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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, March 31, 2000

Others would benefit from WCW's end

Eric Benner
By ERIC BENNER
Special to SLAM! Sports


A weekly
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I've been meaning to write this particular column for some time, now. Every week, though, something somewhat more urgent would come up and I'd have to write about that. Now, with Eric Bischoff and Vince Russo coming back to WCW this week, things could go either way and in two months' time, this column might not be write-able anymore. So Wrestlemania be damned, here's the story!

'Uh oh'.

That has to be what some of the people in charge of WCW are thinking. I don't even necessarily mean Bill Busch, who's apparently gone, or the new boys in charge, either. I mean the guys who run the numbers of the various divisions of AOL-Time-Warner down in Atlanta.

Not everyone, though, cringes and thinks 'uh oh' at the prospect of WCW falling from grace.

First of all, there's Paul Heyman and his ECW company. They've been on the cusp of greatness for several years now, but Hardcore Revolution or no Hardcore Revolution, they just aren't there yet. There are those who would suggest that with recent buyrates and ratings put up by ECW -- as opposed to WCW -- the Big Two really does consist of Vince McMahon's WWF and Heyman's company. But alas, these people are deluding themselves. If that's enough to make ECW ahead of WCW, a few buyrates and some ratings trends, then the WWF is so far in a league of its own that there's a Big One and a Medium Two. Maybe even a Little Two.

But if WCW really does completely trash themselves, earn themselves a show cancellation or two, some more firings or wrestler clearance liquidation sales, then there will be room for a second member of the prestigious Big Two organization. ECW could do it, they just aren't there yet.

Heyman isn't the only guy who has to be happy at the idea of a void -- instead of a complete and total saturation, or even over-saturation -- in the wrestling market. The XPW company, out in California, has to be hopeful of the future. With a recent television contract signed with American One (apparently some cable station we don't get in Canada), despite the recent lawsuit with current America One syndication members ECW, momentum is on their side. While getting to where ECW currently finds themselves with a major weekly television show and bi-monthly pay-per-views is quite a ways away for them, there's now at least more pie for them to get their hands on.

Same goes for APW out of California. Or Stampede in Calgary. They've already got television, but they're far away from national American exposure.

And there's more. Lots of promoters all over the country and the continent are looking for a piece of that big, old wrestling pie. It's great ratings, great money, and in great demand right now.

Of course, there are obstacles. The WWF, for example, is in a great position to just suck up the whole freakin' pie themselves. They have a lot of talent, a lot of brain-power, and could probably pull off more (non-Raw, non-Smackdown!-ish) television, if they wanted to. Another syndicated hour, a music video weekly thing on MTV, a cartoon -- the WWF name is gold right now, and they could probably do whatever the heck they want to. What an easy way to fill up that void that would be created if WCW really got lost.

I'm not saying that's going to happen. WCW may very well get themselves back on track sooner than later, but it's also very possible that they could just keep losing money and then die. Come on, admit it. It's possible.

Anyway, people have this doom and gloom idea that if WCW goes down, that's it, wrestling's dead. It's a sign of the times, some momentum against our sport, and we're 'finished'. There was a period of time where I thought that, too. I mean, if there's no competition for the WWF, then what will keep them in check and prevent them from absolutely sucking as we know they can, given time?

But the truth is, there are other hitters ready to step up to the plate, and given time and money, these organizations can make a serious go of it and make money. And the world knows that wrestling is ready for national weekly television, so future organizations won't have so much trouble getting it.

I suppose the ideal situation, to me at least (barring a complete WCW recovery), would be for them to collapse, then for the remainder of the proverbial pie to be divided evenly between a whole bunch of promoters. That would create some choice, and a chance for smaller feds to make something of themselves, even if they don't become the money-splurging, time-wasting, dead animal that WCW is today.

Conclusion: it's not so bad if WCW dies, though they may or may not, because it would give a lot of hungry guys a chance at the spotlight.

That's all. Mailbag!

Robert Vollman, from rvollman@mrf.com, writes:
"Eric, You write an article about indy feds, and you fail to mention the greatest of them all, none other than the Hart Brothers' Stampede Wrestling? Where are you going to find better wrestling outside the big two? I think you've taken one too many chair shots!"

Good point, Vollman. Stupid omission on my part. But the Stampede group's in your part of the country, friend, and I've never seen them live, so I'd probably think of my own guys first. I included them this week, though!

Jason Morgan, from morgan_capn@hotmail.com, writes:
"Just a quick question...Now, that CTV is taking over TSN, will this mean, we'll all being seeing a new version of RAW (meaning no more censorship, phony fixes, etc.), or will it still be the same kind of edited programming? What's your take on it?"

I've gotta say, I just don't see TSN changing their policies under any circumstances. What they do, they do for a reason, and if it pisses off fans, then it's probably because they have to, because they're taking too much heat, and so on. If they could feasibly stop censoring one of their higher-rated shows, I'm sure they would.

That's all for this week. Enjoy Wrestlemania weekend, and let me know what you thought of it. We've got some cool Wrestlemania stuff up on the site, so go read it, plus Greg's going to be filing from Anaheim all weekend. Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, and have a terrific week.

Send email to ebenner@hotmail.com.


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