EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, January 18, 2002
NWO reunion won't work
Many wrestling fans would salivate at the idea of an NWO invasion in the WWF. I think that's what most fans were anticipating or hoping for when the WWF bought WCW. To them the Alliance invasion angle was a poor substitute. The new World order angle was tremendously successful for WCW and resulted in a great deal of growth and revenue for the company. One might think it could offer similar benefits to the World Wrestling Federation, but one would be wrong. Rehashing the NWO angle, more likely than not, would be nothing short of disastrous.
In arriving at this conclusion, my assumptions are the following:
First, that the original triad of the NWO would be an expensive commodity to bring in. Hogan, Hall, and Nash wouldn't work cheap. Sure, the WWF might be able to structure their deals more along the lines of the incentive-based contracts current WWF superstars get, but if the NWO angle succeeds, then I would wager that a sizeable portion of that revenue would fall in the hands of the incoming trio. If the NWO angle fails, then that certainly wouldn't be good for business, and my point would be proven. All I'm saying here is that if things go well, the WWF wouldn't keep all of the reward.
Second, let's take a look at why the new World order angle was so successful in WCW. It kept viewers hooked by making each week's Nitro seem important enough not to be missed. After all, seemingly every Nitro was a historic event, with someone debuting or turning heel or turning face or turning heel again. The emphasis was on shock-television, which I don't believe is sustainable in the long run. It can work for awhile, but you can't keep using this model because after eventually, you will run out of surprises and your shows will feel less important.
Third, when WCW was at its peak, it placed most emphasis on its free television shows. It would be an exaggeration to suggest that they ignored their pay-per-views. What I mean is that they placed more emphasis on Nitro (and even Thunder early on) than they did their pay-per-views, relative to the WWF. At the top of their game, WCW was drawing lower pay-per-view buyrates than the WWF when it was on top. It could be argued that the WWF has a slicker, hipper promotions department, and that's true to an extent, but the whole shock-television model supports watching the television show for its own sake, not to whet your appetite for a pay-per-view.
Fourth, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hulk Hogan are a locker room menace. Maybe the WWF has its roster under control. Maybe Steve Austin and Triple H and The Rock and Undertaker can keep the newcomers at bay. Regardless, in the long run, Hall, Nash, and Hogan have been proven to cause problems, be it by refusing to job, stirring up trouble with or between other wrestlers, or through tough salary negotiations.
Now let me put this all together for you. The WWF signs Kevin Nash, Hulk Hogan, and Scott Hall to potentially lucrative, incentive-based deals. Apparently, they may have had to compromise on the number of house show dates worked. The NWO is reformed. Fans' heads turn, ratings increase, and pay-per-view buyrates go up. The shock television model, using debuts, turns, and the freshness of the angle as a main source of interest to fans, lasts about three months before even starting to taper off. Ratings slowly decline back to normal levels as there are no surprises left in the bag. Pay-per-view buyrates go back down as we've already seen most of the new combinations.
Ultimately, the WWF will have gained whatever extra revenue they earned from a few months of strong business, though minus the bonuses and salaries paid to the NWO members. Then they're stuck with them. It's not like Nash or Hogan or Hall will help increase or even maintain the standards of wrestling in the WWF. They're good for angles only, and even then not forever. We got tired of their stale acts in WCW and we'll get tired of them here.
Unless they can lowball them on money, or they sign them for very short-term deals and then let them go, these three men will not be a winning proposition for the WWF. They're a quick fix, and that's how they should be employed. Bring them in, job them to Kurt Angle and Triple H and Booker T, then ship them out.
Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hulk Hogan have already had their day in the sun, and they've been well-compensated for it. It's time to leave the spotlight on folks who can actually wrestle. Don't get me wrong, I would love to see this angle, and maybe the WWF can think of things I don't see to keep these guys fresh for a long time. But I foresee these three wrestlers stepping out on Raw one week, ratings going way up, and then everyone at the WWF celebrating and thinking their problems are solved. They will be, for a few weeks or months. Then we'll be back to square one, only unlike when WCW began to decline, we won't have a competitor to switch to when the old folks are wrestling via extended rest holds.
Here's the mailbag:
Brian Howard, from firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
Where is Goldberg? What's he doing? Will we see him in the WWF?
You can't beat brevity.
Goldberg is still (as far as I know) collecting AOL-Time Warner former WCW paychecks. As a result, there's a limit to what he can do. He makes the odd appearance, but doesn't seem to have much else to do. He was recently quoted as saying he'd never work for the WWF as it is today (a "circus").
Ron Hutton, from email@example.com, writes:
I completely disagree with your column last week about Triple H because his return WILL be enough to help the WWF increase its ratings.
Looking at the segment from Raw, Triple H's return was huge and the pop for Triple H was bigger than the Rock and Stone Cold's. I think it's fair to say that the biggest heat was for Kurt Angle. Kurt Angle, Rock and Stone Cold are all at the Royal Rumble and let me clue you in what WILL probably happen:
Jericho retains the title by picking up the tainted win against the Rock and Triple H wins the Royal Rumble. Jericho won't be headlining Wrestlemania, so Jericho will drop the belt at No Way Out in February to either The Rock or Stone Cold and will face the Game for the undisputed title.
Triple H is back with a vengeance and nothing will stand in his way of regaining his WWF title and his first WCW championship- thus becoming undisputed champion. With Nash and Hall close to signing with the WWF or if they signed already, their return will be enough.
Triple H's return brought in a huge rating but not as big as the rating in 1999 and since your putting down the Game's return, let's remember that the Rock's return failed to set the WWF on fire. Kurt Angle and Triple H may have a feud ahead, but I suspect Angle will have a certain FREAK to worry about very soon. Scott Steiner will more than likely target Angle, so don't look for Triple H feud.
Jericho-Rock is boring and Austin-Booker T isn't exactly all that exciting either.
Bottom line here: You say that Triple H won't set the WWF on fire ratings-wise, well, I beg to differ because the Game will walk away from the Royal Rumble, one week from Sunday as the winner. Don't look for Austin to win the Rumble this year and don't look for the Rock to win the undisputed title either.
The ratings for the WWF dropped back down one week after the Rock's return. So don't tell me the Crock's return made any difference because the Rock sucks and the Game is that damn good
Ron: I wouldn't be so sure, were I you. Triple H did spike Raw's ratings - for about one week. In the absence of anything particularly compelling drawing fans back, the ratings died right back down this week. Whose return would you use to increase ratings next week, or in three months, when fans are really tired of Hunter? I will continue to say that it's stories more than anything that make for ratings..
That's all for this week. Have a safe and happy weekend.
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.