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Solie's Wrestling Newsletter

Millennium Edition

Sort of...if you buy that this is the Millennium...

Outsiders Stripped of the WCW Tag Titles

Lethel Lottery Tournament declared to fill the vacant titles

Scott Steiner Retires...Not!

Rejoins the nWo

Mankind Fired!

Loses a "Pink Slip on a Pole" match to the Rock

Awesome Regains ECW Title

The Way I See It...

Weekly Wrap-Up by Earl Oliver

Is Wrestling Fake??
(Not Like You Think)

By Ric "The Equalizer" Drasin

The Curse of the Brawl-for-All

by Alex Marvez

Electrolarynx not slowing down Solie

By David Whitley

Solie's End of the Century Poll

Let us know your picks for "Greatest Singles Wrestler" and "Greatest Tag Team" of the last 100 years


Volume 5, Issue 538 - December 31, 1999
Editor's Note: On of my regular Mailroom correspondents, Jim Takacs, suggested an "End of the Century" poll to determine who Solie's readers would name as the greatest Singles and Tag Team wrestlers over the past 100 years. I think it is an excellent idea (thanks Jim!) and it has subsequently really taken off so I therefore invite you all to contribute your nominations. Hundreds already have. I will take this input over the next week or so and treat it as an informal poll and also use it to construct an article containing the best expressed reasons for your various selections, to be published in a couple of weeks.

Send your votes to jumpcity@earthlink.net. Deadline for entries is next Friday, January 7, 2000.

This mornings edition, the last issue of Solie's Newsletter of the 20th century (and in some people's estimation, the current Millenium), is devoted to that age old question, "Is Wrestling Fake?" I have included an article by Solie's contributor Ric Drasin under that title plus a shocking piece by Alex Marvez which also answers the question, "What ever happened to Savio Vega?"

At the end of the page is my own thoughts on this subject plus a wrap up of the week's events. But first, here's the latest news concerning our favorite wrestling announcer and the namesake of this site...


Electrolarynx not slowing down Solie

By David Whitley

Published in The Orlando Sentinel on December 25, 1999

TARPON SPRINGS -- You go to the door expecting the worst. If Gordon Solie looks as bad in person as he sounds on the phone, it's going to be a tough visit.

The door opens and he doesn't appear to be dead. Solie smiles, then raises his trusty Servox Electrolarynx and places it under his chin. "Kkkooomm Eeennn." Words on paper cannot do it justice. The voice sounds like a short-circuiting speaker at a burger drive-through. You're not sure how to react, other than to quietly ponder why?

Of all familiar announcing voices, why was Solie's taken? You wouldn't wish his fate on anybody, but wouldn't the world have been better served if Jerry Glanville had been silenced?

Solie's last word was sudden, though it had been coming for years. There were too many cigarettes, too much noxious drag-racing air and too many nights feeding the professional wrestling masses. It erupted into throat cancer, and Solie's windpipe began swelling shut on Nov. 6. He was scheduled for surgery a week later, but there was no more waiting. His larynx was removed. A life was saved, but an identity was taken away.

"It is ironic," Solie said.

To be precise, he can't really say anything. No larynx, no voice. God obviously is not a wrestling fan.

Long before Vince McMahon turned wrestling into Jerry Springer In Tights, Solie's no-nonsense approach gave the fake sport an air of authenticity. He retired five years ago, but now we'll definitely never again hear "So long from the Sunshine State."

"It's made a lot easier," he said, "because of this."

It was an early Christmas present, the $600 Servox Electrolarynx. Talk is not cheap, until you lose it. Then it is priceless. The gizmo looks like an electric razor and amplifies vibrations from the throat. Just stick it under the chin and talk. When you can read a person's lips and hear the vibrations, it's almost as good as a real voice.

Solie actually looks healthier than before, when his voice had gotten so weak every breath sounded like his last. It's been weeks of adjustment, especially since he can no longer breathe through his mouth and nose. He unbuttons his shirt and reveals his tracheotomy, a nice word for a quarter-sized hole in the throat. It's how he'll get air for the rest of his life, but Solie has no complaints. Not about the hole, or the silence or Philip Morris.

To whatever extent cigarettes robbed his voice, he takes responsibility for putting them in his mouth. As much as he misses them, Solie wasn't going to become one of those poor souls who smokes through an air hole. "The concept of being so dependent that I would stick a cigarette into an open wound in my throat and inhale, it turned me off," he said.

There are other frustrations. Every time the phone rings, he knows new callers are going to be confused. Old ones will have to ask him to strain to understand. Even when they make out the Electrolarynx vibes, you're sad when you hang up. Solie's was not just any voice. It was the voice of a couple of TV generations. It never screamed, never hyped, never spoke down to an audience that probably deserved it. And it sure never chortled through a show featuring topless women wrestlers and profanity-spewing characters concocted by McMahon's twisted marketing.

The sport left Solie before his voice did. He has gotten a pile of get-well cards letting him know how much his calming sound is missed. "That makes a lot of things worthwhile," Solie said.

There's a chance he'll get a prosthetic implant in a few months, which will make speaking easier. Either way, the man who saw a million fake punches knows how to take a real one. He's going on sharpening his computer skills to get into the e-mail generation and is enjoying the holidays. When his grandchildren saw him for the first time after surgery, his old sense of humor eased their anxiety.

"I call myself R2-D2," Solie said.

The more you hear, the more you realize there was no need to worry. The voice may have changed. The man behind it is as strong as ever.

Thanks to regular correspondent Charles Laffere for bringing this article to my attention.


Vote for your favorites in
Solie's End of the Century Poll

Click on the link above and email us your nominees for the Greatest Singles Wrestler and the Greatest Tag Team from the last 100 years. Tell us why you feel the way you do. Deadline for entries will be January 7, 2000

IS WRESTLING FAKE?
(Not Like You Think)

By Ric "The Equalizer" Drasin
AWF Heavyweight Champion

The standard question when you meet someone and tell them that you're a Wrestler is:

"Oh, Wrestling is fake". "You guys don"t really fall do you?" What a stupid question. No we don"t really fall, you just imagine that's what you're seeing. See we're still standing in the ring. When I went over the ropes onto the floor, you just imagined it. Trickery, Magic, Illusion. Call it what you want. But then what the Hell do I do about the rope burns and the bruises from hitting the cement? Are those an illusion also?

I've been a Wrestler, Actor and Stuntman for over 30 years. All I ever hear is that Wrestling is fake. What about the special effects in films, the fights that Bruce Willis, Arnold S. and Mel Gibson have. You sit and watch them on film and don"t come out saying, that's fake. You just enjoy it and appreciate the hard work these actors and stuntmen go through to make it work! I've done stunts jumping off trains, running and falling down hills, street fights with actors who don"t know how to throw a punch and really tag you in the eye. It's staged work, but it's hard and you do get hurt.

Wrestling on the other hand is different. What about those "Holds", wrist lock, hammer lock, head lock, etc? I"ll tell you. Watch "COPS" some night and see that they use the same holds as Wrestlers on those that they are apprehending. Yeah, those holds work!

A top wrist lock with a little pressure, can break your wrist. A hammer lock can pull you shoulder out of the socket. A front face lock, can instantly break your neck!

Ok, we're in the ring working and you think it's fake. Fake or not, it's Wrestling and everything used in the ring can be used on the street for self defense! I've done it myself!

Wrestling is the best combative sport for self defense that there is. Put a Wrestler up against a boxer, martial arts, or street fighter and the Wrestler will no doubt always win.

Once you"ve got someone down, they're useless when you apply a submission hold. Street fights always end up on the ground. That's where the Wrestler takes charge and applies what he has learned. I was jumped once in a fast food restaurant when I first started Wrestling. Some punk took a swing at me. I grabbed his elbow and pushed his arm passed me and brought him down into a front face lock and lifted him off the ground.

Within seconds it cut off his air and he was out cold. I thought I had killed him, but actually just put him out. It scared me to realize the capability that I had. I shy away from those situations now, but at least I know I can handle them, thanks to my training as a Wrestler.

Wrestling is one of the toughest most enduring sports you"ll ever see. How many people off the street or in the stands can get in the ring for 10 min and run ropes, do high spots, grab holds and go through a match like a trained wrestler? One out of 15,000?

Ever watch boxing and see a tiny jab out of nowhere knock out the opponent? You wonder where that came from. It looked like nothing. But it knocked the guy out.

So what about a body splash off of the top rope? Hell, that hurts! Especially if a knee or elbow sticks you. What about a clothesline and a back bump over the rope on to the cement? Is that fake? You saw the guy go over the rope and hit the cement and there's nothing fake about it. You"ve got a GOOD chance of really hurting yourself. Yes, you're trained to fall the right way, but it doesn"t always happen the right way. Many obstacles can get in your way.

One more thing. Not everyone in the ring is friendly. There are "egos" and many people want to look their best. So there can be a "shoot" or fight as you know it to grab the hold first. This leads to some anger, and punches can be thrown a little harder than usual, and the same in return. Someone stiffs someone else and it escalates into a brawl. It may look fake and planned, but as I said, not always. Personalities clash and this creates problems. It happens all the time. No one really wants to lose or look bad so they fight for their position.

Wrestling night after night and year after year with different opponents and different styles, whether it's fake or not is getting experience of working with other people who are strong and skilled. The more you practice punching, kicking and holds, the better you get at it and the more natural it feels. Therefore if you are ever confronted on the street by someone, you have the skill and experience to wipe the street up with that person, as the average citizen will never have the chance to learn what a Wrestler has learned.

So, is wrestling fake? It's some what choreographed, but things do happen and I would tell anyone who asks me, "Let me put a hold on you and you tell me". They always backoff and say no. So next time you think Wrestling is fake, remember what I've said. Unless you want to step in the ring and see for your self.

Not!

Ric Drasin started training clients in the mid-60's when he ran a chain of health clubs. He also taught classes in fitness, bodybuilding and diet at the YMCA. Ric has trained with Arnold Schwarzenegger, becoming Arnold's training partner from 1970 - 1974. Ric later trained with Lou Ferrigno and acted in "The Incredible Hulk" TV series as the "Demi Hulk" -- the middle transformation on the show.

Drasin, currently an actor and personal trainer, created the bald bodybuilder logo for Gold's Gyms. His web site, Ric Drasin's BIG BOY Page features articles on wresting, training and fitness, and his own line of BIG BOYS clothing and other merchandise.


Mankind's Autobiagraphy is available at Solie's Storefront. Check it out for great deals on wrestling books, records and videos and to help support Solie's Vintage Wrestling. All proceeds from the Storefront go into paying for upkeep on this web site and keeping our features as a free service to the Internet Wrestling Community. In association with Amazon.com.


THE CURSE OF BRAWL FOR ALL

(Scripps Howard Service, Nov. 18, 1999)

By Alex Marvez

Editor's Note: For those who might have wondered, "What ever happened too Savio Vega?" - here is the answer and it ain't pretty.

Juan Rivera still is trying to shake the Brawl for All curse.

Rivera -- a.k.a., Savio Vega -- continues to feel the effects of serious neck and back injuries that were aggravated by his 1998 participation in the Brawl for All, a series of legitimate fights held in WWF rings.

Rivera and four other performers (Mike "Hawk" Hegstrandt, Charles "Godfather" Wright, Steve "Dr. Death" Williams and Mark Canterbury) suffered real-life injuries during the tournament. Immediately after losing a second-round match to Darren Drozdov, Rivera was hospitalized in Omaha, Neb., because of his neck and back ailments. "I thought if I threw a lucky punch and knocked him out, I'd get to the third round (of the tournament). But I wasn't that lucky," said Rivera, who also admits his poor performance in the Drozdov match was related to an adverse affect from a fat-burning supplement he took the morning of the fight. "I was messed up. I went to the hospital that night and I was worse. "I had three vertebrae messed up. The C-7 (vertebrae) was pinching a nerve to my left arm and I lost power on the left side of my body."

Rivera continued trying to wrestle as a member of Los Boricuas, but the problem flared again during a tag-team match with Miguel Castillo against Farrooq and Flash Funk in East Rutherford, N.J. "I remember I took a simple bump and then said, `I can't do this no more,' " Rivera said. "I finished the match, went straight to Vince (McMahon, the WWF owner) and said, `Vince, send me home. I can't deal with the pain any more.' My fingers were numb."

After spending more than a year rehabilitating the injury, Rivera is making a comeback as part of the new International Wrestling Association opening next month in Puerto Rico.

While the WWF isn't interested in using Rivera as an in-ring performer, McMahon will own a small piece of the IWA. Rivera, who also has a hand in IWA management, said McMahon plans to send young talent to Puerto Rico for experience like he currently does with the Memphis-based Power Pro Wrestling group.

To work off some rust and scout talent, Rivera wrestled and lost to fellow ex-WWF star Duke "The Dumpster" Droese Nov. 12 in an entertaining Florida Championship Wrestling show at Miccosukee Indian Gaming in Miami. It was only Rivera's second match since leaving the WWF. "I'm back a little bit," said Rivera, who plans to work under his other alias -- TNT -- in Puerto Rico. "I've lost about 30 percent of my power. When I was first hurt, it was about 40 percent."

Rivera, though, knows he's much luckier than some of the other Brawl for All brawlers. Williams was the favorite to win the tournament, but got brutally knocked out by Bart Gunn in the finals. Not only did the WWF lose interest in Williams because his character's invincibility was tarnished, but Gunn never received a major push because of a perceived lack of charisma. Gunn was canned after being knocked out in March by super-heavyweight boxer Butterbean at Wrestlemania XV. "Whether (the Brawl for All) was good or not, the people enjoyed it," said Rivera, whose expertise in tae kwon do was tempered by Brawl for All rules preventing kicking. "A lot of people in the beginning were like, `Ugh.' But after people saw it was real, they liked it.

"We loved it. It's like the scars we have on our forehead. People are like, 'Why don't you do surgery?' No. We had pain and we got knocked down, but I live for this."

Check Out Solie's Westling Radio!!

Featuring Earl Oliver's weekly The Way I See It... news, rumors and commentaries


The Way I See It...

Weekly Wrap-Up

Nitro (dubbed "New Years Evil") came to us live from Houston, Texas. Again this week the nWo (minus the injured Scott Hall) were up to all kinds of evil shenanegans. It's good to see that they are going at it in a fashion not necessarily to make themselves look cool - the New Age Outlaws needs to learn that lesson. For their part, after graffittizing Sid's car, the nWo proceeded to pull the plug on the broadcast truck a little over a half hour into the program (now that's an original idea...) A fuzzy video feed, denoting the difficulty of restoring the signal, greeted us as they came back from the break. Meanwhile, the villians were messing up the catering table.

In the replay of Goldberg's attack on the nWo limo at Thunder we see him bang his arms on the hood and leave a huge splatter of blood from his slashed forearm. We are told that he needed reconstructive surgery.

In other news, the Outsiders have been stripped of the Tag straps because of Scott Hall's failure to appear.

This week's storyline is that Bill Busch and the Turner front office are losing patience with The Powers That Be (who stay out of sight throughout the program) and their outlandish booking style. One result is the afore mentioned Tag Team Title hold up. Another is to make a stipulation that Bret Hart is liable to lose his title to Sid at at the next PPV even on a DQ.

To fill the vacant Tag Titles, a Lethal Lottery Tournament is being held. This means that disparate factions have to work together to win the tourney. Monday that included a Revolution member (Malenko) having to co-exist with a Filthy Animal (Konnan) against Buzzkill/Mike Rotundo, Booker T having to work with his estranged brother, and against Midnight/Lash Leoux (a good match with plenty of drama, by the way), Rick Steiner and Berlyn (who deserted his partner) teaming together after a fashion against PG13, Saturn/Duggan vs. Smiley/Aysa, Finley/Meng vs. The Harris Boyz, Vampiro/Karagias vs. David Flair/Crowbar (Devon Storm) and Disco Inferno (who has apparently decided that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em)/Big Vito vs. Chris "Champagne" Kanyon (who also deserted his partner)/Buff Bagwell, Sid/The Wall vs. The Outsiders

Advancing:

Scotty Steiner's retirement is a major story and was treated as such on the program. A lavish tribute video was followed by the man himself having to be wheeled to the ring by his brother to the strains of the old Steiner Brothers music "Steinerized!" Seeing this titan of the squared circle struggle into the ring with the aid of a cane and his older sibling was heartbreaking. Hearing him throw aside his prepared speech and speak from the heart with tears in his eyes and a catch in his throat was wrenching but inspiring. Of course, this touching moment presented a perfect opportunity for the nWo to once again show us what total jerks they are supposed to be...more on this story later.

It looks like Triad vs. Triad is going to be one of the big storylines for a while. Meanwhile, WCW needs to get a camera crew to follow the Hardcore action instead of sending Kanyon up to do his grossly inadequate play-by-play. The Knobbs vs. Bigalow Hardcore match was so badly covered that we didn't know who won until Bigalow emerged from the crowd surrounding the fight.

How long will it be before Sid turns on Benoit? He is acting like a good buddy to the Crippler for the moment, but the only wrestler I know of who has a worse record of sticking by his friends is Curt Hennig... who happens to be the victim of a Sid/Benoit attack this week.

Brad Armstrong is pushing this take-off on his brother's act entirely too far...This week he even had ersatz NAO music to accompany his Road Dogg style intro rant. Losing his phony dreadlocks rug from time to time is pretty funny however...

Tank Abbot got an opponent worthy of his mettle in Shane... Thank God for short matches. And what's with the guy in the "Scream!" phantom mask attacking people? Is that the same guy who is running in during those strobe effects in the ring?

As Bret Hart enters for his throw-away World Title match against Jerry Flynn, a fan ringside holds a sign that reads "Paul Boesch Made Wrestling" - amen brother. As the Houston boss of the Tri-State promotion (from the late 40's until the mid-80's), Boesch almost single-handidly created the concept of the modern episodic wrestling storyline for television, which Cowboy Bill Watts then perfected while Vincent K. McMahon was still giving us senseless squash matches on WWF TV.

I've just figured out that the Revolution are supposed to be like a right-wing survivalist militia group - their Washington DC skits are almost as stupid as DX trying to invade WCW headquarters last year...but not quite.

The supposedly fired Paul Orndorff is spotted exiting from a doorway behind Jeff Jarrett as the latter power-walks toward the ring for his US Title match against Kidman. Surprisingly Jarrett came to the ring without a guitar. He and Beniot are slated to face each other in a triple threat series of matches, 2 out of 3 falls for the US Title at the Souled Out PPV coming up. Of course, that supposed that he would get past Kidman Monday...which he did with Nash and Hart's help, despite a run in by the rest of the Animals (another great match - Jarrett is certainly showing us something since coming back to WCW).

Somebody end the Luger/Liz storyline and then just kill Evan Karagias' vocal group...puleeeeaze! At least Schiavone is calling this one right. Meanwhile, "Standards and Practices" (recognize these two? try Lenny and Lodi!) made their WCW debut accompanied by a blonde whose legs go all the way up...and were dispatched with alacerity by David and Daphne who are definitely growing on me.

The program ended on a shocking development - a classic nWo punk job was aggravated by the re-appearance of Scott Steiner who is then revealed to not be retiring after all! In fact he is the newest member of the still elite group (no doubt to replace Hall who really is out for a while with his injury). An nWo Monster Truck was used to crush Sid's car with him inside as the scene faded to black.

Over on RAW (live from Greenboro, NC - Horseman Country!) thing are shaping up for the the Royal Rumble PPV. The "happy couple" were still in charge, and still messing with wrestler's heads. During his opening rant, HHH refered to this as the "...final RAW of the new Millennium..." before correcting himself. He then proceeded to book himself a World Title match and a "Pink Slip on a Pole" match between Mick Foley and the Rock - the loser to be fired! (Does anyone else think that HHH's portrait to the right of the TitanTron makes him look like HBK?) The Foley/Maivia match itself (a no DQ cliffhanger) saw Mankind fired but I'm sure this is only a device to bring him back as Cactus Jack for his retirement match at the Royal Rumble.

Speaking of Foley, he was the the undeniably star of Monday's program. From his opening rant, trying to sew dissension among the DX troups and walking right into their midst, to his harrowing bump at the end of his match, to his swan song speech after losing (which garnered him a standing ovation), to his backstage goodbyes, to his final appearance in support of the Big Show - Foley held the crowd in the palm of his hand all evening.

Chyna made short work of Crash Holly as Hardcore looked on, then Chyna "high fived" the Cat so hard it knocked her down. Speaking of the Ninth Wonder of the World, Al Snow got his chance at the IC Title later in the evening only to have Chyna come in and spoil it.

Meanwhile, Tori appeared to be setting Kane up for a let down as she describes the surprisingly gentle treatment she was accorded by X-Pac over the Christmas weekend. She further confuses matters by acting strangely unfriendly towards Test and then falsely accusing him of violating her to Kane. The subsequent Kane/Test match during the second hour saw Tori acting crazed at ringside as her boyfriend dismembered her supposed attacker. Why do I think this is leading to some kind of "Stockholm Syndrome" storyline..?

A four-way tag match (Acolytes vs. Dudleys vs. Godfather/D'Lo vs. Edge/Christian) was pointless, silly, and mercifully short. This was followed by an equally silly (and unsuccessfull) attempt by HHH to end Kurt Angle's winning streak by putting him into a handicap match against the Headbangers. Later we got yet another four-way tag match (this time an intergender contest - Luna/Gangrel vs. Prince Albert/Ivory vs. Viscera/Jacquline vs. Val Venis/the Cat) in which Val Venis did most of the work for some reason - and then was pinned by PA. More silly stuff.

Harvey Wippleman (AKA Downtown Bruno) made his reappearance in the WWF this week in a skit involving Mark Henry and the two old broads and a double dinner date which naturally degenerated into into a restaurant brawl and ended up in a motel room.

X-Pac vs. Jeff Hardey had the potential to be a outstanding contest and delivered admirably (including some nifty teamwork involving Terri).

Too Cool went after the WWF Tag Team Titles in the only decent tag match on the program. The challengers definitely proved they were cooler (and a superior team) then the Champs as the contest ended in a typical DX screwjob.

The HHH vs. Big Show main event (also no DQ, of course) during which HHH could clearly be heard calling the moves (shouting, "Get up Paul!" and then calling, "Side slam" just before the Champ executed the maneuver) was headed for another DX screwjob when Mankind ran in to get his revenge against HHH.

Thunder was pre-empted this week, but WCW did serve up a Best of Nitro retrospective which was not another of those Hulk Hogan extravaganza's like the one they did last year. In fact this one contained a replay of the very first match ever aired on Nitro, a Light Heavyweight barn burner between the late Brian Pillman and the incomperable Jushin "Thunder" Liger which threw down the gauntlet to what had been a lackluster Monday night WWF program, Scott Halls surprise appearence (complete with fake Hispanic accent) which heralded the birth of the New Word Order, plus a plethora of other great moments from the last four-plus years of Nitro including one of the most memorable moments in pro-wrestling history, the infamous nWo parking lot attack on Arn Anderson and Marcus Bagwell which contributed the term "lawn dart" to our wrestling lexicon when Rey Misterio, Jr., in one of his first appearances in WCW, was unceremoniously speared into the side of a trailer by Kevin Nash. In an incredibly bold move, the Nitro program was literally stopped in its tracks for the better part of 20 minutes while the carnage in the parking lot was attended to.

Also featured was the first appearance of the Nitro Grrrrrls - back when they were a group of dancers (sigh...)

Not that Hogan wasn't on the show at all. His first appearance came a few minutes into the second of three hours and was from the 100th Nitro program wherein Lex Luger pulled off a surprise upset for the World Heavyweight Title. His only other appearance came near the end of the show when we witnessed another stunning (if not so unforseen) defeat of the Hulkster at the hands of Goldberg. Despite his losses, each of these matches showed Hogan in fine form and wrestling like the true Champion he was.

Another memorable moment was the third match from the famous Best of Seven Series between Chris Benoit and Booker T for a shot at the World Television Title (held at that point by Fit Finley). This clip was especially poignant because officiating was the late Brian Hildebrand (better known as Mark Curtis) who was already showing the gauntness of frame brought on by his several-year battle against stomach cancer which eventually took his life earlier this year.

Also we get to see Bill Goldberg defeat Hugh Morrus in what was billed as his first Nitro appearance (although he had actually shown up a few months earlier when Roddy Piper was wrestling unknowns to select his ill-fated "team" to go against the nWo in WarGames). This was followed by Goldberg's first major Title win over Raven for the US Championship - actually a very impressive outing for both men, a full ten minute bout which saw the monster fight off the entire Flock and overcome Raven's creative use of a chair.

Perhaps the most emotional moment in wrestling history was the September 14, 1998 return of Ric Flair and the reformation of the Four Horsemen. They followed this with some lengthy clips from the Bret Hart/Chris Benoit tribute to Owen Hart from earlier this year, yet another poignant moment coupled with a fine wrestling display. This also marked the last Nitro before the advent of "The Powers That Be", Vince Russo and Ed Ferrarra.

With no competition from the folks down south on Thursday, SmackDown put on a solid, if somewhat unspectacular show. Mostly they served up a retrospective of Mick Foley's career (including a taped interview conducted by Jim Ross) but the first hour main event was a barn burner featuring the Rock against Kane, who had been rather too easily convinced that Maivia was after his woman. For her part, Tori continues to act like a psychopath, which makes it even less believable that Kane would fall for this snow job. The match itself was no holds barred (what other kinds are there in the McMahon/Helmsley era..?) which moved up to the platform then down into the crowd before wending its way back to the ringside area while Tori alternately simpered and laughed maniacally. Inevitably she ended up in the ring where she was knocked down by her man, who was distracted and pinned.

Stephanie's favorite whipping boy, former fiance Test, was forced into a handicap match against the Boss Man and Prince Albert. Not surprisingly he lost. How many times can this guy get his nose broken before it falls off??

It looked for sure like Kurt Angle's winning streak was due to end as he faced Rakishi Phatu while his silent partner Steve Blackman was handcuffed to a ring post. Luckily for Angle, someone (probably Stephanie) had slipped a key to Blackman, who unlocked himself and knocked the big man out while the referee was busy warning Too Cool to stay out of the fight.

Al Snow was given Mick Foley's "spot" (now where have we heard that expression before?) which last night meant the assignment to put the remaining Hardey Boy (Jeff) on the shelf. But just when it looked like he would win his promised bonus, Matt Hardey ran in and knocked him off the top rope. Snow lost the match.

In the sleeper of the night (I mean that literally - I fell asleep!) the Hollys faced Mae Young and Moolah. I guess one way to make it as heels in the WWF is to beat up on old ladies. They beat up on three of them if you count Harvey Wippleman. What the hell, it worked for Jeff Jarrett...

Mick Foley delivered a completly out of character interview. Low key, soft spoken, he held no animosity for the Rock, whose win on Monday preciptated his firing. He stated that in a "perfect world" he would have his retirement match at WrestleMania and go out as the WWF Champion. He also said that he has no intention of accepting the fate handed to him by the "happy couple". He'll be baaaaaack...

Chyna revealed on Thursday that she has been aiding Chris Jericho to preserve him as Intercontinental Champ while her reconstructed thumb heeled so she could win back her title from the guy who took it from her. Of course the Millennium Bug was convinced that it was beause she was in love with him. Mid-way through the match, Jericho missed a spot and caught Chyna in the gut with his knee as he came down out of his springboard moonsault. Chyna gutted it out (no pun intended) as the referee was knocked out. A second referee ran in just as the first one recovered. Both competitors were down and counted out by separate referees! They were still arguing over who won the match when we went to commercial.

In a strange twist, the Mean Street Posse cheated the Acolytes out of a win in the four corners tag team match on Monday so that led to a revenge match - Faarooq vs. Bubba Ray Dudley...huh? Naturally this one ended when the Posse ran in to attack, weapons in hand.

We finally got some real female wrestlers in the ring last night when Luna and Jacqueline got it on in the course of their intergender tag team match with Gangrel and Viscera as their respective partners. It was unfortunately too short however as Viscera basically won that one single-handed and left Luna crushed, to be hauled away on a stretcher.

As usual lately, the program concluded on a McMahon/Helmsley swerve. In this case it was a promise by HHH earlier in the evening to fire X-Pac if he failed to beat the Big Show in their second hour main event match-up. The match was a no-brainer but of course, when things started to go bad for Waltman, his DX buddies were on the spot to pull his cookies out of the fire (pun intended). As Paul Wight was about to press slam his challenger, HHH suddenly declared it a handicap match and introduced Road Dogg as X-Pac's partner. When that didn't do the trick either, Helmsly threw Billy Gunn into the mix as well. That was enough to put the Show down on the mat...so HHH decided to get him some as well. While his buddy's held the big guy, HHH laid him out with a chair then they took turns administering their favorite moves on the helpless giant. What was meant as a shocking end really only came off as predictable.

ECW on TNN came to us from the Westchester County Center in White Plains, NY and featured the rematch from last week between new World Champion Masato Tanaka and former Champ Mike Awesome which resulted in Awesome regaining the title. Afterward Little Spike Dudley ran out to try his Acid Drop for the second time on Awesome but was laid out. Dudley's female fan then jumped the rail and succeeded in Acid Dropping Judge Jones only to be the victim of a massive clothesline from the Champ. Dudley recovered and tried again but Awesome shrugged him off and sent him crashing through a ringside table.

This edition also saw a real hot match between Mikey Whipwreck and Raven which Raven won with his Evenflo DDT, and a handicap tag match with Balls Mahoney and New Jack facing the Baldies in which Mahoney was taken out with a staple to the eye after which New Jack got some revenge on Grimes.

For my money, the highlight of the show was the three way dance pitting Sabu vs. Sandman vs. Rhino. The latter has the potential to become a real monster heel, he seems to improve every time I see him. Sabu won the match despite the interference of Steve Corino and Jack Victory.

In what was clearly Tommy Dreamer's best match since the TNN program debuted a couple of months ago, the Innovator of Violence faced off against Justin Credible. Of course the Impact Players got involved and even though they were pretty effectively held at bay by Raven and Francine, still Dreamer lost the match but earned a standing ovation from the crowd as he left the arena.

Jerry Lynn and Rob Van Dam had another of their epic battles to close the show and it actually looked like JL might win one for a change...but he didn't.

Finally, the WWF put on a New Years Eve show they called "The Eve of Destruction" featuring some classic matches from the last two years including the infamous 1989 Hell in the Cell match between the Undertaker and Mankind, Steve Austin's cage match against Vince McMahon, the Rock vs. Mankind Last Man Standing match, and everyone's choice for match of the year in 1999 - the Tag Team Ladder match between the Hardey Boyz vs, Edge/Christian. I was epecially looking forward to seeing the ladder match because it took place at the PPV I skipped during my protest of the disgusting Paul White/Boss Man angle. What really amazed me about that match was how many times guys were pulled off or knocked off that ladder and yet the ladder itself remained upright.

Actually better then the matches (which were unfortunately presented in highlight format), were the quasi "out of character" interviews that accompanied them. The participants, and other wrestlers who were present, commenting on what went on gave us a great "behind the scenes" look at those epic battles. Never mind that they were mostly cobbled together from interviews amd highlights previously aired during the Sunday morning Superstars program.

As usual with the WWF and mysteries, the much ballyhood "New Years Eve Surprise" was a dud. Chris Jericho came out and made a speech - that was it folks...

All in all, in the competition for the best year-end show this week, WCW won hands down.

My take on the "Is wrestling fake?" question:

My wife gave me Mick Foley's book for Christmas and I spent most of the Holiday weekend reading it. I will have a full review of it once I have finished, but for now I wanted to comment on some of the passages which relate directly to the subject of this issue: "Is wrestling fake?"

Many years ago I used to occasionally attend wrestling cards at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles with my late uncle Ray, who was better known as "Rip the Crippler" Oliver. In his later years we most often went there to watch his son Larry, my cousin, known as "Crippler" Rip Oliver (a slight distinction to be sure...) wrestle.

The first time I met my uncle was when I was eight. He appeared one Saturday afternoon and offered to take me to the auditorium where he was wrestling that evening. On that occasion I was refused permission by my mother, who saw Ray as an unsavory "black sheep" relative, but a few years later he showed up at our doorstep with his two sons in tow and my mother relented. I learned that night, for the first time, that wrestling was choreographed, that the violence was scripted and that every precaution was taken to minimize injury.

I also learned that wrestling was not "fake" because, despite the precautions taken, my uncle went back to his hotel room that evening (which he shared with his opponent, by the way!) with some very nasty cuts and bruises indeed, in addition to a cracked rib and two broken fingers! In fact, the broken fingers were the result of a match earlier in the week, but that didn't keep him from stepping into the ring that night, or the following Tuesday night in San Francisco, or Thursday evening in Portland. I also watched my cousins Larry and Ray, Jr., on several ocassions, suffer injury - once so severe that Ray, Jr. had to be driven away in an ambulance (and this was not a staged skit!)

There were many passages in Foley's book which relate to this subject as well, and Mick comes across as justifiably bitter towards WCW management because he felt that he literally put his life on the line for the company only to be subsequently held down because he didn't fit their image of a Champion.

He is particularly upset over the way his dangerous feud with Vader was treated. The subsequent "escaped mental patient" skits, which he felt were demeaning because they made comic fodder of his very real injuries suffered when Vader powerbombed him on a concrete floor. In fact, he relates in the book that it was exactly one year later, in another match with Vader in which a repeat performance of that devestating maneuver was treated by the announcers as an everyday event, that Foley made his decision to relinquish a six figure income and "retire" from WCW in order to pursue his career in the independent promotions.

Foley's and my uncle's and cousins' experiences (and lest we forget: Droz, Paul Orndorff, Steve Austin, and others who have suffered (possibly) career ending injuries, and "Iron" Mike Dibiasi, who died in the ring) provide ample evidence that "fake" is a word that should never be applied to that form of sports entertainment we refer to as professional wrestling.

At least that's the way I see it...

Earl Oliver
Editor, Solie's Wrestling Newsletter



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