EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, June 9, 2000
Bischoff's surprise could disappoint
For those who haven't been paying attention, let's review.
Eric Bischoff announced not so long ago that at the Great American Bash, he would have a surprise that would rock the wrestling world. On previous WCW television shows, Bischoff and Vince Russo have been shown to be 'missing', in Los Angeles working on some sort of deal. Clues from Bischoff: Vince McMahon can't stop it, Tony Schiavone can't stop it, it will change the wrestling world, and lawyers in L.A. have been working on it. Other clues: According to the pay-per-view ad, the surprise will change the life of Kevin Nash forever.
There are several things we can gather from that. One, the surprise will probably be in-character. It won't really be a wrestling landscape-changing move, though it may be a WCW wrestling landscape-changing move. For instance, it would change Kevin Nash's life if one of his allies turned heel, but that wouldn't at all affect other federations, really.
Let me also bring you up to speed on some of the theories brought up so far.
-- SFX purchasing WCW or WCW changing television stations. Although these two alternatives are actually possibilities, they seem like the kind of things we'd read about in Variety or on Reuters, not something you'd want to make a focal point of your pay-per-view. Actually, I think that we'd already know about it.
-- ECW merger. Aside from the fact that there's a fair bit of enmity already between WCW and ECW, that doesn't make a lot of sense as a move. It won't help ECW talent to job to WCW talent, and I don't think it will even help Nash or Hogan get over to be up-staged by young and unknown talent, even if they get all the wins.
-- Shane McMahon switching sides. Yeah, I'd give up tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in inheritance to go to the competition. That makes tons of sense.
There have been others, but really this about covers the oft-uttered suggestions. I could be wrong, but I think that none of them fit at all.
There have been other slightly more credible suggestions that are still really out there. One is that Bischoff will form a group of shoot-fighters. If they attacked Kevin Nash and the millionaires, it would certainly fit. Two is that Bischoff and Russo will introduce some entirely new way to wrestle, something more accommodating to their story-telling. A new ring or something like that. It's really far out, but still possible.
I wouldn't bet on it, though. All signs point to some in-context change, something that you might see on any Nitro or pay-per-view in the form of a swerve.
Here's my thinking, although you may not like it. I think it's going to be a disappointment. Eric Bischoff has delivered in the past, and if he genuinely shocks and surprises me and others here, it will go leaps and bounds toward restoring my original faith in him as a non-one-hit-wonder. But if he behaves the way he has in the past year or two, this will be some kind of heel turn or face turn, which he was basically addicted to once the glory of the original New World Order started to fade.
The first thought has to be Goldberg, since he's been seen with Nash recently and his turn would actually impact Nash in some way beyond simply having him lose the match. And, in theory, a heel Goldberg -- presumably a New Blood member -- would change the landscape of WCW wrestling.
I think that logic dictates that as a story teller, you have to build up Goldberg as a face before you turn him heel. Then again, Vince Russo is fond of rapid-fire story telling.
Also, one must realize that Goldberg seems to do what he wants, and nothing more. Everything he says in the media, and it's more than most others, is negative in some respect, especially as it relates to WCW. And maybe that's a work or something, but him staying home because he wanted to be used properly and has a huge ego was not.
The only other heel turn that would seem to bother Kevin Nash would be frequent and former partner Scott Hall, but everything I've heard lately points to Scott Hall being out with his 'issues'.
Nonetheless, that's my call in the Great American Bash surprise pool. Scott Hall returns, turns heel. If not him, then some other heel turn.
No theory I've seen makes sense in this respect, and neither does this one. Why would Vince McMahon want to stop him? Lawyers in L.A.? Hopefully I am wrong, because then I will be surprised.
Two things, I am sure of. One, the surprise has gotten people talking, and will maybe even spike the buyrate of the pay-per-view. Very effective marketing. Two, it's a double edged sword. If WCW and Eric Bischoff fail to deliver, fans will feel cheated by the pay-per-view, and may be even more hesitant to order another one.
That's all I have to say this week. Here's the mail.
Kevin Jr., from KJ2307@aol.comm, writes:
"Hey Eric, your column on a new Hart Foundation was one of the best I have read in a while. I agree and think that it would be a great idea. However, I would leave out Val Venis. Mostly because although he is Canadian, he is announced from Las Vegas, Nevada. Does Test claim to be from Canada though? I'm not sure. Anyway, I see Chris Benoit with more of a Bret Hart attitude and wrestling style and would be fit for leader, however, he lacks the mic skills of Y2J, which is vital for a leader. So I suppose that Y2J would be the best choice. With these guys feuding with the Corporates, we could see one hell of a PPV. It could set up a 4-man elimination match at Survivor Series, or hell, even the Royal Rumble match would be interesting to watch!! As for the name...Canadian Xtreme."
You guys sent me literally hundreds of letters about memories of and suggestions for the Hart Foundation. More letters than I recall having received for any column, ever!
Everyone had an opinion about who should be in. The consensus, as described by Kevin here, was to drop the dead weight, Canadian or not. Val Venis was universally rejected, almost. Test, also, by some. Chris Benoit had his share of votes as leader, as did Y2J. A lot of people envisioned a scenario where Bret Hart came back to lead it, and others wanted the British Bulldog or Jim Neidhart to be a part.
The strangest thing I read, from at least a quarter of the people who wrote in, was that they wanted Kurt Angle in. Partly because of his chemistry with Edge and Christian, and partly because of the hilarious hypocrisy that would ensue, but I have to agree -- despite how weird it sounds, that would probably be pretty funny.
I really enjoyed all the letters you guys sent in with ideas, they were great.
Oh, the name? The most popular, with over a hundred and fifty votes: The Canadian Mafia. Sorry Kev.
Brian Hayes, from email@example.com, writes:
"Hey Eric, I was reading your article and, while I realize you were once a fan of Bret's, what you wrote about him caused me to write back.
If Bret was one of the true soldiers in wrestling and now speaks up against the sport, what does that say about the state of wrestling today? Bret loved his profession and always spoke passionately about it but he doesn't anymore. Bret isn't the bad guy in all of this, he's more like a victim of the sport he loves. He had his reputation damaged, was lied and deceived for no reason by a man he considered a friend (this after working hard and loyal for him for 15 years) and then lost his beloved younger brother in an accident that should never have happened. I don't understand how, after all of that, he is still being attacked by critics. How can anyone blame him for being critical of wrestling for what it has done to him? No matter how much this may have effected anyone, we are not Bret Hart. It was sad that Owen died but he wasn't our brother. Just like it was not us who was deceived by Vince. We can all move on but it is Bret who has had to suffer.
Still, despite that, his attacks on wrestling are just. Much like how Lemieux and Gretzky criticized hockey, Bret realizes that the art of wrestling is lost on today's fans. As hockey seems to stifle a skilled player, wrestling is so busy with its soap operas that it forgets the wrestling part. The wrestlers are not as well-trained as they were when he started. Which explains why Bret suffered the concussion against Goldberg. And besides they need a union to be protected by the McMahons and Bischoffs of this world.
And of course wrestling is not what it once was. How else could one explain the popularity of the Worm and the lack of with Chris Benoit?
Great articles though. I try to read them every week.
Brian, you're right when you say that Bret Hart has been hurt by the sport he's given so much to. He lost his dignity in 1997 and then his brother in 1999. I think that's a terrible shame, and I don't think that pro wrestling or anyone involved with it can ever really repay him for it.
On the same note, Bret Hart's is hardly the worst, most tragic fate ever to befall someone. He's still alive and well, though that concussion may have knocked him around pretty good. There are a lot of people who have been through a lot worse who I hear a lot less complaining from in the media.
For example, "I think that wrestling has become a despicable, awful, sordid affair that I absolutely hate" -- that's a paraphrase of what I tend to hear from Bret about wrestling today. Usually, it's followed by "I think I'll be back in a few months, depending on what doctors say." Why???
If he despises the sport so much, he could do himself a favour and get out while he still has his head intact. People call 49ers quarterback Steve Young a lunatic for wanting to come back after a concussion of his own -- imagine what we'd call him if he hated football, too.
Mario Lemieux didn't much enjoy his last years, from what I understand, because he had to deal with all sorts of garbage on the ice from other players and couldn't just play. He and Gretzky, as you say, have been vocal about their displeasures.
Just not every bloody week.
It makes me angry enough to actually write a full column about, but I'm as tired of talking about this guy as he seems to be tired of the sport that made him so rich.
That's all. No more. Thanks for reading, thanks for writing. Have a great week! Even you, Bret!
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