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JG's Retro Column: Nine and Counting - WWE's Releases Send Mixed Messages

By James Guttman
Jan 20, 2007, 22:49


Originally Published:   November 4, 2004

It's been a fun week for World Wrestling Entertainment. Starting on Monday, the company went on a firing binge that would have made Donald Trump proud. As is often the case with WWE decisions, fans agreed initially but were left a bit confused as the process proceeded.

Day one saw the termination of Billy Gunn, A-Train, and Test. Gunn had hit a wall and was no longer capable of producing his usual semi-quality work. He had become one dimensional with a character that seemed to be stuck in the '80s. The irony is that he started with the company in the '90s. A-Train was never really used correctly, but that didn't matter. After being introduced as Prince Albert, life for the Train was rough. He bounced from partner to gimmick and despite his name, never got on track. Test, the most talented of the trio, has been off television so long that most people forgot he worked there.

Following the first wave, WWE offered up six more. Next came Gail Kim, Nidia, and Chuck Palumbo. Today, it was Johnny the Bull, Rodney Mack, and Jazz. It's these six names, with the exception of Chuck, that change the perception of things. We're not just dealing with A-Trains and Tests anymore. There's a number of arguments one could make when looking at this list. They are all valid critiques. They all hold water. One, however, is leaps and bounds above the rest.

We can argue that WWE has just concluded its Raw Diva Search. Giving $250,000 to Christy Hemme for eating ice cream was meant to bolster the female division. Considering that the women's roster only consisted of about seven divas, it made sense. While eating up a good amount of Monday Night time, the event was there to help an ailing segment of the show. We get it. Christy wins. The world rejoices. We finally have what appears to be a blossoming female roster! How does the company respond? They release three of the most featured women on the program. It's illogical. It's counterproductive. Unfortunately, there's even stronger contentions that can be argued when observing this list.

What about Rodney Mack and Jazz? A husband and wife canned on the same day? That's just plain sad. Imagine you and your partner were fired within three words of each other. Jazz and Mack weren't guilty of any real troublemaking or in-ring problems. It makes you wonder why the couple needed to be fired at the exact same time. It's just not right. While not necessarily illogical, it's pretty damn heartless.

What about Johnny Stamboli? A few weeks back, WWE showed a video package of their overseas tour. Prominently featured, Stamboli and Nunzio were showcased as Gods in Italy. After all, the Full Blooded Italians were sure to be over in the country that they're named for. Should he have been kept on the payroll because Italy loves him? Of course not. The logic hole comes in when you wonder why WWE would show a video depicting Johhny as a major asset in Italy...two weeks before giving him his walking papers. Fuhgetaboutit!

The biggest and most valid critique of all this rests on the release of one person. It's one woman's termination that makes you sit up and do a spit-take. It's the most insane decision the company could have made at this time and the harder you think about it, the more it hurts your head.

With one million dollars hanging in the balance, Tough Enough has taken over Smackdown each week. Every Thursday, we're greeted by Big Show's hazing and untrained dreamers mixing reality TV with kayfabe. Some might not like the concept, but it's a welcome change from the norm. If kept to a minimum, the segments could be somewhat entertaining. After all, this is Tough Enough! The winner gets a contract! He'll be a superstar! Just like...Nidia.

Yup. Just as WWE is starting to give the full court press on their diluted Tough Enough competition, they release the co-winner of Tough Enough 1. It's not as if this is the 20th season of the "reality" competition. It's the fourth. Four years into her "career," Nidia's canned. What message does that send? Why should the contestants care about winning? Well, chances are most of them don't know who Nidia is because they're only in the competition for the million bucks. So, forget them. What about fans, though?

Nidia is fired. Maven couldn't get over if you gave him a pair of stilts and put a gun to his head. Linda Miles was sent to Cornette Country, but couldn't get her ego in check. Jackie Gayda is playing the poor man's Torrie Wilson. Johnny Hennigan Nitro is a non-issue on WWE's main roster, just like his co-winner Matt. Some list of TE Winners, huh?

There's no point in eating up airtime with a competition that doesn't mean anything. The sad part is that it's WWE themselves that made it so meaningless. The inability to have your Tough Enough winner connect with an audience is a frustrating predicament that WWE can't be faulted for. Firing your first Tough Enough winner when trying to get over the contest's fourth installment is a glaring error in judgment that rests solely on the company's shoulders.

This list of WWE's releases this week is something to ponder. The questions that the names raise are all valid and the decisions to fire some of them are partially scary. The scariest part of it all? The week isn't over yet.

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2005-2007 All content contained here Copyright 2006 by James Guttman *** World Wrestling Insanity and ClubWWI are not affiliated with any wrestling promotion.