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2004: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

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

AUGUST

Another piece if talent is shown the door. Ryan Sakoda was released by World Wrestling Entertainment. Sakoda, who originally trained at UPW's school in California, had been brought in as part of a tag team with Akio with the idea that they were flunkies for Tajiri. When Tajiri was moved to the Raw roster, the idea was dropped and they were used as undercard heels, mostly appearing on Velocity. Sakoda had recently been sent down to Ohio Valley Wrestling, and was reportedly dealing with a hip problem recently as well.

Doh! WWE sort of let the cat out of the bag that Spike Dudley would be making a heel turn when they advertised a August 29th show in Melbourne, Australia as featuring Billy Kidman, Paul London & Funaki against The Dudley Boyz & Spike Dudley before the turn took place. 

TNA at the Crossroads.  Lots of talk circulated about major changes for TNA.  Those changes included pulling out of Nashville and running all events in Orlando at Universal Studios, ending the weekly PPV concept for a more traditional monthly PPV model, and running house shows. 

Now she can work on her cheerleading skills. Rena "Sable" Mero was been let go by WWE, despite having signed a three-year deal with the company when she returned in March of 2003. WWE.com posted the following on their website on August 10th: WWE and Rena Mero, p.k.a. Sable, have parted ways. More to follow. The release is the latest twist in Mero's career with WWE. Mero had been out of action due to a leaking implant but had appeared on house shows and Smackdown as late as the end of July.

Many wondered if an interview in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, the week before had anything to do with her release.  "The men in this business are able to have families because they have wives who stay home." said Mero. "The women have to choose. There are more difficulties as a woman. There are more sacrifices we make." The article also noted that Mero claimed, "The most gifted female wrestlers get passed over because they lack a certain California finish." "Men aren’t hired on looks," said Mero. "Some of the most talented women are not blonde-haired, blue-eyed women." Mero claimed during the interview that her 2003 return was based on a desire perform live in front of the fans, noting that she, "Didn’t get the same feeling of excitement elsewhere."

Word later came out  that, like her significant other Brock Lesnar, she had grown tired of the constant travel that goes with being a WWE superstar and she wanted her role changed so that she was a TV-only character, thus getting out of house show tours. The story making the rounds was that she went to WWE management about getting a reduced role, in part so that she could spend more time with her daughter and Lesnar, and they were not receptive to the her proposal so the parties amicably parted ways. 

Ouch! In what had to be a scary sign for the company leading into the Summerslam PPV, the August 9th edition of Raw did a 3.2 cable rating, with a 5 share, off of hours of 3.1 and 3.2. That is the lowest non-major holiday rating for the show since November 11, 2002 (which was Veterans Day). It’s the lowest non-holiday number since February 23, 1998, when the show did a 3.2. No matter how anyone tries to spin it, a 16% drop is a downright scary number, especially going into the company’s biggest PPV of the summer, and one that can’t rationally be pinned on a preseason NFL game. 

Vince was probably proud to make the list. SportIllustrated.com cited Vince McMahon's March 2001 appearance on Bob Costas' On the Record HBO show as the tenth worst radio/tv interview moment ever, in a feature on their website. The interview, designed to promote the doomed XFL football league, turned into an argument, with McMahon morphing into his "Mr. McMahon" character when Costas asked if he would ever fix the games. McMahon screamed at Costas, telling him to "Shut Up" at several points. The XFL shut down after one season, while McMahon returned a year later to the show for a more refrained and normal conversation.

Again, didn't anyone look at the tape and realize what a bad idea it was? WWE will pre-taped the Divas Dodgeball segment early the day of Summerslam so that it could be edited and spliced into the PPV. Despite the Diva Search segments bombing horribly on television, WWE insisted on devoting PPV time to the segment

I wonder if he refuses to sign footballs now. According to an article in Minnesota's Star Tribune newspaper about the Minnesota Vikings training camp, Lesnar turned down a fan when asked to sign a Brock poster from his time with World Wrestling Entertainment. Lesnar explained that he will no longer sign wrestling merchandise. "That was a part of my life, and I just don't sign that stuff anymore," Lesnar said. "Just in case I never go back. They'd have that and they'd just sell it on eBay."

Those that knew him, well, they weren't shocked. Former Main Event Championship Wrestling promoter John Collins, who came into the business with huge grandiose claims of running several territories at once only to quickly disappear, is currently serving a 71 month federal prison sentence as part of a plea bargain agreement over charges of violating the terms of an asset freeze order entered against his Canadian partner in the Main Event Championship Wrestling project, Gary Stroud. Collins was also accused of aiding and abetting Stroud in violating the order. Collins was in possession of $187,000 given to him by Stroud, who had been accused with fleecing over 2,000 investors worldwide of over $1 million since 1998 in an Internet scheme. Stroud, operating under several fictitious businesses, used Internet websites and e-mail to hawk seven alleged investments, including so-called "Morgenthau Gold Bond Certificates," foreign gold-mining projects, and "prime-bank" trading programs, promising investors extraordinary returns with little or no risk. It turned out he had paid no returns to any investors. Stroud diverted $200,000 to Collins for the MECW project before having a freeze put on his assets during the course of a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. After Stroud's assets were freezed, Collins still accepted $162,000 in wire transfers from Stroud and spent the funds. Collins also refused to hand over $25,000 worth of Stroud's property to the receiver involved in the case despite repeated demands. Collins then faxed a bogus promissory note to the receiver involved in the case, allegedly signed by a third-party agreeing to pay the money due under the contempt order. When Collins continued to refused to cooperate with the investigators, the judge in the Stroud case had him jailed for civil contempt in November 2002. At the same time, the FBI began putting together a criminal case on Collins, which led to him making a plea bargain agreement for the jail time. Collins was also accused to creating another scheme which raised an additional $100,000, although it is not known if that was for MECW or another project unrelated to wrestling.

When Collins is released from prison, he will undergo three years of supervised release and must pay back $290,000. In February 2003, Stroud was ordered by a federal judge in Oklahoma to pay back $1,044,879 as well as pay $956,379 in civil penalties. Collins' Main Event Championship Wrestling burst into the summer of 2001 with huge claims of national TV expansions and running different territories at the same time. With Sandman as the point person for many of the wrestlers, the promotion held a free show at the ECW Arena in Philadelphia, PA on 8/11/01. They drew a huge full house based on the fact that they were using mostly ECW names in an ECW stronghold, with the show featuring names Sandman, Mike Rotunda, Sabu, Tod Gordon, Joel Gertner, New Jack, Devito, Chris Chetti, Danny Doring, Joey Matthews, Christian York, Steve Corino, Buff Bagwell, Jack Victory, Curt Hennig, Chris Harris, Julio Dinero, Chris Hamrick, Public Enemy, The Full Blooded Italians, Blue Meanie, Dawn Marie, Jasmin St. Clair, Simon Diamond, Crowbar, Billy Reil, Roadkill, Gary Wolfe, Francine, Lou E. Dangerously and Bill Alfonso. Barry Windham was also at the show but didn't wrestle. Sabu defeated Sandman in a ladder match main event. MECW announced a return for September but the show ended up canceled, blaming 9/11 and never ran again in Philadelphia. They did run smaller scale shows, but there were problems with airline tickets (which at the time, Collins publicly tried to blame on Paul Heyman, of all people) and with paying talent. The promotion and Collins soon dissipated.  

Business isn't bad, is it?  WWE released their annual report, showing that the McMahons were certainly doing well, despite the state of the industry. 

Vince McMahon total income for 2004: $10,595,782 (Total Cash Compensation: $10,587,639)
Salary: $1,085,000
Bonus: $1,085,000
Talent: $850,000
401K match: $24,136
Value of Aircraft use (Vince can use the WWE aircraft for personal use): $8,143
'04 Total Dividends: $7,543,503

Linda McMahon total income for 2004: $1,620,796 (Total Cash Compensation: $1,612,653)
Salary $750,000
Bonus: $750,000
401K match: $21,790
Value of Aircraft use (Linda can use the WWE aircraft for personal use): $8,143
'04 Total Dividends: $90,683

Edge has since made an impressive heel turn, while Undertaker, well, he started using the Spanish Announce Table. Undertaker and Edge were said to be noticeably upset backstage with the reactions from their respective matches at Summerslam. For those who missed it, Edge was loudly booed in his hometown of Toronto while the fans chanted "Spanish Tables" and did the wave during Taker's match with JBL.

Can we get that DVD now, please? Bret Hart was telling people at an indy card in Buffalo, NY, where he made an appearance, that he was heading to SummerSlam to meet with the McMahons. Hart was again in talks with WWE about his proposed DVD. It's no secret that the McMahons would love to get Bret back into the fold but thus far, it hasn't happened. While Bret can't wrestle due to the aftereffects of his stroke, WWE would still like to have him back in their family to fill any number of roles, from spokesman to recurring TV character.  

It's called communication, they should try it. WWE management was not happy that Matt Hardy divulged that he needed knee surgery and would be out of action for eight months in his WWE.com column, which was pulled less than a day after it was published. Of course, that begs the question, "Why did WWE post it in the first place?"

Given the short length of his title reign, Orton should have this framed in his home.  Randy Orton's World Title victory made the front page of the Toronto Sun. There was a big picture of Orton raising the belt with the Headline: Bad boy is No. 1: Young Randy Orton takes the belt from our Chris Benoit at ACC. There were also three pages in the paper dedicated to the event.

Round Three. Steve Austin and ex-girlfriend Tess Broussard were involved in yet another physical confrontation, this time at Beverly Hills, California restaurant Il Fornaio's, ending up with a trip to the emergency room, an arrest, and a lawsuit filed. According to an article in the paid subscription area of The Los Angeles Times, Austin and his business manager George Vrabeck had brought Broussard to California to present her with a $1.5 million check in exchange for Broussard moving on and out of Austin's life and agreeing not to pursue legal ramifications over different incidents involving the couple over the last year. "I'm not a rocket scientist," Austin told The Times "But I knew I had to get out of this relationship....The plan was to go out, have a nice steak, hand [Broussard] a check and get on with my life."

After having dinner with Broussard at Mastro's Steakhouse, the two went to meet Vrabeck, who was eating at Il Fornaio nearby, waiting with the check and a security guard stationed in a parked car. Once they arrived, however, Austin said that things changed, " All of a sudden Tess said, 'Honey, we're not breaking up. We just had a wonderful night.' She started getting really irate, saying, 'You can't do this — you just can't break up with me now.'" Austin told The Times that Broussard, "...went up over the top of the table with a steak knife and she was trying to stab me." Vrabeck got involved and everyone went down in a scuffle. Austin's security guard handcuffed Broussard to a chair. Vrabeck ended up with a deep cut to his left arm while Austin banged his head on the sidewalk.

Broussard, who works an actress in softcore adult films, claimed in a lawsuit that was filed last week that Austin and Vrabeck lured her to the restaurant to stage a fabricated assault. The lawsuit asks for $10 million in damages and brings up a Texas incident from several months ago where Austin allegedly caused her permanent injury while driving drunk and hitting a tree with her as passenger. It's noted in the article that Austin claimed to be sober during the accident and that police reports of the incident back Austin's claim.

Broussard's series of events in Beverly Hills were, as expected, completely different from Austin's. She told the Times that Vrabeck, "grabbed me and shoved me down in my chair. When I tried to get up, out of nowhere some guy came up from behind me and knocked me down, yelling, 'Get down!' as if gunshots were going to be fired. The next thing I know, he's on top of me and I'm handcuffed. And there's George dumping over the table. Then I see him bend down and it looks like he's stabbing himself. All of a sudden, he says, 'I'm bleeding,' and the bodyguard says, 'I saw you stab him!' "Obviously I'd been set up. Steve had threatened me, in no uncertain terms, that I'd get screwed over if I didn't drop [a proposed] personal injury suit." Broussard was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon, which carries a maximum penalty of a $10,000 fine and four years in prison. She is due in court on 9/1 and is currently out on $30,000 bail.

The article noted that Austin's manager, Barry Bloom, has hired Sitrick & Co., a crisis-management public relations firm that has represented the likes of Rush Limbaugh, R. Kelly and Paula Poundstone in the past. The firm's Michael Mayer told the Times that he instructed Austin to come forth first. "Steve is a celebrity with millions of fans," said Mayer. "If he's involved in anything that smacks of something lurid or sensational, it's going to affect him. If you don't tell your own story, someone is going to tell it for you, and chances are you won't like the way it comes out."

Asked why they would still continue to see each other despite all the problems in the past, Broussard claimed, "I was naive. He'd apologize and say he'd change and go to counseling, but he never did. He told me I was his soul mate, so I kept going back and really believed in the relationship. But it was a lot of empty promises."

Austin's response? "I kept seeing her because, as kooky as she was, I still loved her. I feel like I've been a pawn on the chessboard. I was too trusting and too nice, and that's what I'll have to live with."

Yeah, it wasn't a publicity stunt, honest. In his pro football debut during a pre-season game, The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Arizona Cardinals 23-6 before an announced crowd of 63,658. Former WWE champion Brock Lesnar played nose tackle during the fourth quarter of the game. Lesnar's name received a standing ovation after his first official NFL tackle. Lesnar spoke to the St. Paul Pioneer Press after the game. "This was a step for me, getting some playing time,'' Lesnar said. "I'm glad I got to run down on kickoffs and bust some heads a little bit.'' In what may be a precursor to his making the team or just a smart bit of capitalism, or both, The Minnesota Vikings have added Brock Lesnar's number 69 jersey to their online store for $64.99.  Brock would end up not making the roster, with sportswriters claiming his play was "ineffective".

Well, that's one way to get someone to do a job. Former WWE Champion Brock Lesnar when "at least six" of his Minnesota Vikings teammates piled on him, taped his legs together and poured water on his head according to the Pioneer Press. Then, they counted the pin and got "the duke" over the former wrestling superstar.

Making the move.  TNA officials confirmed rumors about changes within the company, informing the wrestlers that they were dropping the weekly PPV concept from Nashville, Tennessee, and would instead be doing a monthly PPV schedule, with weekly tapings of Impact in Orlando, Florida. The final weekly PPV would be on September 8th, and the first monthly PPV was set for November 7th and would be titled "Victory Road". 

Probably slightly better than having a doughnut named after him. Former WWE champion The Rock was crowned a high chief in Samoa while paying a visit to the Pacific Island. The Rock, who's mother is originally from Samoa, was given the title of son of Malietoa, by his Highness Malietoa Tanumafili II. An article on the World Entertainment Newswire quoted the Rock as saying, "I've never cried so much. It was a life-changing moment. It's way deeper than an honorary title - it's blood." The High Chief title it is a ceremonial title, which has been bestowed on other athletes, including football players and Rock's maternal grandfather, Peter Maivia, in the past. It is an acknowledgement of his contributions to the Samoan society.

This led to a great storyline that .... just disappeared. After taking the Shooting Star Press from Billy Kidman at Smackdown, Chavo Guerrero remained on the mat after the match ended. Referees, trainers, and EMTs rush out to aid him, as this looks like a legitimate injury. They put a neck brace on his and gently slide him onto a stretcher. Chavo finally started moving his left hand. The concerned crowd gave him a "Chavo!" chant and a huge ovation as he was wheeled out of the arena. The official word on Chavo Guerrero was that he had suffered a concussion. He was out on the mat for a few minutes and was taken to a local hospital and held overnight. He was released the next morning. It definitely seemed to be a lot worse when it happened than it ended up actually being, which was great news. It was worked into a face turn and storyline feud for Chavo that was later forgotten. 

It's the professionalism that I respect. Rene Dupree got some heat with management right now on the Smackdown brand and was fined for doing his dance at shows after being told not to do it because it gets a face reaction and, since he is a heel, that isn't what they want out from him. He also had heat for the work in some of his matches of late as it has been seen as not being good in the eyes of the agents. Since he is the heel, he is expected to carry his bouts and thus gets the heat when they aren't good. Because he is so young, he isn't overly diplomatic and that gets him heat with some in management, like some of the agents, as well.

Also at the Bakersfield, California show where Rene got heat, John Heidenreich had a major tantrum at the end of his match with Scotty 2 Hotty. Something happened at the end of the bout (Jon blew a few spots) and he went nuts on the way to the back, swearing and screaming. Once he went through the curtain, he did a little bit of rearranging of the backstage area and management was not happy with his behavior. The guy just went nuts and they wondered if he was cut out to be in the business, especially in a semi-prominent position. 

Hey, we all make typos, but this one was funny. On the WWE Shopzone site, a new item, John Cena’s foam brass knuckles, were listed as "John Cena Word Life Sucks" (instead of Knucks).

So, you may not exactly get the million. George Dafnos sent along the following "fine print" from the WWE Million Dollar Tough Enough contest website: "THE WINNER WILL BE AWARDED A WWE TALENT CONTRACT WORTH UP TO $1,000,000 (US DOLLARS). THE TALENT CONTRACT PROVIDES FOR, AMONG OTHER THINGS, $250,000 PER YEAR OVER A FOUR YEAR TERM AND WILL BE SUBJECT TO WWE STANDARD TERMS AND CONDITIONS."

You know I have to use this one, 'Pimpin' Ain't Easy!' Former WCW wrestler Norris "Hardbody" Harrison Jr. was arrested on August 18th and charged with forcing three women into prostitution as a way to force them to repay their debts to him. Harrison, who lives in Cartersville, Georgia, was arrested the day after one of the women approached a police officer and claimed she was being held against her will. Three of the seven women with Harrison at the time claimed they were forced into prostitution. According to the article, Georgia investigators contend that Harrison would claim to help the women by paying their jail fines and assisting them with housing. Once he gained their confidence, however, he would allegedly force them to prostitute for him until they had paid off their debts to him.

Harrison , 38, was charged with three counts of false imprisonment and is currently free on $55,000 bond. Harrison wrestled for WCW in the late 1990s, mostly appearing on WCW Saturday Night. He was among the wrestlers involved in Sonny Onno's lawsuit against AOL Time Warner, claiming that WCW paid them less than white performers and failed to promote them on nationally televised shows. They also claimed that WCW based their characters on negative racial stereotypes. That lawsuit was later settled out of court.

Wait, he ran WCW?  Does Bischoff know that? In an interview to promote his daughter's signing career, Hulk Hogan stated "Fox and ABC have pitched shows to do a reality wrestling show. And I was like 'How in the hell do you do a reality wrestling show?' And basically the premise of starting out in minor league wrestling doesn’t mean anything to anybody. Basically, they approached me with Hulk Hogan with one foot in the glue factory. All of a sudden, he takes his foot out and saves the art form. Because of some of the guys who want to work for me that used to work for me when I ran (Ted) Turner’s company like Goldberg, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Sting want to work for me. The whole thing is that everyone knows that the WWF means wrestling but so does one name: Hulk Hogan. And the public opinion is to start my own thing like the past is now the future type deal. That with Goldberg and Sting and Stone Cold and Nash, we could probably take over pretty easily. I’m thinking about it. We may go back to the old days again for a while."

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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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