Sunday, October 05, 2008

Thoughts On PWI's Female 50

Pro Wrestling Illustrated's latest newsstand issue features a first time ever listing of the 50 top female wrestlers. A companion to the magazine's annual PWI 500 featuring the top 500 wrestlers in the industry, it's an interesting list that merits some discussion.

NECW has never actively participated in the PWI 500, more due to the amount of work involved in compiling photos, bios, etc. in the format the magazine wants. I am also not a big believer in the importance of the list. In a perfect world, we would have the staffing to do more outreach to a newsstand magazine like PWI, but in balancing all we do with our company, it's just not possible.

I also think PWI should do a better job of developing coverage of the major independent companies, but that's another story for another post.

The PWI Female 50 is an interesting list because it contains a number of stars who have worked for NECW and World Women's Wrestling and a few whose careers were significantly impacted by our company. It's also a list that gives equal weight to women on the independent circuit, as well as those who work for the national promotions. Here in the list in total:

1. Awesome Kong 2. Beth Phoenix 3. Gail Kim 4. Mickie James 5. MsChif 6. Sarah Del Ray 7. Roxxi Laveaux 8. Melina 9. Michelle McCool 10. Candice Michelle 11. Mercedes Martinez 12. Victoria 13. Taylor Wilde 14. ODB 15. Daizee Haze 16. Angelina Love 17. Jacqueline 18. April Hunter 19. Natalya 20. Sumie Sakai 21. Allison Danger 22. Traci Brooks 23. Velvet Sky 24. Sarah Stock 25. Moose Knuckles 26. Katie Lea Burchill 27. Cherry 28. Cheerleader Melissa (a.k.a. Raisha Saeed) 29. Maria Kanellis 30. Amber O’Neal 31. Lexie Fyfe 32. Kelly Kelly 33. Cindy Rogers 34. Jillian Hall 35. Malia Hosaka 36. Christie Ricci 37. Becky Bayless 38. Alere Little Feather 39. Layla El 40. Kelly Couture 41. Jaime D (a.k.a. Sirelda) 42. Christy Hemme 43. Milena Roucka 44. Annie Social 45. Lufisto 46. Rhaka Khan 47. Danyah 48. Jennifer Blake 49. Daffney 50. Portia Perez

Beth Phoenix comes in at number 2. Beth had a few appearances with NECW before she hit it big, and even then was impressive and a pleasure to work with. She carried former TNA & ECW star Trinity to a very good match in what was Trinity's first singles match. That took place in NECW and is available on the NECW Home Video release GATEWAY TO GREATNESS. Beth worked extremely hard to get her spot and deserves every bit of the success she's achieved.

Roxxi Laveaux, the former Nikki Roxx, came in at number 7 - a high ranking and ahead of some some pretty notable names. I can't say it's not deserved in this case. The former NECW Women's Champion and World Women's Wrestling Champion proved to be a potent attraction when given the right portrayal, a good push and the opportunity to shine. How far she goes on the national stage depends on how well she can play the politics.

Mercedes Martinez came in at #11, ahead of former WWE Women's Champion, Victoria among others. The PWI bio correctly states that Mercedes got her first break in NECW, and for quite some time, she was the most popular attraction on the roster (much to the chagrin of the booker at the time). Martinez started with NECW in its first year. From the moment she went through the curtain at Good Time Emporium that first time, it was obvious she was something special. The challenge was getting her good opponents and keeping her in a place where she could show off her abilities effectively.

Mercedes suffered in NECW from a clash with the booker at the time. This individual hated women's wrestling and would always run down Martinez behind her back. I would try and bring the two together, but sometimes that's just not possible. I would end up booking the women's matches myself most times, as I know they were effective and often bright spots on the cards. A funny story about this period is that one time we had the legendary Les Thatcher in to one of our shows. He was here because the booker, who also had and still has a wrestling school, brought him in for a seminar that weekend. Thatcher sees the show, which had a pretty fair amount of the booker's students on the card, and who does he tell me is the best worker in the promotion? You guessed it. Mercedes Martinez.

Martinez branched out from NECW/WWW, in large part because of her work in our company and my recommendations to other promoters. I have not seen her recent work, but my take on her is that she is a super talent who needs to evolve. The best and most successful workers try to adapt to the marketplace and improve on their look and their style. The minute you start thinking that you don't need to learn anything new or reassess your look, you will be left behind. Martinez should be in TNA and I hope she gets a shot there.

April Hunter had a couple of brief runs in NECW in the early years of the company. I can't say that we are the best of friends or that we send each other Christmas cards. April Hunter is a unique case in pro wrestling. She broke in as an NWO girl in WCW, saw an opportunity for a career in pro wrestling and then trained to actually work in the ring. She came up here to Killer Kowalski's School in 2000, I believe. She worked hard at it, and did perhaps the best job of self-marketing any independent worker has ever done.

I read the she retired from wrestling earlier this year due to accumulated injuries (she'll still work as a manager), and I felt bad when I read that. My take on April is that she rushed into the ring before really knowing how to work and more importantly how to protect herself. She had a tremendously marketable look and she got herself booked worldwide, which is no small feat. However, if she had learned to master other aspects of the game, such as promos and psychology, she could have lasted longer and perhaps had more success.

Sumie Sakai clocked in at #20 and I was surprised to see her on the list, let alone in that position. This is not due to her ability, but due to the fact that I haven't seen her in many match results this past year. I believe she is living in the Atlanta area now. I took Sumie under my wing when she first arrived in the U.S. She had her first match in America in NECW against Mercedes Martinez and she was actually the inspiration for World Women's Wrestling. Her arrival in the area and how she was promoted here upon that arrival had a profound effect on me and on the promotion. She hasn't been back to the area in quite awhile and she is missed.

Cindy Rogers ranked 33rd. Cindy is a great worker, but another case of someone who has not evolved. In the right situation and with the right presentation, she'd be a draw.

Malia Hosaka is way underrated at #35. She may be the best female wrestler on the continent. A consummate pro who can go with anyone, Malia should not only be on national television, but she should be schooling girls on what pro wrestling is all about. She is a terrific person to boot.

Alere Little Feather at #38 has been plagued by injuries lately, but she can be effective when booked properly and with an opponent who can bring the best out of her.

Portia Perez rounds out the list at #50 and I have a ton of respect for this great young talent. She has shown the ambition to travel anywhere to get more experience as a wrestler and that means a lot to me as a promoter. There is no substitute for desire and Portia has it in spades.

The fact that the PWI Female 50 exists is due in large part to the efforts of one Dave Prazak, promoter of SHIMMER. His promotion of women's wrestling was the precursor to, and most likely the inspiration for, TNA's women's division and if you look at their roster, it is no coincidence that so many have worked for his promotion.

There are some serious omissions from the PWI list, which is why I don't put much stock in it. The fact that "The Portuguese Princess" Ariel and Lexxus are absent from the list, hurts its credibility with me.

Still it's nice to see women's wrestling getting its due as something other than a fetish interest. And for those of you who have continued to ask about when our own World Women's Wrestling will return, we hope to have an answer for you within the next few weeks.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Jim Ross: Class Act

We had Jim Ross on The Mouthpiece Wrestling Show today (Well technically yesterday, as it's past midnight) and it was great visit with one of the true class acts in a business that is notorious for not having a big supply of such. You can listen to the show at this link.

One of the things we touched on during the interview is that this is a guy who has had more than his share of challenging days at the office so to speak. Between suffering with Bell's Palsy and the strong personalities and egos that go with territory in pro wrestling, Ross never failed to hold his head up and deliver his best - a best which was consistently better than anyone elses.

Whenever I felt overwhelmed or under appreciated in or out of wrestling, I thought about Jim Ross and how his passion for his profession and his desire to be the best overcame any obstacle he faced - physical or otherwise.

There is a huge lesson there for anyone in any walk of life. But particularly for you young wrestlers and those who aspire to be part of the business is some way, the lesson is that it doesn't matter what the role is or what you think of the circumstances, persevere and commit yourself to being the best you can be.

Thank you Jim Ross, a true main event human being!