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  May 31, 2000

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SLAM! Wrestling - Eric Benner chat

Moderator: Welcome to SLAM! Wrestling's chat with columnist Eric Benner. Eric's at home in Montreal and we're ready to go. On to the first question.

MGTHUNDER: Hi Eric, Why is there no union in wrestling? I watched Bret Hart on "The Last Word" Monday(5/29) and they spoke of how unionizing the sport would protect the wrestlers from doing crazy stunts night after night that could cause career ending injuries and death. What are your thoughts on having a union in wrestling?

Eric: Well, I can't tell you exactly why wrestlers haven't yet decided to fight very hard for a union, but I can tell you why a promoter probably wouldn't much want one. Aside from the fact that anytime talent collaborates and works together to negotiate they almost always end up earning higher salaries (and that's a very big aside), Vince McMahon or Eric Bischoff or Paul Heyman would all-of-a-sudden end up being responsible, on paper, for all sorts of things medical. As it stands now, I believe, the promoters hold a certain amount of power over what exactly they wish to do about a given injury. Not to mention, all this assumes that 'management' and the union would be able to come together and sign a collective bargaining agreement. If they can't, or if there's some dispute about it down the line…well, I can imagine that Monday Night Raw or Monday Nitro wouldn't be the same if the whole roster were on strike.

fletcher thompson: while reading slam wrestling's picks for wrestlers of the century, you chose the new age outlaws as tag team of the century. could you explain the thinking behind your choice?

Eric: I wish we'd had more of a chance to defend our picks. I gave a lot of thought to them. First, I have to admit that I'm obviously biased by the era I'm living in. There may have been very good tag teams in the 1930's, but I never saw them so I can't vote for them. My video collection is sort of extensive, so I've had the chance to watch just about every high-profile team that wrestled on TV before I started watching wrestling (around 1987). I just see the Outlaws as two guys - Road Dogg, Billy Gunn - who really weren't over on their own, who were rather unimpressive, who banded together and achieved much greater success alone than they ever had together. Also, I have to thank them for finally putting an end to the LOD and their antiquated wrestling. I remember the first NAO tag team title win - they simply used a chair and cheated the LOD out of them. I didn't take them seriously until then. About six titles later, they've carried the WWF tag team division for a very long time. A lot of longevity for our era.

Danny Middaugh: How did you get your job with Slam! wrestling?

Eric: It was about two years ago, 1998 I think, and I was doing little gigs all over the place. I wanted to do something for SLAM!, so I wrote a guest column or two and did a story in Montreal, and it just so happened that around that time the regular columnist - Donnie Abreu - was leaving. I ended up doing it and I'm very glad to have gotten that opportunity. The whole SLAM! staff and Greg Oliver specifically have done a lot for me over the years and I appreciate that tremendously. I should have a sort of nice surprise for everyone to celebrate two years here, which I think comes up in July or August.

Mathieu Talbot, Montreal : How long do you think the WWF is going to push the 'Vince screw somebody' storyline ?

Eric: Depends on what extent you mean. I mean, as long as Vince is good for business, as long as the fans buy it, he'll keep doing it. I'm afraid that they're going to get lazy and repetitive about it before they learn, but Vince has redefined himself and the WWF enough times that they'll probably survive it anyway. To answer your question - soon, I hope.

Terry Harris: Who do you feel are the two most talented wrestlers the WWF and WCW have under a developmental contract that we the average fan have not been exposed to?

Eric: That's a really tough one, Terry. WCW has so many guys training at the Power Plant that it's hard to single any out, and I find their young guys aren't really publicized so it's hard to say. On the WWF side if you're talking about new folks, I keep hearing about these Dupp brothers but I've never seen them myself. They've also got older folks like Mark Henry training to return, and I'm especially looking forward to a serious role for Steve Regal.

Sick Boy: How do you feel about the push Kidman has got

Eric: I think it's great that Kidman should get any push at all, I think he's a tremendous wrestler. But at the same time, it kind of seems half-hearted, like they won't push him as being a stand-alone really good wrestler, someone who's a threat to win by himself. Just seeing him in there with Hogan is still sort of priceless, though. I've loved his matches since the first time I saw him in the Brood.

Peter: Eric: What are your thoughts on the other SLAM! Wrestling writers?

Eric: I've had the pleasure of writing at a lot of places, on- and off-line, and I can pretty safely say that SLAM! is the best in a lot of ways. Greg and John Powell and John Molinaro do simply a tremendous amount of work here behind the scenes. I don't think the average fan or reader realizes what goes into making a site like this. It's a lot of work, but the result is one of the most unique and reliable sources of wrestling news on the planet. All the guys in the office here are journalists in the true sense of the word and, I think, are kind of in a league of their own in that respect. I think that SLAM! is one of maybe three or four legitimate news outlets for wrestling on the internet - all the others, while not worse, are different. Like a newspaper versus a magazine.

Lee: Is there any heat between you and John Molinaro stemming from him bashing one of your editorials a few months ago?

Eric: None at all. I like John and respect his opinions, and I was consulted before that piece went up. If I have one thing to say about that, it's probably that it's pretty advantageous to the rebuttler to chop up someone's article into twenty pieces and refute them one at a time. I was really tempted to do it right back, but felt that both sides had been exhausted. I still stand by what I wrote in that article, as I'm sure John does. That's enough for me.

Alex: What ever happened with Randy Savage going back to WWF?

Eric: I know I heard that he wanted to go back, but I never felt anything more than mixed signals from the WWF itself. I mean, maybe you'd love to compete in the WWF - doesn't mean they'll take you. Savage is getting old, and his knee is less than proven right now. The last thing the WWF needs is an expensive, injured, aging man.

Shane Whitney: When will Lance Storm start wrestling for Wcw and where will Raven go now that he has been released by ECW?

Eric: I got the chance to talk to Storm recently, and he said something along the lines of 'very soon'. I believe there are just some bureaucratic red tape issues to hurdle past before his debut. Raven, I'm sure, would love to end up in the WWF and have a great run there, but just like Savage, it depends whether they'd want him. I know that Vince Russo stated on WCW Live! that his own perception was that Raven had enemies in the WWF and that Raven would be better off in WCW. Also, he can start in WCW any time, and he'd have to wait for the WWF.

Sandy J.: I think that the WWF has to start building more main eventers. I am sick and tired of the Rock and HHH. Even adding the Undertaker and Kane is just recycling matches from last year. They need to push Benoit, Jericho, and most of all, Angle (It's true! It's true!) My question is why do you think the WWF feels that it can get away with the same main event matches over and over again?

Eric: Absolutely, but if you're Vince McMahon, you know that eventually Triple H and The Rock will get old - or worse, stale - and you'll need new guys. Rather than elevate everyone they've got right now, I'm sure some of them are being saved - rationed, if you will. I'm pretty sure every guy you mentioned will see some main event spotlight in the WWF before they retire, and probably quite soon, but I'd rather they take their time and bring up Y2J, the Crippler, and Angle when the time is right. That may end up being soon. Nonetheless, Undertaker hasn't worn out feuding potential with Triple H, nor Kane with The Rock. There are at least some fresh combinations there, not to mention Big Show, before you have to throw in some fresh talent. I expect Jericho to go in first, and for the upper mid-carders to get sent in one at a time over a long stretch.

fletcher thompson: have you read dwayne johnson's "the rock says..." if so, what is your opinion of it?

Eric Benner: The one wrestler bio I haven't yet had a penchant for is Rock's. Mick Foley's was great, and I enjoyed Bret Hart's, plus the SLAM! controversy made it impossible not to read Dynamite Kid's - but I've never read The Rock's. I guess because I heard so much was in character. I will one of these days.

Lee: We just passed the one year anniversary of Owen's Hart death. Looking back, in your mind, should the WWF have stopped the show?

Eric Benner: Ooh, that's a tough question. See, I don't really buy that "Owen would have wanted it". To me, that's kind of tacky. But at the same time, the WWF could have stopped the show, and pissed off thousands of paying customers, or let it go on, and piss off millions of relative by-standers. Only one of those two alternatives has people demanding refunds, and either way there are hurt feelings, so I can't begrudge the act.

DTC: What are your thoughts about this week's RAW in Vancouver?

Eric Benner: It sounded like a fairly strong show, but these screw-job endings are going to kill them if they keep it up. Just ask Eric Bischoff. The live crowd, though, came off well on TV. I'll be in Vancouver to catch WCW's August pay-per-view, and I'm looking forward to it!

DTC: Which do you enjoy the most-WWF, WCW or ECW?

Eric Benner: Right now, WWF no question. That doesn't make me a "mark" by the way, any more than that I enjoy their TV programming. WCW's is improving, but as far as just sitting around and watching their show for two hours, the WWF's is still tops to me. ECW kinda still seems minor league sometimes with their canned shows and poor production values.

DTC: Do you miss the old-fashion Saturday afternoon wrestling OR do you like the current "Sports Entertainment" style of wrestling?

Eric Benner: Another tough call. I remember going to the Montreal Forum when I was small and watch a bunch of wrestling matches - no bull. But in all honesty, I've never been as "interested" in the sport (ie paying so much attention to it), so I guess I have to give the nod to good ole sports entertainment.

Mathieu Talbot: At approx. what age do you think a wrestler should retire ?

Eric Benner: I think you know I can't give you a figure there. Definitely once you hit 40 you have to question whether you can still go - some can. It varies. I guarantee that whatever age I would pick, Mick Foley would be a mess if he should wrestle that long. Meanwhile, Ric Flair - medical ailments aside - can seemingly still go. I'd say compare it to other pro sports, maybe late thirties.

CrazMofo: Do you think there are too many championship belts in each fed. to mean anything? Didn't there used to be only 3?

Eric Benner: There are totally too many belts. BUT, and this is a big 'but', there are also way too many hours of wrestling on TV, and in a sense, it balances out. Us watching the WWF hardcore title change hands every two seconds allows our short attention span to watch more wrestling. Clearly, though, the three feds aren't totally serious about all their titles - even ECW rarely bothers to promote all three of theirs. Overall, I like having too many belts. I just wish they'd ditch ones not defended, like WWF women's.

CrazMofo: Why does Vince Russo hate Vince McMahon so much?

Eric Benner: Apparently, Vince McMahon was like a slave-driver to Russo or something. Russo admits that running WCW is no less work than running the WWF, but apparently being in charge over there is more of a 'job', whereas working for McMahon was his whole life. He was - allegedly - always at McMahon's beck and call.

Jackie Spencer: Do you know if Bret and his wife Julie have remarried? Also what is your opinion about the Dynamite Kid?

Eric Benner: I've gotta be honest with you - I don't follow Bret Hart's personal life too closely anymore. Some of the things he says actually scare me. Well, figuratively. I think Bret's a guy who just needs to be left alone awhile. I hope his personal life works out for him, but with a big chip on his shoulder I can imagine that not being the case. Meanwhile, re: Dynamite Kid, it depends what you mean. The Bulldogs were among my favourite tag teams of all-time. DK was a great performer. If you mean recently, with the book and all, I think he wrote some really honest stuff that pissed a lot of people off then got all angry when we gave him an honest book review (nudge, John). Kind of a hypocrite.

DTC: Do you think Goldberg has returned too soon? Is his feud with Tank Abbott ruined?

Eric Benner: Yes, I think Goldberg returned with too little hype. His feud with Tank Abbott, if you want to even call it a 'feud', will be over as quickly as it deserves to be - Tank is a nothing competitor with few uses in WCW. I think this all could have been much better handled.

DTC: Which current wrestlers/gimmicks/angles do you really dislike?

Eric Benner: Good question. Er, I think no one really likes Booker's new gimmick, and I agree with that. I'm not incredibly fond of the DDP-Kimberly thing. Well done, but maybe too personal. I, for one, actually like the Undertaker's new gimmick. I think MIA as a whole is pretty stupid. Right now, nothing truly stands out. I guess that's a good thing.

Dave Varano: What is the best technical match of all time you think?

Eric Benner: I wouldn't be surprised if that match occurred at some untelevised house show in the 70's that I've never seen. As a result, hard to say. If you asked me to give you a few based on what I've seen alone, I'd say Bret/Shawn Iron Man, Savage/Steamboat WMIII, and pretty much anything Dean Malenko, Rey Mysterio, Ultimo Dragon, and Eddie Guerrero were doing in WCW circa 1996-7.

Dave: What do you think of SLAM's coverage of Japanese and Mexican wrestling? Is that something you're interested in?

Eric Benner: I can't lie to you and tell you that I'm in love with international wrestling the way I am local stuff. I mean, I just haven't seen enough of it. But on the same note, I read all of SLAM!'s coverage, and I try to follow it, just because John Molinaro's stuff is interesting enough to read and his enthusiasm for the sport outside North America really comes through.

DTC: What are thoughts about the lawsuit that Sonny Onoo and company have filed against WCW?

Eric Benner: I don't want to offend anyone, but my opinion on this sways back and forth somewhat. On the one hand, I can imagine Eric Bischoff and even more Vince Russo totally discriminating against foreign talent. I'm not saying that what they're doing is wrong, because I mean modeling agencies discriminate against everyone non-beautiful and it's more like that kind of thing to me. On the other hand, I sometimes think Sonny Oono is a raving lunatic if he honestly thinks he was one of the top heels in the company, as he's always claiming. He was a joke on TV, somewhat like Mr. Fuji of old WWF, and he was never, ever compelling. I think both sides deserve to love. Is that possible??

Jason: Other than SLAM! what other wrestling sites to you check out?

Eric Benner: I'm really a student of the internet, if you know what I mean. I find a lot of this stuff interesting. I actually work for IGN Scoops, so obviously I check them out. Keller's Torch does a terrific job, in my opinion. Every once in awhile, I hit Scaia and Micasa's place but I miss their old place. I'm also a fan of ScoopTHIS. SLAM! is still usually the first place I go, just because we deal in news, not rumours. It's critical I know what actually happened and what may or may not have.

Mark: What is your opinion of Dave Meltzer and Wade Keller?

Eric Benner: Well as I just said I think Keller does a tremendous job most of the time, but a reader of his has to realize that he often reports speculation and unconfirmed news. This isn't an attack, but he comes up with the story first and then confirms it later - just remember that it isn't always gospel. Meltzer, also, does a great job with his newsletter and audio show, but his internet site, I think lacks the appeal of the Torch's.

Dave: Was Vince right to screw Bret in Montreal?

Eric Benner: Oy vey is that a loaded question! Assuming that you and I know *everything* that went on leading up to it, then I'd have to say that yes, it really was something Vince had to do. We've seen titles end up on competing shows, so it could've happened. Bret should've done the job... ...unless, it was all a work...

Sam: When did you first start watching wrestling? Who were some of your early favourites? Favourite matches?

Eric Benner: Sorry about that, folks. Technical troubles. I started in 1986 or so, and easily my early favourites were Hogan matches. I love all of Bret's stuff, now, and lots of other stuff too in retrospect.

Shannon: How do you respond to people who say you're a WWF mark and who has no objectivity?

Eric Benner: Usually, I don't. If I'm a WWF mark now, then I was a WCW mark three years ago when it was they who were putting on stronger TV shows. If I'm a 'mark' in the sense that I'm 'biased' toward whatever company is better at that moment in time, then fine - because that's what I am. And if so, I would hope that everyone out there is also a mark - since otherwise you're watching something other than what you like. Which is silly. And why would I want to express anything other than my legitimate and actual feelings on the subject? To be fair and neutral in my opinions about the WWF and WCW right now would be like saying I like pop music as much as heavy metal - I don't. I'm a 'mark' for old Metallica stuff, too.

Moderator: Eric's out of time. Thanks to everyone who submitted questions, and especially to those who were here live. And special thanks to Eric for taking the time out of his schedule to chat with us

Eric Benner: I'd also like to thank SLAM! readers in general for reading - and often contributing to - the site. You guys are perhaps the smartest and most fun batch of readers out there and it's a pleasure to write for ya.