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Wrestling Observer Live w/Mike Tenay (long post)

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Wrestling Observer Live Report | 5/30/04 (Mike Tenay, Larry Matysik)

By Jack Encarnacao


(Personal thoughts in parentheses)


Dave kicks off by predicting a very troubling summer for the industry. Bryan was certain after he saw the Great American Bash card that this summer will be rough for fans. Dave runs down the GAB card. Alvarez groaned for Misterio/Jindrak. Part of the divas match is supposed to be an actual volleyball game. Dave said WWE should be careful here because it's very difficult to work a volleyball game. (Am I the only one totally lost by the GAB ad campaign as being this patriotic summer festivity - in the "tradition" of an event WWE has never done before - and having nothing to do with the matches?). We'll talk with Larry about volleyball, of which he knows a lot. Bryan said the essence and spirit of WCW is alive in this upcoming WWE PPV.


Dave asked Bryan for buyrate prediction for the two upcoming WWE PPVs. We've got 6/13 Bad Blood and then coming back in two weeks with the Bash, a card Dave said would be tough to sell even if there hadn't been a PPV in the last 6 months. Then two weeks later we get another PPV in July. Bryan said it didn't hurt business when WCW and WWE were running two PPVs a month, and Dave said they had different fan bases. Bryan doesn't think the scheduling is the real issue, it's how bad the card is (well that's always problem number one). Dave said when they tried to do the Tuesday in Texas PPV in 1991 after Survivor Series the week before, it did half the buys of the Survivor Series, and if the Bash does half the buys of Bad Blood, Dave said there are going to be some unhappy people. Dave said some people better prepared to not be happy.


Jonathan in Savannah wanted to know who to push on Smackdown to get it back on track. Dave said use Vince and Austin, and if they don't, Smackdown will erode this summer. Jonathan wonders if there's anyone within the company right now or outside the company that could help out with the heel side. Dave said Vince, though that's a Band-Aid fix and not a real answer to the problem. Dave said the problem with the PPV is that it's the same show as last month in the main event and the Taker/Dudleys match isn't a PPV match. Dave said he looks at the card and it's just not there. Bryan suggests bringing new writers over to Smackdown. Dave said that's not the problem, the problem is lack of talent. Bryan emphasized that it's a horrible card. Dave said you could easily make a better wrestling card, but not a more successful card. Dave said you could send Kane over, but is Eddy/Kane going to really do anything? Edge by himself isn't going to do anything; it just needs something more than a reshuffled deck.


Dave wondered if Eddy can even carry the show on his own? Dave said he's not blaming Eddy for this, but there is no proof he can carry the show. Bryan said he's been handicapped by the Bradshaw feud. Dave said that's true, but all you've got is Guerrero, Cena, and sometimes Taker positioned as top guys. Dave said you have so many guys the WWE has put in the position for fans to not care about them, but now you need people to care about them, and they don't.


Dave said it's a lot like WCW. Bryan said because of all of the mistakes WCW made in 1998, they were going down no matter what in 1999. Dave thought WCW was salvageable in 99, but were nine months in 99 that were horrible and without the mistakes of 98 they still would've went down. Bryan thought the WWE 2001 Invasion booking was the most horrible stuff he'd ever seen, but Bryan said that was no comparison to the waning days of WCW when he went back and reviewed it for his book. Dave said it was so bad that it boggles his mind in hindsight, and really shows that people that ran that wrestling had no idea of what wrestling fans wanted. Bryan noted they did a survey to find out what the fans wanted, and then did hte opposite. Dave said many thought they were smarter than the fans, particularly Russo.


Jonathan wondered about how (Jonathan?) Maynard, the armless and legless amateur wrestler from Georgia, finished in state competition. Dave said he thought he was around 12th in state, and for a guy with no limbs it's tremendous, though he didn't place in states and he won't be wrestling in college.


Dave was surprised that Cody Runnels, youngest son of Dusty Rhodes and 2-time state amateur champion in high school, is not going to be wrestling in college. Dave said he's not interested that much in being a pro wrestler either; he and his sister are moving to Los Angeles to try to act.


Jonathan loved the Guerrero UPN special, and wondered if it would come out on the upcoming Guerrero DVD. Dave is pretty sure it will (what a shame if that isn't made available to see again). Dave said it was almost too good for wrestling and there was a lot of stuff in there he didn't know.


E-Mail: Tuesday in Texas Day was 6 days after the Survivor Series (there was some question earlier in the show about the timeline). Dave said he used to remember everything like that until the last few years of trying to follow the hyper-confusing WCW and it fried his brain (I always thought anyone who could run down the WCW title lineages off the top of their head in the dying days was guaranteed to do well on exams and anything else he or she had to memorize).


E-Mail: What did Dave think of Hustle III, writer thought it was better than K1 Romanex and Judgment Day. Dave hasn't seen it. Writer wondered if Goldberg was set to lose to Kawada? Dave said no, it was set for a double-DQ.


Dave liked the most recent Bushido better than K-1, saying all the matches in K-1 were blow-outs. Dave didn't enjoy Sapp/Fujita much at all for the same reason, it was just a guy getting kicked to death by a guy wearing shoes. Bryan said Sapp just looked like a big man off the street just getting kicked who didn't look like he wanted to be there. Dave said if you took the shoes off Fujita, it would have been a totally different fight. Dave said you shouldn't be allowed to wear shoes if you kick, and didn't think as badly of Sapp watching the match as many others did. Dave said when it comes to hardcore MMA fans, they hate Bob Sapp, but guys like Sapp make it possible for guys like BJ Penn to make money. Dave said the K-1 name doesn't draw alone; there are reasons they have the freaks fighting, and Sapp brought the business back after the death of Andy Hug, and made it bigger than ever. Dave said in the 80s he didn't like Hulk Hogan's matches, however he was not stupid enough to think if Hogan went away wrestling would be better off. Dave said it's the same correlation with MMA fans; an awful lot of them don't get business.


MIKE TENAY is with us, and said it's the quiet before the storm for TNA as they prepare to debut Friday on Fox Sports Net at 3 p.m.


LARRY MATYSIK is glad Dave made the correlation with Hogan and Sapp and agrees. Dave said for every Hogan and Sapp, Vince and Ishii will try 15 guys, like Luger and Bret Hart, that don't take off. Larry wondered who TNA has like that to catapult them to the next level. Tenay said they need a mainstream media star that people will latch on to, and in the interim they need to expose their product, saying competition has been great for the industry, and they're thrilled to have the TV outlet to showcase their talent. Tenay said gamble is the right word for it, and it's the right time to take that gamble. Larry said there's a certain amount of gambling involved anytime you do a promotion.


Larry, whose daughter is a really good volleyball player, is asked for his take in the volleyball match in the best of three falls Diva match at the Bash PPV. Larry said you have to have a certain fundamental skills to work volleyball. Dave said it's going to be scary, and Larry agreed. Dave said he doesn't think WWE realizes what they're doing with this match. Larry said playing volleyball and jumping up and down is a reason to wear a bikini. Dave said it's not going to be easy to do this.


Big story this week is the Friday TNA debut, and Dave doesn't know how it's going to work - it's a tough time for wrestling, you have to get people's attention in a TV universe with hundreds of stations, and most of your audience is at work. Tenay said he's aware of the negatives, and those are questions he had as well. Tenay said he thinks he finally got it while thinking about it in line after a recent trip to Hawaii. A guy in line remembered him from WCW and said he used to love Nitro and wondered what Tenay was doing these days. Tenay said that made it clear that so much of the TNA feedback is Internet and newsletter related, and they often lose sight of the fact that 90 percent of TNA's audience will never read an internet site.


Tenay said the masses need to know, number one, the TNA exists. Tenay said the considering the survivor skills of TNA management, it's the right time for TNA to make the gamble and let the people know about their product. Tenay said the crappy timeslot is the hand they were dealt and hopefully they make an impression, get moved to a different timeslot, and move on from there. Dave said the best case scenario is they do well in the slot, up their profile, and get a better slot, but TNA is also on a tough network because the best time slots are a disaster because of all of the preemptions for local sports broadcasts.


Tenay said this is the same conversation they had two years ago on the radio about TNA chances of succeeding. Dave said the business plan that they had at the time of the debut - having to do 50,000 buys a week - wasn't going to work, but TNA did survive because of the Panda Energy deal. Dave said at some point the promotion has to either make money or show enough of a sign of being able to make money that the owners feel there is light at the end of the tunnel and resolve to keep losing money in the hopes of making some down the road. Dave wonders if the suits will be soured if the TV ratings aren't that's great, or will be they think of it as a step in the right direction? Tenay thinks a long term plan is required and the management of TNA has to realize that.


Tenay said in addition to having the TV shows as a vehicle, this deal is also going to get the mindset of management in the right direction and focusing on getting crossover possibilities going with mainstream stars.


Bryan wondered if there was a ratings target yet for the show. Tenay said there are no specific numbers being looked for, but they hope to do better than the show currently in their timeslot and make an initial impression that way. Tenay said with the increased exposure the PPV numbers will have to go up after 80 million more homes can see the product. Dave brings up ECW increasing a little bit at first when they got on TNN in a prime time slot on a better station during a better period for wrestling, but it wasn't a strong increase and in the end, they were less popular than when they started. Dave said ECW had a bigger fanbase than TNA.


Tenay goes back to the guy in the airport who had been a fan for 30 years and doesn't watch RAW anymore. Dave said the over-35 audience really went away in 2001, and if you're trying to get them back, how do you find them? Tenay said if you think about that fan, a majority of them don't really know TNA exists. Dave said they don't know, and those are the people you need to hook and keep coming back to build a promotion because they want to be fans. Tenay said he senses that from every conversation he has with the over-35 fan. Dave said the thing is that people like Rhodes and Flair who will draw for those fans, but those guys can't carry the company. Tenay said the key is to use a Rhodes and play him off of an AJ Styles to hook the fans on the new personality. Dave brought up Bobby Heenan as a prime candidate for that job. Tenay laughed, and said Dave was preaching to the choir on that one.


Alan in Dearfield Beach, FL asked Tenay who is primarily responsible for the downfall of WCW. Larry threw out whoever was in charge of the company because they couldn't put the right person in the position to run the company correctly; the wrestlers at the time were just hustling like they always do. Tenay thinks a guy like Brad Siegel deserves some blame, but you can't give one specific answer to that question. Tenay thought Russo played an important part in the demise of the company, and so did Bischoff to an extent. Tenay thinks it's too easy to put it all on one person.


Larry's book on St. Louis wrestling will be coming out January/February.


Alan asked about a recent Randy Savage TV interview where he called out Hogan again. Dave said they're not working together, but if they had the opportunity to make money, Dave has no doubt Savage would do it, though he's not sure Hogan would do it right now. Dave said Hogan isn't anxious to make a big move right now; the fact he wasn't on the recent New Japan Tokyo Dome show tells you all you need to know about that.


Alan wondered about Flair's book. Dave said it comes out the first week of July. Dave said in Ric's mind, he's getting back at a lot of people he's been holding back on for years and years in the book, like Foley. Dave said it could be very interesting because Flair or a guy like Terry Funk have had the widest breadth of experiences in the business and could have the most interesting books. Larry said those are the top two guys to write a definitive book. Dave said he doesn't think Flair will rip Hogan too much in the book, but Bischoff for sure because he hates Bischoff. Alan presses Dave on problems with Hogan. Dave said Flair doesn't dislike Hogan at all and they get along well. Larry said he hasn't heard many guys in WWF come down on Hogan; Dave said when WCW was going down a lot of people were nailing Hogan. Tenay said it was easy then to point the finger.


Ed in San Antonio asked Tenay what the chances were of TNA bringing back Juventud Guerrera and Teddy Hart. Tenay said the door is certainly open for Hart, and the possibilities are there with Juvy but judging by management's experiences, they're more than happy not having to deal with the problems Juvy brings along with him, and are happy with the current Mexico X team. Tenay said the downside for bringing back Juvy might be too strong. Dave said it's too bad because Juvy may be the most talented guy TNA has ever had on the show. Tenay said he had some incredible matches, but unless you deal with him backstage and the headaches he causes, it's one of those things that are not worth it. Dave said Juvy calls Jeff Jarrett up all the time and Jeff never calls him back. Dave said if they brought Juvy back it would be like going behind AAA' back, as they are feeding TNA the Mexican team, and the wrestlers don't want him on the team. Dave said Juvy's really immature for someone who's been in the business for so long. Tenay said think of the "last chances" Juvy has had, but behavior-wise it seems to escape him that he's been allowed to return once he takes one of those chances.


Bryan wonders about Konnan's status with TNA after he appeared at a recent WWE show. Dave said Jeff Jarrett might be the only person who knows his status for sure we'll know probably by the end of the week how he feels. Tenay doesn't know how the Konnan situation will be resolved. Dave said he said his good byes to some wrestlers last week, and Tenay confirmed it. Dave said it will be an interesting week on that front.


Ed asked about Ted Turner supposedly trying to start another wrestling organization (the new "question of the week," gradually replacing "will Bret Hart be coming back?"). Dave said it would be the greatest thing for wrestling. Dave said Turner could start a new promotion tomorrow, there's no limit on him as an individual due to the WCW sale. Dave said about two years ago, about the time when TNA started, Turner asked one of this best friends about the business, saying he is interested in possibly getting back in, and asked what it would cost to get in and be competitive. His friend said $50 million, and Ted said no. Dave doesn't think the finances are any easier now than two years ago, in fact they're probably more difficult. Tenay said the AOL/Time Warner stock fallout caused Turner's fortunes to fall as well, so he's being tight with his money. Dave said there will always be interest there, and whether Turner goes for it or not depends on the AOL/Time Warner stock, the health of Turner himself, and if he has people who he can trust to run a company. Larry said Turner needs someone he believes can execute the vision of what Turner wants to see. Dave said the WCW management didn't get the product, and that was the biggest handicap of the Jim Herd regime. Larry said Herd didn't have a clue; it was like sitting down with a sixth grader who had simply seen wrestling on TV; they had no idea where they wanted to go with the product. Larry asked Herd at a dinner if he wanted WCW to be TV-focused product or house show-based. Larry said Herd and Jack Petrik then just looked at other without a clue.


Dave said Herd and Petrik lucked into some good talent and matches, though. Larry said these budding, talented guys that had those matches aren't just floating around the territories anymore. Tenay said that's why it's more important than ever to get new stars out there. Dave said that's also why it's important to get a 7-year promotional plan going rather than a one-year plan, and to go recruit talent at the Olympics, at the college football games, and get some of these athletes interested and get a healthy development system going. Dave said most of the guys on top today aren't young, are physically beaten up, and we need more to come up; Cena and Orton won't carry it themselves. Larry said the perfect guys to nab are the ones that don't quite make it in pro football but are still great athletes, like a Bruiser Brody or Rock.


Larry said the tapes and DVDs of 1978-83 St. Louis Wrestling at the Chase, 7 volumes completed of 10, are doing well. Dave said the documentary that aired locally in the fall 2000 about Wrestling at the Chase won an award, and wondered if there was a way to get an access to that show. Larry said he has all the raw footage, but the product belongs to KPR-TV in St. Louis so he'd have to check on availability. Larry said Bob Costas thought Joe Garagiola from St. Louis ended up host of NBC's Today show, and a sub for Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, because of what he learned about talking on his feet doing the St. Louis TV wrestling shows and being encouraged to saw whatever came to mind.


Dave asked Tenay about the Great Goliath. Tenay thought Gordman and Goliath were the best tag team of the 1970s that he saw on a regular basis. Tenay said so much of what they did then is part of today's Lucha style. Tenay doesn't think they'll get nearly the recognition they deserve for being one of the great teams of all time. Tenay said he has to think about the drawing aspect before voting them for the for Hall of Fame, but hey were always the perfect compliment to a show. Dave said they did great in Texas, California and Japan, but when they came to places like Atlanta and Kansas City, promoters and wrestlers didn't want their fast paced style.


Scott Walton son of former LA wrestling promoter Jeff Walton, is on the phone and congratulated Tenay on getting the TNA promotion on TV and is looking forward to it. Tenay said it's a great opportunity to let the world know what TNA is all about. Tenay thinks the positives are there and they have to take that gamble. Scott asked Tenay if he has a personal favorite TNA match. Tenay said he breaks it down into world titles matches - Jarrett, Styles, Raven - X Division - 3 way ladder match with Low Ki/Lynn/Styles - the series of international X Cup matches, and tag matches like the steel cage match with XXX versus AMW.


Guy in Laredo Ranch, Calif., asked Tenay if TNA is going to do anything about the constant outside interference and ref bumps in their main events? Tenay hopes the power players are thinking that when booking the shows. Tenay said you have to do that kind of outside interference when the timing is right and to move a feud forward or get one going. Dave said it's almost like a crutch so you don't have to do a clean finish. Tenay said that's the difficulty - are you using it as an out or using it to translate into business? Larry said it's very easy - one guy wins, one guy loses. Dave said you don't want to hurt people, but, as Red Bastien used to say, somebody has to die so somebody else can live. Tenay said a majority of the best received TNA matches have had clean finishes and they don't hurt he guy doing the job. Dave said if it's a bad match, both guys are hurt.


Ed asked if Jeff Jarrett is planning to continue being the top star no matter what? Tenay said the recognizability factor is what you need to fill out your roster, and Jarrett has plenty of time in the national spotlight, people recognize him. So Tenay said it's necessary Jarrett remains an important part of the product, and it's up to Jarrett to see when the time is right to put some else in t hat top position. Tenay thinks it's imperative to use Jarrett.


Ed wonders if Ultimo Dragon saying he's coming back in the fall is a nice way of saying he's not coming back at all. Dave would bet Ed's right, and can't imagine Dragon wanting to come back, and WWE doesn't really want him back that much. Tenay said it's all in the way you read through it; he attained his goals, he worked in MSG, worked for WWE, and did Mania. Dave said it couldn't be fun to be a great star everywhere you go and then put in the no-respect position. Dave said they're not paying him, rather he sort of took a leave of absence. Bryan wondered why they don't release him. Dave said maybe they were trying to be nice, and maybe Dragon is trying to be political because it never hurts to be on good terms with WWE people. Tenay said it would be stupid for Dragon to cut those ties and he's not stupid. Dave said a lot of people, especially in Japan, underestimate Dragon's position in wrestling. Dave said Toryumon or Michinoku Pro wouldn't be around without Dragon; Mil Mascares brought Lucha to Japan, but Dragon got the idea over that a pure Lucha product can work in Japan. Ed wondered why Dragon wasn't similarly buried in WCW. Dave said they recognized he was a good wrestler and WCW had more respect for the crusierweights. Tenay said when Dragon was in WCW he worked with the likes of Malenko, Jericho, and Misterio, so he had a better chance to showcase his talents. Dave said WCW devoted more time to the cruiserweights altogether.


David in New York talks about the upcoming Benoit/Edge match set for the July RAW PPV, and said on a recent card Edge turned total heel in a match with Flair. David suggested that Edge could jump to Smackdown as a heel after the Benoit program, and he hurts Benoit setting him up for HHH. Edge then goes to Smackdown to feud with Guerrero. Dave said if Edge gets over strong enough, it can only help Smackdown to make that move. Dave said Edge is not so strong as a babyface on RAW that it'll kill RAW if he leaves. Tenay said the Booker T heel experiment isn't working, and he doesn't know that Edge is the guy Smackdown needs, but he's not against the idea. David said Edge is fresh at least. Dave said when Edge came back it wasn't as big as he expected; fans weren't behind his beating Kane right out of the gate, but he likes the idea. Bryan said it's about what they would do with him right off the bat on Smackdown, and thought they really should've tried to push Booker right out of the gate in a feud with Eddy rather than opting for Bradshaw.


Dave said he doesn't like the idea of Taker beating both Dudleys at the Bash PPV, but feeding them to Taker isn't going to make them any worse off, and he doesn't see them as guys to anchor the brand. Dave said it hurt Booker to get fed to Taker more because he had more main-event potential on Smackdown. Larry said the Dudleys haven't turned numbers around in main events. Dave said Guerrero, the focus of the show, can't turn it around either, and they need people to believe Smackdown is an "A" show, whereas every one believes it's a "B" show. Dave said once the fans think a show is "B" level, they don't feel like they have to watch it. Tenay pointed out that the WWE had Booker telling the audience that for five weeks as his gimmick.


Dave tasked Tenay with explaining the King of the Mountain 5-way match for title this week on TNA PPV. Tenay said it's a reverse ladder match - the champion brings the belt in, and when you defeat someone by pin or submission, that wrestler is sent to penalty box, and he who gained the pinfall or submission then has the opportunity to take the belt up the ladder and hang it from the ceiling to become king of the mountain and win. We'll also Kazarian v. Red for the X Title and Kid Kash and Dallas defending the tag titles against James Storm and Dusty Rhodes.


Jeff in Pensacola asked Larry when Bob Roop and company split from Fuller in Knoxville, where was NWA to lend Fuller a helping hand? Larry said the NWA was trying to avoid the whole situation out of fear of getting caught up in high tension. Jeff wondered if Fuller ever petitioned the NWA for a title run for one of his stars? Larry said not that he'd heard.


That's a wrap. Larry and Tenay will be back on in July for a Hall of Fame conversation.


Next week, MIKE MODEST and DONOVAN MORGAN are on to talk about Pro Wrestling NOAH.


Comments? E-Mail me at Jencarn929@aol.com

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