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Wrestling Observer Live w/Gabe Sapolsky & RAVEN!!!!111 *mtfo*

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Wrestling Observer Live Report | 4/11/04 (Raven, Gabe Sapolsky)


(Personal thoughts in parentheses)


(I had someone else taking notes for me for the first half hour because of a local power outage tampering with my network connection. The gist is here. I pick up at the designated point below).


There are no plans for Austin to be on Raw anytime soon. He’s at a contract impasse with WWE, he wants to have the rights to his name and WWE doesn’t want to them to him. Caller asks if Rock has the rights to his name and has potential to make millions, why can’t Austin get it? Dave says that the WWE has merchandise contracts with outside sources and if Austin makes his own video, for example, and competes with the video of the outside source, that outside source can sue WWE.


John Lauriniatis took Jim Ross’s job. Jim Ross promoted to position of Business Strategic Development.


TNA - ROH controversy. Essentially, TNA wanted ROH folks to sign a contract saying ROH would be liable for any damages incurred if Rob Feinstien returned to the company, and ROH reps thought it was too vague to sign (for better detail, refer to Raven’s and Sapolsky‘s appearances on the show below). Independent wrestlers are not making much money and not being allowed to work for other promoters under a deal TNA wants their guys to sign. Everyone else sees this as ridiculous.


Grand Prix 2 weeks away, not one match announced but 14 names in the mix. August 15 will be the final four. K1 is trying to steal talent from UFC and Pride. Bryan says….3 guys you think are going to win, the rest you would be so shocked if you won.


Jonathan in Savannah asks about the Smackdown PPV Eddie vs. Bradshaw main. Who will receive the blame for the buy rate. Dave says the internet…. HHH probably likes this scenario because the April pay-per-view will beat the May paper view, so he’s fine. Dave said HHH is not trying to sabotage Eddie.


(I start here) Dave said there is some resentment of Orton because he‘s cocky. There is resentment of Batista because he never did anything in the ring to deserve a big push, and finally with Cena everyone realizes he’s a real good promo so there‘s little tension there.


Talk turns to K-1 talking about signing Tyson Monday. Dave says even if Tyson actually does sign, he won’t believe it until he’s in the ring. In fact, Dave doesn’t even believe it when Tyson is in the ring because he may just walk out after taking one leg kick. Dave said we’ve heard about Tyson signing since August. Dave said Inoki had been dropping his name for a long time, but Dave never bought it once.


Speaking of Inoki, Bryan mentions the 8’2 guy New Japan is hyping for the next Tokyo Dome show. Bryan said a photo released of the guy to hype him up has his face blurred, and it’s things like that make him love Inoki. Bryan said it’s not Giant Gonzalez because it’s a white guy. Bryan would like to see the 8 foot guy v. Sapp, or Hogan v. Akebono with the winner facing Sapp. Dave said New Japan has been waiting to hook up with Akebono before they start announcing matches for the Dome show. Dave saw the Akebono/Musashi match and it was pretty awful. Dave doesn’t know about Akebono in pro wrestling. Dave said he’ll be worse in pro wrestling because in real combat you can get beat up and that‘s something, but when you’re bad in pro wrestling it’s even worse. Bryan said Akebono is the world’s fattest punching bag right now and it‘s sad.


Mark in Danbury, CT., wonders about Benjamin’s spot on the PPV. Dave said they have to do something with Benjamin, and would have to shoot it out of main event tomorrow night for his match at the PPV. The Flair is not booked for Sunday opens a possibility for Benjamin.


Mark wonders if Vince cares enough to send Flair off properly. Dave said wrestling isn’t very good with that, plus to send him off properly means he has to go away permanently, but Flair’s never going to go away. Baseball player Minnie Monoso played a in 7 different decades, and Mark wonders if Flair can make it in seven different decades. Dave said Flair would have to be active in 2030 to make seven decades. They point to Moolah working at 80, and Thesz working at 74.


Mark talks about the bi-monthly WWE PPV test coming up in June and October and wonders if two shows in one month hurts the buy rate, he wonders how they would reunify the brands. Dave doesn’t think they’ll do that, rather they’ll go back to 12, and will never go past 20 PPV a year, because they wouldn’t run a show the same month as Wrestlemania and Summerslam and Survivor Series and Rumble.


Mark says with the cash WWE ‘s sitting on, they’re waiting for the next big money thing to hit, shouldn’t they be happy making 4 and 5 percent profit? Dave said you just wait for the quarterly report this time with the Mania revenue, and they’re making handfuls money and their business hasn’t even turned around. Dave said the WWE’s business hasn’t declined in probably a year and as long as it stays at this level they’re going to make money forever. Dave said the talent would suffers via pay cuts if attendance goes down, not the company itself.


RAVEN is with us and as a mathematical contention on the Flair/7 decade stuff. Flair started in 72, so he’d actually have to go to 2030 to work in seven decades. Terry Funk, who started in 65, would only have to go to until 2020, which is 16 more years, and he’ll be 75, and that’s a tough one, Dave said. Raven said he wouldn’t be doing the moonsault anymore, and said he doesn’t even do it anymore now.


In regards to the WWE’s position, Raven said he figured out years ago that they’re never going to go away. Raven said there is a bottom line amount of people that are never going to stop watching WWE and it’s not that low of a number. Dave said if they lose television that’s what will kill it dead. Raven agrees but says that won’t happen. Raven said he was behind the brand split because it wouldn’t make any sense to put them back together. Dave says if UPN goes out of business it would make sense. Raven said all things being equal, there would be no reason to brings the brands back together and he supports it.


Wednesday night we’ve got Raven v. Harris with the winner facing Jarrett on the 21st in a cage for the title.


Talks turn to the TNA-ROH situation and Raven‘s experience with ROH. Raven said he loves performing, but he’s not a fan of watching much wrestling anymore, so he hasn’t followed the websites and isn‘t up to speed with the TNA-ROH impasse. Raven said his price tag is too high for ROH and it’s not financially feasible for them to use him. Raven said he liked working for ROH, Feinstein is his friend, he made a stupid mistake, but said he needs to make his money and ROH couldn‘t pay enough.


Raven understands the gist of the impasse is that TNA wants ROH to sign an agreement that says if Feinstein shows up and it causes TNA any harm because they‘re in a working relationship with ROH as far as using the same talent. Dave said ROH owner Doug Gentry signed this agreement but Cary Silkin (correct spelling?), an investor in ROH who provides significant funds for the company, wouldn’t sign it. Dave said personal liability is the problem, as Silkin doesn’t want to be liable for a company he isn’t running. Raven doesn’t blame TNA for taking this precaution.


Raven was miffed about the USA Today interview he did for the steroid story that ran a few weeks ago. Raven said the paper sent a photographer to TNA shows and they were taking pictures of him candidly, about ten rolls of film, and he didn’t even get a picture in the piece (the presentation and the flow of that story was off). Raven also had issues with the way he was quoted, and said the only point he wanted to make is that no one is responsible for the ills of steroids except for the individual. Raven said the business doesn’t force anyone to do anything they don‘t want to. Raven wanted to make the point that he couldn’t be a jockey because he’s too big, and this is a big man’s sport, and if you want to play, there are certain parameters to certain careers. Raven said you need to go to law school to be a lawyer. Raven said it was his choice to take steroids, and he can’t blame the business because in recent times it’s been a promoter’s prerogative to use big guys to draw business. Raven said he therefore needs to fit in there or find another profession. Raven said otherwise you’re trying to blame someone else for your own problems and it’s wrong.


Dave presented the scenario where a guy has a great tryout match and afterward an official comes up to you and says that was good, but you gotta get bigger, you gotta change that physique. Raven said you should then change the physique, and you’re going to have to diet your balls off to achieve the right affect and stay clean, which no one wants to do. Dave wonders that even if they can the shredded look clean, can they carry enough body mass to get a shot? Raven said that’s part of the job description. As another example, Raven said if a guy has bad acne, they’re going to tell him to take care of it before he gets a shot. Raven said you can’t be a model if you’re an ugly guy, and if you want an opportunity you’re going to have to look the part. Raven said using creatine you can put on a solid 10 pounds but most people don’t take it with dextrose so they’re wasting it essentially, and steroids get the job done. Raven said if you’re a smaller guy in the business and want to remain that way you have to be able to do the flippity-floppity stuff with tons of moonsaults and the such.


Dave wonders about Raven’s take on TNA and a potential TV deal with Fox Sports Net. Raven said TV would be tremendous, in part because it’s another payoff during the week. Raven said if they don’t get the TV he’s fine with that as well because this is a word of mouth business. Raven mentioned when WWE in St. Louis did a hell of a house against the NCAA tournament as evidence that wrestling fans are going to watch wrestling if you give them something to watch.


Raven said everyone thinks it so easy to book, but there’s not, because a lot of fans might be able to book one storyline better, but there’s 10 different storylines on the show, and everyone needs to be intriguing with good characters, who don’t come through sometimes. Raven said with TNA’s booking focus on the belt with everyone fighting for it, everyone and everything is beginning to gel.


Raven doesn’t believe that TV is necessary for TNA to keep going, because if you put out a good product week after week people are going t tune in regardless. Raven said the trouble is doing great shows back to back, as the great stuff could spread via word-of-mouth to a friend who tunes in after a series of great shows but happens to not see a good one and you‘ve lost that buyer. Raven mentioned the “Bend It Like Beckham” film, which did about $10 million on word of mouth without much mainstream push as something TNA could pull off. Dave said TNA doesn’t have the mainstream talk they need to pull off something like that. Raven said that is something TNA lacks. Raven gave an example of people coming to see him work an indie show man asking him when he is going to get back on TV and he has to tell them he’s on every Wednesday night. Raven thinks that’s an office problem not a booking problem, as the office folks have to do more to get the name out to the right markets. Raven said it’s tough because how much do you spend and what markets do you hit? Raven said he doesn’t know enough about what TNA is doing in that sense, but the more word gets out the better they’re going to do.


Bryan wonders if Raven thinks 3 weekly TV shows leading up to a PPV is better than the model TNA has now. Raven said not necessarily, as it is the product is going to draw and if it‘s a bad product you won‘t get people buying. Raven said it’s hard to get all the pieces together to intrigue people. He said what a lot of the people on the internet think is so great about a show like flying matches isn’t what can build ticket sales. Raven said wrestling is about an emotional connection, not acrobatics. He said he likes those types of matches a lot and thinks they have their place, but maybe only one of them per card.


Elizabeth in Dallas wonders what Raven‘s thoughts are about a woman making it in the business because she loves the sport and not because she‘ll be willing to titillate the boys. Raven said anyone with any talent can have a career, but you have to be attractive. Raven said his contention has always been that the majority of fans don’t like to see women wrestling but the reason that is because a lot of American women aren’t very talented in the ring (Dave tries to slip in the point that WWE women wrestling has gotten a lot better), but why would they try to get better in the ring when cosmetics is the easy appeal. Raven said there’s nothing better than good wrestling and there‘s, nothing worse than bad wrestling. Raven talked about women that almost broke the mold like Lita, and felt there was a young audience of women at one point who wanted to be like Lita and come to wrestling, and if the WWE continued to push Lita they could’ve gotten more people to come see wrestling and up the rating because of it. Raven said if you get the female equivalent of Austin you could go far with her, but the talent pool is so small and the girls aren’t very good. In closing on this point, Raven wondered who wants to watch bad wrestling when they came to see women rip their clothes off, which is much more titillating. (Not sure that is what Elizabeth wanted to hear).


Dave asked Raven about his claim to be popping 200 pills a day at one point in his career. He said he was shooting OxyContin 15 times a day which was the equivalent of 16 Percosets. When he did the math, he realized if he continued to do it he would die, and that scared him into quitting.


Raven said he had a hard time getting people to believe he was getting clean. He said he went to an outpatient center and it was hell rehabbing for the 40-50 hour of intolerable withdrawal. He said it took 9 or 10 days everything out of his system and he started turning around.


Raven was at Hugh Hefner’s birthday party recently. He said it was a pajama party, and so every girl there was in lingerie, and he’s never seen that many hot women in one place. A guy he met that is a fan works for model agency, and is trying to get him a gig as a model of some kind.


Raven plugs his website, where once a week he writes something new in a journal. It’s at the theraveneffect.com. Raven told Dave that Disco (Glenn Gilbertti) wants to do show, and is very insulted Dave never asked him.


Ed in San Antonio said since Raven has been involved in controversial characters and angles, what was his opinion of the Eugene character that debuted on RAW. Raven isn’t sure what the character is, but doesn’t have a problem with it, but doesn’t find them entertaining. Raven said the object is to engage the fans and if a character like Eugene does, it’s fine, but he doesn’t find such characters very interesting. Dave said even if the character works for a year or two you run the risk of typecasting a guy, and then when it finishes they’ve got nowhere to go, Val Venis being the perfect example of that. Dave said the Eugene character is hard to repackage when it burns out. Although, Dinsomore’s going to get a shot now and he’s likely to do well. Raven said he didn’t know much about Dinsmore, but if you weren’t going to get a chance anyway you go with this type of gimmick to at least get in. Raven said he got saddled with the Johnny Polo character and had to reinvent himself to go a completely different way with the characters and took it far beyond what they expected and Vince ended up making him a producer. Raven said if you take something that sucks and you knock it out, you’re going to get a chance to go somewhere else with it. Dave said Eugene is a hard gimmick to go somewhere else with. Raven said if Dinsmore hits a homerun with it, he could then come out and say the whole thing was a gag and he’s now a nasty heel because the fans are saps for buying it. Raven said there’s always a way to come out of it if you‘re creative enough. Dave said that’s true because Bubba Dudley started similar to that. Dave added that WWE hasn’t done a good job of giving someone a different character who had a good first character that had run its course.


Raven would love to see TNA offer Austin some money to come in. Raven said he gets mad at old timers not giving back and not putting over anyone on the way out, and he’d love to see Austin rationalize that he could make his mark elsewhere with a bang before leaving, and could to do it by also making TNA huge. Dave mentions the Jarrett/Austin heat as being a block to that ever happening. Raven respects Austin and thinks he’s done so much, but there’s a lot of old timers that never gave back who could’ve done important things like get health care for the boys. Like Hogan, Dave says.


Raven said he doesn’t want any say in TNA booking because he’s a perfectionist and he’s glad Jarrett keeps his booking plans for the talent close to his vest, because if the boys know what’s planned for them in terms of upcoming jobs they start thinking too much, talking to friends, and wondering why they should be doing a job and finding ways to politic their way out. Raven said there’s a reason the boys aren’t told very much beforehand, and Jarrett keeps all future plans close to his vest.


Raven said he’s never wrestled with Chris Harris and has a history with his first matches with an opponent being the best one. Raven said sometimes first encounters suck and sometimes they click because you’ve never worked with a guy and there‘s a certain adrenaline to being able to do new stuff. Raven said, though, that sometimes you want to do so many new things that it doesn’t all click right and you end up pushing too much where you shouldn’t have. Dave said often you get caught up in the contents of a match and lose sight of the match as a whole.


Matt in Vancouver wonders if Raven would work with Heyman in a re-launched ECW. Dave said ECW won’t come back. Raven said the roster is so depleted, Heyman would never be the given free reign to do it right, and who’s to say if Heyman is still hip enough to pull it off today. Raven said Heyman was right with the zeitgeist of the moment when ECW caught fire as a hip product. Matt wonders if ROH is trying to do an ECW-like product. Raven said Gabe Sapolsky is trying to go the exact opposite way. Raven said there are 31 flavors of ice cream for a reason, and it’s because a little bit of everything works for everybody, and a good wrestling product has to have a little bit of everything and a strong main event.


Scott in Galveston, Texas talked about the Spiderman comic Raven authored a couple of years ago and wondered how it came about and if he’d be interested in doing it again. Raven said the writer he worked with is phenomenal, and wishes they would’ve had more collaborative time, but thy were limited to 22 pages and deadlines, and he wanted to tell a longer story. Raven said the only reason he hasn’t done more comic work if because he’ too damn lazy, and to sit alone and start writing irks him so much. Raven said wrestling was never a problem because he enjoyed it, but writing isn’t something he enjoys as a singular pursuit and it‘s just work. Scott put over Spidey issue Raven did.


Dave asks Raven about being in Europe a couple of weeks ago. Raven dug it, saying he got one of the biggest pops since the WWE days. Raven said the pop was long and loud and heartfelt, and it kind of touches you. Raven said sometimes the crowd is popping because they’re supposed to, sometimes because they saw something cool, and sometimes because it really means something to them, and you can tell, as the vibe for Raven in Europe was, “thank you for coming here.” Raven said that feeling is his drug now. Raven said the pop actually kind of hurt his match, as he wanted to fit so much into the match that he ended up going 6 or 7 minutes too long, and it ended up peaking too early. Raven called this an example of giving too much and ending up giving less.


Raven said he made 2 to 3 times what he would’ve made in the states in Europe. Dave wonders what percentage of that money is gimmick sales? Raven said over a third.


Raven said Germany was cool because the building only held 300 so they’re packed in a room without guardrails and the fans are literally leaning on the ring and banging the mat and it’s so loud it’s unbelievable. Raven said he’d go back anytime, saying whenever you get that kind of heartfelt reaction you don’t’ even think of money, and when you end up getting paid a lot you’re like, “wow, what a bonus.” Raven expects to go back in October or possibly July.


Bye Raven.


GABE SAPOLSKY is now with us, and he’s back in the news as TNA pulled contracted wrestlers from ROH shows due to the impasse. Dave asks why, if Feinstein is never coming back to the company, there is a problem with Silkin signing the paper. Sapolsky said it’s a very vague contract with the personal liability issue. Sapolsky said anyone with a lick of business sense knows it’s ludicrous for an investor to sign something that says he’s personally liable for anything. Sapolsky said when you invest in a company, you invest in it because you don’t want any ownership responsibilities, you just want to sit back and hope you get more money back than you put in. Sapolsky said Silkin isn’t going to sign something on behalf of the company on that basis, and TNA had a problem with that. Sapolsky said TNA wanted a signed paper to assure cable companies that Rob wasn’t coming back to the promotion they are sharing talent with , and they do have a paper signed by the president and owner of ROH saying that, and they can tell cable companies they have that paper.


Dave said there’s no tangible evidence other than Gentry signing that Feinstein is not involved and he’s not coming back. Sapolsky said if Rob was still with the company there would be no company because TNA would exercise their power in the agreement they signed with TNA. Gabe doesn’t know what else people want to see to prove that Feinstein isn‘t involved. He said he isn’t going to trash Rob, but the fact of the matter is if that Rob ever returns, Ring of Honor is out of business; there’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s what it comes down to, he said. Sapolksy said they’ve done everything they can to quell skepticism about Feinstein’s role in ROH. Sapolksy said the people that still believe Feinstein’s still with the company are people that didn’t like them in the first pace and they’re always going to be doubting it. Sapolsky reiterated that it’s impossible for Feinstein to be with the company.


Dave wonders if ROH’s been hassled because of the PR weakness of the Feinstein incident, or have their enemies let up? Sapolksy said it’s always something that’s going to follow them, but they remain at status quo, as nothing out of the usual has happened. Bryan wants to know if there’s any more meetings scheduled with TNA to talk about this. Sapolsky said no but it still hopeful, and wants no big war with TNA. Sapolsky said a lot of the details that aren’t going to be made public could easily turn into a big fight, but hopefully it will blow over and the guys will be able to come back to ROH.



Sapolsky addressed the situation as it stands without access to guys like AJ Styles and Christopher Daniels. Sapolsky said that class in the last two or three years have graduated to bigger things like Japan and the new class they’re building reminds him of that class; guys like the Havana Pitbulls, Roderick Strong, Nigel McGuniess, and Alex Shelley. Sapolsky said ROH is always going to be at a small level, so whenever someone reaches a certain level of success they will lose them. Sapolsky said ROH’s never going to be about superstars, as they’ll always bringing in the best hungry talent and giving them an opportunity to really show what they can do. He cited the inaugural ROH show where the didn‘t headline with Eddy Guerrero, but instead gave Daniels, Low Ki and Danielson the spotlight and made the tone of the show hungry, talented guy strutting their stuff in the key position. Sapolsky said it hurts ROH’s star power to lose these guys, but now the opportunity is there for hungry guys, and you always get that extra effort out of guys that need to prove themselves - that’s when you get something special like that first main event.. Sapolsky said he’s looking forward to giving this new crop a change to make the impact.


Peter in Toronto wants to know how Sapolsky expects fans to believe Feinstein is separated from ROH when he said there’s so many mixed messages coming from wrestlers since nothing was really proven. Gabe said they have the documents signed that says Feinstein is gone, and the first week was very chaotic, and they were very shell shocked at the time and may not have made the best statements they could have initially. Peter said they went from “Feinstein is not involved whatsoever” to “Feinstein is no longer benefiting from the company,.” Peter asks how did Doug Gentry secure the funds to assume the ownership spot with the company, did he buy the company? Sapolsky said he doesn’t have to get into all the financial details of the business because they’re a private company, and said he’s faxed papers to anyone who wanted to see them proving that Feinstein was no longer involved. Sapolsky said people can doubt it but there’s nothing more he can do, and if Feinstein was to show his face TNA could sue ROH and own it essentially. Sapolsky said at this point you’re either always going to have doubts or accept the paperwork as proof that Feinstein is out.


Peter said in an age of Enron and Martha Stewart, Sapolsky and company should take a lesson and learn how to be honest with their fans. Sapolsky wanted to know what it is Peter wants to see. Peter said something other than, “Believe me, Feinstein is not with the company anymore,” and then saying you don’t have to tell about the particulars of the company‘s funding. Peter said at that point you’ve lost the trust. Saploksy said, “fine, then don’t support us, goodbye.” Dave said wow.


Finally, is the RF Video name going to change soon? Sapolsky said it’s up in the air right now as he‘s been busy with the TNA situation, but he should have an update soon on that.


(See you in three weeks.)


Comments? E-Mail me at JEncarn929@aol.com.

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