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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, October 20, 2000

Goldberg's got it wrong

Eric Benner
By ERIC BENNER
Special to SLAM! Sports


A weekly
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This past Tuesday, a SLAM! Wrestling guest column penned by Dave Goldberg was put up on the site. More so than anything even our own John Molinaro has ever written, Mr. Goldberg's was completely anti-establishment, mocking much of North American wrestling and especially, its top stars and more than that, its fans. The column's content and tone were sufficient enough to warrant this response. For the record, casual wrestling fans are not "trained seals".

Glossing over duplication, Goldberg's article makes the following arguments, which I shall refute one at a time:

  • The Rock is untalented, overexposed, manipulative, and the next Terry Bollea.
  • Triple H is the next Ric Flair and unselfish in everything. The Rock isn't.
  • Mick Foley is boring.
  • Chris Jericho deserves better, specifically relating to this year's Backlash.
  • Chris Benoit deserves better, specifically relating to his title loss to Rikishi.
  • Edge and Christian have been screwed.
  • Casual fans are "morons".
THE ROCK
The Rock and WWF owner, Vince McMahon.
That last one gets me downright irate, but I'll try to be calm and pleasant and delightful for the remainder of this column.

First order of business: Rocky Maivia, also known as Duane Johnson.

Sure, some people aren't going to like him. I can respect that. There are definitely sides of The Rock that I'm not fond of. Finishing a match with The People's Elbow, especially when he has a working finishing move, is laughable. Sometimes, when watching his promos, I get a distinct sense of deja vu. And he's definitely a fixture in the WWF's main event. Still, Goldberg's guest column was wrong on all four counts against The Rock.

Rocky is not untalented. His promos, and even if you don't think so now almost everyone agreed when he was a heel over a year ago, are close to unmatched. His mannerisms, movements, and voice modulation are filled to the brim with talent. His wrestling, while certainly more in the cartoonish sense than the quasi-amateur stylings of a Kurt Angle, is at least passable. Rock tries to add new moves to his repertoire every so often, and he's as good a brawler as anyone. People don't give brawling enough credit: Steve Austin and Undertaker can wrestle for forty minutes without too many high-risk or intensely technical moves for a reason. Even if you don't believe it in a strictly objective sense, Rock clearly draws fans out to shows and then draws the shouts out of their lungs - they love the man. His charisma is absolutely undeniable. In that sense, he's one hell of a favourite performer.

My father is a casual wrestling fan. He loves The Rock. Can't get enough. He's also more representative of the bulk of wrestling fans - casual fans, or "morons", as Goldberg calls them - than you or I or even David Goldberg himself. But I'll address that later.

You can love him or you can hate him, but to deny that Rock has talent is lacking in wisdom. To boot, Rock is far from overexposed. The biggest angles lately - Rikishi running over Stone Cold, fresh from his return, and the fight over Stephanie McMahon, have had absolutely nothing to do with Rock. Sure, Rocky's still wrestling in main events, but he's not exactly the center of the WWF universe. And either he's completely ineffective in his backstage politicking and manipulating (unlikely, considering his drawing power), or he's not really manipulative at all.

No, that would be a role better saved for Triple H.

Don't get me wrong, I love the guy. He's also a fantastic performer. He gives some of the most intense interviews out there, and in that sense, is reminiscent of Ric Flair. He also wrestles a good match, but in my opinion, not much more so than Austin or Rock. You don't see Triple H executing senton bombs or dragon suplexes, and yet he's now got this reputation for being the greatest wrestler who ever lived. No, Helmsley is a master of psychology - as is Rock - and he's a believable and intense performer. Nothing more. If anything, it's Triple H who's been central in the WWF in 2000, main eventing just about every pay-per-view, and somehow being the center of attention (feuding with Angle) at a time when he neither had nor was after the WWF title. He's thought to have significant backstage prowess. You remember, of course, that he was a Clique member, after all.

I have no gripe with Triple H. Awesome performer, good wrestler. But to suggest that he's some kind of saint, I think, is extreme.

Of course, if you're going to call Mick Foley boring and untalented, you may as well stick to extremes since that's exactly where you are.

Foley is one of the most intelligent wrestler-actors out there. With him, there's none of that cheap heat [enter local city sports team here] to get the crowd to love him or hate him. He does his research, makes his preparation, and goes out there and kills. He's been awesome as commissioner - the best I have ever seen, better than Cat or Shawn Michaels or anyone before them - and was a great wrestler until the day he retired. The three pay-per-views he headlined in 2000: The Royal Rumble, No Way Out, and Wrestlemania, were fantastic, largely because of his great work with the also-great Triple H. He's never been a super athlete or a terrific amateur wrestler, but he's got wrestling in his blood and a brain in his head, and that's enough for me. It's also apparently enough for WWF fans, who love the guy, but I forgot - they're "morons".

BENIOT
The Canadian Crippler - Chris Benoit.
That brings us to the two Chrises, Benoit and Jericho. Both hostages in WCW for years, unable to get a well-deserved push, people are mixed about their success in the WWF so far. Personally, I think Benoit is exactly where he should be. Close to the top, but still required to prove himself with fans before he takes it to the next level. To suggest that Rikishi doesn't deserve a title win over him is funny, I think, since so many people have called Rikishi underpushed over the years. Or is it that when a wrestler gets popular with casual fans ("morons", or "trained seals") he becomes totally unpushable in the eyes of the likes of Dave Goldberg? Rikishi and Benoit are both great performers and both deserve title reigns. Benoit will get his. If anything, I think Jericho is the underpushed of the two, but to suggest that less than a year after his debut he actually needed to be fighting for the WWF title is silly. Jericho has had several well-documented run-ins with other wrestlers and management in the past, over wrestling style and attitude as I recall, and at the very least, he should completely settle in before he gets pushed that hard. He'll get his turn, he's too talented not to.

And if two years from now, neither Benoit and Jericho are where they should be, then you'll hear me yelling and complaining as loud as anybody, but I won't do it until the WWF has had a fair chance to do so. Pre-emptive whining serves no purpose.

Goldberg's specific complaint about Y2K was that after his faux title win over Triple H on Raw last spring, he should have been meeting him for the title that month at Backlash. Well, if you want to draw ratings and dollar signs (mysteriously, the WWF does indeed seem to desire cash flow), then Rock is the way to go. It wasn't long after, at Over the Edge, and the young guns got a chance to prove themselves, and Jericho did fight Triple H.

Next, you've got Edge and Christian, my favourite tag team. They're talented, less suicidal than the brothers Hardy, and immensely more talented on the mic. Well, as far as we can tell, since they actually get time on a microphone. They're funny, heelish, and get their point across beautifully. But none of that means they should be beating The Rock. Rock has been pushed as one of the top stars in the federation, and Edge and Christian are cowards constantly trying to get out of matches by fooling Mick Foley. Just because they're funny doesn't mean they can credibly defeat the pushed-as-tough champion. I don't think the match was necessarily a great idea, but its outcome was as good as could have been expected. They're multi-time recent ex-champs, and I think there's very little in the way of grounds to complain that they're underpushed.

Also, you'd think that one would wait before they're actually broken up before one starts to place blame for their break-up.

That brings us to the last point, the moronic trained seals that the WWF counts on for revenue.

I am disgusted.

People with opinions like Dave Goldberg's are definitely rampant all over the Internet, as some folks seem to think their opinions count for more than others. It may seem like anyone writing a column believes that, but I've always held that I'm just a guy with an opinion who enjoys putting that opinion to paper, and who's lucky enough to be working at a place like SLAM!. SLAM!, though is the last place where I'd expect to find a guest column (usually very good, or at least fair) bashing the very people that keep everyone in business - the fans.

No fan out there, not a single one, has an opinion that's worth even a modicum less than mine, Goldberg's, John Powell's, John Molinaro's, Greg Oliver's, or anyone else's on the site. We may print news here, but when it comes to thoughts and feelings, everyone's equal. That's just the way it is, whether you want to believe it or not. Our whole society is based on that principle - more talented folks don't get two votes in elections.

So if the fans, who're paying to be there live, like to clap for The Rock, or Steve Austin, or Mick Foley, or Steve Blackman, or Steve Lombardi, or Vince Lombardi, or anyone else for that matter, then that's their right and privilege. There are no wrestlers who are more deserving of others than cheer, except whoever, by whatever method, gets the fans to cheer. To suggest that we "should" cheer for Chris Benoit is absurd. A quick survey from casual fans, some friends for instance, could reveal that Benoit is in fact "boring" and "looks like a midget when he walks to the ring" and "could never beat a guy as big as Kane! No way!". The fact that he can execute German suplexes in triplicate only proves that he can execute German suplexes in triplicate; no more, no less. If fans want to cheer that, that's also cool. Nothing says they shouldn't or can't.

I personally love watching Benoit wrestle, I think he's one of the top few on the continent. But that doesn't mean I get angry when the "trained seals" all around me don't cheer him. That's up to them. At least they're cheering. I can scarcely imagine a live show filled with the kind of smart marks who believe themselves above the rest of us n it would look something like a golf match, with mild clapping after a technically sound maneuver of a submission victory. I doubt I'd watch such a program, since the noise of the fans makes up a good chunk of the appeal of wrestling.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear today. Dave Goldberg is entitled to his opinion. It would be hypocritical of me to disagree with his statements about casual fans then to dismiss him in his own category. At the same time, though, the "opinions" that everyone is entitled to should be honest, considered, and considerate - at least to a degree. To insult the very fan base that allows wrestling to exist is not only short-sighted and less than wise, it's rude. Wrestlers open themselves up to criticism by entering the field of entertainment, that's just a fact of life that they have to deal with, but fans shouldn't have to put up with this. We get enough trouble from outside the ranks of wrestling, with people attacking us for the content of the shows we watch, trying to shut us down by cutting off wrestling's advertisers. We don't need fans insulting each other.

Some people disagree with many of my opinions, but even my staunchest opponents usually agree that I try to think things out and prove my points. Things are not so because I say so. Calling fans "morons" or "trained seals" is not an argument, it's name-calling. It has no basis in fact, or reason, and is not even an extension of the two. And I can't bear to see that kind of slander up on this otherwise fan-friendly site without saying something about it.

I welcome feedback from readers who disagree with my opinions on the above wrestlers or any others, but if you just want to vent about the same wrestling fans who read this column and make it possible for me to write it, then I'm not interested. If that's you, then don't bother writing me, as others like Goldberg have in the past.

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinions, but there's a line even to that statement. And in terms of who crosses over that line, I think it's a little bit worse to attack fans everywhere than to cheer for The Rock. You decide.

No mailbag this week, we're already running too long. Thanks for reading and indulging my rant this week. Your comments are always appreciated. Have a nice week.

Send email to ebenner@hotmail.com.


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