By Mike Mooneyham
April 13, 2003
Chris Jericho could never quite convince the locker-room lawyers back in WCW that size wasn’t a factor.
Involved at the time in a quasi angle with then-WCW heavyweight champion Bill Goldberg, Jericho had lobbied vigorously for a title program with the 6-3, 285-pound ex-pro footballer. Much to his dismay, however, the potentially lucrative and entertaining storyline was killed dead in its tracks.
The charismatic Canadian later learned that another big man, 6-10 Kevin Nash, helped sabotage his push by convincing Goldberg that Jericho, due to his relatively smallish stature, wasn’t a credible contender and would only damage Goldberg’s position as the company’s hottest star. As a result Goldberg pulled the plug on the program, spelling the beginning of the end for Jericho in the ill-fated company.
Fast forward five years to WWE, and the issue still seems to be a sore spot for Jericho. But when he looked for some answers last Monday night after Raw, he ended up rolling around with Goldberg on the floor backstage at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee.
The altercation reportedly stemmed from a disparaging comment Goldberg made that eventually made the rounds to Jericho. Sources say Goldberg, claiming that Jericho needed to learn how to “sell” better, told Nash to “stick him” prior to his run-in at the conclusion of Monday night’s show. Nash, returning after a lengthy absence from a torn quadriceps, reportedly admitted what Goldberg had told him after being pressed by Jericho, who immediately confronted Goldberg in the locker-room area. Sources say Jericho took Goldberg to the floor with a front facelock before a punch could be thrown. The scuffle was promptly broken up by backstage personnel.Monday’s incident already has cast an ominous shadow over Goldberg, whose quick temper and admitted lack of passion for the business have often put him at odds with a number of performers.
Jericho, 32, who jumped to WWE in late 1999, said shortly after leaving WCW that the aborted angle with Goldberg was a “blessing in disguise” but a “bad business decision” for WCW. “I just knew at that point that it was time to move on,” he said. WWE, meanwhile, has churned out reams of publicity in support of Goldberg, upon whose large shoulders rests the immediate future of the company. Among the responses to Goldberg on WWE’s Web site:
Hulk Hogan – “I think it’s unbelievable. My first thought was, I’d love to see Bill Goldberg in the ring with Brock Lesnar – see who the man really is. Then, once they figure that out, they can see who can keep up with me.”
Eric Bischoff – “I think Bill Goldberg coming to WWE is a phenomenal opportunity, not only for Bill, obviously, but for a lot of the superstars here in WWE. There are a lot of matches that haven’t happened yet between Goldberg and a lot of the superstars that are here that I think are going to make for some very, very interesting moments in our future, both on television and pay-per-view.”
Chris Benoit – “It’s exciting. It’s going to raise the bar. It’s going to raise the level of competition. I hope Bill’s in as good of wrestling condition as he was the last time we were working for the same company. I hope he’s ready to roll, because the level of competition here in WWE is tops, and if he’s not up to par, he’s going to have a hard time. But knowing Bill Goldberg and the type of athlete he is, I’d imagine he knows that the world is watching, and he’s going to take a lot of pride in doing what he’s doing. I’ll imagine he’ll be ready.”
Even Jericho (presumably prior to Monday night’s altercation) was quoted. “I’m actually looking forward to it,” he said. “I think he’s the last big name in the business that hasn’t been signed by WWE. I think it’s going to make a big difference in our product, in a good way. We’ve had our differences in the past, but I’m looking forward to having him here, working with him and beating him. I think he’s going to make all of us a lot of money. I think he’s going to make the fans very excited to check out future WWE broadcasts.”
Perhaps the most amusing response was from Bill DeMott, who as Hugh Morrus, officially kicked off Goldberg’s famous win WCW streak on a Sept. 22, 1997, edition of Nitro.”All I know is, this time, I won’t be first,” commented DeMott.
– Kevin Nash, who had planned to return with his old Diesel moniker, scrapped that idea when he dyed his hair black and it came back gray a week later. “Diesel with white hair just wouldn’t work,” Nash told the WWE Web site. “A shame really, since the mullet was coming in in fine style, and I was going to use the heart punch as my finish.”
– Raw ratings fell again Monday night as the show drew a disappointing 3.5. Numbers have dropped a full percentage point since Steve Austin’s return popped a 4.5 six weeks ago. Part of Monday night’s decline was attributed to competition with war coverage and the finals of the NCAA basketball tournament. Last week’s Smackdown, which featured the return of Piper’s Pit, drew a 3.2 rating, slightly down from the show’s average. Tuesday night’s Smackdown taping in Norfolk is expected to feature Hulk Hogan guesting on Piper’s Pit to set up a match between the two at the Backlash pay-per-view.
– Jim Ross is expected to return to Raw following last week’s “firing” by figurehead GM Eric Bischoff.
Look for JR and buddy Steve Austin to launch a coup against the Bischoff regime, with Austin most likely returning as a babyface commissioner. The Rattlesnake’s future role in WWE appears to be limited, though, as doctors reportedly have advised him to undergo a second neck fusion surgery that would effectively end his in-ring career.
Sources say Austin wants to postpone that surgery and work at least one more high-profile pay-per-view, possibly against Goldberg, a bout that has been touted for the past several years as a “dream match.”
– The Rock won’t be appearing live at this week’s Raw in Richmond. An angle was taped at last week’s Raw where Rock refused to confront Goldberg, but will be shamed into accepting a match with him at Backlash.
– Dusty Rhodes beat Brian Lawler in a ladder match on the April 9 NWA-TNA pay-per-view in Nashville. The bout was highlighted by the 57-year-old Rhodes dropping his famous elbow from the top of the ladder. The ladder Rhodes came off of, however, was a step-ladder that was about a foot off the ground. Nikita Koloff also made an appearance, climbing the taller ladder and securing the belt for a bloody Rhodes. Erik Watts took possession of the belt and ran off with it as the two former Superpowers embraced in the ring.
– WWE will hold its first show in Oregon in 10 years on May 31 at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland. The company had been avoiding the state due to state athletic commission regulations that include mandatory drug testing and a requirement that wrestlers have a medical exam 30 days before competing, which the company claims costs them thousands of extra dollars. Oregon lawmakers on Thursday approved a bill to exempt professional wrestling from most state regulations, opening the door for WWE and other wrestling promotions to run in the state with relaxed rules. The bill’s supporters have maintained that the regulations were unnecessary and have kept promoters from staging their events in Oregon.
– Kurt Angle underwent neck surgery Friday in Pittsburgh. Angle is expected to be out of action six to eight weeks.
– Joe Francis, who headed the recent Girls Gone Wild pay-per-view in conjunction with WWE, recently 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. 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, who owns the pay-per-view rights to GGW, 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).
– Tony “The Viking” Halme (former boxer and WWE performer Ludvig Borga), who was elected earlier this year to Finland’s Parliament on a right-wing ticket, has apologized for calling Finnish president Tarja Halonen a “lesbian.”
Halme apologized in an open letter to the president following remarks he made during a radio interview. Responding to the interviewer’s question about starting his own parliamentary group, Halme said: “We have a lesbian as president and me as parliamentarian. Everything seems possible.” Halonen, who was once chair of a gay rights group, is married and has rejected suggestions that she is gay.
– Former “First Lady of Wrestling” Missy Hyatt’s latest work has been on the strip club circuit.
– Tough Enough 2 co-winner Jackie Gayda is scheduled to work as valet for the returning Kanyon.
– Mike Tenay and Bobby Heenan hosted the Cauliflower Alley Club banquet in Las Vegas last weekend.
– Pat Patterson is bringing in fellow French-Canadian performers Sylvan Grenier and Rene Dupree (son of longtime Canadian star Emil Dupree) to capitalize on the current anti-French sentiment in this country.
– Matt Hardy revealed in a radio interview last week that Lita (Amy Dumas), his real-life girlfriend, should be returning to the ring around July or August.
– Former ECW performer Chilly Willy was deployed to Iraq last week as a member of the U.S. Army. Willy joined the military after ECW folded in 2001.
– Nidia, whose in-ring love interest is Jamie Noble, dates Eric Angle, Kurt’s brother, in real life.