Stone Cold Steve Austin, arguably the biggest draw in the history of the industry, and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) have officially parted ways. The two sides were unable to come to a mutually satisfying agreement for a new contract.
Apparently the dispute surrounded Austin wanting control of using the Stone Cold Steve Austin name for outside projects, arguing that he and his ex-wife had come up with the name one day while musing about what he should call his character. She handed him a cup of tea, and while he was preoccupied with the naming of his character, she famously said: "Drink your tea before it gets stone-cold."
Rumors have already started circulating that Austin will head to Japan, perhaps getting involved in some of the stuff that Goldberg has been doing. I have not heard rumors regarding NWA TNA, and it is common knowledge in the industry that Austin and Jeff Jarrett had issues when Jeff was in WWF. But, as I always say about wrestling: never say never.
It is just as likely as not that the entire thing will be sorted out, as WWE needs Austin and he needs WWE. The business has many cases of performers who have left there (Sable and Chyna spring to mind) thinking they would become mainstream celebrities without the WWE promotional machine, and we know how that generally turns out.
The difference with Austin is that he is an excellent actor when it comes to a narrow range of roles, as he proved on his stint on the now cancelled Nash Bridges show. Whether he ends up back with WWE or not, the biggest draw in the industry and the man who helped make Vince McMahon a billionaire leaving is a huge deal.
The big news this past week, besides Austin, was that WWE (Vince) has decided that the Canadian babyfaces will all be announced from the U.S., with Chris Jericho, who grew up in sunny St. James, being announced from New York (where he was actually born), Edge being announced from Tampa (where he has lived for three or four years) and Chris Benoit being announced from Atlanta, despite the fact he is from Edmonton.
This has, not surprisingly, had Canadian fans in an uproar, and several newspapers (and some that don't generally bother with wrestling) have prominently featured the issue. Jericho called the NHB Radio show last week and told Joe Aiello that he had a few questions about the thing and would always think of himself as Canadian.
If this is an effort to portray the performers accurately in terms of where they reside, then half the roster will be being announced as living in the Greater Tampa area. If this is to allay fears about Canadian babyfaces getting booed, then I have two words for you: Bret Hart. Canadian wrestlers only get booed for being Canadian when they intentionally trash the U.S., which babyfaces generally do not do.
I have yet to find someone who can reasonably argue the other side of this issue, which should tell you something. This not only doesn't help business, it has the potential effect of hurting it in Canada, which is a strong market.
Of course, Vince is awfully smart, and the entire thing could be a subtle work to turn Vince into the world's biggest heel in Canada in the hopes of positioning himself for something with Hart. The problem with that is, not only is it unlikely that this would be the "strategy" behind the decision, but Hart has publicly stated he is against the idea of being involved in an angle.
Hey, it's not the wrestlers' faults, so show WWE that you are the best fans in the country and sell out Winnipeg Arena. It's a wonderful night of entertainment for the family and the first time Winnipeg has had a TV taping here in forever, so get out there and bring some signs. We know where these guys really come from.
I ran into Tony Condello recently and he reminded me that he will be presenting what should be the best independent wrestling show of the year on Thursday, May 6 at Club Desire, called The Raven Effect. The show features Raven, in his first visit to Winnipeg. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster or by calling Tony at 204-229-9173 ... Lots of news on the Chris Benoit tour of Edmonton for this weekend's pay per view, Backlash, which can be seen at Garbonzos Restaurant in the Canad Inns Fort Garry Express. Benoit is the best wrestler on the planet and a genuinely nice guy who deserves the accolades more than anyone. Congrats Chris! ... Smackdown tickets for Winnipeg are going fast, so make sure you call Select-A-Seat to get hooked up ... While there are reportedly some backstage who are wondering about Bradshaw's main event push, rumour has it that Vince himself is high on the idea ... John Cena taped a great interview with Joe Aiello that will air on the NHB Radio show ... Kudos to Bob Holliday for putting together a successful event for the fans here.
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