Monday, January 18, 2010

The Rise and Fall of WCW

As the January 4, 2010 episode of TNA Impact recently showed, people are still fascinated by World Championship Wrestling (WCW). The once thriving national promotion was the southern counterpart to Vince McMahon’s WWF/E, with roots dating back to the 1930’s. At one point, WCW was so successful that it looked to be on its way to not only dominating the wrestling industry but putting the WWF out of business. In a dramatic reversal of fortune, WCW would go down like the Hindenburg, with the WWE triumphing over its longtime rival. Ironically, the very company that WCW tried to bankrupt ended up purchasing it and now has a DVD profiling its legacy. The result is The Rise and Fall of WCW, a WWE Home Video production which tracks the history of one of wrestling's biggest promotions.

Once upon a time, promoter Jim Crockett provided hours of entertainment to fans in Virginia and the Carolinas under the umbrella of a company that would become known as Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP). The exact date of when Mr. Crockett began promoting wrestling is difficult to pin down. Although the company celebrated its in silver anniversary in 1985, some believe this was a kayfabe date. Regardless of its actual start, JCP went on to promote professional wrestling, musical and theatrical shows, as well as sporting events. Mr. Crockett’s wrestling territory was one of the first members of the National Wrestling Alliance, distinguishing itself both by its success as a promotion and by its focus on tag team wrestling. Following Mr. Crockett’s death in 1973, the promotion was eventually handed over to son Jim Crockett Jr. who expanded the promotion from a regional territory into a national promotion. Mr. Crockett’s promotion is fondly remembered by many fans as one of the greatest wrestling promotions of all time, launching the careers of numerous stars and building them in true superstars. Wrestlers like Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat, and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper are just a few members of JCP's all-star alumni.

With the wrestling world changing in the 1980’s, Mr. Crockett decided to expand business. The company not only sold out shows at its Greensboro Coliseum but it caused shutdowns of the local highway system. Wisely, Mr. Crockett saw the future and he turned to closed circuit television in order to expand his audience. The result was 1983’s big event known as Starcade (eventually Starrcade), a show held live at the Greensboro Coliseum and broadcast in several other areas on closed circuit television. Despite a freak snowstorm, Starcade was a major success (eventually leading the way for the WWF’s Wrestlemania show).
The second component of Mr. Crockett’s expansion was bringing in Dusty Rhodes to book his product. Mr. Rhodes had helped make Championship Wrestling from Florida a success and he helped take JCP to greater heights, helping in the development of Starcade as well as several other successful promotional ventures.

As the 1980’s marched on, many of the territories were dying or already out of business. The National Wrestling Alliance no longer maintained the stranglehold it once held over wrestling and JCP rose to the position of standing up against the WWF. For a while, JCP more than held its own. While the WWF was winning mainstream audiences with its Rock and Wrestling style promoting, JCP maintained a strong base from traditional fans who held the WWF’s often cartoonish product in disdain. It also didn’t hurt that JCP’s roster included some of the sport’s most entertaining stars including Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, the Rock and Roll Express, and Magnum T.A. (to name but a few).

Sadly, bad business practices ended up killing JCP. Anyone familiar with JCP knows the story. JCP’s accountant entered Mr. Crockett’s office and told him the company was five million dollars in the hole. The company was hemorrhaging money. Could it be saved? No one was certain but David Crockett wanted to hold on. However he reversed his decision when he learned his mother’s pension was jeopardized by the company’s bleak prognosis.

The result was JCP being sold to Ted Turner’s organization and the company renamed World Championship Wrestling. With Ted Turner bankrolling the company (Mr. Turner was fiercely loyal to wrestling since it helped him build up Superstation TBS) the industry waited to see how the new company would compete against the WWF. What happened over the next few years was a fascinating study of the clash between a corporate mentality and the unorthodox world of professional wrestling. WCW went through a period of complete chaos as executives brought in to guide WCW to new heights flew the company in a seemingly endless holding pattern. No one seemed to know how to run the company and WCW suffered as a revolving door of bookers and executives came and went.

Enter Eric Bischoff, the former announcer for the American Wrestling Association. Mr. Bischoff entered WCW as an announcer but he quickly worked his way up to become WCW's executive producer. Mr. Bischoff had a vision for the failing company and he executed it with a take no prisoners attitude. Some of his ideas were radical such as his decision to dump house shows. With house shows drawing pitiful audiences, Mr. Bischoff scrapped them and moved TV tapings to Disney’s MGM Studio. The move was controversial, especially when WCW taped twenty six weeks of television over a short stretch. With the Internet beginning to spread, this meant that fans knew the company’s booking direction for the next six months. Some fans began to wonder if Eric Bischoff wasn't headed for failure like his predecessors.
Unfazed by criticism, Mr. Bischoff convinced Ted Turner that WCW needed to bring in new talent in order to establish itself as a true competitor to the WWF. The result was astonishing-longtime rival Hulk Hogan was now in WCW! Hogan’s presence shocked some of WCW’s traditional fan base but he also brought in a new audience. Mr. Hogan’s presence shook up the company, resulting in some top stars losing their place. However Mr. Bischoff had a direction in mind for the company and he stuck to it. Then, an off the cuff comment led to one of the most revolutionary moments in wrestling history.

According to Mr. Bischoff’s autobiography Controversy Creates Cash, Mr. Bischoff was meeting with Turner executives (including Mr. Turner himself) to discuss an overseas deal when Mr. Turner asked Mr. Bischoff what he needed to compete with the WWF. According to Mr. Bischoff, the question caught him off guard and he blurted out that he needed prime time television. To Mr. Bischoff’s surprise, the man nicknamed Captain Outrageous told him he had it. This led to Monday Night Nitro being commissioned, a TV show that would compete directly against the WWF’s flagship show Monday Night RAW.

When Nitro debuted in 1995, professional wrestling was not setting the world on fire. WCW and the WWF were struggling financially and creatively; the glory days of the 1980’s were well over. With RAW routinely drawing ratings in the 2.0’s, predictions that Nitro was going to either cannibalize RAW’s audience or flop were difficult to ignore. However Mr. Bischoff stuck to his guns and pressed on. Mr. Bischoff’s vision resulted in a wrestling blitz with the live Nitro drawing a 2.5 rating next to RAW’s 2.2. While both shows would trade wins over the next seven months, Eric Bischoff wasn’t satisfied with anything less than complete dominance.

WCW’s Monday night move not only caught the WWF off guard but it came at an opportune time for WCW. The 1990’s saw a slew of problems for the WWF including Vince McMahon’s federal indictment and subsequent trial, the failure of the World Bodybuilding Federation, the departure of Hulk Hogan, and sluggish ticket sales. With the WWF having to watch every dime it spent, WCW was able to hire WWF stars such as Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to the company. That alone might not have meant much but Mr. Bischoff had a bold direction in mind for them-a battle between the WWF and WCW. He booked an angle that made some fans wonder if the WWF was sending its stars to destroy WCW. The angle was a wild success, even when WWF legal action led to WCW making an on-air announcement that Messieurs Hall and Nash were not working for the WWF.

Wrestling is full of hyperbole but it’s no hyperbole to say that WCW destroyed the WWF for the next two years. The company crushed RAW in the ratings and soared to new heights every month with PPV buy rates. People began to wonder when the WWF was going to go under. Mr. Bischoff gloated over WCW’s success, even going so far as to challenge Vince McMahon to meet him in the ring on to duke it out, mano y mano. Mr. McMahon passed on Mr. Bischoff’s PPV invite but offered to meet him in a parking lot of their choosing. Mr. McMahon wasn’t going down without a tooth and claw fight to the finish.

For a while, it seemed as if WCW could do no wrong. Yet it did, running the nWo angle for too long, failing to build new stars, and hemorrhaging money in a way that made JCP’s money woes look like a badly played game of Monopoly by comparison. When the WWF became the next big thing, fans tuned out of WCW and the company entered a nosedive that resulted in the company’s destruction. WCW’s incredible reversal of fortune is still talked about and analyzed to this day which makes The Rise and Fall of WCW an important DVD.

When The Rise and Fall of WCW DVD was announced, fans couldn’t help but think back to the WWE’s The Monday Night War DVD, a product that took a very biased look at the aforementioned Monday Night War. While The Rise and Fall of WCW is the WWE’s take on things, it’s a lot more objective than The Monday Night War was. This documentary provides a fairly accurate overview of what WCW meant to the industry, its history as Jim Crockett Promotions, and the company’s ensuing struggles and success as WCW. Like The Monday Night War, fans who know of the WWF’s business practices during the 1980’s will chuckle when the WWF’s talking heads cry foul about WCW’s deep pockets being used to lure WWF stars and WCW’s breaking the rules (such as launching Nitro against RAW). Anyone familiar with WWE Home Video should know by now that the WWE isn’t going to paint itself in a bad light so this type of bias isn't surprising.

Other than the company’s usual WWE can do no wrong bias, the product is very good. There are interviews with many of the stars involved with JCP and WCW including Jim Crockett Jr., Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Bill Watts, Ricky Steamboat, and Eric Bischoff (although Mr. Bischoff did not agree to be interviewed for this particular product, his comments on WCW from previous interviews provide all you need to know). In terms of historical accuracy, the DVD does a good job although there is one glaring mistake in which longtime JCP wrestler Paul Jones is connected to promoter Paul Jones (an entirely different person).

The WWE has gotten its DVD’s down to a science. Anyone looking for a quick survey of WCW history should enjoy this one (Fans looking for a deeper look at Jim Crockett Promotions should direct their attention to the Mid Atlantic Gateway, a fantastic site that includes interviews with JCP stars, year by year breakdowns of the promotion, photos, and much more). The features and matches are pretty good too although like most WWE DVD's, they don't go back before the mid 1980's (which is a downright shame as some of JCP's best angles happened before the promotion went national). One of WCW's best tag team matches from the 1990's is included on here (Steiner Brothers vs. Luger & Sting) along with the excellent Magnum T.A.’s $1,000.00 challenge angle.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

10 Biggest News Stories of 2000's/

Now that the first decade of the new millennium is over with, it's time to look back at the biggest news stories in the wrestling world. I rated these stories based on 1) impact on wrestling, 2) news coverage in the "mainstream media", and 3) how big the promotion is (if applicable). If a backyard wrestling promotion had a guillotine match where the loser is literally beheaded, it'd be a big story because of 1) and 2) but not 3). Also, keep in mind that my ethnocentric self tends to focus on wrestling in North America (mainly the U.S. and Canada) so while there were some huge news stories outside the U.S. and Canada, they aren't mentioned here.

10. Eddie Guerrero passes away-the death of one of wrestling's most beloved figures in and out of the ring startled the industry. Mr. Guerrero's tug at your heartstrings comeback tale of personal redemption warmed the hearts of wrestling fans as did his fantastic work in the ring. Sadly, the Eddie Guerrero story was cut short way too soon but it was a wakeup call of sorts for the industry. Mr. Guerrero’s passing would lay the foundation for what became the WWE Wellness Policy.

9. Ric Flair retires-Mr. Flair's retirement wasn't a question of "how long will this last?" but “how do we do this right to recognize THE MAN’s many achievements in the ring?” According to some stories, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin proposed a program in which “The Nature Boy” would shoot for one last world championship (culminating naturally, in a final match at Wrestlemania). In the end, the WWE went with a program that saw Flair marked for immediate retirement should he lose a match. The angle was masterfully done and it led to one of the most tearful moments in wrestling history. While Mr. Flair's future in the ring remains in limbo, his exit from the WWE was one of the biggest stories of the decade, a reflection largely due to his many contributions in the 70's, 80's, 90's, and 00's. As big as the send-off was, the news following Mr. Flair’s retirement was even bigger. Mr. Flair would leave a position as a WWE goodwill ambassador for lucrative gigs signing autographs, making shoot videos, and even appearing for Ring of Honor.

8. The XFL-in 2001, the WWF seemed as if it could do no wrong. The company's recent public offering was a smash success and it was on the verge of putting longtime rival WCW out of business. Now, Vince McMahon was about to show the world what he could do to football. Like previous attempts to utilize the McMahon magic on non-wrestling avenues (such as his Hulk Hogan vehicle No Holds Barred and the World Bodybuilding Federation), this one proved to be an epic fail. The WWE's efforts to offer fans football during the NFL's (or No Fun League as Mr. McMahon derided it) off-season flopped despite a successful first week. Despite having a two year commitment from co-owner NBC, the XFL was cancelled after one season (Mr. McMahon had the chance to air games on UPN but this would have required him to cut half an hour off of SmackDown!, a choice he refused to make). The XFL would become the butt of many jokes for the next decade but several of the league’s changes would be adopted by the NFL. Regardless of the XFL’s failure, you’ve got to give Mr. McMahon credit for trying such a bold venture.

7. WWF becomes WWE: if any one thing demonstrated the World Wrestling Federation’s arrogance, it was its handling of name rights with the World Wide Fund for Nature. After negotiating a deal with the animal rights organization over using the WWF initials for certain overseas business, Vince McMahon chose to do things his way. This led to a lengthy lawsuit which culminated in an English court barring the World Wrestling Federation from using its WWF Attitude logo and censoring past references to the WWF (please note this is a simplified version of a complicated decision). The result was that the World Wrestling Federation changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment as well as its logo. Although the WWE tried a clever marketing campaign (“Get the F Out”) to both make light of the situation and to minimize damage, the company still struggles with public confusion over its new initials.

6. Brand Split: Like most businesses, the WWE seems to thrive when it has competitors breathing down its neck (Nothing illustrated this like its Monday Night War with World Championship Wrestling). So what to do when you’ve put all your competitors out of business? In the WWE’s case, they elected to compete with themselves by developing an internal rivalry. The result was the WWE taking its RAW and SmackDown! shows and making them into separate divisions complete with individual championships and rosters. Although the idea was that the wrestlers from each brand would never appear on each other’s shows, this rule was broken enough that it diluted the value of the brand split. Fans still debate whether or not the brand split helped the WWE or diluted each show but most would probably agree that the one good thing to come about has been the annual WWE Draft Lottery in which Superstars are shuffled among the various brands. Despite the protests of some fans, the WWE has stuck to its guns and continues to maintain the brand split.

5. Ring of Honor: If someone told you that a niche promotion with no weekly television and no major stars would have impacted the wrestling industry, they’d probably have laughed at you. No one was laughing though when Ring of Honor became a cult success. Although Ring of Honor remains a niche promotion, its impact on the industry cannot be denied. The promotion’s focus on in-ring work and its “code of honor” quickly captured the attention of some fans. ROH provided fans a true alternative to the WWE, giving them a product that focused on wrestling rather than glitz and glamour. With wrestling now out of favor with many television networks, ROH thrived despite a lack of weekly television to promote the shows. Instead, the promotion sold DVD’s of their live events for fans to follow the action. Despite its public access TV-like production values, ROH’s in-ring work blew away anything happening in the ring in North America. The promotion would develop major stars of its own including CM Punk, Bryan Danielson, Nigel McGuinness, and Samoa Joe. The company has taken a methodical wait and see attitude to growth, eventually having PPV’s and making the jump to TV. While the company’s future always seems in jeopardy, it remains a source of joy for its loyal fans.

4. WWE Wellness Policy: The death of wrestler Eddie Guerrero renewed discussion of the alarming number of wrestlers who died at a young age. With critics arguing that steroids and drug abuse were the cause of many of the deaths, it came as no surprise that the WWE began testing for steroid and drug abuse. Critics found fault with the program and a 2007 investigation that linked several prominent WWE stars to illegal pharmacies only added to questions about the program’s ultimate value. While the program remains a subject of intense debate among some, the WWE continues to fine-tune the program, giving it more and more credibility. The WWE’s generous offer of paying for substance abuse treatment for WWE stars both past and present gives support to the idea that the Wellness Policy is more than just a corporate move to garner good publicity. In any event, WWE Superstar Montel Vontavius Porter is undoubtedly thankful that the WWE Wellness Policy’s cardiovascular testing (an aspect of the policy that is often overlooked) led to his diagnosis of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a cardiovascular condition.

3. Debut of TNA: It's said that nature abhors a vacuum so it's no surprise that following the demise of WCW and ECW, promoters quickly followed to fill the void left by their absence. While Andrew McMannus' World Wrestling All-Stars looked to be a possible successor to WCW, it eventually faded from sight as did several others. Then, legendary promoter Jerry Jarrett announced he was back in the game. The result was NWA-TNA, a promotion that wouldn't rely on weekly TV but instead, weekly PPV's. Despite a catastrophic beginning in which Mr. Jarrett was reportedly given overblown estimates on the show’s actual success, TNA has gone from weekly PPV’s to weekly television with monthly PPV’s. While TNA seems to have trouble establishing its own identity, the promotion continues to survive (thanks largely in part due to the financial backing of its current owner Panda Energy) and only the most iconoclastic of people would say the program wants for solid wrestling. TNA’s recent decision to sign Hulk Hogan and compete directly with the WWE has sparked some interest about where TNA is heading in the new decade. While TNA remains a distant second to the WWE, it’s a large enough company that it gives both wrestlers and their fans a chance to watch something besides the WWE.

2. Chris Benoit murders wife and son, commits suicide: Fans are still grappling with how this horrific crime happened. While we'll never know for sure, we are certain that this news story rocked the industry and exposed it to new criticism including misreporting by the mainstream media and self-proclaimed wrestling journalists. The firestorm of controversy eventually led to Congressional investigations not only of the WWE but of the industry in general. One of the sickest aspects of the news coverage of this story was by wrestling news sites and newsletters that exploited the story in order to sell their product. In the end, this exposed these peddlers of misinformation as journalist wannabes, both for their lack of journalistic integrity and for their inability to break any real news about the story.

1. WWF wins Monday Night War: As big as the Benoit story was, its impact on the industry paled in comparison to this story. After a century of major competition between various promoters, wrestling had one true kingpin in Vince McMahon. For many fans, it's still hard to imagine a world where there's only one wrestling show on Monday nights. Fans continue to debate why WWE won the Monday Night War but regardless of the reason(s), the WWE was the winner. In many respects, the WWE’s triumph would be a pyrrhic victory as their shows lost audience and the company continues to find a way to regain the buy rates and TV ratings of their peak.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Look at the new Monday Night War

Was last night's RAW or Impact a homerun? Interesting how sports analogies always creep their way whenever professional wrestling is discussed. Sports analogies are used all the time-Wrestlemania is the Superbowl of wrestling, last night's show was a grand slam, or Batista scored a hole in one last night with one of the Divas. These analogies are even more interesting when you think about the intricacies of a homerun. A homerun can be the result of a powerful hit that sends the ball out of the park or it can be a gutsy run around the bases while the other team scrambles for the ball that was just hit. So, was last night's RAW or Impact a homerun?
With the first Monday Night War battle in nearly ten years come and gone, it's time to play Monday morning, er Tuesday morning quarterback and look at last night's episodes of RAW and Impact. Do we have a new Monday Night War on our hands or more evidence that professional wrestling is headed for the abyss. After watching the first hour of Impact (and the last five minutes or so) and the entire episode of RAW, I think it's safe to say that 2010 is off to a good start. Whether each show hit a home run or not is another story.
Looking at all of the comments from fellow fans, it's no stretch to say that there were some great expectations by wrestling fans for both WWE and TNA's flagship shows last night. It's no stretch to say that fans were looking for something to grab their attention and keep them riveted. Looking at all the comments from fellow fans, it's no stretch to say that more than a couple of people were a bit disappointed. I think people were really expecting to be blown away by either RAW or Impact (or both) and while they may have been entertained, they weren't jumping out of their couches or Lazy-Boys shouting "That's why I'm a wrestling fan".
Let's start with Impact. One thing is clear, TNA did not apply the adage "less is more". This show was about surprising the fans with surprise appearance after surprise appearance. This wasn't Crash TV, this was Crash TV on crystal meth. If you blinked, you ran the risk of missing the surprise appearance of various WWE Superstars ranging from Jeff Hardy to Val Venis. At first, it was a lot of fun seeing people like Hardy and Ric Flair make surprise appearances. However after a while, it seemed like there was just too much going on to take it all in. That's not a problem per se until you consider TNA can't bring in new wrestlers every week unless Panda Energy just wrote TNA a blank check (although the number of former wrestlers that showed up last night has got to be encouraging news for the guys trying to make a living on the indie scene). Still, there comes a time when overkill sets in and I think TNA reached that point last night.
Looking at last night's Impact, you really had a good idea of what TNA is all about, both good and bad. The opening cage match (the Tweety Bird Cage as I like to call it) featured some very talented wrestlers but it also showcased TNA's flaws. The camera work was spotty (when the camera was in the ring, you got a good look at the wrestlers involved, when the camera was outside the ring, you couldn't follow a thing) and the finish confused a lot of people. Homicide going nuts was easy to follow thanks to commentary from Taz and Mike Tenay but fans accustomed to cage matches (which are typically no disqualification encounters by default) were not only scratching their heads in confusion but chanting "This is bullshit" in frustration. If that wasn't bad enough, Homicide's unsuccessful attempt to climb out of the cage was embarrassingly funny as the cameras seemed locked on him for an eternity (I haven't seen something this bad since Hulk Hogan tried to start the Undertaker's motorcycle and he spent several minutes stalled on the entrance ramp). For all the good stuff that happened in the cage, there was stuff that highlighted the fact that TNA still looks minor league next to the WWE (a point many fans felt was delivered all the more by the show being taped at the Impact Center).
Still, last night's Impact showed that there's still hope for TNA. The people who criticize TNA by saying "This isn't 1998" miss the point. 1998 is fondly remembered by a lot of fans and although TNA can't take us back to 1998, using the wrestling product of 1998 as a template isn't the worst idea in the world. TNA's biggest chance of success in following the 1998 product isn't by bringing in all the wrestlers from that time period and recreating the angles, it's by utilizing their current roster in ways that evoke the spirit of 1998 i.e. fast paced angles, good wrestling, and compelling storylines. As with all things TNA has tried, the key is sticking with a game plan. TNA has yet to demonstrate any kind of success in sticking to a game plan but the 1998 game plan isn't the worst one they could run with.
Last night's show ended on an interesting note. Eric Bischoff is always good as a villain and the intrigue between Hogan, Foley, and Bischoff has enough of a lure that I'm hooked for now. I'm really hoping that TNA doesn't bring in guys like the Nasty Boys, Sean Waltman, and Scott Hall to do nothing but beat up the current roster. Still, seeing the old Wolfpack together has its merits (at least until they step into the ring) and it's sure to bring in some fans who haven't switched on wrestling since the days of Nitro.
The first Impact of 2010 showed some promise. TNA did a good job pulling off a three hour show (which the WWE has proved repeatedly is not an easy thing to accomplish). It was certainly not a smashing success nor was it an unmitigated disaster. It was a start to something which hopefully will build into something that can jumpstart the company. TNA is obviously spending some money on this venture so let's hope they get what they pay for. Last night's Impact wasn't a home run but it did feature a lot of doubles and triples. The show was definitely worth checking out and it was good enough that I'll give TNA another swing at bat.
RAW in many respects, was the antithesis of Impact. RAW anchored itself with one big guest (Bret Hart for those of you who just returned from a cave in Afghanistan) and put the rest of the show on cruise control. The result was a refreshingly balanced show which featured some excellent wrestling (including a PPV worthy DX vs. JeriShow match as well as an outstanding Kofi Kingston vs. Randy Orton bout) and stayed away from the stupid skits which have marred the show for the last few years (although the WWE did find time to throw in a stupid bit with DX and Hornswaggle, it was somewhat bearable). The WWE did a great job with the exchanges between Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart (a truly emotional moment), Chris Jericho and Bret Hart, and of course, the finale between Vince McMahon and Bret Hart. Every one of them did what they were supposed to (get Michaels over as an ally for Hart, show Bret doesn't play favorites, and start the feud with Vince). While it would be wrong to label last night's RAW as a grand slam or a home run knocked out of the park, it was a home run earned through sustained effort. The WWE made a strong hit and covered all the bases throughout the night.
In the end, RAW was the better show but Impact held its own for the most part (Anyone who thought Impact was going to beat RAW probably thought Evan Bourne was going to pin Sheamus). In wrestling terms, last night wasn't a squash match. There's much to be learned from last night's battle. TNA needs to see what worked and what didn't work. They need to retune their game plan and stick with it. As for the WWE, they showed they can still put on a good show when they want to. Like TNA, they need to put on consistently good shows. Both TNA and the WWE have way too much talent to be putting on bad shows. It's time for both promotions to show the fans what they've got.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Remembering Eddie Fatu

Eddie Fatu was born in 1973, a member of the famous Anoai wrestling family (which includes the Wild Samoans, the Tonga Kid, Rikishi, Yokozuna, and many others). Mr. Fatu trained at his uncles' Wild Samoan Pro Wrestling Training Center before going to work in uncle Afa's World Extreme Federation. He quickly caught the eye of World Wrestling Federation officials, appearing on WWF TV briefly before honing his skills further in the WWF's developmental territory Heartland Wrestling Association. Around this time, Mr. Fatu formed a long-running team with his cousin Matt which saw them in promotions such as Memphis Championship Wrestling and Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling.

In 2002, the two cousins debuted in the WWE, appearing as RAW General Manager Eric Bischoff's henchmen, Three-Minute Warning. Now known as Jamal (with his cousin going as Rosey), Mr. Fatu laid out weekly beatdowns alongside his cousin whenever Eric Bischoff felt someone had begun to bore the audience. Three-Minute Warning would continue to dish out destruction whenever called upon, both in and out of the squared circle. In what was their biggest angle at the time, Three-Minute Warning crashed the "commitment ceremony" of Billy and Chuck during the September 12, 2002 edition of SmackDown!. The two then went on to defeat the team in a match at September's Unforgiven PPV. A feud against the Dudley Boyz followed but the team came to an abrupt end when Mr. Fatu was released in June 2003.

From there, Mr. Fatu continued his in-ring career, working for both Total Nonstop Action (TNA) in 2003 as the tag team partner of Sonny Siaki. After working a program with America's Most Wanted (James Storm and Chris Harris), Mr. Fatu went to work for All Japan Pro Wrestling. There, he worked as Jamal, teaming with Justin Credible before forming a championship team with Taiyo Kea that saw the two perform in Hawai'i Championship Wrestling as well as Japan (the two would win the AJPW Unified World Tag Team Championship, the 2004 World's Strongest Tag Team League tournament, and the HCW Kekaulike Heritage Tag Team Championship).

In 2006, Mr. Fatu returned to the WWE, debuting as a singles wrestler alongside new WWE manager Armando Elejandro Estrada. Now working as Umaga, a mysterious Samoan savage (reminiscent of his uncles Afa and Sika of the Wild Samoans), Mr. Fatu attacked Ric "Nature Boy" Flair on an episode of Monday Night RAW, laying out the former 16-time World Champion. Umaga would face Flair at the 2006 Backlash PPV, defeating Flair and establishing himself as a fierce opponent.

From there, it seemed as Umaga was an unstoppable force of nature. With Armando Elejandro Estrada guiding his career, Umaga bulldozed over opponent after opponent, quickly earning the nickname "The Samoan Bulldozer". Comparisons to fellow Samoan wrestler Samoa Joe (who had established himself as "The Samoan Submission Machine" in both Ring of Honor and Total Nonstop Action) were inevitable but Mr. Fatu distinguished himself, proving that he was no carbon-copy of anyone.

For some time, it appeared as if nothing could stop "The Samoan Bulldozer". Umaga beat everyone there was to beat on the RAW roster, defeating main event stars such as Shawn Michaels, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, and John Cena. Umaga even sent Kane packing when he defeated "The Big Red Machine" in a "Loser Leaves RAW" match. Umaga then prepared for the biggest match of his career- a WWE Championship match against John Cena at the 2007 New Year's Revolution PPV.

After nearly a year of wrestling without being pinned or forced to submit, Umaga suffered his first pinfall loss in January 2007 at New Year's Revolution. John Cena successfully defended his belt, surprising Umaga with a roll-up that saw the Samoan Bulldozer's shoulders pinned to the mat for a three count. A rematch at the Royal Rumble saw Umaga's career further blemished when Cena forced him to tap out to the STFU (albeit with the help of the ring rope and turnbuckle) in a Last Man Standing Match.

Undaunted by his losses to Cena, Umaga participated in arguably the biggest match of 2007, the Battle of the Billionaires at Wrestlemania XXIII. Umaga was hand-picked by WWE chairman Vince McMahon to serve as his wrestler against arch-rival Donald Trump's wrestler Bobby Lashley. This match was especially important to McMahon as it was a Hair vs. Hair Match (with either McMahon or Trump losing their hair depending on the outcome). As expected, the match was a wild one with Umaga laying out "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (the match's special referee) and nearly winning the match for Mr. McMahon. In the end though, Umaga fell to Lashley.

An angry and now bald Mr. McMahon turned his attention from Trump to Lashley, seeking to punish Lashley for his humiliating loss at Wrestlemania. Despite his loss to Lashley, McMahon continued using the Samoan Bulldozer (who had lost manager Armando Elejandro Estrada thanks to a beatdown dished out by Lashley) as the instrument of his vengeance. The two feuded with Umaga helping Mr. McMahon capture Lashley's ECW World Title. Lashley countered by helping newcomer Santino Marella defeat Umaga for the Intercontinental Championship. Their feud continued until 2007's Judgment Day PPV which saw Lashley defeat Umaga, Vince, and Shane McMahon in a Handicap Match.

2007 saw Umaga's fortunes rise and fall. While he defeated Santino Marella to regain the Intercontinental Championship in July, he lost it in September to Jeff Hardy (who had just returned to the WWE). Umaga then suffered a brutal beatdown at the hands of a sledgehammer wielding Triple H (which lead to a storyline absence as Umaga served out a Wellness Policy mandated suspension). When he returned to action, Umaga fell to Triple H in a WWE Championship Match at the No Mercy PPV.

As 2007 became 2008, it became clear that Umaga was no longer an unstoppable force. Still, he remained a formidable opponent, battling Batista at Wrestlemania XXIV and Jeff Hardy in a Falls Count Anywhere Match at the 2008 One Night Stand PPV. In June 2008, Umaga was drafted to SmackDown! where he looked to be back on track in his winning ways. Unfortunately an ACL injury took him out of action for the remainder of the year.

In 2009, Umaga finally returned to action, destroying Jimmy Wang Yang during a match on SmackDown! From there, Umaga entered into a feud with CM Punk. Umaga defeated Punk at that year's Judgment Day PPV but he lost to Punk in a subsequent Samoan Strap Match at the Extreme Rules PPV. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Fatu was released by the WWE. Mr. Fatu recently appeared on the Australian Hulkamania tour, performing as Edward Smith “Uso” Fatu.

I'd like to extend my prayers and condolences to the family and friends of Eddie Fatu.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Themed PPV's from the Past and Present

Right now the WWE is attempting to make its PPV's more distinct with themed shows such as Hell in a Cell, TLC, and Breaking Point (submission matches). While fans' reactions have been mixed the WWE deserves credit for trying to invigorate the product and making each PPV seem special. Some fans may be surprised to learn that specialty PPV's date back to the beginning of PPV itself. Indeed, the idea of having special themed shows(and by this I mean shows based around a specific type of match) dates back even further as we shall see.

The WWE is by no means the first company to focus on branded events. Back in the 1960's and 70's, promoter Roy Shire featured an annual battle royal that was held at the Cow Palace Arena. Shire's Battle Royal was treated both as a special event and an extremely dangerous one (the battle royal was known for featuring injury angles including stretcher jobs). Promoter Shire featured some of his top stars in the match-up and often brought in talent from outside of his San Francisco based National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) territory, adding to the show's allure. WWE Hall of Famer Pat Patterson was a frequent participant (as well as two-time winner of the Battle Royal) and he would draw upon his experience there when he helped design the WWE's Royal Rumble.

In 1986, promoter Jim Crockett Jr. built a supercard around tag team wrestling known as the Jim Crockett Sr. Memorial Cup Tag Team Tournament (better known as "The Crockett Cup"). The inaugural Crockett Cup was a major event in the NWA with most of the remaining NWA territories sending their top tag teams to compete against Crockett's teams. The first Crockett Cup saw 24 teams compete for a (kayfabe) $1,000,000.00 prize as well as a memorial trophy. The event was held over two days and was considered one of the year's top events. While it did not draw as much money as expected, it was successful enough that two more Crockett Cups were held.

Even during the earliest days of PPV, promoters considered specially themed shows in order to lure in customers. One of the first was the Wrestling Classic, the World Wrestling Federation's second PPV (some people have argued that this was actually the first official PPV as Wrestlemania was only available in closed circuit arenas while The Wrestling Classic was available in select homes). The Wrestling Classic revolved around a sixteen man tournament (as well as a WWF title match between champion Hulk Hogan and "Rowdy" Roddy Piper). The WWF would follow up on the idea of themed shows with its debut of the Survivor Series. For the first few years, the Survivor Series was made up entirely of tag team elimination matches.

In 1989, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) ran an Iron Man tournament at its annual Starrcade show. The show featured both a tag team tournament as well as a singles tournament with competitors battling in round robin matches to determine the "Iron Man" (and "Iron Men"). For more on the rules of the "Iron Man" tournament, click here.

During the 1990's, WCW toyed further with themed PPV's, one of which became known as Battlebowl:the Lethal Lottery. In 1991, WCW held the first ever Battlebowl at its Starrcade The BattleBowl (which has no connection to Rob Van Dam despite what you may think) featured "randomly" (kayfabe) selected teams battling one another with the winning teams advancing to a two ring battle royal held at the end of the night. WCW would follow up with another Battlebowl at Starrcade 92 as well as a Battlebowl PPV in 1993. Unfortunately for Battlebowl fans, the concept wasn't strong enough to establish an annual tradition.

WCW wasn't alone in using special events to build a PPV around. In 1985 WWF launched the King of the Ring PPV tournaments in 1985 at the Sullivan Stadium in the Foxborough, Massachusetts (later moving it to the Providence Civic Center in Providence, Rhode Island) . The event proved popular enough not only to run until 1991 but to be relaunched as a PPV event. The WWE continued the King of the Ring as a PPV until 2002.

Recent history has shown that specially themed PPV's can succeed. One of TNA's biggest successes has been its annual Lockdown PPV which features cage matches from start to finish. While the thought of nothing but cage matches seems like overkill, TNA has done a good job of keeping the show fresh and Lockdown continues to be one of the company's most popular PPV's.

Wrestling promoters don't have to reserve themed events for PPV's. With the WWE running more and more three hour RAW's, it might not be a bad idea to run a themed show on one of these 180 minute blowouts. While I don't think it's in the WWE's (or TNA's) best interests to make every PPV or show a specially themed event, they might want to consider two of the following ideas:

Pro-Am: While I don't watch a lot of Japanese wrestling, I love some of the tournaments that the various promotions used to run. One of the best ideas I've heard of was a tournament that featured veterans teaming with rookie wrestlers. The possibilities here of course are endless. Not only do you get a chance to form new teams but you get to do angles with possible feuds between team members as well as younger guys getting a chance to get the rub from an established star. Like anything else, a promotion can make a kayfabe prize such as a big check or do something where the winner gets a tag title shot at the next PPV ( On a sidenote, I absolutely hate the idea of teams battling in a tournament where they face the champions that very night. I've never understood the concept of a team (or individual) wrestling several matches in one evening then having to utilize a title shot the same night against a fresh team).

Wrestling Olympics: I like the idea of the WWE's Bragging Rights PPV where RAW SmackDown! compete to see who is the best. The problem with Bragging Rights was that the company threw the show together at the last minute and they did little to make winning it seem all that special (other than the trophy). Imagine an all-star night in which WWE stars compete in various match-ups as well as old school angles like arm-wrestling matches, pose-downs, tests of strength, or whatever else you want to throw in. The team with the most wins would naturally go on to become that year's winner and claim a kayfabe prize they can brag about over the next year.

The key with any of these themed events is in how they are executed. Take the recent Hell in a Cell PPV. The problem with the PPV wasn't that there were three Hell in a Cell matches. The problem was that that 1) there wasn't a lot of build-up for the cage matches and 2) only one of the cage matches (DX vs. Legacy) actually used the cage with any regularity. On the other hand, I LOVED the Breaking Point The submission matches turned out to be excellent and for the most part, they tied in with the programs. For example, DX vs. Legacy was a battle of who was the toughest team. Likewise Orton vs. Cena played into the "Diehard" attitude of John Cena winning out over a weak-willed heel. Don't run a themed event unless you have a concrete plan for the matches involved.

As time unfolds it will be interesting to see whether the WWE adopts more themed PPV's or if it drops the concept in favor of more traditional shows. If history is any indication, you can be sure that themed events will be around in some quantity in the time to come.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Story of Survivor Series

It's not very often that a Great Moment in Wrestling can also be an Epic Fail but that's what happened when the two biggest wrestling companies decided to go head to head on Thanksgiving night. The result was the beginning of the end for one promotion and the debut of one of the longest running PPV's in WWE history. Join me as I look back at the debut of the Survivor Series.

Thanksgiving has always been an important day in professional wrestling. In 1987, it would become important for another reason-the location of an all-out battle between rival promotions the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) and Jim Crockett Promotions (JCP). In the end, one promoter would be very thankful while another was thankful to still be in business.

For years, Thanksgiving was one of the most important days (if not the most important) for Jim Crockett Promotions. Even before the promotion launched its Starcade show (The grand-daddy of them all), Thanksgiving held a special place for the promotion and its fans. Thanksgiving was the day in which many feuds were settled and new programs developed as the fans relaxed from a big Thanksgiving dinner and watched some top-rate wrestling action. Starcade only magnified this, giving fans from all around the Mid-Atlantic area a chance to see the big show that before then, was often sold out. This of course, made Thanksgiving the biggest night of the year for JCP. It was the promotion's Superbowl or in wrestling terms, its Wrestlemania.

And speaking of Wrestlemania, 1987 was an amazing year for the WWF. Wrestlemania III was a monster success for the WWF (thanks to its epic Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant main event) as well as for the PPV companies which beamed the show into homes around the world. Seeing the success of Wrestlemania III, Vince McMahon decided to embark on a second PPV that year. After all, if one PPV was successful, imagine how good things would be with two. Some people were skeptical. After all, could the market sustain TWO pay-per-views in one year (McMahon had run two PPV's in 1985 but failed to do so in 1986)? As laughable as it may seem now, there was serious concern about flooding the market with two PPV's over the course of twelve months. Even more serious was the notion of running a show directly against their competitor JCP. Could the market sustain TWO pay-per-views on the same night (Thanksgiving)?

The wrestling world was all abuzz about the prospect of the WWF competing directly against JCP. For several years, the WWF and JCP had bumped heads as both companies grew from regional to national promotions. By 1987 the WWF had the upper hand but JCP remained a respectable second place to the WWF and they were by no means finished. While the WWF had Hulkamania powering its ship, JCP relied on traditional wrestling that appealed to many of the old school fans turned off by the sometimes cartoonish antics of the WWF. Stars like Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Dusty Rhodes, and the Road Warriors made JCP a thriving promotion of its own. Now, wrestling fans would be able to truly voice their opinion on who was the better company. It's even been said that JCP welcomed the chance to compete against the WWF as they felt their superior wrestling product would triumph over the glitz and glamour of the WWF.

If Vince McMahon had his way though, there would be no head to head battle. Using the leverage of the super-successful Wrestlemania III, McMahon made it known to cable companies that they now had another big WWF product to make loads of money off of. The only catch was that they had to carry this new show exclusively, especially if they wanted to get Wrestlemania IV. In a gesture reflecting his abundant goodwill, McMahon made it clear to the cable providers that there was no need to carry that second-rate Starcade any more since the big boys i.e. the WWF were running a Thanksgiving show. If that didn't get the cable companies thinking his way, he told them that they had to carry this new show exclusively, especially if they wanted to get Wrestlemania IV.

For those wondering about the legalities of what the WWF pulled, this was something that definitely could have been challenged in court. The problem was that by the time the case got to court, it would have been too little too late. JCP might have been able to get some sort of injunctive relief against the WWF and/or cable companies involved but they risked alienating the cable companies in the future. In the end, the majority of the cable companies went with the WWF, shutting JCP out of the picture. The result was that, Starcade had very few clearances while the WWF's new show Survivor Series had many. To no one's surprise, Survivor Series crushed Starcade, if for no other reason, because it was most fans' only choice if they wanted wrestling for their post-turkey dinner relaxation (Conventional wisdom has it that the WWF show was actually a better show wrestling-wise than Starcade but you be the judge).

Survivor Series' success continued the WWF's good fortunes, proving that the company could run more than one PPV a year. It also sealed JCP's doom as the company banked on Starcade to make a lot of money (which was certainly reasonable on their part as the show had always done so before). Without the revenue traditionally generated by Starcade, JCP ran into cash flow companies and its owners were forced to sell the company to Ted Turner just a year later.
Debut of the Elimination Chamber.

As we all know, the Survivor Series has gone on to become one of the WWE's "Big Four" PPV's. The WWF stopped airing on Thanksgiving years ago and for a while it looked as if the Survivor Series elimination matches were history. Fortunately the WWE has seen fit to bring back the elimination matches, reestablishing the Survivor Series as more than just another PPV. Over the last twenty plus years, fans have delighted to many memorable moments at Survivor Series such as the inaugural show's ten team tag elimination match (1987), the debut of the Undertaker (1990), the Undertaker's tainted win over Hulk Hogan for the WWF Championship the following year (1991), the infamous Montreal Screwjob(1997), the night "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was run down by a mystery driver (1999), the climax to the Invasion angle, and the debut of the Elimination Chamber (2002). On a personal note, 1995's Survivor Series was memorable as it was the first PPV I ever attended (and actually a pretty good show in its own right).

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Remembering Captain Lou Albano

Captain Lou! Captain Lou! Whether he was helping one of his charges cheat their way to victory, winning the U.S. Tag Team Championship, making beautiful music with NRBQ (and music videos with Cyndi Lauper), or starring in Brian DePalma's Wise Guys, Lou Albano knew how to keep himself busy and in the spotlight. He was bigger than life, literally and metaphorically, making an impact wherever he stepped.

Born Louis Vincent Albano, the man who would become famous in and outside of the squared circle did it all. He was a champion wrestler, a manager of champions, and a pop culture icon, appearing in music videos, TV shows, and film. Mr. Albano contributed so many things to wrestling that it's difficult to sum up all of his accomplishments. Arguably his biggest was his buildup to War to Settle the Score, the famous matchup which led to Wrestlemania and the WWF's rise to prominence but then again, with a resume as long as the Captain's, it's not easy to be certain.

Like many managers, Mr. Albano began his career in the ring as a wrestler. In his case, he rose to prominence as one half of the heel tag team called the Sicilians (alongside partner Tony Altimore). The Sicilians would become well known during the 1950's and 1960's, working throughout various territories including the WWWF and capturing the U.S. Tag Team Championship from Spiros Arion and Arnold Skaaland in 1967.

For most fans however, Captain Lou was best remembered for his work as a manager in the WWWF . As Paul Heyman mentioned in his blog this week, one of the Three Wise Men of the East, the legendary triumvirate of terror that ran wild over the babyfaces in the WWWF (the other two of course, being the Grand Wizard and "Classy" Freddie Blassie). Captain Lou would become known as "The Guiding Light" (one of the many names he bestowed upon himself), leading a record fifteen tag teams to championship gold in the WWWF. When Captain Lou managed a tag team, it was always a question of when,not if, his team would win the coveted WWWF Tag Team Championship. The teams he guided were a veritable who's who in the WWWF including the Wild Samoans, a team he led to a record three WWWF tag team championships.

Mr. Albano was so well known for his tag team accolades that people often forgot the singles championships he helped manage. The biggest of course was Ivan Koloff, who toppled Bruno Sammartino in 1971 to win the WWWF championship. The Intercontinental championship did not elude his grasp either with Mr. Albano helping both The Magnificent Muraco and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine win that prestigious belt.

Fans always have their choice of who the greatest manager of all time was. One thing everyone can agree on is that they broke the mold when they made Captain Lou. Captain Lou Albano was much more than a manager, he was a force of nature. It's hard to think of someone more despicable than Captain Lou. When the big, ugly man worked his way to the ring, you couldn't help but hate him. Captain Lou presented a look that was all his own. Whether it was the long rubber bands that dangled from his face, the wild hair and equally untamed beard, or his trademark shirt with generous belly protruding from underneath, Lou Albano looked the part of a slimy, no-good bad guy who would run over his grandmother if she stood in his way. One look at Albano and you knew what a character he was. You never forgot him. Even people who'd only seen him once would remember him as "the fat guy with rubber bands hanging down his face" or "that ugly obnoxious wrestling manager who never shut up."

Lou Albano was no cartoon character bad guy (although he would go on to become a cartoon character in Hulk Hogan's Rock and Wrestling and play a real-life version of a cartoon character in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!). He was the real deal. He reminded you of the loud, brash guy at the seedy side of town, hustling numbers or beating people up for failing to pay their debts. Lou Albano was the brains behind the brawn, the guy who guided monsters like the Wild Samoans and the Moondogs to the WWWF Tag Team Championship. He was also the guy who always looked out for number one-he defrauded Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka out of all his earnings then choreographed a brutal beatdown on Snuka when his nefarious activities were brought to life. Captain Lou Albano was one bad customer.

He was also a rarity among managers-someone who you actually thought might do a number on a babyface. Granted, Albano cultivated his image as a slob and you knew your favorite wrestler would come out on top in a fair fight against Albano. The problem was that you also knew Albano never fought a fair fight in his life. Albano presented a true sense of danger to babyfaces, luring them into a false sense of security then striking when they were at their weakest.

Like Shakespeare's loveable rogue John Falstaff, Albano also had an undeniable charm. As bad a guy as you knew he was, you couldn't help but laugh at some of his promos. The guy never stopped talking. Whether he boasted of being "often imitated but never duplicated" or any of the thousands of catchphrases he dropped, the not-so-good Captain was never at a loss for words. His sometimes comical antics served a secondary purpose-they lured the babyfaces and their fans into underestimating Albano until he sprang one of his diabolical plans on them. It was pure wrestling gold.

Although I was only able to catch Albano during the tail end of his heel years in the WWF, he made a lasting impression. One of the bits that illustrated Albano's craziness occurred during match between Albano charge "The Magnificent Muraco" and perennial loser Rudy Diamond. During the match, Albano paraded around the ring with a meatball bomber and cup of Coca Cola. It didn't take long for everyone to realize Diamond posed no threat to Muraco. Muraco was destroying the jobber but Albano was determined to add insult to injury. During the match, Albano walked up to the ring and gave Muraco a bite of his sub. If that wasn't bad enough, Albano then gave Muraco some of his Coca Cola to drink. The humiliation of losing to Muraco was compounded by Muraco getting a quick snack in and the sheer disgust at seeing someone sharing part of Lou Albano's lunch.

Hollywood has always been drawn to the charismatic personalities found in professional wrestling. That's why it's no surprise that Captain Lou was "discovered" by Hollywood. In the Captain's case, he would soon be found in the music videos of up and coming singer Cyndi Lauper, playing Ms. Lauper's father in her video Girls Just Want to Have Fun. The song was a smash success, aided by the video (and Albano's presence), and propelled Lauper to pop stardom.

In true form, Albano seemed to ride Lauper's coattails to the top. This would lead to one of the biggest angles of the 1980's and lead the way for the WWF's rise to the top as well. For weeks, Albano basked in the fame he'd earned by appearing in Lauper's video, boasting to fellow heel "Rowdy" Roddy Piper that he would produce Lauper for Piper's talk segment "Piper's Pit". After many weeks of speculation, Lauper appeared and that's when the fireworks started. Lauper and Albano clashed after Albano claimed to be the reason for Lauper's success, then added to his problems by making chauvinistic comments towards Lauper. In the end, the two decided to settle their differences by managing a wrestler against one another. The result was "The Brawl to Settle It All", a woman's title match between Albano's proxy, the Fabulous Moolah (then WWF Woman's Champion) and Lauper's proxy, Wendi Richter. The match main evented Madison Square Garden and scored record ratings for MTV when it was aired. When the dust had settled, Lauper's wrestler was victorious and Captain Lou had egg on his face.

Albano's defeat saw a slow but noticeable change in the manager's heart. Like the Grinch, his heart began to grow and he soon found himself helping Lauper in charity fund-raisers to fight Multiple Sclerosis. The two received an award for their efforts in Madison Square Garden and like most wrestling awards ceremonies, this one was ruined. This time, by Roddy Piper who cracked an award over Albano's head and laid out Lauper and her entourage. This angle would lead to "The War to Settle the Score", the famous buildup to the first ever Wrestlemania.

From there, Captain Lou began working on the side of the angels, guiding babyface teams like the U.S. Express (Barry Windham & Mike Rotunda) and the British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid) to the WWF Tag Team Championship. The now good captain also found himself in demand in Hollywood, guest starring on hit TV shows of the time such as Miami Vice and 227 as well as starring in Brian De Palma's film Wiseguys. Although Hollywood was now taking up most of his time, Captain Lou returned to wrestling from time to time. In 1994, Captain Lou added another tag team championship to his trophy case when he guided the Headshrinkers to a WWF Tag Team Title win.

As always, the hits kept coming for Captain Lou. In 1989, he starred as iconic video game character Mario in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! and in 1996, he was inducted into the WWF Hall of Fame. Two years later he would co-author the book The Complete Idiots Guide to Professional-Wrestling. 2008 would see the release of the Captain's autobiography Often Imitated, Never Duplicated.