December 03, 2003
It's December already. The fWo is coming up on the end of the year, which includes Twilight and Countdown to Oblivion, four nights of wrestling that have historically been some of the most memorable, not just in the fWo but in all of professional wrestling. And this year is no different, as for the past four months, Kodiak Vic Creed and Brand Frontier have been tearing up the main event scene in one of the greatest World Title feuds of all time.
Strange. A year ago, we fed into Twilight with Erik Kelly slated to defend his World Title against Jim Dudley, the man who nearly ran the promotion out of business. We then fed into Countdown to Oblivion, where Kelly first defended the World Title against Eli Flair to build up to Eli's blowoff against Ruben Ross. Then, at Countdown 2, Kelly defended his belt against Flair and Ross in a three- way match, where he once again retained, feeding into the obvious highlight of the night: Poison Ivy taking a baseball swing with a metal crutch at Ruben's skull.
Countdown to Oblivion 1, 2002, saw many of the biggest feuds of the year finally come to an end, as Eli and Ruben tore the house down in a Last Man Standing match. Brand Frontier and Ric Chronos had been wrestling each other since the first quarter of 2002, since before the shutdown. And to end the year, Scott Slugger destroyed Donaven Winters in a brutal Hell in a Cell match, which had more to do with Winters' summer injuries than his match with the Strangler at Body Count. And of course, the match that summed up the year, was Erik Kelly, defending his fWo World Championship against---
The final event of 2002, and the man who held the fWo World Championship for the majority of the year was sitting at home with his feet up. watching the event on TV. Hardly an auspicious beginning for the current year.
I'll be honest with you, I didn't think much of Erik Kelly when I first stepped into the fWo locker room. Mainly because a month or so later, he was gone. Match after match, he went into the ring, wrestled well, followed the prescribed finish, and went home. Nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. There are plenty of people in the business who can achieve a measure of success by doing their job. And that's all you can ask of one of the boys.
That's not what you ask of your Champion. Your Champion is supposed to go the extra mile. Your Champion is supposed to be larger than life and live like it every time they wrestle. Your Champion is supposed to wrestle as often as possible to make the World Championship mean as much as it possibly can.
Basically, your Champion is supposed to be the exact opposite of Erik Kelly.
Kelly disappeared after Fallout 2001, after a perfect record of no conversations with Eli or myself. No biggie, we were still newcomers. But he disappeared without a trace, only to come back and win Body Count, securing himself a shot at Ruben Ross and his World Championship.
After nearly two months on the shelf, Erik Kelly came back to earn himself a shot at Ross in the main event of the biggest show of the year. And that's when I started to notice a trend.
Kelly didn't do anything unless it benefitted Kelly. There was no attempt at a sub- program. There was no attempt at making his match with Ross to be anything special. And yes, again... Chris Universal ran things back in those days, and he always played his cards very close to the chest so I don't know whether this was a shock to him or not. I've become so accustomed to having the ear of the four men in charge nowadays that it's odd to think that there was a *lot* that went on around the time of Cyberslam V that I didn't know about. Even still, from my perspective, Erik Kelly didn't care about the fWo unless it directly benefitted Erik Kelly.
Yes, he got married to Pamela Dee during that time. Yes, he was dealing with the strain of family life during that time. But these are the risks you take. KVC said it to Eli Flair at the height of their summer series, that if you think you can be Champion and have the happy family life all at the same time, you're dreaming. Eli Flair and Angel were able to make their marriage work, solely because they were BOTH road warriors. I might be the most influential noncombatant in professional wrestling today, but I did it at the expense of a personal life. Erik Kelly, on the other hand, left the fWo so quietly that I didn't even notice he was gone, got the personal life he always wanted, came back to a louder pop than I thought was possible given his situation, and snagged the fWo World Title from the most deserving champion since Machina in the process.
Kelly wanted it all, and somehow, managed to get it all.
That's what infuriated me more than anything else. Call it professional jealousy, call it whatever you want. During the post - Cyberslam house show tour, Tempest and I called it really damned unfair. There were wrestlers working their asses off on every level, between matches, promos, personal appearances and in my and Eli's case, booking the Hardcore division... and Kelly showed up late if at all, barely spoke, turned in lazy performances on the house shows, and got cheered like he was the second coming. And he barely showed up at all.
Professional jealousy? I'm willing to admit there was some. And it made it all the more satisfying when everything finally came to pass.
The fWo shut down and reopened, everyone knows the story by heart. Jim Dudley was in charge and gave himself the World Title, effectively splitting the lineage of one of the most prestigious belts in the business today. The fWo World Title had always meant something, and Dudley spent a month actively destroying it.
I wrote about a perfect moment a year ago - and I'll say it again. When Machina entered the ring in San Diego to win the belt from Dudley... it reminded me why I'm in this business. It reminded me that there were still things in this business worth fighting for. It was as perfect a moment as anyone could have expected.
The following week. Travis Beaven and Penny Pureheart set things back the way they were supposed to be. Erik Kelly was still the fWo World Champion, as he was never beaten for the title. Eli Flair was still the fWo Hardcore Champion, as he beat the crap out of James Renshaw several weeks before to reclaim the belt. The other titles - United States, Cruiserweight, and Tag Team - would be filled in the weeks to come. I was excited. Eli was excited. Everything was finally the way it needed to be again. In fact, the following week, we pulled every favor we could find and booked a match, Eli Flair against the Boston Strangler. He wanted to have the best possible match he could, following that speech by Beaven and Penny - a match with Strangler was certainly the way to do it.
It doesn't matter what the circumstances are, either. You show me a person who has something bad to say about the Strangler and I'll show you a complete and total fuckhead. FUCK - HEAD.
Everyone was energized. Everyone was revitalized. Even Scott Slugger, who had retired to deal with some personal problems, had come back to face off with Donaven Winters. Even Ruben Ross, who had left the fWo in disgust following his loss to Kelly at Cyberslam, looked as if the prospect of feuding with Eli Flair had brought the fire back into his eyes. Erik Kelly--
--wrestled for the fWo on the first edition of Unleashed, on June 17th, 2002. He would not wrestle for the fWo again until Twilight. December 23rd. Yes, it took him nearly a month to wrestle his first match after being handed the belt again. Granted, he never lost the belt. But after being officially recognized on November 27th, 2002, his first match back was on December 23rd.
Against Jim Dudley.
If you thought Jim Dudley had a hope in hell of winning that match, then I know two things about you. First, you don't watch the fWo at all, and second, you've already competed in the Special Olympics and lost.
It was also with much aplomb that I approached Erik Kelly in the middle of December for the express purpose of pitching the idea of two matches during Countdown to Oblivi