Thursday, July 22, 1999
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
Approaching the trade deadline
July 31st is a very important date for baseball fans. It marks the last day of unrestricted trades for those who hope to make their teams playoff contenders, and those who want to build for the future.
I currently live in Boston, Massachusetts, home of the Boston Red Sox, who perennially can afford to have one of the best teams on the field, year after year. Whether they succeed or not is an entirely different matter...
I also grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team where money is very tightly watched, and youth potential tends to power the team to either stardom or mediocrity.
Why should you care about this?
Well, in comparison, it's easy to see how WCW and the WWF have a rivalry similar to the Red Sox and Yankees, two teams who blow a lot of cash trying to keep near the front of the pack. They have rich farm systems (read as: low to mid carders), and, despite any number of setbacks due to injuries or slumps (read as: bad plotlines, misused opportunities, scheduling conflicts), continue to be the bar that most other federations (whether factual or, in the case of play by e-mail, imaginary) are measured.
Places like the USWA and ECW have existed on the periphery of professional entertainment because their talent is "young", "unproven", or "washed up", like smaller market teams in baseball, such as the Pittsburgh Pirates, or the Philadelphia Phillies. The names are not initially great, but in time, the talent pools develop, and super stardom can be achieved by any number of young athletes, and veterans may have a new life breathed into their careers. Case in point: ECW took in Bam Bam Bigelow after the WWF could find no use for him. After a successful run there, his emigration to WCW has him again viewed as a top competitor, despite a career that has offered him mostly incomplete storylines and wasted opportunities. The Pittsburgh Pirates took a chance on an aging pitcher, Rick Reuschel, in 1985, and until the end of his career in the early nineties, he had unparalleled success, pitching for both the Pirates and the Giants, earning an All Star nod, and earning a reputation as one of baseball's most dominating control pitchers.
Again, why should you care about this?
Almost every fan has offered the comment "If I was in charge of things, I would..." about the way professional sports are run. This includes wrestling. And while this would never happen in the real world, we can assume, within the confines of this article, that if it were a matter of preparing for a PPV spectacular, pitting federation against federation, the best and brightest from the four corners of the world, the trade activity in the next few weeks would lead to a furor, as the federations prepared to do battle with each other, pitting the best in the business in a war the fans could truly appreciate.
So, in examination of this mock trade deadline, let's take a look at five potential wrestling swaps that would not only be interesting to this reader, but also why these deals could occur...and what the implications would be.
Benefiting from a stronger cruiserweight division, Michinoku and Fallen Angel would shore up the division, currently shuddering from the loss of Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko to the heavyweight competition and Chris Jericho to the WWF. Fallen Angel, who has shown his talents in the Windy City, would be a fine addition to the regular lineup, and Taka Michinoku is already well enough established to offer a consistent feud with the current champion, Rey Mysterio, Jr. and the number one contender, Kidman. The WWF picks up not only a new member for the Brood or the Corporate Ministry in Sick Boy, young and full of potential, but they pick up an established tag team and singles wrestler who, when paired with the Big Boss Man (who has recently been severely off his game), would provide a solid tag team of strong yet capable brawlers, with a history of extreme (remember when Darsow was half of Demolition?).
4.) ECW sends New Jack to the WWF in exchange for D-Lo Brown and Blue Meanie.
New Jack's violent tendencies make him a more efficient fighter than either Brown or the former Nasty Boy have shown themselves to be. Around New Jack and a new core of brawlers, the Nation of Domination may prove more deadly in rebirth than the original version. Furthermore, pairing New Jack with Faarooq in this organization gives it some serious teeth.
Blue Meanie has done his best work in ECW, and with some serious backing, may ascend back to that level and out of the low level matches he's fallen to. D-Lo Brown would be best used for short term purposes, before....
While the WWF broadcasts its desire to further the homegrown talent, it has done very little of that in the case of D-Lo Brown. While I initially had no opinion of him whatsoever, he's proven to be at worst, a solid worker, and at best, a man who can evoke either sympathy or hatred with the best of them. In WCW, D-Lo would have the chance to not only develop himself as a solid contender, but would provide the first real TV champion since Chris Jericho lost the belt. Rob Van Dam, in turn, provides the "perfect specimen" for the World belt...young, talented, and good looking, with mic skills to boot. In a stunning victory over a Kevin Nash/Hulk Hogan/Bill Goldberg, WCW could use Van Dam in the ways they should have used Chris Jericho...a threshold to the future.
ECW picks up the better part of this deal, believe it or not, as its roster is now flooded with talent that is VERY useable. While losing only two of their original wrestlers in their two deals, they receive twelve wrestlers of assorted sizes and statures, with the potential to make the fed much more recognizable to the newcomer. La Parka might be the surprise member of the trade, as Konnan found his first real success in ECW. Scott Putski and Hugh Morrus have enormous potential in a smaller place like the ECW, and the former nWo throwaways in Scott Norton, Brian Adams, and Horace Hogan suddenly become legitimate title threats in singles and tag team competition. Knobbs and Roadblock have hardcore written all over them, and upon Rick Steiner's arrival, the Gremlin could achieve the super stardom denied to him in the shadow of his brother. Paul Heyman would have the chance to orchestrate on a much grander scale what he is capable of...and in time, with Disorderly Conduct shoring up the tag team division even more, could prove his first real dominance in a legitimate title scene over WCW and the WWF- the best tag team division, bar none.
2.) WWF trades Mideon, Christian and Gangrel to WCW for Scott Steiner, Konnan, Lenny Lane, and Scotty Riggs.
This is a no-brainer. Christian, Gangrel, and Mideon have the aura of "darkness" about them, much moreso than the Undertaker or Kane. It's easy to perceive Gangrel as a new incarnation of Kevin Sullivan's character, and with the handsome Christian making the cruiserweight scene that much more impressive and Mideon serving to harass the TV title scene, Gangrel could be given the chance to lead a dark army...picking up Vampiro, Ciclope, and perhaps even Wrath along the way...in a new and much more effective version of the Flock. Gangrel would be given the chance to move from the shadow that Edge has cast over him and into a position where the vampire can be feared. The WWF, in turn frees up Edge to return to his original gimmick and the chance to advance on his own. Scott Steiner provides the WWF with some legit muscle (allowing them to release Mark Henry for health reasons) and an utterly unlikable personality that would mesh well in a feud with Rocky Maivia. Konnan would quickly earn the Intercontinental championship (allowing the international belt to be held by someone from another country, for once...) and could be used in a feud with (of all people) Kane in a true challenge of "rowdy-rowdy". Finally, Lenny Lane and Scotty Riggs could serve the tag team division best, in the same way the New Age Outlaws revitalized the careers of two perennial mid-carders, pushing them back into the spotlight.
...and the biggest deal of them all...
WWF acquires Sabu, Fit Finley, Disco Inferno, Rey Mysterio Jr., and Booker T.
ECW acquires Diamond Dallas Page, Wrath, Bob Holly, and Billy Gunn
WCW acquires HHH, the Headbangers, Bradshaw, and Jeff Jarrett
A brief summary on this one, since it involves all the drama of a Yankees fire-sale. If the WWF is to be serious about the European Belt, it may help to have a European hold it. Enter Fit Finley, a top notch wrestler who gets nowhere near enough respect in WCW. Sabu would give Steve Austin a newer, deadlier opponent who could very easily strip him of the belt. Booker T., combined with New Jack and Faarooq, could be the most powerful heel organization since the nWo began. Add to that the fact that Stevie Ray could probably be picked up for prospects, and you have a full team of bad guys. Disco Inferno serves best in a comic environment, and he could shine in the WWF. And Mysterio, reunited with Konnan, could prove to be a tag team tandem that would easily handle the WWF tag scene.
ECW picks up four heavy and hard hitters, with Bob Holly being a potential threat, as NO ONE would take him seriously until it was too late. Four definite personalities, and four definite champions in the mix.
WCW gets the nod, though, for the best part of this deal. HHH could very easily be a champion and would reinforce the youth movement. Bradshaw shores up the west Texas Rednecks into a New Horsemen lineup. The Headbangers add to an already interesting tag team scene with an established amount of ability and, as former title holders, deserve the chance to shine again. And Jeff Jarrett has always fared better in a place where scientific wrestling still stands a chance of occurring.
When I was a boy, I used to wonder what it would be like to be the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. To be able to negotiate trades to make a good team even better. When you grow up, you start to lose notice that it's always the fan's best interest that is being looked out for. It doesn't hurt to dream about change, especially when you envision what you feel would be the best situation for the team you root on the most. And with July 31st on the horizon, I know these trades will not and cannot occur...
...but it never hurts to hope.
Andre V.T. Dec is from Brookline, MA and can be reached by e-mail at Andre.Dec@Ceridian.com.