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 30, 1998

Nitro could be so great

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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I tried, I really did. I want you all to know that. I racked my brains for hours and hours, or at least for minutes and minutes, trying to think of anything to write about this week other than the sheer disappointment of Nitro. Nothing came to me.

It wasn't so much that I really want to bash Nitro, just that it was so bad I feel the need to express myself about it. You know what they say about keeping feelings bottled-up inside.

The reason I tried to think of other things to write about is that I know some of you are WCW fans, and consequently Nitro fans, and may not take well to me bashing the show you prefer. What I mean by that, of course, is that my mailbox will be full of emails from people calling me and the guys at SLAM! WWF marks, which we aren't.

We're good-wrestling marks, and we mark out for good wrestling, no matter who produces it. John Powell didn't rate Fully Loaded a three-out-of-ten because we're WWF marks, I'll tell you that much. Of my last sixteen columns - that's four months, for those of you keeping score at home - I've written only seven columns which either attacked or defended a federation or wrestler. Of those seven, two promoted a wrestler, one from each federation (Bob Holly, Buff Bagwell), two attacked a wrestler, again one from each federation (Chris Jericho, Randy Savage). Of the remaining three, two were general pro-WCW columns, and one was a general anti-WWF column. Knowing that, can you truly call me a mark?

I call them as I see them, I swear. And I hate that I have to put that long disclaimer before a column simply because WCW put out a product I didn't like this week, but for some reason, the perception is that I'm biased. I'm just biased towards whichever program is cooler at the moment. That's all.

Onto an actual topic for discussion, please forgive my griping.

I'm going to try to phrase this all in such a way as to offend the least people possible, and I'll do that by focusing all of Nitro's positives. By that I mean, of course, the positives of last week's show, since they were all totally trashed this week in favour of showing three hours of garbage.

Sorry, that had to be said. Let me rephrase it analytically and in a hundred times the words, and see if you still disagree with me:

First thing that was really good last week and just sucked this week:

The announcing team.

The addition of Scott Hudson, moreover the subtraction of Tony Schiavone, was definitely one of the highlights of last week's program. The fact of the matter is that Bobby Heenan is the colour man, which means that it's up to Tony to call the matches. But he doesn't. He hypes the pay-per-views incessantly instead. Before you click that send button and tell me that Jim Ross does that too, let me say that he does it less, and more importantly, less annoyingly. It's all about moderation, well, for everyone but Tony Schiavone.

Anyway, it was refreshing to see Scott Hudson take the place of Tony Schiavone and actually call the matches, you know, highlighting the one current strength in WCW: their wrestling. I don't know when, but apparently sometime during the week before this a memo was sent to Hudson ordering him to stop calling the matches immediately, and to start talking nonsense, because he was like a changed man this week. I couldn't bare listening to him after an hour. And I swear, if I hear him say "tattoo" one more time, I'll, I'll probably just gripe about it here.

Oh yeah, and having Jason Hervey, older brother "Wayne" from the Wonder Years, join the announce team to irritatingly hype a non-angle with Arli$$ didn't help much, either.

Second thing that was really good last week and just sucked this week:

The clincher.

Nitro is a three-hour program. WWF Raw is a two-hour program that starts one hour into Nitro. Consequently, what's going on on Nitro five minutes before Raw hits the air is critical. It'll determine whether people stay or go.

Last week's clincher was Ric Flair versus Sting for control of WCW. This week it was Prince Iaukea versus Lash Leroux. I refuse to even explain or expand on this. It speaks for itself.

Third thing that was really good last week and just sucked this week:

Main-event lead-in.

Arguably, this is just as important as the main event itself. It helps determine how many people are around to watch the commencement of your main event, which is the most important quarter-hour in either show. The flag-ship, if you will. I don't remember what led into the main event into Raw, because it was smoothly done, but I do remember having to sit through Rick Steiner versus Chase Tatum on Nitro. That's just a joke.

The WWF puts the Meat versus Prince Albert matches where they belong - early in the show or on Heat. Why can't WCW?

Last thing that was really good last week and just sucked this week:

The main-event itself.

Last week, Hogan versus Sid, while still basically old people duking it out on national television, at least was tolerable.

And not to say that this week's main event was horrible, as far as the match itself was concerned, but to promote what was clearly supposed to be the return of Scott Hall and then to deliver Sid as the mystery partner instead is just bad marketing. If that was the plan from the get-go, they should have hyped it that way. Promising and failing to deliver is fast becoming WCW's motto, and that's a motto that won't pay off in terms of fan base.

The match was okay, and as a main event it would have sufficed if they had promoted it as Hogan/Sting versus Nash/Sid, instead of Nash/?, where we were clearly intended to believe ? = Scott Hall. In fact, it was classic pay-per-view promotion, which WCW is doing better now. Take your two pay-per-view main events, in this case Hogan versus Nash and Sting versus Sid, and put it on free television as a tag match. That's the way you hype a pay-per-view, and they did it, they just screwed it up so that it was a let-down instead of a hype machine.

Those four are the main methods WCW used to take a perfectly good Nitro and make it borderline-unwatchable, but I do also have an honourable mention for something that just always bites about Nitro:

David Flair.

Haha. It was funny at first, ooh look, the incompetent wrestler uses all sorts of methods and gets all kinds of nefarious help to keep his title from all kinds of solid opponents. Then it got boring, fast. Now it's just a slap in the face.

WCW fans might retort that Shane McMahon pulled the same crap against X-Pac at Wrestlemania this year, but he only kept the title for one month, and he screw-jobbed the same guy over and over. And no offense to X-Pac, but Chris Benoit, he ain't. X-Pac is portrayed as the little engine that could. Chris Benoit is some kind of mean killing machine or something. Losing to David Flair? That's a disgrace. Especially over the United States Title. It's not like they have so many great story-lines with continuous, solid wrestling and great credibility on their belts that they can run this stuff. You can't have comic relief unless (a) you have tension and (b) the relief is funny. This is neither.

If Bob Holly hadn't inspired me so last week, I would have written about how pleasantly surprised I was by Nitro. And you know what? That would have been the third time in as many months that Nitro has been great one week then unbearably awful the next. I think they're starting to make a case for those rare but good Nitros being purely flukish in nature.

I hope my lengthy disclaimer has proven to WCW fans that I'm not looking down my nose at their preferred product - I whine about it because I see something that could be so great, and it turns out so badly. And look at the stats, you just can't back up an argument that says I'm biasedly anti-WCW. And come on, you know Nitro was horrible this week. Maybe you can't admit it, but deep down, under the surface, you know it.

Even if you despise Raw because of its adult nature, an opinion I can definitely respect, that doesn't make Nitro any better a show. I dislike Jerry Springer, but that doesn't mean I necessarily have to like Oprah any more than I do. Oprah still bites.

Translation: admitting that WCW put on a bad Nitro this week doesn't mean you condone the Godfather's antics on Raw. And it doesn't make me, or any of us here, WWF marks. That's the last time I want to have to say that, so I hope I've made my point.

Mailbag., writes:
"It is still Glen Jacobs under that mask. It is just he lost some weight and worked hard to get better. Plus there is that unmistakeable goatee."

You know what, YRPCA? I think I agree with you. I've looked very closely this week, and I definitely think it's still him. Man, what a job he's done though. I hope he's rewarded by keeping him in compelling storylines that can lead to interesting matches, though, so he can shed his old image in favour of this new Kane.

Travis, from, writes:
"He in fact did shoot promos from a race track, and I don't know if he actually was a race car driver to begin with, but he began to do races, and even won one. Or so the WWF said. Anyway, just thought you should know."

Travis, who is one of those few and fortunate AOL users who have actual names, is probably right. I stand corrected. However, I'd like to add that I'm not really here to deliver to you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I'm just here to spout out what I think. But Travis is right and I'm wrong so I thought I'd clear that up. I am quite certain, though, that Holly didn't win any legit races. Heh, watch me be wrong about that, too. writes:
"I have heard a rumour that my personnal favorite wrestler - Arn Anderson, has been cleared by doctor's to wrestle. Do you know if this is a valid rumor?"

I heard the exact opposite, that he was ready to go but that doctors won't let him, but just follow my golden rule in cases like this - until you see it yourself, leave it be what it is, a rumour. writes:
"Why do you consistently bash Ken Shamrock? He is tough as nails, can wrestle and brawl with anyone in the WWF, and Shamrock gets a good pop when he comes to ringside. Have you ever heard the pop he gets? I was live at a card and Shamrock got a damn good pop. Ken Shamrock will be missed when the WWF goes back to the UFC which I wish him the best of luck. One last thing Benner for the 500th time stop bashing Ken Shamrock."

Ken Shamrock can't wrestle credibly. They call his style "stiff," which means he doesn't know how to pull punches or do any real wrestling moves. His 'snapping' is a joke. He has no character, no interview skills, and anyone would get his pop if they got his push-on-a-platter.

Moreover, the dude is rude. I was going to interview him once in Montreal, and I was talking to Edge, when I heard a little kid ask him where he worked out, and he responded rudely that "he didn't work out," even though he was wearing some gym's T-shirt and clearly does work out. He then gave the kid the cold shoulder. I won't stand for that crap, so I didn't talk to him, and I have a little miniature toy British Bulldog permanently holding a miniature Ken Shamrock in a Boston crab. It's been almost a year now, actually. That must hurt. Oh well, must have hurt the kid too to have one of his heroes blow off a simple question like that.

In conclusion, I'll say what ever I want to say about Big Kenny "Golden Boy" Shamrock, and I feel completely justified doing it.

Have a great week, thanks for reading, thanks especially for writing, see you all in seven.

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