Dedicated to Gordon Solie
January 29, 1929 - July 27, 2000
In this edition of the newsletter we have John Cross and Matt Benaka with the latest installments of the Crossface Connection and This Week in World Title History, respectively, plus my own TV Reports and topical rants. But first, this interesting item from National Public Radio...
In the late 1950s, Sputnik Monroe was Memphis wrestling: "220 pounds of twisted steele and sex appeal" as he liked to put it. Monroe, whose real name is Rock Brumbaugh, rolled into town and began what many credit as the beginning of change, and not just for wrestling.
He was first known as Pretty Boy Roque. He was bullishly strong then, with movie-star good looks and a trademark white streak in his hair. He'd come from the carnival circuit, where he would pick fights with local tough guys to sell more tickets. Practically anything went in the ring: He fought with pick axes, shovels - you name it. But he was cunning and always focused on making the other guy lose control. It was during these days that he developed his life-long philosophy: Win if you can, lose if you must, always cheat, and if you have to leave the ring, leave tearing it down. His style, outrageous and rough, influenced later Memphis wrestlers, particularly Jerry "the King" Lawler.
By the time he came to Memphis, Monroe had already earned his Cold-War era moniker. One woman, enraged that the wrestler walked into a match with his arm around an African-American teen-ager, called him every name in the book, and then, after deciding he was no better than a communist, called him the worst thing she could think of: Sputnik.
Sputnik wasn't about to change anything about himself but his name. He continued to build friendships within the black community, and soon had a huge following. He was a heel, or a bad guy in wrestling parlance, but to his fans, he was a hero. Walking into the ring at Ellis Auditorium in downtown Memphis, he would be booed by many whites, but as soon as they were finished, Sputnik would turn to the top seats, the segregated top balcony, raise his arms, and bring down a groundswell of cheers. Sputnik wanted more of his fans to get into the auditorum, so he bribed a door attendant to miscount the number of African Americans admitted. Soon, there was no place else to sit but in the white section. Whether fans were black or white, promoters could see nothing but green, and with little fanfare, seating at Ellis Auditorium was integrated. Later, he tag-teamed with an African American, Norvell Austin. Many fans said it was the first time they ever saw a black wrestler in the ring.
Sputnik continued to wrestle throughout the South for two more decades, but he never became nationally known. Two years ago, after he turned 70, he had to give up wrestling for good when his knee gave out. He's been happily married for a number of years, and lives with his wife and two cats in Houston, Texas. Joanne Monroe says whenever they travel to Memphis, whether they're stopped at a gas station or standing in a supermarket, someone always remembers Sputnik Monroe.
You can read about Sputnik in Robert Gordon's Book, It Came From Memphis, and you can see one of his wrestling outfits at the Memphis' Rock 'N' Soul Museum Web site. Additional information can be found at www.1wrestlinglegends.com.
There's not a lot to report on this week. There were some title changes of note in World Championship Wrestling a few years ago and an interesting World Title unification match between Jerry Lawer and Kerry Von Erich. Besides that we just have a great contest between Ed Lewis and Ed Don George in 1931. I hope you enjoy it! If you have any questions, comments or corrections, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and please visit my web site at: http://www.geocities.com/mrbenaka/index.html
World Title History for the week of April 14th to April 20th
World Heavyweight Title (Original) - Ed "Strangler" Lewis wins his fourth World Title at the hands of Ed Don George in Los Angeles, CA on April 14, 1931. This win also secured him the claim of the AWA (Boston) World Title. This match happened because promoters originally moved the World Title from Gus Sonnenberg to Ed Don George in an effort to put the strap on someone with legit wrestling skills since Don George was an Olympian Wrestler. There was a lot of tumult in the wrestling world during the time period between Ed Don George becoming champion and losing the title to Lewis. It's said that before the match got started, Lewis said, "Well, Don, tonight's the night." Apparently Ed Don George agreed and knew he couldn't beat Lewis in a shoot match, but the two put on an exciting match that brought wrestling promotion power back to Lewis and his promoters.
MWA World Title - April 17th of 1941 saw Lee Wykoff defeat Orville Brown in Kansas City, KS to end the first of 11 MWA World Title reigns of Brown.
WCW International World Title - Sting defeated Rick Rude in Rosemont, IL on April 17, 1994 to end Rude's second run as champion.
WCW World Title - April 19,1998 saw Randy Savage defeat Sting for the title in Denver, CO. This was Savage's third run with the WCW Title. The next night, Savage lost the belt to Hulk Hogan in Colorado Springs, CO on Monday Nitro to start Hogan's fourth reign. This was the night that Nash powerbombed Hogan and put Savage on top for the pin, but Bret Hart ran in and clocked Savage with the title belt and put Hogan on top for the pin.
Jeff Jarrett his first WCW World Title as he defeated Diamond Dallas Page in Chicago, IL to win the vacant title.
WCWA World Title - April 14, 1989 was the day that Jerry Lawler defeated Kerry Von Erich in a rematch to unify the WCWA and AWA World Heavyweight Titles. Lawler then declared himself the Unified World Heavyweight Champion and that title was used as the top belt for the USWA after AWA stripped Lawler of that belt and WCWA became USWA.
The good guys are winning the War.
Let's hope that we can also win the peace.
Welcome to the Crossface Connection, the last place in the free world that you would expect praise for HHH.
But, as I did one time before, I am going to give credit where credit is due (though, I will get 6 months out of Purgatory for it, I hope...), and give the poor Nasally Gifted One his props.
There is no doubt that the man is a politicking, domineering, daughter dating SOG who orchestrates his own championship runs and has a propensity for ending good, reasoned pushes of talented workers. However, we must agree that the man does work his assets off when he is in the ring.
And, I know that he isn't the same worker that he was before his surgery. He seems to be operating at about three quarters speed most of the time, and he is wrestling less and less, having become injury prone during the last three years or so. However, that hasn't stopped him from continuing to try hard in the ring, and in his promos.
The match that I want to use as an example is the Scotty Steiner match.....the first one, that is. Scotty Steiner came into the ring, unable to work a decent match; all the rumors to that effect were true. However, taking into consideration that fact, HHH was somehow able to turn that into a 2-PPV feud, even in the face of Steiner being booed by the fans because he couldn't compete, or sell a move due to his hyperventilation. HHH actually made that feud, via his selling of Steiner's holds and throws.
Another match was the Elimination Chamber match. The man had his windpipe partially crushed, and still performed the whole rest of the match, gasping for his breath. It was only after the show that the public heard about the severity of the bump that he took from RVD. It is a testament to his determination that he persevered. Me? Id have dropped out of that match quickly….there is no way I could have dealt with putting HBK over, and not being able to breathe, at the same time. Sorry, no dice.
Now, I said this in the Newsletter, on 12-4-2000:
"HHH has basically lost any semblance of selfishness in his role as Head Heel. This guy jobs to whoever he needs to, he blades when needed. He wrestles to the level of his opponent and makes his opponent look good every time he gets in the ring. He was in the middle of a great face run, during his feud with Kurt Angle, and let the storyline flip entirely around to put him back in the fan's doghouse. Now, a lot of people have said that HHH would prefer to be a heel.....maybe that is true, and I don't know, because I am not an insider, However, if that were the case, why would he allow such a face run against Kurt Angle, who could have easily been turned to a face (the Olympics would have facilitated such a turn), and let himself become one of the top two active face wrestlers in his fed? Remember, both Austin and the Undertaker were injured during his face run. In addition, HHH works after the cameras are off.....if you read the news and rumors (you can see 'em at our website, bodyslam.cc), he often goes back to the ring to job to the face opponent, be it Austin or the Rock, for the benefit of the crowd. He brings his game (pardon the pun) up to a very high level, and he does all this for the benefit of the WWF."
Now, there have been changes. Since the evaporation of the WCW, HHH has turned more political, and has seemed to be able to gather his own booking authority into his hands. He jobs less often, and lets Ric Flair exude most of the ‘bad’ heel characteristics that I feel he should. However, all things considered, it would be an oversight to fail in mentioning his good points. He may be poison in the locker room (that I firmly believe to be a truth, should he stay his course), but it his work before the camera is full of effort and true grit.
Never say that I am not fair.
OK…back to the 'War is winding down...' coverage, and, of course, those pesky work related responsibilities. Come back to Sole's Wrestling for the wrestling seasons of your content, and to bodyslam.cc for your wrestling needs. Also, check out the Bodyslam Blog, at http://www.homestead.com/crossfacereport/BSBLOG.html. It isn't related to wrestling (much), but a bit of reading and recommendations from the best readers on the ‘Net would be welcome.
See you next week, for another Connection.
SmackDown! came to us on tape from Allstate Arena in Chicago, Illinois, and opened with video of Brock Lesnar arriving at the arena, autographing a girl's breast (you heard me) and moving on. The opening match tonight involved the new WWE Champ in a champion vs. champion contest against Matt Hardy (notice, I didn't say "title vs title"...) Hardy tried hard to take advantage of Lesnar's concussion and neck problems from the PPV match - but it was fruitless...
The next segment consisted of a video recap of the whole McMahon/Hogan confrontation from last week, then Sable made her entrance and we went to commercial.
Sable was ringside (flipping through the current Playboy edition) during the next match - a mixed tag team effort featuring Torrie Wilson and Brian Kendricks against Jamie Noble and Nidia. Noble and Nidia are just a terrible team - and as usual, Nidia's outside interference was only successful sporadically. Torrie put Nidia down with a DDT to end it. Afterward, Sable applauded the victory...whatever that means...
Backstage, Chris Benoit congratulated Lesnar on his title win at WrestleMania, then talked about meeting him at the Backlash PPV. This brought Benoit's tournament opponent for tonight (Rhino) out of the woodwork to dispute that chain of events. Lesnar invited them to beat each others' brains out. Personally I figure it will be Cena at Backlash - especially if he manages to win against the Undertaker tonight. I mean, lets look at it logically. Cena hasn't exactly been burning up the ring since he moved into his rapper phase, so the only reason to put him into a program with Lesnar, and the title tournament, is to have him in the tournament final. Is it just me, or is this really obvious..?
The next match was Rhino and Benoit in their tournament semi-final. Rhino did his usual power repertoire, leaving Benoit, who is usually a power wrestler himself, to hold up the finesse end of things. In the end it was a simple backslide that ended the contest in favor od Benoit.
Backstage, Sable barged into Torrie's dressing room and went right into the shower room. She congratulated Torrie on her match and her success with Playboy, then stole her towel. When Torrie started to come out, Sable made her walk across the room to get her towel back (meoww...)
Vince McMahon cut a rambling promo centering around his psychotic hatred of Hulk Hogan, then introduced Roddy Piper for the first installment of "Piper's Pit" since WrestleMania in 1989. Piper and McMahon fenced a little, but seemed to be agreed in their opinions of Hulk Hogan. As he was leaving, Piper reminded McMahon that it was him (Vince) was pined by Hogan at WrestleMania - something that never happened to Piper. Rikishi came out to remind Piper of the infamous "coconut" incident with his cousin, Jimmy Snuka. While the big Samoan was distracted, Sean O'Haire snuck up behind him and laid him out. I believe that is the first physical action by O'Haire since this whole, "I'm only telling you..." routine started months ago. Piper capped off the segment by repeating the coconut treatment on this generation of Islanders.
Looks like Sylvan Granier (co-star of the screwjob in Ontario II) has gone over from being a referee to being a wrestler, with another snooty Frenchman - exploiting, no doubt, the current antipathy in this country for that benighted country.
In what was apparently NOT a title match, Tajiri and Rey Misterio took on Team Angle and beat them. Ironically, the losers had dedicated their match to their mentor, Kurt Angle.
Backstage, the Undertaker had a few juicy observations to make about the pretentious John Cena.
Nathan Jones took on Bill DeMott in his debut TV match. Guess who won...
Later, backstage, police officers accosted Jones, then arrested him saying they wanted to take him downtown for "questioning". This had been cooked up with the FBI - who apparently accused Jones of being responsible for some of their stuff having gone missing.
With Jones out of the picture, Vanilla Lice took on the Undertaker in a #1 contender tournament semi-final. Although he gave a good account of himself, but it was pretty clear that Cena really didn't have a chance in this match - except that the referee got knocked out, giving the FBI a chance to come down and beat up on UT. Cena advanced and will meet Chris Benoit in the tournament final.
Jim Ross was still out of action, by the way. Coach was back along side the King to do the commentary.
Backstage, Stacy went through Test's bag and found his copy of Playboy ("...honest, Honey, I just read the articles...")
Test came to the ring with Stacy after the break. He was there to take on Chris Jericho as part of their continuing, rather mild, feud. Jericho used Test's preoccupation with his girlfriend to get in the first licks, but Test recovered immediately and put the Millennium Bug on the defensive. Stacy's usual cheering of her man seemed somewhat muted - in fact she was seen to be smiling after Jericho ran Test's shoulder into the corner post a couple of times. A little later she was signing autographs and completely ignoring the match. Test continued to dominate the proceedings - meanwhile, Stacy was up on the second ring step wiggling her butt for the crowd. Test came close to getting the pin, and Stacy was on the steps at it again. This time Test saw her gyrations and was so distracted that he allowed himself to be rolled up and pinned. Stacy stalked away from the ring area, then an enraged Test dragged a "fan" over the barrier and roughed him up.
Eric Bischoff did a stand-up promo saying that he had received so much mail regarding Stone Cold Steve Austin that he has decided to "do the right thing for the fans" regarding Austin...whatever that means...
Backstage, Test tried to mollify his squeeze...without success...
Trish and Ivory took on Jazz and Victoria (w/Steven Richards) in a tag match next on the program. Jazz was accompanied by Teddy Long, her new manager, I assume. For those of us who remember Longs race-based lawsuits against WCW a few years ago, it is passing strange to see him now doing a parody of himself. In the ring, Trish appeared to injure her knee and Jazz immediately exploited it with an STF for the win.
Backstage, Goldberg met one of his "relatives"...Goldust, who gave the monster a gift...a gold wig like his own! He put it on Goldberg's bald head - but the latter immediately took it off, saying, "You look a lot better in this than I do..." and, "Don't ever put that on my head again."
After the break, Kevin Nash was seen backstage, deep in thought, then we went to the ring, where Steve Austin's music played to usher in...Eric Bischoff with a merchandising offer. Basically a package of Austin dedicated T-shirts and a WrestleMania XIX program for $39.95 on WWE ShopZone. Booker T arrived to rain on Bischoff's parade with a demand of a match for the World Title against HHH tonight.
Next up, the new World Tag Champs defended their titles in a no-DQ rematch against former (awarded) champs, Lance Storm and Sean Morley. RVD was sporting an ugly looking bruise on his forehead above the left eye. This was a very fast paced contest - even Kane managed not to lumber around too much - and surprisingly, considering it was no DQ, kept within the rules for much of the match. But then, just before they went to commercial, a trash can and the ring steps were introduced as weapons. When we returned, RVD was being isolated, but managed a double DDT and a tag, bringing Kane in to clean house. Soon RVD was back in it and he and Kane were showing some great team work. Suddenly Bubba Ray Dudley was in the ring, messing things up. Devon ran in and tried to talk his brother out of that tact. Meanwhile, RVD used the chair Bubba was holding up to lay a Vandaminator on Storm. A minute later the champions emerged victorious.
Backstage, Bischoff met with HHH and Ric Flair, who wanted to grant Booker his shot at the title. Hurricane barged in and offered a little super-hero advice. HHH ignored his ideas, but Bischoff picked up on them - in the end they settled on a tag match - Hurricane/Booker vs. HHH/Flair - with Booker's title shot on the line.
In a video promo, Bradshaw and Ron Simmons visited the troops at an armed forces hospital. Then the Rock joined the announce team via satellite for an interview. Rock had gotten himself a new guitar - "priceless" so he said, because "Elvis ate pie on this guitar". Maivia claimed that he said "No" to a match against Goldberg because he has "nothing to prove". Then he talked himself into reversing the field and accepted a match against Goldberg at BackLash.
Goldust was up next against Christian, who promptly brought a chair into the ring and got himself disqualified. He then grabbed a mic and addressed the Rock, saying that he was now going to call Goldberg out! And he did it...the idiot did it... Goldberg came out without his music and flattened Christian with a spear, then hit his signature vertical suplex slam for the coup de gras.
The next segment featured a "debate" between Chris Nowinski and Scott Steiner. Nowinski took the "con" side of an argument over the conduct of the US government in Iraq, while Steiner took the "pro" position. Of course, neither of them actually articulated the true point of view of either side. The "debate" ended with a declaration by Nowinski that Steiner's "three minutes" were up - you know the rest...
The French Fries did another promo...
Jerry Lawler wanted to show the footage of Jim Ross quitting last week, but was refused permission by Bischoff. By the way, folks, JR is still Vice-President in charge of Talent Relations at WWE, just on case you were really worried about him.
The main event was the aforementioned tag match pitting Booker T/Hurricane against HHH and Ric Flair. Shawn Michaels and Kevin nash were shown backstage, watching the event on separate monitors. After a pretty good match, HBK interfered to give Hurricane a pinfall over Flair. After the match, HBK and HHH came to blows then Chris Jericho showed up to interfere. Trips went out and got his sledgehammer and was ready to use it on Michaels when Kevin Nash made his entrance. Nash stalked right up and went nose to nose with HHH...then smiled and took the sledge and dropped it behind him then started backing HHH up. He turned back suddenly and nailed Booker T - seemingly by mistake. Michaels got between them, and Booker dropped him in his tracks then stalked off, leaving Nash and HBK to ponder their future.
That's all folks...
At least that's the way I see it...
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