Wednesday, 31 December 2003

The Two Sheds Review Archives - 2003

Random Ramblings January 2003

Firstly, a happy new year to one and all. Hope you all managed to get through the Christmas holidays and all that!

So let's get down to business somewhat. What's been going down? Well, let's start with a subject that has interested many a wrestling journalist of the Internet variety for a few months now. Yours truly, while trying to promote the good name of the World Association of Wrestling, has taken quite a verbal pasting at the hands of the good folks over at the UK Fan Forum. Why?


I admit that at times I may be a little overeager in promoting the work of my buddies, and the work I do on their behalf on
the old World Wide Web, but it really annoys me when some people on this particular forum make stinging and personal attacks on yours truly, and the forum moderators, already annoyed at what I have done, apparently do nothing to stop these verbal attacks, even though they are against forum rules. They then ask me to discuss the situation via e-mail, but insist on airing the dirty laundry in public, something which, when I do it, they protest against.

So what to do? I truly believe, as I said in a recent posting on the forum, that with over 1200 members, the UK Fan Forum could be used to promote all aspects of British wrestling. But the rules of the forum prohibit plugs of web sites dedicated to wrestling promotions and wrestlers themselves, unless you submit your site for their "Plug-O-Meter". This really doesn't help, in my opinion. I recently submitted five WAW-related web sites, as well as my own web site, to the Plug-O-Meter. I recently checked the site statistics to these sites, and no-one has logged onto a WAW site via the UK Fan Forum. But let's get back to the matter at hand.

If the rules of the forum were changed, and the moderators let people promote web sites via the forum, then perhaps this sort of problem would cease. Yours truly probably wouldn't take a verbal pasting for doing the job he's meant to do.

My fellow Wrestling-X writer Greg Lambert recently stated that he would no longer post on the forum, because of the verbal battering he was taken for merely speaking his mind (which is what most of the members of the forum do anyway!). In the past couple of weeks I've posted recent columns on the forum. So my upcoming plan of action will be this - I will continue to post WAW-related news about upcoming shows and all that, but I will no longer post my usual Two Sheds Review column. This column will not be posted on the forum either, although I get the feeling that parts of this column will be taken out of context and posted on the forum, because of it's subject matter. It's my view that if people really want to read my column, they will either subscribe to one of the e-mail newsletters it appears in, or log onto one of the web sites it appears on. I can no longer see any point in offering my view on the forum, because the
members will just shoot down every aspect of my view, and lambaste me if I make any typing errors, which, as a self-confessed awful speller, I very often do. This is why Bill Gates invented the spell-checker. If it wasn't for that particular geek, this particular geek would quite often look quite daft.

But enough of the forum. Onto other things! Awards! Sadly, I haven't won any yet! The good readers of the A1 Wrestling Newsletter voted me joint-4th in their Columnist of the Year awards, with "The Busiest Man on the Internet" SamJerry polling a massive 70 per cent. I've been a massive SamJerry fan since the back end of 1999, and losing to the guy who makes Old Baldy look positively young is nothing to be ashamed of. I look forward to reading his somewhat warped view of the wrestling world every week. For me, this guy is the best wrestling writer on the Internet. Well done mate!

As I write this, I am awaiting the outcome of the Wrestling-X "Marvin" awards. Wrestling-X is the online home of the aforementioned Greg "The Truth" Lambert, a fellow Anglophile Wrestling Journalist, who also writes for one of the most popular wrestling rags published in Britain, Power Slam. Yours truly, to his surprise, was nominated in the Wrestling Journalist of the Year category, alongside such luminaries as Greg himself, Bill Apter, Jon Farrer, Mo Chatra, Fin Martin and Tom Lancaster. Last time I looked, I was in third place, ahead of many people whose work features primarily in print publications. I'm pleased with this standing, because it says a lot about how my work and my writing career has progressed in the near-three years since my first article was published on the Internet, and when you also consider it was third place behind Bill Apter and The Truth, it says a lot. I'll let you know how I get on in my next column.

It also says a lot for the progress I've made when, despite the fact that I'm WAW's resident reporter, I've had a couple of offers from other promotions in Britain to report on their shows as well. The most notable one came from Jon Farrer, whose Global Wrestling Force is running their second show, Aftermath, on February 2nd in Blackburn. Transport worries aside, I am really looking forward to reporting on this show. Not only will I be able to see wrestlers I've reported on before, but a few from abroad I haven't seen. Needless to say, my report will be available for viewing in the usual places. I'd like to say a personal thanks to Jon for making this offer to me.

Now, because I'm not allowed to do this in THAT place, I recently conducted a couple of interviews for the WAW web site, with WAW Tag-Team Champions the U.K. Pitbulls, who recently returned from a trip to America, and with WAW regular and Ultimate Wrestling Alliance co-owner Paul Tyrell. The Tyrell interview, in particular, I'm very proud of. You can read both interviews by logging onto www.wawwrestling.cjb.net. I'm looking to do some more interviews in the next few months, not just with people connected to WAW.

While on the subject of WAW, their next big Norwich show, Valentine's Day Massacre, is shaping up quite nicely. The show will he headlined by Rowdy Ricky Knight going against his son, the Zebra Kid, in a 2/3 falls match - with a difference. In the first fall, only pins will be counted. In the second, only submissions. And the third, which will very probably be needed, will be fought under TLC rules.

Even though I've watched these two go at it god knows how many times over the past year, I never tire of seeing these two in the ring against each other. I don't think I've ever seen a bad match between these two guys. Some may say that's because these two work together so often. That may be the case, but with the special match stipulations, I would have to say that this will definitely be a match of the year candidate.

The voting for the second annual WAW awards is coming along nicely. Obviously, I can't divulge any details, but in a couple of categories, the voting is extremely close. It could go down to the final's day of voting on January 31st. So if you haven't voted yet, log onto the aforementioned WAW web site, for details on how you can cast your vote. Of course, you'll find details of the upcoming Valentine's Day Massacre show there as well.

With no WAW shows until next month, I've been spending a bit more time watching the product put out this week by good old Uncle Vince. A shame, though, that so far I've only watched one completely original programme! Although the cockles of my heart have been warmed a great deal by seeing some classic matches from 2002, just how many times can you watch the same programme? Raw, Heat, Afterburn, whatever else their other programmes are called have all been putting out virtually the same show. Perhaps my problem here is that Sky TV, in their infinite wisdom, decided to play one show after another during the weekend, instead having a few hours gap between them, as they did several years ago.

The only original show I've seen thus far has been Smackdown, and despite the fact that this has been the only success, in my opinion, anyway, of the brand extension fiasco, this week, again in my opinion, it left a little to be desired. I enjoyed the Kidman/Guerrero match, and John Cena's commentary was amusing at times. But perhaps the problem was with the fact that this week, instead of the show being recorded the previous Tuesday, edited over the next 36 hours and broadcast on the following Thursday, the show went out live in the States. The show just didn't have the proverbial "it" this week, much in the same way that Raw hasn't had "it" in the past few months. But then again, the smart marks would probably tell me that Raw doesn't have "it" because of the apparent political machinations of one Triple H.

If the "it" factor wasn't with Smackdown this week because it went out live, and wasn't recorded, then perhaps this could be the answer for Raw. The Smackdown product may be vastly superior to the Raw brand because of the fact that the show is recorded, and edited together. All of the mistakes the live crowd on a Tuesday night see are gone by the time the television audience sit down in front of their TV seats with their six pack and bag of heavily salted savoury snacks.

So could this be the answer to Raw's current problems? Perhaps if the show no longer went out live on a Monday night, if it was recorded say, on a Saturday night, all of the mistakes that are apparent for all to see could be removed, and backstage segments which were viewed by the arena crowd with a deathly silence could be re-recorded to better effect. Mind you, if Uncle Vince decided to go with this idea, which I very much doubt he would, Triple H could lose on the Saturday night show, but gain the victory sometime before the show airs the following Monday!

Another topic that has got the fan's talking is the demise of Jim Ross's weekly report on the WWE website. In his last fare, good old JR said that time constraints made it next to impossible to write his weekly reports. He also made reference to the fact that some wrestlers felt slighted when he didn't hype them enough. I myself have had a similar experience with regards to this aspect of Internet journalism. My view is that if a wrestler is more worried about how he is portrayed on the Internet, than how he is portrayed in the wrestling ring, then something is wrong with that person's career. Perhaps the WWE stars should have spent more time trying to impress Jim Ross, head of Talent Relations, instead of Jim Ross, Internet wrestling journalist. I'll miss JR's weekly look at what's going on in the WWE. Mind you, at least we won't hear about that damn barbecue sauce anymore!

Still on the subject of JR, and going back a little to the WWE's highlights shows, I noticed JR's commentary during the TLC match on Raw a few months back. You may recall that JR was without Jerry Lawler for that match. Just listening to JR on his own made me realise that in the right situation he is still one hell of a commentator. JR and Lawler have been a great team in the past, but in the past few months I've noticed that while the chemistry is still there, their work together has left a little to be desired at times. Although they probably won't do this, perhaps now is the time to shake things up a little in the commentary department. The problem is that outside of Jesse Ventura, the only other man I would consider for the colour commentator's job on Raw was released by the WWE a short while ago. Diamond Dallas Page would have made a fine addition to the commentary team.

Well, that's your lot for this week. I'm off to the UK Fan Forum to see what they're saying about me now!

Billy Gunn & Ron Simmons

News came out of the WWE this week that two of it's longest serving employees could be about to hang up their wrestling tights for the last time.

It's been rumoured that Ron Simmons, aka Faarooq in his many guises, has been considering retiring for some months now. He hasn't been on our screens much lately because of family considerations, but since the split of the APA, he hasn't really done much. He's teamed briefly with Mark Henry and D-Von Dudley, but as far as direction goes, nothing has really been done with his character since the brand extension.

As for his overall career, Simmons will probably be remembered for two things, the first being his WCW World title reign. It was notable because he was the first African-American ever to hold a world title in any promotion. Although his reign didn't exactly set hearts on fire, he was probably one of the most dignified world champions you could find.

Then there's his first few months in the WWF. First, he was saddled with an awful Roman gladiator-type gimmick, something that did nothing for a wrestler of his standing. Things got a little better when he shed the stupid costume and formed the Nation of Domination. Although the race angle sometimes made for uneasy viewing, it propelled Simmons to the top of the card, including a pay-per-view main event outing against then-WWF champion The Undertaker.

His career seemed to go downhill a little when he was replaced as Nation leader by The Rock, but by then the Rock's character was on the rise, so this was a natural step for him. Simmons, despite an initial feud with his former team-mates that also involved Ken Shamrock and Steve Blackman, got lost in the mix again, become just another face in the crowd.

This all changed when The Undertaker formed his Ministry of Darkness, and Simmons teamed with fellow nobody Bradshaw, who himself was getting lost in the crowd after briefly teaming with Terry Funk. As the Acolytes, Bradshaw and Simmons became the Undertaker's enforcers, as well as holding the tag-team championship. When the Ministry angle came to an end, many thought the team would as well. The Acolytes name, although it no longer fitted, continued to be used until the creative team came up with a new twist on their characters. With beer swilling anti-heroes gaining tons of cheers, the Acolytes morphed into the APA, a muscles for hire outfit who like nothing more than to down a few beers while smoking a few cigars and playing a few games of poker. With tongues planted firmly in cheek, the APA became one of the most popular teams of their day.

The APA split before the brand extension. Bradshaw ended up on Raw, where he became Hardcore champion before injury put him on the shelf, and Simmons ended up on Smackdown, where, once again, he got lost in the crowd. Family problems took him away from wrestling for a while, where it is thought that he took the time to consider his future carefully. In his forties, time was slowly catching up to him.

The other name mentioned this week as far as retirement goes was Billy Gunn, currently suffering from the second serious shoulder injury he has suffered in recent years.

Billy began his WWF career years ago with his "brother" Bart as the Smoking Gunns. This was towards the end of the so-called gimmick era. Billy and Bart came to the ring dressed as cowboys, firing fake revolvers into the air to the cheers of the crowd. They enjoyed great success in the tag-team ranks, especially as heels, when Tammy "Sunny" Sytch became their manager. This was at the time when Sunny joined any team that held championship gold, even when the Godwins held the titles.

When the Gunns split up there was the obligatory feud between the story lined brothers, which didn't seem to amount to much. Bart seemed to disappear from view as Billy enjoyed the spotlight.

Then the Honkytonk Man returned to the WWF, looking for a protégé that could continue his musical legacy. Having been turned down by the real Double J, Jesse James, HTM took Billy Gunn under his wing, and the former cowboy morphed into Rock-a-billy, and feuded with James, which included a couple of pay-per-view matches.

But at the time, the WWF was taking a pasting in the ratings. WCW were beating them in every department, and the WWF realised that childish gimmicks would no longer cut it in the wrestling industry. Billy soon turned on his mentor and teamed with his enemy. Rock-a-billy and Jesse James became the Bad Ass Billy Gunn and the Road Dogg. A short time later Jim Ross christened them The New Age Outlaws, and one of the greatest tag-teams in WWF history was born.

The team initially feuded with Cactus Jack and Chainsaw Charlie, another stupid gimmick that was given to Terry Funk. The feud was tremendous, and involved the Outlaws interfering in a Cactus-Charlie hardcore match. In a memorable moment that outraged everyone in the locker room (from a storyline point of view, anyway), the Bad Ass and the Road Dogg sealed Cactus and Charlie in a dumpster and pushed them off the Raw stage. The dumpster crashed "fifteen to twenty feet" to the floor below, and Cactus and Charlie were taken to hospital, only for them to show great intestinal fortitude and return to the arena before Raw finished. With their underwear showing under their hospital gowns, Cactus and Charlie kicked the crap out of the Outlaws.

A dumpster match at the following Wrestlemania for the tag-team championship saw Cactus and Charlie emerge victorious. But the following night, because of a technicality (the Outlaws had been dumped in the wrong dumpster), the titles were held up and put on the line in a cage match the following night on Raw in a cage match.

This Raw was to mark another turning point in the careers of the Outlaws. Triple H had taken over as leader of D-Generation X, and having recruited X-Pac, the rest of the night was spent wondering who his next recruits would be. The answer was simple, as Triple H and X-Pac helped the Outlaws defeat Cactus and Charlie for the gold.

As members of D-Generation X, the Outlaws enjoyed their greatest success, especially as faces during the team's war with The Rock and his Nation faction. Their famed entrance let their fans bond with the team as they also followed their famous lines. I don't think I need to repeat what they said here.

After numerous championship runs, Billy and the Road Dogg enjoyed semi-successful runs as singles wrestlers, each holding the Intercontinental and Hardcore championships. Then, as Triple H left DX to side with Vince McMahon's corporate team, the remaining DX members drifted apart, which of course led to the inevitable feud between the tag-team partners.

The WWF tried to push Billy as a bona fide singles star. Renaming him Mr. Ass, a King of the Ring tournament victory, and feud with The Rock, soon followed, but for some reason, the singles push just didn't spark. The fans just didn't take Billy as a serious singles star, probably because he had been so successful in the tag-team ranks.

Then came one of the many times when the tag-team division became stale again. New teams were nowhere to be seen, so the WWF once again paired Billy and the Road Dogg again, and in their first match back together, they won championship gold once again. It wasn't long before DX was back together again, this time with X-Pac's "girlfriend" Tori, Stephanie McMahon, and later, her father Vince, added to the side as well.

Once again the Outlaws dominated the tag-team division, as slowly, the division began to build up again. However, a shoulder injury suffered in a tag-team title loss to the Dudleys on pay-per-view sidelined Billy, and X-Pac replaced him as the Road Dogg's partner. Good as they were, X-Pac and the Road Dogg just weren't as good as the Outlaws.

Taking several months off to heal his injury, Billy returned not long after another long-term injury victim, Steve Austin did. Austin was looking for the man who had run him over at the 1999 Survivor Series, almost costing him his career. For a while, Billy, who was the only DX member not seen in the segment, was the prime suspect. Billy returned to television, and pleaded his innocence. Austin believed him.

Then came another push as a singles wrestler. First came a feud with Steven Richards and the Right To Censor, in which he lost the right to call himself Mr. Ass. Now calling himself "The One", Billy defeated Eddie Guerrero to become Intercontinental Champion, but despite the fact that he was now a bona fide singles champion again, and supposedly the number two singles wrestler in the company, the fans, once again, just didn't seem to take him seriously as a singles wrestler. It wasn't long before he dropped the title to Chris Benoit, and returned to what he did best, tag-team wrestling.

Billy found a new partner in Chuck Palumbo, a man who had achieved tag-team success in WCW. At first this was just another nondescript team with no gimmick, just two wrestlers looking for their niche. They soon found it with a gimmick Lenny and Lodi failed with in WCW, because their creative team were too afraid to run with the ball.

Billy and Chuck soon gained tag-team gold, once again at a time when the tag-team division was somewhat threadbare. With their "stylist" Rico, they posed, they preened, and made everyone, despite the fact that Billy was in fact a married man, think that they batted for the other side. The angle convinced, and probably enraged, many fans. Wherever you went to on the Internet you would hear how fans hated Billy and Chuck, which meant, as heels, they were doing their job, and doing it well.

The angle eventually led them to the same-sex wedding on Smackdown last year. The event, or rather, non-event garnered a great deal of mainstream publicity as such a thing had never been seen on a wrestling programme before. Of course, it was all part of an "inter-promotional" angle between the Raw and Smackdown brands, as Eric Bischoff, Rosey and Jamal gatecrashed the wedding, with Rico's help, and obliterated Billy and Chuck. A few weeks later 3 Minute Warning won the obligatory match on pay-per-view.

Now firmly entrenched in the fan favourite ranks, Billy and Chuck, slowly losing their blonde locks, entered the tournament to find new Smackdown tag-team champions. They didn't even make it past the first round. Shortly afterwards, Billy suffered his shoulder injury, and Chuck, despite making great strides since his WWF/E debut in 2001, became just another face in the crowd, making regular appearances on Velocity, and the odd appearance on Smackdown.

When it was announced earlier this week that both Billy Gunn and Ron Simmons may be retiring from wrestling, many Internet fans said that this was good for the industry. While I admit that I have never really been big fans of either man, I just can't understand this way of thinking? Both of these men, in their own way, achieved a lot in the wrestling industry. Any man making their start in wrestling would be proud to have had the careers that these two have had, and I think it's a shame that the majority of wrestling fans seem to think this way.

Billy Gunn and Ron Simmons have given us years of enjoyment and entertainment in an industry that both men love. Instead of being ridiculed or insulted, they should be praised for their achievements, for the years of hard work they put in. In this writer's humble opinion, the wrestling world will be just a little poorer without them.
 

Random Ramblings January 2003 Part 2

Over the past few weeks I had resisted the temptation to write about an angle which, quite frankly, I had found annoying, infuriating, and a little freaky at times.

Yep, you guessed it. Al Wilson and Dawn Marie.

I had resisted the temptation to write about this angle because it seemed like the world and his wife already had. But then I read the Smackdown spoilers, a report from a fan who had attended a recent taping. That's when I heard about the latest plot twist.

To cut a long story short, Dawn Marie had humped Al Wilson to death.

Just a few months after the infamous Katie Vick angle, we have now been treated to another tasteless story line and what's surprising is the fact that this story is on a programme that, since the brand extension, has become renowned for solid story lines, and probably more importantly, solid wrestling action.

The Al Wilson saga has, in the views of many fans and journalists, been the one bad thing about Smackdown in recent months, and this is because of the acting. Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie are two of the more popular WWE divas of recent years. This angle, however, has done absolutely nothing for their careers in my opinion. Although their one pay-per-view match was okay, away from the ring their work left a great deal to be desired.

And then we have poor Al, the man with as much charisma as a wet lettuce. What the hell is this man doing in the wrestling business in the first place? The man has as much acting ability as the aforementioned wet lettuce!

This whole angle has been very difficult to watch, and now it has become more so, and I'm saying this before I've even seen this week's edition of Smackdown.

Although rumour has it that Al Wilson's acting ability increased ten fold this week during the segments in the funeral home!

Now let's move on to the other half of the WWE brand, and their upcoming championship match at the Royal Rumble.

The encounter between Triple H and Scott Steiner for the World title is perhaps one of the most anticipated championship matches in the past couple of years, perhaps because it involves someone who hasn't been involved in the WWE main event scene during that time. During the build up, one is left wondering though just why Scott Steiner has yet to wrestle a proper match on television. We've seen him talk, we've seen him post, and we've seen him throw a few mid-carders around the ring. But at this time, Big Poppa Pump has not yet competed in a proper match on television.

And the question here that I'm sure many fans are asking is why? In years gone by, pay-per-view main events have normally been built up in tag matches on free to air television. This time has been different. Steiner and Helmsley have never faced each other in any kind of wrestling match.

We've seen them go at it in arm wrestling bouts, pose downs, press-up contests, and others as well. In fact, I get the feeling that if the Royal Rumble hadn't been just a few days away, they would have probably competed in a bikini contest on the next edition of Raw!

This could be a clever marketing ploy on the part of the suits in the office. Keep the two stars out of a proper match until the big event will have the fans salivating even more by the time the Royal Rumble comes around.

Another reason could be the reports that have come through on the Internet about Steiner's performances in house shows ever since he signed with the company. The word on the 'net is that these showings have been less than stellar. Perhaps keeping him from wrestling on television is the WWE's way of protecting him, of making sure that he doesn't put on an embarrassing wrestling display on television. If this is the plan then I hope they have taken some time to work on his game a little, otherwise we could see a performance the likes of which Jackie Gayda would cry buckets over.

Finally, I would like to discuss a topic which is probably discussed a great deal at the moment - awards! Some of you may recall that a couple of weeks ago I made mention of the Wrestling X awards. Yours truly did very well, polling third with 10.1 percent of the vote, behind the legendary Bill Apter and the winner, Greg "The Truth" Lambert. I'd like to say a big thanks to everyone who voted for me.

And in the past few days, I've been nominated for another award! The good people over at the UK Fan Forum have nominated me for the "Shameless Plugger of the Year" award, for my PR work for WAW. It really means a lot to me when I am nominated for my work. I am thankful and grateful that they think my work is important enough to be nominated for an award. In conclusion, all I will say is this - they better give me a big ass trophy is I win!
 

The Embarrasment of Scott Steiner

While watching the WWE Royal Rumble this past week, I was presented with the evidence that shows just how far apart the top titles of the respective brands are.

On Smackdown, Kurt Angle wears the WWE Championship with pride. Since the brand extension, we haven't heard any stories of political machinations backstage involving Angle. The man has got on with his job. In the past few months, he's been on the opening matches of pay-per-views, wrestled for tag-team gold, before winning Smackdown's number one championship in December. This past Sunday, he and Chris Benoit, despite the fact that they have already faced each other in various encounters on pay-per-view before, once again stole the show. These two continue to have good matches with each other. Angle continues to have good matches with anyone he is put in the ring against. He could probably even have a good match with a broomstick, if the WWE promoted this match correctly.

At the end of the contest Benoit, despite having lost, received a standing ovation from the crowd for his efforts. Yet sadly, this year's Royal Rumble will be remembered for the match which preceded this fine contest.

In my last column I wondered why Scott Steiner had yet to face Triple H in any kind of actual wrestling contest prior to their match at the Royal Rumble. I pointed out that in years gone by, those competing in the main event of a pay-per-view had at least faced each other in tag-team matches on either Raw and Smackdown. Prior to the Royal Rumble, Steiner and Triple H had only faced each other in useless tests of strength and prowess.

At the Rumble, we saw just why these two hadn't faced each other. Ever since he first arrived in the WWE last November, all Scott Steiner had done was pose and throw around a few mid-carders. Against Triple H, in a World Championship match, Steiner posed, threw a few weak looking clotheslines and punches, sold very little, and bored everyone with virtually the same suplex again and again and again.

This was not the same Scott Steiner I've been watching for the past ten years or so. This was not the same Scott Steiner who, as a tag-team competitor with his brother Rick, was regarded as an innovator, the man who "invented" the Frankensteiner, a move copied by virtually every wrestler who breaks into this industry. This is not the same Scott Steiner who revolutionised the tag-team scene.

This isn't even the same Scott Steiner who piled on masses of muscle, and brought some much needed glory to the ailing WCW World Championship as the financial state of the company forced it seek a buyer in Vince McMahon. This isn't the same Scott Steiner who had barn-burners with Goldberg, who managed to drag out decent matches from Kevin Nash and Scott Steiner, and who, on the very last Nitro, dropped the belt to Booker T, despite being in a tremendous amount of pain.

Frankly, the Scott Steiner the world saw this past Sunday is an embarrassment to wrestling, a man who is now just going through the motions, a pale imitation of the man who many predicted would be just as big a name as Ric Flair, he had that much talent.

I've watched the match three times now. The first time was after I'd read the spoilers on the Internet. I wanted to see for myself if what I read had been true. The second time, it was to make sure if what I had seen the third time was true. The third time was to see if what I heard the crowd correctly.

And so we are left to ask the question, why? Rumour has it that the WWE were less than pleased with Steiner's performances on house shows before this program was ever announced. If this is the case, why in the hell was Steiner put into a program with Triple H in the first place? The championship that Triple H holds was already devalued by the way he got the belt. Now it has been devalued further.

The time has come for the WWE to admit that it made a terrible mistake in putting Steiner into the main event scene so quickly, when it was obvious to everyone who saw the match that he just wasn't ready. He may have been a player in WCW, but the game they play in the WWE is totally different.

The sad fact is that it appears the one man who could have helped this program won't, because he's trying to protect his own position. Triple H has become a master of the backstage politics we hear so much about. Whenever we log onto a wrestling web site, we always hear about how Triple H has used his backstage stroke to crush ideas that are put toward the writing team, and of how he's holding back the careers of those who he feels could be a threat to his position. Why else would he only lose the title to his good buddy Shawn Michaels, himself nothing more than a part-time wrestler these days? Why else would he agree to a program with Scott Steiner, a wrestler who, after his showing this past Sunday, is virtually on his last legs as far as his wrestling career goes? Simply because they pose no threat to his current position as top dog on the Raw brand.

If it wasn't for the likes of Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, and to a lesser extent, Brock Lesnar, the 2003 Royal Rumble would have been considered the first nail in the WWE's coffin. If the rumours are true, if Steve Austin and Hulk Hogan are indeed heading back to the WWE, then their arrival couldn't have come at a better time, because they need, more than ever, someone the fans can get behind. Kurt Angle isn't capable of carrying the load on his own, and Brock Lesnar hasn't got the experience to. What is obvious is that Scott Steiner can't be expected to carry the load, and someone, someone with enough balls, needs to stand up to Triple H and take away some of his power. Despite the fact that they still have billions in the bank, if things keep going the way they are, they won't have billions of fans.
 

GWF Aftermath - What Went Wrong?

This week I had hoped to bring you a review of the Global Wrestling Force "Aftermath" show in Blackburn, which was due to take place this past Sunday. Sadly, events outside of the ring led to what could only be termed as a fiasco.

I had been invited to the show by GWF promoter Jon Farrer, who also writes for Total Wrestling magazine. So, along with loyal WAW-ites Doreen and Susan, and WAW stars the Sweet Saraya and the Zebra Kid, we made our long journey northwards from Norwich to Blackburn, arriving at the King George's Hall around 5pm, just as the fan festival was beginning to wind down.

The first thing that struck me was the absence of the most important aspect of any wrestling show - the ring. The doors to the hall were due to open around 6pm, with the show due to start around 7pm. I thought this was odd. As well as covering WAW shows in the past year, I had also reported on FWA, TWA, and UWA shows, and at each show, the ring had always been ready a good 90-120 minutes before the door opened. Ricky Knight once said to me that it doesn't make for good business for the punters to see the ring being put up. It detracts from the enjoyment, the believability of wrestling.

While Saraya and Zebra prepared themselves backstage, I took the time to walk around the hall, taking in the atmosphere. After a quick chat with Big Dave and the Bulk, Flash Barker, and the UK Fan Forum's number one fan, Greg Lambert, I began to chew the fat with Powerslam magazine writer Mo Chatra, who was due to work that night as a referee. After getting some advice on how to break into the magazine business, Mo told me that the ring van had broken down, just twenty miles away. Although the show would be running late, at least, at the time, it seemed like there was going to be a show. I also managed to grab a quick word with Jon Farrer. Jon was very busy, which was understandable. I could also tell that something was troubling him. I had no idea how serious the trouble was.

As time went on, more and more of the wrestlers began to arrive. "MTX" Jem Brown arrived with his BRAWL crew. Jem had recently begun to work a few dates for WAW, and we talked at length for what seemed like ages. Jem's a really nice guy, and I hope he does well in WAW.I also got the chance to talk to a few of Jem's BRAWL followers (sorry, I can't remember their names). Even though I've been working for a wrestling company for over a year now, it still amazes me sometimes that people in this industry can be really cool guys. But then again, maybe I hear too much about the political machinations that go on in the Stateside wrestling industry.

Also stood just a few feet away from none other than Jake "The Snake" Roberts. I wondered if Jake would say anything to me. I hadn't seen him in almost a year, not since his split with WAW. To be honest, Jake looked good. I considered approaching him, just to say hi, but decided against it.

The doors were opened, and the crowd began to file into the hall. However, we still had no wrestling ring. Word began to reach me that the guy driving the ring van had instructed the breakdown crew to tow him all the way home, instead of to the hall, so he could help set up the ring.

To entertain the crowd, Jon asked comedian Ted Robbins, of Phoenix Nights fame, to tell a few jokes. I could tell by the response Ted was getting that this wasn't really his sort of crowd. A few kids got on stage, and Ted asked them who their favourite wrestlers were. Kane? Jeff Hardy? I could tell that Ted hadn't heard of any of these guys.

After grabbing a quick drink in the bar, I bumped into wrestling legend Robbie Brookside. I was surprised that Robbie remembered me. I hadn't seen him since the FWA show in Walthamstow in June. I teased Robbie about supporting Liverpool, and he teased me about Norwich's 2-2 draw with Stoke the previous day. We then talked about his recent interview with Greg Lambert. Marking out a little, I told him that I agreed with a lot of the stuff he said.

Around 7.30, I met up with Greg Lambert and Marvin Kaye in the foyer. I sought Greg's advice about my upcoming WAW assignment, commentating on the Valentine's Day Massacre video. Greg, who had done a stint on the old TalkSport wrestling show, told me to relax and be myself.

It was there I also found out that about twenty punters had asked for refunds, after they had found out that the wrestling ring hadn't yet arrived, and that the show would be running late.

As the clock struck 8, I had hoped to chew the fat a little more with Greg and Marvin, but I couldn't find them. I wondered if perhaps Greg was hiding in a corner somewhere, trying to fend of an attack from the UK Fan Forum hordes. Turned out he was just in the balcony, but I didn't know that.

The CZW guys, Trent Acid and his merry men, were now on the arena floor, trying to entertain the crowd. I watched from behind a curtain on the stage. The guys seemed a little worse for wear, if you know what I mean. The fans were buying everything they did, even though it seemed to me that the Americans weren't having a joke with them, but making jokes at their expense. Seconds later, British stars Jodie Fleisch and Jonny Storm arrive on stage. Jonny was handed the microphone, and the verbal wars begin. In my opinion, this just wasn't that pretty to watch. I was simply bored stiff, and decided to return backstage.

I had left my back in Saraya's and Zebra's dressing room, and after grabbing my bag of jelly babies and sharing them around, I found out that Jon had telephoned for another ring in Birmingham, and that the ring would be in Blackburn between 8.30 and 9. Jon had also apparently revised the entire show, and that some of the matches had been cut. Saraya then told me that she had just spoken to her husband, Ricky Knight, on the telephone. News had already reached the Internet.

The next hour and half or so were actually quite enjoyable for me, on a personal level. I spent that time just hanging and chilling with the likes of Doug Williams and Klondyke Kate. I was amazed that Doug remembered me, because we'd only said a few words in passing the last time we had seen each other the previous October. Kate was a delight to talk to, the total opposite of her evil bitch character that has been seen in rings around the world. I would love to be able to sit down and interview this legend sometime.

A short time later, I heard a massive cheer coming from the hall. Saraya goes rushing out, thinking that the ring had arrived. Sadly, it hadn't. Ever the entertainers, the Pitbulls had done a Hulk Hogan-style pose down.

Then, something happened on stage that made my glad I hadn't seen it. One of the CZW guys, Trent Acid I believe, had decided to do a pose-down of his own. One of his comrades then thought it would be hilarious to pull down Trent's pants, exposing him to the world. I wondered what the hell was going on. There were, after all, young kids, some as young as 3 and 4, in the audience. What kind of impression were these guys trying to make?

Having chewed the fat with a few more of the guys backstage, around 9.30, word got back to us that Jon Farrer had finally pulled the plug on the show. Coming backstage, Jon looked a dejected man. Everything he had planned for, everything he had hoped for, had literally gone up in smoke.

Thirty minutes later, the five of us got back into the car to make our journey home, which would be even more difficult given the fact that the brakes were not exactly in the best shape they could be. Saraya and Zebra were down. Although they had been paid, they hadn't had the chance to wrestle, which is something both of them love. My own mood was similar. Jon had invited me to the show to review it for his website. I hadn't been given the chance to do what I do best.

We arrived back in Norwich around 3.30 in the morning, annoyed, hungry and tired. Ricky had been keeping a close eye on the UK Fan Forum all evening. The news was not good. Jon Farrer was taking a pasting, left, right and centre. The fans were irate. At the time, I didn't care. I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was lie down on the sofa and grab a few hours sleep before heading back to Cromer.

After grabbing a few hours on the sofa, I picked up my pad and paper and tried to write down what I thought while Ricky read through the various posts on the UK Fan Forum, taking several telephone calls at the same time. One particular post came from the guy responsible for the ring - Steve Lynskey.

Lynskey posted on the UKFF his side of the story, of how, around 3pm, his van had broken down and he had called out the AA. He said that Jon Farrer had called him on his mobile phone a number of times, wearing down his battery to the point where he could no longer make any phone calls himself. Then he said that the AA insisted that they tow him all the way back to his home on the south coast, despite the fact that he was just twenty miles from the venue.

This just seemed to enrage the fans even more. It also enraged Scott Conway, himself a wrestling promoter, the owner of The Wrestling Alliance. Conway then did something that was perhaps wrong - he posted Lynskey's mobile phone number on the UK Fan Forum. Apparently, his phone was ringing off the hook.

I decided then not to write about my experience then. If truth be told, I was still exhausted, and wasn't thinking straight.

I arrived back in Cromer that night, and after checking my e-mails, I saw that Jon Farrer had posted a message on the UK Fan Forum, explaining his side of things. I e-mailed Jon, telling him that while I had been tempted into a knee-jerk reaction, I wouldn't be writing about things straight away, that I would step back, read what was being said, and then, I would write down my thoughts.

I logged onto the UK Fan Forum the next day, and saw that the sympathy vote was starting to go Jon Farrer's way, and that Steve Lynskey was becoming public enemy number one. He had stuck to his story, and continued to take a pasting for it. Lynskey challenged Jon to a shoot fight on the UKFF, which Jon agreed to, which made many fans think that the entire situation was nothing but an angle between the two men.

But I knew otherwise, because news reached me that day, of what really happened. Lynskey hadn't broken down twenty miles from Blackburn. Lynskey hadn't even left home.

Late last year Lynskey had worked for Jake Roberts during Jake's "Real Stars of Wrestling" tour. The two men had apparently had some sort of argument, and Lynskey had decided to get back at Jake, by simply not turning up in Blackburn. What Lynskey failed to realise is that by following this course of action, he wasn't just getting back at Jake, he was bringing Jon Farrer, every wrestler Jon had booked that night, every one scheduled to work that show, and all of the paying fans into something which should have remained a private matter between the two men.

I've read, many times, over the past few days that this whole situation is nothing but an angle, a work. Well, I can tell you for certain that it isn't. I could go on about how Lynskey should feel ashamed for what he has done, but there's no point, because I know for a fact that he does. He knows what he did was wrong. He knows that he shouldn't have drawn everyone else into his private argument with Jake Roberts.

There has been talk among British wrestling promoters that he should serve an "unofficial" suspension, that no one should offer him work for 28 or 56 days. That is not really for me to comment on. This is something that the people who run British wrestling should decide upon.

One cannot help but feel sympathy for Jon Farrer. Jon had spent countless hours on this show, and had invested thousands of pounds in this project, and lost thousands more through refunds and the like. One criticism which can be levelled at Jon is that he really should have had a back-up plan. Not just a plan b, but c, d, e, f, and even g. Jon had booked workers from four different wrestling companies on his show. Things could have been a lot different if two of those companies had supplied a ring as well as wrestlers.

Will Jon try and promote another show? At this moment, I would have to say it looks doubtful. His fingers have been burned a little. Perhaps Jon will learn from the mistakes.

As for Steve Lynskey - as I mentioned before, I know for a fact that he feels genuine remorse for what he has done. He made a private argument very public. He'll find work again, but he may find it hard to earn the trust of people he's worked with for a number of years.

They say that time heals all wounds. Let's hope that this is the case here.
 



Brian Pillman

On Sunday, October 5th, 1997, Brian Pillman was scheduled to wrestle Mick Foley, in his Dude Love persona, at the WWF pay-per-view Bad Blood.

This match never happened. Brian had been found dead a few hours later, having apparently suffered a heart attack at the relatively young age of 35.

When satellite television gave the British viewer the chance to explore the US wrestling scene a great deal in 1989, one of the first performers to virtually leap from the screen at you was one "Flyin'" Brian Pillman, at the time competing for Jim Crockett's National Wrestling Alliance. With a combination of good mat work, high-flying skills, natural athleticism and natural charisma, Pillman was one of the most over wrestlers one could find in the early days of the British wrestling fan's new-found love affair with the American wrestling scene.

A former linebacker with the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL, Pillman was trained for the wrestling world in the infamous Hart family dungeon in Calgary, having been spotted playing in the Canadian Football League. He later competed in Canada and the American independents before making his debut for the NWA in the late 1980's.

British fans got their first look at Pillman when the NWA shows were shown on various satellite channels in 1989, mainly on the now defunct Screensport channel. At the time Pillman was feuding with "The Total Package" Lex Luger over the U.S. Title. The mix of Pillman's high-flying, high impact style against Luger's power-based game could have proved to be a bad match, but the matches the two had against each other were highly entertaining.

When the U.S. Tag-Team titles were brought out of retirement, Pillman formed a team with "Z-Man" Tom Zenk. The duo won the ensuing tournament, and the team proved to be a firm hit with the fans, Pillman and Zenk's styles suiting each other greatly.

In the early 1990's, as Jim Crocket Promotions morphed into World Championship Wrestling, the promotion introduced a Light-Heavyweight Championship, and made a valiant effort to push the smaller wrestlers. Pillman once again showed his skill as he reached the tournament final, facing off against former Rock 'N' Roll Express member Richard Morton on pay-per-view. The two put in an exciting contest as Pillman emerged as the first WCW Light-Heavyweight Champion.

Pillman proved to be a fighting champion, defending against all-comers, and held the belt for a number of months, before dropping it to Japanese legend Jushin "Thunder" Liger, on Liger's American debut. The duo had an exciting series of matches all around America as the title went back and forth. Pillman and Liger later teamed in a tournament when the NWA World Tag-Team Championship, which had been discontinued when Crocket Promotions became WCW. They were unsuccessful, the straps being won by the team of "Dr. Death" Steve Williams and Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy.

After Pillman regained the Light-Heavyweight championship, he began a feud with Brad Armstrong over the title, a feud which saw Pillman leave his baby-face ways behind and make a heel turn. Armstrong defeated Pillman for the title, but was unable to defend the title against Pillman when he suffered an injury. It was these events that solidified Pillman's heel turn. The Light-Heavyweight title was discontinued a short time later.

Pillman moved back into the tag-team division, and found the perfect partner in a pre-Stone Cold Steve Austin. "Flyin'" Brian and "Stunning" Steve formed the Hollywood Blondes tag-team, and later won the WCW Tag-Team Championship, but just as the duo began to get into their stride, the promoters split the team up. It wasn't long before Austin was heading towards the WWF, while Pillman joined the next incarnation of the Four Horsemen.

It was as a member of the Four Horsemen, along with Ric Flair, Arn Anderson and Chris Benoit, Pillman began to move onto his next character, that of the "Loose Cannon". Pillman's tenure as a Horseman was cut short due to a severe leg injury, and his departure from WCW. This, coupled with other injuries he had suffered over the years meant that he had to change his style a little, adopting a more ground-based style.

Pillman, still suffering from injury, was signed by the WWF. Even though he was injured for the first few months of his WWF tenure, he played a pivotal role on television. This was around the time that his former tag-team partner Steve Austin won the King of the Ring tournament, and was starting to build momentum after being saddled with the useless Ringmaster gimmick. While Bret Hart took a few months off after losing the WWF title to Shawn Michaels, Austin let it be known that he would like a match with Hart. It was when Hart announced that he would be returning to the WWF rather than going to WCW, and would accept Austin's challenge, that Pillman showed a great deal of pleasure at the Hitman's return. This annoyed Austin. Austin later attacked Pillman in the ring, and smashed his ankle with a steel chair.

The ensuing events were, at the time, shocking to the television audience, but were a fore-runner to the events that would send the WWF on it's hottest streak in years. During a Monday Night Raw telecast, Pillman, recovering at home with his wife, was informed that Austin was on his way. Austin managed to get through the security that Pillman had arranged, and got into his house, only to be greeted by a gun toting Pillman. Such scenes, a few years later, would not have battered an eyelid on WWF television, but back then, this was revolutionary stuff, and had never been attempted before.

When Pillman returned to active duty, it was part of the new Hart Foundation faction a few months later, along with Bret and Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart. Although he was never listed as an "official" member of the faction, Pillman joined because of his past association with the Hart family. The faction was formed after Bret's classic Wrestlemania match with Austin, in which Bret turned heel and Austin turned face. The ensuing matches between the Harts and the faces provided some good television moments. It also meant that Pillman and Austin could continue the feud that had begun the previous year, although this time the heel/face roles had been reversed.

While still a part of the Foundation, Pillman began to feud with Goldust. Pillman lost a match to Goldust on pay-per-view which meant that until he won again, Pillman would have to wrestle in a dress. The feud continued for a number of weeks as each time Pillman wrestled, Goldust would interfere on his behalf, meaning that he actually lost. This led to a rematch on pay-per-view, with stipulations that Pillman insisted on - if he won, Goldust's manager, Marlena, would become his "personal assistant" for thirty days. Pillman won the rematch, and Marlena. As the weeks went on, fans watching WWF television were treated to Pillman's video diary, documenting what Pillman had made Marlena do in his hotel room.

Which took Pillman to October 1997.  Pillman had been scheduled to wrestle Dude Love on the same pay-per-view that featured the first Hell In A Cell match between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, and the WWF debut of "The Big Red Machine" Kane. During the broadcast, Vince McMahon announced to the world the sad news that Pillman had been found dead in his hotel room earlier that day. A post-mortem later revealed that his death had been caused by a congenital heart complaint, something that wouldn't have been picked up on during a routine physical.

Brian Pillman died at the age of just 35. He gave so much to the world of wrestling, and whether it be as the baby face "Flyin'" Brian, or the villainous "Loose Cannon", Pillman always entertained the fans, and was a part of some of the most memorable story lines in the 1990's, for both WCW and the WWF. He is sadly missed by the fans, and will never be replaced.
 

Random Ramblings March 2003

It's been a while since I've written a column covering a few different subjects, but on this sunny Friday afternoon here in merry old England, I suddenly felt inspired to put pen to paper as it were.

The big one, Wrestlemania, is now just over a week away. I've read many things of various fan forums that Wrestlemania just isn't that special any more. To this I say nonsense. Wrestlemania is, and always will be, the grand-daddy of them all. From the first Wrestlemania in 1985, this event has literally put the wrestling business on the map. It is the biggest wrestling show of all time, the show in which the WWE stars always seem to crank their efforts up a notch or three. Just ask any wrestler who has competed on that show, and they'll tell you how damn important it is.

But one thing does worry me about this year's show - Kurt Angle. The world and his wife knows all about Kurt's serious neck injury, which could not only end his career, but his life as well.

Kurt's love of the wrestling business is infectious. He has done in a relatively short time what other wrestlers take decades to do. I wasn't a fan of his to start of with, but over the years, he's kind of grown on me. Which is the reason his match with Brock Lesnar at Wrestlemania worries me a great deal.

I've been a fan of wrestling for most of my life, and in the past few years, I've seen many great careers and lives ended. This kind of thing happens when you've been a fan for as long as I have. I really hope though that Kurt isn't making a mistake here. Watching his match with Lesnar will be extremely difficult.

One also has to have a degree of sympathy with Brock as well. This match is not only putting a great strain on Kurt, but on Brock as well. One slightly botched move could ruin things for Kurt, and if this happened, you have to wonder what sort of effect it would have on Brock's career. We all know what happened to D'Lo Brown after the accident with Droz. D'Lo's career hasn't been the same since.

Next subject - A Night Out With The Girls. People reading this in Britain will know what I'm talking about here. On ITV1 this past Tuesday they broadcast a documentary about women in Britain, about how they are taking on "male" roles in work and in play. The reason I watched this was because it featured a segment on WAW World and British women's champion Sweet Saraya.

When I saw the first few segments of the show I shook my head. I began to wonder just how Saraya would fit into this show. If this was an advert for the so-called fairer sex, then early on, it wasn't a good one. It showed women of various ages going out every night of the week getting totally smashed and making complete fools of themselves.

Then, in part three, came the segment with Saraya. It revolved around her match with Klondyke Kate at WAW's show in Norwich last April, the match in which she won the world title.

The piece was quite respectful towards her, even if the researchers hadn't done their job. The voice-over woman announced that Saraya's children, Zak, her son, and her daughter, Saraya, were eight and ten. Wrong! At the time of filming, Zak was ten and Saraya was eight. The voice-over woman also announced that Saraya was fighting for the World American Wrestling title. Again, a huge error! They could have at least remembered the World Association of Wrestling name!

In all, the segment on Saraya was probably the best part of the show. It was the only part of the show that, for me anyway, portrayed women in a positive light. Saraya told me before the show was broadcast she was a little worried about how she would be portrayed, especially after her previous television appearance, on the infamous Anna In Wonderland show.

Next subject - Tom Zenk. I was never really a big fan of Tom Zenk the wrestler. Sure, I admired him, and what he could do in that ring, but he was never really one of my all-time favourites.

However, in recent weeks I've paid quite a few visits to his website, www.tomzenk.com. I'd heard a few things about his on-line commentaries, and about how he had spit the venom at everyone and everything connected with the wrestling business. So it was with great interest that I logged onto his website to read his latest article, and I have to say that the guy is a damn good writer.

There is a tendency to write Tom off as a bitter, twisted has been who only complains the way he does because he never made it to the highest level in the WWE or WCW. But unlike many other former wrestlers, he's not afraid to tell it like it is. He offers his opinions freely, and because of the nature of his opinions, it guarantees his website gets tons of hits.

His recent article begins with a story about the Dynamite Kid, another wrestler known for being negative about the wrestling industry. With Dynamite, though, it's understandable. Tom's view on the day that the Bulldogs dropped the WWF tag titles to the Hart Foundation kind of struck a chord, and it made me think that if the Internet had been around in 1987, when the match occurred, the negative publicity Dynamite and the WWF would have received following the broadcast of that match would have been enormous. If "smart marks" had existed back then, Vince McMahon would have been hung, drawn, and quartered, on the Internet equivalent of it anyway.

I've recently been in touch with Tom about a possible interview. Hopefully this will happen sometime soon.

Next subject - local apathy. Last Saturday WAW held a show at the Riverside Ice & Leisure Centre in Chelmsford. The show was great, with five excellent matches, Sadly, the crowd numbered less than a hundred.

The reason for this is simple - a few weeks before, the postering team travelled to Chelmsford to help promote the show, to try and get the local businesses to put up posters for the show. They took with them one hundred posters. They only managed to get ten out.

For those abroad who don't know, Chelmsford is one of the larger cities in the east of England, probably around the same size as Norwich or Ipswich. Yet the apathy that met the WAW crew was really quite disgusting and annoying.

WAW were going to Chelmsford for the first time, yet hardly anyone in the city could be bothered to help promote the show. What also didn't help was the fact that the local press totally screwed up the advertisement, putting it in the newspaper a week before they were actually meant to.

As I said, the show drew in the region of a hundred fans, which was a huge disappointment. There was one point where the powers-that-be almost called the show off. But the show went on, to a great response, particularly from those who grace the U.K. Fan Forum with great regularity.

I've criticised the UKFF in the past, but I really can't say anything bad about those lads. If it wasn't for their cheering, their booing, and their chanting, it would have seemed like a funeral in that arena that night. They cried their hearts out, fair play to them, and gave the show glowing reviews on the forum for a next few days. Thanks lads.

While sticking on the subject of the UK Fan Forum, I must say that once again I am a little disappointed with certain aspects of it. I'm not going to name names here, but in a frank exchange of views I learned just what they think of certain people and wrestling companies in Britain.

I learned a few days ago that the forum has an events calendar, and that a few British wrestling companies had posted news on their upcoming shows. I had no idea that the forum provided this service, so put forward the idea, on the forum, that perhaps the bods running the show should have contacted promoters in Britain offering this service to them.

The response I got was not very welcoming. A certain moderator kept reminding me that the forum was run entirely by volunteers, that they weren't in the business of helping wrestling promoters make money. In my opinion, I was quite constructive in my posts, but I was only met with a barrage of insults and ranting.

So instead of posting on the forum, I contacted the moderators directly. This particular moderator made it obvious he was unwilling to forgive my past tirade against the forum, even though I had exchanged apologies with one of the other moderators some time ago. Boy did he rip into me. In a sincere gesture, I apologised, but he refused to accept this apology, which made me wonder what the hell I had to do to make this guy see I was sorry!

I've said this before, and I'll say it again, but I really do think that the UKFF could be a great place to advertise British wrestling, and this may be the reason why they've recently introduced a classifieds section to the forum, where everyone, from tape traders, web masters and the like can advertise their wares. But I'm left to wonder just how many promoters in Britain know that the UKFF offers this service. I'm pretty sure a great deal of them don't use the forum on a regular basis, if at all.

Which is what makes this whole thing a shame. I understand perfectly that the UKFF doesn't make any money, that it is run by volunteers, but they could improve their reputation, and the reputation of the UKFF, by approaching the promoters, offering this service to them.

This particular moderator said to me that he had no wish to become a part of the wrestling industry. Well, I hate to tell you, my friend, but you ARE a part of the wrestling industry. Everyone, be they fan, website master, tape trader, or even UK Fan Forum moderator, are a part of this industry, whether you like it or not.

The sad thing about this situation is this fellow's refusal to accept my apology for our past disagreement. I've had disagreements in the past with people within the wrestling industry, and some close friendships have come about as a result of this. I'm not saying I want to be a close friend of this guy. I just think it's a shame he can't forget the past and let bygones be bygones. No doubt parts of this article will appear on the UK Fan Forum, so someone will make him aware of my views.

Next subject - the Dallas Sportatorium. A couple of days ago I read in the latest edition of Total Wrestling that the famed arena is being torn down. I felt a little sad when I read this.

The Sportatorium probably ranks alongside the ECW Arena and Madison Square Garden, and, dare I say it, the Norwich Corn Exchange as far as wrestling history goes. This was the home of the famous World Class Championship Wrestling promotion, and great names such as the Von Erichs, the Freebirds, Mick Foley, Chris Adams, Jerry Lawler, Jeff Jarett, and a certain Steve Austin have competed in this building. When the place is torn down, I wonder if wrestling fans across the world who watched the old shows will feel a degree of sadness. I know I will.

Next subject - volunteers. I touched on the subject a few paragraphs ago, and I'd like to discuss it a little further. In the past few weeks a couple of wrestlers said to me that the volunteers who work in the industry have, more than anything, helped get the industry to where it is today. I couldn't agree more.

Despite what many people think, I don't actually get paid for my work for the World Association of Wrestling. I do it because I love the wrestling industry, and because of loyalty. I don't get paid to write my weekly column on the Internet.

After the wrestlers, it's the volunteers who are the next biggest stars in the wrestling industry, the men and women who give hours of their time for no money and very little glory, just because they want to help out, to be a part of the show.

And I'm not just taking about the people who run web sites and fan forums and the like. I'm talking about the people who run raffles, who drive vans, who help put up the ring and set out the  chairs. These people are the unsung heroes of the business, and should be applauded.

I'm left to wonder just how many volunteers currently work on Raw or Smackdown, or in the office at Titan Towers. My guess would be not many.

Next subject - Alex Shane. This man is probably one of the most well-known wrestlers in Britain today. He is the public face of the Frontier Wrestling Alliance. I've got nothing personal against the man. I've met him a couple of times, and found him to be quite a likeable chap. I think his weekly "Shane's Shooting Gallery" column is an enjoyable read.

However, I must disagree with a statement he recently made, about wrestlers sitting in the crowd at recent FWA shows. He basically said he doesn't agree with this practice, and the FWA  has now banned this activity.

My point here is - why? In my recent interview with WAW supremo Ricky Knight, Ricky stated that he likes to watch the first few matches of any WAW show, so he can try and gauge what kind of crowd is in attendance, so it will help him in his match.

Also, there have been many occasions at WAW shows where, instead of sitting at ringside, I've sat in the back row, and I've been joined by wrestlers who have already competed. If the wrestlers aren't causing anyone any harm, what is the problem?

I'm left to wonder if Alex thinks the same way about wrestlers who aren't booked on the show sitting in the audience. I hope this isn't the case, because then, the FWA's trainees wouldn't be able to take their places in the audience.

I must also applaud the FWA's upcoming tour, which will see them hold shows all around Britain. If I recall they'll be holding something like nine shows in ten days, or something like that.

For a long time now we've heard that the FWA is the biggest wrestling company in Britain today. I've got noting personally against the FWA, but I do dispute this claim. Some say that they're the biggest company in Britain because they always draw large crowds at their shows. My problem is that until now, they've only held on average two shows a month, while some other wrestling companies in Britain hold considerably more than that, especially Brian Dixon's All-Star Wrestling company, who, at times, hold two shows a day, let alone two a month.

The FWA may not be the biggest company in Britain, but they are certainly the most exposed. They have a great media-relations machine, and in Alex, a good figurehead. I'll be watching with great interest how their upcoming tour goes. Will they be able to get the same sort of attendance on an almost daily basis that they get on a monthly basis? Only time will tell.

Next subject - Triple H. I watched with interest his recent match with Maven. This would have been a great opportunity to get Maven over. Yet once again, the ego landed, and Triple H dominated the contest.

I think Al Snow and the rest of the people who have given Maven a start in the wrestling business should be applauded for their efforts. As the first winner of Tough Enough, Maven had a lot riding on him. He could have fallen at the first hurdle, but didn't. He showed that he has learned his lessons well, and has progressed well in the WWE.

Until his match with Triple H. The match lasted about four or five minutes, yet Maven wasn't allowed even one minute of offensive moves against him.

This just shows what is really wrong with the Raw brand. Triple H is dominating everything. When you watch a Smackdown title match, you actually believe that the champion could lose his title. But when you watch a Raw title match, you're left to wonder just why you're watching, because it's plainly obvious that Triple H is not going to lose. It doesn't matter who he goes in the ring with. And this is why the excitement of Raw is now gone.

Rumour has it that now King of the Ring is history, Raw and Smackdown will get four pay-per-views a year to showcase their various talents. The buy-rates of the Raw PPVs will make interesting reading.

Next subject - Flash Barker. This guy is one of Britain's top wrestlers at the moment, a fourteen year veteran, and one of the nicest guys you could meet behind the scenes. So when I heard that the guy had been taken to hospital suffering breathing problems before the FWA's Crunch show this past Sunday, I was concerned. Thankfully, he only stayed in hospital one night, and is now on the mend. I'd like to wish Flash a speedy recovery.

Final subject - Recently, having completed a near three year tenure of Internet journalism, yours truly decided that it's perhaps time to take the next step in my writing career. That's why I've sent off my portfolio to three wrestling magazines - Total Wrestling and Power Slam here in Britain, and the mighty World Wrestling Entertainment magazine itself. I know my chances of actually getting a job with these magazines is slim, but as a friend of mine would say, it doesn't hurt to try!

So wish me luck guys!
 

A Dangerous Game

Let's start this column by taking a trip down memory lane.

November, 2001: After the failed WCW/ECW Invasion angle was finally laid to rest, "Nature Boy" Ric Flair returns to the WWF, as the new co-owner of the company. From time to time, the 50+ Flair dons the wrestling attire, most notably against Vince McMahon at Royal Rumble 02 and against the Undertaker at Wrestlemania 18.

Shortly after Wrestlemania 18, Flair becomes the "owner" of Raw after the brand extension, while still continuing to pull on his wrestling boots from time to time. It isn't long before Vince McMahon returns to Raw to regain control of the entire company from Flair.

Deciding that he has one good run left in him, Flair becomes a full-time wrestler again, and engages in high-profile matches with Eddie Guerrero and Chris Jericho, before turning heel and becoming the manager and occasional tag-team partner of Raw World Champion Triple H. At the time of writing, Flair is scheduled to team with Triple H and Jericho against Shawn Michaels, Kevin Nash and Booker T at Backlash.

February 2002: With viewing and live audience figures down somewhat following the failed WCW/ECW Invasion angle, the WWF decide to revive the gimmick that essentially made WCW in 1996, and kicked their asses for nearly two years. Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, the founding fathers of the New World Order, make their WWF return at No Way Out, and are immediately thrust into high-profile storylines. While Nash helps Hall in his feud with Austin, Hogan engages in a feud with The Rock, a feud which catches the imaginations of the fans so much that their response turns Hogan from hated heel to beloved babyface. A brief feud begins between Hogan and the NWO before the brand extension which takes Hogan to Smackdown and Hall and Nash to Raw.

Hogan goes on to win the Undisputed Title from Triple H, a title he holds for just four weeks before dropping the belt to the Undertaker. He then moves on to high profile matches with Kurt Angle, a tag-team championship reign with Edge, and an encounter with Brock Lesnar which removes him from the storylines for a while.

He then returned this past January, has the obligatory rematch with the now heel Rock, before squaring off against the man he has supposedly had his eyes on for years - Vince McMahon. After defeating McMahon, the WWE owner fires Hogan the following night.

Things don't go as well for Hall or Nash though. Just three months after his return to television, Hall is shown the door as his demons return to haunt him. Nash suffers two serious injuries which sideline him for a combined total of nearly twelve months. After several stutters, the NWO angle is binned.

Having been on the sidelines for a long time, Nash returns to Raw this April to help out his old friend Shawn Michaels. Complete with dark hair and his old Diesel music, Nash is scheduled to team with Michaels and Booker T against Triple H, Ric Flair and Chris Jericho at Backlash.

August 2002: Having returned to the WWE as part of the failed New World Order angle, and despite having suffered what was considered a career ending back injury almost five years previously, Shawn Michaels wrestles his first proper match in years at Summerslam, going up against his old buddy Triple H in a street fight. Michaels wins, but Triple H extracts some revenge with his trusty old sledgehammer after the bell.

Three months later, in the Elimination Chamber match at the Survivor Series, Michaels shocks the world by pinning Triple H and winning the Raw World Championship. After successfully defending the belt against Rob Van Dam on Raw, Michaels drops the belt back to Triple H in a three stages of hell match at Armageddon.

Michaels continues to wrestle, engaging in a high profile feud with Chris Jericho which sees them clash at the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania 19. Michaels surprises many by putting in one of his finest ever performances against Jericho. At the time of writing, Michaels is scheduled to team with Kevin Nash & Booker T against Triple H, Ric Flair and Chris Jericho at Backlash.

November 2002: Having been absent from the national wrestling scene for almost a year, and having undergone stringent medical tests on a number of occasions to prove he is up to the job, Scott Steiner debuts at the Survivor Series, kicking the crap out of Chris Nowinski and Matt Hardy. Steiner eventually joins the Raw brand, and begins a feud with World Champion Triple H. The build-up to the match is excellent, as Steiner and Triple H take part in various non-wrestling contests, before finally hooking up at the Royal Rumble the following January.

However, the match itself is a distinct disappointment, as both combatants are virtually booed out of the building at the end of the contest. Undeterred by this, the WWE book a rematch four weeks later, a match which is only marginally better than their first outing. On both occasions, Steiner fails to win the World Title, and come Wrestlemania, he is overlooked, virtually forgotten. Steiner's next most notable contribution to Raw is a televised, in-ring debate with Nowinski, where they discuss the British/American military action in Iraq. Steiner ends the debate by giving Nowinski a beating.

March 2003: Despite the fact that he has been publicly critical of the company in the past year or so, Roddy Piper surprises the world by appearing at Wrestlemania 19, attacking Hulk Hogan during his street fight with Vince McMahon, almost costing him the match. A few days later, it is announced that the famed Piper's Pit interview segment is to return to WWE television on Smackdown. After two week's of interview segments, at the time of writing Piper is scheduled to wrestle Rikishi on this week's Smackdown.

April 2003: Despite the fact that she has been publicly critical of the company in the past four years, and despite the fact that she tried to sue the company for several million dollars shortly after she left in 1999, Rena Mero, the artist also known as Sable, makes a surprise return to WWE television on Smackdown. The first WWE Diva to pose for Playboy, Sable is thrust into an angle with Torrie Wilson, the latest WWE Diva to have posed for Playboy. What is most surprising is the fact that the angle begins to have lesbian overtones, something which Sable refused to partake in when she was last working for the company.

See what I'm trying to get at here?

About ten years ago, when the Eric Bischoff-led WCW began to hire high profile former WWF superstars such as Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage, adding them to the likes of Ric Flair and Lex Luger, Vince McMahon was publicly critical of his bitter rival. When other names who McMahon had made big, such as Kevin Nash and Scott Hall, jumped ship, McMahon gave his the now legendary Billionaire Ted skits, which saw Ted confer with the likes of the "Huckster" and the "Nacho Man".

As signs such as "WCW = Wheel Chair Wrestling" sprang up at WWF shows, McMahon continued to be critical of WCW's policy of hiring veterans, and pushing them over the younger talent. Stars like Steve Austin and Mick Foley were pushed to one side in favour of the older stars. They found new leases of life working for McMahon, as Stone Cold and Mankind became firm favourites with the WWF faithful.

Now, with ratings having been in somewhat of a downward spiral for over a year now, McMahon seems to have adopted the same practises he criticised Bischoff and WCW for, bringing back stars from the past in the hope that he will win back viewers with a dose of nostalgia. Has it worked so far? Not really.

Although wrestlers such as Victoria, John Cena, Charlie Haas, and Shelton Benjamin made their WWE debuts in 2002, only one "superstar" was created in that time, Brock Lesnar. Lesnar was the only wrestler to break through the proverbial glass ceiling in 2002, joining the regular crew of main eventers on pay-per-view.

Vince McMahon has a proven track record for making new stars, men who go on to great success not just in the wrestling industry, but in other fields of entertainment as well. By delving into the WWE's past and bringing back stars of yesteryear, McMahon is playing a dangerous game. He may be trying to win back the old viewers, but is he going to win new ones? Only time will tell.
 

Miss Elizabeth

Being a wrestling fan for most of my 31 years, you kind of get used to it when guys you've been watching for years or had watched years ago pass on. But the news today that Elizabeth Hulette, known to the wrestling world at large as Miss Elizabeth, had died came as something of a shock.

Like many wrestling fans in Britain, I became aware of Elizabeth in 1989 when Sky Television first showed the WWF. At the time the Mega-Powers tag-team of "Macho Man" Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan had just split up. Elizabeth, as their manager, was caught in the middle. She had trouble deciding who to side with at their upcoming WWF title match at Wrestlemania V. Eventually she decided not to take sides, to remain as neutral as she possibly could.

The relevance and importance that Miss Elizabeth had in the wrestling world is perhaps downplayed by journalists and fans alike. Long before the term "WWE Diva" had been coined, Elizabeth brought a touch of glamour to the WWF, at a time when huge, mountains of muscle paraded around the squared circle. She didn't need any plastic surgery to enhance her appearance. She didn't need an appearance in Playboy to win the hearts of the fans. She was Miss Elizabeth, the first lady of the World Wrestling Federation.

When I first heard the news that she had died, I didn't know what to think. Wrestling has lost a large number of superstars over the past few years or so, many of them leaving us way before their time. The same could be said about Elizabeth, who, aged just 42, has been taken away from us.

It's a sad fact of life that you only realise just how much someone means to you when they are no longer around. I get the feeling that this will be the case with Elizabeth. We didn't realise what impact she had on not just the wrestling business, but on the lives of everyone who watched her over the years.

My deepest sympathies go out to her family and friends.

Rest in peace, Miss Elizabeth.
 

Ignorance Is Bliss

When I was growing up, and I got a little too nosey for my mother's liking, I was always told that ignorance is bliss. My mother may have died nearly twenty years ago, but the past few days I've found myself thinking about what she used to tell me.

And I found myself thinking that this simple little saying perhaps has a great deal of relevance in the professional wrestling world of today.

Some of you may have noticed that in recent times I've changed my writing style a little. I used to write as if I thought I knew it all about the wrestling industry. I was slowly turning into one of those smart marks, the kind of people who seemingly know everything about everything.

Now my style has changed. Whenever I review a show, I try to write from a fan's viewpoint. I don't watch a match to pick up on every little mistake that is made. Accentuate the positives, as the old saying goes.

But lately I've been thinking back to the good old days, when I used to watch British wrestling on a Saturday afternoon before the football scores, and when I first took an active interest in the American scene, when we first got Sky in 1989, and watched with great interest, wondering just whose hair Brutus The Barber was going to cut next, and how long Mr. Perfect could keep his winning streak going.

Back then, the Internet hadn't been heard by of the majority of the world. Back then, there wasn't a million web sites dedicated to bringing you the latest backstage goings on in the mighty WWF. The only information we got was from magazines. The WWF Magazine did a hell of a job in telling us about the latest feuds, and sheets like Pro Wrestling Illustrated brought us news from around the world.

We didn't care if wrestler A refused to job to wrestler B, because we didn't know about this. We didn't know that wrestler A was thinking of jumping ship from one big company to another because he thought he wasn't being paid enough.

We watched the shows. We watched the stars. We enjoyed ourselves, because we were fans.

And then, in one stroke, we suddenly became smart. The wrestling world realised that it couldn't go on fooling us any more. They invited us backstage to see just what was going on. The era when good guys couldn't travel with bad guys was over.

While it was obvious that the wrestling world couldn't continue to tell the world that the outcomes of matches and angles wasn't predetermined, I look back now and think that this truly was the end of an era. The fact that we now seemingly know how the wrestling industry works seems to make it a little bit less enjoyable. It was just like those shows where the masked magician showed you how he did his magic tricks. After this, tell me how busy David Copperfield has been in the past couple of years.

The time when we, the wrestling fans, can look at the happenings in a wrestling show with a sense of wonder are sadly no more. Where once we would watch a wrestler just because he was a good worker, now we seemingly wait for him to fail, and when he blows a move, we all crowd around him and cry "you fucked up!"

Maybe it's just because I'm getting older, the hair is thinning on top, and my beard is getting a few grey hairs in it, and I'm harking back to the long lost days of my youth. As far as wrestling goes, I really do think that ignorance really was bliss.
 

It's Not Fun Anymore

In my last column, I wrote about how attitudes towards the wrestling business, particularly the attitudes of the fans, had changed over the years, and how, for some, wrestling didn't seem as fun as it once used to be.

This is going to get quite a bit of heat, but I really do think that the fans themselves are part of the reason that the wrestling business isn't fun anymore, particularly those with access to the Internet. Although I still consider myself a wrestling fan, it really infuriates me when all other fans seem to do is pick apart everything that goes on in the industry. They think that just because they've watched a few videos and have been to a few shows, they think they know it all. They've forgotten how to enjoy the product.

But the conduct of the fans isn't the only reason that wrestling isn't fun anymore. There are people in the industry who have to take the lion's share of responsibility for what is happening.

Everyone is down on Triple H at the moment. The Raw World Champion just can't do anything right in the eyes of the fans right now. But just think back to his match with Ric Flair this past Monday. I've been very critical of Flair this year, saying that I thought he should have retired a few years ago so he could protect his legacy, and not spoil it by outstaying his welcome. Triple H worked his ass off last Monday, and Flair, for the first time in years, looked a million dollars. It was the best Flair performance I've seen in years.

A lot of people blame Triple H for the sorry state of the WWE at the moment. But the question is, is he? Would getting rid of The Game really solve all of the perceived problems on the Raw brand? The answer is no. Triple H is not the reason why the wrestling industry is on a supposed down turn at the moment. There are many reasons why this is happening.

In recent months the WWE have come to realise this. In the past few years they've more than let us have a peek backstage. They've let us have a look in the offices, at the day-to-day running of the company, and at what it takes to become a WWE star of the future. Now they've realised that perhaps they've made mistakes here, and have tried to rectify such mistakes.

The first of these came some months ago, when JR's weekly Ross Report was pulled from the WWE website. The WWE stated it was because of JR's hectic weekly workload, but many more say it was because JR would talk about the day-to-day running of the company, that he revealed too many secrets of just what went on at Titan Towers, and that certain wrestlers felt slighted when he didn't "put them over" on the Internet.

Then came the cancellation of Tough Enough, the series that took a look at just what it took to become a wrestler. The first series was a great success. Guys such as Maven, Chris Lewinski, Nidia, and Josh Matthews now earn a living in the WWE, while other winners have tried and failed.

As the series went on, word got out that several WWE superstars were annoyed at the way that people were getting contracts because they appeared on the show. The old saying that these kids "hadn't paid their dues" kept coming up. Why should these kids get an easy route into the WWE when they had to work their asses off in the indies for years just to get a preliminary match on Heat or Velocity, or a cut-price contract working in the developmentals?

Going back to the Internet, it's not just the fans who should take the blame for what is happening in the wrestling industry. It's the wrestlers themselves. It seems like almost every wrestler in the world has their own website, and on their websites, some of them write about their travels, and their matches. This is all fine, but some of them go a little bit further, talking about the inner workings of the business, and of the wild parties they attend. One wrestler recently told of how, during a tour, another wrestler offered to buy him a blow-job in a brothel. Is this really the sort of thing you want associated with the wrestling industry? I'm not saying that wrestlers should be painted whiter than white, but is this really the sort of thing they should be revealing to the world? I think not.

A fine example of perhaps revealing a little too much about the inner workings of the wrestling industry comes from right here in Britain. Alex Shane, the public face of the Frontier Wrestling Alliance, began to write a regular column for his website earlier this year. At first I used to enjoy his column, but recent efforts have left me scratching my head a little.

Alex doesn't just wrestle for the FWA, but helps runs the company, a sort of general manager if you will. However, in his regular columns, Alex doesn't just write about upcoming shows or his opinions on other wrestlers, he writes about everything, including some things about the running of a wrestling company which, in my opinion, should remain behind closed doors. Revealing how a wrestling company is run is like a magician revealing how he did his tricks. For me, it takes something away from the product. After all, do cops who eat doughnuts want to know exactly how those doughnuts were made?

In conclusion, I will say that I stand by everything I have said in this column. I work in the wrestling business, and enjoy what I do. But I have to agree with some wrestlers who told me recently that it just isn't fun anymore.
 

The Return

It's been about five or six weeks since my last regular TSR column has appeared on the Internet. Some of you, probably about six, have probably wondered what has happened to me. So I'm going to be completely honest with you.

It's coming up to the third anniversary of The Two Sheds Review first appearing in the Internet. My first column, about the effect that a group of wrestlers known as the Radicals were having on the WWF really set the ball rolling. Since then it's been one hell of a roller-coaster ride.

But the wrestling world of 2003 is a lot different to the wrestling world of 2000. I don't think I need to point out the most obvious differences to you, do I? The "big three" is now the "big one". My column now appears all over the Internet, and I even work for a wrestling promotion here in merry old England. Mind you, if you believe what my own government is saying now, England doesn't actually exist. But that's another story for another time.

Now comes the total honesty part. This may shock some of you, so those of you who suffer from a nervous disposition (I include myself among that number) should look away now.

I think I'm falling out of love with the wrestling industry.

Those of you who read my last column way back in April I think it was will have seen this coming. The fact that it was entitled "It's Not Fun Anymore" on my TSR web site was kind of a big hint, wasn't it?

I could sit here each and every week and tell you exactly what is wrong with the wrestling industry. I could sit here each and every week and tell you just why wrestler#1 sucks, how wrestler#2 should be given the World title, and how wrestler#3 shouldn't be teaming with wrestler#4 because as a unit they just don't gel.

But my thinking is, why should I? Would you, the reader, enjoy it each and every week if I did this? I know that, as a writer, but more importantly, as a person, I wouldn't enjoy it. Why be so negative all the time? Why spend hours each week sitting in front of my television just waiting for an awful match to appear before me?

I've always stated that first and foremost I am a wrestling fan. Always have been. But when one begins to write about something they've loved and enjoyed since they were young, it seems to take something away from the actual pure enjoyment of the product.

I still remember fondly the first time I began to take an interest in the then-WWF in the summer of 1989. It was a Saturday Night's Main Event show, which was playing in the background. I wasn't really paying it much attention.

I remember Bad News Brown and Hulk Hogan literally kicking the crap out of each other. The excitement of the match just grabbed me, and from that moment on, well, from Wrestlemania V at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, I was hooked.

But I began to think what would happen if the wrestling fan of today, that strange animal known as smarticus marcus would make of a Bad News/Hogan match. In the prime of their careers both guys could actually wrestle. I remember Hogan trading move for move with Randy Savage at Wrestlemania V, and I've heard that in Japan he put much more of a wrestling effort in. Bad News, competing as Bad News Allen, wrestled for the UWFI in Japan, the company who were famed for their worked shoot matches. If they were told to, these guys would have probably been capable of putting on a good, pure wrestling match.

But if the fan of today looked back at that old Saturday Night match, and saw Hogan and Brown punching and kicking the hell out of each other, they would probably look on in horror. "Where is the psychology?", they would ask. They would complain about the lack of "spots". The kind of punch-and-kick brawling match would be lambasted by smarticus marcus.

This is probably one of the reasons why I don't enjoy things as much as I used to. I'm fed up with people writing their reports and saying "the match was good but so-and-so missed an elbow drop by a couple of millimetres."

The majority of people who watch wrestling these days just don't seem to enjoy it. They don't seem to have the ability to maintain the simplest of emotions. They intentionally look for faults, and on many occasions make up their own faults.

We all know that the wrestling industry isn't what it used to be. This writer for one if sick and tired of hearing how those in the business have no idea what they're doing because certain wrestlers are "pushed" more than others. When I read things like that sometimes I wish those "fans" were pushed, preferably off the top of a high cliff or building.

The fact that I'm having trouble enjoying the wrestling I am watching is also having an effect on my ability to enjoy writing about wrestling (as if you haven't worked this one out for yourself yet!) If I'm not enjoying watching wrestling, then I'm not enjoying writing about how much I'm not enjoying watching wrestling.

So am I throwing in the towel? Am I about to resign my post as jack-of-all-trades in WAW? Am I about to say adios to the wrestling industry? All I can say is "watch this space."

Although writing about wrestling is how I essentially made my name, I am starting to explore other avenues in the writing world. I have recently taken to writing fiction again, something I haven't done in quite a while. Who knows, maybe someone like Marvel Comics will someday see fit to publish my work. And even if no-one wants to pay me for my work, I could still put it up on my web site. That way at least some people will get some enjoyment out of them!

So keep an eye out for this ageing writer as he attempts to make his way in the world, forever paying attention to an industry that is far too heavily criticised in my opinion.
 

Does Wrestling Need Goldberg?

When the WWE announced that none other than the mighty Bill Goldberg had been signed during this year's Wrestlemania, the sports entertainment world was abuzz with excitement. Not since Hulk Hogan signed with WCW in 1994 had such excitement gripped the wrestling industry. With the exception of Sting, one of the last WCW-created stars who had never worked for the WWE was finally in the employ of Vincent Kennedy McMahon.

It is now nearly four months since Goldberg signed. Nearly four months since the promo aired around the world during the Wrestlemania broadcast. Nearly four months since Goldberg appeared on Raw and announced that The Rock was "next".

So what has happened in this short space of time in the career of Bill Goldberg. The answer is, well, not much really.

When it comes to wrestlers who haven't been "created" by their own writers, the WWE doesn't really have that good a track record. In the past, many stars who were big in WCW and ECW have seemingly struggled under the bright lights on Raw and Smackdown. I could run off and endless list of names, but there is no point. You all know who I'm talking about.

So is this the reason why Goldberg has failed to grasp the imagination of this particular wrestling fan?

Let's compare Goldberg's entrance to that of another former WCW World Champion - Scott Steiner.

When Steiner signed and made his first appearance at last year's Survivor Series, there was a great deal of fanfare, and his first few appearances were well thought out and well received. The bidding war between Eric Bischoff and Stephanie McMahon for Steiner's services made for compelling viewing, as did the build-up to Steiner's match at the Royal Rumble with Triple H.

Goldberg just appeared out of thin air, suddenly appearing on Raw and challenging the Rock before the self-styled People's Champion made his way back to Hollywood. The build-up to their long awaited encounter, and the encounter itself were somewhat lacklustre.

Whereas in WCW Goldberg was a silent assassin, kicking ass wherever he went, now Goldberg spoke a great deal, and showed that perhaps he was not a natural showman as his first WWE opponent.

Then came the feud with Chris Jericho, born out of a real-life rivalry that dated back to their falling out in WCW. Many thought that this would make for entertaining television. If it wasn't for Jericho, this feud would have fallen flat on it's face. Jericho carried Goldberg all the way, not just in the promos but in the big match itself.

During the build-up to the match came the news that during a conference call, WWE CEO Linda McMahon publicly stated that the company was somewhat disappointed with Goldberg's performances.

Old Bill was not a happy man. The day of his big match with Jericho and Goldberg was apparently wandering around backstage like a bear with a sore head. After the match Goldberg was seen confronting a ringside fan who was carrying a Jericho sign. The director wisely cut away from this shot quickly. The company's newest big baby face couldn't be seen arguing with a lowly fan after all, could he?

Since then word has crept out that Goldberg has continued to complain about his status within the company, that he is considering walking out on his big bucks contract. Some say that if he isn't crowned Raw World Champion at Summerslam, then Goldberg will be through with the wrestling industry?

So this brings up the question, does the wrestling industry need Goldberg? Does the wrestling industry need someone who clearly has no love for the industry and the people in it?

Some would say that Goldberg's problems began as soon as he signed with the company. Would the WWE be willing to acknowledge that their main rival had created a bona fide superstar? Would they have been willing to push him to the moon in the way that WCW had? Some thought that by now Goldberg would have been World Champion. The reason this hasn't happened yet is obvious. Triple H has a tremendously strong powerbase, and is very reluctant to give up any of that.

Triple H's previous real-life animosity with Goldberg, if handled correctly, could be used to the WWE's advantage as they build up towards their potential match-up at Summerslam. If both men are willing to co-operate with the powers-that-be, and are willing to give this match the hype it plainly deserves, then ratings could go through the roof. One of the few remaining dream matches left in the wrestling industry could prove to be the match and feud of 2003.

If both men let their egos get in the way of business, then this could prove to be a disaster. Both men are known for their egos. If Triple H doesn't get his way, all he needs to do is go to the head writer, and ask her to change the script. If Goldberg doesn't get his way, he'll walk, and the WWE could be left with a multi-million dollar white elephant and a public relations disaster. After the recent departures of Roddy Piper and Hulk Hogan, the WWE needs Goldberg's star power.

At a time when the WWE has been heavily criticised for not creating new "superstars", they will have to put their faith in a star that was created by their main rival, and virtually handed to them on a plate. If it doesn't, then the wrestling industry may never be the same again.
 

Kane - Let's Make Him More Of A Monster

When the character of Kane was first introduced in the WWF in October 1997, it was done at a transitional time as far as wrestling goes. WCW were firmly ahead in the Monday night wars, and Vince McMahon knew that his company needed a new direction. It wasn't long after Kane's first appearance that the WWF product began to show the first signs of change as the so-called "Attitude" era was upon us, and the on-screen product became more reality-based, moving away from gimmicks which, at the dawn of the Internet age, were becoming nothing more than a laughing stock. The pompous snobs, the country music singers, and the guys from "parts unknown" were gradually phased out. The blue-blood Hunter Hearst Helmsley became the degenerate Triple H, and the dead man Undertaker became the
American Bad Ass.

Kane is thought of by many to be one of the last of the gimmicks, a character that has prospered in an environment that changed drastically during his time in the spotlight. From silent, brooding monster, with the help of first X-Pac, and later, Rob Van Dam, Kane came out of his shell, became a person the fans could really relate to. He changed from being a "French fried freak" to being "one of the guys." Until recently.

The Kane seen on recent episodes of Raw is now a totally different animal, and animal is one of the ways of describing his new character direction. Unmasked, suffering from psychological scars from the incident that first brought him to the WWF in 1997, Kane has gone on a path of destruction that has seen almost put before him staring up at the ceiling. The mask came off, the towel came on, and the monster returned. Many fans thought that when the mask came off it would be the end of Kane's career. They were wrong. It's just the beginning.

Now on a Monday night we see Kane arriving in arenas in a cage in the back of a police van. Chains and handcuffs stop him from doing anything drastic as he comes down the stage. It is indeed an imposing sight, but watching it makes me realise that they could do a whole lot more with this.

Think back to the days of Vince McMahon's Corporation. Kane was a proud member of this group, yet how many times when Kane tried to turn against McMahon was he taken down by one of the other members, and held while doctors from the local psychiatric hospital stormed to the ring and stuffed him in a straight-jacket?

The character of Kane is becoming an uncontrollable monster once again, and the fans are loving it. Kane hasn't been this over in years. But by changing a few things and adding a few others, they could make Kane's reign of terror look that much more terrifying.

Firstly, change the music. It's a good song, but is essentially an upbeat kind of version of his original music. Bring back his original music, or a more sexed-up version of it. Kane is now a monster heel, and his music should reflect that. When fans in the arenas and watching on television it should make them realise that a dangerous man is about to arrive.

Then comes the second change. While the chains around his ankles and the cuffs around his hands show that Kane is a dangerous man, wouldn't it look like he was more dangerous if he came to the ring in a straight-jacket. Then, Kane could be restrained even further by chains around his neck and his ankles. Of course, this would make it impossible for Kane to walk to the ring. No problem there. Why not have him wheeled out to the ring in the style of one of the movie world's greatest monsters, Hannibal Lecter. Kane may have lost one mask, but another mask could be placed over his nose and mouth. Go the whole hog, the whole nine yards.

Then, change the costume. If Kane is placed in a mental institution when he is not wrestling, while not have him wrestle in the clothes he would wear in the hospital. Or perhaps the orange overalls prisoners in solitary confinement wear.

For his character, don't just portray him as a monster, a killing machine where all he wants to do is fight, fight, fight. Make him something more - a man of intelligence. Instead of a psychopath, make him a sociopath.

If Kane is going to wrestle at Summerslam against Shane McMahon, then having Kane lose to Shane would be a drastic error. Think about it - Rob Van Dam couldn't take him down, so how could a part-timer ever hope to take him down in a one-on-one basis.

After Summerslam, have Kane face a few of the lower mid-carders, destroying guys like Mark Jindrak and Stevie Richards, before moving up to a credible opponent, perhaps on pay-per-view - Intercontinental Champion Booker T. Kane could state that he sees Booker as his stepping stool, onto bigger things, and that he isn't interested in the title. The McMahons could offer Booker vast sums of money to take Kane down, but Kane would ultimately win, but not the title.

Then comes the final part - if, as expected, Goldberg defeats Triple H for the World title at Summerslam, imagine Kane challenging Goldberg for the title. Goldberg has never faced a monster like Kane before, someone as powerful, or perhaps more powerful, than him. A Goldberg v Kane series, while it won't be for the purists, would certainly be a feud for the fans, as the silent assassin tries to take down sociopathic monster, if not at the Survivor Series, then perhaps at the Royal Rumble.

Some of you may disagree with the way that I would book Kane from now on. Some may not like the way that Kane would again become a gimmick-based wrestler. My argument would be that on film and television we see men fly, spaceships crash land on the Earth, and jolly green giants throwing tanks through the air as if they were nothing. The WWE promotes Sports-Entertainment, with the emphasis being on the entertainment. By changing Kane's character and pushing him in this direction, the WWE would be doing nothing more than providing their fans with entertainment.

But then again, this is nothing more than fantasy booking, something which we wrestling fans are becoming quite adept at these days. These ideas will probably never be seen on a television screen.

Vince McMahon & Zach Gowen - The First Meeting

Once again, I have a world exclusive for you. Some of you may recall that two years ago I published the transcript of a meeting between Fusient Media and AOL/Time Warner executives with regards to the sale of WCW. Just recently I also obtained an exclusive transcript of a Diary Room session featuring Big Brother UK contestant Cameron Stout.

Well, I've got another exclusive for you, for it would seem that Zach Gowen, one of the most-talked about wrestlers at the moment, actually approached the WWE for a job a year ago, long before his appearance for NWA:TNA. What you are about to read is a transcript, secretly recorded, of a meeting between Zach Gowen and Vince McMahon that took place in McMahon's office last year.
 
Vince McMahon (VM): How d'ye do. Nice to meet you. Er, Mr...Gowen, is it not?
Zach Gowen (ZG): Yes, Gowen by name, Gowen by nature.
VM: Sit yourself down.
ZG: Oh, yes, alright.
VM: Er, Mr. Gowen, you are auditioning, are you not, for the role of a professional wrestler.
ZG: Yeah, right.
VM: Mr. Gowen, I couln't help noticing, almost immediately, that you are a one-leggéd man.
ZG: Oh, you noticed that?
VM: When you've been in the wrestling business as long as I have Mr. Gowen, you get to notice these little things almost instinctively.
ZG: Yeah, well you're bound to...
VM: Yes, you're bound to. Now, Mr. Gowen, you, a one-leggéd man are applying for the role of a professional wrestler...
ZG: Yes, right.
VM: ...a role traditionally associated with a two-leggéd...artiste...
ZG: Ah........yes.
VM: ...and yet you, a unidexter...are applying for the role...
ZG: Yes, that's right, yes.
VM: ...a role for which two legs would seem to be...the minimum requirement. Well, Mr. Gowen, need I point out to you with undue emphasis where your deficiency lies as regards... landing the role?
ZG: Er, yes, yes, I think you ought to.
VM: Perhaps I ought.
ZG: Yes.
VM: Perhaps I ought. Need I say with too much stress, that it is in the leg division that you are deficient.
ZG: Oh, the leg division?
VM: The leg division, Mr. Gowen, you are deficient in the leg division to the tune of one. Your right leg I like...
ZG: Ah!
VM: ...it's a lovely leg for the role. As soon as I saw it come in I said, "Hello, what a lovely leg for the role". I've got nothing against your right leg...
ZG: Ah!
VM: ...the trouble is...neither have you. You, er, you fall down on the left.
ZG: You mean it's inadequate?
VM: It is inadequate, Mr. Gowen. In my view the public is not yet ready...for the sight of a one-leggéd man performing moonsaults off the top rope.
ZG: Right, yes.
VM: ...however great the charm of the performer be. They are not ready for it...mind you, you score over a man with no legs at all. If a legless man came in here demanding the role, I'd have no hesitation in saying "Go away! Hop off!"
ZG: So there's still hope?
VM: Yes, there is still hope, Mr. Gowen. If we get no two-leggéd artistes in here within, say, the next...eighteen months, there is every chance that you, a unidexter, are the very type of artiste we shall be attempting to contact at this agency.
ZG: Oh!
VM: I'm just sorry I can't be more definite, but you must understand that with the way the wrestling business is today......

So there you have it. The tape became distorted at the end of the conversation. Needless to say that earlier this year Vince McMahon signed Zach Gowen to a contract, and he's been tearing it up on Smackdown for a few weeks now.

Keep an eye on this column and on my website, www twoshedsreview.vze.com, for more exclusives such as this!

(With gratious thanks to the late, great, Peter Cook & Dudley Moore for providing the source material for this column. Of course, by now, you've worked out it's fake, haven't you?)
 

ECW Can Return

There has been much talk in wrestling circles during the past few weeks about the return of a wrestling company that is regarded with godlike status by some die-hard fans. That company is Extreme Championship Wrestling.

After the WWE gained the rights to the entire ECW video library and all the logos connected with the company, may have stated that they would once again like to see ECW hold shows, under the leadership of Paul Heyman. But at the same time, many have pointed out that this wouldn't truly be ECW, that it would be nothing more than a WWE pawn, with the same writing teams that are at times heavily criticised for the way they plan and execute the weekly Raw and Smackdown shows.

It is my personal belief that as a company, ECW can live again. Shows can be promoted under the ECW banner, under the watchful eye of Paul Heyman. But it wouldn't work the way it did before. Here is my idea.

In Ohio, Jim Cornette gains many plaudits with the way he runs and promotes Ohio Valley Wrestling, the regional promotion that is used as a feeder group for the WWE. Current WWE stars such as Brock Lesnar, Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Haas and the Basham Brothers have plied their trade in this group, being groomed for the big stage.

The ECW group could be used in a similar way. Firstly, Vince McMahon would have to decide just where he would want his ECW promotion based. Then he could use his bargaining skills in an attempt to get his group local airtime. Just one hour's worth a week would do.

With the television contract in place, the WWE board would then have to decide just how much of a budget this new company would get. There is no way that a new company would be given the kind of production money that Raw and Smackdown currently commands. Besides, this new group would be used to compete on an equal footing with it's parent group.

Then McMahon would have to take the bold decision of putting Paul Heyman in charge of the operation. However, McMahon probably wouldn't put him in charge of the financial side of things. Heyman is regarded as a god among some fans for his booking practices. However, if Heyman was so good at running the entire ECW company before, why did it go under? Just leave Heyman to run the wrestling side of things. There are plenty of people who could handle the money side.

So with the new ECW company in place, with it's first shows planned and it's local television contract in place, just who would fill up the roster? Would former ECW alumni such as Rob Van Dam, the Dudleys, and Lance Storm be used.

Remember, this would be a feeder group for the WWE - such stars who have plied their trade on the big stage would perhaps consider this as something of a demotion, going from a multinational company to what is essentially a regional promotion. These wrestlers could be used to help kick-start the company, and in the beginning they could help put over other, less well-known talent. But unless it was really called for, such wrestlers should not be used for the new ECW.

With Paul Heyman at the creative helm, and with the WWE funding all aspects of the group, ECW could return and become a small but ultimately successful promotion, a training ground for the superstars of tomorrow, and where the superstars of today could try and work off the ring rust after returning from injuries.

The old ECW, as we know it, no longer exists, and probably will never exist again. We have our memories, and doubtless, courtesy of the WWE, we'll eventually have countless video memories available to use on the shelves of our local stores.

ECW can live again. But not the ECW many of us want to see.

The WWE Cruiserweight Division - Going To Waster

When I first began to write about professional wrestling almost five years ago, one of the very first columns I wrote was about the then-WWF Light-Heavyweight division. This was around the time that Christian, then under the guidance of Gangrel, won the Light-Heavyweight title from Taka Michinoku in his very first televised match.

Taka's challengers for his title had been few and far between up until that point. Having won a tournament final against Brian Christopher, and feuded with the future Grand Master Sexay for months over the title, Taka hadn't done much on WWF television, until he met Christian on pay-per-view.

While Taka didn't receive a rematch on television, Christian would go on to lose the title to none other than Dwayne Gill, or rather, Gillberg. The fact that the champion at the time was nothing more than a glorified jobber said it all about the direction that this division was taking at the time.

That column five years ago said as much, and gave also gave a list of wrestlers who might liven up the ailing division. It listed the likes of Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho, and Eddie Guerrero as people who might be able to shake things up a little, make it more entertaining for the fans.

In the past five years, the Light-Heavyweight division has morphed into the Cruiserweight division, and just over a week from the WWE's second-biggest event of the year, I find myself watching Smackdown, and once again thinking that a this division is going to pot all over again.

Summerslam is one of the so-called "big four" shows that the WWE promotes. It's been on the calendar since 1998, and is second only to Wrestlemania in terms of stature and prestige. Yet it's sad that on this kind of stage, a place can't be found for what was once the Smackdown brand's secondary singles title.

During the dying days of World Championship Wrestling, one of the few highlights of the ailing company was it's cruiserweight division. Eric Bischoff was a big believer in the smaller wrestler, and with men like Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio, Ultimo Dragon, Juventud Guerrera, and many more, the company had a division it could be proud of, something that was the envy of it's larger neighbour up north, which is the reason that the WWF introduced a lightweight division of it's own.

Today's WWE Cruiserweight Champion, Rey Mysterio, is a fine athlete, one of the best wrestlers in the company at the moment, and certainly one of the highlights of the Smackdown brand.

Some of the other wrestlers who fit into the division are also capable of stealing any show - Jamie Knoble, Nunzio, Chavo Guerrero, Sho Funaki, Yoshihiro Tajiri, Ultimo Dragon, Billy Kidman, Shannon Moore, Matt Hardy, and, from the Raw side of things, the Hurricane and Spike Dudley, would be the envy of any lightweight division of any wrestling company.

But five years removed from that early column I find myself asking that question again. I'm left wondering just what it would take for Vince McMahon and the WWE writers to realise just what they have before them.

The fans are screaming out for top-notch wrestling action. The smart marks are screaming out for top-notch wrestling action. They could find it in the cruiserweight division, but most of the smaller guys are nothing more than cannon fodder for the larger wrestlers, and they are made to look inferior and unworthy of the big stage next to their larger counterparts.

The recent signing of the Ultimo Dragon seemed to be a sign that things could be turning around for this ailing division. Now, if you believe the rumours you here on the Internet, the head honcho of the WWE hadn't even seen one of the Dragon's matches before he signed him, and once he had seen him in action, didn't like what he saw. The huge build-up to his arrival, which was very similar to that of Rey Mysterio's, has since made the booking team look rather silly. Dragon is now relegated to matches on the WWE's weekend shows, without a major feud in sight.

Before the brand extension last year, rumour also had it that the cruiserweight division wasn't pushed that much was because that certain wrestlers felt that their positions would be threatened by the smaller guys, that if these smaller guys could pull off match-stealing performances at the beginning or in the middle of big shows, then their efforts would look second-rate. There was a story doing the rounds that during a Raw dark-match a while back, a match between the teams of Little Guido and Tony Marmaluke and Danny Doring and Roadkill stole the show and put the rest of the roster to shame, mainly because of the work of the three smaller guys involved. Many wrestlers were apparently irate because this match was better than the majority of those recorded for television.

If this is the case, then it's a great shame, and just goes to show that certain wrestlers are more concerned with their careers than the good of the company.

With the news that Vengeance, the first Smackdown-only pay-per-view drew a very small buyrate, the lack of a push for the  cruiserweight division is baffling to say the least. What could have been the shining light of the Smackdown brand is now nothing more than a sham, it's wrestlers now nothing more than glorified jobbers.

Gillberg would be right at home if he were to come back now.


Global Wrestling Force - What Could Have Been

There seems to be a recurring theme in my columns of late - what if? Recently, for British website 1 Stop Wrestling, I wrote about how I would have booked WAW's October Outrage IV show last year. This time, I'm going to talk about what could have been, if it hadn't been for wrestling politics.

By now everyone will know the name of Jon Farrer. Jon, like me, originally made his name writing about wrestling on the Internet, before moving on to writing for a few magazines, eventually landing a job with Total Wrestling magazine.

Last year Jon formed his own wrestling company, the Global Wrestling Force, and held his first show in Preston, called "Battle of the Champions", which featured a tournament in which Jonny Storm was crowned the first GWF World Champion. The event was a resounding success. All of those who attended the event went away happy, and it wasn't long before Jon announced a follow-up show, "Aftermath", to be held in Blackburn last February.

What happened at that show is now the stuff of legend. After a successful fan festival at the King's Hall, a veritable who's who of British wrestling gathered for the show - Doug Williams, Jonny Storm, James Mason, Jody Fleisch, Zebra Kid, Robbie Brookside, James Mason, as well as some well-known American stars, the legendary Jake "The Snake" Roberts, and CZW's Trent Acid and Johnny Kashmere.

The show turned out to be the biggest disaster in British wrestling history. Having booked a ring from a gentleman called Steve Lynskey, who worked as a referee for several promotions in Britain, Lynskey did the dirty on Farrer and failed to show. The reason he gave was that his van had broken down on the journey to Blackburn from Brighton, and that the breakdown service insisted on taking him back to Brighton, although it would later emerge that Lynskey hadn't left his home in the first place.

The story broke a few days later that the reason Lynskey no-showed was because he had had a massive argument with Jake Roberts, and did this just to get back at Roberts. What that argument was about doesn't matter. The fact is that Lynskey's actions affected everyone who showed up at Blackburn for that show.

Try as he might, Jon tried to get another ring for the show, but ultimately, he failed. So as the night went on, Jon's world began to fall apart as what could have been the biggest show in British wrestling history was cancelled at 9.30 in the evening.

The fans who attended the show, and those who were following proceedings on the Internet, began to have a field day, gathering together on the UK Fan Forum, joined by wrestlers and promoters as they discussed what had happened in Blackburn that night. Steve Lynskey became public enemy number one when it emerged what had happened, why he hadn't turned up in Blackburn. It got to a point where TWA promoter Scott Conway posted Lynskey's mobile number on the forum. This earned Conway an immediate ban from the moderators, and Lynskey hundreds of phone calls as fans showed their anger.

One could only feel sympathy for Jon Farrer. This young guy who had grown up as wrestling fan, and who had only wanted to put on a show to entertain the fans had been caught up in an argument that was nothing to do with him. He had hired Roberts and Lynskey to do separate jobs for him. If Lynskey had been professional, he would have left his personal differences behind and he would have done the job he had been paid for.

As the days went on, Jon promised that those in attendance would get full refunds, as well as tickets for his next planned show. But Jon, having had to pay for the hire of the hall, the wrestler's wages and travelling expenses, as well as the advertising costs, was now thousands of pounds out of pocket. At first, the fans were kind to him.

Jon's other big mistake was appearing at an FWA show the following week, alongside Powerslam's Greg Lambert, playing a heel manager against Alex Shane. This was perhaps the wrong thing to do. Fans who attended both shows were not happy that Jon was apparently making light of the situation he was now in, that he was trying to profit off the failures of others.

While he tried to sort out his problems, Jon virtually disappeared from the pages of Total Wrestling. He stopped posting on the UK Fan Forum, but every so often you would get posts from the fans saying that they hadn't had their refunds, calling Jon Farrer every name under the sun. It was surprising that they hadn't blamed him for the war in Iraq or the WWE's poor ratings. It was getting to a point where they would blame Jon for anything that went wrong in the world.

During this time I had spoken to Jon via e-mail and AOL Instant Messenger. I was genuinely concerned by what had happened to him. I never ill luck on anyone before, and Jon was taking a hell of a verbal pounding on the UK Fan Forum.

We began to discuss just what had happened in Blackburn, and Jon told me a few things that he had found out since my previous article about the Aftermath show. (Editor's note - this article can be viewed by logging on to the Wrestling section of my website, www.twoshedsreview.vze.com). What Jon said interested me.

It turned out that Steve Lynskey wasn't the brains behind the original master plan. It would seem that someone quite well known in the wrestling business actually put him up to this, with the thinking that this plan would put an end to Jon Farrer's promoting career. What Farrer had done in Preston in the previous year, and what he planned to do at future shows, could have threatened certain companies, and one man in particular put together the plan that would ultimately turn Jon Farrer into the laughing stock of British wrestling.

Jon also told me about the original plan for Aftermath, and the follow-up plan for the show that was due to take place in Blackburn this past May. At Aftermath, Jonny Storm would have retained his title against one of the CZW guys, and in a later angle, Jody Fleisch would have turned heel on Storm, setting up a feud that would have continued over into other shows.

Then, at the May show, while Jody went up against Robbie Brookside, Jonny Storm would have defended his title against someone who would have definitely drawn a crowd. Just one year previously this guy had been released for the WWE, and unlike other former WWE stars who come over to Britain and try to live off their name while their skills have diminished a great deal, this guy could have gone toe-to-toe with Storm and put on what could have been a match of the year candidate. The man in question was Sean "X-Pac" Waltman.

Pitting Storm against Waltman would have guaranteed big box office sales. For many Internet fans it would have been one of their all-time dream matches. But it was never meant to be.

Today, six months after "Aftermath", Jon Farrer's name is a dirty word on the UK Fan Forum, and in wrestling circles in general. Many forum members still continue to complain about the lack of refunds, even though they've never actually sent their tickets to Jon to prove they actually went to the show. Some of them have even put forward the idea of taking Jon to the small claims court. Some have even said of forming a joint claim against him.

As far as his writing career, Jon has made only sporadic appearances in Total Wrestling, which is a shame. Jon is one of the best writers in the business right now, and it's a shame that events out of his control have curtailed his writing career somewhat.

Some would say that Jon Farrer is a crook. I would say that Jon Farrer is a victim. At first I would have said that he was a victim of circumstances, given the facts that were released about why the ring never showed up in Blackburn.

But Jon Farrer is nothing more than a victim of the politics that run rampant in certain areas of British wrestling. Some people saw Jon as a threat to their existence, and took steps to make sure that the Global Wrestling Force was destroyed by these forces. They not only destroyed his company, but took away from us what could have been a great show in May.

These people know who they are. They say they want what's best for British wrestling. By adopting these sorts of practices, they're doing nothing more than destroying the thing they claim to love.
 

Triple H - The Cowardly Heel Played To Perfection

Summerslam 2003 is now but a fading memory (until I watch the repeat showing this coming Thursday on Sky Sports that is). There is so much to discuss about this show, but there is one aspect I would like to centre on, and it's something that many fans are up in arms over. However, they fail to see the grand scheme of things.

Cast your mind back to the final match of the card, the Elimination Chamber. Five challengers to Triple H's World Heavyweight Championship, one of them his very own team-mate. Many say that the match didn't live up to it's predecessor at the Survivor Series last November. While this may be the case, it fulfilled it's main purpose, in telling a story that, barring injury to those involved, can continue to be told for a few months to come, perhaps right up until Wrestlemania.

First came the luck-of-the-draw as far as entering the battle was concerned. Triple H was the last man to enter the chamber, so it was obvious he would be the last man to enter the battle.

Before him, the man-monster that is Bill Goldberg entered the battle, taking out everyone in his sight, and putting on a performance the likes of which hasn't been seen since he destroyed Raven's Flock and the NWO on his way to winning the old US and WCW titles in 1998.

All the while Triple H watched from the confines of the internal chamber, until his door was unlocked. But as the door swung open, Triple H seemed hesitant to enter the battle, until Shawn Michaels tuned up his piano and delivered sweet chin music. As Goldberg took out everyone in sight, Triple H gathered his thoughts and watched his opponents eliminate each other.

Then it came down to just two people - the game and the man. Triple H, still in his chamber, looked on in horror as the unstoppable wrestling machine that is Goldberg stalked him like a lion stalked a zebra in the African desert. It looked like it could be Goldberg's night, that Goldberg would become the World Heavyweight Champion. That was until Ric Flair introduced the trusty old sledgehammer into the equation. With his faithful companion by his side, Triple H levelled Goldberg. With the tree having been felled. Triple H went for the cover and secured the victory. Having hardly done a thing in the match, the champion had retained the belt, and delighted in this fact as his fellow Evolution members handcuffed Goldberg to the side of the Elimination Chamber and beat him like the proverbial government mule.

Reading the views of many fans on the various forums I visit, they would have it that Triple H is one of the laziest wrestlers in the WWE, that he should have dropped the belt to Goldberg because he's held it for far too long, because he's injury prone, and because he's a selfish SOB.

But step back a little, and study the match in a little more detail. Take a look at the grand scheme of things.

Granted, his injury meant he couldn't put in a one hundred percent performance, but if this match had taken place ten years ago, Triple H's performance would have been heralded for what it was.

Triple H played the cowardly heel to perfection in the Elimination Chamber. He let his opponents take each other out before entering the fray, and then only gained the victory after levelling Goldberg with a weapon. Before the Internet, before kayfabe was broken, he wouldn't have been criticised for being a poor worker. He would be criticised for being a cowardly heel, for taking the cheap victory and for taking the easy way out.

The Elimination Chamber match succeeded in doing what it was meant to do. It protected Triple H's injury, and set up the match that everyone still wants to see - Triple H and Goldberg one-on-one.

They say ring psychology is dead, that the art of telling a story in a wrestling match is long gone. I say it's alive and well. You just have to look for it a bit more.
 

Lance Storm - The Dancing Fool

This past week on Raw, I saw something I thought I would never see.

Lance Storm was dancing. And smiling. And had a hip, new trendy entrance theme.

What is the world coming to?

It's been a while since Steve Austin appeared on the Raw stage, pillow and blanket in hand, and announced to the world that Lance Storm was officially boring. Now, over the past few weeks, we've seen one of the best wrestlers in the world gradually broken down until he resembles nothing more than a dancing fool.

For me, Lance Storm was one of the best wrestlers in ECW history. He was one of the highlights during the dying days of WCW. Despite their faults, the WCW obviously had faith in the guy as a wrestler. If they hadn't, they wouldn't have put three singles titles on him in less than four weeks.

But now Lance Storm, pound for pound one of the greatest wrestlers currently working for Vince McMahon, is now being portrayed as something that he isn't, and to quote a certain wrestling announcer, I don't like it, not one damn bit.

So why was Lance Storm proclaimed boring? Is it because he's a bad wrestler. No. Lance Storm comes from a long line of men that have graduated the infamous Dungeon in Calgary. He had a great teacher, and down the years his work has only improved.

Is it because he's bad on the microphone? No. When compared to other excellent wrestlers such as Rob Van Dam and Chris Benoit, Lance Storm is probably one of the most competent workers when the stick is put into his hands. Unlike his contemporaries, Storm's delivery doesn't sound forced. He doesn't sound like a second-rate b-movie actor. He sounds confident. He knows what he has to say and goes about saying it.

But the fact that the creative team up in Connecticut thinks that to get over with the fans, Lance Storm has to prance and smile like a reject from Pop (American) Idol, says a lot for the brains behind the shows.

Let's compare Storm, if we can, with a certain other famous Canadian wrestler - Bret "Hitman" Hart. Let's take a look at the style, at the gimmick that eventually led to Bret becoming the top headliner in the two biggest wrestling companies in the world. Did Bret prance away like a drunken pony on his way to the ring? Did Bret spend most of his time grinning from ear to ear like he'd downed two dozen happy pills with a bottle of Jim Beams?

What took Bret Hart to the top of the wrestling mountain was the fact that he was a great wrestler. He didn't need fancy rap music and snazzy dance moves to introduce himself to the wrestling audience. He didn't need to have a grin fixed to his face the likes of which Jack Nicholson would have been proud of in the first Bat Man film.

Bret got over with the crowd without any of this. Bret was confident in the ring, and was confident on the microphone. He didn't need a scriptwriter telling him to dance down the aisle. He was Bret "Hitman" Hart, the best there was, the best there is, and the best there ever will be. He was the excellence of execution.

There are certainly many comparisons to be made between Bret Hart and Lance Storm, beyond the obvious ones that is. The only time Bret Hart was ever made to look a fool was in Montreal in 1997. But that's a different story entirely.

Lance Storm is a former ECW Tag-Team champion. Lance Storm is a former WCW U.S., Cruiserweight and Hardcore champion. Lance Storm is a former WWE Intercontinental and Tag-Team Champion. What is Lance Storm now?

A dancing fool. It makes you wish for the time where he was still teaming with William Regal. At least then, he still had some dignity.

Storm is just doing what he's told. It makes you wonder though if he's had any input on this new character direction. But then again, with the WWE being the only circus in town right now, Storm is probably doing this because he has no other choice. And when his career comes to a close, what will Lance Storm be remembered for?

Perhaps I should ask you what Bret Hart will be remembered for, shouldn't I?
 

Nobody Get's It Anymore

It's been quite a while since one of my columns has appeared on the Internet. Ill health and other matters have kept me away from both the world wide web and the world of wrestling.

But during this time I've done quite a bit of thinking. Lying in my bed with chronic headaches and stomach complaints left me wondering about certain things in my life, one of them being the wrestling industry. And during these many hours of contemplation, time and time again I came to just one conclusion - nobody seems to get it anymore.

Defining what I mean by "it" may take a long time. Way back when I first got into wrestling, back in the good old days of watching Kendo Nagasaki and Big Daddy on a Saturday afternoon, I watched wrestling purely as a form of entertainment, nothing more. I didn't care about anything that happened outside the ring. Hell, I was only a child at the time. I didn't care much about anything.

As the British wrestling product departed our screens and the WWF proved to be one of the biggest reasons Sky secured a large number of subscribers in the late 1980's and early 1990's, I rediscovered my love of wrestling. Larger than life characters and over the top story lines grabbed my attention week in and week out, as we all anxiously waited for the big events, hoping that certain feuds would come to an end and that new feuds would start their lives off with a bang.

But this now seems like a long time ago. It's plainly obvious to everyone just how much the wrestling business has changed, and although what I'm about to say may make me sound like an old codger, I feel it's something that I've got to say.

When I think about the wrestling business of today, I think of many things, and sadly, most of these thoughts are negative.

I think about the way that some companies try to portray themselves. There are even a few companies who seem to book just for the fans who follow the business on the Internet. For me, this isn't right. By focusing on what is really a minority, they may end up alienating those who don't give a damn about what's said on the Internet.

Many have said that this is the way of the future. Hey, I know we are in the 21st century right now, and that we should use all means possible to promote the wrestling business, but do companies really have to devote all of their time promoting themselves purely on the Internet?

It's not just the companies who seem to spend all of their time on the Internet these days. Individual wrestlers and tag-teams also seem to put a lot of stock with what is said on the Internet. This is all well and good, and I'm all for the men and women who work their backsides off day in day out promoting themselves with their own personal homepages. I'm all for wrestlers using their sites as a means of staying in contact with their fans, of keeping their fans informed about what they've done in their careers.

The thing that disappoints me the most is that sometimes many of these wrestlers hold the opinions of fan forum regulars and Internet reporters far too highly. It only takes one bad review of a match, or one fan saying that a wrestler is in their opinion not that good, to get them going. They go off on a tangent, and some of them seem intent on confronting the people who have made these comments at future shows.

This doesn't just happen with the veterans of this industry. Sadly, a great number of men and women entering this business today as trainee wrestlers seem more intent on impressing the guys on the Internet, when they really should be trying their hardest to impress the people who could do far more for their careers than any web geek, their trainers and their promoters.

When Shawn Michaels ran his wrestling school in San Antonio, one of the first things he told his trainees was to stay away from the Internet. Old HBK was right. If a young rookie, just after his first match, goes onto the Internet and finds a review of the match, one of two things could happen; if it's a bad review, he'll be disheartened, his confidence knocked, or, if the review is good, things could go to his head. Egos are easy to develop in this business, and the one thing you don't want to do is suddenly go around doing the "big I am" bit and annoy the people who have busted their asses for years.

In my opinion, I think it would be a good idea if wrestling schools actually made dealing with the Internet a part of their training. You can learn about the psychology and the physical side of things, but how much emphasis should be put onto the Internet side of things? Maybe this is one area in which the wrestling industry needs to catch up on.

The fans of wrestling are also a totally different breed than they were many years ago. Ten years ago an arena would have been filled with men, women and children who went to the show just for the sheer pleasure of it, just so they could be entertained by a night of wrestling action. In 2003, wrestling fans can be split into two groups.

Like their counterparts many years ago, there are people who still go to the wrestling just to be entertained. They go to the shows to shout at the bad guys and to cheer on their heroes. They don't care what happens backstage, if wrestler A refuses to lose to wrestler B, or anything like that. To me, these people are the genuine fans of wrestling.

And then we have the Internet brigade, the people known as "smart marks", who spend the majority of their time visiting various fan forums, analysing and overanalysing every single aspect of the wrestling business, from what happens in the ring to what happens backstage to even what happens in the car park and the catering stands, Everything is discussed, broken down bit by bit until it becomes less and less enjoyable.

And they even take a great deal of time insulting the other groups of fans.

A perfect example of this was seen recently on the UK Fan Forum. All-Star Wrestling promote monthly shows at the Fairfield Halls on Croydon, and always seem to draw a good crowd. ASW has never played up to the Internet that much. They use their website to inform fans of their upcoming shows, but they never use it to forward story lines or anything like that.

The Croydon shows draw a great deal of both groups of fans. It seems to me that the Internet guys always seem to get front row seats, and when the genuine fans sit near them, booing the bad guys and cheering for their heroes, the Internet guys are far from happy. So unhappy, in fact, that the following day they log onto the fan forums and, while overanalysing everything that happened the night before, they derive a great amount of pleasure by calling the genuine fans "retards" and "mentally disabled".

I'm left to wonder just why this is. Perhaps someone can explain this to me, because I can't even begin to fathom just why this is.

It's not just the fan forums I find hard to fathom at the moment, it's the websites that claim that all they want to do is promote the wrestling business.

The Internet is a massive place. There's room for everyone in the world. So why is it that certain webmasters and so-called Internet reporters seem to spend a great deal of time sending insulting and abusive emails to fellow writers and webmasters in an attempt to stop them from doing what they enjoy?

A great number of websites and newsletters are run strictly for fun. Men and women spend countless hours each and every week updating their sites just for the sheer hell of it. They don't get paid to do this, they do it because they love wrestling, and they enjoy what they do. Yet that enjoyment is spoiled by a mindless bunch of morons who claim that they love wrestling, that they are more important than they really are. All they want is to get themselves a bit of cheap heat at the expense of others, so their websites and newsletters can get a few more hits. So what if it stops some people from doing what they enjoy?

For me though, it's not just the Internet that doesn't seem to get "it" anymore. Even some of the top experts in the magazine field just don't seem to get it anymore.

A perfect example of this came last August, after Summerslam. Cast your minds back if you can to the Elimination Chamber. For the first time in his WWE career, Goldberg was portrayed perfectly, as an unstoppable force as he ploughed through three of the biggest WWE stars ever. As Shawn Michaels, Chris Jericho and Randy Orton were dispatched, Triple H cowered in the corner as his nemesis proved to be the ultimate tool of destruction. The only way that Triple H could defeat the mighty Goldberg was by taking him down with a sledgehammer, inserted into the mix by Triple H's allies.

This was booking at it's finest. Every part of this match was well executed, well planned. However, for weeks before the show, the world seemed to cry out, demand, if you will, that Goldberg be crowned World Champion that night. Vince McMahon, being the great promoter that he is, had other plans. He knew that if he continued to build up the feud the fans would still be interested when Triple H and Goldberg finally went one-on-one four weeks later.

Yet in the days and weeks after the event, I read countless reviews of the show on numerous websites and in various magazines. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people, the number of so-called "experts" who agreed with me. Nobody, not even those who try to make a living writing about the wrestling industry could understand why Goldberg was not crowned champion at Summerslam. Everyone seemed to be telling the few of us who actually got what that match was all about that we were wrong, dead wrong.

The wrestling business certainly has changed over the years. Has it changed for the better? I really don't know, and to be honest with you all I don't think I'm in a position to say. We keep hearing how bad the wrestling industry is, how poor the product is, and this is why attendances are down all over the world. But tell me this - would everyone believe that wrestling is in such a poor state if we didn't constantly read how bad it was on the Internet and in the magazines?

Then again, is the Internet to blame for the way wrestling is portrayed these days? Coming from someone who made his name on the web, who has spent nearly four years telling stories and giving his views on the industry, this is going to sound a little two-faced when I say that perhaps the Internet is to blame for the majority of things wrong with the business. Those in the industry, in my humble opinion, listen to what is said far too much. They seem to be losing their way a little.

I'm not going to sit here in front of my laptop blaming the Internet for the drug-addictions or the deaths or the injuries that occur in the wrestling business. I'm not going to sit here and preach about how you, the wrestling fans should stop visiting the fan forums and stop offering their views. The Internet is a wonderful invention, and if used properly can be used, to great effect, to promote the more positive aspects of the wrestling business. If we spent our time focusing on the positives, perhaps things would seem a little better.

But then again, I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for this to happen. Vince McMahon is credited with inventing the phrase "sports-entertainment". Wrestling is just that, entertainment. Off the top off my head, I can't think of any other aspect of the entertainment industry that is panned or criticised in the way that wrestling is. We may be clued-up on things now, but things were better when we were clueless.
 

R.I.P. Hawk

This sucks. When one gets older in life, you expect those you've looked up to in the various fields of entertainment you've watched to pass on. Actors in films you used to watch on television during the school holidays pass on having lived a full and complete life.

But when you hear that a veritable legend of an industry you have followed all of your life dies at the young age of 45, it hits a nerve, a very raw nerve indeed.

Earlier today it was announced that Hawk, one half of the Road Warriors/Legion Of Doom tag-team had died. Details of his death had not been released yet.

To say that Hawk is one of the true legends of tag-team wrestling would be an understatement. Along  with Animal, the Road Warriors were perhaps the most dominant team in history. They were the first "triple crown" champions when winning three world titles in three major promotions actually meant something. Whether it was in the AWA, the NWA, or the WWF, the Warriors/LOD dominated the tag-team divisions.

They may not have been the most technical of wrestlers, but they were certainly the most powerful. Long before the likes of the APA and Demolition used brute force to simply overpower their opponents, Hawk and Animal showed that such tactics could be used to great effect in the tag-team ranks.

The sad thing about this is that most of today's wrestling fans will probably only remember Hawk and Animal for their dire match on Raw against Rob Van Dam and Kane a few months ago. The match did leave a lot to be desired, but the wave of nostalgia that swept across the wrestling world that night was unbelievable. The match may not have been what they deserved, but the reception certainly was.

Since that match, the Road Warriors had been plying their trade in the independent scene. In the autumn of their careers it was obvious that they would never grace and dominate the big stage again. With Hawk's passing, it truly is the end of an era.
 

As the old song goes, one by one, only the good die young.

The Reign Of The Warrior

When the mighty World Wrestling Federation burst onto our television screens just one year after British wrestling limped away from the viewing screen, one of the guys who helped launch the product in our country was a man called Jim Hellwig, better known as the Ultimate Warrior.

The Warrior may not have been the best wrestler in the world, but he certainly had the charisma, the look, the body, and one of the best entrances in the WWF at the time.

The Warrior was one of those larger than life characters that just leapt our of the screen at you. At a time when plumbers and refuse collectors were the norm in the wrestling business, the Ultimate Warrior was just that, a warrior, a veritable human wrecking machine.

Who can forget that first feud we saw, as the Warrior and the late-Ravishing Rick Rude fought tooth and nail over the Intercontinental title, at a time when winning and holding onto championships for more then five minutes actually meant something. Who can forget the way Rude won the title at Wrestlemania V at the Trump Plaza in 1989? The cowardly way that Rude's manager, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan held the Warrior's legs as Rude pinned him.

Or their great rematch at Summerslam '89? A brilliant back and forth contest the likes of which we seldom see today, with great psychology, a crowd baying for blood, and an appearance by Roddy Piper that set the stage for Rude's next feud as he dropped the belt back to the Warrior.

As Rude moved on to the Piper, the Warrior, after a televised contest with Andre the Giant, went onto his next major feud with fellow powerhouse, the late-Dino Bravo. In a memorable moment on Superstars, Bravo, who claimed to be the World's strongest man, challenged the Warrior to a test of strength. This led to an in-ring segment where the Warrior let Bravo and his manager Jimmy Hart choose a man from the crowd, with the man sitting on their backs as they performed push-ups. Warrior looked on with surprise as Hart and Bravo were able to find the biggest man in the crowd - a guy standing around 6'5", and weighing in around 450 pounds.

As the large man, who announced himself as John, sat on Bravo's back, the Canadian strongman performed several push ups before the Warrior took his turn. John turned out to be nothing more than Bravo's stooge. Positioning himself on the Warrior's back, John brought his full weight down on him as afterwards, he helped Bravo and Hart attack the Warrior. John wasn't John anymore. The world had been introduced to Earthquake.

As his feud with Bravo continued, another opponent appeared on the horizon, and nobody saw this coming. At the 1991 Royal Rumble, when all of the other competitors had been eliminated, the Warrior found himself in the ring with none other than WWF Champion Hulk Hogan. The crowd went wild as the two most popular men in the company at the time squared off against each other. Nobody knew it at the time but this was the start of the build-up to the biggest match in professional wrestling history at that time.

It was just after the Royal Rumble that Hogan and the Warrior teamed for the first time, on Saturday Night's Main event, against the team of Mr. Perfect and the Genius, whom Hogan had been feuding with. Needless to say that both men had difficulty getting along with each other.

The Warrior continued his feud with Bravo over the next few weeks which culminated in a live television match on The Main Event. That night Hogan defended the WWF title against Randy Savage, with World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Buster Douglas as a special referee. The Warrior also successfully defended the IC title against Bravo, but what took place after the match continued the build-up to his match with Hogan. As Earthquake attacked the Warrior and laid him out in the ring, he climbed to the top rope and was about to come off with a big splash when Hogan ran out and saved the Warrior. He wanted to make sure that his opponent for Wrestlemania VI was in top condition.

The Warrior would return to favour a few weeks later in a televised segment on Wrestling Challenge, in a match that was almost identical to the one he'd had at The Main Event. After Hogan had defeated Bravo in a non-title match, he was attacked by Earthquake, who threatened to do more damage to Hogan until the Warrior ran down and made the save.

April 1st, 1990, saw more than 67,000 fans fill the Skydome in Toronto for Wrestlemania VI, as champion met champion. Hogan met the Warrior in a classic encounter which saw Hogan pass the proverbial torch as the Warrior became a double-champion. In one of the most emotional moments seen inside a wrestling ring, Hogan presented the belt to the Warrior before leaving to make a film.

And so the Warrior's only WWF title reign began, taking in another feud with Rick Rude, which ended with a cage match at Summerslam '91, before a memorable feud with Macho King Randy Savage began. As 1991 ended and 1992 began, talk of a Hogan/Warrior rematch at Wrestlemania VII died down. As Iraq invaded it's neighbour Kuwait, and America and her allies went to war with Saddam Hussein, the WWF reintroduced Sgt. Slaughter to the world, this time as an Iraqi sympathiser. Hogan/Warrior II was hardly mentioned again.

In the middle of his feud with Savage, the Warrior dropped the belt to Slaughter. The match was marred by heavy interference from Savage and his manager Sensational Sherri. The stage had been set for American hero Hogan, fresh off his feud with the mighty Earthquake, to regain American pride against Slaughter at Wrestlemania VII.

Wrestlemania VII was originally meant to have taken place at the Los Angeles Coliseum, which had served as the main stadium for the 1984 summer Olympics. However, the WWF later moved the show to the much smaller LA Sports Arena, citing security reasons, given the fact that the WWF Champion was an Iraqi sympathiser. The truth of the matter was that the ticket sales were incredibly poor for such an event. If they had gone with their original plan of Hogan/Warrior II, then they probably would have filled the Collusion with the largest ever attendance for a wrestling show.

Instead of Hogan/Warrior II, Wrestlemania VII saw the Warrior face Savage in an "retirement" match. In a match even better than his encounter with Hogan the year before, the Warrior "retired" Savage. Both men gave it their all, executing their finishing moves a number of times before the Warrior got the pin. The end of this contest saw Savage reunite on-screen with his estranged former manager Miss Elizabeth, after Sensational Sherri attacked him.

The Warrior's next major opponent was the "phenom" of the WWF, the Undertaker. The Undertaker was at that time one of the hottest properties in the company, and was on a roll, having just defeated the legendary Jimmy Snuka at Wrestlemania VII.

The feud really began when the Warrior was a guest on Paul Bearer's "Funeral Parlour" interview segment on Superstars. While being taunted by Bearer, the Undertaker emerged from a standing coffin, attacking the Warrior from behind before locking him in a casket and leaving the arena with the key. Frantically, backstage officials tried to pry open the casket, eventually opening up the wooden box to find an unconscious Warrior, who had tried to claw he way out.

For the first time in his WWF, the Warrior showed a vulnerable side as the Deadman spooked and stalked him at every possible moment. It wasn't long before an ally came forward to help him battle his demon. Jake "The Snake" Roberts promised to help the Warrior in his battle with the Undertaker, taking him on a strange journey and through several tasks, including being buried alive, that were meant to mentally strengthen him. At the end it turned out to be a ruse, as Roberts turned on the Warrior and set him up for the Undertaker and Paul Bearer.

Then, for some unexplained reason, the Warrior was taken away from this feud, and once again paired with Hogan, this time as a team, at Summerslam '91. In the so-called "Match Made In Hell", Hogan and the Warrior went up against Sgt. Slaughter, General Adnan and Colonel Mustafa (aka The Iron Sheik) in a handicap match, with newcomer Sid (Vicious) Justice as the special referee. It was perhaps a sign of things to come that after the Warrior had chased Adnan and Mustafa away from the ring, and after Hogan had pinned Slaughter, Hogan invited Sid to pose with him in the ring. The Warrior was nowhere to be seen.

What made this situation more perplexing was the fact that the Warrior could have had two high-profile matches, on pay-per-view, against two of the best stars in the company at that time. Matches against the Undertaker and Jake Roberts would have guaranteed massive pay-per-view buy rates. Yet the Warrior only faced the Undertaker on the house show circuit, and never faced Roberts.

For the first time the Warrior left the WWF, apparently driven away by backstage politics. His time away from the ring wasn't that long though. It was at Wrestlemania VIII, the show that saw Randy Savage defeat Ric Flair for the WWF title, that the Warrior made his return. As Sid Justice and Papa Shango double-teamed Hogan after Hogan's DQ win against Justice, the Warrior ran down the aisle and saved his former nemesis from a beating. The Warrior was back.

His first major feud came against the strange Papa Shango, who would later go on to become the Godfather. In one memorable moment on Superstars, Shango put a "curse" on the Warrior, which caused him to vomit a green substance. Remember, this was nearly ten years before Mae Young gave birth to a hand. Such happenings on WWF television were quite uncommon at the time.

The feud didn't really go anywhere as the Warrior was being set up for a title match with old foe Randy Savage at Summerslam '92, held in London's Wembley Stadium. This drew the ire of Ric Flair and his executive consultant, Mr. Perfect. Before 80,000 fans, Warrior won the match, but not the title, setting up the dream-teaming of Savage and the Warrior as the Ultimate Maniacs.

This team began around the time that Razor Ramon (Scott Hall) entered the WWF. Ramon helped Flair win back the WWF title from Savage, and as Savage began to feud with Ramon, the Warrior was next in line for a shot at Flair's WWF title. However, Flair wouldn't hold the belt for that long, as he dropped it to Bret Hart on Canada's Thanksgiving Day.

Flair's losing of the title didn't mean that his feud with the Warrior had stopped. A match putting Flair and Ramon against Savage and the Warrior was slated for the Survivor Series that November. However, the Warrior didn't even make it to that show. Rumour has it that the WWF planned to demote the Warrior, as it were, removing his main event status and putting him in a mid-card feud with Nailz. The Warrior was not a happy man, and left the company for the second time in just over a year. His leaving the company was never actually mentioned on television, and his spot in the Survivor Series was taken by Mr. Perfect, making his first wrestling appearance since a back injury had sidelined him after his match with Bret Hart at Summerslam '91.

The Ultimate Warrior would be away from the wrestling spotlight for nearly four years. During that time the business changed drastically. Eric Bischoff had taken control of World Championship Wrestling, and under his guidance, and with the help of a few former WWF superstars, Bischoff had made WCW the number one promotion in America. In 1996, the WWF needed something to help win back the viewers. In 1996, they turned to the Ultimate Warrior.

Jim Hellwig was away from the wrestling business for nearly four years after his teaming with Randy Savage as the Ultimate Maniacs. The WWF had high-hopes for the team, perhaps even seeing it as the second coming of the Mega-Powers. But the Warrior's creative differences with the company forced them to change their plans drastically as he departed the company for a second time.

It was at Wrestlemania XII in 1996 where the Warrior made his triumphant return. The hype for his returning match, against Hunter Hearst Helmsley, started weeks before the show, and on the show itself, the Warrior blazed into the ring and defeated the future Triple H in less than two minutes. The Warrior was back.

However, the company he returned to was not the company he had left. In 1996 World Championship Wrestling, under the guidance of Eric Bischoff, had started to get on an equal footing with the WWF by hiring the likes of former McMahon superstars Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage. Also, the infamous Clique was virtually running the show backstage, and while Kevin "Diesel" Nash and Scott "Razor Ramon" Hall would soon jump ship from the WWF to WCW, Shawn Michaels, the newly-crowned WWF Champion, still held a great deal of power backstage.

The original plan for the Warrior's return was that he would continue to feud with mid-card talent Helmsley. The Warrior, however, balked at the idea, which is why his return match with Helmsley lasted less than two minutes.

At the time many thought that the Warrior would immediately become a contender to Shawn's title. While such a match-up would have made for good box office, the WWF decided instead to have the Warrior feud with Intercontinental Champion Goldust, who was stirring up controversy with his gimmick and his feuds with Razor Ramon and Ahmed Johnson. The Warrior was unsuccessful in his attempt to regain Intercontinental gold. He also feuded with Jerry "The King" Lawler, which involved Lawler walloping the Warrior over the head with a portrait the King had painted of his opponent.

Almost from the start of his third stint, troubles arose on the creative side of things. This wasn't helped by the fact that the Warrior's father was taken ill, and the Warrior missed a few house shows so he could spend time with his family. After his father's untimely death, the Warrior continued to no-show some events, which once again put a strain on his relationship with the WWF.

At the time the Warrior was booked in a feud, teaming with WWF Champion Shawn Michaels, and IC Champion Ahmed Johnson against Jim Cornette's stable of Owen Hart, Davey Boy Smith and Vader. A massive six-man tag was scheduled for the In Your House pay-per-view in July, but prior to that show, the Warrior once again failed to appear at a house show in Detroit.

The WWF were at their wit's end, and asked the Warrior to sign a guaranteed appearance bond, which the Warrior refused to do. The company had no choice but to terminate his contract just a few days before the pay-per-view, announcing that "Sycho" Sid Justice would be taking the Warrior's place in the tag match against Cornette's stable.

To say that the Warrior's final stint in the WWF was disappointing would be an understatement. One can only but wonder just what would have happened if her personal problems hadn't gotten in the way. The following November, at the Survivor Series in Madison Square Garden, Sid pinned Michaels to become WWF champion. It hindsight it seems obvious that if the Warrior had played by the rules, he would have been crowned champion that night.

Little was heard from the Warrior in wrestling circles until 1998. The Monday Night Wars between the WWF and WCW were at their peak. WCW's Nitro had beaten WWF's Raw for ages, and just as the WWF were starting to pull WCW back, WCW signed the Warrior.

However, his debut had to be held off a little while as the WWF filed a lawsuit against WCW claiming that they held the rights to the Ultimate Warrior name and trademarks. The Warrior countered with the fact that he used the gimmick before he joined the WWF in 1987. It was eventually agreed that the Warrior could use his gimmick in WCW, but WCW would refrain from calling him "Ultimate".

In 1998, Hollywood Hulk Hogan ruled the roost in WCW as leader of the New World Order, and, quite often as WCW World Champion. At the time he was feuding with Diamond Dallas Page, a feud highlighted by the appearance of Tonight Show host Jay Leno as Page's tag-team partner on the Road Wild pay-per-view in Sturgess, a match which led the many people wondering what was next.

At the height of their feud Hogan announced that he had beaten all the legends in the wrestling industry. Page countered by saying that there was one man whom Hogan had never defeated. Later that Nitro, as Hogan, Bischoff, and the Disciple cut an in-ring promo, the Warrior appeared to a huge ovation, challenging Hogan and the NWO with his "One Warrior Nation".

The plan was for Hogan to face the Warrior at WCW's big autumn pay-per-view, Halloween Havoc, that October, with a taster for the main course being served at the War Games bout on the Fall Brawl pay-per-view six weeks before. However, this War Games bout was different. Whereas in the past teams of four or five squared off with each other, this bout would be contested by three teams made up of three members, the NWO black and white team of Hogan, Bret Hart and Stevie Ray, the NWO Wolfpac team of Nash, Sting and Lex Luger, and Team WCW, which consisted of Roddy Piper, DDP, and the Warrior. The winner of the match would be granted at shot at Bill Goldberg's WCW title at Halloween Havoc.

At the event itself, the Warrior was the final contestant to enter the battle. Before he appeared, smoke filled the ring, and a fake Warrior appeared, attacking Hogan, before disappearing in another puff of smoke. As a confused Hogan stood in the middle of the ring holding the Warrior's jacket, the real Warrior came racing down the aisle. As soon as he entered the ring he went for Hogan. As the Hulkster fled the cage, the Warrior ripped open some of the steel mesh, and chased Hogan and his Disciple up the aisle, only for security to pull them apart.

This incident would prove to have a drastic effect on the Warrior's career in WCW. He badly injured his arm while ripping the steel mesh, and rather than take his doctor's advice and rest, he began to rehab the injury straight away. This did not have the desired effect, and for a while, his rematch with Hogan at Halloween Havoc was in jeopardy. The only thing the Warrior could do was cut in-ring promos to promote the match, and one of these led to one episode of Nitro being drastically rewritten. Originally scheduled to speak for just six minutes, the Warrior spoke for nearly twenty.

Then came the rematch with Hogan. It didn't come close to their previous outing. Hampered by the arm injury, the Warrior put in a sub-par performance against Hogan, who won the contest after outside interference from Bischoff and his nephew Horace Hogan. In the eyes of many, the match only seemed to exist so that Hogan could say that he had defeated the Warrior in the ring, that there wasn't anyone he had faced he hadn't beaten.

The Warrior made a few more appearances for WCW, but when his contract expired in December 1998, it was not renewed. The in-ring career of the Ultimate Warrior had come to an end.

With the Internet being what it is, rumours abound about what the Jim Hellwig has been doing for the past few years. Some say that the main reason he left the WWF is because Vince McMahon refused to fund a "University of the Warrior" project.

Most recently, he's become something of a public speaker, and often writes about his life and career on his website, www.ultimatewarrior.com. Some have said that these are little more than the ravings of a mad man, someone who thinks he is more important than he actually is. But if you take the time to read his articles in depth, as it were, you'd find a man passionate about what he does.

The Ultimate Warrior may not have been the best wrestler in the world. He may not have had the best reputation in the wrestling business. But for many, for one, albeit short period of time, the Ultimate Warrior was the number one man in the sports entertainment business. His matches will probably never be termed "mat classics", but they will be termed exciting. At the height of his fame, the Ultimate Warrior was one of the most exciting and entertaining performers in wrestling, and it's for that reason that I welcome him into the Two Sheds Review Hall Of Fame.
   

Zach's Been Banned!

It's no secret that I'm not a big fan of Zach Gowen. I don't enjoy watching him wrestle. I never have done, and I probably never will. In my opinion Vince McMahon only hired him to prove the old adage that he can beat a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest.

I admire the kid for living his dream, for showing a tremendous amount of heart to try and make a go in the business he's loved for most of his life, especially with all that's happened in his life, but it still doesn't stop me from thinking that as far as the WWE goes he's nothing more than a freak show with a very short shelf life.

However, after reading some interesting news on various web sites, I'm led to believe that as far as Zach Gowen goes, and as far as my home country of Britain goes, political correctness is going a little too far.

It's been announced that the Independent Television Commission, the body that regulates commercial television in Great Britain, has ordered Sky to edit out all segments that involve Zach Gowen in either a wrestling or other physical encounters, because, in their view, this promotes violence towards disabled people.

This is a joke, right?

For years now we've lived in this politically correct society, where attitudes and certain words are no longer considered good. I'm not saying that we should return to a time where certain comedy shows were filled with tons of racial and political stereotypes, but isn't the ITC going a little over the top with this ruling?

Those that control that we see and hear on television will never truly get what professional wrestling is about. They will watch the occasional show, and make snap judgements about it's bad for the youth of today and it's a bad influence on people. Am I the only person who is getting a little fed up of this attitude?

I can understand why such segments, such as Brock Lesnar's attack on Zach, throwing him down a flight of stairs, would be edited out of the Saturday morning showings on Sky One, but what about the late-evening showings on Sky Sports, which is normally broadcast around 10pm? Surely this is a different case entirely?

This coming Saturday, if you're watching Smackdown on a Saturday night in Britain, during one of the commercial breaks, check out a few of the other channels. You'll find a couple of channels where you can telephone or send a text message to half-naked women lying provocatively on beds. You'll find a comedy show where people make jokes about doing unmentionable things to their cats. You'll probably find a couple of films where people are killed in a wide variety of ways, or the odd show where people will tell you how to improve your sex lives. You'll also hear a wide variety of words that I possibly couldn't repeat here. And Michael Parkinson interviewing someone.

But show a one-legged man "fighting" with another man, and show that one-legged man getting his ass kicked before recovering and kicking the crap out of his opponent, and you're doing something very, very wrong. According to the ITC that is.

This sucks, and once again shows that British television is run by a bunch of idiots with a set of double standards. They just don't seem to get it that those of us who watch wrestling do it because it's a form of entertainment.

It makes you wonder if the ITC would have done anything had Danny Kelly not written a small piece about Zach Gowen in the last issue of the Radio Times (Britain's equivalent of America's TV Guide). While Kelly's piece was a little uninformed and a little off the mark, had the one-legged wrestler not been mentioned in Britain's biggest selling television magazine, would they have cared?

All I can say is where were the ITC when Triple H was screwing a fake corpse? Or when Mae Young was giving birth to a hand? And no mention was made when Shane O'Mac had his gonads wired up to a car battery, or when Kane was stuffed in a car which later smashed into a truck.

They just don't get it, do they?

Goldberg v Kane

While watching Raw this week, and the build-up to the Survivor Series on November 16th (just eight days after my birthday, hint hint), the smart mark in me began to come to the fore. The armchair booker began to rear his ugly head again, and began to think that maybe, just maybe, the Raw main event for the show should be something different entirely.

At this moment in time Bill Goldberg is scheduled to defend the Raw World title against the returning Triple H, just one month removed from the previous pay-per-view offering. However, if this aspiring writer had been in charge of the booking committee, it would have been a totally different story.

In another Survivor Series match, Kane is once again scheduled to go up against Number One Son in an Ambulance match. Again, if yours truly had been in charge, this would be a totally different story.

Goldberg is the hottest baby face on the Raw roster at the moment. Kane is the hottest villain on the Raw roster at the moment. Do you see what I'm trying to get at here?

Although a Goldberg/Kane Raw title match and mini-feud wouldn't have been one for the wrestling purists out there, it would have been good for a number of reasons, and some of these reasons would have definitely appealed to the old school fans out there.

Firstly, it would have given Triple H more time to recover from his nagging injuries. Sure, a WWE pay-per-view without The Game would never be considered. However, appearing on the show, and not actually competing would do his physical condition no end of good.

The $100,000 bounty gimmick, although it's been done countless times in the past, would have been far better if the company's top heel, instead of going after Vinny Mac's son, had decided to take Triple H up on his offer and taken it upon himself not only to eliminate Goldberg but also become World Champion in the process.

By pitting Goldberg and Kane against each other, you could also have allowed the feuds both men are in time to cool off a little. The creative team could have used this mini-feud between the two monsters to build-up their future rivalries a little more. The big two matches could have been postponed until the Royal Rumble in January.

Yet by promoting these rematches so soon after their previous encounters, it feels like the WWE is shooting itself in the foot. Familiarity breeds contempt, as the old saying goes. As fans, we are beginning to grow tired of seeing the supposedly unstoppable monster being stopped by a non-wrestler. As fans, we are beginning to grow tired of seeing the same man, the newest member of the McMahon clan, in the main event all the time.

Even if the idea of a Kane/Goldberg Survivor Series main event was put forward, it's doubtful that the match would have ever happened. Triple H wouldn't be satisfied with just a bit part, a run-in on the main event. Shane McMahon, although a competent performer, probably wouldn't let a "real" wrestler take his spot against one of the hottest stars in wrestling at the moment.

So will we ever see Kane v Goldberg for the title in the main event of a pay-per-view. Maybe we'll see it in December, or perhaps even at the Royal Rumble. But I get the feeling that a certain wrestler will plod his way through another pay-per-view main event before regaining the gold. Triple H was one hell of a wrestler once. It's a shame that ego and his apparent unwillingness to take time off to heal himself properly is perhaps costing the wrestling fans what could be, if handled properly, one of the biggest feuds in years.
 

Crash Holly R.I.P.

A few weeks ago I began one of my columns with the words "this sucks". Again, I'm going to use this phrase.

I found out a short time ago that Mike Lockwood, the artist formerly known as Crash Holly, has died. He was just two years older than me.

I don't want to sound like stuck record, but again, this sucks. Coming so soon after the deaths of Stu Hart and Road Warrior Hawk, I find myself writing about the death of a wrestler, about the death of a person who has entertained me a great deal while watching this great industry.

Of course, many fans in Britain will know Mike for his work in the WWE, first as the tag-team partner of Bob "Hardcore" Holly, and then as the man who first defended the Hardcore title under the 24/7 stipulation rule.

In both scenarios, Mike excelled. As a small man in the tag-team division, Crash always tried to make us think he was a giant among giants, telling us he weighed in excess of 400 pounds when in truth he weighed just over 200, and while his reign as tag-team champion may not have been as exciting as many of the others around that time, (remember, this was around the time that the Dudleys, Hardys, and Edge & Christian were lighting up the scene), it was certainly one of the most entertaining.

And then there was his entry into the hardcore division. Many have credited Mick Foley with giving the Hardcore title respect, but the division didn't really take off until Crash Holly was crowned champion. After declaring on television that he would defend the title anyplace, anywhere, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, it seemed his work was cut out for him. He was chased everywhere, not just by the wrestlers, but by the Godfather's ho's, and even Pat Patterson and Gerald Brisco. These segments made the Hardcore title, and was probably one of the most entertaining aspects of the WWE at the time.

Finally, let's not forget Crash's all too brief reign as the Light-Heavyweight Champion, which sadly only last a little over a month, beating the great Dean Malenko for the title before dropping it to Jerry Lynn on Lynn's first night with the company.

Because of his multiple reigns as Hardcore Champion, Crash Holly will go down as one of the most decorated WWE wrestlers in history. It's a said day for wrestling that a man who was respected by his peers and gave his all to entertain the fans is taken from us in such a way. To say it's a shock would be an understatement.

Again, as the song goes, one by done, only the good die young.
 

The Failed Title Reign Of Lex Luger


Over the past few years there's been a great deal of debate about just what is pivotal and most controversial moment in wrestling history. Since November 1997 many have said that it's the infamous Montreal Screw job involving Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, and Vince McMahon. But those of us with even longer memories may think back to the events of the summer of 1991.

"The Nature Boy" Ric Flair was still riding high as the NWA was re-branded WCW. As the company's head booker, Flair used the old tactic that bookers who are also active wrestlers have used for decades, he kept the World title on the one man he could trust more than anyone else, himself. At a time when several young stars such as "Stunning" Steve Austin and Marc "Johnny B. Badd" Mero, and more established stars like Barry Windham, Sting & Lex Luger were yearning for more time in the spotlight, everything that WCW seemed to revolve around Flair. The latest incarnation of the legendary Four Horsemen were doing all they could to make sure that Flair remained on top of the world.

But behind the scenes, all was not well. As the Great American Bash, one of their biggest shows of the year, was approaching fast, Flair was engaged in a conflict with the powers-that-be, who believed that as he was now entering his forties, instead of being the focus of attention, he should be putting the younger stars over. Flair did not agree with this thinking, and just weeks before the big show, walked out on WCW, taking the title belt with him and putting the whole event in jeopardy. It was obvious that a certain other promoter would immediately start knocking on his door in an attempt to promote what many fans up to that point considered the dream match of Flair versus Hogan.

The WCW booking committee, now minus their main man and their world champion, had to think quickly. The original plan had been for Flair to defend his title against U.S. Champion Lex Luger in a steel cage match. Luger had been the number two man in the company for a while, and had faced Flair on countless occasions, but had never been considered good enough to grab the main belt. He had to be content with playing second fiddle to Flair.

But with Flair's departure from the company, that changed, and rather than restructure the entire Great American Bash card, rather than cancel everything they had planned and hold an eight man single night tournament for the vacant title, the steel cage match stipulation was kept, with Barry Windham, who at the time was feuding with Brian Pillman/the Yellow Dog, replacing Flair in the match with Luger.

Minus the drawing power of Flair, the pay-per-view went ahead, and when main event time came around, the booking committee came up with a plan that they hoped would make a drastic impact on the wrestling world.

Towards the end of the match, former World Champion Harley Race, and the big, burly Curtis Hughes, who until that time had been acting as a bodyguard for the York Foundation stable, came down to the ring. Many in attendance and watching on television quickly convinced themselves that Race and Hughes were there to help Windham. However, as Hughes distracted Windham, Race conferred with Luger. A few moments later, Luger took Windham down with a pile-driver, which for years had been Race's finishing move. A three count later, and Luger was declared the new WCW World Heavyweight Champion.

In a post-match interview, Luger announced that Race was his new manager, and that Hughes was his bodyguard. Race told a young-looking Eric Bischoff that up until that point, Luger had lacked the mental toughness to become World Champion, and with his help, Luger now had that toughness.

And so Luger had finally done what he had promised to do for years. He had become a bona-fide World Champion, and WCW were attempting to make him the company's number one bad guy, however, in this writer's opinion, two things happened in the wrestling business in 1991 that lessened the impact of this event.

The obvious one is Flair signing with the WWF. From the moment that Bobby Heenan appeared in a taped segment with a certain title belt, saying that the real World Champion, a man far superior to Hulk Hogan, was arriving in the WWF had the whole world talking. Fans were finally getting their dream match of Hogan v Flair. Vince McMahon had finally signed the one wrestler he had wanted more than any other. He knew that Hogan v Flair was money in the bank.

At the same time, a man who would later go on to earn a great deal of praise as a wrestling promoter, and who had worked as a lower to mid-card manager was getting his chance to shine. With the Horsemen history after Flair's departure from the company, Paul "E. Dangerously" was given his own stable, the Dangerous Alliance. Comprising of former WWF star Rick Rude, rising star Steve Austin, Madusa Miccelli, and established stars Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton and Larry Zybszko, the Dangerous Alliance went on a tear throughout the company, leading to obvious comparisons with the Horsemen, and giving us some compelling viewing Rude & Sting tore it up on television and around America.

But the fact that Lex Luger was not a part of this stable in a way hurt the reputation WCW were trying to build for him. Even though Harley Race was doing most of the talking for Luger, it was plainly obvious that with Rude and Heyman in their stable, the Dangerous Alliance could easily outtalk the gruff Race. At the time, perhaps Rude would have even made a better WCW World Champion than Luger, given the fact that he was drawing a great deal more heel heat than Luger. But the fact that WCW stuck with Luger as their champion until the following year, and his own departure to McMahon's ill-fated World Bodybuilding Federation showed that they were willing to stick to their plans.

Lex Luger would later go on to compete for the WWF, first preening himself in front of a mirror before becoming an All-American hero. His only other World title reign came years later during the height of WCW's NWO era, when he beat and quickly lost the belt back to Hollywood Hogan.

These days Luger's talents are often derided. His skills in the ring are heavily criticised, and events outside the ring, in his personal life mean that he will, for the foreseeable future, be a figure of controversy in the wrestling industry. But for one short time, Lex Luger was one of the top wrestlers in the world. It's just sad that events beyond his control stopped him from fulfilling his potential. If he had been presented correctly, and had been given the right tools, The Total Package may have gone on to become one of the most dominant World Champions in the history of professional wrestling. Sadly, it was never meant to be.
 

First Impressions

There's a saying in life that first impressions count, and this really applies as far as the wrestling industry is concerned. In Britain, digital television channel Friendly TV have recently begun test transmissions for the new Wrestling Channel, which is due to launch fully in a few months time. So while I've found the WWE product a bit wanting in recent months, I decided that with the help of Friendly TV, it was about time to sample other fruits of the wrestling tree.

THE FRONTIER WRESTLING ALLIANCE
For me, this isn't really a first impression, but the first time I've seen any FWA action since I attended their Carpe Diem show in Walthamstow about eighteen months ago. The show featured here was the first part of their recent Frontiers Of Honour show, co-promoted at the York Hall in Bethnal Green with the US-based Ring of Honor promotion. The format for the show was a simple one - pitting established FWA stars with the best that ROH had to offer. Throw in a couple of matches to advance FWA story lines and you've got a show that at the time earned rave reviews.

While the action was good, and I was particularly impressed with the match-up between Jack Xavier and former ECW World Champion Mikey Whipreck, I did feel a little let down by a couple of things.

Firstly, the commentary. I'm not knocking the commentary here. It seemed very well put together, although it was obvious from the beginning that the commentary was added sometime after the event itself. My main problem here was the fact that due to the sound editing, hearing what the commentators had to say was at times quite difficult.

The second criticism is that only three of the matches were shown, and so far, Friendly TV haven't shown the second part of the show. I hope this part of the show will be broadcast soon, as I know for a fact that many fans who don't own the video are eager to see the matches pitting the Zebra Kid against ROH Champion Samoa Joe, and the contest featuring Low-Ki against Flash Barker.

IRISH WHIP WRESTLING
This was a first impression of this Dublin-based company who, as far as I knew, had only promoted a few shows in Ireland before cancelling a show last April due to financial constraints.

The show began with British favourites Jonny Storm and Jodie Fleisch putting themselves through their paces in front of an audience that was clearly quite receptive of their efforts. But for me, this match had a kind of been there, done that feeling. No disrespect is intended towards either Storm of Fleisch, but this match has been seen all over the country and in America so many times now, seemingly with very little variation. It was enjoyable, but the fact that it's been done before put me off a little.

Then followed Jake "The Snake" Roberts first appearance in Ireland in about ten years, as he faced off against British wrestling monster Flatliner. This was indeed a very short match. Flatliner tried to overpower the Snake a few times before Roberts fought back with his combination of punches, a short-arm clothesline and a DDT. The match was soon over, and while Flatliner went away to nurse his bruised pride, Roberts showed that he could still work a crowd like no other.

The third bout featured two Austrian wrestlers, whose names I sadly can't remember, going at it in a TLC match. There was quite a few sick looking bumps in this match, and while the crowd were certainly into this one, I must say that it wasn't exactly to my personal tastes.

So when the Irish Whip Wrestling show ended, I was left wondering why it seemed that no Irish wrestlers were booked on the show. It's a shame that the company had to close it's doors. They certainly had promise, and perhaps they'll make a comeback sometime in the future.

PRO WRESTLING NOAH
To be honest, I found this a very enjoyable show, like a breath of fresh air. The wrestling, for the most part, was top notch, and in many ways reminded me of the old-school British style of wrestling.

One big problem here though - Apart from former WWF and WCW star 2 Cold Scorpio, I had no idea who any of the wrestlers were. The blame for this would have to be put down to the commentary. While English captions were shown with the wrestlers names in English before the contest, the commentary was still in the original Japanese. I think it's safe to say that I probably wasn't the only one watching NOAH for the first time and thinking that it would have been better if the show either had subtitles, or the soundtrack was re-recorded with some English-speaking commentators. If The Wrestling Channel doesn't do this, then they may find that new fans will be put off by the presentation of this particular product.
 
RING OF HONOR
I had heard a great deal about ROH, mainly from various wrestling fan forums. It seemed that ROH owner Rob Feinstein was catering his product to the ever-growing Internet audience, something which he has been criticised for. But on the other hand, he's also won a lot of praise with the style of wrestling he promotes, especially with his "Code Of Honor".

Because of the content of the later matches, only two matches were shown. The first involved the returning Low-Ki, as he took out three other wrestlers in one match. Low-Ki, along with A.J. Styles, had been one of the names I'd heard a great deal of over the past few months, and in this outing, I was really impressed by Low-Ki's style of wrestling.

However, the following match really didn't press me at all. Fought under "Scramble Match" rules, which from what I gather were similar to Lucha Libre rules, the match featured four tag-teams, including The Backseat Boyz and the SAT.

Although the match started off as a normal tag-match, it was obvious that it wouldn't be long before things started to break out and every wrestler got into the fight. For me, this is where things began to get a little ugly. It was hard to follow the action as we were treated to what seemed like an acrobatic display. There were several variations of the DDT and of the power bomb, moves which, in years gone by, were used to finish a contest. And the air time these guys put in saw almost every man in this match, and a few who were not legally in the bout, spend most of their time flying either over or off the top rope. The match just seemed very messy, and for me personally, it was very difficult to watch.

So as far as my first impression of ROH goes, all I can say is that I wasn't impressed. But then again, perhaps ROH is something of an acquired taste.

NWA; TOTAL NONSTOP ACTION
As with the other promotions, I had heard a lot about the Jarrett's efforts and promoting weekly pay-per-views. However, it wasn't one of their pay-per-views I saw, it was an edition of their weekly Xplosion programme.

And I was impressed. Everything about the show really impressed me, the presentation, the matches, the highlights from the pay-per-views, was all top notch. In a way it reminded me of WCW when it was under the leadership of Eric Bischoff. They are bound to have several hits and misses during their careers, but if the Jarretts can continue to attract the top independent stars, mix them in with former WCW and WWE stars who can still perform and draw a few new fans in, then I can see good things happening for this company. If they were to secure a national television contract so that they could perhaps move away from weekly pay-per-views to monthly pay-per-views then the WWE might have their first credible challenger since the demise of WCW and ECW.

COMBAT ZONE WRESTLING
I had heard a great deal of this "Ultraviolent Entertainment" promotion. I'd seen a few film clips here and there, and it was with some trepidation that I tuned into an edition of "Fake You TV".

All I can about CZW is that I found it very disappointing. This may be because I consider myself an old school type of fan. Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed hard-core matches in the past, but for me, CZW goes a little too far.

One thing that bothered me was that those in the matches seemed to be taking up as much time setting up various weapons as they did actually competing. This put me off. I wanted the action to continue. I didn't want things to suddenly stop.

The Cage Of Death match between Zandig and Lobo was really not to my taste, and when Lobo fell crashing into a pain of glass from the top of the stage, I began to think that this resembled stunt work more than it resembled wrestling. I know I'm going to take a bit of heat for this, because I know that CZW has a large fan following, particularly in Britain, but this just isn't my cup of tea.

WRESTLING CLASSICS
Perhaps it's a sad indictment of the wrestling industry of today that I find watching shows featuring matches from over the past fifty years far more enjoyable these days.

This show, introduced by "Mean" Gene Okerlund, was a delight. Showing matches from the Kiel Auditorium in Memphis from around twenty years ago, we were treated to the sight of watching "Macho Man" Randy Savage and "Ravishing" Rick Rude in their prime, long before they wrestled for the WWF.

The match I enjoyed the most involved Jerry "The King" Lawler going up against the Ugandan Giant, Kamala. This is the kind of match that would go down a storm on Raw or Smackdown these days. Lawler and Kamala literally threw everything they had at each other. They fought in the ring. They slammed each other on the floor. They pummelled each other with chairs, and slammed each other's heads into the ringside tables, both men bleeding buckets as they tore a strip off each other.

Watching this match, it made me realise just how fickle some television companies are today as far as the content of wrestling shows is concerned. The kind of stuff I saw in the Lawler/Kamala match would be edited out of any WWE show these days, which is a shame. It's this kind of stuff the fans would love to see right now.

As I said at the beginning of the show, first impressions count. In 1987, while getting my first taste of the WWF by watching Hulk Hogan go up against Randy Savage in a Saturday Night's Main Event show, I thought to myself that this just wasn't wrestling. Compared to the British wrestling I'd been watching before, the world of the WWF seemed to glitzy, to glamorised for my wrestling taste. However, just two years later, after seeing Savage and Hogan go at it in the main event of Wrestlemania V, I was hooked.

So before I get dozens of emails from disgruntled ROH and CZW fans lambasting my views of their shows, keep what I've just said in mind.