Powell's Blog: A look at seven pro wrestling free agents and where they could play prominent roles in the head-to-head battle with WWE Raw vs. TNA Impact on January 4
Thursday, December 17 – 2:41 P.M. (CT)
The NFL free agency period was always a fun time of year during my previous gig covering the NFL as a fantasy sports writer. With the big WWE vs. TNA showdown set for January 4, this has essentially become the pro wrestling version of the free agency period, as there are several big name players with no known contractual ties to either pro wrestling company. Here's a breakdown of those wrestlers and some notes on whether they will could end up with WWE or TNA.
Jim Ross: Unless a last minute agreement was made with WWE, then the best broadcaster in pro wrestling history is a free agent. Rumor has it that several of J.R.'s former colleagues have been recruiting him for TNA, but there's no word on whether he's actually spoken with TNA management.
The shock of seeing Ross show up on the live Impact special would be massive. Obviously, his voice could provide credibility to the overall TNA product, and he could do wonders when it comes to creating stars by building up the young wrestlers via his commentary and by giving them his endorsement. Ross has been loyal to WWE for many years even though the company hasn't always shown him the respect he deserves.
Putting aside the obvious when it comes to the plusses of having Ross as the play-by-play voice, he was also responsible for assembling what is arguably the best roster of talent WWE has ever produced even though WWE was facing stiff competition from WCW at the time.
Ross would be a huge asset behind the scenes for TNA as a general manager type or even as an advisor to Dixie Carter. Obviously, health will come first for Ross and only he knows whether he is healthy enough to appear for either company on January 4, but it would be the biggest shocker that TNA could produce as far as I'm concerned. It seems like a long shot because J.R. has been loyal to WWE over the years and it would be a bold move to walk away from the security that he enjoys for the unknown in TNA, but we've learned to never say never when it comes to the pro wrestling industry.
Ric Flair: The odds seem to be in favor of the Nature Boy signing with TNA, assuming it hasn't happened already. He's been very loyal to WWE, but at last check the company had no intention of letting him return to the ring. Flair is obviously tight with Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff right now after working with the duo on the Hulkamania tour of Australia. There are even reports that Flair has a contract of some sort with the duo, but there's no word on whether that deal requires him to work for TNA.
Flair wants to wrestle again and it's no secret that he needs the money. A source close to Flair told me recently that he has no doubt Flair will show up in TNA if WWE doesn't make a big counter offer. TNA officials have coveted Flair for years and tried unsuccessfully to bring him in as the final opponent for Sting last year. If the money is right, my guess is that Naitch shows up on Impact on January 4.
Jeff Hardy: He left WWE this summer as arguably the most popular performer in the company. He said he wanted to take a break and work on a reality show project. It's possible that Hardy signed some type of merchandise agreement with WWE that would prevent him from showing up in TNA, but one can only assume that TNA officials have reached out to Hardy if that's not the case.
TNA didn't accomplish much with Hardy during his last run with the company. In their defense, Hardy never seemed to have his heart into working for TNA and he was clearly battling personal problems at the time. He's also gained tremendous popularity since then. It's possible the lighter schedule would appeal to him, and TNA would presumably give him more freedom to pursue his non-wrestling interests. My guess is that Hardy is a long shot for January 4. Again, it's possible he has a merchandising agreement with WWE, and he's still battling legal issues at this time.
Rob Van Dam: Rob didn't hide the fact that he's spoken with both companies when he was interviewed by BetweenTheRopes.com on Tuesday. He's tight with Eric Bischoff and made appearances on the Celebrity Championship Wrestling show. RVD has made it clear that he's not interested in working a full-time schedule, and he won't come cheap. Does either WWE or TNA covet him enough to meet his big asking price?
The drug testing policies of the two companies could be a factor. RVD is an outspoken marijuana advocate, and WWE has cracked down on marijuana use by increasing the fine for a positive test to $2,500. Furthermore, they pulled back on the pushes some wrestlers were getting after they tested positive for pot use. Theoretically, WWE officials could make a hush-hush agreement to pay Van Dam enough to offset the fine money and assure him that he wouldn't face further punishment, but it would be a strange precedent to set for a part-time player.
Meanwhile, TNA has done a series of drug tests, but I've yet to hear of anyone being fined or suspended for failing a test. Van Dam made it clear in the Between The Ropes interview that he's content working select independent dates, so there's no guarantee that he signs with either company. My gut tells me he ends up working as a part-timer for TNA, but that's instinct more than anything.
Ken Anderson (a/k/a Mr. Kennedy): The free agent hype has died down for Anderson, who seems more concerned with launching an acting career than working full-time in the wrestling industry. Friends say he's very bitter with WWE over his termination, so it's unlikely that he would go back to work for them. He worked the Australian tour with Hogan and Bischoff, and there was buzz before the TNA around Bound For Glory pay-per-view that the company hoped to use him in early 2010.
TNA would give him the freedom to pursue his non-wrestling interests, but it's possible that he has his heart set on an acting career or simply wants to sit back a while longer. I'd love to see Anderson pop up in TNA and get a chance to redeem himself following his awkward departure from WWE. He could be a major player in TNA for years to come if he were pushed properly. I haven't heard any buzz about Anderson lately, but there's clearly a chance he could debut for TNA on January 4.
Bill Goldberg: The former multi-time World Champion appeared on the Monday Night Mayhem radio show this week made it seem like a long shot that he would appear on the live edition of TNA Impact. He cited three television shows he's working on, including NBC's "The Apprentice." Of course, it's not like he would spoil the surprise in a radio interview.
I believe the NBC show is in the can given that fellow contestant and WWE Diva Maria has already returned to WWE television, so that's probably not an issue. He also appeared on the Celebrity Championship Wrestling show, but later claimed that "the old man" (Hogan) wanted to keep all the money for himself when he was asked a while back if he'd appear on the Australian tour with Hogan and Bischoff. I was later told that Goldberg was never even approached about working the tour.
Goldberg doesn't have the same passion for the wrestling industry that most of his peers possess. He seems to have a high opinion of what he's worth despite the fact that he hasn't been a regular on television in years. It's hard to say whether he could rediscover the magic he had in WCW after all these years, and I'd be surprised if he agreed to work for a company that employs Vince Russo as it's head booker. Then again, I'll be surprised if Russo keeps his job anyway. Still, my guess on Goldberg is that his asking price will be too steep and that he won't be getting back in the ring for TNA, and there's no reason to believe that WWE wants him back.
JBL: TNA officials have shown interest in JBL in the past, but he shot down rumors a while back that he had engaged in talks with Dixie Carter. A lighter schedule could be more appealing to JBL if he has the itch to get back in the ring, but he has a lot going on outside the wrestling industry and it's not like he needs the money.
I would be surprised if JBL popped up on Impact on January 4. He obviously has some type of relationship with WWE at this point because he still posts blogs on the WWE Universe site. My guess is that JBL remains retired and watches the shows from home (or some exotic location) on January 4, but if he does make an appearance it seems more likely that it would be on the Raw show.
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