EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, April 14, 2000
Kudos to WCW for Nitro
Who'd have thought that I'd be writing a column praising Hulk Hogan on April 13, 2000?
There's hope yet for WCW.
WCW Nitro, for all its ills and blessings over the past year, has sucked. It's been horrible. One of the big reasons for that is the disorganization in the organization, so to speak, from top to bottom. No one really knows who's in charge from one day to the next, and in a political environment such as that one, that causes general confusion and apathy, since no one wants to choose sides when another side may be in power tomorrow.
More than that, though, WCW lately has looked like it hasn't even been trying. Like putting on a wrestling show is going through the motions. 'Let's just put the title on Sid and leave it there. I have fishing to do!' seemed an appropriate atmosphere.
The angles were half-thought through, the stories were contrived -- and many feuds didn't even follow stories. The random interference in my N64 wrestling games has been generating more sensible feuds, and it uses a pretty simple algorithm: When you get to number two contender for some title, and you're fighting for the number one contender's spot against (you guessed it) the number one contender, the holder of said title interferes in the match, causing you to win (or lose), and setting up a three-way match at the next pay-per-view. Sometimes, when things get really interesting, a fourth guy -- usually the third contender -- comes out and fends off the champion, helping you and setting up a fatal four-way match.
If only WCW had that kind of brilliant creativity lately. But it hasn't. It's stunk. And when management has bothered to come up with something, it's been either (a) stupid or (b) stupider. For example, The Dog.
Not so last Monday.
For once, it actually looked like someone sat down and asked himself 'How do I make this week's show interesting?' I don't know if it was Eric Bischoff, or Vince Russo, or both, but the result was a pleasant sight for sore eyes, and this past week was the first time I watched Nitro and taped Raw in a long time.
Deserving honourable mentions for their performances on Monday:
Eric Bischoff. Despite all the bad blood between him and pretty much everyone, his poor reputation with fans -- especially internet fans -- he came out and delivered. When he returned, it was with his tail between his legs over his last failure or series of failures, but he acted like a man and came back anyway. Bravo, good show.
Kidman. Despite the specific bad blood between him and Hogan, he worked like a professional and came off very well, I think -- except that he didn't seem to believe, the entire night, that he was really working opposite Hogan.
All the old guys minus Hogan. For allowing themselves to be grouped, this time around, as the old guys -- even if they are called the millionaire's club or whatever. That shows class.
Hogan. He deserves special mention by himself. He sucked it up, took his licks, and jobbed like a man. It was a fair trade, him beating on Kidman early on then doing the stretcher job later when his limousine got smashed by Kidman and Bischoff's Hummer.
Vince Russo. That was a good example of how Crash TV can not suck.
A lot of the guys who were holding back WCW, and preventing the new guys from doing their jobs and trying their best, did what they had to do on Monday, and as a result, I'm waiting anxiously to see if the young blood -- sorry, New Blood -- can return the favour this weekend and this coming week.
Welcome back, WCW, I hope you choose to stay longer than a week or two.
One last thing before I go. I agree, Raw pretty much sucked this week, at least compared to a hot Nitro. Despite some decent wrestling, the matches were meaningless and the show really disappointed me. More than that, though, it demonstrates a cockiness on the part of the WWF that many find troublesome.
Well, don't make any WCW-coming-back predictions just yet. The WWF has ten guys right now who are more over than WCW's top guy, Goldberg (partly because he's been gone), and two more coming back this summer. Not to mention, even if WCW was the best show on television, no one's watching to see it, so it'll take time for any kind of return to be staged.
No, I think the WWF is safe for awhile. Not until all their top performers get stale and their viewers all have a chance to channel surf during Raw to find Nitro will Nitro start to tip the scales back. And even with a few bad shows in a row, Vince McMahon can, I think, easily avoid that.
My prediction: WCW will continue to improve but won't even make catching-up waves until mid-to-late summer, if at all. They just have so much ground to cover.
Anyway, that's it. Mailbag!
Ryan C, from email@example.com, writes:
"Hi, I'm Ryan and I live in Massachusetts and I just want to say I agree with your review of WM2000. I have spent the last few years praying for the predictability of the main event to end but knew it never would. When Mick Foley was eliminated I thought to myself why not just hand Rock the title now? When The Rock was pinned I was very excited knowing the predictability had finally ended."
Hi Ryan. Despite what the initial reports seemed to say, that Wrestlemania sucked for this reason and that, most of the mail I got seemed to agree with my sentiments about WM XVI being a refreshing change -- and that's not a biased sample, I know how easily you guys take me to task when you think I'm wrong. So maybe it's just the Internet 'smarts' who didn't like the show, by and large? Who knows?
All that matters is what you thought, anyway.
Doug Carlson, from firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
"Eric: you have finally confirmed my suspicions that you are a WWF mark all along if you really liked that show. That was a brutal show! You liked the main event? As soon as Mankind/Foley/Jack lost, there was no doubt who was going to win (Rock-Mummy-remember?) As well, having technical wrestlers job to Chyna? Get real. There was only one match that was a singles, and that was the forgettable women's match. Everything else was 4, 5, 6, wrestlers at a time! No imagination! Remember the great singles matches of Wrestlemania past, Hogan and anybody, Hart and anybody, Austin and anybody...well you get the idea. And finally, who really cares if Vince is evil again, it has been done so many times already, that Vince must have to have cue cards to remind himself of which character he is portraying. I agree with most of the reviews of this show, and think that if you were to be honest, you would give it the same poor review you often give WCW shows. This was a real disappointment for what the WWF usually gives, and may be a sign that there storylines and talent are equally as weak."
Vince McMahon's heel turn was nearly irrelevant, it's been done so many times. I'll give you that. But many of your other arguments are specific to you, and your attempts to apply them to me or anyone else are arrogant.
Getting Eddie's team to job to Chyna turned out to be a solid intro to the following evening. As far as "4, 5, or 6 wrestlers at a time, no imagination," I think it took quite a bit of imagination to put together Edge, Christian, Buh Buh Ray, D'Von, Matt, and Jeff all together in a three-way ladder/tables match for the tag team titles, and that match saved the show. I haven't seen a match that good in WCW in the past two and a half years, and if I had then my reviews of their shows would probably be better. Not since the cruiserweight era has WCW had undercard matches so good that their shows were bullet-proof.
I enjoyed Wrestlemania. I sat there, and I liked what I saw. Who the heck are you to tell me otherwise? I had a good time, and I left in a good mood. Just because you didn't -- not my fault.
And as for me being a WWF mark, well, when WCW puts on some good shows (a la this past Monday), then I'll change my tune. Until then, why shouldn't I be a WWF mark?
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, I welcome your feedback as always. Have a great week!
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