News From Cook's Corner 04.11.14
Posted by Steve Cook on 04.11.2014
News and thoughts on the Undertaker's loss at WrestleMania 30, the latest on the Ultimate Warrior's passing, the WWE Network numbers, Jeff Jarrett's new promotion, NXT members being called up to WWE and more!
Hi, hello & welcome to News From Cook's Corner! I'm Steve Cook, and I'm here because there's a ton of stuff to talk about in the world of professional wrestling. In the decade I've been at 411, I'm hard-pressed to think of a time period that's been more eventful & featured a higher range of highs & lows. Usually it's all one or the other, but this week's featured a wrestling event that will be talked about for years for reasons that people either love or hate. It featured the return to prominence of one of wrestling's biggest stars…along with his tragic demise. Oh, and there's a ton of stuff going on under the radar that most of us haven't even had time to ponder. We'll get to much of that as well.
Apparently I need to come back more often if for no other reason than to give people something to do instead of watching horrible TV shows & listening to insane radio hosts. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the same horrible media people that used previous deaths in wrestling to generate ratings by attacking sports entertainment & the people that watch it are rearing their ugly heads now. You have to keep in mind who you're dealing with.
Nancy Grace is no journalist, she's an ambulance chaser that got on TV because…because…well, I actually don't know. If I was on her crack staff I could probably make something up. Cody Rhodes says she has a grudge because a pro wrestler dumped her in the 80s. He doesn't strike me as the type to make something like that up, so I'd love to know who it was. My first guess was Dusty, but Ricky Morton wouldn't surprise me either .
Colin Cowherd can occasionally make a semi-coherent point when he isn't busy name-calling everybody that disagrees with him, but if you're really hard up for that kind of radio you're probably already listening to Glenn Beck & Rush Limbaugh during his timeslot. He's a poor man's Skip Bayless with an unhealthy obsession with boogers. Every time I hear him he's talking about mucus. I don't know who the target audience is for that.
"No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man's heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe a final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them bleed deeper and something larger than life then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized. By the story tellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever. You, you, you, you, you, you are the legend makers of Ultimate Warrior. In the back I see many potential legends. Some of them with warrior spirits. And you will do the same for them. You will decide if they lived with the passion and intensity. So much so that you will tell your stories and you will make them legends, as well. I am Ultimate Warrior, You are the Ultimate Warrior fans. And the spirit of Ultimate Warrior will run forever!" - Ultimate Warrior, Monday Night Raw 4/7/2014
One of the best things Triple H has done since gaining more power within WWE is make efforts to bury old grudges. In the last two years we've seen Bruno Sammartino & the Ultimate Warrior headline the WWE Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Many of us never thought we'd see Bruno back under the WWE umbrella, and Warrior was highly unlikely. Triple H was the point man in getting both Bruno & Warrior to sign on the dotted line & rejoin the family. Reaching out to these men made sense on several levels. There are a couple of key reasons that are good for business:
It helps to have your most vocal critics on your side. Disgruntled ex-employees can be quite the nuisance.
With a network chock full of old footage to sell subscriptions to, it'd be a good idea to have the people in that footage around to promote it. Not to mention the DVDs.
The Hall of Fame Ceremony sells more tickets with bigger names.
Before we get accused of being too cynical, there are also some altruistic reasons:
It makes fans happy. The older fans like to remember the wrestlers they grew up watching. Older fans that happen to be parents like telling their kids about the guys that they grew up watching. It's easier to do that when they're visible.
It makes the guys happy. Bret Hart's been a lot more fun to hear from since he forgave everybody for Montreal & started appearing with WWE again. There are some exceptions, but most wrestlers seem greatly honored by being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. And who doesn't like being called a Legend? It brings a smile to my face every time I'm listed as "The Living Legend" in the Wrestler of the Week column.
These guys aren't going to be around forever. Randy Savage's death a little less than three years ago was sad for so many reasons, but one that still resonates with wrestling fans to this day is that he never came back to WWE after his departure in 1994 & he was never honored for all of his accomplishments with induction into the Hall of Fame. That hatchet wasn't buried, and even when WWE posthumously inducts the Macho Man someday, it never really will be.
Randy Savage & Ultimate Warrior often run together in my mind. They both had bigger feuds with Hulk Hogan & Savage had a much longer & more successful career than Warrior, but the first thing I usually think about when contemplating either man is WrestleMania VII & the Career-Ending Match. To me it's one of the greatest segments in pro wrestling history, chock full of emotion before, during, & after the match. Warrior & Savage's characters meshed together so well, and Savage's preparation skills led to Warrior having his best matches with the Macho Man.
Warrior was never an in-ring Picasso. In a lot of ways he was more like a 1st grader that had a hard time coloring inside the lines. But it wasn't about the steak with Warrior, it was about the sizzle. The guy looked like a star, he carried himself like a larger than life individual, he had these absolutely insane promos that most people didn't understand but went along with because they sounded cool, and he was like nothing else going on at the time. I know this because I started watching the WWF when he was champ. I won't lie to you and say he was my absolute favorite wrestler. Jake "The Snake" Roberts was my first favorite wrestler & I was also bigger fan of "Ravishing" Rick Rude & the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase than Warrior. I'd like to say it was because I was a heel kid or a great judge of workrate, but I think it was because of Damien, Rude's airbrushed tights & DiBiase's sparkly tuxedos. It's like how kids today dig John Cena because of his brightly colored t-shirts, or they like Daniel Bryan because he has a big silly beard & screams a lot. There's more to these men, but kids don't really have the attention span for it. Wrestling thrives on that.
I dug Warrior though. The incident in the Funeral Parlor with the Undertaker locking him in the casket gave me nightmares. The incident with Papa Shango cursing him…well, that might have been when I found out wrestling was fake. I knew something wasn't quite right there. He went away & came back a couple of times. In fact, there was a time where he died. I'm pretty sure everybody heard the rumor that he died after SummerSlam 1991 & they replaced him with somebody else at WrestleMania VIII at some point. The 1996 WWF run was ok. The 1998 WCW run really wasn't. Then I discovered Warrior's website. There were times in my news column writing heyday where I'd use new Warrior blog posts on slow weeks. He was a few years ago what Iron Sheik is today…except he wasn't drugged out and he actually believed the insane stuff he was saying. Or at least he wouldn't flip-flop on it. Warrior had a different lifestyle & a lot of people disagreed with his beliefs, myself included, but it didn't seem to be harming anybody.
I enjoyed the Self-Destruction DVD for what it was. What can I say, I enjoy a good burial. At the same time, I could understand why the subject of the hit piece wouldn't be happy. I wasn't in the locker rooms so I can't comment on how Warrior conducted himself, or whether or not people were nice to his face & burying him behind his back. I can jump to conclusions, and maybe that's what I should do because that's what gets hits, but it's never been my style. All I know for sure is that I was looking forward to Warrior as a WWE Ambassador & as a Legend that appeared occasionally to get a pop. I figured the probability was pretty high for somebody to say the wrong thing at some point & somebody to get mad at somebody. And before we got to that we'd probably get some crazy Warrior promos.
Obviously you feel bad for Warrior's family & friends, and after seeing Warrior's wife & daughters at the HOF ceremony it's just…what can you say? Whenever young children lose their parents it's tragic. Those of us that still have ours should feel immensely lucky.
As sad as I am about Warrior's death & as bad as I feel for Warrior‘s family, especially his two young daughters that now have to move through their teenage years without their father, the one positive thing I take away is at least he was able to bury the hatchet with WWE & receive the honors & accolades from wrestling fans worldwide like he deserved. Not only that, but the WWE talent that grew up watching him got to meet him & thank him for being part of what inspired many of them to do what they do today.
I think the most fitting tribute for Warrior would be to go along with his suggestion during his HOF speech this year and institute a Jimmy Miranda Award for WWE behind-the-scenes employees that never got their just due. It would be similar to the Baseball Hall of Fame's Ford Frick Award that honors broadcasters. Warrior might have been thought by the average smart wrestling fan of as an egomaniac for most of the past twenty years, but in his final days he expressed that wanted his family & the people behind the scenes to get the credit. The speech from Raw is really quite eerie now, as it reads like a man writing his own obituary while encouraging the fans to speak their voices for the people that would follow him. You almost get the sense that he knew his time was near its end.
"Like it or not, or whatever, everybody always remembers the Ultimate Warrior." - Christian, The Self-Destruction of the Ultimate Warrior DVD
Warrior wasn't the only person at WrestleMania weekend that got his redemption song. This year's Hall of Fame class had some other individuals that at one time had been written off by your humble correspondent. I'm glad I was wrong.
Jake "The Snake" Roberts & his inductor Diamond Dallas Page pretty much stole the show on Saturday night. Jake had a speech that I would put in the conversation with Bobby Heenan for Greatest WWE Hall of Fame Speech of All Time. Of course, I am a tad bit biased since I list Jake as my First Favorite Pro Wrestler. Having that kind of status with me means I'm even more critical when you come up short, and I must have written at least 50 news columns containing some bad news about the Snake. Jake seems to have turned his life around, and frankly I didn't think it could be done.
I didn't think Scott Hall would turn his life around either. I'm not sure they inducted him as Razor Ramon for any reason other than it was his WWF name (reportedly Vince McMahon was really proud of the character & that‘s why), and it didn't really matter what name he went in under. Hall's speech was short & sweet, and contained the line of the night: "Bad times don‘t last, but bad guys do." That's all he needed to say right there.
Of course, Roberts & Hall both have to fight their demons every single day. They never really go away, they just stay dormant until they find a reason to resurface. Hopefully they'll be able to spend the rest of their lives on the right side of things.
I found it ironic that most people seemed to be complaining about how long the speeches were going when all I heard about the past several years was how it was lame that the inductees were kept on a time limit. It's their night in the sun, as far as I'm concerned if they want to talk all night it's their prerogative. You feel a little bad for the Superstars because they probably want to try & get some sleep…but let's be real, who's getting any sleep the night before WrestleMania anyway? I'm cool with Lita telling stories about Arena Mexico & giving Arn Anderson some beer, and Mr. T talking about his mother definitely went into the "So Bad It's Good" category. I was dying laughing by the time he was 20 minutes into his speech.
The expression on my face after Brock Lesnar pinned the Undertaker probably wasn't too far off from this gentleman's. I'll be real with you, I had every reason to believe that Undertaker would continue on with the streak. The build for the match stunk, Brock had looked like a biatch in every encounter except the last one where he got to do an F-5. He hadn't done a whole heck of a lot since SummerSlam except beat up Mark Henry & hit Big Show with a chair several zillion times. Show even walked away from it, that's how ineffective Brock was over the past several months. As much as Paul Heyman talked about eating & sleeping & conquering & repeating, Brock Lesnar hadn't lived up to the hype in quite awhile.
And one could make the argument he didn't live up to the hype here either, as the match stunk. However, Undertaker did have a concussion, and almost nothing will derail the best planned wrestling match better than a concussion forcing one of the participants to have no idea what's going on. It kind of worked for the story they were telling, though. Undertaker looked like that fighter that had hung on for one fight too long. The best boxers, wrestlers & mixed martial-artists always end up having that one fight too many where they‘re a step too slow & don‘t react as they should, and it's always sad to watch. The Dead Man was dead. He was finished. He wasn't having a MOTYC on this evening, he wasn't even going to have the MOTN.
No, Undertaker is done. And I hear the people still screaming for Undertaker vs. Sting a good twelve years after it would have mattered and probably four or five years after it could have been any good. I will never understand the demand for Undertaker vs. Sting as they are today. As they were in the 1990s? Hell yeah! But not today. Not this Undertaker & not the Sting that was stinking up TNA rings the past couple of years. You give either man a good opponent and they might deliver. You give them each other & you're setting things up for disappointment. So let's stay away from all that, ok?
Undertaker doesn't strike me as the type of guy to do a long, drawn-out retirement speech. He doesn't even strike me as the type of guy to do a Hall of Fame appearance, so we should have known something was up when he actually appeared to do his pose for the Paul Bearer induction. When he walks away, he's going to walk away. And frankly I think he walked away on Sunday night & won't be coming back. I have a feeling I'll be wrong, but I feel it'd be the right way to end the Undertaker story.
As for Brock? Many have commented that a younger wrestler would be overwhelmed with the accomplishment of breaking the streak & would receive quite the backlash. Brock won't get that. What Brock will get is whatever he wants from WWE from here on out. He's the man that broke the streak. You think they're going to let him go away now? He can name any number he wants & WWE will have to give it to him. Life is pretty sweet if you're a Beast Incarnate right about now.
I said in the WrestleMania Instant Analysis that it was the wrong call. Whether it was or it wasn't, it's the reality. I think the upside here is that it should set up a pretty awesome SummerSlam main event between Lesnar & the champion.
Speaking of which…
Hindsight being 20/20, it's amazing how much time I had to spend convincing people that Daniel Bryan would become the WWE World Heavyweight Champion at WrestleMania XXX. To me, it seemed like common sense that the most popular wrestler that had the best year would be rewarded in the main event. To most people I talked to…they had their doubts. Maybe they'd draw it out for a month. Maybe they'd draw it out until SummerSlam. Maybe he'd win it & then lose it the night after.
Oh yes, and when Triple H booked himself into a title match the night after…everybody be all like OMG HE GONNA BEAT DANIEL BRYAN. Daniel Bryan's fans just have no confidence in their boy. The dude beat the boss in the first match of the evening. He then overcame the boss's interference to beat the boss's two favorite dudes in the main event. How much more convincing do you people need? The man is legit! He's going to have himself a pretty darn good title reign, barring injury or attendance & ratings going into the toilet, or the stock price dropping like a ton of bricks.
(Oh wait, that last part kinda happened. More on that later.)
Daniel Bryan has arrived as a top guy, brother. He's an A+ player or whatever phrase you want to throw out that equals main-eventer, top dog, head honcho & such. As somebody that's been rooting the guy on for many, many years, it's pretty damn awesome. Bryan fans should be enjoying this moment.
I hope they are. My worry is that many of the people that are rooting Bryan on will turn against him once they realize he's reached his goal & is a top guy. This seems to happen a lot, and the Authority even hinted at it in the buildup to WrestleMania XXX. Say what you will about Triple H & Steph, but they do seem to have their fingers on the pulse of the WWE Universe. And give Triple H tons of credit for his performance on Sunday too. Dude went all out in his role to make Bryan's moment even bigger.
Will the fans grow tired of the Yes Movement? I dunno, but I'm glad we'll get the chance to find out.
I probably overrated Paige's debut in the Raw Tirade. It wasn't a 5-star match. It's tough to buy into AJ Lee bullying somebody. The finish wasn't exactly performed too crisply.
On the other hand, it was Paige's debut Raw appearance & she won the Divas title.
Yeah, I think I rated it properly.
Concern has arisen amongst 411 Nation about people jumping off the AJ bandwagon. This was bound to happen, as the most interesting thing AJ‘s done (on television) in the past several months is lose the title to Paige. It's one thing to be a never-ending champion, it's another thing to be a never-ending champion with no real challengers. You could try to get excited for Natalya or Naomi or one of the Bellas, but they weren't really shown as being on AJ's level. It didn't help that AJ didn't see them on her level & no-sold any loss she suffered. If she doesn't care, why should anybody else? Paige seems like she cares about this stuff.
Also, I think most people are operating under the assumption that AJ will be gone pretty soon. The girl's marrying a guy that isn't coming back…it probably doesn't bode well for her future in WWE even if she‘s under contract for a long period of time. So it's time to move on to the next hot thing. Nothing wrong with that. It's how the wrestling business has worked since people got tired of Buddy Rogers & moved on to Bruno Sammartino.
(I was trying to think of an example involving women, but it's not like most of us moved on from the likes of Trish or Lita, and Fabulous Moolah was champion for 85 years.)
I love the WWE Network. As a guy that loves to watch old wrestling & hasn't downloaded everything under the sun already, it's a godsend for people like me with a lot of time to kill when not working or sleeping. I've been working through the old WCW PPVs mostly, with some old school arena shows, WrestleManias & original shows thrown in here & there. It brings back a lot of memories, and it's cool to watch the old PPVs that I saw the buildup for but never actually saw because my parents thought 20-30 bucks was a lot of money for a PPV. Which it was, honestly. $9.99 for all this stuff now is pretty ridiculous.
Somewhere around 667,000 people signed up for the Network, and this is either very successful or a horrible failure depending on who you listen to. It's a fairly big number. I mean, I'd like 667,000 people to buy anything I produce. Heck, I'd like 667,000 people to read anything I produce for free. It seems like fun.
Apparently the break-even point is at 1 million, and they hope to get there by the end of 2014. It's certainly possible, though they'll need to address the various technical issues & also do more to explain to people how it's not on their cable company & how they can properly access it. It's easy for people like us, but your average Raw viewer thinks a Roku Box is something you probably shouldn't Google.
Anyway, I fully endorse the Network and hope they don't jack up the price like some folks suggest they should. Yes, I've actually heard people arguing that things should be more expensive. It sounds un-American.
It's been awhile since I've watched Impact Wrestling. Now that I'm just a part-time wrestling columnist that isn't ordered to cover Impact, it isn't high on my list of things to do. I honestly couldn't tell you what's been going on there outside of people leaving & MVP being in charge on television. It's not my account. I know some of you will take that personally, and if you're a TNA fan good for you, it's just something I need a break from after eleven years.
I'm also taking a break from Ring of Honor if it makes y'all feel any better.
One interesting TNA development I read about this week is Christy Hemme being added to the creative team. Christy's had herself quite the interesting career. I remember her in the Diva Search, when her ass was eating pies & she was calling people cum-guzzling gutter sluts. I get the feeling those won't be the types of ideas she'll be bringing to the table. I kind of thought that a lot of people would be hating on this idea because they usually hate women, but it seems the school of thought is "It's TNA, why not?". This is the correct way to approach this story. Honestly, anybody that isn't a WWE writing washout showing up to write for TNA deserves a chance.
Also, she's probably the most attractive member of a wrestling creative team in history. It depends how much you dig Stephanie McMahon. It's been established that I'm partial to gingers.
JARRETTS UNVEIL NEW WRESTLING PROMOTION: JOIN THE FORCE!
NASHVILLE -- After weeks of speculation and unprecedented internet buzz surrounding the hashtag #ItsComing ... IT IS HERE!
Legendary performer and third-generation promoter Jeff Jarrett and his wife, Karen, are set to unveil Global Force Wrestling (GlobalForceWrestling.com), which promises to be the most fan-interactive and immersive wrestling experience in history.
"Because of new media, new technology and more ‘in-tune' fans than we've ever had, wrestling is poised for another boom like it experienced in the mid-1980s and late 1990s," Jeff Jarrett said. "What we're going to deliver is a multi-platform, innovative brand that will engage fans in ways they've never experienced. It will provide a fresh perspective inside the business that fans have been clamoring for."
Jarrett, the founder of TNA wrestling and a 12-time world champion who wrestled in WWE, WCW and numerous international promotions, and his wife, Karen, have been laying the foundation for GFW since January 2014.
"Jeff was born into this business," Karen Jarrett said. "It's his life's passion. He saw a unique opportunity to fill a need in professional wrestling, and he has tirelessly devoted himself physically, mentally and emotionally to doing just that."
Videos of the Jarretts previewing the new promotion attached to the hashtag #ItsComing have garnered more than a million views. Meanwhile, Jeff and Karen have been searching the United States and the international ranks in search of undiscovered talent. The response has been overwhelming, with more than 400 performers from across the globe already in the evolving GFW talent database.
"The reality is we want to build a brand in which fans are watching our wrestlers evolve from day one and are truly invested in the lives of our talent in and out of the ring," Jarrett said.
Global Force Wrestling expects to make several more key announcements in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
I'm not too big on astrology, but I must admit that the Gemini profile does fit me pretty well. I've always been able to see both sides of an issue pretty well. It's good for making calm, thought out rational judgments, but it's bad when I have to write about wrestling or any time I actually have to decide on something. I typically put off all decisions until the last minute & somebody else ends up deciding things for me. It's not ideal, but it's how things are. I'm going to try something a little different & talk about the good & bad points of Global Force Wrestling. Positively Steve (PS) will be my positive side, while Bad News Cook will represent the gloom & doom. Here we go!
PS: Hey, it's a new wrestling promotion! Another place for wrestlers to work! Yay!
BNC: Hey, it's another Jeff Jarrett promotion. Wake me if you've heard this one before.
PS: Jarrett has decades of experience in the wrestling business & has connections with tons of good talent.
BNC: Jarrett has decades of limited success running a company & has connections with Vince Russo.
PS: If TNA's in as bad of shape as people say they are, we're going to need another wrestling company with good funding pretty soon.
BNC: Do we? WWE seems to be doing all right. Where's all this extra talent going to come from? TNA & ROH have their people locked up. Even Gabe Sapolsky has some people under contract!
PS: There's all sorts of great wrestlers all across the world that we don't even know about yet. Hence the name "Global Force"!
BNC: Global Force Wrestling? What a crappy name.
PS: I like it! It reminds me of the GWF!
BNC: That's supposed to be a good thing?
PS: Sure! Eddie Gilbert was great in the GWF! Wonderful memories.
BNC: Eddie Gilbert's dead.
PS: Wow, you are bad news.
BNC: Yes I am. Listen, Jarrett might have some money behind him, but who's to say he's learned anything from the past twelve years? How do you know he won't make the same mistakes over & over again?
PS: I don't know. But don't you want to find out?
BNC: I guess. We ain't got anything better to do.
PS: There's the spirit!
BNC: Besides, if it sucks we can probably get Ryan Byers to recap it.
PS: Now there's some good news!
We'll see what comes from Global Force Wrestling in the weeks & months ahead. If it becomes another GWF...at least GWF had a pretty sweet TV deal for awhile. It should be fun to follow.
Welp, that's all we have time for this week. I hope you've enjoyed this edition of News From Cook's Corner, and enjoy your 411 Day. I'll be back in time for the next edition of the 411 Wrestling Hot 100! Until then…