SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

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

Friday, July 2, 1998

Fans make it hotter than ever

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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I've been getting this vibe lately. Tell me if I'm wrong. It seems to me that there are those who believe that wrestling has reached its peak. That it's gotten as popular as it's ever going to get, or worse, that it's on its way down, and will soon feel the effects of its inevitable descent.

Maybe you've been getting that same vibe. Or maybe you haven't. The truth is, it depends completely on who you talk to. Some people are all wound up about the future state of wrestling - everyone else is just sitting back and enjoying the ride. Which kind of person are you?

It might help if I outlined which kind of people fit into each group. Then you could decide which group you're in.

I get a lot of email from both parties. Some, from fans who just love to watch the shows and cheer on their favorites. Others, from 'fans' who just love to watch the shows and criticize the performers afterwards.

Before you jump to conclusions, realize first that about nine out of ten of the emails I get are from the fans. Who are the fans? They're the people who read my column each week (for example). They're the people who watch RAW and Nitro each week, not because they feel they should, or to complain later, but because they enjoy it. They order the pay-per-views when they look good, and they enjoy them when they are. They're the ones who buy the tickets to the live events, the Stone Cold merchandise, and who wait in line for autographs and to meet the superstars.

But that sounds like everyone, right? Well, no, not exactly. There are also the 'fans'. They're the ones who watch the shows and the pay-per-views either because they have to or because they feel they have to. Maybe it's for a wrestling-related job, maybe it's to maintain a web-site, maybe it's to write a column each week. Who knows? But these people, they seem to watch wrestling only to complain about it.

Let me add a slight asterisk there, as I don't mean to say that a fan, especially one who has paid good money for a ticket or a pay-per-view, cannot complain about the quality of the show he or she just watched. I just mean that to consistently buy and watch things one does not enjoy is either masochistic or hypocritical.

Now, where was I? Ah, yes. People, lately, have been nay-saying. They've been predicting the impending doom of the sports entertainment forum we like to call wrestling. They have somehow decided that wrestling is about to die, that the plots have gotten old, and that no one is interested in watching it anymore.

Someone must have forgotten to tell everyone, because from the email I read and the people I interact with, wrestling is as hot as its ever been. Sure, some people are tired of seeing Vince McMahon face off against Stone Cold, but it's not the worst thing in the world. No worse than Star Trek: Next Generation bringing back Q for another round with Captain Picard. You get tired of it eventually, but it's still quality entertainment. They've gone far enough out of their way to at least make it fresh from month to month, even if it is the same old spiel.

But I won't judge wrestling for its content just now, or call it good or bad. I don't have to. Fans, old and new alike, are tuning in in droves to watch the stories and the action unfold, and only a scarce few are turned off by the repetitiveness, or the vulgarity, or whatever it is they're going on about.

The difficulty, nowadays, is to tell the difference between someone who simply didn't like a show and a perpetual nay-sayer. Here are some guidelines. The nay-sayer, first and foremost, will always be casting a dark cloud on anything he discusses. Any show, wrestler, or pay-per-view - it may have been good, but it ultimately marks the end of wrestling as we know it for some reason. Someone who simply disliked a show, unlike the nay-sayer, will rarely dislike all aspects of a show, or at least of several consecutive shows. The temporarily disgruntled fan is marked with streaks of silver lining, at least. He or she may be down on some element of wrestling, but would probably be able to bring up twice as many things to be liked about a given show or performer at the same time.

Alright, fine, so even if you take everything I've said to be a premise, you may still want to know what my objective is here in defining two kinds of people.

The easy answer to that would be that nay-sayers offend me in their constant imposition of hypocrisy on others. I just don't want to hear from people who completely dislike something and continue to watch it. It's their own fault, that's how I see it. It's a ridiculous concept that someone should dislike NYPD Blue and yet continue to watch it week after week, ever complaining - even going so far as to post their complaints on the internet. It's no better for this person to watch wrestling.

Perhaps the more difficult answer to that question would be that more and more, I've been hearing these threats of apocalypse from people who are supposedly in the know, people who seem to think they know more than everybody else. These people apparently believe that professional wrestling is spiraling towards some kind of ugly death, and that we have to get out before it's too late.

This is utter garbage, if you ask me. So wrestling isn't always at its freshest, most creative best. There were bad episodes of Seinfeld. Seinfeld was still a good show. I've been to bad hockey games. I still enjoy the sport. A few bad apples spoils the bunch - but only if you let them, by grouping them up together and leaving them there all day, to be generalized over.

I believe that every fan has a right to his or her opinion. I think that some wrestling shows aren't worth my time - for example, the Great American Bash, or more generally, WCW Saturday Night and WWF Shotgun - but I also think that I probably shouldn't watch those, and I don't. If I did, and I wrote this column as a soapbox every week, to complain about how bad Saturday Night and Shotgun were, then I'd have about ten readers. Probably the same ten who keep telling me that it's all going to be over real soon for wrestling and wrestling enthusiasts.

I know what you're thinking. You want to know what my conclusion is. And because you're riveted by my every word, not because this column is a series of disjointed ramblings or because it's already gone on for way too long. Am I right? I knew it! Here it is. I want to be the first - or, since I can't keep track of everybody and I don't want to be accused again of plagiarism, one of the first - to say don't listen to these people! Wrestling is hotter than ever!

If you don't believe me, just look at the thousands ... and thousands of that Rock's fa... er, of the people in attendance at a given show. Or, if you prefer, listen to the ear-drum-shattering noise they make. This is not the sound of silence, and it is not the sound of an unsatisfied crowd of people.

Now, depending on which column topic I feel like segueing into for next week, here are two possible concluding paragraphs:

First: As you can see, wrestling remains on fire right now, and there's no reason to believe that this fire is waning. But the future of wrestling, despite what some people say, is up to the fans. I'd be a hypocrite if I wrote this whole column then told you exactly how popular wrestling will be in the future and expected you to believe me. So, instead, I'd like you to write me and tell me where you think wrestling is going.

Or, second: As you can see, wrestling remains on fire right now, and there's no reason to believe that this fire is waning. But the future of wrestling, despite what some people say, is up to the fans, not the nay-saying, evil-doing, all-around mal-contents. Unfortunately, one of the greatest tools in wrestling media eo are supposedly in the know, people who seem to think they know more than everybody else. These people apparently believe that professional wrestling is spiraling towards some kind of ugly death, and that we have to get out before it's too late.

Those two columns will likely appear in each of the next two weeks, probably in that order. No promises, though. And, as usual, I'll write whatever readers want to read, so let me know what interests you, of the above or in general. While you're at it, answer the first question - where's wrestling going in the near and mid-future?

Mailbag time.

Jarred Dumaine, from, and in an email irresistably entitled 'DUMB QUESTION TIME', writes:
Whoa, does it sound to anyone else like this guy's screaming. That's such a weird effect, given that I know he simply typed the email in caps. Anyway, Jarred, to answer your questions, I don't know whether the WWF will release an Owen video. I would have said no if you had asked me yesterday, though, before I discovered that they're releasing a tribute magazine in August, as they did for Brian Pillman. Proceeds will go to Owen's favorite charity, the Alberta Children's Hospital. I think that probably shows they aren't just sweeping it under the rug and whether their goal is profit or respect, either way, they're giving Owen exposure even after his passing. So a video may definitely be possible. As for Mero, I think that he would find himself hard-pressed to work there if Rena Mero left under such wickedly horrid circumstances. I would imagine the WWF would simply release him. Up to now, though, just so you know, he's been chilling out, under re-tooling, but still under WWF contract.

Someone known only as 'C', from, writes:
*I only recently discovered your column online and have enjoyed reading through all of the archived columns available. I just have to ask you, is this whole Master P and the No Rules Posse (or whatever they're called) involvement not the absolute worst angle ever perpetrated by any wrestling organization (with the possible exception of that lame 'Bride of Chucky' angle dropped into the Steiner brothers' feud some months back)? Could it be more obvious that this unholy union between Bischoff and the rap music scene is nothing more than a blatant attempt by Bischoff to further line his pockets? And what about Master P himself?*

Ding ding ding, you're absolutely right. The No Limit Soldiers, as they're called, or the No Talent Soldiers, as they're known, are having less than a tremendous impact on WCW's ratings or approval ratings. It appears that despite his big promises, Master P has done virtually nothing, if he hasn't sabotaged his employers. How much is Master P making, you ask? My sources tell me he's earning about $200 000 per appearance, which is insane, since he's probably 'lining Bischoff's pockets' with about $0.

That's all for this week. Let me know what you want to read about, as always. Thanks for reading, thanks especially for writing. I read 'em all, but I can't answer every single one. Have a great week, I'll see you in seven.

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