Tuesday, September 22, 1998
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
Recent months lacking memorable bouts
If you've been a wrestling fan long enough, you probably have at least a dozen or so favourite matches. While some were great simply because of the holds and moves used, most likely some of those matches had a certain 'aura' about them - that what you were watching was a piece of history.
It doesn't have to be for the world heavyweight title either: the match just has to have the perfect mix of hype, wrestlers and plot. You know that you've witnessed a classic if the aforementioned elements have been well-proportioned.
The problem is that such matches have been few and far between over the past six months. Despite WCW's all-star roster, which has the tools to create a dream match at any given time, they have not found this mix in a long time. For example, Sting vs Hollywood Hogan at last year's Starrcade was hyped for months and featured two legitimate icons; however, the wrestling in it absolutely stunk, and the ending was inconclusive and disappointing.
On the other hand, the WWF has also been guilty of this. Take the famed Undertaker vs Mankind Hell in a Cell from earlier this year. Now, no one can argue the wrestling wasn't amazing; the outcome and subsequent impact of it wasn't bad either. However, the WWF did very little to promote this match, compared to, say, the Steve Austin/Shawn Michaels or Austin/Dude Love matches held within the same relative time frame.
It is high time that both Vince McMahon and Eric Bischoff take a long look at what they've got sitting right in front of them and start carrying out plans to make more classic matches; bouts that people will talk about for years to come.
Even in the last ten years, we've had numerous bouts that fans still speak highly of today. Among my favourites: Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior (the first time it happened, thank you), Bret Hart vs Curt Hennig at SummerSlam 1991, Legion of Doom vs Nasty Boys at the very same event, the Razor Ramon-Shawn Michaels ladder match at WrestleMania X, and even the first two encounters between Hogan and Andre the Giant. Although most of these guys aren't known for their technical skills, those matches were highly anticipated AND well-received.
I'm not forgetting WCW, either. After a nine-month buildup, Sting vs Ric Flair in 1989 had a great match with a storybook ending. There was also Sting vs Sid Vicious at Halloween Havoc 1990, Lex Luger vs Ron Simmons at Halloween Havoc 92 and Ric Flair vs Big Van Vader in 1993 as bouts that stand out in my mind. These weren't always 'super matches' at the event of the year, but classics nonetheless.
How can McMahon and Bischoff invent more of these classics? Easy - just remember three simple things:
(1) The appropriate amount of hype. We don't want to see a Hogan-Sting confrontation every week for 11 months; WCW simply created a monster situation that couldn't be solved in a mere twenty minute match. By the same token, the WWF has recently taken to only giving a few weeks between pay-per-views to build up an angle; if no one knows enough about the match yet, you've lost that aura.
(2) Wrestlers must have their game face on. At this year's WrestleMania, an injured Shawn Michaels actually carried both Austin and Mike Tyson, turning what could have been a classic into 'just okay'. Normally great wrestlers ranging from Bret Hart to The Rock have been putting on lackluster performances lately - yet those who get lots of heat (e.g. Goldberg) rarely a chance to show some actual skill in the ring.
(3) No screwjob endings. Fine for a feud you want to carry on for several months, but absolutely dreadful when you've got a potential classic on your hands. After all, who really wants to find out the conclusion the next night of what should have been a classic? Don't ruin a great match to boost your ratings; as we know by now, there are tons of other ways to do THAT!
There you have it. Now let's see some memorable bouts.
Sean B. Pasternak is from Toronto, Ontario. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org