AS I SEE IT - 7/28/2003:
The 300th AS I SEE IT column

by: Bob Magee

This is the 300th AS I SEE IT column... and part of a two-week look at the last 300 columns over the last 7 years.

This week, I'll take a look at AS I SEE IT and the PTC, columns on the "human side" of the business, this column's fight with XPW, and other subjects.

AS I SEE IT reported on and battled the efforts of The Parents Television Council to censor wrestling programming through their attacks on the WWF. The PTC is a right-wing organization that claims to monitor television programming for families. If that had been all they did, few would have objected, even if we disagreed with they'd said...feeling that freedom of speech applied to the PTC. However, telling people what they felt wasn't enough. They actively campaigned to get WWF programming off of the air with a corporate attack campaign against WWF's sponsors, attacks that got the US Armed Forces, Coca-Cola, and other notable advertisers to pull their advertising from SMACKDOWN and RAW through half-truths, outright lies, and exaggerations.

Coverage of and commentary on the PTC's actions began with the November 28, 1999 AS I SEE IT column:

"...This past week on RAW in North America, Jim Ross made reference to the Parents Television Council. They object to some of the angles that I'VE objected to, such as the Paul Wight cancer angle. But there's a major difference between the way these people think and the way I think.

I objected to the ANGLES. But, as we can do in America...I expressed my viewpoint. The vast majority of those who wrote me in reply to my AS I SEE IT column agreed at least with the inappropriateness of using a ten-bell count in the angle. Some didn't go as far as I did that the whole angle was wrong.

But I NEVER said say that WWF programming should be pulled so that NO ONE could make that choice for themselves. Not even WWF critic Bob Ryder went that far, in one of our rare examples of agreement. He thought that the angle was as horrible as I did. But even he never called for the banning of all WWF programming. Now, let's say you read this column and say 'I'm not a WWF fan. I'm a ECW fan. They're just copying what ECW did first.'

ECW fans, do you think that the international coverage that the fan-based STRICTLY ECW group, and those within the company worked so hard for two years can't disappear? Do you think if these right-wing zealots get a good look at ECW, either on TNN or the syndicated version, that they won't go berserk? Hell, TNN was barely tolerating ECW only weeks ago...

WCW fans... just remember if censors attack the WWF's product on UPN and USA...with the recent hiring of Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera and their TV-14 content, WCW's programming on TNT and TBS can just as easily be targeted by this group, if not more so. Why would it be more easily done with WCW?

Don't believe it... think it's me just going off on WCW again? I have two words for you: Lenny and Lodi. GLAAD, a gay rights organization undertook a similar lobbying campaign, which claimed that the Lenny and Lodi characters added to a climate of hate against gays and lesbians. It resulted in the always politically correct Time-Warner-Turner corporate empire kicking their characters off the air, and keeping these two workers sitting home.

It's not just the companies that own the WWF, WCW, and ECW. Do you think advertisers can't be pressured by even such a small pressure group? With this "Parents Television Council" alone, the Defense Department has pulled recruiting ads from Smackdown. Coca-Cola has pulled its ads from WWF programming.

Do you STILL think this won't happen? Do you STILL think it's a bunch of people on the Internet running around half-cocked? Go ahead and believe that. Suddenly, you'll see that someone who has appointed themselves your moral guardian will have told you what you can watch. Suddenly either one or more major promotion's wrestling shows will not air, at least in any fashion recognizable today.

Your wrestling will have been "sanitized for your protection" by a right-wing front group run by a man named L. Brent Bozell III, whose father wrote speeches for Joseph McCarthy, the United States Senator responsible for creating a generation of political cowardice and fear during the 1950s. L. Brent Bozell who worked for the Unification Church, better known to all as the "Moonies" religious cult.

...Bozell has "attacked programs like the cartoon show Captain Planet and the Planeteers because it 'seeks to indoctrinate children and scare them into leftist political activism', has stated that the media panders to gays, that Bryant Gumbel is an 'insufferable leftist', and that Nelson Mandela is 'the leader of a terrorist movement'...

Listen up, readers... reading this kind of right-wing garbage should scare the hell out of you. Suddenly the potential exists for those who would only see the kind of TV programs that their own extreme political views deem appropriate to pull your favorite programming from TV. It's time to challenge them.

Contact the sponsors of WWF you see listed at the end of this column; AS WELL AS the sponsors of WCW and ECW programming. Tell them you appreciate their advertising support of programs you enjoy. The STRICTLY ECW people have been doing this for 2 years, calling it 'preventive maintenance'. Those of us who work in business call it client/customer relations. It's real and necessary, especially now."

L. Brent Bozell responded by attacking me personally on the Michael Reagan syndicated political radio show, claiming that he had never been connected to the Unification Church, and that all my claims were false.

Things were just starting to get fun, however. The AS I SEE IT column, PWBTS and many of the sites that carried the column joined in an effort called Wrestling Fans Against Censorship.

The first effort of WFAC was the listing and regular contact of WWF advertisers, in what we referred to as "preventive maintenance", a campaign to thank these advertisers for their support of wrestling programming and warning them of what the PTC was doing.

The next target of our effort confronted one of the sources of money of the PTC, a program called the "PTC Marketplace". In short, purchases made of products and services from as many as 90 well-known companies such as 1-800-Flowers, Avon, Burpee, Dell, ESPN's e-commerce site, FTD, Hickory Farms, FAO Schwarz, LL Bean, McAfee, Office Max, Mattel and Toys 'R Us contributed money to the PTC's efforts. One company alone, Avon, was reported by sources within the company to have provided $16,000 per year for the PTC's efforts through this program.

In the December 18, 1999 AS I SEE IT column, those of us with WFAC organized a e-mail campaign and boycott effort of the businesses that remained with the Marketplace.

"...Quite simply put, readers... if you spend your money through any of these websites, a portion of what you spend supports the efforts of the Parents Television Council.

It's time to go to work... show the Parents Television Council and the merchants listed above that wrestling fans have disposable income. Let's show them that we can use that disposable income and the purchasing power that it gives us to influence events... Let those companies know that, as long as they provide financial support to an organization that advocates censorship of TV programming you watch, you will not purchase products from their company. Let them know that you will encourage your friends to follow suit.

If you still have Christmas shopping to do, take a moment and let those companies know that they lost out on a potential customer this holiday season because of their financial support of the PTC."

Because of what Effinity.Net (the program's operator) acknowledged to be a "deluge" of e-mails and letters directed toward participating companies, many pulled out, until only 18 remained as of the Marketplace program's closing on August 8, 2000.

During this and other campaigns, PTC members and staff made veiled threats to file lawsuits against those active didn't stop their activities. But the PTC would find that it would itself be in need of legal help soon... as it made accusations of WWF being to blame for "children killing children"... "pedaling pornography to children"... and made false claims of having gotten certain companies to have removed their advertising from WWF television, some claims made while these companies were sponsoring both WWF TV and WWF PPVs.

In cases where companies being targeted wouldn't state their viewpoints... or wouldn't demand that the PTC remove their corporate names and trademarks from the PTC's website... most notably the ConAgra family of food companies; we asked fans to gather ConAgra products such as Armour meat products, Bumble Bee tuna, Chef Boyardee, Chun King, Egg Beaters, Gulden's Mustard, Hebrew National, LaChoy Chinese, Libby's, Orville Redenbacher Popcorn, Peter Pan, Swift meat products, Swiss Miss cocoa, and Wesson Oil... and send them back to the company in what we called "Project Care Package". We did the same thing for Burger King, asking people to send wrappers of competitors products and tell the companies that they'd be buying their fast food elsewhere until they indicated publicly that they were not withdrawing their advertising from WWF programming in conjunction with the PTC.

Not everyone wanted to hear about the PTC and what they were about. Some websites even dropped the AS I SEE IT column because they claimed that the column was "no longer about wrestling", as I alluded to in the August 3, 2000 AS I SEE IT column:

", the flagship website of AS I SEE IT and co-founding site of Wrestling Fans Against Censorship; has always believed that it's more important to stand up for what is right, rather than what is expedient. We believe that it's more important to stand up for what we know fans need, rather than that which would provide our website a provide temporary political benefit or greater commercial success within wrestling...."

In the September 29, 2000 AS I SEE IT column, I made a suggestion out of frustration. How little I realized that the WWF legal staff had the very same idea that I did... and were ready to spring it on the PTC:

Well... I'll repeat what I've said before... I think it's about time that Vince McMahon takes L. Brent Bozell's over-opinionated, slanderous, libelous ass to court. While even the PTC is entitled to free speech protection; libel, slander and defamation of character aren't protected speech. Not even for the PTC...".

The PTC responded with an all-time classic line regarding the falsely made claims of having gotten certain advertisers to withdraw: "...We do not have written proof because we do not need written proof."

Unfortunately for the PTC, the legal system disagreed.

Only six weeks later, on November 9th, 2000, WWF Entertainment lawyer Jerry S. McDevitt filed a 10 count lawsuit against the PTC and their Board members in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, found in full here: A number of the facts and sources cited in the AS I SEE IT columns and by WFAC were used in the WWF's case filing, something we were happy to see occur.

I was even subpoenaed in the preparation for the trial by the PTC, who were apparently hoping to find some grand conspiracy between WWE, and my column, the details of which you can read about in the November 20, 2001 AS I SEE IT.

Finally... on July 3, 2002, WWF Entertainment, Inc. won a $3.5 million settlement from the Parents Television Council, which also included a public retraction of the most notable of the charges made against the WWF/E; charges that formed the backbone of the lawsuit against the Parents Television Council, its parent organization Media Research Center, PTC heads L. Brent Bozell and Mark Honig, and members of the Board of the Parents Television Council, including Senator (then Vice Presidential candidate, and current Democratic Presidential candidate) Joseph Lieberman.

The PTC was forced to retract the claims that WWF programming was somehow involved for the so-called "wrestling deaths" of several children, including the well-publicized murder of Tiffany Eunick by Lionel Tate; and the claim that numerous advertisers withdrew their advertising from WWF/E programming, particularly Smackdown. The PTC acknowledged the fact that the information that they listed was inaccurate.

Further, the PTC signed additional statements promising never to interfere with WWE business relationships again ... never to urge boycotts of WWE products or of the products of WWE advertisers and to remove from the PTC Web site "all references to child deaths and all references to WWE advertisers."

In the July 8, 2002 AS I SEE IT column, the campaign concluded against the PTC and on behalf of wrestling fans who simply wanted to watch their entertainment in peace.

"...The PTC ignored the fact that (to cite only one of the fourteen companies in question) M&M/Mars had run advertisements on 129 separate RAW, Smackdown and Heat episodes over a 19 month period, in addition to sponsoring four major WWF/E PPVs.

Even with numerous individuals citing these facts to the organization via e-mails, written communications, and telephone calls; the PTC continued to list M&M/Mars as a so-called "Good Guy" that had withdrawn advertising from WWF/E. That... is hardly a "mistake".

Instead, that "mistake"... and the use of the bodies of dead children as part of an ideological vendetta was a deliberate attempt to raise money for the Media Research Center and Parents Television Council; deliberately making claims they knew to be false... to scapegoat the programming that you and I watch on Monday, Thursday, and Sunday nights as a cause for children killing children via their campaigns of corporate terrorism.

The PTC and their allies never expected that there would be wrestling fans who would care enough about their rights as Americans (as well as Canadians and UK citizens) and as wrestling fans to simply enjoy the television programming they choose to fight their well-funded corporate terrorism campaign. They never figured that people like you and I sitting at our keyboards at home would take them on with the power of truth, and give WWF/E Entertainment the factual ammunition they needed to force this settlement by the Parents Television Council.

Wrestling fans can and always will argue if they find particular storylines entertaining, or think that certain performers should be featured more often...or think they'd enjoy a particular style of matches featured more often. That's part of the fun of being a fan. But no one thinks that someone outside their own household should make choices for them as to what they should choose to watch or choose not to watch...based on ideological vendettas and worse, as no more than a fundraising tactic.

In the end, the PTC didn't get the opportunity to do so."

One of the things that I've always said that I wanted AS I SEE IT to do was to take a look at the "human side of the business", columns about the real-life human beings behind the give readers an insight that might not otherwise get.

Here's an example from the August 24, 1997 column:

"...In a business populated by many who never seem to understand the fact that while their business is a work, the way they deal with others doesn't have to be; Sherri Martel has always been one of the exceptions to that rule. In the time I've known Sherri, she has always shown herself to be a person who genuinely treats fan or friend with anything less than grace, kindness, and decency.

To illustrate: One night, while with some of us at the legendary wrestling hangout, the Philadelphia Airport Marriott (now a Hilton); some kids continued to wait in the Marriott lobby well onto midnight, hoping to get Martel's autograph. While Sherri was working heel at the time, it was obvious that even the kids had long before figured her out for who she really was. After she found out about the kids, she excused herself, saying 'Sorry, guys, I'm a mother, you know how that is'. She then spent at least 20 minutes with them in the lobby."

Longtime readers know of the story of former SMW right-hand man and WCW referee Brian Hildebrand (pka "Mark Curtis") and his two year-battle with cancer, as talked about within my AS I SEE IT columns. It started the night of a WCW show in Baltimore, then going to the Marriott bar afterwards. I noticed Eddie Guerrero taking an awfully long time to pray over his post-show dinner. On the way home, I found out why, as outlined in the October 5, 1998 AS I SEE IT and October 11, 1998 AS I SEE IT columns.

"I'm not looking forward to writing this one very much at all...

As you may have read on, WCW Referee Brian (Mark Curtis) Hildebrand will undergo surgery on Wednesday to remove an obstruction from his stomach. I'd spoken myself by phone to Pam Murphy-Hildebrand about 10 days ago at their house in Tennessee. Brian had just had tests done earlier in the day, and wasn't up to getting on the phone. But she mentioned that Brian had troubles digesting food for some time...and they were wondering what the obstruction is, hopefully being nothing more serious than scar tissue from his previous operation.."

Six days later...

"The news came back on WCW referee Brian (Mark Curtis) Hildebrand. It isn't good.

Doctors were initially searching for what they believed to be a bowel obstruction, which became necessary after Brian lost 15 pounds due to the inability to digest food. But they have found much, much more than a bowel obstruction. The cancer has returned, with doctors advising Brian that the cancer is inoperable. Brian was in Lakeway Regional Hospital through the
weekend, and returned home on Monday.

As readers may be aware, Hildebrand was out of action for several months last year after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. He returned to working this spring at a Southern States Wrestling show and the NWA-sponsored Eddie Gilbert Memorial, before resuming his refereeing duties in WCW.

I've known Brian for five years, since SMW Fanweek 1993. Brian's responsible for two of the most special experiences of my life, Fanweek 1993 and 1994.

One of my favorite Fanweek stories involves the time I had to go with Brian to Knoxville's West Town Mall to get Jim Cornette a new tennis racquet. It seemed a local fan had taken it upon himself to steal Jim's racquet at a SMW house show the night before. Brian and I went to a sporting goods store and got the racquet. The clerk fell all over himself meeting 'Mark Curtis'. I stood and watched. As the clerk rang up the purchase, he asked me 'Can I help you, sir'. I replied 'I'm just here with Mr. Curtis'. We walked away into the Mall to grab lunch, and Brian asked me (referring to my keeping kayfabe) "How in hell did you just do that?" My reply: 'Because you and Jimmy taught us to remember that your folks down here "still believe".' It can be said, Brian, so have you, for your entire career in the industry.

Like Eddie Gilbert, Terry Funk, Mick Foley, and some of the best....he's always been a mark FOR the business, not about it. So his love and dedication for the wrestling business, right down to the word 'mark' in his ring name; his love for his lady Pam Murphy-Hildebrand, his friendship to others, and the heart he's shown fighting his cancer in the last year make him a truly exceptional individual thought of highly by nearly everyone in the industry.

That's why over the last week, people like Jim Cornette and Mick Foley have made their way down to Tennessee to see Brian. Hundreds of fans, and those in the wrestling industry have called him, or sent e-mail messages in recent days. It's been indicated these calls, e-mails, and cards have lifted Brian's spirits.

One example: I spoke to Tracy Smothers during the ECW Arena show two days ago, and asked if he'd heard about Brian. He said that he, Troy (Shane Douglas) Martin, and much of the ECW roster, who've worked with Brian (either in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, WCW, or in his one appearance in ECW) called him at the hospital over this past weekend. Tracy reminded me that 'Brian has a great heart, and sounds like he is keeping right on fighting.'"

Brian's friends in WCW showed him what they thought of him, as I talked about in the December 1, 1998 AS I SEE IT:

"...The honors for Brian on the November 29th show were broken up into two separate ceremonies, one before the show and one before the night's main event. Mike Tenay served as master of ceremonies. Those in the ceremony from Smoky Mountain Wrestling included Tim Horner, Sandy Scott, Les Thatcher, Tony (Dirty White Boy) Anthony, and his wife Kim.

Then Tony Schiavone, Larry Zbyszko, and Bobby Heenan came representing World Championship Wrestling. Schiavone told the story of how Brian came to earn the nickname within the company, "the shooter", during a match on a Monday Nitro when a fan ran in the ring and Brian took him down almost immediately.

Then, Brian was presented with the Referee of the Year award and the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Man of the Year Award, a special award given out only three times in history by the PWI magazines. Brian and Pam then received a standing ovation from the Knoxville crowd.

Brian later said at the ceremonies, as he has frequently to friends that "he had lucked out twice in his life, when he got into wrestling and when he met and married Pam." Despite dealing with what doctors have said to be inoperable cancer, it's his goal to return to the other love of his life, professional wrestling within two months.

The second half of the ceremony was held prior to the main event match of Chris Jericho/Eddie Guerrero-Chris Benoit/Dean Malenko. Brian and Pam were awarded an all-expenses paid honeymoon vacation in Las Vegas....according to his wife Pam, to replace the honeymoon vacation Brian had originally set up for he and Pam to go on at Halloween Havoc. Arn Anderson, Chris Benoit, and Dean Malenko then arrived, with comments by each. Ric Flair then appeared unannounced to a standing ovation awarding a replica of the WCW title belt to Brian.

Then there was the main event... Benoit, Malenko, Jericho and Guerrero are among Brian's favorites in the ring and close friends out of it (readers may recall my column on Eddie's reaction to Brian's original cancer diagnosis). Those of us in Philadelphia may get this Jericho/Guerrero-Benoit Malenko tag match later this month, but it's hard to imagine that they will be able to top this match in Knoxville...a match with all their signature spots, and with dedication and emotion befitting the moment.

Appropriately, the finish saw Jericho involve referee Mickey Jay in a ref bump. Benoit then hooked the Crippler Crossface on Jericho as Malenko put the Texas Cloverleaf on Guerrero. Brian then came out, ran in and signaled in his trademark demonstrative fashion for the bell. Brian then took off his shirt to reveal a Horsemen shirt underneath. The show concluded with Brian, Benoit, and Malenko doing the Horsemen sign. "

I remember talking to Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, and Eddie Guerrero after a WCW Philadelphia house show in early January, and complimented them on what they did.

At this point, they all pointed to one guy for what they'd done...Dean Malenko. Additionally, they mentioned Ric Flair.  When I asked Dean about it, he got really serious, seemed appreciative of the show being reported on, but didn't seem to want to get any credit for it. His response was more or less " was what we should have done".

Brian seemed somewhat embarrassed at all the attention he received, which isn't surprising. But in some ways it wasn't surprising that his friends reacted in such a way, given that it had been that there were only two people within the entire wrestling industry that had no enemies, Brian and Owen Hart. Sadly, we all know what happened to both of them that very year.

That July 30th, a fundraiser was done for Brian's medical expenses called "Curtis Comes Home", in suburban Pittsburgh, PA featuring a cross-promotional lineup of Shane Douglas, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko, Eddie Guerrero, Tracy Smothers, Chris Candido, Tim Horner, Tammy Sytch, Terry Taylor, Public Enemy, Hugh Morris, Al Snow, D-Lo Brown, Mick Foley and the actual WWF debut of Chris Jericho. The show raised $30,000 for Brian Hildebrand's medical expenses.

But sadly, on September 8, 1999, Brian ran out of time in his battle with cancer. I talked about it in the September 9, 1999 AS I SEE IT:

"I will always remember Brian Hildebrand as a man who lived and loved the wrestling business, who got to live his dream of making a living in wrestling as referee Mark Curtis for World Championship Wrestling. I remember a man who lived to his last day with more courage than anyone I've ever had the privilege to know.

Brian fought stomach cancer for nearly two years, after being diagnosed in October 1997. He refused to allow cancer to stop his incredible spirit and his wonderful sense of humor. He seemed amazed and somewhat embarrassed at all the attention his battle with cancer received...

...Brian kept himself going through sheer will and determination that he refereed a match for a local independent promotion only days before his death. He had the often-expressed hope of returning to work fulltime for WCW, and never gave up that dream.

It can be said that at the time Brian Hildebrand left this world, he knew he was loved and respected by all within the business he himself loved so much. While a small man in stature, Brian showed us all a giant heart that is an example for us all."

The sad news wasn't limited to Brian that year.

We all know too well about what happened on May 23, 1999.

I wrote about it in the May 25, 1999 AS I SEE IT:

"Real men do cry.

If there were any doubts of that fact before, there were none after May 23rd, a night which will be remembered for one of the worst tragedies in the history of the wrestling business. Along with millions, I watched the Over the Edge pay-per-view that night at home. It was a pay-per-view starting out pretty much like many WWF pay-per-views, with Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler trading their usual entertaining banter.

Then, as a video package promoting the match between "The Godfather" and Owen Hart for the Intercontinental Title began, I could hear Jim Ross say "something's gone wrong...". When the video package finished, the camera was showing a crowd shot. At first, I didn't understand what had happened. Then the faces and the words of Jerry Lawler and Jim Ross made it clear that something had gone horribly, tragically wrong...

I have to say I felt numb for most of Monday. I noticed that Dave Scherer of described much the same feeling. I'm sure we weren't the only people who felt that way.

Because on May 23rd, a man known for tremendous talent... for a sense of humor legendary within the wrestling business... and known for his great love for his wife Martha and his children Oje and Athena... was taken from this world far, far too soon. I think I had this feeling so strongly because I've had the privilege of seeing the human side of the business and writing about it. These are very real people that work as professional wrestlers. They aren't just characters to me...

...As fans, we need to respect how much these performers give to entertain people all over the world, both physically and emotionally. Next time you get ready to give a catcall after a wrestler "blows a spot", stop and think about the price he and she has paid to entertain you that day or night. Stop and think about the travel, the strain on their personal relationships, the drugs used to deal with the physical and emotional pain. Then think again if you need to make that comment."

Then in October, I had to write about the passing of Robert (Gorilla Monsoon) Marella and the tragic in-ring injury of Darren Drozdov in the October 8, 1999 AS I SEE IT:

"...Aside from the ring, some readers know that Robert Marella and his wife Maureen also adopted a son, Joey who became lead WWF referee in the late 1980s and 1990s. Some of us who knew of this relationship got to enjoy the running inside joke on WWF TV of Monsoon telling viewers how 'horrible' that referee Joey Marella was, each time Joey 'missed' heel interference in a match... It says something about the manner of man that Robert Marella was that he grieved for Joey as if he were his son by birth. There are those who say he never recovered completely from Joey's death."

The column also wrote about independent wrestler Jeff Peterson and his own cancer fight, first in the April 21, 2000 AS I SEE IT:

"My favorite thought on Jeff Peterson comes from one night last year at an ECWA show down at their homebase of St. Matthew's in Newport, Delaware. It was at the end of another of the traditional heel-babyface matches Kettner favors. As the end of this tag team match approached, my younger brother and I played armchair booker and tried to guess the finish. Then, one heel stood on the apron holding one of the babyfaces with his arms pinned waiting for the inevitable punch; so we said out loud "rollup, or...".

Immediately behind us, chirped this voice (in a carny stage whisper) "skiz-ool-biz-oy", with a grin on his face. It was Peterson, who was back in the crowd being a fan, after he'd already worked earlier in the evening.

I knew something was up last Saturday night when I attended the monthly ECWA show at St. Matthew's. We were let in unusually late. There was something missing from the workers all night. The sometimes raucous crowd of regulars even seemed unusually quiet. Of course, I found out the next day what that "something" was."

Despite extended chemotherapy and anxiety attacks brought on by his fight, Peterson somehow made it back to work one more match for his uncle Jim Kettner's ECWA promotion on April 6, 2002, as I talked about in theApril 6, 2002 AS I SEE IT column. Peterson finally died on November 29, 2002, after having fought back at least four times from death's door.

AS I SEE IT also wrote about Jim Cornette repaying his mother for a lifetime of support in the July 29, 2002 AS I SEE IT column:

"....I first met Jim Cornette back about 12 years ago when he first worked for Philadelphia independent promoter Joel Goodhart. Cornette will remember that visit, especially if anyone who sees him asks him about the story of the infamous watermelon truck (let him tell the's quintessential Cornette). He's also responsible, along with the late Brian Hildebrand, for two of the most enjoyable vacations of my life with the Smoky Mountain Wrestling Fanweeks in 1993 and 1994.

Along with the various shows we all traveled to during that week... there were the Q&As and the down time between shows filled with stories of Cornette's time in Bill Watts's Mid-South/UWF... such as the story that includes Jim Ross protecting Bill Watts's brand new Rolls Royce duting a fan riot in Tulsa; and his time in NWA/WCW... which included being asked by Jim Herd and Ole Anderson to wear a pumpkin at Halloween Havoc 1990 in Chicago...

...Well, as you've likely heard, Jim's going through a very rough time right now. As has been reported on, mentioned in this past week's Ross Report, and in this week's print edition of the Observer; Cornette had been taking time away from wrestling to take care of his seriously ill mother Thelma Cornette, who had been diagnosed in April with lung cancer. Despite receiving chemotherapy, Mrs. Cornette's cancer spread quickly. Word came from Miss Pamela of Ohio Valley Wrestling that Mrs. Cornette passed away last Saturday morning.

Many longtime wrestling fans remember Cornette's frequent storyline use of his mother in Bill Watts's Mid-South and UWF, Jim Crockett's NWA and Ted Turner's WCW; as the rich mother who would pay all of Cornette's various fines for various misdeeds (blown off with the trademark line "that's just a phone call home to my mother"); and allow him to "get great talent" like the Midnight Express, and the various heels he'd bring in to help him and the Midnight Express against the babyface of the day.

Mrs. Cornette was often the butt of on-air jibes by babyfaces designed to get Cornette mad, including the time that the Rock 'n Roll Express brought out a picture showing "Mamma Cornette" as a dog in glasses wearing a blonde wig, or the t-shirts in SMW depicting her with a pigface. In real life, Mrs. Cornette happily allowed her name to be used to get Cornette's character over for years, contributing greatly to the career of one of wrestling's best talkers, best managers, and most unique promoters.

I recently went back and watched a tape of the Q&A from SMW Fanweek 1994, when Cornette talked about his childhood as a wrestling fan, and being encouraged by his single mother (his father passed away when Cornette was 8 years old). Cornette said on the tape "She's always been supportive and everything... she knows I'm going to do something weird... she was just happy it was semi-legal".

But it went far beyond that. Thelma Cornette allowed young Jim to feed his imagination by letting him go to the homes of various relatives, and watch wrestling...lots of wrestling. He was able to see the television from Dick The Bruiser's Indianapolis territory, Nick Gulas's various programs from Chattanooga, Nashville, and Memphis, the last years of The Sheik's Detroit territory, Joe Cazana's Southeastern Championship Wrestling... and two shows that the adult Jim Cornette would later appear on as a professional: Jim Crockett's World Wide Wrestling, and Georgia Championship Wrestling on a brand new cable station, WTCG...which would become Superstation WTBS.

As he got a little older, Mrs. Cornette traveled to the Wrestling Fans International Association conventions with her young son back in the late 1970s. Later she supported him as he wrote programs, worked as a photographer, and did, as Cornette put it: 'any kind of stooge work I could' in the early 1980s. Cornette joked that it helped that 'the business was going so well back then, and I was selling so many photographs, that I was making more money then I am now [in 1994].'

She even worked the gimmick tables back in the early 1990s in Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and supported her son's love for one of the most unique artforms around. It seems sadly appropriate that Jim Cornette dropped wrestling for awhile to be with a mother who supported her son's love for the wrestling business for most of her lifetime... and his."

There were humorous moments as well, as taken from the March 28, 1999 AS I SEE IT column, written in a diary format of experiences around that year's WrestleMania weekend in Philadelphia:

"....I met another family... folks from Lima, OH who came out for the weekend. We talked about the atmosphere at the hotels at PPVs. The mother laughed about someone claiming he was 'an insider' giving them a hard time at last year's King of the Ring PPV, claiming they were 'nothing but groupies'.

I said to her 'First of all, he'd have called you a ring rat....if he was 'an insider'...since that's what he was trying to say'. At the mention of the phrase 'ring rat', two women looked up, annoyed, as if being insulted. The Lima family and I all burst into laughter together. No further comment was necessary...."

Finally, there were the columns about last year's Philadelphia independent war as the California-based XPW targeted Philadelphia area independent promotions in the summer and fall of 2002. XPW came into the Philadelphia market in the summer of 2002...and proceeded to operate according to their own rules, and no one else's, including the State of Pennsylvania's Athletic Commission.

This coverage and commentary started with the August 12, 2002 AS I SEE IT column with the following:

"The scheduled August 31 XPW show at the ECW Arena... a show which has had tickets sold, bus trips scheduled (from New York City), two commercials aired before and after the competing CZW promotion's TV show this past Saturday, and TV infomercials scheduled to advertise it (at 2:00 am on a local Philadelphia TV station)... is doing so without a license with the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission.

Repeated communications by myself with sources within the State Athletic Commission over the last two weeks indicated that this was the case. Further, it seems that XPW was not aware of the need to obtain a license, obtain a $10,000 surety bond, and officially inform the State that a show was to be held; all of which are Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission requirements.

Yet XPW has continued to sell tickets, rented the ECW Arena (reported to have paid twice the normal price, due to the late renting of the building), and a bus company has scheduled a bus trips to the show from the New York City area. On August 1st, in a direct communication with the State Athletic Commission, Steven Bryant of was told that XPW does not have a license to run in the State of Pennsylvania.

This story is being reported elsewhere; most notably in an early form by Dave Meltzer in this weekend's print edition of the Wrestling Observer, and by Jess McGrath of Given Jess McGrath's usual care for stories, it is likely that he obtained independent verification as well."

XPW went so far as to use the address of tape dealers RF Video (sponsor of the Ring of Honor promotion) without permission to fraudulently obtain a bond from The Hartford insurance company. An attorney from The Hartford stated that the bond was not legitimate and was later withdrawn. I had a crude graphic dedicated to me on the XPW website at the URL of the original
graphic of the "surety bond".

Then, 2 weeks later, XPW promoter Rob Black finally obtained a license and bond by striking a deal with Joe Blackburn, the promoter of the Delaware County-based Heritage Wrestling Association. After HWA got cold feet, XPW obtained their own license, despite the fact that they'd violated five major rules of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission.

The dirty pool continued, as XPW attempted to get regional indy workers to work exclusively for XPW and to no-show existing bookings with other promoters, as well as falsely advertise wrestlers who had no intention or interest in appearing, such as:

XPW did draw what seemed an impressive crowd for their August 31st debut ECW Arena show (paid and comped, with heavy comps).

Local independent promotions CZW and ROH, known to have a contentious relationship, joined together to deal with the XPW efforts to steal their talent and to obtain an exclusive lease on the ECW Arena. 3PW also worked with CZW in this effort.

CZW and ROH also responded by shuffling their November 9th shows to create an unheard of two show-two building indy wrestling super-doubleheader featuring such talent as Christopher Daniels, Donovan Morgan, Low Ki, Doug Williams, Mike Modest, Steve Corino, Spanky, Masato Tanaka, Shinjiro Ohtani, American Dragon, Paul London, AJ Styles, Michael Shane, The Amazing Red, CM Punk, then see Messiah, Backseat Boyz, Ruckus, MDogg 20, Sick Nick Mondo, Justice Pain, Wifebeater and Zandig... all in one day.

XPW responded by talent raiding, this time more successful...and by obtaining an exclusive lease on the ECW Arena as outlined in the December 23, 2002 AS I SEE IT:

"The inter-promotional atmosphere was heated up when XPW brought in MDogg20 and John Prohibition from CZW over the weekend, and put them over Mexico's Most Wanted, XPW's Tag Team Champions on their December 21 show. Given that this occurred prior to the December 28th tripleheader, MDogg20 and Josh Prohibition will no longer be used by CZW, and those matches will be re-booked (with MDogg 20 originally scheduled in a 3-way with Chris Cash and Ruckus, and Prohibition scheduled to work Ian Knoxx).

As for 3PW talent, Devon Storm appeared for XPW on December 21 (had been booked for 12/28 by 3PW), and Joey Matthews and Alexis Laree of ROH are also to join XPW. It's a curious step of Laree, who has been known to complain about the state of women's wrestling, and the inability to get bookings where she's treated seriously.

XPW had also attempted to steal Dusty Rhodes, as well as contacting Sean Waltman with a similar proposal. In a previous attempt to secure Rhodes's services, Rhodes was offered 10 dates with XPW in return for no-showing an upcoming 3PW show. Rhodes refused to return the telephone call given him by his secretary with the proposal.

Rhodes offered comment on the situation last Wednesday on an interview with Rhodes said that Black was a money mark, and "they are just taking the money while they can". Rhodes stated that he didn't see it being a viable promotion, and "so he wasn't gonna waste his time on it".

At various times over the last six months, XPW has tried to raid talent from the Ring of Honor roster including Homicide, Jodie Fleisch, both members of Da Hit Squad, Jay and Mark Briscoe, AJ Styles. Doug Williams, CM Punk, Jose Maximo, and The Amazing Red, as well as CZW talent including former CZW Heavyweight Champion Justice Pain and Tag Team Champions, The Backseat Boyz.

None of these attempts has been successful...making the only talent XPW has obtained from the Philadelphia-based indies being booked mid-card at best."

Despite this, the crowd at XPW's second show dropped by half, according to eyewitnesses... and dropped steadily each show from that point on.

In late December, AS I SEE IT featured a copy of a leaflet circulated around the neighborhood surrounding the ECW Arena expressing concerns about the nature of XPW's parent company, Extreme Associates; that the company would use the Arena as a storage location for their pornographic tapes, and that they would (as XPW publicly stated...then attempted to deny) and use the venue for a concert hall when not running wrestling shows. Local weekly newspapers picked up the story the following week and gave XPW some
unwelcome publicity.

Seemingly in response, XPW attempted to claim that they had a "developmental system" including IWA Mid-South, and several other independent promotions, which was news to all but one of the promotions in question.

Finally... all the lies, half-truths, exaggerations and threats started the house of cards XPW had built over the previous six months to come crashing down. First, as XPW's TV went off the air in Philadelphia due to non-payment and bounced checks. Then, a show on February 14th was abruptly cancelled, claiming "threats of winter weather" (despite the fact that other local promotions ran shows that evening)...when the actual reason was a lack of money to run the show.

Then, as reported in the March 4, 2003 AS I SEE IT, the house of cards totally collapsed:

"In a stunning turn of events, the news broke on February 28th from sources in CZW and to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission; that XPW had been evicted by the owners of Viking Hall due to bouncing checks to Viking Hall owners, as well as for violations of the agreement signed to lease the building. As a result, it was announced that CZW will return to the ECW Arena beginning at its March 8th show.

The deposit check by XPW for the ECW Arena initially bounced, as well as had other XPW checks to Viking Hall management. Viking Hall management had refused to take further personal checks as recently as February 2003's XPW show, and were forced to pay expenses with a combination of money orders, cashier's checks, and personal checks from individuals."

During the columns devoted to XPW attempted "invasion" of Philadelphia, I dealt with online namecalling, received threats (of lawsuits and otherwise), and telephone calls to my home at 4:00 am. In the end, though, I was found to have been 100% correct....XPW HAD been violating Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission regulations... HAD been operating via smoke and mirrors financially, despite their loyalists portraying them as some juggernaut that was going to take over Philadelphia's independent wrestling scene.

Extreme Associates is now dealing with a major Federal legal case surrounding their pornography business, and the XPW promotion hasn't run a wrestling show since February, despite claims that they're airing a "Best of" PPV on DirecTV this summer (which has already been postponed twice).

The last two weeks have gone over some of the subjects I've touched on in the AS I SEE IT columns over the last 300 columns and 7 years. As I said back in October 2001, the thought of people reading this column with everything from their morning coffee, to their evening tapas, to their Buffalo wings watching a PPV...from the 90 plus countries that read the column on PWBTS alone... is pretty mind-blowing when I think about it... for something that just started as a labor of love from a wrestling fan back in 1997 that was being read by maybe 200 or so people a month.

The fact that many of you have read these columns, and have told me how you read and react to my opinions gives me a sense of enjoyment and a reason to keep doing them.

Here's hoping that there are another 300 columns for me to write and you to think about.

Until next time...


(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at