Welcome to the 5th Annual Edition of this Column:
Please note that this was written between Royal Rumble and the following nightâ€™s RAW.
The Road to WrestleMania: WrestleMania 24…. Has it been twenty-four years already? The very first WrestleMania literally marked the beginning of my stint as a life-long fan of professional wrestling. Yes, from the very day that my father bought home a rented copy of WrestleMania, I was hooked on the greatest show in the universe.
My favorite WrestleMania‘s are undoubtedly the first five editions; after that they were good but none could compare to intrigue this wide-eyed child experienced watching the original Manias. Royal Rumble is traditionally the precursor to WrestleMania and the Mania card usually begins to take shape at Royal Rumble. Originally, my Odyssey column began with my official Royal Rumble prediction, but in the last two years I have posted this column AFTER Royal Rumble because things don’t really start to take shape until after that event. So as I write this the Monday AFTER Royal Rumble, we all know that John Cena made his shocking surprise return to win the Royal Rumble. This is newsworthy because John Cena had been going around telling Newspapers that his injury would keep him out of action until after WrestleMania, so an in-ring appearance at Royal Rumble was certainly out of the question. SWERVE. Not only did John Cena compete, but he eliminated Triple H and won the darn thing! With that said, here are my predictions for the rest of the WrestleMania 24 card. Not so much predictions, but the way I would book the show if I was in charge. Enjoy.
WRESTLEMANIA 24 MATCH POSSIBILITIES (IF I WAS IN CHARGE):
MATCH #1 (PRE-SHOW): For the last four years, I have pitched the same idea, and WWE has repeatedly ignored it. That’s right, Howard Finkel, I know you’re reading this! I would put a 30-Man Invitational Battle Royal on the pre-show, with the winner getting a match against a mystery opponent on the WrestleMania PPV. Of course for this to come off well, you need a good mystery opponent. A lot of people I suggested this to agree that it was an excellent idea, and helps get over the fact that every wrestler wanted to be on WrestleMania. (Participants: Jimmy Wang Yang, Shannon Moore, Jesse, Festus, Sho Funaki, Chuck Palumbo, Jamie Noble, Drew McIntyre, Deuce, Domino, Charlie Haas, Gene Snitsky, Super Crazy, Jim Duggan, Val Venis, D.H Smith, Mark Henry, Big Daddy V., Matt Striker, The Great Khali, Kevin Thorn, Elijah Burke, Balls Mahoney and throw in some developmental guys!) — Okay, so I can’t just pitch an idea without saying what I would do if I was in charge. I would obviously have The Great Khali win the Battle Royal in grand Andre-style. He would pose in all four corners confidently until the lights went out. After about 30 seconds of silence, the fans are bombarded by “Yeeeaaaahhh it’s the BIG SHOW!” – and the Big Show (Paul Wight) would walk to the ring and stand nose to nose with the Great Khali as the pre-show fades to dark.
MATCH #2 (TAG MATCH): Obviously a lot of dramatic changes have to be made in order for this match to happen. C.M. Punk would recapture the ECW World title from Chavo Guerrero at No Way Out after botched interference by the Edgeheads, and Chavo would be thrown to the curb by Vickie Guerrero and Edge for being a failure. Chavo would kiss and make up with Rey Mysterio and go after the Edgeheads, Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins, leading to this tag team match at WrestleMania. This would be a great match to kickoff the show with too. Guerrero and Mysterio would be victorious, and challenge for the WWE Tag Team titles in the months that followed.
MATCH #3 (MONEY IN THE BANK LADDER MATCH): This match traditionally involved six or eight random Superstars thrown into the mix, and the heat is created during the build up to WrestleMania. I would choose Mr. Kennedy (after being screwed out of his MITB briefcase last year), Umaga, Jeff Hardy, Montel Vontavious Porter, Matt Hardy, Kenny Dyktra, Shelton Benjamin, and Kofi Kingston. There is a little bit of history with some of the participants and it would be a chance for Dykstra and Kingston to break-out with a career-defining performance. I would continue Jeff Hardy’s huge push and let him steal the show with a spectacular stunt on his way to getting the briefcase and securing a shot at the championship of his choice.
MATCH #4 (TAG 4-WAY): The World Tag Team titles would be on the line with Hardcore Holly & Cody Rhodes defending against three challengers; Carlito Cool & Santino Marella, Brian Kendrick & Paul London, and The Highlanders. This match isn’t all that important, so they should just go at it fast and furious, get all their spots in, and have Carlito & Santino capture the titles. The team would have a short reign as champions until they have an inevitable split, at which point Carlito would finally begin teaming with his brother, Eddie Colon (Eddie Cool).
MATCH #5 (BULLROPE MATCH): The grudge feud between JBL and Y2J would continue to WrestleMania after yet another No-Contest at No Way Out. Since Jericho got the best of JBL at Royal Rumble, it would be Layfield’s turn to strike back at Y2J in February. The match at No Way Out would end with Trevor Murdoch interfering on behalf of JBL. Leading up to Mania, Jericho would enlist the services of his former Thrill Seekers tag team partner, Lance Storm, to watch his back. So it would be Y2J (w/Storm) vs. JBL (w/Murdoch) in a Bullrope match where you have to tap all four corner pads in succession to win. I love that gimmick match. It would be hard to pick a winner because you don’t want to kill either man’s push, and even though the Bullrope match is JBL’s specialty, I think Jericho should win. Backlash could feature a match between JBL & Trevor Murdoch vs. Y2J & Lance Storm!
MATCH #6 (WOMEN’S TITLE 3-WAY): I am purposely avoiding the temptation to put Maria Kanellis into the match just because of the Playboy thing but can anybody honestly say she would have a believable match with Beth Phoenix? She can have her spotlight when Santino Marella & Carlito Cool win the tag titles earlier on the card. Instead, I will put Beth Phoenix up against the hyper-go-lucky Mickie James and the returning Candice Michelle. Since I am so high on the idea of bringing back Sunny, I am going to make her the special guest referee! Let’s also turn the rest of the Divas into Ligerie Lumberjills (which should be a WrestleMania tradition for Women’s title matches). The match would end with Candice Michelle getting her revenge on Beth Phoenix and winning back her WWE Women’s championship. I’m also tempted to put Nattie Neidhart into the match, but I will instead debut her afterwards by attacking the disappointed Mickie James during Candice’s celebration. The next night on RAW (or at Backlash) we can have Beth Phoenix & Nattie Neidhart vs. Mickie James & Candice Michelle.
MATCH #7 (WWE TAG TITLES): John Morrison & Mike “The Miz” Mizanin would continue to defend the WWE Tag Team titles on both SmackDown! and ECW, with their egos expanding with every victory they get under their reign. Suddenly a new tag team would debut on ECW with Matt Classic (Colt Cabana) and Mr. Wrestling III (Steve Corino – WWE you idiots, sign him!). For those of you who are familiar with these two masked gimmicks, you know that they personify the old school style of professional wrestling – we’re talking 100% golden era. There’s no better representation of New School vs. Old School than The Miz & Morrison vs. Classic Wrestling (which would be their team name). Unbeknownst to the viewing audience, Cabana and Corino would school champions with old style grappling mixed with some inadvertent comedy (Cabana’s specialty). The Classic Wrestling team would make a stubborn mistake and Miz/Morrison would capitalize and score the victory to retain their titles. The feud would continue, of course.
MATCH #8 (FLAIR RETIREMENT MATCH): Everyone thinks Ric Flair will go out with a loss, and everyone thinks Flair will put over some young punk like Randy Orton on his way out. I would book Ric Flair to go out on a high note on the same weekend that he is inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. WWE should do everything in its power to sign Sting for one-night to wrestle his friend, Ric Flair. Hopefully, Sting would do it at least as a favor for Ric Flair. Sting wouldn’t even have to appear on television, just do it the old fashioned way and have him send in tapes praising Ric Flair. Flair would then go semi-heel on LIVE television, trying to get Sting riled up by showing old clips of their feud. Soon the taped from Sting would get more intense in reaction to Flair’s malicious commentary. Sting would appear in-person at WrestleMania (hey, he could do the induction of Ric Flair the night before as well). With Flair appropriately working as a heel, and Sting getting an enormous greeting, they would put on a very emotional performance reminiscent of their match on the final episode of WCW Nitro. The Nature Boy would win his last match and share a hug in the ring with Sting and most certainly cry his eyes out with a massive standing ovation. Sting would disappear never to be seen in a WWE ring again, but his bank account would be looking pretty good.
MATCH #9: (INTER-PROMOTIONAL MATCH): They started this storyline at Royal Rumble during a backstage segment when Triple H and Batista had a minor backstage confrontation over who would win the Rumble match. During the Rumble itself, Triple H eliminated Batista from the final three, only to be eliminated himself by John Cena. This is the basic set-up from an inter-promotional match between Triple H and Batista. It’s hard to pick a winner in this one, because Triple H should be putting over the new guy, but isn’t Batista older than Triple H? For the build up, I might book a match at No Way Out between Triple H & Batista vs. Shawn Michaels & The Undertaker – as screwy as that sounds. Both teams would have problems working together, stemming from heat that was initiated at the Royal Rumble. Batista would do a total heel turn on Triple H; this would justify Triple H going over at WrestleMania 24. This would put Triple H in line for a WWE title shot (more on that later).
MATCH #10: (INTER-PROMOTIONAL MATCH): They actually started this storyline at Royal Rumble LAST YEAR when these two were the final two participants, with the Undertaker winning and going on to WrestleMania 23 and capturing the World Heavyweight title. At this year’s Rumble, these men ironically picked number one and two and fought parallel to each other for most of the match before Michaels spotted an opening and dumped the Undertaker over the top rope. As Michaels looked down at Undertaker, he himself was dumped over the top rope by his foe, Mr. Kennedy, landing at the feet of Undertaker. Like I said in the previous paragraph, I would book a match at No Way Out between Triple H & Batista vs. Shawn Michaels & The Undertaker. When Batista turns heel on Triple H by walking out during the match, Triple H would yell at him “what are you doing?” and turn around and get Tomb-stoned by the Undertaker! Shawn Michaels would super-kick his partner (Undertaker) and steal the pin on Triple H to win the match. Michaels wouldn’t be a full-on heel, he would just shrug his shoulders as if to say “oops!” and leave the ring to do his posing on the stage as the Undertaker stared a hole through him from the ring. At WrestleMania, the Undertaker streak would be on the line, but would remain in tact, with Undertaker defeating Shawn Michaels to extend the streak to 16-0.
MATCH #11 (STREET FIGHT): The culmination of months and months of build-up between Vince McMahon, Hornswoggle, and Fit Finlay would result in a match at WrestleMania for custody of Hornswoggle. Since Vince McMahon can’t wrestle (and Finlay can) this would have to be a Street Fight to give McMahon a fighting chance. Hornswoggle would be named special guest referee, so he could influence whomever he wanted to be his father-figure. Before we finally get to WrestleMania, I would book a match between at No Way Out featuring Vince McMahon & Hornswoggle against a couple of jobbers, or maybe even a couple of midgets. Vince & Hornswoggle would squash that team and solify their relationship as father and son. Papa McMahon would grill Hornswoggle week-after-week about how he is a McMahon and he should be loyal to the family, reminding him how much money he stands to inherit. Finlay would, of course, support Hornswoggle emotionally and tell him to be himself and follow his heart. The week before Mania, Vince would do something evil that would really cause Hornswoggle to question Finlay’s sincerity. At the PPV, Hornswoggle would referee the match between McMahon and Finlay, favoring his papa until Shane McMahon showed up at ringside to show a video of Vince’s evil actions the previous week. Hornswoggle would look at his Papa with a broken heart and punch him in the grapefruits, at which point Finlay would roll-up McMahon for the win and then share a reunion with his adopted “son” Hornswoggle.
MATCH #12 (WILDCARD MATCH): By winning the Invitational Battle Royal on the pre-show, The Great Khali earned the right to face the returning BIG SHOW in a singles match. This would be a slow-as-molasses battle of the giants. If the rumors are true about Big Show’s weight loss then he should look a bit smaller, but still absolutely phenomenal, standing next to Khali. The Big Show would gigantic body-slam the Great Khali on his way to winning the match.
MATCH #13 (ECW WORLD TITLE MATCH): When I saw Tommy Dreamer enter the Royal Rumble, I heard Joey Styles comment that Dreamer was the only man in the Rumble who would not choose the WWE or World title, but instead challenge for the ECW World title because he lives for that championship. That comment stuck in my head as possible ignition for a storyline leading to Tommy Dreamer making a serious run for the title he so passionately wants to hold. Punk would have to go heel, but not too far as he couldn’t go back to the good side afterwards. To begin, Tommy has to go through a vigorous winning streak to build him up as a believable contender. Once Dreamer earns his title shot, they would show vintage clips of Tommy during his long run in Extreme Championship Wrestling. At WrestleMania, Dreamer would be accompanied by his wife Beulah, who would just sit at ringside for support. The momentum has to be in Dreamer’s corner 100% for this to work. If they can get him, it would really help to have Paul Heyman sitting in the front row, possibly with guys like Sandman, Sabu, and Rob Van Dam – implying that they all bought tickets to see Tommy Dreamer achieve his dream. At the high point of the match, Tommy would have the solid advantage, but briefly lose his focus, allowing Punk to hit a sudden Go-To-Sleep. Tommy would kick out, and this would lead to a series of finishing moves, with Tommy kicking out after each and every one. Dreamer would desperately push Punk out of the ring to buy himself some time, where Punk would stand up and push Beulah off her chair. The ECW guys would try to jump the rail but security would stop them dead in their tracks. Punk would slid into the ring and laugh at the helpless ECW contingent only to turn around and get cracked with a kendo stick by Tommy Dreamer, and nailed with a Spicoli-driver, allowing Dreamer to score the pin and capture the ECW World title in a blaze of glory. I’m getting all misty-eyed just thinking about it. Punk would shake hands with Dreamer and bow out respectfully as the ECW guys are allowed into the ring to celebrate with their fellow extremist.
MATCH #14 (WORLD TITLE MATCH): This was one match that was difficult to book. I couldn’t come up with a good challenger for Edge because there doesn’t seem to be anybody left on the roster. I pulled Kane out of the Money in the Bank Ladder match (replaced him with Kenny Dykstra) to put him up against Edge for the World Heavyweight title. Fans might have noticed that Kane hasn’t done a whole lot lately, often going missing from television every other week. I think he could be keeping a low profile, so he could heal up for a good run at the World title. These two guys are total professionals and any storyline could be invented. At No Way Out they could do a number one contenders match between Kane, Big Daddy V. and Mark Henry – with Kane winning the match. Simple. Doesn’t have to be complicated. They could make up some stuff along the way to build up the heat. I would love it if they brought back Lita to counter Vickie Guerrero. Remember they did that little confrontation between Kane and Lita at the RAW 15th Anniversary show? Just in case you forgot, they did a huge storyline with Lita dumping Kane for Edge a long time ago. Eventually Edge dumped Lita when she retired – so Lita has the motivation to come back and screw Edge (not literally). Unfortunately for Lita (and Kane), Edge would still be World Heavyweight champion after the match was all said and done. There has to be some chicanery for the finish of the match, so I propose they do the old switcheroo routine with Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins hiding under the ring again. It worked at Armageddon and it will work at WrestleMania too!
MATCH #15 (WWE TITLE MATCH): This match makes so much sense, but the fans are going to ruin it by cheering for Randy Orton and booing John Cena. I was calling for this match last year and the year before. Thank you WWE for finally listening to the genius that is Brad Dykens. John Cena’s return at Royal Rumble was absolutely brilliant, after blatantly lying to newspaper reporters for weeks, Cena pulled the swerve of the year by returning from injury early and winning the Royal Rumble to earn a shot at the WWE championship, ironically held by the man who (in storyline) injured him and put him on the shelf for four months. John Cena is scheduled to begin filming another movie, so if he wins the title I don’t expect him to hold it very long. Since the heel won the previous match, it would be too depressing to have the heel go over in the main event too. So as much as it’s going to piss off the mindless Cena-hating sheep, I am going to put him over The Legend Killer to once again claim the WWE championship. Oh man, the crowd would be 50/50 with cheers and boos! The next night on RAW, John Cena would start a campaign to encourage the boos, turning himself heel in the process. Triple H, coming off of a big win against Batista at Mania, would step forward to challenge John Cena at Backlash. Triple H would be a solid babyface up against John Cena, and finally the Cena-haters will have something to be happy about because Triple H would beat the Doctor of Thuganomics and claim his 12th (is that right?) championship. And John Cena disappears to do his movie.
1. HEAT: 30 Man Battle Royal for spot on the WM24 Card against a mystery opponent (The Big Show);
2. TAG MATCH: Rey Mysterio & Chavo Guerrero vs. Kurt Hawkins & Zach Rider;
3. MONEY IN THE BANK: Kennedy vs. Umaga vs. Hardy vs. MVP vs. Hardy vs. Kenny vs. Benjamin vs. Kofi;
4. WORLD TAG TITLE 4-WAY: Holly/Rhodes vs. London/Kendrick vs. Carlito/Santino vs. The Highlanders;
5. BULLROPE MATCH: Chris Jericho (w/Lance Storm) vs. John Bradshaw Layfield (w/Trevor Murdoch);
6. WOMENS TITLE 3-WAY: Beth Phoenix vs. Candice Michelle vs. Mickie James with Sunny as referee;
7. WWE TAG TITLE MATCH: John Morrison & Mike Mizanin vs. Matt Classic & Mr. Wrestling III;
8. FLAIR RETIREMENT MATCH: “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair vs. “The Legendary” Sting;
9. INTER-PROMOTIONAL MATCH: Triple H (from RAW) vs. Batista (from SmackDown!);
10. INTER-PROMOTIONAL MATCH: Shawn Michaels (from RAW) vs. The Undertaker (from SmackDown!);
11. STREET FIGHT: Vince McMahon vs. Fit Finlay with Hornswoggle as the guest referee;
12. WILDCARD MATCH: The Great Khali (winner of the Battle Royal) vs. The Big Show;
13. ECW WORLD TITLE MATCH: C.M. Punk (champion) vs. Tommy Dreamer (challenger);
14. WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH: Edge (champion) vs. Kane (challenger);
15. WWE TITLE MATCH: Randy Orton (champion) vs. John Cena (challenger);
WWE Tag Team Division: The WWE did A LOT to spruce up the tag team division in 2007 but it still needs a lot of work. Going into 2008, the tag team champions were Hardcore Holly & Cody Rhodes (RAW) and John Morrison & Mike Mizanin (SD!/ECW). Both of these teams are great combinations. Other notable teams on the roster included Kendrick/London, Cade/Murdoch, the Highlanders, Carlito/Santino, Yang/Moore, Jesse/Festus, the Edgeheads, and Deuce/Domino. Sounds like a great foundation for a fantastic tag team division. I don’t see Kendrick and London making it past the first half of the year without breaking up. Santino Marella and Carlito Cool won’t last very long either, even though they are great together. After a couple of months they should split up, and for the third year in a row I am begging WWE to bring Eddie Colon in to team with his brother as the “Cool Brothers” – Carlito and Eddie Cool. Chris Harris has signed with WWE, and I’m hoping James Storm is coming in right behind him. I would love to see them go up against Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch – the team WWE created as a rib against TNA’s America’s Most Wanted. I also expect D.H. Smith to get a push with his tag team partner T.J. Wilson – known as the Stampede Bulldogs. I could also see Elijah Burke and Kofi Kingston doing something as a tag team on ECW.
WWE Divas/Women’s Division: Some of the “useless models” that I criticized in last year’s Odyssey really stepped up to the plate in 2007. Candice Michelle really worked her beautiful ass off to erase the model mystique and picked up some respectable wrestling skills before one botched move put her on the injured list. I was one of Candice’s biggest critics, but I am willing to admit my perception has changed, and I have all the praise in the world for her work ethic and rate of improvement. Maria Kanellis is another model-style wrestler that I never thought I would respect as a wrestler. She is not to the level of Candice Michelle, but she is improving at a steady rate, and her character skills are up there with the best of them. I think she has a good heel run in her at the side of Santino Marella after this Playboy stuff wears off. By the way, can’t wait to see those pictures! Mickie James, Melina Perez, and Jillian Hall are solid performers that I will always respect and enjoy. Ashley Massaro totally disgusts me; somebody buy her a hamburger and some milkshakes. You know it’s bad when your boobs weigh more than the rest of your body. She got so skinny but her lips and boobs stayed the same size (or did they get bigger?). She’s also annoying and has no redeeming qualities. Beth Phoenix is a great champion and will force all of her challengers to raise their game. Torrie Wilson REALLY needs to be fired. I know she is a very sweet girl but her run is over – in fact, it was over three years ago. Michelle McCool has improved by leaps and bounds as well, and some day she will be a top contender for the Women’s championship – but for now she is doing great in a storyline-based character. Victoria seems like she has lost all her drive to be a professional wrestler. She should follow in the footsteps of Trish and Lita and go into retirement, or get a fresh start in TNA. Cherry is a odd case; I think she’s great, but what has she done since debuting at the beginning of 2007? She has interfered in a handful of her boys matches but other than that she just stands at ringside chewing gum. She is SO MUCH better than that. She actually wrestled before she came to WWE. Now she doesn’t even wrestle, and she doesn’t even participate in any of the T & A gimmicks. Deuce and Domino are heels, for the love of God, let her interfere in some of their matches! I don’t like what they are doing with Lena Yada, Kelly Kelly and Layla El on ECW. Kelly has improved as a “character” but her wrestling skills leave much to be desired. She is working to improve so I’ll give her credit for that. Layla is a nice girl, but I’m not digging her at all since she got rid of the afro and turned heel. And who the hell told her to stick her greasy lips out all the time. Layla, I love you but you look like the retard who failed finishing school! Lena Yada just got started, so the jury is still out on her. If Nattie Neidhart doesn’t debut in 2008, I will be very surprised. Katie Lea from OVW is also ready for the big time. She is a British wrestler who would do great as a valet for somebody like Drew McIntyre. She’s also a phenomenal wrestler. Let’s see some new blood.
WWE Developmental System: I’m not sure how many people are aware of the fact that World Wrestling Entertainment has a developmental system in place. The system includes two smaller promotions where young wrestlers are trained and groomed until they are ready to jump to one of WWE’s three brands; RAW, SmackDown!, or ECW.
One of those farm leagues is called Ohio Valley Wrestling and is based in Louisville, Kentucky. It has been churning out WWE Superstars for several years including John Cena, Batista, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin, Mr. Kennedy, Charlie Haas, Kenny Dykstra, C.M. Punk, John Morrison and many others. They have had a very successful television program on the WB in Louisville for a couple of years. Their current roster is full of young and eager wrestlers trying to prove themselves. Former ROH standout Matt Sydal is the current OVW Heavyweight title, but he has about a year left in the system before WWE will consider calling him up to the big time. Colt Cabana is also there, and has been dominating OVW since debuting in May. Cabana has a ton of storylines waiting for him involving his best friend C.M. Punk if they want some reality-based gimmicks on ECW. Punk and Cabana have life-long chemistry as a tag team and as opponents. Atlas Dabone has a good look and is primed to make an impact in the WWE some day. Charles “The Hammer” Evans is a big black monster who was tailor made for WWE. Jay Bradley is a big dude with a lot of promise, and I’m surprised he hasn’t made the jump to WWE yet. Also watch out for Mike Kruel, James Curtis, Paul Birchall, Johnny Jeter, Ace Steel, and a nice crew of other young stars. If you can get your hands on any OVW tapes or DVDs, I suggest you do it because these are literally tomorrow’s WWE Superstars.
The other farm league is based in Florida and has run under the name Florida Championship Wrestling – having started up in 2007 under the management of Steve Keirn. FCW is chalk-full of talent, even more so than OVW; many of which are second and third generation wrestlers. Billy Kidman is the head-trainer at the FCW training facility. Some of the top names are T.J. Wilson, Nattie Neidhart, Ted DiBiase Jr., Afa Jr., G-Rilla, Shawn Osborne, Steve Lewington, Heath Miller, and a large cast of wrestlers. From reading the weekly reports written by Alan Wojcik, it appears as though the FCW product is a very intense experience. FCW is about to make the jump to local television so 2008 is going to be a BIG year!
Total Nonstop Action: Here are some things I expect to see in 2008.
1) Out with the Old - There is no reason for Kevin Nash to be in TNA right now. Dixie Carter justifies spending all that money on Kevin Nash because he has name value; well that is complete bull crap. He’s done nothing for ratings. Nobody has. See “Make Changes.”
2) Signing Spree - Obviously TNA cannot sign everybody but there are a few guys who can be a big part of the product if they are given a chance. Ryan O’Reilly and Krissy Vaine are at the top of the list. Shawn Daivari would be a great addition to the X-Division, which they have really destroyed over the past few months. Nick Dinsmore (aka Eugene) would have a good run in TNA if they can write a good storyline for him. Rob Van Dam would be an amazing acquisition, but it seems like he’s not interested in wrestling unless its a WWE payday. I’d also enjoy seeing the Shane Twins (Gymini) in the six-sided ring.
3) Women’s Division – Keep doing what you’re doing! The Awesome Kong vs. Gail Kim series has been the talk of the wrestling world and the Knockouts division has been a breath of fresh air. I approve of everybody who is apart of it, except for Velvet Skye, but even she has done an okay job in her role as a certified crack filler and rope molester. They have about sixteen Knockouts on the rosters, and all serve different purposes in the overall product. There’s a unique mix of wrestling skill (Kong, Kim, Jackie, Tracy, Roxxi, etc), manager/valets (Sharmell, Karen Angle, Christy), T & A (Velvet & Angelina), characters (ODB & Salinas), ring girls (So-Cal Val), backstage interviewers (Crystal Louthan), and newcomers Payton Banks (Rain) and Saed (Cheerleader Melissa). Hopefully they’ll find a better name for Melissa when she comes out from behind the vail.
4) Tag Team Division – They’ve got some kickass tag teams on the roster right now, like the Motor City Machine Guns, Latin American Xtreme, A.J. Styles & Tomko, Team 3-D, and the Rock & Rave Connection – but they need more. The only tag team I can piece together from existing wrestlers would be Kaz and Elix Skipper. Other than that I’d like to see them bring in the Shane Twins (Gymini). WWE totally dropped the ball with them when there is so much that could be done to get them over. I think the independent tag teams of the Heartbreak Express and Black Market would be nice additions to the roster too.
5) On The Road Again – This is already in the plans, but TNA needs to hit the road and do more shows across the United States. If you can impress a fan at a live show, they are more likely to care about the television product. They should run PPVs in twelve different major cities throughout the year, and run live events three nights a week. I find it absolutely ridiculous when TNA puts limitations on their employees on where they can work and who they can work for. As far as I’m concerned they cannot dictate where you work unless they can give you a full-time work themselves. Doing regular house shows would mean wrestlers wouldn’t even have to work for other promotions to make extra money.
6) Make Changes – Ratings are dead – they barely went from 1.0 to 1.1 in 2007, and a managed to score a 1.2 in early 2008. I can only imagine how many of the wrong people have taken credit for that small increase. Ratings have changed so little in the past twelve months that you can barely notice. If Kurt Angle and Booker T jumping ship couldn’t spike ratings I’m not sure what can. Wait, yes I do! Changes in the creative department! Stop giving us an endless borage of pointless backstage segments. If you start the show with an in-ring segment with wrestlers cutting promos, don’t go to three backstage segments right after the commercial. You get the action started as soon as possible. Cut the number of backstage tomfoolery in half and give us an extra match on the show. Quit trying to be like WWE, and start focusing on the things that WWE stink at doing – women’s wrestling, tag team wrestling, X-division wrestling, and crowd-pleasing storylines. I tell you what does have to go is Vince Russo. I have been one of his biggest supporters, but his contributions to the creative process have been detrimental to the entire product. In fact, I’d go as far as to say Russo is the biggest factor holding back the ratings. The stupid Thanksgiving and Christmas party segments are beyond horrible and that is something that doesn’t get over these days. God bless you Vince, I respect you for turning your life around and finding God, but you’re out of touch with wrestling and you need to go away now. I also think the following people should be let go from the company; Kevin Nash, Matt Morgan, Team 3-D, and Black Reign.
7) Set aside one month to do a PPV for a Super X Tournament. Bring in some International talent to take part.
Ring of Honor: Ah yes, my personal favorite wrestling promotion on the planet. I love following the ROH product on the Internet and on the amazing DVD’s they release exclusively on ROHwrestling.com. 2007 was ROH’s BIGGEST year, taking the leap into the Pay-Per-View market with “Respect is Earned,” “Driven,” and “Man Up,” which were critically acclaimed shows that were universally praised by wrestling journalists everywhere (including myself). I expect more of the same for ROH in 2008 and look forward to following along and showing my support by posting results and continuing to write my official DVD reviews right here on Online World of Wrestling.
It’s really hard to make any constructive criticism about Ring of Honor. It’s a problem I have every time I write a DVD review, because there really is so little to complain about. ROH is extremely fan-based and goes out of its way to give the fans what they want, even if it’s an opportunity to boo someone out of the building, like they did when the ultra-annoying Jonny Fairplay made an appearance inside the ring of honor. 2007 saw the emergence of faction warfare, with no less than six factions popping up and battling each other. At first I was skeptical as to the direction this was going, but as usual I put my complete faith in the hands of ROH booker Gabe Sapolsky, who developed some of the most intriguing groups to ever hit the professional wrestling scene. We had the No Remorse Corps, the Resilience, the Age of the Fall, Sweet & Sour Inc., the Vulture Squad, and HANGMAN 3. The Hangman 3 is the only faction I had a real problem with because it all came together shortly after Chris Benoit hung himself and the reference, even if it wasn’t deliberate, was a little too insensitive if you ask me. The group’s members, however, did a good job as some of the company’s top heels – they just had a bad name. The Briscoe Brothers dominated the tag team division all year long and were apart of some of the best matches in ROH history. A lot of guys raised the level of their game after TNA pulled its talent from ROH. Delirious continued his reign as a cult favorite. Florida-based wrestler Erick Stevens came in and took the company by storm. A couple of Chikara wrestlers joined the fray, and some Canadian wrestlers named Kevin Steen and El Generico took the Briscoes to the limit in an epic Ladder War on the “Man Up” PPV. American Dragon took a brief hiatus after losing the ROH World title but returned to reclaim his position as “most valuable player” in ROH. Nigel McGuinness elevated to the next level and captured the ROH World title from Takeshi Morishima, but was held back by a couple of frustrating injuries at the end of the year. Everyone puts their heart and soul into the perfect Ring of Honor.
2008 will bring more of the same phenomenal action that ROH fans have become accustomed to, including more PPV’s and hopefully expanding their live event market into more territories. ROH current runs events in the Northeast, Midwest, as well as the UK and Japan – but they are noticeably forgetting the obvious location of Canada! I think ROH could be successful in California and Florida working with PWG and FIP. They will be doing two shows in Orlando on WrestleMania weekend, like they did in Detroit last year, and in Chicago two years ago. WWE obviously has a lot of respect for Ring of Honor to allow that. The sky is the limit for ROH, but as usual they are not too eager to achieve too much too fast. Slow and steady wins the race, and anybody who shows serious interest in ROH knows that they definitely win the race every single time. Everyone knows how much wrestling dominates my life, and ROH is the thing I’m most passionate about.
Women’s Professional Wrestling: Yes, wrestling fans, REAL women’s professional wrestling does exist in the United States! Okay I’m not being fair because, as I’ve written above, WWE and TNA have both gone out of their way to improve the quality of their Divas/Knockouts divisions. But nothing compares to the unbelievably talented girls of the current independent scene. We’re talking about REAL girls of all different shapes and sizes, learning their craft and living the life of a professional wrestling. These girls don’t need implants to perform a headlock or stretch their opponent into submission.
There are two companies that stand up above the rest, and they are Dave Prazak’s SHIMMER and Jason Deadrich’s ChickFight. SHIMMER received an phenomenal amount of exposure in 2007 as they released volumes #10 and #11 of their DVD series, which featuring the monumental crowning of the first SHIMMER champion. SHIMMER also got a lot of exposure here on Online World of Wrestling, as well as inside the pages of Pro Wrestling Illustrated. They have four more DVD’s taped and ready to be released this winter before they start taping more DVD’s in April of 2008. SHIMMER features amazing talent such as Sara Del Rey, Cheerleader Melissa, Allison Danger, Daizee Haze, Lacey, Rain, Amazing Kong, Sarah Stock, Nikki Roxx, MsChif, the legendary Malia Hosaka, and a full cast of other young motivated wrestlers. ChickFight, on the other hand, is based in San Francisco, and is the brainchild of Jason Deadrich. They began running 8-girl tournaments in California in 2004, featuring some of the toughest wrestlers from around the World. Spanning ten volumes, the ChickFight collection includes appearances by just about every independent female wrestler on the planet that matters! The group recently released a ChickFight Starter Kit to help spread the word about the product to anyone living under a rock. Some previous ChickFight tournament winners include, Mexico’s Princess Sugey, Japan’s Mariko Yoshida, MsChif, Cheerleader Melissa, Daizee Haze, Germany’s Wesna, and Amazing Kong. ChickFight can also be seen weekly on MavTV, taping shows at UK venues and featuring a lot of talented British wrestlers.
Video previews of both ChickFight and SHIMMER can be viewed at ClickWrestle.com.
But wait there’s more……. there are lots of great all-female wrestling promotions popping up all over the country. Sheldon Goldberg, who is part-owner of family-oriented New England Championship Wrestling in Massachusetts, also books all-girl shows under the banner of “World Women’s Wrestling,” which prominently features Nikki Roxx (aka TNA’s Roxxi LeVeaux), Tanya Lee, Lexxus, The Portuguese Princess Ariel, Natalia, Alere Little Feather and a unique cast of characters – some lovable, some very scary! This is one female wrestling show you can safely take your child to watch.
Then there’s the New Jersey-based “Women Superstars Unleashed” that has a more adult philosophy. Some of the talent appearing on these shows includes Missy Hyatt, Luna Vachon, Primetime Amy Lee, Alicia (who just retired), Becky Bayless, Tammy “Sunny” Sytch, Alere Little Feather, Mercedes Martinez, Alexa Thatcher, Cindy Rogers, and some more good stuff. WSU presents an array of potty mouthed bad girls and sugary good girls, featured in a nice mix of hardcore and technical wrestling matches. There’s also a group in France called “Queens of Chaos” which I haven’t heard from in a while.
The Independent Circuit: If you’re dedicated enough to follow the independent circuit, you know that there are literally hundreds of independent promotions around the World. Some have eight wrestlers and draw forty fans, and some have twenty-five wrestlers and draws four-hundred fans. That isn’t always a reflection on the talent inside the ring. Some of the top independent promotions in the United States and Canada include Full Impact Pro, New England Championship Wrestling, Combat Zone Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, All Pro Wrestling, IWA: Mid South, International Wrestling Cartel, Chikara Wrestling, Maryland Championship Wrestling, Jersey All-Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Unplugged, NWA Anarchy, East Coast Wrestling Association, Cleveland All-Pro Wrestling, Impact Zone Wrestling, New York Wrestling Connection, and International Wrestling Syndicate to name only a FEW.
Unless you have an unlimited supply of frequent flyer miles and the ability to be in four places at once, the only way to keep track of all these promotions is by video-tape or DVD (or by checking OnlineWorldofWrestling.com every day). You can purchase copies of independent shows at ROH Wrestling or High Spots or Smart Mark Video..
GET OUT AND SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL INDEPENDENT PROMOTIONS!!!
In Memorium: I would like to pay tribute to the following people who passed away in 2007; Cowboy Lang, Coco Samoa, Bam Bam Bigelow, Mike Awesome, Tracy Richards, Ray “Thunder” Stern, Bad News Allen Coage, Black Shadow, Ernie Ladd, Arnold Skaaland, Angel Azteca, Abe Coleman, Harold “Sonny” Myres, Sandy Barr, Princess Tona Tomah, Sherri Martel, Nancy “Woman” Benoit, Bif Wellington, Moondog Nathan, John Kronus, Lita “Latin Hellcat” Marez, Ronnie P. Gossett III, Tor Kamata, Karl Gotch, Scott Dumas, Bronco Lubich, Brian “Crush” Adams, Byron “Dewey” Robertson, The Great Malenko, Karloff Lagarde, Billy Darnell, Enrique Torres, Sean Evans, Ray Urbano, Tom “Elton” Stanton, Fabulous Moolah, El Gran Marcus, Boyd “the Avenger” Rowell, Doby Gillis, and already in 2008 we have lost Randy Barber, Arman Hussian. Thank you to all of the aforementioned wrestlers and my sympathies to the friends and families. May you all rest in peace.
A Few More Things: It would be wrong of me to put an end to this column without mentioning the biggest News story of the year. On June 25, 2007, the Canadian wrestler Chris Benoit took his own life after sadistically murdering his wife and child at their Atlanta home. This was by far the most tragic event in the history of professional wrestling, but somehow it did nothing to change the wrestling lifestyle that contributed to the obvious mental condition that Chris Benoit was suffering from. As human beings, we cannot be dumb enough to believe that something like this will never happen again, but I sincerely hope it doesn’t. Although a small part of me wishes it does, so the spotlight can be once again shone upon the wrestling industry and the people steering the ship will be forced to make the appropriate changes that will hopefully save lives, or at the very least, extend the lives of our heroes far past the point of being physically unable to work in the wrestling business. God bless everybody who steps into a wrestling ring and may they all be guided towards only healthy and prosperous decisions that do not compromise their ethics or lifespan. I hope you enjoyed this year’s Sports Entertainment Odyssey.
– Brad Dykens (Editor in Chief)