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It broke today on all of the major sites that TNA creative team member and wrestling legend Dutch Mantell has been released by TNA Wrestling as well as former WWF Intercontinental Champion and at the time one of TNA’s road agents, Savio Vega a.k.a. TNT a.k.a. Juan Rivera.
What does this mean for the future of TNA?
Well Jeff Jarrett recently took a sabbatical from TNA after the story came out about the bizarre real life backstage love triangle between himself, Karen Angle, and Kurt Angle. Jeff Jarrett, alongside his father Jerry Jarrett and Bob Ryder, founded TNA in 2002 and still owns a small portion of TNA to this day.
Dutch Mantell joined TNA back in 2003 and was considered by everybody who worked there Jeff Jarrett’s right hand man in the company, even more-so than Vince Russo. According to those close to management, whenever there was a creative situation or a situation that required management to butt heads, Mantell would unanimously take Jeff Jarrett’s side in each and every argument, despite how ridiculous it could be.
As it was explained to me today, there are those within the company that feel this cements what has been speculated for the past couple of weeks about Dixie Carter either heavily cutting down Jeff Jarrett’s political power or perhaps even buying his remaining portion of TNA and forcing him out of the company.
To preface this review, I will let you know that out of all Wrestlemanias, this one drew the smallest PPV buy rate. It also is considered one of the worst cards from top to bottom in Mania history. However, there is one reason why this isn’t the worst Wrestlemania ever. Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret “The Hitman” Hart is why. The politics behind the match are laughable. After Bret Hart put over Shawn Michaels in the main event of Wrestlemania XII, they were supposed to build for a rematch at Wrestlemania 13 with Shawn then putting Bret over. Unfortunately, whether you believe that Shawn didn’t want to put Bret over, or that he was injured, that program didn’t happen and thus, Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret “The Hitman” Hart did. Shawn didn’t even wrestle on the card. This match had a lot of significance in branching out Stone Cold’s character. The program did two things perfectly. It established Stone Cold as someone who would never quit and it also helped turn him face, while turning Bret heel at the same time.
The most interesting non-main match on the card was a very snotty Hunter Hearst Helmsley (before he made the DX turn into Triple H) who was seconded in the ring by a very muscular and masculine looking Chyna facing off against Goldust. They actually had a really good match. The kicker was watching Chyna throw around Marlena like a rag doll. That one spot helped make her into a frightening character. She’s still frightening today, but for different reasons.
There was a star driven six man tag match that was also on this card. The Legion Of Doom (or Road Warriors), who were past their prime, teamed up with Ahmed Johnson. If you’ve never heard of Ahmed Johnson, it’s because he was only in the WWF for a couple of years. He was an immediate sensation as a huge and mobile big man, yet he was very sloppy in the ring and people didn’t like working with him because of it. He later tried to make a comeback in WCW years later as Big T, but he was way out of shape and went away very quickly. They took on Crush, Farooq, and Savio Vega in a Chicago Street Fight which is similar to your modern day hardcore match, except the match wasn’t “falls count anywhere”. The match served it’s purpose which was to have LOD, who were always billed from Chicago, get over huge. And putting Ahmed in there with them helped establish him, but also, give the aging tag team some of his rub. However, the match wasn’t anything memorable and it was sloppy at times. But at least the crowd was happy.
Wrestlemania XII was total one trick pony. There are wrestling cards that only promise one great match, but the possibly is there for good matches on the undercard. Here, WWE simply said, “We are going to give you the main event, and it’s going to be an hour long, and we really don’t care what else is on this show.” If you think about it from a time standpoint, you have one match that is going to take a full hour out of your three hour PPV. The rest of the matches and skits will have to be cut into two hours. Basically they cared about the main event and nothing else. I guess they did promise us the Ultimate Warrior again.
The Shawn Michaels vs. Bret Hart match was a good match, but over the years, it has been called the greatest match in Wrestlemania history by WWE. It’s not. Our own Big D calls it the most overrated match in Wrestlemania history. It was built up on television as “a boyhood dream” for Michaels to win the belt. As the story went, Michaels had been a wrestling fan as a kid and even though he was on the smaller side, he always wanted to win the WWF Heavyweight Title in a league of gargantuan monsters. Since Vince McMahon was giving us two great wrestlers in the main event rather than two slow moving, punching and kicking heavyweights, he made sure that we were going to see pure wrestling. He made it an Iron Man match. The rules of an Iron Man match are simple. There is a clock set with a one hour time limit. The person who scores the most falls in one hour wins. The hardest thing to do in a match like this is to keep the fans entertained at the same time as making sure the wrestlers don’t wear themselves out. Michaels and Hart paced themselves, but it still wasn’t intriguing enough live as many of the fans left before the match was over. Some detractors say that although they were entertained for most of the entire hour, they didn’t like the finish. Neither man won a fall in the entire hour and Bret Hart decided that since it was a draw, he was still champion. WWF President at the time, Gorilla Monsoon came out and said there must be a winner and ruled that the contest must continue and there would be a winner in sudden death. Soon thereafter, Shawn Michaels broke the Hitman’s heart with the sweet chin music and won the match and the title.