There are a lot of reasons why wrestling fans are increasingly staying away from buying pay-per-view events. People just don’t see the value anymore in paying thirty dollars for a WWE show when half of the roster isn’t even on the card, the stars that people want to see are featured in meaningless throw-away matches (if at all) while the owner’s family are main-eventing, and the rest of the time they’ve paid for is wasted on promos and vignettes.
Aaron Weiss, a long-time wrestling show producer from Toronto, is here to provide an alternative. “Pro Wresting Superstars – Past, Present, and Future” debuted on Viewers Choice Canada last night (the show aired on Bell ExpressVu in August), and it could be the very thing disillusioned fans are looking for.
For only $5.99, fans can see a compilation of wrestling matches from various promotions, including USA Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and Windsor-based Border City Wrestling, among others. Like the name suggests, the matches include legends like Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snuka and King Kong Bundy, present day names like Guido (WWE’s Nunzio) and Eddy Guerrero, and up-and-coming stars like Kid Krule, the Hit Squad, and NWA-TNA’s breakout star Chris Sabin. It’s a combination that Weiss hopes will catch on with today’s fans.
“I realized that there is a fan base out there who is looking for an alternative,” he told SLAM! Wrestling, shortly before Friday night’s national broadcast. “I think this show has something that appeals to everyone, from the fans that ‘mark out’ for the legends like Snuka, to fans who appreciate the work-rate of the high-flying young guys, to the fans of hardcore wrestling. It’s like one-stop shopping.”
Weiss has spent the past few years developing deals with various companies to tape their matches for inclusion on the show, and has also purchased a great deal of archived footage from other companies. Taking the best of the lot for broadcast, Weiss currently has enough material for 18 hour-long shows, which will be shown on a monthly basis. And Weiss is confident that he will increase his inventory, both in terms of variety and quality.
“I’m working on getting some more heavy-duty stars on the show in the future,” he says. “I can guarantee you that we’ve got some more big names coming down the road, more matches from different companies … we’re going to really take this to the next level. I think the ‘shoot’ interviews will help get us there as well.”
The ‘shoot interviews’ Weiss refers to is one aspect of the show that he is particularly proud of. During these short segments, wrestlers Shane Douglas and D-Lo Brown will reveal their honest opinions on various topics affecting the wrestling industry today. Douglas is never shy about expressing his opinions about the industry, so these segments, which will be included in future broadcasts, should be very revealing. Weiss stresses that the point of these interviews is not to disrespect or expose the business in an exploitative or gratuitous manner; rather, it is to open up the eyes of fans to the real-life drama behind the pre-determined events in the ring. The interviews, he hopes, will help people gain a further understanding, which will translate into a true passion for the business – a passion which he shares. It is this passion which was Weiss’ main motivation creating “Pro Wrestling Superstars”; the money, he says, was secondary.
In that light, Weiss says that while ratings are important, he insists that they are not his foremost concern, at least not for the debut. “Obviously, I want Viewer’s Choice to be happy with the buy-rates. But that’s not necessarily how I’m measuring success. A new product takes time. For example, look at NWA-TNA… initially, their buy-rates were less than desirable. I was pre-warned that that might happen with mine as well. But down the road, I expect things to go well. If the people that do watch the show like it, well, that’s what I consider a success.”
Pro Wrestling Superstars – Past, Present and Future
November 14, 2003
Viewer’s Choice Canada
Because the show is a compilation, it is much different than watching a weekly show, like Raw or the NWA-TNA pay-per-views. The matches have to be considered entirely for what happens in the ring, as there is little or no context provided to explain why these people are fighting.
Because of this, one needs to rely on the match commentators to fill in those gaps – unfortunately, the commentary on three of the four matches on the debut show was pretty sketchy. The best commentary was saved for the main event, when Weiss himself provided the play-by-play solo.
Finicky viewers may not like the sometimes shaky camera work, particularly when the camera swings back and forth between the action in the ring and on the floor.
Of course, given the low price, one shouldn’t expect WWE-style production values. Match 1 – Little Guido vs. Kid Krule
Guido was the ECW name for the wrestler now known as Nunzio on WWE Smackdown.
Krule is an up-and-comer who I had never seen before. His character is a generic cocky young heel. It’s alluded that his father is a former wrestler, but no name is mentioned.
It was very confusing that the commentators stressed that this was a submissions only match, yet there were countless attempted pinfalls throughout the match by both men.
The match itself was a pretty decent see-saw affair, which really showed off Guido’s submission style.
During the match, the rest of Krule’s stable comes out, including one who is apparently injured (he’s in a wheelchair).
Predictably, Guido falls victim to the numbers of the heel stable. The wheelchair-bound henchman runs into the ring, and superkicks Guido as he’s ready to put Krule away for good. Krule throws on a reverse armbar for formality’s sake. Guido, knocked out by the kick, can’t answer the ref, and the match is awarded to Krule in 15:00.
This match really showed how wasted Guido is in the WWE – he could be so much more effective in the Cruiserweight mix. Match 2 – Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka vs. Balls Mahoney vs. Tommy Cairo
(3-Way Dance for the World Heavyweight Championship)
Unfortunately, while it’s pretty cool to see Snuka for nostalgia sake, none of these guys can put on a decent match anymore.
Balls moves just as slowly, if not more, than Snuka or Tommy Cairo, a veteran whose claim to fame was that he trained Balls.
Sloppy match with poorly delivered moves all around.
In a ridiculous segment, Snuka delivers his Superfly Splash off the top to Balls, but then doesn’t go for the pin – rather, he opts to put on a blatant choke. A member of the ring crew shows up to break it up (Why?!? Isn’t that the ref’s job?!?). Snuka goes insane and then hits that guy, and gets DQ’d. What? Yes, he gets DQ’d. Apparently, the Commissioner made a ruling before the match that if any wrestler hits a non-wrestler, they will be disqualified.
Cairo and Balls continue the match, and eventually the chairs start swinging. Mahoney gets the advantage, and hits the Nutcracker Suite for the pinfall victory at 9:00.
In further strangeness, Fred the Elephant Boy from the Howard Stern show comes out to hand Balls the belt. Match 3 – The Hit Squad (Mafia and Monster Mack) vs. The Boogie Knights vs. Da Baldies (DeVito and Angel) vs. Little Guido and Kid Krule
Elimination Match for the Tag Team Championship
A fuster-cluck from the get-go, this one is too hard too follow. The action spills in and out of the ring too much, and there are so many bodies involved, including people on the outside, that there is little opportunity to build up momentum in the match to get viewers hooked into interest.
Fred the Elephant Boy joins the commentary booth for this one – not a good idea, since he is completely unintelligible.
Krule gets to shine here, and it looks like USA is really grooming him for better things. He reverses a Baldies flapjack attempt into an impressive double-DDT.
Too much to call here, as there’s action all over the place, and it’s not all being picked up on camera.
Guido eliminates Da Baldies after a Sicilian Slice on DeVito.
One of the Hit Squad hits Danny Drake of the Boogie Knights with a vicious looking move – he has him up in a Torture Rack, and then looks like he’s going for a Spicoli Driver, but instead drops him on the back of his head. After getting the pin, he does it again, and the Boogie Knight appears legit injured (he and his partner didn’t leave for quite some time after they were eliminated, even when the remaining teams continued fighting).
Guido and Krule get some good double-submission moves on the Hit Squad, including a double armbar submission, and a double legbar wishbone.
Literally out of nowhere, one Squad member quickly rolls up Krule into a small package as Krule picks him up for a powerslam. The Hit Squad get the surprise pinfall victory at 15:00. Video Package – Tryout by a woman wrestler
This was a short segment on Simone Keane, a woman in Toronto who’s learning to be a wrestler. She talks about her family and her upbringing, and clips are shown of her training lessons with Chris (Notorious T.I.D.) Tidwell. This segment is part of a documentary that Weiss produced and wrote back in 2001.
Match 4 – Eddie Guerrero vs. Crowbar
No surprise that this is the best match of the night, given the talents of the two men.
As mentioned, the commentary by Weiss is excellent here, as he really details the psychology of the match.
The match starts off slowly with some good technical mat wrestling.
Eddie has the advantage for some time with a long headlock, but eventually Crowbar takes control. He works over Guerrero’s back with some high-impact moves.
Match quickens, and there’s a great sequence with both men exchanging quick reversals.
Crowbar does what he can to put Eddie away, including bringing in a chair and relying on help from his valet, who cheap-shots Eddie with a DDT.
Crowbar goes to superplex Eddie, but Eddie shoves him down – Crowbar falls face first onto a folded chair laying in the ring.
Guerrero hits his patented frogsplash, and gets the pinfall victory at 19:00As the end credits roll, King Kong Bundy is interviewed about an upcoming match with Jimmy Snuka. Bundy gets in a good line, noting that he looks like he hasn’t aged in 20 years, while the Superfly … well, let’s just say he has.
Overall, the show was hit-and-miss. One great match, two were all right, and one was God-awful.
As more talent is showcased – did we really need two matches featuring Guido and Krule? – the show should get even better in the future, especially as some of the NWA-TNA and Border City Wrestling matches (many featuring wrestlers showcased on NWA-TNA) are featured. Bottom line:
“Pro Wrestling Superstars – Past, Present and Future” will probably only appeal to hardcore wrestling fans. It’s got enough nostalgia appeal because of the old-school stars like Snuka and Bundy (and, Weiss promises more to come), and it provides a good opportunity to see some of the stars of tomorrow cut their teeth. But for anyone else, particularly the casual fan who is only familiar with the WWE product, I doubt it would hold much appeal – notwithstanding the bargain price.