TOP NEWS STORIES for Sunday November 06, 2005
The lead story of the moment continues to be Christian. Originally broken by WWE.com, Christian decided last weekend to step away from World Wrestling Entertainment rather than sign a new contract when his deal expired. In compiling reports by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Scherer of PWInsider.com and Wade Keller of the Pro Wrestling Torch, the following scenario can reasonably be constructed:
Christian arrived at the Smackdown tapings last week, and was given a contract before his match and told to sign it immediately. Christian didn't, so the finish of his match was changed, with Christian taking a pinfall from Rey Mysterio in the new scenario. The impasse between Christian and World Wrestling Entertainment appears to be largely over financial and creative issues. As reported by Wade Keller, Christian was making around $250,000 per year on his downside guarantee, and when all was said and done likely making double that in the last year due to his good health, the popularity of his merchandise and his frequent pay-per-view appearances. Christian was asked to re-sign at a fifty-percent drop in pay. This was probably insulting to Christian who has no doubt just come off the best year of his career as a singles wrestler. It was also clear that WWE didn't see Christian as a main eventer, and probably wouldn't give him that chance. Christian was said to be frustrated earlier in the year when getting himself over to the point of near superstardom, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath him. What could be perceived as a lack of respect from WWE is likely the biggest reason Christian did not sign the contract presented to him by John Lauerenitis. Christian has a lot of powerful supporters, with Batista, The Rock, Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels all putting him over as times as the most underutilized piece of talent WWE possessed. Christian became very disenfranchised dealing with Lauerinitis, who continued to play hardball. John Lauernitis replaced Jim Ross as Vince McMahon's head of talent relations in the last year. Lauerinitis, simply put, is Vince McMahon's hatchet man, and he is paid accordingly, making $350,000 per year with 20,000 stock options and a $500,000 signing bonus to do the dirty work for the company. When Christian tired of dealing with him, he requested a meeting with Vince McMahon in order to try to reach some kind of a last minute resolution. It is unclear as to whether or not that meeting ever occurred.
According to The Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Christian was also looking to get some time off from WWE as he recently landed a film role that he was interested in pursuing. World Wrestling Entertainment refused. As of this point, the story from all three major sources is that there is strong interest in Christian from TNA. At only five dates per month with tapings held only an hour away from Christian's Tampa residence, the company can likely get Christian for much less money than WWE was paying him while he would be afforded the lighter schedule he seems to desire at this point. Dave Meltzer reports that Christian is interested in TNA because it would allow him to work around his college schedule. Christian is interested in going back to school in Tampa and getting his Bachelor's degree. Dave Meltzer believes that Christian can use the name Christian Cage, and probably just Christian, outside of WWE, and points to a precedent set by The Honky Tonk Man who went by the name Honky Tonk Jake before working in the WWF, and was able to use the "Honky Tonk" portion when he left the company. Christian is friends with Scott D'Amore, and is believed to have already had dialogue with TNA. It is believed that Christian doesn't have a 90 day no-compete clause as he left and wasn't released, but even if he did the clause is said to flimsy in court, especially in Florida, a right-to-work state. Christian is said to have saved extremely well to the point where he wouldn't need to work if he didn't want to. As a young, hard working, drug free athlete who made his money in the business and could retire now if he wished, Christian is a great role model for all young wrestlers.
As is being reported by Dave Scherer, Chris Benoit's contract expires in less than three weeks and he was also given a lowball offer and asked to take a substantial cut in pay, which Wade Keller has reported he has heard to be as low as 180,000 a year downside. While some are expecting World Wrestling Entertainment to budge, Dave Meltzer reports that the company dealt with Chris Jericho in the same manor, offering him a very low renewal offer. Chris Jericho chose to walk rather than return at a fraction of the downside guarantee he was currently earning. Speaking speculatively, one has to conclude that if WWE would not budge for Chris Jericho, they will not budge for Chris Benoit.
Matt Striker remains in incredibly bad standing with the Smackdown locker room. His heat began when he commented to an agent that the Raw locker room seemed more professionally run. The agent told the Smackdown wrestlers what Striker said according to Dave Scherer, and put a lot of heat on the young star. Things got worse for Striker, as when John Layfield wanted to buy Striker a few beers, Striker passed on the invitation. Dave Meltzer reports that Striker is seen as cocky and a smartass who tries too hard to be funny. Something Striker said infuriated Bob Holly, who told Striker that he had 24 hours to learn how to fight, and then he was going to have to take him on. Eddie Guerrero went to Striker and tried to advise him on how to handle himself, but Striker blew him off, which then got Eddie upset. When Eddie told Chris Benoit what had happened, Benoit too became upset and threw Striker's bags out of the locker room. As of this point, Striker isn't welcome to dress in the locker room with the rest of the Smackdown roster, and dresses by himself in a seperate part of the arena according to Wade Keller.
The announcer situation in World Wrestling Entertainment at this point remains in a major state of disarray. Jonathon Coachman continued to be be Jim Ross' replacement this week, though most agree it just isn't working with a heel trying to hard sell viewers on angles and storylines. The Coach was vocal about never wanting to do play-by-play in the first place, as was Jerry Lawler. Michael Cole could have been a candidate, as it would probably be seen as a promotion, but it didn't happen. Wade Keller has reported that The Coach makes much more as a broadcaster than Michael Cole, Jerry Lawler and Tazz. Jerry Lawler makes more than either Cole or Tazz as well, and even if this isn't an issue that Cole and Tazz act out on, the frustration must certainly be there. When Mike Goldberg decided to stay loyal to the UFC and not accept WWE's big money offer, it put WWE in a precarious situation. For now, it seems WWE is adamant about not bringing Ross back. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, WWE reached out to the only announcer fans conceivably wouldn't resent filling Ross' seat, Joey Styles. Styles had recently defended "Dr." Vince McMahon's ten minute Raw skit on the insider website that he is fifty-percent owner of, 1Wrestling.com, and whether or not this warmed the company to Styles you never know. On the morning of Taboo Tuesday, WWE.com broke the story that Styles was at the arena, and he ended up receiving a trial by fire, calling the event on little notice with Vince McMahon in his ear. The consensus seems to be that Styles did well, even amongst those who didn't care for his work in ECW. Joey has constantly stated that his job in Atlanta selling advertising was something he wouldn't leave, so if he is this close to signing with WWE, they must be making him a substantial long term offer, which Dave Meltzer reports that they are. Wade Keller reports that as of now, Styles may be being offered a three year deal, with a low figure for the first year while the waters are tested, and substantial increases in pay for the next two years.
The Coach is a well liked individual within WWE, but Dave Meltzer reports that Vince McMahon wasn't happy with his recent work. McMahon became particularly heated when Coachman acknowledged the boos that Raw's top babyface John Cena was receiving. According to The Observer Newsletter, McMahon went off on The Coach and told Lawler to fix things. On another Raw, Coachman was said to have been verbally lashed at so much that when the show ended he simply put his head down on the table. Current talk has The Coach, Jerry Lawler and Joey Styles as a three man team, with speculation that Lawler might not last long.
Paul Heyman's contract with World Wrestling Entertainment is scheduled to run out in about a month according to Wade Keller. Heyman has been handling booking duties for the WWE developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling, and has been almost universally praised for writing what is generally considered to be the best weekly wrestling television in America. According to The Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Stephanie McMahon and high ranking WWE creative member Brian Gerwitz feel as though OVW is being booked horribly and want Paul Heyman removed from power. Paul Heyman's current contract is worth $250,000 per year, and most believe WWE will not match that offer, but will attempt to re-sign him to prevent him from working with TNA. Keller reports that Paul Heyman has written several scripts that he could pursue leads on in Hollywood when his contract expires, as well as a concept that meshes pro-wrestling with MMA that he may also pursue at some point.