By Mike Mooneyham
July 27, 2002
It’s been a week of good news and bad news for Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment.
The bad news came in the form of a financial report that projected lower figures than had been anticipated for the current fiscal year based on live event attendance, television ratings and pay-per-view buyrates. The company also reported that it had reduced its operating budgets by approximately $20 million.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]Although a soft economy is partially to blame for the downturn in business, a number of internal factors have led to a product that simply hasn’t been as interesting as it once was. The good news, if the WWF stays the course, is that the company has the resources to do something about those financial figures. And it may have started on the long comeback road last week by generating the first real buzz regarding the “rival” brands.
For the first time since McMahon split the rosters earlier this year, there exists a strong sense of competition between Raw and Smackdown. With former WCW boss Eric Bischoff moving Raw more toward a Nitro-style format and Stephanie McMahon heading up the more traditional Smackdown, both rosters now have a reason to try and outshine the other.
With both figurehead general managers vying for talent, the shows more closely resemble the Raw-Nitro feud that made pro wrestling must viewing on Monday nights for millions of fans during the late 90s.
Last week’s Raw, coming off a solid Vengeance PPV, was something it hasn’t been in a while – fun to watch. Many fans commented that it was the best overall show since the Raw featuring the return of both Ric Flair and Jerry Lawler late last year. Solid matches, good execution, new star power and surprising swerves combined for an entertaining episode.
The effort apparently paid off in the ratings, as Raw improved nearly half a point from the previous week, to a 4.3. More good news followed in the form of WWE stock rebounding slightly late last week.
The McMahons, settling into their new vacation condo in Boca Raton, Fla., also proved that they remain bullish on the state of the industry.
Vince and wife Linda recently sold their previous vacation home in Boca to move to a seventh-floor spread at the exclusive Excelsior, which has 10 stories and only 28 condominiums that sell from $2.5 million to $8 million. The McMahons’ eight-bedroom, 10,000-square-foot apartment was crafted from two spacious units.
According to a report in the Miami Herald, the McMahons’ interior designer valued their apartment at a cool $14 million.
The WWE chairman received further props last week when Hulk Hogan paid his boss a compliment during a radio interview, calling McMahon a good businessman and “the only man who was keeping the art alive.”
– Last week’s Smackdown, which featured the WWE TV debut of Rey Misterio Jr., registered a 3.3 rating.
– The short-lived reformation of Degeneration X and the subsequent turn of Triple H on Shawn Michaels put the final nail in the coffin of DX and hopefully an end to stale nostalgia acts that simply don’t need to be revived. A Triple H-Michaels match is rumored for Summer Slam.
– Ric Flair is scheduled for a face-to-face interview with Eric Bischoff at this week’s Raw smack in the middle of “Flair country” – Greensboro – that should be worth the price of admission.
– It’s (almost) sad watching the once brash and boastful Bischoff, who just several years ago vowed to bring Vince McMahon to his knees, now working for him and merely playing a role.
But like him or not, and he has his share of detractors in the wrestling business, Bischoff is an effective TV character whose annoying personality complements McMahon’s cocky persona.
The WWE obviously is playing off of many of Bischoff’s WCW traits, such as cozying up to the big stars and dissing the lower- and mid-card talent. “Bischoff is very easy to dislike and seems to be settling into his role very well,” Jim Ross wrote on the WWE Web site.
– Rumors have circulated that Bischoff’s involvement in the WWE could hasten Bill Goldberg’s inevitable arrival. Goldberg, however, reportedly is holding out for major bucks. Properly promoted and with the assistance of good timing, a Goldberg-Brock Lesnar showdown could be the ticket for next year’s Wrestlemania.
– A Raw house show will be held at the Carolina Coliseum in Columbia Sunday beginning at 5 p.m. Ric Flair and The Undertaker will join forces for the first time against Brock Lesnar and Big Show.
In other bouts: William Regal vs. Rob Van Dam for the Intercontinental title; Bubba Ray and Spike Dudley vs. Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit in a tables match; Bradshaw vs. Shawn Stasiak for the WWE hardcore title; Goldust vs. Christopher Nowinski; Matt Hardy vs. Raven; Trish Stratus and Linda Miles vs. Molly Holly and Jackie Gayda; Booker T vs. Steven Richards; Tommy Dreamer and Shelton Benjamin vs. The Island Boys; and David Flair vs. Crash.
Making a special appearance will be Columbia natives The Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young.
– The Rev. Monroe Alton (Randy) Rice, a Gulf Coast mainstay during the 70s and 80s under the ring name Randy Tyler, passed away last week at the age of 50 at his home in Coldwater Township, Miss.
Rice formed a top team with the late Rip Tyler (William Vaughn) in Louisiana and Oklahoma and appeared as R.T. Tyler, billed as the cousin of Bobby Jaggers, in Florida.
– WWE performer Chris Kanyon (Chris Klucsaritis) is recovering in the intensive care unit of an Atlanta area hospital after suffering a serious arm infection. Kanyon, who recently came off the WWE’s disabled list, separated his shoulder this week and it became infected. After having his shoulder drained, he developed breathing problems due to fluid in his lungs.
– Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jim Cornette’s mother, Thelma, who reportedly is “gravely ill.”
– NWA-TNA manager Jimmy Mitchell, better known in ECW as The Sinister Minister and in WCW as James Vandenberg, commented on Eric Bischoff’s new role during an interview last week on the Between the Ropes” radio show.
“After everything Eric said about Vince, he’s like Vince’s jail punk now,” Mitchell said. “Eric Bischoff, in his mealy-mouthed, weasely kind of way, tried to steal the ECW gimmick from Paul E. (Paul Heyman) although he couldn’t steal it as well as Vince during the day.”
He also praised Scott Hall’s behavior since joining the company. “That guy is as sober as a judge,” he said. “He’s totally business and totally cool.”
– The NWA-TNA, now in its second month of presenting weekly pay-per-views, has produced a number of breakout stars, including A.J. Styles, Lo Ki and K-Krush.
Jerry Lynn, who was released by the WWE earlier this year, continues to deliver memorable performances.
– NWA-TNA has resumed negotiations with Shane Douglas.
– Latest WWE developmental cuts include Sharmell Sullivan (the former Paisley in WCW), Mike Sanders, B.J. Payne and Flash Flannigan.
– Dusty Rhodes and Kevin Sullivan will battle in the main event of an independent show Aug. 24 at the former ECW Arena in Philadelphia.
– Diamond Dallas Page (Page Falkenburg) and wife Kimberly are moving from Atlanta to Hollywood to pursue careers in acting.
– Tazz (Pete Senerca) said in a recent interview on the WWE Web site that he now prefers color commentating over wrestling.
“As far as the ring, to be quite frank, it’s just not the same for me anymore,” Tazz said. “I don’t know what happened. It’s just not in my heart like it used to be. I always was proud to go out there and bust my ass for five minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, half and hour, whatever it is. I always was excited to go out and give the people their money’s worth, impress my peers, try to impress the public, impress myself, and bust my ass in the ring. But the last few matches I had several weeks back on house shows and whatnot, it just wasn’t the same. I didn’t have that same feeling.”
– There has to be a good explanation as to why The Undertaker is protected to the extent that he rarely does jobs or sells for anyone other than the top two or three stars in the promotion. There also has to be a logical reason why someone other than Taker is forced to do the job in a three-way match in which Taker drops the world title.
I just haven’t heard of any that make sense.
Mike Mooneyham can be reached by phone at (843) 937-5517 or by e-mail at [email protected]. He is the co-author of “Sex, Lies & Headlocks: The Real Story of Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation,” published by Crown.