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2004: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

By THE PWINSIDER.COM STAFF on 2005-01-03 09:00:00

APRIL

Little did anyone realize, she'd be replaced at the end of the year by a half-dozen new women (and a dozen new breasts).  On April 3rd, WWE.com announced the following: Terri Runnels and WWE have mutually agreed to terms to part ways. Terri has been a great member of our team for almost seven years, and we wish her the best and would enjoy working with her again if the situation presents itself. After a long career as a manager, wrestler, Diva and finally interviewer on Raw, Terri reportedly left WWE on her own volition. 

He never really was given a fair chance, but we're not telling you anything you don't already know.  The same day as the Runnels announcement, WWE.com also posted the following: Sean O’Haire has been notified that he will be released from his contract. Sean is an excellent athlete and we wish him well in his future endeavors. O'Haire, who had gotten his start in WCW, had been limited to occasional Velocity appearances (and less) in the final months of his run.  Sean O'Haire's WWE career began to sputter the previous year when he was caught in the fallout of Roddy Piper's being let go for comments he made on an HBO special concerning deaths in wrestling. O'Haire, who was brought in with a big push and an interesting gimmick, was later sent to OVW before being released.

If WWE signed Colorado Kid, would they say he is from Idaho? WWE, for some reason, decided to change the hometowns of wrestlers.  Chris Benoit went from Edmonton, Canada to "now residing in Atlanta, Georgia", Chris Jericho went from Canada to New York City, and Gail Kim went from Toronto to Korea. WWE Canada President Carl DeMarco was quoted in a Winnipeg Sun article as saying  "It came from Vince (McMahon) himself.  What Vince is trying to do is he's trying to portray reality as to where the WWE superstars are now residing from."  Gail Kim, of course, was not residing in Korea.

Maybe AAA or CMLL wanted to make sure they didn't come back.  WWE made a successful debut in Mexico on April 3rd, drawing 11,500 fans for a Raw show in Monterrey to the tune of $450,000. 10,000 T-shirts were sold during the event, which saw Smackdown's Rey Mysterio participate (his first match in Monterrey in six years).  However, on the way back, the WWE caravan of buses were given a hard time at the border. Due to a paperwork snafu, they did not have the proper credentials to get back into the US and it took hours for them to get it cleared up and get back across the border. As you would guess, with an early show scheduled the next day in Laredo, Texas that didn’t go over very well with the boys.

Even the President knows who "The Man" is. Ric Flair attended a luncheon with President Bush on April 5th. Bush acknowledged Flair and said, "I want to thank Ric Flair, professional wrestler. He's with us today. Big Ric, I'm proud you're here. Thank you for coming. I want to thank the grassroots activists who are here. We won North Carolina last time. We're going to win it this time. And I appreciate your help." After the luncheon, Flair flew straight to Raw.

In case you were wondering why WWE thinks wrestlers will draw as movie stars. The Rock's new movie, "Walking Tall", debuted at number two at the box office for the weekend ending April 4. It grossed $15,300,000, finishing second to "Hellboy", which also hit theatres that week and did $23,500,000. Rock did beat the two other debuting movies, "Home on the Range" and "The Prince & Me". In an article in the Kansas City Star, it was noted that not everyone in the WWE locker room is happy with his success in crossing over to the feature film medium. In fact, The Rock commented on those who aren't happy with that success, even though they were sitting atop of the WWE ladder. "I don't get that from the entire crew, just from a handful of guys who, interestingly enough, are at the top now," The Rock says. "But most guys are genuinely excited. They come up to me, and they're like, ‘Hey, I saw "The Rundown"! Congratulations!' But you're going to get negativity from some people. That's just the nature of this business."

Two-time, two-time winner. Christopher Daniels became the first wrestler to ever win the prestigious ECWA Super 8 tournament in Newport, Delaware on April 3rd, defeating Rocky Romero, ECWA Champion Mike Kruel, and Austin Aries to win the event. 

Management movement.  WWE.com announced on April 9th that John "Johnny Ace" Laurinaitis had been promoted to Jim Ross' old position of Vice President of Talent Relations. Ross was been moved into the position of Executive Vice President, Business Strategies.  According to the website, Ross would be working closely with WWE owner Vince McMahon as "an advisor on WWE's core business, as well as new business endeavors."  Ross' on air responsibilities as the lead announcer on Raw would not change. Laurinaitis had been groomed for the position for some time, partially due to Ross' desire to lessen his own responsibilities. 

Talk about trading down. Word came out that WWE was canceling their Saturday late night half shoot/half work magazine show, WWE Confidential, to be replaced by a Sunday morning recap show, The WWE Experience.  Despite having a cult following, the show was doing low ratings and was expensive to produce, due to the time and effort needed to put it together, which also resulted in the show often taking weeks off and airing repeats. 

Not the last time WWE would have to explain themselves.  With the appearance of Nick Dinsmore as "Eugene" on WWE Raw, the company was flooded with email after the initial debut, with people complaining that the initial segement came off as poking fun at the mentally handicapped. WWE sent the following form letter to anyone who complained: 

Thank you for your email to WWE. We have introduced a new character on WWE Monday Night RAW, Eugene Dinsmore. Eugene is a person with a mental disability. His dream is to become a professional wrestler.

WWE intends to portray the character of Eugene as a hero, as are the many people with disabilities around the world (many of whom are WWE fans) who must everyday face challenges to live the type of life many of us take for granted. Eugene, despite his disability, will get a chance to achieve his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. We hope that Eugene's story will encourage other people with disabilities to strive to achieve their dreams, whatever they may be.
Story background: In the recent edition of Monday Night RAW, viewers learned that Eric Bischoff, an underhanded schemer, has a nephew named Eugene. At the behest of Bischoff's sister, he has let his nephew Eugene join RAW to pursue his dream of becoming a professional wrestler. Bischoff tricks the despicable William Regal, a slimy, upper crust Englishman, to manage Eugene. Upon meeting Eugene and seeing he has a mental disability, Regal immediately complains about his task, similar to how many people who are uncaring and ignorant initially react to the mentally handicapped. However, Eugene will persevere and he ultimately will get his chance to perform in the ring. WWE is very grateful you took the time to contact us, and we thank you for your email.

On the WWE Parents website (http://parents.wwe.com/) they posted the following:

Eugene Pursues His Dream
In the tradition of some of the most endearing characters of some of the greatest movies ever made: Forrest Gump, I Am Sam, Radio, WWE has introduced a new character, Eugene Dinsmore. Eugene is a person with a mental disability. WWE intends to portray this character in a realistic fashion. Eugene is a benevolent, loving, enthusiastic character who will successfully overcome the odds and achieve his dream of becoming a WWE Superstar.

That's not cool, actually, would anyone have really cared? A planned Carly Colon (later to become Carlito Caribbean Cool) vs. Abyss match on a WWC show in Carolina, Puerto Rico was scrapped, reportedly after WWE sent a fax to WWC saying Colon, who is under a WWE developmental contract, could not have a match with a wrestler under contract to competition (TNA). They announced that Carly and brother Eddie would switch places on the card, with Carly teaming with Jose Rivera Jr. against Hurricane Castillo and Bronco, while Eddie would wrestle Abyss.

Well, it didn't last very long. Despite being fed to Kane as a sacrificial lamb on his return, Brian "Grandmaster Sexay" Lawler was brought back in a full time role with WWE. It was one of the last moves made by Jim Ross before Johnny Ace took over as the VP of Talent Relations. Lawler wanted to come back in and reform Too Cool with Scotty Too Hotty, but was instead put on the Raw roster. Needless to say, some in the locker room were not pleased to see his return. 

Maybe he meant Fall of 2005. Ultimo Dragon announced he would be taking off the next few months from WWE to go back to Japan and attend to business there. He reportedly was scheduled to come back to WWE in the Fall and return to wrestle for them then, but soon was working independent shows as well as New Japan Pro Wrestling events back in Japan. 

It's time, it's time, it's Vader Time!  Vader made his first Northeast appearance in years, on the April 24th Jersey All Pro Wrestling Event in Rahway, New Jersey, the first of two appearances he would make for the company, engaging in a brief storyline with Mike Awesome against Dan Maff.  Vader, who had mostly worked in Japan in recent years, had made very few appearances in the U.S. since his WWF run, with his last being in February of 2003 for NWA:TNA.  

Finally, Montreal could be laid to rest (maybe).  After making Shawn Michaels tap out to the Sharpshooter at the Backlash PPV in Canada, Chris Benoit soaked in the cheers of the fans and the broadcast ended.  However, the live crowd was given a bonus, as Benoit got on the mic, told Shawn that he "screwed Bret" (huge pop), but tonight he "tapped out" (bigger pop). Benoit challenged Michaels to go at it again, one-on-one, but Michaels left. Triple H got on the mic and told Benoit he didn't beat him tonight, and he would never make him tap out again. So, Benoit grabbed him and made him tap, getting another big pop.

Tell us how you really feel, Naitch.  In a chat with the Lilsboys over in the UK, Ric Flair stated, "I tolerate Eric (Bischoff) and he tolerates me. I'm sure he knows how I feel. I'm not the only one, there are 10 guys in there who want to kick his a*** every time they see him. But we're in a controlled environment and we have to get along. He's a strange guy and the sad thing about Eric is that everyone who knows him knows that if he could go away and get a millionaire to go into business against Vince he'd do it tomorrow. Take my word for it."

Welcome back (for now). Paul Heyman returned to Smackdown for the April 20th taping (for the April 22nd broadcast). Originally, WWE had planned to have a banged up Kurt Angle (from Big Show throwing him off a ledge) appear on the show in the General Manager role. In the days before the show, they changed direction and instead decided to bring Heyman back to take Angle's spot and have Angle sell the injury (which frankly made more sense). It was announced at the show that it was "for one night", but ended up lasting longer. It's fair to say that some people in the company had noticed that since the lottery, which coincided with Heyman's removal from the GM spot on the show, the ratings have dropped. Originally, Creative wanted Heyman to work in a heel manager's role on Raw after he was "picked" by Eric Bischoff since he understands the business so well and has strong promo skills, but Heyman lobbied instead to "quit" when he was picked in the lottery by his antagonist.

Nothing has come of the meetings ... yet. Vince McMahon met with Bret Hart after Raw in Calgary. This started up tons of rumors (again) about Bret Hart returning to the company in some capacity (again) including possibly putting together a Bret Hart DVD collection (again). 

Speaking of rumors. Several sources reported that Ted Turner was seriously considering a return to the business that helped put his SuperStation WTBS on the map 25 years ago, professional wrestling. When AOL merged with Time Warner, Turner signed documents as he was losing more of his power within the company. One of them was that he would not compete with AOL Time Warner in the wrestling business. Our sources told us this agreement ends in March of 2005. When WCW was sold to WWE, there was a five year no-compete for wrestling programming between AOL Time Warner and WWE, which would expire in March of 2006. The word making the rounds was that Turner was already be laying the groundwork for promotion, with the idea that if he got back into the television business, he'd want wrestling programming for whatever channel he purchased or created. 

Boy, Flair sure does vent a lot when he is in England. During an interview with Silvervision (WWE’s merchandising arm) in the UK, Ric Flair was asked whether he preferred to be a heel or a face and he took issue with the interviewer using "insider terminology". When asked why, he said, "Well fans who use terms like that I have no respect for, because they're not wrestlers. That's a wrestlers terminology. See that's inside talk - I don't like outsiders using inside talk - I have no respect for it whatsoever. Everybody wants to think that they're a wrestler. The guy who wrote my book the first time, I'd go on record as saying is a *%$^£&$ idiot - it had to be re-written. He took everything I said and wrote it like he was on the inside. He will go down in history and I will make sure he does, as the biggest idiot ever be given an opportunity and completely ^%$& it up, 'cos he talked like he was on the inside. You know fans want to talk to us using our terminology and it's a lot of our guys faults, cos they want to talk to the fans and get their opinions. They want to talk to them like they're on the inside. So that's why I'm asking you why you said that, but it's ok, you're asking me questions the fans have asked. I do have a lot of respect for the fans but I don't like the fans who think they can talk like they're on the inside, cos they're not. We've got too many guys in our businesses that rely on the opinion of some fan who thinks he's smart - it's a real issue for me." 

Thanks for the memories (even if you rarely got to make them on Raw). Lance Storm revealed that his win over Steven Richards in Calgary (broadcast on Heat) was his last match as a full-time wrestler.  Storm, in a website commentary, revealed that he would be going to Ohio Valley Wrestling to work as a trainer with young talent, and is hopeful to be brought back into WWE as a road agent. Storm wrote that 4 bulging discs in his lower lumbar and a chronic problem with his sciatic nerve has helped him in making the decision to step away from the ring

Okay, but until they release "The Best Of Steve Lombardi" there will continue to be bootleggers. With the WWE 24/7 Video on Demand service in the works and more and more classic footage being utilized for World Wrestling Entertainment DVDs, WWE began taking a much closer and harder look towards those who sell what WWE views as bootlegged versions of material they own the rights to. WWE's stance is that any wrestling footage that falls under the umbrellas of Jim Crockett Promotions, WCW, ECW, the AWA, and even Mid-Atlantic and Georgia Championship Wrestling all rightfully belongs to them thanks to the different libraries WWE has purchased over the last several years, and they are going to make sure that no other outlet is selling them.

It was one of the more unique ways to explain an absence.  The Big Show had knee surgery on April 20th and was expected to be on the sidelines for several months.  To explain his absence, Show lost a match to Eddie Guerrero where he "promised to quit" if he lost.  He did lose, and then went on a rampage, including turning over a car and "throwing Kurt Angle off a ledge" before making his exit. 

Always a welcome sight at any wrestling show.  WWE brought in the legendary Terry Funk for a Raw brand house show in Amarillo, Texas, with it being promoted that Funk would help "maintain law and order" in WWE. Funk made several appearances during the show, working against Kane and Evolution.  In fact, the members of Evolution were practically fighting each other (in a good way) to put Funk over in the ring during the main event where he laid them out.

Let it go already.  At the annual Cauliflower Alley banquet, Chavo Guerrero Sr. caused a stir with his behavior, especially towards a somewhat feeble Verne Gagne, who he accused of stiffing him on a payday from the Superclash III Pay-per-view in 1988. There was some heat on him from WWE management, who thought his behavior, which included waving a WWE paycheck at Verne and ranting about how much money was was making, was unacceptable.

They will also get you Ali vs. Foreman, the rematch.  AWAStars.com released the following, which has to go down as one of the funniest press releases of the year: s.

Bad for the WWE. Great for AWA Superstars

After months of negotiations, the WWE has become unable to come to terms with not one but two of Professional Wrestling's biggest Superstars. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and the Immortal Hulk Hogan have both left the WWE, making them available for new national and international opportunities including wrestling on an AWA WRESTLING SUPERSTARS - LIVE! event. If you're a fair, festival, casino or promoter, the match of the century, Hogan vs. Austin, is an e-mail (info@awastars.com) or phone call away (507-281-8842). For more information, keep visiting awastars.com."

Now, anyone with a modicum of common sense would realize that AWAstars story was a clever way for the company to try and get some business for their promotion. They simply stated the facts, that Austin and Hogan were not under contract with anyone. In a perfect scenario, they could wrestle each other any time, anywhere. The key word here is "perfect" and that means MONEY!   Of course, if you call AWAstars you would find out that such a match will cost at least a million dollars, and if you didn't have that, AWAstars would be happy to offer you something in a smaller price range.

If you want to book Austin vs. Hogan, you may be able to do it if you have a seven figure bank account. And, you won't need AWAstars to do it. WWE’s legal team later sent a cease and desist letter to AWA Stars concerning them using the "Stone Cold" trademark in their piece.

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For a comprehensive look at every news story, major event, television show and Pay-per-view, Elite Members can look at the PWInsider.com Weekly Newsletter archive, which has a detailed look at EVERYTHING in professional wrestling in North America in 2004.  To become an Elite Member, click here

For Mike Johnson's extensive look at Ring Of Honor in 2004, click here.


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