By Mike Mooneyham

April 9, 2006

By all accounts, last weekend’s Wrestlemania 22 pay-per-view was a major success, exceeding the expectations of most mat pundits and even many inside WWE.

The fans remained split over John Cena, who surprisingly retained his WWE title against Triple H, yet the two generated tremendous crowd heat in a match that proved worthy of its main-event billing. The Shawn Michaels-Vince McMahon and Edge-Mick Foley bouts provided enough violence to satisfy the hardcore constituency. The six-man Money in the Bank ladder match made for some great highlight reel material, while 5-2 Rey Mysterio winning the world title and dedicating the victory to the late Eddie Guerrero gave the Wrestlemania audience that one memorable feel-good moment.

But the real star of the show – and that’s taking nothing away from the efforts of the aforementioned performers – was announcer Jim Ross.

Good Ol’ J.R. in his signature black Resistol hat provided historical context for the matches he called and kept a step ahead of the audience’s reaction to the participants. Jerry “The King” Lawler also elevated his game with his longtime sidekick back in the saddle.

Jim Ross

Jim Ross

Pro wrestling is all about telling stories, and no one in the company can tell a story or give it the proper perspective like Jim Ross.

This isn’t a knock on Joey Styles, a great ECW announcer but thus far out of his element in the politically charged atmosphere in WWE, or any of the company’s announce crew. But WWE made a major mistake when it removed Ross as the voice of Monday Night Raw. It’s a voice many fans associate with some of the company’s greatest moments.

Styles was effective calling the Foley-Edge hardcore match, as were Tazz and Michael Cole calling their respective Smackdown brand bouts. But Ross once again proved he is in a league of his own.

Despite everything that has happened, including the distasteful way the company handled Ross’ removal from the announce desk late last year, the Oklahoman says he hasn’t lost his passion for the job. And nowhere was it more apparent than at Wrestlemania.

– Former WWE champion Randy Orton has been suspended for 60 days for unprofessional conduct.

Orton, who wrestled at last week’s Smackdown tapings, was notified before the show. His suspension reportedly will begin April 12.

“WWE has certain standards of conduct they expect out of all the superstars on both Raw and Smackdown,” Orton said. “Unfortunately I violated those standards and was not representing WWE the way I should have been. Basically, my conduct was unbecoming of a champion, which is what I will be again when I return.”

This isn’t the first time Orton has landed in hot water in WWE. His cocky demeanor outside the ring also hasn’t endeared himself to the Smackdown locker room.

– The Backlash main event will be John Cena, Triple H and Edge in a Triple Threat match for the WWE title.

– Ric Flair is undergoing lens restoration surgery as a follow-up to his cataract surgery in 1995 and is expected to be sidelined for several weeks.

– Victor Quinones, owner of the IWA promotion in Puerto Rico, was found dead at his home last Sunday morning. He was 46.

Sources say Quinones, who was the nephew of the late Gorilla Monsoon (Robert “Gino” Marella), had attended an IWA event the night before. It appears he died in his sleep of natural causes.

– With drug testing – including steroids – now in full force in WWE, look for bodies to begin shrinking, much as they did when the company tested back in the mid-’90s.

“It’ll be about six months for everyone to be about 50 pounds lighter,” said one WWE performer. “It’s going to be a drastic change for all of them. The problem is that many built their gimmicks around their physiques.”

WWE held its first drug testing at Raw tapings last month.

– Tyson Tomko, unhappy with his lack of a push in WWE, gave notice last week and is headed for Japan.

The 30-year-old Tomko debuted on Raw in 2002 as an enforcer dubbed “The Problem Solver” for Chris Jericho and Trish Stratus.

– Val Venis (Sean Morely) underwent shoulder surgery Thursday to repair a nerve being blocked. He is expected to be out for eight to 10 weeks.

– It now appears that WWE may keep the title on John Cena at least until its ECW-themed pay-per-view in June. Former ECW champ Rob Van Dam is expected to cash in his “Money in the Bank” at that event and challenge for the heavyweight crown.

– Bill Goldberg’s name continues to surface as a possible big-name acquisition for TNA.

Goldberg, who reportedly has been discussing the possibility with Sting, said in an interview last year that he had no interest whatsoever in TNA and even less with company star Jeff Jarrett.

“Absolutely not,” he said. “The reality is that I’d love to be able to be associated with businessmen who were in the wrestling business – not wrestlers who thought they were businessmen.”

– Dalip Singh, one of the tallest men in wrestling history, made his Smackdown debut last week.

The 7-3, 400-pound Indian power-lifter, who has been working in the Deep South Wrestling developmental territory, was an officer in the Punjab (India) state police, champion bodybuilder and a Pehlwan athlete. He won titles of Mr. India in 1997 and 1998.

He played the role of Turley in the 2005 remake of the motion picture “The Longest Yard.”

– Nikolai Volkoff is expected to run for the Maryland House of Delegates in September.

The 6-3, 300-pound Volkoff has been serving as a code inspector for Baltimore County.

Volkoff, 59, a U.S. citizen since 1970 and now a registered Republican, is actually from Yugoslavia, not the Soviet Union, and has spent the last 10 years learning America’s democratic process. He said he supports the GOP because its members helped liberate his country.

Volkoff, whose real name is Josip Peruzovic, fled his native country at 19 and chose his wrestling character to educate Americans about the evils of communism, which he calls “the worst shape of capitalism.”