Tuesday, January 5, 1999
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
WCW grasping at straws
If 1997 was the year of World Championship Wrestling, one would find it hard to argue that 1998 wasn't the year of the World Wrestling Federation. All it took was a bit of an Attitude change, along with some new booking techniques, to turn the tide.
Where the WWF had attempted to regain their power with angles and attitude, WCW has done far worse in their attempt to catch up. After failing to hold any ratings victories past a one week period since April, WCW finally resorted to something they had tried first on September 11, 1995 - the second ever edition of Nitro.
Monday night, on a live WCW Monday Nitro broadcast, two announcers broadcast the results of a taped WWF Monday Night Raw is War to the home audience.
The rumours were rampant on Internet newboards leading up to Monday night's programs. Most people seemed to hope that WCW would not go through with their plan, but that would not be the case. Soon after a Hollywood Hulk Hogan interview, and just prior to commercial, WCW broadcaster Tony Schiavone announced that Mick Foley would be winning the "other federation's" championship belt tonight. This was soon followed by Mike Tenay reiterating Tony's comments during a Scott Steiner vs. Konnan match. For what reason? Undoubtedly, under the assumption that viewers would tune into Nitro rather than Raw if they already knew what happened. It worked in 1995, why not now?
I'm writing this column on Monday night, just after Nitro has gone off the air. Of course, I have no idea who will win the ratings war this week. However, what WCW has done may end up with a result far different from what they had hoped.
All across North America, Mick Foley has slowly been building up the kind of grassroots following most wrestlers can only dream of. Simply by going out and giving 100% each and every night, fans have flocked to him. He has topped poll after poll to end the year, his merchandise is selling at record pace. The point? Mick Foley is most likely the most popular wrestler after Steve Austin in professional wrestling today. Some may make a case for Goldberg, Nash, Hogan, and any assortment of others. However, nobody has developed the natural following that Mick Foley has. The world WANTED to see this man win the Title -- and Monday night, he did. With that in mind, does anybody else recognize the possible hazards in announcing that he will finally receive the largest prize in professional wrestling -- ON THE OTHER CHANNEL?!?
I'll be interested in taking a look at the quarter hour ratings this week. A reformation of the old NWO would have done well on any day, there's no doubt about that. But will it have kept the viewers from channel surfing, or encouraged them to reach for the remote? I have to admit, a part of me is pulling for the WWF to grab the large victory. Where Vince McMahon has challenged WCW with booking, plots, and gimmicks, the WCW has countered by making personal attacks, launching free network shows opposite WWF pay-per-view programs, and finally, announcing results before they happen.
Eric Bischoff is grasping at straws, and if justice prevails for the week of January 4th, 1998, we can add another dimension to the wrestling timeline of the 1990s -- the day the World Wrestling Federation sunk their hooks in the collective conscious of the viewing public with a helpful push by their largest rival.
Rick Jessup is from Toronto, ON. He can be emailed at email@example.com