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Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking At The Wrestler Of The Year . . . Next Year, That Is

First off, all of us here at the Pro Wrestling Illustrated family of magazines wish all of you and your families a happy and healthy New Year. We’d also like to express our deep appreciation to our readers for another year of your loyalty. We’re committed to continuing to deliver to you the highest quality pro wrestling journalism in 2011 and beyond.

If you’ve checked out our official web site, or Stu Saks’ blog item below, you know by now that Randy Orton has been voted PWI’s 2010 Wrestler of the Year. I can’t argue with the fans, as “The Viper” had another banner year that included a two-month reign as WWE heavyweight champion, and a surprising transformation from one of WWE’s most reviled villains to one of its most popular heroes.

It may be a bit early for you to start sending in those ballots, but here on the last day of 2010, it’s worth looking 12 months ahead and wondering who may be in the prestigious slot of Wrestler of the Year for 2011.

For five years now, the award has been dominated by WWE’s three perennial top acts—Orton (who won it last year), Triple-H (who won it in 2008) and John Cena (who won it in 2006 and 2007.) It remains very likely that one of those three men will earn himself another Wrestler of the Year plaque next year.

At just 30 years old, it’s entirely possible that Orton has not yet reached his peak. Maybe he will do so in 2011. As good as he was in 2010, it’s clear that he still has a ways to go in developing a personality that fans will want to cheer. Orton is likely to be in the top mix at WrestleMania XXVI, maybe even defending the heavyweight title if he can defeat The Miz for it before then.

Triple-H is expected back in the ring following his lengthy hiatus soon, and it’s almost a lock that he’ll win his 14th world title before 2011 is through. However, now in his 40s and dedicating more of his time to his corporate responsibilities in WWE and to his family, it could be that Triple-H plays a smaller role in WWE’s on air product than in recent years. (I wouldn’t count on it.)

Cena is always a top candidate for any award recognizing achievement in wrestling. He remains, by far, wrestling’s top attraction. And while many fans will never give him credit for it, he’s also one of the sport’s most talented performers. If he doesn’t get injured, it’s a given that he will remain the centerpiece of WWE for another year, headline another WrestleMania, and add at least another world title reign to his resume.

But that could be a very big “if.” Earlier this week, Cena reportedly suffered a leg injury during a live event in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. WWE still has not released any official information about the severity of the injury, although Jim Ross has indicated that it may be less serious than initially feared. Even if he does make it back to the ring fairly soon, at the rate that Cena’s extending himself, it’s not unlikely that he’ll suffer another injury that could sideline him in 2011.

It’s possible that someone else could sneak in and take Wrestler of the Year honors for the first time in 2011. The Miz is only weeks into his first full-fledged run as a main eventer, and has impressed many with his confidence, speaking ability, and wrestling prowess. If he stays on this track, he’ll certainly be a top vote-getter come next year. CM Punk has shown new depth to his personality since returning to the Raw brand, initially as a commentator and most recently as the new head of The Nexus. He could have a very big year in 2011. Sheamus remains one of the most ambitious wrestlers to grace a WWE ring in years, and won’t be denied his opportunity to break through to most elite level of WWE stardom in 2011.

Let’s not forget TNA. Kurt Angle is primed to return to the ring in January, and reclaim his throne as the very best wrestler in all of the sport. If TNA world champ Jeff Hardy could square away his legal and personal problems and focus on his job, maybe he could return to the heights he reached in WWE in 2009, and help elevate TNA along the way. After becoming the first ever TNA wrestler to top the PWI 500, AJ Styles’ stock has dropped considerably. But with a few breaks, and lots of hustle, Styles could make his biggest impact so far in 2011. And then there’s Rob Van Dam, who is yet to try to reclaim the world title that was stripped from him in August. If he does so, he could be on the minds of voters come next fall.

How about a real dark horse? Might Daniel Bryan convince voters he really is “the best in the world”? Could Alberto Del Rio put his money where his big mouth is and dominate the Smackdown brand in 2011? Is it even possible that John Morrison defeats his former tag team partner to win the WWE heavyweight title this Monday, and holds onto it through much of next year?

There are plenty of reasons to be excited about following wrestling in the New Year. We hope you’ll follow along with us.

-Al Castle
Pro Wrestling Illustrated Senior Writer

Thursday, December 30, 2010

PWI Achievement Awards


If you have visited our website, www.pwi-online.com, over the past few days, you no doubt saw the cover of the March 2011 edition of PWI, and you know that our readers voted Randy Orton Wrestler of the Year for the second straight year.

Beginning after the new year, we will post the name of one Achievement Award winner a day, leading up to the official on-sale date of the issue, January 18.

You can pre-order the issue at our website right now.

Have a happy and healthy New Year, folks.

Stu Saks
Publisher

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

WWE Shows "Snow" Concern For Safety

Last night the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in a rare Tuesday night NFL game. The game was postponed from Sunday night because officials were concerned over the safety of fans and players, as less than a foot of snow fell in Philly.

Concern over fans and talent? What a foreign concept.

The NFL’s decision stands in stark contrast to those made earlier this week by WWE. On Sunday night, WWE went ahead with a non-televised live event at Madison Square Garden, despite ample warning of an impending blizzard that promised to wallop the New York City region.

For those of you who have never been to MSG, let me give you a quick layout of the “World’s Most Famous Arena.” The Garden sits right on top of Penn Station, Manhattan’s terminal for the Long Island Rail Road—the oldest and largest commuter railroad in the nation, and one of the primary sources of transportation for fans heading into and out of MSG.

I’ve been using the LIRR to get to WWE shows at the Garden for 20 years, and it’s always a fun experience to ride in and out with hundreds of fellow wrestling fans, eagerly anticipating the action before the show, and after the show reveling in the fun they had the whole way home.
And WWE, which has called MSG its “home” arena for half a century, is well aware of the vital role the LIRR plays in getting its fans to and from its shows in the venue.

It’s worth noting that earlier this year, the LIRR enacted a policy of suspending all train service during a particularly harsh snowfall. And throughout the entire weekend, the LIRR warned customers that it might just have to do that on Sunday night.

Ultimately, the storm dumped nearly two feet of snow in some parts of the region and had sustained hurricane force winds in some locations. It went down as the sixth-worst snowstorm in New York City in recorded history. And it came as a surprise to nobody.

Nevertheless, WWE, as it has done so many times in the past under questionable circumstances, decided that the show must go on, despite the fact that even some talent was unable to get to the Garden.

And, sure enough, just after John Cena defeated Wade Barrett in the cage match main event of the show, thousands of fans made their way down to Penn Station to discover that no trains were running.

Well, that shouldn’t be that big a deal, right? So they wait a couple of hours before service is restored, right? Try 22 hours.

It was Monday evening before some WWE fans were able to finally get home. Until then, hundreds of them—including very young children—slept on idling trains, wandered the train terminal, and even tackled jigsaw puzzles on the station floor.

For its part, WWE defended its decision to run the show. In a comment to Newsday, a spokesman said the company “tries its best not to let down our fans due to the weather,” and made the decision in conjunction with the Garden. They figured some public transportation was working, and many fans lived in the area anyway.

The most shocking part of the spokesman’s comment was when he actually boasted of the show’s attendance of 13,600, “which was more than those that attended the respective Islanders and Devils games” that same night.

WWE may think it had its fans in mind when it decided not to let to disappoint them. And for certain many fans were glad that the show went ahead as planned (some no doubt even enjoyed the experience of spending the night in a New York City train terminal.)

But something far more important than the entertainment of some wrestling fans was at stake here.

By not postponing the event, WWE jeopardized the safety of thousands of fans, as well as its own talent (who had to make the perilous drive to Albany right after the MSG show for Raw the next night).

Imagine what would have happened if a family with young children ventured out in the severe weather to get to the show and got into a nasty car accident? Or if a fan with medical issues was unable to get help for hours because he was trapped in a train station?

WWE did its fans no favors by running a show on Sunday. The right and responsible thing to do would have been to cancel the show with plenty of notice, reach out to ticket-holders by e-mail if possible and post a message online, and reschedule the show for a future date. Some fans may have been inconvenienced and upset, but at least they would have been safe.

WWE officials shouldn’t be bragging about how many fans came out during a dangerous blizzard to attend one of its shows. They should be apologizing to them.

-Al Castle
Pro Wrestling Illustrated Senior Writer

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lennon ... Bruno ... Cosell

Where were you the day John Lennon was assassinated? If you were born and have any memory of December 8, 1980, you probably received the tragic news from Howard Cosell, who broke the story during a telecast of Monday Night Football.

My buddy Ed and I were in a bar at Penn Station, two miles from The Dakota, where Mark David Chapman gunned down Lennon just hours after receiving an autograph from the former Beatle. Ed and I had just attended the WWF show at Madison Square Garden and had a great time watching Bruno Sammartino defeat Sgt. Slaughter in the main event.

Ed suggested we head over to The Dakota, but I couldn't. I am a huge fan of The Beatles and Lennon and I just wouldn't be able to handle it.

On the 30th anniversary of that horrible day, I think about John, Bruno, and Howard Cosell. I e-mailed Ed this morning to learn that he had the same thought.

Miss ya, John!

Stu Saks
Publisher