Wednesday, August 24, 2005

DOC RIOT’S BOOK REVIEWS #1

To Be The Man by Ric Flair (with Keith Elliot Greenberg/edited by Mark Madden): Considering the political compromises Flair had to make to get it published, his autobiography’s still a fascinating read and relatively honest…for wrestling.
Flair doesn't hold back on a lot of issues: breaking into the business, his rise to fame, his greatest feuds and so forth.
He praises the people who deserve it (George Scott, Wahoo McDaniel, Harley Race, Ricky Steamboat, Roddy Piper, Sting) and slams the ones who don’t (Billy Robinson, Kerry Von Erich, Rufus R. Jones, Jim Herd, Eric Bischoff, Scott Steiner, Shane Douglas, etc).
He also doesn’t hold back on stories about his wild, wild lifestyle – and the negative impact it had on his family and two marriages.
Most compelling is reading about his deteriorating relationship with WCW and Eric Bischoff – from the coming of Hulk Hogan in 1994 through to the bitter end – and how it negatively affected his self-confidence to the point he was having anxiety attacks and, reading between the lines, developing a drinking problem.
While I disagree on many of the things WWE has done, one thing I am happy about – and Flair talks about this several times in his book – is how Vince McMahon helped the Nature Boy regain his pride and rebuild his legendary status in the business.
Sure, Naitch’s constant shilling for Vince, Triple H, Undertaker and Shawn Michaels – along with his unnecessary comments regarding Bret Hart and Mick Foley – lower the book a notch. It wasn’t necessary and I don’t know how much of this bullshit he genuinely believes. But, hey! You do what you gotta do to stay on top in this political biz.
I found very few factual errors in the book – and they were more likely due to memory lapses than bad writing.
However, my biggest quibble with To Be The Man is Flair’s lack of hostility towards people who clearly tried to hurt his career over the years.
Dusty Rhodes, Lex Luger and Kevin Nash get off very lightly. Even Hulk Hogan only receives a slight flogging at the hands of the Nature Boy, when it should’ve been far, far worse.
Overall, I’d place To Be The Man below Foley’s first autobiography (sorry, Ric), on a par with Fred Blassie’s autobio, but well ahead of the rest of the pack.
Of course, how it compares with the non-WWE sanctioned autobiographies of Terry Funk and Harley Race – both of which should be free of the political bullshit of Flair’s book – will be interesting to see.
I’ll let you know once I’ve read them.

Monday, August 22, 2005

This is hard-core #1

NOTHING makes my adrenaline pump more than a bit of the old ultra-violent rasslin’.
“Red makes green” is the old wrestling adage, but I’ll add my lil’ twist to it: “red makes wood”.
Yep, I’m not ashamed to admit I get my jollies watching one man destroy another in a match for a ridiculously small amount of money and the mindless praise of 50 morons chanting, “He’s hard-core! He’s hard-core!”
I recently got to see two prime examples of cock-swelling human cockfighting.
First was the infamous NWA Main Event bout from April 2003 pitting the walking scar tissue New Jack against 70-year-old masochist Gypsy Joe.
The match starts out relatively sedately with Jack laying in a few stiff shots and Joe replying with a legit headbutt, the crack of skulls reverberating round the small arena for the 30-odd folk in attendance to hear.
The tempo of the contest changes, however, once the pair go outside the ring and start brawling near the fans.
Jack has subsequently claimed he was repeatedly called “Nigger” by some punters. It’s hard to hear the “N” word on the tape, but clearly something’s said to set him off, ’cos suddenly Jack goes off and starts laying into Joe as hard as he can.
The chairshots, punches and kicks are bad enough. But then Jack rolls back into the ring, retrieves a baseball bat, then heads outside once more to use Joe’s head as a makeshift baseball. This is vicious shoot stuff.
Eventually, the promoter Mike Porter rushes to the ring to end the carnage.
Remarkably, that tough old lunatic Joe gets up from the beating and wanders off unassisted.
As for Jack, well…it’s just another aggravated assault masquerading as a hard-core match he can add to his “impressive” résumé.

Next we have Big Japan grapplers Jun Kasai and Naoki Numazawa teeing off in a “Barbed Wire Board/Razor Cross Board & Alpha Death Match” (June 8, 2005).
I gather this was match six in a seven-match “death” series. I hope the pair survived to complete match seven.
Whenever you get these two fellas in the same arena, you can be guaranteed blood-drenched insanity.
Jun and Naoki start things off, not with a handshake but rather with a full-on tongue kiss, further entrenching wrestling’s homoerotic reputation.
The niceties over, they proceed to beat seven shades of shite out of each other.
Naoki’s the first to go head-first into the barbed wire board and bleeds profusely. Soon afterwards, Jun’s launched into the razor blade encrusted crucifix-shaped board, the aftermath being possibly one of the grossest things I’ve ever seen in a wrestling ring.
Next comes thumbtacks and, rather than being the climax, they serve as an…ahem backdrop to an ever-escalating series of violent moves that leave both men covered from head to toe in the lil’ pointy buggers.
Eventually, after more than 20 minutes of this brutality, Jun wins the match. I use “wins” in the loosest sense of the word..
Now I know how it must have felt to see all those Christians fed to the lions back in Roman times.
* This “you-won’t-believe-it-till-you-see-it” match is available from Matwarz @
www.ringwarz.com/.

Back to the local biffo

IT'S been a long time since I’ve attended an Australian wrestling card…too long.
So it was nice to catch up with some of my old drinking mates at the UWA’s card on August 14 at the Merrylands RSL.
A small, enthusiastic crowd were on hand to see what was, essentially, a B card. UWA used several green Canberra guys on this card – including Crofty The Kambah Klepto and Rex – that dropped the match quality a tad.
Also, there were only two title matches and, to be frank, the Ultimate title main event was a glorified squash.
Some of the match results also had me scratching my head. Tag champs Devlin De Skyes and Salem both did jobs in singles bouts (to Crofty and Big J, respectively). That would be fine if this was leading to a tag title match in coming weeks with Crofty and Big J taking on the champs. But I was later told De Skyes & Salem will face Big J & H8rd (“Hatred”). So that was a perplexing booking move.
Billy Bob has an annoying hillbilly gimmick and Wayne Pickford rules so I was happy to see “Lofty” take the fall…with a sleeper no less. But I was surprised the UWA didn’t push the young fella over the grizzled veteran.
TJ Haze is now a face. Why? The guy’s a tailor-made heel – he has “bully” written all over him. His current role just doesn’t gel with me.
The Elite title match was a good even encounter between two charismatic performers, champ Bishop Sommers and Scarecrow. The champ hung on for the win, but it didn’t hurt Scarecrow’s popularity with the crowd.
Sommers was accompanied by his buddy Will Phoenix and the duo make a great heat-seeking heel combo.
Sommer accompanied Phoenix to ringside for the main event when the champ faced the diminutive challenger H8rd for his Ultimate title.
Like I said earlier, this was a fast-paced, one-sided affair, but a lotta fun to watch. H8rd is a bumping machine.
Phoenix has improved mightily over the years and he was pretty awesome here. His finishing move – a Falcon Arrow superplex thingy off the top rope – was simply sensational to watch.
OK. Ignore my whinging, ’cos I had a fantastic time.
And there’s no doubting the hard work put in by the wrestlers over an entertaining two hours.
14/8 Merrylands, Sydney (UWA – 150): Crofty The Kambah Klepto b Devlin De Skyes, Wayne “Punisher” Pickford b Billy Bob, TJ Haze b Rex, Big J b Salem UWA Elite title: Bishop Sommers b Scarecrow, UWA Ultimate title: Will Phoenix b H8rd

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

XPW: It stands for "X-shit P-shit W-shit"

BOY! Talk about the best of times, the worst of times – it’s all encompassed in this one tape featuring two of XPW’s final shows before it folded in 2002 thanks to the court case against porn mogul/XPW owner/irresponsible sick fuck Rob Black.
At its best, XPW was a cheap rip-off of ECW, which at least utilised some talented lucha libre stars and ex-ECW workers.
At its worst, it emulated the very worst aspects of Paul Heyman’s promotion, never more obviously than in XPW Liberty or Death (June 29, 2002 in LA)…a disappointing mish-mash of amateur-hour wrestling, quasi-porn, long boring interviews and a few big bumps to try to make the fans forget about the other garbage.
The card opened with two hacks – Steve Rizzono and Scott Snot – briefly fighting each other until one of wrestling’s biggest coulda-beens Vic Grimes mercifully ended it when he hit the ring and beat ’em up.
Vic was then assaulted by a masked S&M monster called Snuff (managed by my good friend JR Benson) and a new match was underway. Snuff took the duke in a reasonable big-man battle.
Next up was the first match in the XPW Tag Team Tournament: Mexico's Most Wanted vs two masked guys Xtasis & Venom Black. It wasn’t bad as indy lucha libre go and, thankfully, Halloween and Damien 666 went over.
Supreme vs Crimson was forgettable hard-core so, unsurprisingly, I don’t remember (or care) who won.
The second XPW Tag Team Tournament Match saw Ron “K-Kwik” Killings unload a profanity-filled promo that, sadly, I couldn’t understand due to the arena’s lousy acoustics. Seems he was the head of a faction called the New Black Panthers. They faced two indy schlubs King Faviano & Buddy George, who were beyond bad. So was K-Kwik’s unnamed partner. Basically, K-Kwik was the only worthwhile thing in this abortion of a bout. The ending was totally botched and I don’t even know who won it.
I fast-forwarded through the third XPW Tag Team Tournament Match – AWC & Shady vs The Altar Boys ’cos I knew it would be crap.
Speaking of which, next came the Raw Sewage Match pitting porn starlet Veronica Caine & GQ Money vs Angel & another porn star Lizzy Borden.
I seriously doubt there was any real poo in the wading pool the combatants fought around and in. This was very ordinary but at least Angel took a spectacular bump off some scaffolding into the wading pool to lift this into merely DUD territory.
La Parka vs Psicosis. At last, a decent match. Sadly, I can’t remember who won, probably ’cos my eyes had misted up at the sight of two decent wrestlers in an XPW ring at the same time. At least I saw the Chairman of the Board do his leeetle chair dance to make my heart sing again.
The Tag Team Tournament (From Hell) continued with a shiteful combo of Juantastico & Pogo the Clown vs. Juventud Guerrera & Vinnie Massaro. Massaro achieved what I had thought was impossible on this card: he actually wrestled more badly than all the previous ham’n’eggers combined. Yes, Vinnie was THE WORST WRESTLER of the night, setting a new record of missing EVERY SINGLE MOVE.
Juantastic was merely incompetent. Pogo had the amusing gimmick that every single sentence he spoke contained at least one “fuck” in it. What Juvey was doing in the middle of all this was beyond me. Who won? I have no idea.
Kaos seems to be a charismatic fella (and a reasonable worker), so his XPW TV Title defence against accomplished southern rassler Chris Hamrick promised to be a good ’un. As it turned out, the match was only marred by the crapola ending when Lizzy Borden walked from the back and stepped on a “landmine” (I shit thee not), distracting Hamrick and allowing Kaos to steal the pin.
According to the commentators, the XPW World Title bout started well after midnight, but it was worth it to see Terry Funk beat seven shades of shite out of champ Johnny Webb. Wading pools of poo, chairs, thumbtacks…this was your typical schmoz of an indy main event, with hard-workin’ Terry doing the undeserved job.
The match wasn’t horrible, but by God this card was. I dreaded to keep the tape going and watch XPW Hostile Takeover at the old ECW Arena in Philadelphia, PA on August 31, 2002.Surprisingly, the difference in quality between the two cards was like night and day. It probably had to do with Shane Douglas’s involvement, along with that of several ex-ECW workers, who lifted the match quality to a much higher level.The show opened with Shane Douglas (and Lizzy Borden) in the ring doing his usual tired “I’m the Franchise” bullshit. Terry Funk cut it short and the pair mouthed off in the ring over who made ECW (like anyone gives a crap).
Shane made to leave the ring, then pearl-harboured Terry and did a number on his leg, thereby jeopardising their main event later in the night.
The first match was an awesome lucha contest, with Psicosis beating his future Mexicool cohort Super Crazy with a leg drop from the top rope. Next, Pogo The Clown destroyed Sandman in a shock result I assume was meant to lead to a rematch. Sandman got in very little offense in this no-contest affair.
XPW Tag Team Champions Mexico's Most Wanted (Halloween and Damien 666) defeated The New Black Panters (Smokey Carmichael and Malcolm XL {Brian XL}) in a surprisingly good bout. These new New Panthers were much better than the previous pair I’d seen in action (XL was…ahem, quick to bury K-Kwik for quitting XPW to join NWA-TNA. Sounds like Mr Killings did the sensible thing).
Anyway, the Panthers did some nice big flippy moves. The brutal finish saw Halloween do some giant swings on Carmichael before Damien 666 dropkicked Carmichael in the head as he swung by, leading to the MMW scoring the easy pin.Another boring hard-core bout featured XPW Deathmatch champion Supreme beat The Hardcore Homo Angel after powerbombing him off the balcony onto a table covered in barbwire. Great bump, bad match.Juvey’s one crazy motherfucker. He debuted an in-ring interview session called The Juice Bar which, if XPW had survived, could’ve been a highlight of all future shows. Juventud was very funny here. Eventually, he slagged off Chris Chetti one too many times, which brought the latter to the ring.
This match must have been a mess, it was the only bout on the tape edited in spots. I gather this was due to Chetti messing up several spots. Thankfully, he got wasted by a Juvey Driver and the match was over. Afterwards, Julio Dinero hit the ring to chase off Juvey. Sadly, no-one in the crowd knew who Julio Dinero was.
“Vicious” Vic Grimes then beat Little Guido and Altar Boy Luke in a three-way dance. I didn’t care, although I was impressed when Grimes won the match using his version of the “Styles Clash” on Guido.
XPW TV champ “The Rock Superstar” Kaos (with Veronica Caine and GQ Money) defeated Chris Hamrick in a ladder match, which ranged from bad to good and featured some innovative ladder stunts.
The lack of wrestling logic bugged me on this one. GQ Money repeatedly interfered in the match while the ref stood there and did nothing. Psychologically, with Hamrick facing a 3-on-1 disadvantage, he should’ve gone over. Instead, Kaos won the bout relatively easy (after Hamrick did a spectacular header from the top of the ladder through a table at ringside). A fun match but the end result perplexed me.
Afterwards, Danny Doring hit the ring, attacked Kaos and challenged him for the belt. No-one cared. Hey, it’s Danny Doring, folks…what you expect?
Time for the main event, which turned out to be way too brief, I suspect due to a genuine mishap on Funk’s behalf.
Douglas came out first and cut an expletive-filled promo on CZW and 3PW (how ironic, they’re still going and XPW is…where?). Funk then put the fear of God in the Franchise’s eyes by coming to ringside. The match was on and soon chairs were flying. Funk took over and quickly bloodied Douglas’s face.The action spilled out of the arena where Funk went to smash a bottle and use it on Shane’s head. Somehow, the glass wound up badly gashing Funk’s arm.
Once back in the ring, the pair quickly went to the finish. Douglas gave Funk a piledriver, but Terry kicked out. However, the ref called for the bell and awarded the win to Douglas.
Terry then went nuts and beat up Douglas before giving Borden a piledriver. He was helped from ringside while security tried to stop his arm from bleeding.
It was a wild and crazy end to a better-than-average wrestling card.
If only XPW could have had more of them.
But to do that, they would’ve had to have dumped Rob Black, the porn queens and the West Coast hacks. And then all you would’ve had left was ECW.
And that would’ve been fine by me.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Miscellaneous mat madness reviews


WOMEN OF WRESTLING (14/10/00-9/12/00): Man, this was the pits. David McLane has been responsible for a lot of bad women’s wrestling, starting with the campy cult TV series Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling (GLOW) in the mid-80s, followed by Powerful Ladies Of Wrestling (POWW) a few years later. WOW was the latest (and some would hope it’s the last) venture by wheeler-dealer McLane to get chick rasslin’ on the idiot box.
Funnily enough, WOW was probably the pick of the three promotions he put together ’cos McLane used more real athletes and less bimbos to play his corny characters in the ring. Unfortunately, they ALL still sucked as wrestlers. Of those I saw on these episodes, the only half-decent characters were
* Slam Dunk (a tall, unknown black chick with a basketball gimmick and some athletic and interview skills)
* Champ Terri Gold (in another life, a fitness model called Heather Millard who did a nice moonsault finisher)
* Riot (April Littlejohn [pictured above] – a stuntwoman by trade – who couldn’t wrestle but at least she showed fire in the ring and her finisher was a power bomb, which was nice. Plus her outta-control/deranged gimmick was cute)
* Danger (played by Elle Alexander, she was very similar to Riot’s character although a notch better in the ring and on the mike. But Riot was more fuckable)
* Jungle Grrl (Erica Porter) and Beckie The Farmer’s Daughter (Renee Inktlehoffer) could both execute a fine splash off the top rope
* Lana Star (played by Lana Kinnear, she sucked hairy bollocks in the ring, but was a genuinely annoying heel on the mike in a Missy Hyatt sorta way), AND
* The referee (who, sadly, was the best bump-taker in WOW).
The troupe was led by mullet-headed veterans Thug (Peggy Lee Leather) and Selina Majors (best known as Bambi on the rasslin’ circuit). As old and skanky as they looked, at least these gals knew how to wrestle old-school style. They did a hard-core angle early on in the series where Thug injured Selina’s knee, heating up their feud and building to a grudge cage match at WOW’s one and only PPV, Unleashed in 2001.
The talents of Thug were also evident in one bout where she carried Beckie The Farmer’s Daughter to a “My God! This doesn’t stink!” level.
But these were few and far between in WOW – most were only worth viewing in fast forward. Whoever trained the girls had obviously taught them that nearly every match should start with a dropkick and end with a splash. After a while, I started rooting for the girls who at least did something DIFFERENT in the ring.
While the angles were fairly logical and generally built to future bouts and feuds, McLane’s booking was, at times, quite bizarre. Also, all the wrestlers and angles seemed to focus or involve McLane to some degree – at times I felt like I was watching mid-80s NWA with McLane in the Dusty Rhodes role.
One of the few fun things to do during the WOW shows was to watch the fans sitting on their hands while fake crowd noise was played over the soundtrack. It was like seeing a convention of ventriloquists boo and cheer without moving their lips.
Finally, former WCW and AWA announcer Lee Marshall was McLane’s co-commentator for each episode, and all I can say is Marshall blew him away, which I think shows you how BAD McLane was as a commentator.
WOW quickly burnt a lot of money before the promotion went belly-up. I understand McLane’s searching for a new money mark and is attempting to relaunch WOW. God help us all.
As for the wrestlers, most have disappeared from sight although several played Bone-ettes in Spider-Man (2002). I assume they were valets for Randy “Bonecrusher” Savage – it sounds rude, but.
If you’re curious to learn what the hell WOW was all about, the official web site is still running at www.wowe.com.

BEST OF GLOW Vol. 2: My God! Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse than WOW, along comes this rancid relic from the mid-80s. Actually, it’s my fault ’cos I asked tape trader extraordinaire Mark Herzog to see some of it (and the WOW shows). But, boy, do I regret it now! Bad wrestling, shocking acting, terrible editing and camerawork, horrible rapping, awful jokes, hideous Jackie Stallone and way too much David McLane. Apart from the curiosity factor of seeing Tina “Ivory” Ferrari in her very early days, there’s absolutely nothing to recommend GLOW tapes. However, if you REALLY want to know more about GLOW, there’s a tribute page at www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Loge/5319/GLOW.html.

THE BEST OF WRESTLING: GRAPPLING GIANTS: If you want to know why wrestling died in the UK, then this commercial video from 1991 answers a lot of those questions. It’s hosted by legendary heel Mick McManus who, sadly, is also one of the world’s worst commentators (he and co-commentator Lee Bamber probably vie for that honour, to be honest) and features five bouts that inadvertantly showcase all that was horrible about the scene.
The action opens with the genuinely talented Rollerball Rocco and Danny Boy Collins fighting to a naff double countout (or “double knockout” as Bamber incorrectly calls it). At one point, Rocco misses a backward elbow drop from the top rope and McManus, who’s clearly never watched his Ted DiBiase/WWF tapes, exclaims, “Look at that, he fell off by mistake. I can’t believe it.” Match two is the late Pat Roach (who was a far better actor than a wrestler) against the truly horrible Giant Haystacks. The less said about this “title match” the better.
Two lightweights Tony Stewart and Kid McCoy barely get going before one of them (I can’t remember which one and really don’t care) falls out of the ring and is “injured”, ending the bout. What the fuck…? As if we haven’t had enough punishment, Giant Haystacks returns in a beyond-forgettable tag match.
The only thing that saves the tape from being complete dreck is the final match, a CWA World Heavyweight Championship bout between Bull “Vader” Power and Otto Wanz. It’s an odd choice to put on this tape as it doesn’t feature any Brit grapplers and comes from Bremen, Germany. However, one shouldn’t quibble when one finds a diamond poking out of a pile of horseshit. Thankfully, Mick and Lee have been replaced by more competent commentators Nic Parry and Paroe Perez, who describe the match as if it was a legit sporting contest (like Jim Ross used to do many years ago). Between them, the rabid crowd and Vader’s sterling efforts in carrying the morbidly obese Wanz, this is a pretty memorable contest, even if it mainly consists of clotheslines and punches.
Interestingly (for me, anyway), Vader’s manager for this match was Welsh promoter Orig Williams, who I interviewed for BP back in 1995. Naturally, Wanz wins the bout by knockout. Urgh…no wonder wrestling also died in Germany.

THUMP: THE VERY BEST OF WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING VOL. 5: Jacko’s still here but this time the quality of the matches isn’t good enough to offset his annoying presence. There are several woeful filler matches including a 20-minute bout from 1960 between Angelo Savoldi and Con Papalazarou and a shitty 1978 TV match between Butcher Brannigan and Kid Hardy, which probably explains why Channel 9 axed WCW that year. Watching Andy Harpas (when he had hair) jobbing to Sheik Wadi Ayoub was slightly less painful. Thankfully, the rest of the matches are from that classic early 1970s period when Mark Lewin’s Army was feuding with Big Bad John’s Army, best match being Australasian heavyweight champ Spiros Arion taking on Abdullah the Butcher (with the middle rope removed to prevent Abby dropping the dreaded Butcher’s Axe or flying elbow from the middle rope as I like to call it). There’s also plenty of Waldo Von Erich, Mark Lewin, Mario Milano and the Tojo Brothers to satisfy them old-time rasslin’ cravings.
Sadly, there should have been more of them and less of the filler shit. Oh well…I guess we should just be grateful that any of the old WCW stuff got reissued at all.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Two weeks of WWE TV and the Great American Bash: An exercise in mediocrity

INTRODUCTION

WELL, Vince McMahon suckered me good.
He got me interested in the WWE again courtesy of two weeks of half-decent television, then took my money for Smackdown!’s Great American Bash PPV like a two-bit hustlin’ whore and ran off before giving me a blow job.
I blame myself. I read on Meltzer’s site (www.wrestlingobserver.com) that a Chris Benoit-William Regal main event on Velocity was worth going out of my way to watch.
I haven’t bothered to watch Velocity in ages, but his comment piqued my curiosity.
Meanwhile, RAW suddenly hotted up with Triple H’s self-imposed absence from the show, along with Matt Hardy’s “shoot/fake” run-ins on Edge and the awesome promos from Shawn Michaels and Hulk Hogan to push their money match for SummerSlam.
Surprisingly, at the same time, I was once more enjoying Smackdown! – something I haven’t been able to say in several months.
The fortnight prior to the Bash was so interesting in parts – Mexicool’s debut, the charisma of tag champs MNM, Benoit’s in-ring brilliance, the return of a personal fave in Road Warrior Animal – that it helped me forget the bad angles (mainly involving Eddie Guerrero and Rey Misterio) and pointless matches involving tattooed steroid monsters.
So I parted with my hard-earned cash for the Bash PPV.
I won’t make that mistake again.

THE BEGINNING

MY RENEWED obsession with WWE began when I taped a weekend’s worth of rasslin’ on Fox8. Watching WWE with your finger on the fast-forward button of the remote is the ONLY way to watch nowadays…you can get through the crap and find the few hidden gems within the shows.
Let’s start with the July 11 RAW (screened five days later in Australia).
What The Doctor Liked:
1. The opening video package showing Shawn Michaels’ turn on Hulk Hogan. Awesome.
2. The return of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and Piper’s Pit…and he actually made sense on the microphone this time.
3. Matt Hardy’s “shoot” return and two attacks on Edge and Lita. Sure, it was fake, but I enjoyed all the shoot comments as they dragged Matt from ringside
4. Kurt Angle’s antics while nearly losing the Kurt Angle Invitational to Matt “Liar” Striker (the New York teacher who pretended he was sick when, in fact, he was moonlighting as a wrestler). This was funny stuff and I’m so glad they’ve moved away from Kurt “Sexual Predator” Angle (which is probably a little bit too shoot for my tastes).
HBK’s superkick on Piper to climax the episode. Perfect timing and it had me interested enough to watch the next RAW.
What The Doctor Hated:
1. Chris Jericho. God, I’m so bored with this fella. His matches lack passion and his persona is beyond stale. Fuck off and be a rock star, junior, and stop wasting the fans’ time.
2. Chris Masters and Gene Snitsky. Why?
3. Diva Search hosted by The Coach and Christy “Captain Charisma-free” Hemme. Double why?
4. John Cena’s relegation to mid-card status. Feuding with Jericho and Eric Bischoff is career suicide for Mr Cena.
5. The Kane-Edge feud. Please, God, let it end.

After RAW came Velocity.
What The Doctor Liked:
1. “The Future” Frankie Kazarian’s debut win over Nunzio. Sure, he’ll never amount to anything on Smackdown!, but he could be a lot of fun to watch on this show.
2. Benoit vs Regal. An old-school classic that was marred by two ad breaks and not being given enough time (although 12 minutes isn’t bad for a B-level throw-away show like Velocity). This is the best Benoit has looked in nearly a year. Seriously, the Crippler’s been getting very dull lately – let’s hope this leads to a Benoit-Regal feud for the US title.
3. Commentator Josh Matthews. He tries at least.
What The Doctor Hated:
1. Fellow commentator Steve Romero. Who hired this know-nothing geek? I thought colour commentators were supposed to have, y’know, a personality. Sheesh!

I taped the July 14 SmackDown! on Sunday.
What The Doctor Liked:
1. Mexicool vs. Paul London, Funaki & Scotty 2 Hotty. It looks like Super Crazy’s the only guy working for his team as Juvey and Psicosis did next to nothing (except for Juvey’s 450 splash which he blew and wound up driving his knee into poor London’s head). And their gimmick’s incredibly racist. Still, they’re a fun combo to watch. Good match.
2. Christian’s beatdown and victory over Booker T. This was great and the perfect way to build up Captain Charisma as a vicious SOB. Christian’s been so badly mishandled by the writers – the crowd are willing him to become a superstar, and yet he keeps getting cut off at the knees. Hopefully, this is the start of something good for Christian.
3. The return of Road Warrior Animal. It was great to see jumpin’ Joe back in the ring and he didn’t look too bad for his age. Hooking him up with Heidenreich may not be the right thing to do, but the pair should have a fun nostalgia match with MNM at the Bash. This was one of the major reasons why I ordered the PPV.
What The Doctor Hated:
1. Eddie Guerrero’s antics. He’s good at being a heel, but this angle with Rey Misterio is killing Eddie dead. No-one likes this soapie crap (except Vinnie Mac, obviously). And this feud’s going nowhere. Eddie’s lost a step and Rey’s bone-lazy these days, so their matches have all been less than spectacular (which is a disgrace considering who we’re talking about here). These two have been going at it for six months which, in WWE, feels like an eternity – normally, I’d be happy to see such a long-term feud developing, but thanks to the average matches and shite angle, I just want this to end. Now.
2. Batista vs Orlando Jordan. Lord, I’m glad I fast-forwarded through this one. JBL’s beatdown on Batista after the match didn’t give me much faith their main event at the Bash would be worth watching.

I wrapped up my first weekend of WWE action with an episode of International Heat.
What The Doctor Liked:
1. Nothing.
What The Doctor Hated:
1. Viscera being a man-raping babyface.
2. The mishandling of the Heart Throbs, who could be a hot heel tag team.
3. Rob Conway’s new gimmick. Ugh.
4. Rene Dupree entering the arena wearing a Ric Flair-style robe. Now THAT’S offensive.
5. Everything else.

WEEK 2

IT CONTINUED for me the following week. I was hooked and I needed to keep up-to-date on all the WWE goings-on before I tuned into the Bash. First, there was the July 18 RAW.
What The Doctor Liked:
1. Matt Hardy/Edge/Lita. Forget the morality of what these three perpetrated months ago to set up this angle. Forget about Hardy’s hypocrisy in previous interviews after being sacked by WWE. Forget about his overall sleaziness and being a mark for the business. Right now, the only thing I care about is that this angle EXCITES me. Plus I think Lita's far hotter as a heel than as a face. Of course, their match won’t deliver and their feud will sell diddly-squat tickets, but I enjoy it.
2. The verbal showdown between Michaels and Hogan. Wow. Two manipulative, cunning ring greats duelling on the microphones – it was wonderful to watch. Hogan won, of course. No-one manipulates the crowd as well as the Hulkster.
3. Angle taking on Matt Striker (again). That was really funny. Kurt is pure gold in these spots.
4. Carlito. His feud with Shelton Benjamin isn’t clicking, but I love to see him wrestle and hear him talk. Carlito as WWE’s longest-reigning IC champ? That sounds cool.
What The Doctor Hated:
1. Cena having to wrestle Snitsky in the main event. That was horrible.
2. The Diva Search. Just let it end and hire the bimbos. Please!
3. Chavo Guerrero’s “If it’s not white, it’s not right” gimmick. What the fuck?
4. Jericho as a main-eventer. Jesus…bring back Triple H.

OK, not the greatest RAW, but I was stoked ’cos Velocity was next.
What The Doctor Liked:
1. More Frankie Kazarian. Yes!
2. The bWO challenging Mexicool. It doesn’t make sense, but I like it anyway.
3. MNM vs Danny Doring/Roadkill. WWE tag champs vs the last ECW tag champs. Very nice – and nice of WWE to acknowledge the challengers’ tag team history.
What The Doctor Hated:
1. Steve Romero. You have no idea how much I hate him.
2. Christian selling for most of his match against Funaki. That doesn’t exactly build him up as a credible main event guy.

The next day, I taped Smackdown! from July 21, followed by International Heat (which is masochistic, I know). First, let’s talk about Smackdown!.
What The Doctor Liked:
1. Rey Mysterio vs Super Crazy. It ended in DQ was merely a backdrop to further Rey’s feud with Eddie, but I enjoyed much of it, particularly as Super Crazy’s the only member of Mexicool who actually does any work in the ring. And I’ll admit their entrance on the lawnmower is a guilty pleasure.
2. Animal & Heidenreich destroying two jobbers in under 30 seconds. Shades of the original Road Warriors (and quite sensible keeping the match as short as possible, considering how horrible Heidenreich is in the ring).
3. Eddie vs Benoit. A fabulous bout although the countout ending was flat. However, Rey’s post-match attack on Eddie was a nice touch.
4. JBL’s “presidential address”. He’s always entertaining on the mike. Pity I have to see him wrestle though.
What The Doctor Hated:
1. Booker T vs Simon Dean. I hated Booker T back in WCW but at least he could work in those days. Now he’s just horrible. Dean is a nothing gimmick that sucks the life out of the crowd. Bleh.

Next came Heat and, thank Christ, it was slightly better than last week.
What The Doctor Liked:
1. The Heart Throbs. I was sorry to see them lose again, but I enjoyed their antics coming to the ring and their match with tag champs Hurricane and Rosey was passable.
2. Super Stacy. The only reason to watch two glorified jobbers as RAW’s tag team champions is the fact they’re managed by Stacy Keibler wearing a mask. Mmmmm…
What The Doctor Hated:
1. Viscera. Nuff said.
2. Rene Dupree. Nuff said.
3. Rob Conway. Nuff said.
4. Val Venis. Billy Kidman and Charlie Haas get sacked, yet this zero still has a job and gets TV time to boot?

MY COMEUPPANCE

SO, FUELED by two weeks of reasonably good WWE TV (by 2005 standards anyway), I sat down to watch WWE Smackdown! The Great American Bash, held in Buffalo NY on July 24.
Now, while I disagree with many fans who felt this was one of the worst (if not THE worst) PPV of the year, I thought it was merely mediocre. I certainly wasn’t happy about spending $30 ordering it, but it wasn’t completely horrible either.
Let’s run through the highs and lows, shall we?
What The Doctor Liked:
1. Animal & Heidenreich winning the tag belts. Nostalgia pops can be good sometimes and as long as this is a short-term switch, I’m happy to see one half of my all-time fave tag team holding WWE tag gold again. Of course, it’s a pity a walking chemist shop is holding the other strap.
2. Undertaker’s destruction of the Muhammad Hassan and Daivari characters. We all knew it was happening and why, but I still enjoyed watching such a total burial of an unsuccessful gimmick. The match itself sucked, but the post-match shenanigans made it worthwhile
What The Doctor Hated:
1. Bad booking decisions. MNM losing their belts so quickly after winning it really sent them down a notch or three. The decision to have Christian job to Booker T was nonsensical. And Benoit losing clean to a stiff like Orlando Jordan made no sense whatsoever. Deciding who should go over in those first three matches pretty much killed the PPV for many people, I think.
2. Orlando vs Benoit. Bad enough as the decision was to put the champ over the Rabid Wolverine, what was even worse was the match itself. And, frankly, I don’t entirely blame Orlando. Benoit was lethargic, uninspired and, dare I say it, just plain ordinary. Like Eddie, age and injuries are finally catching up with the Crippler and it could soon be time for him to gracefully retire and become head trainer at Vince’s new meat factory in Atlanta. Then again…maybe Orlando really is that horrible.
3. Booker T winning. Any match. Ever. Who cares? Fuck off and die, mate.
4. The Muhammad Hassan-Undertaker feud recap. Tasteless, insensitive crap. Basically, the Hassan gimmick was garbage from the start – it eventually led to the complete burial of the poor sap who played Hassan. Let’s just hope his career isn’t as dead as his character.
5. The bWO (Steven Richards & Nova & Blue Meanie) vs Mexicool. I expected more from this match. Instead, it was short filler material. The crowd didn’t care and neither did I. Pity.
6. Eddie vs Rey. Once again, these two underachievers lived up to my lowered expectations. The match was adequate (no more, no less) and was marred by constant camera shots of Rey’s kid Dominic at ringside (and the kid's already taller than his midget dad. Jesus!). What’s worse, we now know this limp feud will continue till at least SummerSlam. Lord give me fuckin’ strength.
7. JBL vs Batista. What’s worse than watching JBL and Batista plod through a near-20-minute snoozefest? Having it end with a lame DQ, thereby extending their feud till SummerSlam. Could a PPV have ended any worse than this?

Hmmm. Maybe I need to reassess my opinion. This could well be the worst Great American Bash I’ve seen since the infamous “We Want Flair” GAB of 1991. Of course, I didn’t see last year’s PPV for a comparison, so maybe I’m being too harsh on this one.
It did suck a lot, however.
And you can take this to the bank, I won’t be ordering another WWE PPV for a long, long time.