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WWE begins roster trimming
By TJ MADIGAN -- Calgary Sun


It's spring cleaning time for Jim Ross and the WWE talent relations department, as they start to empty out some locker space on both the Raw and Smackdown brands. The roster trimming began with Zach Gowen, the one-legged 23 year-old who defied the odds by becoming a bonafide wrestling superstar in spite of his disability.

Gowen's seven-month WWE tenure officially ended last weekend, although he hasn't actually been used on television since Vince McMahon essentially buried his career during his debut angle last summer.

Referee Mike Sparks was the next to be handed his marching orders, followed by former US champion, Chris Kanyon.

Kanyon was one of the original WCW stars to cross over to WWE during the invasion angle in 2001 but he's been horribly misused since his debut, generally being relegated to the company's B-shows and untelevised events.

The final pink slip of the week was handed out Wednesday, when Ernest 'The Cat' Miller was dropped from the active roster. The Cat's firing came as a surprise, since he had just been the subject of a major publicity campaign on Smackdown but while Miller is gone, his storyline butler, Lamont, will stay on as a singles grappler.

The looming roster cuts have been the talk of the WWE locker-room for months -- Spanky's decision to quit was said to have been partially because he thought his name would be on the chopping block anyway -- but most wrestlers aren't particularly surprised at the releases, since WWE bosses have spent the last two fiscal quarters harping on to stockholders about cost-cutting measures.

Several more releases are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

- - -

SETTING THE STAGE: No Way Out, the final pay-per-view before Wrestlemania, goes tomorrow night from the Cow Palace in San Francisco (6 p.m. on pay-per-view at Bottoms Up sports pub or Famous Players theatres).

It's not going to be spectacular. However, the purpose of the show isn't to set the business on fire but to build towards wrestling's Super Bowl, which is now just 29 days away.

The No Way Out main event will see Brock Lesnar defend the WWE championship against Eddie Guerrero, with Bill Goldberg sitting ringside for the match.

The semi-main will be a triple threat between John Cena, Big Show and Kurt Angle, with the No. 1 contender spot at 'Mania up for grabs.

The sole purpose of these two matches is to build feuds which will end in 29 days at Madison Square Garden. The original plan was to use the matches to create a back-story for the big Goldberg-Lesnar title bout but, believe it or not, there's been serious talk of actually giving Guerrero the win tomorrow, which would completely change the dynamic for the biggest show of the year.

Assuming Guerrero wins (with interference from Goldberg) and Angle takes the No. 1 contender match, it'll set up the three big 'Mania matches in a completely different way. Goldberg and Lesnar won't have the title to fight over (not that they needed it anyway) but they'll have some serious heat added to their 'Mania collision. Guerrero, the unexpected champ, will be all set for a title defence against No. 1 contender Kurt Angle, who should be turning heel this week. This leaves John Cena in the perfect position to challenge for (and win) the US title in a match against Big Show.

No Way Out's undercard is a little weak, however. The top attraction will be Nidia taking on a blindfolded Jamie Noble in a match I have to admit I'm really looking forward to. Noble and Nidia have turned in awesome performances over the past few weeks.

Moving down the card, Rey Mysterio will defend the cruiserweight strap against Chavo Guerrero Jr., The Basham Brothers and Shaniqua will join forces to challenge for the tag straps in a handicap match against Rikishi and Scotty 2 Hotty, while the World's Greatest Tag team will battle the APA.


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