It's been widely speculated for months now that Jeff Jarrett's big announcement (coming in about 48 hours according to his Twitter account) is that he is partnering with Toby Keith to start a new wrestling promotion.
Anytime there's the mention of the slightest bit of competition for WWE I immediately get visions of a new era of the Monday Night Wars. I became a wrestling fan in the middle of that era -- in 1997, when Monday Night Raw was losing the ratings war to Monday Night Nitro.
To Dixie Carter's credit, she hasn't killed off TNA. It's a company that's over 10 years old now. It's not a threat to WWE's global empire though. IF Jeff Jarrett is starting a new promotion and IF that's his big announcement, I'll have to remind myself that it's going to take a while before (or, more appropriately "if") it's going to be competition to WWE. Success won't come overnight.
I'm optimistic, however, because Jeff Jarrett already started one company. He's got experience as a businessman now. He's had meetings with TV executives, negotiated merchandising and television deals, headed up talent relations and worked on the creative side of things. At this point, he's probably much better suited to run a wrestling company than almost anyone else there is. This time around I don't expect Hulk Hogan or Eric Bischoff to be invited anywhere near Jarrett's company.
Timing may be in his favor, too. WWE is negotiating with a variety of networks to find a home for their programming. If they find a new network, that could leave an open slot on the USA Network. Jeff Jarrett's show could fill that void. If WWE ends up staying with the USA Network, then Jarrett could swoop in and offer his product to AMC or the other networks WWE is currently negotiating with.
I think the majority of the wrestlers involved should be independent talent -- up-and-coming stars who just need a platform to showcase their talents. If Jarrett wants to be successful, however, he will need some established talent. IF his company is successful, he'd likely be able to eventually lure away talents like Alicia Fox, Curt Hawkins, Zack Ryder and other disgruntled talents from WWE or TNA. Right now, he doesn't have that luxury, so he'll have to pick from the pool of free agents who are available. Luckily for Jarrett, there's a large pool to choose from right now.
The following talents could be enough to give Jarrett's company a strong standing as the number 2 wrestling promotion...possibly (again, with time) making their way to number one:
10. Joey Ryan - the man who trained Candice Michelle
Joey Ryan helped train Candice Michelle back in 2007. She was trying to improve her skills before returning to WWE after being put out of action for several months with a broken nose. Candice Michelle actually got better. Candice Michelle! The woman who certainly seemed like a hopeless case actually ended up producing some quality matches with the help of newcomer Beth Phoenix.
Joey Ryan deserves a job for that accomplishment alone. Beyond that, he's a decent wrestler and he's full of personality. For whatever reason, after giving him a job for a few months, TNA let him go. It puzzled me because he seemed to be getting over. Hopefully he is TNA's loss and Jeff Jarrett's gain.
9. Chris Masters - he's got something to prove
At one point, during his last run with WWE, it seemed Triple H had taken Chris Masters under his wing. Masters was working quality matches on WWE shows like Superstars and Masters' mic work had vastly improved from his early days as "The Masterpiece" in WWE. There were rumors that Masters was in line for a big push.
Then he was released. CM Punk praised Masters' improvement.
I don't know how active Masters is these days, but I hope he'd jump at the chance to work for a televised wrestling company again. He could finally reap some rewards for his hard work and improvement from a few years back.
The Masters name belongs to WWE, I'm sure, but whether he's 'Chris Masters' or he goes by his real name, Chris Mordetzky, it doesn't really matter. He's a recognizable face. Fans will know who he is. He's only 31-years-old, so he could have a good run at the top of a promotion if given the chance.
8. Ivelisse - how is she not in TNA?
This young lady somehow lost in WWE's Tough Enough competition and TNA's Gut Check competition. She was signed to a WWE developmental deal for a short period of time, but was released.
The Puerto Rican native trained and worked on the independent scene before she was nabbed to be part of WWE's Tough Enough competition. She was one of the final two females, but was eventually cut when she suffered a knee injury. That didn't kill her dreams though.
She rehabbed until her knee was 100%. Most of the models WWE signs don't have that kind of dedication.
In addition to being talented and passionate, Ivy is obviously easy on the eyes. Someone like Ivelisse could easily be marketed as the center of a women's division, should Jarrett want to have one.
If not Ivelisse, then Thea Trinidad (the former "Rosita") would be a good hire. As "Rosita", Thea could've done big things in TNA. She was green, but she was spunky, attractive and comfortable working on TV. Tagging with Sarita only could've helped Thea when it comes to her in-ring work.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to see how/if she progressed because Rosita wasn't booked in any singles matches that I can recall.
At just 23-years-old, Thea could have a lengthy career ahead of her. The good thing about Thea is that she's not a 'WWE reject.' Jarrett wouldn't have that oh-so-dreaded stigma of only hiring former WWE superstars.
With her Trish Stratus-like good looks and her proven athleticism, Thea is pretty much the total package -- and will likely get better with more experience.
I don't know that both Ivelisse and Thea are needed, but if Jarrett can get them both, go for it!
7. Alex Koslov - YouTube him if you're not familiar with Koslov yet
He worked in every major promotion running today since he started wrestling in 2006. He had stints in ROH, TNA, WWE and New Japan. Maybe having short stints all over is a bad indication? I don't know the reasons behind all of his departures, but I know that he's very exciting to watch.
I can't recall seeing many promos of his, so I'm not honestly sure how well he does on the mic, but with his wrestling skills, he doesn't need mic skills. Give him a manager if he can't talk very well. At 30-years-old, Koslov could provide a promoter with a lot of years of great wrestling matches....assuming he stays with one company long enough to do that.
6. Chris Hero - the most hated man in WWE developmental.
Okay, so he wasn't really 'hated.' WWE management apparently didn't like him though. There were rumors of those in charge at the WWE developmental center not being impressed by Chris Hero's ring work or work ethic.
Maybe WWE's developmental system just wasn't the right fit for Chris Hero. His in ring work and efforts got him noticed in the first place. He spent years in ROH and built up enough of a reputation to get himself a developmental deal.
While Hero isn't a 'huge' name, he could bring a portion of fans with him. He is in his mid-30's, but he could definitely have several more good years before he retires.
5. Kong - a dominant force in any women's division
Amazing Kong helped revive women's wrestling in TNA with Gail Kim. During a post-Trish Stratus and post-Lita time when the WWE Diva's division was all but dead, Amazing Kong helped put women's wrestling on the map in TNA and brought legitimacy to it.
Due to her issues with TNA, I highly doubt Kong will ever end up working there again. Kong has been pretty vocal about TNA's lack of organization during her recent shoot interviews. However I don't think she ever had issues with Jeff Jarrett. It seemed like Kong's problems started when the Hogan-Bischoff administration came into power.
Someone like Lei'D Tapa may work well, too. She was too green for TNA, but Tapa could be a good substitute if Kong has her heart set on returning to WWE as "Kharma."
4. Alex Shelley - talk about an underrated performer.
This guy has a lot of charisma. He doesn't have the loud, "IF YA SMELLLLLL... what The Rock....is cookin'" charisma. He's got the kind of charisma that would fit in with the cast of How I Met Your Mother.
The guy is only 30-years-old, but he's been wrestling for almost 12 years now. His work in TNA is reason enough to sign him to hire Shelley, but since he departed TNA, he's been working in Japan. Almost any worker who goes to compete in Japan comes back to the U.S. as a better in-ring worker.
Last time I saw Shelley in TNA his ring work was top notch and his mic skills weren't too shabby. He could've used some polishing in order to make it to the next level, but I had every confidence he could do it given the chance.
3. John Morrison - or would it be Hennigan?
The former WWE Tough Enough winner, former Tag Team Champion and former Intercontinental Champion seemed to be cementing a spot as a valuable member of the WWE roster until he snubbed Trish Stratus at Wrestlemania.
Since then he's been involved in several different acting projects and some stand-up comedy. I'm assuming those ventures had to have helped his somewhat lackluster mic skills. The man has more talent in his pinky than most people do in their entire bodies, so there's no worries about him not being able to perform in the ring. Given that he never got the chance to main event in WWE, Hennigan being placed in a main event situation would seem fresh, despite the fact that he's almost a veteran at this point.
2. A.J. Styles - Jarrett's former TNA comrad.
A.J. styles made TNA. Just like Sting made WCW, Styles made TNA. He was the face of the company during his entire run there, whether TNA promoted him that way or not. It's not like A.J. Styles was underpushed. He had reigns as Heavyweight, Tag Team and X-Division champions. The thing is: it never felt like TNA was fully behind him, so it seems like there's still a lot of untapped potential there.
A.J. Styles isn't a new talent, but he's also not washed up. He's more than capable of being a leading face in Jarrett's new company. He's a well-known name that would give Jarrett's promotion some exposure, but his hiring wouldn't be looked at as a joke. He's not soured goods.
1. CM Punk - were you expecting anyone else to top this list?
There's a lot of speculation about whether Punk will show up at Wrestlemania tomorrow night. Of course, there's a very good chance he could have patched things up with WWE. If he hasn't, however, Jarrett needs to be offering Punk anything he can to get the man signed to a contract. I'm pretty sure Punk's non-compete clause doesn't run out until sometime this summer, but Jarrett could send some feelers out.
The exciting thing is: it could actually happen. Punk already made a boatload of money while working for WWE, but he's not one of those guys who is all about the finances. He's got passion. I don't know what Punk's relationship with Jarrett is (they seemed to work well together when Punk was in TNA), but I think CM Punk is the type of man who would be intrigued at the thought of helping get a new promotion off the ground. Not just any promotion -- but one with the financial backing of Toby Keith. A promotion that could conceivably be a player.
The only problem is that, just like Kong, Punk may still want to be a part of the WWE roster. WWE is the pinnacle of sports-entertainment. Wrestlemania literally is the Super Bowl of pro wrestling. If Punk's goal is to be at the very top of the industry -- then main eventing Wrestlemania is his goal. He needs to be a member of the WWE roster in order for that dream to be a reality.
Without Punk, Jarrett can be successful, but I think it'll be much harder to make an immediate impact without a big name like CM Punk. We'll see if Punk shows up at Wrestlemania tomorrow. If not, it will only fuel my desperate hope for another Monday Night War era --- where someone tries to give WWE a run for their money.