INSIDE THE RING NEWSLETTER
By Trevor Hunnicutt and Eddie T.
The Edge vs. Shawn Michaels match was a good change of pace for the show, despite what its done to avert attention from Michaels’ feud with Kurt Angle, and put the Armageddon John Cena vs. Jesus Aguilera match in the same style to shame. The booking on this show isn’t always smart (I’m being kind), but by God, the execution blows Smackdown out of the water consistently at this point. Mood-wise, by having Michaels and Edge wrestle in street-clothes and juice, was effective and made the match feel very raw, pun not intended. The match set the emotional stage for Kurt Angle’s interference at its conclusion to the degree where Angle didn’t really have to do all that much more than step in to the ring and accept to where he came off portrayed as the deviant that Edge was during the match. This certainly raised the score.
As for the Batista/HHH feud, HHH did an OK promo, and Batista also managed to squeeze out something that did the job, I guess. But couldn’t he have at least acknowledged his motivation? The company has done an especially good job writing the Batista character, but for the next straight weeks, the standard that he’s going to have to meet to fulfill this role is going to be high, and will to some degree trump how well the foundation that book for him and the image of him that fans see in their minds. In other words, WWE already missed the train to pick up the pace here. During the next several weeks, we will have to be convinced that he is Triple H’s equal, and that’s not a trust that WWE has the credibility to wield any longer. This week, I’ll reserve some judgment.
The John Cena/JBL advertisement was in a long line of what has so far been hideous promotion for WrestleMania. I don’t understand, and I’m always welcome to explanations on these things, how it’s at all productive for Cena and JBL to spoof what is a feud that already has credibility issues to take a mediocre satirical stab at “A Few Good Men.” JBL, as usual was good, and as usual because of the material, it didn’t matter. Cena didn’t do it for me, and I’m troubled by the idea of him doing anything more complex than flexing at this point on TV. That’s not a knock though. Chris Masters was on RAW for another week~! This time he squashed one of ROH’s better wrestlers, not to mention champions, John Walters. Yeah, nothing new. But poor Steven Richards. Just think about it: how ironic is it that they bring a guy up who isn’t ready, again, he injures somebody, again, and it’s Richards, again. And at the same time, Hassan isn’t getting finishes right.
Now I understand that the reason Hemme is doing Playboy is because they do it with class. As the kids say, bitch please. Of some console in her feud with Trish Stratus is that Stratus is just hilarious in every segment with her dead-on insults of Hemme… Jericho just tossed out that ladder match announcement/invitation, so much so that it didn’t really mean anything.
OK show, great main event.
I definitely enjoyed this past week’s edition of Monday Night RAW. I would say that the show failed to continue the momentum the previous episode had carried when it comes to the main event storyline, but due to the spotlight being put on the other feuds that began to develop on RAW, WWE managed to create the atmosphere for a good evening. The main event match between Shawn Michaels and Edge was a very nice tough, from beginning to end. The two fighting in a different attire (clothes they would wear in real life) helped spice up the bout. The tremendous job both of them did inside the ring was, obviously, the major plus of this match, as well as the entire show. I also like the fact that there was an ending before Kurt Angle’s interference. Speaking of the interference, it was nicely done. The set-up, from the Edge interview backstage, to the perfectly-carried match later on allowed for Angle to just go out there and hit Michaels once, and that would have been enough. However, I liked what they executed a lot. It helpes the two get going with their feud. Since this is going to be the one match at WrestleMania where in-ring work matters, it’s definitely good to start on the push for it now.
Speaking of Shawn Michaels and his involvement on RAW, I’ve never liked the fact that he’s failed at creating new stars. I was mostly concerned with the Triple H Effect taking over HBK in the feud with Randy Orton, where Orton didn’t seem to gain anything (that’s when he was heel). However, if I were the head of creative, I would most likely have HBK play the role Triple H is playing currently. Michaels would be a much better draw than Triple H for numerous reasons. He’s very charismatic, and has enjoyed a level of popularity much higher than Triple H has throughout his career, so he is that well-known name that they were looking for. Another reason, and perhaps the most important one, is that with Michaels you are always guaranteed a tremendous match, as he has proven recently that he can carry guys much better than Triple H can. If they so badly had to go with a well-known name to generate them money in the main event over the past three years (which they didn’t, but I’m following their logic here), I think they’ve been doing it with the wrong guy. I do realize Michaels has been a face, but a heel turn would have been very effective, and the rub others would have gotten from feuding with him as a heel would be much bigger from what they got with H. However, this is a different topic.
They dropped the ball on Batista’s push. However, that is not a bad thing for right now. It simply means that his win will not be spectacular, but good at WrestleMania. They’re at the point with his character where they can’t really impress us too much, since he’s already turned. From here on, it just has to be strong booking and creativity as to why, for what, and how it all came about, as well as what it all leads to. None of these questions have been answered a week into the push. Since it’s only been a week, it’s forgivable, but not forgettable. He did manage to carry himself well on the microphone, so he’s still a solid guy they can look up to for the short future, at least. I think it was a bad move for him to get on the microphone and admit how great of a star Triple H is. That second, he lost a lot of momentum and credibility.
I’m glad Trevor made mention of the A Few Good Men spoof that Cena and JBL did because people have failed to notice its importance. If this was happening five or six years ago, there’s no way they would have had two men feuding for the WWE Championship do such a commercial. If this was happening ten years ago… well, it wouldn’t even happen. I think it’s a very nice reality check, because it allows us to see how much the business has changed. WWE has become a completely different entity throughout the years, and has distanced itself more and more from the pure “wrestling” standpoint. As far as the ad, I found it good, but at the same time negative for the industry.
The Hassan screw-up made me sad. For one, because that was the best match he’s had on RAW and probably in his career so far, and for a second, because it was such a hard spot to mess up! Hassan has shown improvement over the past few weeks, mostly thanks to Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit getting some good matches out of him, and this definitely took him a step back. I think that, although a failure as a character, he has found his spot on RAW. The company didn’t bail on him and continues to push him strong. Hey, if you’ve forgotten, nobody liked Batista when he joined Evolution, but it took two years of them sticking him down our throats for us to buy into him. I don’t see Hassan going all the way with this storyline, but I certainly think he can be used as much more than Hogan’s fish at WrestleMania and in the future… Chris Masters is the victim of a horrible gimmick. He can’t pull it off either. The fact that he STILL can’t get his entrance music right (where everyone with a brain capacity higher than that of a mouse, a dumb mouse at that, realizes that he’s supposed to raise his arms when the gong in his song occurs, and the pyro blows off) is down-right scary. I feel bad for him, because he seems like a hard worker, but he’s just too green to be where he is, and it’s not his fault for getting called up so early.
I like the Chris Jericho challenge. I don’t like that they have to do it. Basically, a bunch of good workers (Jericho, Christian, Benoit, Benjamin, etc) are now stuck with nothing to do for WrestleMania. So WWE has to put them all in one match. Although that gives us one solid bout at the PPV, it’s a waste of talent from my viewpoint. I do like the fact that it’s Jericho who’s initiating something, and I also like that they didn’t give it all away on RAW. To be honest, his announcement was lost in-between two other major ones, so it would have been overkill if they gave it all away. The funny thing here is that I think the only reason they didn’t give it all away is because they’re unsure themselves of what it is.
Trish Stratus is simply amazing. I’ve written a column on her achievements, and have praised her numerous times. It seems like it’s never enough. She continues to impress, no matter how crappy of a situation they put her in. I’m glad they turned her heel, because it allowed a whole new side of Stratus to shine through, that being comedy. She has managed to make two horrible, and painful storylines (Lita‘s baby, and now Christy Hemme, who by herlself if a whole storyline full of errors) somewhat enjoyable through her hillarious remarks. I enjoy her segments very much.
Finally, there’s no words to describe the historic event that will take place at WrestleMania 21. No, I’m not talking about Hulk Hogan joining the most embarassing hall of fame in all professional wrestling’s history, because that should have taken place a long time ago. I’m talking about The Piper’s Pit, where a man who defined a wrestling era will have a segment with a man who made who personified that era into something completely different, and changed an industry forever. The historic value of this edition of The Piper’s Pit is definitely something worthy of WrestleMania air time, and I’m very glad they’re doing it. I was wondering what they’re going to do with Austin since he’s limited, can’t wrestle, and still has to get over somehow, but this is definitely the best solution. I give credit where credit is due, and WWE is doing smart booking with this, as it’s what WrestleMania is all about – it’s just another segment that will help keep the hype and environment they’ve created for their biggest annual PPV alive.
I realize this is very long, but it’s WrestleMania season, as Trevor put it to me! Expect all the coverage you can get from us over the next few weeks!
HULK HOGAN VS. MOHAMMAD HASSAN AT WRESTLEMANIA 21?
Many of our readers noticed the horrible finisher this past Monday night on RAW during the Benoit/Hassan match. As probably most of you were able to point out, the idea was for Benoit to do a headbutt, however end up hitting his head on the bell. The plan that called for Hassan to roll over and cover Benoit. Since that didn’t happen, management from backstage changed the ending to a DQ with Hassan doing the low blow. It was a last minute decision.
The reason this is important, or interesting in the first place, is because there have been rumors of keeping Hassan strong and undefeated for a reason. WWE actually considered putting him into some sort of segment with Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 21. As you can imagine, this will give Hogan the rub he always looks for, as well as a reason to pop the fans at the biggest PPV event of the year. Do remember that those are simply rumors, but the fact of the matter is, they’re keeping Hassan strong and undefeated going into WrestleMania.
To add more fuel to the fire, rumor has it that Hogan is the reason the originally scheduled WrestleMania match — Hassan / Daivari vs. Benoit / Jericho — will no longer take place, and Chris Jericho’s Ladder Match Challenge (to involve Chris Benoit most likely) was then introduced.
MATT HARDY AND LITA SPLIT
Over at Matt Hardy‘s new website, TheMattHardy., the Sensei of Mattitude confirmed in a post on the message boards that his relationship with Lita is over. Matt was asked by a longtime friend Thomas Simpson (former OMEGA promoter) if there’s any truth to recent rumors of the couple breaking up, and Hardy said the following:
Thomas, thanks for the all the love and support. Everything Thomas has said is absolutely true. I will address this appalling situation when the time is right. I greatly appreciate all of the support and encouragement all of you have given me throughout the years. May you all be well and happy. God bless.
To add more fire to the fuel, the current Matt Fact at the site is “Matt E Fact #6: Matt has never betrayed a close friend.” Also, Shane “The Hurricane” Helms, a close friend of Hardy’s for years, has posted the following in his latest online commentary: “And finally before I end this I want to give a plug to Matt Hardy’s new website, TheMattHardy.com. It’s a good outlet for Matt’s voice and for Matt fans to talk about all things concerning the “Sensei.” And with that being said, I leave you with this, “Loyalty is an invaluable commodity, that once spent, can never be replaced.”
THIS WEEK’S RATINGS
The SmackDown rating is in, and WWE doesn’t have to sweat over anything. The show ended up getting a 3.5 broadcast rating, with a 6 share. That continues the streak of solid performance of the big shows this week, as RAW did a 4.1 (6 share) on Monday night, which could potentially turn out to be the biggest number of people (not rating itself) seeing the program in a long time. More information has come in, and we now know the rating is off of hours 4.0 and 4.2. For those who care about the B shows, Velocity came in at a 0.6 rating, while Experience and Heat did 0.7 and 0.8 respectively.
UFC also got a solid rating for Ultimate Fighter this week. The show came in at a 1.7 with a 3.8 share.
BE COOL INFORMATION
Be Cool, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s latest movie project, also starring John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Danny DeVito, Cedric the Entertainer, and Vince Vaughn among many other high-profile entertainers hit theatres today. There’s been a lot of noise about Rock and how his role in the film turns out. I also noticed that there’s been a lot of interest from wrestling fans to see how things turn out for their hero. As of this writing, sources are reporting that Be Cool should debut at #1 in the box office for its first week and it will gross approximately $22.5 million. Of course, this is just a projection. I’ll have the actual number for you later in the week. The movie is a continuation of the 1995 hit Get Shorty. (The word sequel has been used by everyone, but technically it isn’t a sequel.) Get Shorty helped Travolta make a strong return to the main scene, following a series of gimmicked movies (to throw in a wrestling term in there), such as Pulp Fiction. I looked around the web for some reviews on mostly Rock’s work, as well as the movie overall. As you’ll notice below, the general opinion is that the movie is nothing spectacular, with some calling it a failure, however, the bigger news here for wrestling fans is that Rock steals the flick. Here are some opinions on Be Cool.
a.. “The sole exception to this parade of unsavory types is a gay Samoan bodyguard, Elliot Wilhelm, played with great good humor by the Rock. Charming and unexpectedly funny, the Rock wears his muscles and his role lightly. Although the character is subjected to a number of crude gay epithets, none of which I recall from the novel, the Rock deflects their sting by making Elliot into a pussycat and stealing the show. Elliot looks like a stone-cold killer, but that isn’t the part he yearns to play: he sings (his cover of Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough” is all heart and no ear), but what he really wants to do is act. His audition monologue for Chili is the only reason to recommend “Be Cool” when it shows up any minute now on DVD.”
— The New York Times (This would be the review with the most credibility, and perhaps the one review most people would get to read.)
a.. “‘Be Cool’ has only one saving grace, and it’s not the unfunny Uma Thurman as a sexy L.A. record executive (although she still looks spectacular in a bikini) or Cedric the Entertainer as the Oreo owner of a rap label — it’s wrestler-turned-actor The Rock (“The Scorpion King”). He’s Vaughn’s bodyguard/henchman, and an aspiring actor/singer trying desperately (and failing miserably) to hide the fact that he’s more than a little light in the loafers.
It is side-splittingly funny to watching this buffed, 290-lb. half-Samoan warble through Loretta Lynn songs and proudly smack his own rear when catching a glimpse of himself in a mirror — and he manages to do this, and much more, without becoming a homosexual caricature. As outlandish as he seems, this guy is the most human character in the movie.”
a.. “Recycled jokes – like another running gag about Chili’s automotive options – and more cameos (like Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry) feel more like desperation than inspiration. And you have to be concerned when the funniest guy in a large-cast ensemble comedy is The Rock, sampling his audition piece from ‘Bring It On.'”
— The Salt Lake Tribune
a.. “But the movie belongs to ex-pro wrestler The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) as Raji’s aspiring actor bodyguard, Elliot. Not only is he playing a tough guy who’s slightly naive and honestly sweet, but a homosexual fond of cowboy outfits and the cheerleading epic Bring it On. Rock, with his, in this case, needy million-watt smile and eyes that move from meltingly approachable to foolishly menacing (yes, he cocks the eyebrow, but it’s a winning in-joke) creates a character that is never made silly or stereotypical. It’s a brave performance that seems only capable by an actor of intelligence and wit. Credit is all to The Rock, but thankfully, director F. Gary Gray, in the middle of his muddled movie, allowed this performance, never once stopping the actor from making all the correct choices. Be Cool may not be the swiftest piece of cinema out there, but when it has its moments with The Rock, they absolutely kill. At those times, the movie finally becomes-yes-cool. ”
a.. “The Rock plays Vince Vaughn’s possibly-gay bodyguard who gets really offended when called certain derogatory-towards-gay people terms. The Rock’s entire role is more or less acting fruity, which, to me isn’t funny. “Too gay to function” stereotypes (thanks, Mean Girls) aren’t funny anymore.”
a.. “The biggest reason to see Be Cool or at least scan through it when it gets to DVD is for The Rock. He simply steals the show in this film as Elliot Wilhelm, a gay bodyguard with a penchant for Loretta Lynn and a burning desire to be a star. Rock sends his own rep up relentlessly, including mocking his own trademark eyebrow raise. Some key moments include a scene where we see a portion of a music video Elliot made. Wearing a bright red country western outfit and a cowboy hat, Elliot sings a pretty great rendition of Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man).” In a scene that is Be Cool’s best moment, Elliot auditions for Chili by reciting a monologue between Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union from Bring it On. Elliot recites both sides of the conversation, complete with neck sways and snaps. Awesome!”
— Film Force
a.. “Vincent Vaughn is extremely annoying as Keitel’s white Jewish partner – who thinks he’s black – but the Rock reveals unsuspected comic talent as Vaughn’s flamboyantly gay Samoan bodyguard, an aspiring actor who breaks into Chili’s house to show him an audition tape in which he innocently sings “You’re Not Woman Enough to Take My Man.”
— The New York Post
a.. “For the most part, the ensemble cast of “Be Cool” is a second-rate version of the stars who populated “Get Shorty.” An exception is wrestler-turned-actor, The Rock. The Rock steals the film and shows he truly does have great comic timing. As a gay wannabe actor/country singer he nails the performance, even going so far as to make fun of his own patented ‘lifted eyebrow’ maneuver.”
a.. “There has been a lot of publicity about the breakout role of The Rock as Raji’s gay bodyguard, Elliot Wilhelm. This is because The Rock not only embraces his role, he appears to be enjoying himself and involved with his character. Everyone else is mugging for the camera.”
a.. “”Be Cool’s” plot is more convoluted and complicated than it needs to be. All of the various interconnecting stories, schemes, frames, and set-ups could have and should have been more streamlined, this is a text book case of a cast being too big and unwieldy, but somehow it all works and fits. The Rock and Vince Vaughn basically steal this film with their over the top, take no prisoners performance.”
a.. “His flunky, Elliott, as played by The Rock, is the main reason to see “Be Cool” though,
convinced that his talent for raising one eyebrow is his ticket to the big time. Elliott’s audition’ for Chili, playing both Kirsten Dunst and Gabrielle Union’s parts in the cheerleading movie “Bring It On,” is only a warm-up for his swishy country music video.”
a.. “Here’s something I never thought I’d say amid a star vehicle like this one: Former wrestling poser The Rock is the best thing in the movie. He’s a reluctant bodyguard to Vaughn, with a penchant for showtunes and prancing cowboy boots. The Rock manages to send up tough guys, wrestlers, gay entertainers and actors without hurting anybody. Perhaps he learned that deft choreography in the fake grappling rings.”
a.. “A genial hodgepodge, mostly: Christina Milian’s substantial new cuts give her artistic profile a much-needed boost, and there’s nothing wrong with well-worn Kool and the Gang, James Brown and Sonny and Cher oldies. But Cool is dragged down by the Rock’s very lame gay-joke version of Loretta Lynn’s ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough.'”
a.. “The deal with The Rock’s character is that he is manifestly gay, although he doesn’t seem to realize it. He makes dire threats against Chili Palmer, who disarms him with flattery, telling him in the middle of a confrontation that he has all the right elements to be a movie star. Just as the sleazy producer in “Get Shorty” saved his own life by listening to Chili’s pitch, now Chili saves his life by pitching The Rock.”
a.. “The Rock, who has already made a smooth transition from the wrestling ring to the big screen, almost steals the film. The man has a knack for comedy and I hope he does a few more between his action films”.
Trevor Hunnicutt — THunnicutt at aol.com
Eddie T — Levski11 at aol.com