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SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.

Friday, February 18, 2000

On baseball and trade deficits

Eric Benner
By ERIC BENNER
Special to SLAM! Sports


A weekly
SLAM! Wrestling
Editorial Column

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Ahhh, how beautiful. The birds are starting to chirp and sing, small animals are coming out from their winter holes, and the sun is starting to shine. Spring is approaching! Alright, alright, we got sixty-five centimeters of snow (two and a quarter feet for Yanks keeping score!) this past week in Montreal and it seems that winter will never end. But spring makes for such a better lead-in to my special baseball issue of this column!

Alright, wrong again. How about wrestling with a baseball flavour then? Yeah, let's talk trades.

Before I get to that, though, here's a slightly shameless plug: myself and some of you esteemed SLAM! readers have gotten together and assembled a cute little newsletter - Canuckleheads, full of Canadiana and more importantly, wrestling. Try it for a lark, send an email to canuckleheads-subscribe@listbot.com to subscribe.

Oh yeah, right, the article.

See, I've been reading nothing but talk about this whole Ken Griffey Jr. deal, a highway robbery-type deal that sends baseball's marquee player to a second-rate team for half his market value, and it immediately got me thinking about wrestling.

You know, trades in wrestling. It happens, except of course, it's more like free agency in that 'exchanges' of wrestlers rarely take place. It's almost always a wrestler getting released and then running up north or down south or ... wherever ECW is on that proverbial map.

When you put it all together, though, and assemble all such moves for 1999, it's sort of like one big 'trade'. And if we're to assume that flows of talent are important, which they clearly are, then progress in 1999 can be viewed as one big three-way trade between the WWF, WCW, and ECW. Here's how it all went down, that is, if it were a blockbuster trade.

The WWF received:
-- The Big Show
-- Chris Jericho
-- The Dudleyz
-- Tazz
-- Blue Meanie
-- Stevie Richards (I think these two were received in 1999)
And lost:
-- Jeff Jarrett
-- Vince Russo
-- Ed Ferrara
-- Dustin Runnels

Don't forget, this is 1999, and The Radicals came in the new year.

Clearly, the WWF has won in the talent department here. Of the new entries, only the Blue Meanie hasn't made a splash of any kind. I mean, neither did Stevie Richards, but he injured himself in the foot six times so that's to be expected. Tazz is just getting started, Chris Jericho has fit in well as their Intercontinental champ, and The Big Show was even their heavyweight title holder for awhile. Meanwhile, The Dudleyz are red hot right now and are sure to own straps of their own in time.

In the loss department, Jeff Jarrett probably would have been a bigger deal if he'd made a bigger splash in WCW, but his opponents keep disappearing. Meanwhile, Dustin Runnels has been a non-factor, though less than Russo and Ferrara, who aren't actually doing anything right now. Well, Ferrara is still helping to book awful television, with regular appearances as his Oklahoma character.

The verdict: the WWF has made smart moves in two ways. One, they picked the right guys to mix well with their organization, and two, they had the fore-sight to bolster their line-up, the result of which has been that the absence of Ken Shamrock, Steve Austin, and The Undertaker has been totally irrelevant in the short run.

WCW received:
-- Jeff Jarrett
-- Vince Russo
-- Ed Ferrara
-- Big T (I'm stretching it to call this a trade transaction, I know)
-- Shane Douglas
-- Dustin Runnels
And lost:
-- The Big Show
-- Chris Jericho
-- Shane Douglas

What's so strange is that even without the addition of The Radicals to this list, WCW gave away more than they received even though they received twice as many people. Big T is essentially useless at this point, and was a pipe dream of Mr. 'Mark', Vince Russo. Equally, Russo didn't get the chance before the carpet was yanked from under him. Dustin hasn't done anything important, Shane Douglas joined the Revolution, failed, got injured, and is now suing the company. Ed Ferrara is Oklahoma. And Jeff Jarrett, easily the best buy of the bunch, is lukewarm at best right now.

Finally, they lost their two best hopes for the future in The Big Show and Chris Jericho, two under-thirty future (now present) champions. Oh yeah, and I guess they lost Douglas again, too.

The verdict: WCW gave away the guys they should have kept, and hired all sorts of inept talent. Of the useful talent they acquired, well, they buried them.

ECW received:
-- Dusty Rhodes
And lost:
-- Tazz
-- The Dudleyz
-- Shane Douglas
-- Stevie Richards
-- The Blue Meanie

ECW, largely, has been unable to affect this aspect of their organization. The fact is, right now, that the money and exposure lies elsewhere. Greener pastures are frequently found by ex-ECW alumni, but the real problem here is that in 2000, I don't know if they have the talent to back up the departures.

Now, I'm sure I haven't told you anything you didn't already know -- WCW makes stupid decisions, the WWF is well-stocked, and poor ECW gets picked to death by bigger vultures. Add the defections of Chris Candido and Tammy Sytch, The Radicals, and possibly Sabu, and that stance is only reinforced.

But this isn't useless information. I feel that the way a wrestling organization -- admittedly, a talent-based organization -- handles their talent is critical to their success. Imagine a sports team that didn't do a good job of handling their talent. They'd crumble for sure. Just ask the Boston Bruins.

There's a lesson, somewhere, in all of this. Maybe if WCW stopped worrying about catching up to the WWF and started worrying about handling themselves like professionals, bringing in good people, and letting them do their thing for awhile, then they could stop digging that grave and perhaps get some ratings.

But you and I both know that won't happen under current leadership. Instead, WCW will continue to move in this senseless direction. My prediction -- WCW should steal away Mideon. That would make the cycle complete. No, wait, they'd have to prevent his living up to his potential (if that's possible), then pay him to sit at home.

Mailbag!

Paul Dooner, from pdooner@hfx.andara.com, writes:
"Good columns, but something that you wrote in agreeing with a letter last week surprised and disappointed me. It was that the WCW was stupid to let four overrated (at least on the Internet) wrestlers take a release. You were agreeing with comments that Busch gave up the rope that hung himself etc. I disagree with you completely here. It is called leadership. There is no question that WCW is flailing right now, and it is all too easy to kick them when they are down, but sometimes the cost of inaction is too high, as was the case with the Radicals. Of course, Bill Busch knew people would take him up on his release offer -- that is the point. The bad attitudes and unhappy employees HAVE to be cleared out before WCW can go forward. And let's keep in mind that while these four were super-hyped on the Internet, they were not that entertaining in their time in WCW (did you even notice that Malenko was gone during his hiatus? - of course, some of the boredom surrounding these guys can be attributed to WCW). Basically, my point is, please step back and look at the situation from both sides. WCW is apparently full of bad attitudes and Busch decided to do something about it, clearing out four from the locker room. This leadership and commitment to improving the organization's morale is a start to improving things. Now, if Nash and Hall would have taken him up on it things would be a lot better. Does anyone care what they do anymore (other than Internet wrestling board writers who seem to think they can still be entertaining)?"

Paul, my stance is that good leadership is forcing the Fab Four to stick around, cleaning up one's act, then firing Scott Hall, not the other way around. You can call it leadership when someone actually leads WCW in some direction. Until then, it's just abuse of power, as far as I'm concerned.

To suggest that The Radicals were a problem for the locker room but that Scott Hall, Scott Steiner, Kevin Nash, or a multitude of others are not is preposterous.


Syxx, from syxxcdn@sympatico.ca, writes:
"I think you article was excellent and you should forward a copy to WCW."

That's just the problem, though. I mean, not that my opinion is worth anything more than the web-space it occupies, but WCW already knows what they have to do. If they really don't, then they're either stupid or clouded, but even then, they have access to many people who know what to do. Mike Tenay, for instance, who clearly has a better grip on what's going on right now than whoever's actually in charge up there.

It isn't that it's some mystery to them, it's that their priorities are all out of whack. It's laughable.


That's all for this week. Go subscribe to the newsletter (send email to canuckleheads-subscribe@listbot.com), and once it gets rolling, maybe contribute. Meanwhile, keep feeding the mailbag, thanks for reading, thanks for writing, and have a great week!

Send email to ebenner@hotmail.com.


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