HeadLocker — Jay Shannon
OWW Wrestler of the Week: John Morrison
Our resident philosopher takes an in-depth look at the new Intercontinental Champion, John Morrison.
Much like Dr. Johnny Fever from the old TV show, WKRP in Cincinnatti, John Morrison went through numerous identities before settling on the current persona. He’s been outstanding in both the singles and tag team divisions. On Smackdown, Morrison defeated Rey Mysterio (who was getting ready to start his suspension for a Wellness violation). Despite the obvious switch due to Mysterio’s poor personal choices, Morrison still put on a tremendous match to claim the gold.
Proving to be Tough Enough
John Hennigan was going for a degree in acting from the University of California at Davis. He was also studying geology. For some reason, he decided that neither field was something he wanted to dedicate his life too. While pondering his future, he came across an open call for talent for Supreme Pro Wrestling. He attended their school and began to work a few matches for SPW. He became aware of the Tough Enough competitions that the WWE was running on MTV. With the blessings of SPW, Hennigan made he way to the Tough Enough II try-outs. He wasn’t accepted for the show. Most people would have given up and went back to the indies. Hennigan would not be denied his chance, so he waited until the following year and tried, again, to get on the show. He was accepted to Tough Enough III, which he would co-win with Matt Cappotelli. Hennigan was sent to OVW to further his training.
Hennigan started moving up the rankings in OVW. He impressed the trainers with his looks and the speed at which he learned his craft. He was often partnered with Cappotelli. The two were brought up for a few test matches against lower level tag teams. The decision was made to bring John up as a singles star.
On March 1, 2004, Eric Bischoff brought out his new assistant, Johnny Blaze. Due to possible copyright infringement issues with Marvel comics (Johnny Blaze is Ghost Rider’s alter-ego and, as such, trademarked). The following week, Johnny returned as Johnny Spade. That second name just didn’t fly with the fans. It was Bischoff that came up with the idea for the final name change, for the moment. Bischoff suggested that Johnny accept the surname Nitro, based on the old WCW television show. The original plan was to have Nitro help to push a WCW nostalgia angle. He even began to use the entrance music from WCW Nitro to come to the ring. It was decided to send Nitro back to OVW for further training. Since Nitro was in the middle of a prominent storyline, Creative had Nitro lose a match to Bischoff’s “nephew”, Eugene. The match had a “Loser Leaves WWE” stipulation.
Nitro was immediately thrown into a feud with Matt Cappotelli. Cappotelli brought in Melina, pushed as a former girlfriend of Nitro. She would later turn on Cappotelli and join Nitro. Oddly enough, the two began dating, in real life, which they still do. Creative decided to try to place Nitro in a tag team, once again. They turned to newcomer, Joey Mercury, to be the other partner. The team was pushed as rock star-like performers. The team adopted the name M.N.M. (Mercury, Nitro and Melina). There was some concern about copyright/trademark issues with Mars, Inc (makers of M & M’s) and/or the rap artist, Enimem, but the team clicked and WWE decided to take the risk. The team was brought up to the main WWE programs after close to a year of training. During that growing period, the team held the OVW Southern Tag Team Championship.
In April, 2006, the team was placed on the Smackdown brand. On their very first appearance, they took the WWE tag team championship from Rey Mysterio and Eddie Guerrero. Their first tag team title run lasted for about three months. They were dethroned by the “new” Legion of Doom (Animal and Heidenreich). MnM would take the titles back from the Legion of Doom in a Fatal Four Way match, a few weeks later. They would drop the belts to Rey Mysterio and Batista. Melina flirted with Mark Henry to get him to assist her men in taking the titles back from Rey and Batista. MnM then feuded with Paul London and Brian Kendrick. At Judgment Day, MnM dropped the titles to London and Kendrick. Nitro and Melina turned on Mercury, who they blamed for the loss. Teddy Long, Smackdown’s General Manager, fired the duo. They would move to Raw, the very next week.
Nitro was quickly thrown into a feud with Shelton Benjamin, the reigning Intercontinental champion. Nitro would take the strap from Benjamin from Vengeance. The match was a Triple Threat match that also included Carlito. Nitro went into a five month feud with Jeff Hardy over the I-C belt. They would trade the strap on three occasions.
After dropping the I-C strap to Hardy for the final time during their feud, Nitro was “hired” by actor/singer Kevin Federline to help train him for a match against John Cena. Nitro had lost his Raw debut, months earlier, to Cena. This was a chance for Nitro to get his revenge. Cena would lose the New Year’s Day match, thanks to interference from Umaga.
Matt and Jeff Hardy were riding a comeback wave when they issued an open challenge. Joey Mercury reunited with Johnny Nitro to accept the challenge. The two teams feuded on both major brands. The reunion was short-circuited when Joey Mercury took a ladder shot to the face that legitimately injured his face. Nitro then took on the feud, while Mercury recovered. MnM would renew the battles, with Mercury wearing a face guard similar to the one worn by Brutus Beefcake, a decade earlier. They lost almost every contest to the Hardys. The final match between the two teams occurred at No Way Out. They would stay together for a few more months, until Mercury was released in March, 2007. WWE tried to partner Nitro with Kenny Dykestra but the team never quite gelled. Nitro was drafted over to ECW during the annual Draft.
An Extreme Personality Change
Johnny Nitro was called upon to replace Chris Benoit at Night of Champions. Nitro would defeat Punk for the vacant ECW strap. Nitro said that the win felt somewhat uncomfortable, when he learned that the man he replaced (Benoit) killed his family and himself that very week-end. Nitro began a very successful title run. He character was in need of a slight adjustment, so he adopted a more cocky persona. He also began to mimic the former Doors lead singer, Jim Morrison, with a string of philosophical rants. In tribute to the rock star, Johnny Nitro was converted into John Morrison. The Shaman of Sexy then began to develop a series of new moves, including his Moonlight Drive finisher.
Morrison debuted his “15 Minutes of Fame” segments. Several low level stars tried to earn a title shot by either beating Morrison or lasting the full 15 minutes. C.M. Punk would slip into the challenges and earn himself a title shot. Morrison would retain his title at Summerslam by using the ropes. He would drop the title on the following week’s ECW broadcast. Ironically, the reason he was booked to drop the belt was an upcoming 30-day suspension for a Wellness Program violation.
Miz and Morrison
After his suspension, Morrison tried unsuccessfully to regain his title from C.M. Punk. Morrison was placed into another tag team, this time with reality TV star, Mike “The Miz” Mizanin. The new duo was thrown into a program with the dysfunctional tag champions, Matt Hardy and MVP. While Miz and Morrison initially tried to one-up the other, that aspect of their relationship was eliminated after they took the straps from Hardy and MVP. They were then pushed as closest of friends who were determined to prove that they were superior to everyone else in the WWE.
During this time, the new duo began to present a weekly show on WWE’s website. The Dirt Sheet was a chance for the two to disrespect other WWE performers and a few celebrities, as well. The videos became so popular that they were eventually moved onto the main ECW weekly program. The program would lead to the next big feud for the team. After dropping the tag belts to Curt Hawking and Zack Ryder, Miz and Morrison began to battle Cryme Tyme, who also had a weekly show on WWE.com. Miz and Morrison dominated the feud over Shad and JTG.
On December 8, 2008, Miz and Morrison got the final laugh in the feud as their show, The Dirt Sheet, took the award for best Internet programming. Miz and Morrison also took additional gold as the tag team of the year. Miz and Morrison would ride the wave of their Slammy success to another run as tag team champions. They defeated C.M. Punk and Kofi Kingston for the World Tag Team Championships. That led to a feud with Carlito and Primo Colon, who held the WWE Tag Team Championship. The brief feud ended at Wrestlemania XXV, where the Colons unified both titles by defeating Miz and Morrison. The team was split by the 2009 Draft. Miz went to Raw, while Morrison ended up on Smackdown.
Turning face, finally
Morrison looked to be heading back into the comfortable heel position when he arrived on the Blue Brand. His first match was a win over R-Truth (Ron Killings). Later on, Chris Jericho slapped him in the face. That started a backstage brawl. Since Jericho was still one of the top heels on Fridays, Morrison was almost instantly transformed into a face. Morrison shifted from the Jericho feud into a program with Shelton Benjamin. That feud came to an end when Benjamin was sent to ECW, by way of the Trump Draft. Morrison had several outstanding matches against Jeff Hardy, the then-World champion. Morrison failed to win the title but succeeded in impressing the creative team.
When Rey Mysterio failed the Wellness Program, Morrison was tapped to face Mysterio. Morrison put on a fantastic bout against the masked man. Morrison took the belt from the man that he feuded with, off and on, for 5 years. This would begin Morrison’s third run with the I-C strap.
John Morrison has gone through several name changes over the years. He’s also worked with multiple tag team partners. Regardless of what situation Morrison has found himself in, he has succeeded. He has a good chance of finding himself in the WWE Hall of Fame, down the road. The only thing that will disrupt his career..is John Hennigan. John has already failed the Wellness Program, once. If he doesn’t fail again, he’s almost a lock to become a future World or WWE champion. No matter what the future brings, this week, he’s the Wrestler of the Week.
— Jay Shannon