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2004: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

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

SEPTEMBER

Must have been strange for there not to be a Pritchard around. Dr. Tom Pritchard was released by WWE at the start of the month, with Tommy Dreamer taking over his responsibilities with WWE, including in the WWE developmental program. Dreamer was sent to OVW earlier the week before and announced to the workers that he was there to observe the developmental process. As it turns out, he was actually there to prepare for his new responsibilities, whether he knew it or not. Pritchard's brother Bruce, a member of the creative team, took a sabbatical from Smackdown in order to deal with personal issues, leaving the writing of the show on the shoulders of David Lagana. 

Someone must have thought women with fake breasts cursing made for good TV.  Following a Diva Search segment on Raw that saw the women verbally blasting each other with profanity (with many words making it on air), WWE sent out the following statement in response to complaints from viewers: "Notwithstanding the 5 second delay from our live programming to telecast, last night’s Raw program aired unacceptable language during a live Diva Search segment. For which we apologize to our audience."  

Speaking of the Diva Search. Charges were filed following an incident at a Cleveland, Ohio bar where Raw Diva wannabe Carmella DeCesare was accused of assaulting Kristin Hine, which is a misdemeanor crime. According to court documents that were released on September 9th, Hine asserts that DeCesare kicked her in the head and has filed for a temporary restraining order against her alleged assailant. The charges did not warrant that the police actively pursue DeCesare, but if she were to have been pulled over in a traffic stop, she would have been arrested had she chosen not to turn herself in. She avoided that by turning herself in on September 9th. WOIO-TV reporter Sharon Reed said she spoke to DeCesare by phone without her attorney and quoted DeCesare as saying of her accuser, "I don't know her. I don't know why she's doing this." As for a possible motive, "No one is going to get between (boyfriend and Cleveland Browns Quarterback) Jeff Garcia and I. We're solid. If it's him she wants, forget it. If it's money, forget it. If it's fame, good luck." She told WOIO, on camera, "I'm not guilty and when I'm found not guilty I will be happy to answer any questions, and then everyone can hear the second side of the story."

Can't hurt to have another Olympic Hero around. The Associated Press reported that WWE approached Olympic gold medalist Karam Ibrahim about competing for the company. Ibrahim says that he was approached by "Big Man" (McMahon?) about coming into the company. He also said he trained with WWE in Colorado and attended an event in New York. Jim Ross confirmed the story in a USA Today article, noting that the company wanted to actively recruit amateur wrestlers.

Dream another dream.  Brock Lesnar was cut from the Minnesota Vikings, but teases of him possibly being picked back up for the practice squad would surface in sports pages for the next few months.

Because politics and professional wrestling is a natural mix.  WWE had a big contingent in New York City for the Republican National Convention. Linda McMahon, John Bradshaw Layfield, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, Big Show, Ivory and Mark Henry (who used to workout in the same gym as President Bush) were all present at the convention.

Yeah, I could see people wanting to watch the three of them arguing over who will do the dishes. Steve Austin met with rock group KISS' powerhouse Gene Simmons, pitching a reality series involving himself and Diamond Dallas Page, who Austin is currently living with in Los Angeles, California. The meeting was a pitch to get Simmons involved with packaging and producing the project. Austin was accompanied by Barry Levine, who produced the Kiss-tinged comedy "Detroit Rock City" a few years ago. 

Hey, it happened last year, you're not supposed to remember it. Jeff sent this along.  I called in to WWE Byte This with Edge and somehow I got on. I personally asked Edge myself why, when he came back, he didn't look for the person who took him out. His answer was a kind of frustrated laugh and he said, "That is a very good question, one that is out of my control. But it was definitely something that I brought up to people and I was told that didn't matter." 

Probably a bigger signing than all the old talent put together. In what is a major acquisition for TNA, the company announced that Dave Sahadi had joined the production team for the company. Sahadi was a top producer for WWE commercials, music videos, and promos, creating some of the more memorable vignettes of the Attitude era. Among his creations was the awesome promo featuring WWE legends discussing their love for new superstars, the Fellini-esque PPV opening with Freddie Blassie during the Triple H-Stephanie McMahon-Kurt Angle storyline, and others. Sahadi, who started with WWE in 1992, left the company in June 2003. 

Only problem is, I don't think anyone told them they were on it.  TNA announced that Terry Funk, Harley Race, and Larry Zbyszko would be the TNA Championship Committee. To date, neither Funk or Race have appeared on the show since this announcement was made.

Good luck Doc. It was revealed that Steve "Dr. Death" Williams, as part of his continuing battle with throat cancer, would have to have his voicebox removed. However, the 44-year old star asked the IWA Promotion in Japan (where he was working prior to this point) to cancel a planned retirement show for him, stating that his goal was to someday return to the ring. 

Sadly, it followed in the footsteps of ECW. Videogame publisher Acclaim shut its doors and filed for bankruptcy. IGN.com reported that all employees had been let go, with American employees owed for two weeks of work and British employees owed a month's salary. Acclaim, produced the Legends of Wrestling video games and held the WWF license until the 1990s. They invested in Extreme Championship Wrestling in 1999 and produced two ECW video games using old WWF game engines, Hardcore Revolution and Anarchy Rulz. What would have been the third ECW game was turned into the first Legends of Wrestling game when ECW shut down operations, with Acclaim approaching and making deals with different wrestlers, retired and active, to use their likenesses in the game. The last Legends of Wrestling title, Showdown, was released in June and received positive reviews from users.

Welcome back (again). Paul Heyman was back on the Creative Team in what at the time was said to be an undefined role. It should be noted that David Lagana was still in charge of Smackdown creative (especially with Bruce Prichard out) while Brian Gewirtz headed the Raw team.  Heyman was telling people backstage at Raw that he was an "idea man" and/or a "presenter of suggestions" and that he is a member of the Smackdown writing team, but also that he would be at Raw.

To make it worse, she got eliminated right after being hurt. Diva Search Contestant Amy Weber dislocated her arm and went to the hospital after getting hurt in an arm wrestling contest with Christy Hemme, who according to one source has arm wrestled in the past and is familiar with the techniques involved. 

Well, at least they can laugh at themselves. WWE added some parody T-shirts to their Shopzone site, including "The Underquaker" (spoof on Quaker Oats) and "Preparation Triple H." 

Strange incident. There was an incident with NWA champion Jeff Jarrett on August 29th at the Nashville Airport. According to Nashville Airport's Manager of Public Affairs and Communications Kelly Watson, Jarrett was called back to his luggage by security after what was described to me as a "clear pipe" was found in his bag. Jarrett denied knowing how the pipe ended up in his luggage. The paraphernalia was confiscated. Jarrett was not detained and was allowed to continue on with his travels, which was to Las Vegas for the launch of the TNA T-shirts with new licensee Liquid Blue.

Be a man, brother. After being challenged by Randy Savage to "Be A Man" during the promotional tour of Savage's rap CD last year (and the subject of a song by the same title), Hulk Hogan responded to Savage while talking to MTV.com at the MTV Video Music Awards. "Every time I wrestle Mach, I beat him up pretty bad," said Hogan. "I heard he's having a pretty tough time. If he can get a little oil in that wheelchair and get those legs pumped up — because those legs are about the size of my arms — I'll beat Macho Man up one more time. But this time it won't be so hard. God bless Miss Elizabeth, she's not here, so I'll just beat Macho up for free. No big deal."

Can't we all get along, Part 3. Kurt Angle and Eddie Guerrero got into an altercation backstage at the Smackdown taping on September 14th after the final segment of the show. As they came through the curtain, they exchanged words, loudly, in front of everyone at the Gorilla position. It quickly escalated from verbal to physical. The word was that Angle grabbed Eddie in a face lock and took him down to the ground, incapacitating him, before being pulled off by Johnny Ace and some of the agents. Then, they apparently got into it again further in the back before getting broken up again. From what I was told, Vince McMahon talked to both men about the incident before leaving the building. The rumor making the rounds was that Eddie missed his cue in the final segment, which made Kurt’s character look weak. With some people thinking Eddie hasn’t fully recovered from his recent concussion, the story I heard is that Angle grew frustrated and told Eddie to basically get his head in the game, and it escalated from there.

In a follow up on the story, a number of people have told me that while Angle used to be almost an easy mark as far as backstage politics went, he has stepped up his game in a big way since coming back from injury and that is the main reason he is on the bad side of many of his Smackdown co-workers.  Angle is now seen as a major league politicker by his peers. A lot of guys on the Smackdown brand have heat with Kurt Angle because he is being perceived by many of the wrestlers as far too "pro management" and spending too much time politicking.

Yeah, a lot of us had already figured this out. Variety, in an article written by John Dempsey, took a hard look at WWE's falling ratings, and how Spike TV, which launched their network with the idea that WWE Raw would be the flagship show, has suffered as a result. Variety pointed out that WWE's decision to split their roster between Spike TV (Raw) and UPN (Smackdown) is one of the major problems, and the fact that WWE has chosen to no longer "cross-promote" by continuing storylines from Monday on Thursday (and vice versa) is hurting the shows. They feel the fact that an audience now has to wait a week before seeing the next chapter in a story is causing disinterest amongst fans that were used to getting twice weekly doses of the main storylines. The article also points out that Smackdown has seen falling ratings as well, proving it is not just a Spike TV problem. Executive VP Of Marketing for WWE, Kurt Schneider was quoted in the article, saying  "big-time wrestling is not going away. I have no doubt that there is someone lurking out there who's destined to become the next Stone Cold Steve Austin."

Finally, he gets his shot. Mike Bucci, who worked as Nova in Extreme Championship Wrestling, debuted on the September 13th edition of Raw as Simon Dean, the fitness guru gimmick he had been trying out on house shows. Bucci signed a developmental deal with WWE in 2002. While in OVW, he completely revamped himself as a heel performer, strengthening his mic work and becoming a better all around wrestler. He was put under a full fledged deal last year. He had tried out a 1980s gimmick several months earlier, but it never made it to TV. Bucci had also worked under Jim Cornette as an assistant booker for OVW, being groomed for a possible future in the creative end of WWE.

Can't blame him for wanting to get a jump on that drive. There was a snafu at the Armageddon PPV involving Eric Bischoff. The plan had called for him to be involved in the main event angle where Coach was sent down to referee after Earl Hebner took a bump. The only problem was that none of the agents or creative team members told him he was on the show. Thinking he was off, he left and started the long drive from Portland to Seattle for Raw. By the time anyone realized he hadn’t been told, he was about two hours away. There was some heat on him for leaving but he had a valid point in the fact that no one told him he would used on the show and there was a long drive ahead so he wanted to get on the road early. He didn't really have the right to leave the PPV on Sunday early though. The basic rule of the company is that you have to stay through the main event, whether you are used or not. Also, Bischoff apparently left without telling anyone, which is another no-no. That is the major source of the heat he got. When asked why he did so, he reportedly told management that he was tired. That didn't sit very well either.

Here today, gone tomorrow.  WWE released Jamie Noble.  They posted the following on WWE.com: "World Wrestling Entertainment and Jamie Noble have parted ways. WWE would like to wish Noble all the best in his future endeavors." It took a lot of people on the Smackdown brand by surprise and that it was not in the works for a while. It was a sudden thing. Noble is now working for New Japan Pro Wrestling under his real name, James Gibson. 

And now that she is under contract she will ... uh ... take her dress off and ... uh ... ring the bell?  WWE revealed that Christy Hemme of Los Angeles was the winner of the $250,000 Raw Diva Search and would receive a one year contract with the company to, uh, be a Diva. 

Can't we all get along, Part 4.  In his book on the creation of NWA:TNA, Jerry Jarrett stated that he wrote an email to Jeff Jarrett regarding Vince Russo's work as a writer, stating that Russo's work was "Like reading a book by someone on LSD".  In response, Vince Russo wrote on his website that "I thank Jerry Jarrett for making it crystal clear why I have come to despise the wrestling business over the past 12 years. Jerry's e-mail to Jeff clearly and matter-of-factly shows you first hand what kind of situations and individuals I have had to deal with throughout my career."

I guess this means he can't retire. New Jack missed his own retirement show. You read that right. New Jack was on his way to the USA Pro Wrestling event on September 17th in Jamaica, New York when he was called and warned that once he arrived at the building, he was going to be arrested for a warrant on an outstanding charge (not sure what), so he was advised not to come to the show.

At least WWE has one sellout that can count on for next year. Wrestlemania 21 tickets went on sale at 1 PM Eastern, 10 AM Pacific on September 25th and as expected, were gone in a matter of minutes. With Wrestlemania 21 officially sold out, WWE.com immediately announced that Raw would be held the day after Wrestlemania, Monday April 4, 2005 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. Tickets for Raw are already on sale at Ticketmaster.com.

Once again, communication (and intelligence) is the key. There was a lot of negative reaction backstage at the Kansas City Raw centering around another chapter in the Kane-Lita angle. Early in the day, the company realized that Lita was not at the show, even though she had been written into it. There apparently was a communication screw up between the Raw writers and talent relations and she was never notified that she had to be in Kansas City, despite the fact that an airline ticket was issued in her name (though it was never communicated to her). When they realized that she wasn't there, they had to rewrite the Kane-Lita segments. In their haste to get that done, they scripted a line about "the baby not being the only person to die", completely forgetting the fact that Owen Hart died in that very arena in a tragic accident in 1999. There was a lot of negative reaction backstage (and among fans) to the line when it aired, as many of the wrestlers couldn't believe that WWE would do that while the Raw writers basically said that they didn't realize what they had done.

Well, it was the plan for a little while. Plans were put in motion to turn the Hurricane heel. The basic feeling was that his character did about all that it could as a face and management felt the idea of him getting frustrated and turning heel had some possibilities.  The idea was later dropped, and he went back to being a full-fledged babyface. 

The beginning of the end for Mr. Ass.  Billy Gunn was pulled from the road and there was heavy heat on him from management. There was an incident where Gunn missed a flight, which was the final straw in a series of situations of Gunn being late and having other issues. Management sent him home with the idea of letting him "get his house in order" before deciding later to release him. 

It probably would have made sense to have him do something.  For some reason, Big Show was not used on the edition of Smackdown from Wichita, Kansas, despite it being his hometown and having him do a lot of local appearances and press to hype the show.  Big Show was a college basketball player, as well as a bouncer and a car salesman in Wichita, before he ever got into wrestling, and was very popular there. According to a production source who was at the show, both Big Show and Undertaker shot their stuff early and then left the building.  Apparently, it was Vince McMahon's call to have them do their thing and then leave, which made no sense in Big Show's case since he is a local celebrity. Local news broadcasts even had interviews with fans who were annoyed that Show never appeared in front of the crowd. 

Wonder if Trish being a heel factored into it. Stacy Keibler was named WWE's Babe Of The Year for 2004. This is the first time that Trish Stratus, who won the last three years in a row, didn't win the online tournament. 

Rock = Class. The Rock took time out to fly a York, Pennsylvania boy who has a bad heart condition (and has had 10 heart surgeries) and his family out to California to spend time with him. Rock and the boy, Derek O'Melko, had been talking for months after his family set out to put him in touch with his idol. Rock had promised him they would meet and flew the family out for a visit. Rocky promised to call when O’Melko, 19, graduated High School this winter and to send him tickets when he wrestles again. 

I guess he figured no one would actually look at the ratings.  The September 24th edition of The Kansas City Star looked at the current state of WWE compared to a few years ago, and featured comments from Kansas native Jonathan Coachman. When the Diva Search was brought up, Coachman said, "I'm probably in the minority on this, but I liked the Diva contest. I don't read too much on the Internet. They're the 'smart' fans. They don't watch it for the entertainment value anymore; they watch it to pick it apart, and that really frustrates me. But if you watch how the ratings broke down, the Divas segments have been the highest-rated segments on the show. I'm not saying that would have continued over a long period of time, but there (was) interest in it, and that's the point … to create interest and bring in a new personality." 

At least one good thing came out of the debate.  When Mick Foley and John Bradshaw Layfield had a debate to push their choices from the Presidency, it gave George Dafnos, who attended the debate in person, a chance to go up the Vince McMahon and ask him a few questions. From George: I mentioned the fact that the "Randy Orton being kicked out of Evolution" storyline was very rushed and could've been drawn out a bit.  He just smiled at me, nodded his head, almost in agreement, and said, "well, yeah...just stay tuned.  We've got some stuff planned with that."  

TNA stars stabbed. Both The Naturals' Andy Douglas and Team Canada's Johnny Devine were stabbed during a fight after leaving a Nashville, TN club.  Douglas was stabbed in the leg and only needed stitches. Devine was stabbed in the stomach and required several hours of surgery to repair internal damage. The assailant fled the scene of the fight and has yet to be apprehended. Johnny Devine spent a few days in the hospital, but has since returned to action. 

Sort of like saying "New and Improved Original Formula". There was a lot of talk backstage at the Impact! taping about producer Dave Sahadi, who was recently brought into the company. While everyone agreed that the "Old Guard is Crumbling" video is the best thing the company has ever produced, at the same time there was talk about whether the video was an acceptable idea to portray TNA as "The New Guard" since they were bringing in Roddy Piper, Scott Hall, and Kevin Nash. At one point, Sahadi wanted to get Jimmy Hart to film a promo where Hart would put over the six sided ring and say that all other, "companies were just square" and Hart refused, citing that you never mention or put down the competition and bringing up WCW as a point. A lot of the wrestlers in the back were saying that they respected Hart for standing up for what he believed in.

Given the number of wrestlers he trained, he deserves a whole street. A group of fans embarked on a campaign to have Stu Hart added to the Canadian Walk of Fame. The Walk of Fame, similar to the one that exists in Hollywood, California is meant to pay tribute to famous Canadians from the entertainment and sports realms. Those who are paid tribute to have their name emblazoned on a maple leaf in the sidewalk of the entertainment district in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Hart, the patriarch of the famous Hart wrestling family, trained countless wrestlers in his infamous Dungeon and promoted the Stampede Wrestling territory. He was among the most famous natives of Calgary, Alberta Canada. For early details on plans to push for Stu Hart's induction, visit www.AStarForStu.com.  

Rest In Peace. Former WWF and WCW star "Big Boss man" Ray Traylor passed away suddenly on September 22nd in his home of a massive heart attack. Traylor's wife found him unconscious and paramedics were unable to revive him. He had not been complaining of feeling ill beyond a bad knee. Traylor was 42. After toying with the idea if entering local politics, he was scheduled for a few independent events, and had told friends he expected to be back in WWE within six months. 

Rest in Peace. Jim Barnett, a legendary promoter who was involved with WWF during their expansion into a national powerhouse in the mid-80's (he was involved in the sale of Georgia Championship Wrestling to Vince McMahon, allowing WWF to get on TBS for a time), and who worked with WCW in the 90's, passed away on September 18th at the age of 80.  Barnett had been battling cancer in recent years.  Barnett's history in the business stretches out over decades, and he was an integral part of the National Wrestling Alliance when that group was the controlling power in the wrestling business.

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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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