SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

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

Friday, December 3, 1999

Retiring at the right time

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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From the point of view of this columnist, it really has been a roller coaster few months for the world of professional wrestling. Starting around the time the WWF offered stock, this column has been a creatively stifled effort, as each week presented me with something I had no choice but to cover. I simply cannot address an event as critical as a major injury or defection or firing. Not if I want to retain any credibility.

Fortunately, though, and knock on wood with me here, wrestling seems to be slipping back into its usual form. Finally, we can all discuss what's really important: the wrestling.

Well, not just yet. First, a quick word about Mankind and his recent retirement announcement. I applaud the guy. Mick Foley is not a man in his prime, but he's clearly not over the hill, at least relative to many of his peers. Yet he's taking a leave of sorts because he doesn't feel his body has as much to give as it used to, he doesn't want to gyp the fans out of a good show, nor leave a bad impression by staying in the game too long, and he wants to spend more time with his family. I applaud him again for seeing this through.

I hate to bring this up, but I truly feel it warrants attention. The last time I spoke with Owen Hart (R.I.P.) was about a year before the tragic accident, and he didn't make a very useful wrestling interview. The reason for that he wouldn't stop talking about his family, how he wanted to spend more time with them, how he thought it was just about time to hang up the boots, how he wanted a reduced schedule, and how he was thinking about retiring.

But his stock was rising in the WWF, and with his partnering with Jeff Jarrett, he decided to stay a little while longer. I really don't have a clue about how retiring works with respect to wrestling contracts, but in his defense, he had a lot of time left on his at the time. Still, I can't help but remember Owen when I hear Mick saying that he wants to be able to spend quality time with his family and that he doesn't think he can take much more of this wrestling thing.

That's why, much to my own dismay, I encourage him to retire as soon as possible. I think as soon as one makes a decision like that, they should see it through, so that the seemingly impossible doesn't happen to stop him, like it did to Owen. And before you claim this analogy to be ridiculous because Owen's accident was once in a lifetime, just take a look back at Hell in a Cell II. Mick performed at least two stunts that could have gone horribly awry. Here's to hoping he doesn't feel he needs to repeat that kind of match as his send-off before leaving.

He was smart enough to give ECW fans a piece of his mind about their endless cheering for blood and gore, and I'm hoping he's smart enough to follow his own advice and take it easy on his way out.

That being said, I'd love to see him stay on in some respect, be it as a commish or a commentator or whatever. Maybe even a match every once in awhile, if he retires in good health.

Which is something that one Shawn Michaels proved unable to do. After being injured in 1997's Hell in a Cell I match against the Undertaker, Michaels continued to carry the WWF on his shoulders for another six months, wrestling Bret Hart at Survivor Series, Ken Shamrock at Degeneration X: In Your House, The Undertaker at The Royal Rumble, then Steve Austin at WrestleMania. Those matches took everything he had and more, and what could have perhaps been healed with six months rest had he taken it after the original Cell match hasn't healed after almost two years since his retirement.

They say you don't know what you got ‘till it's gone, and that's certainly true. When he was around, I considered him an obnoxious jerk and admittedly disliked both him and his persona for his work-hate, shoot-hate relationship with my then-favourite Bret Hart, and his taunting of Owen later. Now that he isn't around anymore, I really miss his style of match. There just aren't that many guys who could sell the way he did. He made anyone he fought look like gold, and I took that for granted.

It's no coincidence that many of The Undertaker's four-star matches took place with Shawn Michaels, nor that the same can be said for Scott Hall, Sid Eudy, and Kevin Nash.

Mr. Foley, please take advantage of your situation now, one where you have your health and an entire life with your family to look forward to, and retire. Hang up the tights. It's what anyone who cares for your well-being would want you to do.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say we'd like to cherish our memories of Mankind and Dude Love and Cactus Jack, instead of imagining 'what if Mick had retired just a little earlier' and wishing you were well and with us again.

You know, I really did want to write about the actual wrestling we all saw go down this week, just to talk about the ordinary stuff. I even had it all planned out. But as soon as I started to write, my two-line farewell to Mick Foley just took over. I guess we haven't reached the point yet where wrestling will ease back into its regular, weekly fare, with no behind-the-scenes shenanigans to rant about. Maybe next week.

Yeah, right.

Here's the mailbag.

Amy Kesler, from, writes:
"I am confused about one thing. I didn't watch WWF for a good while and then all of the sudden I turned it on this past Monday night and the announcers are talking about the wedding. Now, I knew that Stephanie and Test were "dating", but what I want to know if all of this is for real. Are they seriously involved and will they actually be getting married in real life? I am just an intrigued viewer right now! Thanks a lot!"

Don't fret. It's my job to follow wrestling, and even I have trouble when they start to mimic soap operas to this extent. Here's the story: Test and Stephanie are not dating or anything in real life, this was just thought of as an angle to push talent, in this case, Test. They 'dated' on television, were harassed continuously by Shane McMahon, but then everything was settled and they decided to marry, again all a work. Unfortunately, the Bulldog nailed Stephanie in the head with a trash can, causing her to lose her memory and putting a stop to the wedding. Later she regained her memory, and the wedding was back on, set for this past Monday. Of course, we all know what happened then, as their marriage was interrupted by Triple H, who revealed that he and an unconscious Stephanie had actually been married earlier in Las Vegas. This obviously put a stop to any marriage plans for Test and Stephanie.

Oh my goodness, this isn't even wrestling anymore. It really is a soap opera.

Avon Lake High School (all of it???), from alhs_circ@LEECA.ORG, writes:
"I agree with a lot of fans turning back to WCW (I am too), but you can leace it up to WCW to screw themselves up again, like they did in mid-1998. WWF's cheezy backstage confrontations are nauseating to watch, but their wrestling action is still better (isn't it?) and their interviews are too. But I say WWF goes all out with Chris Jericho and forget about that overrated Rock punk. He's had what, three, two-week title reigns now?"

Well, your opinions are your own and you have a right to them as much as anyone, but I disagree with you on a few counts.

If you were to ask me why WCW isn't right up there with the WWF even though their product is extremely similar now, I think that it's for two reasons. One, we still don't really care about WCW wrestlers. All I mean by that is that they haven't been running this style long enough for us to get attached to their personalities. Given a few more months, we may come to love and laugh at Disco Inferno's unfortunate bookie/loan shark problems, Lex Luger's terrible fear of everything?, and so on. I'm starting to warm up to it, but I still think that it will take time for WCW to regain any spotlight.

When WCW and the WWF were neck and neck, the trend wasn't whoever delivered the better show got higher ratings, it was whoever delivered the better show last week got higher ratings this week. That's because people would remember which was better and, to some extent, watch that one next week. To a greater extent, that's true here. The more WCW puts on a good show, the more people will tune in, think 'hmmm .. this is good', and watch later. It's a much more long-term investment, and I think WCW is well on its way to getting back into the swing of things.

Their other deficiency, one which will prove harder to overcome, is that the WWF is still associated more with mainstream success, as their stars Steve Austin, The Rock, and now even Mick Foley are all very well-known outside the sport. Other than Hulk Hogan and possibly Goldberg, that can't be said of nearly as many WCW stars. Maybe that will change with time, I think it's more an element of marketing than anything else.

Mike, from, writes:
"I guess there is hope for WWF out there. Especially with marks out there like yourself that would call McMahon a genius if he killed a busload of kids"

As a rule of thumb, I don't post a reader e-mail and then attack it because that seems unfair to me, but Mike, you're way out of line here. Whether you want to admit it or not, I give each and every federation a fair shake and judge them on a week-by-week basis. Mayhem was the best pay-per-view I've seen in the last three months or so, and I think I'm being pretty clear when I say that WCW is improving.

The truth is, Mike, that people who honestly think WCW is better, legitimate WCW fans, e-mail me and disagree with what I say. Politely, eloquently, or at least logically. And those guys are fine by me. The real 'marks,' if we're to use the term as an insult the way you did, simply lash out with insults based on nothing.


Because they - nay, you - have nothing constructive to say. Your problem isn't that you dislike WWF programming, it's that you dislike the organization itself, and that's fine, but because you don't have what it takes to come up with arguments to support your side, you make ridiculous remarks toward people who do. I'd call McMahon a genius if he killed a busload of kids? How dare you? How dare you make a comment about my sense of ethics based on the fact that I like my wrestling adult-oriented?

That's the kind of commentary that starts fights with the Acolytes, so watch it. If you come up with anything intelligent to say - ever - feel free to drop me a line. Until then, I think I'd much rather hear from the rest of our SLAM! readers, who always have something interesting to say.

Aahhh. Apologies to bystanders for that tirade, but I can only read so many blatantly stupid e-mails before I have to respond to just one, you know, to get it out of my system.

Anyway, that's it, that's all. Thanks for reading, everyone, and thanks for writing, everyone but Mike. Have a great week.

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