EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, April 9, 1998
Draining the brain of random thoughts
First off, I guess, is a question. Did anybody see Nitro this week? Heh, trick question. Of course you did! Notice anything different? That's because WCW - no, wait, World Championship Wrestling, since they've dumped the acronym - wants to re-vamp their image.
I can't blame them. WCW...ack, I did it again, sorry...World Championship Wrestling has, in my oh so humblest of humble opinions, more talent than the WWF has ever had or ever will have. Somehow, though, they managed to get trounced in the ratings week after week. We all know, now, I think, that this is because the WWF packages their product far, far better than their southern counterparts, and this more than makes up for the disparity of talent. That's not to say that Wor...aw, forget it...WCW doesn't want to compete, that they don't desire to beat Vince McMahon's boys in Conneticut - they just didn't know how. Until now?
Well, I have to say I like the cosmetic change. But that's just what it is: a cosmetic change. Or is it?
Alright, I'll stop with the rhetorical questions. But let me answer that one, first. No, it isn't just a cosmetic change. Aside from timing everything just right and bringing back Randy Savage and Sting on the same night that they made a big splash with their new set design, they also made some changes which will improve the quality of their broadcasts. First of all, they brought their two best commentators to ringside, leaving Leaping Larry and Mike Tenay behind. That's smart move, one they should have went with long ago. It brings the commentators closer to the action, and in some cases, makes them a part of the action. In any case, I like it, and if nothing else, it's one less difference between them and the leader of the pack.
The logo-thing near the entrance-way, that's definitely new. My jury's still out on that one, I find it kind of creepy but kind of cool. Some of my readers have pointed out that it looks like a symbol from Star Trek. Judge for yourself, I suppose.
Despite all this, the biggest change of the evening has to be the return of my favourite WCW superstar, the Macho Man. Despite his overthehilledness (yes, it's a word, I looked it up [Ed. - really?]), Randy Savage still has the charisma to pack a house and thrill it, and as much as I'd like to see Bischoff take advantage of his young talent, I realize that he needs the proven stars to bring them there.
That brings me to something I'm definitely unhappy about, and that's El Vampiro. If you read the story right here at SLAM!, then you've got all the details, and if you didn't, then go read it now because I ain't repeating it. This guy, from what I saw of his one match against Juvy Juice, looks like the Second Coming of luchadores to me, and it's a damn shame that he's being buried. Why couldn't they have buried Konnan? Why? Why?!?
This weekend's WCW pay-per-view will likely answer a lot of questions about their future. Basically, if it doesn't suck, at least not as much as usual, then it'll be a good sign.
Over in the WWF, I'm starting to like the Undertaker's angle a little more, and all it took was one line to do it: "I think Mark's getting carried away" or something like that. As soon as they explained why a wrestler in a wrestling company would even want to abduct his boss's daughter, it started to make (more) sense and I started to like the angle. But then again, remember what made the Undertaker so popular? Pure evil.
I realize that I'm biting my words here, but I'm starting to warm to Ken Shamrock. He's just doing his thing, and even if he sucks, they're keeping him ten feet away from a mic or a title, so I'm fine with him.
Is it just me or are the fans really, really, really wanting to cheer for The Rock? They chant along with him, and only with his even cooler catchphrases ("this ain't sing-along with the champ," "stop that") can he shut them up. I don't know about you, but if they made him a face, I think he could turn Austin heel. But then, maybe Austin likes the merchandise sales he gets as a face, and knows that someone might over-shadow him if this someone were also to join the ranks of face-dom.
Raven and Saturn would make the coolest tag-team champions this side of Owen Hart and Yokozuna. Unfortunately, they're both pretty much allergic to titles. I have a remedy for them, but kissing Kevin Nash's butt is probably as bitter as any medicine I can think of.
Bret Hart's deal wasn't a shoot, so enough with the expansions of my conspiracy theory, which by the way was a joke. He's going under the knife for his groin injury, which wasn't a work.
I'm uncertain about how I feel about the Giant's place in the WWF right now. I personally always saw him as a monster heel more than a face. Who was the last wrestler I described that way? Oh yeah, Vader. Uh oh.
I thought Triple H would have had a lot of potential as a face vying for the title, but I don't dislike him as a heel. We shall see, I suppose.
Okay, I'm glad I got that out of me. Phew, I needed that. If anyone has any thoughts about any of that stuff, send me some mail, as always. They're just opinions, after all, and mine are probably all wrong anyway.
I tried this once before, I'm trying it again:
Anyone here reading this from the Montreal area? If so, do you know of a good sports bar or other locale which shows pay-per-views? I'm strongly in favour of putting together some events, if anyone's interested. Let me know via email.
Before I get to the mail, let me field a question. Is anybody out there interested in hearing about internet wrestling politics? Either this sounds very silly, or you know what I'm talking about. An awful lot of people take this whole writing-about-wrestling-on-the-internet thing very, very seriously, and if you'd enjoy reading a column about it, I'd be happy to oblige. Let me know. [Ed. - Do I get a vote? Isn't this the only site that matters?]
Here's the mail.
Matt F., from firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
*I noticed that you were saying that a lot of the matches at WM were "good, but not WM material". Well, think back for a second. Where do you get this picture that every match at Wrestlemania has to be great? Did you happen to see WMs 1-13? About 90% of the matches of Wrestlemania history were terrible. And I mean really bad. Wrestlemania 10, while being my personal favorite 'Mania, had some awful matches, including both title matches. Ditto for wrestlemania 3. Remember Harley Race vs. Junkyard Dog? That was pitiful. Don't even get me started on WM 6. There was basically 1 good match on the entire card. That fact that this show had several matches that you considered good puts it ahead of most of the others. Sure, we remember the super matches, which this had none of, but remember that previous WMs had tons of horrible matches.*
You're absolutely right, here. I didn't think about it that way, but Wrestlemanias of the past are definitely shrouded in that kind of hazy nostalgia. Wasn't it great? Yeah, well Andre versus Hogan just wasn't the match of the century. Quick poll: was Randy Savage versus Ricky Steamboat the match people always say it was? Let me know what you think.
*I really enjoy your column and I look forwrd to reading it every week. Your insights provide me additional info which we, here in the Philippines, lack as we don't get to see wrestling shows except for WWF Superstars unless you subscribe to cable. This show is also "anitized as the station censors some of the action such as chair shots and outside the ring mayhem (I know, it stinks!). What I can't understand is Bret Hart's constant "tantrums" which climaxed at Nitro when he "quit" WCW. In his column, he said he wasn't joking yet he leaves it to WCW if they will evolve an angle out of this. Huh?! Don't get me wrong. I'm a big Hitman fan always remembering when he visited the Philippines and had a match against his brother Owen. He was the only wrestler who really took time to stay after his match just to shake hands with all of the fans which endeared him more to the Filipinos. I even supported him when he reformed the Hart Foundation to be a heel group in the WWF. I also felt bad when he was short changed by Vince (though I found your conspiracy theory quite amusing). But lately, he seems to be turning into a brat who wants the spotlight trained only on him. True, WCW is misusing him as well as some other wrestlers in their "over talented" roster. But quit? Do you think that's professional? What do you think?*
I love hearing from international readers. You're right, Bret's a great guy for that kind of thing, and I think he made a great face in the WWF for that very reason. Bret is a true professional, but how many zeros are there in that contract? Oh, and by the way, contracts are binding. People seem to forget that Bret said he'd do a job, now he has to do it. He can't just leave. Even if he did, where would he go? Vince McMahon *fired* him. He's doing better *without* him. There is no future for Bret Hart in the WWF.
That's all for this week. Have a great one (week, that is, not a great Rocky Maivia), thanks for reading, thanks for writing, say your prayers, eat your vitamins, see you in seven.
Send email to email@example.com.