Welcome to the first United State of Wrestling of the year, with me, Andrew Morris. As the mad year that was 2004 has drawn to a close and 2005 has made its way out to the ring, this week’s UsoW is going to look back at what happened in 2004, what was good, what was not so good, and then a look forward to the coming twelve months.
The opportunities given to Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero to run with their respective brand’s world title brought a smile to your scribes face. These two guys are two superlative workers who deserved their chance, and surprisingly achieved it in the WWE. They were also given the special WWE DVD treatment. Despite Benoit’s excellent run at the top and Guerrero’s satisfactory spell as top dog, I would be surprised to see either man get another run with the gold, especially Eddie who snapped under the pressure.
The dreadful $250,000 Raw Diva Search was a waste of 20 minutes of each episode (and my life) of Raw last summer. Once it finished, WWE sacked a massive amount of other talent for ‘financial reasons’, and then hired almost every Diva search finalist to work on various shows in various useless roles. I would not have minded so much if it was just Maria and Amy Weber who came back, though.
Ring of Honor had a roller coaster of a year, with WWE poaching talent such as Paul London just before 2004 and with the Rob Feinstein story to contend with they still managed to put on some excellent shows and have looked none the worse for wear in the ring. Samoa Joe is a guy who should be praised. With no offence to the man, he doesn’t look a typical champion for a group like ROH, but he held the title all through 2004.
Another company who had an eventful year is TNA, who went from being seen as challengers to WWE to a group holding on for dear life. After the shift from weekly to monthly pay-per-view, the company seem to be worse off in every way and Panda Energy are looking to pull out of the group, or worse, fold it. In the ring, Jeff Jarrett booked himself to beat everybody, and therefore made the group look inferior in that way, too.
A man who truly lives up to his nickname is the Phenomenal AJ Styles. The man who once turned down WWE had a great year, including highlights such as the 30-minute draw with Christopher Daniels in 3PW. As well as the NWA:TNA Tag Team, World and X-Division titles, Styles also captured the ROH Pure Wrestling title. The man with all the moves and even some merchandise behind him is one of the best wrestlers on the planet at the moment.
WWE presented its first fully interactive pay-per-view in October called Taboo Tuesday and despite the poor buy rate (it was a Tuesday after all) the show should be looked upon as a success. It really added something to WWE on PPV that has not been felt for so long – excitement. I should also point out that I believe that the results were genuine. They would have quite an idea leading up to the show which way the result was going so they could plan accordingly, and have all options covered in case of a last minute swing in the votes.
The push delivered to Randy Orton this year went so well up until a fortnight after SummerSlam. As a cool, cocky heel who made the Intercontinental strap look worthwhile, Randy was jeered (and even cheered) by every audience, who viewed him as a charismatic future champion. However, the push came to soon and after capturing the World Heavyweight title at SummerSlam he changed to a babyface and now the reaction he gets off live audiences sounds like a programmed going-through-the-motions cheer. Poor Randy.
One man who had a great 2004 is Triple H. After becoming selfish, unhelpful and genuinely disliked by many colleagues and fans in 2003, Tripper has turned a new leaf since becoming Mr Stephanie McMahon. Even though he is now in a position where he could not be more powerful, Hunter has not kept himself on a downward spiral. He put over Shelton Benjamin, Chris Benoit and made others look a million dollars. His matches have, on the whole been great and he has been as excellent as ever on the microphone.
Despite plenty of short – comings in the booking department this past year, the WWE had successes on a few fronts, none more so than with washed-up loser Bradshaw. Giving him a shave, a haircut and a cowboy hat made John ‘Bradshaw’ Layfield the longest reigning WWE Champion since the brand extension and the most entertaining new character to hit our screens this year. I found his old persona to be abysmal, and found his backstage bullying ways to be disgusting, but since the change, he has turned into the reason I watch Smackdown! Still, he is wrestling at a level above himself, but he has given it his all. Well done, Layfield.
The best impersonator in the biz right now is, without a doubt Matt Striker. His imitations of Ric Flair, The Ultimate Warrior and many, many others were as funny as hell around the independent scene, especially ROH.
So what do we look forward to in 2005? Well, without sounding too negative, not a lot. This time next year we may not have TNA. We may not have many more independent groups. Quite possibly may not have The Wrestling Channel if certain sources are to be believed and spiralling numbers in the WWE will probably result in many more aggressive cost-cutting measures.
The Wrestling Channel Supershow, International Showdown in March will be stonkingly good for the UK-based fan. I already have my tickets and have butterflies every time I think that I will be seeing AJ Styles, Petey Williams and most of all, Mick Foley live for the first time.
Wrestlemania 21 should also be worth tuning into. The possible return of Hulk Hogan, The Rock and Mick Foley should be worth seeing, as should Triple H putting over Randy Orton in the main-event.
Finally, whatever happens in 2005 you are sure to hear about it on Wrestling 101 and in the United State of Wrestling. Happy New Year!
I encourage you to keep sending me your e-mails and thoughts. They have been much appreciated and valued so far.