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

Friday, January 7, 2000

The Curse of the Wrestling Fan

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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I don't feel like critiquing actual wrestling this week. There just isn't a whole lot to say that I haven't said in the preceding weeks, because frankly, what we saw this past week on Raw and Nitro was the same as what we saw the week before that. Okay, I get it, the nWo are a bunch of baseball-wielding baddies and Triple H isn't a very nice booker. Move on.

Instead, in honour of the announcement that there would be two more Blair Witch movies - a prequel and a sequel, I bring to you a dark and sinister tale of evil magic at its very best: The Curse of the Wrestling Fan!

Make no mistake, The Curse is very, very real. It isn't some fictional creation designed to scare children into eating their dinner or adults into avoiding private property, nor to sell movie tickets. Despite that, it would probably make an even less interesting movie than Blair Witch, and that's saying something.

Alright, enough meandering. The Curse of the Wrestling Fan is something that afflicts all of us, all but a the most casual of fans. It affects our viewing habits and our enjoyment of the so-called anti-sport. It affects each and every one of our lives.

Here it is - are you ready?

The Curse of the Wrestling Fan is that no matter how putrid the drivel projected onto our television screens, we just keep on watching. That's it. That's all there is to it.

I'm an anecdote kind of guy, so here's an anecdote to explain. You're watching some show, something you usually like. Friends, Law and Order, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, whatever. So you sit down one day to watch the latest episode of Law and Order, and oh my goodness, it's utter crap. The story-line is horrible, for whatever reason. Maybe in this case, it's about prosecuting a man for a crime he didn't commit, and the crime is felinicide, or cat-murdering. Yawn.

Here's the catch. Likely, in a situation like this one, you do one of two things. Change the channel, or turn off the television.

You don't show up at work or school in the morning complaining how bad it was, you don't write letters and e-mails to people complaining how much you hate the show. Likely, you don't even think twice about it.

That is, unless the television programming has the word 'wrestling' in it. See, we're such huge fanatics for wrestling that we appreciate it on a deeper level. It's more like a good friend than an acquaintance, and we've pledged to stick with it, through and through.

And no, switching from Raw to Nitro when one's better doesn't count. You've still got The Curse.

This kind of thing is bound to happen when people get so attached to something. Like an arm or a brother, we can't just give up on a wrestling show because it's bad, because that means we might be less inclined to watch it next week! And we can't change the channel, because what kind of fans would we be then?

I realize that this particular syndrome doesn't include everyone. I, for instance, am rarely home when wrestling's on, so I watch it on tape, and fast forward is a great solution to bad wrestling. But I do stay loyal to the shows even when they're bad three or four weeks in a row. Wrestling just means more to me than regular television, which I watch on a whim and never consistently.

This all has some pretty important ramifications about the way we see wrestling. It doesn't make sense, if you really think about it, to ever say a given show - RAW, Nitro, Smackdown!, ECW on TNN, whatever - sucks week after week. That would be akin to eating sushi for dinner every night when you hate it each and every time, then complaining about it in the morning. But we do watch each week, and we do say it sucks when it does, and we do keep on watching.

That's the kind of brand loyalty that wrestling has built into us. It's also because there's a whole lot more to wrestling than the live shows, for instance the internet sites and live shows, the merchandise. It's really a whole way of life, which we all buy in to some extent. And to give up on the show doesn't just mean you'd stop watching the show, it also means you detach yourself from the rest of the lifestyle. If I stopped watching Raw, I'd feel pretty stupid spouting off The Rock's lines when they're appropriate, as they so often are.

The moral? I got none. This is just my way of trying to throw some literary-type analysis into wrestling, and explain why people would ever bother to complain, week after week, about a given show.

If you have an alternate explanation, let me hear it. Meanwhile, here's The mailbag.

Simon L, from, writes:
"We ARE in the new Millennium. The very first year was 0000, not 0001. (If the first year was 01, then we would have to complete the year 2000 to complete the millennium.)"

Okay, here it is, for the last time, drawn out as simply as I can.

The conventional calendar we now use was invented, obviously, at the beginning of the first millennium. It was invented by Westerners. Now, at the time, let's call it The Beginning, Westerners hadn't yet discovered zero. And they wouldn't until centuries later, when the Middle-Easterners would show it to them.

Now, if they hadn't yet discovered zero, and had no concept that nothing could be represented numerically, then why on earth and how on earth would they make the first year of their calendar zero?

And who makes zero the first of anything, anyway? Do we celebrate zeroith birthdays? What's the stone for the zeroith anniversary? Cubic zirconium maybe?

No, the first year was one. If I can't convince you with logical arguments, then go look it up, because conveniently, it's also a fact.

Follow the train of thought - if the first year was one, then the first year of the second millennium would have been 1001. Guess what the first year of the third millennium will be. That's right, 2001. Same goes for centuries, too. Same logic. Try it at home.

I hope that closes the case.

John Tutecky, from, writes:
"Just wanted to get your thoughts on Bret Hart's heel turn. Personally, I was expecting Bret to be a face for the rest of his career, especially after Owen's death. I realize they needed to come out of Starrcade with a "shocking" turn of events, and Bret is just playing a character, but I think turning him was a questionable choice. He's already turned heel twice last year. But this time it was only a mild shock to me since he's turned too many times. Turning Goldberg may have been the better thing to do, it would have had more shock value. No matter what people think of Bret both in the ring and behind the scenes,he shouldn't have been put in the nWo. Based on the sympathy factor alone, he should have been kept as a face. By the way,I'm not crazy about the nWo being reformed. I just hope they don't make the mistake of putting guys in that don't belong,like Stevie Ray, Horace, Vincent/Curly Bill/Shane/whoever,etc. Your thoughts?"

I think Bret Hart makes a superb heel. But by heel, I mean Triple H heel, Vince McMahon heel. A classic, annoying, you-really-want-to-see-him-get-beat-up credible heel. I don't feel he makes much of a too-cool-for-you nWo heel, and I think he's more than a little out of place there.

I didn't think he'd stay face for the rest of his career. He just doesn't erupt the crowds the way the really popular faces do anymore. No one's interested in a goody two-shoes, especially given his attitude over the past three years. So a heel turn, to me, was inevitable. Then another. Then another. It only follows that the same logic still applies.

And to me, to keep him a face because of Owen Hart, for the rest of his career, doesn't do anyone any favours.

I think that everyone realizes that the nWo was too big last time and that mistake won't be made again. Scott Steiner was a good addition, I feel, and he belongs there. I can't think of anyone else who I'd like to see there, though. Maybe have them beat-down a member and throw him out the way the old nWo used to, though. That might draw some real heel heat.

I don't think we're in danger of facing another B-team.

That's all for this week. Thanks, as always for reading, and especially for writing. You guys have been a great source of ideas on ICQ, and I can be reached at 10595535, but as always, your emails feed the mailbag. Have a great week!

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