By Mike Mooneyham

Nov. 10, 2001

The World Wrestling Federation vs. The Alliance – WCW and ECW. The loser must fold.

A few years ago, a battle between the two organizations with survival on the line would have set pay-per-view records. But this year’s Survivor Series on Nov. 18 holds little intrigue as to which group will prevail. With the WWF selling more than 50,000 tickets for next year’s Wrestlemania the first day they were made available, odds are pretty good that the Fed will be around next March 17 for Wrestlemania XVIII. As for The Alliance, it’s time to put this failed storyline out of its misery. WCW was never really WCW without the likes of Ric Flair, Bill Goldberg and Sting. ECW was never really ECW very far outside the confines of its Philly bingo hall, with Paul Heyman blasting the big boys on the block.

[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]But the days of the alternative, rebel promotion are over. Jim Cornette gave it his best shot with Smoky Mountain Wrestling, and ultimately failed. Heyman revolutioned the business with Extreme Championship Wrestling, but with the same results. Both now receive their paychecks from Vince McMahon.

The WWF has struggled in the wake of its conquest of World Championship Wrestling. Ironically, the company has taken on many of the same characteristics that led to the downfall of WCW. The WWF remains awash in talent, so much in fact that a number of performers have been relegated to developmental territories. But the company’s comedy writers have rendered the product unpalatable to an audience reared on wrestling. By ignoring the wishes and demands of wrestling’s core clientele in favor of an audience that fluctuates with the latest fad and the latest big concept, the WWF has taken a path fraught with peril.

The downturn in WWF business has resulted in the threat of imminent layoffs within the company. The hammer has already fallen on a number of front-office employees who were given notice last week. The company’s next quarterly report comes out in less than two weeks, and the outlook isn’t promising.

One of the first casualties on the business side was WWFE President and Chief Operating Officer Stuart Snyder, who had locked horns with the McMahons over the decision to pull the company’s pay-per-views from DirecTV, which delivered approximately 15 percent of the WWF’s monthly buys.

The official company line from Linda McMahon emphasized that the restructuring was an important step to ensuring WWFE’s competitive advantage as it pursues growth opportunities. “We intend to capitalize on our broad appeal as a global brand to further international expansion, develop new brands and new television and movie projects,” she said. The reorganization resulted in 39 office staffers losing their jobs – a reduction of approximately nine percent of the company’s work force. The firings, according to McMahon, were the first “significant round of layoffs in about eight years” and will save the WWF about $9 million a year.[ad#MikeMooneyham-468×15]

- Thanksgiving weekend will be even more special around these parts when wrestling’s real crown jewel – “Nature Boy” Ric Flair – makes a special appearance in the Lowcountry on Nov. 24.

Flair will sign autographs for fans at the Sprint PCS store in Summerville, 1525 Trolley Road (in the Publix shopping center), from 3-5 p.m. It’s a rare chance for an up-close view of the man many consider to be the greatest performer of the modern era of professional wrestling and certainly the most popular wrestler to ever grace rings here in the Carolinas.

- Hulk Hogan’s Xtreme Wrestling Federation will hold its initial TV tapings Tuesday and Wednesday at Universal Studios. Among those scheduled to appear include Roddy Piper, Jerry Lawler, Rena Mero, The Road Warriors, The Nasty Boys, Jimmy Hart, Kevin Sullivan, Dawn Marie, Simon Diamond, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Curt Hennig, Konann, Buff Bagwell, Vampiro, Juventud Guerrera and The Harris Twins. Tony Schiavone and David Penzer are scheduled to handle announcing chores. Ten hours of taping is planned this week.

Hogan is claiming to own the company, although the actual financial backers are a pair of Texans with no history in the wrestling business who made their money through the infomercial market.

Sources say Hogan had offered to work an angle leading up to a match with Vince McMahon at next year’s Wrestlemania for $1 million, but McMahon rejected the deal.

- Superstar Billy Graham, one of pro wrestling’s most colorful performers and the prototype for Hulk Hogan and Jesse “The Body” Ventura, has an autobiography coming out soon and is publishing excerpts from the book weekly on his superstarbillygraham.com Web site. Graham holds no punches as he recounts his extraordinary career in the wrestling business, dealing with subjects ranging from his near-fatal battle with steroids to his behind-the-scenes dealings with Hogan and Vince McMahon.

- Scott Steiner will return to the ring at the World Wrestling All-Stars tour of the United Kingdom and Ireland. It will be Steiner’s first wrestling appearance since WCW’s final Nitro where he lost the WCW title to Booker T. “Time’s up. I can’t stand sitting and waiting any longer,” Steiner wrote on his Web site. “December 1 is the date. The contract that’s kept me under wraps for almost a year is finally up. England is the first country to see the return of the Genetic Freak. It will be a 10-day rampage through cities large and small. But that’s just a teaser. Midajah and I will be getting ourselves back in gear for the big return coming after the holidays … watch for it. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

- Helen Hart, Canada’s “First Lady of Wrestling,” passed away at the age of 76 last Sunday morning after a lengthy hospital stay. Mrs. Hart, wife of the legendary Stu Hart and matriarch of the Hart wrestling family, never fully recovered from a stroke on Sept. 28 and a subsequent attack on Oct. 12.

Stu and Helen Hart had 12 children, all of whom worked in the pro wrestling business in some capacity during the years, mostly through the family’s Calgary-based Stampede Wrestling promotion.