By Mike Mooneyham

Sept. 19, 2004

Success breeds success. Look no further than World Wrestling Entertainment.

Financially, the mat juggernaut remains a big moneymaker, as evidenced by its recently released quarterly figures and attractive bonuses for major stockholders.

Despite sales sliding in some primary revenue streams, the company brought in $0.11 per share in earnings, a 175 percent gain over the prior-year quarter, and did a good job keeping costs in line. By expanding sales in key, higher-margin areas, investment publication Motley Fool noted, WWE managed to position the company in an even better light to investors.

“If this proven contender gets much cheaper, it may soon hit the mythical territory of the good company at a great price,” the report added.

Sometimes, though, success isn’t as easily discernible as looking at a yearly earnings report or quarterly financial statements. The bottom line will always be determined by how that company connects to an ever-changing audience. Creatively there appears to be a problem on both sides of the ledger.

In addition to general fan malaise, there’s dissension among the ranks and a growing resentment among some performers who feel they’re being misused. Claims of favoritism and backstage politics are ringing loud and clear. An unpopular dress code, stagnant ratings and low morale are causing tempers to flare inside and outside WWE locker rooms.

Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle, arguably the two top performers on the Smackdown roster, locked horns last Tuesday night at TV tapings. Sources say Angle took down Guerrero in a front facelock following a shoving match that stemmed from problems the two encountered during their match that evening. The skirmish was broken up by WWE talent chief Johnny Ace and several agents, but the two resumed the altercation backstage before being separated once again.

Guerrero, who is recovering from a recent concussion, has become increasingly frustrated and despondent since dropping the Smackdown title to John Bradshaw Layfield, and his outbursts and overall demeanor led to a recent meeting with Vince McMahon. It’s not expected, however, that Guerrero will take much-needed time off due to the lack of depth on the Smackdown side.

A recently instituted dress code also has prompted widespread criticism from the WWE locker room. Many feel that the policy is not being enforced uniformly, and that some performers with political pull are being shown partiality. Apparently exempt from the controversial policy are John Cena, because of his hip-hop image, and The Undertaker, due to his lofty stature with management.

– From the mouths of babes: WWE diva Ivory (Lisa Moretti) landed some pretty stiff verbal shots at the company’s million-dollar Diva Search in a recent post on her Web site (her remarks have since been removed).

“The Raw divas are in a bad spot right now,” wrote Moretti, 42, who endured her own cheesecake beginnings in the now-defunct GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) promotion during the mid-’80s. “It seems like as hard as we work to bring integrity and interest into the women’s division, the WWE ‘creative team’ (or whoever the mystery people are who make rotten decisions in storylines, etc.) work against us. The Diva Search is unentertaining, unimaginative and a total waste of what each of the contestants could probably bring to our programming.”

“Instead of a contest/reality show WWE is giving us Jackass meets Top Model,” added Moretti, a three-time WWE women’s champ who joined the company in 1999. “Wouldn’t these girls be better off just saving face and getting naked for Playboy? At least they could be Bunnies with attitude instead of Dumb Divas. Watch, I’ll probably be invited back to the ring to put over the new diva as a real ‘ring technician!’ I wouldn’t be surprised!”

In light of Ivory’s delightfully tart comments, neither would I.

– WWE Diva Search finalist Carmella DeCesare pleaded innocent to misdemeanor assault charges after allegedly beating up boyfriend Jeff Garcia’s ex Aug. 20 at a Cleveland nightspot.

According to police reports, the reigning Playboy Playmate of the Year verbally abused, pushed and slapped 32-year-old Christin Hine over an incident that revolved around the Cleveland Browns quarterback. The report said DeCesare had to be restrained by bouncers and friends.

Hine, who previously dated Garcia, told police that the 5-5, 110-pound DeCesare also kicked her in the head as she was leaving the bar. Hine wasn’t hurt, but filed a police complaint against DeCesare accusing her of assault, a first-degree misdemeanor.

DeCesare, 22, who accompanied Garcia to his now-famous “I’m not gay” news conference last month, looms as the favorite to win the WWE’s diva contest and $250,000 grand prize.

– Vince McMahon’s “big” announcement at this week’s season premiere of Raw is expected to involve the interactive format for Taboo Tuesday on Oct. 19. The extra, mid-week pay-per-view will give fans the option to vote for match-ups and types of bouts.

A possible snag in the plans: What if the fans select Chris Jericho – and not Randy Orton – to challenge Triple H for the title?

– WWE has released longtime trainer and talent scout Dr. Tom Prichard. Former ECW champ Tommy Dreamer (Tom Laughlin) has taken over Prichard’s duties.

The firing of Prichard, 45, came as a shock to many at a time when WWE is considering expanding its training and developmental system. Some, however, feel that Prichard’s release is just another example of how the company is moving toward younger talent with fresher ideas. Johnny Ace (Laurinaitis), who earlier this year assumed many of Jim Ross’ duties in the talent office, has been given the green light to take the company in a more contemporary direction, and the thinking was that Dreamer could relate better to the younger talent. Prichard, who has been involved in the wrestling business for nearly 30 years, had been with the company more than 10 years.

Prichard’s younger brother Bruce (Brother Love), a longtime adviser to Vince McMahon and co-Smackdown lead writer, is on an extended leave of absence.

– In an attempt to bolster ratings and generate interest for Smackdown, it was announced that Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin and Mick Foley will return for the season premiere of the show this week. At this point, however, they are scheduled to air pre-taped salutes to the show’s fifth season and will not make live appearances, as all currently have issues with the company. Vince and Stephanie McMahon, who also have been plugged to be on the show, are expected to appear live in the arena.

Gangrel and Viscera, who will face The Undertaker in a handicap match on the season premiere, appear to be coming in for one-shot deals to give Taker some non-contract squash victims who have a history with the company.

– Triple H (Paul Levesque), who seems driven to become “the most celebrated titleholder in sports entertainment,” made history with his ninth world title win last weekend at Unforgiven. Triple H ties The Rock, with only two performers, Hulk Hogan (12) and Ric Flair (16 although the unofficial number exceeds 20), standing in his way of the record.

“I did not realize it until now,” The Game told the WWE Web site. “For me to be in a class, with the Nature Boy – who I’ve gone on record, time and time again, saying that I consider him to be the greatest professional wrestler of all-time – is a big honor. As far as Hogan goes … well, I could care less about Hulk Hogan.”

– Jamie Noble is the latest performer to be released by WWE. The former cruiserweight champ is expected to look for employment with TNA.

Pro Wrestling Torch newsletter reported that Noble was terminated due to an issue with him filing a medical insurance claim with WWE that was unauthorized.

– The Tonga Kid (Sam Fatu) will headline a Wrestling for Jesus show at 6 p.m. Saturday at Sea Harvest World Outreach Center, 1033 St. Andrews Blvd., West Ashley. Fatu, who appeared in WCW as The Samoan Savage, is the brother of Rikishi (Solofa Fatu) and the nephew of “Wild Samoans” Afa and Sika Anoia. For more information, call 402-5878.