GOD BLESS AMERICA
Hi! Let's check the news.
Well, there's not that much. WWE released their fourth quarter earnings
report, which I'm sure will be analyzed to death in this week's newsletters
as it always is. Total revenues was up about $4 million from this time last
year. They did real good on PPV. That's really all that was interesting to
me. Any drops from business being down probably won't show up until the
next quarter, I hear. But their projections for 2003 seemed to indicate
that they're expecting to make even more money, so I dunno. Maybe they're
Bret Hart had a stroke last week, which is pretty awful news. Everyone was
saying stuff like "it'll be a long and difficult road to recovery" and I was
like "pfft whatever, you can't keep down the Hitman". But then it was
apparently a great stride that Bret was able to wiggle one of his toes, and
it hit me that this is pretty serious. I sure hope he gets better.
Um, that's all I got.
I finally saw King of the Ring. I liked it better than most people seemed
to, but with all the negative reviews I read before the show anything that
happened would have probably been better than what I was expecting.
RVD/Jericho I liked a good deal, but I dunno if it's quite the match of the
year candidate Chris Jericho thought it was. I hope he's not reading this!
Actually, I hope he is, that'd be pretty cool. We'll just agree to disagree
on this one, buddy.
CREDIT TO THE
I thought Brock/Test was a lot better than I'd read it was. Test seemed to
have some fire in him or something. What else was on the show? I dunno.
Is it just me or is Jamie Noble not at all a high flying type cruiserweight
guy? I thought he was for some reason. Or has he just not busted out
anything yet? Maybe he's waiting for Rey. I don't recall anything else
that special. I really thought Triple H would win the title, although I
knew he didn't before I saw the show. But I'm still befuddled.
I thought last week's Smackdown was a terrific show. Smackdown has such an
advantage in star power and talent that it's almost sad, in my opinion, and
that's even considering that Rock and HHH weren't on the show. This week's
Raw wasn't bad, they just gotta keep taking it slow and build up issues and
characters for the people to get into. I didn't think Taker/Jeff was a
great match or anything, but I liked the storytelling and whatnot. They had
me thinking Jeff might win the title, then I was cheering for him to do it.
Then he lost. What a veritable roller coaster of emotions! I especially
enjoyed the post match business.
What worries me is that we'll have Smackdown going good and Raw trying to
rebuild and suddenly Russo will be all up in it to stop the momentum.
That's not even saying that Russo will suddenly ruin good shows with 30
second matches and angles about incest, but if you've got the writers doing
their thing and you put anyone new into the mix then things could be
disrupted. The 30 second matches and incest angles is just the shitty icing
on the shitty cake.
When the Russo news first broke this wouldn't have bothered me, and I would
have said "who cares, it's not like the current writers are doing anything
good". But the shows since then, Smackdown especially, have given me a tiny
glimmer of hope that maybe they can do something. Maybe the Russo signing
got them to sit down and focus, who knows. But until they prove on their
own that it's not gonna get any better, I don't wanna see Russo come in and
botch it up. You know?
No Observer stuff this week, unfortunately. Maybe next time!
CLOSING OF THE
- Vince Russo! He was Vince's writing partner when the WWF went from
distant second to kicking Nitro's ass. He spoke out against the "yes men"
around Vince. He was instrumental in the storylines that made giant stars
out of Steve Austin, Rock, Mick Foley, heel Vince, HHH, DX. He is IRON
He's also the guy who left by giving Vince no chance to try retaining his
services and jumped to WCW, where he made the most miserable of failures
look good by comparison. Some people say Russo was handcuffed by Time
Warner's standards and practices, the lack of any infrastructure like the
WWF had, etc. Others say Russo can't do anything without Vince McMahon's
editing and input.
Rehiring Russo would indicate that Vince is in dire search of a solution to
the lack of interest in the product. It could have been partly a PR move,
giving WWE a chance to announce to investors that the writer that helped
take them to the promised land was back on board, but that'd be unlike Vince
to do since one of Russo's biggest gripes when he left was that he never got
credit. By the by, when they started Smackdown, Russo asked for a raise
from $350,000 a year to $1 million.
Rehiring Russo was seen as a vote of no confidence in the current writers.
Brian Gewirtz was put in charge of writing Raw a few weeks ago, and Paul
Heyman was put in charge of Smackdown. Stephanie oversees the writing of
both shows. Vince, as always, sets the course for the writers as far as top
storylines and he makes whatever changes he wants to the final scripts.
Russo would seemingly have been like Stephanie, overseeing the creative on
both shows, where he'd be somewhere above Gewirtz and Heyman but below
McMahons. Is there a difference between overseeing the "writing" and the
"creative"? Like does "writing" refer more to the technical stuff and
"creative" to the actual content? I don't know.
But it doesn't matter cause oh ho SWERVE Russo is now just a "consultant".
Late last week he met with the creative team and members of management and
revealed his ideas for how to turn things around. He apparently wouldn't
describe his ideas in detail before he was hired, lest they be stolen by
some monster with no soul. Sources say his ideas were so poorly received
that within hours he was made a "hands-off" consultant. Sources said HHH
especially thought Russo's ideas sucked. Stephanie was said to be
instrumental in convincing her dad to give the current writers more time
before they get injected with the lethal poison of Russo.
Sources say that Russo's "big idea" was to do an "invasion" type angle with
Goldberg, Bischoff, Bret, and Foley. Russo's original idea also included
HBK. The angle would be presented in "shoot fashion", as if this group was
taking over one of the shows. If Austin and WWE mend fences, or if the
Austin situation has been part of some big work which some people still
suspect, Austin could also be part of it.
There are mixed stories about Russo's reaction to the demotion. Some say he
basically quit. Others say he'll wait around as a shadow booker of sorts,
waiting in the wings for a call if and when the plug is pulled on the
Russo's hiring was not a decision made solely in reaction to the Austin
situation. Informed sources tell the Torch that Russo sent feelers to Vince
through Jimmy Monsees, a friend of Russo's at WWE HQ. Jimmy told Shane of
Russo's interest in speaking with Vince, and Shane arranged a conversation.
The Vinces had been in talks for several weeks.
Russo has been living with his wife and kidz in Atlanta since going to WCW.
He opened up a CD Warehouse franchise that turned a profit after only one
year, but it's a tenth of what he was making while in wrestling. A combo of
financial motivations, a desire to prove that his first WWF run wasn't a
fluke, and business being down may be why he's interested in returning to
wrestling. Russo also dislikes Atlanta and his kids are miserable and want
to move back to Long Island.
During his time off, Russo wrote a book called "Welcome to Bizzaroland:
Screw Pine Valley, this ‘Rope Opera' is for Men!" The 210 page manuscript
details his path from radio show host, to WWF Magazine writer, to being
asked by Bill Watts to attend a booking meeting, to his rise in the WWF and
his jump to WCW.
Sources familiar with the book say there's nothing in it that would cause
Vince to hire Russo to "shut him up" or to stop the book from being
published or anything. It's not a puff-piece on WWE, but there's no
bombshells about illegal or immoral conduct that Vince would fear being
released. Russo defends Vince about the circumstances surrounding Owen's
death and the Montreal stuff. The book is also kind to the top guys of
Russo's day like Austin, Rock, HHH, Foley. Sources say if Vince had read
the book it would have probably done more to open the door for Russo's
return than to close it.
AOL/TW gave Russo their blessing to work for WWE, even though the Hogan
lawsuit is still outstanding and Hogan works for WWE too. Russo's return
wasn't greeted with enthusiasm politically. Many wrestlers who have worked
with him before are sour on him, although many also like him. JR was one of
Russo's main adversaries and now Austin is gone, so rumors started quickly
about JR's status.
As of now it's not quite clear where Russo stands. The writing team is the
same as it was a few weeks ago. Russo was not at the PPV or at Raw. His
future remains undetermined.
- JR wrote in the Ross Report of the "Austin left and now Russo's back"
speculation regarding him, saying it made him laugh out loud. *LOL* *g*.
Sources say Russo was harsh on Ross in his book, but not nearly as harsh as
he was on Bruce Prichard.
- There are rumblings that JR is scaling back some of his duties as head of
talent guy. Sources say that Johnny Ace has been making it known that he
expects to gain more power soon, possibly any responsibilities that JR gives
up. At press time there were unconfirmed rumors that Dennis Brent was
resigning as head of WWE's development system. Brent is a big Friend of
- Despite some thinking he was part of the process of getting Vince to scale
back Russo's role, HHH told WWE.com after KOTR that he didn't know the
details of it and that he looked forward to hearing Russo's ideas. He also
commented on Austin, his elbow surgery, and his match with
- Scott Steiner is telling friends that he's scheduled to debut with WWE in
August or September. They apparently delayed his debut so that he could
fulfill his commitment to the WWA overseas tour, but the tour of Germany and
Ireland has been canceled. Lex Luger was among those who were scheduled to
be part of the shows. No word on whether Steiner's "supposed debut" will be
- Several wrestlers spotted Hurricane, or Greg Helms if you're an insider
like the Torch, moping around about dropping the cruiserweight
- Raven has not been fired. The plan is for him to wrestle exclusively on
Heat, and there should be other guys who become exclusive Heat/Velocity
- The PPV crowd popped big for the Rey Jr promo that aired.
- More than one wrestler thought Vince's opening promo on Raw was a shoot.
Some were offended, thinking Vince was blaming the effort of the wrestlers
instead of the booking.
- There was some eye-rolling among wrestlers when Rock gave his speech on
Raw, with the feeling being that Rock is in no position to tell wrestlers to
like it or leave since he's off being a big star. "It's easy to cash a $10
million paycheck from movies and then be all high and mighty about being a
loyal member of the team," said one wrestler. "He wasn't the right person
to be giving that speech, not now," said another.
- Wrestlers still say that Matt Hardy is a much more well-rounded wrestler
than Jeff. They say Matt is much more creative and can call his matches,
while Jeff relies on the same highspots.
- The overwhelming majority of wrestlers felt Russo's return was a panic
move by Vince. The wrestlers in favor of his return were said to be mainly
younger guys who were given their first pushes by Russo in WCW.
- The locker room reaction towards Austin is shifting towards siding with
management. Some of Austin's closest friends in the company are said to be
upset that he's not returning phone calls.
- Kevin Kelly is no longer in charge of booking indy wrestlers to work dark
matches at TV tapings. His position was basically eliminated since WWE
rarely ever books guys not under contract to them anymore. Kevin is now
producing Confidential. Russo, by the way, made it clear in his book that
he hates Kevin Kelly.
- The casting call for Tough Enough 3 is July 10-12 in Los Angeles. A
number of candidates have already been interviewed, using a different
evaluation process than the first two seasons.
- Some wrestlers are growing more concerned about the "mental stability" of
Sean Stasiak. They say he is "depressed and paranoid" about every aspect of
his life, and spends a lot of time backstage complaining about his push.
But despite his quirks most guys have tried talking with Stasiak rather than
- The Jarretts are expecting their first early PPV figures later this week,
but early anecdotal indicators suggest the first show was a success. They
did strong buyrates in Southern markets, where the celebrities meant
something to people, and poorly in Northern markets. The early numbers
indicated a buyrate well above 50,000, but below their hope of 150,000 buys
for the first show. The early returns pretty much confirm that TNA will be
around for at least several months, despite gay ignorant skeptics who had
the nerve to predict they wouldn't last a few weeks.
- TNA is making plans for a weekly TV show. To help boost attendance in
Nashville, where the PPVs will be held starting this week, there will be a
weekly local show. Jarrett made an agreement with Bert Prentice's USA
Wrestling where the timeslot formerly held by USA will now be a mix of USA
and TNA wrestlers. Prentice will also scale back his weekly events at the
Nashville Fairgrounds, instead running there about 6 times a year.
The new TNA show can be seen on the internet on America One's website
Sundays at 1 am. The first show had Borash doing a recap of the first PPV.
Future shows will include original matches taped each Wednesday before the
PPV. Because they'll be going live every week, they'll now be able to tape
a TV show instead of the next week's PPV. Because of this it's more likely
now that the Jarretts will listen to any decent offers to air a weekly show
on a national level.
- Multiple sources say Buff Bagwell was passed out backstage before his
appearance in the battle royal. Some wrestlers jokingly took odds on
whether Buff would be able to perform.
- Rick Steiner complained to other wrestlers about being eliminated from the
battle royal earlier than he would have liked. Before the PPV Jeff Jarrett
walked the wrestlers in the battle royal through the match, and Steiner sat
in the stands throughout and had to be called to the ring when it was time
for his instructions. But in public Jerry has said nothing but nice things
about Steiner and Buff.
- Ed Ferrara did a similar walk-through session for the women in the
lingerie battle royal.
- Francine has heat with a number of wrestlers and valets for her behavior
at the PPV. Some of the women were offended that Francine was telling them
how to wrestle and what to wear, which she also had heat for in ECW but
Heyman and Dreamer would let her get away with it. Francine was also candid
in reminding the girls that three of them were to eliminate her, not just
one or two. Sources say some of Electra's comments to Francine were how she
really feels and that the two of them aren't old pals.
- Some wrestlers called Francine, AJ Styles, Joel Gertner, and Daffney the
"Pucker Crew" because they spent most of the night "kissing ass to anyone
they thought might have an ounce of power".
- Tony Schiavone and Scott Hudson were at the show. There is talk of using
Tony on-air, but some think it'll make TNA look too much like WCW... "as if
it doesn't already", slips in Wade, that rascal.
- People say Joel Gertner spent most of the day trying to pick up on women,
bragging about his weight loss, and fishing for compliments about his promo.
The Jarretts have made it clear that they aren't high on Joel's future in
- Wrestlers say that Goldilocks, the backstage interviewer girl, is already
turning into a primadonna.
- Sources say Scott Hall was sober for the show and after it, too. Friends
of Hall's say he was "sober and motivated".
- The wrestlers got checks for the first show after the PPV.
- The voiceover work for the taped PPV was done last Friday. Everyone in
the promotion agreed that the roles of Don West and Ed Ferrara need to be
- The July PPV guide sent to cable customers has no prominent mention of the
TNA series. In Demand has not lived up to it's promise of heavily promoting
the events, apparently waiting instead to see what kind of buyrates they
could do on their own. Strong early buyrates are expected to lead to a
surge of support from In Demand once they realize that there's profit to be
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