Shawn Michaels

Shawn Michaels

By Mike Mooneyham

Feb. 22, 2004

Only three weeks away from World Wrestling Entertainment’s biggest event of the year, little has been officially announced concerning a lineup for Wrestlemania XX at Madison Square Garden, the venue where the legendary event began March 31, 1985. That should change in the next week, however, when most of the matches that have been taking shape over the past couple of months will be made public.

What isn’t as widely known is that WWE already is setting the stage for next year’s installment of Mania.

Triple H, who is defending his WWE Raw title against Chris Benoit and Shawn Michaels in a ladder match at Wrestlemania XX, is sharing this year’s main-event bill with Brock Lesnar, who is poised to square off with Bill Goldberg in what looks to be the latter’s swan song with the company. Arguably the two biggest players for their respective Raw and Smackdown brands, Triple H vs. Lesnar look to be the main event for next year’s Wrestlemania.

[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]Other bouts shaping up for Wrestlemania XX include: Kurt Angle vs. Eddy Guerrero for the WWE Smackdown title; The Undertaker vs. Kane; The Rock (who is tentatively scheduled to make his WWE return at the March 1 Raw at the Gwinnett Center in Atlanta) and Mick Foley vs. Randy Orton and Batista; John Cena vs. Big Show for the U.S. title; and Torrie Wilson and Sable vs. Stacy Keibler and Jackie Gayda.

– Conspicuously absent (barring a last-minute miracle) at this year’s 20th anniversary show: Wrestlemania pioneers Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage.

– Eddie Guerrero said it was a dream come true after he defeated Brock Lesnar for the WWE Smackdown heavyweight title Sunday night at the No Way Out pay-per-view. Guerrero became the first Hispanic WWE champion since Pedro Morales held the title from 1971 to 1973.

“I think I sold myself short in the past, and I hope my victory sends a good message to everyone out there,” he told the WWE Web site. “Who’d ever expect a Chicano, 5-9 and 220 pounds, to win the WWE championship? I’m just thankful and there are a lot of people behind it. I can’t take all the credit … You can ask God and others for all the help you want, but you better bring the shovel because you’ve got to do the work.”

– The death of former WWE performer Crash Holly (Mike Lockwood) was officially ruled a suicide. Toxicology tests revealed that the 32-year-old Lockwood died from an overdose of painkillers.

Lockwood, who had a history of out-of-the-ring problems, had experienced a number of personal setbacks prior to his death, including a separation from his wife and a release from WWE. He had been staying at the Florida home of wrestler Steven Richards (Mike Manna) at the time of his death. Lockwood, who was found dead Nov. 6 with an empty bottle of somas, had just been served with divorce papers from his wife.

– Eric Bischoff, who will forever be linked to the rise and fall of World Championship Wrestling, addressed his relationship with Ric Flair on a recent edition of the Between the Ropes radio show. Bischoff called it a roller-coaster relationship, with some of his greatest and most miserable moments a result of the Nature Boy. Bischoff admitted that he was to blame for some of the problems, but added that Flair was not the “patron saint” that he has been portrayed as in the business.

Bischoff categorized their current relationship as “friendly,” and said they are professional around each other but will not be breaking bread anytime soon.

Quite naturally Bischoff has a sizable role in the new WWE DVD “The Monday Night Wars.” The first installment has already sold out, with the distributor expected to ship new copies of the DVD in early March.

– Ken Mihalik is selling his collection of Wrestling Observer newsletters from 1990-2000 (nearly 500 issues in all). He’ll also throw in three Wrestling Observer Yearbooks (1988, 1989, 1990) plus a unique WWF trunk that he’ll send them in. Minimum bid starts at $575. For more information, contact him at (843) 795-0590 or e-mail at [email protected]

[ad#MikeMooneyham-468×15]

– Paul Heyman will play a collector for the mob in the upcoming movie “Tony & Tina’s Wedding.” The role marks Heyman’s second appearance in a movie. He previously played the part of a play-by-play announcer in the 2002 film “Rollerball.”

– WWE has released Smackdown performers Kanyon (Chris Klucsaritis) and The Cat (Ernest Miller). Miller’s sidekick, Lamont (Desmond Thompson), remains with the company.

WWE earlier released Brian “Spanky” Kendrick at his request. Reports say the split was amicable. The underutilized Kendrick, who wasn’t being used at house shows enough to make more than his downside guarantee, will be working Japan’s Zero-One promotion along with a number of U.S. indies.

– Steve Austin called Ric Flair the greatest wrestler in the history of the business during a recent interview with the British publication The Sun.

“In my WCW days I loved working with Ricky Steamboat and before I retired last year I got to have several cage matches with Ric Flair – which weren’t on TV – and I consider him the greatest wrestler in the history of the business. Working with Ric was a walk in the park and he’s considered a legend for a good reason, because he’s simply the best.”

Austin listed in another interview the Flair-Steamboat match as among the three greatest in wrestling history. He also listed Ole and Arn Anderson vs. The Rock ‘N Roll Express in a cage, and his classic with Bret Hart at Wrestlemania XIII as a pivotal bout that changed the face of the business.

– WWE’s Ultimate Ric Flair Collection ranked fifth among the top 10 sports DVDs of 2003 as rated by Video Store Magazine. WWE also placed two others in the top 10: WWE Wrestlemania XIX (sixth) and WWE From The Valult: Shawn Michaels (seventh). The Pumping Iron 25th Anniversary Edition placed first.

– Negotiations reportedly are close to completion involving a possible Randy Savage-Jeff Jarrett match at NWA-TNA’s first three-hour pay-per-view planned in April. Savage, who hasn’t wrestled in nearly four years, added fuel to his out-of-ring feud with Hulk Hogan last year by releasing a CD that took jabs at his former Mega Powers partner.

Lex Luger and Sting also are making plans for a return trip to NWA-TNA that most likely would occur at the “Bound For Glory” PPV tentatively set for Fort Campbell, Ky.

– Jake “The Snake” Roberts is being prosecuted by British officials for animal neglect of his pet snake, Damien, according to The Sun (U.K.) newspaper.

Roberts (Auerlian Smith Jr.), who has been plagued by drug addiction in the past, is accused of starving the python to death. Inspectors seized the 12-foot snake after a tip-off he was being neglected at Roberts’ home in London Colney, Herts. The Burmese python died several days later, the Sun reported.

Roberts, 50, has been living in the United Kingdom for some time, working various independent events and helping promote shows there. He denied the charges but faces a maximum six months in prison if convicted of animal cruelty.

– Zac McDaniel, the late Wahoo McDaniel’s teenage son, will work his first Indian strap match on a Dory Funk Jr.-run show tonight in Ocala, Fla. His opponent will be Funk protege Adam Windsor.

– WWE announced that both shows scheduled for its Tour of Defiance tour in Dublin, Ireland, have sold out in one day. It marked the first time in company history that two shows in the same building had sold out in a day. The first show, scheduled for May 26, sold out in six minutes. A second show added for May 27 sold out in under two hours. More than $900,000 worth of tickets were purchased.

– Superstar Billy Graham, Jesse Ventura and Bobby Heenan will be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame March 13 at the Grand Ballroom of the New York Hilton.

The event will mark Heenan’s first live appearance with WWE since his calling of the 2001 Gimmick Battle Royal with Gene Oklerlund at Wrestlemania. Heenan appeared on an episode of Confidential, chronicling his fight against cancer and plugging his first book. Heenan’s latest book will be released just prior to Wrestlemania.

The WWE Hall currently consists of Chief Jay Strongbow, Arnold Skaaland, Bobo Brazil, Freddie Blassie, Buddy Rogers, Gorilla Monsoon, James Dudley, The Fabulous Moolah, Pedro Morales, Ivan Putski, Antonino Rocca, The Grand Wizard, George “The Animal” Steele, Ernie Ladd, Capt. Lou Albano, Killer Kowalski, Baron Mikel Scicluna, Johnny Valiant, Jimmy Valiant, Johnny Rodz, Pat Patterson, Vincent J. McMahon and Jimmy Snuka.

– Torrie Wilson (Torrie Gruner) and Sable (Rena Mero) are featured in the March issue of Playboy. Sable last appeared on two of her own best-selling Playboy covers nearly five years ago.

– Shaniqua (Linda Miles) was fined $200 at the Feb. 8 house show in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, when she arrived late and missed a pre-show practice session that she was expected to attend. She has since been sent down to Ohio Valley Wrestling.

– Big Bossman, Road Dogg Jesse James (known as B.G. James in NWA-TNA), Ron “The Truth” Killings and Simon Diamond are among the names scheduled to appear on an independent show Feb. 28 at Conway High School.

– The Rock’s new movie is expected to come just a few weeks after Wrestlemania XX. According to a release on the Cinema Savvy Web site, “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson plays Chris Vaughn, a retired soldier who returns to his hometown to make a new life for himself, only to discover his wealthy high school rival, Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough), has closed the once-prosperous lumber mill and turned the town’s resources towards his own criminal gains. The place Chris grew up is now overrun with crime, drugs and violence. Enlisting the help of his old pal Ray Templeton (Johnny Knoxville), Chris gets elected sheriff and vows to shut down Hamilton’s operations. His actions endanger his family and threaten his own life, but Chris refuses to back down until his hometown once again feels like home.” The release date for the movie is scheduled April 9 and the budget for the movie is reportedly $56 million.

– Backlash, April’s Raw brand pay-per-view, will be the first PPV to be held in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. In 2002, when Toronto hosted Wrestlemania, the economic impact was estimated to be about $40 million, including $5 million for hotel rooms. Individual floor seats are estimated to run between $300 and $400 when they go on sale Feb. 21, with upper-bowl spots costing about $30. Rexall Centre’s capacity is 17,500.