Friday, March 5, 1999
SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column
WCW starts to "get it" too
Isn't being sanctimonious fun?
Just ask Eric Bischoff. WCW's head honcho has been telling every major media outlet with an interest in pro wrestling--and that's plenty, considering wrestling's current popularity--about the despicable Vince McMahon and his trashy, obscene WWF. The way Bischoff told it, WCW was in the business of presenting wholesome sports-entertainment (or as wholesome as men beating the tar out of each other can be, anyway), while the opposition served up Jerry Springer-like filth.
That was the public stance. Privately, Bischoff and company must have checked out the Monday night Nielsen numbers and decided to take some notes on this "attitude" thing. WCW has a history of hiring away wrestling talent from the WWF, maybe its progressed to hiring away its writers as well. How else to explain the following?
Exhibit A - Torri Wilson
After an extended period of time spent getting rid of just about all women but the Nitro Girls, WCW brought the fitness guru in to seduce David Flair. Granted, the story line hasn't reached its conclusion and any sexual activity between Wilson and "the new, improved Magic Mountain" has been hinted at a bit more subtly than, say, Val Venis and Ryan Shamrock. But if turning on your own father for a woman is wholesome, someone needs to tell Webster to change his definition. I guess the fact that the nWo doesn't call Wilson the same thing The Godfather calls his "friends" makes it okay.
Exhibit B - Big Poppa Pump
I know it's not just me--Scott Steiner's promos and in-ring behavior are more lewd all the time. Once again, I suppose the connotation of the word "freak" (even in this particular context) is less obvious than the word "ho." That doesn't change the fact that Steiner's new act revolves around treating women like pieces of meat. And just what exactly were we supposed to think he'd do with Kimberly if the stipulation that he got her for 30 days for beating DDP was legit?
Exhibit C - Bam Bam Bigelow vs. The Sandman / Hak
It was creepy seeing Jim Fullington come to the ring wrapped in barbed wire and brandishing his Singapore cane on Nitro, and it wasn't just the shock of seeing him outside ECW. What made it surreal was precisely because it was on Nitro, not usually the home of anything even remotely hardcore. This is just a hunch, but the popularity of The Rock and Mankind's string of hardcore/fall-count-anywhere/gimmick of the week matches may have had something to do with this.
There are other smaller examples. A recent Nitro Girl swimsuit expose was gratuitous, albeit fairly tame. Saturn wearing a dress, though being played mostly for laughs, raises the faint specter of Goldust. Even the pre-SuperBrawl mass beating of Ric Flair by the nWo seemed a little brutal by WCW standards.
What's wrong with all of this? By itself, nothing. For me as a 23-year old viewer, WCW hasn't even begun to approach the point where anything they show offends me. And certainly, there's still quite a way to go before Nitro gets the same parental rating as Raw.
The thing is, there are plenty of people out there--mostly concerned parents--who appreciate the fact that there is a difference between the two products. Nitro has always been presented as the safe alternative to Raw, something kids could watch to enjoy the phenomenon that is professional wrestling in 1999 without having to worry about see too much that required parental explanation. Making Nitro more edgy threatens to remove that delineation.
But the problem isn't even that the gap is shrinking. In my mind, the problem is that WCW is starting to use the same weapons it supposedly abhors--namely, more adult subject matter--to try to fight the WWF in the ratings war. That my friends, is called hypocrisy, and the only thing worse than seeing someone not practice what they preach is seeing someone practice exactly what he's preaching against.
So here's my open message to Eric Bischoff: you can be as self-righteous as you want. You just can't have your cake and eat it too.
Nick Tylwalk is from Durham, NC, and is our regular Monday Night Nitro reporter, and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.