Flair may induct Austin into WWE Hall
"Stone Cold" Steve Austin will be the headline attraction at WWE's Hall of Fame ceremony on April 4 during Wrestlemania weekend in Houston.
It had been widely speculated that Austin, the biggest moneymaker in company history, would be inducted this year with the event taking place in his home state of Texas. The official announcement was made on the WWE Web site on Monday, although word of the induction had been prematurely leaked several days earlier on the same site before being yanked.
"It's time to raise a glass - of beer, naturally - to the most popular WWE superstar in history, Stone Cold Steve Austin," the company posted on its site.
Cowboy Bill Watts also announced last week that he will be going into the WWE Hall as well. The former wrestling star, promoter and one-time WCW executive vice president likely will be inducted by fellow Oklahoman and longtime friend and associate Jim Ross. A conflict could arise, however, as Ross also is a close friend of Austin.
"Without a doubt, if it is agreed to by the WWE, there can be no other than Jim Ross," Watts wrote in an e-mail to friends.
"He has been with me since he was a young man and worked his way up to my right-hand man by becoming a great contributor and force in so many aspects of this business and, even now, is a VP in WWE and one of Vince McMahon's trusted advisers. Jim has always been a supporter of mine ... sometimes even to the detriment of his own career momentarily ... because you just cannot hold a good man back for long."
Watts, who presented the late Ernie Ladd into the WWE Hall of Fame a number of years ago, had his last stint in the industry during a three-month run in WWE in the mid-'90s working in the office for McMahon.
"His creative genius flowed in great lock-step with me during our creative sessions. He truly was one I could do booking with in the same far-reaching way I was taught by another true genius of our business - Eddie Graham. And everything Vince did, and how he interacted with me, was complete class. He is a detailed workaholic with great self-discipline who lives and breathes this business and his vision of it."
Watts, 69, said the invitation came as a surprise but one he accepted with a "whole heart."
As for Austin, rumors have swirled that "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, who was inducted into the Hall last year, will be tabbed to be Austin's presenter this year.
"I heard that too, and I didn't know if it was true or not," Flair said last week. "That would be cool as hell. I would love to do it."
Flair added that he had assumed Ross would be Austin's presenter.
Ross said in a radio interview Friday that he wasn't sure who was going to induct Austin.
"I heard Ric Flair," he said. "I would be up for it. If he wants someone else to do, I'm fine, I'm his good pal."
Flair, who retired from in-ring competition at last year's Wrestlemania and left WWE shortly afterwards, strongly put over Austin last year during his own Hall of Fame speech and called him the biggest star in the history of the company.
Austin, in turn, has called Flair his "favorite pro wrestler in the history of the business."
Austin, who enjoyed the most lucrative run in pro wrestling history during the late '90s, said in an interview last year that Flair was the greatest performer - bar none - the industry has ever produced.
"Ric Flair is the most legitimate pro wrestler there ever was. He was the greatest traveling world champion of all time," said Austin. "With all the exposes that pro wrestling was supposed to be fake and it turned into sports entertainment (in the mid-'80s), Ric Flair had the ability to go out there with an opponent of any talent level and have five-star matches. Whatever you thought about pro wrestling, when you saw Ric Flair, you knew that was the man in this sport. You had (Hulk) Hogan, who got hot in the '80s and was kind of the show-bizzy type, but Ric Flair was the real deal in the world of entertainment, which everything is these days. Flair was the man. He still is."
Other possible candidates for this year's WWE Hall of Fame include The Funks, The Von Erichs, The Freebirds and legendary Houston promoter Paul Boesch.
- Injuries have riddled TNA over the past couple of weeks, and also forced several changes in last week's Genesis pay-per-view in Charlotte.
Kevin Nash, who was scheduled to compete in a six-man match at the show, was scratched from the lineup at the last minute after being hospitalized with a serious staph infection in his elbow. The 49-year-old veteran underwent elbow surgery on Monday.
"The doctors have been treating it as MRSA. For those of you who do not know, MRSA is an antibiotic-resistant infection. A mutated superbug. Lucky me," Nash posted on the TNA Web site.
"Oh, by the way, did I tell you that I was operated on Monday afternoon. That's surgery No. 27," he added. "After being cut on that many times, sometimes you forget, even if it was just Monday when I was operated on. Don't know when this will heal, depends on how my body reacts to the antibiotics."
Nash said his left arm should recover, and that he'll be back in the ring soon.
"I have a gaping, open wound in my elbow, with the equivalent of a small ShopVac hooked up to it. I'm sure I'm paying 2-bills to rent that bad boy. When I go home, I'll hook up the Black & Decker, and save the insurance company some money."
Nash said he was going to "break out" of the hospital on Friday.
"It's been a long time since I've gone into full-on 'Big Grouchy' mode. It never fails. They couldn't get me out of here fast enough. They had to put an actual 'Danger: Sarcasm' sign on my door."
Christy Hemme, who also was scheduled for Genesis, was unable to appear due to a pair of herniated discs in her neck. Awesome Kong also was forced to cancel due to lingering back problems.
TNA heavyweight champ Sting (Steve Borden) has been hobbled due to a recent double knee operation in which both knees were drained, and was limited in his short nine-minute match with Rhino. It's widely speculated that the 49-year-old star will retire when his contract expires later this year.
Robert Roode, one half of the TNA tag-team champs along with James Storm, suffered an ankle injury in his match.
- Less than a week after "Black Friday" at WWE headquarters, the company released several more longtime performers and agents in the latest wave of budget cuts.
Sgt. Slaughter (Bob Remus), a former WWE heavyweight champion who had been working as a producer for the company for a number of years, and Ron Simmons, a college football hall of famer and the first black WCW heavyweight champion whose one-word "Damn!" catchphrase earned him notoriety with a younger generation, were both released last week.
Another WWE veteran, Bob "Hardcore" Holly, was cut on Friday. Holly, a former WWF tag-team and six-time hardcore champ, had not been seen on television since June when ex-partner Cody Rhodes turned on him and formed a team with Ted DiBiase. Holly debuted with the company in 1994.
Also cut were Matt Cappotelli, co-winner of Tough Enough III in 2002 along with John Hennigan (the future John Morrison, and referee Mickie Henson (veteran official Mickey Jay). Cappotelli was working in the now-defunct Ohio Valley Wrestling developmental territory when he was diagnosed with brain cancer several years ago. He underwent successful surgery in May 2007 to have a tumor removed.
- Lanny Kean Jr., best known for playing the role of Hillbilly Jim's Cousin Junior in the WWF during the '80s and later as one of The Moondogs during the '90s in the Memphis territory, passed away of an apparent heart attack early Tuesday in Franklin, Ind., at the age of 48.
Kean previously had worked under his real name in various territories and on WWF television, but changed his look to play a hillbilly, and later swapped the gimmick to play a bone-carrying Moondog, a role he continued to play on independent shows until his death.
Kean, a longtime friend of Hillbilly Jim (Jim Morris), was part of the WWF's hillbilly contingent that also included the late Uncle Elmer (Plowboy Stan Frazier). Kean, who framed his hillbilly gimmick around the Jethro Bodine character on "The Beverly Hillbillies," wrestled barefoot. He used the mule kick as his finisher and carried a sack containing a horseshoe to the ring.
Problems with Kean, however, eventually prompted then-WWE booker George Scott to offer his role to Gene Petit, who had previously worked for Scott in the Charlotte territory as Gene Lewis.
Kean's greatest notoriety may have come as Moondog Cujo, teaming with the late Larry Booker as Moondog Spot and Bill Smithson as Moondog Spike, in a bloody, brawl-filled, long-running feud with Jeff Jarrett and Jerry Lawler in the Memphis-based USWA during the early '90s. The program was one of the hottest feuds of that period, with the two teams trading back and forth the USWA tag titles in brawls all over the arenas. Cujo ended up holding the tag belts three times with Moondog Spike.
Kean previously had worked under the names Big Daddy Cyrus and Ox Brody and in WWF rings as Lucious Larry Kean. He appeared as Moondog Cujo as late as 2007 when he defeated The Barbarian on the Cory Maclin-promoted Clash of the Legends event in Memphis that featured Hulk Hogan vs. Paul "Big Show" Wight.
Kean reportedly had been one of the former wrestlers who WWE had helped attend rehab to address drug and alcohol issues, but he left the Atlanta facility before finishing the treatment.
- WWE diva Mickie James and Hall of Famer Jerry Brisco were involved in separate car accidents following Monday night's Raw in Iowa.
"Black ice was the culprit and both individuals escaped serious injury on the treacherous roads during frigid weather," Jim Ross posted on his Web site.
- Hollywood tough guy Mickey Rourke, who won a Golden Globe last weekend for his art-paralleling-life-type role as a down-and-out grappler in "The Wrestler," staunchly defended outgoing President George Bush in an interview in the February issue of Britain's GQ magazine.
Rourke said Bush had no choice but to respond to the Sept. 11 terror attacks, and that the War on Terror goes way beyond his presidency.
"President Bush was in the wrong place at the wrong time, I don't know how anyone could have handled this situation," Rourke told the magazine. "I'm not politically educated. But I do know that after 9/11 I wanted to go over there."
The resurgent actor, who now has to be considered the frontrunner for the Oscar in February, explained that the president was put under heavy pressure to act accordingly to the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
"It's too easy to blame everything on one guy. These are unpredictable, dangerous times, and I don't think that anyone really knows quite what to do."
He explains, "I was in London recently and I couldn't believe all these hate-talking fanatics you have over here who are allowed to carry on doing their thing even when a bus full of women and children gets blown to pieces.
"I know you've deported one or two of them, but it seems crazy. I think there is worse to come, something terrible will happen to either America or the U.K. or France even. I don't think these fundamentalists should be allowed to talk all this crap, and brainwashing these young kids."
One of the few conservative-leaning actors in Tinseltown, Rourke risked the wrath of the Hollywood elite by saying celebrities "should shut up" about politics, calling them "ill-informed finger-pointers who just cozy up to some flavor-of-the-month liberal."
Rourke, by the way, is now claiming he didn't take steroids in an attempt to bulk up for "The Wrestler." Claiming the media misinterpreted comments he made in a magazine interview, Rourke insists he didn't use performance-enhancing drugs to enhance his physique.
When asked if he took steroids in a recent interview with Men's Journal, Rourke replied, "When I'm a wrestler, I behave like a wrestler."
"I did some stuff," says Rourke. "You wouldn't classify it as steroids, but I did some heavy duty supplements ... but not the regular stuff."
The perennial bad boy didn't exactly bolster his case, however, during an appearance Wednesday night on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show. When the issue of steroids came up, the actor didn't deny using them when asked several times by Kimmel, preferring to ignore the question.
- TNA president Dixie Carter confirmed during an interview with the Daily Star in Great Britain that Christian Cage has left the company.
"I'm very disappointed," she said. "I like him as a person as well as a talent. It's interesting, he was the first big name to jump ship to us and he's been the first to jump back. I wish him all the best."
Christian could make his WWE debut as early as the Royal Rumble pay-per-view and is expected to work with Jerry Hardy at Wrestlemania 25.
Carter added in the interview that TNA quadrupled its revenues over the past year.
"To do that in a year when world economies are crashing, well, it's a testament to our product and our fans. How do you grow it from here? Interaction ... allowing the fans that sense of touching the product, touching the talent, being a part of the TNA experience. We have to get out to these countries that have put us on a par with others and show our gratitude."
- TNA legends champion Booker T told a Charlotte TV station he's not sure how much longer he'll remain in the business. Booker has hinted at retirement numerous times over the past several years.
"I always looked as wrestling as part of my life, but a small part of my life," Booker said. "I walked away from the biggest company we have in the world, which is WWE, at the top of my game because I felt like it was time for something else; for me to build a whole new chapter."
Booker, 43, also admitted he's more of an entertainer than a wrestler or athlete.
"I don't have that background of physicality, "but fighting and entertainment intertwines with each other and I think those are my greatest assets to go out and make a fool out of myself, but still be serious at the same time."
- Linda McMahon, CEO of WWE and wife of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon, has been appointed by Conn. Gov. M. Jodi Rell to the state's 11-member board of education.
"Linda clearly understands the skills and education needed to succeed in business and the type of highly educated and skilled workforce that must be available to ensure that success," said Rell.
- The kinder and gentler, kid-friendly, PG-rated WWE has changed the name of John Cena's FU finisher to "the throwback," while his STFU submission hold has been renamed the STF.
- Dr. Phil Astin, a doctor for the late Chris Benoit who was alleged to have improperly dispensed drugs to 17 patients, will change his plea in the drug case filed against him in Georgia, court records show.
Astin pleaded not guilty in June to a 175-count indictment charging him with conspiracy and improperly dispensing drugs. His change of plea hearing is set for Jan. 29.
- Gail Kim, whose departure from TNA has left a big void in that company's Knockouts division, is signed, sealed, but not yet quite delivered in WWE.
"I know everyone is becoming so impatient when it comes to knowing when I'm going to start wrestling again," Kim recently posted on her Web site. "All I can say is to be patient. I will hopefully make it all worth the wait when I finally return to the ring - at least I will try my hardest to."
- While they haven't mentioned one another specifically by name, former dating partners and native Illinoisans C.M. Punk (Phil Brooks) and Maria (Kanellis) appear to have gotten in subtle digs during recent radio interviews.
The 26-year-old WWE diva and 2008 Playboy cover, commenting on her past relationship with Punk, said the two broke up because of wrestling and that she is currently is dating someone outside the wrestling business. "Looking for someone who's going to treat me like a lady and not like one of the boys," she noted.
In a separate interview, when discussing Playboy playmates, the 30-year-old Punk said, "Playboy playmates are so overrated. I also like women with brains."
- A new book on the great Danny Hodge, the only man to ever win national titles in both boxing and wrestling, has been published by Culture House Books.
During the '50s Hodge won three NCAA championships at 177 pounds for the University of Oklahoma, never losing a match or even a takedown, and also won three national titles in freestyle wrestling and one in Greco-Roman.
He also competed on two Olympic teams. He made the 1952 team as a 19-year-old, at that time the youngest wrestler ever to make an Olympic team, and in 1956 won the silver medal in the 174-pound class in Melbourne, Australia.
On April 1, 1957, Hodge was on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, the only amateur wrestler ever accorded such an honor.
"Dan Hodge has lived a truly amazing life," said wrestling historian Mike Chapman, author of "Oklahoma Shooter: The Dan Hodge Story." "He has rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in sports history - from Jack Dempsey to Rocky Marciano, from Ed "Strangler" Lewis to Lou Thesz."
The book sells for $22.95, with $5 shipping and handling costs. Individuals can order the book by calling Culture House Books at (641) 791-3072.
Old School Championship Wrestling will present its first show of the new year today at Weekend's Pub, 428 Red Bank Road, Goose Creek.
Chris Mordetzky, formerly WWE's "The Masterpiece" Chris Masters, will meet "The American Nightmare" Sixx in the main event. OSCW Universal champ Lodi also will compete in "The Match of Champions" along with the other OSCW titleholders.
Bell time is 6 p.m. Adult admission $8; kids 12 and under $5. Call 743-4800 or go to www.oscwonline.com for more information.
Reach Mike Mooneyham at (843) 937-5517 or email@example.com. For wrestling updates during the week, call The Post and Courier Info Line at (843) 937-6000, ext. 3090.