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2004: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

By THE PWINSIDER.COM STAFF on 2005-01-03 09:00:00
2004.  Quite the year in wrestling, wasn't it? Especially for this website, which debuted in the first month of 2004, and now, 12 months later, we look back over the stories that made this a memorable year (in a good way and a bad way) for wrestling fans. 

What follows is a look at some of the major (and not-so-major) news and events from the past year.  However, it is far from a complete look at the year.  For a comprehensive look at every news story, major event, television show and Pay-per-view, Elite Members can look at the PWInsider.com Weekly Newsletter archive, which has a detailed look at EVERYTHING in professional wrestling in North America in 2004.  To become an Elite Member, click here. 

While reading this section, there is one very noticeable absence: Ring Of Honor.  The reason for that is simple.  Mike Johnson has assembled a separate feature detailing the incredible highs and lows Ring Of Honor experienced in 2004, which you can read by clicking here.

All items in this section written by Dave Scherer, Buck Woodward, Mike Johnson, and Jess McGrath, unless otherwise noted.

JANUARY

It's a little known fact that Guangzhou is in the Mid-Atlantic region.  NWA Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling ran New Year's Day in Guangzhou, The People's Republic of China at the Huadu Stadium, drawing an announced crowd of 6,100 fans. The five match show was headlined by NWA Mid-Atlantic Junior Heavyweight champion Chris Hamrick defeating Rikki Nelson in 22:14 and NWA Mid-Atlantic Champion Steve Williams defeating Terry Taylor in 28:51.

When push came to shove, someone had to do the job.  WWE's Bill Goldberg appeared on a joint Dreamstage Entertainment/Zero-One show on January 4th in Saitama, Japan, defeating Naoya Ogawa (who is infamous for never doing jobs) with a jackhammer in twelve minutes.  The show, designed as competition for the annual New Japan Tokyo Dome event, drew between 10-15,000 fans, although the promotions claimed 23,000 were present. 

What did they think it was, a soccer match? A riot brought a premature end to IWA Puerto Rico's January 6th show at the Ruben Rodriguez Coliseum in Bayamon. The show, the final event for the company's "Histeria Boricua" tour as part of Three Kings Day, had drawn an estimated 8,000. The situation began during the Ricky Banderas & Vampiro vs. Slash Venom & Apolo cage match. However, there are differing reports as to what started it, with one report citing an argument between Richard Rondon, a former wrestler with the promotion under the name V.Q. Jr., and several fans, while another said it began when security falsely accused one fan of throwing a cup of ice and several fans came to his defense. In any case, fans started throwing chairs, and then other objects. Reportedly, some people on the upper level of the building tossed garbage cans and other items down onto people on the lower level. Banderas and Vampiro tried to calm the situation down to no avail. Several fans were reportedly injured during the incident. It was then announced that the show was suspended, and fans began to leave. There was only one match left, Rey Gonzalez vs. Abyss, which they then did end up putting on. Police had been called to the building, but by the time they arrived, the situation was reportedly either under control or was over.

Looks like WWE was smart for not wanting him.  Wrestling sources close to Survivor phenom Jonny Fairplay leaked out that the former promoter/manager was in serious negotiations with NWA TNA and would be debuting for the company very soon. Fairplay, who was well known for using wrestling catch phrases on Survivor, was the former assistant to Roddy Piper and was involved in the car accident that nearly killed Piper several years back. Fairplay had been hoping to parlay his Survivor mainstream stardom into a WWE deal, but the company had no interest in him. On January 15th, TNA announced they had signed him to a contract, with Fairplay quoted as saying “TNA is a wrestling company that is going to the top, and I’m going to take them there. I’m Jonny Fairplay, and I don’t play fair.”  

And within a year, she was on WWE television ... taking off her dress. Melina Perez, a California-based fitness model and wrestler signed a developmental deal with WWE and reported to Ohio Valley Wrestling. Perez has worked under the ring name Kyra for The Empire Wrestling Federation and Ric Bassman's Ultimate Pro Wrestling.

Think of the great ideas that were lost forever because he didn't take the gig. Kevin Nash confirmed that his WWE contract had ended, and that he was no longer with the company.  On his official website, KevinNash.net, Nash confirmed that his wrestling contract had expired on December 31, 2003, and that he had been offered a creative role with the company.  However, Nash wrote that he did not want to work five days a week and take time away from his family, so he declined the offer. Nash wrote then that "There are many options in wrestling with other companies and I am also looking into more film and television appearances."

Can't we all get along, Part 1. There was a backstage incident between Steve Corino and Teddy Hart after both arrived at the building for an MLW event in Orlando, Florida. MLW management attempted to get the pair to sit down and talk to each other, in order to cool off their respective issues stemming from comments Hart made about Corino on different radio and Internet interviews following Hart's falling out with Ring of Honor in November, including challenging Corino to a shoot fight. However, both sides refused to budge and agree to work together. "Hart didn't want to apologize and caught an attitude, which led to Corino basically throwing his arms up at the whole situation, and storming off pissed," said one source. MLW has wanted to book a match between the two based off the buzz on the Internet but Hart, on the advice of his father, refused initially, telling MLW that Corino couldn't be trusted not to hurt him and it would "ruin his chances to go to WWE" if he was injured (even though WWE had shown no interest in him). Corino had promised they could work or shoot during the match, based on whatever Hart wanted.

If the wrestlers got those big stock dividends that Vince got, they'd probably be more motivated. Meetings were held at Raw and Smackdown tapings with management telling talent that, more or less, “in these tough times, we need each and every one of you to step up and do all you can to help the product succeed.”  However, the feeling amongst the talent was that the problems that the company currently had were almost exclusively due to the booking, not the work, so there isn’t really much that they could do. Since many of the workers felt that they already give it there all in their bouts, and it’s not like Vince listens to their booking ideas, the opinion of many is that Vince McMahon was trying to use them as the scapegoat for problems that he has caused. In fact, one prominent babyface at Smackdown was heard saying something to the effect of, "Yeah, let's all get over so Undertaker can come back and beat us two at a time even though he doesn't draw anymore."

Then again, in the world of video games, Funaki can jackhammer Big Show. The Hurricane, Shane Helms, had been told by management to stop using the chokeslam since it’s Kane’s finisher. However, Brad Cramer sent word that in the Playstation2 game WWE Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain, most of the wrestlers have two finishing maneuvers (a main one and a secondary one). The Hurricane has "The Eye of the Hurricane" as his main finisher and his secondary finisher is...the chokeslam! So, even though he's not allowed to use it in real life his video game counterpart is not only allowed to, but is encouraged to, use it as a finisher.

Maybe it was Canada's way of getting revenge for the Montreal Screwjob. World Wrestling Entertainment sent out a press release announcing they had been able to get The Federal Court of Canada to issue an injunction against 37 Canadian bars that had been pirating broadcasts of WWE Pay-Per-View events. The bars in question would be forced to pay court costs and damages to WWE. The amounts would be decided in a future court hearing.

There's the truth, then there's McTruth. At a talent meeting,  wrestlers were told to watch a recent match between HHH and Shawn Michaels as being an example of what guys need to do to get their work over and make him or herself a better character. However, many workers thought that rang hollow since it’s up to creative to give them chances to do so, not to mention the fact that Shawn and HHH got a half hour of TV time for their match, something not afforded most talent. Vince McMahon also talked about the landscape of the business today, making reference to “Ted Turner folding his tent and walking away from wrestling”, even though Turner was not in the position to do so at the time WCW was sold (and had he been, it is doubtful he would have allowed such a sale). A few people who were at the meeting were led to believe that Vince himself is starting to think that some of WWE’s revisionist history concerning the WCW wars is actually true now. Something else that had a number of the wrestlers laughing after the meeting came from a comment that Vince made when he addressed the troops. He said that it always shocks him when a wrestler turns his back to his opponent in the ring. Of course, as the wrestlers pointed out to me, there is no one guiltier of that transgression that Vince’s son-in-law.

Sometimes "achieving the dream" isn't all it is cracked up to be. Brian “Spanky” Kendrick gave WWE his notice, with people close to him stating that he had not been happy with his mostly nonexistent role in the company. After a nice initial push, the company has largely ignored the talented young worker.  Spanky was able to walk away on his own terms, something many wrestlers aren't able to do when it comes to WWE. 

We're still waiting for this one. Well, actually, I don't think anyone was waiting from the start.  Jimmy Hart appeared on a radio show in Little Rock, Arkansas, staring that he and Hulk Hogan were looking to start a wrestling company out of Universal Studios in Florida, and that they had been talking to Ted Dibiase, Sting, Buff Bagwell, and Bret Hart about being a part of it. 

I suppose a doughnut and a rock shouldn't have much in common. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Dunkin’ Donuts wanted to name one of their signature pastries after The Rock, but though he said he likes the product, he didn’t want people to think he was “nuts” for having a donut named after him.

Speaking of The Rock and food. A container holding 30,000 pounds of food was purchased from Times Supermarket in Kailua and sent to Samoa, all because of the Rock. The former WWE Champion and current movie star received a phone call from his grandmother, who lives in a village in Samoa, about the problems that the country was facing in the aftermath of Cyclone Heta.  Rock cut a $10,000 check to pay for the food and get it to Samoa.

You get the feeling he is angry about something?  CZW champion John Zandig was doing an interview in Philadelphia when "Original Gangsta" New Jack came out. Jack explained that his webmaster had told him that the Dudley Boyz rap about him on the new WWE Originals CD (which is true as I've heard the track and they basically say he's worn out and "playa hating" them). Jack talked about how in ECW, he was the one who wore camouflage and had a long whistle at the start of his music, but once they went to WWE, suddenly the Dudleys didn't want to wear tye-dye anymore and their music started like his. Jack continued on with a long, expletive filled promo saying that he if you took a roll of toilet paper and rolled it all out, there was his police record, talking about people he had shot and killed as a bounty hunter and that he once shot a man for giving him bad drugs. The crowd was completely loving this as it was New Jack cutting a promo as only his style suits him to do. He asked if the Dudleys thought they could talk trash about him and he wouldn't show up at their house and get their kids. He said that they can't hide behind Vince McMahon and then went off on Paul Heyman owing him "200 hundred million thousand dollars" and compared ECW and CZW as "an eight-track and a DVD" but noted that without ECW, CZW never would have been born. He then said, "F---k Eric [Bischoff]" for good measure as well.

Considering he was leaving anyway, why would he listen? Bill Goldberg was reportedly told by WWE officials to stop using the Jackhammer. They said that The Spear is all he needs to use and that it’s over with the fans. Goldberg, in response, had no plans to stop using the Jackhammer, feeling that it’s part of his persona. It was already expected by those close to him that he would be done after WrestleMania and a match with Brock Lesnar. 

So, which is it, fire them or kill them? During a backstage meeting with the Smackdown and Raw crews, Vince McMahon went on a rant about "Internet critics", saying that if he finds out what wrestlers are talking to Internet sites and sheet writers, he would "fire them on the spot".  Brock Lesnar echoed Vince's sentiments, even allegedly saying "If I see anybody on the Internet, I'll kill them."  

Okay, so it is UPN, but it's still a network, sort of.   WWE announced that UPN had exercised its option to renew Smackdown for two more years, keeping the show until September 2006. 

Unlike a KISS reunion, this wasn't about the money.  The night before the Royal Rumble, Steve Richards returned to the ECW Arena in Philadelphia and reunited his comedy team with The Blue Meanie on a 3PW event.  Coming out in their familiar BWO and KISS gimmicks, as well as a spoof of Shane Douglas and Francine, Richards and Meanie entertained the crowd, and Richards then thanked the crowd who supported him through his years in Indy wrestling straight through to his ECW career. The fans erupted into a huge "Thank You" chant for Richards, as well as a "Welcome back" chant earlier in the night.  The main event of the show saw Sabu defeat Al Snow in a match that celebrated the 10th anniversary of their feud. In a post match speech, Al Snow got on the mic and said that Sabu has never gotten the respect he truly deserves and thanked Sabu for the years they worked together. Sabu uncharacteristically grabbed the mic and said "thank you" to Al Snow.  Al Snow also thanked the fans at the Viking Hall. Snow said he never got to give a proper good bye to the fans during his ECW run.

He is the Ironman.  Chris Benoit shattered all longevity records in the Royal Rumble, lasting an unofficial 61:34 seconds in his Rumble win, longer than Bob Backlund (61:10 in 1993, which he lost) or Ric Flair (59:26, which he won). 

Rest in Peace. Jack Tunney, who was the figurehead President of the World Wrestling Federation during the promotion's national expansion, passed away from a heart attack. Tunney was 68. Tunney hooked up with the WWF in 1984 after a long association promoting in Toronto using talent from the National Wrestling Alliance. When Tunney began to instead promote WWF events in the city, it was a major move for the promotion's international plans, giving them a foothold in Canada that has never truly been challenged. Tunney was the on-air President for the promotion, often making major announcements and appearing as "Press conferences", including the announcement of a tournament at Wrestlemania IV after the WWF title was vacant following the Hulk Hogan vs. Andre The Giant match on NBC in February 1988. He also maintained responsibilities with promoting Toronto events locally, including Wrestlemania VI. Tunney retired in the early 1990s to spend more time with his family.

Rest in Peace. Former professional wrestler Don Haggerty, known in the ring as "Hard Boiled Haggerty", passed away at his home in Malibu, California at the age of 78.  Haggerty achieved his greatest success in the AWA, winning the AWA World Tag Team Championship with Len Montana from Murder Inc. on October 4, 1960 in Minneapolis, MN. Montana was later injured by Verne Gagne, so Haggerty selected Gene Kiniski as his new partner. Haggerty & Kiniski lost the belts to Wilbur Snyder & Leo Nomellini on May 23, 1961, but Haggerty & Kiniski regained the belts on July 19, 1961. Haggerty later broke up with Kiniski after an incident where Haggerty accidentally caused Kiniski to lose an AWA World Title match with Vernge Gagne. The two wrestled for the rights to the tag belts, and Haggerty won, and chose Bob Geigel as his new partner. Geigel & Haggerty lost the belts to Dale Lewis & Pat Kennedy on November 16, 1961. Haggerty also held the AWA United States Title. Haggerty held the California-based WWA World Tag Team Championship, twice with The Destroyer and twice with El Shereef.  He spent a good deal of time in Hawaii as well, holding the Hawaii Heavyweight Title and the Hawaii tag titles on two occasions, with Bill Savage and Butcher Vachon.

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For a comprehensive look at every news story, major event, television show and Pay-per-view, Elite Members can look at the PWInsider.com Weekly Newsletter archive, which has a detailed look at EVERYTHING in professional wrestling in North America in 2004.  To become an Elite Member, click here. 

For Mike Johnson's extensive look at Ring Of Honor in 2004, click here.


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