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

Friday, August 13, 1998

The multi-annual Benner rants column

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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In the spirit of Greg Oliver's low price clearance sale prize merchandise, I, too, shall be getting rid of some my own personal stash.

Unfortunately for you, I don't have anything of real value to give away - just all those opinions, locked away in my brain, never seen the light of day in a column.

That's right, folks, it's time for the multi-annual Benner rants column. Insert your own lame, gimmicky name right [here].

Speeches, metaphors, and catch-phrases aside, it often takes me some time to think of a given week's column's subject. And in doing so, I often think of other things, ideas which don't quite have that full column potential. Thoughts and opinions which either won't take enough space or are just not of general interest.

That sort of thing, though, builds up over time, and eventually, I find myself choosing between two or three column ideas each week, and with each choice, two more ideas are shifted to the next week. Carry that over a few weeks and we have Friday the 13th (!) of August, 1999, yet another edition of my disjointed thoughts and opinions.

I'm going to go about this in no particular order. Everything that comes to me, as it comes to me.

First, I have to lend my thoughts to Jericho. If not for the fact that every other columnist on the web also feels they must lend their thoughts to that subject, this could have been a column, but I have nothing new to say, only a side to choose. I thought that Jericho's entrance last Monday was nothing short of hilarious. I think he's going to be a super addition to the WWF crew of talent, and I think he might be able to revitalize some old routines, adding a more traditional heel motif to the atmosphere. What I don't look for, though, is for Jericho to contend legitimately for the heavyweight title anytime soon. I could be wrong, but I think the WWF would be wise to simply follow what Jericho was doing in WCW, at least for awhile. Jericho would challenge people far stronger than himself, people like Goldberg, make the people badly want to see him beaten, then, ideally, finally lose to the guy on pay-per-view. This could be a great way to build up some mid-card faces.

Second, my feelings about Triple H. I think Triple H is a great talent, and I love seeing him, both in the ring and on the mic. He's the kind of guy who lends an intensity to wrestling that makes me forget, however briefly, that it's fake. I also think that it's good timing to elevate him to main event status, and I think he's carrying along splendidly. It's almost good timing for Austin's injury - though I wish injury upon no one - because it may give Triple H a chance to establish himself as the top heel, complete with title, and to defend it without the presense of Austin. That way, when Austin finally does return, they can have their feud the way it was meant to be, not last a month, but much longer, perhaps leading up to WrestleMania.

Thirdly, my opinion of Chris Benoit as United States champion. Too little, but not necessarily too late. Giving Benoit one title reign won't be enough to solve WCW's problems. I think it's great for Benoit, but it's more important for them to build all the young guys - together - and to have them compete amongst each other. Then, and only then, will we be able to appreciate Chris Benoit's title reign - when he's defending it week after week against the likes of Buff Bagwell or Kanyon or Raven or whomever.

That leads me to point number four, which consists of my thoughts on the old guard and of the Road Wild match. I think a slight adjustment in the stipulation would make the buy-rate soar. How about this: if either Hulk Hogan or Kevin Nash wins, they both have to retire. In addition, they have to take Roddy Piper and Ric Flair with them into retirement, but all four men will be free to return as managers or announcers or any role they choose that doesn't involve tights, feuds, or a wrestling ring. If it's a screw-job finish, and neither man wins, then they have to take David Flair with them.

Rant the fifth. I forecast a bullish market for WCW in the mid-future. That means good things to come in the slightly less than immediate future. They seem to be going in the right direction of late, and certain political taboos seem to be falling. Vampiro is wrestling - and winning - again, and Kevin Nash has put in for vacation. Combine that with Hogan's knee injury, and we may have a company that's back on track. Just give the heavyweight title to either Goldberg or Sting, and pray for the return of Bret Hart. And when I say return, I mean one that's handled properly. If it isn't, then I don't want to see it, either.

Finally, my sixth and last argument of the column. The WWF put on a monster show this past week, and they didn't break a seven rating, something they've been capable of in the past. That tells me that the ratings ceiling for wrestling programming is starting to level off for the moment, and that also tells me that if WCW is ever going to make strides to catch up with the WWF, now's the time. With less people tuning in each week, be it because of Monday Night Football or the end of the summer or simply a disinterest in wrestling, this is WCW's chance to rejuvenate themselves and build something special. I'm starting to get interested in their storylines again. I've always followed them, but only recently have I thought they were pretty cool. I hope it stays that way. After almost two years of watching the WWF struggle and build itself up, I think we've all learned that a wrestling promotion reaches the top again with baby steps and continuity, not with one-hit-hummers, er wonders.

Wait, that was my second-to-last gripe. Here's the last one. The WWF, with their mainstream success, their super-high pay-per-view buyrates this year, and their new network television show coming up, it was obviously a great time to sell some stock. I think this is all an indication that the WWF - and, I suppose, wrestling in general - has hit something of a plateau, and that it probably won't continue to rocket upwards for the next little while. I don't think that's a bad sign, I think it's probably a good thing for wrestling to see some stability. If the WWF can maintain those six-plus ratings through the latter half of 1999, I think I'd love to be them going into the new mmillennium, which by the way, starts on January 1st, 2001, no matter what anyone tells you. There was no year zero, we started counting at 1. Consequently, the second millennium started at 1001, and the third will begin in 2001. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Those were the serious rants, here are some observations. Okay, one.

Wouldn't it be funny if Chris Jericho played a Homer Simpson-esque role in the WWF? What I mean, specifically, is this. If you've ever watched the Simpsons a few times, then you'll probably know Mr. Burns, the evil nuclear plant owner. Well, every time he sees Homer Simpson, he asks him (or Smithers, whoever's closest) "who is that?" Despite the fact that Homer Simpson has had a truly great impact on his life, time and time again, he cannot remember who he is. When Homer Simpson finally realized this, he became angry and went to Mr. Burns' office to spray paint, in giant letters, his name on the wall. When he was finished, and "I AM HOMER SIMPSON" was written on the walls, Mr. Burns came in and saw him. "Who the devil are you?" he said. Homer snapped and choked him, and the next day, Burns reveals that he was "assaulted by an unidentified assailant."

Anyway, I think that stuff is hilarious, and I've picked up on two instances of this with Jericho. In his first appearance, when he's done talking, the Rock repeats a line of his: "what's your name? (pause, then interupts) it doesn't matter what your name is!" Then, on this coming episode of Raw (warning, minor spoiler coming), Jericho comes out during the Undertaker's tyrade and starts doing his thing again. Despite the fact that "RAW IS JERICHO" appears in giant letters on the TitanTron, the Undertaker says to him "son, I don't know what your name is, but...etc." I think that could be a funny gag to start up. But that's just me. Maybe no one else finds that funny.

Here's the mailbag. It's just one letter, but it's such a good one that I think it deserves all the spotlight. It's also really, really long.

Chris Wright,, writes:

"I guess I'm one of the very few who really liked the David Flair angle. And I'm kind of sorry to see it go.

I don't know why everyone has been so pissed off about this angle. It's actually been one of the more interesting stories WCW has had in a while, and it's a pretty smart move. Consider:

1. The US Title was pretty meaningless long before David ever got it.

2. WCW wants a way to make it more valuable. There are two ways to do this: have someone credible hold it for a looong time (in which case, people will be wondering "why isn't he getting a title shot?")... or... DEVALUE IT COMPLETELY FIRST, THEN GIVE A FAVORITE THE BELT.

3. So David Flair, who has NO WRESTLING ABILITY whatsoever, is given the belt. Notice that WCW has never tried to pretend that David HAS any wrestling ability. Also notice, to his credit, David Flair has taken his bumps legitimately, show after show, despite having no wrestling ability.

4. The angle is that Ric Flair is pushing his son because Ric Flair has gone power crazy. All these deserving wrestlers keep getting ganged up on and cheated out of a chance to win the US Title.

5. So David Flair makes a mockery of the US Title.

I think that Point 5 was INTENTIONAL. I think it's a lot easier to make the US Title credible now, because the contrast between David Flair and Chris Benoit is so obvious. And I think the angle was really hilarious. I always found it entertaining and I gotta respect David for taking the bumps he's taken. My God, Chris Benoit tore him up in each match, and there were others as well...

Of course, this chance at credibility will only last if Benoit gets to KEEP the title for any appreciable length of time... meaning he has to DEFEAT Page at Road Wild. Personally, I hope he does but given the way WCW books things I don't know that he will. :(

Eric I don't personally think you're rabidly anti-WCW, but I DO think that if this angle played out on the WWF it would have been given a fair shake and people would have taken it for what it was. I think that's more because people expect the WWF to have reasons behind everything and the WCW to do things on a whim than anything else, which is fair to a point but unfair, I think, in this situation.

At any rate, I don't expect this to change your mind but I hear so many negative comments about this angle I thought I should represent the 3 or 4 people on the internet who actually LIKED it."

Chris, I'm gonna level with you. I actually agree. I hate to admit it, but I enjoyed the David Flair angle. It was stupid, it was ridiculous, and it didn't belong in WCW right now, since they aren't wrestling-rich enough to support parodies, but man, I thought it was funny. It was like Shane McMahon's feud, but he had a legitimate feud with X-Pac, and that made theirs a little less funny. This particular angle, in my opinion, was actually kind of funny. In another time, in another WCW, it would have been much better received. But you're right, if it had been tried in the WWF, it would have at least been given a chance, since the assumption is that everything in the WWF is done for some kind of wise reason, and everything done in WCW is the result of a coin-toss. That isn't entirely true. It just looks like it sometimes.

Thanks all for reading, thanks especially for writing. Have a great week, all.

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