.1 share, basically staying steady between 2.0 and 2.3 the entire two hours.


Traditional Observer PPV poll results based on phone calls, fax messages and e-mails to the Observer as of Tuesday, 12/18.

WCW STARRCADE: Thumbs up 43 (48.9%), Thumbs down 25 (28.4%), In the middle 24 (27.3%). BEST MATCH POLL: Jung Dragon vs. 3 Count vs. Knoble & Karagias 64. WORST MATCH POLL: Kronik vs. Vito & Reno 29, Lex Luger vs. Bill Goldberg 13


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

On Raw and Nitro as a general rule, do you think? a) There is too much talking and not enough wrestling 45.7%; b) Too much wrestling and not enough talking 3.8%; c) Makes no difference as to how much wrestling or talking there is as long as it's good 50.5%

Comparing Raw and Nitro for 12/11 and 12/12, did you think? a) Raw was better 45.2%; b) Nitro was better 16.1%; c) Didn't watch Raw 0.6%; d) Didn't watch Nitro 27.1%; e) Didn't watch Raw or Nitro 11.0%

Who do you think Vince McMahon's new girlfriend will turn out to be? a) Sable 25.4%; b) Tori 24.3%; c) Trish Stratus 16.4%; d) The twins 21.7%; e) Stephanie McMahon 12.2%

What are your thoughts on the McMahon marriage break-up angle? a) Enjoying the angle, Vince is great 45%; b) Vince is great, but it's not my cup of tea 18%; c) Would rather have more wrestling on the show 37%

What did you think of Starrcade? a) Thumbs up 9%; b) Thumbs down 3%; c) Thumbs in the middle 9%; d) Didn't see the show 79%

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12/10 Monroe, LA (WCW - 1,688): Elix Skipper b Corporal Cajun, Three-way for hardcore title: Crowbar won over Big Vito and Reno, Jim Duggan b Sgt. Awall, Cruiserweight title: Chavo Guerrero Jr. b Kwee Wee, Kronik won three-way over Billy Kidman & Rey Misterio Jr. and Mark Jindrak and Shawn O'Haire, Tag titles: Chuck Palumbo & Shawn Stasiak b Diamond Dallas Page & Kevin Nash, Konnan b Jeff Jarrett, WCW title: Scott Steiner b Sid Vicious

12/13 Isehara (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 1,800): Daisuke Ikeda b Kenta Kobayashi, Masashi Aoyagi b Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Satoru Asako & Jun Izumida & Haruka Eigen b Makoto Hashi & Rusher Kimura & Mitsuo Momota, Akira Taue b Takeshi Morishima, Masao Inoue & Tamon Honda b Kentaro Shiga & Jun Akiyama, Yoshihiro Takayama & Takao Omori b Vader & Too Cold Scorpio, Kenta Kobashi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Takeshi Rikioh b Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa & Naomichi Marufuji

12/14 Cuernavaca (EMLL): Sakura & Coreano b Mr. Cosmos & Astro Boy, Brazo de Platino & Bestie Negra I b Mr. Tempest & Starman, El Satanico & Crazy 33 b Astro Rey Jr. & Zapatista, Perro Aguayo & El Hijo del Santo b Cien Caras & Blue Panther

12/15 Queens, NY (ECW - 800 sellout): Chilly Willy b Mike Bell, Michael Shane b Bilvis Wesley, Nova & Balls Mahoney b Julio Dinero & E.Z. Money, Jerry Lynn b Christian York, Justin Credible b Kid Kash, ECW tag titles: Danny Doring & Roadkill b Baldies, TV title: Rhino b Spike Dudley, FBI b Mikey Whipwreck & Yoshihiro Tajiri, ECW title last man standing: Steve Corino b Sandman, Dudleys & Tommy Dreamer b Simon Diamond & Swinger & C.W. Anderson

12/15 Niigata (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 3,100): Tamon Honda b Makoto Hashi, Daisuke Ikeda & Mitsuo Momota & Rusher Kimura b Satoru Asako & Masao Inoue & Haruka Eigen, Masashi Aoyagi b Naomichi Marufuji, Takeshi Rikioh b Takeshi Morishima, Takao Omori & Yoshihiro Takayama b Jun Izumida & Akira Taue, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Kentaro Shiga & Jun Akiyama b Kenta Kobayashi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Kenta Kobashi, Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa b Too Cold Scorpio & Vader-DQ

12/16 Carolina, PR (WWC): Black Boy & El Rockero b Rico Suave & Richie Santiago, Chris Grant b Bouncer Bruno, Eddie Colon b Bouncer Bob, Joe Don Smith b Titan-DQ , Stacey Colon NC La Tigresa, Invader I b Fidel Sierra, Universal title: Carly Colon b Horace Hogan, Cage match: One Man Gang b El Nene, Curt Hennig b Ray Gonzalez-DQ, El Bronco b Jim Steele-DQ, WWC tag titles: Thunder & Lightning b Barry & Kendall Windham to win titles

12/16 Bayamon, PR (IWA): Rasta Man b Ninjitzu, Huracan Castillo Jr. b Super Medico, Shan Hall b Paparazzi, Hombre Dinamita b Pain, IWA tag titles: Son of Sin b Chicky Starr & Victor the Bodyguard, ECW title: Steve Corino b Glamour Boy Shane-DQ, Miguel Perez b Ricky Banderas-DQ, Yoshihiro Tajiri b Super Crazy, Apolo and Dinamita won elimination match

12/17 Tokyo Bay NK Hall (Shooto World Vale Tudo Open - 6,900 sellout): Alex Cook b Ray Cooper, Tetsuji Kato b Dan Gilbert, Mishima b Marcio Cromado, Nogueira b Bobo Palling, Hayato Sakurai b Frank Trigg, Mamoru b Jin Akimoto, Kaoru Uno b Rumina Sato

12/17 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Gaea - 2,200 sellout): Kaoru b Chigusa Nagayo, Toshie Uematsu & Bloody b Sonoko Kato & Saika Takeuchi, Lioness Asuka & Meiko Satomura b Devil Masami & Toshiyo Yamada, Dynamite Kansai b Sakura Hirota, AAAW tag titles: Mayumi Ozaki & Akira Hokuto b Sugar Sato & Chikayo Nagashima to win titles

12/17 Guayama, PR (IWA): Andres Borges & Shan Hill b Ninjitzu & Paparazzi, Steve Corino b Super Crazy, Faraon Zaruxx won four-way over Eric Alexander, Chicano and Vizago, Hardcore Castillo b Nuevo Gran Apolo, Hombre Dinamita b Pain, Chicky Starr & Victor the Bodyguard b Rastaman & Super Medico, Miguel Perez b Ricky Banderas-DQ, Shane NC Yoshihiro Tajiri

12/18 Greenville, SC (WWF Raw is War - 11,596 sellout): IC title: Chris Benoit b Jeff Hardy, Val Venis & Goodfather & Bull Buchanan b Dudleys & Billy Gunn, Tag titles: Rock & Undertaker b Edge & Christian to win titles, Chris Jericho b Perry Saturn, William Regal b Steve Austin-DQ, Acolytes & Jackie b Test & Albert & Trish Stratus

12/18 Richmond, VA (WCW Nitro - 2,872/2,080 paid): Shane Helms b Shannon Moore, Hardcore title: Terry Funk b Meng, Lance Storm b Rey Misterio Jr., Jeff Jarrett b Mike Awesome, Cat b Alex Wright, Bill Goldberg b Buff Bagwell-DQ, Jarrett b Storm, Cruiserweight title: Chavo Guerrero Jr. b Jamie Knoble, Mark Jindrak & Shawn O'Haire and Chuck Palumbo & Shawn Stasiak co-won tag team Battle Royal, Konnan b Elix Skipper, Meng b Crowbar, Bill Goldberg b Norman Smiley, Shane Douglas & Kronik b General Rection & Corporal Cajun & Sgt. Awall, WCW title: Scott Steiner b Cat

12/19 Charlotte (WWF Smackdown/Heat tapings): Dean Malenko & Terri b Matt Hardy & Lita, Val Venis b K-Kwik, Faarooq b Albert, Dudleys b Lo Down, Womens title: Ivory b Jacqueline, Chris Jericho & Hardys b Malenko & Perry Saturn & Eddy Guerrero, European title: William Regal NC Hardcore Holly, Crash & Molly Holly b Taka Michinoku & Sho Funaki, Hardcore title: Steve Blackman b Raven, Billy Gunn b Steven Richards, WWF tag title: Edge & Christian b Rock & Undertaker to win titles


Special thanks to: Jeff Marek, Bryan Alvarez, Zach Arnold, Beau Hajavitch, Keith Wilcutt, Robert Bihari, Dan Lovranski, Dave Stubbs, Larry Goodman, Melissa Rose, Mike Omansky, Phil Jones, Jeff Beecher, Roberto Figueroa Cardona, Manuel Gonzalez, Ryan McFarland, Kurt Brown, Jose Fernandez, Andy Patrizio, Tadashi Tanaka, Craig Allen, Edward Aponte, Al Gatullo, Eddie Goldman, Jeremy Medeiros, Gene Restaino, Dafydd Denatale, David Lagana, Colin Preistner, Alan Smolek

MEXICO: Ricky Marvin retained the Mexican national lightweight title over Virus in a match that went more than 30:00 on 12/12 at Arena Coliseo in Mexico City. Match will air on 12/26 in the United States on Galavision so it may be worth seeing

IWRG had its awards ceremony this past week. Ultimo Vampiro was named best tecnico, Bombero Infernal the best rudo, Los Villanos the best trio, Mega & Super Mega as the best tag team, Silver King vs. Scorpio Jr. as match of the year and Best new prospect was El Millonario

On the 12/22 Tijuana show, the Misterio Jr. & El Hijo del Santo vs. Damian & Halloween match has changed to Santo & Negro Casas & La Parka vs. Damian & Rey Bucanero & Rey Misterio Sr. Either Rey Jr. didn't want to do it because his knee has been bothering him, or the office wouldn't give him the okay to do the show, probably the latter

Pierroth Jr. must have had huge medical bills from his stomach infection, as they are did a benefit fundraiser for him on 12/18. So weird doing a fundraiser for a main event wrestler, let alone a main event heel

Vampiro met with Paco Alonso during the PPV but didn't go into the arena because he can't handle the noise level.

ALL JAPAN: The line-ups for the January tour except the 1/14 Korakuen Hall show were announced this past week. No matches that really stand out were announced. The biggest show seems to be 1/10 at the smaller Osaka Furitsu Gym, which holds about 1,800, with Toshiaki Kawada & Masa Fuchi & Nobutaka Araya & Shigeo Okumura vs. Taiyo Kea & Mitsuya Nagai & Masahito Kakihara & Mohammed Yone and Genichiro Tenryu & Yuto Aijima vs. Hiroshi Hase & Johnny Smith and the Toryumon trio of Yasushi Kanda & Susumu Mochizuki & Darkness Dragon (?) vs. Psicosis & Halloween & Damian. 1/14 will be a match to determine the vacant Double tag team title, but the teams weren't announced. Interesting that on 1/8 in Niage they have Tenryu & Kawada & Fuchi as the main event trio against Kea & Smith & George Hines, which may be to set up something for the Tenryu vs. Kawada 1/28 Tokyo Dome show.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: Shinya Hashimoto at a press conference on 12/18 said that he wanted to team with Mitsuharu Misawa at the Antonio Inoki New Years Eve show at the Osaka Dome but Misawa indicated he wasn't interested

It appears they are going to call their world title the GHC title, and will be decided in a tournament in March and April. They are expected to crown junior heavyweight and tag team champions in January

They have their first major show after the 1/28 Tokyo Dome card on 2/25 in Kobe.

NEW JAPAN: Keiji Muto said that his contract with WCW expired on 12/18, but there is a non-compete clause built into the contract. He said that he's talked with Jim Ross about coming to the WWF, but this may also be just a New Japan storyline. He said he's been offered a job, which I'm skeptical of, but couldn't take it because of the non-compete until June and would go to the WWF at that time if they were still interested

11/25 TV was a basic ordinary TV show based around the tag team tournament. Minoru Tanaka & Koji Kanemoto beat El Samurai & Kendo Ka Shin. Not a lot of heat, but the usual good match involving these four, with Kanemoto looking the best of the four as usual, and Ka Shin still being dead. They tried to get some heat with Ka Shin by having him constantly attack the ref, since New Japan doesn't do DQ finishes. Manabu Nakanishi & Kensuke Sasaki & Osamu Nishimura beat Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Hiro Saito when Nakanishi put Saito up in a torture rack, and then maneuvered it into the old alley copter (kind of an airplane spin like move off a shoulder backbreaker) and an old-time backbreaker over the shoulder submission. Better match than it sounds. Super Strong Machine & Jushin Liger beat Team 2000 Machines when Liger pinned Michiyoshi Ohara under the mask with la magistral. Boring. Even Liger couldn't save it. Finally Scott Norton & Masahiro Chono beat Yuji Nagata & Takashi Iizuka when Norton pinned Iizuka after a power bomb. Nagata was the star of course, and it turned into something of a good match. Chono worked about as well as he would, while Norton was his usual self

12/9 TV drew a 2.3 rating.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: When Kazushi Sakuraba was interviewed after winning the MVP award, he said he'd like to change his New Years Eve match at the Osaka Dome from a singles match against Kendo Ka Shin to a tag match, suggesting either Sakuraba & Ka Shin vs. Renzo & Ryan Gracie (to give Ka Shin his badly needed credibility back) or Sakuraba & Ryan vs. Renzo & Ka Shin

Nobuhiko Takada's wife, Aki Mukai, 36, a somewhat well known movie actress, was diagnosed on 12/19 with uterine cancer after a miscarriage. Because of who she is and who he is, virtually every newspaper of any size in Japan covered this

In a correction from last week when talking about the Muta & Takada vs. Shamrock & Frye match on New Years Eve, we wrote the two had never teamed up. Actually that is incorrect as they did once on a New Japan show on October 17, 1987 against Choshu & Super Strong Machine. Inoki is looking at having Naoya Ogawa vs. Tadao Yasuda, Hashimoto vs. Gary Goodridge and Iizuka & Nagata vs. Mark Kerr & Mark Coleman on the show, although none of those matches have been officially announced. The card won't be finalized until after the 12/23 Pride show, because the matchmaking will depend on who wins those matches and who from that show will be physically able to do a pro wrestling match eight days later

Osaka Pro Wrestling is planning its biggest show in its history on 1/7 at the Rinkai Sports Center headlined by an interpromotional match with Jushin Liger & El Samurai of New Japan vs. Super Delfin and a mystery partner

The Crush Gals are doing a new gimmick at "Darkness Crush Gals," where both Lioness Asuka & Chigusa Nagayo are doing the face-paint gimmick, both like Nagayo's Zero gimmick from WCW. The two are going to team with the new gimmick against Akira Hokuto & Mayumi Ozaki on a big January show in Nagoya after Hokuto & Ozaki first won a tag team tournament earlier in the month, and then the AAAW tag titles on 12/17 at Korakuen Hall over Sugar Sato & Chikayo Nagashima when Ozaki pinned Nagashima in 24:27

Atsushi Onita is running a show on 1/5 at the Shibuya section of Tokyo with a no rope barbed wire street fight match with Onita in an eight-man on top with his usual band of suspects, Niehi Kumicho & Mitsunobu Kikuzawa & Exciting Yoshida vs. Ichiro Yaguchi & Shoji Nakamaki & Yase Yaguchi & Shinigami

NHK-TV on 12/13 ran a documentary about Lucha Libre featuring one of the Villanos, El Hijo del Santo and Fray Tormenta. The funny part is that one of the Villanos is a dentist by trade and showed him working with a doll of himself in the office and nobody knew he was the guy who the doll was, since he wasn't practicing his dentistry wearing his Villano mask. Santo invited the cameras into his secret room with all his fathers trophies and awards. He said

AJW is running 12/14 at Yokohama Bunka Gym with the finals of the All Japan womens tag team tournament, plus Tomoko Watanabe puts up her career against the All-Pacific title of long-time tag partner Kumiko Maekawa. AJW is one of the few promotions which up to this point generally respects its retirement stips. People have come back after retirements, in fact, most have, but only for special appearances. They also have Chie Tershita vs. Mika Nishio in a match to determine the company's 2000 Rookie of the Year

Due to all the good pub coming from the REMIX show on 12/5, Neo Ladies, which promoted the REMIX PPV, ran a second shoot show on 12/17 at Korakuen Hall, with virtually no advertising or advanced publicity, and drew 250 fans. Show only went 90 minutes and featured Neo's Misae Genki, who had a 65 pound weight advantage over former AJW wrestler Mika Harikae (a 17-year-old who lasted six months) but was only able to win via decision

On Arsion's 12/17 show in Sapporo, Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda retained the Twin Stars of Arsion tag titles over Rie Tamada & Gami with a 30:00 draw.

HERE AND THERE: Scott Hall is back in jail at press time after being arrested and held on 12/13 when the judge viewed his recent arrest file. When Hall was arrested after kicking in the door of a taxi cab that refused to take his credit card, the case was apparently settled when Hall agreed to pay $400 to the cab driver who was willing to drop charges. But between Hall's DUI, his probation violation for not completing community service, the most recent situation and his arrest file, the judge ordered Hall taken into custody and is expected to remain jailed until the middle of the week when he'll get a hearing. Hall's visitation rights for his children were canceled temporarily stemming from the Thanksgiving DUI, before this latest incident

Jacques Rougeau had a hernia operation in the past month which will keep him from headlining his own show on 12/29 in Verdun, Quebec. Rougeau must be among the best indie promoters around, because reports we've got is he's got a 4,000 ticket advance for a show headlined by Pierre Carl Ouellet vs. King Kong Bundy and Raymond Rougeau vs. Richard Charland. Jacques announced that he had signed Ouellet to a five-year contract to work as his manager

Regarding the wrestlingobserver.com report on iGeneration Wrestling negotiating to do a PPV event in Portland, promoter Steve Seiden said that Portland was only one of several cities being negotiated with for the next show or potentially a follow-up show

Sabu had what was emphasized as a horrible performance against Air Paris on the first night of his Wildside tour. It was said there wasn't a thing Paris could do to save the match as Sabu kept missing spot after spot in the NWA title defense on 12/13 in Athens, GA. Sabu later blamed the problems on a combination of having an injured right knee from a few days earlier and that he took some pain pills and passed out before the match, woke up right before the match, and also that the ring was a mess. The next night in Cornelia, GA, Sabu was scheduled to defend his NWA title against A.J. Styles. To cover for what happened the night before, promoter Bill Behrens announced Sabu had a concussion, spinal damage, convulsions and a neck injury, said the show the previous night had come off badly (when have you ever heard a promoter say that to his audience, which just goes to show how bad it must have been) and gotten bad reports. Sabu was brought to the ring to talk but was then jumped and knocked out by Tank Abbott, while Styles grabbed the title belt. WCW talent like Mike Sanders, David Flair, Abbott, Robbie Rage, Kevin Northcutt worked the show as well as developmental people like Bob Sapp, Sam Greco, Danny Faquir, etc. Flair put over local Romeo Bliss and Sanders lost via count out to local Lazz, who does a gay babyface gimmick that a lot of people rave about, pardon the choice of words. To avoid a repeat of the previous night, they announced Sabu was injured and put Air Paris, one of their better workers, into the main against Styles. A few minutes into the match Sabu did a run-in and did two minutes of all his spots, hit perfectly and pinned Styles. Behrens covered himself because Sabu was only in for two minutes, he put a match in its place that on paper looked good (although fans at first were very disappointed with the idea Sabu wasn't going to wrestle), and if Sabu didn't hit his spots, he had given a storyline explanation to the people. Jung Dragons and Jindrak & O'Haire appear on the 12/23 show. Mike Graham was scouting backstage. Sabu worked 12/15 in Toronto winning the CWA title for promoter Ricky Johnson (Rock's uncle, doing the people's uncle gimmick) in a three-way with Larry Destiny and Scott D'Amore and he was said to be fine

Wilson Rosaline, who was one of the biggest stars of the heyday of pro wrestling (which is for all real purposes non-existent today) in Brazil, passed away on 12/11 after a shooting at the age of 80. Rosaline wrestled as El Verdugo in the gimmick based Lucha Libre style promotion, and was shot seven times after arguing with a man who had punched his daughter, who then shot him. In the 60s, wrestlers like Verdugo, La Mommia, El Samurai (not New Japan wrestler obviously) and the Bronze Bull used to wrestle before sellout crowds regularly in Rio de Janiero and drew huge TV ratings for matches on Saturday nights

Randy Hales of Power Pro Wrestling guested on Observer Live this past week talking about working together with Lawler and the WWF by combining forces with Memphis Championship Wrestling. It was a situation where Hales and Lawler, who have a long relationship, but were on opposite ends of a promotional war, although not heated like many promotional wars of the past, had fallen out of favor over a number of incidents including Hales' testimony which Lawler thought was detrimental at the trial over the folding of the USWA. Lawler maneuvered the WWF developmental deal away from Hales, which cut out much of Hales' talent pool. Hales went to WCW to attempt to work with them, since the one thing he had was a highly rated (at least by the standards of an indie promotion in the modern era) live weekly television show every Saturday, but WCW wasn't interested, which made little sense. There were tough times but with Hales having the strong television slot on the NBC station and Lawler having the WWF deal, they pooled resources and are getting along well. Hales noted that the TV ratings were hovering around a 3.0 before Lawler returned and the companies pooled talent, and since, ratings have averaged a 4.8, and he said he said the quarter hours involving Lawler have shown he's a key in the ratings rise. Jimmy Hart's appearance on the 12/16 TV show, his first time on the live Memphis show since late 1992 (Hart made his name in the early 80s as the premier wrestling manager in the business in the Memphis territory), was arranged during the interim period. Because of politics, since Hart works for WCW and his appearance was largely to promote the WCW Nitro/Thunder taping on 12/22, he was unable to do any interaction with Lawler, which would have made for great nostalgia, or any of the WWF talent. Hart plugged his DJ match for the Nitro tapings on 12/22. Brandon Baxter came out and said Hart was one of the best managers ever, almost as good as he was. Hart then did his history lesson with Andy Kaufman, Jackie Fargo and Lawler. They challenged each other to a match, which ended up with Slash holding Hart for Baxter to hit. Then Spellbinder stopped Slash and Hart speared Baxter which was good for a laugh I suppose. Much of the show was pre-empted due to Presidential coverage

Trailer Park Trash from OVW, who held the WWC jr. title, is gone over a money issue and may have been fired. The timing is interesting because he was ready to return to OVW this week all along. Jose Rivera Jr. left the promotion as he was cited by police for stealing money from a female fan and never appeared at his hearing. Woman wrestler La Tigresa, now feuding with Stacy Colon, is pregnant. Dutch Mantel is still booking although not wrestling after losing a retirement stipulation match to Victor Jovica. IWA is said to be interested in him. IWA is getting its TV show expanded from one hour to two hours starting in January on both Saturday and Sunday. IWA has been taken off the air on the Florida Telemundo stations but are negotiating with TV Azteca International. Juan Rivera (Hombre Dinamita) and Jose Laureano (Chicky Starr) received threatening legal letters from the attorney of Jose Gonzalez for going on a radio talk show calling Invader I a murderer (over the 1988 incident with Bruiser Brody). WWC has its major year end show on 12/16 in Carolina bringing in Horace Hogan, Curt Hennig, The Windhams and One Man Gang. Carly Colon kept the Universal title pinning Hogan after a stunner. Hennig, who is a babyface in Puerto Rico, beat Ray Gonzalez via DQ when Hogan attacked Hennig. El Bronco beat Steele via DQ when Hogan interfered while the Windhams dropped the WWC tag titles to locals Thunder & Lightning

For 80s fans in the Carolinas, on 1/20 in Washington, NC they have an interesting main event with Dusty Rhodes & Ricky Morton against Midnight Express 2000, who are Bobby Eaton & Rikki Nelson

Canadian wrestling gold medalist Daniel Igali, 26, won the Lou Marsh Trophy (named after the sports editor of the Toronto Star) as Canada's Most Outstanding athlete of 2000. He was the first Canadian wrestler ever to win an amateur world championship in 1999 and the first gold medalist in wrestling. Born in Nigeria, he migrated to Canada in 1994

XPW will be running its first arena event in months on 1/13 in Reseda. With Tracy Smothers having been let go by the WWF, he's expected to return here

A Charleston, RI indie wrestler known at Nicolai Rasputin (real name Harris Nicholas), 42, was arrested on 12/12 on charges he attacked a female high school student with a knife and a meat cleaver according to a news report on the local NBC affiliate. When police went to arrest him, he pointed a pistol at them, but eventually surrendered after a standoff

Steve Corino, Super Crazy and Yoshihiro Tajiri worked weekend shows in Puerto Rico for IWA. Crazy beat Shan Hill to win the IWA jr. title on 12/10 in Moca and is pretty much a regular now for that promotion. They had a Corino vs. IWA champ Glamour Boy Shane rematch with only the ECW title at stake in Bayamon on 12/16. Shane scored the pin using a foreign object thrown in by Ricky Banderas. Banderas was throwing the object in for Corino. Commissioner Hombre Dinamita (Savio Vega), who is a babyface, had to do the right thing and strip Shane of the title. This set up Shane and Dinamita arguing probably for a future program. IWA's final card of the year was 12/17 in Guayama with a Shane vs. Tajiri main event ending with run-ins from Angel, Shane, Chicky Starr, Victor the Bodyguard, Miguel Perez, Hombre Dinamita and Nuevo Gran Apolo for a no contest. Corino also beat Crazy clean in an undercard match with the ECW champ against the IWA jr. champ

A movie titled "Scooby Doo," which at least at one point was scheduled to be starring Michael Myers, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddy Prinze Jr., for filming in Australia, auditioned local wrestlers John Howarth (Hardcore Superstar) and Mark Stephens (7 Foot Thunder). Originally the wrestling roles were for two Mexican wrestlers, but they decided to re-write the story to just be wrestlers as opposed to Mexican wrestlers to save from flying in two wrestlers

Apparently a 12/16 match in Vallejo, CA with Christopher Daniels & Michael Modest facing The Westside Playas (Robert Thompson & Boyce LeGrande) with the latter team going over in 33:13 was considered one of the best matches in the history of the APW promotion.

MMA: Rickson Gracie remained in Japan doing a lot of interviews basically talking about Naoya Ogawa and Kazushi Sakuraba, saying he wanted to face one of them later this year and put over Ogawa big-time

The supposed 70,200 that attended the K-1 Grand Prix on 12/10 wasn't the largest kickboxing crowd of all-time, in fact, it wasn't even the largest of the week. A show in Bangkok, Thailand on 12/5 supposedly drew 120,000 spectators

K-1 is looking at using Frank Shamrock again on 1/30 in Matsuyama for a match against Nobuaki Kikuta, but under K-1 rules as opposed to Vale Tudo rules. Kikuta, who is close to 40, is the referee for the group, but also an experienced kickboxer while Shamrock has trained a lot in kickboxing the past few years, but has never had a professional or amateur match

Allan Goes pulled out of the 12/23 Pride show against Akira Shoji and will be replaced by Ricardo Almeida. Almeida is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu guy said to be on a par with Goes on the ground. They also added a final match to the show in Ricco Rodriguez, who is one of their favorites because he's got the matinee idol look, against John Marsh

Shooto ran its World Vale Tudo Open on 12/17 at Tokyo Bay NK Hall and drew a sellout of 6,900 fans for the Rumina Sato vs. Kaoru Uno rematch. The two had a tremendous match last year with Uno winning to become the company's welterweight champion outlasting Sato in a long fight. This time, Sato got a good punch in for the knockout in 2:20 of what was said to have been awesome. The other big match was Hayato Sakurai beating Frank Trigg, a powerful American wrestler who has always looked strong in Japan, scoring three knockdowns to win at :25 of the second round. Sakurai's coach after the match issued a challenge to Rickson Gracie

Masakatsu Funaki had his retirement party this week and said that he would now go into acting, as well as sportswriting along the being the Executive Producer for Pancrase

Tokyo Sports reported on 12/20 that Akira Maeda, 41, was arrested while in the United States for hitting a woman on 9/30 in Moline, IL when he was there for the finals of the RINGS tournament in the United States. Maeda was arrested by police for punching a female office employee while at a restaurant and breaking her ribs. The restaurant called the police and he was held for a few days before he was released with a large fine. Maeda's career has been checkered with numerous similar incidents, such as the time he punched out Keiji Muto in the 80s, or sucker kicked Riki Choshu in the ring in 1987, or punched out Masami Ozaki of Pancrase when he thought Ozaki was stealing Jeremy Horn, so I guess it was poetic justice when Yoji Anjyo sucked punched him at the UFC show last year.

ECW: New Jack's situation is up in the air right now but he's telling everyone he's through with wrestling for good, partially over the money problems and partially over the stress of the business. Heyman didn't want him at the next two shows, not booking him for the Queens show because of an alleged problem with the state athletic commission stemming from the PPV show and something with a daughter of a commissioner, which Jack denied. Heyman thought to diffuse a problem it was better for everyone concerned if New Jack simply didn't appear for the show and just came after the show to shoot promos. He came to the show anyway. Heyman also didn't want him in Philadelphia as punishment for working an ECW Arena show for Jersey All Pro Wrestling. During an argument with Heyman, and this was well before the incident that took place later that evening, New Jack told Heyman he was quitting the business, which is where that story came from, which at the time people thought was simply something said in an argument, although at press time he still says he's through. There was an altercation at the bar with an elderly man over an incident with an older woman with an argument. New Jack and the woman were arguing and her husband stepped in. It ended up with New Jack either shoving the guy hard, or punching him, depending upon the version of the story, and he ended up being taken out in an ambulance. There are, as you'd imagine in a situation like this, a variety of reports over what happened, including New Jack's claim he was shoved first. New Jack then left before the police got there. Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins was backstage at the Queens show but they didn't do any angles with him

Justin Credible and Dawn Marie had money stolen from them backstage at the PPV, which only makes matters worse with everyone behind on pay

ECW is producing a new video game for Acclaim

The luckily nobody understands Spanish version of ECW. Tajiri, in doing a promo on Hardcore TV a few weeks ago about Crazy, said the English equivalent of: "F**king Mexican, F*** your mother, because you are a man who knows that your wife is f***ing someone else and you act like you don't know so you won't lose her.

12/16 TV show was largely vignettes without any new footage taped. Vignettes were a lot better than WCW vignettes for the most part but zilch as far as wrestling content. Francine did one of her best performances ever in playing the brow-beating nagging bitch on Credible. Credible was good in just turning his head away with that "I don't want to hear this" look. Anderson and Dreamer both did promos about making each other tap, so it appears they are building toward an I Quit match. I think you have to be an 80s fan to get all the Anderson Brother references, but it's pretty campy. Gertner did a promo building to the Dudleys return. Very strange that they were building up the Dudleys coming back the day after the match itself actually took place (although before it airs on TV). They did a funny vignette where Corino and Victory beat up Sandman to take the belt back. Funny because they both left thinking the other had taken the belt but neither had. Corino went back in, saw Sandman had recovered and backed off. Victory then went in, the door was closed, you heard a fight, Corino opened the door and Victory fell down liked he'd been punched out. Cyrus and Lynn as heels beat up a homeless guy who had never heard of Lynn. They showed clips of Mahoney vs. E.Z. Money and Nova vs. Dinero from the PPV. H.C. Loc beat Danny Daniels in a battle of refs (a match from the PPV show but before the PPV took place). Considering it went more than 5:00 and was a battle of refs, it was pretty good for what was it. Not good, but they've both trained and when you see referees fighting, you don't expect much. FBI and Graziano did a promo. Main purpose was to get over that Graziano beat Scott Hall. Tony Mamaluke did a pretty good Hall imitation, and Guido then joked that they better not let him drive home. TV ended with New Jack over Angel in another match from before the PPV. Only went 3:38 and it was exactly what you'd expect. Angel bladed at least twice and still didn't bleed all that noticeably.

WCW: At this point the 1/14 Syn PPV is looking something like this: Scott Steiner vs. Rick Steiner vs. Jarrett in a three-way for the WCW title, Goldberg & Dewayne Bruce vs. Bagwell & Luger and if Goldberg & Bruce lose, than Goldberg has to retire (as if anyone takes that one the slightest bit seriously--probably this is the spot for Bruce to turn on Goldberg), Page & Nash (if the company is sold by that time or they come back) vs. two members of NBT's who will keep the team a secret until match time, Rection vs. Douglas for the U.S. title, Funk vs. Crowbar for the hardcore title, Chavo Jr. vs. Helms for the cruiserweight title and probably something along the lines of Team Canada (Storm & Awesome & Skipper) vs. FA's, and maybe Reno & Sanders vs. Vito & Johnny the Bull

Notes from 12/18 Nitro in Richmond, VA. Overall it was depressing because the small crowd was pretty much dead most of the way, killing the atmosphere. Flair opened saying he would later reveal Steiner's opponent, or opponents for the Syn PPV on 1/14. Helms pinned Moore with the vertabreaker, which is a reverse Gori especial bomb (a Mexican move adapted into Japanese women's wrestling). A plethora of high spots. They mentioned the match from the night before, but hardly put it over the way WWF was able to elevate Edge, Christian and the Hardys off similar calibre PPV matches. These guys worked great and nobody saw them as anything more than jobbers. Lots of good moves. Probably would have come across as a fantastic match in another building. Guerrero Jr., doing commentary, hit the ring and attacked both, but they came back on him with the "Nightmare on Helms Street," a spinning neckbreaker while Moore has the guy in an airplane spin. This sets up Chavo vs. Helms for the cruiserweight title on PPV. The announcers did try to get the cruiserweight division over, saying it was one of the keys to WCW's success a few years ago. Rection yelled at Cajun about being Guerrero's friend. Steiner did his promo on Page. Flair came out and said the PPV would be headlined by a three-way, with one of the guys the winning of a mystery four-man tourney on TV and the other being introduced at the end of the show. Steiner vowed to find out who the guys were and take them out. Flair said if anyone revealed they were in the tournament, they'd be out of the tournament. Luger & Bagwell are now a tag team called Totally Buff. Funk beat Meng to keep the hardcore title. Funk was handcuffed, a reversal of the spot from the PPV, and then started begging off. Do you realize it's now been more than three years since that scene in "Beyond the Mat" (it was in September 1997) was filmed where the doctor told Funk he needs a knee replacement and that he shouldn't actually be able to walk on his knee, and since then he's done all these pro wrestling matches in his mid-50s and taken all that punishment, and is still running around. Funk bled. Meng had the death grip on when Crowbar hit Meng with a wrench and Funk pinned him. Crowbar said that he lost his edge, was back to his old auto mechanic gimmick to get it back, and wanted to win the title back from Funk at the next PPV and would make sure Funk was at 100% when he beat him. The only way he could do that is a build a time machine and transport himself back to 1975. Vito vowed to get back at Reno. He talked about how family always came first and he always stood behind his brother but his brother this time backstabbed him. What storyline is he following? Crowbar told Awesome he was dropping the gimmick to get back his edge and suggested Awesome do the same. In the tournament, Storm beat Misterio Jr. with the maple leaf. Not as good as you'd think, but the finish was really good. Misterio Jr. taped his ribs selling the PPV match from the night before. There was nothing wrong with it, but it wasn't outstanding or anything. In the other first round match, Jarrett beat Awesome. They had a bad match. After a ref bump, Jarrett went for the guitar, but he got caught. As the ref was putting the guitar away, Jarrett went under the ring for a second guitar, used it for the pin. Smiley was happy that Glacier was returning. They can bring him in but they can't bring in someone like Tajiri or Lynn or Van Dam. Earlier in the show, Steiner confronted Jarrett and asked him if he was in the tournament and Jarrett denied it. Steiner confronted him again, but Jarrett said he had to lie or he'd have been out of the tournament but he entered the tournament to protect Scott's back. Cat pinned Wright with the feliner in a bad match. Sanders did this long interview where he had nothing to say because the idea was to do something with Page & Nash, and when that was dropped, they told him to just go out there and kill time. Flair came out to save it announcing there would be a tag team Battle Royal on Thunder to determine who got the next title shot with Page & Nash. Goldberg beat Bagwell via DQ in 31 seconds when Luger hit Goldberg with a chair. Sgt. Dewayne Bruce made the save but Luger laid him out with a chair and Goldberg saved him. Goldberg was supposed to kick a chair into Luger's face, but it didn't quite happen since the chair never came close, but Luger sold it anyway. They had several bumpers telling people about the pre-emptions over the next two weeks. Main event saw Jarrett over Storm clean in 4:42 with the stroke. Storm got the maple leaf on but Jarrett made the ropes. At one point Storm missed a pescado. Partially due to it being two heels, there was no crowd reaction to the match. Steiner with a pipe came after Flair, who opened a door and left while a masked guy came out and attacked Steiner as the mystery opponent

For the Thunder tapings later that night, with the same characters missing in action. Guerrero Jr. beat Knoble to keep the cruiserweight title in what was said to be a pretty decent match. Helms interfered to help Guerrero Jr. doing the gimmick that he's making sure Chavo doesn't lose the title so he can beat him at the PPV. Nothing wrong with the idea except they just did the exact same angle earlier that night on Nitro with Crowbar and Funk. Duggan makes amends with Rection and wants his country back, sort of like Sgt. Slaughter, although for some reason that one was more effective. The tag team Battle Royal was said to be Perfect Event and Jindrak & O'Haire making a bunch of teams look like jobbers and then going over. The gimmick is that two of the four, but they won't say which two, will form a tag team at Syn to face Page & Nash for the belts. Vito and Johnny the Bull beat up on Sanders and Reno, so the Mamalukes are back together. Konnan pinned Skipper. Bigelow pinned Crowbar due to interference from Meng. Goldberg pinned Smiley. Douglas & Kronik beat MIAs when Douglas hit Rection with a chain and pinned him after the franchiser. After the match, Kronik laid out the other two guys. Storm & Skipper are ready to attack Duggan, but Awesome makes the save, but Awesome then turns on Duggan and joins Team Canada as The Canadian Career Killer. Main event saw Steiner beat Cat to keep the title. After the match, the masked man was on the stage and Steiner chased him out

Rection ended up not having any ligament damage which gave everyone a sigh of relief since he's been doing so well

Some Thunder notes from the show that aired on 12/13. The three-way with Dragons, Knoble & Karagias and 3 Count was a hell of a match. It's really a shame that, due to size, politics or whatever, that they aren't given any credibility when working with the stars so fans take this as the battle of the jobbers no matter how good the action is. They are doing a gimmick where Knoble & Karagias can't stand each other as teammates, and in the finish of the match, Karagias shoved Knoble out of the way so he could get the pin on Moore after a double superplex using a ladder. Steiner killed Kwee Wee. Just before Kwee Wee got killed, he said you wouldn't like him if he's mad. You know, just once, I'd like to see him get mad so we can figure out what we wouldn't like. At this point, every time he's about to get mad, he gets his ass kicked and is left laying, which isn't all that threatening. Duggan turn got a pop. It appears they are dropping Crowbar & Awesome's retro gimmicks and going back to their old gimmicks. Actually Crowbar seemed to be getting over better with the new one. Since he's right now mid-card, it's not a bad gimmick. Where the deal with Awesome was bad, is he had a chance to be a top guy and "That 70s Guy" is not a top guy gimmick. Konnan did commentary. He was a hell of a lot better prepared than Stevie Ray. I liked him, although he didn't even last the whole show because Jarrett took him out, because he tried really hard to get over the guys that usually not much emphasis is put on. The whole key is to get the fans emotionally attached to the wrestlers they see so they care about what they do, and then if the wrestlers work hard, that completes the package. To do that they have to be given distinct personalities and keep them for a long enough time that they get over. The impatient switching (unless it's a total loser gimmick) just to switch just leads to fan apathy. Right now the writing is better, sans the real bad holes and the fact they can't get it out of their system to insult their audience which right now is the last thing they should be doing. The younger guys work hard, although they are inexperienced. But nobody cares about any of the characters that much. There's a formula to show how effective your TV is, and that's what percentage of homes order the PPV. If WWF is getting 500,000 buys on five million homes watching Raw or Smackdown (that isn't the exact numbers, but not that far off), that is one in ten. If ECW is getting 70,000 buys on 700,000 homes (in the TNN days anyway), that's also one in ten. However, WCW's 2.5 rating for a Nitro is close to two million homes. If they could get one in ten to order the PPV, that's 200,000 homes and they'd be very happy to average that. But for all the reasons everyone knows, they are getting about one out of 33 homes to order, which is not the sign of bad ratings, but that the people who watch religiously don't care enough about the product and it's probably because they feel they've been ripped off for two years. Hopefully when Bischoff gets in charge, he'll put a spokesperson in to give a full battle plan on TV about how things are going to change and they are going to be more fan friendly and more fan responsive. Don't rip the last two years. We've heard enough of that talk on the show about how bad the product is and the new geniuses are going to turn it around only to have the product get worse. And the person as the spokesperson can't be Bischoff. First off, his character has generally played heel and he's more effective personally in getting people not to like him. Second, he's already been on TV promising to turn things around when they got worse, so nobody will take him seriously. I've always thought Arn Anderson was the man for the spot

There was a joke going around at TV that DDP asked Sanders to deliver the line in a promo saying that DDP may be 45, but he looks 35 and wrestles like he's 25. The line wasn't delivered, because it made no sense for a heel to say that. However, it has been repeated backstage as a source of comedy, and Mark Madden finally gave the line on the PPV

Quotes from Sid Vicious in the Richmond Times-Dispatch in an interview with Coveh Solaimani. "I'm a little better wrestler than most people think. You got two guys (he and Steiner) who aren't crybabies out there and like it good and snug." When asked about the young wrestlers in WCW that are getting pushed, he said, "It's not he age of the person. It's the credibility of the person who gets over in this business. They have given some of these young guys huge pushes--some of them are getting over but a lot of guys aren't--and if you have been on TV six months to a year and if you haven't gotten over, then you aren't going to get over." Good thing WWF didn't think that way after the first year of pushing Rock and HHH

More lack of communication. On the World Wide show that aired this week, they aired the match from the 1997 Road Wild show with the Steiners against Nash & Hall. So after the ruling from upstairs that nobody could say Hall's name on TV, they put a tape of him on the air

Sanders did a radio interview this past week where he noted that after training for two years, WCW let him go in around May of this year. A few weeks later, Terry Taylor and Russo got him his job back and he ended up going from fired to a major pushed player on the show. He said that the Power Plant doesn't get guys ready to do promos on TV well enough

With anarchy running so strong, a lot of wrestlers, so as not to interrupt a vacation that lasts until 1/8, may create or exaggerate injury or illness conditions to get out of working Memphis this week since the Nitro episode won't be airing in the U.S. anyway

The only person left on the booking committee who liked the 70s guy gimmick for Awesome was Ed Ferrara, who is the head writer of the show. Everyone else was in agreement he needed to get out of it. A lot of people are talking now that Ferrara, a disciple of Russo, is responsible for most of the bad ideas when they're broken down. The feeling is that Ferrara is very good at putting together scripts and formats with his background writing real television comedy, but that his wrestling knowledge isn't there

Dustin Runnels was at Starrcade, being called by management to return. Runnels is reported being paid $750,000 per year but the company isn't using him, and he's mainly wrestling for his father Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling group which runs sold shows in the Georgia smaller cities. When he got there, they told him they had no plans for him, and he went back home

Pamela Paulshock missed Starrcade and Nitro because she was filming a movie

Nitro/Thunder tapings on 12/18 in Richmond, VA drew 2,872 in the building, which was 2,080 paying $49,610.

WWF: Rock was named in People Magazine's list of the 25 most intriguing people of the past year, a list that no pro wrestler has ever made previously

Raw on 12/18 in Greenville, SC was more soap opera above wrestling, but some good wrestling. The show opened with a 25 minute promo starring Vince. He apologized for laughing about his wife's problems on Smackdown, saying people misinterpreted him, doing a fake sincerity act and saying that he wasn't the insensitive megalomaniac people thought he was. Linda had a storyline nervous breakdown. He blamed Foley and Stephanie and most of all Linda for her problems. They showed all sorts of family photos including wedding photos, using the same background music they used on the Raw the day after Owen Hart died. He's holding off the divorce until she gets better. Stephanie came out and called him a mean old bastard and he went on about having to marry Linda at the time against his will or Shane would have been a bastard. Angle came out and teased he was appalled by Vince, but ended up turning on Stephanie for how she was talking to her father. Finally Foley came out. Angle cut a promo on Foley bringing up the scene in "Beyond the Mat" saying Foley was a terrible parent for letting his kids sit ringside in some of the most violent matches ever. Vince hated the move so bad he wanted to kill it, but that doesn't mean he's above using it to get an angle over. This segment went so long that Benoit and Jeff Hardy were cut to 3:36 with Benoit winning with a crossface in a very good match with a cool finish, of Benoit blocking a neckbreaker and doing the crossface. As the show went on, Vince got more and more out there being obsessed with winning the belt from Angle. One hilarious exchange saw Vince tell Angle he'd throw some punches and take it easy on him and Angle should lay down for him. Angle refused to lay down. They teased Chyna suffering a career ending injury and Gunn said he'd get revenge for her. E&C went to Foley & Debra to talk them out of the Angle vs. Vince match, but instead Foley booked them in a tag title match. Goodfather & Venis & Buchanan beat Dudleys & Gunn when Gunn went to piledrive Ivory but Richards kicked him and Venis pinned him with a fisherman suplex. Gunn did this fantastic tilt a whirl slam on Venis which probably shocked all six million viewers. Rock & Undertaker won the tag titles for one night over E&C in 8:40. Much better match than you'd think and super heat. It wasn't good when Taker was in, but it was tremendous when Rock was in. Undertaker did the last ride on Christian but there was a ref bump. Edge hit Undertaker with the bell but Undertaker kicked out of the pin and hot tagged Rock, who used a spinebuster and people's elbow on Edge to win the titles. Vince slapped Foley. Jericho beat Saturn in a short match with the walls. Jericho and Saturn for some reason never have good matches even though they've worked together so many times. At one point Jericho did a quebrada and nearly landed head first which was scary. After the match, Jericho put the walls on Terri, but Malenko and Benoit came out and Saturn did a death valley driver, Malenko a cloverleaf and Benoit a diving head-butt to lay out Jericho. Regal beat Austin via DQ. There was an amazing spot where Regal used a neckbreaker and had the pin for about ten seconds but no ref. Even though they did that spot in the tag title match, it was amazing to see Austin allow Regal the spot, which shows that who is put over and gets over in the WWF is awfully dependent upon who the top guys want to put over. If you compare Regal and Tazz' original reactions in the WWF and their subsequent push, it isn't your immediate reaction that determines your fate or getting over with the fans, but the ability to have the top guys want to work with you. Regal was about to hit Austin with the belt, but Austin stunned him. Ref Tim White got up, saw Regal laid out and Austin with the belt and DQ'd Austin. Austin stunned White. E&C walked out on Angle saying he only cared about himself. Acolytes & Jackie beat T&A & Stratus very quickly when Jackie pinned Stratus after a DDT. Jackie is now playing a tough broad who drinks beer and smokes cigars. Angle again tried to get the match stopped but Foley told him that his wife would divorce him if he canceled the match. Lita was modeling lingerie in WWF New York while Malenko was drooling on the monitor. Angle vs. Vince never took place. With Angle distracted, Vince got to take him down before they turned on Foley. It had to happen. Vince got to pin the guy who never gets pinned (HHH) for the title, he got to beat the UFC king in an octagon (Shamrock) and take down a real world champion wrestler. Angle and Vince turned on Foley and did a number on him. Foley made a comeback on both and put the socko claw on Vince until Angle stopped him with a chair shot. E&C came out and did a sandwich chair shot Foley. Stephanie came out and sided with Vince, saying the board of directors had given total power now that Linda was unfit to be CEO. Vince then fired Foley, who was all bloody, and Angle hit him with one last chair shot

Smackdown highlights from 12/19 in Charlotte. For Heat on 12/24, they did an angle where Tazz was confronted by Santa Claus. Tazz called him a fat old bastard, but Santa decked him and did the worm on him, revealing Scotty 2 Hotty. Smackdown opened with your basic 15 minute Vince & Stephanie interview where Vince talks about all his achievements. Dudleys over Lo Down with the 3-D on Chaz. Ivory pinned Jackie to keep the womens title. Jericho & Hardys beat Malenko & Saturn & Benoit when Jericho pinned Malenko after the lionsault. Regal vs. Bob Holly with Austin as ref ended without a winner. Austin was drinking a beer while the match was going on, but Regal caused him to spill his beer. Austin stunned Regal, but then stunned Holly, and started counting both out when Kane choke slammed Austin. Crash & Molly Holly beat Kaientai. They were continuing the deal where they use the fake voices ala La Parka for Kaientai. Blackman beat Raven with his own DDT off the middle rope on a garbage can in a hardcore title match. Gunn pinned Richards clean with a cobra clutch suplex. Main saw E&C regain the belts over Rock & Undertaker with Angle as ref. Taker had Edge pinned but Angle was distracted, causing Rock to get hot at Angle. Rock gave Angle the rock bottom. Hebner came out to continue as ref. Rock had Edge pinned but Angle gave Rock an Olympic slam and Edge pinned him to get the belts back

The OVW Christmas Chaos show was postponed at literally the last minute on 12/13 because the WWF talent was stuck in Little Rock and there was no way they could make it to the show as the earliest flights out were late that evening. The WWF is going to send the same talent (Austin, Kane, Hardys, Lita, Benoit) to Louisville in January as a make-up date. The show is now scheduled for 1/31

Matt Hardy's shoulder was a mess from the 12/11 Raw match against Malenko & Saturn. In the Smackdown match the next night, Jeff had to carry the load

Early projections by the WWF regarding the XFL are pretty positive. The estimates at this point are that the league with generate $80 million in revenue on costs of $113 million. The $33 million in first year losses, which would be split 50/50 by WWF and NBC, are well under the original projections. Those figures are based on generating a combined 11.0 weekly rating for advertisers, who are paying an average of $110,000 per 30 second spot airing three times. The three spots would air once on TNN, NBC and UPN in the same weekend and the idea is the combined three shows would average an estimated 2.5, 5.5 and 3.0 respectively. The league is projected to be profitable in the third season. This all depends on whether people buy tickets and they can generate those kind of numbers. The numbers are nowhere close to what the NFL gets, but are considerably better than most sports like baseball, basketball and hockey do on the networks and cable. Wall Street analysts say the XFL's success, or lack of success, is going to be the main determining factor of attitudes by investors in the WWF stock. Stock has dropped 30 percent over the past three months, but has come back a little over the past few weeks

Vince McMahon was quoted in a Bloomberg News story about the attempted WCW purchase, saying that he was going to keep WCW as a separate brand and build to expand PPV business by using interpromotional matches. McMahon said, There were a lot of good reasons to buy WCW, but said that Viacom standing in the way of the deal made it financially impractical

The Jim Ross cookbook has already sold well over 100,000 copies and is in its second printing

Huge error in last week's Observer in the Armageddon rundown of Venis vs. Chyna where I wrote Chyna's offense looked good. Actually it was supposed to read except for one good clothesline, Chyna's offense looked bad

At this point, Foley will probably stay home through maybe late January. Nothing is definitive but the idea of shooting a big angle in February to lead to a Wrestlemania match with McMahon is certainly on the drawing board. Foley has said that he doesn't want to do the match because he's not in condition and doesn't want to come back unless he is. The feeling is he's got more than three months to drop the weight, the money for such a match would be huge, and that like always, McMahon has always been able to talk him into coming back sooner than originally thought, such as last year's Mania match after doing such a great farewell just a few weeks earlier

ESPN.com ran a poll on 12/14 asking which athlete people would most like to invite to a party giving choices like Alex Rodriguez, Tiger Woods, Shaquille O'Neal, Mark Messier and The Rock, and Rock at last look was the leading vote getter

The 12/11 Raw, going unopposed for the first time since the move to TNN, set the record as the most-watched show in the history of the network with 7.2 million viewers. WWF sent out a media release proclaiming the rating of 5.8 as proof that the switch of networks was a success. Somehow I think the 5.6s the show did its first week going head-up with Nitro was far more impressive than a 5.8 on an unopposed week

Got this letter regarding a show listener who sent a letter to Goodmark Foods, Inc. (makers of Slim Jim) saying he would no longer purchase their products until they stopped bowing to the wishes of the PTC. They sent him a large 24 count box of Giant Slim Jims and this letter, "Thank you for writing to Slim Jim regarding you concerns about our association with wrestling. We have been involved with wrestling for 10 years and feel that the connection has been extremely valuable to our brand. We recently made a strategic decision to shift our advertising dollars from WWF Smackdown to WWF Raw. WWF Raw is more popular and brings in higher ratings than Smackdown. We view Raw as one of the most efficient media buys toward our target and that is not something we plan to walk away from." How do you like that corporate weasel mentality. If a company thinks because of the nature of the product that they shouldn't advertise on WWF, or Friends, or any show, that is certainly their right. But if a company thinks the product is worth advertising on but refuses to do so because of a pressure group, that's the height of hypocrisy, particularly if they continue to advertise on that product, just bypass one show to avoid pressure. If a PTC video truly convinces companies they don't like Smackdown and don't want to be a part of it, that's more the WWF's fault for giving the PTC the ammunition. But if a company isn't convinced by the video to pull out based on content and still pulls out, and still advertises on the product, except that it's always bad business to run off sponsors, I'd almost want to tell them to get lost. A group that advertises Raw and pulls out of Smackdown has given the WWF's opposition group, the PTC, ammunition, while still supporting the product and that's not the kind of company, no matter which side of the fence you are on, that you can respect

Some Smackdown notes from the 12/14 show. Tremendous show built around vignettes with Vince and Stephanie building to the in-ring interview where Vince ran down Linda. Between Linda doing it in the back seat of a '69 Impala on the first date (which must have been amazing considering the two started dating as teenagers which would have been the early 60s), taking all the personal insults at Linda including about how she lays motionless in bed. Vince was the greatest heel in history, bar none, on the show. I guess the days of toning down the storylines are over. I was also surprised to see them going back to the blade for Raven's hardcore match with Undertaker. Usually the blood to this point has been limited to getting over a special match like a PPV main event, or a heavy angle (where, if possible, they've used fake blood if it's a backstage deal where they just have a quick shot of the blood as opposed to fighting in front of a crowd where the fake blood dries too quickly). This was blood for the sake of giving the product a more violent feel. That's not a knock, because you have to be receptive to your audience and clearly this show was meant to shock interest back up. Between McMahon and Foley, the show was tremendous from the storyline standpoint. Rock also did a great promo about Little Angle, Little Regal, Little Rock (they were in Little Rock) and Regal wanting to touch Angle's ball when they were children. Angle & Regal look to have tremendous potential as a heel tag team, particularly on interviews. While that's great for Regal, I don't know that it's the right thing for Angle other than it makes for easy main event booking because they can put Angle on top, and put the babyfaces over without Angle jobbing for them

WWF is looking at either building a new and larger office building, or buying an existing larger building because it has more employees than Titan Towers has space. They also want to move the TV studio to the same grounds as the business office, as currently they are about a mile away. They are looking at keeping the headquarters in the Stamford area because all the employees live in the area

Rikishi's back is still sore from the PPV bump. He could have wrestled at TV this week had they needed him to but they figured to let him rest another week. The story about the lacerated kidney was a work

HHH will be kept out a little while because they want to establish Edge, Christian, Angle, Vince and Stephanie as the new top heel group and then build up the idea of what HHH will think about this because he hates Angle. The problem is if HHH feuds with the group, he'll be a babyface, and the highest on the pecking order he can be as a babyface is No. 3 or No. 4, so he isn't going to be a babyface. They also can introduce Shane, with the idea he's been gone caring to his mother

Nelson Frazier Jr. (Viscera) was fired several months back

Dave Heath (Gangrel) is out of action with an injury

Chris Chetti hasn't been signed yet. It is still something under consideration to give him a developmental deal and send him to Memphis or Ohio Valley

Foley did a USA Today chat. As you can imagine, many of the questions regarded his coming back. He said he had mixed feelings about it, but wouldn't do it unless he dropped a lot of weight, claiming to be 30 pounds of dieting away from being in just miserable shape. He recognized that the majority of fans would like to see it. He said he loves being commissioner and loves writing as much as he loves wrestling but he can write longer and it's easier and less worry on his family. He said he's got nothing against Terry Funk wrestling, but hopes he'll wrestle a comedy style rather than take all the physical punishment at his age. Foley noted he became a comedy wrestler at the age of 33

The 12/15 HITS magazine had a profile on McMahon because of his starting the new Smackdown record label. He said he was never interested in buying the Boston Red Sox. He talked about considering buying WCW. He denied his shows being a bad influence on anyone. He claimed when he bought the company from his father and saw he was going to expand, it said it drove him nuts for a couple of years and said he regretted the pain he put his father through during that time but said he eventually came around to saying, "F*** those guys." He said the one thing his father wouldn't approve of is Shane and Stephanie becoming on-camera talent, which is no doubt true because Vince Sr. always had forbid Vince Jr. from being anything more on television than an announcer

At this point there is no new trainer in Memphis to replace Tracy Smothers, who was just let go. Several people are under consideration for the spot

Some Ross Report notes. HHH is expected to be kept out for one or two more weeks. He was scheduled this week to shoot another Joe Weider products TV commercial. He denied reports that Lawler's contract had recently expired, saying Lawler had signed a long-term renewal a long time ago. He noted that Memphis Championship Wrestling and Power Pro have basically merged into one company. What happened was that MCW on 12/11 was told by UPN 30 in Memphis that they were cancelling the show. While the two groups had been working together because Hales had the stronger TV but Terry Golden, who was running MCW, was running more house shows, they had been separate promotions and PPW was not aligned with the WWF. After MCW lost its TV, the WWF came to PPW to put the obvious deal together on 12/12 when Jim Ross had a meeting with Hales in Little Rock, but the announcement was held off until Saturday so the talent would know about it first. Golden will be running the house shows. Just Joe and Russ & Charlie Haas will be the next wrestlers heading in within a few weeks. X-Pac is a few weeks away from returning. Lita did the WWF New York deal because of a lower back injury. Blackman's bleeding ulcer was apparently from taking too many anti-inflammatory drugs due a back injury. Tori is filming an episode of "18 Wheels of Justice" in early January for TNN. Guerrero is being kept off TV for a few weeks because of his hamstring injury, which explains why they did the angle where Jericho put him in the walls on Smackdown

Latest Nicole Bass update. She's in really rough shape as he latest catscan showed multiple cysts in her pancreas. She's also lost a ton of weight in this hospital stay and has an IV placed directly into her neck because her arms are too swollen for it

Phil Mushnick in the New York Post wrote a negative XFL column on 12/15 tying in wrestling. Now there is a valid point, and Street and Smith's Sports Business Journal did a tremendous series of articles on the XFL, largely positive, but pointing out the issue of injuries and insurance problems. Miki Yaras-Davis, the longtime director of benefits for the NFLPA called the XFL benefits in the event of injuries "scary," and it is compared with the NFL. However, Arena Football exists, and doesn't appear in any danger of folding soon although it isn't flourishing, with a dangerous game with a high injury rate and the XFL benefits and salaries are far higher than AFL, and they are basically going to be using the same calibre of players who aren't good enough to make the NFL. There was a tie-in made to the Owen Hart death and continuing the show, although I just don't see how the two points can be brought together. Mushnick tried to tie in that the players will be disposable, replaceable stuntmen because of the XFL rules such as no fair catch. But those rules have been used in other leagues at various times. Pro football is inherently going to have an injury rate and a lot of turnover of the talent, as is every contact sport. All professional sports are going to have evils, and certainly strength sports and contact sports are going to have the drug issues. Guaranteed, like the NFL, there are going to be players on steroids, maybe more so because there won't be drug testing and it's a league comprised of marginal players (the USFL was a big-time drug league which many believe was due to that reason) and maybe less because the players aren't being paid as well thus can't afford as much help as an NFL counterpart. If you make the sport safer, a lot of the appeal is gone. That's not necessarily a wonderful thing to say, but it's the reality of professional contact sports business. As it pertains to the XFL, at this point we are only five weeks from the debut, and trying to guess what it will be and if it'll make it when we're so close to seeing it, is probably best left to reserve judgement on. The only thing for sure is that they are doing a great job of promoting it and it'll no doubt have the same problems that face all sports. After that, everything depends on the public buying it, and the presentation of it

Smackdown will be facing even tougher competition come the February sweeps, as CBS has decided to put the new "Survivor" episodes from Australia from 8-9 p.m. starting on 2/1. This means Smackdown will have tough competition from CBS as well as the traditional strong ratings of the NBC block anchored by "Friends." To this point, Smackdown's numbers don't seem to get affected that greatly by competition of other programming as much as its own storyline ups and downs. For example, the ratings don't seem to increase when the networks are in rerun mode, which theoretically they should with Smackdown being original programming every week

There was a huge write-up on OVW and its ties to WWF in the Louisville newspaper this past week. Lots of stuff on Cornette and trainer Danny Davis, who still insist on wrestlers living their gimmicks outside the ring. Cornette is teaching the guys the old Watts philosophy, such as a babyface and a heel can't be seen socializing in public after hours, and he doesn't even like to hear that they are in the same night club even if they aren't socializing. Cornette wouldn't let the reporters know anything about the background of Leviathan, for instance. Jack McCubbins, 23, who works 40 hours a week guarding violent inmates at Central State Hospital and works for literally no money without a WWF developmental deal as Mr. Black, talked about the piling up chiropractor bills from this dangerous hobby and not knowing how long he can pursue it without a deal. About 25 wrestlers in the school have deals and Davis is currently training about 75 wrestlers

The 12/24 and 12/31 editions of Sunday Night Heat will be the same version that airs internationally as opposed to the American MTV version. The two versions have the same wrestling matches, but the international version does video features while the domestic version does the WWF New York cutaways. They won't be doing the WWF New York cutaways or anything live so people can have those days off. One would suspect the ratings on both nights will be way down anyway.

For the weekend of 12/10 in the UK, Raw drew 390,000 viewers, Continued on page 18.




A couple of things came to mind during the Vince/Stephanie skit. First, wouldn't you love to be in a Wall Street analyst meeting with Linda when she has to explain this angle to analysts? That would be entertaining. As for the promo, Vince made a goof of WCW proportions when he said he and Linda had been married 33 years, but later saying they fooled around on their first date in the back of a 1969 Impala. 33 years ago was 1967. He probably used the year '69 for the sexual innuendo.

The other funny comment was when he said Stephanie reminded him so much of Linda. Anyone with two eyes can see she's so clearly Vince's daughter. The facial expressions, the bad overacting. All that's missing is the bobbing Adam's Apple.

Also, wasn't the class situation reversed? I thought Linda came from a well-off family and Vince came from the wrong side of town?

When he talked about a buxom blond girlfriend around Stephanie's age, all I could think was how perfect Torrie Wilson would fit into that role. I hope it's her. If it doesn't happen, I'll put money on Trish Stratus getting the gig. T&A is going nowhere.

Soap opera aside, it was nice to see Regal in the main event, even if he did the job. Let's face it. He has one advantage of Jericho and Benoit. Height. And that will help him every time.

Andy Patrizio


It's amazing what poor shape Vince Russo left WCW in. It seems all the writers "learned" from his style. The style of "too much, too fast." Case in point. The finish of the Cat vs. Lance Storm match. The Jim Duggan turn was teased the week before. It seemed like the people at the show had actually watched the TV and were chanting "USA" at him. So, why not just do the obvious angle and have Duggan do the babyface save. The pop would have been big, and the audience was ready go give it. Nope, they went with the old Russo attitude of, well, that's why they're expecting, so "let's give them more." Well, you saw the final reaction by the fans to that overbooked ending.

There was a joke on "Friends" last season that we used that fits this problem. Jennifer Anniston was telling Reese Witherspoon, "You know what happened to the girl who tried to do too much, too fast? She died." A funny joke but a sad reality in WCW booking.

David J. Lagana

DM: Lagana has written for Friends as well as other NBC sitcoms.

Continued from page 17. Smackdown drew 210,000 and Nitro drew 100,000

Smackdown tapings on 12/12 in Little Rock, AR drew a sellout 9,835 paying $333,764. Raw on 12/18 in Greenville, SC drew a sellout 11,596 paying $427,731. Merchandise in Greenville was $65,521, or $5.65 per head.