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OHIO VALLEY WRESTLING TV REPORT & THOUGHTS: CODY RUNNELS, VLADIMIR KOZLOV, BETH PHOENIX, KATIE LEA, MIKE KRUEL & MORE

By Mike Johnson on 2007-05-29 21:37:00

Note from Mike: After a very long, sad, inexcusable delay, I am finally returning with some notes and thoughts on Ohio Valley Wrestling TV, which is currently World Wrestling Entertainment's prime and only developmental territory until Steve Keirn gets the Florida area up and running.  I had been doing TV reports earlier in the year but got really backtracked on them.  Rather than catch up on storylines that are two months old, we're going to start with the month of May as I've just received the most recent four episodes, which will be reviewed over the next four days, starting now.  For those of you who want some visual aids as you read along, visit www.OVWrestling.com for photos on the talents mentioned below.

OVW TV 5/5: 

The TV opened with clips from the previous week where Cody Runnels (son of Dusty Rhodes) defeated his regular tag team partner Shawn Spears in a "Golden Ticket on a Pole Match" (think Money in the Bank) for a future OVW title shot.  Spears was upset, as he crotched himself while trying to get it, leading to the finish.  They showed Spear yelling that the ticket was his as they went to the OVW montage.  The opening reminds me of the original ECW opening with lots of highspot reel clips and shots of talent, closing on Aaron "The Idol" Stevens, who's now the OVW champion, having beaten Paul Burchall.  

The show opened with Al Snow, the OVW Troubleshooter in the ring, announcing that Burchall and Stevens (who were suspended for brawling) had paid their fines and were reinstated.  Snow said he would begin negotiations for an OVW title match.  Cody Runnels came out holding his golden ticket.  Runnels cut a good promo about the prestige of the OVW title and said he was cashing in his ticket.  This brought out Shawn Spears (now the OVW TV champion) who tried to convince Runnels of all of the things he's done for Cody.  Spears is now teasing going heel as he's angry at his partner and friend for bettering himself.  The crowd was all over him for it.  Cody finally cut him off and said that he didn't get the ticket, so Runnels was getting the title shot.  Snow said it would take place tonight.  This brought out Paul Burchall, who said it was his title shot, but Snow told him to stop or he'd be suspended indefinitely.  Snow told Burchall he could have a title shot next week with the winner but he had to leave.  Burchall finally does.  Runnels tries to shake Spears' hand.  Spears takes it but holds it and stares at Runnels.  

They went to a "paid advertisement" from Michael W. Kruel, who's now doing a faux patriot gimmick, draped in the American flag.  Rouka (Milena from Diva Search) is now managing him wearing a red white and blue bikini. Kruel is flanked by Vladimir Koslov (last seen sitting ringside and identified as an "MMA fighter" on Raw, ECW, etc. before creative dropped that storyline) & Mr. Strongko (formerly managing Boris Alexiev aka Santino Marella).  Kruel said he was here to complain about illegal aliens today, not his friends the Russians but the "Enemy Within", the Canadians.  He complained that their money is worth nothing, so they come to the United States to take jobs from America.  He petitioned Canada be made the 51st State.  His tag line is that he's a "Your American Hero."  During his time in OVW, Kruel has come a long way from when I first saw him on NYC independents.   He was always a good mechanical worker, but now he's showing some decent mic skills and charisma.  

This led to Mike Kruel vs. Chet the Jet.  From a physical standpoint, Jet is perfect for what WWE looks for - muscled and tanned.  Kruel is way better in the ring from a technical standpoint.  Chet does the sweet chin music stomp in the corner before going for a running boot, which Kruel avoided.  Kruel got the win with his finisher, the Liberty Lock, a submission.  Match was OK but nothing memorable.

They showed clips of KC James (last seen on Smackdown teaming with Aaron Stevens) and a "mystery man" laying out Jake Hager.  James then cut a promo saying that because he suffered a "broken arm" (think Cowboy Bob Orton), OVW couldn't provide him with security, he went to the one person he could trust, his younger brother Cassidy James (former TNA star Cassidy Riley) to back him up.  KC was decent on the mic  He showed more personality here then he was ever allowed to show during his Smackdown tenure.  They are announced as the James Boys and do the Fargo Strut.  Well, they are announced from Memphis.

The James Boys are facing Chris Cage and Jake Hager. Hager, who's been with OVW since January, is announced as an NCAA champion from Oklahoma and wrestles in an amateur singlet.  Cage was a regular in OVW who had an incident and was released right before he was going to be called up as a member of the Spirit Squad.  He's back here working while trying to earn a new developmental deal.  At first glance, James Boys remind me of a good old school Southern tag team at first glance with a little Midnight Express mixed in - they do lots of Southern things to get heat like hugging and take great bumps.  Cage locks Cassidy in a abdominal stretch, but KC taunts Hager.  When the referee admonishes Hager to leave the ring, KC drills Cage with the cast and Cassidy gets the pin.  Decent way of establishing the James Boys.  

They go backstage where Beth Phoenix is in front of a mirror worried about Jacob Duncan, who's doing a masked psycho gimmick similar to early Kane and has been menacing her in recent weeks.  OVW champion Katie Lea is preening and tells her to stop distracting her.  Phoenix asks her for help and Lea scoffs saying she's the "Queen of England" and has things to do.  ODB is a tattoed, trailer park female version of the Sandman.  The character is great but unless WWE suddenly decides to make her the modern day Bertha Faye or Luna Vachon, I'm not sure it'll ever make it to the main roster.  Before anyone writes me ripping me, remember we're talking about a company that dropped Ariel and Francine because they didn't fit the mold of a "WWE Diva" while poor Beth Phoenix, who has tons of talent, is still sitting in OVW doing these vignettes. They don't like anyone "outside the box".  ODB wants a title shot but Lea tells her she has to defeat other contenders like Beth first.  Beth wants nothing to do with it, saying she has bigger problems with Duncan.  Lea tells her if she fights ODB, Lea will take care of Duncan.  It was a silly vignette when you think about it, but that's the sports-entertainment business for you.

Beth Phoenix vs. ODB - Phoenix was scared of Duncan showing up, looking all over including under the ring.  ODB comes out with a beer cooler made up like "bling bling" tried to nail Phoenix, who ducked then nailed ODB with her own beer before the match. ODB looks good when nailing power moves, but at other times, isn't ready yet.  She does a bit where she sits on the top rope, driving Phoenix's head into the buckle (and in between ODB's legs) that I can't believe hasn't been stolen for a Divas match on the main roster yet.  ODB nails a Thesz Press off the corner for the pin.  Duncan comes to the ring carrying a paperbag.  He picked up the unconscious Phoenix who wakes up and screams like your best B-Movie starlet.  Dean Hill called it a "Faye Wray" moment, which popped me.  Phoenix runs off as Duncan follows.

Backstage, Mike Mondo (of Spirit Squad fame on the main roster, now sporting a goatee and doing a short but ferocious gimmick) was punching a locker upset.  Steve Lewington showed up and told him it wasn't going to fight back.  They ended up issuing a challenge to each other.  That was the next match when OVW returned from commercials.  Lewington is starting to look like a young Davey Boy Smith from a physical standpoint.  That will help getting called up.  Lewington got in the ring, where a waiting Mondo pounced on him with a forearm and pinned him.  

Backstage, TJ Dalton and were interrupted by OVW Southern Tag Team champions Charles "The Hammer" Evans and Justin "The Ox" Larouche, who tried to bully them.  The youngsters refused to back down so the champions offered them a match next week.  The champs used the old Taz "Beat us if you can, survive if we let you" tagline, but it felt like a forced line, nothing that was "their" calling card yet. 

Johnny Jeter vs. Vladimir Kozlov (with Stronko) - This was Jeter's return to OVW TV.  He's started to grow his hair out and died it blonde.  Kozlov really reminds me of Tony Halme/Ludvig Borga and that's not really a great thing. He looks like he'd have been a big star during the territory era based on his look but in the ring, forget about it.   Every offensive maneuver looks tentative or weak.  Kozlov does Abyss' Shock Treatment, which they call the Kremlin Krunch.  Poor Jeter.

OVW champion Aaron Stevens vs. Cody Runnels - Idol physically reminds me somewhat of Chris Kanyon or Johnny Swinger.  Dean Hill was super enthusiastic on commentary, trying to get over the match as a big-time deal.  They do some back and forth wrestling early.  Runnels has all the facials down really well.  The referee gets bumped as Idol hit his finish on Runnels, which leads to Paul Burchill hitting the ring and hitting Go To Sleep on Stevens.  Security forced him out.  Runnels covers Stevens, who kicks out at the last second.  Runnels went to the top and nails his finisher, a lariat off the ropes.  He makes the cover but Shawn Spears pulls the referee out of the ring.  He then attacks Runnels and drills him with a piledriver, turning full blown heel.  in OVW, they push the piledriver as a dangerous banned move, so Runnels sold it like he was in a car wreck.  They go off the air with Runnels hurting and Spears standing over him, moving their soap opera storyline forward.

A decent episode.  Of all the talents, Katie Lea seems like she's the most ready to be moved up the roster, although Paul Burchall and Beth Phoenix should have been up there a long time ago.  ODB plays her character well but I just don't see it.  The Shawn Spears turn was good.  Cody Runnels is coming along good but will likely be down here a lot longer since the hope is he'll turn into something special and they don't want to rush him.  He reminds me somewhat of a young Rocky Maivia in that he's got the obvious raw tools and is putting it together piece by piece.  I can see WWE wanting him to work on his physique as well. If this episode is going to be any indication, The James Gang will be a good team in the future while Mike Kruel is starting to find himself as the silly "American hero" that is anything but.  After seeing this match, I can tell you why WWE dropped the Kozlov angle.  Khali has a bigger and better upside.  Jerry Jarrett had to have lost points for talking this guy up. 

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