October 2002: Pre-Halloween Havoc News and Notes
OH MY GOD! Joey Styles has joined us under an exclusive written deal to replace Schiavone as the play by play man on Renaissance. He's an upgrade over Tony, plus at just 31 years old I believe he still has room to improve, whereas Tony is pretty set in his ways by this point. Another point in his favor is that Schiavone has a reputation for not being the most pleasant person to work with, which is not something we need working against the new locker room dynamic over there. It'll take some time for Joey to build up a rapport with Tracy Brooks, but that'll come with experience. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping Tracy will continue to grow into her role. She's an average color commentator at best, but she has shown some small signs of improvement. If it doesn't work out I'll need to draw up a Plan C.
In a rather embarrassing gaffe, I realized that I'd set up the Stu Hart Classic in a way that the first round matches for both Yuji Nagata and Rick Steiner would take place on the October 14th show. The problem? New Japan had scheduled a PPV for that date. That obviously took Nagata off the table for that night's Nitro, but I'd also agreed to let Rick work that PPV as an exchange for them lending us Nagata for the tournament. I could've worked around this if it had been one of the earlier weeks, as we could've just run the groups out of order, but this was the last night of the first round. In order to not wreck the tournament, we moved Nitro to Tuesday for one week only.
In an amusing story, WWE apparently tried to make use of this by handing out signs mocking Tuesday Nitro during their Smackdown/Heat tapings the same night. Their petty move backfired when the net-savvy portion of the fanbase, who have been enjoying our product and its focus on ring work, not only refused to hold up the signs but started up anti WWE chants all night in response. Hilarious.
Rick Steiner broke his toe during his match with CM Punk. No big deal.
We recently called up Bobby Roode from developmental. CM Punk seems to be a huge fan of him, as he told me he's money and I should strap a rocket to him. I doubt he'll be pushed quite that hard or fast, but he's developed into a really good in-ring talent during his time in Wildside, his promo skills have improved, and you can tell he's worked on his look as well. I still don't really have any solid plans for him yet, so that's something I need to work on.
Toshie Uematsu showed up to the October 19th Renaissance messed up on pain killers once again. I ordered her to rehab, which she was very unhappy about. Since she clearly hasn't learned anything, I'll probably just let her go once she's out of rehab.
Dusty was really impressed with the work of Nattie and Melissa Anderson as a team on Renaissance, and after seeing the show I had to agree. That's something for me to keep in the back of my mind.
Gene Okerlund has left after I let his contract expire. He was due to leave earlier in the year, but got a reprieve when I decided he'd be a good fit in a supporting role for Lex Luger's act. With Lex in rehab and the gimmick dead, there was no role for Mean Gene.
They held No Mercy on October 20th in Memphis, and it was a damn good show, their second best big show of the year behind only Royal Rumble. Eddie Guerrero retained the WWE title against Kane in his first PPV title defense (second overall; he also had a successful defense in a 3-way against Hogan and Hunter on Smackdown). That was a very good match in the semi main event spot, but the main event was Kurt Angle retaining the ECW title against Benoit in an absolute classic technical match. The show also included Bradshaw defeating Rikishi to win the Intercontinental title for the first time.
Shortly after that strong PPV, the Observer has returned WWE to International status. Fair enough. Hopefully our own push to being recognized as a National company isn't too far off.
Interestingly, Angle retained the ECW title on a recent Raw in a triple threat against Hogan and reigning WWE champion Eddie Guerrero. I wonder if that was a trial run for a big title unification match down the line? If so, I'm sure Kurt and Eddie will tear the house down.
WWE has bought out and disbanded Jersey All-Pro Wrestling. Not sure what WWE gains out of that, since they didn't pick up any of their talent or anything, but Vince is Vince. JAPW had been around since 1997, operating in the Tri State area, and had been relying on the likes of Homicide and Reckless Youth as their top stars.
New Japan ran their 'Comparison of Greatness' PPV on October 14th. They showed a lack of faith in new champion Osamu Nishimura, as his rematch with Tatsumi Fujinami in which he made his first successful title defense was only the semi main event. Taiyo Kea retained the Junior Heavyweight title over Hiroshi Tanahashi in the main event. The heavyweight match was actually the better of the two, but match of the night honors went to Satoshi Kojima defeating Mr. Gannosuke in a stiff brawl in the midcard. It was a solid show, but not among their better big shows of the year.
NOAH's 'Demolition of Ancients' PPV on October 25th was a very good show; better than NJPW's PPV offering for October, and much better than All Japan's event early in the month. Yet it would've been an even better show had they structured it properly. The main event in which Misawa and Yoshinari Ogawa won a tag match against Masao Inoue and Naomichi Marufuji was a very good match and all, but the semi main of Akira Taue retaining the GHC Heavyweight title over Jun Akiyama was easily the best thing on the show. Had they done the obvious thing and had that match close out the show it could've been their second best PPV of the year, if not #1.
TNA ran a show called 'Hell or High Water' on October 19th. They headlined with BJ Whitmer retaining the TNA title over The Demon. Yes, that's the KISS Demon from WCW. That gimmick was a terrible idea, and so was putting him in the main event, because that was one of the worst matches of the night. The best was Blue Boy, aka Blue Meanie, appearing in the company for one night to retain the NWA National Heavyweight title over Sonjay Dutt in the semi main event. This show was on par with their show last month, which isn't a good thing.
Michinoku Pro has risen from Regional to Cult status. I wonder how WWE will feel about that, since they inexplicably declared war on Great Sasuke's group some time back.
Speaking of Michinoku Pro going to war, it seems that they're about to do the same with Shinya Hashimoto's Zero-One. This does make a certain degree of sense, as those two promotions are pretty closely battling for the #4 spot in Japan behind the big three of NJPW, NOAH and AJPW. Zero-One is likely feeling the heat of Michinoku Pro's recent rise in stature considering they themselves are still at Regional.
This isn't American news, but I don't have a section for Europe and this isn't important enough to create one. Just a few months after pulling off the coup of coups and securing the services of Steve Austin for a tour in his first post-WWE work, the European Wrestling Promotion has folded. Those Austin shows were far better than anything else the group ever put on, but once his tour of duty was over, it was back to business as usual.
On the topic of Austin, he's currently on a tour of Australia with World Wrestling All-Stars. He's headlining every show, and just like with EWP the shows are on a completely different level than anything WWA's done before thanks to Austin in the main event. I know Steve is enjoying the freedom of not being tied down to any one company, but I really hope he will reconsider his stance and agree to join WCW in the future. We could do great things with him, and I'd hate to see him waste whatever big money years his body has left working in such obscurity.