Tuesday, November 28, 2000
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
Who's right, who's wrong for wrestling
These days, wrestling is more widespread, popular, and controversial than ever. Some say it's the best it's ever been, while others, like myself, find it harder to watch each week. What some view as a boon for the industry, others see as a detriment.
But what about the performers and promoters themselves? Who works for the industry and who only gives it a bad name? Who are right for wrestling, and who are wrong?
1. Chris Benoit: Without question, this man is the best wrestler in the world today, bar none. However, his lack of repetitive catch phrases, over-hyped pizzazz and long-winded mic skills don't endear him to fans or promoters in an industry where hype means everything and substance means next to nothing. In the ring, Benoit not only makes the moves look good, he also helps to improve those who work with The Crippler. He deserves better than what he's getting.
2. Vince Russo: His decision to throw younger talent and mid-carders into the spotlight is great for the industry and for those wrestlers themselves. If Russo could only have made a better go of his Powers That Be and New Blood/Millionaire's Club angles, WCW would be in much better shape than it is in now. After all, anyone who could make Hulk Hogan watchable again (in reference to his feud with Billy Kidman in the spring) can do anything.
3. Bret Hart: Say what you will, but the Hitman is still a class act. His career ended on a string of sour notes: the tragic death of his brother Owen, the infamous worldwide-televised backstab by Vince McMahon, his mismanagement in WCW and a life-altering head injury at the hands of Bill Goldberg. Yet he handled it all with great dignity. It's too bad WCW chose to release him -- with his experience, knowledge and vision, Hart could have done wonders for the company as a consultant, writer, or trainer.
4. Chris Jericho: His mic talent is a reminder of how Roddy Piper could make us laugh, even when he was a first class heel. In addition, Jericho can back up his words with his in-ring talent.
5. Kurt Angle: Another pure talent in the ring and on the mic. And he's the first Stars-And-Stripes-adorned wrestler to be able to pull off the heel angle.
6. Chyna: She not only was smart enough to receive proper training before stepping into the wrestling world, but she's re-paved the way for women in wrestling to be more than just eye candy or often-victimized valets.
7. Bobby Heenan: In limbo for far too long, The Brain's colour commentary never gets tiresome. Like Jerry Lawler, he's always clever and funny and he knows the business. How WCW can justify dumping Heenan for the untalented, annoying likes of Mark Madden and Stevie Ray is beyond comprehension.
8. Jeff Jarrett: The man who coined the fun phrase "Slapnuts," Jarrett is known for being a true professional inside the ring and out and consistently gives good performances as a Grade A heel.
9. Sting & The Undertaker: Despite years of dedicated service and their huge popularity, neither are reaping the in-ring benefits they deserve. Taker's two WWF title reigns lasted a mere three months combined, while Sting, once the top dog in WCW, has had to surrender the spotlight to the likes of Hogan, Goldberg, Kevin Nash and several other Johnny-come-latelys. Yet the pair continue to do their job, do it well, and do it without complaint.
10. Paul Orndorff: Whatever he's doing at the Power Plant, he's doing it well. The youngsters coming into WCW from the Plant are exhibiting great talent. Well done, Mr. Wonderful.
1. The Rock: Further proof that wrestling today is all hype, no substance. Anyone who knows wrestling can see his in-ring talent is very suspect. The Rock can only rely on overused catch phrases and ridiculous sight gags (The People's Eyebrow???) For instance, The People's Elbow: Why run across the ring twice only to stop on a dime and kill your momentum before delivering a weak elbow drop? Yes, he creates great fan heat, but if it were not for the relationship his father and grandfather had with the WWF, Rocky Maivia would likely be a struggling mid-carder at best.
2. Hulk Hogan: Like The Rock, he's all hype, no substance. Does this man know even one wrestling hold?
3. Steve Austin: Great role model for the kids, isn't he? He swears, guzzles beer, gives the finger to everyone, uses The Bible as toilet paper with his prostitution of John 3:16, strikes people who can't defend themselves, and attacks from behind. Austin was at one time a good wrestler -- now he's trailer trash who fights dirty and, for it, is proclaimed a hero.
4. Vince McMahon: Everyone knows how low this man will go to get what he wants, yet wrestlers continue to sign with him, people continue to trust and believe him, and fans continue to throw their hard-earned money at him. McMahon's record speaks for itself...Owen Hart: dead. Bret Hart and countless others: betrayed and humiliated. The likes of Hogan, Randy Savage, and Roddy Piper: disrespected and trashed after several years of loyal service to the WWF. Women: treated like sex objects and punching bags. Fans: Insulted and taken advantage of. And to top it all off, McMahon has no reservation about giving the spotlight to his family above the wrestlers.
5. Vince Russo: This man has the ability to concoct and conduct great entertainment, but these days is not putting that talent to good use. WCW is dying a slow death and the saviour Russo isn't doing much to resuscitate it.
6. Bill Goldberg: Ever notice how the tone of "GOLD-BERG" sounds exactly like that of "BOR-ING"? It's no coincidence. There is absolutely no mystery to any of his matches. Spear, Jackhammer, Pin. Time of the bout: half a second. And here he is on another endless win streak: BOR-ING! That may be the promoters' idea, but Goldberg himself is no boon for wrestling. After all, it's no secret that he has a dislike and lack of respect for the industry who pays his king's ransom of a salary. He, himself, has said that he only got into wrestling because he needed a job, not because he wanted to. What an insult to the fans who put money in his pocket. This man's decision to quit training after only four months cost Bret Hart his career: When Goldberg delivered the mule kick to Hart's head, where was Bill looking? At the mat and not at his target. He also broke an orbital bone in Scott Steiner's face and nearly ended his own career by putting a fist and forearm through a limo window. Go back to the Power Plant, Goldberg.
7. Mark Madden & Jim Ross: Two highly-aired windbags who only succeed at irritating TV viewers enough to mute the sound or change channels.
8. Rey Mysterio Jr. & Teri Runnels: They pride themselves on being "little devils" - Rey has dyed his hair red and actually wears devil horns, while Teri makes the horn gestures with her hands. Kids (including Teri's daughter) don't need their heroes giving the message that Satan is "cool."
9. Paul Heyman: The ECW has its moments, but it goes too far too often and is in no way suitable for kids to watch. Heyman, meanwhile, seems to think he can rip off Roddy Piper's personality and gimmick and do it successfully. Think again, Paul.
10. The Promoters: They have no right to "persuade" wrestlers to perform stunts and high-risk wrestling moves, especially without agreeing to unionize the performers. Look at the increasing number of deaths and serious injuries, resulting from the demand for a more spectacular show. To the promoters, it's all about ratings, which mean more money, which means more power. Tell Owen Hart's children the promoters don't "ask" too much from the wrestlers.
Yes, wrestling is huge and has its share of positive people, but until the increasing number of negative moneymen, performers and characters sees a decline, the industry once known as "family entertainment" will only have all the entertainment value of the L.A. riots.
K.A. Shaver is from Cornwall, Ontario and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.