EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, November 10, 2000
Rumours, reviews, reporting and Mayhem
It's in the interest of this that I present another of my multi-topical rants.
First thing's first. I wholly disagree with our own John Powell's review of this past weekend's ECW effort, November to Remember. Powell's review was a rarity in that he seemed completely pleased by the event, but I couldn't disagree more. November to Remember may have strung together some half-decent matches, but there was nothing that totally blew me away. The booking, while it may seem from some perspectives to a throwback to the days when actual wrestling was king, felt sloppy and under-thought to me. The show was worth sitting through, I begrudge, but I don't know about paying for it. It's not that I place stories over wrestling, but maybe I've been spoiled lately and I'm used to having both. Offer me a product lacking either and I probably won't jump up and down with excitement. Still, it's nice to see that someone has a place in his heart for actual wrestling. I follow Powell's pay-per-view reviews closely, largely because he's so consistent about them that I have fun predicting whether he'll have liked a given show. Boy was I wrong this week.
In all seriousness, though, if this is the best show that ECW can put together -- and November has traditionally been their flagship -- then I fear for the again-struggling organization.
Next up to the plate: all the rumours surrounding the sale of WCW. Normally, I'd just dismiss them as just that, rumours, but not this time. I think these rumours, or perhaps the facts that they emulate, are having a serious negative effect on WCW's performance. This isn't just a smoke screen here, folks, this is something plausible enough to actually be affecting WCW's talent and employees. All traces of Vince Russo's work are gone from the product, and while I'm not always his biggest fan, this is a detriment to the show. Nitro and Thunder have no flow right now, except on the most basic of levels, and despite the great efforts of some of the wrestlers to put on good matches, WCW just has the appearance of an organization going through the motions right now.
Which makes it all the stranger that I'm so much more looking forward to Mayhem than the WWF's Survivor Series. Mayhem looks to be a classically-built card, with the main event confrontation between quintessential heel and babyface (Scott Steiner and Booker T) for the title, plus lots of good matches that were booked well in advance and whose storylines have had a chance to develop. WCW's product may not have been that good lately, on its own, but it's actually done a good job hyping the pay-per-view.
The WWF, meanwhile, has me totally lost. Until this week, I don't think a single match was announced for Survivor Series, and the Triple H turn really had the look of something pulled out of someone's hat. It was a very contrary move for a company that's been riding on nuance and slow development for about a year now. Add to that that both Rikishi's and The Rock's roles in all this are now up in the air, not to mention that Triple H's recent injury may actually prevent this whole knee-jerk angle from coming to fruition. What a waste of a trump card. Even the tag team scene doesn't look so good for Survivor Series, with the titles firmly in the grasp of one of the worst pure wrestling tag teams in the company.
Speaking of tag teams, Greg Oliver's interview with Jeff Hardy was perhaps the one dialogue I've wanted to read this year. I think it's pretty clear, given all of the articles I've written about it, that I'm more than pleased that Jeff realizes his own mortality. Hopefully, he'll actually do something about it before it's too late.
While I'm on the subject of other work here at SLAM!, it's nice that someone is finally saying something less than hysterically positive about Chyna. John Molinaro's editorial really hit the kind of point I think needed to be made about the "Nine Wonder of the World" in the eleventh paragraph, where Molinaro crams in six different ways of saying that Chyna sucks.
I close this tidbit-laden article with a thought: if a vote for Al Gore (and Joe Lieberman) is a vote against lewd entertainment like professional wrestling, then what Canadian political party would best represent the interests of wrestling fans everywhere? I'd venture Jean Chretien's Liberals just because their image would suggest that they don't care enough ever to reform entertainment standards, but then again, I don't exactly plan on voting based on squared circle policy.
Here's the mail.
Thomas, from firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
"From your column last week: 'What upset me the most, as a continued wrestling fan, was Bret's lashing. He used his weekly column to attack wrestling on several occasions, berating the sport that made him famous and that even today, pays his bills.'
My lord, Mr. Brenner. You of all people writing that. Week after week, you dump on wrestling through *your* weekly column, bearing out your prejudices. Using your position, having access to a lot of readers and fans of the 'sport,' you seem to always put it down. It's one thing to be a pointed critic, offering constructive criticism, but to me, it appears you object to pro wrestling in principle. You are very much like Mr. Hart, in the way you come across."
With all due respect, I disagree. My point in suggesting that Hart was lashing out is that he's got fans. You know, those kids he used to give his sunglasses to, who he used to preach to in his speeches. They love him. They're his readers. Well, they are, plus people in Calgary and people who enjoy our fine website. What I mean is, he's writing from the perspective of (a) someone whose career is wrestling, who continued to wrestle for a company as he "lashed out" and (b) someone that many folks look up to. By making the broad, sweeping statements he did, I found him sometimes coming off as a hypocrite at worst, a bitter man at best.
I'd be a hypocrite if I said that journalism, writing, and the internet were stupid, that anyone connected with this porn-ridden media is stupid, and things like that. Obviously, I'm exaggerating, but the meaning is the same -- I'm not a wrestler, and I'm nobody's hero.
As far as my negativity goes, I disagree there, too. I don't lash out at wrestling in general. It's rare that I say anything that amounts to 'wrestling sucks'. Sometimes I'll criticize a booking decision, or someone's talent, or someone's push, or some angle or gimmick. But that's a specific criticism, and if nothing else, denotes my love for the sport in that I'd be so concerned about the minutia. Maybe writing so long, I've become sort of jaded, but I still truly love the sport. It's just that, frankly, articles about why I love wrestling each week may possibly bore some folks.
And it's Benner. I don't know so many people get that wrong.
Edmond Pryor, from email@example.com, writes:
"I am a professional wrestling fan and a dedicated fan of the recently retired "Excellence of Execution," Bret Hart. I enjoy your columns and I am impressed with your ability to share your own beliefs and opinions about the subject matter. I constantly find myself astonished at the way you courageously dissect the ever-changing events of pro wrestling and add your own twist. I don't always find myself agreeing with you but that is the beauty of your column. Although I may not agree with you (as I do not in regards to your latest column of Bret), I always find myself compelled to recognize and accept your point of view as credible, logical and well thought out, if not the most popular choice. I do believe you have been a little harsh in regards to Bret, you know what he's been through and although some blame (probably most) should be attributed to Bret for his career decisions, but through it all he has kept his integrity! The only thing Bret Hart may be guilty of, is taking wrestling too seriously when we are part of a time that seems to enjoy the "Entertainment" aspect of it more than the wrestling. For that, he may be at fault, but come on Eric, who's perfect? Not you, not me, not Bret Hart!!!"
I'm suspicious of anyone who always agrees with me (I don't always agree with any individual), and frankly enjoy more than anything interacting with readers and fellow fans who disagree with me but offer their own point of view. The highest praise, to me, is when folks tell me that they disagree, but understand my point of view. I'm not out to change minds, but to provide a few minutes of reading each week and maybe provoke a thought or two.
You're right. I probably am too hard on Bret. He's had it rough, and I've never ever been inside his head. I don't know what makes him tick. In many ways, he's handled himself like the champion and legend he's always been, and I appreciate that. Maybe I find my back against the wall sometimes, with Bret Hart fans being as devoted as they are. Whenever I write about him, his fans come right out of the woodwork and really let me have it, and if nothing else, the fact that he's amassed such a following says volumes about his career and his life.
No wrestler has provided me with more "hell yeah" moments than Mr. Bret Hart, and I will always be grateful for that. I just don't understand him sometimes.
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, thanks for writing in, and have a swell week. You heard me, swell!
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.