Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Brock Lesnar Piece

I spoke with Brock and got his thoughts on his MMA debut, Kurt Angle, his original decision to enter pro wrestling and more here.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 03/26/07 from Chicago, IL.

The Big News: WrestleMania is Sunday, and Shawn Michaels finally gave John Cena sweet chin music.

Conclusive Finishes: 3 of 6.

Show Analysis:

Jonathan Coachman came out to start the show. He said that the Lashley vs. McMahon match would be no DQ, and that any undesired interference would result in fine or suspension. Stone Cold Steve Austin made his way to the ring, and said that he received gifts purportedly from Donald Trump but that were actually sent by Vince McMahon. He said that McMahon was trying to make it seem that Trump wanted to bribe him. Coach claimed that he was the one that did that, and McMahon had nothing to do with it. He apologized. Austin said that he will call the match straight down the middle and beat up anyone who doesn’t abide by what he says. Coach said that both he and Austin prove bald is beautiful. Austin stunned him.

Austin was leaving in his truck right as McMahon was arriving in his limousine. The two vehicles honked at each other, and McMahon started to yell at the truck when he realized it was Austin. Austin gave him the finger. McMahon apologized, and then attacked and fired his limo driver. They ran a video package on Edge at WrestleMania VI. This was interesting only because he said he was the only person among the 60,000 in attendance who would realize his dream to become a WWE wrestler. That of course contradicts the long told WWE story of Edge attending that event with Christian.

Torrie Wilson, Candice Michelle and Ashley defeated Victoria, Jillian Hall and Melina. Melina slapped Ashley at the beginning, and the heels worked over Candice. Ashley tagged in, hit a spinning head scissors on Jillian, and hit a huracanrana on Victoria. Jillian went for a handspring elbow but was caught and Ashley used a victory roll for the pin. All this was sloppy as hell. I am adamantly opposed to taking women who have less than a year of training and are so limited fundamentally and allowing them to do a bunch of spectacular moves. Rather than making fans take Ashley seriously, it just tells the fans that anyone can do these moves and emphasizes that it’s all a big work.

CM Punk defeated Kenny Dykstra. Punk got a surprisingly strong reaction, even for his home city. He hit a double underhook back breaker, springboard clothesline, high knee and bulldog. He finished Dykstra with go 2 sleep. If they see something in Dykstra, and I think he has a lot of potential, they are better off leaving him in Ohio Valley than treating him like a nobody on television. Still, this was an effective segment in getting over Punk. Edge appeared on the screen afterwards and said Punk wouldn’t win at Mania. He said that Punk would have a chance to respond on the Cutting Edge.

The Cutting Edge featured all the Money in the Bank participants. Edge started by putting over himself. He said that he’s surprised Matt Hardy’s even on the WrestleMania card. Matt threatened to leave Edge lying on his back like his ex-girlfriend. King Booker said he’s the only King in the match. He called everyone else in the match peasants, which angered Finlay. Finlay challenged Edge to a fight. Orton told Finlay to chill because Edge might duck out of the match. Mr. Kennedy said he would win but Edge took away the mic before he could go into his usual spiel. Edge said, “Riveting stuff. Say your name.” That was hilarious.

Edge then basically said Jeff never speaks and just does his goofy dance. Jeff said he would steal the show at Mania. Finally Punk got to speak, with loud chants of “CM Punk.” Punk said Edge is addicted to running his mouth. Edge shoved Punk, which set off a brawl. Edge left. Matt, Jeff and Punk cleared the ring, and then went after Edge. Edge was pure gold here. He should be headlining. They announced that the Hall of Fame will be on USA, with the televised inductions of Curt Hennig, Jerry Lawler, Dusty Rhode and Jim Ross. John Cena cut a promo backstage, talking about everything that will happen at WrestleMania. His delivery was phenomenal.

Mr. McMahon beat Bobby Lashley. McMahon left the ring immediately. Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch came out but their offense was no sold and they were quickly disposed of. Chris Masters and Johnny Nitro were next, but Masters received a half nelson slam and Nitro a running power slam. Finally, Umaga came out. As he started to brawl with Lashley, McMahon gave Lashley a low blow from behind. Umaga gave Lashley the Samoan drop. McMahon covered and the referee counted three even though Lashley kicked out. Umaga then hit a splash off the top, two running butt drops and the Samoan spike. McMahon pinned Lashley again.

Mr. Kennedy and Randy Orton beat Matt and Jeff Hardy. Kennedy and Orton worked over Jeff. He hit whisper in the wind and tagged Matt. Matt gave both heels the side effect. He went for the twist of fate on Kennedy, but Kennedy pushed him into an Orton RKO for the pin. They announced Jim Ross for the Hall of Fame. He got a really nice sustained reaction from the crowd. It was a touching and well deserved tribute.

Great Khali beat Ric Flair via disqualification. Khali no sold Flair’s chops. He was setting up Flair for the tree slam on the steps but Carlito made the save. Carlito got a tree slam for his efforts. Kane then came in with a hook and ran off Khali. Michaels cut a promo backstage. He said that he has stood the test of time and will win the title. This was a great promo by Michaels.

Undertaker and Batista beat John Cena and Shawn Michaels. Undertaker and Cena started, with both going for their finishers. Batista and Undertaker cleared the ring. They then squared off, but Cena jumped Undertaker. The crowd really didn’t like Cena. Cena sent Undertaker to the outside, and both he and Michaels sent Taker into the steps. Batista tagged himself in and clotheslined Cena. Batista hit a spine buster on Cena. He was setting up Cena for the Batista bomb as Taker had Michaels up for the press slam. However, Taker threw Michaels into Batista to break that and then left. Cena gave Batista the Cena slam and Michaels gave him the elbow off the top. They did a double five knuckle shuffle. At that point Michaels finally gave Cena sweet chin music. Batista covered Cena for the pin. This was a solid close to the final Raw before Mania.

Final Thoughts:

Raw’s WrestleMania build is complete, and they did a hell of a job. It should draw a strong buy rate (although they’re not touching Mayweather-De La Hoya, sorry). Now cross your fingers for next Monday. They have had solid builds for major PPVs in recent years where everything fell apart after the show. Hopefully this will be different and the promotion will follow through after Mania with a product that continues to be well booked and entertaining.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

WEC Report

LAS VEGAS - Carlos Condit scored an impressive victory over John Alessio in the main event of a strong World Extreme Cagefighting show Saturday night.

WEC, run by UFC’s parent company Zuffa, is built around lighter weight fighters. With fierce competition for fighters in higher weight classes, it allows the promotion to build around higher caliber fighters than most smaller MMA companies. This allows for more credible titles and better fights. These were on display this evening, as the show featured exciting action fights from top to bottom.

The show drew a sellout crowd of approximately 1,000 fans at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, including Paris Hilton and well known UFC names such as Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, Quinton Jackson and Dana White. The show was taped for the Versus cable network, where the promotion will debut June 3. Frank Mir interviewed fighters after their bouts, and that needs to end given how much bigger Mir was than most of the men he interviewed.

1. Brian Stann (3-0) defeated Steve Cantwell (3-1) in a 205 pound fight via TKO 41 seconds into the first round. Stann is a Marine who recently served in Iraq and dedicated to the fight to some of his fallen comrades. Stann dropped Cantwell with a right punch and threw an additional few blows before referee Josh Rosenthal stepped in. It was probably a fast stoppage, and Cantwell did complain afterwards.

2. Micah Miller (7-0) beat Jesse Moreng (8-1) in a 145 pound contest with a third round triangle. In the first round, Moreng scored a couple takedowns but Miller was very active from the bottom. Miller worked for submissions and neutralized Moreng’s attack. When standing, Miller got the better of the exchanges. In the second round, Miller scored some hard punches and knees. Moreng got a couple more takedowns, including an impressive judo throw, but was unable to capitalize. In the third round, Moreng landed some of his best punches of the fight. However, when he took it to the ground Miller secured a triangle for the tap. Miller was very impressive here. He is six feet tall, and if he fills in his frame he could cause some fighters difficulty at higher weight classes.

3. Alex Serdyukov (5-3) beat Scott Norton (7-1) in 170 pound fight via second round guillotine. Norton has a strong amateur wrestling background, and quickly took Serdyukov down. He was able to impose some effective ground and pound, but was also threatened by a triangle attempt and an armbar attempt. In the second round, Serdyukov sunk in a guillotine for the tap out.

4. Charlie Valencia (8-2) defeated Antonio Banuelos (13-4) in a 155 pound battle with a knockout in the first round. The two men traded punches early. Each man attempted a takedown, but the fight returned to the standing position. There, Valencia caught Banuelos with a sudden KO.

5. Cub Swanson (10-1) beat Tommy Lee (18-6) in a 145 pound fight with a first round guillotine. Swanson dismissed Lee’s skill before the fight, but was able to back up his boasts. Lee took Swanson down. Swanson went for the guillotine repeatedly and eventually sunk it in for the submission.

6. Dave Terrel (5-1) won a 170 pound bout over Tiki Ghosn (9-6) following a referee stoppage in the second round. The corners made for an interesting story here. In Tiki’s corner were Tito Ortiz, Quinton Jackson, Karo Parisyan and the Team Punishment camp. In Terrel’s corner were Ortiz rival Chuck Liddell and sometimes training partner Kendall Grove. There was a lot of trash talk from both men before the fight. Terrel went for the takedown early, but had it blocked. Tiki was effective standing with punches, kicks and knees, but Terrel also scored some blows. In the second round, Terrel rocked Tiki with a barrage of punches. He kept the pressure on and really unloaded on Tiki. Tiki still wouldn’t go down, and eventually Herb Dean stepped in to bring the contest to an end.

7. Brock Larson (20-1) beat Erik Apple (9-1) in a 170 pound attraction via first round kimura. Apple is well known in some circles for his work as an MMA commentator. Larson is a real force to be reckoned with. Larson took Apple down and landed some hard punches and elbows. Larson went for a rear naked choke attempt, but Apple escaped. Apple went for a heel hook but Larson got out. Finally, Larson applied a kimura for the tap.

8. Chase Beebe (10-1) defeated Eddie Wineland (11-5-1) to win the WEC 135 pound title via a unanimous judges’ decision. Wineland nailed Beebe with some hard punches in the first round, and came close to finishing the fight standing. Beebe recovered and scored a couple takedowns late. The second round belonged to Beebe. He took down Wineland and gained full mount. He then pounded Wineland with punches and elbows for around three full minutes. Referee Steve Mazzagatti watched the action closely and decided not to stop the contest. In the third round, Beebe took down Wineland again, and busted up Wineland’s ear badly. Wineland’s ear was a gruesome spectacle for the rest of the fight. The fight returned to the standup, where Wineland got the best of the action. Wineland sunk in a guillotine choke tight but the round ended. In the fourth round, Beebe got another takedown and grounded and pounded. In the final round, the fight remained standing but Wineland was hesitant and wasn’t able to finish the fight. The referees gave the fight to Beebe 48-47, 48-46, 48-46. I had it 48-46. This was a war, with both men showing tremendous heart.

9. Urijah Faber (18-1) retained his WEC 145 pound title with a first round guillotine choke victory over Dominic Cruz (9-1). Faber is one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, and received a big reaction from the crowd. He wasn’t able to showcase all that much this evening, as the fight was a quick one. Faber used some unorthodox striking against Cruz to set up a takedown attempt. Following a scramble, Faber caught Cruz in a guillotine from the bottom. He then flipped over to mount position where Cruz tapped out.

10. Carlos Condit (20-4) won the WEC 170 pound title from John Alessio (18-10) with a rear naked choke 4:59 into round 2. Alessio took Condit down three times in the first round, but Condit was able to get back to his feet each time. Condit then threw hard kicks from the standing position on Alessio. In the second round, Alessio got another takedown, but Condit once again got up. From there, he threw some very hard kicks that landed on Alessio. Alessio went for a takedown but Condit used a kimura attempt to take top position. He threw some elbows, but Alessio got up. Condit landed some knees, and then went for a rear naked choke with just seconds left in the second round. Condit sunk it in and Alessio tapped at just about the last possible moment. Condit looked like a real threat in the 170 pound division here.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 03/19/07 from Indianapolis, IN.

The Big News: WrestleMania build continues, with the featured performers again being put over strong.

Conclusive Finishes: 3 of 5.

Show Analysis:

Raw started with a graphic for Arnold Skaaland. Shawn Michaels and JBL came out. JBL said that nobody tells him when to come out of retirement, and that if he does so he will do it on his terms and in his city, New York. WWE is perhaps going a bit far with one falsely advertised match a show these days. JBL said that Michaels won’t win the WWE title, and hasn’t take advantage of his opportunities to nail John Cena. JBL said that Michaels knows he can’t beat Cena, and doesn’t attack Cena because of the fans. He called Michaels pathetic. This was a very good promo by JBL.

Michaels responded that he doesn’t need to earn the fans’ respect, because he has it already. He added that he will beat Cena at WrestleMania. He said he delivers sweet chin music when he wants to and when you least expect it. He then hit JBL with the move in the middle of his next sentence. They put over that Michaels did it really quickly and unexpectedly, but unfortunately the kick was completely expected because of what he just said and was slow enough to where it felt contrived that JBL just stood there waiting for it.

An angry Randy Orton confronted Edge backstage. He said that Edge’s spot in Money in the Bank would be up for grabs in a match. Vince McMahon was apparently annoyed Edge didn’t deliver on his offer to take out Lashley. Edge, however, would be able to earn back his spot by winning a battle royal. If they do go through with the Edge/Orton feud it will be tricky given both almost have to be heels at this point.

Lashley won the Masterlock challenge. The announcers sold that Lashley’s presence on Raw was a shock and nobody expect him to take the challenge. The only problem is they announced he would take the Masterlock challenge on their website last week. Now it’s probably true that the majority of the audience didn’t see that. However, if they are going to pretend some weeks that everyone knows something is coming because it was announced on the website, it’s ridiculous to pretend other weeks that actual website announcements never occurred. In any event, Lashley just broke the hold cleanly. I guess Lashley’s as good of a choice as any given the spot they are grooming for him, even if I don’t think much of him as a performer.

Vince McMahon confronted Lashley backstage. Vince said that Lashley may have broken the Masterlock, but Umaga will break Lashley. He added that he will break Donald Trump’s ego. He had Lashley escorted from the building. Eugene then accidentally spilled a drink on Vince. Vince decided to feed him to Umaga as retaliation. They then aired a video package for Arnold Skaaland.

Edge won a 10 man battle royal to earn back his title shot at WrestleMania. The other participants were Val Venis, Kenny Dykstra, Ric Flair, Shelton Benjamin, Charlie Haas, Viscera, Super Crazy, Johnny Nitro and Carlito. Edge feigned an injury from basically the beginning and left the ring. Everyone went after Viscera and dumped him out first. Haas and Benjamin threw out Super Crazy. Flair pushed Benjamin off the top rope to the floor. Flair chopped Dykstra out. Carlito drop kicked Nitro out. That left Flair and Carlito. Carlito sent Flair over the top but not to the floor. Flair came back in and eliminated Carlito. He was announced as the winner when of course Edge came back in and threw him out. This was predictable, but good enough.

Umaga defeated Eugene in a squash with the Samoan spike. Afterwards Vince shaved Eugene’s hair and slapped him. This was a good angle. Candice Michelle next challenged Melina. Melina ran down the Playboy cover girls and said Playboy is beneath her. Candice suggested they have a bra and panties match. Melina accepted and won. Afterwards, Ashley came out and pulled off Melina’s top. Then Great Khali came in and grabbed Ashley by the throat. Jerry Lawler came in for the save but received a tree slam for his efforts.

Jeff Hardy beat Randy Orton via disqualification. Orton hit a back breaker and applied the Boston crab. Hardy came back with the whisper in the wind. At that point Edge brought a ladder into the ring. Orton hit Hardy with it for the DQ and then argued with Edge. Hardy gave Orton the twist of fate and a leg drop off the top rope over the ladder onto Orton. This match made no sense. They announced next week Lashley vs. Vince McMahon.

John Cena beat Chris Benoit via submission. Shawn Michaels did commentary, and Cena almost collided with him early but pulled up. Benoit hit chops and applied the sharpshooter. He followed with three rolling Germans, but missed a head butt. Cena came back with the Cena slam and five knuckle shuffle. He went for the FU but Benoit escaped and went for the crossface. Cena escaped that and applied the FU for the tap. Michaels came in and teased using sweet chin music. Cena then lifted up Michaels for the FU but let him down. The story is they are both playing head games with each other. JBL came out to close the show, and said that next week Michaels and Cena would team up again against Undertaker and Batista.

Final Thoughts:

What I liked a lot about this show was just how strongly they put over the featured performers for WrestleMania. That takes a lot of courage, but it’s the right thing for business. They should continue that trend leading into every PPV, and also utilize that attitude towards grooming a select few young stars for future main events.

First Case

I had my first actual hearing with a real client today, which was exciting. It was for my trial advocacy class, and we got to represent an elderly woman in a wage dispute case. I thought it went very well. The judge seemed to buy our arguments and I think we'll get a sizeable judgment for our client. I'll keep my fingers crossed on that, though.

Pro Wrestlers on Steroids!

Shocking, I know. Nothing will come of it. Fans don't care about athletes taking steroids, and Vince knows this. And honestly, I don't care much myself if wrestlers want to take steroids. That's their prerogative. The issue isn't with them taking steroids or the distributors passing them out. The problem is Vince rewarding steroid use with his size fixation. Steroids are bad for them, but if wrestlers have to balance professional success versus health costs, that's their decision. If Vince stops rewarding steroid use, then I will be concerned with trying to get wrestlers to stop using them. Until then, it's an issue of balancing and that's ultimately up to them.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

IFL Los Angeles Report

The Los Angeles Anacondas defeated the San Jose Razorclaws and the Tokyo Sabres defeated the Southern California Condors Saturday night at the Los Angeles Forum. The IFL’s first show in Los Angeles drew an estimated crowd of approximately 3,500 with a significant portion of the arena curtained off.

The show felt different than most MMA events. The sports oriented concept was reflected in crowd reactions. The crowd was quieter than a UFC or Pride show, but generally respectful and enthusiastic. They reacted big to spectacular finishes, but rarely got particularly behind or against any given fighter. Overall it featured pretty good fighting with some exciting finishes, but suffered from a lack of star power that made it feel rather dull at times. It was a mistake to run a major city like Los Angeles without a main event.

In the opener of the main card, Alex Schoenauer scored a close split decision victory over Brian Ebersole. Schoenauer scored the better blows standing, while Ebersole took him down on a few occasions and controlled the fight on the ground. Benji Radach choked out Brian Foster with a guillotine just a minute into the first round. Rising young fighter Chris Horodecki outclassed Josh Odom, but had trouble finishing and won via unanimous decision. Jay Hieron submitted Donnie Liles with a guillotine choke. Finally, Krzysztof Soszynski won a unanimous decision victory over Dan Christison. That gave the Anacondas a clean sweep over Frank Shamrock’s Razorclaws.

Sabre Savant Young won the first bout of the second meet with an impressive knockout of Adam Lynn early in the second round. Sabre Antonio McKee scored the 14th decision win and 19th overall win of his career by taking down Rodrigo Ruas on a number of occasions. Condor Jeremy Williams choked out Kazuhiro Hamanaka with a beautiful triangle. Vladimir Matyushenko won the second meet for the Sabres by stopping Justin Levens with strikes. Finally, Antoine Jaoude knocked out Wayne Cole with a brutal right hand in a fight that Cole had been winning up to that point.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

NCAA Tournament Approaches

Bill Simmons picked Kansas, which of course guarantees even more they won't be winning. I don't get Kansas as a pick. Yeah, they're really talented. But that almost plays against them in the tournament where they have a ton of people that want to make an impression for the NBA scouts. Plus they have a history now of going out early that I think will play a factor when they're in a close tough game. I guess we'll see though. Seems a pretty open field to me this year. Yahoo lets you join multiple leagues for tournament pick'em, so if anyone would like to join me and a few of my friends, feel free: Custom League #94303, Password: hello. Gives you an opportunity to ridicule me when my bracket falls apart spectacularly.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 03/12/07 from Washington, DC.

The Big News: Donald Trump appeared live on Raw for a contact signing, and the Rock weighed in with his thoughts on the match.

Conclusive Finishes: 5 of 6.

Show Analysis:

The show started with a graphic for Ernie Ladd. John Cena came out, and said he has been asking himself if he trusts Shawn Michaels. He challenged Michaels to come do whatever he is going to do. Michaels made his entrance. He acknowledged his goal is to take Cena’s title, but said that he has kept his word in watching Cena’s back. He added that maybe the question should be when Cena turns on him. Michaels said he wants it more than Cena.

Jonathan Coachman came out and announced that Michaels and Cena would compete in a gauntlet match with three other teams for the tag titles. He added that the final match would be a cage match. I didn’t like this setup at all. It was way too reminiscent of Vince Russo TNA, with gimmicks being stacked on top of each other in a throwaway manner so that they mean nothing and it is harder to get them over in another setting.

They again aired a video package with various celebrities predicting whether Donald Trump or Vince McMahon would have their head shaved. They all focused on Trump with little discussion of McMahon. The highlight was one celebrity just spelling out that Trump would never agree to lose his hair so obviously Vince will be booked to lose. Seriously, that was pretty much the exact sentiment, even if it was worded a little differently.

Randy Orton beat Carlito and Ric Flair to earn the last spot in the Money in the Bank match. All three alternated offense early, then Carlito and Flair took turns on Orton. Flair and Carlito got into an argument over who would eliminate Orton. Flair shoved Carlito and went for the figure four on Orton, but Carlito gave him the back cracker. Orton threw Carlito to the outside and gave Flair the RKO for the pin. Orton then gave Carlito an implant DDT, Boston crab and Garvin stomp. Orton went for the RKO, but Carlito hit a huracanrana, knee lift, clothesline and enzuigiri. Orton caught him with a sudden RKO for the pin. They put over Orton strong here and this was good stuff.

Chris Masters held another Masterlock challenge. He threatened Lillian Garcia, which brought out Super Crazy to no reaction whatsoever. Crazy attacked Masters. Masters applied the Masterlock, and Crazy didn’t fight it for very long like most people do. They then aired a well done video package for Ernie Ladd, putting him over big as a performer and a person.

Randy Orton and Edge had a discussion backstage. Orton noted they will be opponents at WrestleMania. Edge said he has won more ladder matches than everyone else in the match combined and is undefeated at WrestleMania. Orton said Edge is only undefeated there because he hasn’t faced Orton. Orton oddly concluded that he is younger and better looking than Edge.

The Rock appeared on the video screen to discuss the Trump-McMahon match at WrestleMania. He said that Vince will get his head shaved. He also claimed that Umaga means shriveled up monkey penis in Samoan. Rock was clearly having a good time here and is noticeably much smaller than he was in wrestling. I miss the Rock as a pro wrestler, but he deserves the success he has had in Hollywood. He needs to be pickier when it comes to scripts, though.

John Cena and Shawn Michaels beat Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas. Cena gave Benjamin a fisherman buster but Haas took over on Cena with a body slam and shoulder blocks. Cena tagged Michaels, who came in with an inverted atomic drop and DDT on Haas. Cena then tagged himself back in and applied the STFU for the tap. This was too short.

Immediately thereafter, Michaels and Cena beat Lance Cade and Trevor Murdoch. Cade and Murdoch executed their double team inverted atomic drop/yakuza kick. Cade followed with a clothesline and bear hug on Michaels, but Michaels hit an enzuigiri and tagged Cena. Cena hit the Cena slam and five knuckle shuffle on Murdoch. He lifted him up for the FU, but Michaels gave Murdoch sweet chin music, grazing right by Cena’s head. Cena covered for the pin, but was not pleased. That was a cool spot.

Cena and Michaels then defeated MNM in a short cage match. MNM worked over Michaels, with Nitro using a neck breaker and double team stomach breaker. Nitro missed a second rope sky twister press, and Michaels tagged Cena. Michaels and Cena took turns throwing MNM into the cage. Cena went for the FU, but dropped his man when Michaels was setting up for sweet chin music. Michaels gave Mercury sweet chin music, and Cena followed with the FU for the pin. Afterwards the other tag teams came back in, but Michaels and Cena fought them all off six on two. It looked like Cena might hit Michaels with a chair but instead he hit Haas and left.

The positives of this gauntlet segment were that it told a good story, had some cool spots, and was entertaining. The negatives were that it was overbooked in a way that took away from the impact of the individual spots, buried more people than was necessary, and featured a completely pointless cage match.

Edge was going to wrestle Jeff Hardy, but Edge wasn’t dressed to wrestle. Edge said he didn’t want to compete in a city that perpetuates slurs against Native Americans, referring to the Washington Redskins nickname. He said he had a friend of Indian descent, and that brought out Great Khali. Khali destroyed Jeff with a chop, boot and tree slam. At that point Kane came out with a hook ala See No Evil. Khali left. This was a really dumb angle. Maybe John Nord can come back and have a duel with his sword against Kane’s hook.

Mr. Fuji was announced for the Hall of Fame. Mick Foley then plugged his book backstage. He suggested Vince will have his head shaved. He said he would have some things to say about ECW tomorrow night. I’m looking forward to that. Ashley came in, and plugged her edition of Playboy. She suggested they trade a Playboy for a book. Foley sold Ashley’s centerfold huge. I’ll be curious if this edition of Playboy sells. I don’t get the sense that people are at all interested in Ashley.

Melina beat Torrie Wilson. Melina worked Torrie over with punches and threw her by the hair. Melina ended up rolling up Torrie and grabbing the tights for the pin. After the match, Melina attacked Torrie again but Mickie made the save. Victoria came out to make it two on two, and finally Ashley came in and attacked Melina. She motioned that she wants the women’s title. Edge came up to Vince backstage, and suggested Orton with Edge in his corner vs. Lashley on ECW tomorrow night. He added that Orton should be thrown out of Money in the Bank if he doesn’t show up. Vince agreed to all of this, so apparently Edge has some sort of a plan.

They announced that next week they will have a pair of “WrestleMania reversal” matches where Cena and Michaels will have to wrestle past foes of their opponent. The matches will be Cena vs. Chris Benoit and Michaels vs. JBL. I absolutely hate the idea of JBL’s return coming on a random Raw with no build as a total afterthought. JBL has gotten over so strongly as a commentator that his return really ought to mean something.

Vince McMahon came out and said that he won’t be embarrassed at WrestleMania because this is his world. Umaga, Donald Trump and Lashley made their entrances and they signed the contract. Vince was talking a lot of trash while Trump smiled smugly. They argued about who people want to see shaved.

At this point, Stone Cold Steve Austin came out. He polled the audience as to who they thought would lose. Austin warned Trump not to piss him off, and wanted to know if Vince has a problem with bald headed people. Vince said he will shave Trump’s head and started to leave. Trump showed an image of Vince shaved bald and challenged Vince to come back. Vince came back to the ring and Trump shoved him down. This was an entertaining segment, although I’m concerned there is something missing in this feud. It kind of reminds me of the IFL, with the focus on coaches rather than combatants.

Final Thoughts:

This was another good show, although I thought it was towards the lower end of Raw’s recent efforts. It made me a little bit nervous in that they are giving away things that they shouldn’t in a way that suggests they are just thinking about WrestleMania and not beyond that. Saving a cage match for a Batista vs. Undertaker WrestleMania rematch would be a lot more effective and could sell some buys, as could holding off JBL’s return for a heavily promoted PPV. Wrestling isn’t about throwing things against the wall – it is about gradually teaching fans to want something and then giving it to them. If WWE wants to carry its current momentum beyond WrestleMania, it needs to be setting up future events, not undermining their significance.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Big Recruiting Day for UCLA

UCLA landed 10 football recruits Friday and Saturday, including top national prospects Kemonte Bateman and Rahim Moore, and heavily recruited pass rushers Datone Jones and Damien Holmes.

Really solid signal for the Bruins, with a lot of recruits eager to jump on board. It suggests that players are buying into Karl Dorrell's program, and potentially the tide is beginning to turn on USC's recent domination of the LA football landscape.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Raw Report

Date: 03/05/07 from Phoenix, AZ.

The Big News: Steve Austin was announced as special guest referee for Umaga vs. Lashley, but not before WWE teased a few other names.

Conclusive Finishes: 2 of 5. That’s not a good number. They should be putting the top stars over to make the top matches at WrestleMania feel more important.

Show Analysis:

Shawn Michaels defeated Randy Orton. Prior to the match, John Cena said he would have Michaels’ back in this match, but Michaels said he didn’t need the help. Thus, Edge was in Orton’s corner but Cena wasn’t in Michaels’. Orton hit an implant DDT, punches and a knee drop. Michaels came back with an inverted atomic drop, back drop and elbow off the top.

Michaels went for sweet chin music but Orton caught the move and a ref bump followed. Orton hit the RKO but the referee was out. Edge threw a title belt into the ring but the referee caught it and Michaels rolled up Orton for the pin. After the match Orton gave Michaels the RKO on a chair, but Cena made the save. This match was pretty cookie cutter with a weak ending.

Backstage, Coach told Vince McMahon that he looked stressed, but Vince said the board of directors would do whatever he said and make Shane McMahon the special referee for Umaga vs. Lashley. This led into an Umaga victory over Jeff Hardy. Jeff hit a pescado and clothesline off the steps early, but then Umaga took over. Umaga hit a hard clothesline, running head butt, butt drop and Samoan spike for the pin. This was pretty much a squash, and I’m all for putting over strongly the guys in prominent positions.

They ran a video featuring a bunch of celebrities saying they would like to see Donald Trump have his head shaved. This was odd given that it portrayed Trump as the heel and a much bigger deal than Vince, but the positive is that it made the match feel like something big. Carlito and Ric Flair were interviewed backstage. Flair said he would beat Carlito to earn an opportunity at Money in the Bank and WrestleMania because he has more passion. Carlito said he would win even if he had to go through Flair. Chris Masters then won a Masterlock challenge over Jim Duggan.

Vince McMahon came out and said that the contract signing for Lashley vs. Umaga will take place next week. Eric Bischoff then came out looking smug. He said he’s not the special referee, but that he lives in Phoenix and decided to stop by and say hello. He was angry at Vince for firing him, and said everyone would enjoy watching Donald Trump shave Vince’s head. That’s crappy attention to detail, since Bischoff returned after being fired by Vince and the last time we saw him he was made general manager for an evening by Vince and was sucking up to him.

At that point, Mick Foley came out in a referee shirt. Vince sucked up to Foley, thinking he would be the special referee. Foley pointed out that the last time he was on Raw he was kissing Vince’s ass and now Vince was kissing his. Vince wanted to let bygones be bygones. Foley asked for his old job back, access to promote his book, and expenses for his hotel room. Vince agreed to all of this, at which point Foley said he wouldn’t be the special referee for Lashley vs. Umaga, but rather a rib eating contest between Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Gorilla.
Next out was Shane McMahon. Vince welcomed him to the ring and was happy, thinking Shane would be the referee. Shane informed him that they lost the vote 5-4. Shane whispered to Vince who the board had picked, and Vince looked upset. That brought out Stone Cold Steve Austin to an electric pop. Vince offered to shake his hand, but Austin wouldn’t do it and drank a lot of beer instead. This was a very fun segment.

Melina beat Mickie James in a falls count anywhere match. Melina rammed Mickie into the barricade, and threw a garbage can at her. They went backstage and brawled into the diva locker room. Victoria helped Melina, but Torrie made the save. Candice came out of the shower and had her towel pulled off, at which point it went to black. They brawled back to ringside, where Melina rammed Mickie repeatedly into the mat. Mickie threw Melina by the hair and hit a fisherman suplex for two. Mickie went for a top rope huracanrana but the move was screwed up and Mickie landed on her neck. Melina immediately covered for the pin. Melina went to get her belt back from Ashley, who was the special ring announcer. Ashley shoved Melina down. This was an entertaining brawl.

Carlito and Ric Flair’s match ended in a no contest. They battled back and forth. Carlito hit punches and kicks, then Flair threw chops and punches. Carlito hit a drop kick and suplex, while Flair landed an elbow and knee drop. At that point Great Khali came in, attacked both men, gave Flair the tree slam and said he wants Kane. Pushing Great Khali pisses me off because he has no talent and they could be spending the effort trying to get over someone who actually has the potential to get over. He’s essentially a recreation of Zeus almost twenty years later, and it’s a completely different landscape. They didn’t even keep Zeus around this long, and he actually drew a strong buy rate. They announced Nick Bockwinkel for the Hall of Fame.

John Cena defeated Johnny Nitro by disqualification. They had said throughout the show Edge would be wrestling Cena, but backstage Orton told Edge he wouldn’t have Edge’s back. Edge then came out with MNM, and Nitro was announced as Cena’s opponent. Nitro briefly had the advantage, but Cena came back with the five knuckle shuffle. He went for the FU, but Mercury gave him a chop block. The heels then worked Cena over three on one. Michaels came down for the save but then stopped. After a long tease and booing, he finally came to the ring and saved Cena.

Final Thoughts:

It’s pretty clear by this point that the build all the way to WrestleMania is going to be excellent. Now’s the time to start crossing your fingers that things don’t fall apart after that show. This was another good show, with the highlight being the segment announcing Steve Austin as special referee. Other than that, it wasn’t as inspired as recent weeks but was still a solid, entertaining two hours.

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That was one hell of a remarkable performance by Randy Couture.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Dockery Signs $49M deal

Crazy. This is as zany of a contract as I can ever recall. Have the Bills watched Dockery as an offensive lineman? I mean he's decent, but I'm not sure he's in the top 50 percent of the league, let alone worthy of a contract analogous to that Steve Hutchinson received. That means this is going to be quite the offseason as far as the contracts go. We're going to see some amazing contracts being given out with all the money to go around. Puts even more value on the draft.

The Redskins are apparently interested in bringing back Fred Smoot. Which makes me happy. I always liked Smoot and would love to see him back.