Friday, June 30, 2006

Superman Returns

I saw the film yesterday. Didn't like it. My basic problem didn't have to do so much with the direction or the actors. It had to do with the source material and the script. Superman in 2006 to me doesn't work. He's this pretty much flawless character who spends two thirds of the movie solving everything with an ease that borders on arrogance. Even when threatened there is never any sense of danger because it is after all, Superman. As such, I found myself rooting more for the Lex Luthor character, as the sort of underdog in all this. Lois Lane is no more likeable, as a not particularly nice character, and dumb as a rock to not be able to tell the difference between Clark Kent and Superman. The Spider-Man films really worked for me, and it felt like Singer was trying to recreate that ethos with this film. The problem is Spider-Man's weaknesses don't really work for Superman. I imagine I would get a lot of heat from some circles for saying this, but to me the Superman story in 2006 is best re-told not with Superman as a weaker character, but rather with Superman as the villain: an arrogant hegemon bent on "saving" a world that would often times be better off dealing with its problems on its own.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Dynamite Kid and Satoru Sayama

The world of professional wrestling has been inhabited over the years by larger than life figures. However, as large as Andre the Giant and Big Van Vader loomed physically, there were other wrestlers that although smaller in stature, were able to leave just as large of a legacy. Today Inside the Squared Circle inducts two of the most legendary light heavyweight wrestlers of all time, “Tiger Mask” Satoru Sayama and “Dynamite Kid” Tom Billington into its Hall of Fame.

Satoru Sayama was born November 24, 1957, and was involved in judo and amateur wrestling prior to joining the New Japan pro wrestling dojo at the age of 17. He made his professional wrestling debut on May 28, 1976, under his real name. Shortly thereafter, he left Japan to learn his craft overseas. He went to the EMLL promotion in Mexico, and became well versed in the more high flying lucha libre style. Next, he traveled to Great Britain, where he competed as Sammy Lee. In 1981, New Japan decided Sayama was ready to make an impact, and they brought him back to Japan to debut as Tiger Mask.

Tiger Mask was already a popular children’s cartoon show in Japan. Tiger Mask debuted as a wrestler amidst heavy fanfare, and quickly developed into a real life superhero for Japanese children. Older fans who were initially skeptical were won over by Sayama’s revolutionary in-ring style. He defeated Dynamite Kid handily in his first match as Tiger Mask on April 23, 1981. Sayama rarely ever lost as Tiger Mask, particularly by pinfall, and became a genuine superstar.

While the junior heavyweight division had been around prior to Tiger Mask, Tiger Mask would take it to an entirely different level. Over the next two years, light heavyweight wrestling would reach its international pinnacle. Tiger Mask became a social phenomenon in Japan, and his matches were years ahead of their time in terms of excitement.

From 1981-1983, Sayama would beat an incredible list of opponents in Mexico, Japan and the United States. Some of his more noteworthy victories were over Chris Adams, Hiro Saito, Gran Hamada, Nobuhiko Takada, El Canek, Bret Hart, Steve Wright, Les Thornton, David “Fit” Finlay, Eddie Gilbert, Perro Aguayo and Fishman. Three of his biggest rivals were Villano III, Black Tiger and Kuniaki Kobayashi. However, his most famous opponent by far was Dynamite Kid. Their series of matches became the standard for which professional wrestling matches were judged until Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat’s great series in 1989. Dynamite Kid only beat Tiger Mask once, and that was by disqualification.

Sayama was seemingly on top of the world in 1983. Tokyo Sports named him Most Popular Wrestler of the Year in 1981, and Wrestler of the Year and Best Technical Wrestler in 1982. Such awards had never gone to such a small wrestler before. That made it all the more shocking when in August of 1983, he gave notice that he was leaving New Japan Pro Wrestling. He had personal and monetary disputes with New Japan executives, and wanted to move towards a realistic, no-nonsense, shoot oriented style. Sayama joined the new UWF, a promotion with predetermined finishes, but a more realistic style. Sayama was not as successful in UWF, where he was unable to use his trademark high flying style. The UWF did not last long in this incarnation, folding in 1985. At that point, Sayama left pro wrestling altogether.

From 1985 to 1994, he concentrated on his shooting, and trained at his famed Tiger Gym. He also wrote an infamous book entitled Kay Fabe, which exposed the wrestling business in Japan and garnered him tremendous resentment from those within the industry. Sayama made a brief return to pro wrestling, working sporadically from 1994 to 1996 in promotions such as Michinoku Pro, UWFI and Tokyo Pro. He is still involved in promoting more shoot oriented pro wrestling.

Tom Billington was born December 5, 1958 in Lancashire England. He began training for wrestling under Ted Betley at the age of 13. He picked up on the art of wrestling with remarkable speed, and was quickly identified as something special. He debuted in 1975 under the name Dynamite Kid, and was quite successful when in 1978, Bruce Hart recruited him to Canada to work for Calgary Stampede Wrestling.

In Calgary, Dynamite feuded with a young Bret Hart, as well as Bad News Allen and others. Hart later credited Billington for teaching him how to wrestle. Billington convinced the Harts to bring Davey Boy Smith over from England, and he would later begin teaming with Smith. He first traveled to Japan in the late 70s, and feuded with Tatsumi Fujinami. He then entered into his legendary feud with Tiger Mask, and was a featured junior heavyweight competitor until he jumped to All Japan with Davey Boy Smith.

When Vince McMahon, Jr. took the WWF national, it forced many regional promoters to choose between fighting him or throwing in the towel. Stu Hart was one of the few promoters who gave in to McMahon. As a result, when he sold Stampede Wrestling to McMahon, he was able to get him to take Dynamite Kid, Davey Boy Smith and Bret Hart.

The British Bulldogs went to the WWF, and experienced success in the tag team division. Their most noteworthy feud was with the Hart Foundation, and they won the WWF Tag Team Titles by defeating the Dream Team at WrestleMania II. However, by this point, Dynamite Kid’s body was falling apart from years of ware. He had pushed his body way past its limits, such as notoriously missing diving headbutts from the top turnbuckle down to the concrete floor. The situation caught up with him in late 1986, when he sustained a major back injury. A callous Vince McMahon forced Dynamite Kid to leave the hospital months earlier than he should have so he could drop the tag team titles to the Hart Foundation. Dynamite was literally carried to the ring, and did not do anything in the match.

Billington would return to the WWF months later against the advice of his doctors, who told him to retire. He would not last much longer, as his body just could not take the punishment of the road schedule. From there, Dynamite Kid was phased out of wrestling. He worked some for Stampede Wrestling and All Japan, but was unable to perform at his previous level. All Japan held a retirement ceremony for him in December of 1991, a day after his 33rd birthday. He would make a few brief comebacks in later years, but was not able to do much. Most notably, he participated in a six man tag match in 1996 with old rival Satoru Sayama.

After Billington’s final retirement, he wrote an autobiography on his experiences in wrestling. It was a very controversial book, much like Sayama’s. Most notably, it went into great depth on the usage of drugs in wrestling, and specifically his own grave abuse. He started taking steroids in 1978, and took more and more over time. He says he was never pressured to do so, but that they were necessary for him to advance in a big man’s business. Additionally, he developed a very hard ring style that made him reliant on painkillers. On top of that, he took all sorts of other drugs, from cocaine to marijuana. All of these drugs destroyed his body over time, and it also made him a nasty individual. He had a short temper and was notorious as a locker room prankster, pulling what were frequently very cruel jokes on other wrestlers. This left him estranged from most in the wrestling business. One such example was Davey Boy Smith. While he teamed with Smith for a long time and played a crucial role in Smith’s career, they ended up bitter enemies. Today, Billington’s body has completely given out on him. A man who did things never before seen in wrestling now is confined to a wheelchair, a solemn reminder of the dangers of professional wrestling.

Tom Billington and Satoru Sayama will forever be linked due to the great Tiger Mask vs. Dynamite Kid feud. However, they are parallel figures for more reasons than just that feud. Both were innovative masters in the ring, who paved the way for today’s more fast paced style, and opened doors for smaller wrestlers. However, they both also ended up disillusioned with the sport of professional wrestling, culminating in a pair of controversial books that frankly spoke about the business in a way that many didn’t want to hear. Finally, their legacies carry on twenty years later. Sayama’s legacy is seen in wrestlers like Ultimo Dragon, Jushin Liger and Great Sasuke. Chris Benoit has completely patterned his style after Dynamite Kid. While their glory years in the ring were short, they were spectacular. Inside the Squared Circle inducts into its Hall of Fame “Tiger Mask” Satoru Sayama and “Dynamite Kid” Tom Billington.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

WWECW Week Three

Oh My God!: Unstoppable Wrestling Machine Kurt Angle was pinned for the second time in three days just a few weeks after being given the gimmick.

You Fucked Up: Kelly did a lame strip tease for the third straight week.

He’s Hardcore: Atsushi Onita.

The Extreme Rundown:

1. Sabu beat Roadkill to start the show. Sabu hit a springboard off the ropes into a DDT and went for a triple jump moonsault. Roadkill blocked that by tripping Sabu and dropping him on a chair. Roadkill hit an avalanche into the corner and went for a table on the outside, but Sabu dove off a chair with a sloppy somersault plancha to the floor. That drew ECW chants. Roadkill hit the black hole slam and hit Sabu with a chair. He went to the second rope, but Sabu threw a chair at him and hit a huracanrana off the ropes. Sabu threw a chair at Roadkill, hit him with a chair, and followed that with an atomic Arabian face buster through a table. He applied the camel clutch.

Roadkill didn’t tap, so Sabu hit him with a chair twice and put the chair on Roadkill’s back when he applied it a second time. Roadkill tapped this time. This was a good opener, but dangerous as hell. Sabu cut himself up badly on his back, and this is not a style that you can do consistently without major injuries developing. The crowd as predicted is getting into Sabu. If Sabu were doing the same stuff on WWF television in 1996 rather than 2006, he would quickly have become a main event player.

Tommy Dreamer came to the ring and said that he has more respect for Big Show after the beating he took last week. He asked for another, playing off the angle with Sandman that finally got him over as a face in ECW. Show came out and obliged, beating Dreamer up like a total jobber. Show is going to have a fun time at all the ECW house shows. Mike Knox was backstage with Kelly. He is the overprotective boyfriend who likes to watch her but doesn’t like everyone else to see.

Kurt Angle cut a promo backstage. He said that he considers every day since April 2 a failure, because that was the last time he had a belt. When he goes home to his family he puts on a fake smile, because he hates himself when he isn’t the champion. He said he will do horrible things to RVD even though he has nothing against the man, because he has to get his hands on a title. This was a great, intense promo from Angle.

2. Mike Knox beat Danny Boring. Knox hit a spine buster early. Kelly started teasing a plant in the crowd, so Knox shoved the plant to the ground. Knox hit a running high kick and a corkscrew downward spiral for the pin. They followed this with another extended dance sequence from Kelly. Never has an attractive woman been so boring. I think even Dana White and I would rather watch golf than this crap. They did the exact same routine, complete with Knox coming out and stopping her again.

A fat stripper came out. There is clearly a disconnect within the company about what the Sandman segments are supposed to accomplish. Unquestionably they are designed in the first place to represent a mockery of WWE’s sports entertainment garbage. However, some people backstage don’t seem to get this, as Tazz and Joey Styles were doing the ridiculous fake laugh routine that the announcers have to do when the promotion is presenting dumb comedy that isn’t funny.

If the stuff is actually funny, then Sandman is a heel for interrupting it. But he’s supposed to be the face, so the announcers should be talking about how stupid and unwelcome these idiots are, rather than laughing with them. Anyway, Sandman also laughed at the guy, who stripped down and started dancing in his g-string. Yes, the male ass trend also crosses over into ECW, along with all the wrestlers that score wins on “ECW” television. The stripper went for Sandman’s beer, at which point Sandman gave him a low blow with the cane, hit him repeatedly with it, and ran him off.

Rob Van Dam was backstage with Paul Heyman. Heyman was concerned again, while RVD was cool again. Edge and Lita came out before the main event. They chased plants out of their seats and sat down in the front row. They even gave Edge a microphone. He said he was there to watch Kurt Angle vs. Rob Van Dam, and he will beat the winner because he is the whole f’n show.

3. Rob Van Dam beat Kurt Angle. Angle got the best of RVD early with mat wrestling and European uppercuts. RVD hit a monkey flip and spinning heel kick. RVD went to the top but was pushed to the floor. Angle hit an overhead belly to belly and release German in the ring. They kept cutting to Edge in the crowd during this. This broke into a brawl, and RVD’s kick off the top attempt was countered into an ankle lock. RVD escaped and hit some kicks, but missed rolling thunder.

Angle again went for the ankle lock, but RVD got out. RVD hit the split legged moonsault and went to the top, but Angle threw him off the top for a near fall. Angle went for the Angle slam, but RVD reversed it into a DDT. He then hit the five star for a clear pin. While I wouldn’t have Angle lose like this again, it was a smart move to give RVD a big win. This was a good match, particularly towards the end. Edge applauded the win and acted like he was leaving, but then when RVD turned around he came into the ring and hit the spear.

Please Don’t Go:
This show was basically a remake of last week’s show. You didn’t miss anything if you didn’t catch this show, but it was a very tolerable hour of television. The biggest positive about ECW and what is refreshing about the product is that they are actually pushing people, which seems to be a dying concept in today’s WWE. There are many negatives, but to me the biggest may be that it has become a supplement to Raw rather than a show of its own. There is no need for a fifth hour of weekly WWE programming. Fans are already tuning out the third and fourth hours in droves. If they want to keep around ECW long term, the focus of the show needs to be different than the focus of Raw.

Worst Article I've Read in a While

This guy doesn't have a clue. He's arguing that the NBA draft this year doesn't have much star power or excitement, and that reflects poorly on David Stern's idea to make high schoolers no longer eligible for the draft. Where to even begin? Well, for starters, there are just weak drafts. The Kwame Brown/Tyson Chandler/Eddy Curry draft sucked as well, and it wasn't because there weren't high schoolers there. Moreover, the basic premise is false. High schoolers do not on the whole generate more interest than college players. They generate less, because they are less known. That's THE WHOLE POINT of sending them to college in the first place from the NBA or NFL's perspective. LeBron James was the exception to the rule. Then there's perhaps the biggest point of all, that being one would expect these to be the weakest draft of them all, because none of the high schoolers are allowed to come out, and the guys who were forced to go to school aren't declaring yet. So there's naturally going to be a weaker pool. And finally, he says about three times that this draft would be more exciting with Greg Oden. Well guess what? He's not going to fall off the face of the earth. He will declare for the draft pretty damn soon. And there will likely be more interest by that point because more people will have seen him. Is this guy so short-sighted and stupid that he can't see that the same guy declaring this year versus next year doesn't have any affect on the overall quality of the NBA draft as an institution? Wow, just wow. It's hard to believe an article this bad would be on the front of a sports website.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Now's Your Chance

If some of you out there are like me as far as loving to accumulate old wrestling and MMA tapes at cheap prices, now is the time. Hollywood Video is doing a nationwide clearance of their VHS inventory, so you can get tons of old wrestling tapes for $3 a pop. I drove around the Hollywoods around here and found a lot of cool stuff for really cheap prices. Unfortunately, the one Hollywood back in DC that I know has a real treasure trove of rare wrestling tapes apparently made the strategic decision not to sell off their VHS yet. Those bastards.

Caps Draft Backstrom

One thing I really like about the Washington Capitals organization is the emphasis they have placed on draft picks. They stockpile picks, and once again they came up with a bounty this year, with a whopping six picks in the first two rounds. The top pick, Nicklas Backstrom, seems like the real deal, based on the clips I've seen and the materials written on him. Pairing him with Semin and Ovechkin could make for one hell of a first line. This is going to be a very important offseason. They appear to be headed in the right direction, but they really need to add some pieces to continue to move forward. In particular, I think they would be smart to add a veteran high level defenseman that can add some intensity to the defensive corps. If they sign just a few retreads to one year deals to hit the salary cap floor, it's going to be a bad sign. They of course shouldn't over commit to aging players, but they need to add some older guys that have skill to go along with heart.

O's Considering Trading Tejada

This is just amazing. The Orioles have to be one of the greatest sports franchise collapses of all time. In just 10 years, they have gone from one of the crown jewels of Major League Baseball to an absolute joke. Fans should start a class action lawsuit against Peter Angelos, who has single handedly ruined the franchise. Trading your own and only asset is the sort of thing only the loweliest of franchises will do.

I'm So Disappointed

When I saw on the front page of ESPN. com that Bill Simmons was going to write up a YouTube HOF, I was very excited. I thought this would have some of the greatest stuff ever. But man, not the case. Maybe it's just that he's interested in older stuff than me, but 3/4 of the stuff he referenced wasn't that cool or funny. I figured if anyone could do a great job with YouTube, it would be Simmons. I guess not. But hey, I forgive him.

Raw Report

Date: 06/26/06 from Fayetteville, NC.

The Big News: Edge interrupted a Rob Van Dam vs. John Cena title match, setting up a triple threat for Saturday Night’s Main Event.

Title Changes/Turns: None.

Match Results: Mickie James b Trish Stratus; Umaga b Kamala; Lance Cade & Trevor Murdoch b Val Venis & Viscera; Randy Orton b Kane; Rob Van Dam NC John Cena.

Show Analysis:

The announcers from the beginning played up this edition of Raw as an historic night. The show began with Mickie James defeating Trish Stratus in a match for the women’s title. Trish had success early, with the Charlie Thesz press, drop kick, spine buster and a huracanrana. Mickie quickly turned the tide with a kick, a drop kick, and an attack on Trish’s shoulder. She hit the implant DDT for the clean pin really quickly.

Johnny Nitro and Melina came out, and Melina said Trish’s days as the top diva are over because she is the new top diva. This was not a good promo by Melina, who forgot what she was supposed to say and had poor delivery. Essentially she told Trish to get to stepping, so Trish went after her. Nitro grabbed Trish, but Carlito made the save. Backstage, Trish thanked Carlito, and Carlito basically said that he was after Nitro. He threw in a lot of Spanish, and said it was no problem. Trish whispered something to him in reference to his t-shirt, which he enjoyed.

Vince and Shane McMahon backstage told an angry Spirit Squad that they would take care of DX. They asked fans who would win John Cena vs. Rob Van Dam, which is a touch I have always liked. Umaga then defeated Kamala. This was a cute idea for a match, and Kamala looks similar enough to how he always did. Umaga hit a body slam, stiff kick, head butt off the second rope and Samoan spike for the easy pin. It was a total squash. In worse news, the diva search is back. It’s a tradition right on par with WCW Uncensored (save for 1997) or Uwe Boll releasing crappy video game adaptations.

Torrie Wilson came out to unveil the cover of a new WWE magazine. Edge came out to save the segment, and told Torrie to beat it. He said he should be on the cover of magazines, in the main event, and the champion. He said if he doesn’t get a rematch for the title, he is leaving the show. He then proceeded to leave through the crowd. He went back to one concession stand and took his t-shirts from that stand, which was a rather dumb touch. In any event, I like the possibilities with this, and it’s been time to go all the way with Edge for a while now.

John Cena was interviewed. He said One Night Stand didn’t go his way, but he didn’t act like Edge about it. Instead, he fought and earned a rematch. He said he has been through a lot, but he has his shot at a rematch. Cena added he is more focused than ever and is going to take care of business. This was another excellent promo from Cena, who is on a tremendous roll on the mic.

Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch defeated Val Venis and Viscera. When they showed these guys in a match, I was expecting a Great Khali run-in. Venis is one guy that is taking the drug policy seriously. He looks fit, but noticeably smaller. The heels worked over Venis, who made the hot tag to Viscera. Viscera was cleaning house when Charlie Haas forcibly kissed Lillian to distract Viscera. Cade and Murdoch hit the high low for the win. They played Brooke Hogan’s music video, and then showed Randy Orton watching this backstage and smiling. I am so scared of where this might be going.

HHH came out dressed like Vince McMahon with a hair piece and exaggerated walk and posing. The mannerisms were funny, but the speech was hit and miss. He couldn’t really pull off Vince speaking, but he did the growl well. He brought up the XFL, and said that he doesn’t love cocks but does love dicks. This built up to him growling “you’re fired.” Shawn Michaels came out as Shane, and again the mannerisms were the best part of the act. He did the Shane dance, and said he sucks up to Vince so he will get the McMahon empire. HHH said he won’t leave the money to Shane, but rather Stephanie and the guy that knocked her up.

This built to them playing the infamous “Stand Back” Vince song and dance performance from the Slammies. HHH and Michaels danced to this. The real Vince and Shane came out, and brought Spirit Squad with them. They then had some nasty fecal looking substance dropped on them. I liked a lot of the comedy here better than last week’s stuff because it wasn’t quite so juvenile. However, the crowd last week was clearly into it, and the crowd this week made it feel like the segment was dying, for what it’s worth. I hated the ending, which was disgusting and stupid.

Ric Flair did an interview presumably from his home. He said Mick Foley is a glorified stuntman that took the easy way out. He said he is hurt, but he will be back. Flair said he will own Foley when he gets his hands on him. Rob Van Dam was preparing backstage. Paul Heyman didn’t like RVD putting up his title on WWE’s terms. He called it risky. However, RVD noted that he is the man, and he’s got it. I like cocky RVD so much better.

Randy Orton beat Kane. Orton used a drop kick to the knee and punches to the head. Kane went for the choke slam, but Orton went to the eyes and hit a drop kick. Kane came back with a big boot, clothesline into the corner and side slam. He was ready for the choke slam, but Faux Kane came out. Kane immediately went after him and beat him up a couple times, but Orton used the opportunity to hit the RKO for the pin.

Kane beat up Faux Kane like a jobber, and gave him no offense. He hit two choke slams in the ring, one on the stage, dragged him through the back, took off his mask, and threw him out the door. This seemed to be the end for Faux Kane and a total burial. But if it is, why the hell did Faux Kane win last night? In another Highlanders vignette, they were impressed by a toilet. One of them took a dump in a urinal. They debut next week.

Rob Van Dam and John Cena fought to a no contest. RVD drew primarily boos, which I hope continues. RVD should play off of that with smirks and arrogance. It will get him over more as a face to some fans and a heel to others. Either way, it will mean more interest. RVD went to the top early, but Cena pushed him off the top to the floor. RVD returned the favor a little while later by kicking Cena off the top to the floor. RVD hit a somersault senton off the top to the floor on Cena, which Ross inexplicably labeled a moonsault. I’d give him a break on it, but he still insists on referring to a side slam as a sidewalk slam and it drives me nuts.

RVD brought in a chair, but Cena knocked it away and took over with the five knuckle shuffle and FU attempt. RVD got out and hit a spinning heel kick, German suplex and split legged moonsault. Cena came back with the power slam, FU and STFU. Edge ran in and attacked both men. He gave RVD the spear. He told RVD he will see him tomorrow. This finish did no favors for RVD or the title.

Final Thoughts:

I liked this episode of Raw better than last week, because the wrestling actually had some significance and there was less in the way of adolescent humor. It also didn’t feel like it was booked by someone with ADD, so there was actually enough time to digest individual segments. A better finish to the main event would have helped, though. They are booking way too many BS finishes in the title matches. This trend started by adding some intrigue, but by this point it is just weakening the belt.

Cena, RVD and Edge all seem to have about an equal claim to a “title,” which I guess is what they are going for with a three-way program. The downside to that presentation is if the championship doesn’t signify anything and seems to be situated based on luck, nobody is going to care who holds it. There will soon be three people presented as world champion by the same company. That means they need to protect those belts more than ever if they want them to mean anything for PPV buys and ratings.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


I was reading a post on a message board basically saying that people shouldn't complain about the UFC pay for fighters, because they should be happy just to do what they love and they have endorsements anyway. I didn't buy this, so I wrote up a response, and include it below:

"When discussion of pay comes up, my feeling is that fighters should be paid *what they are worth*. That does not mean that they should be paid out of some sort of benevolence by MMA promoters, or that fighters on the undercard should be made more "for putting their bodies on the line." I look at it just in terms of economics and fairness. The fighters should be paid commensurate with the business they bring in for the company, just like any business. If you work a job where you only make $30,000 a year, it's likely that your boss could fill your job with someone else that could do the job for the same amount. And it's likely that you couldn't get a comparable job for significantly more money. That's just the labor market working itself out.

But UFC is different, because they have essential a monopoly on major league MMA in this country. As such, they are able to take advantage of fighters by not paying them what they are worth to the business. And this goes on simply because there isn't a viable alternative promotion that can offer the same opportunities and money to the fighters. Thus the model is inefficient, and the promoter is getting an unfair advantage over the fighters. And that's where criticism of the payscale is very valid. This is why we have antitrust law, and why we are interested in protecting workers in certain types of jobs and certain markets.

The major league sports in this country were able to keep athletes from earning what they deserved for a long time, but it couldn't last forever. And Dana and the UFC money train eventually are going to have to face the same challengers, whether they are antitrust challenges or attempts to unionize fighters under UFC contract. It is only then that pressure can be exerted in two directions and the payscale becomes more appropriate given the importance of the fighters (particularly the top line fighters) in lining the Zuffa coffins."

Just a few other thoughts from last night's UFC. First, it's almost impossible to really enjoy these shows, even though the fights were really great, because the pacing is so damn slow. It kind of reminds me of the Super Bowl, where you've got an event I'm really interested in, but it is so filled with fluff and downtime I can never get into it. Second, Grove-Herman was an awesome fight. For once I agreed with the judges on what I thought was a close decision, as I had it 29-28 Grove as well. I couldn't believe Herman withstood the rear naked choke at the end of the fight. Third, all credit to Kenny Florian. That was a really impressive performance over a tough fighter, and it appears he deserves more respect than I have been giving him.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Stan Hansen and Vader

Professional wrestling has seen its share of tough men. Today we induct two of the toughest ever into the ITSC Hall of Fame, Big Van Vader and the “Lariat,” Stan Hansen. Both cemented their legacy in the blood and broken bones of their opponents. Both transferred their success on the football field into success in the wrestling ring. Both had great success as stars in the United States. Both went on to their greatest fame in Japan, where they made their reputation as two of the nastiest and most brutal American monsters in the history of Japanese wrestling. And both enter our Hall of Fame together.

Stan Hansen was born in Knox City, Texas in 1949, and was raised as your prototypical rough and tough Texan. He played college football at West Texas State, a school legendary for breeding professional wrestling legends. Besides Hansen, West Texas State football has as alumni Terry Funk, Dory Funk Jr., Ted DiBiase, Dusty Rhodes, Bruiser Brody and others. He was not one to skirt away from physical confrontation, and he went on to be one of the most physical, “hard” workers in pro wrestling.

Hansen debuted as a pro wrestler in 1973. He became a star in the United States very quickly. Part of this was his distinct look and reputation that made the fans think he was a very bad individual. But part of it was simply luck. In a match with Bruno Sammartino in 1976 for the WWWF Title, Hansen accidentally broke Sammartino’s neck and the match ended in a disqualification finish. The injury was then attributed to Stan Hansen’s “Lariat,” which cemented Hansen as a top star and his finisher as one of the most devastating in professional wrestling. Sammartino at the time was one of the beloved and successful wrestlers in the world, and Sammartino and Hansen did big business in rematches for the title.

Early on in his career, Stan Hansen began teaming with fellow legend and alumni of West Texas State, Bruiser Brody. They teamed in numerous NWA territories in the 1970s, and it was Brody that convinced Hansen to go to Japan to wrestle. It was there that Hansen and Brody would achieve their greatest fame, both as Japan’s most famous and popular foreign tag team ever, and as singles stars. Hansen initially began wrestling for Antonio Inoki’s New Japan promotion. Inoki thought so much of Hansen that he had Hansen beat him for his NWF Title in 1980, before losing it back months later. From that point on, Hansen created a monster persona that would be used by many foreigners thereafter.

While Hansen started with New Japan, he achieved his greatest success in All Japan Pro Wrestling. All Japan and New Japan were in the midst of a wrestling war in the early 80s, and the promotions raided each other for top foreign talent. This resulted in Giant Baba signing Bruiser Brody and Stan Hansen away from Antonio Inoki in 1983. Hansen would wrestle for All Japan from then until his retirement in 2001, as he and Baba shared a mutual admiration and respect. Hansen was so respected that he was the only man to ever defeat both Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba for their respective titles.

In All Japan, Hansen became one of the biggest foreign stars in the history of Japanese wrestling. He held just about every honor he could, winning the prestigious world tag league in 1983 and 1988 with Bruiser Brody, in 1985 with Ted DiBiase and in 1989 with Genichiro Tenyru. He was getting ready for his first match with his longtime partner Brody when Brody was murdered in 1988. Their feud was expected to be a gigantic money maker, with the classic confrontation of two destroyers going at it to determine who was the toughest. At that point, Hansen was pushed as a singles star, and perhaps was most successful from 1988 to 1994. He lost to Jumbo Tsuruta to crown the first Triple Crown Champion in 1989, and went on to have classic confrontations with the likes of Mitsuhara Misawa and Toshiaki Kawada. He went on to hold the Triple Crown Championship on four separate occasions. He wrestled occasionally in the United States, most notably a run with WCW that saw him put fear into the heart of a young Lex Luger from 1990-1991, but wrestled mostly in Japan from the 1980s on.

Hansen continued to wrestle throughout the 1990s, but after a while could no longer keep up with men 20 years younger. He retired in 2001, with his legacy having changed. Initially a feared and hated villain, over time the people of Japan took a liking to Hansen. Now he is considered not only one of the most famous, but also one of the most beloved foreign wrestlers in Japan. He now lives back at home in the States, and he recently released his autobiography in Japan. It is our pleasure to induct into the ITSC Hall of Fame, the “Lariat” Stan Hansen.

The other grappler inducted into the Inside the Squared Circle Hall of Fame would be proud to have his name alongside Hansen. He is another wrestling legend renowned for his toughness, Big Van Vader. Vader was a star all over the world, and is considered one of the best “big men” in the history of wrestling.

Vader, born as Leon White in 1957, was a professional football player prior to his days in wrestling. He was an offensive lineman at the University of Colorado and went on to play for the Los Angeles Rams. In 1985, he received pro wrestling training from Brad Rheingans, and he would debut in the ring shortly thereafter. He initially wrestled for the AWA, but he was too new to the sport to make an immediate impact. His first real success came with Otto Wanz’ European CWA promotion. He beat Wanz for the CWA World Title in 1987, which would open more doors than he could have imagined at the time.

Watching his performance in Europe were some influential New Japan figures. They thought White would be perfect for a character they were planning to create, Big Van Vader. They had considered a number of different wrestlers for that role, but settled on White. From that point, Leon White would become Vader. He debuted for New Japan shortly after signing, and was a superstar overnight. He debuted with a giant, smoke breathing mask, and pinned Antonio Inoki in his first match. Inoki hadn’t lost in over four years, and Vader beat him in a matter of minutes. This led to a fan riot, and Vader was Japan’s next great foreign menace.

Over the next couple of years, Vader feuded with all of Japan’s top stars. He had a big feud with Tatsumi Fujinami in 1988 over New Japan’s IWGP Title, and won the belt in a tournament in 1989, beating Masahiro Chono, Shinya Hashimoto and Tatsumi Fujinami. During this time, he began touring all over the world. He continued to wrestle in Japan and Europe, and also started wrestling in Mexico, where he beat Canek for the UWA World Title in 1989. The globetrotter Vader was not done yet, and in 1990, he debuted for WCW. He split his time in all of these different locations, like an old school touring world champion. However, his primary allegiance was to New Japan.

This began to change in 1992. New Japan was beginning to get behind Scott Norton as their next big foreign star, and Vader did not want to put over Norton. Thus, he began wrestling more regularly for WCW, which became his new home base. He had a brutal feud with Sting that saw Sting repeatedly pummeled by the monstrous Rocky Mountain powerhouse. He won the WCW World Title from Sting and after losing it back, won it again later that year from Ron Simmons. He held the title for most of 1993, defeating the likes of Ricky Steamboat, Cactus Jack and Sting. At the end of 1993, he had a very important match with UWFI’s Nobuhiko Takada, billed as world champion versus world champion. He submitted to Takada, an important event in solidifying UWFI’s reputation during that period. He also lost to Ric Flair in a classic confrontation at Starrcade 1993.

In 1994, Vader saw himself take a backseat to the arriving Hulk Hogan. He rotated between the UWFI and WCW during this time. In 1995, he had a feud with Hogan that drew excellent pay per view buy rates, as well as horrible matches with no conclusive winners. By the end of 1995, WCW was turning Vader into a good guy, however fate stepped in. Vader got into a backstage brawl with Paul Orndorf that saw him get his butt kicked. WCW fired him shortly thereafter.

In 1996, Vader signed with the WWF. Unfortunately, he never achieved the success expected of him there. The WWF did not push him the right way from the beginning, and he never became the monster he was in other places. His tenure in WWF lasted two years, and by the end he was losing to the likes of Mark Henry. In 1998, he joined Stan Hansen in All Japan Pro Wrestling. He had some good matches there, but age has caught up with him recently. He currently wrestles for Pro Wrestling Noah, frequently competing in tag team competition with Too Cold Scorpio.

Vader’s legacy in the world of pro wrestling is strong. Not only did he headline in numerous different promotions, and have many great matches, but he changed what is expected of a big man. Despite weighing well over 400 pounds, he did not stick to his brutal powerbomb and splash. Instead, he worked a fast paced style, and regularly used the moonsault. For all these reasons, we induct Big Van Vader into the Inside the Squared Circle Hall of Fame.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Terrorist Plot

This "homegrown jidahist" story stinks to me. I wish I knew more information, because I don't trust what the government is saying. This reminds me a lot more of indictments of communists in the early 20th century than it does of breaking up a genuine terrorist cell. But I guess we will see, so I won't say anything more than that.

Take Care

I was going to grab lunch just now, when I saw someone on a motorcycle get hit by a car right in front of me. I went out to help however I could, and he seemed in bad shape (although it could have been worse for sure). Be careful, people. Bad things can happen in a sudden.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Brown Gone; Thomas In

I think this move had to be made. There was a practical revolt last year against Larry Brown, and it's going to be extremely hard to move any of the players that seem to dislike Brown so much. I think you have to blame Isiah Thomas more for the team's problems given he assembled an awful, overpaid roster, but Brown is also to blame. Unfortunately for Knicks fan, Thomas isn't likely to turn things around. The team still doesn't fit together. They've got enough talent that they can probably do better next year, but long term the franchise has become a total disaster area.

Soccer and Fake Injuries

I like international soccer, but the one aspect of the game that is always so hard for me to get into is the way players flop and dive over minor collisions to draw fouls and cards. It's just so ridiculous. It's one thing in hockey, where you fall down to try to draw the whistle, and then just get up. But the soccer players flop around on the ground as if they are in some sort of uncontrollable pain, and then get carried off on a stretcher like they broke their leg. It's so pathetic it really pisses me off. American football players are probably in more pain entering the field than soccer players are when they are carted off. This was on display today. Claudio Reyna got beat pretty damn clearly, setting up a Ghana goal. And so he fell to the ground feigning enormous pain when the replay revealed about the worst he got was a bump of the knees. It's understandable to try to draw a foul to negate a breakaway one on one with the goalie, but after the goal, get up you wimp. You got beat. Stop trying to draw sympathy and get back out there.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Upcoming MMA Preview Espectacular

Todd Martin: Alright, so we've got three MMA cards coming up in the space of a little over the week, so we're going to have our semi-annual MMA preview discussion. First up on Saturday is the Ultimate Fighter Finale. To start with, how do you think the season has progressed compared to the previous two?

Mike Coughlin: I think it's been wonderful. The first season was special because it was, well, the first season! No one knew what to expect and people like Chris Leben and Josh Koscheck stepped up in a way that I doubt anyone will ever forget. TUF 2 was kind of boring from a personality POV. But this season has really been fantastic. I knew who all the fighters were which is a lot more than I can say about any other reality show I've ever watched.

Todd: I've been a big fan of the season as well. I've heard criticism of it among some for the quality of the fights and the quality of the fighters, but the show is fundamentally about building personalities, and I think this season may have done an even better job than season one in that regard. Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock have hyped their fight well, Michael Bisping is set up to become a star, and they've got a few other prospects that have looked good as well. I think it's a success. Have you seen the Bisping interview on

Mike: Not yet.

Todd: You should check it out. It's hilarious. He so matter of factly runs down how he is superior to Josh Haynes in every aspect of the game. Care to disagree with the man?

Mike: Not at all. He's a tough British bastard and is one of the best things that could've happened to the UFC. He's a damn good fighter, with an exciting style, and a fantastic personality.

Todd: Do you think Haynes will last longer than Ross Pointon?

Mike: I don't know much about Haynes' chin, so if it's decent he'll... aw hell, no. No, I don't. I could sit here and try to convince myself that he will but sometimes you've just gotta say, "He's got no chance in hell."

Todd: Of course the last time I did that, I was watching Andrei Arlovski lying flat on his face. No wait, the last time was Royce Gracie. So the second to last time.

Mike: It is a fight and "anything can happen in a fight," but there's no reason this thing should last past the 2nd round unless Haynes has a Fujita-like chin.

Todd: The other final has Ed Herman vs. Kendall Grove, in what at least has more division as far as what people think will happen. Going into the season, I think Herman would have been the favorite, maybe even a heavy favorite. But he looked mediocre on the show, Grove looked good, and he's been training with Tito for the fight. Who do you like?

Mike: I was strongly for Ed a week back but have seen my pendulum swing the other way a little lately. Kendall is one of those guys that fights above his skill level and he can only be helped by being with Tito (at least from a cardio POV), but Ed has the Couture pedigree. I hate to bet against a guy who has that northwest background, is a strong wrestler, and can control the cage. I still like Ed, but think this could be a really good, dramatic bout.

Todd: It certainly has the potential to be, but UFC has had such luck with the season finales that it's going to be hard to match the drama of Luke Cummo-Joe Stevenson, let alone Forrest Griffin-Stephan Bonnar. I favor Herman, too though. This is a weird analogy, but Grove kind of reminds me of Josh Burkman. Two guys with a lot of potential that are perhaps getting thrown to a higher level of competition than they should at this point in their careers, and would be better off building a series of wins against lower level fighters.

Mike: I can see that. Burkman is a helluva talent. I think Kendall needs to be crisper. He's tough, and that's carrying him at times, but eventually his sloppy striking is going to get him hurt. Sometimes I look at it as, "I think Ed would do better against Rich Franklin than Kendall would, so I'll pick Herman."

Todd: Ed looks so much smaller than Franklin though. I just imagine him getting massacred.

Mike: Oh, completely. I don't think he'd do well at all, just that he'd do better than Kendall.

Todd: I've heard you're a big fan of Kenny Florian, or "KenFlo" as he is known in hardcore Florian fan circles. Is this man the next UFC Lightweight Champion?

Mike: Naw. He's a good fighter, and surprisingly tough in a lot of ways, but I think the next UFC LW champion is either Spencer Fisher or Sean "I can't believe they'll let someone this powerful fight at LW" Sherk.

Todd: See, I just don't get how he ended up in the main event of this show against Sam Stout. It seems to me they should have sent either Rashad Evans-Stephan Bonnar or Chris Leben-Anderson Silva over to this show as the main event. I guess you could call me a Florian hater, but I don't see him as being particularly good to where he's one fight away from getting a title shot. Do you think he can beat Stout?

Mike: My first reaction is to say "yes" but then I remember Stout just beat Fisher, and I'm such a Fisher mark it's not even funny. I think KenFlo will have trouble getting it to the ground and that Stout will take him apart with strikes. But, Kenny's a smart fighter and brains can be an enormous advantage inside the octagon. Still, he just doesn't have that "it" thing that I'd want out of a champion. Stout by KO.

Todd: I'm totally with you on that one. Being you've professed to being a Fisher mark, can I get a second convert to the idea that his fight with Matt Wiman at the last show was one of the best fights of the year so far?

Mike: Oh hell yea! It was a fight that made both bigger stars. It was exactly what MMA is supposed to be: two guys displaying all aspects of the fight game in an effort to win. Just a beautiful fight all-round.

Todd: Any impressions on the rest of the TUF 3 card?

Mike: I'm interested in Jesse Forbes-Matt Hamill, but everything else is just kind of "there." A lot of these guys are somewhat evenly matched so they could be "exciting" fights, but I don't think they'll be technical masterpieces.

Todd: It's on the weaker side in my estimation. I think a lot of those guys could be fighting on their first and last UFC card. The obvious exceptions to me are Kalib Starnes, Hamill and Keith Jardine. But that's not all. UFC comes back on Wednesday for another Ultimate Fight Night special, headlined by Anderson Silva vs. Chris Leben. How does this rank as far as all the live fights UFC has ever run on free TV?

Mike: It's one of the best free fights they've ever put out there. Buuuut, I'm a hardcore fan, so I know how awesome Anderson Silva is. Most people probably don't know the first thing about him. I hope people watch though, because I think it'll be really good.

Todd: I think it's still at a point where live UFC fights is enough of a draw, and they've got Bonnar and Leben on the card for casual fans. Obviously, UFC is looking to book the winner of this against Rich Franklin at some point in the relatively near future. Who do you like?

Mike: I'm gonna go with Silva. He can be absent minded at times, and doesn't always fight to his full potential, but if he's on, he's as good as they get at 185. I think he'll be too quick for Leben. Chris is a tough guy (you go around urinating on people, you better be tough), and has incredible power, but Silva fought Lee Murray, who was also a tough guy with heavy hands, and he mauled him. Silva should win by decision, but only because Leben is too tough to be finished.

Todd: I hope Silva wins, because I want to see him against Rich Franklin, but I favor Leben. I think Leben's smart enough to know he has to take it to the ground, and Silva has shown he has flaws on the ground. A slugfest would be ideal, but I don't think Leben's going to trade too long. And he's got a good chin, so he can afford to be stupid for a couple minutes and then get the sense knocked into him that he's better off with a different strategy.

Mike: Either way, the fight should provide a good contender for Franklin. I think the victor is a legit top guy.

Todd: Then in the semi-main we've got Rashad Evans and Stephan Bonnar. I really don't like this matchmaking, because both guys are coming off controversial decision wins where they didn't look all that great. Matching them against each other to me reminds everyone of that, and a boring fight could do real damage.

Mike: Bonnar doesn't really have boring fights, and occasionally has amazing fights (duh). But, he's not someone I really care about that much. Same with Rashad. I think it's a recipe for boredom.

Todd: I think Bonnar scores a decision win. You?

Mike: Yea. He's a more well rounded guy, who's been fighting longer, and he's used to the big stage. He should get the decision.

Todd: From there it's a pretty loaded undercard, that to me is worthy of a regular UFC card. Let's run through it quickly. Jonathan Goulet vs. Luke Cummo.

Mike: I think there's a secret mole in Canada because there sure are a really high percentage of guys from up north. Goulet is a good fighter who looked horrible in his last fight because he got caught by a world class striker. Prior to that, he had a long winning streak with some good wins (Shonie Carter, Tony Fryklund). Cummo is a weird nerd who can do a lot. I'll go with Goulet in what should be a really good fight.

Todd: To me, that fight is going to be interesting as far as what it reflects about Joe Stevenson. If this is a really good fight, Cummo indeed looks legit. If Goulet can beat him more handily, I think it says that Stevenson hasn't been preparing like he should for his fights. As far as which scenario develops, I'm not sure, but I do favor Goulet. Then there is Jon Fitch vs. Thiago Alves, which very well could be the fight of the night. Total tossup to me. Do you have a favorite?

Mike: I'll lean towards Alves, but I think I've got this inherent bias to favor non-Americans because I think, "If he's from Brasil, and he's fighting here, he's gotta be good!"

Todd: Ha! I wonder if you could get the same reaction if you went to fight in, let's say Spain. Oooh, he's an American. He's gotta be good.

Mike: I'll fight any bull at anytime!

Todd: Dave Menne vs. Josh Koscheck. Clearly UFC would like Koscheck to win over the former champion Menne. I think Menne finds a way to win this fight. Maybe a submission.

Mike: I think Menne has something like 10 times the number of fights of Koscheck, but Josh is a true athlete in every sense of the word. With the exception of one blip, his pro career has been spotless. I think Koscheck will get it to the ground and pound Menne. Dave is tough, and should be able to avoid submissions, but if this is at 170 (which I believe it is), I think Menne may be drawn and weakened.

Todd: Mark Hominick vs. Jorge Gurgel. The hits keep coming. To me, this is more intriguing than Florian-Stout. What do you think of the fight?

Mike: I'm gonna go with Gurgel. 3 of Hominick's 5 losses have been by submission (including in his last fight). However, I could see Jorge getting over confident and wanting to stand in an effort to "prove" something, in which case he could be in trouble. But, once it's on the ground, Jorge will show his superior BJJ skills.

Todd: I want to see Gurgel win, but I'm really hesitant to pick him coming off so much down time, and I don't know if he's back to 100 percent yet. We saw what that kind of layoff can do with Frank Mir, although obviously Gurgel isn't going to come in looking like a bodybuilder. I think Hominick is winning. And any other thoughts on the other three fights?

Mike: None really. Kind of the usual filler with a bunch of guys who are solid, but unspectacular, fighters.

Todd: I like Jason Lambert. I could see him having some extended success. Finally, last but not least Pride is coming up next weekend with the quarterfinals of the Open Weight tournament. What do you think of the matchups as a whole?

Mike: They're interesting. I'm somewhat surprised they didn't make Kazuyuki Fujita/Hidehiko Yoshida in an effort to advance one Japanese star to the final four. With the exception of Fabricio Werdum/Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, all of the other fights feel like the "dream matches" the OWGP first teased us with.

Todd: I disagree. I'm actually kind of disappointed with the matches, really. I also was expecting Fujita-Yoshida, and I figured that would open up other matchups. The matchups don't do that much for me. Really, Werdum-Nog to me is the most intriguing match, because Nog has rarely been tested by guys who are really good submission guys. Obviously though, the show will do very well in Japan based on Fujita-Wanderlei Silva and Yoshida-Mirko Cro Cop.

Mike: I think they'll still get at least one Japanese into the finals though, as I can't see Silva beating Fujita. Fujita is too big, too good of a wrestler, and simply cannot be hurt. It could be a long night for the Brazilian.

Todd: That could be interesting if it goes to the judges. Because we've seen the fans get restless with Fujita before when he just held guys down for a decision. When Ricardo Arona did that against Silva, the crowd got behind Silva and he got a judges decision that maybe should have gone the other way. So even if Fujita is just able to wrestle to control the fight, if he can't finish Silva and Silva gets a few flurries standing, I could see Silva getting the decision.

Mike: I'll say it here and now: watch for Fujita to rock Silva. He's rocked a few guys in his day, despite having kind of crappy boxing, and Silva can be caught!

Todd: Okay, Yoshida-Cro Cop. We all know the drill. Yoshida gets it to the ground he's got a good shot. If he doesn't, he's in trouble. The problem to me is that Yoshida caused Silva problems by pushing the pace. Pushing the pace is the last thing you want to do standing against Cro Cop. He's better off being tentative like Nog and waiting for an opportunity. I don't see him doing that, so I see Cro Cop winning via KO.

Mike: If you can get CroCop moving backwards, though, he's had problems. Josh Barnett, Fedor Emelianenko, and Mark Hunt all had a bit of success in forcing Mirko to constantly be on his heels. Of course, the big difference is that unlike those guys, Yoshida has no real striking skills. He's a tough guy, and I think he'll get it to the ground, but CroCop looks to have picked up enough on the ground that I think he can stall for long enough to get it standing. The only "X factor" is Filipovic's cardio. He has gassed in the past and if he does that here, he could be in trouble. But, I'd still favor Mirko via KO.

Todd: Cro Cop's a really good counter striker, though. Fedor was able to go in and then get back out, plus he had the threat of the takedown and GNP. With Hunt, he got caught with some ridiculous shots but he's got granite for a head so he couldn't get knocked out. It's a different ballgame with Yoshida.

Mike: Well, I think Yoshida would argue he's a decent takedown threat as well!

Todd: Yeah, but there's something a lot more intimidating about the prospect of Fedor getting on top of you and throwing down those punches.

Mike: lol. Definitely.

Todd: Barnett vs. Hunt. This should be a fun fight, and a lot is going to depend on conditioning. Obviously Pride would like to see Hunt win, but do you think Barnett will upset their plans?

Mike: If Barnett got up every day and ran 5 miles, he'll win. That's almost all he needs to do for this fight. I love Josh as a fighter because his transitions are some of the best in the sport. Very few guys can go from striking, to the clinch, to GnP to submissions as fluidly as he does. As long as he doesn't gas, he'll win. If he gases, then Hunt will KO him.

Todd: I think Hunt has a good shot of beating him even if he's in optimal shape, in part because Barnett is so comfortable in various aspects of the game. That was the Pedro Rizzo fight in a nutshell. He looked really good, but found out sometimes you're better off trying to run for the hills from the other guy's strength.

Todd: Nogueira vs. Werdum. What do you think?

Mike: Nog should win. He's a more complete fighter. Pawel Nastula was an out of this world grappler and Nog never seemed in serious danger with him, and I don't think Werdum's takedowns are strong enough that he can pin Nog down and do light GnP.

Todd: I agree, although Nastula wasn't as versed in Nog's specific game as Werdum will be. Nog's worst performance outside of Fedor in Pride may have been the Ricco Rodriguez fight, and I think Ricco submitting him in Abu Dhabi had a lot to do with that. And then in the undercard we have Vitor Belfort-Yoshiki Takahashi and Cyborg-Kazuhiro Nakamura. Do you have any interest in seeing Belfort any more?

Mike: Absolutely. I find Belfort to be completely fascinating. He's either going to have a great fight or one of the worst things you'll ever see! This will probably be the latter.

Todd: The thing is, Belfort looking bad just makes me feel sad. I want him to do well but I have no faith in him. Well, that's it. Lots of MMA fun coming up, and then we've still got WFA, Pride Bushido and a UFC special coming in the near future. Should be a fun summer for MMA.

Mike: Agreed. It's getting to the point where there's almost too much MMA.... Almost!

Todd: Oh come on, there can never be too much MMA. Says the fool who will deny ever saying that three years from now.

Bret Hart

Few wrestlers have experienced as many highs or lows as today’s inductee to the Inside the Squared Circle Hall of Fame, Bret “Hitman” Hart. He is one of Canada’s all time great pro wrestlers, one of the best technical wrestlers ever, one of the most popular, and one of the top stars of the 1990s. Yet, the story of Bret Hart seems destined to have a sad ending, as he has been through more than any person should have to endure over the past six years. No matter what the future holds for Hart, he will always be remembered as one of pro wrestling’s all time greats. Today Inside the Squared Circle inducts the man once called the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be, Bret “Hitman” Hart.

Bret Hart is the son of successful Calgary wrestler and promoter Stu Hart. He was the 8th of Stu and Helen Hart’s 12 children. All the boys went on to wrestle, and all the girls went on to marry wrestlers. Bret as a child did not aspire to be a pro wrestler. Instead, he idolized Martin Scorsese and dreamed of being a filmmaker. However, he got drawn into the family business at the age of 16, and took to it quickly. He had his first match in 1975, but wasn’t a full time wrestler until 1978.

Bret wrestled for Stu’s Calgary Stampede Wrestling on and off for almost a decade. During that period he won many of the promotion’s top titles, including its Tag Title five times and its North American Title six times. The promotion was known for grooming excellent young wrestlers, having been a learning ground for greats such as Dynamite Kid, Owen Hart, Chris Benoit, Hiroshi Hase, Davey Boy Smith and Brian Pillman. Bret was no exception, and became a proficient technical wrestler from a young age.

In 1984, Stu Hart sold his promotion to Vince McMahon. McMahon was attempting to take over wrestling in North America, and he sought to buy out or drive out of business all competitors. In exchange for selling out to McMahon, Stu got the WWF to take three of his top stars, Bret Hart, Dynamite Kid, and Davey Boy Smith. Bret didn’t get much of a chance at first, but then convinced the WWF to team him with Jim Neidhart as a midcard heel tag team. The Hart Foundation was born.

Hart and Neidhart experienced early success, having good matches and impressing WWF officials. They were given Jimmy Hart as their manager, and they began to get a push, winning the WWF Tag Team Titles from old rivals and friends, the British Bulldogs. They feuded with the Bulldogs for a while before dropping the belts to Tito Santana and Rick Martel, collectively known as Strike Force.

It was at this time that Vince McMahon began to experiment using Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart as singles competitors. Bret was clearly the star of the duo, having been dubbed the “Excellence of Execution” by Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura. Over the next few years, Bret became a good guy, and feuded with former manager Jimmy Hart. He wrestled in both singles and tags, and the Hart Foundation won the WWF Tag Team Championship for a second time, defeating Demolition at SummerSlam 1990. They lost the belts to the Nasty Boys at WrestleMania 7.

In the summer of 1991, Vince McMahon finally pulled the trigger on turning Hart into a singles star. He broke up the Hart Foundation permanently, and pushed Bret as a middle of the card babyface. At SummerSlam 1991, Bret defeated Mr. Perfect in a great scientific encounter to win the Intercontinental Title, his first singles title in many years. In January 1992, the WWF took the title off him and gave it to the Mountie, Jacques Rougeau, for reasons still unknown by many wrestling fans. Bret Hart had given his 90 day notice to the WWF that he was going to leave for WCW. WCW was struggling mightily without longtime champion Ric Flair, and was looking to make a big signing from the WWF. Hart fit the mold of what WCW was looking for, a great younger wrestler who could be built around. Unfortunately for Hart and WCW, they had misunderstood Hart’s WWF contract. Performers in the WWF at that time could only give their notice during certain periods of time. That time had elapsed for Hart, and thus his contract had automatically rolled over.

Hart was not particularly unhappy with the WWF, and negotiated a return to the WWF, where he would remain for another five years. At Wrestlemania 8, at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis, Hart defeated long time friend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper for the Intercontinental Title in another great bout. He defended that title throughout the summer before losing it at SummerSlam 1992 at Wembley Stadium in London, England. The match that drew a crowd of over 70,000 people was Bret Hart against his brother-in-law Davey Boy Smith. In a classic match that featured a torn Diana Hart unable to choose between her brother and her husband, Smith pinned Hart to win the Intercontinental Title.

A couple months after SummerSlam, the WWF was in need of a new top good guy. The WWF was cutting back on steroid use, and as a result, had lost a lot of top talent throughout the year, from Ultimate Warrior and Sid Justice to British Bulldog and the Legion of Doom. McMahon turned to a new mold of champion, and in Saskatchewan, Canada in October, 1992, Bret Hart defeated Ric Flair to win the WWF Title. The WWF pushed him as the most fighting WWF champion of all time, defeating a series of challengers ranging from Shawn Michaels to Razor Ramon, before losing the belt to Yokozuna at Wrestlemania 9. The original plan was for Hulk Hogan to pass the torch to Bret Hart, but Hogan refused to lose to the smaller Hart, and instead lost to Yokozuna on his way out. The WWF switched directions and decided to build around muscular Lex Luger as their next great champion rather than Hart.

With his top spot taken from him, Bret was put into a mid card feud with Jerry Lawler. He won the first King of the Ring Pay Per View tournament, defeating Bam-Bam Bigelow, Mr. Perfect and Razor Ramon. At the coronation ceremony, he was attacked by Lawler, and they feuded over the title of “king.” Hart defeated Lawler in almost every major match of their feud, which lasted 2 years. At the 1994 Royal Rumble, Bret Hart and Lex Luger were co-winners. Despite the long promotional push for Luger, the fans wanted Bret to win, and the WWF wisely decided to abandon their push of Luger in favor of Hart.

At WrestleMania 10, Bret Hart wrestled two matches. First, in one of the greatest matches in the history of WrestleMania, Bret lost to his brother Owen. He then defeated Yokozuna to win the WWF Title. This of course led to a summer feud with Owen which was Owen’s first chance at major stardom. Bret defeated Owen in a classic cage match at SummerSlam 1994. Towards the end of 1994, McMahon was once again inclined to push a new “big man.” As a result, Bret lost the WWF title to Bob Backlund at the Survivor Series, who promptly lost to Diesel, Kevin Nash. Nash held the WWF Title throughout 1995, while Bret feuded with midcarders ranging from Lawler and Backlund to Isaac Yankem (later known as Kane) and Jean-Pierre Lafitte.

However, at the end of 1995, it was apparent Nash’s reign as champion was a disaster. McMahon once again turned to Bret Hart to get him out of a tough situation.
At the Survivor Series 1995, held at the Capital Center, Bret Hart defeated Diesel to win back the WWF title. He defended it against the likes of Diesel and Undertaker prior to losing it in another classic match, this time an Iron Man bout designed to make Shawn Michaels the top WWF star. At this point, Bret Hart went into semi-retirement, doing some acting and resting his body from years of tear.

When Hart let it be known he was getting back into wrestling in the fall of 1996, there was a bidding war between WCW and WWF for his services. WCW offered a much larger financial package, a 3 year, $9 million deal. However, Bret was loyal to the WWF and Vince McMahon, and took a smaller economic package and 20 year contract to stay with the WWF. Hart then did an interview on Raw stating that he’d be with the WWF forever, a legend who stayed through the thick and thin, loved by the fans and remembered for a legacy of success. Unfortunately, that happy ending was not meant to be.

Bret’s return to WWF brought about a feud with Stone Cold Steve Austin. They had a great match at Survivor Series, and continued their feud into 1997. However, in the middle of the feud, the crowd began to turn on Bret and get behind Austin. Hart was the classic good guy who followed the rules and loved the fans, but Austin was the rebellious troublemaker who was cool because he was back. Despite Hart’s reservations, he eventually agreed to a “double turn” at WrestleMania 13.

On that night, after an epic war between Hart and Austin that saw Austin refuse to submit and instead pass out from pain, the crowd fully turned on Hart and fully got behind Austin. Hart went on to blame the American fans for turning on him, and the WWF embarked on a U.S. vs. Canada feud. This hot feud was the real start of the WWF “attitude” era. Hart became a really hot character, and won the WWF Title for a fifth time from Undertaker at SummerSlam 1997. It was to be his final WWF title reign.

At Madison Square Garden a month after SummerSlam, McMahon told Hart he couldn’t afford to pay Hart’s contract, and that he was going to renege on the deal. Hart went back to WCW, and agreed to the previously offered contract, ending his long relationship with the WWF. One matter still remained. Bret was the WWF champion, and had a title match scheduled against hated opponent Shawn Michaels at Survivor Series 1997.

For whatever reason, Vince McMahon elected to screw his loyal long term superstar at the Survivor Series. Bret had creative control in his contract and had to agree to any finish. He did not want to lose to Michaels in Canada, so McMahon said they would do a disqualification finish. Instead, McMahon had referee Earl Hebner signal Bret Hart had submitted when he had not. The WWF went on to ridicule Bret Hart about the incident. The event caused deep emotional pain for Hart, who wanted to leave the WWF the right way, and felt wronged after being loyal to the WWF for so many years.

Things did not improve for Hart in WCW. He debuted at Starrcade 1997 at MCI Center, but quickly saw his career sabotaged. He was the hottest character in wrestling, but backstage maneuverings saw his character undermined. He was turned back and forth from good guy to bad guy despite having incredible babyface momentum behind him. He held numerous WCW Titles, but never lived up to the promise that accompanied his signing with the company.
Bret Hart’s life was taken for a loop in 1999, when his brother Owen was killed in an accident in a WWF ring. With big money involved, the Hart family began to be torn apart. Siblings turned on one another, and Bret saw himself labeled bitter over being screwed while he mourned his brother’s death. Bret had his last classic match with Chris Benoit as a tribute to Owen later that year.

Bret Hart’s career ended at Starrcade 1999 when an errant kick to the head from Bill Goldberg gave Hart a severe concussion. Hart after that had problems with his memory and speech. Matters were made worse when Hart had an accident while riding his bicycle without a helmet in 2001. He is currently recovering from the incident, but it is not known if he will fully regain all capacities from prior to the incident. Hart is currently writing a book on his life and career which promises to be one of the best wrestling books ever written. He recently had a face to face meeting with Vince McMahon, and it is possible he will make an appearance in the WWE at some point in the future.

Bret Hart’s career is filled with triumph and failure, joy and misery. But for all his ups and downs, Hart’s lasting historical impact cannot be downplayed. He ushered in a new era in the WWF, where smaller guys could get a chance because of what they did in the ring. He had some of the greatest matches in recent North American history. Unfortunately, he will probably be best remembered for other reasons: the screw job in Montreal and the tragic death of his brother. But those incidents do not take away from the greatness the Excellence of Execution exhibited throughout his career. It is our pleasure to induct into the ITSC Hall of Fame one of wrestling’s all time greats, Bret “Hitman” Hart.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"ECW" Report

Oh My God!: Rob Van Dam and Kurt Angle scored a tag team victory in a very good match over Randy Orton and Edge.

You Fucked Up: Test is coming to ECW. Ugh.

He’s Hardcore: Sabu had another wild match against Tony Mamaluke.

The Extreme Rundown:

There was a fortune teller to start the show, I guess as a Sci-Fi tie-in. There wasn’t much of note, as she basically recapped Raw and mentioned the ECW main event. The lights were darkened for the show, which I think is a smart move. It looks different than Smackdown, and you don’t have as much attention directed towards fan antics. That makes it seem more serious. Plus, it is harder to tell when the Smackdown audience isn’t really into the show.

1. Sabu beat Tony Mamaluke in a squash. He dominated most of the match, applying the camel clutch and hitting a triple jump plancha. Mamaluke briefly gained control and went for a splash off the top, but Sabu threw a chair into him. Sabu then hit a splash from the ring through a table on the floor and applied the camel clutch back in the ring for the submission.

Joey Styles and Tazz made a bunch of references as to why ECW is better than Raw or Smackdown, which were the sorts of artificial differences Raw and Smackdown used to make. They are much better off just allowing ECW to develop as its own entity. As far as the match, Sabu is going to get over because he is doing stuff that nobody else does. Of course, if they gave someone younger all the same shortcuts, it would likely lead to more long term benefits.

Rob Van Dam cut a backstage promo. RVD as a personality is breaking out of his WWE funk, because he is finally back to being the character that got over. He said he’s everybody’s favorite wrestler, and was acting really arrogant. He said he would win in the tag match and win on Sunday. I really wish they would bring back Fonzie.

Big Show and Tommy Dreamer had a confrontation. Dreamer said that if Show wants to make a name for himself in ECW, he will have to go through Dreamer. So that’s exactly what Show did. After Dreamer slapped Show, Show beat the crap out of him all over the ring and finally left. Dreamer still got to his feet and smiled at the end of this. Show remains an awful fit and inexplicable pick for ECW.

2. Sandman beat Macho Libre. Macho Libre was essentially dressed to look like Jack Black while doing Randy Savage mannerisms. He wasn’t very good. He did an awful Savage impersonation and wasn’t funny. Sandman came out, caned the hell out of him, and finished him with the White Russian leg sweep. This was fine for what it was, but I think it would be better if they had a Stevie Richards type doing these different characters so it seems like a specific wrestler is being a jackass rather than the promotion is presenting jackasses to you.

Backstage, Paul Heyman was rallying the troops against John Cena, who showed up with a nasty black eye. He walked right up to all of them. He proposed his match with Sabu at Vengeance be an extreme lumberjack match where Heyman can bring anyone he wants. This was another great performance from Cena. Sabu accepted and Cena left. Kelly did another strip tease, this time interrupted by Mike Knox.

They ran an introductory package for Test. He is the antithesis of ECW. ECW was about giving opportunities to guys who were overlooked despite their talent because of narrow-minded decision-makers in WWF and WCW. Test on the other hand, is a guy who had every opportunity to make it because of the same narrow-minded foolishness, and yet failed every time because he has no charisma and he’s a mediocre worker. Like Show, he’s a guy that shouldn’t be anywhere near the “ECW” product. ECW should be the location for guys that haven’t been given the proper opportunities on Raw and Smackdown. If you have gotten 8,000 opportunities because you’re tall and friends with the right people, and you still failed, you ought not apply.

3. Rob Van Dam and Kurt Angle beat Edge and Randy Orton. Angle went for the ankle lock early on Edge. RVD and Orton tagged in, and RVD crotched Orton and came with a kick off the top that sent Orton to the floor. RVD hit a moonsault off the apron, but Orton tagged Edge. Lita pulled down the ropes on RVD, and the heels gained control. Edge threw RVD out to the floor right in front of the announcer’s table.

RVD got the tag to Angle, who came in with three rolling Germans for Orton and another German for Edge. He applied the ankle lock to Orton, but Edge grabbed Orton’s hands and used the leverage to whip Angle into the ropes. He came off the top onto Angle, but Angle caught him with an overhead belly to belly. He went for the Angle slam on Edge, but Orton hit a chop block on Angle and went after his leg.

Around this time something went wrong with Orton’s upper body, presumably the shoulder. He seemed to be very concerned. Edge was tagged in, and threw Angle into the steps. Angle got a rear naked choke on Edge but Lita interfered again. Angle hit a German suplex on Edge and tagged RVD. RVD came in with a pescado to Orton, and hit him with a chair.

Edge knocked RVD off the apron. Angle applied the ankle lock to Edge, but Lita interfered again. This time Angle gave her the Angle slam. Orton then hit the RKO on Angle. RVD hit a kick off the top on Orton and went for rolling thunder, but Edge cut it off with a drop kick. He went for the spear, but ran into an elbow and RVD hit the frog splash for the pin.

Please Don’t Go:

This show was much better than last week. It was more of what a first show should be, as they showcased a number of wrestlers and gave you one quality match. Their picks for pushes aren’t the best, but the show was well booked. The one problem is the whole format and presentation feels exactly like Raw or Smackdown. WWE has such a narrow view of what wrestling is, and it’s incredibly limiting. ECW seemingly presents the opportunity to question the flawed premises with which WWE has operated for five years. Instead, it’s the same WWE, only with the Sandman, Sabu and weapons. On the plus side, at least this show inspired me to make those points. Last week I was just disgusted and wanted to go to bed.

I have made the following point on a number of occasions, but I will keep making it because it is very important. For ECW to succeed, it needs to have a progressive vision. WWE is inherently retrogressive. They have a set way of presenting wrestling, and there is very little reflection on what works and doesn’t work. However, the fact is that ECW is also retrogressive. Sandman, Sabu and Tommy Dreamer are yesterday’s news. It’s fine for WWE at this point to establish the likes of Big Show, Sandman, and Sabu. They are among the most well known performers to today’s fans. However, the key to making this project work is using those guys to put over new guys that are fresh and can help create a product that feels exciting and new.

The root problem of this whole endeavor is that for ECW to work, the first thing Vince McMahon must ask himself is “what are the flaws in my current product?” Once he answers that question, he can start to see how to present a seeming alternative. But I don’t think he has any interest in answering that question, and thus “ECW” is unmistakably a WWE product based on the presence of the same glaring and easily correctable flaws.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Raw Report

Date: 06/19/06 from Rochester, NY.

The Big News: DX are back to their juvenile antics. Will those two kids never learn?

Title Changes/Turns: None.

Match Results: Mickie James & Candice Michelle b Torrie Wilson & Maria; Charlie Haas NC Viscera; Umaga b John McChesney; John Cena b Balls Mahoney; Randy Orton b Gene Snitsky; Johnny Nitro & Shelton Benjamin b Carlito Caribbean Cool; Edge b Ric Flair.

Show Analysis:

The show started with an extended comedy vignette. Vince McMahon said that this week he will get what he wants and DX will be destroyed. He then walked to the ring, where he was greeted by a rooster delivery, alien, male strippers, Dusty Rhodes plugging his DVD, and a penis pump delivery. This felt stupid, dated and unfunny to me, but the crowd in the background really seemed to be enjoying it, so maybe I’m in the minority on that. An angry Vince got to the ring and began to threaten DX again, but Shane McMahon came out. He said that Stephanie was in labor, so they left. Vince left the building and put Coach in charge. He was angry at Stephanie’s timing and referred to her as “that bitch.”

Mickie James and Candice Michelle beat Torrie Wilson and Maria in a tag team bra and panties match. This was the first time in ages that they actually put over a woman physically in one of these matches. I was happy to see it. Basically Mickie quickly ripped off her opponents’ clothes to win the match. She then attacked Candice and stripped her as well. Finally, she attacked a plant in the audience and took off her top as well. During the commercial break here we got an ad for the WFA show.

Charlie Haas and Viscera went to a no contest. Viscera wanted another apology from Charlie Haas before the match. That was odd given Charlie did in fact offer an apology last week, and it seemed sincere to me. Anyway, Charlie said Lillian accepted his apology in bed last week after they went to dinner. Lillian did not corroborate this story. Viscera proceeded to attack Charlie and destroy him for a while until the Spirit Squad ran in.

The Squad beat up both guys, and gave Viscera a pretty decent High Spirits given Viscera’s girth. Kenny challenged DX. DX showed up on the screen. Shawn Michaels was sarcastically acting afraid of the odds. I love sarcastic Shawn. He even threw in the Scott Hall scared wiggly fingers. Triple H told him to calm down because they are just cheerleaders. Hunter said that DX will come out when they want to. He then dissed Hulkamania by proclaiming DX the most powerful force in the universe. Hunter had two words for Spirit Squad: look up. Green slime then dropped on the Spirit Squad and they flopped around like Bobby Heenan. DX spray painted the camera. This was cute enough.

Backstage, Coach told the angry Squad that he would take care of DX. Paul Heyman was in Coach’s office. He said he had a bunch of ECW wrestlers at Raw, and wanted to negotiate. He wanted Edge and Randy Orton vs. Kurt Angle and Rob Van Dam for tomorrow’s ECW show. Well that just screams ECW. Coach made this. They desperately need a progressive vision for ECW, and that main event just feels like any other WWE show of the past so many years. It’s the Invasion all over again. They also made John Cena vs. Balls Mahoney for Raw.
Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler did an interview with Kane backstage. It was obviously prerecorded, and they gave it away with a bad cut from Jim Ross talking to a recording of Jim Ross talking. In any event, Kane said that he knows who the Faux Kane is and why he is doing what he is doing. Kane apparently knew someone growing up that was even more screwed up than he was. Umaga beat John McChesney with the Samoan spike in a brief squash. Armando after the match was angry that the fans were chanting along with his name.

John Cena beat Balls Mahoney. Cena got a very positive reaction, with very little backlash. There were some anti-Cena chants, but they didn’t really take. Support for Balls didn’t really take either. Cena went for the five knuckle shuffle when Paul Heyman handed Mahoney a chair. Cena gave him the drop toe hold anyway and applied the STFU for the submission. I’m not saying these aging ECW guys are the answer, but it wouldn’t hurt the brand’s authenticity if they were to protect the previous stars at least a couple weeks. Just about everyone associated with the old ECW and not the new WWE has been squashed in the space of two weeks.

After the match Sabu ran in. He threw a chair at Cena, hit him with a TV monitor, and finally hit a leg drop off a chair and the ropes through the announcer’s table. It was an impressive spot that looked like he nailed it perfectly. Of course John Cena was busted open hardway right above his eye and Sabu couldn’t even walk to the back through the crowd without help, so it couldn’t have been nailed that well. Cena did a hell of a sell job in the aftermath of this. He looked legitimately pissed off to have to be engaged in this dangerousness.

Randy Orton beat Gene Snitsky with the RKO. Afterwards he cut a nice little promo where he said he isn’t concerned about wrestling in ECW’s environment. I would hope not, given the obvious similarities to the Smackdown environment he has wrestled in for a while now.

Johnny Nitro and Shelton Benjamin beat Carlito in a handicap match. Carlito said this was punishment for laughing at what DX did, and did not find it cool. Carlito started with Nitro, giving him a drop kick and nipping up. Nitro tagged in, but Carlito gave him a knee lift and clothesline. Benjamin pressed Carlito into the air to gain momentum, but Nitro tagged himself in. This led to an argument between Benjamin and Nitro. Nitro knocked Benjamin out of the ring. Carlito rolled up Nitro for a near fall, but Nitro rolled through and grabbed the tights for the pin. Carlito gave Benjamin a back cracker after the match. This seemed like the longest match of the night, and it lasted about four minutes.

Backstage, DX spray painted Vince’s office. Eugene said that Hacksaw Jim Duggan is at home recovering, but he will get revenge for Hacksaw at Vengeance. I wouldn’t place any bets on that one. Rob Conway showed up to call Eugene and Duggan worthless, so Eugene attacked him. They then went back to DX in Vince’s office. Coach warned DX not to mess with him, so they threw him through a wall and exposed his ass. They spray painted DX on Coach’s ass. The Highlanders couldn’t find a way into their hotel room, so they broke down the door and ordered porn.

Edge beat Ric Flair quickly. Mick Foley did commentary. He said the match at Vengeance will be a debacle and a fiasco. It will be one of the worst matches of his and Flair’s careers. His plan is to stink up the joint and embarrass Flair in his hometown. Foley added that it is a loaded card so it won’t matter. That’s certainly a novel way of selling a match. I’m not sure whether this is to lower expectations or whether they will genuinely do this, but I am oddly compelled.

Flair started this match with fire. He gave chops and a low blow to Edge. He went for the figure four, but Edge sent him into the mandible claw and hit the spear for the pin. After the match, Rob Van Dam hit Edge with a kick off the top and hit the five star. Backstage, Spirit Squad rallied the locker room to destroy DX.

Shawn Michaels and HHH came out to do their old routine. Shawn said Stephanie’s fake labor was orchestrated by them. This is a minor point, but it strains credibility to believe that Vince and Shane would not be able to figure that out. They joked about who got Stephanie pregnant, with HHH remarking he must be very well hung. They played the Spirit Squad’s music, but a midget Squad came out. DX parodied laying them out. They then brought out female cheerleaders who did a DX cheer. The Raw locker room then came out led by the Squad, but the rest of the group left. DX fought off the Squad. The midget Spirit Squad mooned the full size Squad to close the show.

Final Thoughts:

This was like a bad edition of Nitro booked by Vince Russo. It’s appropriate that this show was filled with male ass, because the show was ass. Awful, practically non-existent wrestling was complemented by uninteresting angles and a constant stream of adolescent humor. Some of it was funny, but a lot more wasn’t.

HHH and Shawn Michaels did do a good job with the DX reunion. They really went with it, and it was obvious the crowd was into it. However, WWE needs to be really careful with this angle. I think people are going to get sick of it really quickly, and this has the potential to do serious damage to Michaels and HHH. It doesn’t get much more uncool than 40 year old guys acting like teenagers to relive a successful period that occurred a decade ago. But hey, DX has been protected a lot better thus far than ECW. If you can’t move forward, I guess going backward seems more appealing. What the hell. Bring back the Horsemen.

That’s a joke.

Dusty Rhodes DVD

As a followup to the earlier note on the Managers DVD, I've gotten to watch the Dusty Rhodes 3-disc set from WWE. It is excellent. It is a definite pickup for all wrestling fans, and may be the best historical wrestling DVD has put out. It's certainly right up there with the Flair and Hart sets. The feature is strong. It isn't as detailed as it could have been, and I got more out of the old RF shoot with Dusty, but it's still a very fun walkthrough Dusty's career. Then there is tons of good stuff from all over the place. There are lots of classic matches that are relatively hard to come by, and of course tons of great classic promos. A real homerun for WWE.

"Destroyer" Dick Beyer and El Santo

The world of professional wrestling has seen its share of legendary masked superstars. Today we induct two of the most prolific masked marvels into the Inside the Squared Circle Hall of Fame.

Our first inductee is the Sensational, Intelligent Destroyer, Dick Beyer. A standout amateur wrestler and football player in high school, he went on to great success at Syracuse University. There, he was the co-captain of a football team that played in the Orange Bowl, a champion collegiate wrestler, and earned his Masters degree in education. He was recruited into pro wrestling by Ed Don George, and trained by the likes of Ray Stevens and Dick Hutton, providing Beyer an excellent wrestling pedigree.

Beyer wrestled under his real name from his debut in 1954 until 1961, almost exclusively in upstate New York, due to a commitment to the U.S. Army reserve. It was during this time that he learned his trade in feuds against the likes of Freddie Blassie, Gorgeous George, Fritz Von Erich, and Billy “Red” Lyons.

Beyer’s career took off after his commitment to the military concluded. He was invited to wrestle in Los Angeles, where he would become a heel. He had another surprise in store for him. When he arrived, he discovered he was to wrestle under a mask as “The Destroyer.” He did not even possess a mask. The mask was to be a short term gimmick, but it became Beyer’s trademark. The Destroyer was an immediate financial success for the territory. In 1962, he defeated Freddie Blassie for the WWA World Title, and held it on and off during three reigns for a number of years. Over that period, he defended it against the likes of Lou Thesz, Haystacks Calhoun, Dick Hutton, Don Leo Jonathan and Mil Mascaras, including a November 7 Mask vs. Hair showdown with Gorgeous George, which saw George’s famous head of hair shaved bald.

Beyer achieved his greatest success, however, in the country of Japan. In early 1963, he wrestled three matches against Giant Baba. All three sold out, and they turned Destroyer into a big name in Japan. In May of that year, he returned as WWA World Champion, and wrestled Japanese champion Rikidozan in a legendary confrontation. Over 70 million people watched that match on TV, making it the 2nd highest rated television show of any kind in Japanese history. Beyer’s success in Japan made him a legend in Japan to this day. He is very well liked despite being a foreigner, and is frequently brought back and saluted as one of pro wrestling’s greatest stars.

After runs in Oregon, Los Angeles and Houston, he joined the AWA in 1967 as the nefarious Doctor X. He wrestled under this persona until 1970, and defeated Verne Gagne for the AWA World Title in 1968. In 1972, he signed a deal with Giant Baba to wrestle in Japan for six years. He lived there during that time and helped establish All Japan Pro Wrestling. He also was a television star, becoming a popular actor on the “Uwasa No Channel” comedy show.
Upon returning to the United States in 1979, he gradually began to faze himself out of wrestling. He feuded with the likes of Bob Backlund, the Funks and Andre the Giant prior to his semi-retirement in 1984. He would still wrestle during summers for All Japan, prior to his final retirement in 1993.

Contacted about his induction into the ITSC Hall of Fame, Dick Beyer told us he is “very happy” to be inducted and “honored to be considered.” He continues to promote amateur wrestling in the United States and overseas. He still follows today’s amateur and professional scene, and does not harbor resentment towards what the product has become. It is our pleasure to induct into the Inside the Squared Circle Hall of Fame, the Destroyer Dick Beyer.

Our second inductee today is Mexico’s most famous wrestling superstar, and quite possibly the most beloved wrestler of all time, El Santo. Born Rodolfo Guzman Huerta in 1917, he wrestled under a number of names, from Rudy Guzman and El Enmascarado to El Demonio Negro and El Hombre Rojo prior to settling on his famous ring name, El Santo, in 1942. Literally meaning “the Saint,” he went from an initial rudo, or bad guy, to becoming the prototypical tecnico, or good guy, to the Mexican wrestling fanbase. Wearing a silver mask, he came to represent purity, and defend the interests of the common man against the evils of the world. He was rarely ever seen without the mask, which created an air of mystery about the man.

One of the first masked wrestlers in Mexico, Santo was one of most important leaders in the popularizing of the mask, which is now a fixture of lucha libre. More than simply wearing a mask to represent a character, Huerta became El Santo at all times. Santo’s legend grew when in 1952, he became a featured character in a popular weekly comic book. It starred Santo as a crime fighter and monster slayer, and ran for an amazing 35 years. It turned Santo into a true legend, and a beloved figure.

The legend of El Santo grew with his move to the Mexican Cinema. His first film was 1958’s Cerebro Del Mal, or The Evil Brain. This started the trend of lucha libre movies, which became a craze in 1960s and 1970s Mexico. In 1961 he made the classic Santo Contra Los Zombies, or Santo Against the Zombies. After its tremendous financial success, he was signed by producer Enrique Vergara in 1964, who paid Santo $9,000 per film. He appeared in 54 movies through his career, representing the ultimate force of good against all the evils of a dangerous Mexican world. In doing so, he became not just a popular wrestler, but an enduring cultural icon. Always wearing his silver mask, he would protect the world against evil forces, like a masked combination of Indiana Jones and James Bond.

During this time, Santo also continued his wrestling career. He held over ten titles, including the NWA World Welterweight and Middleweight Titles, the Mexican National Middleweight Title and the Mexican World Welterweight Title. He formed a famous tag team with Gory Guerrero, the father of Eddie Guerrero, known as La Pareja Atomica, or the Atomic Pair. He appeared in movies and wrestled with and against Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras, two of Mexico’s other top lucha libre stars. He rotated his time between movies and wrestling in much the way the Rock is in the United States now, but was a bigger movie icon than Rock is at this point in time.

In the late 1970s, lucha libre films declined in popularity, and Santo stopped making his films. He also began to wrestle less, suffering the wear and tear of a 40 year career. He retired from wrestling on September 12, 1982, paving the way for his son’s debut as El Hijo del Santo. El Hijo del Santo remains one of Mexico’s top stars today.

In a stunning surprise, El Santo publicly unmasked himself on a talk show called Contrapunto on January 26, 1984, nearly 50 years after his wrestling debut. Ironic given the seeming inseparability of Santo and his mask, he died less than 2 weeks later on February 5, of a heart attack.

Reflective of his stature as a cultural icon, Santo’s funeral drew thousands of people desiring to pay tribute to their fallen, beloved hero. It took hours for his coffin to make it from the funeral parlor to the hearse, so mobbed was the event. To this day, the people of Mexico mark the anniversary of Santo’s death with national celebrations honoring his legacy. Dave Meltzer, the editor of the Wrestling Observer newsletter, says that Santo “totally transcended wrestling. He was more than just an important wrestler. Everybody in the country knew him, and he had an enduring popularity like a Babe Ruth or John Wayne.” It is our honor to induct one of wrestling’s great icons, El Santo, into the Inside the Squared Circle Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame Bios

A few years ago when I was still living in Washington, DC and doing a local TV show there called Inside the Squared Circle, I wrote up a number of bios on pro wrestlers for the ITSC Hall of Fame. I have never run these on the internet, but I just realized I had them today, so I figured I would run some of them here. There are actually quite a few, so I'll space them out.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Farmar Gone; Afflalo Stays

The Bruins got the expected news over the past couple days that Arron Afflalo is returning to the team while Jordan Farmar will stay in the draft. I think people are overestimating the impact of Farmar's loss. Darren Collison played really well last year at the point, and I liked the offense better with his more fast paced style. The only thing that worries me is he's small and is always driving to the basket, so he has the potential to get injured if he plays a lot of minutes. That said, I think UCLA fans are overestimating the team in general next year. They got rolling at exactly the right time in the season, but they just didn't have the same talent level as a lot of teams. Plus, the point they really got going was when Ryan Hollins got healthy and was able to be a force as a big man. Hollins is gone, and I think that departure may be more important than Farmar and Cedric Bozeman. They need to get a presence under the basket, and it remains to be seen if Alfred Aboya, Lorenzo Mata or James Keefe can occupy that role. They will definitely be a very good team, because they have as good of a 1-4 as anyone in college basketball with Collison, Afflalo, Shipp and Mbah a Moute, but I think a Sweet Sixteen is a realistic expectation, not a return to the finals.