Smackdown – December 19, 2002

Smackdown
Date: December 19, 2002
Location: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, Florida
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

We’re past the last pay per view of the year and that means we only have two Smackdowns left. The big story on the Smackdown side is Kurt Angle becoming the new Smackdown World Champion, having defeated Big Show in a match that was way better than it had any right to be. That puts us on the road to the Royal Rumble, where Chris Benoit might be the new #1 contender. Let’s get to it.

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Armageddon 2002

Armageddon 2002
Date: December 15, 2002
Location: National Car Rental Center, Sunrise, Florida
Attendance: 9,000
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz, Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler

In case you didn’t get this from the Raw’s leading up to this show, this is ALL about HHH vs. Shawn Michaels. It’s so much about them that we’re seeing them fight three times so HHH can win the title for the second time in just over three months. Oh and we might see Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie’s, ahem, home movie. Let’s get to it.

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Smackdown – December 12, 2002

Smackdown
Date: December 12, 2002
Location: Phillips Arena, Atlanta, Georgia
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

It’s the final stop before the final pay per view of the year and there are two major stories at the moment. First up we have Kurt Angle becoming the new #1 contender to Big Show’s Smackdown World Title, meaning the hopes of most of the fans are on his Olympic shoulders. Other than that we have the sports entertainment shock value of Dawn Marie and Torrie Wilson. Let’s get to it.

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Smackdown – December 5, 2002

Smackdown
Date: December 5, 2002
Location: American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas
Commentators: Michael Cole, Tazz

We’re getting close to the end of the year and thankfully there are no turkeys involved this week. However there’s still Big Show, who can indeed be put in the F5 and chokeslams people through tables. Hopefully we get to see some more of the young guys being pushed, which would do Smackdown a lot of good. Let’s get to it.

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What the World Was Reading: WOW Magazine – July 1999

by Logan Scisco


This week we leave the confines of Titan Towers and head
over to Bill Apter’s side of the wrestling magazine universe.  Launched in 1999, WOW Magazine was an alternative to other wrestling magazines, which
largely kept kayfabe alive.  WOW catered to smart fans, using the
terminology of “face” and “heel,” and even tried to smarten up younger fans by
providing a vocabulary list of “smart wrestling terms.”  WOW also
featured more color photographs, had more pages, and was larger than
traditional wrestling magazines. 
Unfortunately, the magazine did not produce enough sales to remain
profitable and it folded in the summer of 2001.

The magazine chosen for this week’s review is the July
1999 edition of WOW, just the third
issue of the magazine to hit newsstands. 
I remember buying this edition on a school field trip when we went to a
mall for lunch.  Going over to one of the
bookstores, I picked out the magazine.  I
really enjoyed WOW since it was much
more detailed and fun than WWF Magazine,
but there was no way my parents were going to purchase a second wrestling
magazine subscription for me.  So, the
only time that I was able to buy WOW
is when I cobbled together enough money on my own, made even harder by the fact
that I did not receive an allowance.
 Looking back, I may have purchased this magazine (which
the sticker says cost me $5.95 before tax) more for what is on the back than
the cover.  I was a big Dawn Marie fan
and loved her stuff in ECW.
 Immediately upon opening the magazine, which has a
foldout cover, we get some of the colorful pictures of WOW.  One is of an unmasked
Rey Mysterio, Jr., another of Sabu, and then of course the guy that helped
destroy ECW
In his first editorial, Editor-in-Chief Bill Apter lets
us know in his “Apter Thoughts” column that he is glad to be publishing a
smart-style magazine.  He says that he is
tired of “protecting the business.”  He
also laments the death of Rick Rude, who had recently passed away from a heart
attack.  We get quite the contrast of
photos in the column as Nicole Bass chokes out Apter in one shot and a young
Apter argues with Jesse Ventura in the image alongside it.  No word on whether Bass filed harassment charges against Apter at a future date.
Every magazine has to have a “Letters to the Editor”
section and WOW was no
different.  This month’s issue sees
William Zariske criticize Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair for taking up the spotlight
and not following other pursuits. 
Another fan, Frank Recchia, says that he admires technical wrestlers
like Dean Malenko and Curt Hennig, but they do not hold a candle to Lou Thesz
and Bruno Sammartino.  He notes that
Thesz and Bruno were superior because they “could hold a title for a year or
more, which rarely happens today.”  And
all those signs you used to see in the 1990s at wrestling events?  Well, James Reddyk of Peterborough, Ontario
is angry about them because he was not able to see the action from his close
seats at SkyDome for at a WWF event because of them.  He demands the WWF do something about
this.  I am sure Mr. Reddyk loves
attending live events these days, when there is hardly a sign to be seen.  There are also a few fans that praise the
magazine for being different, especially because it had a website, which many
other publications did not have in the late 1990s.  One fan comments that the Internet is the
future of the sport because there are “thousands of e-feds and fantasy
wrestling sites.”  Are there even more
than 1,000 operating today?
Blake Norton’s column “The Welcome Mat” praises Diamond
Dallas Page for becoming WCW World Champion, something I think was a sign of
the company’s decline because Page was nowhere near as over as he was when he
faced Goldberg at Halloween Havoc the previous year.  Norton blasts fans who fear that Kevin Nash
is about to give himself another title run and sends a shout out to Davey Boy
Smith, who was facing a career-ending back injury at the time after falling on
a trap door at Fall Brawl.  He also
criticizes the WWF for becoming more of a soap opera than a wrestling
product.  Lord only knows what Norton
would think the company has become today.
A review is provided of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Professional Wrestling.  The book is praised for providing some of
wrestling’s history.  For example, it
discusses how carnivals of the nineteenth century were the origins of the sport
and how a champion wrestler would take on all comers.  This led to the rise of men such as Toots
Mondt and Frank Gotch who knew various holds to submit all kinds of opponents
in shoot fights.  The book ultimately
receives a recommendation, but educated fans are told that they do not really
need it.  An interesting tidbit?  Gorgeous George ran for president in 1952.
The cover story of this issue concerns the Rock’s rise to
the top of the wrestling industry, or as Jim Varsallone calls it, “the sports
entertainment business.”
The article recaps the Rock’s family history, which
readers of this site are likely familiar with. 
However, for a smart magazine this piece is still filled with kayfabe,
as the Rock is quoted as saying that he initially turned heel over the “Rocky
Sucks” chants and that he joined the Nation of Domination because he could
“express himself.”  Varsallone even
posits that the Nation collapsed because the Rock and Faarooq could not get
along since they came from Miami and Florida State!  If you want some facts about the Rock’s
football career, though, this piece has you covered, meaning that Jim Ross
bought this issue when it hits newsstands. 
It closes by saying that the Rock is not bothered by kids watching an
adult-oriented RAW product because their parents have to monitor what they are
doing.  I should also point out here that
Apter mags traditionally never interviewed wrestlers and made up quotes (WWF Magazine did much of the same thing
before Vince Russo came aboard), so whether the Rock was actually interviewed
for this piece or not is open for debate.
And in case the Ultimate Warrior’s odd comic books were
not enough for you, you could have bought some $3 comic books about the
Undertaker in 1999!
The next piece provides a career recap of “Ravishing”
Rick Rude, who passed away on April 20, 1999 at the age of forty.
At the time, Rude was training for an in-ring comeback,
presumably to return to the WWF since he was trying to get out of his contract
with WCW.  Written by Dave Meltzer, it is
a fine article that recaps Rude’s Tough Man days and his eventual wrestling
career in the major promotions.  These
articles are where I learned wrestling terminology as terms such as “booker,”
“heat,” and “promo” are thrown in.  We
can laugh now at fans not knowing those terms, but back then Meltzer might as
well have been speaking Latin to me.  One
of the sad things about these magazines is you come across pictures of people
no longer with us, such as this one, where Ric Flair is the only person in it
that is still alive:
WOW was also
really good about following non-major promotions in North America and Richard
Berger’s article talks about the relaunch of Stampede Wrestling in Calgary in
early April 1999. 
Bruce and Ross Hart were behind the idea and the
relaunched product lasted until 2008. 
The first card documented here drew nearly 2,000 fans and there is some
unintentional humor when it documents the statements fans were making before
the opening bell such as “Tatanka is in the main event!”  For some reason I think that fan probably
said that without much enthusiasm.  The
show was indeed headlined by Tatanka, the North American Heavyweight Champion,
who went on to defeat Jason “The Sledgehammer” Neidhart in a two-out-of-three
falls match.
Since Steve Austin was also on the cover, he is also
profiled in an article with some nice art. 
It just recaps Austin’s career, but does have some words of wisdom:  “…make sure to enjoy [Steve Austin] while he
is around, because no matter how many people try to copy him, they will never
even come close to the main himself.” 
Hence, the WWE’s inability to recreate the magic of Austin-McMahon
despite rotating various people out of Austin’s role over the last two decades.
We then get some WCW news, which includes results from TV
tapings and house shows.
There is a discussion of the severity of the British
Bulldog’s back injury, which is reported as career ending per the orders of his
doctors.  The Bulldog had recently been fired
from WCW.  It would have been better for
the Bulldog’s health to stay retired, as his 1999 run back in the WWF did very
little for him or his career legacy. 
Bischoff is commented as making an allusion to the Bulldog’s drug
problems, quoted in a “WCW Live” report on WCW.com as saying that prior to his
termination that the Bulldog “has had problems in a number of different areas
in his life.”  It is also reported that
WCW is looking into creating a Hardcore division, which it eventually did.  I always saw that as a poor move since it
came off as WCW blatantly copying a WWF idea. 
At least it gave us Screamin’ Norman Smiley.  Oh, and at a house show in Tampa, Florida,
Jimmy Hart beat Bubba the Love Sponge by disqualification when Randy Savage
accidentally hit Hart.
Konnan is the subject of an interview piece in this issue
of the magazine.
He takes a dig at WCW, saying that guaranteed income
makes guys reluctant to work while injured or put on good matches.  He also criticizes the politics of the
company, which he feels are holding him back. 
One of the best points of the interview, which is of a shoot style, is
Konnan referencing how spending time at basketball courts, youth hangouts, and
watching television made him aware of pop culture phenomenon and helped him
stay current.  It is a vision that is
sorely lacking in today’s wrestling product. 
And what would an Apter mag be like without
rankings?  Here are WOW’s rankings of WCW for the spring of 1999.  It simply evaluates the top ten men on the
roster, with no regard for their championship status.  I have a hard time buying Rey Mysterio as #1
at this time, but his defeat of Kidman, who is ranked #2, is the justification
given for him having the top spot.  The
rankings are critical of the WCW’s booking of Chris Benoit and Dean Malenko,
saying that the confusion over whether they “were heels or faces killed their
momentum.”
Blake Norton’s next column highlights some of the
concerns pervading WCW in 1999 and boy is it spot-on. 
It talks of Eric Bischoff’s tenuous position in the company
and how the booking power of Hulk Hogan and Kevin Nash spells trouble.  Also highlighted are WCW’s declining ratings
relative to the WWF.  The resurrection of
the tag division is criticized for only creating “makeshift tag teams” such as
Kidman and Chavo Guerrero and Bobby Duncum and Mike Enos as is the company’s
decision to make Barry Windham and Curt Hennig their new champions instead of
Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit.  However,
some bright spots are highlighted, such as the cruiserweight division having
better matches and the spotlight going less to authority angles.
The great thing about 1999 was that you had three
prominent wrestling promotions getting coverage, so ECW gets a section of the
magazine, albeit smaller than WCW and the WWF. 
We are told that Chris Candido may have reinjured his neck against Taz
at Cyberslam 1999 and that Nova has returned to the tag team ranks with Chris
Chetti.  Here are the ECW rankings:
Hard to say that Taz was not the #1 ECW wrestler in early
1999 with Rob Van Dam as the clear #2. 
They would eventually fight at November to Remember when Taz was headed
out of the company.  We are told that Taz
puts fans into ‘mark’ mode when he makes his entrance.
The ECW Insider column discusses how other companies are
trying to imitate ECW’s hardcore style. 
In one of my favorite digs in the magazine it says that “In the G-rated
WCW, somewhere in between ‘Days of NWO Lives,’ Nash-friendly-booking, and the
5,278,189th showing of Konnan’s video, Bam Bam Bigelow calls himself
the ‘king of hardcore.’”  It laments that
if WCW gets a Hardcore title that it will just put it on the Booty Man.  It also predicts that imitations of ECW will
not hurt the company’s viewership, which might have been true, but it was never
able to use its hardcore status to overtake the other big two wrestling
promotions.
The WWF news and notes makes us aware that a whole lot of
people were given their pink slips on April 13. 
This included Golga, Blue Meanie, and Gillberg.  Evidently, Meanie was rehired back a day later
because of an online “Save the Meanie” campaign, which I vaguely remember.  There are also rumors that Steve Blackman is
going to get a more Attitude-style gimmick and that the Legion of Doom are
hankering for one last run.  Thank god
that did not happen.  A Triple H-Rock
feud is discussed for the summer, as well as yet another Austin-Undertaker
feud.  So, WOW will bash WCW at will, but no jabs at the WWF for returning to
that feud?  Ken Shamrock is also rumored
to be a possible contender for Austin’s title, but he was shunted down the card
throughout 1999.
Here are the WWF rankings:
Owen Hart makes his last appearance in the rankings at
#6.  His excerpt talks about how he and
Jarrett are going to go “full heel” soon by splitting with Debra.  The Undertaker receives some criticism for
“uninspiring” matches recently against the Big Bossman and Ken Shamrock.  It questions whether the WWF will shelve the
Undertaker persona for good, which ended up coming to fruition at Judgment Day
the following year when the Undertaker appeared in his American Badass gimmick.
Backlash and Spring Stampede are given smark-style recaps
by Blake Norton.  They do not provide
star ratings, but it does break down the story each match tried to tell and
crowd reaction.  Backlash is criticized
for being mediocre, while Spring Stampede is called “a terrific pay-per-view
event.”  I liked these recaps much more
than WWF Magazine, which really
stopped caring about them at this point
A summary of ECW’s Cyberslam is provided, especially its
event for fans at the Holiday Inn. 
Justin Credible tells author Brad Perkins that he loves
ECW because “there’s no one better to book Justin Credible than Paul
Heyman.”  I cannot say that I disagree,
especially when the alternative is Aldo Montoya.  Taz has some good foreshadowing, telling a
fan that even though the WWF or WCW would give him a fresh start they would not
push him as hard as ECW has.
Another interview piece is provided in the magazine, this
time with New Jack
New Jack lets us know that he never had any professional
training and discusses his former career as a bounty hunter.  Teaming New Jack and Steve Blackman up to
rope in criminals would be quite the show for WWE Network.  He also has some stories of giving back to
fans, such as calling fans who give him their number or meeting kids after shows.  He also trashes parts of ECW, saying that it
is just as corrupt and political as the WWF and WCW.  New Jack indicates his desire to get into
movies, thereby ending his wrestling career, but that never came to fruition.
In happier news, we are told of Hacksaw Jim Duggan
recovering from kidney cancer.  A simple
career recap is provided for fans who may not be aware of his football prowess
and wrestling accomplishments in the 1980s.
WOW also had a
regular trivia feature.  If you click on
the image it should magnify it for you and you can see how many you can get
correct.  The answers are on the bottom
(upside down) of each section of the quiz.
Other random news and rumors are provided, letting us
know that Torrie Wilson is leaving WCW due to the fact that she was not given
more creative control over her character. 
It also informs us that Shawn Michaels has married the Nitro Girl
Whisper.  It questions whether that
marriage will last, but thankfully for both of them it did and it was probably
a big part in why Michaels did not die of a drug overdose in this period.  Kevin Nash is also identified for bringing Madusa
back to WCW.
We get an interview with Frye of the Nitro Girls.  If you have no idea who this is, here’s a
photo:
We are told that the Nitro Girls were not professional
dancers and selected from different backgrounds.  Frye was just “athletic” when she was picked
out for the team.  She says she was not a
wrestling fan before coming to WCW.  She
is also excited about the Nitro Girls possibly being in some storylines in
2000.  Skepticism is expressed about the
Shawn Michaels-Whisper marriage because they knew each other for only thirty
days before getting married.  Frye’s
dream is for the Nitro Girls to “explode like the Spice Girls.”
The magazine also provided lots of “Bombshell
photos.”  I remember when I saw the one
of Tammy Sytch in this magazine that she was in bad shape contrary to a slogan
that says she is getting better:
The “Indies and International” section informs us that
Vader recently won the 19th Champion Carnival on April 16, defeating
Kenta Kobashi.  This made Vader the first
American to win the tournament since Stan Hansen in 1993.  It also lets us know that Mitsuharu Misawa is
taking over the booking for All Japan following the death of Giant Baba.  All Pro Wrestling, run by Roland Alexander,
is profiled, with stars such as Vic Grimes and Michael Modest profiled.  APW was featured in Beyond the Mat.  Grimes is
dubbed as a “future WWF star.”  If you
can find his tryout match on YouTube it worth a look as he and a smaller
opponent tear the house down.
WOW could also
have some fun.  Its “Ring-Zingers” column
highlighted some of the funnier parodies about wrestling from ScoopTHIS.com.
The best story is how Sting has taken a vow of poverty
after finding religion.  Little did WOW know that Sting would find religion
and enact his vow of poverty by wrestling in front of high school gyms and
empty baseball stadiums more than a decade later.  The piece says that Sting has given his
fortune away to the less fortunate “beginning with the Disco Inferno, who has
since put away his run-down 1970s clothing in favor of the more contemporary
khaki cargo pants and loose-fitting shirt.”
Other funny stories talk about ECW wrestlers nearly
revolting at Paul Heyman’s Philadelphia office after they found out wrestling
was fake on NBC and how hundreds of WWF fans were injured “in what’s been
called the worst wrestling disaster since the return of the Ultimate Warrior”
in a fire in San Francisco.  Evidently, a
fan’s sign that said “Debra Has Tasty Cakes” caught on fire after Kane’s pyro
and spread through the sea of other signs in the arena.  During the fire, Mick Foley and Terry Funk
jumped into the flames and rolled around in glee, each suffering a third degree
burn.  Ron Simmons also turned in his
resignation after the Undertaker’s symbol caught on fire.  After Steve Austin could not douse the flames
with beer, Jeff Jarrett and Tiger Ali came down to the ring, which really
cooled things down.
Another parody piece pits a “fantasy match” of the
Ultimate Warrior against Mankind, simulated with a Dude Love and Rey Mysterio,
Jr. action figure.
Jim Ross and Tony Schiavone do the commentary on the
pages of the magazine and the Warrior keeps disappearing during the match,
frustrating Mankind.  Mr. Socko turns on
Mankind, sporting its own “One Warrior Nation” t-shirt, but Mankind rebounds by
pulling out a can of Chef Boyardee and shoving it in the Warrior’s face.  The newly fattened Warrior cannot make it
through the trap door anymore and the Undertaker proceeds to do a run-in,
although he takes his time and Ross and Schiavone argue over whether the
Undertaker’s symbol is a cross, even after Mankind is nailed to it.  This read like a fantasy booking scenario
gone awry.
Finally, Dutch Mantel’s column “The World According to Dutch”
closes out the magazine.  He shills his Dirty Dutch’s Little Handbook for Wrestling
Junkies
, which will be autographed and have some “special clip art of
wrestlers” for $20.  You have to pay with
a money order, though.  He also gives his
list of the top five bleeders in professional wrestling.  It is no surprise who is #1 on the list:

Overall, this was a very detailed and fun magazine.  It did a much better job shedding light on
what was happening in the wrestling world in the spring of 1999 than any other
wrestling magazine on the market.  For
next time, I will review the first edition of RAW Magazine.  I figured that
during this cold winter we could all use some “Sunny days.”