EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, April 16, 1998
WCW delivering these days
There, I said it. Now I'll back it up.
Am I on the band-wagon? Absolutely. I don't pick a product and stick with it until death, and I have no real loyalty to it beyond day-to-day continued quality. When quality diminishes, or serious competition comes along, I have absolutely no qualms switching. That's most definitely the case with wrestling.
Each and every week, sometimes much to my own chagrin, I sit down and watch at least five longs hours of WCW and WWF programming. I'd be kidding myself if I said I only watched it to be able to write an educated column, but I admittedly keep my finger on the fast-forward button from time to time, and sometimes I let out a groan of dismay. I probably don't love wrestling any more than most fans, I just like to write about it.
My point is that I don't have to like both organizations equally, and in addition to that, I don't have to support one or the other blindly. When World Championship Wrestling gives me better product, I will react, just as consumers are supposed to in a free market economy.
That being said, I guess I should tell you exactly why I think WCW is giving me a better product right now.
I thought about it, and there are innumerable little reasons, but they can be divided into three categories and one theme: I like the wrestling, I like the story-lines, I like the new look, and I am finally convinced that the WCW brass is doing there jobs and gives a damn about the product they're making (that one's the theme).
Let's start with the wrestling. I don't think anyone can even touch me on this one. Ever timed the amount of wrestling in a Raw program and then in a Nitro program? Well, pound per pound, Nitro shows more wrestling per minute than Raw does. A lot more, actually. They show no wrestling in their first hour, and even counting that, they show almost twenty seconds of wrestling for every minute on the air, while the WWF puts out a dismal average of less than twelve seconds (credit Chris Zimmerman's weekly stats on the subject). That means almost twice the wrestling for your buck over on Nitro.
On this particular subject, I can talk quantity, but I can also talk quality. Let's be honest with ourselves here. As much as I want to like the WWF because it's just so damned cool, WCW has all the work-horses who can put on a real show. Rey Misterio Jr., Billy Kidman, Juventud Guerrera, Blitzkrieg, Mikey Whipwreck, La Parka, and Psychosis make up what I think is the best, most consistently good group of cruiserweights I have ever witnessed. Bam Bam Bigelow and Hardcore Hak are each arguably the king of hardcore, and they bring up that division, belt or no belt. Perry Saturn, Raven, Chris Benoit, Kanyon, Booker T., Stevie Ray, Rick Steiner, Scott Steiner, and so many, many others make up a mid-card which could probably fill an entire organization, from top to bottom. Chris Jericho is a show all by himself. With Ric Flair, Hollywood Hogan, Randy Savage, Sting, an injured or retired Bret Hart, Goldberg, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and a returning Kevin Nash, they have a bigger, albeit older main event group. Of course, I don't have to tell you that in two or three years, a lot of those names will disappear, and from there the roster only improves, as the spectacular mid-card moves to fill the gaps.
Tell me, what was your favourite match of the past month? I mean match, like wrestling moves and a pin, not a storyline. If you're anywhere near my way of thinking, it has to be one of the cruiser matches, plausibly a Kidman/Misterio match.
The WWF has this formula. Time their matches yourself and see: three to five short matches of two to five minutes, and a main event of about ten. WCW also has a formula: they have three hours to showcase their talent, so you'll probably see about three or four matches of under five minutes and another three or four above fifteen minutes. Those cruiserweights go for a lot longer than any WWF main event, and if you time it, so do WCW main events.
They last longer, there are more of them, and they're better. Okay, that's all I can say about that without talking about costumes. Let's not talk about costumes.
When I said I liked WCW's storylines, I didn't mean they were in any way superior to those in the WWF. Quite the contrary. They just aren't as bad as they used to be and no longer bring down the level of the show to dangerously low levels. I can stand the stories now, and I can see they're visibly getting better, and that makes watching the superior wrestling a whole lot easier.
On that note, I have to say that WCW storylines are becoming much more unpredictable. That's really good news. Hogan dropping the strap for so long to Flair came as a big surprise to me, and finally Flair is getting the flack I think he so rightfully deserves, something he never got when the poor, poor guy was limited to only fourteen title reigns. Maybe now that he isn't champ people will shut up about giving him the belt again. A great entertainer, he is; a credible champion at 40-whatever, he ain't.
Diamond Dallas Page as a champion? I don't know. Maybe not. But pick between him and Hogan and tell me whether this is an improvement or not.
What's there really to say about their new look? I wrote about it last week. Refer to it if you need to, but the bottom line is that they killed a few of their weaknesses by taking some cues from the WWF and their program has improved as a result.
I doubt I convinced any WWF hardliners, but I think I can still bring this argument together to demonstrate that Turner's little rasslin' league is on an upslide.
Remember last year, when WCW was king of the ratings and the WWF was lagging so far behind? Put simply, the WWF improved their product dramatically and took control of the ratings in no time. Is that possibly what's going on here?
Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but I can tell you of at least one of WCW's new fans.
Is this jumping on the bandwagon? Yeah, probably, but I think I'm at least not one of the first guys. The bandwagon's there, and if it's going the same way you are, then why not get on?
Here's the mail:
Colin Pynes, firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
*What do you think of DDP as champ? In a recent article Kevin Nash claimed he hadn't failed a drug test in ten years. If he was holding the book on this match then I think it's time to give Nash a drug test. One hundred to one odds he wouldn't pass.*
When Diamond Dallas Page was the ‘people's champ,' I almost cared about what happened to him, and when he got a fresh, new beat-down every week from the nWo, I wanted him to rob Hogan of that strap. But now, I just don't care. Is he a heel? Hell if I know. Does he make a better champ than Hogan and Flair, at least in terms of passing the torch down to some slightly younger and definitely different workers? I think so.
Oh, and is Kevin Nash a good booker? I don't have a clue, since it's so hard to tell which booker is responsible for what. If he's the one who's made me like Nitro again, then I have to say yes.
James Dempsey, from email@example.com, writes:
*My wife and I watched Spring Stampede last night, and we have a burning question!!! Who was that under the Blitzkrieg mask??? It WASN'T the Blitzkrieg we have been seeing (who we think is the missing Tokyo Magnum!!!). This Blitzkrieg was bulkier and had a different skin color, not to mention he wasn't as fast or as graceful as the regular Blitzkrieg. Could it be possible it was Ultimo Dragon??? That was one of UD's top rope finishes Blitzkrieg used!!! And last night's Blitzkrieg never once used his full layout spinning splash (whatever he calls it???), the one time it was used, it was done in a tuck and roll NOT full layout!!!*
Hmmm. I have no idea. I just thought he was some guy under a mask called Blitzkrieg. Anybody out there know? If so, let me know.
One of many nameless of the hordes of AOL, from Ncslaapca@aol.com, writes:
*I wanted to let you know that of about 20 people at my Wrestlemania party, all but 2 cheered for the Rock. I know that SCSA has fans somewhere but I don't know any. No one at the party made an Austin sign, I think we had 3 Rock signs.*
How about this? Next time Austin ‘recommends' that the Rock stay heel so that he can stay the top face in the organization, Rock, you tell him to know his damn role, shut his mouth, and then you lay the smack down on him whether he does or he doesn't. There's only one individual who deserves to be at the top of the WWF heap, and it's the second-best entertainer in professional sports, Rocky Maivia.
That's all. Thanks for reading, thanks for writing. Have a great week. I'll see you in hell...er, in seven.
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.