Click on the screengrab above to watch the interview
by Alan Counihan, JarryPark.com contributor
Many have questioned the ability of World Wrestling Entertainment to produce future stars. Furthermore, WWE’s current developmental system has been strongly questioned. The system headed by Jim Cornette and Danny Davis in Louisville (which produced Cena, Orton, Batista and countless others) is now a thing of the past and a new system based in Florida is where the current crop of young WWE hopefuls are learning the ropes. The decision to scrap OVW has been criticized mainly because there are now 70+ guys being trained in one school, all learning the same in-ring style, cutting the same promos etc.
Thus, the output of the system will most likely be a lot of clones. I’m a firm believer that you need a wide variety of characters and wrestling styles on your roster and limiting yourself to just one developmental territory is a mistake when you could have had the Florida territory, the Louisville territory and who knows how many more all over the country. WWE just had one of their best financial quarters ever, so money does not appear to be a problem.
Now, I may be completely underestimating the current system. It may well produce the next generation of main eventers. But what if it doesn’t? In that case, one must look to the current roster and see what guys have the tools to break out and become bigtime players, guys who are only a push away from really making it.
I’ve picked out two wrestlers who fit this category: John Morrison and Lance Cade.
Strengths: I don’t think WWE could ask for a guy with a better look than Morrison’s. He’s perfect for the character he plays with his movie star looks, Rick Rude-esque body, and, perhaps most importantly, he carries himself like he’s above everyone else. He also gets better every time I see compete in the ring. With the help of Joey (Mercury) Matthews, he became a good tag team wrestler several years ago and in recent years he’s become a great tag wrestler, as evidenced by his current run with The Miz. More important than his tag skills, though, is he’s development as a singles wrestler. He recently had a match with Batista which was, without a doubt, his best singles match ever. The bottom line is that the improvements Morrison has made in his solo efforts have been remarkable.
Weaknesses: His promo ability is still a little weak right now. He can definitely cut an entertaining promo but I’m not sure if he’s able to cut a “money” promo. There’s an important difference between the two.
Chances: Very good. I’d be shocked if Morrison didn’t get a chance to run with the ball at some point in the next two years. He’s got everything Randy Orton has minus the behavioral problems.
Strengths: Cade is, as Jim Ross would so eloquently put it, “a hoss.” Wrestlers as big as Lance Cade who move as well as he does are a rare breed. He has improved leaps and bounds as a worker over the last few years after initially not looking like anything special when he initially debuted on the active roster. He’s an underrated talker too.
Weaknesses: He has been stuck in mid-card status for so long that fans might forever view him as a second-tier performer.
Chances: Uncertain. A lot will depend on how his current program with former partner, Trevor Murdoch, pans out. The fact that the turn has been largely forgotten isn’t a good sign.
Very excited to see Mick Foley back in the WWE mix, especially in his current role. Of course, the hardcore legend is now the color analyst on Smackdown and, in case you haven’t been paying attention, he’s doing, expectedly, a masterful job. Foley seems to understand the business and, more importantly, the art of selling a storyline to the public better than most.
On a seperate Foley note, he appeared on MLB.com’s “The Dish” to talk about meeting Barry Bonds and a bunch of other things. I could have sworn that I saw him wearing the exact same leopard shirt outfit on Smackdown a couple of weeks ago (or was it last week?).
This certainly isn’t new territory for Foley as we all know his wardrobe cycle is quite limited but now that he is representing the sport on the other side of the camera, so-to-speak, I think he needs to clean up his act a little. Basically, the look worked as a wrestler but not so much as announcer.
And before you tell me wrestling announcers are supposed to have their own style (see: Ventura, Jesse) let me say that I completely agree with that notion. Except Foley looks more like the guy who hangs out at the corner of my street than a man wearing sunglasses and boa. I think it must be the hair. I am glad to see wrestling move on from the long hair, fanny pack days. That was a much need evolution. However, it appears as though Foley didn’t get the memo.
I will always love his work but, for some reason, his appearance in this video just sort of rubbed me the wrong way.
As I mentioned earlier, I had the distinct honor of being a guest on Fight Network Radio (aka Ranallo on the Radio) today.
We talked a whole bunch of WWE and primarily last night’s episode of RAW and the current direction of the product leading up to Judgment Day this Sunday.
More annoying than last night’s episode was the static that kept popping up every time I spoke. I really hate Vonage.
Anywho, still some good nuggets in there including a quasi-bet I made with Ranallo that if William Regal headlines Summerslam in a match against HHH, I would kiss his Canadian behind.
JarryPark on Fight Network Radio
by John Pollock, JarryPark.com Contributor
The topic of racism reared its ugly head this past week with the suspension of Michael Hayes for racial comments directed at Mark Henry over WrestleMania weekend.
Whether we agree or not, racism is a big part of the combat sports industry where the line between acceptable and unacceptable forms of promotion for a fight are often blurred.
This week, I take a look at the racial fingerprints on the combat sports world.
Pollock’s POV: A Black & White Look At Combat Sports
You can hear much more from John Pollock weekdays at 3 p.m. ET on Fight Network Radio on Sirius channel 186 or via Hardcoresportsradio.com not to mention every Sunday evening at 11 p.m. ET on Live Audio Wrestling.
by Bob Boyer, JarryPark.com contributor
Monday night, WWE brought back the King of the Ring tournament and built a three-hour edition of Monday Night Raw around it. The tournament itself was full of great stories and action. I particularly enjoyed the champion vs. champion clash between MVP and Chris Jericho, Khali injuring Finlay and William Regal getting lucky by having to face Hornswoggle in the first round as well as an injured Finlay in the semi-finals. We witnessed the ascension of CM Punk to a big time player despite getting pinned clean by Regal in in the tournament finals. King Regal is an easy gimmick but one has to wonder why this prestigious title was given to someone who doesn’t wrestle regularly and is usually made to look like a fool. The optimist in me would hope that he is finally being given the push he deserves while history says he will probably be jobbing to Triple H next week and have his nose up Mr. McMahon’s ass by Memorial Day.
Also on the show was a huge main event featuring all three world Ccampions and all the respective title challengers at Backlash this Sunday. These types of star-studded matches usually turn out great and this was no exception. Who knows, it may have even sold some people on Chavo/Kane II (no…not really).
Finally, as much as I dreaded the proposed Election skit (see: Rosie vs. Trump), I have to admit that it was quite funny. I always wondered where Umaga stood on abortion rights, gun control and taxes. Now I have my answer!
by Larry Palacios, JarryPark.com Contributor
* Obviously, the best thing going on WWE television today is the HBK-Batista feud. Interesting to see where things go now with the addition of Y2J.
* Santino stole the show again with his awesome mic skills. Seriously, when is he going to start hosting his own show? If Jericho can have “The Highlight Reel” then “Santino’s Casa” definitely needs to come to RAW.
* As far as Paul London & Brian Kendrick are concerned, I’m still curious to see if they will get a chance to grow much like their carbon copy, The Rockers. I’m not sure if they can be as good as them but they definitely have ton of potential that isn’t being realized right now.
* Very glad to see Mickie James capture the Women’s title as I can’t stand Beth Phoenix. Sure, she’s big and strong but what else is there to like? I know she’s a heel but she’s missing something that I can’t put my finger on it.
* Please wake me up whenever the Cryme Tyme-Cade/Murdoch is over.
* Did you notice Regal nearly suplexing Orton into an early retirement? Every time I see something like that I cringe because we’ve seen so many wrestlers have their careers cut short because of a some neck injury. Luckily, Orton recovered and was able to continue the match. Sure, he might be a bit sore, but other than that he should suffer no ill effects.
* I’ve got to give Hacksaw Jim Duggan credit. The man beat cancer and is still wrestling. No doubt, he’s a shell of his former self, but, hell, if you love to do something then why stop? Especially if someone will pay you for it.
* I’m really not that excited for this Fatal Four Way match at Backlash. Just doesn’t do it for me. First off, didn’t we just see Orton, Cena and Triple H at Wrestlemania? Throw JBL into that mix and it just makes me care less about the match.
* Where have you gone, part I: Jeff Hardy. It’s amazing how much more exciting he made RAW.
* Where have you gone, part II: Joey Styles. Mike Adamle? What a joke.
As I mentioned earlier, I was a guest on Fight Network Radio yesterday afternoon. Host Mauro Ranallo and I spoke about some interesting MMA and wrestling topics including:
* The rumored Fedor Emelianenko vs. Tim Sylvia bout
* The post-Wrestlemania WWE landscape
* The HBK-Batista storyline
(By the way, the above photo of Kelly Kelly has nothing to do with any of these issues but she was Knox’s “girlfriend” for a while on ECW so I thought it would be a propos and more interesting than a photo of Mr. Ole Anderson Jr. What a weird pairing that was. Sort of like Lita with Essa Rios way back when.)
Ariel Helwani – 04/08/08
By BOB BOYER, JarryPark.com Contributor
* Orton, Cena, Triple H & JBL for the WWE Title at Backlash. Which one doesn’t belong? Hmmm, I wonder. Why would they build JBL up the entire night, calling him “the longest reigning champ in Smackdown history,” and then make him look like a fool in the main event. Strange…
* Put the tag straps back on London & Kendrick. Of the four tag teams featured last night, they were the most impressive. Although I must say that Santino’s post-match celebration was quite funny.
* Ric Flair was involved in the best segment of the show…..and he wasn’t even at the show! Great job by WWE’s production team on that package.
* Here’s a tough one: What would you rather watch: a) paint dry b) the Chavo\Kane contract signing on ECW. C’mon guys do you really expect people to care about this nonsense?
* The Shawn Michaels\Batista “war of words” has been great thus far because it’s simple. HBK retired Batista’s mentor. Batista wants revenge. Slow build to a match on Pay-Per-View. TNA take notes…lots of notes.
* You would think they could get a better support structure for the obscenely expensive Jeritron 5000 HD? I fully expect that thing to drop one of these days…
* The main event was OK, but again, at the end three guys were standing while one was laying not looking too good. Hopefully JBL gets his heat back in a couple of weeks.
By BOB BOYER, JarryPark.com contributor
Last week, I watched Ric Flair cry on my television screen for three straight days. He cried at the WWE Hall of Fame Ceremony last Saturday night. He wept as Shawn Michaels uttered the now infamous line: “I’m sorry….I love you.” And he shed more tears during Monday Night RAW’s final segment – one of the greatest I have ever seen. In the aftermath of all this drama, I read a lot of articles and listened to various people talk about the dying days of Flair’s career. Many have mentioned that they cried with Naitch throughout those epic three days.
So, why can’t I stop wondering whether Ric Flair was really that special?
You see, most of my recent memories of Flair have come in the “post-kayfabe” era. Sadly, those times saw the Flair aura cheapened some horrendous WCW booking. While Flair was in a mental ward or reincarnating the Horsemen for the 12th time, the likes of Bret Hart, Steve Austin, The Rock, “Hollywood” Hogan and Bill Goldberg were at the center of the wrestling world.
However, if I think a little harder I can remember watching Saturday evening wrestling on TBS as a young child. It feels like just yesterday when I was admiring Ric Flair while he strutting down to the ring in his elaborate robes and that big gold belt around his waist. It would anger my father every time Flair would pull the ropes while torturing somebody in the figure-four leg lock or delivering a low blow behind the referee’s back. I started to look back on all the great emotional rollercoaster rides he led me through while sitting on my living room couch. Fast forward to the present and I can’t recall too many emotional present-day wrestling angles.
It was then that I was reminded of the beauty that is watching Ric Flair perform in front of a live audience.
While Bret Hart may have performed the moves better and Hulk Hogan attracted bigger crowds, no one could get you more emotionally involved in a wrestling match or angle like The Nature Boy. And, wouldn’t you know it, he was able to pull it off on his way out too.