Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"ECW" Report

Oh My God!: Big Show retained his ECW Title, defeating the Sandman this week.

You Fucked Up: It’s not a catfight without panty shots.

He’s Hardcore: Hardcore Holly showed he would have fit right into the original ECW.The Extreme Rundown:

Jim Ross came out to start the show. He put over ECW and how it reminded him of Mid South. Matt Striker interrupted, and said that he had come out for Paul Heyman. Striker said Ross lacks education, is blue collar, and likes alcohol. Somehow this led him to compare Ross to Sandman, which is a bit of a stretch. He made fun of Ross’ hat, at which point Sandman came out. Sandman caned Striker, and let Ross get a shot with the cane as well. Ross and Sandman shared a beer, with Ross toasting the “next ECW champion.”

1. Rob Van Dam beat Hardcore Holly in an extreme rules match. This was dull early, but built into probably the best match yet on WWE’s ECW television show. Holly hit punches early, and RVD responded with kicks and clotheslines. RVD draped Holly over the barricade and hit his spinning leg drop off the apron. Holly hit chops and sent RVD into the post. They traded punches. Holly choked RVD and used the camel clutch. RVD scored with punches, but Holly went to the eyes.

The match picked up when Holly suplexed RVD from the ring through a table on the floor. Holly badly lacerated his back on that and needed 24 stitches, but continued. Holly dropped RVD by the throat onto a chair. RVD suplexed Holly onto a chair, hit a monkey flip, and used a kick off the top. RVD drop kicked a chair into Holly’s head and hit rolling thunder on a chair for two. Holly power bombed RVD onto a chair, but RVD kicked out. RVD went for the five star onto a chair, but Holly threw it into his face for another two. Holly went for the Alabama slam, but RVD escaped. Holly got a chair, but RVD hit the Van Daminator and five star for the pin. They played both men’s music after the match. This was a lot of fun, and reminiscent of RVD’s wild ECW matches.

CM Punk said that he wants to compete with the best like Rob Van Dam, Sabu, Sandman and Big Show. Kelly Kelly came in and said she wanted his help playing strip poker. Mike Knox then approached CM Punk and wanted to know if Punk had his own woman. Punk said yes, but sadly didn’t reveal her identity. Knox basically said he would deal with Punk later, and Punk told him to bring it.

2. Francine beat Ariel via disqualification. It broke into a catfight, but Francine was wearing long pants and Ariel was wearing shorts. I thought the whole point of the catfight spot was panty shots. In any event, Francine ripped off part of Ariel’s top and was tearing into her when Kevin Thorn grabbed Francine and held her for Ariel. Balls Mahoney made the save with a hard chair shot to Thorn’s head.

3. Big Show beat Sandman to retain the ECW Title. Prior to the match, Big Show declared the Singapore cane to be legal. I didn’t know champions could unilaterally set the conditions for their defenses outside of four square. Sandman caned Big Show repeatedly at the start of the match, and Show bled. Show came back with chops and went for the choke slam, but Sandman escaped. Sandman hit a DDT and followed with more cane shots. He hit one off the top rope, but Show kicked out. Matt Striker came out and took the cane. Show then hit the cobra clutch back breaker and show stopper for the pin.

Please Don’t Go:

This was a good show. The booking of ECW, while hardly innovative, is a lot better than Raw or Smackdown. As I seem to point out every week, this show could be really compelling television if it had better talent to work with.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Raw Report

Date: 09/25/06 from Oklahoma City, OK.

The Big News: King Booker, Fit Finlay and William Regal came to Raw to attack John Cena, and Cena has additional problems with a title match in a cage against Edge next week. Also on the show, Eric Bischoff cut the sort of promo about Vince McMahon and WWE that would have meant something if he delivered it a few years ago.

Title Changes/Turns: None.

Match Results: Kane b Johnny Nitro-DQ; Ric Flair b Mikey Mondo; Triple H & Shawn Michaels b Highlanders; Triple H & Shawn Michaels b Viscera & Charlie Haas; Triple H & Shawn Michaels DDQ Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch; Jeff Hardy b Shelton Benjamin; Carlito Caribbean Cool & Super Crazy b Randy Orton & Chris Masters; John Cena b Lita.

Show Analysis:

The show began with technical problems. There was some sort of problem with the power, as the lights and video screen were out. I figured this was a gimmick for some sort of surprise, but it wasn’t. Lita beat Candice Michelle in the first round of the Women’s Title tournament in the dark. Lita said that Coach let her pick the referee, and it would be Edge. Granted, this is only the Women’s Title, but that’s the sort of absurd, illogical stipulation that shouldn’t be in a title setting because it makes the title a joke. Edge speared Candice and Lita covered for the pin. John Cena ran in afterwards.

Coming back from a break, the power was back. Cena claimed Edge knocked out the power in the building to try to get the people to leave so they wouldn’t see Cena. Edge responded that next Cena would be claiming he made the power turn back on. Cena challenged Edge again, but Edge once more declined. Cena made a bunch of unkind sexual remarks about Lita, such as that she has poor defense and has a lot of balls pounded in her end zone with 11 guys trying to score at once. This became increasingly less subtle, saying she can be had for $10, but you will end up with an STD.

Lita pointed out that she is a human being with feelings, and Cena doesn’t have the right to make jokes about her. She said everyone knows Edge is a better wrestler than Cena. She added that the entire locker room is better than Cena, and she herself is a better wrestler than Cena. Cena said he could beat Lita with one arm tied behind his back, and Edge accepted that stipulation. Lita acted concerned by this. There was good interplay in this segment between Edge, Lita and Cena.

Kane beat Johnny Nitro via disqualification. Kane jumped Nitro while Nitro was still in his ring attire and dominated the brief match. Kane gave Nitro the side slam, which Jim Ross after years of lobbying finally called a side slam rather than a sidewalk slam. I proceeded to order an Oklahoma jersey on next day delivery and will be holding a Sooner parade through Westwood tomorrow. I’ve been bringing it up for so long because I learned the name of the sidewalk slam through Ross calling that move when Ron Simmons used to deliver it in WCW. In any event, Kane also hit punches, a big boot and was going for the tombstone when Umaga jumped him from behind. Umaga hit his butt drop and hit Kane in the head with the ring steps. This was a good angle.

Backstage, HHH and Shawn Michaels plugged WWE Magazine and DX merchandise. They told Maria to suck it. Eugene came up to Maria and when Maria told him what they said he fainted. This was a weird and not particularly funny segment. Coach confronted Shelton Benjamin elsewhere backstage. Benjamin didn’t back down on his claim that he has been held down based on race. Coach said he is a black man in the company and Benjamin should have come to him. Benjamin said Dick Cheney has more soul than Coach. Hardy came in speaking “street” for some reason and Coach made a match between Hardy and Benjamin. He also made Lita vs. Cena no holds barred, but said that Edge would lose his title shot if he touched Cena.

Ric Flair beat Mikey of the Spirit Squad. Mikey hit some punches, a drop kick, and slaps. Flair came back with chops. They traded blows. Flair took over with chops and hit a chop block. He went for the figure four, but another Squad member ran in. Flair threw him over the top, hit Mikey with a punch, and grabbed the tights for the pin. They really need to have Flair wrestle less. He has become as limited as Giant Baba was at the end, only he throws a different type of chop.

The DX gauntlet was next. They beat the Highlanders first. HHH distracted Robbie, while Michaels gave Rory sweet chin music for the pin. HHH then gave Robbie the pedigree for good measure. This was such a burial it made it seem like they have given up on the Highlanders. Viscera and Charlie Haas were next. They got some offense in on Michaels, who made the hot tag to HHH. HHH gave Viscera a face buster and Haas the pedigree. Michaels gave Viscera sweet chin music, but Viscera didn’t go down. HHH pushed him forward onto Haas and DX got on top for the cover. Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch were the final opponents. They had a short match. Cade and HHH ended up bringing chairs into the ring and both teams were disqualified.

They plugged a three hour Raw special in two weeks, which will be a “season premiere.” I’m not really sure why they are doing that, but perhaps it will become more apparent by that time. They did another Cryme Tyme vignette, with Cryme Tyme jumping a guy coming out of an ATM.

Jeff Hardy beat Shelton Benjamin. Hardy hit some arm drags, while Benjamin responded with punches. He knocked Hardy off the apron into the barricade. Hardy came back with elbows and hit the whisper in the wind for two. Hardy went to the top, but Benjamin leaped up to the top to attempt a superplex. Hardy knocked him off and hit the swanton. Hardy covered, but Benjamin got his foot on the ropes. Hardy went for the twist of fate, but Benjamin grabbed the ropes. Benjamin was very confident after avoiding those predicaments, but then he walked right into an inside cradle. I really wish they would utilize Benjamin better. If they don’t have a place for him on Raw, at least send him to ECW, because he damn sure is better than all but a couple guys on that entire roster.

Carlito and Super Crazy beat Randy Orton and Chris Masters. The crowd was dead for this match. Masters gave Crazy a power bomb and the heels worked over Crazy. Crazy hit a flying head scissors and tagged Carlito. It broke into a brawl. Crazy missed a moonsault on Orton, and Orton gave Crazy a neck breaker. Masters went for the Masterlock on Carlito, but Carlito escaped and hit the back cracker for the pin. Orton gave Carlito the RKO from behind after the match.

Coach said he had something that he hoped would please Vince McMahon, and he introduced Eric Bischoff. Bischoff thanked Coach, but expressed bitterness about being fired by Vince. He plugged his book, and said it has a lot of things that will piss off Vince. He said Raw wouldn’t exist in its current form were it not for WCW Nitro. He added that there would be no DX if not for the NWO. He said that there would be no Vince McMahon without Eric Bischoff. He continued until they played music to cut him off and Coach and Bischoff got into an argument. It’s a shame he didn’t cut this sort of promo when he debuted on Raw, because they could have done something with Bischoff vs. McMahon then when it felt more real.

John Cena beat Lita with one arm tied behind his back. Cena caught her with a one armed FU quickly and scored the pin. That was the smartest way to handle this setup, because a longer match would likely either make Cena look weak or make Lita seem sympathetic. William Regal, Finlay and King Booker came in after the match and jumped Cena. Finlay hit him repeatedly with the shillelagh. They went after his arm. Booker called Cena a rapscallion. Booker said it was time for Cena to be humbled. Sadly, he did not introduce the Iron Sheik to apply the camel clutch, break his back and then commence the humbling. Instead, he had Cena kiss his foot. Edge then told Cena that he would invoke his rematch clause next week in a cage.

Final Thoughts:

This was a pretty average show. There was more wrestling again, but the wrestling itself wasn’t very good this week. The talking was generally better, with the exception of some lame comedy. Hopefully they are getting ready to switch around to some different feuds, because the current feuds are getting stale.

Noble Intentions and Undesirable Consequences

The announcement by TNA on Sunday of the signing of Kurt Angle once again reminds us of a fundamental rule of professional wrestling. In professional wrestling, doing the right thing usually backfires. You end up hurting yourself, helping your enemies, and not even achieving the commendable goals that you sought to accomplish in the first place.

World Wrestling Entertainment and Vince McMahon, Jr. are frequently criticized for making morally bankrupt decisions. Indeed, the company has made many deeply problematic moral decisions over the years, with the exploitation of the late Eddie Guerrero this year coming immediately to mind. The release of Kurt Angle was not one of those decisions.

Kurt Angle is a tragedy waiting to happen, if not a tragedy already in the making. A man driven by an extraordinary desire to be the best, Angle has pushed himself hard throughout his life. He pushed his body to tremendous lengths during his WWE career, and refused to slow down. He continued on despite serious health deterioration, and competes with a level of pain that is extremely hard to manage without assistance. As he ages, and with serious health problems, the best course of action for Angle is clearly to take it easy on his body.

WWE attempted to push him in exactly that direction. By confronting Angle about his problems and pushing him out of the company, WWE was presumably driven by a desire to protect Angle from himself. While unquestionably not wanting a tragedy to occur under their watch played a role, one has to suspect the primary impetus for WWE’s stance on Angle was a desire to help his well being.

Angle isn’t getting help. Rather, he is simply moving on to a different pro wrestling company. He won’t have to work as grueling of a schedule, which is a positive. However, TNA needs him a lot more than WWE did, which will force him to go all out in his matches to try to justify his role in the company. He will still be in the same problematic environment with the same temptations and dangers. WWE’s intervention didn’t help Angle at all.

So what did WWE accomplish in trying to do the right thing? They simply handed one of the most marketable professional wrestlers in North America over to their primary pro wrestling competitor. It might have even been worse if Kurt Angle went to UFC, because he could have an even greater impact there. Angle could potentially top a million buys for a fight with Daniel Puder in the Octagon, while TNA seems to be teasing a feud between Angle and Jeff Jarrett that will do more to devalue Angle than benefit Jarrett. Still, TNA has a prime piece of WWE talent that they can use to entice WWE viewers to watch their shows.

WWE shouldn’t fret too much over this development, however. Angle’s departure to TNA isn’t likely to change the landscape of professional wrestling in spite of the rhetoric. The biggest threat to WWE success is still its own creative team. And for once, Vince McMahon can take pride in knowing that he did the right thing, even if it backfired from a business standpoint.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Redskins Win Big; Bruins Fall Hard

It was certainly a tale of two very different weekends for those teams. I didn't see the Redskins game, but this is one of those games where the stat line tells you all you need to know. The Redskins dominated the Texans in every aspect of the game and scored a much needed win. This preserves Mark Brunell's job for the time being, as a loss to Houston could have been the sort of jolt that precipitated major changes. A lot of people will say "Don't make too much out of win X. They only beat Team Y." I'm not of that philosophy. The NFL's a tough league. You don't get easy games, period. There's too much talent on every team for you to take any victory to the bank. I remember Michael Wilbon a few years ago writing about how the Redskins shouldn't be confident because they only beat the "sorry, no-account New England Patriots" (his words). Of course, that was the same year they went on to win the Super Bowl. So a win is a win, and good for the Redskins. But we will see how they do against Jacksonville, which is unquestionably a tougher game.

The Bruins game was a real disappointment. They absolutely dominated Washington in the first half, and looked like the much better team. But they couldn't put the ball in the end zone and let the Huskies get a late scoring drive, so they went into half time with a small lead rather than what very well could have been closer to 28-3. And then in the second half, of course, things fell apart. They still didn't get outplayed in the way they were outplaying Washington earlier, but they didn't look good. It was a very bad loss to have that sort of advantage and still find a way to lose. A lot of people are after Karl Dorrell right now, but I'm not one of them. It's true that he hasn't turned the program into a powerhouse. But I think he has done a decent B- job as coach, in terms of results and recruiting. And if you've hired a young head coach who's an alumnus of the school, I think you can't expect immediate big-time success. It will take time, and I think he should be given that time. Particularly since he's a class act and he brings integrity and respect to the program win or lose. That said, he really does need to mix up the playcalling, which is way too conservative and unimaginative on offense. They're too reluctant to pass the ball, particularly on early downs, and that hurts the effectiveness of both the running game and the passing game.

TNA Signs Kurt Angle

This is certainly an interesting development. It makes one a little more optimistic about the state of TNA after the idiotic rehiring of Vince Russo. There's been a whole lot of subterfuge going on with Angle. I read his message about retiring from pro wrestling to pursue MMA as just a story to up his negotiating leverage with wrestling companies, and that's what WWE thought as well. But a lot of people, including Dana White, thought that Angle was going to sign with UFC, at first for a fight with Daniel Puder. That's still possible, I suppose. Angle could have agreed to a deal with UFC and also agreed to do some TNA. But that seems doubtful to me, because Angle would have to know he would need to commit to MMA training if he is going to do that. Instead, I suspect this TNA deal reflects his future plans. I'm not sure what to make of it on TNA's end. On the one hand, Angle is as big of a star as they could conceivably bring on board, and could potentially make a real impact in bringing WWE fans into the product. On the other, Angle really shouldn't be wrestling, and it's unethical to potentially assist a guy towards serious health concerns. TNA's lighter schedule does help, but Angle isn't going to half ass it in TNA. The other problem is that TNA is going to want Jeff Jarrett vs. Kurt Angle, when that matchup does more to take Angle down a notch than anything. The best way to utilize Angle in my opinion is to put the belt on him and give him a long run with the title that makes the title feel important and legitimate while bringing interest to the rest of the card. I have no idea where this is going, but I'm intrigued if not optimistic.

UFC 63 Thoughts

Strong show. The reaction live to Matt Hughes vs. BJ Penn was amazing. I think this show is going to surprise as far as buy rate, because the Royce Gracie fight had a lot bigger impact on Matt Hughes than a lot of us predicted. He was a superstar on this show. I've been to eight live UFCs at six different locations, with all the top stars (Couture, Liddell, Ortiz, Franklin, Shamrock, etc.), and Hughes got a reaction on par or better than anything I've ever heard at a UFC event. The main event was a hell of an entertaining spectacle. I thought Penn had Hughes with the triangle, and was amazed Hughes was able to survive. It was totally reminiscent of Hughes just willing himself out of a Charuto triangle a few years ago. The guy has no quit. And then Hughes was able to capitalize on his strength and better cardio and stop Penn in the third. It wasn't the best of finishes just because Hughes wasn't doing much damage, but Penn was unable to defend himself so it really did need to be stopped. It was exactly how he finished Carlos Newton in their second fight, and I'm surprised Hughes hasn't popped out the old crucifix more often. It's very effective.

As far as the rest of the card, UFC couldn't have been too pleased. The idea of Swick-Loiseau was to create Swick as a challenger to Franklin, I'm sure. They got their Swick win, but I thought both guys came out looking worse. Loiseau looked like the better fighter and it didn't seem Swick could hurt him, but Loiseau waited 12 minutes to engage and deservedly lost a decision. I don't buy Swick as a challenger to Franklin and I don't think many do. Jens Pulver also screwed up plans in losing. UFC was just overestimating his talent level in 2006 in the plans they had for him. He's good, but not good enough to be worth investing a huge promotional push in given all the other guys they could waive the star making wand over.

Rashad Evans and Melvin Guillard looked good, with Guillard looking like a menace when he has full confidence. Evans is another guy with tremendous skills but that we have to watch put it together in front of us, not unlike Josh Koscheck. Evans needs to continue to improve, but last night was a positive sign for him. Jorge Gurgel vs. Danny Abbadi was a weird fight. Abbadi did more damage, but he backed off the entire fight. There wasn't much Gurgel could do with a guy with greater reach that just wanted to back off and counterpunch. Eddie Sanchez scored an impressive knockout, but I'm not sold on him. I am sold on Tyson Griffin and Roger Huerta, and both looked good on the undercard.

Also, I can't resist this little nugget on Joe Lauzon from the highly respectable MMA Torch: " What's great about UFC is that in 48 seconds, they created a new PPV draw in less than a minute who we'll pay to see in the future to see if he's for real." You can't write intentional comedy that good. -****

Friday, September 22, 2006

New Orleans Saints

A poll on ESPN.com asks how the New Orleans Saints will do. A whopping 73 percent of people respond they will do .500 or better. Put me decidedly in the under .500 camp. And if the odds on this are 3-1, it is absurd. The Saints have beaten two of the worst teams in the NFL by a collective 12 points. They aren't a good team. They won't make the playoffs. They only have to go 6-8 to make .500, but frankly I thought 6-10 was optimistic going in and 6-8 is better than that. It's a nice story, but nice stories don't win games.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

In the "What the Hell are you Thinking?" Department

TNA is bringing back....drumroll please...VINCE RUSSO. That's it. TNA is doomed. It doesn't get any dumber than this.

Death for His Ambition?

The rise of the Ultimate Fighting Championship in 2006 has been startling in both the altitude it has reached and the speed of that ascent. Even those who have believed in mixed martial arts for years did not predict that UFC would be able to increase its pay-per-view buys tenfold in a few short years. UFC and Dana White have reached a point where they can seemingly do no wrong. Indeed, there is little that can jeopardize UFC’s short and long term success. However, UFC needs to be prudent in its growth, because its greatest future enemy is its own ambition.

There are many pop culture fads that have a period of great success followed by a quick fall. A question on the minds of many observers is whether UFC’s 2006 success is sustainable. I am of the firm opinion that it is. Five years ago I was telling my friends that MMA could very well one day be the number two sport in the United States behind professional football.

MMA offers everything that makes sports great. It is the most pure of competition: hand to hand combat to determine physical supremacy. But it is likewise extremely cerebral. Fighters need to train in multiple styles, and success comes in knowing which strategy to employ against which fighters. Most importantly, for sudden excitement it has no match. A fight can end at literally any moment with the swing of a fist or the swivel of the hips into an arm bar. It was inevitable that if the American public were exposed to mixed martial arts, the sport would explode.

Also in UFC’s favor is their tremendous star making ability. UFC has created a stable of marketable stars from Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz to Georges St. Pierre and Rich Franklin. The sport sells itself, but the promotion has stars to boot. Moreover, the climate is changing in media perception of UFC. Major newspapers like the Washington Post have begun regular coverage of UFC events, and others will surely follow. Perhaps the biggest dominoes are the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated, and regular coverage on ESPN. When the industry leaders give greater coverage to UFC, the smaller publications will follow.

With all of these positive external signs for UFC, it is strange to note that the company’s greatest threat comes from within. When a company has great success, it frequently goes to the heads of those running it. They develop false illusions of invincibility, and they make mistakes. In the realm of entertainment, this frequently comes in the form of overexposure.

From Roller Derby to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, enterprising entrepreneurs will overestimate the appeal of their product. Too much television is produced and the product no longer feels special. This phenomenon can occur with even the most popular forms of entertainment. The key is producing enough product to maximize profits without reaching the point of over-saturation where the profits on each individual event dip.

Dana White and UFC have great confidence in their product right now, as well they should. However, this has led to overzealousness as far as producing UFC shows. UFC is planning to run between 23 and 36 live events in 2006. This number is dangerously high. The latter number would signify a UFC event almost every ten days. It is exceedingly hard to make any individual event feel special when they come that close together.

UFC has made an important realization in the past year: main events sell shows. Just a few years ago UFC did not seem to grasp this, and would load up deep cards with well paid fighters when the third or the fourth fight from the top was simply overkill. UFC 43 was a perfect example, featuring a litany of stars at the time: Pedro Rizzo, Matt Lindland, Frank Mir, Vitor Belfort, Kimo, Tank Abbott, Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell.

In 2006 UFC has switched to a system where there will be a main event that sells the show, and a semi-main event of moderate interest. The undercards lack the sizzle that they once did. This has led to frustration among more hardcore fans, but it is a smart business model. If you have enough legitimate main events, you can run more frequently and feature watered down undercards while drawing identical business.

However, there are limitations to this strategy. First, there comes a point when the undercards are so watered down and the fighters so obscure that fans no longer view the UFC name as meaning anything. Right now UFC is able to sell the UFC name as a brand. That brand will draw a certain number of viewers that trust UFC means a good show. This explains the incredible disparity in interest and business in the United States between UFC 62 and Pride Final Conflict 2006. If over time fans start seeing fighters that don’t look like they belong, they will pick and choose more among the shows.

Second, weaker fighters frequently have less skilled and exciting fights. If the quality of the fights diminishes, there will be more disappointing pay-per-views that leave a sour taste in viewers’ mouths. Thus, as the UFC runs an increasing number of shows, the quality of fighters on any individual show will continue to drop. That is a problem even assuming UFC is able to come up with compelling main events each time around.

Of course, that leads into an additional problem. UFC doesn’t have enough compelling main events to run 23 to 36 shows in a year. That will lead to worse TV ratings for UFC specials and hurt the ability of UFC to point to its ratings as compared to other more mainstream sports. The greater danger, however, comes with pay-per-view events. The danger is not that there will be a drop in buys for the biggest shows. Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz will do huge business no matter how many shows they are running.

The risk will come with the lesser shows. UFC is at a point right now where they may be able to convince a significant number of people that every UFC pay-per-view is worth ordering. If they run 8-10 shows a year on PPV, they may be able to maintain a very high floor when it comes to PPV buys for years to come. Obviously the ceiling will not be reached for every show, but they will be able to rely on a consistently high number for even the lowest shows.

The floor a few years ago was around 35,000 to 40,000 buys. With 8-10 shows in 2007, it would not be unrealistic for UFC to expect a floor of around 250,000 to 300,000 buys. That is a huge profit for each show. However, if they run 12-14 PPVs in 2007, there will come a point when fans decide that not every PPV is worth getting. That will be particularly true if there are countless television specials that offer free fights throughout the year.

UFC should aim over the next few years to keep the number of regular fans that pick and choose between PPVs as low as possible. Instead, you want a larger base of fans that will order every UFC show just because it is UFC. The more shows UFC runs, the greater the risk that the bottom falls out on the non-marquee PPV fights. This is not a risk that UFC needs to take.

UFC right now is in a tremendous position, but if that trend reverses itself it is likely to happen quickly. Rather than take that risk, UFC should be more cautious in its growth. It takes greater confidence to take smaller steps. It shows that you have faith in the product over the long haul, and you don’t need to make every last dollar you can while the getting is good. With steady, sustainable growth, there is no stopping UFC. But if Dana White and Zuffa get greedy and try to grow too fast, they could find themselves wondering what could have been.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"ECW" Report

Oh My God!: King Booker made his eagerly anticipated “ECW” debut, and put that peasant Rob Van Dam in his place.

You Fucked Up: Joey Styles and Tazz had to go even more over the top in putting over John Cena’s movie this week. Look, the people who are going to see John Cena’s movie couldn’t care less if Styles or Tazz endorses it. And the most fervent fans of “ECW” are likely to deeply resent them for the shilling. It’s lose-lose, like forcing John Madden to go into an over the top soliloquy on Monday Night Football about why people should watch American Idol.

He’s Hardcore: Matt Striker knocked Sandman off the apron, and that’s pretty hardcore based on the announcer reaction.

The Extreme Rundown:

King Booker arrived at the show in a limousine and was greeted by Paul Heyman. I realized this week what ECW is. It isn’t actually a new WWE “brand.” In fact, it is a Raw (and to a lesser extent, Smackdown) spin-off. It features mostly the same people. The lesser stars are the focus, and it is reliant on “guest stars” every week to pop ratings and bring attention to the show.

1. Sabu, Tommy Dreamer and Sandman beat Test, Mike Knox and Matt Striker via disqualification. If you are a big fan of cheap DQs, this has been the week for you. Striker tried to avoid Sandman early. Dreamer sent Knox over the top rope with a clothesline. On the outside, Test jumped Dreamer from behind and rammed him into the post. Meanwhile, Striker knocked Sandman off the apron and into the barricade. Sandman was helped to the back.

The heels worked over Dreamer, until Dreamer finally made the tag to Sabu. Sabu came in with drop kicks to the leg, and a springboard leg drop on Knox. Dreamer gave Knox a DDT. Sabu then hit another leg drop on Knox but Striker broke up the pin attempt. Sabu was going to the top when Test shoved the referee into the ropes to crotch Sabu. The referee called for a DQ. Test gave Sabu the big boot after the match, and gave Dreamer the RKO. Knox hit a leg drop off the top on Sabu. Sandman then came back to the ring and cleaned house. Striker left without physical contact.

Backstage, Booker was being introduced to the ECW wrestler. He met Balls Mahoney, and was disturbed by Balls’ presence. They ran an ad here for Bodog’s new fight show, now available in over 65 homes. They also ran an ad for UFC 63. It should be a good show, but words cannot express how disappointed I am Georges St. Pierre was replaced with B.J. Penn.

2. Kevin Thorn beat Balls Mahoney. I have grown to like the Thorn/Ariel package, although it is really more of a WWE gimmick than something that would fit with ECW’s identity if ECW had its own identity. Balls was accompanied to the ring by Francine, who sought to neutralize Ariel. Thorn used punches and kicks, but Balls came back with a sit down power bomb. He was tripped coming off the ropes by Ariel, and Francine went after Ariel in a catfight spot. In the ring Thorn hit the Razor’s Edge for the pin.

3. CM Punk beat Shannon Moore. Prior to the match, Booker was introduced to Punk, who suggested maybe they would compete some time. Punk got a really strong reaction coming out. Kelly Kelly came out to watch until Mike Knox led her away. I hope the story is Kelly causing Punk problems and not that they get together. Punk didn’t look good this week, as he was sloppy. Moore got more offense than last week. Punk won with the Rito Romero special, high knee, slaps, high kick, uranage and anaconda vise.

4. King Booker beat Rob Van Dam in an extreme rules match. RVD challenged Booker to the match backstage. Booker sent RVD to the outside early and worked him over by the announcer’s table. He threw RVD into the steps and dropped him on the barricade. Booker hit the Book End and did the spin-a-roonie. He went for the scissors kick but RVD hit him with a chair.

RVD hit rolling thunder on a chair and a split legged moonsault for two. Booker sent RVD into a chair with as sling shot and hit a spine buster on a chair. Booker missed the Harlem hangover and RVD hit the five star. At that point, Hardcore Holly came in with a hard chair shot and Alabama slam. Booker hit the scissors kick and covered for the pin. This was a good main event.

Please Don’t Go:

“ECW” is what it is at this point. It’s an inoffensive hour that is neither particularly good nor particularly bad. They need to give you reasons to watch the show apart from continuation of Raw and Smackdown stories and characters.

Raw Report

Date: 09/18/06 from Montreal, QC.

The Big News: None.

Title Changes/Turns: None.

Match Results: Umaga b Kane-DQ; Ric Flair b Johnny Jeter; Six-Pack: Johnny Nitro b Randy Orton, Chris Masters, Super Crazy, Jeff Hardy and Carlito Caribbean Cool; Candice Michelle b Lita; Edge, Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch b John Cena, Triple H & Shawn Michaels.

Show Analysis:

The show started with John Cena coming out to boos. I really wish WWE would get some courage and deal more head on with this reaction. Cena laughed and smiled as if he thought it was cool thousands of people were indicating they can’t stand him. What kind of hero gets shit on by tens of thousands of people and laughs about it and sucks up to them? It’s particularly ridiculous when this is supposed to be a rebellious hip-hop persona. When he smiles and takes his punishment like a jovial whipping boy it emasculates him.

Jerry Lawler also played along with this reaction. He did his fake laugh repeatedly, and acted like this was so amusing and fun. You could almost hear Vince telling him to do that in his headset. This reaction by Lawler came across as so desperate, with the promotion trying to put a happy face on an undesired reaction. Look, this reaction is not a bad thing. It shows passion in the crowd. But you have to utilize it, rather than laughing it off and trying to avoid it.

Cena badly needs to tell off the people that boo him. He actually has a really good point. He works hard. He’s not that bad. He deserves his position. A lot of the negativity is flat out hating. Cena needs to say this, and not in a cutesy manner. “You don’t like me? Well, fuck you.” That’s pretty much the sentiment. If he stands up to the people that boo him, the people that like him will rally behind him. And quite frankly, it will probably make the people that hate him now like him more. Regardless, WWE needs to stop fighting the crowd reactions to Cena and instead should use that heat to their advantage.

Cena said he went through a lot at Unforgiven, and couldn’t remember anything. Then he saw his title, and remembered that he is the champion. He said that after everything they went through, his feud with Edge is through. Edge came out to a big reaction. He said last night was a fluke, and he has a rematch clause. Cena said he saw hunger and fire in Edge at Unforgiven and he respects that, but challenged Edge to have the rematch immediately. Edge said that they aren’t in Canada, and made a bunch of anti-Quebec and anti-French comments that turned the crowd on him. He said he will take the title back, but not in Montreal.

Cena wanted to know why Edge was out there if not to throw down. Edge said he had a plan, and Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch ran in. They gave Cena the high low. They are a very tough sell as threats given they have been treated as jobbers for a long time. They apparently have been winning on Heat, but nobody knows that. DX came out and fought off Cade and Murdoch. Jonathan Coachman made a six man tag main event. This was a hot, albeit strange, start to the show.

Coach backstage wanted to speak to the McMahons via television. He said he would run Raw like the McMahons. They need a stale heel GM fill-in to appear eight times on the show lest anyone get the idea that a stale heel GM is not in fact a requisite part of professional wrestling and the McMahons do not in fact have to get 20 minutes of air time every show. Coach brought in Shelton Benjamin to speak to Vince through the camera. Shelton wanted to know why he wasn’t the McMahons’ partner, and concluded it was a racial thing before Coach escorted him off. Well, it’s better than making Shelton a part of Cryme Tyme.

Umaga beat Kane via disqualification. This was your basic WWF big man match. Kane threw punches, and Umaga hit a belly to belly and kicks. Umaga brought a chair into the ring, but there was a ref bump. Armando distracted Kane and Umaga hit Kane with a chair. Another referee came in to count, but Kane kicked out. Umaga hit a Samoan drop, but Kane came back with a big boot, clothesline and shoulder tackle. Kane brought a chair into the ring, but Umaga hit a thrust to the throat and chop. Umaga accidentally ran into the post and Kane hit a clothesline off the top.

Kane then grabbed a chair and hit Umaga with it three times for the disqualification. Kane chased Armando backstage and was going to attack him with a steel spike. Umaga jumped Kane from behind and left. Kane sat up and smiled. Considering they did a lame non-finish with these guys just last night, and they would do the same lame non-finish in the main event of this show, perhaps they should have found a different way of advancing this feud. It goes to what I was writing about the other week: matches need to feel like more than just a backdrop for other things.

They did another cutaway backstage to Maria wishing Vince well. This was really crappy comedic writing, with her thinking he was Ed McMahon or Jim McMahon. The Spirit Squad butted in. They said that they were sad about what happened to the McMahons, but happy that they were still the tag champions. Johnny Jeter said he challenged Ric Flair to a match and would dedicate it to Vince.

Ric Flair beat Johnny. Johnny wanted to go on his own, so the Squad waited at the ramp. Johnny hit punches, and Flair came back with chops. Johnny went to the eye and hit a sloppy back body drop on the floor. He hit a chop block, went after Flair’s leg, and applied the figure four. He hit a suplex into the ring, but missed the Johnny Go Round off the top. Flair retaliated with a chop block and chops. He went after the knee. He tried to apply the figure four, but Johnny rolled him up. Flair reversed that with a cradle of his own for the pin.

Lita backstage said she was sorry about what happened to Vince, and wanted to talk about the Women’s Title. Mickie James came in, and they got into an argument about whether Lita deserves it. Mickie put over Trish Stratus, which they should have just avoided doing since they had a really personal feud this year. Lita slapped Mickie, and they are apparently feuding now. That feud should work well, and they can get Mickie over as a face by linking her with Edge’s next opponent.

Randy Orton came out. He said he needed stitches the previous night but still won. He labeled that one of the most courageous performances in wrestling history. He said he is the future of the wrestling industry. Johnny Nitro came out and said he is the future of the industry. Nitro said he still has his title, and Orton doesn’t have any title. Nitro said Orton has been coasting on his rep while Nitro has gone to the top. Orton said he could take the Intercontinental Title or Melina any time he wants.

That brought out Chris Masters, who said he should be the Intercontinental Champion, and that he is the future of wrestling. Orton, Melina and Nitro laughed at him, which was funny. Nitro said this conversation was for people who matter, which was even funnier. Carlito then came out and said that while Orton won at Unforgiven, he’s a sore loser. He jumped Orton, and all the heels ganged up on him until Super Crazy and Jeff Hardy made the save. Coach made a six pack challenge for the Intercontinental Title, first pin wins. Jim Ross said Nitro’s title was as good as gone, which pretty much telegraphed the finish under WWE logic. This was a strong segment setting up the match.

Johnny Nitro won the six pack challenge. The basic layout of this match was Wrestler A hits Wrestler B with a move. Wrestler A covers Wrestler B, but Wrestler C makes the save. Repeat that pattern a bunch of times and you have the match. Obviously, there was way too much going on to keep track of, but that said, this was better than I expected. That’s principally because the guys all worked hard and the finishing sequence was cool if predictable.

Everyone went after Nitro in the midpoint of the match, and Crazy hit a springboard moonsault to the floor. Carlito went for a springboard but was caught with an Orton drop kick. Orton and Nitro hit a double back drop, but Orton then gave Nitro the RKO. Carlito hit the back cracker on Orton. Masters applied the Masterlock on Carlito, but Crazy broke it with a drop kick. Crazy went to the top, but Hardy knocked him off and hit the swanton on Masters. Nitro threw Hardy out of the ring and covered Masters for the win.

Cryme Tyme was back, and they car jacked a guy this week. HHH and Shawn Michaels had a message for Vince. They had a video tribute of them getting the best of the McMahons, and HHH read a poem. Candice then beat Lita. The crowd chanted nasty things at Lita in French. Lita worked Candice over with kicks, a suplex, and a side Russian leg sweep. She was going for a moonsault when Mickie James distracted her and Candice hit a second rope power bomb for the pin.

Edge, Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch beat John Cena and DX via disqualification. The heels worked over Michaels with an inverted atomic drop/big boot combo, neck breaker and more. Michaels hit an enzuigiri on Cade and tagged HHH. HHH went for the pedigree on Edge, but Cade broke that up with a clothesline. Edge brought in a chair and went to hit HHH with it but HHH gave Edge a spine buster. Murdoch went to hit Michaels with the chair, but Michaels took the chair and hit Murdoch with it for the DQ. Cena then gave Cade an FU. Edge was left alone with the other three. He was given sweet chin music and a pedigree. The focus of this match was on DX vs. Edge, which would suggest they are moving in that direction now.

Final Thoughts:

This show certainly didn’t extend the Raw streak of good shows to three, but it wasn’t awful either. There was more of an emphasis on wrestling again, but the booking was awful this week with not a single winner gaining anything from their win. It’s frustrating to see the same tired feuds continue, and the continuing focus on the McMahons even when they aren’t on the show is very irritating. On the plus side, the show went by quickly, and was generally a fun atmosphere. The talking segments were good. It didn’t have the same focus of the past few weeks without a PPV to build, which speaks to the need for long term planning where they are moving towards something in the future rather than just flying in a holding pattern.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Redskins Suck

Awful coaching.
Horrible effort.
Abysmal play.

It's hard to find anything good to say about this team. Looks like another disappointment from the Daniel Snyder regime, which makes a lot of moves but rarely gets them right. When do the Capitals start play?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Siege of Troy

It's a happy time for a lot of Bruin fans, as it's looking like USC is going to get some comeuppance for violations of NCAA rules, specifically when it comes to Reggie Bush. I wouldn't mind seeing USC get some sanctions, because lessened scholarships would likely drive some top prospects towards Westwood, but I find it hard to get morally indignant over these types of issues. To me, there is nothing morally wrong with college athletes who will be pro athletes getting money before they sign their inevitable huge deals. This doesn't violate any moral philosophy of mine, and it seems to me perfectly acceptable. What it does violate is NCAA rules, which are in place in my mind more to ensure higher profits for NCAA schools than to actually preserve "amateurism" or any other stated purpose. So while I've never been a huge *fan* of Reggie Bush (although he's obviously an awesome athlete), I don't think any less of him. I don't blame the school too harshly either, because they didn't play as active of a role, but I blame them more than Bush. After all, the rules on a school by school basis preserve a level playing field. It's not fair to turn your head to what you know are violations when you know that gives you an unfair advantage over other schools. Again, not a big moral concern to me, but just an issue of fairness. If USC was complicit in the payments to Bush, they should be punished out of fairness concerns, but I can't condemn USC too harshly for it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

WWE Re-Hires Has-Beens and Losers; Has-Beens and Losers Pleased

WWE today announced they have signed Marty Jannetty, Rodney Mack and Brad Armstrong, as well as Henry Godwinn. This continues the trend of bringing back guys who have been involved on the national level in the business previously, but who bring nothing to the table in 2006, such as Jim Duggan and Tatanka. I really wonder about WWE's hiring practices. It's like whoever is making the decisions on who to hire stopped watching American wrestling around 1995 or so, and just about everyone who is hired is some guy with no potential who hasn't meant anything in years if they ever did (along with some green muscleheads mixed in). It's baffling to me that with all the talent on the independent scene in the US right now with serious potential, that WWE passes on all of these guys and instead brings back the likes of the guys signed today. As if Bryan Danielson, Chris Hero or the Briscoes could possibly be any worse of a hire than those guys. They need someone making hiring decisions that understands the business today and knows the guys who are good but haven't worked for WWE, WCW or ECW.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

RIP Tupac

Tomorrow (the 13th) is the tenth anniversary of Tupac's death. It's a sad day, as Tupac was an incredible talent that should have accomplished so much more on this earth. He was a special artist who meant a great deal to me personally and is deeply missed by millions.

"ECW" Report

Oh My God!: Big Show retained the ECW Title defeating Sabu.

You Fucked Up: Nothing really this week.

He’s Hardcore: Mirko Cro Cop.

The Extreme Rundown:

Paul Heyman began the show. He proclaimed himself the prodigal son and savior of professional wrestling. He put over the importance of Madison Square Garden and credited himself for bringing ECW to MSG. He said listening to the people put ECW out of business, and now he listens to himself. He said he knows better than the fans and made compromises with Vince McMahon that brought ECW from the bingo hall to the Garden. Sabu came out, fought through security, and jumped Heyman. They pulled him off Heyman, but he hit them with chairs. Heyman made Sabu vs. Show in an extreme rules match. Sabu then attacked security with a springboard plancha. This was a great promo from Heyman.

1. Rob Van Dam beat Hardcore Holly via disqualification. RVD blew a moonsault from the barricade on the outside. Holly took over with punches, chokes and a drop kick. Holly came off the top but landed on RVD’s foot. RVD followed up with clotheslines, rolling thunder and a monkey flip. He went to the top, but Holly crotched him. Still, RVD was able to knock Holly off the ropes and was ready for the five star when Stevie Richards, Test and Mike Knox ran in. Test gave RVD a full nelson slam. They beat on him 4 on 1 until Sandman and Tommy Dreamer made the save. Richards received a cane shot, DDT, and frog splash. This was not a good match.

2. CM Punk beat Shannon Moore. Punk got a strong reaction and chants from the crowd. Moore slapped Punk and jumped him. That advantage lasted only briefly. Punk hit a springboard elbow, back leg round kick, knees from the clinch, running knee, bulldog, and slaps. He hit the uranage and applied the anaconda vise for the submission. This was a total squash. Backstage, Kelly Kelly told Punk what a fan she is of his and came onto him. Mike Knox pulled her away.

3. Rene Dupree beat Balls Mahoney. Kevin Thorn and Ariel came to ringside. Dupree attacked Balls with punches, stomps and elbow. He slapped Balls, and Balls fired back with punches and a sit down power bomb. They went to the outside where Balls took a shot at Thorn. Thorn kicked him into the steps, and Dupree rolled Balls back into the ring for the pin. Matt Striker backstage belittled Sandman. I hate these promos. Whoever writes them misuses about one out of every five “big” words, and they make the gimmick come across as so phony.

4. Big Show beat Sabu. Security jumped Sabu early and Show gave him a clothesline and stood on him. Sabu hit a low blow and threw a chair into Show’s head twice. He went for the camel clutch but Show lifted him up and hit a side slam. Sabu hit a kick off the top rope. Show went for a choke slam through a table, but Sabu instead hit a DDT through the table. Sabu hit him with a chair four times, the last time sending him through a table. Sabu hit a chair shot and went for a springboard to the outside, but was caught with a choke slam through a table. Security threw Sabu into the ring and Show followed with a cobra clutch back breaker and show stopper for the pin. Both men worked hard.

Please Don’t Go:

This was just a show. There was nothing particularly good nor particularly bad. One thing that has increased my confidence in the ECW shows is that they appear to get which guys are worth pushing and which aren’t. This is imperative given the lack of talent on the show. Given the success of CM Punk on ECW, it is strange that they haven’t made any movement to bring in other top independent talents.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Pride Final Conflict

Great show. I hope we aren't towards the end of loaded Pride shows like this, because this reminded me what I love so much about Pride. Just a really loaded show with all sorts of top fighters. I can't say seeing Cro Cop wrecking Wanderlei was all that surprising from a logical standpoint. Wanderlei was able to hang with Cro Cop years ago, but Cro Cop at that point was much worse on the ground and in takedown defense. That made it easier for Wanderlei to neutralize him, and it also made him less confident to let loose with kicks. Here there were no such reservations. That said, it was still viscerally stunning to see Wanderlei beaten that badly standing. And for the people speculating, no, I don't think Chuck would stand much of a chance against Cro Cop. Cro Cop is on a different level of striking than anyone Chuck has ever beaten. Nog vs. Barnett was a hell of a fight. Very close, but I thought Nog deserved the decision. He was able to get Barnett in better positions and I thought his arm bar attempt was the closest to the finish in the entire fight. That said, it's hard to argue with Barnett because it was really close. Perhaps I was just more interested in the Nog-Cro Cop rematch than Barnett-Cro Cop III after a relatively lackluster I and II. The undercard also had a bunch of impressive performances, with Cyborg looking good and Arona showing some great leg kicks. I was disappointed in Kharitonov, who has been very inconsistent in his MMA career. I think he's capable of a lot better than he has shown. I'm looking forward to Pride's US debut.

Raw Report

WWE Raw Report

By: Todd Martin
Email: MartinT2007@lawnet.ucla.edu
Blog: toddwmartin.blogspot.com

Date: 09/11/06 from New York, NY.

The Big News: Raw set its 2006 record with two good shows in a row. Hopefully next week they can bring that number up to an impressive three. WWE returned to Madison Square Garden and delivered a mostly fun show that set up Unforgiven well.

Title Changes/Turns: None.

Match Results: Umaga b Ric Flair-DQ; Rowdy Roddy Piper & Highlanders b Kenny Doane, Johnny Jeter & Mikey Mondo; John Cena, Carlito Caribbean Cool & Jeff Hardy b Edge, Randy Orton & Johnny Nitro; Super Crazy b Chris Masters; Trish Stratus b Mickie James; Vince McMahon b Triple H.

Show Analysis:

The show began with a moment of silence and America the Beautiful.

Umaga beat Ric Flair via disqualification. Flair chopped Umaga repeatedly, but Umaga mostly no sold and grabbed Flair by the throat. Armando signaled for the Samoan spike, but Flair hit three low blows and punches. Umaga threw him all the way out of the ring to the floor. Flair grabbed a chair and hit him twice in the head with it. Umaga no sold that, and Flair acted afraid and ran away. Flair grabbed the steps at ringside, but Umaga ripped them away. Finally he caught Flair and gave him a Samoan drop on the floor.

At that point Kane came out and brawled with Umaga. He went for the choke slam, but Umaga gave him a belly to belly suplex and hit him with a chair twice. Kane sat up, hit a big boot, and hit Umaga with a chair twice to send him from the ring. Kane then hurled the steps over the top rope onto Umaga on the floor, which was impressive. Kane hit Umaga with the steps and Umaga left.

The first part of this was a fantastic opening. The violence on Flair was so sudden that it had a really strong effect in putting over Umaga. However, the second part with Kane felt like a really formulaic brawl of “monsters.” They would have been better off with Umaga killing Flair, and Kane coming up on the steps and staring at Umaga. Shane and Vince McMahon were backstage at the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame. Of course this was a buildup to Vince’s star.

Roddy Piper and the Highlanders beat the Spirit Squad in a six man tag. Piper came out with the Highlanders and New York Police Department bagpipe players. Piper and the Highlanders traded slaps for fun. The Squad came out and made fun of their kilts, so Piper challenged them to a match. Squad used their numbers advantage, as Mikey, Kenny and Johnny worked over Robbie with a double suplex, punches, kicks and elbows. Robbie tagged Piper, who came in with punches, an eye poke, low blows and knee lifts. Piper back dropped Kenny over the top rope onto the rest of the Squad and the Highlanders hit a slingshot reverse suplex for a Piper pin. Piper was a pleasant surprise.

Johnny Nitro and Melina backstage said that they aren’t boring, but Mick Foley was. Behind them Jeff Hardy was splashing random paint on a sheet of paper. Nitro kicked this over, and for some reason this infuriated Hardy. He dumped a couple cans of paint on Nitro, so he would have to wrestle covered with paint. They ran a nice little video package for Trish Stratus’ “final” match Sunday. I wish they showed all their performers this kind of respect, particularly ones who have been around for a long time.

Jeff Hardy, John Cena and Carlito beat Edge, Randy Orton and Johnny Nitro. Edge prior to the match said that this would be Cena’s final Raw. Edge said that Cena could go back to his old raps, and he had a rap for him as well. It wasn’t very good, but Edge’s mannerisms and facials were great. I also like that he is back to being more arrogant rather than whiny. Ross responded to this rap, “What am I supposed to say to that? You the man, dog?”

The story of this match was John Cena. He wasn’t even in the match all that much, and yet the crowd chanted back and forth, for and against him, for pretty much the entire match. This was really interesting, although it did distract from the match. Carlos Colon was in attendance, and they pointed him out. Nitro and Hardy started, with Hardy hitting punches and a leg drop to the groin. Carlito came in with punches and a drop kick. Orton was tagged, and Orton and Edge worked over Carlito. Carlito hit a huracanrana on Edge and tagged in Cena.

Cena came in with punches on Orton and a fisherman buster. He went after Edge, but Orton gave him a suplex. Carlito came in, but got worked over by the heels. He made the tag to Hardy who choked Orton and clotheslined him to the outside. Hardy screwed up a springboard plancha off of Carlito to the outside. The heels worked over Hardy’s leg, and then worked over Carlito.

Cena tagged in and went to town. Orton was going to jump him from behind, but Carlito gave Orton the back cracker and Hardy hit the swanton on him. Cena went for the FU on Edge, but Nitro stopped it. Cena then gave Nitro the FU and applied the STFU for the tap out as Edge left up the apron. The match was unfocused and mediocre, but had a decent ending.

They aired some packages for Hell in a Cell throughout the show. With all the dramatic moments, it just underscores the silliness of using the gimmick for such a stale feud. One gets the sense that there may be desperation over not wanting to deliver a really weak buy rate for the DX vs. McMahons blow off. They aired another Cryme Tyme vignette, with them robbing a guy.

Super Crazy upset Chris Masters again. Masters beat down Crazy early. Crazy came back with a springboard crossbody for two. He hit a drop toe hold, springboard drop kick, drop kick off the top and standing moonsault for another near fall. He then rolled up Masters for the pin. This was a fun little match, and it’s nice to see Crazy getting the push. Of course, if they are open to pushing smaller guys who can’t talk, there are guys out there who are a lot better right now than Crazy.

Trish Stratus beat Mickie James. Mickie is now a face, without a real turn. The announcers really put over Trish, which was nice. Trish and Mickie went for pinning combinations early. Trish hit a Thesz press but ran into an elbow. Trish went for the Stratusphere, but Mickie hit a huracanrana. They hit simultaneous clotheslines. Mickie went to the top but Trish caught her with the Stratusphere.

They traded punches and Trish hit the whirly bird. She missed a chick kick and Mickie rolled her up for two. Trish went for the Stratusfaction, but Lita came out to distract her. Stratus used Lita’s face for leverage in hitting the Stratusfaction and scored the pin. Mickie and Trish shook hands and hugged after the match. Trish then thanked the fans. This was a good match and a nice TV sendoff for Trish.

Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch confronted DX on the way to the ring, and they jumped DX along with Shane McMahon. They rammed HHH into a limousine, and Big Show dropped Michaels on the limousine twice. They slammed the car door on HHH and he bled from the ear. Vince McMahon then said that his match with HHH would be no holds barred.

Vince McMahon beat HHH. HHH was selling his injuries huge, and Vince beat him up. Vince gave HHH the pedigree but HHH kicked out. HHH made a comeback, but Shane interfered. Michaels ran in, but Show came in with a power bomb on Michaels. Shane hit Michaels with a chair. Vince hit HHH with the sledgehammer and covered him for the pin.

The story here was the crowd reaction. After being so hot for Cena early, they were completely dead for this. They didn’t react much when HHH made his comebacks, nor did they react when Vince was beating him up. They were just really silent, and didn’t seem to care for the boring, tired segment. This amazing reaction to the first MSG main event in ages should serve as a strong sign about what current fans are interested in and aren’t interested in. Hopefully after Unforgiven the McMahons will have a greatly reduced or eliminated television role, and the focus of the show will be on fresher characters like Edge, Cena and Orton. They still have something really powerful with Cena if they can find a way to fully utilize the strongly divided crowds.

Final Thoughts:

If last week’s Raw was good, this edition of Raw was even better. There is finally a renewed emphasis on wrestling, along with more straight forward build and segments that don’t insult the audience. It was also nice to see them have the confidence to put people over the week before a pay-per-view. Usually these go home shows have one DQ non-finish after another. They would be well served to stay true to the model they have been following the past couple of weeks. This show was well worth the two hours.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Trip Observations

I went to NYC over the weekend for a wedding. It was a good time. We were staying at the Millennium Hilton, which is literally right next to Ground Zero, which was a weird and kind of sad location for a wedding 5 years to the week after 9/11. We could see the whole area from our room, and it brought back some sad memories. The protestors were organizing this morning as Bush was about to come in as I was leaving. The wedding itself was really nice. I love New York, and haven't spent much time in the city since college, which is a shame. I was able to hang out with some friends in the city, which was fun. We headed down to Times Square and I walked around Manhattan a while. On the flight back today as I was going through security who should I see but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. This is not someone you miss in an airport, and I actually had him identified just based on his frame and complexion before I even saw his face. He didn't look in the greatest mood so I didn't bother him. I also read Superstar Billy Graham's book on the plane, and I highly recommend it. Very interesting stuff and he has a fascinating story. I caught the Bengals-Chiefs game in the airport, and man I can understand why Chiefs fans are down on Herm Edwards right now. Chiefs looked awful. I text messaged a friend "Trent Green's going to die" right before he got knocked out of the game in a violent fashion, because he had scrambled out of the pocket under extreme pressure on like three straight plays. Sounds like a fun opening weekend of football, but I haven't seen the highlights yet. Nice to see the Rams get an impressive first victory. Not looking like such a bad pick, eh?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

MMA Star Rankings

So the Torch has gotten into the MMA game. Smart, given how much better it is than the pro wrestling scene these days. But let's just say I'm a little skeptical as to their approach upon discovering that they are giving star ratings to shootfights. This is an unbelievable absurdity. I'm not a big fan of pro wrestling star ratings to begin with. It seems to be pointless to try to do hardcore comparisons of matches and rank them given how extemporaneous pro wrestling is and how it isn't crafted like a movie or book with care paid to every section. Essentially, it always ends up descending into over-analysis in my mind. But MMA ratings go so far beyond this in absurdity. MMA fights are not fought for consumer consumption. They are fought to win. There is no point in ranking them, because careful dileniation of the quality of fights is pointless. I don't watch sports to see the best possible competition and artistry. I watch sports because I want to know who's the best. A fight can be completely undramatic and still be a really important and interesting fight for what it teaches you about the respective fighters. The whole idea strikes me as created by someone who has been following pro wrestling for too long and doesn't get MMA for what it is. You're never going to see anyone with a brain trying to decide whether a football game was **1/2 or ***, so why on earth would you apply that to fighting? They are fighting, not doing a freaking ballet. And even if the idea made sense, it's awful strategically. The MMA fan market is growing a lot faster than the wrestling fan market (which isn't growing). If you want to draw in MMA fans to your product, you need to establish yourself as a credible MMA source. And that's not going to happen when you associate yourself with a goofy pro wrestling rating system that fight fans are going to laugh at and move on from. So yeah, really awful idea.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Funny Article

Celebrities: Better than You. My favorite part is the "Narcissistic Personality Inventory test, which rates self-love levels based on seven components: superiority, exhibitionism, entitlement, vanity, authority, exploitativeness and entitlement." I guess entitlement counts double. Anyway, I would love to get back the results of that one. "Well, Mr. Martin, I'm sorry to tell you that your levels of entitlement and exhibitionism are low. Luckily for you, that is offset by your healthy sense of superiority, as well as your exploitativeness and vanity. You are a first class narcissist."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"ECW" Report

Oh My God!: DX appeared in “ECW” and wrestled Big Show to a non-conclusion in the main event.

You Fucked Up: They took a shot at the Crocodile Hunter’s death for cheap midcard heat.

He’s Hardcore: Not Shannon Moore. Evidently, he’s a poser.

The Extreme Rundown:

1. Sabu and Rob Van Dam beat Test and Mike Knox in an “extreme rules” match. Joey Styles and Tazz said about 10 times during this match how you can “only get extreme rules” in ECW and on Sci-Fi. They need to kill that. It’s intended to differentiate, but it just associates ECW as another WWE “brand,” since Raw and Smackdown drop those lines all the time and it just accentuates how they are exactly the same. The shows all have the same cookie cutter image of “sports entertainment,” only Raw has a women’s title, Smackdown has cruiserweights, and ECW has “extreme rules.”

Sabu and Knox started, and Knox through punches prior to a Sabu clothesline off the second rope. RVD tagged in and Knox cut him off with punches, a body slam and elbow drop. Test followed with punches and clotheslines. Sabu and RVD did their old double team rolling thunder/leg drop combination. Test went for a press slam on Sabu, but RVD kicked him in the face. Sabu drove all three men off the ring apron through a table.

They did some spots with chairs. Test dropped Sabu on a chair, RVD drop kicked a chair into Test’s face, and Knox hit RVD with a chair. Sabu hit the Arabian face buster on Test for two. He hit a triple jump moonsault for another two. Sabu threw a chair into Knox’s face, and RVD hit Test with another chair. Sabu and RVD hit double team leg drops on Knox through a table for the finish, ala their match with Hayabusa and Jinsei Shinzaki at Heatwave 1998. Sabu and RVD worked hard, but this match was spotty and unfocused.

Matt Striker came out and made fun of the Little League World Series. He cited a book by Rush Limbaugh of all people as the sort of thing you would read to educate yourself. He took a completely unnecessary shot at Crocodile Hunter’s death for cheap heat. I didn’t even care about that story and it struck me as terribly insensitive. Sandman came out and Striker ran away. They are recreating Razor Ramon vs. Dean Douglas, and what a success that was the first time through.

2. Stevie Richards beat Balls Mahoney. Kevin Thorn came to ringside to watch the match. Ariel was grinding on Joey Styles’ lap before the match, and all Styles could think about was not getting bit. Ariel really exudes sexuality in this role. Balls hit some punches early but missed an avalanche into the corner. Richards stomped him, executed a neck breaker, and applied a chin lock. Balls came back with an elbow, clothesline and punches. Thorn got up on the apron, and Balls knocked him off. Ariel distracted the referee, Richards hit a low blow and Thorn bashed Balls with his staff for the finish.

Shannon Moore was doing another package backstage, when CM Punk came in. Punk confronted him, called him a poser, and slapped him in the face. Moore looked like he was going to cry. I guess this means Moore will actually be wrestling in ECW.

3. DX beat Big Show via disqualification in the main event. This made no sense. It was scheduled to be an “extreme rules” match, but Paul Heyman changed that before the match. Of course, that just meant his security team couldn’t interfere freely, and Show got disqualified when Hardcore Holly interfered. This also made the match into pretty much a straight handicap match with bizarre psychology, one heel taking on two faces rather than two faces taking on five heels.

HHH scored punches on Show early. Michaels hit a DDT with a HHH assist. Michaels and HHH went for a double suplex but Show got out and gave Michaels a suplex. Styles claimed Show has unlimited power. Maybe next week they can show him lifting a truck over his head. Show slapped HHH and gave Michaels a head butt. Show body slammed HHH, but missed a Vader style splash in the corner.

Michaels was bouncing off the ropes when Heyman’s security pulled them down. They attacked Michaels and HHH. Back in the ring, Show slapped Michaels and went for the choke slam. HHH ran in and stopped it. HHH hit a clothesline and spine buster. Michaels took out security with a pescado. HHH went for the pedigree, but Holly ran in and attacked HHH for a DQ. Michaels gave Holly a flying forearm and inverted atomic drop, but Show threw him down. Security, Holly and Show beat down Michaels until HHH made the save with the sledgehammer.

Please Don’t Go:

This show was uneventful, and the stuff it did have wasn’t particularly good.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Raw Report

Date: 09/04/06 from Atlanta, GA.

The Big News: Raw was actually quite strong this week. We’ll see if improved focus will pay off in an improved buy rate for Unforgiven.

Title Changes/Turns: None.

Match Results: Jeff Hardy b Johnny Nitro-DQ; Super Crazy b Chris Masters; Highlanders b Charlie Haas & Viscera and Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch; Edge, Randy Orton & Lita b John Cena, Carlito Caribbean Cool & Trish Stratus.

Show Analysis:

We start with a correction from last week’s report, thanks to Jim Ross (http://jrsbarbq.com/blog/2006/08/30/12/#more-12). When the Highlanders were escorted from ringside, he joked that they had green cards, not “ring cards.” Frankly, I didn’t know what ring cards were either, but just thought it sounded really funny, like the old manager’s license. It was hardly meant as a damnation of some sort. My apologies. With that, we move on to the show.

Edge began the show on a ladder. He said he could now count down to the time when he will no longer have to deal with John Cena. He said Cena will go to CW, and CW stands for “can’t win” because Cena can’t beat Edge in Edge’s hometown in Edge’s match. He aired a video package of pro-Edge propaganda. Cena entered the ring. Edge jumped off the ladder but Cena caught him and put him through a table with the FU.

Jeff Hardy beat Johnny Nitro via disqualification. Hardy was painting backstage prior to the match to make the point that Melina and Nitro’s press conference was like watching paint dry. This was so forced. Hardy went for some rollups early in the match. Nitro dominated most of the match, attacking Hardy’s back. He used a back breaker, punches, and a side suplex. Hardy hit a jaw breaker, but Nitro quickly struck back with a hot shot, back breaker and side Russian leg sweep.

Hardy retaliated with the electric chair, and rolled through on a Nitro crossbody attempt for a near fall. Nitro hit a standing shooting star press for two. Hardy went to the top, but Melina distracted him and Nitro knocked him off. Hardy still was able to come back with a twist of fate, but Melina stopped the count for a disqualification. Hardy gave Nitro the swanton afterwards. This was a pretty good little match.

Trish ran into Lita backstage. They argued, and Trish challenged Lita to one last match for the women’s title at Unforgiven. Lita accepted, and they got into a fight. Carlito was pulling Trish off when Randy Orton jumped him from behind and they had a pull apart brawl. Lita went to the McMahons’ office and muttered incoherently. Somehow Shane figured out what she wanted, and ended up making a 6 person tag with Cena, Carlito and Trish vs. Edge, Orton and Lita.

Super Crazy beat Chris Masters. Masters issued an open challenge, and Raw newcomer Crazy came out. Masters overpowered him early, slamming him and ramming him into the post. Crazy came back with a springboard drop kick and somersault pescado. Crazy hit a sunset flip off the top for a near fall. Crazy missed a springboard crossbody and Masters went for the Masterlock. Crazy escaped and rolled up Masters for two. Masters hit a clothesline, but Crazy drop kicked his leg and hit a moonsault for three. This was a surprisingly good match, and I was pleasantly surprised to see them give Crazy something of a push and put him over cleanly.

The McMahons and Big Show came to the ring. Vince was in better spirits. Shane gloated about last week. Show said he would leave Triple H and Shawn Michaels handicapped after tomorrow night’s match. Vince said the fans aren’t laughing anymore, and he who laughs last laughs loudest. He said they would destroy DX in Hell in a Cell. DX came out with a sledgehammer and chair, looking angry. HHH said it has been a while since they tasted their own blood, and thanked Vince for reminding them who they are. They came to the ring and laid out the McMahon security force as the McMahons and Show fled. This was a hot segment.

Highlanders won a three way match to earn a tag title shot at Unforgiven over Charlie Haas & Viscera and Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch. The Spirit Squad watched from ringside. Cade and Murdoch hit a high-low and inverted atomic drop/yakuza kick combination on Rory. Murdoch hit some stiff blows on Rory. Viscera gave Rory a leg drop and an avalanche to Cade and Murdoch. Robbie tagged in and won with a sunset flip into the ring on Haas. This wasn’t much of a match. Backstage, Carlito told Trish he was pissed off about the way Orton talked about him and said he would spit in Orton’s face.

Maria was doing the kiss cam when Ric Flair came out. He wanted a kiss from Maria, so they kissed. He started to talk about making Mick Foley quit when Armando came out. He wanted Flair to declare Umaga the man, but Flair refused. Armando proceeded to bring out Umaga. As Umaga entered the ring, Kane came out. He attacked Umaga with punches and kicked him out of the ring. Backstage, Vince McMahon made himself vs. HHH from Madison Square Garden next week on Raw.

They aired the first “Cryme Tyme” vignette, which featured 2 unintelligent black criminals stealing money from a restaurant and beating up the clerk. This wasn’t actually as offensive as it reads, because it was done tongue in cheek, but this whole concept is so stupid. It’s not like this gimmick is going to make any money, and the most likely consequences are pissing people off, bringing negative attention to the product, and further eroding the mainstream view of wrestling and wrestling fans.

Also, you have to consider the source of humor to understand the message it sends. Sarah Silverman and Mel Gibson can tell the same joke, and people are rightfully going to take it very differently. WWE is a company that has exploited cheap and offensive stereotypes for decades. They gave us Goldust, designed to exploit fans’ homophobia. They gave us Hispanic heels who ride to the ring on lawn mowers carrying tequila bottles. They gave us fried chicken eating jive soul bro Slick. They gave us Muhammad Hassan and his masked men with piano wire. WWE has constantly shown derision or outright hostility towards minority groups in its storylines, and hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to racial humor even jokingly depicting blacks as moronic criminals.

Randy Orton, Edge and Lita beat John Cena, Carlito and Trish. Teddy Long was in the crowd cheering for Cena, wanting him to jump to Smackdown. Orton and Cena started. Cena hit a shoulder tackle and neck breaker. Carlito came in but Orton went to the eye and tagged out. Trish and Lita tagged in, and Trish got the better of the exchange. After a break, Carlito went to town on Orton with a knee lift, clothesline and springboard elbow. However, he was sent to the outside and Edge worked him over.

Orton and Edge tagged back and forth beating down Carlito. Carlito finally made the tag to Cena, and the faces beat up the heels. In the ring, Trish hit the Stratusphere on Lita and was ready for the chick kick. Edge was about to spear Trish, but Carlito made the save. Then Orton leaped into the screen with an RKO on Trish, and Lita covered for the pin. This was a dramatic conclusion to the show.

Final Thoughts:

This was easily among the best Raws of the year. There was solid build for the pay-per-view, better wrestling than usual and nothing insulting with one very notable exception. I was kind of dreading the show after being spoiled by an overabundance of great wrestling this weekend, but Raw did a very good job of what WWE historically has done well.

But that won’t stop me from concluding the report the way I planned all along. You really need to pick up the PWG Battle of Los Angeles 2006. Three incredible shows make for an awesome value, and it’s a must have for fans starved for high quality professional wrestling. You can see my reviews of the shows elsewhere on this site, and Bryan Alvarez will have a huge write-up in F4W this week as well. You should definitely pick it up.

PWG Battle of Los Angeles Night Three Report

1. El Generico beat Chris Sabin. The crowd was very quiet early after having seen so much the night before. They did basic mat wrestling early, trading chops and arm drags. Sabin left the ring and then said “fuck you” to a guy who had just given him water. That got big heat, so Generico came out and took water from the guy. Generico hit a heel kick and standing moonsault. Sabin responded with a forearm, snap mare, and kick to the head. He hit a body slam and a somersault senton for two. Generico hit an elbow, a crossbody off the top, clotheslines and a tornado DDT for a two.

Sabin had a tornado DDT attempt stopped, but he then pushed Generico off the ropes. He hit a diamond cutter, a kick, a drop kick and a sit down power bomb for two. Generico hit a drop kick but Sabin retaliated with a head over heels clothesline. He went for the cradle shock but Generico got out and hit an exploder for two. Generico went for his big boot but ran into a Sabin superkick. Sabin then hit a fisherman buster and senton off the top for a close near fall. Sabin hit some chops and tied Generico to the tree of woe, but Generico escaped and hit the big boot. He then hit his brainbustah on the top turnbuckle for the pin. This started slow but built really well.

2. CIMA beat Kevin Steen. They traded rollups early, and exchanged holds. Steen hit a shoulder block and senton. He offered to let CIMA back in the ring, but then attacked him from behind with kicks. He acted more like a heel for the rest of the match, which was a positive since he is a much better heel than face. Steen hit a running elbow and ripped at CIMA’s face. He followed with a chop, capture suplex and body scissors. Steen hit a shoulder tackle but went for a second and instead ran into the post.

CIMA executed a body slam and they sold this move huge. CIMA followed with a belly to back suplex and came off the top, but Steen caught him with a Samoan drop for two. Steen hit a moonsault for another two. He went for another moonsault but CIMA caught him climbing the ropes and gave him the back cracker. He followed with a drop kick and guillotine choke into a DDT. CIMA then hit a Michinoku driver for two. Steen hit a hard clothesline, but CIMA was able to respond with a super kick and use a small package for the pin. This was a good match.

3. Roderick Strong beat Dragon Kid. Dragon tried to avoid Strong’s power early in the match, but walked into a drop kick. Strong went to attack him on the outside but hit the post instead. Dragon worked on his hand and arm for the rest of the match. He drop kicked the hand and continued to assault it. Strong retaliated with a side suplex and butterfly suplex. Dragon hit a spin kick to the head, but Strong quickly regained control with a fall away slam. Strong hit a back breaker, applied a bear hug, and hit an overhead belly to belly. He followed with punches, a chop and another bear hug.

Dragon escaped with a DDT and hit a flying head scissors. He used a springboard moonsault to the floor and back in the ring he hit diamond dust. Dragon dropped Strong’s arm on the ropes and went for a huracanrana. That was reversed into a back breaker, and Strong used a clothesline that dropped Dragon on his head. Dragon hit the crucifix driver and hit a huracanrana for two. Strong quickly answered with a gorilla press into a back cracker. Dragon hit a drop kick off the top and went for a springboard huracanrana, but Strong caught him and applied the Stronghold for a quick submission. These wrestlers’ styles fit well together.

4. Davey Richards beat Austin Aries. This match can be used as solid proof that these two are indeed not the same person. They did some chain wrestling early, and went back and forth. Aries hit a drop kick and tope, which was the first explosion of the match. He continued with a somersault senton, elbow drop and high knee. Richards used knees to the ribs, but Aries stopped him with the rolling fireman carry. Aries went for a splash off the top but hit Richards’ knees. Richards hit a back breaker, a hard kick and applied the abdominal stretch.

Aries escaped, hit some clotheslines, and a roaring elbow. He dropped an elbow off the top rope and applied the Rings of Saturn. Richards hit a running power slam, and a leg drop off the second rope for two. Aries came back with kicks, and they traded high kicks. Aries kicked Richards to the head and hit a brain buster for two. Aries missed a 450 splash, and Richards hit a back breaker and clothesline. Richards missed a second clothesline and Aries rolled him up for two. Richards applied a cloverleaf like Edgecator for the submission.

5. Jack Evans beat Genki Horiguchi. Evans was off early, and was missing moves. Luckily he settled down as the match continued. Genki slammed him down by his doo rag. Evans hit a springboard spinning kick. He stood on Genki and hit a standing moonsault. He drop kicked Genki’s leg and used a modified surfboard. He followed with leg kicks and a handspring elbow attempt where he drove into a Genki kick. Genki hit a springboard moonsault, slam, double foot stomp off the top and drop kick off the top.

Evans retaliated with a fisherman buster, and a standing moonsault into a 450. Genki went for the tornado DDT but Evans nipped up before his head hit the mat and he hit a shining wizard. Genki quickly struck back with a brain buster and cobra clutch suplex for two. Evans and Genki both had rollups. Genki hit the beach break, but Evans kicked out at two. Evans hit a 630 off the top, but Genki kicked out. Genki went for a back slide, but Evans got out and went for a back slide of his own. He flipped over into a bridge to hold down Genki for the pin. This was sloppy early but really picked up into a strong finish.

6. Super Dragon beat Frankie Kazarian via forfeit. Joey Ryan hit Kazarian with a chair from behind before the match, and Lost dropped him from a torture rack into a chair. Dragon then came out and gave Jade Chung the curb stomp, which was an incredible spot. Kazarian couldn’t compete, so Dragon won via forfeit. This was fine because the show was long enough as it was.

7. CIMA beat El Generico in the next round. They traded chops early, and Generico hit a drop kick and split legged moonsault for two. Generico hit chops, but CIMA responded with a back cracker. A little girl in the audience cheered for Generico, and CIMA responded by giving her a dirty look and raking Generico’s eyes. This was hilarious. He choked Generico and drop kicked Generico’s head into the corner. Generico came back with a drop kick and hit a springboard moonsault to the floor.

Generico then hit a tornado DDT on the floor. Generico hit a splash off the top back in the ring for a close two. CIMA hit a springboard foot stomp and springboard drop kick, followed by an ace crusher for two. Generico missed his big boot and CIMA hit a backwards Razor’s Edge. CIMA then went for a frog splash off the top but missed and Generico hit his big boot. He then hit a back drop driver, but CIMA kicked out.

Generico went for his brainbustah, but CIMA got out and hit an incredible tornado DDT off the top. CIMA then hit his schwein. Somehow Generico still kicked out at two, and the crowd chanted “this is awesome.” CIMA then hit a second schwein and covered for the win. This was a fantastic match, right up there with Strong-Romero and the tag title match as the best matches up to this point. Generico has always been good during the time I’ve seen him, but he keeps getting better. He was one of the best performers this entire weekend, and deserves more credit as a phenomenal wrestler.

8. Davey Richards defeated Roderick Strong. Strong shoved Richards at the start of the match, and they brawled early. Richards went for a guillotine choke. Richards got a surfboard and camel clutch. Strong went for the Stronghold three times, but Richards escaped each time. After a rope break, Strong slapped Richards. Richards kicked him, hit strong punches, a chop, a forearm and a drop kick to the head.

Richards followed with a drop kick off the top, a clothesline, an elbow, a back body drop, and a running power slam. He continued the onslaught with an enzuigiri, exploder, forearm, clothesline and kicks. Finally Strong came back with a back breaker and chop. Richards went for the shooting star press but Strong got up his knees to the head. Strong hit a power bomb but Richards kicked out. Strong went for the Stronghold but Richards rolled him up for the win. This was great while it lasted, but it was one match on the weekend that would have benefited from a little more time.

9. Super Dragon beat Jack Evans. Dragon was legitimately hurt last night, so this was his only real match of the evening. Dragon is one of the best things about PWG, but if he is in bad shape these days he should take even more time off so he can get fully healthy. This was still a fun match. Dragon hit a hard forearm at the start, but Evans hit a huracanrana off the top and a handspring corkscrew moonsault to the floor. He went for a handspring elbow but was caught with a tombstone.

Dragon followed with chops, but Evans came back with a double knee and standing moonsault into a 450. Evans hit a corkscrew moonsault off the top into a frankensteiner, which was just awesome. Dragon hit a back drop driver, but Evans hit a reverse huracanrana for two. Evans missed a corkscrew 630. Dragon went for the psycho driver, but Evans got out with kicks and hit a shining wizard. He went to the top but Dragon caught him and hit a top rope power bomb at a horrible angle for the pin. Evans did a great job this weekend, and he is so much fun to watch.

10. Delirious, Colt Cabana, M-Dogg 20 and Quicksilver beat Claudio Castagnoli, Chris Hero, Rocky Romero and Necro Butcher. This match reads really weird, and I wasn’t expecting much out of it, but it ended up being easily one of the best matches of the weekend. I’m not even a big fan of comedic wrestling matches, but this was absolutely hilarious. Colt Cabana in particular was great, and this was a blast. Colt tried to recruit Necro to his side early in the match, and the two teams fought over who got to be on his side.

Necro was really over after taking so much punishment last night. Delirious had been sitting in the corner staring forward while Cabana and M-Dogg did all sorts of things to get him to react such as sticking their crotches and feet in his face. Then the bell rang and Delirious went nuts running all over the place. Hero and M-Dogg started. Delirious became belligerent about a phantom hair pull. Romero and Colt were next. Romero tagged Necro. Colt ran away into the crowd and counted himself out quickly. When Romero tagged back in, Colt returned, eager for a fight. Romero hit some kicks and Colt retaliated with palm thrusts and a kick to the head.

Claudio and Quick came in next. Claudio smugly threw him into the corner and slapped him. Quick slapped him back and hit a flying head scissors. Claudio tagged in Necro and Delirious wanted in. Delirious hit hard chops and punches, but Necro completely no sold. He raked Necro’s face, and then cowered before the angry Necro. Necro kicked him twice, but Delirious hit a clothesline. That got Necro angry and he pummeled Delirious with punches, kicks and chops. Delirious bit him. The Kings of Wrestling tagged in and double teamed Quick. Romero gave him a fisherman suplex for two. Claudio gave him snake eyes for another two.

Claudio held up Delirious for a Chris Hero drop kick. Romero hit a knee drop on Delirious, and Hero hit some chops. However, Hero walked into a boot and a drop toe hold, and Delirious tagged Colt. Colt came in with elbows on Claudio, a butt drop and a high knee. M-Dogg tagged in with a springboard moonsault. Quick tagged in and gave Claudio an enzuigiri. Hero tagged in and the Kings of Wrestling and Necro hit a triple team power bomb on Quick. Claudio followed that with a delayed vertical suplex.

The two teams had a tug of war trying to move Quick to their corner, while Delirious grabbed the referee. Romero drove Quick into Necro’s head. Quick came back with a springboard clothesline and tagged Delirious. Delirious gave Hero literally 50 straight clotheslines and hit a bulldog for two. Delirious back dropped Claudio over the top onto Hero. M-Dogg hit a handspring somersault plancha to the outside. Romero hit a tope to the outside. Quick hit a plancha to the outside. Colt hit an Asai moonsault to the outside.

Finally it was Necro’s turn but the referee tried to stop him. So Necro proceeded to power bomb the referee over the top. Necro then hit a somersault senton off the top rope to the floor. This all was insane. Back in the ring M-Dogg hit a sky twister press on Hero for a two. Quick slapped Necro, and Necro went bonkers with punches and kicks. Delirious hit a drop kick off the top on Necro. Claudio hit a reverse DVD on Colt. Quick then ran up Claudio into a huracanrana on Hero and rolled up Hero for the pin. This match was oodles of fun.

11. Davey Richards defeated CIMA to win the Battle of Los Angeles. Joey Ryan came out before the match to chants of “boring” and “same old shit.” That’s not a positive sign for your champion. He said that the Dynasty had taken Super Dragon out backstage and eliminated him from the tournament, so the final would be a singles match. CIMA sold being tired for this match. Richards hit a side suplex and kicks. CIMA used a surfboard, but Richards came back with a snap suplex and body slam.

He hit a head butt, stomach breaker, back breaker and camel clutch. He hit some kicks but CIMA no sold them and caught a kick attempt and hit a double foot stomp. He hit a senton for a two. He followed with a double foot stomp and side Russian leg sweep. He executed a crucifix cradle for two. He then hit a running double knee, tied Richards to the tree of woe, and used a drop kick to the head. He missed the Van Terminator but hit a back cracker shortly thereafter.

Richards finally fought back with a tombstone for two. He went to the top, but CIMA gave him a fisherman buster off the top rope. Richards hit a kick and a Liger bomb for two. He went for the DR driver, but CIMA escaped. Richards hit a DDT instead and hit a shooting star press for two. CIMA then caught him with the schwein for two. He went for another but was caught with the DR driver for the pin. This was an excellent match.

Most of the wrestlers came out to congratulate Richards. Richards said he is in line for a title shot with Ryan, but the only belts he cares about are the tag titles that he held with Super Dragon. He said that tag title reign was his biggest accomplishment in wrestling, and Dynasty’s cheating to win will change. He asked for a tag title match with Dragon against Arrogance at the next show with Dynasty banned from ringside. Dino made the match.

Hopefully this means Dragon turns on Richards, Richards beats Ryan for the title, and Richards feuds with Dragon over the title. That is the sort of feud that can rekindle interest in the singles title. Of course, Dragon and Richards as tag champs feuding with Kings of Wrestling, Briscoes, Homicide & B-Boy and Arrogance would also work pretty well. In any event, Richards was the perfect choice to win the Battle of Los Angeles this year.

Final Thoughts:

This was a phenomenal weekend of wrestling. It offered great match after great match, with a tremendous mixture of styles. As depressing as pro wrestling has become on the national level, it’s always nice when independent wrestling can remind you why you love professional wrestling in the first place. I’m not one for hyperbole, so I’ll keep this really basic and succinct. You MUST order these shows. You can get all three for $30 on DVD. You will get somewhere between 20 and 100 times the value of a $40 WWE pay-per-view. It will be money very well spent. PWG hit a grand slam this weekend.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

PWG Battle of Los Angeles Night Two Report

PWG ran the second night of its three night Battle of Los Angeles tournament Saturday night. The show was very different from night one. Night one was a balanced night of strong wrestling, highlighted by a stiff, believable match between Roderick Strong and Rocky Romero. Night two featured a weak first half, but then concluded with three straight wild, spectacular brawls. It was a very different evening, but also a lot of fun.

1. Austin Aries beat Disco Machine. Disco Machine was more serious than usual, but the crowd was decidedly behind Aries. They engaged in some mat wrestling early. Aries executed a side headlock takeover and got out of a head scissors with a drop kick. Disco came back with a flying head scissors and tope. He missed a drop kick off the top, and Aries hit a knee drop, clothesline and elbow off the top. He followed with a gut wrench suplex, kicks and a head butt.

Disco came back with a snap suplex, side suplex and drop kick. Aries cut him off with a DDT and followed with three hard shoulder blocks, a high knee and side slam. Disco responded with a power slam off the top. Aries regained the momentum shortly thereafter with a brain buster, and then applied the Rings of Saturn with his leg twisting Disco’s neck for the submission. This was nothing special.

2. Davey Richards beat Ronin. TJ Perkins was the scheduled opponent for Richards, and there were dueling chants of “we want TJ” and “fuck you Ronin.” Richards outwrestled Richards for a long stretch at the beginning of the match, including leg kicks, a crippler cross face, an arm drag, a leg drop on the arm, an arm ringer, an arm bar and a wrist lock. Richards continued with chops and kicks, a body slam, a knee drop, head scissors and kicks.

Ronin finally got on track with an exploder, and they traded forearms. Ronin hit a butterfly suplex and executed a hard kick to the back. Richards hit a superplex and they traded forearms and slaps. Richards hit a springboard drop kick, more kicks and a German suplex. Ronin hit a clothesline and grabbed the tights for two. He followed with a forearm and brain buster, but Richards hit his D.R. driver for the pin. This was okay.

3. Jack Evans beat Claudio Castagnoli. Evans was really over with the crowd. They locked up and Claudio overpowered Evans. Evans got the Fujiwara arm bar, and they did a series of spots where Evans would escape Claudio’s moves with his agility. Claudio hit an elbow, body slam, stomps, and a European uppercut for two. Evans came back with a flying head scissors, a hand spring elbow, and a springboard crossbody attempt. Claudio caught him and hit a fall away slam.

Claudio hit a European uppercut to the back and dropped Evans on the apron. Claudio hit a gut wrench into a power bomb for the two. He applied a half crab but Evans got to the ropes. Claudio pressed Evans into the air for a face first bump and hit a delayed vertical suplex. Evans made his comeback with a cartwheel into a kick, a shining wizard, and a springboard 450 plancha to the outside. He followed that up with a springboard moonsault crossbody and a standing sky twister press. However, Claudio caught him and hit a reverse DVD.

Evans quickly regained control and hit a standing corkscrew 450. Claudio threw him in the air and caught him with a European uppercut on the way down but Evans barely kicked out before the three. Evans reversed a Claudio top rope power bomb attempt into a huracanrana. He then hit the 630 splash for the pin. This was a really fun match, as Evans is a blast to watch. This was the best match of the first half of the show.

4. Genki Horiguchi beat Chris Hero. There were dueling H-A-G-E and H-E-R-O chants. They shook hands, but Hero mocked Genki with a test of strength since Genki is much shorter. Genki stomped his foot and drop kicked him in the leg. He applied the figure four, but Hero reversed so Genki went to the ropes. Hero hit a fireman carry into a slam. Hero then hit another slam and a standing senton. Hero tied up Genki’s hands and draped his hair over Genki’s balding head.

Hero hit a chop, a forearm and a power slam for a two count. Genki reversed a suplex and hit a suplex of his own. He continued with a flying head scissors, a boot to the face and a tornado DDT. Genki hit a body slam and went to the top, but Hero caught him with his knees as he attempted a moonsault. Hero hit a head over heels clothesline for a two. Hero hit a power slam, but Genki retaliated with a huracanrana, and they traded pinning attempt. The Hero’s Welcome was reversed into a rollup and Genki scored the win. This was another good match, and their styles meshed better than the other Dragon Gate wrestlers taking on PWG opponents.

5. Human Tornado won a four way match for the PWG Title over Joey Ryan, Excalibur and Petey Williams via count out over Ryan, so Ryan retained his title. Tornado didn’t come out at first, and Ryan said he wouldn’t show up. Tornado then came in. The other three men jumped Ryan, and then Williams and Tornado fought in the ring. Tornado hit a drop kick, enzuigiri, and splits low blow. He went for a somersault plancha to the outside but missed, and had to be helped to the back.

Williams hit a leg drop on the apron on Excalibur. He tied him to the tree of woe and stepped on his groin. Ryan hit a drop kick on Excalibur, and Williams hit one as well. Ryan used a body slam, but when Williams tried Excalibur fought out. Ryan and Williams hit a double elbow, but Excalibur threw Ryan into Williams’ groin and hit a double DDT on them. Excalibur gave Ryan an elbow and Williams a knee. He power bombed Ryan into the corner, but Williams gave Excalibur a side Russian leg sweep. Williams went for the Canadian destroyer, but Ryan hit a superkick on him for a two.

Excalibur used the heart bunch on Ryan, but Williams gave Excalibur a cradle DDT before he could cover. Williams hit a spinning heel kick on Ryan and went for the Canadian destroyer, but Excalibur rolled him up for the pin. Rather than leave, he gave Excalibur a pile driver and Ryan covered Excalibur for the pin. Human Tornado then ran in as Snowflake from Nacho Libre. He hit a high kick and a bunch of somersault sentons. He hit a fist off the top rope, at which point Ryan left for a count out. This was a bad match with a crappy finish, and seeing every single Ryan title match end in a screw job is more tired than DX vs. the McMahons.

6. Arrogance defeated the Briscoes and Homicide & B-Boy to retain their tag titles in a wild brawl. This was so out of control that it was hard to keep up with the action and write down what was going on. It’s a match to be seen. The Briscoes and Homicide & B-Boy went at it from the beginning and brawled on the floor. There was a back body drop and a hip toss on the floor. Jay Briscoe immediately started bleeding. The wrestlers were throwing each other into the chairs.

Homicide attacked the Briscoes with a fork. Bosh hit a fisherman suplex and slam on Homicide. Homicide applied the STF on Lost. Briscoe hit a northern lights suplex on Homicide. Homicide hit an ace crusher off the top. B-Boy gave Briscoe an enzuigiri. Homicide hit a somersault tope on Arrogance and B-Boy hit a top rope moonsault on the Briscoes. They then gave Lost an elevated top rope bulldog ala the Steiner Brothers.

Briscoes hit a double team neck breaker on B-Boy. Lost hit an elbow off the top on a Briscoe, but B-Boy saved. B-Boy hit a shining wizard on Bosh, and Briscoe hit an exploder on B-Boy. Homicide hit a top rope inverted DDT. Finally Homicide executed the cop killa on Briscoe but Bosh covered for the pin. This received a standing ovation and PWG chants. It was a very different match from Strong-Romero the first night, but attained a similar level of excellence. The Briscoes are amazing right now.

7. Frankie Kazarian defeated Scorpio Sky via disqualification. This was a major upset, as they were teasing Sky would win the entire tournament. Kazarian jumped Sky from behind with punches and then chops. He hit a springboard leg drop, but Sky came back with a top rope huracanrana. He continued with a chop, choking, a suplex and a leg drop on the apron. Kazarian fired back with punches. Sky hit a diamond cutter and applied the dragon sleeper. He then hit a pedigree, but Kazarian kicked out at one.

Sky gave him a back breaker and then took the microphone. He talked shit while beating up Kazarian. He said Kazarian will never make it in WWE, and Kazarian then attacked him with punches and a sidewalk slam. Sky used a suplex to send Kazarian to the floor and hit a beautiful somersault plancha. Kazarian ten took over. He threw Sky into the chairs, body slammed him on the floor, and sling shot him into the post.

They brawled to the stage, where Kazarian power bombed Sky off the stage onto some chairs. Back in the ring Kazarian covered but Jade Chung attacked Kazarian with scissors for the disqualification. Kazarian went to cut Jade’s hair, but the Dynasty ran out to stop him. This was a really strong match. Kazarian showed tremendous intensity and it was a heated grudge match.

8. Super Dragon defeated Necro Butcher in a really violent spectacle. They brawled all over the place, hitting each other with chairs and throwing each other through tables. Dragon smashed Necro’s hand multiple times with a chair. Necro gave Dragon a tiger driver on the stage, and hit a huracanrana off the top in the ring. He finished Necro with a curb stomp on a chair and a sick psycho driver on a chair that caused Necro to bleed from the eye. They worked hard, but this is not my idea of wrestling. It was too dangerous and unnecessarily violent. You have to admire the wrestlers’ effort, but I don’t like matches that are so over the top.

The Battle of Los Angeles concludes tomorrow with Chris Sabin vs. El Generico, CIMA vs. Kevin Steen, Dragon Kid vs. Roderick Strong, Davey Richards vs. Austin Aries, Jack Evans vs. Genki Horiguchi and Frankie Kazarian vs. Super Dragon, as well as the next round after that and the finals.