Monday, September 29, 2014

Rants from Ringside: MMA Edition NSAC Gets Serious.

The past couple weeks have been exciting for the world of MMA. First of all you had the scuffle between Daniel Cormier and John "Bones" Jones at the press conference for their upcoming fight on January 3, 2015. Then you had their subsequent hearing with the Nevada State Athletic Commission (we'll get into that later). Next you had Wanderlei Silva retiring stating numerous wrongdoings by the UFC. That was followed just days later by the NSAC's ruling from his refusal to take a drug test incident.

First of all, lets start with the August 4th pushing match between UFC Light Heavyweight Champion John "Bones" Jones and Daniel "DC" Cormier. The fact that this turned into such a big deal sort of shocks me. I mean pushing and shoving matches at press conferences have always been a part of Combat Sports in general. I think what sets this fight apart from the rest is that nobody was able to stop the two from spilling off of the stage and causing a bigger scene than maybe a couple of pushes and some words being said. Whatever the reason this became the big deal that it did the (NSAC) felt they could not let this slide as just another incident at a press confernce. At the September 23 hearing between the two men and the commission, the men were both fined 10% of their purse (for Cormier that means roughly $9,000 and for Jones about $50,000) and community service (Cormier 20 hours, Jones 40 hours which he has to serve in Vegas, not his home or his training grounds). Both men took the punishment in stride and say they respect the commission's decision. Jones did show some concern that he has to do 40 hours of community service in Vegas and it has to be done before the fight on January 3rd.

That was not the only strong judgement the NSAC passed down this week. They also imposed an indefinite suspension/lifetime ban plus a $70,000 fine on Wanderlei Silva for his ducking a NSAC official while he was trying to get a random drug test from him. Wanderlei's lawer is talking about appealing that ruling based on the fact that Silva was not licensed with the NSAC at the time. He does not feel that simply knowing the date of the next fight constitutes the right to randomly drug test a fighter. Having said all that, the fact that they have banned Wanderlei Silva from fighting in Nevada does not keep him from fighting in other states. This is a single ruling by one state's commission. It does not necessarily have to set the tone for every other state out there. Also, was it really necessary to ban a man who just days before posted an almost 15 minute long video retiring from the UFC and effectively the sport? So, I ask you, do you think the NSAC is being too harsh on these fighters. Do you think that Daniel Cormier and John Jones' fine and community service sentence was fair? Do you think the commission is using all three of these men to set an example? Will their strict actions bring change to the sport in a good way or revolt among the fighters? As always I want your input and thoughts. Thanks as always this has been TFC.

 

 

Source:

Bloody Elbow's article about the rulings:
http://www.bloodyelbow.com/2014/9/23/6833915/ufc-jon-jones-and-daniel-cormier-appear-before-the-nsac-for-disciplinary



Wanderlei Silva's Retirement Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HvZPUewM68

Friday, September 26, 2014

What We've Been Waiting For....?

Prowrestling.net is reporting that Dixie Carter met with the entire roster this week at the last set of tapings leading into Bound for Glory and announced that they WILL have a home by the time January 7th comes around and, by the looks of things, the signs are pointing to WGN America as the front runner in network negotiations. This announcement will most likely be made in the next week or so officially, but until that time, TNA is keeping things on the hush hush.

In other TNA news, TNA has just signed two new talents to contracts moving forward. On the one side, former Ring Ka King roster member Mahabali Shera, who stands as the first roster member of Indian descent to be signed to the roster. Before ANYONE jumps on me about Sonjay Dutt, who WAS billed to have hailed from Bombay, the man beneath the character was born in Washington D.C. in 1982. On a related note, Kurt Angle, whose contract with TNA was supposed to have lapsed, made the announcement of the signing of Shera the day following his contract lapse, forcing me to speculate that he is still employed by TNA as of this post, at least.

Another signing that, in MY view, can do nothing but good for the brand, is that former WWE commentator Josh Matthews has signed and is working in headquarters actively familiarizing himself with the roster and their wrestling styles and moves. The running plan is for him to debut in the coming months to join the announce team, which could be as early as the next set of tapings.

So if TNA is pretty much locked for a TV contract moving into 2015 and beyond, is there certainty guaranteed into performer contracts? Not yet, but I say once the ink is drying, those guarantees will follow in short order. It all moves back to TV. If things work out well with the new network, I think we'll see some good things in the coming year, including, but not limited to the UK Tour (which always has an amazing crowd vibe), a return of live events, and more talent signings.

In order to go about this, though, the critics need to step out of the way and LET people enjoy what they want instead of downplaying how decent the show is getting and simply enjoying what's in front of them. I mean, this isn't Vince, let's all take some solace in that.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What is "Must See"?

One of the pitfalls of writing nearly on the daily is coming up with new things to write about and, as I've stated many times, it's very nice having other columnists on a great many websites at my fingertips to consult for inspiration. To that end, I find it profoundly interesting how some try and explain TNA's inability to compete on WWE's level from a talent marketing standpoint, stating that TNA hasn't had a unique "must see" performer on their roster or that they somehow haven't acquired any who fit that bill.....

So MY question to answer is whether of not I agree with that assessment and if NOT, why?

My answer is a loud and proud NO. I do NOT agree with the assessment and I have spent MANY long columns attempting to answer my answer why and I have concluded that it has EVERYTHING to do with TWO things:

TNA's current TV partner's utter and complete inability to market TNA to the masses. Had Spike bought commercial spots during Monday Night RAW or even time during Thursday's most watched shows on national television, you may have seen ratings rise. Just a theory that will never be proven to this day. Samoa Joe, AJ Styles, Kurt Angle, even Sting and Hulk Hogan's presence on screen could have pulled ratings if Spike had given the kind of fanfare they would have for WWE. Fact is, during the time WWE was with Spike, PLENTY of money was spent to get the name out both for the weekly broadcast AND Pay-Per-Views. WWE is better for it to this day. TNA? Not so much.

The second factor is fans. I am not above this assessment. It was VERY difficult to let go of WWE completely. This is not to say I am looking to sway people out of WWE's camp entirely, but enough to give another company a try who is NOT on Vince's payroll. It is no secret that WWE fans are rabidly loyal, but they are also creatures of habit. This all boils down to brand loyalty, folks. Fans are used to one way of viewing wrestling, where the heroes are the strong characters and heels are the weak. This is general and mostly recent, but TNA's roster feeds from the heels. Bully Ray was established as a star as a heel, NOT a face. Bobby Roode was built into a star as a heel, not a face. Austin Aries was an anti-hero, not a face. Samoa Joe was at his best during his monster heel beginnings. See the point?

WWE thrives on heroes. John Cena began as a heel, but was quickly turned face and got over fully as a  face. There are some under WWE's employ who have thrived as heels, but by and large, the vast majority enjoyed the greatest success as faces. Kane, Undertaker, Batista, all did well enough as heels, but were cheered and did best as faces.

I make no apologies for being a TNA fan and as such I accept that there are mistakes and blemishes on their record, but they are still only a decade old and their television presence is one third of that of WWE's RAW. Progress takes time. Progress is a process and they've made progress, at least from my perspective. There was a time when TNA's biggest fault was not putting the world title on someone other than the founder, but now TNA is growing up talents into top tier talents, worthy of carrying the title and making said title legitimate.

In my view, "must see" translates to television when a program is given the chance to flourish and I don't see that right now from Spike, which leads me to question why.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Greatest....Part 2: X Division.....

Anytime TNA is brought up in a conversation that is debating WWE and TNA, the X Division is almost always brought into the discussion. This isn't opinion. It just is. Why? Because the specialty division was the first thing that separated TNA from any other organization. When the X Division was at it's apex, it was the best thing on TNA television, overshadowing even the World Title matches with the high flyers, hard hitters, and a ferocious tagline...."It's not about weight limits, it's about no limits". I ask you.....how do you compete with that? Simple....you don't.

As for the best of the best in the history of TNA? The list is simple, putting it in order? Not so much....and so for that very reason, this list is not in any order whatsoever. The only thing that does matter is that every name deserves to be here.

10. Kazarian.....Before Bad Influence, Kazarian was a champion in the division and rightfully so, but the fact is, his most talented side came out AFTER his time in the division.

9. Amazing Red.....The man who introduced TNA to Crimson was arguably one of the most talented tumblers in the promotion, but never stuck around long enough to hold the gold for long.

8. AJ Styles......The face of TNA for years, the master of the Spiral Tap is a human highlight reel and helped elevate the division throughout the years.

7. Petey Williams.....There is no X Division list without the Canadian Destroyer. Of that I am absolutely certain. His finisher of the same name is at nearly the top of every wrestling fan's best finishers list. With an innovation that defies promotional exclusivity, that says a lot.

6. Samoa Joe.....The X Division is where Joe made his first mark and his dominance lasted over 18 months, with no losses up to that point. The X Division Title has a decent list of champions thanks in large part to the Samoa Submission Machine.

5. Christopher Daniels.....The third part of 2005's Match of the Year at Unbreakable, Daniels is a man who can do it all. He has the charisma to get over in spite of criminal misuse and questionable booking and has held gold more times than most in the division.

4. Jay Lethal....His success elsewhere leads me to believe that TNA made a profound mistake in allowing him to get away....he had a stage presence that was far more than he was able to use on the X Division stage.

3. Austin Aries.....Aries on on another list with Styles and Joe.....I'm seeing a pattern here. I joke, but Aries held the X Division together going into the "Option C" era and has been the single most reliable X Division performer TNA has had under their employ for the time he has been back.

2. Suicide/Manik.....Love the costume or hate it, Suicide is almost a cop out as he has been 3 or 4 different men over the course of his tenure on the TNA roster. That has not kept his popularity from winning over fans, though. Whether as Daniels, Kaz, Kyoshi, or whoever else has been under the mask, he has always put his best foot forward from bell to bell.

1. Chris Sabin.....Hail Sabin! As the second cash in winner of the "Option C" rule, Sabin traded his record setting 8th X Title for a shot at the World Title. The sheer number of title reigns speaks for itself...case closed.

I am sure I've missed someone on someone's list, but this is mine, love it or hate it. I'll keep rocking the lists as there are a couple of divisions left to tackle, but until then, keep watching....

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Sign.....

Just this week, a fan asked Dixie Carter on Twitter to give a sign that TNA will be on US TV by the first of the new year. Her response?

"SIGN:)"

This begs the question: has TNA signed a new deal or do the offers from the networks at the table have an expiration date? I say let's speculate.....

WGN America has a reach that extends nearly as far as Spike, but their demographics is all over the board- a perfect place for TNA to land. Why? Spike TV is rebranding, so to speak; which is to say that they are wanting to put alternative programming into play. WGN, however, has been looking to expand now that they are offloading their Chicago sports programming, including Bears football, White Sox and Cubs baseball, and Bulls basketball games. That said, the demographic in those brackets would find themselves treated to a brand new alternative promotion and with familiar players like Jeff Hardy, Bully Ray, Kurt Angle, and Gail Kim, they may just stick around long enough to give WGN officials the kind of ratings spike (pun totally intended) they are looking for.

Could WGN America be what TNA needs? Maybe, but I wouldn't count on anything just yet.

So who else could be at the table? Why not Turner? No, really....I'm serious. During the 80's and 90's, Ted Turner gave WCW their shot at greatness, but the venture came up short. Either of the top two Turner networks would have the kind of reach TNA could put to good use. TBS or TNT may not be the same networks known for high-flying, grappling, or sex appeal, but they still have a reasonable amount of reach. All I'm saying is not to discount history.

Unless something dramatic happens, I doubt very much Discovery Velocity has anything to offer TNA other than a place if everything else falls through as they are still a fledgling network without a track record or a large reach to capture their demographic. Whatever the case, don't look for Discovery to have any part in TNA's broadcast future.

As for other networks? The doors have been sealed just tightly enough to keep the two biggest networks in the rumor mill a complete secret, but rest assured, it won't stay that way for long. I will keep digging, but in the meantime, keep watching.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Greatest....Part 1: Heavyweight Champs

Okay....I'm getting a bit tired of waiting for everything to come together, or not come together....or whatever is going to happen. That said, I've decided to take matters into my own hands and give you guys something I don't remember having done in a while. I've decided that what this place needs right now is a chance to remember some of the best. Best champions, best feuds, best alliances, best of all that makes us love what this page is geared towards....TNA. So without any further ado, let's launch into my personal top ten of the greatest Heavyweight Champions in TNA's history.....

10. Christian Cage.....
Now before anyone tries to reach for something to break their computers, let me try to explain. In 2005, Jeff Jarrett held the World Heavyweight Title for most of the year and it was in November, just days after showing up on camera at Taboo Tuesday that year for WWE, that he debuted in TNA. His presence came as he was catching his stride as a skyrocketing fan favorite in WWE, but TNA saw him as a top tier talent where Vince did not. To that end, Christian was put into a feud with the champion Jarrett only one month into his tenure. Without boring you all, Christian's final reign marked him as the last NWA World Heavyweight Champion in TNA before the TNA World Heavyweight Title was crafted.

9. Jeff Jarrett....
Why so low on the list when he was the founder of the organization? First off, his 6 World Title reigns in 6 years made it VERY difficult to watch as he was virtually "fed" his opponents on a month to month basis. In fact, from June of 2004 until February of 2006, Jarrett held the belt with less than a three month break between TWO separate champions. His dominance on screen was agonizing as it gave NO credit to his opponents and gave rise to the mock "Triple J" reference some columnists used to describe Triple H's 2002-2004 World Title status in WWE. Still, 6 reigns is 6 reigns, hence a spot in the top ten.

8. Bully Ray....
My pick here makes it so another cannot be on this list and I hope I can explain with at least some satisfaction. Bully Ray's inaugural World Heavyweight Title win marked the first in his entire career, which can be said of at least one other former champion in the record books, but it also helped end the appearances of one of my least favorite personalities TNA ever employed....Brooke Hogan. As virtually everyone remembers how the Aces and Eights storyline played out, his title match involved a swerve that few people saw coming, but in the weeks that followed, Brooke was not resigned as a talent under TNA's employ and her exit brought on some wonderful promos from the new champion at the time and garnered him a spot in this top ten.

7. Sting.....
Sting may have been higher on this list, but his reigns virtually always came as a culmination of a storyline that had to be "fixed". Whenever evil reached its peak, in would come Sting to help blow out the fire. Sting was the first turncoat from the first Main Event Mafia; the first foil for Immortal; and he led the charge against the Aces and Eights.....and with each feud punctuated, then would come a title win. Unfortunately, his wins also came when TNA needed a safe place to store the belt until a more suitable champion could be primed to take over (see also Victory Road 2011). On the other hand, his reigns have also been used to put over some of the most deserving of future champions.

6. Samoa Joe.....
Joe could have been higher on this list....the truth is, he SHOULD have been higher on this list, but with very little time on the top tier as champion, this is where he has landed. He was the single most dominant performer in TNA from his debut in June of 2005 until November of 2006, having never lost a match via pinfall or submission during that time. His streak and unflinching popularity in the eyes of fans and the man writing this column earn him a spot. On a personal note, his quest for fairness and equality in the locker room and his backstage battles with TNA officials to right the wrongs of injustice force me to place him higher than even the founder of the promotion.

5. Jeff Hardy....
This name marks something controversial. Victory Road 2011 put Jeff Hardy into a class of one, but it also gave rise to one of the most profound and beautiful stories of redemption TNA has ever put on screen. I believe in second chances, folks. I do. I defended Jeff Hardy and when he asked for forgiveness, I gave it and looked forward to his renewed view on life. Truth be told, I have not been a single bit disappointed. In an era where professional wrestling took much of its storylines from reality, Hardy paved a path that others can learn from. There is no more popular mover of TNA merchandise than Jeff and the margin isn't even close. He is TNA's John Cena in that regard and his story and contributions to TNA's merchandise sales earn him a spot here.

4. Bobby Roode....
His reign was the longest. His tenure is longer than anyone else on this list. He deserves to be here for no other reason than that, but it goes deeper than that. Bobby Roode falls under a very special category on this list. As the very first winner of the Bound for Glory Series and performing in the main event at Bound for Glory that year, he put on one of the finest matches in TNA history, but two weeks following that created arguably the best feud in years between the top two promotions.

3. Austin Aries.....
"Option C" created Austin Aries. Simple as that. Without him as the mouthpiece, there would be no place for a cruiserweight to perform on the top tier in either of the top two promotions. Whether it was Aries who pitched the idea or the powers in charge at that time....there was no better place from which the innovation to have originated on screen than "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived". Period. His reign against every opponent was worth every minute and every penny I spent to capture them on DVD.....making him "Mr. Money's Worth" in my book.

2. Kurt Angle.....
TNA's very first diamond acquisition. When he was announced as TNA's newest signee from WWE's talent pool, there was no one more pleased than me. In his tenure, he became the only man to hold every title simultaneously....marking his moniker the only one in a major promotion. That fact alone earns his place, but even more than that, Angle has served as an ambassador of goodwill for TNA ever since his arrival and has given credit to them on more occasions than can be counted.

1. AJ Styles......
If there was ever a doubt in your mind, put it to rest. For 11 years, Styles served as the face of the company, even winning the title from Sting in a match to pass on the torch to him. In spite of criminal underuse and misuse, AJ remains my single favorite performer to have ever come from TNA. Styles never appeared in the newspapers for controversy outside the ring, never instigated battles or disrespected his peers in front of the world. A consummate professional, AJ Styles remains, in my book, the single best place for TNA to place the World Title.


Let Me Get This Straight.....

I have a question to explore today and it has to do with the current state of TNA and the events surrounding. That said, let's do a quick recap.....

TNA's contract with Spike TV is getting ready to lapse and they haven't picked up the promotion for renewal, meaning that TNA is about to be homeless unless they can secure another network to call home. Players are being allowed to find their fortunes elsewhere if they so choose and some top talents are taking up the offer and looking over their options. With all of this business taking place in the moments before Bound for Glory's Japanese debut, how can anyone expect the Nashville based promotion to survive the onslaught?

So here's the question: Is TNA worth saving?

Now before I get into this, let me be perfectly clear. I THINK IT IS. For the sake of every wrestler needing another domestic place to go to ply their craft, I believe it is in the best interest of everyone for there to be someplace OTHER than Vince to go for some decent public television exposure. That said, I happen to know I'm not to only one who feels that way.

Jim Ross, Jeff Hardy, John Cena, Kurt Angle, even Stephanie McMahon have, on occasion mentioned that it's good to have a second place promotion for performers to land because competition is good for business. But do you know who else feels that way?

WGN, Discovery Velocity, and my sources are telling me AT LEAST two other cable networks with a reach LARGER than Spike TV are now under negotiations to bring TNA into their programming umbrella. That tells me SOMEBODY knows something the critics and haters don't. Spike TV isn't the "end-all-be-all" in the world of cable network distribution. TNA has current programming obligations outside of the United States to fulfill and Spike has agreed to allow them the courtesy of 6 months for them to shop the product around to other networks to ink a deal elsewhere, which tells me that the decision to not renew has little to do with Vince Russo, as some news outlets are suggesting.

The story isn't over yet, people. Wrestlers like Bobby Roode and Ethan Carter seem to have eyes inside when they say TNA isn't going anywhere. It makes me wonder how much more the performers are seeing of the situation that we, who marvel at them at home, do not. And with the recent development of Kurt Angle doing promotional work for TNA overseas, it really makes me question that he's going anywhere once his contract is up in a couple of weeks. PLUS, in terms of Bully Ray, why is he signing per appearance deals on the end of his contract? Sure, it could be to fulfill his part in an ongoing storyline, but I happen to believe that he might be seeing something that is best revealed at Bound for Glory......the announcement of a new place to emanate from....a new network to call home.

Monday, September 15, 2014

....for the World to Change....

At the risk of the cliche-ness of the John Mayer reference right now, we're all waiting for something right now. Maybe it's for WWE to offer something other than what is on the menu at the moment, maybe it's for TNA to find someplace to land that will actually promote them, or maybe it's for the launch of GFW, which promises to be something special along the same vein TNA was in the early days.....the point is, everybody's waiting at the moment. And I'm no different.

Right now, I'm waiting for something sturdy to hang my hat on. There was a time when TNA's security was paramount; above question, and above scrutiny, but those days are gone and with them, a great deal of hope that TNA will remain with their heads above the proverbial waters. With Spike in the rearview, networks like Discovery Velocity, as reported before, and now WGN along with a couple of other networks with an even larger reach have been at the negotiation table with TNA officials, leading me to believe that isn't quite over just yet.

Impact Wrestling has their work cut out for them leading into the Bound for Glory weekend because all eyes from every negotiating network are going to be glued to how they perform and the way storylines weave. Bully Ray's contract has been up in the air since it expired just as the last legs of this tag team string of events was wrapping with the finals taking place at Bound for Glory. Fact of the matter is, he was even removed from consideration at Bound for Glory at least until recently when his name popped up as a part of the weekend event and the PPV. It could be an extension, but right now, everyone is holding their breath.

This is the least stable moment in the entirety of TNA's history. With WGN dumping the bulk of their Chicago based sports programming, they are looking to fill the gap with something and WWE's cost demands are far more formidable than I'm sure most networks are willing to fork over the capital to secure. TNA's, by comparison, are more manageable, but the needs of the promotion are such that they truly need to have a partner who is willing to put the name out there, even if it's only on their own network to let the public know TNA is there as a viable alternative to the Vince circus show.

On a personal note, this feels like everything is riding on the edge of a knife and one minor slip or misstep might put everything TNA has been working toward in jeopardy. I HATE feeling this way, especially when TNA's programming has been top notch in the past few months. With a decision needing to be made in the weeks shortly following Bound for Glory, TNA has to make the choice best to secure the highest fanbase they can. Places like this can only go so far to get the word out. It will take a joint effort from every fan, social network group, and partner of TNA to pull off a network exodus from Spike to wherever TNA finds itself next.

If TNA manages to dodge the bullet and stick the landing with flying colors, this little hiccup will be something of a laugh for loyal fans of the brand as the critics are now calling for the final fall. What's more, if they pull off higher numbers than they were on Spike, officials and fans alike will have to re-evaluate the way they promote the rest of their programming and that is no bad thing, all things considered. But until then, we're all waiting.....

Saturday, September 6, 2014

GFW....Come in...GFW? Anybody There?


Over the course of the past couple of days, it has come to me that TNA may finally be on its last legs if they cannot secure a home with a larger radius than Discovery Velocity, who have offered TNA a tv deal in that time once their deal with Spike has lapsed. With only a reach of about 50,000,000 homes, TNA's staff will have to downsize so much, it will barely be able to run even under indy standards, no offense meant to indy promotions. So what does this mean?

Spike TV's audience is sizable, nearly 100,000,000 homes, almost double that of the Velocity network, which means that even if TNA got the numbers they're used to seeing right now, the visibility of the network would impede their progress.....unless the popularity of the rest of the programming in addition to TNA's broadcasts were equally on par. In a situation where virtually all of the programming on a any given network draws viewers in droves, said network can negotiate being bundled into a regular cable contract with various carriers around the nation and the globe. If a reasonable deal can't be reached with Spike, Velocity may end up being the only viable option to keeping the promotion alive, unless GFW manages to make good on a deal that was tabled a few months back to purchase it outright.

To be fair to Global Force Wrestling, even in spite of their "global" reach in terms of partnerships with the sheer volume of promotions around the world, they still haven't secured a TV deal, which is paramount for an undertaking of this magnitude. On the other hand, if they managed to get their hands on the kind of deal TNA had with Spike on a more widely available network, I think we could see something in the way of a lifeboat for a handful of TNA talents. Which ones? I think I can make a case for about 10-15 talents who could jump ship and be comfortable, provided the money is there.

Before we go and sail off on the GFW Express, I'd like to be very clear that I don't want TNA to go under and further, I think any network NOT owned by Vince owes it to themselves and their viewing public to give TNA a try and PROMOTE THEM! Spike's biggest complaint is that they haven't experienced any long term growth over the course of the time they've been on the network. The glaring inconsistency in that line of thinking is that Spike did NOTHING to promote TNA and expected TNA to pop some big numbers. It astonishes me, it really does. For not being promoted, whether for PPVs OR for weekly television broadcasts, I'd say 1.0 is a decent number. Those at Spike can choose to disagree, but they have the right to be wrong if they like.

Right now, GFW is making some waves, partnering with New Japan in a story that is pretty solid, featuring Jeff Jarrett reuniting with AJ Styles and becoming a member of Bullet Club. Does this translate to viewers once GFW finally launches? Perhaps, but without the TV deal in hand,  this is only a locally contained uprising in support and very small on the fringe, or domestic market. Through partnerships with various outlets and promotions, Jarrett now has access to battles among some of the best and most recognizable faces in wrestling. AJ Styles, Alex Shelley, El Mesias, Konnan, even some of the top level former WWE talents like Alberto del Rio and the impending Rey Mysterio, who will most likely be released leading into the fall. It sure sounds like progress, right? What can I say? Here's hoping.