EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, July 28, 2000
Shane McMahon a manager for today
The one lost art in wrestling is managing.
I don't know when it happened, but the modern manager has perished. They are no more. Replaced, they are, by the valet. Somewhere in the 1980s and '90s, Mr. Fuji became Sable. Jim Cornette became Trish Stratus. Not that these fine ladies and others lack talent, but they're completely different from the wrestler escorts who preceded them.
Enough lamenting about the past though, because the art of the manager is still alive. At least, it's still alive in the WWF. Well, it was alive and well this past Sunday at Fully Loaded. More specifically, it was thriving during a single match -- the main event between The Rock and Chris Benoit.
Just by being at ringside, Shane McMahon brought three unique qualities that few other matches on the card that night possessed. One, non-stop action. Even when Chris Benoit and The Rock were resting or between spots, Shane McMahon was always in the background. Not standing there, looking like an idiot, or hitting the mat and yelling for his man to get up, but actually doing something. His jumping up and down all night was distracting enough, but he was also constantly running around the ring, manoeuvering himself into position, looking for the opportunity to strike.
That's not all, though. Shane also added an element of importance to the match. Instead of it seeming like Chris Benoit was just going through the motions before his inevitable loss to The Great One, the presence of the young McMahon made it at least possible that Benoit might win. Where the manager lurks, the screw-job follows, and that's just what Fully Loaded's main event needed -- an element of doubt to prevent fans from believing with certainty that the match was over before it had even begun.
Finally, thanks to Shane-O-Mac, whose constant fishing for an opening turned fruitful when he noticed the ref seeing The Rock with the chair, the match ended believably and without a Rock win. Well, that wasn't the end and The Rock did win clean, but when Benoit and Shane brought that title to the back, I believed it. Judging by the chorus of boos, so did everyone in the bar.
Ultimately, as with any good manager, Shane McMahon wasn't the story at Fully Loaded. Chris Benoit dominated much of their match, and The Rock ultimately retained. And hopefully if and when Chris Benoit does snatch that title from Rocky Maivia, it will be through his own determination and a lethal finisher, and not the antics of a hyper, over-enthusiastic young man who seems to want the title as much as Benoit does.
That's not a knock on Shane -- he's the best manager in the business, maybe even in the past decade. Heck, maybe more. He's a heat machine, lending his words and the ire of the fans to such personalities as The Big Show, Benoit, and now Kurt Angle (otherwise in danger of inadvertently turning face) and (apparently) Edge and Christian. He's enough to keep me and a room full of people in a solid but unspectacular match. When he's not managing, per se, and even sometimes when he is, he bumps like a machine. That is, if we were to assume that a machine would bump like a mad man. And assuming that a mad man would bump really, really hard. But you get my drift.
I thought the guy was pretty useless when he first started on WWF television as an announcer on Sunday Night Heat. When he became a sideline, sometimes in-ring personality, he became even more of an annoyance to some. Somewhere along the line, Shane McMahon's dedication to the game -- his training, his determination, and I can only presume his practice on the microphone -- paid off and what a payoff it is.
The McMahon wrestling gene is strong in this one.
Here's the mailbag.
David W. Holcomb writes:
"First of all, allow me to show my age. I grew up in the old "Mid-South" days at the Myriad in Oklahoma City. When I was a few years younger, I met Andre the Giant, Kerry, David and Mike Von Erich, Bruiser Brody, 'Captain Redneck' Dick Murdoch and the Junkyard Dog (God bless them and rest their Souls). I've met Jim Duggan, Ric Flair, Ted Dibiase, Steve Williams not to mention Sting and the Ultimate Warrior back when they were the "Blade Runners" and a host of other former greats.
I am becoming concerned that the 'rasslin' has become overshadowed with mostly boring interviews, backstage battles and overrated pyrotechnics. We used to watch a match and hear a two-minute interview about how the winner kicked the loser's ass. Then four minutes of commercials and another match. We saw more matches in an hour then than we see in two hours today.
I really like a lot of the young stars athletic ability today (far more agile than when I grew up), but they seem to lack real interest in the sport other than to provide a paycheque and a publicity shot. It is as if "rasslin" has become a way to pick up girls after the match.
To the young people who watch 'rasslin' today, I say that you should remember that it was those that came before your time who pioneered the show. Some day you will wonder where your favourites have gone.
To the promoters, I say that you should let them go with all of the greatness and dignity of a supernova... the last great light of a once bright and shining star.
I would appreciate your opinion."
Mr. Holcomb, I respectfully disagree. Allow me to show my age. When I was growing up, Hulk Hogan was just beginning to take the country by storm -- my wrestling experiences go back no further than that, so I don't speak with the wisdom of a council of elders.
However, I remember this. After cartoons and whatever other garbage was on Saturday morning television, in Montreal on CFCF-12, there would always be wrestling. There still is today. Back then, though, it was a different animal. You're right -- a whole lot more wrestling. Few interviews, and short ones at that. No pyrotechnics. No swerves. Nothing but ‘rasslin'.
You know what? It was boring. I'm not speaking for every wrestling program that ever was, but this, some WWF syndicated thing, was dull. You'd have just under an hour's worth of jobber matches, like Jake the Snake vs. Barry Horowitz or Randy Savage vs. Bill Steel or whatever, and then the big main event, which might be a Hulk Hogan squash over Koko B. Ware -- if we were lucky.
You're right. Wrestlers are in it for the paycheque now, by and large. When they aren't, many see wrestling as a stepping stone to what they perceive as bigger and better things. Rare is the specimen that's in it for life, that grew up with it. I respond to that as follows: Take Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, whichever wrestlers you feel exemplifies everything good about wrestling today, transport them back in time fifteen or twenty five years, and watch them job to the established old men, friends of the bookers.
Know what? When we remember the days long gone, I can't help but think the memories are dulled by time, and we don't recall how much what we've got now has improved in some ways. Well, that's my story, at least.
Fred Whitehawk, from email@example.com, writes:
"Maybe I am just an old guy who has been watching wrestling too long? But isn't the most electrifying move in sports entertainment today, the same Bionic Elbow that Dusty Rhodes used for 20 years?"
You're clearly out of it, sir. If you were more with it, you'd know that while Dusty actually tried to gain momentum with his move, The Rock makes absolutely certain that all momentum gained by running across the ring back and forth is completely discarded, as he pauses before dropping the most painless move in wrestling.
At least Dusty tried to make it look like it hurt. I sometimes think Rocky's just making fun of us.
Most electrifying move in sports entertainment? Hardly. I'd say it was the moonsault that's becoming so popular now, but that's another story.
Anyway, that's it for this week. Thanks for all the great letters, and thanks for reading the column. Have yourself a great week.
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.