SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

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

Friday, October 22, 1999

Big two feed off each other

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

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With all the big changes taking place this week and last in the sport of wrestling, I have to wonder -- how long can this last? I don't mean the chaos, the anarchy going on wherein people are hopping back and forth from organization to organization faster than I'm typing up this, my three hundred something-ith wrestling column. I'm wondering how long wrestling can possibly remain the hottest little trend in sports entertainment.

Well, with Nitro hitting all cylinders this week and WCW appearing to be making a serious run for Number One, I've gotta say, things look good.

To be fair, though, wrestling is more than the hottest trend in sports entertainment, since sports entertainment is a genre that includes little more than wrestling. It's almost the fastest growing commodity of any kind lately, with shows that are putting its Fox counterparts out to pasture, and buy-rates that are eclipsing any and all opponents.

I'm going to try to be straight-forward today, because Mid-term Madness is starting to get to me.

Wrestling thrives on competition. There are about fifty different ways to prove this. Every time wrestling in general has sucked over the past four years, it's been when either the WWF or WCW has been slumping. When the Number Two organization picks itself up, dusts itself off, and starts all over again, then ratings for both shows rise. When one show slacks, both ratings drop.

Many were afraid, this past spring that WCW would do just that and pull the WWF into the gutter, but that didn't happen at all, and the WWF hit some monster ratings. Toward the end of the summer, though, I think people realized that Vince McMahon and company were hitting their autumn slump, that being the void of interest between SummerSlam and the Survivor Series that seems to happen each year.

SummerSlam, though, was great, providing us with a new heel champ the following day, and after a lackluster pay-per-view in Unforgiven, we had No Mercy, which blew away everyone who seems to have seen it. Even John Powell saw fit to give it the very rare "Powell rating above 2 out of 10," reserved for only the best in entertaining television.

And now, with Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera gone to WCW, we have not only somewhat of a similar situation to 1997 going on in the WWF when everyone thought the departure of Bret Hart would be the end for them, but also a bit of a fire in WCW's belly.

All this is to say that it the two organizations seem to have gotten into something of a routine. What's it called when two entities feed off each other? You know what I mean, right? Well, that's the WWF and WCW. And while the addition of ECW into the mix has been a non-event, it's probably better for the long run, anyway, especially with all the cut WCW talent heading their way.

I've never really thought that all this could be just a fad. To a certain extent, I think the WWF was bound to lose some of its momentum eventually, but it just seemed to have established itself so well in the mainstream media that even a slump would land it far higher than it had dreamed of being two years ago.

It turns out, though, that I may have been wrong. Not in the sense that the WWF won't dip too far, but that WCW isn't out for the count at all, but getting up around the seven or eight mark to finish off the round. And that, my friends, is fantastic news for the WWF. That means that coming into their home stretch, the part of the year 2000 between the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania, they'll have to do their best to top what they've done up to now. Woohoo!

As for WCW, like I said, they aren't done just yet. With new management, some new faces, and new blood in the writing -- I think the biggest difference is that someone will actually be writing the show, now, in advance! -- Ted Turner's little wrasslin' organization may be headed for an up-turn. I, for one, will be watching Halloween Havoc this weekend, and that's the first WCW pay-per-view I've seen in awhile. It's been even longer since I anticipated one.

I don't expect Russo and Ferrera to work their magic between now and then. Far from it, I simply hope they'll shift the direction a little bit and we'll be watching, this weekend, the beginnings of a new style for WCW. It's sort of like being around just as the Renaissance was ending and right before the Baroque period began. By paying attention now, you'll be able to look back later and say:

"Hey, this Goldberg-(whomever) feud is getting good. I remember when it started, back in October. You know, I think that's when WCW really started turning around and giving that other wrestling fed -- what's it called -- oh yeah, the WWF, a run for its money."

It probably won't go down just like that, but hey, this is wrestling, so you never know. Either way, we've all got front row seats, and you know what they say about who wins when competition kicks in -- us, the fans.


Ouch, a little on the corny side. I mean it, so it's okay. I'm allowed to be corny once in awhile. Here's the mail.

Bill Goulet, from, writes:
"Just read your assessment of the GLADD situation. You are 100% correct and I couldn't agree more. I also couldn't have said it any better than you did. You got your dander up on this one.

There were times when, as a practicing Catholic, I was a bit offended by some of the WWF angles, most notably Undertaker crucifying people. But I realized it was part of the WWF circus. I didn't complain -- I simply chose to flip to another channel until the show moved on to more creative angles. Don't the folks at GLADD know how to use a tv remote?"

But the WWF has stated on its web-site that it wasn't a crucifixion, but a symbolification! Har, har. Good call, man. Let's start a TVRFCRT, eh? A TV Removes For Civil Rights Terrorists organization?

Adam Hilliard, from, writes:
"In defence of Vince Russo, in most industries, if you are going to take a job with the competition, there is no two week notice, especially if you are in any position of authority (which Vince was). To use your example, if I was head techincal writer for IBM and told my boss that I had taken a job at Microsoft, I would be escorted off the premises within two hours with the contents of my desk, a thank you for my service and my severance papers. There is no two week notice in positions like this. In the position I am in, if I were to leave my job today to go to the competition, I would not be back into work on Monday for my two weeks, they would probably accompany me home to make sure I didn't have anything proprietary there either. Anyone who thinks that if Mr. Russo has called Mr McMahon on Friday and said "I am going to go work for WCW" he would still be at Raw on Monday obviously doesn't know a whole lot about big corporations. If I were leaving my job to go to another that was closer to home, or was better for me, I certainly would not feel the need to give my current company a chance to counter offer since there were other reasons besides money that I was leaving. The media and the internet have tried to make it sound like a "Vince screwed Vince" scenario, but in this case it seems that Vince Russo simply wanted a change and a better family life. There is no fault in that. I applaud Vince Russo for having the guts to make the jump. It is a pretty risky proposition for him. Good luck Vince! hope you help revitalize the WCW!"

Adam, you make a good point, and I was wrong in that sense. It's not like Vince McMahon would have wanted Russo for another two weeks knowing he was leaving, but in my own defense, my primary argument was that Russo should have gone to McMahon between talking to WCW and penning the contract. I guess it's just what I thought I'd do. I guess I've never been there, done that. Chalk one up to the ignorance category for me.

Matthew Hogan, from, writes:
"Hey man, If you look like Tommy Dreamer, then I've got Luger's physique. Now if only I could find my abs and pecs under that hair.... Later"

Bah. It wasn't meant as a compliment -- to me or to Tommy. Just a comment passed on to me by a few readers. Someone once even said I looked like The Rock -- when he wasn't a big star, and I had the beardless sideburns.

Have a great week, everyone. Thanks for reading. Oh, and this week's little comment: go see Fight Club. I don't often recommend movies, but this one will make you think, I promise. If you don't like it, and went because I said it was good, feel free to flame me. Otherwise, take it easy, and thanks for the mail!

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