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February 26, 2001 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: WCWSuperbrawl review, WCW not shutting down, more

Wrestling Observer Newsletter

PO Box 1228, Campbell, CA 95009-1228 ISSN1083-9593 February 26, 2001

WCW may change its plans once again this week, this time with Eric Bischoff perhaps deciding against a shutdown in April.

Bischoff's thoughts were based on the idea that he didn't want to present a stale product and allow the fans to get more apathetic by basically struggling along with no storylines and no stars until the planned re-launch in May. Most likely the ratings from the past week may have played a part in the decision, because if the ratings would have held steady at the 2.5 level to build for a re-launch, it would have been acceptable, but when 2/12 came in tying the record low for a Nitro live show in the regular time slot (2.08), that was no longer an acceptable level to stay at, or even probably drop from since the storyline they were building toward, for better or worse, required keeping some of the biggest stars on the sidelines for nearly two more months. There is also the feeling that with the WWF's problems with the XFL, that so much of Vince McMahon's focus will be on football for the next two months that it's not the time to sit out waiting to make a move, although WCW's problems at this point are not greatly contingent of the focus of McMahon and the storylines of the WWF being stale or not. No doubt with TBS and TNT having to do make goods on advertising due to the declining ratings, the networks would also be adverse to shutting down for the same reason Time Warner vetoed Bischoff's original plan to shut down starting this week. Bischoff at press time said he would make the final decision later this week and another main factor would be based on exactly when the closing of the Fusient purchase of WCW in finalized since Time Warner nixed his previous shutdown plan.

The current storyline is to virtually eliminate the top babyfaces from the roster, to present Diamond Dallas Page as the last major survivor against Scott Steiner on the 3/18 PPV in Jacksonville. If there is no shutdown, most likely, either on that show, or perhaps on the Nitro the next night in Gainesville, FL, shoot the big angle that was planned for early April by having the new owners take over and foil Ric Flair's plans by bringing back all the stars (Bill Goldberg, Sting, Kevin Nash, Booker T and possibly Hulk Hogan and perhaps others if deals can be made) and build seven weeks of television hype, more time than WCW has devoted for one specific show in years, for the 5/6 PPV show which would be something of a major coming out. Sting and Booker T are already healthy and ready to go, while Goldberg, after shoulder surgery, won't be able to wrestle until the PPV, but will likely be used on television from late March until that date to build for his return match.

The idea of the shutdown would have enabled the company to show up with a new set, new look and new talent and somewhat make another attempt at a fresh start after numerous similar failures over the past two years. At this point the plan looks to be to change the look of the show in May or June if it's possible, but without taking a break. The money aspect regarding not running being a financial drain isn't as big a deal as one would think because at this point the company loses money at this point just doing Nitros due to the production costs as well as doing road shows, which is why they don't do road shows, so by not doing them, it is actually a short-term savings. Again, it needs to be pointed out that WCW's money loss problems are not entirely due to the big contracts, because if every wrestler on the roster had worked in 2000 for free, hence no talent costs, the company's losses would still have been more than $20 million.

There are positives and negatives in the decision. Clearly WCW had its momentum (well, momentum isn't quite the right word, but you know what I mean) hurt by all the televised pre-emptions of Nitro in the regular slot in December and January and wrestling is traditionally not a seasonal business. After pre-emptions in recent years, historically both WCW and WWF have had minor short-term ratings drops before getting back to normal (whatever normal is at that time) levels generally by the second or third week back. However, there were territories, such as St. Louis, that ran seasonal businesses seemingly forever and fans accepted shutdowns and re-starts in the same way sports fans do and television fans so with season ending and season openings. In fact, the first and last show of the season just being first and last often ended up being drawing cards in successful television shows (season ending sports events often mean nothing unless a championship race is involved but season openers are traditionally huge draws). WCW last year, when the Kevin Sullivan regime was dumped for Bischoff and Vince Russo, grew from a 2.60 to 3.06 on Nitro and a 2.05 to 3.11 on Thunder the first week back after one week off with a taped show promising a new beginning. Thunder remained above the old levels for several months, largely because of the improved star power, but Nitro was back below the Sullivan levels by the second week, doing a then record low 2.47 (Sullivan's shows never fell below a 2.52), showing the new viewers of Nitro showed up for the hype, but didn't stay, but it really wasn't until the summer after the Bash at the Beach angle, where the ratings took a consistent dip to the current levels.

The main positive is without the weekly pressure of having to put together four hours of television every Monday, they can use that time to focus directly on improvements needed, a luxury of time they won't have by continuing to run. The negative is the out-of-sight, out-of-mind nature of pro wrestling and the current fans, and that unlike the St. Louis promotion under Sam Muchnick, this is not a monopoly business and it's a company that is in a very distant second place with a competitor who won't be shutting down.

New Japan gained some headlines with the surprise announcement, which apparently has little in the way of validity, that Mike Tyson was negotiating to do a mixed match this summer, made by Antonio Inoki during the company's 2/18 PPV show from Tokyo Sumo Hall.

Inoki, after the sixth match of the show, came out with a fax letter from Michael Smith, an attorney for Tyson, which came earlier that morning, confirming negotiations for a match against a Japanese pro wrestler. However, it is a virtual impossibility this will happen and Shelly Finkel, Tyson's agent, the next day was denying there were any negotiations taking place. With Tyson having potentially one of the biggest money fights in the history of boxing on the table against Lennox Lewis, that they are in the process of trying to put together, there is no way they would risk his health or his drawing power by having him do a pro wrestling match, let alone a shoot, or worked shoot which carries dangers of injury or double-cross. While WWF was able to use Tyson as a referee at the $3.5 million price tag, which carried with it no real physical risk, and with PPV still being so limited in Japan, the country simply doesn't have the economic set-up to afford that kind of a price tag for a mainstream celebrity performer. He wouldn't be worth the money to referee in Japan, and it would cost far more money to get him to perform in a more physical fashion. That is one of the reasons New Japan was never able to put together a deal for Dennis Rodman when he still would have meant something. Inoki did get a lot of media publicity for one day after the announcement, which brought back memories of when Inoki himself fought Muhammad Ali in 1976. That deal was put together because the economics of boxing were entirely different and it ended up being an economic loser to most of the American wrestling promoters in the long run. Naoya Ogawa, who would be Tyson's likely opponent if there really was anything to this, apparently didn't even know Inoki was going to be making such an announcement. However two days later, at Inoki 58th birthday party, both Ogawa and Kazuyuki Fujita issued challenges for a Tyson match which was announced for 6/17 at the Tokyo Dome. Now that they've announced a date and a place, it gets even more intriguing.

Inoki showed up with Fujita pretending to be a homeless guy who wandered into the building. He said, for comedy, that he showed up in front of Sumo Hall and the New Japan guys wouldn't let him in the building because it was sold out. He said we have to give the fans dream matches and he had a dream that Mike Tyson bit him in the ear and challenged him to line up a match.

The show itself, before a sellout crowd of 11,000 fans, was said to be decent, but more for the storyline advances as opposed to the actual wrestling quality, which we're told couldn't even hold a candle to the company's great December PPV show. Everyone was relieved they were able to pack the building on a Sunday afternoon for the show because the same building was sold out the previous night for a major boxing match. The feeling was that this show wouldn't do well on PPV because nobody took Otani seriously as a world title contender. New Japan's second PPV, which was an awesome show, didn't do nearly the business of its first PPV, which had Choshu's return against Onita as a marquee match-up, and this line-up was nowhere close to the level of the December show.

1. Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka beat Silver King (Miguel Gonzalez) & Dr. Wagner Jr. (Manuel Gonzalez Jr.) & El Samurai (Osamu Matsuda) in 14:55. This was scheduled as an eight-man tag but Shinya Makabe was pulled from the match to work higher on the card and Kendo Ka Shin suffered a concussion on the 2/15 house show. Match was said to be the best bout on the card and a real strong opener which is no surprise. Finish saw Kanemoto pin Wagner after a moonsault. After the match, Takaiwa said this would be his last match with New Japan, as they are doing the angle where he is jumping to Zero-One.

2. Michiyoshi Ohara & Tatsutoshi Goto beat Brian Johnston & Sledge Hammer (Jason Anderson) in 7:16 when Ohara made Hammer submit after a choke slam and armbar submission. Said to be pretty bad.

3. Yutaka Yoshie & Shiro Koshinaka beat Jushin Liger (Keiichi Yamada) & Osamu Nishimura in 14:14 when Yoshie used his cool looking version of the figure four on Nishimura. Super Strong Machine was scheduled as Liger's partner as the masked man combination but he suffered a knee injury. Koshinaka and Liger were the focal points. Match was said to have been fair.

4. Manabu Nakanishi beat Super J (Jeff Farmer) in 11:31 with the torture rack. Said to be the worst match on the show.

5. Yuji Nagata & Takashi Iizuka (Takayuki Iizuka) beat Masahito Kakihara & Mitsuya Nagai of All Japan in 17:03 when Iizuka choked out Nagai. Match was only so-so. Nagai is pretty bad. During the match, Kakihara was injured by a Nagata kick to the face and will be out of action for one month. Mostly matwork, and picked up with a lot of trading of kicks.

6. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan beat Riki Choshu (Mitsuo Kwak) & Shinya Makabe in 15:20. Makabe replaced Kenzo Suzuki, who suffered a broken finger as well as a wrist injury landing wrong doing a missile dropkick a few days earlier. Actually that saved the match as Makabe is a tons better wrestler than Suzuki. Tenzan & Kojima said that if they didn't win in under ten minutes, they would vacate the IWGP tag team titles. They didn't, but this stipulation was never pushed on TV nor mentioned on the PPV. After the match, the stip still wasn't acknowledged and to the best of everyone's knowledge, they haven't vacated the titles. Apparently this was a way to build heat as they went for a bunch of near falls at the nine minute mark. Finish saw Kojima hold Choshu in a figure four while Tenzan came off the top with a moonsault and Tenzan pinned Choshu. As you can see, Choshu is right now trying to elevate guys with his return.

7. Don Frye beat Masahiro Chono in 12:27 in their no time limit grudge match. Match was said to be very good live, but it may not come across as good on TV because Frye was totally killing Chono with body shots. They are doing an angle where Chono has bad ribs, and Frye, a former pro boxer and UFC champ, pounding the ribs was to do an injury angle to keep Chono out until the 4/9 Osaka Dome show. At one point, several members of Team 2000 (Goto, Ohara, Hiro Saito, Tenzan, J and Kojima) tried to attack Frye, but he punched all of them. Frye ended up winning with a choke.

8. Keiji Muto beat Kazunari Murakami in 6:10 in what was more of an angle than a wrestling match. Muto came out with Taiyo Kea of All Japan and Frye in his corner. It doesn't look like Otani is staying in Muto's group and instead they are doing the angle sending him to Hashimoto's group. Basically all these angles to separate everyone theoretically is going to cost New Japan short term at the box office with the roster depleted, but when everyone is established as members of opposite groups, they can bring them back for interpromotional style matches that will do business. Murakami came out with Akira Shoji of Pride (who made that great pro wrestling debut on New Years Eve) and a man wearing a white mask. The match was worked more UFC style, with Murakami started with punches and they went to the ground going for submissions. Finally Muto went to the finish using a dropkick to the knee, followed by his new knee to the chin finisher. At that point, the masked man climbed into the ring and they teased a confrontation with Muto. He took off his mask, revealing Jinsei Shinzaki, and they all shook hands and hugged, as the angle for Shinzaki to join Muto's group with the idea they will work for numerous promotions and in the ring said they would all be appearing as a unit (Frye didn't go, the others did) at the All Japan show at Korakuen Hall later that night.

9. Kensuke Sasaki retained the IWGP heavyweight title pinning Otani in 14:53. Match was said to be decent, but overall disappointing for a world title match, both because Otani with his 30 pound weight gain hasn't looked good since he's been back (ironically this is also the biggest push he's ever gotten). Nobody bought him having a shot to win the title anyway. Otani twice got his cobra finisher on but Sasaki both times made the ropes, and got the pin after a Northern Lights bomb. After the match, Otani announced he was joining Hashimoto's group.

The temporary elimination of Kevin Nash and putting as much heat on the heels, in particular CEO Ric Flair, as a way to build the new ownership group when they come in to be big babyfaces, was the key piece of business at the SuperBrawl PPV on 2/19 at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium.

Largely due to a combination of a strong workrate and a very responsive crowd, this show turned out to be far better than it looked to be on paper as was a solid thumbs up show. The main event saw a take-off on an old WWF storyline with Vince McMahon, this time with Flair announcing an impromptu loser leaves WCW forever stipulation (which nobody bought live and just served once again to kill whatever faith the fans would have in any advertised stipulations and thus the drawing power of such), and then changing the match stipulation to two out of three falls when Nash quickly won. With most of the key babyfaces banned from the building, Nash fell victim to constant interference from Flair and Midajah before losing at the end in a match, which due to storyline a lot more than anything that happened in the ring, ended up pretty heated.

The show drew 4,395 fans, which looked good on television since the building was cut down to a 6,000 capacity, which was 3,105 paying $87,133.

A. In the dark match, Chris Harris pinned Kid Romeo.

1. Shane Helms won the six-way cruiserweight match over Shannon Moore, Kaz Hayashi, Yun Yang (James Yang), Jamie Knoble (James Gibson) and Evan Karagias (Evan Kavagias) in 17:30. The win sets up Helms challenging Chavo Guerrero Jr. for the cruiserweight title on the 3/18 PPV. Chavo They did an angle in the pre-game show which saw Billy Kidman injured by Road Warrior Animal, which led to Helms coming in as the replacement and coming out as the winner. No heat early. Dragons did a stereo Asai-moonsault. Hayashi had a new look which made him look too much like Sonny Onoo. Knoble continued to show great improvement. Everyone looked great except Yang and Karagias and they were missing spots all over the place. Although Yang took heat from fans for it, the wrestlers blamed it on Karagias forgetting all his spots and making Yang look bad in the process (although Yang did fall off the slippery ropes on his own). Karagias and Yang had what was called a problem in the ring at this point, with Karagias version being that since the whole match was laid out move by move in order and Yang did a move out of sequence, he didn't know what to do next and just wanted to take him down and settle it down. At that point Yang wanted to tag out, thinking Karagias was lost and Hayashi wouldn't tag in. Karagias even missed a springboard splash he was supposed to hit by overshooting. Helms showed good fire. Yang did an incredible DDT on Moore. Everyone missed leaps off the top ropes in a spot out of corny Lucha. I hate that spot because by the time the second guy misses, everyone knows everyone else is missing and at best all it does is get the audience to laugh at everyone which usually isn't the intent. Helms did a plancha on Yang. Karagias hit a springboard plancha on both. Hayashi did his twisting dive. Moore did a top rope Asai moonsault. Knoble did a high flip dive hitting Helms. Knoble missed a move on Hayashi he was supposed to hit and they did the spot where he and Karagias kept fighting over who was supposed to get the pin. Yang and Karagias then botched up four spots in a row to the point the audience was heavily booing, before Yang pinned him with a Gori especial bomb in 10:21. Knoble pinned Yang with a tombstone piledriver in 10:51. Moore pinned Knoble with the bottoms up (famouser) off the top rope in 11:58. From this point on the match was excellent, including a spot where Moore and Helms started fighting with each other. Ref Scott James (veteran wrestler Scott Armstrong) was knocked silly legit as apparently he was believed to have suffered a concussion from the bump, forgot what he was supposed to be doing, and had to have Arn Anderson in his earpiece give him directions for the match to remember the end correctly. Helms pinned Moore in 15:11 with the nightmare on Helms street. Helms and Kaz worked a great series of spots including a strong near fall by Hayashi with a german suplex and Hayashi rolling through on a sunset flip off the top and kicking Helms in the face. Helms finally got the pin with the vertabreaker. The first six minutes of this was the best stuff on the show, but to give this match a high rating, one would have to ignore just how ungodly bad certain parts of the match were. ***1/4

2. Hugh Morrus (Bill DeMott) pinned The Wall (Jerry Tuite) in 9:43. Fans chanted for tables. Some messed up looking spots when Wall didn't go up or mistimed going up for Morrus' lifts. The explanation is that when Wall had the steps dropped on him, he went out and was dead weight in those spots where Morrus was supposed to lift him, which is why Morrus had so much trouble picking up a 340-pound man who wasn't going up. Very physical, but kind of sloppy. Morrus won with a moonsault, and delivered a second one after the match as well. 1/2*

3. Sean O'Haire & Chuck Palumbo retained the WCW tag titles over Mark Jindrak & Shawn Stasiak (Shawn Stepich) in 11:37. Based on reports of their previous matches which were apparently not good, everyone should be real happy with this one. Stasiak actually showed the most charisma he's ever shown in his life (that isn't as big a praise as it sounds), a little on the interview and more in the ring. Basic tag team psychology, which the old-school crowd bought, as Jindrak & Stasiak played heel doubling on Palumbo, who hot tagged to O'Haire and they went to the finish with Palumbo hitting the jungle kick on Stasiak and O'Haire pinning him after the seanton bomb. **3/4

4. Chavo Guerrero Jr. (Salvador Guerrero III) pinned Rey Misterio Jr. (Oscar Gutierrez) to retain the cruiserweight title in 15:54. Aside from a couple of spots where Misterio Jr. slipped on the ropes, this was an excellent match. Fast-paced, lots of good moves and surprisingly good heat. Misterio Jr. got a lot of near falls and did a hot flip dive out of the ring. Finish saw Guerrero Jr. crack him with a hard chair shot to the head and deliver a brainbuster for the pin. ***1/2

5. Rick Steiner (Robert Rechsteiner) retained the U.S. title pinning Dustin Rhodes (Dustin Runnels) in 9:11. Both guys were dressed in red pants and a black shirt, which showed the company's desperate need for more care in costuming. Match had good heat and was a lot better than one would have thought. Steiner undid the padding on the turnbuckles and dropped Rhodes on it for the pin. He delivered a death valley driver on him after the match. However, Rhodes came back with the shattered dreams kick. **1/2

6. Buff Bagwell (Marcus Bagwell) & Lex Luger (Larry Pfohl) defeated Brian Adams in 6:25 to get a title shot at Palumbo & O'Haire on the Greed PPV. Storyline was that Clark was attacked when he went to get medical clearance on a swerve set up by Lance Storm. The lights went out as a guy, supposedly Bryan Clark, ran out to help Adams, but he was clocked with a chair and laid down face first. It was clear it wasn't Clark, which was about the only thing decent about the match other than at least it was kept short. Some heat. The fake Clark attacked Adams and was revealed to be Mike Awesome. The real Clark came out with his clothes all torn up. While this was going on, Luger racked Adams and then Bagwell pinned him after a blockbuster. 1/4*

7. Cat (Ernest Miller) pinned Lance Storm (Lance Evers) to win back the commissioner job in 8:07. Storm did about as good a job carrying Cat as you probably could. Finish saw Mike Sanders come out, but Ms. Jones first slapped him, then laid him out with a high kick and a distracted Storm walked into the feliner. **

8. In an impromptu match, Kanyon (Chris Klucsaritis) pinned Diamond Dallas Page (Page Falkinburg) in 8:15. To explain this, Jeff Jarrett showed a tape where Page said he'd face Kanyon anytime, anywhere, so Jarrett said Flair ordered the match to take place at this point. Kanyon came from under the ring to attack Page. They had a hot match. Page juiced from having his face jammed into the ring steps. Page hit a killer uranage for a near fall. Page kicked out of a Kanyon cutter. Page got another near fall after Kanyon collided with Jarrett. After a ref bump, Jarrett hit the stroke on Page and Kanyon pinned him with the flatliner. ***1/4

9. Page pinned Jarrett in 8:30. This match began immediately. Both bouts were cut well back in time because the show was running long. They brawled outside the ring. Page DDT'd Jarrett on a table that didn't break. The announcers were trying to sell the bloodied Page's comebacks as a life or death struggle. Guess they had to since he's in the main event on the next PPV. To Page's credit, he came out of the show looking like a big star and put on a hell of a performance in both matches. Page got several near falls until Kanyon came back and attacked him. Jarrett clocked Page with a chair to the head but he kicked out. Jarrett went to hit Page with the guitar, but he moved and hit Kanyon instead, and Page then gave Jarrett a diamond cutter for the pin. ***1/2

10. Scott Steiner (Scott Rechsteiner) retained the WCW title winning two of three falls from Kevin Nash in 11:04. Flair announced before the match the loser leaves town stipulations. Throughout the show they did the gimmick where all the faces, Konnan, Cat, Kronik and Rhodes were ordered out of the building by Flair. Also, during the pre-game show, in a strange bit of advertising, they said they had no idea if the main event would even take place. Great way to get those last minute buys. They'll sacrifice income by telling people the main event may not happen just to get a pop because a guy comes out of a wheelchair. That's the kind of "surprise" booking that a company making money can afford, but a company losing money can't. Nash came out in a wheelchair with two hot nurses. Deja vu. He then got up, showing the cast was a fake, and clocked Steiner with the title belt and pinned him in 17 seconds. Flair then ordered the match to go two of three falls. Page was staggering around backstage and Luger and Bagwell put him in a box to eliminate him. Steiner juiced. Midajah distracted Nash for Steiner to hit him with a pipe on the floor. With Nash on the floor, Flair announced it was now a falls count anywhere match and Charles Robinson counted the pin at 2:30 of fall two. Nash juiced from a chair shot but broke out of the recliner. "No one has ever broken the hold" they exclaimed, unfortunately, memories of Goldberg flashed before my eyes as the announcers destroyed their credibility again. I guess you can't destroy what you don't have. Nash came back with a choke slam but Midajah stopped Robinson from counting. After a power bomb by Nash, Midajah again broke up the pin. Nash gave Midajah a side slam, thereby having a cover reason to eliminate her from the company. Nash went for the pin again but Flair pulled Robinson out and attacked him. Nash went after Flair, allowing Steiner time for a low blow, a chair shot to the head and Marcus Johnson came out and signalled for the bell as Steiner put Nash in the recliner. *3/4

Not only was the huge ratings drop between week one and week two bad news for both NBC and the WWF in the XFL project, but even worse news is examining the demographics.

The NBC rating dropped from a 9.49 rating to a 4.58 the second week, a drop of 52 percent. But more significant is that the audience itself dropped from 15.1 million to 6.5 million, a 57 percent drop due to average viewership per household dropping from 1.61 to 1.38. It dropped again for the third week another 27 percent to 4.78 million. For the third week of play, which was the best overall broadcast to date, the show fell again to what appears to be a national 3.2 on NBC (down 30%--the actual nationals didn't come out until after press time due to the President's Day holiday but the fast nationals, which are usually within a tenth of a point either way, came in at this level) and an overnight rating (nationals nor fast nationals not yet in) of 2.0 on UPN (down 40% from 2.8 last week), indicating final numbers probably around a 1.4 or 1.5, a full point lower than UPN averages in prime time. The games were both deeply entrenched in last place on both nights among all network programming. Figuring TNN would also show a drop since considerably less promotional hype went into their second game, XFL will be hovering at about 6.0 to 6.2 total national ratings points for the week, as much as 40% below what they promised advertisers.

If there was good news, it's that the ratings indicated this may be the last big drop. The NBC game on 2/17 stayed steady the entire first half, dropped a little in the second half before picking up strong for the finish which again came down to the last play, the first game where the ending of the game drew a bigger audience than the beginning. The UPN game on the overnights opened at 1.8 and generally showed growth, finishing at a 2.4 for another game which the outcome was in doubt literally until the last minute. While the frequency of games decided on the last play should be suspicious given it's a WWF-owned league, the reality is that these games are usually low scoring, which is not what the league would like, but low scoring games by their very nature are going to have the outcome in doubt until late in the game.

For comparison purposes, Nitro averages 1.59 viewers per household and Raw averages 1.67 viewers per household. From an advertiser standpoint, the audience for the second week turned out to be totally different than projected and desired based on the largely youth oriented commercials. The idea that Vince McMahon is the king of attracting Males 12-24 which was the prime audience expected, and delivered, the first week as the show did its best rating, a 10.6, among teenage boys. That audience dropped 70 percent to a 3.1 and the 18-24 males dropped 71 percent by the second week, leaving the strongest demo for the XFL being Men above the age of 49.

TNN, which heavily advertised on WWF programming and has been as a network heavily targeting younger viewers with the "We've got pop" campaign, did its best numbers on its debut show among 18-24 males but realistically, both the UPN and TNN shows were similar numbers for all male age groups, not skewing either young or old. The scary part of the second week NBC rating and the 12-24 Male demographics is that there is a slight misleadingly high aspect of the second week because of a huge audience overall, and in that demo, which turned in at 11:30 p.m. for the final quarter hour because of Saturday Night Live and Jennifer Lopez. The rating opened at 5.0 and fell to 4.1 at 10 p.m., which as the game got close, picked up to 4.3. There was growth after 11 p.m., likely people waiting for the newscast and SNL, and the final quarter hour at 6.6, even with the double overtime great finish, still has to be considered mainly the audience tuning in to see SNL. The prime time rating was a 4.39.

The final UPN number for the second week was a 2.09, a 32 percent drop from the debut the previous week. TNN drew a 2.40 rating, which is a very strong number for that network. That translates into 1.87 national ratings points, meaning the combination of the three shows the second week delivered an 8.54 national rating, already well below the 10.0 number sponsors were promised. The first week delivered 12.57 total national ratings points so at this point they are after three weeks already 10% behind what they promised advertisers even with the huge open. If there are positives to be looked at, it was that the TNN game steadily grew last week and the audience for the UPN game was an umbrella effect (grew in the first half, fell off after halftime and ending up where it started). The TNN strongest demo was the target Males 18-24 (2.2) but also 50-54 (2.2) but only did a 1.1 among teenagers. UPN also only did a 1.1 among teenagers with the strongest being 25-34 year old men (2.2).

The WWFE third quarter report for the months of November through January showed revenues of $111,194,000 and a profit margin of $11,683,000 for the period. This included $13,971,000 in losses on the start-up of the XFL, a little more than half of which ($7,050,000) was paid by partner NBC. It also includes a $1.2 million pre-tax gain on its sale of the former Debbie Reynolds Hotel in Las Vegas. For the period from May through January, the company grossed $324,935,000, which should indicate about a $430 million gross revenue fiscal year not including whatever revenue comes in from the XFL, although overall XFL will show a loss on the net revenue end.

The total profits for the fiscal year, which started on May 1, 2000, is $36,395,000. To put those figures in perspective, up until the American pro wrestling business boom business exploded for both WWF and WCW in 1997 and WWF in 1998 with the popularity of Steve Austin and the feud with Vince McMahon and the NWO, even in the glory days of WWF Hulk Hogan, the company never had a year which profited more than $6 million. It is believed that no wrestling company in history had ever until the recent years boom of WWF and WCW from the competition of the Monday Night Wars, profited more than $9 million (New Japan, 1982, much of which was squandered in Inoki's losing outside business fiascos) in any given year. The WWF in fiscal 1998-99 showed a $56 million profit and in 1999-00 showed an $85.7 million profit.

Because of increases in general and administrative expenses, largely increasing the working staff because of the company's non-XFL expansion and increased costs of WWF New York, costs of starting the XFL and $760,000 in stock options for performers, the actual profit from business itself for the three months was $5,643,000. A similar total of income was also gained from interest.

As part of the quarterly report, the WWF released aspects of a survey attempting to remove the stigma that pro wrestling fans were lower on the financial end and thus increase their ability to charge competitive advertising rates. At this point, WWF programming can't get ad rates commensurate with their delivery of audience as compared to most mainstream programming. One of the things people don't understand about ratings is that they are largely a tool to sell advertising by the station. Many advertisers won't associate themselves with pro wrestling, which is why, for example, TNT makes far more money selling ad time on NBA broadcasts that don't draw the ratings that Nitro does, so when people say TNT spends X amount of dollars on lower rated NBA broadcasts and wrestling beats those numbers, it is not an irrelevant point, but it's overstating the point.

According to the survey the company released, the average income of a WWF watching household is 16 percent above the national average which thereby should make it an above average buy (which directly contradicts another study that came out this week which showed WWF Smackdown! skewed far stronger among lower earning minority households) as an attempt to change advertisers thoughts. The WWF study claimed 62 percent of adults that watch WWF are professional or white collar workers, to remove the trailer park trash stigma that has faced wrestling fans literally forever, and that 30 percent have a four-year degree, also above the national average of about 20 percent.

Where the survey becomes obviously flawed is that it claims that 77 percent of WWF fans watch Smackdown, Raw and Heat. Since Heat delivers about a 2.1 average rating, and Smackdown during that quarter averaged a 4.6 and Raw averaged a 5.0 during that period, that figure simply makes no sense. The lowest Heat could average would be a 3.85 rating for that statistic to have even a prayer of being accurate and even at that figure, it could mean that every single viewer of Heat at 3.85 also watches Raw. It claimed that 93 percent of Smackdown viewers and 91 percent of Raw viewers who are parents, watch the shows with their children, to make wrestling time seem like family time together. Again, those numbers being that high don't make sense. It could be a question worded asking parents if they have ever watched wrestling with their kids, and those stats would then make sense if you've done it once a year, but presented in this fashion makes it appear that it's a weekly ritual of parents and kids watching these shows together, and that seems to contradict the 1.67 per home viewership of Raw.

The WWF noted that PPV buys during that period increased 12% over the same period last year, not so much because of the shows held in that period (Survivor Series and Royal Rumble are both projected down from last year, but Armageddon was significantly up with the Hell in a Cell match from last year's Vince vs. HHH main event). The increase was due to the December PPV in the United Kingdom and more international coverage of the PPV events and the introduction of the Fanatix series.

There was a major increase in television revenue over the same period last year due to the increase in the contract of $100,000 per week to $550,000 per week in the new Viacom deal as well as increases in international television sales as well as the PPV increase. Television advertising sales for the quarter were about the same as the same period last year. While attendance was down, gates are still up as ticket prices have now increased once again to $33.36 for an average house show ticket.

Non-event and television revenue was stagnant from last year, about $31.7 million for the quarter. The increased revenue streams were from publishing of books and magazines with the success of Rock and Foley's books combined with new books released for Christmas--the cookbook and the childrens book by Foley which all made the best sellers list in their respective categories. WWF New York was also significantly stronger as a business due to the increased promotion of the restaurant/bar. However, those increases were offset by declines from last year in merchandising, home video as well as internet ad revenues due to the collapse in that marketplace which most feel is going to get a lot worse as the year goes on, even though there was a 16 percent increase (about 120,000 unique visitors daily) in unique visitors to the various websites over the same quarter one year ago.

Among other notes listed was that the Smackdown!2 is the best-selling title for PlayStation consoles and the No Mercy video game has sold 750,000 units worldwide in its first two months.

It listed attendance at XFL for the first two weekends at 33,488 per game as being 72% ahead of the 20,000 per game projection although it should be ahead of average because the home openers traditionally in sports do well above average for the season, but with only five home games per team, the attendance looks to be a positive. They've already sold 632,000 tickets for the season--79% of their projected total revenue for the year when it comes to game tickets. Advertising revenue already bought up to this point will generate $40 million, which is about two-thirds of projections. They also gave a terribly misleading stat, claiming that 70 percent of the viewers that watched the XFL over the first weekend also watched games the second weekend. How they got that number was to add up the households of the two games the first weekend and add up the households of the three games the second weekend. The actual drop is 32 percent. The ratings of the two games themselves were down 47 percent in households, and even more in viewers because of the huge drop in viewers per household the second week on NBC. From a pure profit standpoint, the WWF, even though revenue has increased this year over last year, is behind last year for various reasons, mainly XFL and licensing declines, as profit over the previous nine months was $48,022,000, down from $61,572,000 over the same period one year earlier even with the more lucrative Viacom deal and stronger television rights sales. Virtually all the profit difference is XFL, which had cost the company about $12 million total as of the end of January.

An interesting column from Lance Storm's website (stormwrestling.com):

"I'm going on a bit of a tirade this week. I keep hearing how people in ECW are offended about WCW asking them to do a tryout match, and because of this may not be taking the tryout. I'm going to give you my take on this story. I will likely offend a few of my former co-workers, but so be it. I've always spoken my mind and I've even spoken with a few of them and told them as much to their face.

Take the tryout match! ECW has no shows booked and you are not currently getting paid. Now is not the time to think you are a wrestling superstar, whose work should be world-renowned. Let's be honest. ECW isn't even on TV anymore and our man in charge, was in Japan when ECW was on TNN.

We also need to consider what succeeding in ECW really means. Paul has managed to get people over that no one else ever could. Paul has a talent for finding something in people and capitalizing on it. He is a bit of a genius in this regard. ECW also has a rep for being far more lax as far as locker room and personal conduct than any other company. Look at the track record of some past ECW acquisitions by WCW, Public Enemy, Sandman and Chris & Tammy, to name just a few. None of these acquisitions turned out as WCW had hoped for, all for different reasons.

The question everyone is likely asking now is, would I have done a tryout match when I first joined WCW? The truth is, likely not. But things were different then. ECW had a full schedule of shows, a national TV show, and my pretty decent paycheck was fed-ex'd to my house every two weeks without fail. At the time I didn't need WCW, and I could afford to wait until they really wanted me. That isn't the case anymore.

The point that a lot of people are missing is that it's just business. WCW wants to see what everyone has to offer so they can spend their money accordingly, and everyone should take the opportunity to see what they might be offered. Letting someone know you've been offended by turning down a tryout is career suicide at this point. Vince McMahon is a very, very, smart businessman. If he's the only buyer at an auction, he isn't going to be throwing out high bids. If ECW folds, which unfortunately it looks like it might, everyone working there is up for auction and there are really only two bidders.

Is being asked to prove your worth more offensive than being out right offered less than your worth? If you don't do business the right way, that's what's going to happen. This business isn't about what you're worth as it is about what leverage you have to get it. Don't let an ego eliminate the only leverage you have. No matter what you've done in this business, you are only as good as the position you currently hold."

Due to the President's Day Holiday, ratings information for 2/19 and the weekend was not available at press time.

Smackdown on 2/15 drew a 4.3 rating against the heavy competition which included 60 minutes of Friends (14.0 and 14.4 half hour) and Survivor (16.6) as well as CSI, which is doing huge numbers coming out of Survivor (14.1) and Millionaire (11.7).

Thunder on 2/14 drew a 1.9 rating and 3 share.

2/13 Galavision Lucha Libre did a 1.6 Hispanic rating and a 2.4 in the Male 18-34 target demo. The show was moved, and I believe this is a permanent move, back one hour to 8-11 p.m.



Traditional Observer PPV poll results based on phone calls, fax messages and e-mails to the Observer as of Tuesday, 2/20.

WCW SUPERBRAWL: Thumbs up 84 (70.0%), Thumbs down 20 (16.7%), In the middle 16 (13.3%). BEST MATCH POLL: 6-way cruiserweight elimination match 48, Chavo Guerrero Jr. vs. Rey Misterio Jr. 36, Diamond Dallas Page vs. Jeff Jarrett 8. WORST MATCH POLL: Brian Adams vs. Luger & Bagwell 30, Hugh Morrus vs. Wall 29, Kevin Nash vs. Scott Steiner 19, Rick Steiner vs. Dustin Rhodes 11


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.

What did you think of Monday night's (2/5) wrestling? a) Raw was better 52.7%; b) Nitro was better 11.2%; c) Didn't watch Raw 3.0%; d) Didn't watch Nitro 21.9%; e) Didn't watch Raw or Nitro 11.2%

How much damage did Scott Steiner squashing four cruiserweights do to the cruiserweight division? a) None, the division had no chance to begin with 25.4%; b) None, the division is still strong 2.2%; c) A little, but it can be overcome 29.7%; d) The division had a chance, but it's dead now 42.7%

Which of these products would have the best chance to make it in the United States on PPV? a) Pride 30.9%; b) EMLL 7.8%; c) AAA 7.8%; d) New Japan 28.1%; d) None have a chance 25.3%

At the beginning of the year 2002, how many wrestling companies will be doing profitable regular PPV shows in the United States? a) One 54.0%; b) Two 41.1%; c) Three 4.5%; d) Four 0.5%; e) More than four 0.0%

What did you think of Monday night's (2/12) wrestling? a) Raw was better 49.1%; b) Nitro was better 13.7%; c) Didn't watch Raw 2.5%; d) Didn't watch Nitro 24.8%; e) Didn't watch Raw or Nitro 9.9%

If the major world champions were put against each other in a legitimate contest under shootfighting rules in a tournament, who do you think would win? a) Kurt Angle 33.2%; b) Scott Steiner 19.7%; c) Kensuke Sasaki 7.7%; d) Mark Coleman 23.1%; e) Whoever was the luckiest on that given day 16.3% (boy does the response to this question come off as embarrassment to the people who respond to polls on the show)

What do you think about ECW's future on PPV? a) There will be one last show on March 11 44.0%; b) There will be one last show, but after March 11 9.6%; c) There will be many more shows 6.0%; d) There won't be another PPV show 40.4%

Who would you rank as the greatest British wrestler who was a star internationally? a) Billy Robinson 39.9%; b) Steven Regal 16.5%; c) Dynamite Kid 32.9%; d) Davey Boy Smith 10.2%; e) Bert Assirati 0.5%

This is the third issue of the current four-issue set. If you've got a (1) on your address label, your Observer subscription expires with next week's issue.

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For back issues of the Observer, the "Wrestling Observer Index" lists every issue in our history going back more than 18 years with the major headlines by the week. Besides as a guide for ordering back issues, the Index is also a great way to keep a catalog of past issues and use for historical purposes. It is available for $15 from Grant Zwarych, 151 Hart Ave., Peterborough, ON K9J 5C5 Canada. Virtually every back issue from 1982-91 is available from him at prices listed in the index, plus $5 for postage for overseas orders. Most issues from 1992-present are available from us at $4 per issue. If you are ordering back issues from us, please denote back issues on the envelope to insure the quickest response. All payments to Grant or to us must be made in U.S. funds.

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2/14 Gifu (New Japan - 3,600 sellout): Silver King b Shinya Makabe, Osamu Nishimura b Katsuyori Shibata, Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka b Dr. Wagner Jr. & Kendo Ka Shin & El Samurai, Yutaka Yoshie & Takashi Iizuka b Michiyoshi Ohara & Tatsutoshi Goto, Hiro Saito & Super J b Kenzo Suzuki & Manabu Nakanishi, Brian Johnston & Yuji Nagata b Sledge Hammer & Shinjiro Otani, AKIRA & Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan b Jushin Liger & Super Strong Machine & Kensuke Sasaki

2/14 Chichibu (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 1,600 sellout): Mitsuo Momota & Rusher Kimura b Makoto Hashi & Haruka Eigen, Takashi Suguira & Yoshihiro Takayama b Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Kentaro Shiga, Daisuke Ikeda & Yoshinari Ogawa b Takeshi Rikio & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Vader & Too Cold Scorpio b Satoru Asako & Takao Omori, Masao Inoue & Tamon Honda b Naomichi Marufuji & Mitsuharu Misawa

2/15 Hamamatsu (New Japan - 1,800): Wataru Inoue b Katsuyori Shibata, Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Koji Kanemoto b Kendo Ka Shin & El Samurai, Minoru Tanaka & Jushin Liger b Silver King & Dr. Wagner Jr., Kenzo Suzuki & Junji Hirata b Shinya Makabe & Riki Choshu, Brian Johnston & Yuji Nagata b AKIRA & Satoshi Kojima, Sledge Hammer & Shinjiro Otani b Osamu Nishimura & Kensuke Sasaki, Yutaka Yoshie & Takashi Iizuka & Manabu Nakanishi b Tatsutoshi Goto & Super J & Hiroyoshi Tenzan

2/16 Kessenuma (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 1,500 sellout): Daisuke Ikeda & Mitsuo Momota & Rusher Kimura b Makoto Hashi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Haruka Eigen, Akira Taue & Jun Izumida b Masao Inoue & Tamon Honda, Naomichi Marufuji & Mitsuharu Misawa b Takashi Suguira & Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Yoshihiro Takayama b Takeshi Morishima, Vader & Too Cold Scorpio b Takeshi Rikio & Yoshinari Ogawa, Takao Omori & Satoru Asako b Kentaro Shiga & Jun Akiyama

2/16 Mexico City Arena Mexico (EMLL TV tapings): Volador Jr. & Sombra de Plata b Enemigo Publico & Jeque, Mascara Magica & Starman b Dr. X & Halcon Negro, Virus b Ricky Marvin, Apolo Dantes & Veneno & Black Warrior b Safari & Brazo de Oro & Tony Rivera, Atlantis & Negro Casas & Juventud Guerrera b Rey Bucanero & Ultimo Guerrero & Tarzan Boy, Rayo de Jalisco Jr. & Villano III & Perro Aguayo b Cien Caras & Mascara Ano 2000 & Universo 2000

2/16 Tijuana, BC (Promociones Mora - 5,500 sellout): Depredador & Los Pandilleros I & II b Colibri & Principe Arandu & Guepardo, La Parka & Tinieblas & Tinieblas Jr. b Felino & El Satanico & Emilio Charles Jr., Rey Misterio Sr. & Damian & Halloween b Bestia Salvaje & Scorpio Jr. & Shocker-DQ, Nicho (Psicosis) won three-way over El Hijo del Santo and Rey Misterio Jr.

2/17 Cedar Falls, IA (WWF - 5,493): Hardcore title: Steve Blackman b Raven, Raven b Blackman to regain title, Hardcore & Molly Holly b Steven Richards & Ivory, Chris Benoit b X-Pac, Four-way for tag titles: Dudleys over Edge & Christian, Hardys and Goodfather & Bull Buchanan, WWF title: Kurt Angle b Chris Jericho, European title: Test b Val Venis, Big Show b K-Kwik, Acolytes b Big Bossman & Albert, Steve Austin & Undertaker & Kane b HHH & Rikishi & Haku

2/17 Koshigaya (New Japan - 2,000): Shinya Makabe b Katsuyori Shibata, Osamu Nishimura b Wataru Inoue, Silver King & Dr. Wagner Jr. & El Samurai b Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka, Brian Johnston & Shiro Koshinaka b AKIRA & Michiyoshi Ohara, Tatsutoshi Goto & Hiro Saito & Super J b Makabe & Takashi Iizuka & Riki Choshu, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan b Yutaka Yoshie & Manabu Nakanishi, Jushin Liger & Yuji Nagata & Kensuke Sasaki b Don Frye & Shinjiro Otani & Sledge Hammer

2/17 Ishinomaki (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 2,400): Masao Inoue & Tamon Honda b Makoto Hashi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Haruka Eigen b Mitsuo Momota & Rusher Kimura, Takao Omori b Takashi Suguira, Akira Taue & Jun Izumida b Naomichi Marufuji & Yoshinari Ogawa, Too Cold Scorpio & Vader b Satoru Asako & Yoshihiro Takayama, Jun Akiyama & Kentaro Shiga & Takeshi Morishima b Mitsuharu Misawa & Daisuke Ikeda & Takeshi Rikio

2/17 Carolina, PR (WWC - 1,200): Richie Santiago b Rockero, Black Boy b Titan, Eddie Watts b Chris Grant, WWC jr. title: Damien Steele b Eddie Colon to win title, El Nene b Super Gladiator, Cage match for Universal title: Jerry Flynn b Carly Colon to win title, El Bronco b Ray Gonzalez, PR title: Invader I b Paul LeDuc-DQ, Tag titles: Thunder & Lightning b Rico Suave & Assassin

2/17 Memphis (Power Pro TV): Lance Cade b Tyler Gates, Charlie Haas b Shooter Schultz, Joey Abs & Pete Gas b Seven & Scott Vick, Spellbinder & Derrick King b Spanky & American Dragon, Jerry Lawler b Bobby Eaton-DQ

2/18 Evansville, IN (WWF - 7,321): Too Cool b Kaientai, Kat b Victoria, Jerry Lawler b Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit b X-Pac, Steve Austin & Undertaker & Kane b Rikishi & Haku & HHH, Russ & Charlie Haas b Scott Vick & Steve Bradley, Eddy Guerrero b Bo Dupp, K-Kwik b Justin Credible, Hardys b Edge & Christian

2/18 Cape Girardeau, MO (WWF - 4,259): Hardcore Holly b Steven Richards, Crash Holly b Brooklyn Brawler, Acolytes b Big Bossman & Albert, Hardcore title: Steve Blackman b Raven to win title, Raven b Blackman to regain title, Tag titles: Dudleys b Goodfather & Bull Buchanan, Womens title: Ivory b Molly Holly, European title: Test b Val Venis, Big Show b Al Snow, WWF title: Kurt Angle b Chris Jericho

2/18 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (All Japan - 2,100 sellout): Yasushi Kanda & Susumu Mochizuki & Darkness Dragon (Brett Como) b Nobukazu Hirai & Taru & Ryuji Hijikata, Sabu & Giant Kimala II b Rob Van Dam & Gran Naniwa, Shigeo Okumura b Nobutaka Araya, George Hines b Jim Steele, Steve Williams & Mike Rotunda b Dan Kroffat & Mike Barton, Toshiaki Kawada & Yuto Aijima b Mohammed Yone & Mitsuya Nagai, Johnny Smith & Taiyo Kea & Keiji Muto b Kim Duk & Masa Fuchi & Genichiro Tenryu

2/18 Fukushima (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 1,700): Takeshi Rikio b Takashi Suguira, Yoshinobu Kanemaru b Makoto Hashi, Kentaro Shiga & Mitsuo Momota & Rusher Kimura b Naomichi Marufuji & Daisuke Ikeda & Haruka Eigen, Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa b Masao Inoue & Tamon Honda, Vader & Too Cold Scorpio b Takeshi Morishima & Jun Akiyama, Yoshihiro Takayama & Takao Omori & Satoru Asako b Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Jun Izumida & Akira Taue

2/19 St. Louis (WWF Raw is War/Metal-Jakked tapings - 14,840 sellout): Russ & Charlie Haas b Scott Vick & Steve Bradley, Bo Dupp b Drill Instructor, European title: Test b Essa Rios, K-Kwik b Derek Stone, Perry Saturn b James Grizzly, Kaientai b Matt Murphy & Superstar Steve, Undertaker won three-way over Christian and D-Von Dudley, Lita b Dean Malenko, Chris Jericho ref: X-Pac NC Eddy Guerrero, Haku & Rikishi b Hardys, Hardcore title: Raven NC Crash Holly, Rock & Steve Austin b Chris Benoit & Kurt Angle

2/19 Huntsville, AL (WCW Nitro/Thunder tapings - 3,547/2,431 paid): Shannon Moore b Jamie Knoble, Bryan Clark b Mike Awesome-DQ, Konnan & Billy Kidman b Road Warrior Animal & Chavo Guerrero Jr., Buff Bagwell b Cat, Rick Steiner b Lash Leroux, Hugh Morrus b Lance Storm, Diamond Dallas Page b Chris Kanyon, Kaz Hayashi b Kwee Wee, A.J. Styles & Air Paris b Alex Wright & Disqo, Shawn Stasiak b Big Vito, Diamond Dallas Page & Cat b Buff Bagwell & Chris Kanyon, Jeff Jarrett b Crowbar, Chuck Palumbo b Lex Luger, Scott Steiner vs. Hugh Morrus

2/20 Kansas City (WWF Smackdown/Heat tapings): Scott Vick & Steve Bradley b Haas Brothers, Rhino b Bo Dupp, James Grizzly b Derek Stone, Bull Buchanan & Goodfather b Kaientai, Tazz b Essa Rios, Justin Credible b Matt Murphy, Dean Malenko b Grandmaster Sexay, Rikishi b Jeff Hardy, Big Show won over Crash Holly, Perry Saturn, Hardcore Holly, K-Kwik and Steve Blackman, Chris Benoit & Eddy Guerrero b X-Pac & Chris Jericho, Kat b Ivory-DQ, European title: Test b William Regal, Edge & Christian & Kurt Angle b Undertaker & Kane & Rock

2/20 Tokyo Korakuen Hall (Pro Wrestling NOAH - 2,100 sellout): Satoru Asako & Mitsuo Momota & Rusher Kimura b Makoto Hashi & Kentaro Shiga & Haruka Eigen, Akitoshi Saito & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi b Kishin Kawabata & Masashi Aoyagi, Yoshihiro Takayama & Takao Omori b Takashi Suguira & Naomichi Marufuji, Jun Izumida & Akira Taue b Masao Inoue & Tamon Honda, Takuma Sano b Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Jun Akiyama b Yoshinari Ogawa, Vader & Too Cold Scorpio b Mitsuharu Misawa & Takeshi Rikio


Special thanks to: Robert Bihari, Jeff Marek, Bryan Alvarez, Alex Marvez, Dan Lovransky, Wesley Jones, Andy DeMonte, Paul Bradbrook, Phil Jones, Manuel Gonzalez, Richard Koz, Gene Restaino, David Lagana, Dave Republic, Larry Lee, Dan Parris, Jim Fannin, Adrian Pickworth, Rob Bihari, Dominick Valenti, Rob Moore, Tommy Lang, Eric Loy, Jeff Beecher, Ken Tuccio, Joe Zanolle, Craig Malone, Larry Goodman, Cory Walker, Casey Willis, Rod Siciliano, Dan Billings, Jeff Tuck, Craig Allen, Brian Thompson, Eddie Goldman, Peter Stork, Aaron Dias, Marc Manning, Dafydd Denatale, Dominick Valenti, Kevin Lowery




Estimated average attendance 1/00 11,801

Estimated average attendance 1/01 12,263 (+3.9%)

December 2000 10,353


Estimated average gate 1/00 $316,259

Estimated average gate 1/01 $401,133* (+26.8%)

December 2000 $307.979


Percentage of house shows sold out 1/00 60.0

Percentage of house shows sold out 1/01 62.5

December 2000 50.0


Average Monday night rating 1/00 6.46

Average Monday night rating 1/01 5.14 (-20.4%)

December 2000 4.85


Major show 1/00: Royal Rumble (19,231 sellout/16,629 paid/$1,142,540/est. 1.58 buy rate/est. $7.34 million)


Major show 1/01: Royal Rumble (16,056 sellout/13,481 paid/$666,700/est. 1.35 buy rate/est. $7.31 million)


Est. buy rate -14.6%; Est. overall event revenue -5.9%


*Denotes all-time record for the promotion for average over a one month period



Estimated average attendance 1/00 3,593

Estimated average attendance 1/01 2,342 (-34.8%)

December 2000 2,726


Estimated average gate 1/00 $86,575

Estimated average gate 1/01 $63,823 (-26.3%)

December 2000 $73,508


Percentage of house shows sold out 1/00 5.6

Percentage of house shows sold out 1/01 0.0

December 2000 0.0


Average Monday night rating 1/00 3.10

Average Monday night rating 1/01 2.35 (-24.2%)

December 2000 2.15


Major show 1/00: Souled Out (14,132 sellout/7,323 paid/$238,529/est. 0.26 buy rate/est. $1.22 million)


Major show 1/01: Sin (6,617/4,631 paid/$162,578/est. 0.17 buy rate/est. $901,000)


Est. buy rate -34.6%; Est. overall event revenue -27.4%



Estimated average attendance 1/00 2,598

Estimated average attendance 1/01 1,606 (-38.2%)

December 2000 2,138


Estimated average gate 1/00 $118,291

Estimated average gate 1/01 $64,912 (-45.1%)

December 2000 $66,278


Percentage of house shows sold out 1/00 62.5

Percentage of house shows sold out 1/01 37.5

December 2000 0.0



Estimated average attendance 1/00 ----

Estimated average attendance 1/01 4,500

December 2000 4,521


Estimated average gate 1/00 ----

Estimated average gate 1/01 $245,000

December 2000 $219,082


Percentage of house shows sold out 1/00 ----

Percentage of house shows sold out 1/01 100.0

December 2000 60.0


Average television rating 1/00 4.25

Average television rating 1/01 4.68 (+10.1%)

December 2000 2.40


Major show 1/00: Tokyo Dome (63,500 sellout/est. $5.9 million)

Major show 1/01: Tokyo Dome (62,000 sellout)



Estimated average attendance 1/01 2,475

December 2000 3,008


Estimated average gate 1/01 $104,870

December 2000 $139,358


Percentage of house shows sold out 1/01 40.0

December 2000 25.0

MEXICO: The announced line-up for the debut of the XLAW (Xtreme Latin American Wrestling) on 3/4 at El Toreo in Naucalpan is Sabu vs. Damian, Santo vs. Aguayo, Tajiri vs. Super Crazy, a three-way which was originally Rey Misterio Jr. vs. Nicho (Psicosis) vs. Juventud Guerrera (Misterio Jr. I believe has pulled out of the show), Scorpio Jr. & Mascara Sagrada vs. Giant Kimala II & Minoru Fujita, Halloween & Mosco de la Merced vs Fobia & Depredador in a ladder match, Venum Black vs. Nozawa in an extreme rules match and a nine-man Toryumon rookies match. There are still attempts to get ECW stars like Balls Mahoney, Tommy Dreamer, Sandman and Nova for this show. From a financial standpoint, it's probably better off not. They are going to draw the same crowd with the line-up they have now as they would by flying in another group of ECW wrestlers that nobody in Mexico City really knows. It's the old budgeting deal where if you run a small show, you may want to bring in two big stars from the past to sell tickets and it'll help, but if you bring in ten stars from the past, you're guaranteed not to be able to cover expenses

The three-way with Nicho (Psicosis) winning over Rey Misterio Jr. and El Hijo del Santo drew an overflow crowd of at least 5,500 in the Auditorio Municipal in Tijuana. Must be doubling frustrating for Misterio Jr. to work Tijuana nearly every week, where they've always kept him strong, in front of packed or nearly packed houses, and then go on Monday's to empty houses for WCW where he's never been made strong and is just another guy on the card who can't sell tickets. Nicho first pinned Rey Jr. after a powerbomb off a huracanrana off the top attempt, and then pinned Santo clean, not only escaping the camel clutch, but when Santo went for it again, he turned it into a small package. After the match, Santo challenged Nicho to a mask vs. hair match. Wonder what the Vegas odds would be on who wins that one? All three men are big-time popular in Tijuana, so even though he started his career in Tijuana, Misterio Jr. was the one who was booed because the fans see him as an American wrestler who comes to Mexico and does a more Americanized style unlike the others. In the semi, which was Tijuana vs. Mexico City as Halloween & Damian & Rey Misterio Sr., as the local heels playing babyface against the EMLL's top heel trio, beating Los Guapos (Bestia Salvaje & Shocker & Scorpio Jr.) via DQ in a match which saw Emilio Charles Jr. interfere crack Halloween in the back of the head with a chair and he bled buckets to the point he legitimately needed help from the paramedics

The second half of the Copa Ovaciones and finals took place on 2/15 in Naucalpan. It started as a Battle Royal and turned into an elimination match ending with Blue Panther beating Scorpio Jr. This set up the winner of the first Copa, Felino, facing Panther, which Felino won in what was said to have been an excellent match. After the match, Felino challenged Panther to another match for Panther's Leyenda Azul trophy (from the Blue Demon tournament that Panther won a few months back)

2/16 Arena Mexico was headlined by Perro Aguayo & Rayo de Jalisco Jr. & Villano III over The Dinamitas. On 2/23, to continue the build for Perro vs. Universo, it's Perro & Rayo & Atlantis vs. Universo & Shocker & Wagner Jr with Casas & Brazo de Plata & Juventud Guerrera vs. Black Warrior & Ultimo Guerrero & Satanico as the semi, with the storyline of the Ultimo/Satanico feud

Caught some of the 2/9 Arena Mexico. Between about 2,000 fans in a 17,000-seat building and watching Perro and the Dinamitas go at it looking like a grandfathers feud, it was like watching Hogan, Piper and Savage brawl if they were all active in 2006 and still on top. Only thing missing from having that Nitro feel were the terrible storylines. And then them hyping for the big return of Rayo next week was like that week they brought Luger back as a superstar

There was a disputed tag title match on 2/18 at Arena Coliseo in Mexico City with CMLL champ Rey Bucanero & Ultimo Guerrero against Casas & Olimpico. Bucanero, who had been eliminated, came back and gave Olimpico a low blow and Guerrero pinned him. According to one newspaper story, the commission declared the title vacant after the match, however another newspaper reported it simply that Bucanero & Guerrero had retained the title. Juventud Guerrera did his first no-show on that card

Tiger Mask from Japan retained the British Commonwealth jr. title pinning El Texano on 2/18 in Monterrey.

ALL JAPAN: Taiyo Kea shaved his head in the dressing room on 2/18 before the start of the Korakuen Hall show by Keiji Muto to live up to his pre-match stipulation of shaving his head if he were to lose to Muto in the 1/28 Tokyo Dome match. This built to the opening night main event of Kea, with his new image being groomed for a Triple Crown title shot at Genichiro Tenryu on 3/3, teaming with an unadvertised Muto, who had worked earlier in the day on the New Japan PPV, and Johnny Smith to beat Tenryu & Kim Duk & Masa Fuchi (with a combined age of 150ish) in 19:54 when Kea used the figure four leglock on Fuchi. Muto's team also brought Jinsei Shinzaki in their corner. The idea they are pushing is that Muto's team spans many different promotions and will work on many different shows. There is talk that when Hayabusa returns in May, he'll join the team to add an FMW member. They also had two singles matches as part of the tournament to decide the final participant in the Champion Carnival, with George Hines over Jim Steele and Shigeo Okumura over Nobutaka Araya. Sabu and Rob Van Dam returned after a lengthy absence with the company working the second match as Sabu & Kimala II beat Van Dam & Gran Naniwa.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH: To show just how banged up Misawa really is, on the 2/16 spot show, he booked himself fourth from the top, and with Kobashi out, his presence would be more important than ever high on the card, and booked himself with three of the best small workers in the company in Naomichi Marufuji and Kanemaru and rookie Takashi Suguira (who it would be premature to call a good worker but has tons of potential and good undercard charisma to the point, after only wrestling two months, people are comparing him to Kurt Angle and actually his gimmick is that old amateur champ as green rookie and he plays it well). This left them with Takao Omori & Satoru Asako over Jun Akiyama & Kentaro Shiga as the main event

Nippon TV (Ch. 4), taped the 2/20 Korakuen Hall show and aired matches on 2/22 and 3/1 on its Wednesday night Coliseo (basically a 30-minute weekly newsmagazine covering pro wrestling and MMA which has been in the old All Japan time slot ever since NTV and All Japan broke relations). The ratings are basically a test by NTV to see what level of interest there is right now in the group, as the plan is to start them in that time slot when the new TV season starts in April. The top matches saw Takuma Sano (Naoki Sano) pin Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Akiyama pin Yoshinari Ogawa in just 2:05 and Vader & Scorpio over Misawa & Takeshi Rikio.

NEW JAPAN: Scott Hall will be appearing on the March tour as the newest member of Team 2000. Good luck to them. Friends of Hall say this may not be as bad as it sounds for two reasons. First, New Japan is a far more structured environment than WCW, and the demands to perform are much higher than the lazy attitude that WCW has bred among its top stars, and the peer group pressure on the tour won't be as bad. The second is that Hall is said to have great respect for the New Japan business (he performed as a regular for the group in the late 80s) and its history which he didn't have in WCW and, while being away from home for several weeks often leads to alcohol and recreational drug abuse among foreigners in Japan, in Hall's case, his odds are better of staying clean there. Tour is 3/3 to 3/20, with the big shows being 3/6 at Tokyo Ota Ward Gym as a symbolic show (the first ever New Japan Pro Wrestling show was March 6, 1972 at Tokyo Ota Ward Gym headlined by Inoki vs. Karl Gotch), 3/15 in Kyoto and 3/20 is the big show in Nagoya. Negro Casas also returns for that tour. New Japan has a strong promotional company in Nagoya, Kyodo Promotions, and it's considered almost an automatic sellout whenever they come. They are putting Sasaki vs. Scott Norton for the IWGP heavyweight title for that show as the main event, so they are attempting to make things as difficult as possible for that company. There is also talk of Takehiro Murahama, coming off his draw with Royler Gracie in a shoot, to represent Osaka Pro in challenging Minoru Tanaka for the IWGP jr. title on the 4/9 Osaka Dome show. If not, they'll probably using someone from Osaka Pro to challenge Tanaka for the title soon. The tour itself is going to be very difficult, since Chono won't be working it, nor will Shinjiro Otani and Tatsuhito Takaiwa (angle where they are going to Zero-One) and Keiji Muto is only working the major shows. One would expect because of this that Choshu will be working a pretty regular schedule since they are lacking in drawing power names

Major show matches are 3/3 in Niigata for opening night has Ka Shin & Samurai & Liger vs. Casas & Kanemoto & Tanaka, Johnston & Iizuka vs. Frye & Muto, Yoshie & Nagata & Nakanishi & Sasaki vs. Kojima & Tenzan & Norton & Hall; 3/6 for the anniversary show in Tokyo with Iizuka vs. Nagata, Makabe & Yoshie vs. Tenzan & Kojima, Nakanishi & Sasaki vs. Hall & Norton, Choshu & Osamu Kido vs. Frye & Muto, Kanemoto & Tanaka defending IWGP jr. tag titles against Samurai & Liger; 3/15 in Kyoto has Liger & Machine vs. Kojima & Tenzan, Frye & Muto vs. Hall & Norton, Sasaki vs. Robbie Rage, Choshu & Koshinaka & Makabe vs. Yoshie & Nagata & Nakanishi; 3/17 in Nagoya has Tanaka vs. Liger, Nagata & Nakanishi vs. Hall & Goto, Frye & Muto vs Kojima & Tenzan and Sasaki vs. Norton for IWGP heavyweight title; 3/18 in Amagasaki has Norton & Hall vs. Nakanishi & Nagata, Muto vs. Johnston, Choshu & Yoshie vs. Makabe & Koshinaka, Frye vs. Tenzan and Iizuka & Sasaki vs. Goto & Kojima; and final show is 3/20 i Tokyo with Liger vs. Kanemoto, Yoshie vs. Norton, Nakanishi vs. Hall, Nagata & Iizuka vs. Muto & Frye and Kojima & Tenzan defending IWGP tag titles against Choshu & Makabe

2/3 TV show had its ups and downs but the All Japan/New Japan feud pretty well lost its luster. Tatsumi Fujinami beat Yoshiaki Fujiwara in what was billed as one of Fujinami's last matches. Total old style exchanging holds on the mat. There was nothing wrong with it but the finish saw Fujinami get the figure four and it looked like Fujiwara had it blocked and then he submitted. No heat for the move or pop for the finish because of that. *1/4. Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka retained the IWGP jr. tag titles beating Silver King & Dr. Wagner Jr. in 19:55. One thing most obvious when watching this match was how much WCW missed the ball on Silver King. He's not what he was ten years ago when a lot of people thought he was the best worker in Mexico, but he's still good. At one point he did three straight moonsaults similar to Super Crazy. Some really cool mat moves by the challengers as well as Tanaka. Kanemoto tried his reverse Frankensteiner off the top on King, but that difficult spot didn't look good. Finish saw Kanemoto pin King after a moonsault. ***1/2; Keiji Muto & Shinjiro Otani beat Don Frye & Masahiro Chono in 12:47. Muto is so blown up he looks like a 70s strongman heel that shaved his head. Everyone was banged up except Otani so this match wasn't that good. Chono had his ribs all taped and they worked on that. Otani hasn't looked good yet since he gained all that weight and didn't do much, not that he had much to work with. Frye did the turn, punching Chono out of nowhere and Muto pinned him. To make a bad situation that got no heat worse, Chono kicked out right at the count of three. Frye pounded on Chono more and also was throwing punches at all the Team 2000 members after the match, and then complained that he had been carrying them for two years but they hadn't helped him get any title shots. DUD; Main was Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata & Takashi Iizuka over Toshiaki Kawada & Masa Fuchi & Nobutaka Araya in an All Japan vs. New Japan match. The heat was disappointing considering it was interpromotional. Fans just didn't see Araya as anything since he wasn't even in All Japan until everybody left. Kawada was great, particularly with Nagata. Still, the spotlight here was to get Nakanishi over. He hot tagged in after Nagata had taken a beating, and speared Kawada & Fuchi and worked over Araya and racked him for the win. ***1/2

2/10 TV show was more reminiscent of the boring early 2000 shows. They aired clips of all the matches that aired the previous week on TV. Riki Choshu & Kenzo Suzuki beat Hiro Saito & Tatsutoshi Goto in 8:25 when Choshu pinned Goto after two lariats. Saito looked about eight months pregnant. Bad match. 1/2*. Muto beat Iizuka, debuting his knee to the face as a new finisher. It was slow paced, mainly with Iizuka working over Muto's legs. This was good because when Muto made the comeback and was limping, which he does anyway, it made sense. Iizuka had to carry things and it was probably about as good as you can get with a Muto match going 16:33. Muto did a clumsy handspring elbow. It's just sad seeing Muto in the ring now. *1/4. Main was Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima retaining the IWGP tag titles beating Osamu Nishimura & Nakanishi in 25:25. Showed a good portion of the bout, mainly Nishimura getting pounded on to build the heat. Nishimura physically looks bad because of the cancer, but works about as well as one could ever expect given what he's been through. Kojima & Tenzan stole the Dudleys "wazzup" and 3-D spots. Good hot tag spot for Nakanishi and built well, including a cool spot where Nakanishi racked Kojima while Nishimura got the cobra twist on Tenzan. Nishimura kicked out of Tenzan's moonsault before getting pinned by the Tenzan driver. Pretty well saved the TV show. ***1/2.

OTHER JAPAN NOTES: Yuji Nagata was announced as Shinya Hashimoto's mystery partner on the Zero-One PPV show on 3/2 at Tokyo Sumo Hall against Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama. I finally got to see a tape of the NOAH match from last month with Hashimoto & Alexander Otsuka vs. Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa. It really wasn't that great of a match. The heat was super for Misawa vs. Hashimoto but it was really sad because aside from beating the hell out of each other with Hashimoto's kicks and chops and Misawa's elbows, they really didn't do much. Misawa is really just a shadow of what he once was because all those classic hard matches have taken their toll at nearly 39 years of age, and Hashimoto has fallen victim to the fat guy deal, where the guys who aren't in shape age more rapidly in this business than the guys who keep themselves in shape. The feud means a lot more on paper and to the fans who have watched both on top for the last decade in different promotions just seeing the two in the ring together than anything it looks like they'll be able to do. Now this PPV match could be awesome, however, because Nagata and Akiyama are that good in carrying and they should just leave their other two for specific spots. No doubt Akiyama can work great with Hashimoto as well. Misawa may be tough for Nagata, but the heat of seeing them together may carry that one as well. It isn't as if Nagata wasn't in a five star match two months ago with Masa Fuchi. On a related subject, watching the NOAH tapes, Vader is enormous. He's got to be hovering at a legit 400 and he really should be closer to 325 or less considering his knees and his age. He's another one who really is getting by mainly based on his name. Aside from the main event, the Zero-One PPV is a huge disappointment. The other matches will be Alexander Otsuka & Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs. Takao Omori & Yoshihiro Takayama which does have a New Japan guy against NOAH's top tag team but it's not a marquee New Japan guy, Shinjiro Otani vs. Sean McCulley (a shootfighter from Southern California that Inoki has been training who has done some pro wrestling in the past), Yoshiaki Yatsu vs. Gary Steele from England (with the gimmick that Steele is the one guy who beat Naoya Ogawa in Charlotte on September 26, 1999 when he had that brief NWA title run, Tadahiro Fujisaki vs. Akitoshi Saito and Naohiro Hoshikawa vs. Naomichi Marufuji. The plan to debut some K-1 guys including Great Kusatsu Jr. and Nobuaki Kikuta (who ended up having knee surgery after his 1/30 match with Ryushi Yanagisawa) on this show has fallen through, but there is still communication and it is expected to happen at the second PPV. Atsushi Onita is making noises about attending the show and issuing a challenge to Inoki. Hashimoto, who isn't familiar with what is going on in the U.S., said that he wanted his promotion to join the NWA as the NWA title still has a little bit of meaning in Japan due to history and the fact Ogawa held it recently and it was played up as a big deal. The second show looks to be in June in Osaka. They are doing a storyline where Akira Taue is mad because Hashimoto asked for Misawa, Kenta Kobashi and Akiyama for his first show but didn't want Taue

Onita performed in concert on Japan on 2/14. The Onita vs. Tarzan Goto feud of the early 90s was rekindled for the first time since 1995 on 2/17 on Onita's Differ Ariake show where Goto & Shoji Nakamaki beat Onita & Ichiro Yaguchi in a no rope barbed wire match. Onita is saying he's going to the Zero-One PPV to confront Inoki

Aja Kong hasn't appeared on Arsion shows since the deal that happened last week. The apparent real story is that it was a shoot. Kong and her protege Ryo Miyuki (Miyuki Maeda, a beautiful quarter Russian girl) quit the company together after Kong's dispute with owner Hiroshi "Rossy" Ogawa. Kong was the company's big star from a name value standpoint, but the company's image has gone from almost a shoot style (Queen of Arsion was taken from King of Pancrase) to the image of very pretty girls doing high flying, which Kong doesn't fit. The Arsion wrestlers that stayed according to reports were all happy things turned out this way

Akira Maeda responded to the Inoki comments that New Japan would bring in Tyson for a mixed match saying that the Ali vs. Inoki match was terrible (it was, but 25 years later, history in Japan has been very kind to it) and if a similar fight were to happen today, everyone's business would go down. Actually Inoki-Ali was pretty devastating for a few years to the pro wrestling business in Japan. Maeda said the rules of the fight are the most important thing. Historically, Inoki was greatly handicapped by the rules in the Ali fight

Former JWP wrestler Commando Boirshoi is now wrestling with Arsion as Piko

Kong worked on 2/18 on Mayumi Ozaki's independent show in Tokyo in a six-man with Ozaki & Dynamite Kansai & Chikayo Nagashima over Kong & Chigusa Nagayo & Bloody. JWP is also basically dying. Masatoshi Yamamoto, who has been the owner of the company from the start and frequently got involved in angles, particularly when they were doing the interpromotional stuff, had largely shut the company down on 11/26, promising a re-start. The re-start was on 2/18 at Differ Ariake, but it only drew about 300 people and after the show, headlined by Azumi Hyuga regaining the JWP title from Boirshoi, Yamamoto announced he was leaving the company because it was such a money loser. He would have folded it, however the eight wrestlers still under contract along with the four person front office are going to attempt to keep it going. Yamamoto has been playing heel manager on DDT (small indie group) shows and is looking for other wrestling work.

HERE AND THERE: Stu Hart will be awarded the Order of Canada, which was established in 1967 to honor people's outstanding achievements and service in various fields of endeavor. It's sort of equivalent to the U.S. Congressional medal of honor. There have been pushes done for a few years to get Hart honored. Hart himself was surprised by the award, which was largely pushed for him by Bret and those close to him, saying that he could understand someone like Gordie Howe or Wayne Gretzky getting it, but couldn't think of anything he'd done in his life to deserve it

Our Wrestling Observer Live show on 2/23 will be live from the UFC in Atlantic City, NJ and will have Bobby Heenan as guest as well as expected drop-ins from the UFC show

The 1/26 Cleveland Plain Dealer did a feature on the late Pedro Martinez' NWF promotion that he ran from 1967 to 1975 before selling it to Antonio Inoki and New Japan. It had interviews with some of the biggest stars of that era in the city, Abdullah the Butcher, Ed "Moose" Cholak (now 70, living in Chicago with bad knees from all the big splashes which is a sad future commentary for a lot of guys since Moose barely got off his feet for splashes in the ring, let alone came off the ropes like men of similar size like Vader do today), Walter Seiber, 67 (Waldo Von Erich), Bruce Swayze, 59, manager of the Love Brothers(Jack Evans & Wes Hutchings), TV announcer Jack Reynolds and the area's biggest star of the era, Johnny Powers, 57, who was also one of Inoki's big rivals in the early days of New Japan. Powers talked about the biggest show they promoted and one of the biggest shows of the era on August 12, 1972 at the baseball stadium which they said drew 30,000 fans (I remember it was a huge crowd for the time period but it wasn't that big but I think it legit did do 20,000) and Powers said he lost $53,000 on the promotion which was headlined by himself against Johnny Valentine, Abdullah vs. Ernie Ladd and Bobo Brazil vs. Killer Tim Brooks

Missy Hiatt's book, "First Lady of Wrestling: The Original Sexy Sidekick Tells All," is scheduled for a release by TV Books at a $17.95 price tag in July or August

Phil Mushnick was awarded the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association New York Sportswriter of the Year award for the year 2000. The award was to be presented in April at an all-expenses paid weekend in North Carolina. However, when Mushnick found out that corporate sponsors, one of which was Nike, were paying the tab for the golfing weekend, he refused to attend. "I was disappointed to see a journalistic entity have Nike sponsorship, on a personal level and only on a personal level because I think a good sportswriter or a good sportscaster should really just be beating the shit out of Nike for how it's bastardized sports." he told the New York Observer. "They have a beautiful golf outing at a Salisbury country club, but when I saw that it was Nike, I thought, `I'm just going to say that I'm busy.'" The NSSA program coordinator said that the only way they can pay for three days of the winners coming down is through corporate sponsorships

As for an indictment of sports journalism at its worst, a strong case can be made for WZZN-FM (94.7) in Chicago, which has banned all its hosts from mentioning the XFL. They even went so far as in a sports commentary spoof, reporter Bruce Wolf who does a comedy piece under the name Chet Chitchat (a spoof on long-time Chicago media personality Chet Coppock and former area sportscaster Chuck Swirksy) made several XFL comments during his piece which were then sound-edited out of the piece, making the entire piece totally unintelligible. This has nothing to do with a station making a stand against corruption in sports or XFL being good or bad for football, but simply, the station promoted the hell out of the league and the Chicago Enforcers, when they were told by league officials that they were going to buy time on the station. When the team and league changed its mind, program director Bill Gamble told the Chicago Sun-Times, "We decided we shouldn't waste our time talking about them." I'm not sure which makes the station look worse, the reality they are telling their sports hosts they can't talk about a sports league and local team, or the fact they had such a horrible reason, and were dumb enough to acknowledge it as the real reason without at least attempting to make up a cover fake reason to the local newspaper

Roddy Piper is doing his first match since the end of 1999 when he underwent surgery for a torn bicep and was terminated months later by WCW, on 2/24 in Denver. Piper, 49, has sued WCW for $1.4 million claiming he still had 34 television appearances and six matches left in his contract when he was let go. He said he will donate five percent of all his future wrestling earnings to Johnny Valentine, who is in poor health, because he wants to get the word out to current fans as to what a stud Valentine was

ITV in England ran a lengthy wrestling piece on its "Tonight with Trevor McDonald" highly rated prime time current events show. The focus was the effect of pro wrestling on kids. Two cases were brought up in the U.S., the much talked about Lionel Tate-Tiffany Eunick murder in Florida and the Jason Wheeler case in Yakima, WA (the one heavily pushed in the Court TV special in the U.S. and after watching it, the link between Wheeler and wrestling was very weak, although he did gave his 19-month-old brother a power bomb in the beating). They brought up some incidents in the U.K., focusing mainly on David Vale, a backyard wrestler who lost the sight it one eye for three days from a kick to the face and another who suffered a broken neck. They had a study placing three young children in front of the TV in a room with a hidden camera and the kids were then told pro wrestling was fake and all acting. They then aired the HHH vs. Mick Foley Hell in a Cell match from last February. Within minutes, the kids started fighting and one of the kids power bombed another. A psychologist watching stated that at first it was normal children roughhousing, but then said that some of the moves they were doing were alarming and the kids didn't realize they were hurting each other. Chris Cruise was shown in a clip criticizing the negative values portrayed to children when they idolize Steve Austin and Rock. U.K. promoter Brian Dixon was on saying that he puts on good family-oriented shows. The show ended saying there was going to be a study looking at the affect of pro wrestling on television that will be published in the U.K. in March, and that Ch. 4, which broadcasts Heat, is going to be more heavily monitoring the violence content on the show

The UPW/APW feud continued, this time at APW's first show of the year on 2/17 in Vallejo, CA as a van carrying Big Schwag, Rick Bassman, Looney Lane, Samoa Joe, Billy D, Frankie Kazarian and Prototype showed up and issued a challenge. Lane and Prototype apparently connected with the crowd immediately. APW promoter Roland Alexander challenged them to a match against three APW prelim guys and if they didn't win, they'd never be allowed to come back. So Prototype & D & Kazarian beat The Snott Brothers & Sean Patrick O'Doul. Match went a little too long but had good heat. Report we got was that the UPW guys didn't look impressive in their match, but they had enough charisma and presence on the mic to make it a compelling feud. After the match, Alexander then brought out Michael Modest & Donovan Morgan & Vinny Massaro & Christopher Daniels to challenge them at a future date, but then Daniels turned on Alexander and said his loyalties as a Southern California guy are with UPW. Alexander then picked Robert Thompson as his replacement. Bassman then put a sleeper hold on an APW ref which came off real hokey to use an old-school pro wrestling move in the middle of a worked shoot angle. Daniels turn was said to be good. Main event was Morgan vs. Daniels ending with the UPW guys interfering and APW guys making the save

The Calgary Sun had an article on the wire story that Tyson would do a pro wrestling match and brought up the Ali-Inoki match in 1976 which reported Jim Taylor dug out his notes on. He reported that it was a worked match (it wasn't). It was a scam (depends on your definition of scam, it was a really boring fight because it was real with Inoki having so many offensive moves taken away and he didn't want to stand and trade blows with him because he wasn't stupid). Talked about Andre vs. Wepner (semifinal, which was a worked match from Shea Stadium). He said the result of that match was a no decision (actually Andre won). Mocked Inoki's leg kicks (despite the fact Ali was hospitalized with numerous broken blood vessels and it hindsight it shortened his career). Said Inoki made $4 million for lying on his butt (nowhere close)

They put heat on the heels at the WWC big show on 2/17 in Carolina, PR before 1,200 fans. Jerry Flynn won the Universal title from Carly Colon in a cage match with El Nene as referee going heel with a fast count. Nene gave Colon several power bombs after the match. Damien Steele regained the WWC jr. title from Eddie Colon using a foreign object. WWC drawing a 12.9 rating and 43 share on 2/10 was the second highest rated show in Puerto Rico again trailing only the Mexico City produced blockbuster "Sabado Gigante." IWA ratings have improved with an 8.3 on 2/10 and an 8.4 on 2/11, and WWF Metal on 2/10 drew an 11.0 rating and 37 share

Combat Zone Wrestling at its 2/17 house show in Seawell, NJ announced that it was going to put on a television show regionally and try and get three of the time slots in the area that ECW formerly had. CZW owner John Zandig is being brought to the UK to wrestle on a show billed as Combat Zone 2001 in Birmingham

A group called SFLL (San Francisco Lucha Libre) is promoting a show at the Roccapulco club on 3/11 with a main event of El Hijo del Santo vs. Blue Panther. This was not a 100% go at press time but the final word on whether it will or won't be taking place should be finalized by the end of the week

Brad Elliott from Kentucky is being billed as one of the Nasty Boys on the current Brian Dixon promoted All-Star Wrestling tour in England

Ken Shamrock has added pro wrestling classes to his Lions Den shootfighting gym in Chula Vista (San Diego)

Ken Shamrock pulled out of his indie dates this coming weekend as he's concentrating full-time on training for his match with Igor

Terry Szopinski, 38, who wrestled as Warlord in WWF in the 80s spent three weeks in Broward County Jail in South Florida based on a 1997 charge for possession of steroids with intent to distribute

Caryn Mawr, who briefly worked for WWF as Muffy, ended up winning the BattleDome challenge for women taped last month

Ted Bentley of the famed Wigan Gym in England, who trained the Dynamite Kid, passed away this past week

Rick Michaels & David Young, Bad Attitude, regained the NWA tag titles from Christian York & Joey Matthews on the 2/17 NWA Wildside TV tapings in Cornelia, GA. The show included a run-through with O'Haire & Palumbo beating Jindrak & Stasiak for their PPV match the next day. Bout was apparently not good. Leroux, Sanders, Jung Dragons, 3 Count and Kwee Wee should be doing Wildside dates in March

No doubt the bad blood between NWA Promoter Howard Brody and Dory Funk will probably escalate since Brody is working with Steve Keirn, who is copying Funk's one-week training camp idea almost to a T in the same area. The gimmick is that Keirn will train wrestlers for one week, the same as Funk does and advertises in the national magazines his shows, and Keirn is saying that the top four students after the weekly class will get to wrestle on Brody's Tampa show that week

UPW is attempting to put together a cross-promotional angle with its women and WOW

Rob Van Dam vs. Nova headlines for Gateway Championship Wrestling on 3/30 in St. Louis at North County Tech High School

Super Crazy moved this week from Philadelphia to San Juan to work regularly for IWA, and he's going to work in Japan for Battlarts, which doesn't seem like the right fit, a luchador in a shoot style group, but a job is a job. Right now negotiations for him in WCW have slowed to a crawl. Victor Quinones, his manager, wanted assurance that WCW wouldn't send talent to his rival promotion, WWC, and it has complicated matters to where some in WCW just don't want to deal with Quinones

Dusty Rhodes' Turnbuckle Championship Wrestling drew a sellout of about 450 in Carrollton, GA in what was billed as an ECW vs. TCW show. In the matches of such, Ron Studd squashed Super Crazy, Scott Anton (billed as being from ECW since he worked there a few months back) beat Shocker Evans, Tajiri drew Jorge Estrada over 20:00 (Estrada looked pretty green), Barry Windham retained the TCW title over Corino. Mr. Wrestling II didn't show up as Rhodes' mystery partner against Liberty McCall & Erik Watts. A bunch of masked guys came out. Corino under a mask came out and turned on Rhodes and all the heels beat on him until Windham and Ray Lloyd made the save. No tables, chairs and only one match brawled in the crowd

Mustafa Saed is wrestling in the United Kingdom

Former British woman wrestler Sandra Lace, 48, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for theft and bodily harm. Lace, who used the ring name Sandy Lacey, reportedly stole 22,000 pounds from Michael Hill and brutalized him, keeping him as a slave for three months and forced him to buy her expensive gifts and give money to her. Lace claimed that Hill was a lovesick puppy and she snapped in response to his continuous advances.

MMA: Pride announced three matches for its first major show of the year on 3/25 show at the Saitama Super Arena. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Vanderlei Silva, which is a match I really didn't expect to see because Silva is the one guy under 200 because of his striking ability and because he can avoid takedowns that could pose real problems for Sakuraba. Dan Henderson, an Olympic calibre wrestler, kept winding up on the bottom when going for takedowns against him. Tito Ortiz neutralized his striking by taking him down and Vitor Belfort with his punches knocked Silva out fast, but Ortiz is so much bigger than Sakuraba and Sakuraba doesn't have Belfort's striking ability even though he's a far better all-around fighter. Ken Shamrock vs. Igor Vovchanchyn is definitely the real test for Shamrock at age 37. Vovchanchyn is ranked No. 2 in the world behind Mark Coleman at heavyweight and is a great stand-up fighter who hasn't lost a match via submission in about seven years. Shamrock never looked better at stand-up than he did against Kazuyuki Fujita, but got tired four minutes in and Vovchanchyn if they swing is probably the harder puncher of the two. Reports are Shamrock is training much harder for this fight. I'd expect the winner of this fight to get a match with Mark Coleman. The other match announced is Renzo Gracie vs. Dan Henderson, which is one of those matches which on paper sounds really good. Also announced on the show are Masaaki Satake, Alexander Otsuka, Akira Shoji, Tadao Yasuda (New Japan pro wrestler, which would be his first shootfight, at age 37, which doesn't sound pretty although that depends on who his opponent is), Coleman, Heath Herring and Guy Mezger. It is believed they are going to match Yasuda vs. Satake and bill it as sumo vs. karate. Yasuda was something of a name in sumo about 15 years ago (in the same era as John Tenta) before retiring and joining New Japan. One could be suspicious and see Yasuda, as Inoki's new project, and think this is Satake's being repaid for putting over Naoya Ogawa

Pride has also made some rule changes to liberalize the rules. You can now kick with shoes. You can also knee or kick someone to the head if they are down on all fours. I hate this rule because I've seen fights in Brazil where this was legal and there is something about the ability to kick a field goal with somebody face that is a little too brutal and dangerous. I know there are purists who hate adding safety rules in the sport, but you have to be realistic and the key is to give people an exciting show with a minimum of injuries. They have also changed the time limits. Instead of two ten minute rounds and in the advent of a draw in the decision, adding a five minute overtime, there is now a first round which is ten minutes, and a second and third round, each of which are five minutes. Judges cannot at the end of the third round rule a draw, so every match has to have a declared winner. The referee also now has the power to give yellow cards both for stalling and for ineffective offense, which would take away one point in the scoring, to encourage more chances. However, in a fight where there is more than a 10 kilogram (22 pounds) weight differential, that rule won't be in effect

Mezger will headline the 2/24 King of the Cage show in San Jacinto, CA against Otsuka

Pancrase ran a show on 2/17 in Sydney, Australia before 400 fans using mainly unknown Australian guys. Sanae Kikuta of Japan was supposed to headline, but he ended up being cut really bad in his 2/4 match, os instead he did a submission exhibition. They talked about returning in May. It was the first time Pancrase has ever run in Australia. RINGS has run Australia in the past once or twice.

WCW: The Greed PPV on 3/18 in Jacksonville looks to be something like Scott Steiner vs. Page for the WCW title, Rick Steiner vs. Hugh Morrus for the U.S. title, Cat vs. Kanyon, Rhodes vs. Jarrett, Palumbo & O'Haire vs. Bagwell & Luger for the tag title, Guerrero vs. Helms for the cruiserweight title, Kronik vs. Team Canada and the tournament finals for the cruiserweight tag team title

Nitro on 2/19 in Huntsville, AL was just a show. Not terrible, although it lacked in star power. The angles at least made sense to build to the PPV. It opened with a funeral for the career of Nash, and bringing up Goldberg, Sting and Booker T to build for their return. All I know is if I die, I want Flair delivering the eulogy. He, with a straight face, said that Nash was a special kind of athlete who comes around once in a lifetime. Kanyon ended up in the coffin. Page was in the crowd having a verbal duel with Steiner to start the build for the PPV. Cat announced an eight-team cruiserweight tournament starting 2/26 with the finals on the PPV. Moore pinned Knoble when Karagias turned on Knoble and DDT'd him. Well, that was the idea I think. I really have no idea what it was he did to him, so set up Moore doing the bottoms up. Moore & Karagias started dancing together after Karagias and Moore doubled on Knoble afterwards, apparently to form a tag team for the tournament since Helms is doing singles. They worked hard but this match wasn't as good as you'd think. Clark beat Awesome in 58 seconds. Very strange. Skipper interfered immediately right in front of the ref who didn't call for a DQ. Since cruiserweights aren't allowed to get any offense on big guys, I guess it's not a DQ when they do run-ins. Then Storm interfered and Awesome was DQ'd. Adams made the save. Storm got away but they did the High Times on the other two. They did a video promo on Kid Romeo, who debuts next week. First time they've ever hyped ahead of time a cruiserweight coming in. The video was actually shot more than one year ago when they were planning on debuting Romeo with a push, and well, it didn't happen then. Konnan & Kidman beat Guerrero & Animal in a long match. Konnan and Animal brawled backstage for several minutes while Kidman and Chavo were in the ring. At one point Animal was selling after being hit with a brutal piece of cardboard. Match was going okay since Kidman and Chavo were the focus, until this point when Konnan and Chavo were on different planets when Konnan did the face jam and killed the match dead in its tracks. Finish saw Misterio Jr. come out and Kidman pinned Chavo clean with the kid krusher. Cat tried to talk Bagwell into turning babyface because he loves his mom and has a good heart. He asked the fans in Huntsville if Bagwell should turn. They said he should. Luckily they did this in the South. Bagwell agreed, then jumped Cat. They had a match which saw Kanyon interfere and Bagwell won with the blockbuster. After the match, Kanyon used the cutter on Ms. Jones which was the storyline reason to get rid of her. She went out on a stretcher into an ambulance. Rick Steiner pinned LeRoux after three DVD's. They tried to push Steiner as a brutal killer real hard in commentary. Some of the stuff still isn't good, but at least watching it you can see the purpose in what they are trying. They sold Leroux as being injured and Morrus is looking for revenge. I thought MIA broke up. Morrus pinned Storm clean with a moonsault. Fans were more into Morrus than any time I can recall and he showed more personality in the ring in that 70s Bugsy McGraw kind of way. Jarrett did a segment where he came out like he was Eddie Murphy in Nutty Professor with all the fat padding to imitate Dusty Rhodes. The idea was good. But the segment was terrible and seemed like it would never end. Crowd didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Jarrett did a bunch of ridiculous Dusty spots on some job guys to take bumps for him the way the Horseman used to in the 80s. That should have been funny, but for some reason, it wasn't. Jarrett just isn't funny, even with good material. Jarrett gave one of the guys the shattered dreams. Dustin came out for the save, but Rick Steiner attacked him allowing Jarrett to clock him with a guitar. You can make fun of his dad for 20 minutes, but steal his move, and then you're in trouble. Schiavone and Hudson talked about the death of Dale Earnhardt the previous day in Daytona. They gave this more time and emotion that virtually all the wrestlers deaths on TBS and TNT have gotten over the last 20 years. Main event was Page pinning Kanyon with a diamond cutter. Not as good as the previous night, but easily the best wrestling on this show

Thunder notes after Nitro that evening. Hayashi beat Kwee Wee in a match said to not be that good. Some clash in styles, plus Hayashi was pretty banged up from his match at the PPV. Styles & Paris beat Wright & Disqo. Styles & Paris didn't get to show much because of the match story, which was them being squashed but sneaking over at the end. You can imagine how silly it looked with Paris vs. Wright. After the upset, Wright & Disqo blamed each other and apparently broke up their tag team. Stasiak beat Vito with the vertabreaker. Page & Cat beat Bagwell & Kanyon. Jarrett beat Crowbar. Rhodes did a run-in after the match. Palumbo pinned Luger clean with an inside cradle. They are trying to establish Palumbo & O'Haire as babyfaces. Main event was Scott Steiner vs. Morrus. Don't know exactly what the finish was, but it was something along the lines of Page & Morrus being established as the top two babyfaces still left in the company against the top heels

Some Thunder notes from the show that aired on 2/14. Knoble is really turning into a tremendous worker as noted in the opener where Air Paris and A.J. Styles debuted. Paris, who is very small, was wearing a very minor league looking costume which hurt people taking him seriously. Styles can do some good spots but needs a lot of work on crowd interaction. The show itself came off like watching indie guys doing longer matches than they should on TV. O'Haire vs. Jindrak didn't help either guy's cause. O'Haire has so much potential but they need to send him somewhere so he can learn from veterans. He and Jindrak both would benefit greatly by going to Japan as a tag team for several tours (that's only half the battle because they also need to be able to project themselves on interviews) because virtually everyone they would work against would be a veteran with good basics. Both guys have good size and great athletic ability but need to be working four of five nights a week to get that polish in the ring that fans could see they are lacking. This is where WCW's schedule really hurts, because the young guys are the future of the company, but without working 200 nights like the WWF young guys do, they aren't going to progress as fast and won't be able to surpass the veterans, who are burned out and can't draw. Cat vs. Awesome was a bad match, but really funny. Cat kicked the ringpost and started selling his shin, higher on his leg, and then his knee. The longer the match went, the higher on the leg he was selling, like the injury was traveling up his leg

At this point the target date for doing weekly tapings from one location looks to be around June, and Las Vegas seems to be the front running city with various locations being talked about including the idea they would build their own small arena/studio at a popular site. Most of the talk seems to be the company offices will be located in the Los Angeles area

Corino has all but been given a contract and was on a radio show this weekend saying that he doesn't know if ECW will have a PPV on 3/11, but that it's 99 percent sure if they do, he won't be on it, but he wishes them the best

The Thunder show had to be re-voiced over on Tuesday because the announcers sold it on the original taping as if Nash was going to be ready for the PPV and Bischoff wanted it portrayed as if it was a mystery whether Nash would even be able to perform as the last thing the fans heard. I know that doesn't seem to make sense on the surface for getting fans to buy the show (the pre-game show pushing the same angle could certainly be said to do the same thing, but they're still in the mentality that rather than sell as many buys for the show and maximize income, they'd rather get the pop by teasing the broken leg and have the guy get out of the wheelchair. That's part of the mentality that got ECW and WCW where they are today. Because of this, the plan seems to be now to no longer do the commentary live on Thunder and just do voice-overs closer to air date in the studio

Bischoff is scheduled to meet with New Japan officials in Hawaii on or around 3/21. At this point he has no plans to go to Japan

The racial discrimination lawsuit is actually 14 different lawsuits filed by 14 different people, all based on the same thing, in specific suing Time Warner for hiring Vince Russo and Vince Russo for discrimination, using the Ben Miller interview (which Russo did while he worked for the WWF and was knocking WCW for pushing so much foreign talent). The fact that Russo made those statements and then got rid of a lot of foreign talent is what they are going after. Time Warner is investigating the charges of racism in booking. I think anyone with a brain knows there have been numerous wrestlers not given a chance no matter what their talents were because of their ethnic background (then again, the same points of talented guys not getting pushed can also be made for guys who weren't of a minority background), but there are also people involved in this lawsuit where race isn't an issue as they weren't going to be pushed no matter what their background was because they didn't have the talent or charisma. Randy Anderson, the former ref and childhood friend of Marty Lunde (Arn Anderson) is a key witness with allegations of racist statements by Lunde and Taylor and claims that Orndorff and Jody Hamilton at the Power Plant were racial. For better or worse, and this is no defense, but anyone who has been around wrestling for any length of time knows minorities are routinely called derogatory names "among the boys" just as when guys get together on Saturday night and drink, some guys are going to make ignorant racial comments that years later would look really bad if, say, they were up for public office. It's probably smart to keep racial comments to yourself and even smarter to realize that people who you think are your friends, in most cases, but not all, can end up becoming your worst enemies. Cary Ichter, Onoo's lawyer, also brought up that Flair was making racial slurs at African American fans at a house show, which is something that heels in the South used to do to draw heat for decades, not saying it's right because it isn't, but it is how heels were taught to draw heat more than actual acts of real racism. It is equivalent to going to court when Flair would tell someone he was with their momma last night for $10 as a lawsuit proclaiming Flair inferred really that his mother was a prostitute. It would probably be better off if those tactics weren't used anymore being that it is 2001 and insults shouldn't be racial, and not only because lawsuits like these as things that happen in this world, but it is also wrong to use comments heels are making as evidence wrestlers didn't get pushes they deserved. Not that some guys didn't get pushes they deserved, both minorities and non-minorities, because that also is a part of wrestling

David Cash (Kid Kash), Jason Broyles (E.Z. Money) and Jim Mitchell (Sinister Minister) were at the Nashville PPV looking for work. Cash didn't endear himself to anyone but is expected to get a try-out on 2/26 or 3/5 and I'd presume Broyles would at some point as well. They aren't going to make concrete offers until seeing guys perform live. Mitchell's chances of getting a job are slim as Bischoff didn't think highly of him as a talent when he was there before and thinks less highly of him because of comments he's made about Bischoff since leaving

Brian Heffron (Blue Boy) and Jasmine St. Clair were at the show in Huntsville the next night looking for work. Since WCW just got rid of all its women, I'd say her chances don't look good, and even if they hadn't, her background as a porn star probably won't help her

Moore seemed to have injured his ankle in the Nitro match with Knoble

After this week, all the women are history. Stacey Keibler, who is still under contract, but paid on a nightly basis, is not being planned to be used. Melinda O'Hearn (Midajah) and Carmel Macklin (Ms. Jones) were taken off TV temporarily due to their "injuries." There are no plans to bring them back, or any women in at this point unless they can wrestle

Regarding the funeral segment, which ended up being very controversial due to the timing of the Dale Earnhardt death, it was scripted before the death. The death was brought up before the show and there was a discussion about not doing it because of that, but the decision was made not to change the planned opening of the show with the idea that it was playing off the previously done Goldberg skit. I had a problem with the Goldberg skit because wrestling has had too many deaths to get away with a mock funeral. My thoughts on this one were it was the same thing except when they did the Kevin Nash RIP on the video screen, it hit me that imagery did cross the line

Bischoff ordered Rhodes to get out of that black singlet after Nitro last week

At this point, Ed Ferrara is still writing the television shows but there is more influence by Bischoff and Ace over the main programs and direction

There is talk of assigning a specific booker or even bookers to the cruiserweight division so the guys wouldn't be treated as an afterthought by bookers who spend most of their time programming the top of the card

There will probably be an announcement made within the next month regarding attempts to find and sign up new talent

Nitro/Thunder tapings on 2/19 in Huntsville, AL drew 3,547 fans, which was 2,431 paying $71,269.

WWF: Although nothing has been signed, there is certainly the belief in the WWF that the odds are strong that Heyman would join the company as a writer sooner than later. The situation with Heyman is the same as it has been all along. If he can get a deal to keep the company going which is long-term viable, and long-term viable is the key part of that statement, he'd take it. This is much like Smoky Mountain at the end in that there were deals on the table that could have possibly kept the company going a little while longer, but Jim Cornette knew the finances and knew it would just prolong the inevitable because the reality was the company couldn't turn a profit the way it was structured and with the realities of that marketplace. One thing that has been talked about is the idea of keeping the company alive in some form with the idea that Fusient will run out of capital and WCW will be gone, leaving the strong TBS and TNT time slots for someone to fill. It appears in hindsight that McMahon's wanting to buy WCW was based on the idea that it would keep potential competition away from those potentially strong time slots, and with other major cable networks not having any interest in wrestling, it would make it much harder for anyone to get into the game. At this point nobody is even talking about a 3/11 ECW PPV

Raw on 2/19 in St. Louis at the Savvis Center was your basic typical show, paced with a real strong main event. Opener was a three-way with Undertaker destroying Christian and D-Von Dudley. Poor Lillian Garcia. After screwing up last week and getting yelled at in public, if you will, by HHH, she called Christian "one half of the World Wrestling Federation (then realizing or being alerted to a mistake in progress, stopped), Christian." I think one-half of the World Wrestling Federation would be Vince in the event their was a real life marriage split. Undertaker pie-faced Edge, who was doing commentary. He choke slammed D-Von but Christian saved. He then punched out Edge and power bombed Christian for the pin. Edge jumped Undertaker afterward and he got choke slammed. Undertaker did eventually sell later in the show doing an angle. Lita pinned Malenko. I guess if they were going to do it, this was the best way. The whole match was treated as a joke as if she wasn't competition. Malenko would refuse to pin her. Have her pinned but put her leg on the rope to break the count. In psychology one would have never expected from such a pro, when she finally got offense in, a low blow, Dean was stunned for one move, then five seconds later got up and acted like nothing had happened. Matt came out of the crowd to save Lita when Malenko had a chair, and clocked him and put Lita on top for the pin. In the celebration, Matt kissed Lita. Lita acted confused. Then she ran down the ramp and played tonsil hockey with Matt. Stephanie attacked Trish in the limo. The less time spent on those two, the better, but Regal and HHH are just hilarious in the way they play off those two. Angle did an awesome interview. This would have been the greatest babyface interview before a PPV if they actually had PPVs in the 70s. Now it was a heel promo. He even teased that everyone knew it would be Austin vs. Rock at the biggest Mania ever and said that he'd prove everyone wrong because he was a better athlete than Rock. Jericho did an interview as a ref saying he was going to wear a "He Hate Me" jersey. Nobody mentioned that He Hate Me only gained 24 yards on 15 carries two nights before. X-Pac vs. Guerrero with Jericho as ref ended without a finish. No heat, which Ross explained because it was two heels against each other, which is actually a logical explanation. Not as good as you'd think considering it was two pretty good workers in there. X-Pac and Jericho went at it although Jericho was favoring X-Pac in his role as biased ref. Credible ran in to attack Jericho. Guerrero sort of saved Jericho. After this was all done, Benoit DDT's Jericho on the stage. Kat was taken to a strip club not far from St. Louis. E&C did a parking lot set up, getting a stooge to tell Undertaker that the Dudleys messed with his bike. They then called out the Dudleys to the parking lot but left. Dudleys and Undertaker were out there. Undertaker was beating the hell out of both of them for a long time before they finally swarmed him, got him down and pounded him. Kane came out for the save, but E&C showed up and gave him the concerto. Stephanie did an interview in the ring challenging Trish to come out. She showed footage of her slapping Austin. Austin came out and gave her the stunner. She was dead. HHH was furious but there is that zero tolerance when they're not at a house show policy. She sold it and the mixed tag was canceled. Trish and Regal then left for the hotel room. Rikishi & Haku beat Hardys when Jeff had Rikishi pinned but Haku did a falling head-butt on him and Rikishi pinned him. Hardys teased getting their heat back, but no such luck as Haku grabbed both and laid them out with the Tongan death grip. Ross just called it a choke as I guess they don't want to be seen as copying WCW terminology even if they copied his pants. Kat teased she was going to strip when RTC came out and broke bottles over the APA's head and kidnapped Kat. Bradshaw juiced all over to sell the deal. Great, instead of finding a program for Benoit, Jericho and the Hardys this month, we get Right to Nudity vs. RTC. Snow was campaigning for the commissioners job. Raven vs. Crash was another non-finish. A bunch of crazy stuff ending with Raven and Ninja Girl escaping in a mini-van. It was funny, because Molly and Crash got in the mini-van at one point. Poor Show was chasing it was well. Before Raven escaped, he and Crash were doing high spots in water, which they said was sewage. I hope for their sake they were making up the sewage part of it. Show was about to kill everyone but Ninja girl hit him with a 2x4 to the knee. RTC showed up at the building with Kat, with her mascara running, which has nothing to do with a Mexican wrestler doing sprints. Richards & Ivory were harassing her. Finally Lawler ran in to make the save. It's amazing how skinny Lawler's legs looked in those tights. I guess that's what happens when you're in your 50s. Richards said that Lawler could face any member of the RTC, and if he won, Kat could strip on the PPV, but if he lost, Kat would have to join RTC. Everyone in the world figured Lawler would pick Ivory as his opponent, but instead he picked Richards. At least we know they are only going a few minutes and the stips should keep this from becoming like the Tazz & Raven program that died pretty fast. Main was Rock & Austin over Benoit & Angle in 10:53. A hell of a match. They got a lot of heat on Austin. Mainly it was Benoit. Benoit had the crossface on Austin but Rock saved. Benoit did the rolling german on Rock but missed the diving head-butt. Austin stunned Angle but HHH, at ringside doing commentary, pulled Hebner out of the ring. Benoit went to hit Austin with the belt, but he moved and Benoit hit HHH instead, allowing Rock to pin Benoit after a rock bottom

Notes from the 2/20 TV tapings in Kansas City. Rhino debuted and got a big reaction with lots of ECW chants in a dark match over Bo Dupp using a form of a diamond cutter as his finisher. Credible had his first TV match on Heat (this may not air in the U.S., maybe just for Heat internationally because Heat may be done live in Vegas). He used the old Arn Anderson gordbuster as his finisher since tombstone's aren't allowed except for special occasions by Undertaker. Smackdown opened with an Angle interview. He showed a clip of Rock recording "Pie" and showed a video of him to his music (let's plug the CD release). He called local sports star George Brett a well-known cheater and hemorrhoid sufferer, which is hilarious. He said Rock's song was a disgrace but his theme song you could play at weddings, parties and bar mitzvah's. Rikishi beat Jeff Hardy with the banzai. After the match, Rikishi gave Lita the stink face. He set up the banzai on Lita but Matt ran in for the save. Matt tends to Lita while ignoring Jeff. Angle tells Trish they have to part ways (haven't they, like one month ago?) and Regal asks her to be in his corner. She says she had to decline because she has a prior commitment. Added table stips for the three-way for the tag title with E&C vs. Undertaker & Kane vs. Dudleys. Trish gets in a limo, the windows start fogging up, and she starts moaning. Six-way to determine Raven's opponent on the PPV for the hardcore title had Show winning over Saturn, K-Kwik, Bob Holly, Crash Holly and Blackman when he choke slammed K-Kwik. Raven, doing commentary, tried to jump Show, only to get laid out. Ross is supposed to interview HHH and Austin together. As it turns out, Austin never makes it. HHH is doing a promo and ends up pedigreeing Ross as payback for what Austin did to Stephanie. Uh, shouldn't that mean he'd pedigree Debra? Austin then runs in but HHH runs off. They announcer Jericho, Benoit, X-Pac and Guerrero in a four-way for the IC title on PPV. Then Benoit & Guerrero beat X & Jericho when Benoit used the crossface on Jericho after X turned on Jericho with a kick. X & Credible then attack Benoit & Guerrero. E&C & Angle now call themselves Team ECK. Ivory vs. Kat for the womens title has no finish. Kat pulls Ivory's shirt off and the RTC hit the ring. Lawler is about to make the save but a security guard, who turns out to be Richards, lays him out with a superkick. All the RTC members work on Lawler including a DDT on a chair. Test beat Regal. Snow was at ringside. Regal went after him but Snow hit Regal with head, allowing Test to score the pin. Stephanie shows up seeing the limo rocking with Trish moaning about "Who's Daddy's Little Girl Now?" The visual on that one is very disturbing, but luckily, it's all a swerve. Stephanie tries to get in, but the doors are locked. Trish gets out and smashes Stephanie's head against the limo again and again, and smashes and rubs manure all over Stephanie's face. The lengths people will go for art is amazing. E&C & Angle beat Undertaker & Kane & Rock in the main event. Dudleys attack E&C and go to 3-D Christian through the table. Undertaker actually saves Christian. Everyone ends up outside leaving Rock vs. Angle inside. Rock has Angle in the sharpshooter and Angle is tapping but no ref. Edge runs in for the save. As Rock knocks Edge out of the ring, Angle comes from behind with the Olympic slam through the table for the pin. Angle has Rock in the ankle lock after the match as the final scene of the show. After the show was over, Dudleys gave 3-D's to both E&C, but then Undertaker & Kane ended the show by each choke slamming a Dudley

Smackdown on 2/15 was a pretty good show, more based on wrestling content than anything else. Funny to hear HHH in his interview and in commentary with the latest in trying to re-write history to fit this week's purpose, as HHH claimed that he retired Foley in a street fight and later it was mentioned it was right here in this city (they were in the Nassau Coliseum, the street fight was in MSG, but the retirement match was a Hell in a Cell in Hartford the next month, and he didn't retire then either since he worked the Mania PPV). Amazed to see how totally one-sided and quick (1:57) Kane squashed Edge. Undertaker also squashed Christian outside the ring for good measure. The idea is to build Taker & Kane as unbeatable as a monster tag team, but geez, your best tag team of the last year and you make them that impotent? At least they should use the old psychology of making them look like something before squashing them, because it didn't help Taker & Kane, and clearly hurt the other guys in perception bad. Funny when Kane was supposed to take the bump through the table, but the table didn't break (the leg collapsed on one side), and Michael Cole still exclaimed how Kane had been put through the table. Austin vs. Benoit was really good, probably just shy of being called great. I thought their previous TV match a few months back was better because they concentrated on wrestling and this was totally different and more of a brawl. Best WWF TV match since that Austin-Angle match. That show featured Linda McMahon, as the drugged up woman in a trance while Vince did a one-man acting show around her. Anyway, it was Linda's best acting ever. As for Vince, he's no actor, but he's a great Vince in that cornball sort of way. Jericho vs. X-Pac was good action as well. Lawler thought that Justin Credible was still ECW champ (you're two title changes behind). They brought up ECW a second time. I can see bringing it up once just to say it, but to continually bring it up means they want to do something with it. Show vs. Raven was just an excuse for Show to destroy everyone in sight. Pretty bad for what it was. Show just no selling everything. I think he does come across better, though, as the monster giant who can't be hurt than in the heel role because his one strong point is showing fire on comebacks. Foley returned to television in a skit where Snow went to his house and asked him to come back. He acted sort of deranged and said no, but brought up making Snow commissioner. Would also be remiss in not mentioning that Kevin Kelly was "caught on camera" picking his nose, and then when they came back, Rock did an interview and ordered Kelly to put his finger up his nose for most of the interview. One thing about working for the WWF. At one point or another, if you have any dignity, they'll take it from you

If there were any questions, there are independent wrestlers who have sent in tapes and have experience that are being called by Bruce Prichard and Kevin Kelly to take part in the "Tough Enough" try-outs which start on 2/27, so they are using ringers on the show and most likely the people who end up winning and getting the contracts at the end won't be people who have come off the streets with a couple of weeks of training

The drop in the Smackdown rating due to the tough Thursday night competition from Survivor and the disappointing prime time opening of the XFL led UPN to finish in last place for the first time in a long time, as WB averaged a 2.6 for the week to UPN's 2.4

Molson Breweries announced a major sponsorship of WWF Canada this past week

Brock Lesnar & Shelton Benjamin captured their first pro wrestling belts, the OVW tag team titles from B.J. Payne & Damien on 2/13 in Louisville. Randy Orton surprised Mr. Black to win the hardcore title on the 2/14 TV tapings. Orton had been used up to this point in a jobber role but in recent weeks had showed some real improvement

Had to mention this sent in by Steve Queen. "In last week's Observer, you mentioned that Kaientai was announced as having a combined weight of 270 pounds and remarked that they're small, but not that small. However, that is a legitimate number. They were weighed in on the same scale that they use to weigh Big Show.

Some Ross Report notes. He predicted No Way Out would be a good show with more confidence than usual. If you read Ross enough, you can often read between the lines on how he phrases things and he plugs and pushes everything but only rarely outright will go this far on a card. An example, when plugging Chyna's book, he wrote, "I know my wife enjoyed it." Or when talking about Jesse Ventura, he said, "Working with Jesse Ventura is much like I remembered from the days of yesteryear." He said outright that Mick Foley won't be returning to wrestle at Wrestlemania, but would be back on television soon. At this point the belief is that Foley isn't interested in coming back for a variety of reasons, one of which is his physical condition and he hasn't started training for a comeback. If he were to wrestle, it would be a singles match against Vince, which would be more comedy anyway. Regal will do promotional work in Australia from 3/21 to 3/25. Said that roster cuts would be forthcoming. Lots of nervous guys on the bubble after that remark. I expect some developmental guys to be let go. Part of this was to motivate some guys on the bubble and some guys in the developmental program, but with the roster additions of late, cuts are going to be made. The feeling right now is that Lynn, Tajiri and Rhino would likely start within a few weeks, possibly as early as 2/26. Instead of defending himself and his performance with all the criticism from his stint announcing the XFL, he took the tact of defending wrestling fans who as a group have been insulted in so many recent media stories on the XFL

WWF has signed John Heidenreich, a former WLAF player, said to be 6-7 and 320 pounds ripped, to a developmental contract through connections with UPW. WWF is going to send a major star to the 3/14 UPW show which at this point will also be attended by Jim Ross and Bill Moody (Paul Bearer)

On the Rec Sports video charts for 2/24 Billboard, WWF has seven of the top ten paced by Rock at No. 2, Armageddon at No. 4 and Divas at No. 5. Tony Hawk remained No. 1 and All-Stars of Rodeo is No. 3. Non-WWF tapes on the list are ECW Path of Destruction at No. 16, The ICP's Juggalo tape at No. 19 and two new FMW tapes at No. 17 and No. 20

The XFL game on week three (Los Angeles vs. Las Vegas) was easily the best broadcast to date. Both Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura were much improved over their previous two games. Ross was damn good, with the lone exception being he still tried to sell a little hard at times to push the excitement more than a normal sports announcer would and told the same Jose Cortez story twice. When the game was tied going into the final quarter, he said, "This is going to be something special" when it really came across as just a close football game. Aside from that, he called the game far more like a football announcer than his trademark rapid-fire loud wrestling commentary. It was an exciting game decided on the last play, so that didn't hurt. Ross also, before the last second field goal which decided the game, was already referring to Tommy Maddox as "Miracle Maddox" based on one come-from-behind win the previous week, as part of what it appears to be a last-ditch attempt to sell the product by marketing one or two stars on each team. As we mentioned before the season, the problem with unscripted football, is that Vegas, built around "He Hate Me," (running back Rodney Smart), to the point two of the L.A. defensive players had their jersey names "I Hate He" and "I Hate He Too," was the featured player and ended up 24 yards on 15 carries. Either Ventura was a lot more prepared or at least seemed to be because he did a good job of analysis, and even, at points, was funny. Ventura, because of his great voice and delivery, only has to be acceptable in football knowledge to come across well. He and Ross, to their credit, also eliminated the knocks on the NFL, which came across bad in previous weeks, and when Dick Butkus talked about the rule differences, the reference to the NFL was simply "other leagues." They also cleverly didn't make the pay scale sound so cheap, instead of talking about players making little money constantly, they talked about how the winning team splits $100,000 (this was said over and over, so it was clear it was a directive) as opposed to saying the same thing but sounding cheaper in previous weeks, that each player on the team that wins gets a $2,500 bonus. The belief is that Vince McMahon wanted Ventura to be less critical of the players and coaches and funnier. He was still critical at points but it didn't seem unjustified. There was even a point on a double penalty call where Ross and Ventura understood the rule interpretation immediately (of course they do have people helping them in that regard), something the people on the field didn't know as all the mics on the field showed. Last week, when they had a long injury delay (and they did do a vignette of Octavious Continued on page 17.




I'm a retired journalism teacher and you are an outstanding reporter, but I've had it with the world of pro wrestling.

Pro wrestling, in its morphing into sports entertainment, has become a caricature of itself. Chair shots and ref bumps, outside interference in practically every important match. Faces-turning-heel and heels turning faces weekly. Scantily-clad surgically enhanced women. Profanity. Sexual innuendo. Breaking tables. Titles changing hands weekly so they all mean nothing.

Vince McMahon, to his credit, is a business giving the audience what it seems to want. In a world where, to attract a young ticket-buyer, movie producers lace their products with car chases, explosions and ultra-loud music, it's no wonder that McMahon provides non-stop brawling in the ring and soap opera scenarios between matches. If not the audience will start the "boring" chants.

I started attending to pro wrestling in the 1950s with my father in Madison Square Garden. It's unfortunate that this part of my life, after almost 50 years, is now over. Wrestling for me is no longer fun to watch.

Michael Weiner

Encino, California


Cut this letter out and read it again in six months. I guarantee my predictions will be correct. With every new regime at WCW, the fans, the newsletters and columnists all hope for the best in spite of their true doubts. Why? Because we all want a strong competitor to the WWF. We all want to see WCW's talent pool used properly. Eric Bischoff has been saying all the right things to fuel those wants. But actions speak louder than words.

This was never clearer after watching the Christopher Daniels vs. Michael Modest match. Yes, the match was sloppy. Yet, I will still excited as a fan watching it, and somewhat optimistic, while watching the match, until the Steiner run-in. Daniels and Modest were punked out. They were portrayed as a couple of 80s jobbers. Ditto for Rick Steiner's destruction of Kwee Wee and Scott's joke of a match with the four cruiserweights. There was not one positive to the run-in punk out by Steiner. It didn't help get Steiner over. It certainly didn't help get Daniels or Modest over. Didn't one person in charge of putting together television ask the simple question, "What is the point of this angle?"

This encapsulizes what has been mind-boggling for years about WCW booking. It seems as if nobody asks the one or two fundamental questions about a proposed idea like this run-in. If someone paused to consider this, the answer would be, "None. It serves no purpose. It doesn't get Steiner over. It kills Daniels and Modest. Therefore, let's think of a different way to do this." That's all it takes.

The prediction part of this letter is this: There will be more cruiserweight matches. But they will only be used for hot openers on PPVs and Nitros. They will never be in semi or main event matches. They will continue to be booked poorly. They will always be punked out by the heavyweights. They will receive little to no mic time and character development. The announcers will not learn anything about them and will continue to talk over their matches to talk about the heavyweights. As far as the heavyweights, the situation will also stay the same, especially if Hogan returns. There will be a glass ceiling. Bischoff will hog up the camera time. All the obstructive big egos and all the other negatives of the company will remain or return. That's what the actions of the past few weeks like the Steiner run in and punk out says, in spite of Bischoff's words.

Joe Borzotta


Thanks for all the wacky twilight zone background regarding the Tony Schiavone, Jeff Carr, Steve Beverly, Mexico/Nicaragua pettiness. I'd imagine that most, if not all the readers of the newsletter can figure out where angles are going and why, so it is for the goofy, third grade, third grade, pathetic silliness like this that the Observer is so valuable. An announcer verbally masturbating on the air about getting the last word in on a ten year old spat with three non-WCW employees, none of whom are wrestlers, and two of whom, absolutely nobody watching the show even knows exists? Looks like calling the crap he sees in the ring and trying to make sense of it has driven him to that funny farm they sent Ric Flair to a few years ago.

Shawn Flanagan



Someone at work got a review copy of the Chyna book and I read it over the weekend in about three hours.

It was, as you wrote in the Observer, horrible. And judging from my recollection about the week leading into Jarrett's final night in the WWF, it's not all that accurate in spots either.

What I'm curious about is why the WWF is allowing such dreck to be marketed under their name? Mick Foley's book was good because it was genuine. But it was, in retrospect, an aberration. The books by Rock and Chyna were both embarrassing, filled with typos and misspelled names. (Sean Michaels and Terry Reynolds both were in Chyna's book regularly) as well as invented history and made-up stories.

Vince McMahon strikes me as something of a control freak, so the easily corrected mistakes in the book surprised me. I know he's not the editor, but still, you'd think at some point someone in the WWF is reading the proofs before they go to print. And even with his penchant for rewriting history to suit his whims, I fail to see what he thinks the WWF gains by putting out such schlock.

Or does the fact the books make the best-seller lists anyway make my point rather moot?

Michael Jenkinson

Associate Editor, Edmonton Sun


With the ratings breakdown now in, it's clearer what the WWF did wrong. They never marketed the XFL to football fans. Wrestling fans weren't going to watch football every week no matter how it was marketed. They were doomed for failure from the beginning, because they assumed they could get the young male demographic just by hyping cheerleaders when they needed to build the players and the league. The hype didn't make a damn difference, because it only sparked an initial curiosity factor and then became irrelevant. The WWF needed to put more focus on putting a good product on the field and making the football fans care, and they didn't.

Todd Martin


"Where's my football" -- Vince McMahon

With the week three ratings dipping below the promised level, I think we can safely guess the XFL isn't going to succeed on NBC. Had the XFL started at a 3.5 and held that rating for three weeks, there would at least be the hope that with better marketing and positive word-of-mouth, they would attract new fans. But since the rating has cratered from a 9.5 for the opening game, it appears that most of the likely XFL viewers have already seen the product and have decided they aren't interested in watching it.

The crowds have been decent, particularly considering the low salaries being paid to the on-field talent. The production has improved steadily. But even if the ratings hold steady at their current level, NBC will eventually abandon the experiment. The XFL may survive on UPN and TNN if they reduce their production costs. The XFL would also be better served to move teams to cities with mid-sized facilities where they would be the only big league football in town like Portland and San Jose.

The big question is why McMahon, who was known for having the most successful promotion and the biggest stars in the pro wrestling business, decided to lend his name to a league that, based on the salary structure, was bound to be a second-tier operation. Will McMahon, who along with his WWF superstar surrogates have boisterously challenged the NFL on several occasions, be content with promoting indy level football, or will his strategy shift to trying to extricate himself from the league with a minimum of embarrassment?

The attendance declines in repeat markets ar also looking pretty horrific, with the exception of Las Vegas. Empty seats will bring a stench of failure to the XFL that no marketing initiatives will be able to overcome. Selling pro sports has always been a question of capitalizing on momentum and creating the perception that your game is a hot ticket, as shown by the sudden sellout success of the Giants at Pac Bell Park.

If attendance declines below 20,000 per game, the XFL will begin to see erosion in their core fan base as their ticket and merchandise buying fans seek to disassociate themselves from the unpopularity of the XFL. If that happens, a 3.5 rating will seem like "the good old days."

I'm amazed you thought Vince had a 50/50 chance. No offense to Vince, pick any promoter or billionaire on the face of the Earth, and I wouldn't give them more than a five percent chance of creating a major network football league that broke even. And the NFL hadn't even begun to fight him.

Frank Jewett

DM: I don't think I ever thought it was a 50/50 chance in the long run. I just thought because he got so much promotion from NBC, I thought it was 50/50 he'd get the league off with some momentum, which he did, only it only lasted one game. Even after the first week and the huge number, I wrote that if he can turn this league into a hot fad, he may get two years out of it. That was based on his ability to do something with the game to appeal to wrestling fans, and he didn't find the hook to get wrestling fans interested in his football league which was the only chance for success. It never had a chance with the sports audience for numerous reasons.. I overestimated his ability to hook wrestling fans on something new. Hey, I thought he'd beat out Joe Weider in bodybuilding because he was a better promoter, but the bottom line is, his wrestling fans didn't care about bodybuilding. As just football appealing to sports fans it wasn't going to make it on Saturday prime time because the NBA couldn't make it there. Long-term, I never thought it had a good chance. He still may be able to sell franchises to outsiders like Arena Football does to stay afloat even though most of its teams are big money losers, although it may be hard because the league has such a negative public taint to it and so many people think it's going to be done after this season.


Pride 13 is shaping up to be the card of the year. I think the matchmakers are crazy to put Kazushi Sakuraba in the ring with Vanderlei Silva. Silva is a great talent, but doesn't have the name recognition he needs to be a viable opponent for Sakuraba. If Sakuraba wins, people will think it was a routine win. If he loses, and make no mistake about it, he may lose, he lost to a mid-card guy. Just a terrible, terrible, example of matchmaking. The fight in the ring will come down to whether or not Sakuraba can take him down. If he can, like Tito Ortiz did, he'll win. If he can't, like Dan Henderson, he'll lose. No way he can stand up with him.

Ken Shamrock and Igor Vovchanchyn is also intriguing. Even his critics have to respect Shamrock's desires to get in their with the toughest guys. If Shamrock tries to stand-up like he did with Alexander Otsuka and Kazuyuki Fujita, he will be slaughtered. His best bet is to take Igor down, control him, and try and submit him. Vovchanchyn can be taken down, but really hasn't faced the kind of opponent that would try to make him tap. Should be really interesting.

Dan Henderson vs. Renzo Gracie is another match to make hardcore fans salivate. Certainly Henderson can take him down. But once they go down, he's never seen anyone like Gracie.

The question is, how will this draw? This will be Sakuraba's big test as a drawing card. Will fans come just to see Sakuraba, or can Sakuraba only draw against a big name?

Jonathan Snowden


I'm confused as to the blindness the internet reporters in general are showing to the current state of the WWF. I turned into Raw and was underwhelmed. Believe it or not, there are still some casual fans who would enjoy some good matches. I read that the Vince-Angle promo was a classic. I found it long-winded and couldn't care less about it after six or seven minutes. I ended up watching a rerun of "That 70s Show." To hear that the promo went for 22 minutes was unreal. No opening segment should last longer than 15 minutes in my opinion. I liked McMahon and Angle's interplay throughout the show, and didn't mind the main event swerve. But I can't believe no one seems to be taking the WWF to task for this ludicrous McMahon family soap opera angle. I hate it. If the WWF wants to know why their casual fan base is dwindling away, well there you have it.

Vince regains control because Linda is mentally incompetent? I've been bored with Raw lately and it doesn't seem to be getting any better, with the possible exception of the rise of William Regal. I think Stephanie's efforts to promote more "female-friendly" storylines should be kneecapped now before the show reaches the point of can't watch status, like any edition of Nitro between January and November. We got three months of HHH-Stephanie-Angle with no payoff. While I do welcome the return of Vince, this was not the way to go about it and I think the ratings show that.

I admit I like pro wrestling as male soap opera, but it if turns into just another soap opera with these mindless storylines, why should I watch? Just show me a few guys talking about how they're going to kick each others' ass, and, this is important, have them do it. There are much better talk shows out there and better performers in them than Vince and Stephanie.

Carlin Bardsley


My feelings when it comes to what boils down to being Match of the Year is one that, no matter what, stands the test of time and sticks out in your mind during that particular. For instance, the matches with Misawa, Kobashi, Kawada and Akiyama are extraordinary Match of the Year candidates and they've been doing it for an entire decade and are still doing it. But after a while, they eventually become a blur and are tough to decipher one from another. On the other hand, matches like Hogan vs. Warrior in 1990 at Sky Dome or Bret Hart vs. Shawn Michaels in 1997 in Montreal were nowhere being technically the best matches for that particular year, but they always stick out as the most memorable matches of those years.

With that said, I lean toward Atlantis vs. Villano III as match of the year. I had a tough time with what order that match and the Hashimoto & Iizuka vs. Ogawa & Murakami match from 1/4/00 belong, but I put that at No. 2. Villano vs. Atlantis was one of those matches that is difficult to describe in words. It was a wrestling exhibition of amazing proportions and will be remembered for a long time to come in the same vein as O'Connor vs. Rogers or Flair vs. Steamboat. No. 3 goes to 2/7 in Dallas for Cactus & Rock & Too Cool & Rikishi vs. HHH & Radicals. First off, tuning in that night, we weren't expecting such a match. It was in the first ten minutes of the show that the Radicals turned heel on Cactus, and it being played out as a ploy by HHH. But between the fervor and zeal of the audience live, and the unique setting, and seeing these new faces in with the regulars, things felt totally reinvigorated for the first time for the show in what seems like ages. When Benoit hit the german suplex on Rikishi, it sealed it for me. A classic, unforgettable match which had a rabid pace. Paul Bearer making his on-camera return to Kane in Dallas and had fans popping out of their seats, in many regular years, this could have topped the list. No. 4 I chose Cactus vs. HHH Hell in a Cell on 2/27. The buildup should be viewed as a prototype for building up a main event by future bookers. Mick's mic work on the 2/24 Smackdown in his final effort to get people to buy this show was about as perfect a promo in getting someone to buy a show and that it'll be worth it as could be done. The match was everything one could expect when taking Foley's physical condition into consideration. The memory of Cactus momentarily turning around to address the fans one final time with Jim Ross bidding farewell is chilling to look back on. No. 5 was Kawada vs. Sasaki from the 10/9 Tokyo Dome. Aside from being a stunning, top-notch match, it was monumental in Japanese wrestling history.

Shaunas LeFrancois

Leesburg, Florida



I'm a 35-year-old married man who has been an avid wrestling fan for 25 years. From 1994 to the beginning of Nitro, I stopped watching wrestling altogether. It was not a product aimed at my crowd. Then Nitro got interesting, utilizing the lighter weight wrestlers, and made me watch for a while. It became interesting to see how they would introduce the latest stolen talent from WWF. It became insulting to me when they would give away the ending of the competitions' show. It became boring when Hogan clogged the spotlight. The last straw for me was taking the belt off Sting and putting it back on Hogan. You knew then that a year's worth of build-up ended up meaning nothing for the future.

At the same time, the WWF was fresh and exciting and had a bad ass style I enjoyed. While it was more provocative than wrestling in the past, it was no more violent.

I absolutely loved Raw. I taped it and watched it day by day. My practice keeps me busy 12 to 14 hours a day. So by the time Monday rolled around, I was ready to go again. Then they added Smackdown. Now I had two days to watch Raw and digest one show before taking the other. It didn't happen. So I missed a show here and I missed a show there. Then I watched a PPV that sucked to me, even if the matches were good, because I was missing elements of the build-up. Now I catch snippets of the shows here and there. This week I started the tape of Raw at 9:20 p.m. and haven't even started to watch the show. Bottom line. Overexposure. Truthfully, it still looks like a fun product to watch, but the time isn't there.

Shaun Orlincolo


I don't know if it is just me, but the Nitro funeral was not only the worst timing every, but was totally inappropriate and just made me sick. Maybe I'm just a redneck, but after the tragic death yesterday of Dale Earnhardt, the last thing I wanted to see watching wrestling was a mock funeral. The only thing I love about wrestling is it gives me a chance to get away from reality for a few hours every week. Now I know that NASCAR has nothing to do with wrestling, but after Owen Hart died in the ring, I don't think either a coffin or a mock funeral should ever take place in a wrestling ring.

Earnhardt is something of a God to a lot of people and the Southern States are a huge market for wrestling. I'm sure there are a lot of people like me that didn't want to see a funeral when we had just lost our hero the day before. This was one day that I'm ashamed to be a wrestling fan. Maybe I'm in the minority, but I thought it was one of the worst things I've ever witnessed and I know it did nothing for the ratings. I hope I never see another mock funeral for a guy who lost a fake wrestling match after millions of us lost one of our heroes.

Shawn Keyes

After hearing of the Fusient sale, I was willing to give WCW a chance. I started taping the show and watching it after Raw. But after the 2/19 episode, I will never watch again. The opening segment with the funeral scene of Kevin Nash was in such poor taste considering the death of Dale Earnhardt, that I'm forever boycotting the product after showing the photo of Nash with the line "Kevin Nash RIP."

Doing that in Huntsville, an area that is a big NASCAR market, shows no thought at all.

Mark Powell

I've been reading a lot of bad feedback to the Nash funeral angle with regards to it being in bad taste in the light of the Dale Earnhardt death. Unfortunately, I think this is another case of fans looking into something too much. In the Daytona 500, Earnhardt died in a car accident. In WCW, the heels made a mock funeral after retiring Nash. WCW didn't do an angle where Nash was actually killed in the storyline, nor did they do a car crash angle. The only way the two are connected is that some of the audience is similar. At most, it was a poor business decision. But I don't think it was tasteless. It's not like these fans think all TV shows shouldn't mention anything related to death because a sports figure died tragically. The world doesn't revolve around sports, especially not NASCAR. If WCW would have done a car crash as an angle, that would have been in poor taste. Otherwise, it's just normal television programming.

Andres Rinconeno

Continued from page 14. Bishop, who broke his leg in two places last week regarding his surgery and recovery, and while not showing the apparent Sid like footage, they did have footage of his ankle at a 90 degree angle from his leg where the break occurred that wasn't shown last week), it was 11 minutes of dead air. This time, when a player went down bad enough to stop the game for a few minutes, they immediately went to a planned live dance-off between the cheerleaders for the two teams. There were more vignettes of the cheerleaders, if anything, trying to tone down their slut image some in the media gave them by showing them at work doing regular jobs such as one being an algebra teacher and another work as a court reporter (previous weeks they showed them working at bars). There were no wrestlers at the game and I didn't recall one pro wrestling reference, which is amazing when you consider it's a McMahon show, and that Ross and Ventura were calling it. Based on the second week demographics and the general lack of pushing the product hard (there were commercials, but only one reference in commentary) on Smackdown and with the exception of the announcers, no wrestling personalities on the show, it is clear they are no longer attempting to market this hard to wrestling fans, and there is nothing on the shows to really appeal to wrestling fans. They tried to play up a worked feud between Saturday Night Live and XFL with Molly Shannon doing a vignette asking them to end the game in time and Ross & Ventura making cracks about upsetting Lorne Michaels. The sideline interviews were still more misses than hits, but it was better. Two teams that were a lot more cohesive going down to the wire and being decided on a 49-yard field goal with one second left. There were people breathing easy when that kick was made due to all the pub and pressure to end the game by 11 p.m. because if the kick missed, they'd delay the start of SNL again. The second game in Vegas drew a reported 26,135, down slightly from the sellout of 30,000 two weeks ago. On TV during the crowd shots, it didn't look like quite that many, but it was close enough to full on TV to look good. The Memphis game drew an announced 17,063, cut in half from the debut game in that city, which was not a good sign. The second game in New York fell from 35,000 to an announced 25,626 (although live reports indicated the real number was less than 20,000) and Birmingham fell from 36,000 down to an announced 17,582. This coming week the plan is to do Chicago vs. New York, even though they aren't the best teams in the league, with the idea of the teams in two of the three biggest markets would be the best game to deliver numbers and it's also the first home game in Chicago

FOX took out ads this past week for what turned out to be the tragic Daytona 500 spoofing the XFL (which the race went head-to-head with), starting off sounding like an XFL commercial andthen cutting in saying, "This isn't some new scripted football league. Daytona this weekend on FOX.

There was some pub locally regarding a paraplegic fan, Albert Trevino, who was injured at the Los Angeles XPress home opener because he was unable to get out of the way when a fight started. Trevino flew head first six feet and his head hit the floor and was covered with blood. Fans started throwing beer bottles and cans at him while he was on the floor unable to move. Luckily some fans helped him out because it took a long time for first-aid workers to arrive and even longer for paramedics. He needed six stitches to close the cut. Trevino, however, won't sue over the incident, saying he just wants an apology and hopefully get his classes and camera back which he lost during the skirmish

The 2/18 New York Daily News had a story by Thomas Hackett talking about the XFL getting destroyed by critics and but saying the smart money isn't counting the league out because of McMahon's ability as a hypester. Actually most of the smart money counted the league out before it even started, and after being stunned after the first week's numbers came in, pretty well counted it out after the second week seemed to confirm their previous thoughts. McMahon claimed that they've only had two weeks to change the viewing habits across America. Problem is, that line would be a lot more believable if they didn't have such a huge audience the first week and if it started weak and was building. There was also a guest column in the same paper that day by anti-violence educator Jackson Katz, which said McMahon and Dick Ebersol have shown on the telecasts a lack of respect for women (you know, being portrayed as sex objects) but also for young men, because of its bad health insurance for the players. He then said, "Wouldn't it be a sign of progress if when the XFL goes out of business, opinion-makers attribute Vince McMahon's failure to the fact that young men were embarrassed to be seen watching it and not because of the inferior football?" Yeah, it would make some people happy to say it, but we all know that it also wouldn't be true

Lawyers Weekly had a lengthy story on the Owen Hart settlement and said it was one of the largest settlements in history in a wrongful death suit. Gary Robb, one of the lawyers for Martha Hart, said the success of the case was because they hired a non-testifying industry expert as a consultant and aggressively searched for the top experts in the field. "The key in a case like this is to retain the highest quality expert witnesses in the industry, and there are only a few of those in every industry, so you have to act fast and get them first." Robb claimed the head of stunt safety at Walt Disney World Enterprises was outraged by the carelessness of allowing Hart to do the stunt. Robb said in a case like this, the WWF had the advantage because they know the industry, so they had to act quickly to equal the playing field in terms of knowledge and access. They claimed the unidentified person was the key to the case, because they knew all the players and led them to identify key facts, witnesses and experts. Craig O'Dear, one of the lawyers representing the WWF, said the company's belief is that they did everything one could reasonably expect to insure safety, but that accidents sometimes happen, and said the WWF was still expecting to sue Lewmark, Ltd. of England which manufactured the snap shackle that opened, causing Hart to fall to his death. Among the key points of evidence was the discovering that the same snap shackle, designed for use in yacht racing, had been involved in accidents in other countries when being used for stunts. Executives from Lewmark had meetings discussing the snap shackle and with knowledge it was being used for stunts. They put the word out it should be discontinued for sales for stunts and only be used for boating applications. The word was out in Europe, but the word never got to the United States and when the stunt coordinator bought the snap shackle for usage in this stunt, he had no knowledge it was no longer being sold in Europe for this purpose. O'Dear claimed the stunt had been done in other wrestling organizations (misleading as we've gone over) and that Hart was properly trained because he did a run through in the afternoon and assured people he was comfortable doing it (we've talked with one witness who talked with Hart just minutes before he died who strongly disputes that story)

Chyna's book remained in the top ten of most of the non-fiction best sellers lists

Springfield, MA Mayor Michael Albano, proving he has no shame when it comes to getting publicity, has offered to wrestle as a publicity stunt if it would mean the WWF booking more dates at the Civic Center. After drawing poorly (by WWF standards) the last time in, the WWF is apparently going to run only one show all year in the building, which they had run regularly probably since the building was opened as far back as anyone can remember, on 3/3. In order to try and get the WWF to come back, as many of the traditional New England venues they don't run because they aren't large enough, the Mayor is making 3/3 WWF Day in the city and also naming a street on that day after Kurt Angle. Must be nice to live in a city where things run so cohesively that not getting enough WWF house show dates is that important a piece of business

Lawler vs. Bobby Eaton headlined the Power Pro TV tapings on 2/17 ending with all the interference and a pull-apart. In the pull-apart, Eaton attacked father-in-law Bill Dundee and pounded on him until Brian Christopher, doing commentary, was told by Dave Brown to make the save. Eaton said that Dundee never paid for his daughter's wedding and that he wouldn't allow him to see his grandkids anymore

The fact that WWF did its first month in its history where it averaged more than $400,000 per house show should be doubly impressive since it was during a month where Rock was working mainly on the TV tapings with just a few exceptions

What a difference a week makes. Haku went from making no money on a $500 per show deal with WCW to being in main events in a month where the gates set all-time records

Stats you should immediately discard the next time you hear them: Lycos search top 50. XFL, which played to terribly declining ratings and falling attendance was No. 25 as the most searched for word last week

In the Bay Area sports ratings for the last week, the NBC/XFL game (XFL does well above its national average in this market) finished second only to the Daytona 500 for the week. The UPN game, however, finished near the bottom, only beating out of the area college football games

The St. Paul Pioneer Press ran

a story this week saying that Ventura has an out clause in his contract enabling him to get out if he believes the XFL job is a detriment to his career and had people speculate whether he'd last the season

Smackdown tapings on 2/13 in Uniondale, NY at the Nassau Coliseum drew a sellout 12,127 paying $350,386. House show on 2/17 in Cedar Falls, IA drew 5,493 paying $175,835 while split crews on 2/18 in Evansville, IN drew 7,321 paying $209,065 and Cape Girardeau, MO drew 4,259 paying $134,435. Raw at the Savvis Center in St. Louis drew a sellout 14,840 paying $442,253 while Smackdown in Kansas City at Kemper was sold out in advance. Kansas City had been a weak WWF market for the past 18 months after the Owen Hart death and this was the first show in the market since that time to do basically commensurate business with what the country as a whole is doing. Merchandise at the arenas for the past week totalled $337,045 or $7.65 per head. In Cedar Falls, they went with Austin & Undertaker & Kane over HHH & Rikishi & Haku in a match described as a comedy routine which took them five minutes to lock up on top plus Angle pinning Jericho in the title match. Raven's title loss on this show was to Blackman, and then he regained it when Ninja Girl helped out. For those who remember storylines, Bossman & Albert working as a tag team made little sense since they were partners, turned on each other about a million times and then feuded the last anyone remembers of Bossman on TV. Evansville was headlined by Austin & Undertaker & Kane over HHH & Rikishi & Haku when Kane pinned Rikishi after a choke slam and Austin gave HHH three stunners. With the split crew, they brought in a lot of Memphis talent to work the undercard such as Victoria, Bo Dupp, The Haas Brothers, Steve Bradley and Scott Vick. Although nobody knew who they were, Haas Brothers vs. Bradley & Vick was the best match on the show according to one report we got. Benoit worked with X-Pac over the weekend with X-Pac playing heel. Benoit isn't playing face on the road, but turns into the face subtlety in matches with Angle and X-Pac. Malenko had his first match back losing to Lawler in Lawler's former old home turf in a slow match when Lita interfered, while Credible had his debut match losing to K-Kwik. Cape Girardeau that same night was headlined by Angle pinning Jericho.