Don’t Wait for Omega to Come to You

I’ve seen more than a few people on Facebook asking questions like, “When is Kenny Omega’s contract up?” “When is he coming to WWE?” And “Do you think he’ll be in the Royal Rumble?”

Those are the wrong questions to ask. Fans who want to check out Kenny Omega should be asking, “How do I sign up for New Japan?” And “Which match should I watch first?”

If you wait to see Kenny Omega in WWE, you will miss out on what has made him the talk of the Internet. Omega is in his prime and has hit his stride. He had a phenomenal 2017, and no doubt he is red hot headed into 2018. But there’s no guarantee that you will see anything close to that if and when he makes it to WWE.

New Japan is less than $10 a month. Not only will you have access to all of Omega’s work in Japan, you’ll also get to see Cody Rhodes, Davey Boy Smith, Jr., Juice Robinson, and other wrestlers the WWE just didn’t know what to do with along. You’ll also see Cruiserweight Classic darling Kota Ibushi, Tetsuya Naito, Jay White, Evil, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Marty Scurll, and of course, the Young Bucks. New Japan is home to the IWGP World heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada, a man who carries himself like Ric Flair, Harley, Race, and the great champions of the past. And for the time being, it is also the one place you can see Chris Jericho in action.

You can also go back and see the classic matches that led to the WWE signing people like A.J. Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Anderson and Gallows, and Prince Devitt (now Finn Balor). You can travel back even further in the archives to see other legends who never “made it” to the WWE… like Bruiser Brody.

The WWE doesn’t always get the best out of the people they sign, and the rose colored glasses that made the WWE look like the end-all, be-all of professional wrestling are finally coming off. For every Kevin Owens and A.J. Styles, there are dozens of talented performers who get lost in the shuffle, cast, aside, and fed to the top stars as jobbers. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good enough. You’re just not seeing them in the right place.

Kenny Omega found his place, and it’s made him a star. Don’t wait for his Royal Rumble surprise entrance. This is the time to see him in the place that made him a star.

Support indy wrestling.

Impact and the Future of Indy Wrestling

If you have any interest at all in independent wrestling – and even if you don’t – you need to hear Talk is Jericho’s Friday episode. Chris Jericho’s guests are Don Callis and Scott D’Amore, the new executive vice presidents of Impact Wrestling (formerly TNA). It’s an eye-opening discussion about their unique qualifications to take over the struggling promotion and take it in a new direction.

The highlight that stood out the most for me was when they discussed intellectual property rights and wrestlers. It’s well-known that Impact has finally given up the fight over control of “Broken” Matt Hardy, and the WWE and Hardy are already reaping the benefits. What D’Amore and Callis shared on the show was the reasoning behind their backing of this paradigm-shifting decision.

It was Vince McMahon and the WWF that established the idea that wrestling “characters” belonged to the promotion and not the wrestlers. Vince wanted control so he could own the merchandising and restrict people from leaving his company to make money of the characters he helped to create. The TNA policy that kept “Broken” Matt Hardy in limbo for seven months was adopted from the WWE policy.

Callis and D’Amore want to change that. They want to give a platform for wrestlers to build, grow, and market characters owned by the wrestlers. Wrestlers who sign on with Impact can rest assured they will not be starting over should their relationship with the company come to an end. The gains they make at Impact will benefit them in Ring of Honor, Japan, Mexico, Europe, anywhere they go.

Callis and D’Amore contend that wrestlers have more power now than at any time in the history of the business. It’s hard to argue with that statement. For nearly a hundred years, going back to the days of the Golddust Trio, the promoters held all the power. They controlled the territories. They controlled who won or lost. They controlled who got work and who starved.

The territories are no more. Today, wrestlers market themselves. They are savvy social media users. They have tools like Instagram, YouTube, and Pro Wrestling Tees that they are using to great effect. They give interviews on blogs like this. They appear on every podcast they can. They let their fans know where they can see them not only in person but on High Spots, Powerbomb.TV, and other networks.

Callis and D’Amore know the business of wrestling. They also know business-business. They see the market, they know the trends, and they seem smart enough to create an environment to appeal to wrestlers who are truly more independent than ever.

If you listen to podcasts, please give this episode a listen. It’s a great omen for what’s on the horizon, not only for Impact, but the independent scene at large.

2017 was a ground-breaking year for the independents. 2018 is looking even better. It will start with Alpha vs. Omega. Can’t wait to see how it ends.

Why Jericho is the Best in the World

https://youtu.be/WiV4Mwfp24w

The best thing about Chris Jericho is you never know when he’s working you.

Jericho worked everyone the last few weeks in his Twitter war with Kenny Omega. Yes, we all suspected something was up, but no one knew what – not until he showed up on the big screen at Power Struggle this weekend.

In an era where fans think they know everything, Jericho is the one guy who can still pull off a shocker. He will never tip his hand if he thinks he can sneak up on you. He loves a surprise. If you’ve ever told anyone that you “called it” when he returned in the #2 spot at the Royal Rumble a few years ago, you are a liar.

Even now, questions surround his unexpected move to Japan. Did Vince know? One report says the WWE found out when the rest of us did early Sunday morning. His video package featured music from his band Fozzy, not his WWE theme. His contracts with WWE are month to month, and he has ROH on his cruise next October.

Sounds like he’s gone independent. Only Jericho knows, and he’s not telling.

That’s what makes him the Best in the World.

If you’re one of the many coming aboard the New Japan bandwagon because of Y2J, welcome. If you thought Balor vs Styles was awesome (and it was!) wait until you see what NJPW has to offer.

The Miz Is That Awesome

Last night my Facebook feed blew up with people proclaiming the Miz’s promo on Talking Smack as the promo of his life. I beg to differ. As great as last night was (and I defy to you tell me it wasnt great), the promo of his life took place a few years ago. There was no musical introduction. He didn’t come down the ramp. He walked around the side of the ramp into the arena, shooting about the road he took to get to the WWE and fulfill his dream.

I don’t recall anything specific he said that night, but I recall how it made me feel. It was the first time I truly believed in the Miz.

The Miz has worked for everything he has been given. His reality TV show fame did not translate to a free pass at OVW; Danny Davis and Rip Rogers would never allow it. He learned from old school guys how to make it in the business, and he learned his lessons well.

The Miz also seized the moment every chance he had. Roni Jonah tells a story about a time she was supposed to work a program as Seth Skyfire’s girlfriend at OVW. Paul Heyman was disappointed with the kiss Seth laid on Roni during a TV taping, and he let his feelings be known to the locker room. “You expect me to believe she’s your girlfriend with a kiss like that?”

The Miz spoke up: “She could be my girlfriend.” Within a few weeks, Roni left Seth on OVW TV for the Miz.

As opportunistic as he can be, the Miz also knows how to put people over when it’s his turn. Did you hear him on Talk is Jericho with Damien Mizdow? At first listen, it sounded like the Miz was there to put himself over Mizdow. Listen again; the Miz puts his tag partner over huge, and then quietly steps away. It was masterful.

Crazy Mary Dobson also experienced the generous side of the Miz in her first appearance on Raw. According to her, the Miz did everything he could to give her as much face time as possible, telling here where to stand so the camera would pick her up.

Crazy Mary’s story runs counter to the general perception most fans have of the Miz: he’s a big mouth hack, a talentless loser, an opportunist who is only out for himself. People who see the Miz that way are seeing exactly what the Miz wants them to see. They don’t see a guy who grew up loving wrestling playing a character on TV because they can’t distinguish the real man from his character.

In an age when kayfabe is supposedly dead and buried, the Miz has done the impossible. He has made himself a true heel in the eyes of the fans. He’s not getting booed because the fans understand that he’s playing a heel and that’s the story being told. He’s not being booed because he’s the heel people “love to hate.” He’s being booed because people truly hate the Miz.

The Miz is a rare talent that could easily has worked in a long-gone era. He’s the kind of guy who makes the fans forget they’re watching a show and boo from the bottom of their hearts. He’s a true student of the game who learned his lessons well, and he’s only getting better.

I don’t expect my thoughts to persuade many Miz haters to see him differently, and that’s okay. The Miz wouldn’t want you turning into a fan of his anyway. The more you hate the Miz, the more you’ll demand – and pay – to see him get his butt kicked

That, friends, is what makes the Miz AWESOME.

The Legacy of Chyna

“In 1999, I was fighting guys and winning my first male championship. People laughed at me and workers beat me up because I was ‘The girl trying too hard.’ Well. There was someone like me was on TV. I had a model. A strong woman who wasn’t afraid to fight anybody. That was Chyna.” – LuFisto

“Chyna was the reason I started wrestling…. Horrible news to wake up to.” – Kimber Lee

At the height of her wrestling career, Joanie “Chyna” Laurer was hailed as the Ninth Wonder of the World. She was a Women’s World Champion in a time before “Divas.” She was a founding member of Degeneration-X. She was the first women to enter the Royal Rumble and the first woman to lay claim to the prestigious WWF Intercontinental Champion. She wasn’t the first woman to wrestle men, but her feuds with Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, and others paved the way for shows like Gender Wars, the men vs. women events now being promoted by Mad Man Pondo. Chyna blazed a trail for many women who now regularly wrestle with and against men including Heidi Lovelace, Candice LeRae, LuFisto, and CHIKARA Grand Champion Kimber Lee.

Many fans today don’t know Chyna’s true legacy. Corporate politics and her own personal demons have excluded her from the WWE Hall of Fame and multiple D-X reunions. Chyna was a pioneer worthy of recognition with legends like Mildred Burke and the Fabulous Moolah.

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The Impeccable Keita Murray

12963468_10209152865241000_6206361431596577154_nAs the independent wrestling scene continues its resurgence, young men and women are finding more and more opportunities to test their mettle in the ring. Everyone of them dreams of breaking out as a national star, whether it be through the WWE and NXT or just their own perseverance. Recently, the Indy Card Mafia brought one such wrestler to my attention. He’s young, he’s hungry, and he’s shown he has the drive to become a star.

Keita Murray is a native of Brooklyn, New York. Like most wrestlers, he grew up a fan, following the exploits of The Rock, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, and Matt Hardy. At an early age, he and his friends were creating their own wrestling rings and title belts and practicing for their future glory. “My friends and I would wrestle each other and act like different WWE Superstars. We would get cardboard boxes, crayons, aluminum foil and make belts out of them.”

Keita’s passion for the business galvanized when he met his tag partner, Kit Cassidy. “We met in high school and funny story, we didn’t like each other at first. Then we found out that we shared a common interest of wrestling. I was a senior in high school he was a junior, and ever since then we have been best friends.

After giving college a chance, Keita enrolled at Back Breaker’s Training Center in Scranton, PA. “It’s such a great school to learn from. You learn a lot and you have a lot of opportunities there.”

Kit enrolled at Back Breakers with his best friend, and the two graduated together. Their first official match was a one on one affair between the two, but they have since united as a tag team known as The Impeccables. They currently hold two tag titles for Phoenix Pro Wrestling and Pennsylvania Premier Wrestling, and Murray recently won the Spotlight Championship at The Sanctuary Stunt Studio.

Keita has only been in the business a few years, but he’s had a number of memorable matches. He cites the Cash Masters as favorite tag opponents, along with fellow Back Breaker wrestlers Dante Dio and Jacoby Riddick. His favorite singles opponents thus far include Stevie Shields, Marq Queen, and Kyle Brad, whom he faced at WOH Wrestling. “I want to say the Kyle Brad match was my best because I had about eleven matches under my belt at the time and it was my second time being heel. It just seemed like everything fell in place for that match, and that’s the match that elevated my confidence in the ring.”

Keita work mostly in Pennsylvania, doing appearances for GSW Wrestling in Moosic, PA; PPW Wrestling and The Sanctuary Stunt Studio in Hazleton, PA; T.R.U.E. Wrestling in Berwick, PA; Pheonix Pro Wrestling in Altoona, PA; and Back Breakers Training Center in Scranton. His success in those markets, coupled with connections made at various shows, have afforded him a chance to travel to illinois in May. In June, he’ll make his debut for Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling, thanks to a partnership between GFW and Back Breakers. Like most young stars, he has aspirations of climbing even higher.

“In five to ten years. I either hope to be in WWE or NXT. If I don’t make it that far, I want to be one of those independent guys whom everyone knows not from WWE or TNA but because of my hard work. I would also love to have said by that time that I traveled different countries to wrestle. I really would love to go overseas and learn the different art forms of wrestling all over the world.”

You can follow Keita on Facebook or on Twitter.

Post #200: Watching Wrestling with Baby Lydia

Was going to share a fun story/correction tonight regarding Louisville wrestling history and Bluegrass Brawlers, but then I noticed that this is blog post #200. I’ll save the Louisville story for tomorrow and share a story I told to a friend who is a fellow dad and wrestling fan tonight.

When my daughter Lydia was around six months old, she wasn’t the best overnight sleeper. We spent many nights walking the floor with her. (Okay, I confess – Jessica did most of the walking while I slept. I could have done a lot more of my share at that time!)

One night when I was a good dad and took my turn, Lydia just wasn’t responding to walking the floor. She kept fussing and refused to go to sleep. Truth be told, at age 8, she’s still pretty stubborn about staying up late.

I was exhausted and frustrated, so I headed down to the basement – the man cave – and I put an old WWF pay-per-view VHS tape. I laid down on the couch with Lydia on my chest to watch some wrestling.

I wish I could remember which pay-per-view it was that I put in. I tried to look it up through Wikipedia, but no luck. My memory’s likely off on this, but I want to say the first match we watched (which may not have been first on the card) was Chris Jericho vs. Eddie Guerrero. It might have been Jericho vs. Regal, or Eddie vs. someone else, but I’m certain one of those two was in the match. It was a darn good match either way, and my six month old daughter, who had no idea what she was watching, lifted herself up with her tiny hands on my chest and watched the whole darn match!

The match ended, and Howard Finkel began introducing the next match. Test’s music hit, and Test made his way from the stage to the ring. I don’t remember the opponent in that match, but I’ll never forget it was Test who came out first because it was at that very moment Lydia laid her head down and went to sleep.

I almost feel bad sharing the story with a laugh knowing that Test (God rest his soul) is gone, and I don’t mean to disparage him or his legacy. But it’s a memory I will never forget with my little girl. She knew a good match when she saw it, and she knew when to go out and get some more popcorn.

He’s All That??

Forgive the goofy blog title, but after hearing Freddie Prinze, Jr. on Chris Jericho’s podcast, you’ll be saying the same thing.

Freddie has an amazing life story. He grew up around legendary film and martial arts icons like Bob Hall, Chuck Norris, and Judo Gene LeBell. And after he decided to walk away from his film career, he spent several years quietly working behind the scenes for the WWE.

Yes, THAT Freddie Prinze, Jr. worked as a writer, acting coach, and more for the WWE.

Go to the Talk Is Jericho page and download episode 212. This is a must hear episode that will completely change the way you look at the former teen heartthrob.

Thank you, Wrestling Observer

BluegrassBrawlers-coverI got a message from a friend of mine on Facebook today. It seems that Bluegrass Brawlers came in third in the voting for 2014’s top pro wrestling book at the Wrestling Observer. The top three books, based strictly on first place votes, were:

1. Death of WCW by Bryan Alvarez and R.D. Reynolds (257 votes)

2. The Best in the World At What I Have No Idea by Chris Jericho (135 votes)

3. Bluegrass Brawlers by John Cosper (18 votes)

When you look at the votes, Bluegrass Brawlers was a distant third, but to get to that distant third spot, eighteen people had to vote for my book over Chris Jericho and Bryan Alvarez. I’ll take that third place any day!

Every dream, every journey, begins with a few small steps. I am very humbled and thankful to those who voted for Bluegrass Brawlers, taking me a few steps along this road. Thank you.