EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, March 26, 1998
Bad makes good look better
A little wrestling analysis, of course.
What makes a match really cool? What's the difference between a snoozer and a real edge-of-your-seater? Why don't wrestling organizations know this and why don't they use this information?
I think it's a little more complicated than that. Or is it?
Wrestling organizations, specifically the big two or three, are filled with people in the know - people who could write a much more informed column than I, as well as people who could suplex me into the ground. If it's even possible to know what wrestling is all about and what makes good wrestling, then these people would know.
And yet seemingly, they don't. Or do they?
I wish I had some cool conspiracy theory lined up for you today, but the sad truth is that I don't. No sir, the point I intend to argue today is simply that it's good business practice to make most wrestling matches suck.
The way I see it, about half of you agree with me already and don't need any further explanation, and the other half think I'm spewing garbage in your general direction and no amount of convincing will do the task. Well, then I'm writing the column for the ages and for historical completeness purposes only.
But seriously, folks. Think about it. Wrestling is something where the content is judged pretty much constantly. The WWF can't have a sub-par hour without them experiencing some negative effect. Neither can WCW, but they do this all the time and it's starting to really bite them back.
So actually, the more I think about it, the more what I'm saying seems to apply only to the WWF.
If they (the executives and bookers) know that fans will scrutinize their every move and every match, I don't think they'll try to put on great matches all the time. You must realize that some wrestlers are far more capable of performing a great match than others. If every wrestler was out there, performing their optimum level every chance they got, then this discrepency of talent would become far more apparent, as every match featuring the better performers would be much stronger than any match featuring the weaker ones, and this includes the top tier weak performers. In my opinion, this includes the post-neck injury Steve Austin as well as an older and stiffer Undertaker, and the WWF needs these two marquee players to look good. But we all know that the Rock and Mankind could deliver a superior match to anything involving the Undertaker, at the moment.
Or do we?
By not booking the best finishes, the cleanest finishes possible all the time, they only give us samples of what's good and what's not. The WWF has a formula: on each episode of Raw, about four two-to-three minutes matches and one ten-minute main event. Time them if you don't believe me, it's always true. Just enough wrestling to keep you on your toes and then BAM! the main event knocks your socks off. Why? Because there was no other really good wrestling on the show to keep you that entertained for that long.
And obviously, you've noticed how some pay-per-views are better than others. Further than that, you may have noticed that it's pretty easy to predict which ones will be good. For example: the Royal Rumble, Wrestlemania, King of the Ring, Summerslam, and the Survivor Series? In the last year, these five have all been in the top six pay-per-views. And In Your House: Cool but Random Title may have been good, but they just didn't pull out all the stops.
The WWF is pacing themselves, both within shows and from a distance. They want to set everything up in this hierarchy, so that you'll enjoy what they want you to enjoy, when they want you to enjoy it. If every wrestler tried their best every time they went out for as long as they could, we'd get good, long matches on Raw out of their best performers, and stars such as the New Age Outlaws might be left out to pasture. Instead, those same stars are allowed to thrive by delivering content other than wrestling every week, and making us salivate for the good stuff.
Then, the Monday night before Wrestlemania, newcomer Paul Wight is cleanly pinned, everybody wants to see what's going to happen on Sunday, and everybody is happy, especially, I think, Vincent K. McMahon.
Here's the mail.
Dave Fitzgerald, from firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
Quote from last week's column: "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."
*This I sincerly doubt, Bossman has no right to disgrace the name of a hell in the cell match made famous by Shawn and Mick. I don't think Vince should even have bothered hiring him back from WCW. The only reason he gets ANY heat at all (and it is still very minor) is because he busted up the fans darling Austin at Survivor series.I am willing to be proved wrong but I think the only hope for this match is Mick to get involved in some screwy-way, or for the cell to be used for the Mankind/Paul Wight match just because it is around. The sooner Bossman gets the hell out of WWF and goes to some minor Southern indie federation, the better for all concerned.*
Maybe you don't remember him, but the Bossman used to have a pretty engaging persona, and was a pretty credible heel. He's an okay wrestler with good mic skills. People don't realize that, right now, because the Corporation is this melting pot for its talent - Ken Shamrock, Test, and the Bossman have all become nearly anonymous, like a pumped up version of the nWo B-team. Once we see him in action, though, especially somewhere he could shine, like in a cage against the ‘Taker, I think we might see the side of him that Vince McMahon signed for late last year.
Martin Devereux, from email@example.com, writes:
*I am lucky enough to work at a restaurant that shows all the wrestling pay-per-views (we even showed the ECW card yesterday for the first time), so needless to say, there are alot of wrestling fans around, staff and patrons included. The reason I want to thank you is that I have become sort of a wrestling expert around the resaurant, with people coming to me to find out what is going to happen, what has happened, what happended to such and such a wrestler, etc. etc.....and I owe it all to SLAM! Wrestling and especially your fantastic column each week. Lately I have even taken to printing out your column to show around at work, and there is even one individual considering buying a computer and internet access, just so that he can read your column. So once again, thank you Eric, and keep up the great work!*
Martin, I can't thank you enough for feedback like this. I get trashed pretty much all week after writing a column, and my mail-box fills with complaints and arguments - which I love to answer and I admittedly try to incite people to write, but it's really nice to know that people are digging the column, because that's the main reason I write. I don't usually print praise letters (for the site or this column), but I this one was really touching so I couldn't resist. Thanks, Martin.
Alright, everybody out there have a great week. Don't forget to send in your comments, thoughts, observations, reactions, responses, complaints, suggestions, and ideas. I thrive on feedback. Have a great week, I'll see you in seven.
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.