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Looking at the Callihan/Edwards ‘Baseball Bat’ Incident

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Professional wrestling, similar to most things in life, is based on timing and opportunity.

Historically, the examples are there, events that took place at certain times that couldn’t be booked to happen, but their naturally occurrence led to opportunity. The New World World’s two-year run that made WCW formidable competition to Vince McMahon was facilitated by the availability of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash. There was no way to plan that Razor Ramon and Diesel had contracts that happen to expire just six days apart. The timing of their exits led to the opportunity to bring them to Nitro within just to weeks of one another to create the basis for the NWO hostile takeover that drew record ratings for WCW.

Ironically, that series of events led to another organic shift in the industry the following year when Ted Turner’s success put pressure on Vince McMahon, who struggled to keep his wrestling empire afloat during the wave of Turner’s spending to sign talent. Eric Bischoff, a former AWA interviewer, found himself as executive vice president of WCW in 1994 after a revolving door of authority figures took the organization nowhere. For all of the mistakes that he might’ve made, Bischoff knew enough to use the resources within the Turner media umbrella to take a noticeable portion of the market. Along with Hulk, Randy Savage, Hall, and Nash, Bischoff attempted to lure Bret Hart away from the WWF. Bret, one of the most tenured and loyal performers on McMahon’s roster, was one of the company’s most skilled and biggest stars. When the steroid scandal of the early 90s put the future of the WWF in doubt, Bret was one of the cornerstones of the promotion to keep it above water. The WCW offer was very lucrative, guaranteeing the WWF champion a seven-figure contract and less required appearances per year.

McMahon had finished in the red for 1996 and couldn’t afford to match the offer, despite initial suggestions of a potential 20-year deal that would’ve paid Bret more over a longer period. The tense negotiations were documented in “Wrestling with Shadows.” Finally, Vince allowed Bret to negotiate with WCW, and the infamous Montreal incident sent Hart to Turner’s group while the WWF appeared to unravel in late-97. Vince used the events of Montreal to spin a narrative that he was the ruthless promoter that did what needed to be done and insulted the Canadian hero who had worked tirelessly to draw him money for a decade previously. That presentation was a gamble and there was no way to be sure the fans wouldn’t reject the WWF entirely or that Hart might’ve excelled on Nitro. Thankfully, a brawler named Steve Austin had found himself as a persona and reached his peak as the defiant employee at the same time that McMahon was vilified for his actions against Hart. The Austin/McMahon feud saw the biggest ratings in the history of the industry and ultimately won the Monday night war. Again, you can’t book or plan that.

Both of those scenarios were based on timing and opportunity. Furthermore, a potentially negative real-life situation was used to draw money within sports entertainment.

The same still applies today, both in life and in sports entertainment.

When the Canadian duo of Don Callis and Scott D’Amore took over as Executive Vice Presidents of Impact Wrestling in January, it created the first sense of optimism around the brand in easily 5-6 years. When extensive TV tapings took place, news was made for the exits and debuts as the new regime looked to start with a clean slate. Among the headlines that surfaced was a very serious eye injury to Eddie Edwards after a wild swing directed at a chair from Sami Callihan. Graphic photos of Edwards at the hospital were posted online after the tapings, fueling speculation about exactly what happened.

When the Callihan/Edwards match finally aired last week, the violent footage caused quite a stir within the world of professional wrestling. Jim Cornette, the legendary manager that seemingly always has a Twitter feud with someone, used his trademark eloquent profanity to express his disapproval. Callihan responded, which further incited those that criticized him previously. The “baseball bat” incident was even picked up by TMZ Sports, and Callihan released a statement to the outlet to address the controversy.

Callihan made it extremely clear that he’s not sorry for the injury to Eddie Edwards, drawing the ire of fans and peers. But, remember the timing and opportunity dynamic?

I’m extremely surprised at the reaction the injury footage received, especially from those within the industry. Does anyone honestly believe that Sami Callihan intentionally wanted to hurt Eddie Edwards? Callihan has done shoot interviews in the past and those give an insight into his prospect of the genre. It’s a physical performance and accidents happen, that doesn’t mean that Callihan is happy that one of his co-workers were injured. If anything, it doesn’t make business sense for Callihan to want to hurt Edwards because the follow-up matches will undoubtedly have more of a spotlight because of the stir the injury caused. This is just my two cents and I could be wrong, but I’d guess that Callihan never wanted to injury Eddie Edwards.

But, it generated such a strong reaction, why not go with it? Callihan as an unhinged “dangerous” wrestler blurs the line between what’s scripted and what’s real-life, which is theoretically the entire point of the wrestling business. Maybe Callihan doesn’t care that Edwards was injured? It certainly appears like he’s not remorseful and he seems to have convinced many of that.

The timing of this is where the negative of the Eddie Edwards injury can be used as a positive. The new management of Anthem’s Impact has a situation that generated more talk about the promotion than anything that happened during the final years of the Dixie Carter era, and the ratings during the first quarter of the year have steadily improved on a weekly basis. Eddie Edwards, a former ROH and Impact champion, had a main event run in the Impact zone when the promotion was on the brink of collapse and drew dismal numbers. Sami Callihan is a dynamic performer that had a run in the WWE developmental system, but never had the chance to showcase himself. At this point, a renewed spotlight can be shined on Sami, Edwards, and Impact as a promotion so there is a positive aspect to the whole situation.

When Eddie Edwards and Sami Callihan are in the ring again, it will be an anticipated confrontation because the controversy has created intriguing questions. Maybe Eddie will legitimately punch Sami in the face on live pay-per-view and end the match in thirty seconds? Maybe they will have an uncooperative match that continues to fuel talk that Callihan is unhinged? Maybe they will have a hard-hitting bout that fans will discuss as one of the best on the show?

Either way, this unfortunate injury generated a lot of press for Impact and while you never want to see an injury, at least the potential is there for this to become a positive if Sami and Eddie become bigger stars from it. Maybe Sami is a dangerous wrestler or maybe he’s smart enough to work everyone so that an unfortunate situation becomes a bigger platform? You can bet fans will watch the rematch to find out what happens next for the Callihan/Edwards feud.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta

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