EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, June 16, 2000
Ten things to like about WCW
This doesn't mean I've given up on the whole wrestling thing, either.
Number Ten: Terry Taylor
As wrestling fans, we've never gotten to see very much of Mr. Taylor on television. First he was a promising wrestler in the WWF stuck in an absolutely rotten gimmick, The Red Rooster. Then he switched over to the booking side of things and went to WCW, where he was a big proponent of their newly established cruiserweight division. He returned to the WWF, I believe over creative differences with Eric Bischoff, and commentated some of their B-list shows like Metal. Finally, he's back in WCW and he's doing some booking, I believe largely for house shows.
First of all, despite his apparent penchant for moving around, he's a stable force. He doesn't play political games, doesn't stab people in the back (to my knowledge) and is a generally good influence on the people around him. When Kevin Sullivan and Vince Russo and Bill Busch and Eric Bischoff were playing tug-of-war with the booking power in WCW, no one had a bad word to say about Taylor. That can't really be said for anyone else involved.
And heck, WCW's house shows had been so horrible in 1998 and 1999, they could really use the help there.
Number Nine: Crash TV
I write show recaps of Raw and Nitro for another site, and let me tell you, Raw is about ten times easier to recap than Nitro. Very formulaic: Opening interview which lasts at least a quarter hour, match, backstage segment, match, backstage segment, match, interview to open the second hour, then more matches and backstage stuff until the main event. Nitro runs totally differently. Though their wrestling time is becoming minimal, there are often five back-to-back backstage segments. It plays hell with trying to recap, but as a viewer, I appreciate unpredictability.
Number Eight: Swerves and plot twists
Speaking of unpredictability, it's nice to actually have some in storylines for a change. I mean, I love the McMahons, and Goldberg's streak was nice, but Hogan carrying around the WCW/nWo heavyweight title for three years and rarely defending it wasn't so hot for me. Vince Russo is clearly unafraid to shake things up. Over and over again, allegiances shift and friendships crumble. New allies and enemies are made each week. It has a television-show feel to it. Continuity sometimes suffers for it, and the titles were changing a little much for awhile there, but things seem to have settled and I'm starting to like it.
Number Seven: Pushing the envelope
A year ago, Eric Bischoff was going on WCW Live! saying he thought the WWF was a joke, what with their sexual innuendo and their hardcore violence. In reality, it was a poorly-veiled excuse -- hypocritical at that -- for WCW's recent failures. Finally, they've dropped the pretenses and are competing somewhat on fair ground. Nitro and Thunder have finally been updated to the year 2000 and it shows.
Number Six: Pushes all around
One of the big problems with WCW, even in its prime, was that undercard folks and even upper mid-carders couldn't buy a push with their lives. Now, everyone's getting a shot. I recognize that some of the gimmicks are silly, but you're not going to strike gold with fifty different guys in the span of a month. Russo is trying things, he'll see what sticks, and change everything else (he said so). With Misfits In Action, we get some pretty weird skits, but renewed pushes for Lash LeRoux, Hugh Morrus, and (ugh) Booker T as G.I. Bro. The New Blood has room for plenty of guys. The Millionaire's Club puts the older top guys in a place more suited to them. I still think the young guys should be faces and the older guys, heels, but I'm no booker.
People complain now that Mike Awesome is jobbing a lot. Eighteen months ago, the newly-acquired ECW champion wouldn't even be visible in WCW.
Number Five: Mike Tenay
Sure, he tows the company line as much as anyone else. You have to expect that. But he's a semi-constant reminder that at least some people in WCW still care about the wrestling. He emphasizes the good moves, though unfortunately not on Nitro, and actually follows the wrestling as it happens. It's sort of weird to hear him gush about the new age of sports entertainment, but hey, that's a heck of a job for him.
Number Four: Goldberg and Scott Steiner
I like a lot of wrestlers in WCW. Goldberg and Scott Steiner, though, are viable talents who may actually be able to pull WCW through to the next level. Bigger than Steve Austin, though? Steiner probably won't be (either Bischoff or Russo claimed he would be on WCW Live!). Up there with the biggest stars in wrestling today, I think so.
They have the look, the attitude, and the ability to move fans to cheers and boos. That's all you need anymore to be a huge success. I just hope Steiner's body can sustain all those muscles.
Number Three: Consistency of booking and plots
It wasn't so long ago that a story line started up in WCW would disappear shortly thereafter. This, after years and years of a stable nWo-dominated wrestling company was very hard to swallow for fans. Now, with the New Blood/Millionaire's Club firmly in place, it seems that we may finally have a story to take WCW into 2001. Their August pay-per-view in Vancouver, which will be replacing the biker-inspired Road Wild, may even be called New Blood, I hear. That shows promise for those who actually want to follow the story to fruition.
Number Two: Vampiro
People can say what they like about this guy. He's stiff, he does his talking in the ring and not on the mic, and he looks awkward in today's world of wrestling. I say those aren't his weaknesses, they're his strengths. Just as the Hardy Brothers got over in the WWF on the strength of great wrestling, I think Vampiro can do so in WCW. He has all the tools, and is already a personal favourite of mine.
I'm realistic, though. He probably won't be World Championship Wrestling's shining star, but I'm hopeful that he'll continue to gather a following and eventually become a heavyweight title contender. His feud with Sting, for everything bad about it, was very similar to the Kane and Undertaker feud of 1997 and 1998 and that led Kane to a very successful career against other foes. I think the same will be true of the newly-elevated Vampiro.
What I like most about WCW today: It's not the WWF.
Though it's starting to get stale every second or third week, I still love WWF programming. With them focusing more and more on pure wrestling, however, I'm starting to increasingly enjoy WCW television shows. They're just different, and that's nice. I dig different.
There's now at least a reason to watch both Nitro and Raw other than just to catch four hours of wrestling instead of two. In a 'sport' that's getting closer and closer to over-saturation of the market, it's probably a good thing that the two main products are starting to move away from each other. If nothing else, they'll hopefully gather a more diverse fan-base, which means more people watching wrestling!
Depending on how things go in the near future, one or two of the ten things on my list might be column material, we'll see. While the mood is so chipper, why don't you tell me what you like most about WCW. Some responses will be featured in next week's article.
For now, here's this week's mailbag.
J Andrew Reid, from firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
"I'm not sure of his contract status but could Shawn Michaels be the big surprise? It would definitely fit in with all the hints. It would affect Nash, upset McMahon and change the wrestling landscape."
I didn't publish this letter because it was wrong or to demean its author. In reality, close to three quarters of the theories I received were something along the lines of exactly this: WCW acquiring Shawn Michaels.
Granted, it's after the fact so it's difficult to pass any judgments, given that we already know what the surprise was. Still, it's a fun theory to ponder. There are a few flaws inherent, though.
One, Shawn Michaels is on great terms with the WWF. He recently appeared on television, he's getting WWF help with his TWA promotion in Texas, and I'm pretty sure he is under contract. That's a pretty big hurdle to pass.
Two, the only manner in which it would really make sense to bring in Michaels would be to join Nash and re-form a clique-type thing. Bringing him in to betray Nash, as Bischoff was planning, would make less sense since it doesn't really play on the history they have together. How much sense does it make to have one of two guys whose friendship behind the scenes is legendary and has transcended companies turn on the other? Not so much.
Still, Vince McMahon would want to stop it, lawyers in Los Angeles would perhaps be needed, and it would change Kevin Nash's life and arguably alter the wrestling landscape.
Actually, it might not alter anything. Michaels is becoming less and less recognized and noticed. My opinion, at least.
Kenton, from email@example.com, writes:
"Actually, a heel turn by Goldberg might fit in with what Bischoff has been saying, although I agree it doesn't deserve this much hype. Since Vince McMahon has been quoted as saying that Goldberg is a Steve Austin rip-off, and with talk of Austin turning heel upon his return, it would be like WCW has beaten WWF to the punch so to speak."
Right on the money.
Final note: Bret Hart's Personal Coordinator, Marcy Engelstein, wrote in this week to correct me on an issue or two. Apparently Hart has never stated that he would return to wrestling, that "his concussion cannot be diagnosed past 6 months and he doesn't know if he will be given clearance to return." I still think he's at least not given the impression that if he were given clearance, he would definitely retire anyway, but he's certainly not indicated that he would. I stand corrected.
On the same note, I still stand by my opinions of the man. He was a personal hero of mine for many years, so if anything, I think I'm biased in favour of him. But still, I don't agree with his stances on a great many things. That's all there is to it. My opinion. You're free to have yours, too.
I would publish some of the letters in Hart's defense but unfortunately, none of them are fit to print. Please find a way to state your opinions in relatively respectful and non-vulgar manner, whenever possible.
That's all the time we have for this week. I want to thank everyone for writing in, and for reading the column. Remember, people can differ in opinion and still breath the same air. Have a great week!
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.