2019 is almost over so it’s Year in Review Time! And instead of cramming it all in one piece I figured I’d split things up over the next few weeks. First up the bad news.
There’s good and bad stuff that goes on every year in the world of wrestling, and we can’t ignore the latter just because it’s unpleasant. So let’s get to it. In order, the 5 biggest lowlights of the year:
5. T-shirt gate
In October ACH, then going by Jordan Myles, blew up the internet when he revealed that the T-shirt design that WWE had come up with for him looked like a sambo kind of image. Now it gets murky from there, and there’s a lot of stuff that we have no idea as to how it went down, but ACH ultimately got his release from WWE and moved on. But the important thing here is that the design should have never gotten as far as to even be presented to ACH in the first place. At best the whole episode exposed that apparently WWE does not have anyone in the T-shirt department, particularly a person of color who’s got some real world experience, who can look at different logos, designs, etc and say ‘yeah we shouldn’t do that’. And you really need more than one because everybody’s not going to catch everything. They managed to weather the storm in this case but it would behoove them to rectify this situation so it doesn’t happen in the future.
4. Old (white) guys on the mic
The year saw some new announce teams named for Monday Night RAW and two new shows, NWA Powerr and AEW Dynamite but one thing about each was not new: the presence of an old, white, problematic announcer. Jerry Lawler rejoined RAW after being gone for a while, Jim Cornette signed on with the NWA and Jim Ross returned to regular duty with AEW. Why is this a low light? Well, because it’s gone about how you’d expect. Lawler and Ross have both declined as commentator, but can still be counted on for at least one tone deaf line every week where they say something that has either women, people of color or both asking ‘ok, and why do you still have a job?’ But they pale in comparison to Cornette, who was hired despite several documented sexist, homophobic and transphobic comments. And of course Cornette showed his true colors (which we’ll get to next). The problem as a whole here is that these three guys keep getting jobs because there is a belief that their reputations and perceived remaining skills warrant weathering anything bad they might say in the name of attracting viewers, and because they’re all made guys in the old boy network. But’s it high time for the business to move on from these guys because having them around often does more harm than good, and it’s 2019 dammit as I tried to explain a little bit here. And speaking of Cornette…..
3. Cornette gonna Cornette
Cornette eventually doing on air what he’d been doing on Twitter and his podcasts was only a matter of time. And in doing so he didn’t just get himself fired (or ‘fired’, depending how you see it), he exposed some things about the NWA itself, which can be spelled out in this piece from Fansided DDT. Namely the NWA had a month to take out his racist, classist joke (one that he’s rehashed several times over the years) during post production and chose to leave it in, which suggests that they didn’t really have a problem with it until it got them in trouble. Like with the T-shirt issue this is another case where having someone around who can see or hear this kind of thing and say ‘hey, let’s not put this out there’ could have saved a lot of trouble. But that’s just the beginning for this because after this went down we got…..
2. Thanks, Jim?
So after Cornette did his thing and got fired, and they issued a half-hearted apology, the NWA in it’s season finale did a taped bit where they thanked Jim for his time there and even put up a hashtag ‘thank you Jim’. Really? A simple statement similar to the WWE’s infamous future endeavor statements would have been sufficient. They didn’t have to thank him! Again, having no one there to at least speak out on the business folly of making that kind of statement is jarring. This is just a blatant case of putting your insistence to ride for your takes ahead of common sense and the bottom line. By doing this Billy Corgan and co. have taken what was a big hit with a lot of us and turned it into a question mark. Stupidity and riding for people who make racist comments still abounds way too much in the business.
OK Rob, so why did you devote three spots to the Cornette thing? You cheating here?
Well no, I’m not cheating. This is important! Getting rid of the old, racially tone deaf (and in some cases just racist), sexist elements of the business is a bigger priority and a bigger deal than who got booked to win a wrestling match or who’s getting a push or whatever. No angle or match result or pay per view lineup is as important as getting this crap out of the business so that everyone who’s a fan can enjoy themselves without being insulted and disrespected by the commentary team.
And now, number 1…..
1. The ROH Debacle
Where to start? Not having a concussion protocol, lying and saying they did, not having attending physicians at every show which forced some of the wrestlers to set each other’s bones and take Uber to the hospital, the pay (or lack thereof), and then the firing of Kelly Klein via email for crying out loud. This story has made beyond the wrestling media and into Newsweek and Sports Illustrated and it’s the biggest black eye of the year in my opinion. Klein herself is out with a concussion and was almost sent back out on the road to defend the Women’s title she held. She previously asked for a small raise to a whopping $24,000 a year and was told no because if they gave her one then they’d have to pay all the women more. Tomosso Ciampa shared a similar story on Lilian Garcia’s podcast that he was making $20,000 with ROH and was told directly that they thought no one would think he was worth more than that.
So we have safety issues and pay issues here at what was once the number two company in the country, a company owned by a big conglomerate in Sinclair Broadcasting that can afford to pay people way more than they are. That they have an entire women’s division making so little (and it was going to be $12,000 a year instead of 20 before the ladies there go them to increase it based on the good YouTube numbers their matches were pulling in). Yes, they are allowed to work outside dates for companies ROH gets along with but can we be real about that? The whole ‘you can work outside the company’ thing is just a way for them to not have to pay you much themselves. Instead of making 20 grand for them or 50 if you’re real lucky and getting to work elsewhere how about just paying them 150 and make them exclusive if they’re up for it?
And hey Sinclair, you can afford to have a doctor at every show and not just the ones where it’s required by the state. You can have a concussion protocol that’s actually exercised and not just on paper. You know, maybe there wouldn’t have been the mass exodus to NXT by so many of your people if you treated them better. This story is far more important than who got booked to win or lose a match and who’s stuck in catering. There’s an entire underclass in the business that is being underpaid by companies that can afford to pay more, from several of the guys and gals in NXT to the folks in ROH and Impact and likely some of the folks in AEW. And while they obviously shouldn’t all be making millions of dollars 20 grand that you have to supplement by getting in as many dates as you can elsewhere and doing all that traveling should not be how business is done. We’re not talking local indies who can’t afford it. These are decisions being made at the highest levels to shortchange people.
But that’s just one reason why it’s the real blackest eye on the business for this year. The other reason is that the wrestling media was completely exposed for the frauds many of them are by this story. A few places like Fightful have done real reporting on it along with follow ups, but the big wigs like Meltzer can barely be bothered to give it more than a cursory mention on air or a short story on his site that was almost entirely quotes from ROH and other aggregated reporting. That he and most of his contemporaries can devote all the time in the world to playing cancer detective or speculating over who’s about to get a push or telling us who should sign where instead of dealing with some real issues like that is all you need to know about them.
OK, that’s it for the low lights. Next time we’ll get back on the good side of things. Until then…
NXT UK Chuffed and Buzzin’
Brad hits us with some NXT UK highlights!
Brad hits us with some NXT UK highlights!
6. It is time for Johnny Saint to retire and officially promote Sid Scala to General Manager. Saint is a beloved figure in British wrestling (and a technical in-ring wizard), so I understand why they brought him in. Truth be told, he’s never done much and when he is around he isn’t a strong presence. Scala is there every week and has earned the job. Give Sid the job!
5. It is only right to send Mr. Saint out with a proper farewell. This is a gem from at least 1985, the last year for the original World of Sport Wrestling. It’s easy to see his influence on British wrestling and safe to say Tyler Bate studied and stole every one of Saint’s moves. Added bonus: some youngster named Dave Finlay has a mullet that would make Eddie Guerrero jealous.
4. Isla Dawn’s character keeps getting better. For months, she hasn’t cared about winning and losing, only taking trophies from her opponents. This week, she beat Aleah James then returned the hair scrunchie she stole from her. That is a seriously cool twist & one I hope they continue until Dawn returns all her stolen goodies. It’s like she took everything she needed from her opponents in order to build herself up to challenge Meiko Satomura. I don’t know if she’s championship material, but I’d love to see her and Satomura try and top their first encounter.
3. I like the idea of Teoman’s family, but the execution is lacking. There is no reason for Rohan Raja or Charlie Dempsey to be with him. There’s nothing that ties them together. NXT UK has been running blazing hot this year, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it works. Maybe it won’t. Either way, Charlie Dempsey is a star. When the time is right, he and Tyler Bate can have the 5 star Heritage Cup match we’ve been waiting for.
2. Pretty Deadly versus Mustache Mountain feels like a MOTY in the making. Can the Dandy Highwaymen defeat the forefathers of British Strong Style again and officially claim to be the best tag team in the brand’s history? Can Mustache Mountain finally capture the titles that surprisingly have evaded them since the brand’s inception? If they keep it clean with no outside interference, there is about a 1% chance this match won’t live up to the hype.
1. Gallus’ theme music is bad ass. That is all.
Steve Cook’s Fave Five: November 2021
It’s Thanksgiving week, and you know what that means!
This is the time we give thanks for our favorite professional wrestlers. And other things, I’m sure. Many of you reading this have other things to be thankful for. I don’t know what those are, but I do know which wrestlers I’m thankful for here at this moment. Let’s dive into the Fave Five!
5. Eddie Kingston
As somebody that was into the independent wrestling scene back in the mid-2000s, I’ve been aware of Eddie Kingston’s existence for a long time. I’ve known that the man was a better talker than almost anybody in the wrestling business. I’ve also known that the man was his own worst enemy, much like Buddy Landell was his own worst enemy back in the 1980s & 90s. If Eddie could somehow find the right place and right time, nothing could hold him back.
This seems like Eddie Kingston’s right place & time. He got a spot with AEW, and he kept getting over. His piece with The Player’s Tribune got him even more sympathy than he already had. The feud with CM Punk heading into Full Gear was perfect. It got Punk into the state people wanted him in. The match at Full Gear was great, even if Punk ended up winning. The only issue? The feud isn’t continuing. But that’s AEW. Feuds don’t last long unless they’re on BTE. Punk & King have already moved onto other things, and we can only hope they get back to each other in a year or two.
4. Bryan Danielson
I know that Bryan’s biggest run came when he was the underdog going against The Authority, and many folks took to him as that underdog. I was one of those guys that followed Bryan during his indy career, and his best run came when he was a total dickhead heel in Ring of Honor. Yeah, he was still short or whatever mainstream fans complained about at the time, but he could out-wrestle anybody put in the ring with him, and he was supremely confident about that fact. Not over-confident, supremely confident. He’d tell the referees the rules, because he was the Best in the World.
AEW fans are now getting that side of Bryan Danielson, and fortunately he has the right opponent to do it against. Hangman Adam Page has been accepted as a folk hero by hardcore AEW fans. They won’t turn against the Hangman for anybody, even when it’s really tempting since Bryan Danielson is a pretty amazing professional wrestler. One of the best I’ve seen! He’s getting to be a total dickhead again while he runs through Page’s Dark Order friends, and it’s amazing.
He’s not lying either. He wrestled the day after he won the WWE Championship at WrestleMania! Bryan Danielson has never lied. Maybe you don’t like what he says, but he’s always been honest. And the second he mentioned WrestleMania, those hardcore AEW fans were ready to jump on him. Bryan didn’t bury WWE like other folks that previously worked for them did. He had his reasons, and this was one of them.
3. The IInspiration
— IMPACT (@IMPACTWRESTLING) November 21, 2021
I was asked to be part of 411’s Fact or Fiction this week, since this week was decided to be the blowoff for a tournament from way too long ago where Len Archibald & myself made it to the finals. Bad news for me, as Len is much better with the written word than I am. 411 readers will sacrifice me at the temple of the Tribal Chief that is Len Archibald. I can’t blame them. One of the questions of this particular Fact or Fiction column asks us if underutilized people are better off getting released. Two of the most underutilized people in the history of WWE were Cassie Lee & Jessie McKay. WWE never knew what they had with them. Not the slightest idea. The only time they ever put them over was to spite Bayley & Sasha Banks for reasons. They never followed up on that because they didn’t care.
Cassie was supposed to be the breakout single star, except they never followed through with it. Jessie had the personality, and she had the look too but WWE did the best they could to take the look away from her. It was so weird. That’s why I’m so happy they found a place to let them be them. Impact Wrestling is a strange place. Certain people find their place there. The IInspiration seem to fit like a glove.
2. Dalton Castle
The Party Peacock was somebody that original Ring of Honor fans would have rejected in an instant. Some will try to tell me I’m wrong about that, but they in fact are wrong. The very first segment on “The Era of Honor Begins” featured the Christopher Street Connection getting squashed by Da Hit Squad because their sort of flamboyance wasn’t what ROH was going to be all about. It was 2002, a different time. I remember it well, as I graduated from high school. Way too many things have happened since then and I feel way too damn old.
Dalton Castle would not have been a favorite to original ROH fans in 2002. By the time he came around, he was just what the promotion needed. He had a personality the likes of which hadn’t been seen in pro wrestling for quite some time, which was great because the main knock against ROH was that their wrestlers didn’t have personality. Dalton Castle was ROH’s answer to that criticism. Unfortunately, Dalton’s body broke down at the same time he won the company’s World Championship. He fought through a broken back to have a reign worthy of the championship, but nearly killed himself in the process.
Castle wasn’t the same for a long time afterward. Only recently, we started to see shades of the old Dalton Castle. The man was revitalized by the promise of Television. He wanted to make Ring of Honor the best show on TV, even though he was a very busy man. Very busy. We’re lucky to see him when we do. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with him now that Ring of Honor is letting their people go. If he’s back to being the Dalton Castle we remember from a few years ago, the sky’s the limit. Any company would be lucky to have his talent & personality.
1. Cora Jade
I realize that I am in the minority of people around here when it comes to NXT 2.0. I can’t really say it’s a good wrestling show, but I do find it interesting. You have to know a little bit about my rasslin fan background. I ended up in Louisville during the time when Ohio Valley Wrestling was WWE’s developmental territory. While I never got the chance to attend a show at Davis Arena until years afterward, I enjoyed getting to watch the future stars of WWE on television learning their craft before they made it to Raw or SmackDown. Some were really good in the ring. Some were not. But it was all interesting to me.
Here in 2021, I have more interest in seeing the people that WWE thinks is going to be their future than seeing people I saw in Ring of Honor more than ten years ago having great matches just like they did in Ring of Honor more than ten years ago and having no chance of making it any bigger than “NXT TakeOver main eventer”. Which is fine if you’re into that kind of thing. Me…not so much.
I’m looking for the next big thing. Always have been, always will be. So when I take a look at Cora Jade, the youngest person under WWE contract, I see the potential. I see her work against Mandy Rose, who WWE wants to be the next big thing. I see Cora Jade get over, and I see the future, which is Cora Jade. People will try to tell me I’m wrong. They’ll be proven wrong eventually, but since they’re a lot louder, followers will act like the fools were right all along, even though they had the wrong opinions back in the day. That’s America for ya.
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