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WRESTLING COLUMNS

They Got Spirit, But I'm Mad As Hell
January 26, 2006 by Langdon Beck


I was all set to write a column about the newfound importance of the United Kingdom and Europe within the world of wrestling, but after this week's edition of RAW, I felt compelled to write about something else.

This week on RAW saw the debut of a new group called the Spirit Squad. I have no objections to the idea of the Spirit Squad. I think there are a ton of better ways to bring some new wrestlers into WWE, but it's an original idea (even if it's not a very good one) and it could bring something a little different to RAW - and maybe even a new tag team or two.

My problem - or should that be problems - with the Spirit Squad involves their members. Not all of their members; just two. I think Mike Mondo is perfect for a character like this, as I see him as someone similar to the late Crash, who can only be taken seriously through humour. I'm actually quite glad Mondo's in the squad. I didn't honestly think he'd ever be called up because of his size. I have no problem with Nick Nemeth being a member. Obviously he can't be a caddy any more, and he seems destined to have a weird gimmick, so I don't have any objections with his being a member. And Nick Mitchell is an okay choice to be in there too - inexperience can be hidden pretty well when you're in a faction.

My problem lies with the other two members. Two men who I enjoy watching a hell of a lot. Two men who I thought to be potential main eventers in WWE within a decade. Two men who, simply put, are way, way, way too good to be stuck with that group of yell captains known as the Spirit Squad. My problem is with Ken Doane and Johnny Jeter.

Most of you will have no idea who Ken Doane and Johnny Jeter are, much less why I have such a high opinion of them, so let me regale you on their accomplishments thus far.

Johnny Jeter moved to Louisville, Kentucky to train in OVW at the age of 19, and became the youngest OVW Champion in history. His in-ring talent and high-flying ability was noticeable immediately, in great matches against the likes of Mark 'Muhammad Hassan' Magnus and particularly his trainer Nick 'Eugene' Dinsmore. In my opinion, in the ring he is reminiscent of Chris Jericho. In 2004 Jeter began teaming with Tough Enough III champion Matt Cappotelli, the team calling themselves The Thrillseekers. Whether they were as good as the original Thrillseekers (Lance Storm and Chris Jericho) is debatable, but they were certainly an excellent tag team, being involved in great rivalries with MNM, the Heartbreakers (now the Heart Throbs) and the Blonde Bombers (now the Dicks). But in the summer of 2005, Cappotelli was teamed with Mike 'the Miz' Mizanin for WWE dark matches, and it appeared that the Thrillseekers team would be no more, and Jeter's opportunity to make it to WWE would disappear. However, Matt would break his leg in a freak accident during a match, and, odd as it seems to say it, Johnny Jeter's career really took off as a result.

At the time, both Thrillseekers had somehow become #1 Contender to Brent Albright's OVW Championship. Because of Matt's injury, Jeter took on Albright one-on-one. The match was pretty good, and gave me further reason to think of Jeter as the next Jericho. Surprisingly, he won the title, and in what was even more of a shock, after the match he Superkicked Cappotelli (who was at ringside, leg in cast, watching the match).

The following week, Albright got a rematch, with Cappotelli at ringside once again (only not on Jeter's side this time) and the bout was great, but the story coming out of the match was Jeter's shocking actions. During the match, Jeter went for a chair, presumably to hit Albright with. But instead of attacking Albright, he nailed his former partner with the chair. But Jeter didn't stop there. He continued to hit Matt with the chair, again and again, in the head, across the back, on his broken leg. Jeter was only stopped when Al Snow ran from the announce table and restrained him. Play-by-play man Dean Hill ended the TV show, shaking, Cappotelli's blood on his face and clothes. He said, "what Johnny Jeter has done tonight was unforgivable. Unforgivable."

From that point on, Johnny Jeter was the most hated man in OVW, and it became obvious that he was a natural born heel. He played the part to perfection. If his ring work was good, then his mic work and promos were exceptional. I'd put him in the top 20 or even top 10 in WWE for mic skills. In the third week of August, he was on OVW TV cutting a promo about how he was a champion, but people still kept talking about Matt Cappotellli. To him, Cappotelli was nothing but a cripple. "Champion, cripple. Champion, cripple." And that's when mild-mannered Southern gentleman Dean Hill lost it. "ASSHOLE!" he yelled. "...I was on the police force for twenty-five years, and I don't need this shit!" Dean then got up and began to leave the New Davis Arena. As he left, there was a barely audible "fuck you, Jeter". Jeter asked what Dean just said, and Dean turned to face the OVW Champion, and cried, "FUCK YOU!" With that, the locker-room emptied and began to advance on Jeter, but the assorted wrestlers were told to leave by OVW owner Danny Davis. Davis confronted Jeter, going so far as to slap him across the face. Jeter looked stunned, but then hit Davis, whipping him mercilessly with the title belt while Davis' wife - the building's ticket taker - looked on helpless at ringside, crying for Jeter to stop. The whole time Jeter had an arrogant smirk on his face. Those who saw it live were convinced what they had witnessed was real, and Jeter became a fully-fledged old-school heel. Of course, it was just a storyline, but it made for incredibly compelling TV, and one of the best storylines of 2005.

From that point on, OVW began building towards a Cappotelli - Jeter showdown, and while Matt couldn't wrestle for several weeks, the build-up made for some great moments, including Jeter's alliance with Mr. Kennedy, Cappotelli attacking Jeter in the parking lot (even leaping off the roof of a car, his leg still in a cast) and Jeter superkicking Cappotelli at a press conference. "The winner of the first-ever Press Conference Podium Match... JOHNNY JETER! ... ... ... JETER!"

The match, which took place at the end of October, drew a turn-away crowd, and Jeter retained the title in a great brawl with Mr. Kennedy's help. This set up a 2 out of 3 Falls rematch, in which Cappotelli won the Championship. But it was not over. At the end of December, Cappotelli and Chris Cage took on Jeter and his new associate Mark Henry. During the contest, Cage turned on Cappotelli, and despite the efforts of everyone from Doug Basham to the Boogeyman, the three bad guys stood tall.

Mark Henry soon left for WWE, but Jeter and Cage continued their alliance, going so far as to cut off the hair of the popular OVW Tag Team champions, Seth Skyfire and Chet the Jet. You'd think the rivalry would continue, but last week's episode of OVW began with Jeter unconscious in the locker room, his own hair cut off. Cage abandoned him, and he was alone. That is, until the Spirit Squad turned up and presented him with a uniform...Jeter had it all. Wrestling ability. Promo ability. Charisma. I can't imagine how any of this is going to be able to be shown as part of the Spirit Squad.

And what about Ken Doane" Well, they called him the Teen Phenom - he's only 19 - and they're damn right to do so. Doane began training at Killer Kowalski's Institute of Professional Wrestling at the age of 13 and by 19 he was a star in OVW, joining Bolin Services and becoming Television Champion. In summer of 2005, he beat the Legend Killer himself, Randy Orton, with Orton's own RKO move. However, there began to be dissention in Bolin Services. Bobby Lashley did not seem too keen on doing the bidding of Doane, and slowly, over the following months, he began to turn on the group and gradually gained the fans' support, which increased week by week. At the beginning of November, Doane and Lashley finally met one on one, and in a shocking result, Doane became only the second man to ever beat Lashley. During the previous month he had also embarked on a series of truly excellent matches with Brent Albright. After taking Lashley out, Doane continued the Albright rivalry, and soon OVW newcomer CM Punk was added into the mix, winning the TV title from Doane in November. The matches with Punk were as good as those with Albright. As December began, the three competed in OVW's first-ever Three Way Dance. These matches show that Ken could really get it done in the ring. But not just in the ring - Ken Doane had IT. Look, charisma, everything was in place, and he's only nineteen! When he cut a promo (and they weren't too shabby either) and said he was a WrestleMania Moment waiting to happen, you believed it. That's why his becoming a member of the Spirit Squad is so disheartening.

I'd actually had a change of heart regarding Ken Doane recently. I still thought he was excellent, but in an interview in which he mentioned Doane, William Regal said something which made a lot of sense to me.

"I would tell everyone to get experience [of wrestling around the world, learning different styles, working every week and doing the matches you want to do] before coming to the WWE, just take your bags and go around the world.

There's a new guy we've got in Ohio Valley called Ken Doane, who is only 19. He asked me for my advice the other week and I told him to quit!

If you come in to the WWE at 19-years-old and only know one style of wrestling, then by the time you're 25 your face will be worn out."

As I said, this makes sense to me, so I wouldn't have minded if Ken Doane hadn't come into WWE for a few years, or even if he'd been released. But he's there now. Not as the Golden Boy, but as a yell captain.

I may be over-reacting. Jeter and Doane may soon leave the Spirit Squad. The idea may be abandoned. Sure, they may help make the Squad more entertaining, but all it'll do is hold them back. There are cases of good wrestlers overcoming bad gimmicks and going on to greatness - Kane comes to mind - but it's rare. A bad gimmick tends to haunt an otherwise good wrestler for the rest of his career.

As I've said, I'm not opposed to the Spirit Squad idea. I'm not opposed to three of the guys in the Squad. I might even like them if it weren't for the fact that Ken Doane and Johnny Jeter, two great talents with a world of potential, are members.

For now, I can only hope that they'll somehow escape it, and show the world how good they can truly be.

by Langdon Beck --- [View Langdon Beck's Column Index]..

[See What People Are Saying About This Column on the Forums]


Nick wrote:
I wasn't mad when I saw Doane and Jeter as the Spirit Squad. They are both young guys, look at all the stupid gimmicks people did starting their careers. Triple H was a Rich Snob, Kane was a Dentist, The Rock was a fun-loving babyface, Stone Cold was bland until his promo against Jake Roberts. I understand the way you feel though because I watch OVW too and I see/saw them on TV in hot angles and not missing OVW at all. If any member of the Spirit Squad was Batista's age or anything, I'd say there is no way they could recover from this gimmick but since they are both younger guys, they will recover then take over the world. Not a fan of Mike Mondo but I think he will be good in the role, Nemeth is ok and I haven't seen Nick Mitchell before. I don't think you have anything to worry about. Something will happen, breaking Doane and Jeter away from the Spirit Squad and then everyone will be happy.
rifqi amran wrote:
What kind of gimmick is this""!!! They wont last long if they stay with this gimmick in WWE...another stupid gimmick on a great a superstar!!
Lourdes wrote:
Why did you even write this" Tell me who in the world gives a damn about the spirit squad" Wasting all that space for a crappy column.
Stephen Ground wrote:
I disagree with the last two people, but agree with you. Personally, the gimmick, when you compare it to the trash WWE has put forth lately (Bisexuals, Models, and fitness guru's oh my) it actually IS good for a laugh, but I wish they wouldn't put guys who are ready to be WRESTLING stars in the group. It should be filled with guys that aren't ready to be full time wrestlers, who have good charisma and need some ring work
Rich wrote:
I think the Spirit Squad gimmick is good for a laugh, but it seems to me like WWE is going to run it into the ground like they did with Eugene. I don't know much about Ken Doane, but I definutely think it's a big mistake to put Johnny Jeter in the Spirit Squad. He's got more talent then most of them, and should be taken seriously, instead of a cheesy gimmick that won't last. Although, stranger things have happened, i.e. The Honky Tonk Man.
Heather (October 20) wrote:
I hope that the Spirit Squad can get into more Singles Matches and Win More Matches . They need more TV Time If they ever split up I can see other 4 becoming there own Tag Team Johnny and Mikey and Mitch and Nicky and Kenny going in the Heavyweight Division .

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