Welcome to the High Spot, Place to Be Nation’s weekly pro wrestling update. Steve Wille (@SteveWille34) will take you through the biggest story of the week in the world of wrestling, adding in a unique view to help put the story in perspective. Glenn Butler (@Glenniebun) then takes a quick look at other important stories of the week. If you have any tips or story ideas, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
You’d think that it would be a struggle to come up with stories regarding wrestling the week after Thanksgiving. But like the 1980’s, where Thanksgiving wrestling was the tradition, the past seven days were the most notable in months. Strangely, most of the news stemmed from out-of-the-ring interviews. But a string of notable upcoming cards look to jump start the next few months of wrestling action, as we begin what looks to be the most diverse, newsworthy period of in-ring action in quite some time.
By now, Colt Cabana’s The Art of Wrestling podcast featuring CM Punk has been widely analyzed, generally by people either very much on the side of Punk, or fans in lock step with the WWE. A more nuanced approach shows a very complex issue. What fascinates me about Punk as an individual performer is his confidence, stubbornness and the unique ability to elicit a strong reaction from most fans. From a psychological standpoint, I was really moved by the intense emotions he must have felt during these last two to three years. It’s clear from the interview that Punk is becoming aware of how his passion and straight-forwardness negatively affected his employment with the WWE. Still, so many complaints that fans and former employees had with the company were confirmed, regarding lax medical care, lack of long-term planning and multiple failures from a corporate standpoint. As a fan of CM Punk, I’m incredibly happy he left the company and is on the path to physical and emotional health. The WWE definitely had the right to protect its corporate interests, but I hope that Punk’s outing of some of the company’s flaws leads to some positive changes in the near future, as it’s really best for the future of the business.
On Monday, the WWE Network continued its recent sequence of original programming after Raw, with perhaps its most surprising offering yet. As often requested on podcasts across the PTB network, the WWE hosted a live Steve Austin podcast with Vince McMahon as the guest. While McMahon did his best to dodge some questions, Austin needs to be credited with peppering the chairman with tough questions, staring him down at times to get a sound answer (“Millenials?!?” was one of my favorite retorts back to McMahon). Though not much new information came out of the show, as McMahon did his best to give investor-friendly answers, it was incredibly rare to see someone publicly question McMahon on roster and booking decisions. And, if nothing else, having the video version of the podcast provided for an interesting lesson in the relationship between two of the biggest alpha males in the history of professional wrestling. Watching the body language of both Austin and McMahon, you can tell that McMahon respected Austin, yet was nervous about the experience, an anomaly considering McMahon’s historically brash personality.
- Boys Will Be Boys, Am I Right: Word came out this week that Atlanta police have issued an arrest warrant for Heath Slater for assaulting a hotel security guard in 2011 (the morning after WrestleMania XVII), grabbing her by the neck and trying to force her into his hotel room. After extricating herself from his grip the guard notified the security company, as one assumes would be standard procedure when such an incident occurs on the job, but after months of inaction on their part she decided to take the matter to the police herself. Obviously anything else I could say here is speculation, but it doesn’t take much guesswork to think that maybe the security company didn’t want to make waves with the hotel or with WWE, not to mention the sad ambivalence with which most accusations of this sort are met. Speaking of warrants and assaults, Teddy Hart is wanted in Alberta on charges of sexual assault.
- A Limited Splash: According to sources, Sting’s deal with WWE provides for just six appearances. Counting Survivor Series and WrestleMania, but not the video game panel he did earlier this year, that means we’ll see Sting on TV four times between now and April, which as we now know would be more than enough to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and have another run on top. Of course, we all know who his advocate will be.
- Who’s That Jumping Out the Sky: In a reversal of some recent bad blood, there’s word that WWE backed a truck full of money up to Rey Mysterio’s house; Mysterio is now expected to sign a new deal and come back into the fold. It’ll certainly be nice to see him on TV again, as long as his knees have a new deal too.
- A New Plan: Just this week, New Japan Pro Wrestling announced a new streaming service, New Japan World, which will carry all major events live (including the G-1 Climax series) and offer an extensive archive. Reportedly the launch of the service was very successful, and has included so many subscribers from outside Japan that NJPW is considering moving up plans to expand internationally, including the addition of more english commentary and an English version of the website. Truly, we live in a time of plenty.
- He’s Leaving to Become Even Greater: It’s been almost a month since The Great Khali’s contract expired and he quietly left WWE. When considering Khali’s eight-year(!) WWE career, most of the best memories involve things other wrestlers did to him — Punk telling him he could make him even greater, Beth Phoenix’s kiss eliminating him from the Royal Rumble, Cesaro succeeding with the big swing. In counterbalance, to this writer’s admittedly untested recollection, at the height of his heel run in 2007 he had a decent match with John Cena (in a year when Cena was having great matches with anyone thrown at him) and a surprisingly good triple threat with Batista and Rey Mysterio to end his World Heavyweight Championship reign, before turning face, shedding his boring monster heel character, and embracing camp with an endearing song-and-dance gimmick. And of course, who could forget Khali debuting by squashing the Undertaker, pinning him with a foot on his chest, and just a couple months later raising awareness of the dreaded “elevated liver enzymes.” He was certainly able to ride the wave far longer than many other people brought in because they had a uniquely imposing appearance. On a spectrum with André the Giant at the high end and El Gigante at the low end, Khali might be best thought of as the midpoint.
- Tomorrow Never Dies: Season 14 of Chikara, a relaunch heavily focused on the Flood versus Chikara storyline, comes to a close this Saturday, at the aptly titled, Tomorrow Never Dies (Much to Scott Criscuolo’s delight, all of this year’s events were titled after James Bond films). The main event features a non-title, steel-cage brawl between Chikara’s Grand Champion and unlikely hero, Icarus, and the Bane/Doomsday like monster, Deucalion. The assumed leader of the Flood, Deucalion has destroyed multiple characters from both sides of the war with a vicious chokeslam into a backbreaker, including the much-beloved Archibald Peck. This is only the second cage match in Chikara history (the first being a bout between current WWE superstars Cesaro and Luke Harper), and we expect a wild fight with likely interference.Also on the card is a Cibernetico Royale, a Survivor Series-like eight on eight match between The Chikara Squad, captained by the Colony’s Worker Ant, against the Flood Squad, headlined by the returning Jakob Hammermeier. On a recent event, the maniacal Dr. Cube unmasked, revealing the oft-tormented Hammermeier. At the writing of this article, Jakob’s team had not been established, but the Chikara Squad includes members of the Colony, the bereaved Batiri, the Osirian Portal, and the patron saint of the Main Event podcast, Jervis Cottonbelly. The tag titles will also be on the line, as the Throwbacks defend against the Demolition-esque Devastation Corporation. Four other matches round up the card, which airs on iPPV at Smart Mark Video.
- Final Battle: The season-ending independent events continue this Sunday, as Ring of Honor makes its return to traditional par-per-view for Final Battle 2014. The main event is a Fight Without Honor for the World Championship between the Kingdom’s Adam Cole and the champ, Jay Briscoe. New Japan’s Time Splitters of Alex Shelley and KUSHIDA challenge ROH tag champs Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish of ReDRagon, and Jay Lethal, who has been outstanding over the past couple months as a member of the House of Truth, takes on the returning Matt Sydal for the Television Championship. Our friends Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino will be calling the action, and we can only expect to hear several shout outs to Dan McGinn. Right?