EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, June 25, 1998
Buff's stuff held back
Don't get me wrong, I love Buff as much as the next guy - probably more - but it doesn't do him justice to send a few accolades his way and call it a day. It's too easy to take the scraps that WCW has thrown us, the meager evidence that they're going to change, and then accept them despite their faults, when what I should be doing is continuing to attack their faults until they actually try to fix some. And that's what I'm going to do.
I think Dave O'Brien, from email@example.com, may have written is best:
"I can almost guarantee that if Marcus A. Bagwell was in the WWF right now, he would probable facing the likes of the Mankind, HHH, The Big Show, or any other Lower Main Eventers, or Upper Mid-Carders.
I can tell you that just for three reasons
1) He's got the physique
2) He's got the technical skills 3) If he came up with some original material other than "I'm Buff, and I'm the stuff", he would be great on the mike. But I think the WWF Officials could give him a hand on that subject.
But all in all, it's nice to see Flair do the job for Bagwell. But, to take a saying out of Mr. Snow's book, will Flair do the J-O-B on the P-P-V??? Only time will tell."
He's right. He's completely right.
While it's been great to see Marcus Bagwell get some small portion of the push he so justly deserves, it's probably all we're going to see. If you don't believe me, or have been fooled by WCW the way a former lover fools you into believing he/she'll change, then read on.
Remember a guy named Bill Goldberg?
Mr. Goldberg used to be what might be called a phenom, phenom being defined as one with a phenomenal (read: super) start.
Remember when he had a win streak in the three digits?
Come on, it wasn't so long ago. You remember all those Saturday Night matches with Meng and Steven Regal. You remember all those Thunder matches against Meng and Chavo Guerrero. You remember when he started to tackle bigger Nitro opponents, like Meng and Raven. You probably also remember that Goldberg was this machine - WCW had built him, but it appeared they didn't know what to do with him. It was obvious that after a short while he was going to have to reach either the world title or a defeat. Some people worried about whether or not he would be a believable champion or whether he'd wash up after he reached his peak. Others, myself included, worried more about whether WCW would rather job a big name star to him or sweep him under the rug.
Curt Hennig called in sick with a knee injury when he was supposed to job to Goldberg. Kevin Nash just refused to do it at all. Even Regal put up a fuss - except he got fired for it.
Finally, when the day game, not only did Scott Hall do the job, but so did Hollywood Hogan, and we were all impressed, and it was a new era for WCW, and the younger stars were getting the limelight, and so on and so forth.
For the next several pay-per-views, Goldberg either did not wrestle or was not featured in the main event, an odd situation for the company's champion. Even with the world title around his waist, WCW bookers were still finding a way to bury him. This continued for several months until he lost the title to the team of Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Disco Inferno, and a cattle prod in a most unmemorable match.
Now, he's out with an injury, he's got nothing but disdain for WCW executives, and he wants to re-negotiate his contract. I don't blame him.
So, yeah, you're right. Buff has the stuff. Buff could be the man. He's got the physique, he's got the charisma, he's got the in-ring skills. He's got the people behind him, he's got youth on his side, and he has a history of drawing great heat for his antics. But one thing he doesn't have is the WCW booking committee in his left pocket.
Just how much does he need them? Ask Bill Goldberg. Or Chris Jericho. Or Chris Benoit. The list goes on.
This article, though, does not. Here's The Mailbag. Oh, first, let me say that the topic of last week's article was "WCW starting to get it right," as most people seem to have missed. You see, I got three emails about "WCW starting to get it right," and over two hundred about who keeps the belts. I admit, the questions was interesting, but I still found that figure rather humorous.
Oh yeah, and guess which three emails are making it to the column?
Kathleen Celata, firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
"Benner, you are great.... I had a lousy day today and got a good HELL YEAH out of your column. I am so sick of people asking me to decide between WCW and WWF. Hey, I like peanut butter with bacon, why can't I find something to suit me in both feds? I'm glad to hear you are getting over in some new venues and not a bit surprised. I like your sass, but your writing style is very clean and brisk Reminds me very much of some of the great sports columnists in the old Boston Record American. As usual, I look forward to the next column."
I put this one in because of what Kat writes about not wanting to decide between WCW and the WWF. Really. I agree with her 100% on that particular note. Again, for those who think I'm just trying to deflect flack from people who call my biased, I refer to my very first column at SLAM!, which echoes those sentiments. [July 23, 1998: Staying neutral in the wrestling wars]
Michael Gilliam, from email@example.com, writes:
"Your post on the 18th was great and I did not know if you knew it or not but Dusty Rhodes is in the booking department now and maybe he is some of the reason WCW is starting to rebound. also on Bagwell's pin Monday night I thought it was great that Ric Flair was man enough to job to Bagwell. I personally dont think Hogan or Piper would do the job to Bagwell so my hat is off to the man Ric Flair. as Flair would say to be the man you have to beat the man and Flair let Bagwell beat the man."
Hmmm. I don't think he's the reason they're starting to rebound. He's been on the booking staff for awhile, I believe, and think he's more in the "let's job out all the young guys" department than the "oh, wait, lets build up our own stars so that we aren't washed up in three years" section. I could be wrong, though. I would genuinely like to know who's responsible for the mini-pushes the younger guys have been getting, recently. Not to praise him, but to threaten him with a death valley driver if he doesn't keep it up and go further.
And the title belts situation? The consensus seems to be that after the Madusa and Ric Flair incidents of cross-promotion belt-carrying, that both organizations are surely more careful now. However, apparently Bret Hart has a trophy case for of belts and Chris Jericho carries his to the Sizzler, so they must keep them.
The logical solution might be that the wrestlers get to keep a replica of the belt they win, which they may or may not pay for, and that the real belts are carried around by equipment staff.
Thanks for caring, everyone. And thanks for reading. And writing. See you next week, see you in seven.
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.