Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sad news from the world of Mexican, midget wrestling

Thanks to my co-worker for the heads-up on this one:

Very sad!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

7/22 ECW Thoughts

- Yoshi/Regal was awesome. They worked the crowd really effectively, staying in holds as the heat built, knowing when to go for the hope spot and when to fall back. This match should be on every show, every week.

- Ezekiel Jackson has no presence at all. He's the ultimate proof of how good Mark Henry is -- compare the way Henry carries himself as a giant to Jackson's completely unmenacing demeanor. He walks and stands and carries himself nothing like a guy of his stature should. The Henry babyface turn has been great. I can see where Hoffa and others who've dug Henry were coming from now.

- Tyler Reks? I guess they got tired of bringing Chuck Palumbo back.

- Stryker had a few gems tonight, including a Dynamic Dudes reference. The Dudes were a cheesy skateboarding tag team in the late 80's made up of a not-yet-Franchised Shane Douglas and Johnny Ace, now better known as John Lauranitis (sp?), VP of Talent Relations and one of the top executives in WWE.

- The Abraham Washington Show continues to be a trainwreck, but setting up on the stage and having somebody who can talk in Christian seemed to lift it a little above the first couple Washington Shows. Even for intentionally bad, it's really bad. The first few "episodes" (I hate how, with all of the WWE wrestler-hosted segments, they always talk about them as if they're actual talk shows. It's freaking weird) were serious contenders for Worst Segment I've Ever Seen On WWE Television. Which is really saying something since I remember all of the Billy Gunn pushes.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Official (the) Bash Predictions!!!

Well - tonight is the Bash, and I'm actually going to be watching it over at a friend's place, so here are some predictions that I'll most likely be wrong about!

Triple H vs. Randy Orton (Three Stages of Hell Match, WWE Championship)

I forget what the first two stages are, but does that really matter? It's going to go to three (the third being a stretcher match, which we saw recently between Jeff and Matt Hardy). Here's to hoping that Orton retains, because Triple H is just so unlikeable as a Face.

Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk (World Championship)

This is the match I'm most looking forward to. Like Bobek said in an earlier post, the slow burn the WWE is doing with what appears to be a Punk Heel turn has been highly enjoyable. On the Smackdown leading into this PPV, they even had Punk tell the crowd to "give it up" for the number-one contender to his belt, after Hardy had lost the match. JR and Cole both mentioned how they detected sarcasm in his voice, which was cool. We'll see how things play out at this PPV, but it's looking like Punk will officially turn via some dastardly deed. Let's hope it's not just bashing Jeff with the title or something.

So, Punk retains and they draw this out, hopefully. Whatever happened to the Matt Hardy/Jeff Hardy feud?

Colons vs. Legacy (Undisputed Tag Team Championship)

How does this work? If the Colons win, they still "get" to defend their belts on all three shows, but if Legacy wins, the titles stay on Raw? I'm going to pick Legacy here, so Orton and his crew can all have gold.

Tommy Dreamer vs. Jack Swagger vs. Christian vs. Mark Henry vs. Finlay (Scramble match for the ECW Championship)

What's cool about this match is that everyone but Mark Henry has a good chance of winning this. I'll go with Swagger winning it back because I like him.

Melina vs. Michelle McCool (WWE Women's Championship)

I have no idea what's going on with this feud, so I'll say that Michelle McCool will win this.

Chris Jericho vs. Rey Mysterio (Intercontinental Championship vs. Mask match)

Mysterio will probably win the belt, because WWE must make a mint off Mysterio merch.

John Cena vs. the Miz

Wouldn't mind seeing the Miz pull out a win, here, but Cena will most likely crush him. But why not push Miz? What do they have to lose? Cena isn't doing shit, anyway.

Dolph Zigler vs. the Great Khali

I'm gonna' say Dolph. I haven't followed this feud whatsoever because the Great Khali just makes me mad.

Lots of belts on the line, which is always good for a PPV, I just wish, once again, that these matches had more than a few weeks build. That being said, I think it could be a very strong PPV based solely on the wrestlers involved. Check back for PPV thoughts!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Nancy Benoit & Hustler

From the excellent wrestling blog over at Under the Ring:

The Associated Press

ATLANTA — A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that Hustler Magazine didn’t have the right to publish decades-old nude photographs of the wife of wrestler Chris Benoit, who killed the woman and his young son before committing suicide two years ago.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling found that a notorious death doesn’t give publishers a blank check to publish any images they wish — including those not linked to a newsworthy event. Such a policy, the court warned, would mean that the entire life of any victim of a notorious slaying would instantly be open to public scrutiny.

Nancy Benoit’s family filed a federal lawsuit against the Larry Flynt Publishing Group last year after the magazine published the photos of Benoit’s wife. The lawsuit claims that the woman, a model and former professional wrestler herself, had asked the photographer to destroy the images immediately after they were shot about 20 years ago.

The magazine countered by arguing that the photos were part of a greater story on the life and tragic death on Nancy Benoit and that they helped tell the story of “the modest beginnings of Ms. Benoit’s career.”

A federal judge ruled in the magazine’s favor in October 2008, dismissing the lawsuit and concluding that the magazine had the right to publish the photos in part because her death was a “legitimate matter of public interest and concern.”

In reversing the decision Thursday, the three-judge panel ruled that while Benoit’s death may be newsworthy, her nude photographs were not. It noted the article, which advertised “long-lost images of wrestler Chris Benoit’s doomed wife,” was brief and made only scant mention of her desire to become a model.

“These private, nude photographs were not incident to a newsworthy article; rather, the brief biography was incident to the photographs,” Judge Charles Wilson wrote in the opinion.

The family’s plight gained international attention after the wrestler, his wife and their son were found dead in their suburban Atlanta home. Police said Benoit, then a wrestler for World Wrestling Entertainment, strangled his wife and son and then hanged himself.

Maureen Toffoloni, Nancy Benoit’s mother, and Hustler attorney Paul Cambria could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.

The decision sends the lawsuit back to the lower court for consideration.

Toffoloni has also recently filed a lawsuit against Dr. Phil Astin, the physician who prescribed Benoit steroids and other drugs. The complaint blames the drugs prescribed by the physician for the deaths.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Past Week of WWE Thoughts

- Another bad Raw tonight. I couldn't bring myself to care at all about the Triple H/Orton match we've seen a billion times before, and anyone could've seen that finish coming a mile away. Terrible. Then again, if we've seen Triple H/Orton a billion times, we've seen Big Show/Cena three billion times. I was paying so little attention to it that I totally missed Miz's interference, so I don't know if it was anything notable. Miz has gotten over since the draft by being a fresh act, but that dull Cena promo went a long way towards turning this into just another angle with just another guy that won't matter in the long run. I'm guessing with Miz's run-in we didn't get to see Cena give Big Show an FU for the 500,000th time and the announcers act like it's never happened before, just like the previous 499,999 times?

- The McMahon/Trump stuff was lame (gee, you think those fans are really getting a refund?), and the commercial-free format meant way too much filler. One more shot of the outside of the arena and the first four notes and "Whoa-oh..." of the opening music and I would've lost it.

- Gotta give a lot of credit to Christian for carrying David Hart Smith to a really good match on ECW last week. Smith (do they realize how awkward "Hart Smith" sounds?) is one of the worst wrestlers I've ever seen. Anyone else catch him totally failing to protect Christian on that Rock Bottom that was supposed to be on the apron, then awkwardly stumbling over Christian on his way back into the ring? Smith has absolutely no ring presence.

- After seeing that match, I really like the idea of a Finlay/Christian feud. In general, seeing Finlay get to be a mad asskicker again should be fun. Bring back the old entrance music, though. That happy leprechaun shit ain't working for a guy who's supposed to be a badass.

- Smackdown was all kinds of fun. Loved the Morrison/Edge match, and both Mysterio/Punk and Hardy/Jericho were fun up to the finishes. Morrison undoubtedly has "it," and I don't think it was any hyperbole on JR's part to call that match a career-changing one for Morrison.

- Punk has been brilliant with this slow-burn turn. I'm admittedly a big Punk mark, but I don't think I'm going too far in saying he's my favorite performer in the company to watch right now. He does an incredible job of using every bit of TV time he gets to help get himself over. Notice how much attention he pays to his entrance -- this week he came out with his usual babyface demeanor, pumped up, raising the belt in the air and shouting, "Come on! I'm the World Champion!" Met with mostly boos, he looked around, slowly pulled the belt down, and started to approach the ring, saying, "Alright. That's cool." The crowd is WAY into this storyline, and it's clearly the hottest thing going in WWE right now. Great little interaction between Punk and Hardy on Raw tonight too. WWE has got a real main event player on their hands in Punk.

- ECW and Smackdown are so much better than Raw right now. It's a real wonder what focusing on wrestling instead of skits will do. Nonetheless, I still think the freshness of the top of the card on ECW and Smackdown is the real reason the shows are coming off so much better. There's still some good wrestling on Raw, but I'd much rather watch a show centered around Punk, Jeff Hardy, Edge, Jericho, and Mysterio than the same old combinations of Triple H, Orton, Cena, Batista, and Big Show, all of whom have worked together innumerable times (as previously suggested here by some wise blogger, MVP hasn't gotten over at all on Raw and it looks like his push is on hold). ECW's got a decent core building up with Swagger, Christian, Finlay, Dreamer, Bourne, and Henry, and Smackdown's supporting cast is far more compelling than Raw's. Hell, even the Ziggler/Khali storyline is pretty decent. I'm beginning to think that instead of making Raw my appointment show every week and watching ECW and Smackdown on the DVR whenever I get around to it, I should just hold off watching ECW and Smackdown until the following Monday and just fast forward through Raw later in the week when I get a chance...

Monday, June 15, 2009

R.I.P. Misawa

Mitsuharu Misawa is one of the true legends of professional wrestling. His death this past weekend is shocking and saddening, even in a wrestling world that has seen far too much tragedy.

If you appreciate the in-ring aspect of professional wrestling, you owe it to yourself to seek out some Misawa matches. His 1990 matches against Jumbo Tsuruta, his series of matches with Toshiaki Kawada (particularly their 6/3/1994 match, often ranked as one the greatest professional wrestling matches of all-time) and Kenta Kobashi, and any of a number of fantastic tag team bouts involving Misawa, Kawada, Kobashi, Akira Taue, and Jun Akiyama, are, in my opinion, the finest examples of the in-ring art of professional wrestling. There is no need to understand the commentary or know the storylines leading up to the match -- the entire story is told by what the wrestlers do in the ring and how they do it. The magic of professional wrestling is the ability to tell a story almost purely through a performer's physical actions. Misawa was a true master.

Besides his incredible in-ring talents, Misawa was an important figure in the Japanese wrestling business. One of the top draws for All Japan Pro Wrestling throughout the 1990's, Misawa served as the company's president for about a year and a half after founder Shohei (Giant) Baba's death. Amid disputes with Baba's widow, Misawa left All Japan, taking the bulk of its roster with him, and formed a new promotion called Pro Wrestling NOAH. While NOAH could generally be classified as a success, the wrestling business in Japan is faring extremely poorly right now (MMA has long since overtaken pro wrestling in popularity in Japan), and NOAH lost their TV contract shortly before Misawa's death. Nevertheless, Misawa remained one of the top draws in Japanese wrestling. To try to imagine the impact of his death on the Japanese wrestling business, the closest comparisions I could come up with would be if the same happened to Triple H or Vince McMahon. You could imagine the reverberations that would have -- the death of someone of Misawa's stature is comparatively impactful to the Japanese wrestling business.

At the end of the day, what truly makes a wrestler great is their ability to emotionally connect with the audience. Watch one of Misawa's matches to see the resonance of his connection with the fanbase: the thundersous "MISAWA! MISAWA! MISAWA!" chants, the crowd and announcer going absolutely apeshit after Misawa defeated legend Jumbo Tsuruta (announcer, his voice absolutely shredded: "NEW HERO!!! NEW HERO!!!"), or your own cheering for Misawa to keep fighting while watching one of his legendary matches. He will be sadly missed by fans in his home country and around the world.

Thank you, Misawa.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

RIP Mitsuharu Misawa

Died in the ring after receiving a belly-to-back suplex from Akitoshi Saito. Sad times. Let's let our resident Japanese wrestling expert elaborate. Bobek?

Soundtrack to this depressing post:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Umaga update

Over on, they're saying he was let go because of a second wellness-policy offense and his refusal to enter rehab.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Quick thought

With a new WWE Champion to be crowned next Monday, that'll make 6 different holders of the WWE and World Titles in 8 days. And don't forget the ECW and Intercontinental Title changes in that time span too. Or the U.S. Title change only a week before.

Why would anyone pay to see a meaningless title defended?

gem from ECW




Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Umaga released!

Us here at the Stunt Granny saw Umaga's debut live in Chicago and couldn't believe he even existed. It just seemed so campy and outdated to have an insane Samoan on the roster, but that's exactly what made Umaga work for quite a while. He didn't speak, he just attacked people for whatever reason.

Now - he recently started speaking, which was the only thing WWE could do to propel him forward, and now he's gone. I'm sure we'll find out why in the coming days. Don't know if you caught it, but the camera caught John Morrison shit-talking to Umaga, "Oh that's right, you can talk now!" during the start of a match. Very funny stuff.

May you Samoan Spike elsewhere soon, Umaga!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Quick Post-Raw Thoughts

I'll have the fuller continuation to my first column below up in the next few days, but meanwhile, here are some things that occurred to me watching Raw tonight:

- The current title feuds are being completely wasted in this part of the WWE schedule. That promo for the Hardy/Edge ladder match that ran before Cole and King ran down the PPV card did one of the best jobs I've seen in a while in selling a match and actually (gasp!) using two wrestlers' past history in the build to a climactic match. Think how much more could have been done with this storyline with more time and more focus -- there are enough highlights of Hardy and Edge in ladder/TLC/hardcore/MITB matches to run a "Hardy/Edge Moment of the Week" type of thing on every show for a month or two leading up to the match. Hard to believe, but "you'd better see the show these guys are gonna put on, since they might not live through it" might actually sell some tickets and generate some PPV buys. Seeing as they came up together, most fans know the whole background, you could easily work Matt Hardy into the storyline... I don't want to go into any fantasy booking or anything, but how this couldn't get on one of the Big Four PPVs with some real time and build put into it is completely beyond me.

Meanwhile, I've been pleasantly surprised with the Batista/Orton storyline. I'm not the biggest Batista fan, but the guy is ridiculously over with kids and a decent chunk of the rest of the audience, certainly enough so to stop most encroaching cheers for Orton. The addition of Flair has worked out pretty well and adds some intrigue, although it's painful to see Flair involved in any kind of physicality. I want to believe in Ric Flair (hey, maybe that promo was directed at me), but the guy can barely move at this point, and just lays there rather than selling. More than the lacking performance, I'm concerned for the man and his physical well-being. It's hard to see someone like Ric Flair look like he's genuinely getting hurt out there and struggling through every movement. Still, the punt was very effective at giving Batista extra motivation -- which brings me back to the point, why is this being wasted on Extreme Rules? Batista/Orton is one of the few top feuds that hasn't been done to death, and there's plenty of backstory between the characters to work with.

Thinking ahead to Summerslam, are there really matches/angles that look to be in the offing with more to offer than these as drawing cards? I'm drawing a blank.

- Miz totally held his own in the tag match. I liked his intensity, and judging from the heat for Cena's comeback, the crowd's dying to see him get his. Of course, instead of delaying it and building it, they'll have him lose to Cena with no build on a random Raw... Hard to believe it, but I'm pretty impressed with Miz, and it's nice to see a fresh face in the main event mix.

- It's too bad Big Show's camel clutch exists solely for the purpose of the Submission Match with Cena. The lack of long-term planning again boggles the mind -- even though it's hard for fans to take Show seriously as a threat, book him to destroy everyone in sight with it for a few months and THEN put Cena in the Submission Match with him and actually draw some money. Or just waste a killer-looking finisher on a three week build for a mid-summer PPV.

- The inconsistency of the product is maddening. One week everything seems headed in the right direction, the next you wonder how WWE has ever drawn a dime. Most abstractly blame a lack of "long-term planning," but I wonder if that isn't necessitated by running so many PPVs? Hard to have a four month build to a match when you need fresh PPV matchups every three or so weeks... they need to try some kind of rotation or something to let storylines grow and let characters get over before elevating them out of nowhere. As much success as MVP has had, turning him babyface rather suddenly and without much motivation and then immediately moving him to Raw and trying to elevate him to a top babyface level is just not going to work. The fans aren't invested in the guy yet. I think the tepid reactions he's gotten on Raw the past few weeks show that. Sure, "Ballin'" is over, but that's about it. Then again, with all the company's struggles getting a top babyface over, that might be enough encouragement for them to go all the way with it.

- And does anyone have ANY earthly idea why Kofi won the title? Think he's got some talent, but that came out of nowhere...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ring of Honor on HDNet Thoughts

So, the lady and I upgraded to a flat-screen and an HD receiver through DirecTV, which enables us to view the hour-long Ring of Honor TV show! Very exciting stuff. After two 15-plus hour days of death metal, I came home and we checked out the show.

Opening match was a three-way dance between Jay Briscoe, Kenny Omega and Kenny King. Decent 8-minute match or so that saw Briscoe get busted open hardway over his left eye and Kenny Omega with a bloody nose and the win.

Next match was a tag match between Irish Airborne and Dark City Fight Club. Quick match that saw the Dark City guys with a victory.

Third match was Chris Hero vs. Eddie Kingston (no relation to Kofi, I don't think). Decent singles match that was more of a brawl than anything.

Main event was Necro Butcher and Delerious vs. Jimmy Jacobs and Brodie Lee. Necro took a wicked double suplex out of the ring that allowed Jacobs and Lee to focus on Delerious for a while. Good, 12-14 minute match.

Now - there weren't any commercials to speak of, just previews for the next two weeks of ROH programming, spotlights on wrestlers (one was . . . someone, the other was on Bryan Danielson), and some promos.

It was just a breath of fresh air. Sure, the crowd in Philly where they tape the shows is pretty small, but the camera work is fine, the promos are hilarious old-school style promos that you don't really get anymore in the WWE, and the pace of the matches is much faster, hard-hitting, and inventive.

Commentary between Mike Hogewood and Dave Prazak is just okay, but even hearing the NAMES OF MOVES BEING DONE IN THE RING is enough to make me happy at this point. Elbow strike? Senton? What are these things you speak of?!

Tag matches were good to see, and although I appreciate tag matches actually being relevant, the ROH style of chaotic tag-team wrestling is a little disorienting at times. The ref just stands around and looks helpless, which doesn't really make his three count all that important. Like, why does he get the officially finish the match when he can't enfore any other rules (most of the time)?

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Judgement Day Results!

OK! Here we go!

Shelton Benjamin vs. John Morrison (0/1)

Oops! Guessed wrong on this one. These two have been having a cool, back-and-forth feud, so it could have gone either way. I really like Morrison, so this is good news, despite my bad prediction.

Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho (IC Championship) (1/2)

Got this one right! This works, because Mysterio has barely defended this belt to begin with.

CM Punk vs. Umaga (2/3)

This just makes sense. Sucks that this PPV had to happen in Punk's hometown, but this is just where we are in this storyline. Cool tease on Smackdown of Punk cashing in his Money in the Bank contract, but it being the Friday before a PPV, you knew it wasn't going to happen. Makes sense in the scheme of things.

Big Show vs. John Cena (2/4)

Good lord. On Monday, Cena was a wreck, tonight he manages to hoist up Show and finish him off. Fucking retarded. No wonder Show gained a bunch of wait and doesn't seem to give a shit anymore. I just keep thinking back to when Show was ECW champ and he was so awesome, throwing Flair into tacks and generally causing problems for other people. Now he's just some blog that fucked Vickie Guerrero. Fuck me.

Edge vs. Jeff Hardy (World Heavyweight Championship) (3/5)

Called this one. Matt Hardy interference with The Cast causes Jeff the belt. It's like Matt has just been treading water until he could cost Jeff the belt again. Why hasn't he been interacting with Jeff on TV? Just so we can get this screwy finish? Whatever. I know I predicted that this would re-ignite the feud, but what has it stagnated to begin with?

Christian vs. Jack Swagger (ECW Championship) (4/6)

Wait, Swagger tried to pin Christian while holding his tights, the ref noticed and called him out, but then Christian won via holding Swagger's tights? I'm not into the fact that WWE is teaching kids that it's okay to be a dick if someone does it to you first. Lame.

Randy Orton vs. Batista (WWE Championship) (5/7)

Orton hits the ref to get himself DQ'd (and we're not talking about Hot Eats and Cool Treats, Stunt Granny fans), Legacy beats the shit out of Batista until Flair makes the save, an old-ass man fighting off three youngsters. Maybe Jericho is on to something here . . . but I'n still glad HHH hasn't shown his mug in a month.

71.4% correct . . . about as well as I did in math in school.

Soundtrack to this entry:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Judgement Day predictions!

Here we go again! Let's take a look at this Sunday's Judgement Day PPV and make some picks!

Shelton Benjamin vs. John Morrison

This one has to go to Shelton, probably somewhat sneakily. Morrison has been on the Face Trail since his split with The Miz (who has gone Mega Heel), so Shelton winning via some sort of shady behavior seems likely to develop this feud and Morrison as a face.

Rey Mysterio vs. Chris Jericho (IC Championship)

Seeing as how Mysterio has been in limbo storyline-wise lately, and Jericho seems to be antagonizing anyone who will listen, I have no idea what's going to happen here. Mysterio could lose the belt and give Jericho something else to brag about, or he could retain and continue this feud. Um, Mysterio.

CM Punk vs. Umaga

This is an interesting one. Punk has beaten Edge twice in the past few weeks (once via countout with Edge doing the I-Don't-Need-This-Shit-I'm-The-Heel wave-off and once with Punk pinning him clean and Umaga interfering before Punk could cash in the Money in the Bank contract), but Umaga has been destroying Punk after each match.

The thing that's cool about Umaga is that he doesn't need a reason to attack someone. The character doesn't even speak English, rendering promos useless, so he just attacks whoever he wants. Pretty brilliant.

There could be some big bumping from Punk in this one, but I think he'll most likely succumb to Umaga's Thumb. Also, this is Punk's hometown, so yeah.

Big Show vs. John Cena

Realistically, Cena should have no chance, considering he was chokeslammed into a spotlight less than a month ago, and was completely destroyed by Show after Miz called him out. I mean, when he answered Miz' call-out, he was moving like a rusty robot (honestly, I thought he was just going to be faking it and destroy The Miz, but . . . ) and Show totally worked him over. That was a week ago. Cena should have no chance, so I'm going to go against WWE policy and side with common sense: Big Show gets the win.

Edge vs. Jeff Hardy (World Heavyweight Championship)

Hmmm . . . another tough one, but I'm going to say that Edge retains via some sort of interference on the part of Matt Hardy. I don't quite understand what's up with the Hardy Boyzzz feud since Mania, but this would be a good opportunity to remind the fans that the Hardy's hate one another. Cost Jeff the title and bingo, shit's re-ignited.

Christian vs. Jack Swagger (ECW Championship)

Christian will win this match, because Christian losing the belt back to him this early would kill Christian's momentum. The fans don't hate Swagger enough, but then again . . . maybe having him pin the champ would do the trick. Still going to go with Christian, though.

Randy Orton vs. Batista (WWE Championship)

Hopefully we get a clean finish out of this one, with no HHH appearance. Maybe it'll be something like Batista fucking up again and getting DQ'd. That way, HHH can get pissed at him and finally just turn heel for a Batista/HHH feud. We'll see about that. I'm going to pick Orton to retain.

Funny, so announced Women's title, Diva's title, or Unified Tag title, or US title matches on this show. Huh. See you on Sunday night or Monday . . . sometime . . . with a self-graded results post.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Your new hero, your party host...

Hey, I'm Bobek, and like my good man Hoffa, I love wrestling. I'm flattered that Hoffa asked me to contribute to The Stunt Granny... wish I'd gotten computer access at home sooner, but such is my laziness/poverty.

Thankfully, wrestling fandom goes well with laziness/poverty.

I'm not entirely sure what all I'll be putting on here, but I think I'll be taking more of a "big picture" view -- I'm fascinated by the particulars of booking and promotion, so those will likely be my main focus.

Of course, I planned a whole big first column a couple weeks back talking about fundamental booking concepts and where I see the companies (particularly WWE, since I mostly can't be bothered with TNA's third-rate presentation and Russo) failing to stick to the fundamentals of solid wrestling programming, but then saw excellent columns on the subject by Jim Cornette and Lance Storm, both of whom know a hell of a lot more about the subject than I do.

Trying to think of other subjects, I keep coming back to this thought about the superior heel depth at the top of the WWE card, and the real struggle the company seems to be having with creating top babyface stars. In Randy Orton, Edge, and Chris Jericho, WWE has three of the great heels of recent memory. All three performers are at the top of their game, and are among the rare characters in the company that have been well-booked.

Orton has grown by leaps and bounds. While some complain about his in-ring work ("Another chinlock, Randy?"), I find his work in the ring to always be solid and convincing. Sure, he lacks a spectacular moveset, but his ability to incorporate his pouncing, snake-like character into his in-ring work has impressed me. Moveset isn't that important anyway -- digging into a chinlock to actually make it looks like a move that matters, desperately grasping the hold, sneering at the audience, and building heat are far more important than "big moves" (in my opinion, a big reason for TNA's failure to connect with anything beyond a hardcore audience). Orton's use of every movement to tell the story, from the way he walks down the ramp, to the pauses in his promos, to his posture in the ring, reminds me a great deal of Jake Roberts at his best -- perhaps the "viper" thing isn't such a coincidence...

Having once despised Edge's performance as a babyface, I've been pleasantly surprised with the heel character he's developed. His babyface run seems like such a distant memory, and in fact it's hard to imagine him as anything but a heel at this point. The "Ultimate Opportunist" character is a perfect in-ring fit for a talent who's best at selling and out-of-nowhere indy reversals... of course, you would think this would serve him well as a babyface, but his offense in that context was less convincing than even Cena's. On the mic, he's rivaled only by Jericho among current heels. He can rely on cheap heat at times, but really excels at selling the conniving and sneaky elements of the character. I think it says a lot about Edge as a performer that he's never booked particularly strong, but is always seen as a top threat. Any number of other performers would lose all of their heat in such a context (see Jericho's Undisputed Championship run).

Speaking of which, the heel character that Chris Jericho has developed over the last year or so far eclipses even his ever-popular heel run in WCW. WWE seriously dropped the ball on his Undisputed Title run through inept booking, but this time around the character has been given a whole new dimension, mostly through Jericho's performances. To say that his time trying to make it an actor has paid off in his return would be a serious understatement -- Jericho has crafted a rich, compelling, and shockingly well-acted (for wrestling) character. The pathos, the comtempt ooze through the screen, and I'm sure an old school performer like Jericho (hard to believe, but he really is one of the last) is even better in person at connecting with the fans and drawing their ire -- which his heat levels would suggest is true.

The same goes for Orton and Edge. In fact, all three draw levels of heat not seen in WWE since Triple H's first top heel run back in 1999-2000. While I may not get a lot of agreement on this one, I would go so far as to say that Orton, Edge, and Jericho are all currently performing at all-time great heel levels.

So, if you know your basic booking philosophies, it would stand to reason that WWE should be awash in top babyface characters, with the fans eager to see the hated heels get theirs. Yet this is far from the case -- aside from The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels, who are clearly being phased out of the main event picture, there are very few babyfaces with the kind of heat one would expect. Jeff Hardy and (maybe) Batista are probably the closest, but only the always-unreliable Hardy seems to have a run on top still left in the tank. The company's other top babyfaces would probably be best served as heels at this point...

Which leads to quite a quandry. I'll pick up next time with a look at the top babyface performers and where they fit in this context, and maybe along the line try to figure out why such top heel talent doesn't seem to be drawing out the depth of babyface challengers one would expect.

I'd love to hear any feedback if there's anyone reading this besides myself and Hoffa. Regardless, it's been fun!

Hoffa, more recaps!