By Mike Mooneyham
April 6, 2003
The well-worn adage “Never say never” was never more applicable than during the past week in professional wrestling.
At least in World Wrestling Entertainment, where everything old is, indeed, new again.
Three of WWE’s most vocal detractors, all of whom were once major names in the wrestling business, cashed paychecks last week from an organization they have blasted in books, lawsuits and scores of published reports.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]It might seem odd that individuals with such strong sentiments against the product would jump back on board. But, in the timeless words of “The Million Dollar Man,” every man has his price. Or so it seems.
While most of the wrestling world anticipated the return of Bill Goldberg last week on Raw, appearances by Roddy Piper at Wrestlemania Sunday night and Sable (Rena Mero) at Smackdown tapings Tuesday night were major surprises.
Piper, who took Vince McMahon and his company to task in his recent book, “In the Pit with Piper,” reportedly has signed on for a number of dates, including reprising his popular Piper’s Pit series on Smackdown.
Mero, who filed an unsuccessful $110 million lawsuit against the company in 1999, is back in her former role of Sable, a name she hasn’t been legally allowed to use since her less-than-amicable split with the organization amidst a slew of charges.
The always fiery, sometimes delusional Piper has maintained over the years that he, not Hulk Hogan, “made” Wrestlemania. The long-term plan is for the two to meet at Wrestlemania XX at Madison Square Garden, site of the first Mania in 1985 where Hogan teamed with Mr. T to defeat Piper and Paul Orndorff in the main event. Piper, however, is far from fighting shape. With a titanium hip, two bad knees and a damaged elbow, his better days in the ring are well behind him.
Piper has long claimed that McMahon turned the business into a circus, and has railed against what he calls the “sleaziness” of the business.
Mero also had hurled charges that wrestling had become increasingly “obscene, titillating, vulgar and unsafe,” claiming in her lawsuit that the then-WWF wanted her to participate in a lesbian storyline, expose her breasts on TV and appear in sexually degrading photos. Mero, though, a professed born-again Christian with two Playboy covers to her credit, will begin her new WWE run working a program with fellow Playmate Torrie Wilson.
“I had a meeting with Vince (McMahon) and Jim Ross, and at the time we decided to put the past behind us and move forward,” Mero told the WWE Web site last week. “We don’t want to discuss anything that happened in the past, or anything negative. Everything’s very positive at this point, and I’d like to keep it that way.”
Goldberg, who made his long-anticipated WWE debut last week on Raw by spearing The Rock, has stated on numerous occasions that he considered the company to be tasteless. Apparently a very lucrative contract allayed some of those concerns.
Heavily counting on Goldberg to jump-start the ratings, WWE officials are crossing their fingers that he doesn’t end up in the same disappointing spot as Scott Steiner. Despite a sizable push and some high-profile matches early into his run, Steiner quickly dropped to mid-card status when fans caught on that he couldn’t deliver the goods.
Goldberg, who will be featured on the cover of the May issue of WWE Magazine, already has expressed his paranoia by admitting that he constantly looks over his shoulder, a trait he no doubt cultivated in the shark-infested waters of WCW. Goldberg obviously realizes that he need look no further than WWE champ Triple H, with whom Goldberg engaged in a well-documented verbal battle several years ago at a toy licensing show in New York.
It’s not an issue we have to settle,” Triple H told the WWE Web site. “We don’t have to be best friends, we’ve just got to exist at work. I don’t have to go to Bill Goldberg’s house and have a meal with him. I don’t have to go hang out with him. I don’t have to go shoot pool with him. I don’t have to do anything with Bill Goldberg other than do business. And he doesn’t have to do anything with me. He’s just got to be able to stand in the ring, and I’ve got to be able to stand in the ring. That’s it.”
Triple H, who wields considerable influence behind the scenes, also laid to rest any thoughts about another long Goldberg win streak. “It’s going to be a real sharp learning curve, I think, for Bill. Hopefully he can do it. We don’t have a 300-guy-deep talent roster to feed him 200 wins. He’s going to have to get over in a different way.”
– Despite coming off one of the greatest Wrestlemanias ever and featuring the debut of Bill Goldberg, Raw could muster no better than a 3.7 rating for last week’s show.
– Steve Austin’s worsening physical condition, which was discussed in this space last week, was revealed to the WWE audience Monday night on Raw.
It now appears official that Austin’s in-ring career, for the most part, is over, less than two months since his return to a company that banished him nearly a year ago. Colleagues confirmed that Austin had been going through the motions the past several weeks and had become increasingly frustrated.
– Kurt Angle, who is suffering from a serious neck condition, has decided to use a Pittsburgh-based neurosurgeon who boasts a minimally invasive procedure that would alleviate his problems without fusing his vertebrae, and get him back in the ring in an estimated six weeks.
Dr. Jhae-Dong Jho, who conducted a similar operation on Scott Hall, recommends a procedure in which he would chip off the bone spurs that are pressing on Angle’s spinal cord and leaving him with weakness on the left side of his body and intense neck pain. The physician would then restructure the discs. Angle is scheduled to undergo the surgery Friday.
Several other WWE performers, including Steve Austin, Lita, Chris Benoit and most recently Edge, had undergone a more radical surgery performed by Dr. Lloyd Youngblood of San Antonio.
– Brock Lesnar suffered a mild concussion after blowing a shooting star press at the end of his Wrestlemania match with Kurt Angle. Initially it was feared that Lesnar had suffered neck damage.
– Due to return this week on Raw is Kevin Nash, who has been laid up for the past year with a torn quadriceps. The injury-prone Nash, who has worked only a handful of matches since the dying days of WCW, has dyed his hair black and is expected to reprise his role as “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel, a Vince McMahon creation.
Nash is scheduled to team with Shawn Michaels and Booker T against Triple H, Ric Flair and Chris Jericho at the Backlash pay-per-view April 27.
– Joe Francis, who headed the recent Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view in conjunction with WWE, was arrested on racketeering and drug charges in Panama City Beach, Fla., after parents complained to police he told underage girls to say on camera that they were 18, police said Thursday. Five girls said they stripped and acted out scenes on camera although producers knew they were underage, police said. Francis, 30, and Mark Schmitz, 26, were charged with prostitution and sexual exploitation. Francis was also charged with drug trafficking. Two other employees were charged with drug possession.
The WWE production team was hired to film the first GGW PPV last month. Eric Bischoff served as executive producer of the spring break special. The show featured WWE talent Stacy Keibler, Torrie Wilson, Nidia (Nidia Guenard), Jonathan Coachman, Test (Andrew Martin) and Josh Matthews (Josh Lomberger).
– The University of North Carolina at Greensboro screened a student film titled “Koloff: The Most Hated Man in America” last week on the campus. The film, which was produced by a graduate student, chronicles the career of Ivan Koloff “from his days as a villainous wrestler to his current work traveling to churches to share his testimony as a born-again Christian.”