Monthly Archives: March 2003


END OF THE MANIA: World Wrestling Entertainment held its 19th annual Wrestlemania event last night, and it proved once and for all that WWE’s time in the zeitgeist is long gone. While the event featured a few moments of excitement in four hours, the bulk of the event just underscored that the magic of the former WWF is all over. In fact, just about the only “sport” that’s in worse shape right now than wrestling is its companion ringsport, boxing.
WWF/E experienced a second renaissance in the late ’90s because it was able to create new stars (like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Triple-H) and tell original and engaging stories while, at the same time, rival WCW was recycling over-the-hill stars (Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage, Ric Flair, Lex Luger, etc.) and putting them in weak, contrived, and unbelievable storylines. Since putting WCW out of business two years ago, the WWF has made one bad decision after another: the launch of the XFL, the botching of the WWF vs. WCW angle, the change in name to WWE, the inexplicable decision to split the federation in half (the “brand extension”), and perhaps worst of all, they’ve borrowed WCW’s penchant of using lazy, over-the-hill wrestlers who are of little use outside of their name value (since the merger they’ve brought in Hogan, Flair, Kevin Nash, Diamond Dallas Page, and Shawn Michaels, among many others whose best days are far behind them). On top of that, the federation has seemingly run out of convincing, groundbreaking, stories to tell.
Wrestlemania XIX was headlined by four matches: the third different WM tilt between The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin; a battle between world champion Triple-H and the overmatched Booker T; a fight for the other world title between former amateur champions Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar, and (worst of all), the years-in-the-making battle between Hulk Hogan and chairman Vince McMahon, two men with a combined age of almost 110.
On top of gratuitous appearances by marginal celebrities Ashanti, the Miller Lite catfight girls, and (gag) Limp Bizkit, the matches themselves were rather lackluster: Rock-Austin was been-there-done-that, Triple-H-Booker boring, Hogan-McMahon ridiculous and plagued with a surprise appearance by the equally geriatric “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and the otherwise strong matchup between Angle and Lesnar was spoiled when Lesnar botched an off-the-top-rope move and landed right on his head- making the new champion look especially weak after suffering a concussion (Angle himself is facing up to a year out of action with a neck injury of his own). What looked on paper like a strong card turned into a dud; not even the scheduled three-way match pitting Chris Benoit and Rhyno against Team Angle against Los Guererros lived up to expectations.
For the WWE to have a third renaissance, it’s going to have to tear itself down and build up again, as it did after its early-’90s nadir. Perhaps new acquisition Goldberg will help, but he can’t do it alone. Indeed, Goldberg made his debut tonight on RAW, and his entrance and brief confrontation with The Rock had more electricity than the entire four hours of Wrestlemania combined.
In the meantime the world’s greatest business columnist, Christopher Byron, takes a look at the WWE, drawing parellels both with the war in Iraq and Martha Stewart’s recent difficulties. Don’t miss it.


THAT’S A FACT, JACK: I don’t know what it is with Sports Illustrated, but for the second time in three weeks they’ve decided to use a high-profile article to expose unsavory elements in the life of a long-retired ballplayer who was a member of the 1991 World Champion Minnesota Twins. After Frank Deford’s Kirby Puckett expose earlier this month, last week’s baseball preview issue has a long profile of Jack Morris, baseball’s winningest pitcher in the 1980s and the man who started and pitched all 10 innings of World Series Game 7 in ’91 (with yours truly in attendance). Ostensibily a look at the dying art of pitchers who go the distance, Tom Verducci’s piece lets us know from the start what an unlikable lout Morris was: we find out he had separated from his wife early in the ’91 season (the St. Paul native’s only year in Minnesota), made few friends in baseball, and was unable to get a job in the game after he retired in 1994. While the story starts with a great photo illustration (Morris celebrating in front of a scoreboard with 9.5 innings of zeroes for both the Twins and Braves), I found it just a bit disrespectful towards a man who I believe belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Why must SI spoil all of our illusions, about the ’91 Twins specifically?
Stay tuned for next week’s SI, for its 3000-word Gary Smith piece on Kent Hrbek’s failure to live up to his dream of success in the world of professional wrestling.
AND TWINS: Twins win their opener 3-1 in Detroit, on a super pitching performance by Brad Radke. One down, 161 to go; TwinsGeek has more.


QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I just don’t believe in the notion that you can’t have fun while people suffer. That’s probably because I come from a people who throw a party when you snip off a baby’s foreskin.” -Joel Stein, musing on the absurdity of holding the glam-filled Academy Awards during wartime, in Entertainment Weekly.


THE TRANSFORMED MAN: The Ohio-based national guardsman who changed his name to Optimus Prime in honor of the Transformers character now has a blog! On it, Mr. Prime thanks “the Transformers” community of 500,000 for bringing so much attention to his story. Somehow, I’ve gotta think that if a soldier had his name legally changed to “Papa Smurf,” the reaction would be even more rapturous.


WE’RE TALKING BASEBALL… The 2003 baseball season opened tonight with the Rangers’ victory over the Angels; the season begins in earnest tomorrow. Therefore, here are my predictions:
AL playoff teams: Yankees, Twins, Athletics, Red Sox (wild card)
NL playoff teams: Phillies, Cardinals, Giants, Cubs (wild card)
ALDS: Twins over Red Sox, Yankees over A’s
NLDS: Giants over Cardinals, Phillies over Cubs
ALCS: Twins over Yankees
NLCS: Giants over Phillies
2003 World Series: Twins over Giants, for championship #3. Wishful thinking I know, but if it happens, I want to have predicted it. Me and Jayson Stark.
Until then… PLAY BALL!

SUSPENDED ANIMATION: The Seattle SuperSonics

SUSPENDED ANIMATION: The Seattle SuperSonics have suspended guard Joseph Forte, the former North Carolina standout who has thus far bombed in the NBA after being drafted by the Celtics two years, for “conduct detrimental to the team” after he got into a fight with teammate Jerome James.
Hey, when Forte signed his contract with the Sonics wasn’t that, in itself, “detrimental to the team”?