Hidden Highlights 10.01.2006: Issue #57 [REPOST]
By JP Prag and James “JT” Thomlison
Hello glad to have a wider release for Artie Lange’s Beer League, and welcome back to Hidden Highlights!!
Hidden Highlight (n) – a small, hardly noticeable point that makes a big, positive difference. This could be anything from a wrestler putting extra emphasis into his moves to make it believable to a person in the background reacting while not the focus to the cameraman shaking the picture to create an effect. There are just so many unsung heroes of wrestling that it is impossible to cover them all.
Every week we take the top 3 Hidden Highlights from the biggest shows on television (RAW, ECW of SciFi, iMPACT, SmackDown!, and a PPV or television special if there is one). Plus we turn to you, the readers, to let us know all the Hidden Highlights you saw this, last, or any week in history. On top of all that, we explore the other issues that prove why this is the most positive article in the IWC.
And who is this mysterious we, you ask?
We bring you Hidden Highlights with one goal in mind: to appreciate all those little things that make a huge difference. JT?
JT: Well gue—
JP: Sorry to cut you off there, but we have WAAAAAAY too much to do. On with the Hidden Highlights!
Hidden Highlights for TNA Presents No Surrender: Sunday, September 24, 2006 by JT
JT: A1 and Eric kick us off, Lethal vs. Williams is a damn fine match, Abyss gets… well, Abyss-ish, Jarrett wears 39 shirts, The Naturals finally deliver, Senshi is clearly more focused than Sabin, Christian Cage cheats (shocker!), LAX and AJ/CD put on one hell of a match, Joe will still kill you, and OH YEAH… KURT F’N ANGLE!!!!!!!!! Oh, and JP will love me for this, but I’ve got FIVE HIDDEN HIGHLIGTHS!!!
JP: ….we really don’t have the room for th-
JT: Oh, STOP Negative Nancy; they’re short!
(5) Need a map, Eric?:
We’ve mentioned a few times how the red arrow signifies the face ramp, and the SpikeTV ramp is for the heels. Well, after his match with A1, Eric Young went up the heel side of the ramp! This is a great little touch by EY to remind us that he’s not all there and can get a tad confused at times.
(4) I HATE SPOILERS!!!:
When JB was interviewing Jarrett, he (JJ) was completely downplaying the “major announcement”. He even then slipped in a “SpikeTV”. Now, for me at least, I immediately thought ‘Okay, signed them a bit longer’ (in ECW fashion), but he was in fact referencing something that NONE of us knew anything about until later. It was one of those things you realize was great later on after you know. Nice job by Jarrett to show he’s “in the circle” without spoiling anything for us.
(3) Bickering between friends:
After the eight man tag had come down to just two, the refs were attempting to get the other times out of the arena area. Chris Harris was on the outside of the ring. James Storm was in the middle of the ring, and he yelled to the ramp (talking to the other teams) “get the hell out of here!”. The funny thing was that Harris was standing DIRECTLY in front of him. It looked like he was talking directly to Harris. I thought this was a nice bit of foreshadowing for what *may* or *may not* be in their future.
(2) No pain, no gain:
At the end of the same match which the Naturals won, Andy Douglas (whose ankle was FUCKED) was told at the end by Shane Douglas go up on the ropes and give the fans what they want… he started to do so, and had his left foot on the second rope, and instead of using the bad ankle for the right foot, he merely put his knee up on the third rope to balance himself out. Great sell of the injury which he did the entire time from the point in question.
(1) The same but different:
This one is for JP… We’ve all seen Daniels and Styles come out in very similar outfits. This is nothing new. But there was a small difference this week that I noticed and had to be mentioned. When they came out in matching shorts, and matching silver (be it a vest or a robe, who loves ya JP?), they had different hoodies! Daniels had a silver one he could simply throw off (which he does), and Styles had one that he could throw off, but was still attached to his vest, unlike Daniels who had the disposable one. I love that they had outfits that allowed them to keep their individual style while still staying true to tag team form. JP, are you loving it?
JP: Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. I’m not even going to tell you! You know, I had nine for Unforgiven, but you didn’t see me actually using them…
Hidden Highlights for WWE RAW: Monday, September 25, 2006 by JP
JP: RAW emanated from Oklahoma City and NOTHING HAPPENED TO JR! That should be a Hidden Highlight unto itself. Plus, the show went on without power (isn’t it interesting how much of RAW is controlled by flashy graphics, lighting, and fireworks? Regular Hidden Highlights that you never realize what they do for the show until they are not there). And then my hero, Eric Bischoff, made an awesome appearance. I watched all the videos of him and JBL on WWE.com, and they were really interesting. The best part was when they were talking about how people who didn’t even know Bischoff in the WWE hated him, and JBL basically admits he’s one of those people. The two start laughing together and Bischoff goes, “We get along better than you thought we would, don’t we?” and JBL has to admit its true and that he was wrong about Bischoff. Gold. Just like Controversy Creates Ca$h. Order now!
(3) Don’t leave me:
During the opening power outage segment, Edge had speared Candice Michelle right back to internet nuddie pictures (by the way, have you all checked out those pictures of Ariel? Talk about sand dollars…). John Cena then came down to save Candice and run off Edge. But when most guys run off their enemy, they tend to go after them or at least go to the side of the ring to yell at them. But not Mr. Nice Guy John Cena. He kneeled at Candice’s side and stayed there until refs came in to take over for him before he got up and went after Edge. I thought that was a nice little touch by Cena to show that he actually cared about another human being.
A little while later, after ten years Triple H decided that he can’t say “Suck It” out loud in front of a hot chick. Maria seemed confused by the idea, but thought Eugene might be able to help explain it (go into the Archives and check out Bayani Domingo’s fake interview segment between Maria and Eugene). Well, Eugene is quite taken back by the idea and actually faints. The Hidden Highlight? When Eugene hit the ground, there was a loud SMACK sound. Now I don’t now if Eugene himself committed to the role and hit the ground so hard that it actually smacked, or production was on timing with a pre-recorded bit, but that SMACK made the entire segment. Never underestimate the power of sound.
(1) My creation… It’s alive!!:
As mentioned above, Eric Bischoff is my hero (Ted Turner is, too, but that’s a story for another day. So is Isaac Asimov, but only for his non-fiction work. Also a story for another day.). Because he is, and I may not get a chance to do this again for a long long time, this week’s kudos is going to none other than Ezzie E, Uncle Eric himself. During his shwork tirade against Vince, Eric Bischoff let a number of lines fly about what wouldn’t exist in the WWE if it wasn’t for him, WCW, and Nitro (the best heels tell the truth, because the truth hurts). Out of all of them, one may have gone over a lot of people’s heads. Bischoff said, “There would be no Mr. McMahon without Eric Bischoff.” The key word there is “Mr. McMahon”. Both Bischoff and Vince contend that their own air characters are different than their real life personalities, but because they share the same name it gets confusing. Well, in this case, Bischoff is alluding to the fact that he was the first to go on-air and say he was in charge of WCW, before Vince did that in the WWF. He was also the first to take a bump (getting powerbombed by Kevin Nash through a stage) before Vince was stunned by Austin. Bischoff was first to get involved in a storyline (nWo) before Vince (Austin) and was first to have a match (vs. Larry Zbyszko) before Vince (vs. Austin). The bottom line? Without the “Eric Bischoff” character there would be no “Mr. McMahon” character (as we’ve discussed in the past, “Mr. McMahon” is the heel character). And that’s the truth.
JT: I really wish they’d bring Bischoff back. I think he could be a fresh change of pace that could really help out RAW.
Hidden Highlights for ECW on SciFi: Tuesday, September 26, 2006 by JT
JT: JR stops by to have a beer with Sandman, RVD and Holly put on one HELL of a match (and how about that gash!? Yikes, that hurt just watching!), CM Punk is apparently a stud, Francine needs a wardrobe malfunction, ….and seriously, what the fuck was that shit with Dupree… not even we can put a positive spin on that one. Topping it all off was Big Show vs. Sandman with some interference from everyone’s favorite teacher Matt Striker!
(3) JR…the showman?:
So you may remember a few weeks back, we had a reader who wrote in to point out a pin that Joey Styles was wearing (Cross, warding off Ariel). This week, when JR came out in front of his home-state crowd, he too was wearing a pin – The University of Oklahoma “O” pin. Now, I know that JR doesn’t read us (JP the Editor’s Note: Says who? I bet he does!), and I doubt that he pays THAT close attention to Joey Styles, but with JR you just never know. I mean, first he took his job on RAW (or rather, took *his* job back); was this another way of one-upping Joey Styles – in JR’s hometown no less? Probably not, but it sure is fun to speculate!
(2) Not the background again, JT!:
I know we sometimes dwell on the background a bit too much around here, but hey, sometimes, stuff makes you think! As Paul Heyman was freaking out and lecturing Big Show on winning his match (something which was funny in and of itself considering), you could see a locker behind them that had a Big Show sign on it… the kind of sign you’d usually see on a door… leading to a private dressing room designated for the champ. I thought this did two things. One, it gave ECW more of a “wrestling” feel as opposed to the “sports entertainment” of the WWE. For another, it really sells that ECW is the E’s illegitimate step-child where not even the ECW Champion warrants a private dressing/locker room.
(1) The best offense, is a good…wait… that doesn’t apply here at all:
During the Hardcore Holly vs. RVD match, Holly had a series of moves that I really thought made sense. First, he rammed RVD’s head into the steel ring post. He then pulled him into the ring and hit a leg drop on his throat. He finished this off by going for the hard cover (leg hook and everything). To me, against a guy like Rob Van Dam, you have to have smart, strategic offense like this. He threw off his bearings with the blow to the head, left him unable to breathe with the hit to the throat, and immediately went for the strong pin. People forget that it’s very important to tell a story in the ring, and Holly is one of the best. On a related note, kudos to both men for that match. That was excellent free TV goodness.
JP: This was probably the best episode of ECW on SciFi. From the Hidden Highlights to the spot on action, it really just was an enjoyable episode to watch. At least for me. I can’t speak for any of the reviewers or message board kids.
Hidden Highlights for TNA iMPACT: Thursday, September 28, 2006 by JP
JP: Thank goodness this isn’t a news column so I don’t have to talk about Kurt Angle if I don’t want to. But what if I did? Nah, instead I think I’ll give it the current wrestlers and people on the show.
(3) Ruining the moment:
As we’ve seen the past few weeks and at various points in his career, Raven likes to make his entrance through the crowds. In ECW, this worked great because people in the crowd were dressed up like his flock or at least looked like the rejects of society. Sadly, that doesn’t happen as much in TNA. When Raven made his appearance at the top of the stands, there was this grandmother—probably in her late 60’s, early 70’s—standing right next to Raven with a pocketbook and sweater jacket in hand. She then started to give Raven the Grandma clap (geez, not that you sicko), absolutely ruining the effect of Raven being “hardcore” and “to the edge”. This, though, made a great moment of unintentional comedy, which is a Hidden Highlight to me!
(2) I didn’t even know these guys names:
Thanks to Ryan Byers for getting the spelling of these guys’ names right for me. In the middle of night, Team 3D made their return against the jobber team of Brandon Thomaselli & Vaughn Doring. Somewhere in the match, Team Jobber actually had control of Team 3D with Thomaselli holding Brother Ray in a front head lock. Thomaselli then moved towards the corner to have Doring tag in. Since he could not release his hands to get the tag, Doring would have to slap Thomaselli on the back to tag himself in. And in a move well beyond his years, Thomaselli actually shifted his shoulder to Doring to signal the need to tag in and make it easier for him to do so. Excellent work by Thomaselli and making the most of a jobber appearance with a great Hidden Highlight.
(1) Knuckle down playah:
Further into the night, Eric Young managed to stand up to Jeff Jarrett and told him “No” for the first time in his TNA run. Jeremy Borash was quite impressed and told Eric so, even holding out his hand for Eric to give him the knuckle down punch. Eric wasn’t quite as impressed with himself as JB was, and instead took JB’s fist and shook it, signally a goodbye as he thought he was going to be fired. GREAT work by Eric Young to continue to play up his “I’m going to be fired character” with a small detail that few would have consciously noticed.
JT: I think it’s safe to say that here at Hidden Highlights, we love us some Eric Young… heck, when talking about dual enjoyment from both myself and JP, he may rival Chris Jericho! Okay, let’s not go that far, but he’s pretty damn good.
Hidden Highlights for WWE SmackDown!: Friday, September 29, 2006 by JT
JT: How about that ovation for Cena. Crowd was HOT for him, which doesn’t surprise me as he was raised on SmackDown. Mysterio stays hot, the Pit Bulls are no more (and James/ are heading to No Mercy!), Chavo picks up a win as well, Kennedy was looking PIMP (til Taker showed up), Jimmy Wang Yang debuts in losing fashion, JBL hates everyone, and complete mayhem in our main event!
(3) Talk about consistency!:
I noticed something very interesting from the production team this week. At some point during the show, they put up the “vs.” frame, and you had Cena, behind him Batista, and behind both of them Bobby Lashley. On the other side, you had Booker T behind Sharmell, and both of them behind Finlay and Regal. I thought this was an excellent job of symbolism. On one side, you have Regal and Finlay who are Booker’s court, and thus the first (and only) line of defense when trying to get to the King. Whereas on the other side, Cena and Dave will always charge into a fight like a bull, and if you happen to make it through them, you have Lashley laying in wait.
(2) She really is that damn smart:
At the end of the Pitbulls vs. James/Stevens match, Noble got the rollup for a small package pin. Michelle McCool dropped her ruler (because she’d need both hands), came in while the ref was distracted and reversed it, allowing James to get the win. This was however not the Hidden Highlight. That came immediately after. She hopped out of the ring, and before the ref could turn his head back (or *as* he turned his head back, whatever), quickly adjusted her hair, and most importantly QUICKLY picked her ruler up off the floor. Keep in mind, if the ref turns around and sees a flustered McCool with off hair and a ruler laying randomly outside the ring, that can be suspicious. She made sure that she looked EXACTLY how she did before she entered the ring, leaving no trace of evidence that she had interfered. Call me sexist, but for a Diva, picking up that ruler was a big time subtle thing.
(1) It’s electric, boogie woogie woogie:
When Kennedy attempted to throw the hanging mic at Undertaker, it malfunctioned and basically blew up in his hand. He grabbed his hand, fumbled around a bit, and made his way out of the ring. Once on the outside, he wasn’t grabbing his hand anymore. He was holding his arm up near the elbow. I loved this because the Undertaker deals with lightning, which of course deals with electrical current. So not only would the microphone bursting sting his hand, but the current would – despite the quickness of the shock – at least start moving from his hand up his arm. Nice job by Kennedy selling Taker’s “powers”. In all honestly, it doesn’t surprise me because of how he’s followed wrestling the last ten years, but it’s still nice to see a young guy incorporate the little things that in all honesty, may one day make him one of the greats.
JP: But first he needs some internet backlash time. Remember when the IWC loved Cena? When we all start hating on Kennedy, then I know he’ll make it huge. If we continue to love him, then he’ll probably fall into the Benoit curse.
Reader Write-in Hidden Highlights
JT: Sorry kids, but with TGPD going a bit long, and me going HH happy earlier, we just don’t have the room. But I promise next week we’ll have TWO Reader Write In Sections. One for me from this week, and JP’s usual turn, so keep them coming!
Do you have a Hidden Highlight from this or any week in history that you would like to share? Please e-mail JP..erT…er…us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts! Send them by Friday afternoon to be considered! And remember, they can be from any show, live or taped, or any house show, or anything you saw… we just like to know!
Classic Hidden Highlights
JP: Ok, I know this isn’t its own section anymore, but I got reminded of one last week that I had to comment on. Regular reader RC wrote in and asked:
I never saw Christopher Nowinski wrestle, what did he use to do that would have earned him a weekly space on HH?
JP: Well, there’s there a number of good examples of Nowinski and his Hidden Highlight prowess. When he was in a storyline with Molly Holly, he always licked his lips when she was around or mentioned. Or he would always find a way to bring up his Harvard Education. Or whenever Maven was around he always gave him evil eyes (as Maven won Tough Enough over him). But my absolute favorite moment from Nowinski comes from Royal Rumble 2003 (which I was at live, by the way).
During the Rumble match itself, Nowinski came out third after Chris Jericho and Shawn Michaels, who were feuding at the time. Nowinski came down to the ring, saw that the two were beating the crap out of each other, and just pointed to his head and said, “I’m too smart for this” and did not get into the ring. He then spent the next five minutes walking around the ring telling everyone how smart he was (something definitely not picked up by the cameras) for not getting involved, and that he would win by his brains. One of the best Hidden Highlights I have ever seen, and shows how much potential Nowinski had even in his rookie years. It’s a shame what happened to him, as there is so much more he could have done.
JT: I agree. But hey, let’s be positive here! Nobody said he’d never wrestle again! Keep those fingers crossed!
That Other Section
This week, JP and JT have something for That Other Section.
JP: If you didn’t read what this is about, then click that link because it will explain all.
THE GREAT POSITIVITY DEBATE 3 TOURNAMENT: SETTING UP THE FINALS
JP: It’s hard to live in a world of positivity, and the Great Positivity Debate is a demonstration of that. In a typical debate, the writers are trying to make the most valid point for their side. In TGPD, the writers are trying to make the most valid positive point as a test of their writing skills and imagination. You the readers are the ultimate judges and decide who moves on and who hits the bricks. As a reminder, here were the rules for the finals:
We will list eight topics.
Each side may have only one response to each topic.
The response to the topic can be no more than 500 words.
The response to the topic must be the most positive thing that side can think up.
The positive response must be something that side believes in (honor code in effect).
The first four topics will be answered first by one side, and then the two shall switch answering order.
At the end, you the readers will vote who is the winner.
Neither of these two competitors are fighting for who is more positive. Instead, they are fighting over who has more writing skill in the confines of positivity.
And after seven weeks, the brackets turned out like this:
Once again, opening round matches consisted of four questions, semi-finals six questions, and the finals eight. The winner of the tournament goes on to face JT and I in THE GREAT POSITIVITY DEBATE 3: THE SEQUEL NOBODY ASKED FOR!
Without further ado, here are the finalists:
Stephen Randle - The co-editor of the Wrestling Zone and writer of Monday’s Wrestling News Experience has been dominate in this competition, having the highest percentage wins than any other competitor. Can he keep up the momentum, or have the other competitors not been the challenge he’s needed?
Steve Cook - Cook is the man behind the News from Cook’s Corner and has had to fight and scrap his way to make it to the finals. Is Cook ready to take down his boss as he’s taken out the rest of the competition, or is this one mountain he can’t climb?
JT: I wonder… it’s like fighting a battle where the prize is losing to us in a few weeks. By the flip of the coin, Steve Cook will go first. JP?
JP: Question 1: Jim Cornette and Vince Russo do not get along, and Cornette has gone on record saying he does not believe both can be there for long. If push came to shove, is losing Cornette a major blow to TNA or worth it in the long run?
Steve Cook: I like Jim Cornette a lot. He is a great talker and one of the best shoot interviews you will find out there. But come on, Prag, a “major blow”? Is Jim Cornette wrestling in main events? Is he booking all the shows? Is he training all of the wrestlers? Is he blowing Jeff Jarrett? I don’t think he’s currently doing any of those things. The thing about authority figures is that while it’s nice to have them around, you don’t need to book entire wrestling shows around them unless you want the people to get bored with them. Cornette hasn’t even been on the show most weeks since he’s become the new face of TNA Management or whatever they’re calling him this month. While Jim Cornette is a great asset for TNA to have, he is expendable.
If Cornette really can not co-exist with Vince Russo and do his job the best way he possibly can, then TNA would be better off without him. I am hoping that Cornette & Russo will act like professionals and work with each other in ways to benefit TNA. Russo is said to be a changed man since the last time he worked with Cornette (a stint in the WWF in the late 1990s where they really couldn’t stand each other), so maybe he won’t piss off Cornette as much with some of the things he says and does. Cornette is known to hold a grudge, so maybe it won’t matter…but for the sake of positivity let’s say Cornette doesn’t hold his grudge, they work together and everybody lives happily ever after.
But if Cornette can’t play ball as long as Russo is there, TNA can survive without him, and possibly thrive if Kurt Angle has the same kind of impact on their ratings that he has on our hit count.
Stephen Randle: The first rule of wrestling is: nobody is irreplaceable. Pro wrestling is very much a "what have you done for me lately" sort of business. Jim Cornette is, as far as any information we have, an on-air talent who might have limited personal booking power, but isn't actually on the booking team. Moreover, he's a non-wrestling on-air talent playing an authority figure role that was Larry Zbysko's for most of TNA's life. Plus, due to the taping schedule and his own commitments outside TNA, he's barely been on TV for two weeks in a row since he came in. Sure, he's a great on-air character, and has a great mind for the wrestling business. But so is Paul Heyman, and WWE doesn't seem to mind jerking him on and off TV, and up and down from OVW, whenever they feel like it. If Cornette leaves, some one else, probably Russo or Zbysko, would replace him as on-air commissioner, probably an evil one, and life would proceed probably as TNA has booked for the next while anyway. Really, the commissioner of TNA exists only to bother or assist Jeff Jarrett anyway, so it's not like it's even a vital TV role.
Besides, in pro wrestling, personal feuds can always be put aside in the search for more money. Matt Hardy worked a program with Edge and Lita. Bret shook hands with Vince. Eric and Vince hugged. Bob Holly wrestled Brock a year after he broke his neck. Kevin Sullivan and Chris Benoit had a long feud of good matches. It always seems that those in pro wrestling have mastered the ability to leave things at the arena door, and come in and do your job with whomever you must in order to make money. In an era where football players break into fights on the sidelines with their own teammates, it's truly interesting that wrestling is, in certain respects, a more evolved and dedicated team atmosphere.
The real question that should be asked is probably, if push comes to shove, will it be Cornette who ends up out the door? They say Russo's being brought in to improve ratings, but if ratings don't improve in any significant way, doesn't that make him an available scapegoat as well?
JP: Cook: 308 words. Randle: 376 words. JT?
JT: Question 2: How great has the resurgence to the (while small but they are there) Tag Team Division on Smackdown been?
EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS QUESTION WAS ASKED BEFORE THE NEWS OF KID KASH’S RELEASE
Steve Cook: This one’s going to be tough for me because Smackdown was on at 2 AM here until last week and I had a tough time keeping up with the show. OK, let’s see what we’ve got here…
Tag team champions: Paul London & Brian Kendrick – OK, I like this a lot. London is one of my favorite ex-ROH wrestlers that usually get overlooked by the casual fan because they aren’t HOSSES~! Kendrick is also a capable wrestler and has a lot of charisma. This is a good thing.
The Pitbulls – Well, this one is a mixed bag for me. I’m a huge Jamie Noble fan but I really don’t care about Kid Kash. I’ve never liked Kash…he came in as a Kid Rock rip-off in ECW, and then in TNA he was one of the more annoying people to watch on their shows every week. But on the other hand, Noble has had some great matches in the past in WWE, and his run in ROH last year was awesome. They’ve looked ok enough as a tag team from what I’ve seen from them, so I guess they can be top contenders for the tag titles.
Idol Stevens & KC James – Ummmmm….who? I’m familiar with Stevens from his work in OVW, but I’m not familiar with this James fellow and I haven’t even seen one of their matches as a tag team yet. So I can’t fairly judge these guys.
Are Gymini still together? Scotty 2 Hotty & Funaki? What about Finlay & Regal? That’d be a pretty awesome tag team championship team. It looks like the ingredients could be there for a tag team “resurgence”…I can’t really say whether it’ll be great or not, so if you want to dock me points for not making ridiculous statements that might not even be true, so be it.
Stephen Randle: It's fortunate that Cook didn't ever like Kash anyway in the face of his ass getting fired this week. It's my opinion that Smackdown always had the stronger tag division of the two brands. Not that either were particularly strong, but there was always a sense of effort that was never there on Raw, even if it was just taking midcard guys with similar looks or styles and making them friends or allies. Sure, Gymini pretty much bombed, but at least they debuted as a tag team. Same with Stevens and James, they weren't just thrown together, the belief in the fans is that this is a unit that knows tag team wrestling, since they came in as a team. One only has to look back to MNM's debut to see what it can mean to have a tag team debut as a team and show that they can work well together. Over the years since the brand extension, we've had Benoit-Angle, Rey-Edge, Los Guerreros, World's Greatest Tag Team, Rey-Kidman, Kidman-London, The Dudleyz, The Bashams, Rikishi and Scotty, Akio and Sakoda, LOD, FBI, MNM, Kendrick-London, The Pitbulls, Gymini, Stevens-James...try to name that many teams that have shown up on Raw in the same amount of time, and weren't just two upper midcard guys wrestling together because they had nothing better to do. It's a lot harder, isn't it? And just look at the quality of the teams. The thing is, tag teams probably aren't going to surge in popularity to the point where we'll be seeing 10-team Survivor Series matches again, but they've always had a stable home on Smackdown. More stable than the cruiserweight division, at least. And hey, for those wondering where all the cruiserweights are getting pushed, take a look at the tag division over the years, and marvel at the many cruisers that got some sort of push there.
JT: Cook: 307 words. Randle: 313 words. JP?
JP: Question 3: JBL was able to get access to McMahon private jet so he would only have to fly to SmackDown tapings for one night and still be home the same night. Other announcers in the past have had to move to CT and be on hand for touch ups of the taped shows, and JR even got fired because he wanted to move back to OK. Does JBL deserve this special treatment? Has Vince McMahon changes his mind about the role of announcers (and if so, is this for the better)? What is going on?
Steve Cook: The treatment of JBL goes far beyond what he’s accomplished as an announcer in the last few months. Most people I’ve talked to agree that JBL has been great on commentary, and one of the main reasons to watch Smackdown is to hear what he has to say. But this has nothing to do with Vince McMahon’s opinion on the role of announcers…I don’t think JBL being a great announcer is the only reason WWE wants to keep him around. The fact is that JBL is one of the longest employed talents with WWE right now. Vince seems to value loyalty very highly, and he realizes how important JBL has been to the Smackdown brand for the last couple of years. Even if Smackdown is considered Raw’s ugly stepsister by WWE, they realize that JBL has been one of the top stars on that show from a wrestling perspective, and now from an announcing perspective.
Even when JBL was coming up through the ranks, you could see some favoritism from Vince. When he got negative press for doing the Nazi salute and goose step in Germany (an act which got him fired from CNBC), Vince ignored the naysayers and continued pushing JBL, giving him the WWE title mere weeks after the incident. From what little I know about Vince’s political views, I think he agrees a lot with what John Layfield says on WWE television, Fox News, and the Internet. Also, I think he respects how JBL has invested his money and how he became a millionaire without getting a millionaire’s salary from WWE. To sum it all up, I think Vince McMahon is a big fan of John Bradshaw Layfield as a performer and as a person. He doesn’t have that kind of respect for your average wrestling announcer, and back when JR got fired he wasn’t nearly as important to the company as he became in his later stint. Vince wants to keep JBL around in some capacity, and will do whatever he can to make it most convenient for the Wrestling……GOD.
I think this is just a one-time case, and does not indicate anything about WWE changing its perspective on announcers. If they let Todd Grisham fly in on the McMahon jet to Raw from his side job of sucking dick for crack, well then maybe something really has changed.
Stephen Randle: From an outsider's point of view, JBL probably doesn't deserve the special treatment he seems to be getting. But take a look at it another way, from Vince's point of view. Bradshaw is one of those long-serving veterans who has always been totally loyal to Vince and WWE. He's a good ol' Texas boy who, whether we approve of some of his methods or not, is a locker room leader and when the chips are down, is probably a great guy to have around for morale. Plus, he's a Republican, and so is Vince. Hell, the two of them are probably drinking buddies. And let's not forget that Bradshaw has that ever-important crossover appeal, with his work in financial TV programs.
Besides, if JBL leaves, who would replace him? I think he has great value to the show as a color commentator, and I'm sure Vince realizes that as well. I don't think it's a change of view in terms of the value of announcers, more Vince rewarding those who have brought him valuable returns in the past and present. Remember what I said about "what have you done for me" and its value in wrestling? I don't think the offer of the McMahon jet goes out to everyone, but if John Cena needs it to travel to talk shows around the world while still touring with the Raw brand, don't you think it'd be made available to him? Meanwhile, don't forget that Triple H has that personal tour bus, and I believe the Big Show has a special personal vehicle as well.
The argument that JR was removed from the announce table because he wanted to live in Oklahoma and travel to Stamford doesn't really hold any weight in the face of what I've just said. It's not like JR was going to Oklahoma to promote something that would help WWE, he just wanted to live there and travel when needed, which is a little inconvenient when you need him in Stamford right then. JBL is travelling the country promoting WWE by being an intelligent wrestler who also dispenses good financial advice, and taking the jet so that he can still be available at a moment's notice to come back for Smackdown tapings. It just makes sense to provide him with reliable transport.
JP: Cook: 393 words. Randle: 384 words. JT?
JT: Question 4: It probably won't happen, but tell us how positive a DX vs. NWO (despite ALL of their ages) feud would be?
Steve Cook: I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’d be all that interested in watching a DX vs. New World Order feud. That would be a lie. But…there is a number of people out there that would be interested in such a thing. And I think a majority of the core members of DX & the New World Order would enjoy working with each other again one more time on a large platform. So it would definitely be a positive for them.
And really, wouldn’t just about anything be a step up from the DX/McMahons feud? Oh, and they’d probably sell some DX & New World Order shirts. Not to mention drawing some of the casual fans that stopped watching in 2000. And Hulk Hogan could have some more money to fund his daughter’s music career. That would be good for all you teenage perverts out there.
But if you really want to know what the most positive thing about a DX vs. New World Order feud for me would be…well, I’d be missing even less good stuff while watching Monday Night Football. Take it home, Hank!
“ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?
A MONDAY NIGHT PARTY!
HEY THIS IS OL HANK, I’M GONNA GET THIS THING STARTED
WE COOKED THE PIG IN THE GROUND, GOT SOME BEER ON ICE
ALL MY ROWDY FRIENDS ARE BACK FOR MONDAY NIGHT!!!!!!!!!!”
Stephen Randle: "Moichandising, moichandising. Where the real money...is made" - Mel Brooks, Spaceballs
Doesn't that just about sum up the most positive part of a DX vs nWo feud really simply? Think of it, right now, they're only selling DX shirts. But bring in the nWo, and you can sell twice as much nostalgia for modern day prices! Think of the billions and billions of dollars to be made!
Realistically, marks are going to mark out for it because it's DX vs nWo, something never before seen in the history of wrestling, but something that was sort of a dream back during the Monday Night Wars. The smarts aren't going to particularly like the matches, but they're going to watch anyway. Plus, they can have fun making snide comments about how everybody involved is really friends anyway (but hey, at least this means they'll job clean to each other). And hey, since that's true, think of the possibilities of the feud ending and having everyone end up in a single giant Clique faction. Of course, they'd take up way too much TV time and push all those rising stars to the background of Raw, but DX vs the McMahons was doing that to Cena and Edge anyway. Might as well do it and make tonnes of money while you're at it.
Plus, there's always the chance that it might actually draw interest ratings and go somewhere that leads to prosperity. Any creative port in a storm, wouldn't you say?
Hey, if Cook says he's going to watch Monday Night Football instead, doesn't that mean I'm more positive by default, since if I were able to watch Raw, I'd still watch, and just tape Studio 60 and Heroes? I mean, I could still crush him in the fan voting if he wants, but I'll give him the option to concede right now.
Why yes, I did just use my extra word count to taunt my opponent. Who's your writing daddy?
JT: Cook: 231 words. Randle: 327 words. SWITCH! JP?
JP: Question 5: Recently, the WWE quietly changed their Wellness policy so that performers can still appear on TV, just without pay, while under suspension. Does this make the Wellness Program a complete joke already?
Stephen Randle: Sigh. Way to turn my own words against me, guys. I've already said before that the changes to the Wellness policy make it pretty much a joke. But it's not a complete joke yet, because at the very least, they are still legitimately testing for drugs, steroids, and health problems. So, even if the punishments have been severely downgraded, the information is still out there, available for use. And you'll notice that they haven't pulled anyone who was currently in rehab due to the policy out of it retroactively. Plus, I have to believe that, even with the policy change, if the reason a wrestler fails the Wellness testing is serious enough, that the WWE would still take necessary action. Not to excuse anyone, but there is definitely a sliding scale of offenses that violate the Wellness policy, and really, I think it's still safe to put someone on TV who got busted by the policy for smoking pot. If RVD and Sabu hadn't gotten nabbed for speeding, I'm fairly sure there wouldn't have been in-ring consequences for anybody. Now, if a wrestler is doped up on painkillers all the time and filled up with steroids, then I'm fairly sure WWE wouldn't hesitate to take them off the road fairly quickly.
Also, let's not forget the impact of the loss of pay while still having to work TV (though not house shows). A month without getting any money to pay for things besides transportation, food, and lodging is a pretty serious threat to people who depend on that money. For those making a little money, it's probably a pretty severe pay cut, and even those making millions a year are going to notice the loss of a chunk of change. This isn't the NBA with their thousand dollar fines against athletes making tens of millions a year, here. Money is an important factor to a lot of wrestlers (I know, they should wrestle because they love it, but let's be realistic here), and if you start cutting into that every time they do something stupid, they're either going to have to fall into line quickly, or get used to getting paid less than I do.
Steve Cook: Like I said when I originally talked about the news in my award-winning News From Cook's Corner, the decision makes sense for WWE because they can't afford to have certain idiots on their roster fuck up all of their already-planned angles. They learned their lesson from this when they practically suspended half of the Smackdown roster after the first Wellness test and realized "Oh fuck, now we've got nothing to put on TV." That's a pretty big problem if you rely on your TV show to get people to buy pay per views...if you've got nothing to put on TV, why would people buy a pay per view?
Now, the area where I disagree with WWE on their new policy is that I don't think they should be pushing people who are "suspended". Randy Orton shouldn't be going over Carlito on PPV. Balls Mahoney shouldn't be smacking Kevin Thorn with a chair or really doing anything that gives him a lot of time on the ECW show. It sends the message that even if the talent does drugs and gets suspended, they'll still be a major part of WWE's future. What is Randy Orton's motivation for getting off the funny cigarettes if they're still going to push him as a main event level wrestler? Not only do you gotta hit them in the pocketbook, you gotta hit them in their ego, too. To continue using Randy Orton as an example, I don't think many people are going to argue that his ego is non-existant. It might not be as big as it is on television, but the guy's still full of himself. You have him job out to Super Crazy for a month or two like they're doing to Chris Masters, and maybe he'll get the message that he isn't as good as he thinks he is.
The new additions to the Wellness policy do not make it a complete joke. Yet. There's still a long way to go on this thing and nobody can say for sure that it will stick forever. Some form of action is always better than no action, and though their policy might not be perfect, at least it's something.
JP: Randle: 365 words. Cook: 365 words. JT?
JT: Question 6: In the long run, Trish's leaving might have helped the Women's Division via now they really have to focus on it to make up for her loss. True?
Stephen Randle: It is a true statement from a certain point of view. Fortunately, I have that point of view. Towards the end of her career, there's no doubt that Trish was still elevating her game, and was the best and most dominant woman wrestler in North America and probably the world. The problem with that is that it became quite obvious that the entire WWE Women's division revolved around her. If Trish didn't have the title, she'd be challenging for it, because it was really hard to buy any of the other wrestlers as able to take away the number one contender spot from her. Even the storylines and wrestler backstories began to revolve around her. Mickie James was an obsessed stalker who grew up loving Trish, Beth Phoenix was also born of that story line, Victoria was a former fitness model who competed with Trish, Gail Kim was brought in to be buddies with Trish and turned on her out of jealousy, and Christy Hemme's first real feud was with Trish because Trish didn't like the Diva Search. The most obvious part of the reliance on Trish was the title belt. If she didn't have it, it was just a matter of time before she got it back. In the meantime, quite often the writers would forget who had the belt and just write storylines that involved Trish for TV, while the actual Women's champ wrestled nothing matches on Heat. The best example of how little the belt really meant when it wasn't on Trish was when she went out several months for surgery last year, while still Women's champion, they didn't even make her drop the belt. The entire division just hung in limbo, wrestling meaningless matches until Trish returned and brought the belt with her. Now, with Trish gone and not coming back for the foreseeable future, the opportunity is there for real change in the Women's division. Someone there is going to have to step up, and the writing staff is going to have to pay some attention. It's a stretch, I know, but now they really don't have a choice. They've lost one of the reasons people watch Raw every week, and they're going to have to find someone, anyone, who can replace her in terms of drawing power.
Steve Cook: I think all the Japanese wrestling fans are reaching for a bottle of Draino to pour down their throats after hearing Randle declare Trish Stratus to be the best female wrestler in the world. I liked Trish, but sometimes I think the Internet Wrestling Community vastly overrated her impact on the WWE product. Sure, you'd get the occasional Women's title main event once every couple of years and sometimes Trish would have a strong rival to go against like a Mickie James or a Lita or a Jazz, but let's face it...to the majority of WWE fans, the Women's Division is either a chance to go to the bathroom, or for the teenage ones, a chance to jack off over the hot women. I'm not saying it's right, I'm just stating the facts.
And to be honest, it seemed like Trish was already starting to lose her luster a little bit as a character. Her love triangle storyline with Chris Jericho & Christian was really good, but her deal with Carlito wasn't exactly setting the world on fire. As for her being a "main reason" a lot of people watched Raw...I can't really buy into that one either. Hell, the fans turned on her at WrestleMania 22 in favor of her rival, Mickie James. People liked Trish, but her departure isn't going to cause people to stop watching WWE like the departures of people like Stone Cold & Rock have.
Trish leaving opens up a big hole in that women's division. If WWE decides they want to rebuild it (and that's always a big if), they can use several people to help fill it. Mickie is a great talent and managed to get over huge before the recent de-push. Melina is pretty over with the crowd and can wrestle pretty well. Victoria is a WWE veteran that can help the younger girls get better with every match, and if needed she can be a pretty good psycho bitch. Hell, Candice Michelle has picked up her game lately, and she really wasn't that much worse in her first few matches than Trish was. And you've got eye candy like Torrie Wilson & Maria to fill up the jobber roles, along with women like Ashley that can be brought over from Smackdown if necessary. All of these women can combine to make the women's division more competitive and more exciting than it was when Trish Stratus was the end-all be-all of the division. Parity is a good thing.
JT: Randle: 383 words. Cook: 416 words. JP?
JP: Question 7: ROH continues to make the vast majority of its revenue on DVD sales and has apparently not attempted to even try to get a TV deal. Is this a good choice for the long term viability of the company? Should ROH strive for larger heights or accept their role as feeder organization to TNA and WWE?
Stephen Randle: ROH has learned the lesson taught by ECW: you don't need television to be successful. Sure, with television comes the chance for more exposure, if you get a decent timeslot and a network willing to advertise wrestling. But with TV comes more expenses, and no guarantee that you'll make any of that money back. Advertisers still don't like paying to be shown during wrestling shows, and as a minor league organization, ROH doesn't exactly have the pull to make networks give them premium rates. I'm fairly sure TNA isn't getting a cut of advertising revenues on Spike, plus they're actually paying to air the show, as I recall. To become a major wrestling organization, with national TV coverage and other things on a scale of WWE, you have to have the ability to absorb massive amounts of monetary loss, especially in the early years. Remember, even WCW never showed a profit until the nWo era but survived thanks to Ted Turner having billions of dollars, and WWE would have gone bankrupt if the first WrestleMania had failed, and even had another scare leading up to the Attitude era. As I understand it, ROH is currently a profitable indy promotion, one of the very few in North America. That's amazing in itself, but what happens to that when you tack on all the expenses that come with TV production? Plus, let's not forget that with the TV network comes network involvement. Would ROH still be able to be ROH and manage to please the people at the network in charge of keeping it on the air? TNA didn't really have to compromise much because they were already projecting the image of an organization similar to WWE (or WCW, take your pick), and would do things like sign Sting to attempt to get ratings pops. I know, we on the Internet know every single indy wrestler in the world, but when presenting the product for a national network, don't you think someone's going to step up and say "I don't know any of these guys, and nobody watching will either. You should sign that Goldberg guy. We know who he is, and maybe we'll put you on the air that way". I'm not saying it's going to happen, just positing a hypothesis.
In the end, ROH should be happy that they're an indy promotion that has not on survived, but flourished, and is in no danger of going under any time in the near future. All they have to do to stay happy with their lot in life is remember what happened the last time an incredibly popular indy promotion tried to get TV.
Steve Cook: I used to be of the school of thought that Ring of Honor really needed television if they wanted to be taken seriously as a major player in pro wrestling. That was before I had a lot of exposure to the product. Now that I go to their show that comes through Dayton, Ohio once every few months and have seen a good number of their shows and own several of their DVDs, I am convinced that a major television deal would be the death of ROH, or at least the ROH that their hardcore fans love.
First of all, you can tell that they really don't put a lot of money into their video presentation. Some of their shows are nearly unwatchable due to green spots on the screen, the in-ring audio is usually very difficult to understand, and for most of the time ROH has been around their announcers have been terrible. Dave Prazak & Lenny Leonard are good, and I think a lot more highly of CM Punk as a commentator as I do as a wrestler, but by and large the rest of their announcers have sucked. And don't get me started on that Chris Lovey/Jimmy Bower guy. ROH realizes that their product is not going to be viable to the casual wrestling fan who has been brought up by WWE to think that production values are more important than in-ring action.
Getting wrestling on a major cable network isn't that easy these days. You can get something on a channel that nobody's ever heard of (what the hell is MavTV?), but it's not really going to be worth the expense to get a show on a channel watched by 5 people. And the channels that do carry pro wrestling are going to expect to have a say in the product. TNA can't air 25 minute Christopher Daniels matches every week because Spike TV would be like "Who's that? Give us more Kevin Nash & Scott Steiner! It's what the people want to see!" And with only 1 hour of programming a week, a lot of the talent in a promotion is going to be lost in the shuffle because there isn't enough time for everybody.
Right now, ROH can release all of their shows on DVD and allow their talent to perform to the best of their ability. No commercial breaks, no time constraints. That's what their fans want to see, and as long as ROH keeps bringing in quality wrestlers, they'll get to see that for a long time.
JP: Randle: 442 words. Cook: 425 words. JT?
JT: Question 8: For people who watch both WWE and TNA, there are 9 Pay-Per-Views between now and the end of January. How can so many PPVs be a good thing, for the product and for our wallets?
Stephen Randle: See, this is a ridiculous question, and I blame the two monkeys coming up with them. If you want to ask if 9 PPVs in the next 4 months can be a good thing, that's fine, I have an answer for that. But obviously, unless you want me to say that it's good for our wallets because it teaches us financial responsibility when we don't buy every single one of them, there's no real answer there that isn't complete bull. Also, obviously at this time, it's not good for either organization creatively, as they've both shown a horrible lack of ability to build exciting multi-PPV feuds or fill PPV cards with good stories instead of thrown-together matches. So, no, it's not good for our wallets or the product. But it is good in other ways.
First of all, one of those 9 PPV's is an ECW-exclusive one, and the first one since the separate ECW brand was introduced. This is the first milestone for the new ECW, and a chance to show that the experiment was a good thing. This is the one situation where it's a good thing creatively, because ECW is booked separately from Raw and Smackdown, and gets the luxury of a longer time between PPVs to build feuds and storylines. Plus, it's Paul Heyman's big return to PPV with an actual touring brand as opposed to the nostalgia PPV that was the last two One Night Stands. Add it all up, and there's a real chance for December to Dismember to be one of the better PPVs of the year.
Secondly, we can drag the old argument that back in the day, we had three brands each airing twelve PPV's a year, and everyone still managed to buy most of them. Truth is, even if it's not financially wise, most wrestling fans will still buy as much stuff involving wrestling as is humanly possible.
Thirdly, of the nine, two are Big Four PPVs, including the Royal Rumble, which is possibly the most popular non-WrestleMania PPV there is. One of the nine is Bound For Glory, TNA's big "anniversary show", which they're planning to make huge. Plus, there's New Year's Revolution, which historically has involved the Elimination Chamber used in increasingly better matches. I don't know about you, but to me, that's a stacked series of PPVs.
Steve Cook: It's fine for my wallet, because I never buy pay per views. HA! Usually when more wrestling groups are producing more good wrestling shows, it's a good thing for the wrestling business. More money made off of pay per views means more money for WWE & TNA to help better their product. I've never bought into the argument that monthly pay per views are a good thing quality or booking-wise, but I can't argue with the fact that they bring in revenue, and it's not a guarantee that more people would buy pay per views if they only took place every two to three months.
Let's take a look at each PPV coming up and determine its usefulness...and by my count there's actually 10 PPVs between now and the end of January. You know TNA will have one in January.
No Mercy: King Booker vs. Lashley should be a good PPV main event.
Bound For Glory: TNA's self-appointed biggest show of the year, not its anniversary show. But, they've already got Joe vs. Abyss vs. Raven vs. Runt, Sting vs. Jarrett with Angle as ref, and LAX vs. Daniels/Styles in Ultimate X. Should be a good one.
Cyber Sunday: Well, the fans get to pick matches. That's always fun for us to make fun of. And it's in Cincinnati!
Genesis: Stuff left over from BFG goes here.
Survivor Series: One of the "Big 4", should have some fun elimination matches.
December to Dismember: ECW's first PPV, should be interesting for the novelty factor.
Turning Point: Usually one of TNA's best shows of the year.
Armageddon: Hell in a Cell?
New Year's Revolution: Elimination Chamber?
Final Resolution: I assume TNA will keep the name of their January PPV the same as usual. Usually a pretty good show.
Royal Rumble: Royal Rumble Match
So there's 10 shows right there, all of them with at least one thing to watch out for. I don't see the bad here, except for the money that will be missing from your guys' wallets. Ha ha!
JT: Randle: 390 words. Cook: 339 words. JP?
JP: All right, now it is time to vote. Who won the finals of the Great Positivity Debate 3 Tournament?
JP: Voting will remain open until Saturday October 7, 2006 at 2am GMT. Thanks to everyone for playing, and I’m looking forward to seeing who JT and I will decimate. Also, please start sending questions ideas to Andy Clark, host of the true Great Positivity Debate 3: The Sequel Nobody Asked For!! And stay tuned to Hidden Highlights for details on when that will be happening.
JT: Good luck to both men. You both did an excellent job to get here, and I have enjoyed reading everyone who participated each and every week. Thanks to all. You further proved we have one of the best staffs around.
Exit, stage left!
JP: I’m going to close us out with I hope they don’t add WSX, XCX, Adrenaline Unleashed, or any other wrestling shows to the lineup, because frankly we have enough content. Wow, never thought I’d see the day where I wanted less wrestling on TV. What’s happening to me?!?!?
JT: I don’t know, but Kornheiser finally threw me a bone this week! Have a great week my little ferrets!
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