Ohio Valley Wrestling… Heyman Style
It has now been 12 years since Paul Heyman first took over as booker of ECW. When that happened, I was lucky enough to find a fellow in Delaware who offered to record the shows for me and send them to me at no charge. That is unheard of. He supplied me with ECW for nearly two years.
My point is, I saw ECW grow under Heyman from the start. I was raving about it for years, and no one really saw how great it was until this past year when the Rise and Fall of ECW DVD came out.
You see, ECW was most widely viewed in the late 90s, when it was mostly violence, brawling, and hardcore “garbage” style matches. That isn’t what drew me to ECW. What drew me was the genius booking of Paul Heyman in 1994 and 1995, when he took these indie guys and made them huge cult stars. He understood what his audience wanted, and he gave it to them in a most entertaining way. Everyone else jumped on the bandwagon way too late.
DON’T LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN. Heyman is now OVW booker, and while it isn’t ECW-level entertaining, it’s still damn entertaining. He doesn’t have the talented guys to work with like he did in ECW. He has largely green, juiced up guys who are very young and inexperienced. Still, Heyman is beginning to find his groove as booker again, and I suggest you jump on the wagon NOW before it’s too late.
OVW tapes are available at ovwrestling.com. For $20, you get each month’s worth of shows mailed directly to you on videotape, straight from the masters. If you can’t spring for $20, well, I’m sure you know where to find them for much less (I don’t need to tell you that). Whatever. Just do what you can to get a hold of these tapes. Again, they aren’t the best shows in the world, but it’s a refreshing change from WWE, TNA, and ROH. More than anything, it’s a chance to see a Heyman product before he really starts cookin’.
Here now is a beginner’s guide to OVW’s current roster. I am not a longtime viewer of OVW, but these are my opinions based on what I have seen in recent weeks.
Current OVW Champion
Jeter, who recently defeated Brent Albright to become OVW champ, is now the promotion’s top heel. He’s a real prick. Honestly, I can’t see how this guy was a babyface for so long. He just doesn’t look like a nice guy in real life, and for me, he’s real easy to buy as a heel.
Jeter has a good physique, but by OVW standards, it’s not that impressive. His size will work against him in WWE, but he’d get over great in TNA. He’s a good worker in the Brian Pillman mode, and with his new heel turn and push, he’s starting to come into his own.
Jeter’s current storyline is this. He was in a tag team with Tough Enough winner Matt Cappotelli called the Thrillseekers (the same name Cornette gave Lance Storm and Chris Jericho when they teamed up in SMW years ago). They teased dissension for weeks, with Jeter tired of being referred to as “Cappotelli’s partner.” After Cappotelli injured his leg in real life, Heyman played up the injury as part of the storyline, with Jeter saying how arrogant Matt was becoming ever since the injury. While he was starting to turn on Matt verbally, OVW champ Brent Albright came out and defended Matt. Brent told Jeter that if he wanted to make a name for himself, he could wrestle him right now with the OVW title on the line.
So it was on. Matt, wholesome guy he is, cheered on Jeter anyway, who eventually won the match and won the OVW title. After he won, he did an interview and turned on Cappotelli officially. He rammed the belt in Matt’s face, and Matt went down, crutches and all. Commentator Al Snow was shocked and said, “What the Hell are you doing??” Show goes off the air.
But what really catapulted Jeter was the angle after the rematch he had with Albright. He superkicked Matt, who was at ringside, out of his crutches. Great visual. He then whacked Albright with the chair for the DQ. Then he laid into Matt some more with the chair, busting him open. The entire locker room emptied out to save Matt. But what really made this angle was the reaction of announcer Dean Hill. With blood on his hands, he called the act unforgivable. In a later angle, he totally broke character and started swearing at Jeter and stormed off. This is coming from a straight edge ring announcer, so it worked really well. The next week, Dean Hill quit OVW, but was goaded back by OVW owner and trainer Danny Davis. Mind you, Davis himself worked a killer angle with Jeter as well the week before too. Basically, the entire company hates Jeter, and Matt is in the hospital recovering and vows revenge. THIS IS HOW YOU BOOK A FEUD.
The buildup for Matt vs. Jeter has been awesome, and fans are to the point where they really want to see it. When it finally happens, expect a good-sized OVW crowd. This is the main angle carrying the television shows.
In the past week, Nemeth was called up to Raw to be Kerwin White’s caddy.
Nemeth is a well built, stocky, goofy football type guy who I think is very polished in the ring for his age. He’s currently feuding with TV champ Ken Doane, with both teasing the RKO as their finisher. Nemeth will probably be something of a star someday just because of his physique and agility, but he needs to work on his promos and star aura.
Doane is a can’t-miss star of the future, although with the way WWE screws things up, he just might miss. Doane is nowhere near ready, but at 19, he’s got 3 or 4 good years to build upon the incredible potential he has. He’s got the physique, his interviews are improving, and his persona is very impressive for a guy who is still a teenager. He’s not quite the worker Rene Dupree is, but let’s hope they don’t rush him up to WWE too soon. He looks really young, which works against him, but at the rate he’s progressing, I can’t see how he won’t make it one day. You don’t see many teenagers in the ring who are as good as he is right now. Keep an eye on him.
Ken Anderson Kennedy
Everyone reading this knows my feelings on Kennedy. He’s as close to “the next Rock” as I’ve seen anyone. He’s allowed to shine a lot more in OVW, although relatively speaking, he is still being allowed to shine in WWE. One thing about this guy is he’s so good that even WWE recognizes it. He has already beaten Booker T and Rey Mysterio, so you can see they have plans for him. And that’s a good thing, because this guy is going to draw lots and lots of money some day. There is no “sure thing,” but Kennedy is a sure thing.
Quite a difference from the shy, quiet, soft spoken Cappotelli you may remember from Tough Enough. Matt now has long braids and wears a bandana, and looks like a genuine rock star/skater/snowboarder type. The look works for him. He’s also bulked up some, but I don’t know if it’s steroids. He’s the perfect babyface for OVW, but again, I question how much his small size will hurt him in WWE.
In the ring, Matt is ready. The girls love him, and he has improved beyond what anyone could expect. The reason I wouldn’t bring up Matt to WWE just yet is that he’s still finding his voice. He talks like a quasi surfer with a touch of Ebonics. It’s enough to get by here, but he needs to work on it to make it flow more smoothly naturally. Also, Matt’s naturally shy personality was charming, and you can tell he’s overacting to overcome that naturally shyness in his promos. In that sense, it’s like watching Chris Benoit act outgoing. You know it’s not really him. And you know it’s not really Matt when you see him on TV. With any luck, people will have forgotten the “real” Matt from Tough Enough and they’ll accept him for the personality he portrays. He just needs to define what that personality is. He’s not a dumb guy, but the way his character speaks makes you think he’s a snowboard bum.
The Tolands (Chad & John)
This is Heyman’s crown jewel of a tag team. While they’re certainly not as good as Al Snow hypes them up to be on commentary, neither were the Eliminators or Public Enemy. As all around workers, the Tolands will surpass those teams. But will they make it in WWE?
I doubt it. The Tolands are short. Real short. Like, shorter than Eddy Guerrero, if you can believe that. They’ve invented drugs to give you bigger muscles (and the Tolands look to be taking advantage of those), but they have not invented drugs to make you taller. If they did, then the Tolands would definitely make it, because they have the look Vince likes.
Aaron “The Idol” Stevens
Stevens went from looking like a young HHH (with the pony tail) to now looking like Jason from ECW (with the hair let loose). Stevens is a little on the thin side, but he’s a step above most of the OVW roster. His entrance is rather awesome, with his two valets doing this limbo-like move to open the ring ropes for him. The blond valet would be WWE Diva material if she dropped 20 lbs, while the brunette looks skanky in that 2000 WCW vein. Both are very hard working valets that remind of Sherri Martel, and they make a good act with Stevens.
I don’t see Stevens getting into WWE anytime soon, but he’s got a good future with OVW. I’m not sure what that means, other than he’ll probably become very good, lose his developmental contract, and end up in the indies.
If there’s one guy who got the shaft when Heyman was made booker, it’s Skyfire. Seth has this weird charisma that I don’t quite understand, but the women love him. Under Cornette, he was the top face. Under Heyman, he’s the man with no face. In fact, I’ve seen so little of his recent work that I’m not even qualified to give an opinion of him. But what I have seen has been very impressive.
Dean is this huge, gassed up blond guy (one of many in OVW) who is part of Bolin Services (a heel group headed by manager Kenny Bolin). I haven’t seen him wrestle yet, as up until now he has just been in the bodyguard type role. With Bobby Lashley having left for SmackDown, Dean should get more ring time and we’ll get more of a read on him. He looks impressive just standing there, though. His gimmick is that he screams, sort of like Axl Rose. And we all know what happens to people’s voices in later life when they scream. I pity his vocal chords.
Brent is the #2 babyface in the promotion, behind Cappotelli. He’s very sound in the ring, and like most OVW wrestlers, the women like him. He sort of looks like the really tall dude from “Night Court,” except shorter and with a better physique. What hurts Albright is that his lack of charisma would be apparent in WWE, and his promos aren’t spectacular. But in the ring, he knows what he’s doing. He’d make a good tag team wrestler, sort of like Bobby Roode in TNA. Still, his matches with Jeter show that he knows how to lay out a good match. He just needs just a bit more practice doing it.
Puder is no longer with WWE or OVW, but I’m listing him here anyway because he was a major part of the TV in August, and I think TNA should make a play for him as soon as they can.
You all know Puder from last year’s Tough Enough when he caught Kurt Angle in the keylock and nearly broke his arm. In OVW, Puder played a total UFC character. He walked to the ring, beat his opponents in seconds with MMA-style moves, and ended the match with a keylock submission victory. He has gained weight and looks like a real star. His promos aren’t good, but Heyman paired him with the king of promos (Ken Kennedy), and they made an entertaining duo. Puder is not good in the ring, but he’s the kind of guy who can learn quickly. And the women scream for him like crazy. There is NO WAY I would’ve released Puder from his contract, and TNA should make a play for him. He needs to be booked exactly the way Heyman booked him, however. While he’s winning 25-second matches, train him intensely. If Puder learned how to work, I would very, very much look forward to a match between he and Samoa Joe. Talk about brutality. With the rising popularity of UFC, and with UFC as TNA’s lead-in, TNA would be total and complete dumbf*cks not to sign this guy.
Plus, he’s a hometown boy of mine, so that makes him on my good side.
And if I were TNA, I’d market him as “the guy who made Kurt Angle tap out.”
Burke is an old-school character who is beginning to show real potential. He works very hard and is improving. His promos are shockingly good, and his brief angle with Jeter (“you broke the code!!”) showed glimpses of what could be a great OVW feud in a few months. With his new ‘do, he looks like Ron Killings. What makes him better than Killings is that he knows how to work more of a real match. Killings has a few awesome moves, but not much in between, and his cool-looking moves get old after awhile. Burke is more of a complete wrestler, and is almost as good as Killings is on the mic.
2006 will be a big year for Burke, in my opinion.
The newest OVW-to-WWE call-up is Bobby “Blaster” Lashley, a gigantic powerhouse who knows how to beat legit ass. Think Monty Brown but with less charisma and promo ability, although he’s certainly got enough charisma of his own.
I’m happy for Lashley that he got the gig on SmackDown, but as a viewer, I’m disappointed his long-building feud with Ken Doane won’t play out. Lashley was also part of Bolin Services, and the angle was like HHH and Batista: the slow turn. Fans were taking to him, and I hope they take to him in WWE. He’s not a great worker or even a good one, but he’s got the presence you need to be a star. I wish him well. And I hope he kicks Bob Holly’s ass.
Beast is a tall guy with some potential. What works against him is that he looks too ordinary, and he reminds me of so many indie wrestlers I’ve seen. I see him as a taller version of Mustafa Saed in look and style, which means that if he finds the right gimmick, he stands a chance. On his own, the odds are 50/50. He’s still learning and improving, though, so it’s too early to make the call.
Shade’s claim to fame is being the “son” of Jimmy Snuka. They don’t play that up on TV, which surprises me. Shade gets some flak from the wrestling press for not being good enough, but I think he’s just fine. He’s not showing marked improvement, but I think he works hard. I can’t see him in WWE, but as crazy as this sounds, I wouldn’t be surprised if WWE gave him a Hispanic name and put him with the Mexicools. He’s not Hispanic, but he’s got that dark, exotic look. I think a good booker can do something with this guy, and I think he has what it takes. He’s miscast as a babyface, but I wouldn’t count this guy out just yet.
Bolin is your typical fat, old, indie manager. He comes up with good stuff to say, and says it well, but he’s not major league material. Bolin Services includes Lashley (formerly), Ken Doane, Doane’s valet (who could easily make it as a WWE Diva), and Dean Viske. Bolin worked very well as a foil to Jim Cornette, but is beginning to stick out in OVW with the direction Heyman is taking it in. I’d keep him around, but maybe freshen him up. Bolin’s character doesn’t come off as authentic, and that’s the problem with most indie managers. Heyman, Cornette, and Heenan made you believe that’s who they really were. Bolin doesn’t do that.
So there you have it. Now that you know who everyone in OVW is, I strongly encourage you to start getting the tapes. Nigel McGuinness (who did a Pick My Brain with us earlier this year) and CM Punk are two hot new additions to OVW, and they will liven things up. I’m extremely anxious to see what Heyman does with Punk, as he could be the guy who really turns OVW into something special. Like I said, get on board now. OVW isn’t ROH or TNA, but I still look more forward to watching it than I do WWE. Then again, that isn’t saying much.
Give it a try and see if you like it. It won’t hurt, right?