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The MeeThinks Friday FreeThinks: 1.18.08
Posted by John Meehan on 01.18.2008





Welcome back to your regularly scheduled week-end dose of intrawebz 'rasslin' optimism! Glad to be back here after a relatively slow week in the wonderful world of pro wrestling, and super pumped to welcome any and all new readers who might just have decided to check out my column this week on a whim after the illustrious Jeff Small so kindly ranked Mee as the #5 writer in all of this crazy subculture we call the Internet Wrestling Community.

YOU SEE THAT BABY!?

I'M A FULL SPACE *AHEAD* OF DAVE MELTZER!!!

What do you have to say about THAT, longtime Meltzer-maniac and superstar Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Terrell Owens?!?



(Sorry Cowboys fans, I couldn't resist).

In all seriousness, though --

Huge thanks to Small for giving Mee "the Small Bump" and sending a few new readers my way thanks to his ringing endorsement. Here's hoping I don't let y'all down with this week's (rather light) Friday FreeThinks.




Big Show Signs New Contract with WWE
Former WWE, WCW and ECW Champ Could Return Any Day Now

The BIG news from up north over the past seven days was that Paul Wight, a.k.a. "The Big Show", had signed a new contract with World Wrestling Entertainment and should be headed back to active competition with the company in short order.

With the WWE roster plagued with all sorts of Wellness and injury related snafus over the past 365 (not to mention the most tragic and unfortunate case of the final days of one Chris Benoit), the company has been hard-pressed to keep established talent healthy and able to perform -- and have turned to all sorts of "standbys" to help pull 'em through the lean months (think Chris Jericho, JBL, etc.). Big Show is the latest in this line of "revivals," and his established star power should make something of an immediate impact on WWE programming once he returns to television in the weeks to come.

Big Show's re-arrival comes at the perfect time for fans of WWE, as the company is kicking off their busy season in just a few short weeks -- first with the Royal Rumble PPV, and then on the road to the Grandaddy of Them All... WrestleMania 24 in Orlando, Florida (yes, the rumors are true -- I have three extra tickets). As we head for the home stretch of the booking year, throwing in a boatload of certifiable "big" stars (like Show) as well as a fresh crop of returners (like JBL and the ready-to-redebut-any-day-now Bobby Lashley) should really help liven things up over the next three months.

Plus -

Big Show is a naturally huge dude, and he went out strong looking like an absolute beast in his last few months as the ECW behemoth. Having him back on a WWE roster with a renewed sense of purpose AND at a more comfortable size and weight than when he left means that he should -- with luck -- remain healthy, popular, motivated, and injury-free... making him a most-bankable commodity in this new era of heightened sensitivity to Wellness and injury (because even if Wellness has its loopholes, there's no denying that injuries
typically resulting from *some* sort/lack of may-or-may-not-be-100%-legal supplements has absolutely decimated the WWE's main-event crop over the past 365).

All in all?

Good to see Show headed back to a wrestling ring on the national stage, and even better to see him make his return in a time that traditionally proves to be one of the busiest and most-watched stretches of the wrestling calendar year.




Wellness Claims Two Developmental Talents
Derrick Neikirk and Neil Bzibziak Busted for Doping on Wednesday

Proving that WWE's Wellness Initiative is still alive and well in *some* form, at least (though the critics will decry that these two relative "nobodys" got busted while suspect physiques like Batista's continue to fly under the drug-testing radar) -- word out of WWE developmental this week is that two up-and-coming prospects, Derrick Neikirk and Neil Bzibziak were suspended for violating WWE's controlled substance policy (read: stehhhhhr-oids, stehhhhhhr-oids).

In case you haven't heard of either of these fellas --

Neikirk is a former MLB prospect (a pro baseball player on steroids?! SHOCKER!) who saw some early success when he was scouted to play ball with the Detroit Tigers. When that didn't quite pan out, he turned to professional wrestling, where he's become something of a fixture in the WWE's developmental system -- tagging on-and-off with a bunch of fellow up-and-comers over the past several years. Most recently, Neikirk teamed with fellow developmental talent Ryan O'Reilly... who you may recall submitted his walking papers to the 'E late last year in order to stay closer to his girlfriend, fellow WWE dropout Krissy Vaine.

Bzibziak, meanwhile, is probably best known to Ohio Valley Wrestling fans as none other than former OVW Champ, "Chet the Jet" Jablonski. Apparently this fella's future status with the 'E is in question, as he was being groomed for a call-up to the main roster with a full-on Polish gimmick (think a Slavic Santino Marella), but the idea was soon scrapped by WWE management when they learned that the dude doesn't actually speak a lick of Polska.

Whoopski!

Anyhow --

The long and short of things is that whether some folks like to admit it or not, the bottom line is that WWE's Wellness Initiative is still very much alive and well in one way, shape or form. While singling out a big-name star to "take the fall" and trot out as the poster boy for a failed drug test is obviously *NOT* something we've seen -- the fact that the company is willing to crack down on their developmental talent for doping (even if the crackdown is little more than window dressing) marks a much-needed shift in the company's attitude toward turning a blind eye to performers developing bad habits as they come up through the ranks.

Look --

I'll grant you that Neikirk has been treading water (at best) since O'Reilly split, and Chet the Jet wasn't exactly setting the world on fire in OVW...

BUT the bottom line is that each of these guys weren't exactly "jobbers" in their respective developmental promotions. Quite on the contrary, each man was actually a CHAMPION in the developmental system within the past year-plus... and that's not exactly the kind of honor that a booker throws at a guy in whom the company doesn't see at least SOME degree of potential for upward mobility. So yeah, nailing developmental talents looks paltry when compared to the "big dogs" currently gracing TV screens on WWE programming nationwide each week...

BUT --

Laying down the law on a few up-and-comers sets a pretty clear and direct message that, if nothing else, the company is TRYING to do something to keep tabs on these guys before they hit it big. That way, we don't end up with another Chris Masters fiasco (where a guy only gets on TV because he's juiced to the gills... only to be told to quit juicing and then lose his spot on the show -- and his job -- altogether).

Is it a perfect system?

Far from it. But I for one am glad to see that WWE is doing something -- ANYTHING -- to keep tabs on their talent as they come up through the ranks, even if what we're looking at here is little more than window dressing.





WWE Programming Moves to HD
Hi-Definition Broadcast to Begin on Monday

The *other* big news from Stamford this week is that starting next Monday night with RAW, all future WWE programs will be broadcast in HD.

Obvious jokes about up-close-and-personal looks at wrestlers' bacne not withstanding...

This move to HD is a huge deal for WWE, as it really signifies that the company is well in line with the times and current trends in broadcast programming. Over the past several years, virtually every major network has made the jump to *some* degree of HD broadcasting, and with sales of Hi-Def televisions and television provider services (think Direct TV) being at an all-time high... there's no time like the present for your favorite 'rasslin promotion to hop on board the HD train.

While WWE isn't likely to match ratings with, say, the SuperBowl... what they *are* able to do by switching to the HD format is -- at the very least -- give those super-sports-super-fans something else to watch in all their 42"-plasma-screen-glory when the big games for other legit sporting events aren't dominating the airwaves. In the new era of HD, we're pretty much seeing a revival of the age-old trend where a bunch of buddies gets together for "the big game" (or "the big fight" etc.) at whichever guy's house just so happens to have the sweetest television setup. With UFC making an absolute killing in the PPV buyrates, WWE has every reason to move their shows to Hi-Def -- almost as a way of saying to their fans:

"Thanks for buying a big-ass television set, and for showing it off to your buddies by watching our show. We appreciate your business, and as a reward, please enjoy our pseudo-sport/carnival in high definition. Looks pretty sweet, huh? Ooh, speaking of Hi-Def -- next weekend there's a pay per view event! Maybe you might wanna' invite the guys over to watch the big screen on Sunday too, eh?"

A ridiculously smart business move from the 'E here, and it should only help their bottom line when all's said and done.



Batista Pulled Over by Police Imposter
Super-Fan Wanted Autograph of Smackdown Superstar

In your "stupid criminal hijinx" news item of the week, it seems that WWE Superstar Dave Batista was pulled over by an eighteen-year-old superfan on Jan. 5 just off of Interstate 77 in Ohio. Apparently, the fan was driving a car with a red flashing light on the dashboard, and so he decided to play policeman and pull over his TV idol to ask for an autograph.

Not surprisingly, Big Dave smelled a rat when the kid showed up at his door decked in full camo gear and asked to take a photo. Likewise unsurprisingly, Batista quickly sped away and called the local authorities with a full description of the "undercover police officer" and the vehicle that had just pulled him over moments earlier.

MeeThinks?

This one's a pretty silly, small potatoes story, obviously -- and it really doesn't prove much more than "yes, there are still some crazies out there, folks."

Clearly the kid who tried to go "undercover" as a wannabe-officer to score an autograph from The Animal wasn't the sharpest syringe in the gym bag... and so it's good to see that Batista kept a cool head and called the appropriate authorities in short order, that way the boy's "superfandom" didn't get any further out of control than a simple (though woefully misguided) photo request. Plenty of Mark David Chapmans out there, you know... and even if a grappler like Big Dave is no more than a "C"-lebrity in the big picture of things, the guy's close call with the pseudo-law-superfan could have been a lot, lot worse for all parties involved.

As it is, however --

The kid's looking at a misdemeanor offense and up to 180 days in the clink. Thankfully, Batista walks away pretty much unharmed by the whole affair -- though he's got one heck of a road story to tell the next time he's faced with a mainstream media interview.




No real news out of Orlando this week, other than Kurt Angle settling on a court date for last year's DUI arrest (a topic we've covered before and will cover again pending the outcome of the hearing), and that other small matter of Chris Harris officially submitting his resignation (after much speculation) and leaving the TNA fold -- which we covered in last week's news report.

Sorry to disappoint, TNA fans... but maybe no news is good news, right?


And With That, I'm Outta' Here

That'll do it for Mee again this week. Apologies once more for the relative dearth of news bits... but that's all likely to change sooner than later as football season ends and THE ROAD TO WRESTLEMANIA begins. Ooh, and speaking of fooseball -- last week I went a cool 3-1 in my predictions (damn you, Chargers!) -- so I'm gonna' try my hand at calling this weekend's games while I'm at it. Should be two great contests, but in the end I'm giving my votes to the Pats (whut whuhhhhht!) and - UPSET SPECIAL! - the G-Men in a nailbiter. Hey, stranger things have happened, right? 'Till next time -- enjoy the divisional championships and the Martin Luther King holiday, be sure to set your TiVos for some HD kick-assery over the week to come, and always stay positive.

- Meehan

The National Domestic Violence Hotline : 1-800-799-SAFE.





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