Friday, August 27, 1998
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
Fans have forgiven the WWF
It's hard to believe that only 9 months ago, wrestling fans were threatening to boycott the World Wrestling Federation, WWF wrestlers were no-showing at a live Monday Night RAW in Ottawa, and this fan vowed to never attend another live WWF card again.
What a difference a few months can make.
Often times in the world of professional wrestling, it's tough to figure out what's real and what's contrived. A fall such as the Mick Foley's from the top of the cage in his Hell In the Cell II match left some fans saying: "That HAD to be planned - that was just too risky NOT to have been planned."
At the Survivor Series, the outcome of the Bret Hart/Shawn Michaels match had, at first glance, that same level of "is this real or is it a work?"
When fans realized the outcome was being "fixed" by McMahon ending the match prematurely (and how ironic it is to actually acknowledge that the outcome of a match is anything but "fixed"), many threatened to stop watching the WWF out of respect the way Bret Hart had been treated.
In the wrestling history books, the outcome of the 1998 Survivor Series main event will be recorded as a Shawn Michaels victory over Bret Hart for the WWF title. Fans were crying foul at the time, but look how things have changed since Bret's departure some nine months ago.
Stone Cold Steve Austin is the hottest thing in wrestling today. Love him or hate him, he's the best thing the WWF has ever seen, and he's bringing in the best ratings numbers and pay-per-view buyrates in the history of the company.
But he's not alone. Combine Austin with a great roster of young talent including: The Rock, Triple H, Jeff Jarrett, Val Venis, Edge, D-Lo, and some highly entertaining angles and what have you got? You've got a wrestling company that even the W.C.W. with its huge cash resources and big names such as Goldberg, The Warrior, Hulk Hogan, Bret Hart and Sting just can't surpass. McMahon is proving that it's not the big names that bring in the masses, it's what you do with them.
Back in November, the future of the WWF looked bleakÉ all courtesy of the way Vince McMahon ousted Bret Hart. Little did we know how McMahon would incorporate his negative real-life business decision into the hottest angle wrestling has ever experienced. I think if we knew then what we know now, we would have let The Hitman go without so much as a second thought.
I'm almost ashamed that I turned on the WWF and didn't give Vince the benefit of the doubt. Afterall, his company has brought some of the greatest moments in sports entertainment to life - Hulk Hogan VS. Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III (an indoor attendance record as well); Hell In The Cell I & II; Bret Hart VS. The Undertaker at SummerSlam '97; an Iron Man Match between Shawn Michaels & Bret Hart, and so many other memorable matches and events. How could we doubt such a company whose track record speaks for itself? Well Vince, after everything that's gone down the past 9 months, all I can say isÉ you're forgiven. Obviously, I'm not alone. The numbers speak for themselves.
Blair Matthews is from Cambridge, Ontario. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Blair is a former wrestling photographer. His wrestling photo website is: http://www.pww.on.ca/wrestle.htm