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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, January 28, 2000

WCW belts beyond meaningless

Eric Benner
By ERIC BENNER
Special to SLAM! Sports


A weekly
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As a continuity enthusiast, and one who hates to have television shows patronize me, please allow me to explain why, in my opinion, WCW currently has all the credibility of a Johnny Cochrane murder defense - less, even.

It's never really been a secret that WCW doesn't always emphasize all of its titles very well, but as of late, I think they've pretty much torched all of them. So it is without great pleasure that I bring to you, the WCW title lineage of 1999-2000!

Let's start with the television title. After years of being held by those who just weren't high enough on the card to hold anything better, from Arn Anderson to the best-of-seven series between Booker T and Chris Benoit, here's the WCW television title over the past few months:

New champion Date Former champion
Chris Benoit September 13, 1999 Rick Steiner
Rick Steiner Halloween Havoc Chris Benoit
Scott Hall Mayhem Rick Steiner
Trash can Sometime later Scott Hall


That's quite a progression there, from recent world champ and internet favourite Chris Benoit, to unpopular oft-injured ratings killer Rick Steiner, to one of the most unprofessional 'athletes' in wrestling, Scott Hall, to the trash can where he threw it when WCW dropped the title altogether. Oops, there goes years of history. But it's just the television title, right?

Let's have a look at the new hardcore title:

New champion Date Former champion
Norman Smiley Mayhem (Tournament)
Brian Knobbs January 13, 2000 Norman Smiley


Norman Smiley was admittedly funny in the role, for awhile, and Brian Knobbs does deserve the nod over Smiley, but this isn't exactly a lineage. I mean, this is the whole thing, the history of the title. Whoo!

What about the United States title?

New champion Date Former champion
Scott Hall November 9, 1999 Bret Hart
Chris Benoit Starrcade Scott Hall
Jeff Jarrett The following Nitro Chris Benoit
Jeff Jarrett Recently Jeff Jarrett?


Let me get this straight. Future world champion Bret Hart jobs to Scott Hall, who would at one point hold two titles at the same time, who drops the strap at Starrcade because he can't make it. Chris Benoit defeats Jeff Jarrett in a super ladder match for said title at said pay-per-view, and then Benoit, also a future world champ, jobs to Jarrett the following night. Both are slated to fight again at Souled Out, but Benoit is elevated to world champ and Jarrett is injured, so no one fights for it. Then Jarrett is awared the title again by Kevin Nash. The worst part about all this is, the United States title may be the most consistent title of them all in WCW.

We can't forget the tag team titles.

New champion Date Former champion
Big Vito & Johnny the Bull 1/19/00 David Flair & Crowbar


That says it all. An undeserving team beats another undeserving team to win the valueless WCW tag team titles, titles which lost all value well before Eric Bischoff got fired, probably sometime around when he decided to scrap the division and replace it with a rag-tag group of temporary teams like Scott Hall and the Giant. Hall, of course, was forced to drop the strap.

On the bright side, there's always the WCW cruiserweight title, the one title they always held over the WWF's head, the one title the WWF could never do right. I mean, clearly, you can't do much worse than Gillberg. Or can you:

New champion Date Former champion
Disco Inferno 10-4-99 Psychosis
Evan Karagias 11-21-99 Disco Inferno
Madusa Starrcade Evan Karagias
Oklahoma Souled Out Madusa
Madusa 1-19-99 Sherri Martel


Maybe you can do worse than Gillberg. Just ask Ed Ferrara.

This, after years of memorable feuds between Rey Mysterio Jr. and Dean Malenko, Dean Malenko and Chris Jericho, Chris Jericho and Eddy Guerrero, Eddy Guerrero and Ultimo Dragon, and the list goes on. Well, not anymore.

They say you can measure a wrestling organization at any given time by its champion and immediate challengers. Over in the WWF, you have Cactus Jack, The Big Show, and The Rock salivating over Triple H's well-earned title reign. In WCW, you have:

New champion Date Former champion
Sting Fall Brawl Hulk Hogan
Goldberg Halloween Havoc Sting
(Oops, that was ruled non-title, setting forth the 32-man title tournament.)
Bret Hart Mayhem Vacant
Chris Benoit Souled Out Vacant
Sid The following Nitro Vacant
Sid Subsequent Thunder Vacant


Notice the trend of former champions in WCW. The buzz word seems to be 'vacant'. That's not a strong buzz word.

All in all, it just seems to me that - aside from a series of injuries that WCW could not realistically avoid - there are several simple ways to maintain a title lineage better than they have. In fact, I've come up with a simple set of rule which WCW may use without compensation, if they like.

Firstly, don't give any titles, least of all the cruiserweight title, which symbolizes pure wrestling, to a non-wrestler. Vince McMahon was one thing, he was one of the most over heels ever. Ed Ferrera as Oklahoma is a whole other can of worms.

Second, don't strip your champions after one day's absence. The rule has always been once every thirty days, and Hogan didn't even have to abide by that during most of his recent tenure. Yet Bret Hart is medically unable to attend one pay-per-view and he's stripped. I understand that people want to see title defenses, but not this badly.

Third, don't give titles to Scott Hall. In the above linage, I listed maybe twenty title-holders. Scott Hall was represented four times, and in each of those four times, for varying reasons, he had to relinquish his title the day of a title defense. Try learning from your mistakes.

Fourth, don't constantly reverse title decisions. It happened to Goldberg after Halloween Havoc, and twice now to Sid. This just doesn't fly, especially so often.

Finally, don't give your most prestigious title, if that can even be said anymore, to a man who hates (literally) the people in charge and has demanded his release so he can work elsewhere. See, the odds are pretty good that this guy won't make such a hot champion, and you may have to, you know, strip him of it - again.

Heed my words wisely, WCW, and you may be able to make something of your increasingly limited roster, which I dare say is fast becoming the second deepest wrestling roster in the country. But that's a topic for a whole other column.

Speaking of topics for whole other columns, the amount of mail I received about last week's column, "A contract should be a contract", has actually reached the top ten responses to columns for me. Ever. This surprises me to no end, and more than that, almost no one agrees with me. The plan was to write a rebuttal this week, but I wanted to wait until the whole situation settled down so I could have all the facts at my disposal. As it looks now, it will be coming up next week. Until then, here's the mailbag, chock full of disagreement.

For the record, I fully agree on my stance last week, that the behaviour of Chris Benoit and company has been completely unprofessional, and I intend to back that up next week. So for now, here are some letters, unanswered until my next column.

Mike Robinson, from mdrobins@telusPlanet.net, writes:
"Eric, I think you are wrong about Benoit screwing Benoit. I believe that WCW screwed Benoit by bringing in Kevin Sullivan. Sullivan would have just put Benoit in a match against some old guy who has had the belt and done nothing with it (like Nash). I think if Russo was still there, Benoit would have the belt and be allowed to try and go with it. I'm sick of seeing Goldberg, Nash, Hogan and Sting as champion. They all had the belt, and neither of them took WCW too much higher in the ratings. Bret was a good champ, but unavoidable circumstances changed that. I just hope that when Bret is back, that they (Sullivan & Nash) do the right thing and give Bret another chance (I highly doubt it though). I also hope that Benoit goes to WWF and I would love to see the two Canadians named Chris fued for the I.C. Title, and give that belt some meaning again. They could have a few great matches and I know matches like Benoit vs. Edge, Benoit vs. either Hardy, Benoit vs. Bulldog (old Stampede buddies) or Benoit vs. Christian would all go over well in WWF. All I can say is that it's WCW's loss and they can't afford to lose much more."

Cameron Senek, from csenek@mb.sympatico.ca, writes:
"You know you're begining to sound like Vinny Mac. Benoit screwed Benoit? I didn't see any screwing going on in this at all. Let's look at facts. Benoit isn't happy with his MANAGER, so he goes to his BOSS and says, 'You know the old MANAGER was much better, I think we should give him a chance' and the BOSS says 'No Sorry Chris, the new MANAGER stays, there's less paperwork and less complaining by stuck-up parents who want to see wholesome violence not sexual, vulgar, viloence. No, new MANAGER in, old MANAGER out.'
Now as I see it Sullivan has it in for Mid Carders, you said it yourself in you column. '...old-school guy who has stated publicly many times that he would not push the mid-card talent' so if you don't see your career going anywere with a guy who has it in for you wouldn't you want to find a place that wants your talent? I mean it isn't good enough for some folks to just sit and do as their told so long as they get a cheque. They want to go somewhere and be something. And not all of us want to joing the Army so we can 'Be all that you can be'. Benoit walked out of Nitro because he didn't want to be treated like he was gold while his friends were thrown out. I call that loyalty not screwing. I don't know Eric, I usually agree with you but I think you're out of line and un-informed on this one. Not to insult you, just a personal view point. Take 'er easy"

Cody Bedell, from cbedell@ee.sd59.bc.ca, writes:
"I am sorry but I have to disagree with what you said. If in fact this Kevin Sullivan is going to be a major Jackass (by the way get well soon Austin) then I think the talent has a right to not be happy with the new changes. I do not think Benoit screwed Benoit. I think the consistent misuse of one of the best damn talents of all wrestling screwed Benoit and with the addition of a guy who is obviously going to be partial to screwing with Benoit. I do not blame Benoit for walking out. Plus it is obvious that all the people with power have their heads so far up somebody else's butt to realize what a great talent Benoit is or else they would have not been so quick to release him. I have to say if this one guy is going to cause so much trouble with a lot of the talent then I say yeah, get rid of him. So I am sure you will not even answer this but even if you do you will tell me how I am wrong but I am interested to know what you think."

And those were the polite letters. I'd love to address them all now, but I that would take some thunder away with what I have planned for next week. So on that note, I'll see you next week. Thanks for reading and thanks so much for all the letters - they were a good read, even if I disagreed with most of them. Have a great week everyone!

Send email to ebenner@hotmail.com.


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