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The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever: Chapter 6

Foreword | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6
Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12
Afterword, Acknowledgements, About the Author
The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever


The Finlay-Silva match actually came after two other very forgettable matches on the card. The first featured the return of Perry Saturn after a lengthy absence from the wrestling world facing off with former ECW minor player C.W. Anderson.

The Saturn return had gotten us some press due to the feature-y aspect to the story. Saturn, once a star in WCW before moving onto WWE as part of The Radicalz, with Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko, was forced to retire in 2004 after suffering a series of injuries, and was homeless for a time after bouts with drug abuse that had him losing contact with close friends and family for more than two years.

So, feel-good story, right? Yeah. The money guy, Hank, being a money guy, wrote himself into this part of the TV production, asserting the privilege that comes with paying the bills to work as a fourth commentator on the Saturn-Anderson match, which he spent awkwardly chiding Saturn for being a homeless drug addict.

Yikes, indeed.

One other bit of awkwardness to this one involved Saturn taking a nasty bump over the top rope to the floor. This is where I should have already mentioned that, in addition to the venue not having metal folding chairs for our Funk-Dreamer match, a hardcore match that had the two fighting comically with their only weapons being plastic chairs you’ll find in any neighborhood elementary school, it also lacked padding for the hard concrete floor.

The production folks, being production folks, could have scouted this out, as they could have scouted out the lack of gigged chairs and tables, but, no, didn’t happen. And Saturn, somehow, on his way to the ring, hadn’t noticed, or in the heat of the moment, just forgot, so at a time early in the match that he and Anderson had worked out for Anderson to be on the floor, Saturn ran across the ring, bounded off the ropes for extra momentum, then propelled himself over in the direction of Anderson.

Except that: this wasn’t the Perry Saturn of, say, 1999, back when he was in absolute tip-top shape, practically no body fat, muscle on top of muscle. This was the Perry Saturn of 2011, who hadn’t wrestled a match in seven years, after being forced to retire for a variety of injuries, ahead of several years battling drug addiction.

It’s not hard to figure why he came up a little short on his suicide dive and hit the floor. The smack as he hit the floor is a sound that I will take to my grave.

Credit to Saturn that he shook off taking a bump over the top rope to the concrete floor to be able to keep working, but, to borrow from Ron Simmons, damn!

The second match involved a guy that I had come to like a lot, Mohamad Ali Vaez, who we were billing as Mohammed Akbar, facing off, naturally, with “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan.

Yes, this is formulaic booking, creating a foreign heel to work against Duggan and his two-by-four.

Vaez, currently working in Impact Wrestling as one-half of the tag team The Akbars, whose look and backstory imply vague ties to various and sundry bad hombres in the Middle East, was playing a bit of a different role for us in AWE.

Vaez is great on the mic, the son of college professors who grew up in Kentucky, himself a college graduate for whatever reason drawn to the world of wrestling for a career.

We wrote his Mohammed Akbar character to be a smarmy young sheikh living the high life in the States as the son of an oil tycoon, which is to say, I think we picked the least offensive of the stereotypes we could have gone with.

There was one house show early in our walk-up to the pay-per-view where we had pushed the line on the Arab heel that maybe had played a role in toning our character-development down.

We were at Fluvanna County High School in Virginia, no offense to the place, but very much in the middle of nowhere, about an hour outside of Richmond, surrounded by farmland for as far as the eye could see.

Our goal that night was to use the opening segment to sell a main-event match between Vaez and Luke Gallows, then in between stints in WWE, and it was ingenious, for the most part.

Vaez was then working in Ohio Valley Wrestling, at the time a WWE developmental territory, and he had brought with him a good buddy named Michael Hayes, who you may remember from a brief stint on WWE’s Tough Enough, the military vet who lost a leg to an IED in Iraq in 2006.

The gimmick here was that we’d have Vaez open the show with a promo talking about how wealthy he was, that he could buy and sell everybody in the building, basic stuff, then as the heat built up in the crowd, challenge anyone in attendance to shut him up.

In the process, he’d ask for a show of hands of military veterans in attendance, and suggest that there wasn’t one among them who was man enough to tell him to his face to shut his mouth.

Cue Hayes, sitting in the front row, who was to stand at attention, gesture to the crowd forcefully enough to initiate a clamor to have him be the veteran to stand up to the Arab, then limp toward the ring on crutches (that he didn’t in reality need, but helped sell the spot) and climb in.

The pop when he climbed through the ropes would rival anything you’ll hear at a WrestleMania. Those folks there that night had bought in.

But we weren’t done yet.

Hayes confronted Vaez, who slapped him and took his crutches.

Then Vaez knocked Hayes to the ground, and went to work on his prosthetic leg.

Yes, he did. Yes, that’s what we wrote.

I maneuvered my way from backstage to watch from the doors, and it wasn’t until the moment that Vaez took Hayes’ leg and started hitting him with it that I noticed that I was standing behind a group of sheriff’s deputies on hand to provide security for the show.

Over the din of the crowd, and we’re talking about roughly 1,100 people in a high-school gym, packed house, massive heat, I could hear the deputies getting heated themselves, and one started to move aggressively toward the ring, then another.

We weren’t mic’ed for this show, either, the show being a house show, and there was no way for me to signal to anybody to, hey, friggin’ cut it, we’ve got our heat, they’re about to lynch us all, but that’s what I wanted to do.

Vaez got several shots on Hayes with Hayes’ prosthetic leg before the faces, led by Gallows, to make the save, get us toward setting our main event, and toward restoring order.

Afterward, we kept that one in our back pocket as something to maybe use again, but the opportunity, unfortunately, never presented itself, and maybe that’s a good thing, because that night, damn, I’m surprised we didn’t need a state police escort to get out of that town.

That said, yes, we would have loved to have used that angle again to set up Akbar-Duggan at the pay-per-view, but that one didn’t even make it to the production meeting earlier in the day. We ended up just going with the same “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan match that you’d seen 7,000 times before, with the foreign heel coming out first, talking trash on America in a live promo, then Hacksaw’s music hitting, him coming down the ramp with the American flag and his two-by-four, before making short order of the heel.

After the marathon injury angle that was the Silva-Finlay match, we were at just over 57 minutes of actual match time on the card, and roughly an hour-forty-five into our three-hour pay-per-view, with one announced match left: Kevin Nash and “Diamond” Dallas Page vs. The Rock ‘n Roll Express.

This is when the decision by Marvin and me to hold one match from the pre-show on standby proved prescient. And it was a roll of the dice, because if things had worked out the way the TV people had expected, our guys – Short Sleeve Sampson and Abo Shongo – wouldn’t have been used at all.

Short Sleeve, Dan DiLucchio, is a midget wrestler who oozes charisma. Dan doesn’t seem destined to hit the big-time, but he had more than a couple of cups of coffee with WWE and TNA, and also making a star turn on two midget wrestling reality TV series.

Just 4’2” and 120 pounds, what impresses fans with the Sampson character is his impressive strength. One of Dan’s gimmicks in fan meet-and-greets is to offer to pick up normal-sized fans on his shoulders and walk around with them, and when I say normal-sized, I’m talking normal-sized by today’s super-sized standards.

I can’t count how many times I saw Dan walking around an autograph table with a 260-pound man on his shoulders like he was doing a warmup at the gym.

And because of his size, Dan is a natural draw for kids, because he can literally see eye-to-eye with them.

We worked closely with Dan over the years, both the walkup to the Night of Legends event and after. Dan and Marvin were really tight, traveling together on weekends when Dan wasn’t booked to scout talent, and it got to a point where Dan would use Marvin’s house as a port of call while on tour.

Abo Shongo was a character we developed for David Tita, a military vet from Georgia who has been trying to build a full-time wrestling career for several years now. Tita would work well in the WWE 205 Live division.

At 5’9”, 190, David is rock-solid and as athletic as anybody as you see on 205 Live or the Impact Wrestling X Division, and is just schlepping around on the indies because he hasn’t gotten his big break yet.

And David, like Dan, is a regular guest at the Ward home, in between gigs, and the walkup to AWE shows, so the two are sort of AWE Originals, to borrow that term from the one used to describe the ECW guys like Tommy Dreamer and The Dudleys who worked matches on house shows and TV and then took down the ring afterward and the next morning were the ones responsible for filling T-shirt orders.

Which is to say, holding their match back to the live TV portion of the night’s festivities was a gut-wrenching roll of the dice. Because, sure, best-case scenario for them, and worst-case for us, they get a match on the live TV portion of the show, meaning we had extra time.

Wworst-case for them was no match, and that would mean losing a chance to wrestle in front of 2,500 people, a hot crowd, a few minutes before a live TV show, with guys in the business like Tully Blanchard, Kevin Nash, Tommy Dreamer, Terry Funk, etc., not able to see you work and maybe make recommendations down the line.

The dice landed in their favor, and helped us out of a jam, though it wasn’t anywhere near-flawless. For one, we hadn’t done any buildup to the match in the weeks leading up to the show, since their presence on the card was basically just rewarding two guys who were foundational elements for the promotion by giving them a dark match.

Meaning we had no show notes written for the announce crew. Meaning, yes, they were left to wing it on their own, and I can say from experience (three years and counting broadcasting college football and baseball on ESPN) that it can be tough winging it without notes.

And then there was the basic awkwardness of the match itself. Short Sleeve was already a ring veteran in 2011, but Tita was still pretty much a rookie, and as much as the two had a personal rapport outside the ring, just by virtue of being around behind the scenes at what we were trying to do with AWE, they had no experience together in-ring.

We were able to give them a heads up about an hour before they were to go live on TV in front of God and the wrestling world, so it wasn’t totally improvised.

The gimmick going in was to have Short Sleeve work as the face, naturally, and Shongo, covered in war paint, as the heel, meaning, again awkwardly, that Tita, the rookie, would end up getting most of the offense in the match, though it would be Dan calling the shots.

The match ended up going just over eight minutes, which plus the ring intros and post-match replays pushed us another 15 minutes toward the end, and the main event, advertised as Kevin Nash and “Diamond” Dallas Page vs. The Rock ‘n Roll Express.

Now, things start to get interesting.

Continue reading. Go to Chapter 7.

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