SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

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

Friday, March 19, 1998

Easy to love Wrestlemania

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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Although it may have seemed like the New Year when we all gathered together on at midnight, almost three months ago. Or maybe, to some, for our Asian readers, it passed slightly more recently. Let me assure you: you're all wrong. The New Year begins on the last Monday in March, and sometimes, on the first one in April. That's right, the day after Wrestlemania.

Whether you're a fan of the WWF, WCW, ECW, NWA, or, you'll probably agree with me when I state that Wrestlemania is the true pay-per-view of wrestling. If you disagree, then on this particular note, you're wrong. No room for bickering. Wrestlemania is the best yearly pay-per-view, the most popular yearly pay-per-view, the biggest-grossing pay-per-view, and the showcase of what wrestling has been all about in the year it marks the end of, in this case, 1998/99. [Editor's Note: And our own Greg Oliver will be in Philadelphia to cover the event!]

There are any number of reasons to love it, and very, very few not to. To start, it is in many ways unlike any other product produced by the WWF. While I cannot guarantee that we won't see one of the many beautiful valets or female wrestlers flash their goods, there are several other things I can vouch for to even the nayest of nay-sayers.

For starters, Wrestlemania is the culmination of a full year of wrestling storylines. Last year saw Steve Austin gain popularity at the speed of light, but Degeneration-X overshadowed him and dominated the title scene. Until Wrestlemania, when he took it to them and won his richly-deserved championship belt. This year, we have the roller-coaster ride that is the life of Steve Austin, the rise of the Rock and of the Corporation, the new popularity and acclaim of Mick Foley, and the newest player, Paul Wight. What we'll see on wrestling's New Year's Eve is who exactly stands where, as changes in stance are teased by both Rocky Maivia and Paul Wight.

What we won't see are screw-job endings. I realize, of course, that in any given year, the WWF could abandone its policy of relatively clean finishes at Wrestlemania, but if history is any indication, they won't do it just yet. Be careful how you define 'screw-job' ending: I don't mean interference, I mean the kind of ending to a match that gives no closure, names no winner, and leaves the fans confused. There are ways to interfere in a match and still avoid the ominous 'screw-job' label.

In addition to all of this, we'll get a preview of what's in store for the upcoming year in wrestling. Last year's Wrestlemania marked the demise of Shawn Michaels and his heel D-X, the rise of the New Age Outlaws to the top of the heap, Sable's in-ring splash, and more. This year will mark for us what's to come over the next fifty-two episodes of Heat and Raw.

As if it still weren't enough, every match on the card is a big one. I don't have to go through them with you, we have them posted on the site, and it's a damn good card. Mark my words: I'll nail the entire card with correct predictions. Guaranteed. In fact, I'm even going to call for the emergence of a Big Boss Man like we've never seen him before, one who will be a much more important player when he's done at WM XV.

Finally, the star-studded gala which revolves around the great in-ring work is fantastic, at least for the sport. Mike Tyson helped draw super numbers last year, and more people watching wrestling is always a good thing, since it means the sport will definitely last a little while longer.

"Wait a minute, Eric, why do you call Wrestlemania the biggest event of the year when clearly, as expressed by the great Dusty Rhodes, 'Starrcade is the grand-daddy of them all!'?"

Save it, folks. Starrcade is many things. A good pay-per-view, sure. A real page turner, as WCW events go. I look forward to it, and it often pleases me. But it still lacks many of the elements which make Wrestlemania so magical.

Firstly, screwjobs are still prominent at Starrcade. Nash over Goldberg, with help from Disco, Hall, and that stupid tazer? That feud never even got sorted out! Sting over Hogan - with Bret Hart's assistance? Fans waited an entire year for Sting to collide with Hogan, and Bret Hart had to butt in? Why would a clean 1-2-3 have been so bad?

Secondly, WCW still uses that pay-per-view like any other: to build up the following Nitro. Flair only got to beat up Bischoff and get a victory the next night. The fine folks who forked over the dough for the pay-per-view had to wait to watch the real show the next night on free television. Sure, the WWF connects Wrestlemania and the following Raw, but it's more like Raw rides the tail-wind of Wrestlemania than Wrestlemania building up to Raw.

If you call yourself a wrestling fan, I definitely suggest you find a way to watch Wrestlemania XV. Even if you're a fledging or dwindling fan. In fact, especially if you're fledging or dwindling. The quality show you'll see on March 28 will surely remind you why you got into the 'sport' in the first place.

Here's the mail. writes:
*good column, that explains alot about what has gone down with the WCW/WWF war. now that I think about it, I think that your theory is right!*

James or Patricia McLain, from, writes:
*Hey, I just finished reading your column & realized that it did make some sense to me about how the whole Bret Hart situation could be a work.*

Anthony Mastantuoni, from, writes:
*Great job on an entertaining and well thought and written column. I could see argument on all of your points until you said the Boston Bruins would win the Stanley Cup. . Heck, even professional wrestling goes only so far. Next you will be telling me that Duane Gill will be a champion and that Rey Mysterio Jr. could knock off someone like Kevin Nash or Bam Bam Bigelow :-) Keep up the great work!*

David Cannell, from, writes:
*Everything in wrestling happens for a reason (except maybe whats been going on in WCW lately). This was a win-win for Hart and McMahon, Bret got more money for less work, and Vince became the ultimate heel.* writes:
*While I found this week's column just a little too Oliver Stone-ish (talk about conspiracy theories!!!) I have to say that I find your weekly coulumn to be one of the very best on the net and look forward to it with great anticipation each week. Length can never be a problem when it comes to your column, if anything, you should submit more than once a week!!!*

That's the gyst of the response to my conspiracy theory last week: about 80% in agreement, maybe 10% amused, and 10% calling me an idiot or something to that affect. Wow. I never thought so many people would agree with me. When I brought up the Bret Hart work theory on its own, I got ripped to shreds in your responses. Cool.

Bruce Lee, from, writes:
*What's your Final Four picks for the SLAM! Wrestling Tournament? By the way keep your SLAM! Wrestling column for every Friday. See ya....*

Easy pickins'. South region: The Rock. East region: Kevin Nash. West region: Steve Austin. Mid-west region: Bret Hart. Happy voting!

Everybody out there have a super week and pray for all the snow in my area to melt real soon, okay? Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, and I'll see you all in seven!

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