EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Monday, July 19, 1998
The WWF needs Jericho
It's really great to read an email from someone who isn't up to their necks in their own self-praise and ego-worship. I try my best to avoid hypocrisy and try to fit into that anti-stereotype which I just stated, but sometimes, probably frequently, I falter. That's why it's nice to hear it from someone else.
On that note, Nial O' Farrell, from firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
"Hi! I live in the Republic of Ireland and I have been watching wrestling for years. WWF was the fed I watched all the time but when WCW came available over here I watched that for a while. I watched it for a couple of weeks but I thought it was very poor when compared to the WWF. I just thought I would let you know that as I could be seen as a definite neutral in the whole WCW/WWF debate. My question to you is as I have never seen Chris Jericho perform, how big an impact will he have in the WWF and will he be a main eventer in your opinion?"
Wait a minute, you mean you aren't going to just assume that he'll either (a) flop right off the bat or (b) be the heir to Shawn Michaels and win the world title by the end of the year? Huh? I'm not quite sure how to react to an honest question with no assumptions attached - it's just been so long.
Of course, it's a convenient coincidence that I wanted to write a bit about Chris Jericho this week.
Before I begin - and it seems I always have to say something before I begin, often in defense of what I'm about to say - let me refer you to a column I wrote on September 24, 1998. I had intended to direct you to the column I wrote about Jericho awhile back, but I think that maybe that was pre-SLAM!. Anyway, take a quick look at that column, specifically the seventeenth paragraph. Heck, let me just quote it for you:
(On the subject of my likes and dislike in wrestling, presented in point form): "Chris Jericho: This guy is so funny. Despite his small size, he will win a heavyweight championship, I guarantee it."
Now, I do stand by what I said, but I'm definitely going to have to qualify that statement.
You see, the purpose of today's column is to state that we shouldn't just expect Chris Jericho to walk into the WWF into a main event scene laden with title matches. In order to do that without contradicting myself, let me say that when I wrote that particular sentence, it was under the assumption that Jericho would continue at the pace that he'd been going at for the past six months. After two Cruiserweight Titles and a heel turn, he won the Cruiserweight Title a third time and feuded with Dean Malenko in the first half of 1998, then won the Television Title and participated in a whole slew of really cool, really funny feuds. His matches weren't too bad, either.
I was assuming at that point, that it was a given that WCW would continue to push him. And they did. It climaxed at November's World War III pay-per-view, in which he was supposed to receive a shot at Goldberg's title. Of course, the boys in the back nixed most of that program because they didn't want Jericho mixing with Goldberg, since they thought he wasn't good enough. That was the beginning of the end for Jericho in WCW, and the statement I made in the September column, while I stick by it, is definitely delayed until he gets back that status he had in WCW - only this time in the WWF.
Back to the question. How big an impact will he have on the WWF and will he be a main eventer, in my opinion? First, take a ten second break from reading this and answer that question for yourself.
Now it's my turn. My answers are "not much" and "eventually," respectively.
Oh. Some smart just felt that voodoo tingle they get when someone doesn't buy the Internet hype.
What I mean by that is that everything I've read about Jericho, with the exception of a few of the really big, really established names in legitimate wrestling media, is that Jericho will walk into the WWF and receive a title shot on day one, that he'll be the second coming of sports entertainment, that he'll save the company or propel it to new heights, that he'll win the belt by the end of the year, that he'll just frigging rock.
Not so, or at least not necessarily so.
Do I think that Jericho could be a great addition to the WWF roster? Of course, he's possibly my favourite wrestler. I also think that he could win the Heavyweight Title, and that he could propel the WWF to new heights. Here are the things I think Jericho will add to the WWF's already very talented roster:
First, some legitimate humour. Most of the WWF's humour is based on vulgar jokes. It's not a knock against them, because I do find a lot of what they do funny, but this is the nature of funny in the WWF. Jericho, however, is a devout Christian, and because of that, limits what he's willing to base his humour on. He's still funny, though, we know that. He's very funny. So if he's allowed to be funny in the WWF, his kind of funny will be something entirely new to them.
Second, some relief for the upper-mid-carders, and, perhaps eventually, the main eventers. It's becoming more and more common knowledge that the WWF's top guys aren't in such good shape. Maybe Triple H and the Rock are in great shape - that's about it. Steve Austin has been injured for about as long as he's been big in the WWF, the Undertaker is nursing a truckload of injuries recently, Mick Foley is so injured that he's not even wrestling (!), and there isn't a whole lot more to their main event scene. Jericho, at the very least, will bolster their mid-cards, probably at the intercontinental title level, and possibly, but probably later, higher up than that. The WWF has a small roster, and they push their guys to wrestle a lot. Another talented guy will probably make more of a difference to them than it would WCW, whose booking committee can be worse for a wrestler than even the most severe injury.
Finally, Chris Jericho will provide a bunch of new feuds that haven't yet been fought. If we're to assume that Steve Austin, the Rock, Triple H, the Undertaker, Kane, and Mick Foley are the main eventers in the WWF, then that's six. Six people can have a combined total of fifteen different one-on-one feuds before they use them all up and start repeating themselves. The WWF has already used thirteen of them by my count, the only ones left being Triple H-Undertaker, which hasn't quite played itself out yet, and the Rock-Kane. Everything else, every other two person combination from that list of six people, has been used. Chris Jericho, at the very least would add six new, never-before-seen feuds to that list. The same can be said for the mid-carders.
Second, some relief for the upper-mid-carders, and, perhaps eventually, the main eventers. It's becoming more and more common knowledge that the WWF's top guys aren't in such good shape. Maybe Triple H and the Rock are in great shape - that's about it. Steve Austin has been injured for about as long as he's been big in the WWF, the Undertaker is n't a main eventer in WCW, no matter what those wrestling history revisionists tell you, and he isn't in the WWF until he earns it. He's been gone for months now, and hasn't had a meaningful feud in almost a year. The WWF brass might not assume that the fans even remember him that well. Not everyone present at the shows reads this column or any other.
Only time will tell, ideally a short amount of time.
On that note, here's the mailbag.
Miss Linz, from email@example.com, writes:
"I just finished reading your column and I have to disagree on some points about Randy Savage's angle in WCW. Yes, this angle portrayed violence against women, but what about all the incidences in wrestling that have portrayed violence against men?
Savage "beating up on" two women who were much smaller than he is no different than Chyna or Nicole Bass "beating up on" males such as referees and in some cases, wrestlers that are much smaller than they.
Women are by far the largest category of abused people, but they are not the only ones who are abused. I don't think that this angle should stir up problems unless people are going to make a stink about Chyna slamming a referee's head into a cage door on Raw. Same thing, right? Violence is violence, and obviously, violence is a part of wrestling, is it not? If people are going to get upset at they way women are treated in wrestling, then those same people should be upset at how men are treated in wrestling.
By the way, I'm female. Thank you for reading. Lindsay."
I understand your point, Lindsay, but I find it to be in error.
When the men and women step in to the wrestling rings of the WWF and WCW, they put in their metaphorical Greek masks. They are now in pretend land. What they do then, to a large extent, is a show, like a movie. Things that transpire in the ring, between the performers who are willing to be there. The referees get training in how to take bumps, and people hit them all the time. But it isn't 'abuse'. Come on, you know what I mean. Don't argue semantics.
Do you know or have you ever known someone who has suffered abuse. I received about a hundred emails about last week's column, and a good half of them said I was out of my mind and that Savage's angle was fine. Well, I also got about three emails, which I refuse to print out of respect for the authors, which shared an experience in abuse of some sort, and they agreed with me that this crossed the line. Why?
By bringing it backstage, WCW gave it a more 'authentic' feel. There's a world of difference between striking someone in the ring who has a clear willingness to be struck. The referees know what they're getting into, assuming they've ever watched wrestling before, and when women interfere in men's matches or vice versa, they're asking for retaliation. But even though Chyna has interfered in Mick Foley's matches a million times, for example, he won't go backstage and smack her around for no reason. He'd do it right after she interfered, and in the ring.
What the Macho Man did outside the ring and behind closed doors had a 'real' feeling which the people who emailed me associated with. Abuse happens behind closed doors like that. When the Macho Man struck them, he was abusing them, and they were begging him to stop. When Road Dogg, or Ken Shamrock, or Steve Austin strike Chyna, it's a whole different can of worms. If they did it backstage and they threw her around like a rag doll and ripped off her shirt and she wasn't trying to fight and she wanted them to stop - then yeah, I'd write a column ripping into the WWF.
I think a lot of the people who don't agree with this take on the situation haven't put themselves in the position of the people this would truly disturb: those who have seen or been through it before. Try it. If you can still tell me that it's all good and fine, you have a right to your opinion. And I'll be glad to lend you some money to try to buy your soul back from Satan later, if you want.
"Hey, i just like to say i agree with your coments about the Macho Man incident. BUT, one time a memeber of WCW has crossed the line in one of his angles what about every single time you turn on WWF. There is crap on there just as bad if not worse and it just gets overlooked, I am sick and tired of you anti WCW wresting fans bashing them at any chance you get. I am sick of it, WWF is just as bad if not worse every single monday night. Of course, thats just my opinion, I could be wrong, but in this case, I'm not."
You could be wrong but in this case you're not? Wouldn't it be easier to say that you couldn't be wrong?
Why don't you name occasions for me that WWF have done worse than represent abusive relationships on live television? I personally wouldn't count Undertaker's symbolifying of other talent, but then again, I'm not christian. The only things worse than domestic abuse in my opinion, are rape and murder. Find me some rape and murder scenes in WWF television.
There's a difference between vulgar, disgusting, violent, and just plain wrong.
No more mail for this week. I feel somewhat traumatized.
Well, that's all we have for you this week. Thanks as always for reading, thanks especially for writing, I hope you have a fantastic week, and I'll see you in seven.
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.