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Monday, December 21, 2009

Heyman Is "TNA's Most Wanted"

If it were up to TNA fans, the next addition to the roster would be Paul Heyman. At least that was the view of Wade Keller's Pro Wrestling Torch readers, who cast their votes at the pwtorch.com website. I concur. In fact, I concurred two years ago when we ran a cover story in The Wrestler/Inside Wrestling: "TNA To The Extreme: Will Paul Heyman Lead An ECW Faction To Florida?"

At the time, we wanted to see TNA turn over creative to Heyman, and we felt that an angle where he led an NWO-like faction of former ECW wrestlers, including Rob Van Dam, Lita, and Sabu, was the perfect entree. With Jeff Jarrett still in power, we didn't expect TNA to heed our call (truthfully, we never expect anyone to heed our call; we can only hope). When Jarrett was sent home (where Karen Angle awaited him; what punishment!), the Internet was filled with speculation as to who would fill his power void.

Over time, it became clear that the void would be filled by TNA President Dixie Carter, and Hulk Hogan will fit prominently into the mix come January 4, when Impact and Raw go head to head for the first time.

So what about Heyman, who is known to be a handful for management but who could potentially bolster TNA's bottom line?

"He'd have the vision and passion to do incredible things if given the keys to TNA's assets," said PW Torch's Wade Keller, in reaction to his website's poll results. "A combination of [Jim] Ross and Heyman, with the star power and credibility of Hulk Hogan, along with Ric Flair and a part-time commitment from Rob Van Dam would be the ideal January 4 set of surprises for me."

Heyman garnered 31 percent of the vote, followed by RVD at 23 percent, Jim Ross at 12 percent, with Jeff Hardy, Goldberg, Mr. Kennedy, and JBL also receiving attention.

How would you have voted? And what are your thoughts on Paul Heyman?

Stu Saks/Publisher

Sunday, December 20, 2009

ROH leaves a bad first impression in its Internet PPV debut

I recently wrote a "Workin' Stiff" column for a future issue The Wrestler/Inside Wrestling magazine, in which I praised Ring of Honor for taking advantage of innovations in technology while other promotions seemed stuck in the past. I was referring to ROH's foray into Internet-exclusive pay per views.

But having just watched ROH's highly-anticpated "Final Battle 2009" on GoFightLive.TV, I am left second-thinking some of my praise. Rather than looking like the pioneer of new media, ROH came off as a company stuck in the technological dark ages.

Putting aside, for a moment, the quality of action in the ring, this show was nearly unwatchable - sometimes literally so.

Here's the rundown:

So after paying my $14.95, I was informed that the 7:30 p.m. pay per view would begin 10 minutes late. Who ever heard of such a thing? Can you imagine a WWE or TNA live pay per view starting late?

Right off the bat, there were significant problems with the streaming video that would last all night. My cable-modem Internet is usually fast enough to watch most any streaming video without much lag, but I could not go more than a minute or so most of the night without the video cutting out.

But the biggest problems throughout the night were with the audio. They were apparent from the beginning of the show, when the live audio caught the ring announcer counting down the audience before the show was about to go live. Later, the audio from a backstage Tyler Black promo was almost completely drowned out by the crowd noise.

The announce team consisted of three commentators, but, for most of the night, color man Larry Sweeney was completely inaudible. The audio quality of the two other announcers was also poor, and at completely different volumes.

The frustrations continued as the show took an intermission so the merchandise stands could do some business at the Manhattan Center. Fans watching on the Internet were treated to a "classic match" between C.M. Punk vs. Spanky. But the intermission lasted much longer than the match, leaving fans to watch a blank screen for several minutes as the 30-minute plus intermission dragged on. Knowing that, potentially thousands of fans would be watching the Internet stream, couldn't ROH officials have made sure that the intermission was kept brief?

But brevity has not been ROH's strong point in recent years. After all, this show went about 4 and a half hours . An hour of that was dedicated to the main event - a time limit draw between Austin Aries and Tyler Black.

Ironically, in the very last minute of the match, Sweeney's audio came on - but that of the other two announcers and the crowd cut off. Unbelievable.

Seconds after the match ended, the PPV stream abruptly cut off.

Fans could debate the quality of the night's wrestling, which was often good, but sometimes also dragged on, and included some unnecessarily dangerous moves.

But all fans who watched this show could agree on one thing: ROH should be absolutely embarrassed by its production quality for this show. For a company with an established fan base, a nationally televised program, and seven years of history to put on such a shoddily-produced show - and ask fans to pay $15 for it - is inexcusable.

I won't buy the excuse that ROH is a small company with a small budget. ROH's disregard for quality control in its production has nothing to do with money. It would not have cost anything to have someone monitoring the audio throughout the night to realize that one of its ringside announcers was talking into a dead microphone all night. That's just absolute bush league.

ROH needed to be at its best tonight. Instead - in some ways - it was at its worst.

-Al Castle
Po Wrestling Illustrated contributing writer.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pro Wrestling's Person of The Year

As most of you have heard by now, Time magazine recently named its "Person Of The Year." Ben Bernanke may not have been a sexy choice, but considering how the economy has affected so many of us in 2009, the Chairman of The United States Federal Reserve was probably the right choice.

This selection also got me thinking about who the most influential person in the world of pro wrestling has been over the past year. Of course, with WWE's stranglehold on the industry, Vince McMahon is and probably always will be the person, who for better or worse, has most influenced the events of the past year.

But McMahon is too easy and obvious a choice as far as I'm concerned. To simply blurt out McMahon requires no thought, introspection, or analyses. That's why I would nominate TNA President Dixie Carter as wrestling's person of the year.

Does Dixie wield as much power or cache as Vinny Mac? Of course not. Has her company grossed as much revenue as McMahon's? Not even close. But she did do something nobody's been able to do in more than a decade-she got Vince and WWE thinking about competition.

Like many of you, I predict Hogan's run in TNA will be a flop and the January 4th head-to-head battle will be a ratings slaughter that ends in WWE's favor. I doubt TNA is in any position to usurp WWE's place atop the business, and regardless of what happens on Jan. 4, WWE will remain the most dominant brand in the industry. And I'm sure Vince is losing little sleep over TNA's "challenge." But, when was the last time WWE had to concern itself with another wrestling promotion for any reason? Paul Heyman, Gabe Sapolsky, Anonio Inoki, and Carey Silkin haven't breached that barrier in recent times. But Carter did it in late-November and for that I think she is 2009 wrestling's person of the year. What do you think? Let me know who you think wrestling's Person of the Year was in '09 and why.

--Frank Krewda
Editor-In-Chief

Monday, December 14, 2009

Too Many Too Soon?

We are at the tail end of production for our annual PWI Achievement Awards issue. Most of the pages have been sent electronically to the printing plant, including our listing of 2009 title changes. After TLC, we have some revisions to make.

Sheamus is WWE champion. Drew McIntyre is Intercontinental champion. Shawn Michaels and Triple-H are Unified tag team champions.

Generally speaking, I like the idea of WWE giving major pushes to young talent. And I really do not worry about a young wrestler being given too much responsibility too soon. If it doesn't work out, after all, there is ample opportunity to put the belt back on a more established star. (Besides, I like what Sheamus and McIntyre have to offer, and I think those other two kids will work out, too.)

I just wonder why WWE would want to put belts on Sheamus and McIntyre on the same night. It gives me the impression that they are forcing this youth movement down our throats, like all of a sudden they realized that the normal rotation of headliners was getting stale and they had to make a radical adjustment. Is WWE trying to send a message to the established superstars that they are replaceable and that they should not be overly demanding come contract time?

Maybe I'm way off-base. What do you think?

Stu Saks

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

TNA shouldn't get its hopes up

Yay. Yet another forum for me to pontificate about my favorite sport.

Al Castle here, contributing writer for Pro Wrestling Illustrated and its sister magazines, and author of the columns “Quick Counts” and “Workin’ Stiff.” I’d like to thank Stu and the team over in Blue Bell for putting this blog together, and I look forward to dropping by regularly and offering my two cents on the latest pro wrestling headlines.

I thought I’d start by talking about one of the major stories coming out of a very newsworthy weekend for wrestling – Hulk Hogan’s announcement on Spike TV Saturday night that TNA Impact will be going head to head against WWE’s Monday Night Raw on January 4. From the Hulkster’s rhetoric, as well as TNA’s subsequent press release, it seems apparent that TNA has some pretty high expectations for the show. They’ve all but declared a new Monday Night War.

Dixie Carter is in for quite the reality check.

TNA declaring war on WWE would be somewhat akin to Jamie Noble challenging the entire WWE locker room to a fight. It will be a blow out.

Just like the multitude of acquisitions of ex-WWE stars, or moving to Thursday nights, or going to two hours, or every other smoke and mirrors tactic that TNA has attempted to give its product a boost, this latest dawn of a new day for TNA will not make much of a difference to its bottom line.

If Dixie Carter thinks the only thing keeping TNA from seriously competing with WWE is a Monday night time slot and the addition of Hulk Hogan, she is nothing short of delusional. If Carter and Hogan are using WCW as inspiration that a wrestling company could give WWE a run for its money, they are missing the big picture. WCW had decades of history behind it when it created Nitro, and more importantly, had a product that was good enough – and for a while considerably better – than what WWE was offering. TNA has none of those. And while WCW Nitro’s success was driven by Eric Bischoff’s determination to do things differently than WWE, TNA has repeatedly failed at carving out its own identity – or at least a positive one.

If I were asked to list some of TNA’s unique qualities I’d mention: 1). Overly complicated and undisciplined booking 2). Convoluted and inefficient gimmick matches 3). Washed up stars from the Monday Night Wars and more recent WWE mid card cast offs. 4). Short matches. 5). An abundantly talented and mis-used cruiserweight division. 6). A small-time TV studio setting. None of those things put TNA in a position to compete with WWE.

All that said, moving to Monday nights is not a bad idea (although doing it as a one-time experiment could have disastrous results and make Spike gun shy about making the move permanent.) If the Monday Night Wars left us with anything it is the broad recognition that Monday Night is wrestling night. ROH and HDNet were wise enough to figure this out when they moved their program to Monday Night.

So while I don’t think for a second that TNA, as we know it today, could ever come close – much less beat – WWE in a ratings battle, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Impact’s ratings climb a bit (and just a bit) as more fans are apt to watch wrestling on a Monday night than they are a Thursday night. If TNA ever were to move permanently to Monday nights, they would be wise to run 8 to 10 p.m., so they can have that first hour to itself.

Everyone has his prediction of what rating TNA will do on January 4. Some are expecting ratings in the 2’s, which TNA would have to see as a major success. Other are expecting a disaster in the range of 0.8 or lower. I’ll predict they do around a 1.2.

What do you think?

-Al Castle

Friday, December 4, 2009

The New PWI Blog

Well, folks, we're getting into the 21st century. Hey, we're only 10 years late; cut us some slack! Anyway, we're very excited about the new Pro Wrestling Illustrated blog, and as long as enough people are as well, we plan on updating it every time one of our writers has something to say (which is often).

We'll have lots to discuss about the state of wrestling and what you can expect from PWI and The Wrestler/Inside Wrestling, so come back often.

Please let us know what you have on your mind as well.

Stu Saks/Publisher