As 2003 winds to a close, it's
time for the seventh annual AS I SEE IT Year-End Review.
by: Bob Magee
As usual, I should note that my selections are based on what I've actually seen this year, either live, TV, or via tape; which primarily means North American wrestling.
2003 PROMOTION OF THE YEAR:
Ring of Honor
Again this year, Ring of Honor gets this award because its shown the best combination of the most consistent product, logical booking, consistent crowds and successful business model for a major independent promotion in North America.
In a year with repeated outstanding show after outstanding shows that would have much of North America drooling had ROH the WWE promotional machine....those fans that have seen the ROH product, a product stressing simulated sports over not so entertaining (or stimulating) "entertainment".
Ring of Honor has added Baltimore, MD and Ohio as markets for its shows, as well as maintaining Philadelphia, North Jersey/New York, Boston, and Connecticut, and has combined its wrestling product with the RF Video sales of its tapes to produce a successful business model, as well as a spectacularly entertaining product.
2002 winner: Ring of Honor
2001 winner: WWF
2000 winner: WWF
1999 winner: WWF
1998 winner: WWF
1997 winner: WCW
2003 WRESTLER OF THE YEAR:
AJ Styles, NWA-TNA/ROH/Zero-One/independent
Most year-end award selections will pick Kurt Angle or Chris Benoit for this award, and with good reason. In a WWE that saw size all too often rewarded over in-ring ability, and saw storylines that featured members of the Angle and Benoit were the brightest lights, including their WWE Match of the Year selection (see below) at WWE Royal Rumble 2003. But with Angle injured at different times during the year...and Benoit stuck in situations where even HE couldn't shine...I had another selection in mind.
AJ Styles shined throughout 2003 as the brightest star of the independent wrestling world. 2003 highlights included his months as NWA World Champion working Raven and Jeff Jarrett, his many incredible singles matches with Ring of Honor including matches on: February 8th in New York City with Paul London and Low Ki, June 14th in Cambridge, MA with Paul London, the four way September 6th match in Wakefield, MA with Jay Briscoe, Samoa Joe, and Chris Sabin, October 16th in Glen Burnie, MD with CM Punk and November 1 in Elizabeth, NJ with "American Dragon" Bryan Danielson...along with his ROH tag team matches with The Amazing Red.
Styles has traveled through the United States, with promotions ranging from California's Pro Wrestling Guerrilla promotion, working Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian in a three way to Florida's MXPW working Chris Sabin and Christopher Daniels.
Styles also traveled to Japan's Zero-One promotion for a January 5th match with Low-Ki seen by many as a Japanese Match of the Year candidate; and to top out his year, worked Kaz Hayashi at the ROH/All Japan Final Battle 2003 supershow in Philadelphia only days ago.
I picked Styles because of his year-round consistency in performance, his incredible talent (even more remarkable for someone only who's only been in wrestling four years).
Now perhaps someone can explain to me why Nathan Jones and John Heidenreich have WWE contracts, and why AJ Styles was only offered a WWE developmental contract, which he turned down...making clear that he could make more money working his legitimate job and working NWA-TNA, Ring of Honor and other independent dates...versus going to OVW, being trained to work a company style and relocate his wife who is reported to be attending college.
In an interview with Canada's SLAMwrestling.com, he stated his reasons: "... I am honored that they offered me a contract," he said. "Financially I couldn't afford to go up there. My wife was in college and I was the sole provider. It wasn't feasible for me to move to Cincinnati for a developmental deal when I was making nothing. God and family are more important to me. I couldn't do it to my wife."
Being a remarkable person in a business with too few who'd give a damn enough about their marriage to turn down an opportunity...is yet one more good reason for me to have made this pick.
2002 winner: Kurt Angle, WWE
2001 winner: Chris Jericho, WWF
2000 winner: Hunter Hearst Helmsley, WWF
1999 winner: Chris Benoit, WWF
1998 winner: Steve Austin, WWF
1997 winner: Eddie Guerrero, WCW
2002 WORST WRESTLER OF THE YEAR:
Nathan Jones, WWE
It seems almost unfair to pile on the man, after Jones's recent departure from WWE, citing "homesickness and all of the travel"; but Jones gets this award; only because John Heidenreich wasn't in WWE for that long of a period...spending much of the year on Ohio Valley Wrestling.
Jones was one more example of Vince McMahon's obsession with big muscular men...and total ignorance of talented smaller workers that are stuck on Velocity, dark matches, or elsewhere in wrestling. It seems that Jones was hired because he had a ready-made gimmick, namely having served 10 years in prison for armed robbery, not to mention having scary strength and a psychotic look.
Jones then showed his talent on the World Wrestling All-Stars Eruption PPV from Melbourne, Australia back on April 13, 2002. As I said in last year's Awards for this PPV, listed here as the worst major card/PPV of 2002:
"Then there was Nathan Jones-Scott Steiner. When you have to depend on Scott Steiner, still working hurt, to carry a wrestler whose main strength is that he's big (think Big Show minus 5 years experience)...you're in trouble."
Despite this less than stellar record, along with a mess of personal baggage, Jones was signed to a developmental contract with Ohio Valley Wrestling. Unfortunately, there's only so much Danny Davis and Jim Cornette can do, and what happened after he was called up (anyone want to explain why Nick Dinsmore is STILL in Ohio Valley Wrestling?).
His WWE career seemingly ended in early December before a WWE show in Perth, Australia... when after a difficult overseas trip that included a difficult ride over Russia and an extremely rough landing in South Korea; Jones grabbed his bags, said he "couldn't take the business anymore" (specifically homesickness and heavy travel) and quit WWE.
Here's hoping he at least has a happier life...in a area where his talents can be better discovered and utilized.
2002 "winner" Shane Douglas, Major League Wrestling/XPW
2001 "winner": Buff Bagwell, WCW/WWF/independent
2000 "winner": Kevin Nash, WCW
1999 "winner": Hulk Hogan, WCW
1998 "winner": Giant Silva, WWF
1997 "winner": Hulk Hogan, WCW
2003 TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR:
America's Most Wanted (Chris Harris and James Storm), NWA-TNA
Harris and Storm gave the most consistent performances of a tag team that was together for the larger part of 2003. They especially showed this in their matches with Christopher Daniels, Low-Ki and Elix Skipper (XXX) throughout the year in NWA-TNA. I wish that TNA Explosion had wider viewership available..so that those who aren't buying TNA PPVs could see the consistency of these two. It's worth taking the time to view any of the Best Of PPVs during the holidays that might show the AMW-XXX June 25, 2003 TNA match of the year.
2002 winner: Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit, WWE
2001 winner: Matt and Jeff Hardy, WWF
2000 winner: Matt and Jeff Hardy, WWF
1999 winner: Matt and Jeff Hardy, WWF
1998 winner: Sabu/Rob Van Dam, ECW
1997 winner: Sabu/Rob Van Dam, ECW
2003 ANGLE/FEUD OF THE YEAR WINNER:
Danny Maff/Maffia "retirement angle", Jersey All Pro Wrestling, September 27, 2003, Rahway, NJ
In an era where angles are so seldom done well...let alone retirement angles (often done to death)... where kayfabe is totally out the window...and where it seems that nearly everything has been seen at least twice...it's rare to see an angle that HAS previously been done...done so well that it even fools and gets the praise of Internet types, Northeast United States smart marks (often the most cynical and hard-to-please of all), and people who hated the idea to begin with.
This angle, done by the North Jersey-based Jersey All Pro Wrestling, incorporated a real life situation of Danny (Maff) Lopez's head injury at the hands of Low Ki at a August 16th Ring of Honor Fairfield, CT show, and initial real life questions as to the long term extent of the injury, had fans fooled both live and online. It also built upon the sympathy fans had for the recent death of his father. The angle came off so well it'll be difficult to do it justice here in this brief mention. You won't even see some of the best parts of it on the commercial tape of the show.
Maff came out at intermission of the September 27th show and did a retirement speech, bringing out the JAPW locker room, most notably Homicide, who trained Lopez (and "turning over" the JAPW heel group La Familia to Homicide)...and referee Sean Hansen from JAPW who is known to be his real life friend. Maff does great promos...and had 95% of the crowd buying every word. The crowd was completely respectful for the entire segment, buying it hook, line and sinker. Mafia shook their hands, and then hugged Hansen in the ring before leaving.
Then...there was an intermission where Lopez went out in character (although no one knew it at the time) and signed autographs, talked about what "he'd do next" with fans. This won't be on any commercial tape, but it was done so well and helped sell the angle to all present.
Fast forward to the show's main event featuring Homicide against Terry Funk.
Heel tag team (and part of the La Familia group) Dirty Rotten Scoundrels came out and jumped Funk. After a beatdown, which Homicide joined in on. Maff came out, still dressed up from earlier, pushed off Homicide, who in the scuffle, accidentally hit him with a chair. Maff got up, made out like he was walking away, then blasted Funk with a chair shot...making clear that he'd worked the entire crowd. He did a final heat-filled promo telling the crowd that "Maffia" may have retired, but Danny Maff was "here to stay".
After the fact, even those who smelled retirement angle early on, applauded this angle...because it was simply so well done. Lopez played his role to perfection...brought back the art of good old fashioned kayfabe and put over this angle incredibly well.
2002 winner: AJ Styles-Jerry Lynn, NWA-TNA/Ring of Honor
2001 winner: ECW turns on WWF, July 9, 2001, Phillips Arena, Atlanta
2000 winner: The Stephanie McMahon-Vince McMahon-Shane McMahon-HHH-Kurt Angle soap opera
1999 winner: Test (Andrew Martin)-Stephanie McMahon Wedding angle
1998 winner: Vince McMahon as heel promoter versus Steve Austin
1997 winner: nWo-WCW angle
2003 WORST/MOST TASTELESS ANGLES OF THE YEAR:
Vince/Stephanie McMahon angle for "control of Smackdown" leading up to No Mercy match
Aside from the fact that this angle featured members of the McMahon family to the exclusion of the still-sizable WWE talent roster, featured a 50 year old man trying to act like something out of Flex Magazine...and that the payoff match to the angle was heavily pushed in on-air advertisements to the exclusion of other matches...and aside from the fact that this match was illegal under Maryland state law...this match creeped me out. Given all that I've seen, it takes some serious stuff to creep me out with a wrestling match.
There's some serious psychosexual karma that's got to come out of a father having a wrestling match with his daughter 6 days before she's supposed to be married...one where he's physically choking out his daughter, even if it's a work.
Honorable mention for Tasteless Angle of 2003 goes to Texas independent wrestling promotion Professional Championship Wrestling, for its angle on a live show staging an electrocution of the promotion's storyline owner, Meredith Kensington (who was moving out of the area, and was being written out) on the promotion's November 22 show. The angle had Kensington "electrocuted" when Mike Foxx threw water on her while she was holding a live mike. They went so far as to take her out in an ambulance, actually stopped the show, and cleared the crowd before the scheduled main event took place.
The promotion then claimed that Kensington had "died", cancelled its next show "in honor of their late owner". Finally, on the December 13th show, the promotion went on to read the "Last Will And Testament" of Kensington. Killing off a character is one thing, but doing an angle where someone is "killed" via a staged electrocution before a live crowd that may not know better is another.
2002 "winner": Katie Vick angle, WWF/E
2001 "winner": Vince McMahon "Kiss My Ass" angle, Monday Night RAW, November 19, 26, and 28
2000 "winner": Stacey Keibler-David Flair and Mark Henry-Mae Young "pregnancy angles", WWF
1999 "winner": The Paul Wight/Big Bossman "cancer angle", WWF
1998 "winner": Ric Flair "heart attack" angle and the Hawk/Scott Hall drug angles, WCW
1997 "winner": DeGenerationX/Nation of Domination "racial angle", WWF
2003 MATCHES OF THE YEAR:
WWE: Chris Benoit-Kurt Angle, WWE Royal Rumble 2003, Boston, MA January 19, 2003
NWA-TNA: America's Most Wanted-XXX (Christopher Daniels/Elix Skipper) steel cage match, Nashville, TN, June 25, 2003
Independent: Steve Corino-Homicide, Ring of Honor, "Bitter Friends, Stiffer Enemies" Fairfield, CT, August 16th, 2003
Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit put on a 20 minute wrestling classic at the Royal Rumble. This, along with their entire series, has become as close as is possible to being the Flair-Steamboat series for our generation. This match, more than any of WWE's material on TV and PPV this year...filled with overexposure of McMahons and their in-laws, and silly backstage skit after silly backstage skit...showed that it isn't "sports entertainment" that is neither sports or entertaining that fans want to see... but instead it's WRESTLING on a world class level like this, that we remember the most of all.
NWA-TNA's America's Most Wanted-XXX cage match featured a payoff to a long-term feud between America's Most Wanted and XXX, with tremendous action, twists, turns and false finishes throughout the match, with a "Death Sentence" finish off of the top of the cage that had to be seen to be believed.
Ring of Honor's MOTY was an old school hardcore match. In an era where hardcore matches feature everything short of flamethrowers and napalm at twenty paces, the match with Steve Corino and Homicide came off like an old school match from the days when fans still believed that the heel and face really hated each other, and simply beat the crap out of each other...so much so that Steve Corino wound up with a ruptured eardrum. The sheer viciousness with which the two worked the match was scary to watch, even on tape.
WWE: Edge/Rey Mysterio vs. Kurt Angle/Chris Benoit, No Mercy, Little Rock, AK, October 20, 2002
Independent: Christopher Daniels vs. Low Ki vs. Spanky vs. Doug Williams - 60 minute Iron Man Match, Ring of Honor, Philadelphia, PA, July 27, 2002
WWF: Edge & Christian vs. Hardy Boyz vs. Dudley Boyz - Tables, Ladders and Chairs II - WrestleMania X-Seven, AstroDome, Houston, TX, April 1, 2001
Independent: Christopher Daniels vs. Low Ki vs. Scoot Andrews vs. American Dragon, East Coast Wrestling Association, Wilmington, DE, September 22, 2001
WCW: Booker T vs. Jeff Jarrett, "Bash At The Beach", Ocean Center, Daytona Beach, FL, June 9, 2000
WWF: "Tables, Ladders and Chairs" Match - Matt/Jeff Hardy vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Edge/Christian, SummerSlam, Raleigh, NC, August 27, 2000.
ECW: Psicosis-Yoshihiro Tajiri, ECW Arena, Philadelphia, PA, August 19, 2000
WCW: Chris Benoit-Bret Hart, Monday Nitro, Kemper Arena, Kansas City, MO, October, 1999
WWF: Matt/Jeff Hardy-Edge/Christian, Tag Team Ladder Match, "No Mercy", Cleveland, OH, October 17, 1999
ECW: Rob Van Dam/Jerry Lynn, ECW Arena, Philadelphia, PA, August 28, 1999.
WCW: Chris Jericho/Eddie Guerrero-Chris Benoit/Dean Malenko, November 29th, Knoxville Civic Coliseum
WWF: Mankind (Mick Foley)-Undertaker Hell in a Cell Match "King of the Ring" PPV, June 28, 1998
ECW: Jerry Lynn-Rob Van Dam, August 8, 1998, ECW Arena
WCW: Rey Mysterio, Jr.- Eddie Guerrero, WCW "Halloween Havoc" PPV, 10/27/97, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV
WWF: Shawn Michaels-Undertaker, "In Your House: Badd Blood" PPV, 10/5/97, Kiel Center, St. Louis, MO
ECW: Great Sasuke/Gran Hamada/Masato Yakushiji-TAKA Michinoku/Dick Togo/Terry Boy, "Barely Legal" PPV, 4/13/97, ECW Arena, Philadelphia, PA
2003 CARD/PPV OF THE YEAR:
WWE: WWE Wrestlemania XIX, Safeco Field, Seattle, WA, March 30, 2003
NWA-TNA: NWA-TNA Super X Cup, Nashville Fairgrounds, Nashville, TN, September 3, 2003 (taped August 20 and 27, 1993)
Independent: All Japan/Ring of Honor Final Battle 2003, Philadelphia, PA December 27, 2003
As often happens, WWE saves its big matches and storylines for Wrestlemania..and did so again this year.
WrestleMania XIX gave fans "spectacle" in Hulk Hogan-Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin-The Rock. Them, there was the actual wrestling with Chris Jericho- Shawn Michaels, Eddie/Chavo Guerrero-Chris Benoit/Rhyno-Shelton Benjamin & Charlie Haas...and Kurt Angle-Brock Lesnar (now if only Lesnar had hit the shooting star press that he hit a hundred times before, instead of nearly lobotomizing himself...people would be talking about this match for years).
For those of you who demand bathroom breaks and/or gratuitous sex...you had the Miller Lite Catfight Girls. For those who preferred their women on a wrestling show to have a useful talent actually related to wrestling and not to product placement on a PPV, you got, Trish Stratus-Jazz-Victoria.
The NWA-TNA Super X Cup (technically taped over a two week period, but aired as one show) that featured matches such as Juventud Guerrera-Nosawa, Teddy Hart-Jonny Storm, Chris Sabin-Jerry Lynn, Frankie Kazarian-Michael Shane, Teddy Hart-Juventud Guerrera, Chris Sabin-Frankie "The Future" Kazarian, Chris Sabin-Juventud Guerrera; and an old school War Games match...this had something for everyone. Now if TNA could only get more people to watch this alternative to the WWE product that they're turning off...
As for ROH/All Japan's Final Battle 2003 as independent card of the year, how can you vote against a show that gives you: Great Muta/Arashi-Christopher Daniels/Dan Maff, Samoa Joe-Mark Briscoe, Homicide-Satoshi Kojima, Matt Stryker vs. BJ Whitmer, AJ Styles vs. Kaz Hayashi, John Walters vs. Xavier, CM Punk/Colt Cabana- Tomoaki Honma/Kazushi Miyamoto, and.... for an opener... American Dragon" Bryan Danielson-Jay Briscoe....a show that shattered Philadelphia and overall company attendance records with over 1500 paid in attendance.
If that wasn't enough, the "Convention Card" that took place in the afternoon (more or less an equivalent to the promotion's Showcase cards that precede regular shows), you got Trent Acid-Sonjay Dutt, Johnny Kashmere vs. Slyk Wagner Brown (with April Hunter)-CZW's Hardcore Nick Gage vs. Deranged, Loc/Devito/Justin Credible vs. Special K, Briscoe Brothers-SAT, and California/New Japan's Puma (Pinoy Boy)-Josh Daniels.
Honorable mention goes to CZW's Cage of Death V for meeting and exceeding all expectations for a show at the very time the promotion badly needed such a "home run moment", including one of the most insane concepts for a Cage of Death match imaginable...yet still falling within the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission's draconian rules.
WWE: WWE Summer Slam 2002, Fleet Center, Boston, MA, August 25, 2002
Independent: Ring of Honor "Road To The Title" Philadelphia, PA, June 22, 2002
WWF: WrestleMania X-Seven, AstroDome, Houston, TX, April 1, 2001
Independent: 2001 Super Eight tournament, ECWA, St. Matthew's Parish Hall, Wilmington, DE February 24, 2001
2000 winner: WWF "Fully Loaded", Reunion Arena, Dallas, TX, July 23, 2000
1999 winner: "Anarchy Rulz", ECW Odeum Sports and Exposition Center, Villa Park, IL, September 19, 1999
1998 winner: "Survivor Series", St. Louis, MO, Keil Center November 15, 1998
1997 winner: "Barely Legal", ECW Arena, Philadelphia, PA, April 13, 1997
2003 WORST CARD/PPV OF THE YEAR:
WWE No Mercy (SmackDown brand), Baltimore, MD, October 19, 2003
When a PPV features the Vince McMahon-Stephanie McMahon match for "control of Smackdown", a match that would have likely resulted in the loss of a promotional license if it had been run by any other promotion in Maryland (and the winner for Tasteless Angle of the Year due to its sexual creepiness)...the adventures of John Heidenreich and his "little Johnny"...when it features Big Show being put over Eddie Guerrero for the US Title...Chris Benoit getting to show off his world-class talent against the stellar A-Train...and even more McMahon, with Vince McMahon involved in the main event finish...
I must not have been the only one who felt this way, as Maryland fans voted with their dollars live with the lineup for this PPV. The PPV drew only 9,000 to a partially filled First Mariner Arena, a poor crowd for wrestling hotbed Baltimore. WWE's response to Baltimore fans was to punish them by pulling the RAW scheduled for January 27th in Baltimore, and moving it to Washington, DC's MCI Center.
2002 "winner": World Wrestling All-Stars Eruption, Melbourne, Australia, April 13, 2002
2001 "winner": WCW "Sin", January 14, 2001, Indianapolis, IN.
2000 "winner": WCW Slamboree, Kemper Arena, Kansas City, MO, May 7, 2000
1999 "winner": WCW Fall Brawl 1999
1998 "winner": WCW Fall Brawl 1998
1997 "winner": ECW Hardcore Heaven 1997, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
2003 BEST TV SHOW OF THE YEAR:
Ohio Valley Wrestling, WBKI 34, Louisville, KY (airing in Kentucky and Indiana)
Again...the one TV show with logical and coherent old school storylines has been OVW's TV. Jim Cornette has managed to do this despite call-ups with no allowance to finish main event storylines and despite WWE pairing wrestlers that had just been engaged in long-terms feuds.
Even with an old-school feel, it's wrestling you don't have to be embarrassed to watch, or tell your friends you watch, either.
2002 winner: Ohio Valley Wrestling, WBKI 34, Louisville, KY (airing in Kentucky and Indiana)
2001 winner: Monday Night RAW, TNN
2000 winner: Monday Night RAW, USA Network and TNN
1999 winner: Monday Night RAW, USA Network
1998 winner: Monday Night RAW, USA Network
1997 winner: Monday Nitro, Turner Network Television
2003 WORST TV SHOW OF THE YEAR:
The Wrestling Federation (yep, that was actually their name) aired in Philadelphia, southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, southern New Jersey on WGTW Channel 48
This promotion, which came out of a group of self-admitted backyarders that ran shows in the Plymouth Meeting, PA area several years ago, restarted its "promotion"...and ran for a grand total of 2 months on Philadelphia's WGTW. This program was the successor in the Monday night/Tuesday morning slot after XPW's TV stopped airing in Philadelphia.
The Wrestling Federation's TV made public access look like high definition television...with lighting so bad the in-ring action appeared to be black and white...with distortions in the tape, and announcers that were, to be charitable, clownish at best. If I could remember their names (Lord knows I tried hard to forget them)...they'd have beaten out Jonathan Coachman by a country mile for Worst Announcer in these awards.
The promotion apparently found a money mark to fund the television during those weeks, but had little or no name talent for the live shows it was promoting, drew next to no one, and quickly disappeared from the Philadelphia independent landscape.
2002 "winner": WXW Rage TV - aired in Philadelphia, northeastern Pennsylvania, north central New Jersey, and syndicated in parts of American Samoa, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.
2001 "winner": Monday Nitro, WCW, TNT
2000 "winner": Monday Nitro, TNT
1999 "winner": Monday Nitro, TNT
1998 "winner": Music City Wrestling TV
1997 "winner": USWA Television, USWA
2003 TV ANNOUNCER OF THE YEAR:
Mike Tenay, NWA-TNA PPV/TNA Explosion
For two years in a row, Mike Tenay has done what a wrestling announcer is supposed to do...get over the action...get over the angles being presented...and make fans interested in both of them.
2002 winner: Mike Tenay, NWA-TNA PPV/TNA Explosion
2001 winner: Jim Ross, WWF
2000 winner: Jim Ross, WWF
1999 winner: Jim Ross, WWF
1998 winner: Jim Ross, WWF
1997 winner: Mike Tenay, World Championship Wrestling
2003 WORST TV ANNOUNCER OF THE YEAR:
Jonathan Coachman, WWE Sunday Night Heat, WWE Monday RAW
Once upon a time, there was a harmless enough announcer who worked on Sunday Night Heat. He did little or nothing to annoy, as the show was just your average light programming (except for the weeks before a PPV).
Then, someone on the booking team got the bright idea to make him incarnation number 2,349 of Bobby Heenan or Jesse Ventura as a heel announcer on both Heat...and occasionally on RAW, when Jim Ross "lost his job" via stipulation or "quit" his job, due to the (also overdone) heel promoter shtick of Eric Bischoff.
If that wasn't bad enough, WWE seemingly can't figure out whether or not Coachman is supposed to be a heel announcer from week to week. So his already limited on-air personna is figuratively bounced around the landscape...from week to week...and even from segment to segment. Witness, for example, Coachman having to introduce a touching segment of Bill Goldberg with a young girl with a disfiguring disease from a Maury Povich show. He's trying to play heel announcer (who hates Goldberg, since Eric Bischoff does)...and is trying to get OVER Goldberg at the same time as a decent human being who likes children.
Confused yet? So are most viewers...each week.
2002 "winner": Jessica Dally, WXW Rage TV
2001 "winner": Tony Schiavone, WCW, TNT and TBS
2000 "winner": Tony Schiavone, WCW
1999 "winner": Tony Schiavone, WCW
1998 "winner": Bert Prentice, MCW
1997 "winner": Tony Schiavone, WCW
2003 NEWS STORIES OF THE YEAR:
The epidemic of deaths within wrestling, many of which involved past or current drug and alcohol use
The listing of deaths within wrestling in 2003...seemingly on a once per week or once per month basis...became almost numbing. Deaths such as Stu Hart, Frdddie Blassie, and Dick Hutton are sad enough...as it means that a part of wrestling's past has ended. In the cases of others, wrestlers died too young...but died from natural causes or accidents.
But all too many of the deaths in 2003 were the result of past or current drug and alcohol use...even long after those in question has seemingly cleaned up their lives. In cases like Curt Hennig, "Miss" Elizabeth Hulette, Bruiser Brian Cox, Anthony (Pitbull 2) Durante, and Michael Lockwood; the causes were ruled to be drug overdoses. In others, death resulted from the long-term effects of past drug use, such as Michael (Road Warrior Hawk) Hegstrand.
State Athletic Commissions have continued to do absolutely nothing about these deaths, even though the reason for the governance of wrestling is ostensibly to govern the health and safety of workers. Instead they serve primarily as a cash cow for State governments. They seem far more interested in whether or not someone's using light tubes or barbed wire than keeping the wrestlers that they over see alive.
Philadelphia independent scene
The Philadelphia region has featured one of the richest, and sometimes the wildest independent scenes of any city in North America in 2003....let alone pretty much every other year.
The year began with the independent wars featuring XPW against Philadelphia-based promotions CZW, 3PW, and ROH that carried over from 2002...and the unwillingness of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission to do anything about it...save to use it as an excuse to over-regulate wrestling content while ignoring the issues surrounding the illegal business practices of XPW...until February 2003 when XPW ran out of money...and using "weather conditions" as an excuse, cancelled a Saturday show of a much-ballyhooed doubleshot Philadelphia weekend, despite vehemently denying online the fact this would happen (to the extent of threats to sue this columnist) until the promotion's fans heard the announcement from the ring announcer the night before.
2003 also featured CZW's ups with their Best of the Best show and downs with moving to a new building for 2 months, summer attendance problems, and battles with Dover's City Council regarding content after a successful summer season of shows there. Their year, however, ended on a very high note as an SRO crowd of over 1,000 fans jammed the ECW Arena for the fifth annual Cage of Death show.
The year also featured Ring of Honor's successes and growth to include shows in Baltimore, Elizabeth, NJ, the Boston area, Connecticut, and Ohio. The promotion outgrew its Philadelphia home and moved to a larger facility in northeast Philadelphia, beginning with the All Japan/Ring of Honor show on December 27th, with the promotion drawing a record crowd of 1500 fans.
Continued problems with WWE house show/TV taping business.
The promotion cancelled or moved shows in a number of small markets throughout 2003 due to poor ticket sales. This trend continued, including cancellations only 10 days prior to the show dates for late December RAW house shows in El Paso and Lubbock, TX.
The last house show in WWF/E'sr traditional home, Madison Square Garden, only drew a paid attendance of 6,873, the lowest paid MSG show attendance in 7 years, and the fourth smallest paid crowd since 1960.
The trend is continuing, as WWE even had to cancel/move upcoming shows in traditional wrestling markets during the first months of 2004 in Baltimore (a January 27th RAW taping cancelled and moved to Washington, DC), and New York (a January 12, 2004 Smackdown house show scheduled in nearby Elizabeth, NJ).
NWA-TNA survives for another year
The mere fact that this is being written is a surprise to many who have figured NWA-TNA to have closed its doors along time ago. Panda Energy's infusion of money saved the promotion once...and continues to keep them alive, while they obtain the needed widespread TV coverage that they need to build their exposure...and their PPV buys.
2004 is likely to feature an announcement that TNA will be buying time on Chicago's superstation WGN. Here's hoping it helps with the buyrates.
2002 stories: The WWF "brand extension", dropping WWE house show business, PTC forced to surrender, NWA-TNA, Philadelphia independent wars
2001 stories: WWF purchase of WCW, ECW closes its doors, WCW "Invasion angle" goes nowhere, WWF ratings and live attendance drop
2000 stories: Mainstreaming of wrestling continues, WWF-ECW-TNN-USA TV network roulette, WWF goes public, PTC censorship attempts continue... but with organized efforts fighting them, WCW set to lose as much as $80 million
1999 stories: Deaths of Owen Hart and Brian Hildebrand, Foley's "Have A Nice Day" goes to #1 on New York Times Best-Seller List, WWF CD DEBUTS at number 4 on Billboard Chart, ECW TV on TNN, Parents Television Council censorship attempts
1998 stories: Changes in WWF product (making it more adult in nature), ECW's 1998 problems, Mainstream attention given the wrestling business, Jesse Ventura's election to Governorship of Minnesota
1997 stories: Brian Pillman death, Bret Hart leaving WWF/Title Change Doublecross
That's the AS I SEE IT year in review.
Until next time...
If you have comments/questions, or if you'd like to add the AS I SEE IT
column to your website, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)