By Mike Mooneyham
March 19, 2006
Only two weeks remain until professional wrestling’s biggest show of the year. Most of the matches for Wrestlemania 22 already have been announced, and some of the results seem to be foregone conclusions.
None, though, more so than The Undertaker and his amazing 13-match win streak on the grandest stage of them all.
While the company’s Web site may tell you that Taker’s Mania victory string is in jeopardy, don’t believe it for a moment.
His foe at this year’s event, Mark Henry, is billed as the “World’s Strongest Man.” But he’s also one of Taker’s least impressive Mania opponents to date. What makes Henry’s fate even more certain is that his lucrative 10-year contract with the company expires in August.
Henry’s WWE career can be summed up neatly in one word: flop. To make up for its major monetary blunder, WWE has forced Henry to toil in relative obscurity for much of his tenure, including extended stints in its Ohio Valley Wrestling developmental territory.
Henry was tagged with the “World’s Strongest Man” label after he qualified for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics Weightlifting Competition where he competed in the super heavyweight division. He captured a gold, silver and bronze medal three years later at the Pan American Games. WWE signed the 6-1, 380-pound behemoth after sponsoring him in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Henry also earned first prize in the 2002 “World’s Strongest Man” competition at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic.
The 34-year-old’s ring career, however, has been marred by injuries, aborted programs and an assortment of embarrassing storylines that more often or not made “Sexual Chocolate” the butt of bad jokes.
For the most part, this year’s Wrestlemania looks to be fairly predictable and lacking the intrigue of previous extravaganzas.
John Cena appears a lock as Triple H’s WWE title match victim with The Game moving closer to Ric Flair’s record 16 world title reigns (although the unofficial number is considerably higher). Rob Van Dam’s expected win in the Money in the Bank ladder match at Mania should set him up for a title showdown with Triple H at WWE’s second ECW One Night Stand pay-per-view in June.
To give Wrestlemania a “feel-good” ending, with a backdrop of pyro and wrestlers celebrating in the ring, Rey Mysterio looms as the favorite in the three-way world title match that most likely will conclude the evening’s festivities.
The jury is still out on the Vince McMahon-Shawn Michaels showdown, but with the Heartbreak Kid revealing that he’s taking an extended break after Mania, the 60-year-old WWE chairman looks to be in the driver’s seat.
– George’s Sports Bar, 1300 Savannah Highway, will air the Wrestlemania PPV April 2. Cover charge is $10.
– Total Nonstop Action received a ringing endorsement from St. Louis Cardinals shortstop David Ecktein. Eckstein attended last weekend’s Destination X pay-per-view at Universal Studios in Orlando with Cardinals teammates Jim Edmonds and Scott Spiezio.
“They put their heart and soul into every match, really,” Eckstein told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “As much as you want to say it isn’t real or it’s scripted, if you saw Christian Cage getting whipped by the leather belt (Sunday) night, you’d know they definitely take some pain.”
“I’m a big wrestling fan and have been since I was a little kid. Having the opportunity to come out here is just something I enjoy so much,” Eckstein told a TNA announcer at the event.
On the flip side for TNA, however, its anticipated 8 p.m. Thursday time slot on Spike TV has been switched 11 p.m. The company was informed last week that Spike had decided to position its two-hour Ultimate Fighter reality series in front of TNA Impact. The move could prove to be a blessing in disguise as Ultimate Fighter will give TNA a strong lead-in, and TNA will be spared the prospect of going against heavy-duty Thursday night competition.
– Jim Ross told the WWE Web site last week that it was Vince McMahon’s idea to bring him back for the company’s return to Saturday Night Main Event.
“Well, there’s no doubt who the bull in the woods is,” said Ross. “That’s Mr. McMahon. And he’s a very difficult man to like. He gives you a lot of reasons not to like him. But it’s like living in tornado alley here in Oklahoma. You have to respect the dangerous winds that come through and take precautions when they come near you. That’s how I look at my relationship with Mr. McMahon. I want to be respectful of his power, and give him plenty of room to operate. But I still plan on coming back and having some fun and leave the past in the past. I feel like it’s a fresh start for me.”
Ross added that he didn’t harbor any ill feelings concerning his removal from the announce desk.
“I don’t have any hard feelings any more than a normal guy would on how things materialized and how I left the air. I can’t change what occurred, so all I could do is try to affect the future.”
– Roller derby legend Ann Calvello died Tuesday of liver cancer at a hospital near her home in San Bruno, Calif. She was 76.
Best known as the star skater for the San Francisco Bay Bombers, she was the “Bad Girl of Roller Derby,” with her splashy clothing, multiple hair colors, and tattoos and piercings. She skated in charity events into her 60s. She was the subject of the 2001 film “Demon of The Derby.”
– “Prince of Punk” Shannon Moore, who had remained unsigned with TNA, signed a WWE contract last week. He was released from his previous contract in 2004.
– Chuck Palumbo, a two-time WWE tag-team title-holder with Billy Gunn (Kip Sopp), has re-signed with WWE. Also in the “never say never” department, the company has re-signed Test (Andrew Martin), who has spent the better portion of his time away from WWE directing barbs at his ex-employer.
– Former WWE champ Batista said last week that he should be back in action by mid-April.
– Bill Eadie, the original Masked Superstar and Demolition Ax, will auction off two of his masks at the Capitol Wrestling Legends Fanfest on Aug. 11-13 in Rockville, Md. For more information, go to www.CapitolLegends.com.