By Mike Mooneyham
Nov. 21, 2004
The on-again, off-again relationship between “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Total Nonstop Action took yet another turn last week when Savage rejoined the Nashville-based promotion.
Just days after bailing out on TNA following its first Sunday night pay-per-view, Savage came to terms with the company and appeared at its Impact tapings Tuesday night in Orlando. In the wake of a verbal confrontation with Hulk Hogan at the Victory Road pay-per-view Nov. 7, Savage agreed to return, but only under certain conditions.
The agreement included limo service from his home to TNA events, a private dressing room and two security guards of his choice. Brian Adams and Ron Harris accompanied Savage to last week’s tapings and were provided walkie-talkies just in case trouble broke out.
Another condition reportedly was that Hogan’s longtime sidekick, Jimmy Hart, not be allowed anywhere near Savage when he is appearing. Savage has been at odds with Hogan for a number of years stemming from the breakup of his marriage in the early ’90s.Hart, who has served as Hogan’s manager and confidante over the past two decades, addressed the peculiar relationship between the Macho Man and the Hulkster in a 2002 interview.
“They were friends before and they still are,” said Hart, whose autobiography was officially released Wednesday. “They’re off and on, kind of like ‘The Odd Couple.’ They fight and then they make up a week later. It’s the wrestling business.” The three met in Memphis during the late ’70s and share a long and somewhat tumultuous history.
“I’ve known Randy since Memphis As a matter of fact we talk once a week,” said Hart, who had a million-selling record called “Keep On Dancing” with the garage band The Gentrys prior to breaking into the wrestling business. “But Randy’s a very different guy. If you (take advantage of) Randy one time, it’s over. I mean forget it. I don’t care if you’re caught on fire in the middle of the boat and he’s got the only water, you will burn up. And that’s the way he really is. But he’s really a great guy.”
Hart – with Hogan’s blessing – was even instrumental in bringing Savage to WCW during the mid-’90s. Hart recalled a conversation he had with Hogan at the time.
“You know, I’ve got a decision to make,” Hogan told Hart. “I just got a call. Eric (Bischoff) says he’s got a chance to get Randy Savage, but he said, ‘Hulk, it’s up to you.’ You know what? No matter what, I think we can make money together. If it helps the company, Eric, bring him in.'”
Hart says he further encouraged the move.
“I think at that particular time, there was a little beef going on because Randy had done a radio show and was just blasting Hulk,” said Hart. “He started knocking Hulk’s family. To this day probably nobody will ever know. It was pretty intense, and this was several months later. So Hulk really had a chance to axe the deal, but he didn’t. I think Hulk called Eric and told him that it was OK to bring Randy in, and that they would go from there, and he’d work as hard as he could to make it a home run.”
That, however, was 10 years ago, and the wrestling landscape looks a lot different these days. Having abandoned WWE last year, Hogan now spends most of his time helping promote the singing career of his 16-year-old daughter and has eschewed offers to return to the ring.
Most within the company view Hogan’s recent talks with TNA merely as an attempt to get Vince McMahon’s attention. Skeptics contend that Hogan’s main reason for attending the Victory Road event was to send a message to McMahon regarding next year’s Wrestlemania. Hogan, who has teased a possible matchup pitting him and daughter Brooke against Vince and Stephanie McMahon, would like nothing better than to land back in the spotlight while furthering his daughter’s singing career at the same time.
Hogan, however, has a questionable track record with TNA. He teased a move there a year ago, but bailed out after claiming knee injuries.
It wouldn’t be surprising that Savage, showing McMahon that he was TNA’s most marketable star without ever working a match, was sending the same message at the expense of the Jarretts and their promotion. Savage’s recent appearance marked his first wrestling gig in four years, but he wore an overly large jacket to hide his physique after having lost considerable muscle mass.
While TNA was none too happy with Savage’s behavior, officials were said to be ecstatic that Hogan, who was not booked on the show, attended at the invitation of Panda Energy CEO Bob Carter, whose company owns a majority share in TNA. Accompanied by longtime friend Brian Knobbs of The Nasty Boys, Hogan spent most of the evening conversing with Dixie Carter, president of TNA Entertainment and daughter of the Panda chairman.
– With the building packed (several hundred fans were turned away), red-hot crowd reaction, strong production values and most of the workers going full throttle, TNA management was pleased with its inaugural Sunday night pay-per-view. While arguably not as fresh and innovative as Ring of Honor, with whom the company is most often compared, TNA is working to build on its reputation of being a family-friendly promotion and catering to fans longing for nostalgia.
What the company desperately needs, however, is a better time slot than the current 3 p.m. Friday spot on Fox Sports Net. A generally well-received showing on the Best Damn Sports Show Period could be a major step in that direction. It’s hoped that a respectable PPV buy rate (preliminary estimates and early returns have been encouraging and much higher than anticipated) and strong ratings for the wrestling-themed episodes on BDSSP (said to be triple the average for that show) could land TNA a prime-time clearance, possibly a 90-minute Monday night slot that would go head-to-head with the first 30 minutes of Raw, which would be a monumental feat for the company.
WWE chairman Vince McMahon recently discounted the theory of TNA being possible competition for his wrestling juggernaut, arguing that TNA is a wrestling company while WWE is an entertainment company. The comment prompted TNA exec Dixie Carter to respond that with less talk, more action and programming that is not offensive to families, “We couldn’t agree with Vince more.”
In the meantime, however, TNA is literally going for broke, spending more money than the company ever has in what most likely is a last-ditch attempt to reach the next level. Sources have estimated that the company has lost money in the eight-figure range over the two-plus years the Jarrett-run promotion has been in existence. The past two weeks, however, have put the company in a strong position not only to be making some of that money back, but also to revitalize a hungry locker room and generate new excitement.
– The first salvo in a possible battle between TNA and WWE has been fired by the new kid on the pro wrestling block.
TNA stirred controversy when some its performers paid a visit to WWE talent who were shooting a Royal Rumble commercial just feet away from TNA’s Sound Stage 21 at Universal Studios. The meeting enraged WWE officials and prompted a threatening legal letter from the company demanding that any footage filmed during TNA’s unsolicited visit be turned over to WWE.
According to TNA officials, 3 Live Kru, Traci, Abyss and Shane Douglas attempted to welcome Vince McMahon and WWE talent who also were at Universal Studios on Nov. 10 taping the commercial. The TNA performers brought cookies and balloons to greet the WWE talent and staff who were taking a catering break outside in the common area of the studios.
While the two sides were visiting, however, a TNA official started videotaping the festivities, and that’s when they were asked to leave.
“The WWE talent immediately withdrew to their studio, where they remained sequestered behind closed doors,” according to a TNA release.
WWE also filed a formal letter of complaint with Universal Studios. TNA claims a senior WWE official even sent a production assistant to TNA Soundstage 21 and delivered a profanity-laced verbal warning regarding the filming of WWE talent.
TNA later countered with a humorous “apology” for what the company claims was a “mistakenly perceived hostile act.”
“I was disheartened,” said TNA agent Shane Douglas. “If our kind gesture was mistakenly perceived as threatening and hostile, we sincerely apologize.”
“Personally, I just wanted some mahi mahi,” confessed BG James, upon seeing the elaborate WWE catering spread. “The only thing I had to eat all day was a stinking cold sandwich from my cheap free-lance producer. Now I know how the other half eats.”
“Competition is great and makes the wrestling category stronger as a whole but obviously we are the only ones who feel that way,” Douglas said. “We attempted to extend a hand and were disappointed by the treatment we received in our own backyard.”
Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, always in the mood for a good joke, reportedly turned down TNA’s request to take part in the publicity stunt.
– Kevin Nash reportedly has been so impressed with Gainesville, Ga., native AJ Styles that he has personally requested to work with him. Since Styles is probably the most talented young star on the TNA roster, the company would be wise to protect him. Many are leery that the aging and graying Nash and Scott Hall are in TNA explicitly to collect paychecks and put themselves over at the expense of younger talent TNA has tried to build as its own stars.
If that scenario sounds eerily familiar, check back no further than WCW, which is now out of business.
– Smackdown rolls into town next Sunday night with John Bradshaw Layfield defending his WWE title against The Undertaker at the North Charleston Coliseum. Other stars scheduled to appear include Kurt Angle, Eddie Guerrero, Rob Van Dam, Rey Mysterio, Big Show, Booker T, Carlito Colon, Rene Dupree, Kenzo Suzuki, John Heidenreich, The Dudleys, Billy Kidman, Torrie Wilson and Teddy Long.
Ticket prices are $41, $31, $26 and $21 (plus applicable fees). Tickets are available at the North Charleston Coliseum box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, charge-by-phone at 554-6060 or on-line at ticketmaster.com.
– Tully Blanchard, one of the original Four Horsemen, will be guest speaker at services 11 a.m. today at Betaw Christian Church in St. Stephen and again at 6 p.m. at Miles Road Baptist Church in Summerville. The public is invited.
– The second annual Mid-Atlantic Legends Convention will be held Nov. 26-28 at the University Hilton in Charlotte.
The fanfest will feature Q&A sessions with Jack and Jerry Brisco, Harley Race, Paul Jones and Greg Valentine for those holding VIP tickets ($149) to the event. Also scheduled to appear over the course of the three-day event are Ole Anderson, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, J.J. Dillon, Baby Doll, Dusty Rhodes, Magnum TA, Harley Race, Ricky Steamboat, Ivan and Nikita Koloff, The Rock ‘N Roll Express, Paul Jones, Greg Valentine, Rip Hawk, Gary Hart, The Assassin (Jody Hamilton), The Masked Superstar (Bill Eadie), Jimmy Valiant, Stan Lane, Jimmy Garvin and Precious, Sir Oliver Humperdink, Mike Graham, Penny Banner, Don and Rocky Kernodle, Ric McCord, George South, Tony Romano, The Italian Stallion and Gene Ligon.
For details, check out www.MidAtlanticLegends.com.
– Ric Flair, Chris Benoit, The Hurricane, Val Venis, Trish and Lita return Monday from visiting military installations in the Middle East. The performers met with troops, shared meals with them and slept at their military bases. The tour was sponsored by Armed Forces Entertainment. Footage is scheduled to be show Monday night on Raw.