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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.

Friday, November16, 2001

WWF shows strength on The Weakest Link

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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This week on the NBC game show The Weakest Link, WWF personalities competed against each other to earn money for their favourite charities.

Clearly, this was not a charitable act on the part of the game show, which publicized this episode to death trying to draw in that coveted age group of wrestling viewers. Certainly, not a charitable act by the WWF, either. Survivor Series was plugged, as was Monday Night Raw and the WWF in general.

Arguably, this was a donation of time on the part of the superstars who appeared, but they also spent a good chunk of their time putting themselves and each other over.

No, this resembled a cross-marketing effort more than anything else. I personally had not planned on watching it. I can barely stand to watch The Big Show wrestle, and that's his career specialty; imagine how entertaining he'd be answering trivia questions. But I was flipping and it was on, so I took a glance.

What I saw was actually just compelling enough to make me keep watching. For on The Weakest Link this week, I think I got more insight into what goes on in the heads of those athletes and personalities than I ever have before.

The idea that The Weakest Link would be the stage for one of the best looks at top WWF wrestlers is indeed a strange one, at least at first. If you think about it, though, you will realize that it's tertiary shows and appearances like this that offer the viewing audience their only opportunity to see what the wrestlers are all about.

When wrestlers are performing on their federation's television programs, what we see is obviously a persona. Triple H may or may not be an evil monster in real life, I have no idea. But I'd imagine he's not, and that his personality on television is scripted for entertainment purposes only. This much is obvious. What is a little less obvious is that when wrestlers do interviews, they're still telling a story. Only, the story is different and they're telling it differently. When you watch most wrestlers on a program like Off the Record, most of what you see, I think, isn't really them. Sure, it's not scripted, but it's not necessarily 100% utter truth either.

When asked about the WWF, most wrestlers will spout the same lines about how wonderful it is to work for them and how great a company they are. That's no surprise. When asked about their peers, most wrestlers will spout off a list of their best qualities. With the exception of a precious few, most of them would seem to be one big happy family.

I'm forced to ask myself how much real value there is to an interview with a wrestler. They might be able to inform us about things we didn't know, but not the stuff we really want to know. Kurt Angle might be able to tell us how often he trains, but he won't tell us that he gets picked on in the locker room or that he despises some other wrestler.

When I started to watch The Weakest Link, I expected more of the same. To me, that was some combination between Raw and an interview, and I thought there would be little to no value to watching it. Though it wasn't exactly a Ken Burns documentary in terms of its instructive value, it was actually surprisingly enlightening.

For example, at the very beginning of the show, competitors are asked to introduce themselves. Two of them, I believe Triple H and The Big Show, stated their names and catchphrases as normal but then tried to push Kurt Angle merchandise. Everyone was cracking up, and this was obviously a rib of some kind. It had nothing to do with storylines and it didn't even really make sense, so unless I'm missing something, I surmise it was an inside joke. It was still funny for the viewer, though, if for no other reason than to watch Angle crack up at being harassed like this.

The program consisted of William Regal, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, Trish Stratus, Lita, Kurt Angle, Booker T, and The Big Show. Most of them were just peddling their personalities and trying to get over. Some, like Regal, did an excellent job. Unless he always behaves as he does on WWF television, he was doing a great job of ad libbing. Trish Stratus and Lita, meanwhile, were painful to watch. When introducing herself, Trish even said "Stratusfaction is guaranteed".

That barely makes sense on Sunday Night Heat, let alone a game show.

She and Lita sounded like robots. Triple H, Angle, and Booker were a slightly lighter version of their regular characters. Stephanie McMahon stayed totally in character and did a good job. The Big Show was being a goof.

I doubt all of that was the game plan. There were other instances that hinted at what the people were really like or how they interacted behind the scenes. When asked why she voted off The Big Show, Stephanie McMahon answered that it was because he had asked her not to before the show. Big Show looked really embarrassed, but compensated by walking over to the host and standing two feet over her, staring down for a few seconds.

Some of the wrestlers really came off as ignorant. I mean, come on Booker T, even I know that Americans celebrate Columbus Day in October, and I'm Canadian. Others, like Regal, seemed largely well-informed.

Maybe The Weakest Link isnit the most entertaining show on television, and an appearance by a bunch of wrestlers doesnit entirely change that. They didn't exactly break down the walls of kayfabe, either. Still, they helped me discover that the only time you can really believe what you're seeing and hearing is when it's not on one of their shows, not in an interview setting and not appearing somewhere exclusively to promote something.

I was going to write a column about how little sense the entire story surrounding Survivor Series makes, how many plot holes have been uncovered in the past two weeks alone, but I decided to be nice for a change and let people enjoy their pay-per-view. I'm actually looking forward to it, though not the same way I look forward to something I expect to be really great.

Here's the mailbag.

Rob M DeMaio, from, writes:

"Hi, I read your article at SLAM! Wrestling and couldn't agree with you more. I've been saying the same thing as well for quite some time: on top of the fact that belts are around the wrong people, they're getting tossed around in a group of wrong people. I just want to say thanks for bringing this to more people's attention.

Rob, a wrestling fan"

The strangest thing is that I can't imagine that anyone perceives the current WWF title situation as remotely interesting. If that's so, then I fail to see how the WWF can see it as interesting, either. Maybe it's totally different working on the inside, but some things seem like they should be so obvious and it's always weird to watch some federations make the same mistakes over and over. I hope they correct them at Survivor Series, but I also hope they donit go too far in desperation.

That's all for this week. Thanks for tuning in. Have yourself a fantastic weekend.

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