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SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

SLAM! Sports
SLAM! Wrestling







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

Friday, December 15, 2000

Benner's wrestling report card

Eric Benner
By ERIC BENNER
Special to SLAM! Sports


A weekly
SLAM! Wrestling
Editorial Column

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As a wrestling columnist, it's usually easier to be negative than positive. I watch Raw and Nitro and this pay-per-view or that always looking for something to write about. It's not that there isn't anything good to write about in the world of pro wrestling, but rather that negativity is usually more appropriate. Watching Jeff Hardy put in his usual crazy stunt show, headlines like "Hardy's suicidal stunts could end his career" seem so much juicier than "Jeff Hardy really, really fun to watch".

With that in mind, I tried my very best to watch wrestling with an eye for the positive, and I still came up partly empty-handed. Instead, here's my end-of-year report card on WCW and the WWF, summing up both the good and the bad.

WCW, the good

Rising stars

For the first time in as long as I can remember, WCW has actually created a few new stars this year. They didn't bring back their own older stars (except Sid) so much as work to make new ones. Booker T is an established former champion, Scott Steiner is the hottest thing out of Atlanta, and Lance Storm is breathing right down their necks. The Thrillers are young and hungry, and the Jung Dragons and 3-Count make WCW tag team wrestling worth watching again.

Announcing

I give WCW credit for even bothering to try to up their announce team. I'm not a huge fan of Mark Madden's, and Stevie Ray has received mixed reviews, but Tony Schiavone and Bobby Heenan just wasn't working. If you ask me, that was more Schiavone's doing than Heenan's, but that's another story. I think Mike Tenay still has something to offer -- like actually knowing what most of the moves are called.

Tag team wrestling

I've already mentioned it, but WCW tag team wrestling is finally watchable again. The whole idea behind tag team wrestling is that you can up the excitement by adding more ring psychology, and that both teams should be fresher than if two of them were in there alone. Yet until 2000, WCW's tag teams were mostly old and very, very slow. No more. Jindrak and O'Haire, 3-Count, and the Dragons give the WWF's teams a run for their money (well, almost, see below).

WCW, the bad

SID
Sid ain't the answer for WCW.
Glass ceiling

Despite all these new stars WCW has created, somehow Sid gets the title shot at Starrcade. He's a short-term solution to a long-term problem. I know I'm biased, but I'd rather see Lance Storm in there, or Booker T, or even Mike Awesome. If they never push them as main event stars, then obviously they will never be main event stars. It's a vicious circle. WCW is halfway there, they just need to have some confidence (or common sense) in their younger stars.

Corny gimmicks

Crowbar, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Mike Awesome, Booker T, Chavo Guerrero, Hugh Morrus, Lash LeRoux, The Wall, Disco Inferno, Miss Hancock, David Flair, and Kanyon. This is a diverse group of wrestlers indeed, but they all have something in common -- they've each had really stupid gimmicks at some point this year. The hokey ideas WCW comes up with hurts their own talent in the end.

Sid

Bringing back Sid speaks for itself. It speaks for WCW's lack of confidence in their own wrestlers, in their total ignorance of how to run a promotion, everything. He's unreliable (though not in recent stints), offensive to many wrestlers, distinctly untalented, and will only make Scott Steiner look bad. Imagine if the WWF brought in Shawn Michaels to main event Wrestlemania (and not as a "one last match" gimmick, but on a semi-recurring basis). I'm sure some would support the move, but I know I'd lash out against it, because the main event of the biggest pay-per-view of the year should feature the company's two top guys. Period. And Sid is no Shawn Michaels, either.

WWF, the good

Tag teams

The WWF's tandems have been unbelievably good this year, providing about four of my five favourite matches this year. Edge and Christian, The Hardy Boys, and The Dudleys are the three top tag teams in wrestling, and each with their own unique style. Edge and Christian rely on comedy and solid wrestling, The Hardys rely on spectacular spots, and The Dudleys have about sixty-eight catchphrases/match spots to go on. Any combination of these teams is awesome, and after three hundred and forty six matches between The Hardys and Edge and Christian, I still want more.

No glass ceiling

A whole lot of guys have pushed through to the top of the WWF's card this year, especially Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit. Honourable mentions go to Chris Jericho and Rikishi. I like that the WWF is not relying on Rock and Steve Austin to provide their entertainment for the next ten years.

Six or seven consecutive awesome pay-per-views

The Royal Rumble, No Way Out, Wrestlemania, Backlash, and Judgment Day were all excellent pay-per-views, and got my more excited about pay-per-view in general than I've been for a long time. King of the Ring, Over the Edge, and Summerslam were also strong.

WWF, the bad

Four or five poor pay-per-views

Armageddon was largely a joke and a one-trick pony, Survivor Series was uninspired, and the pay-per-views that preceded it were similarly bad. Well, not necessarily bad, but compared to the above streak of solid shows, they were awful. I don't know what happened, but somehow the emphasis has shifted from solid wrestling and intricate stories to crazy stunts that make no sense and equally nonsensical storytelling.

Steve Austin's return

AUSTIN
Austin's return is a washout so far. (Photo: Stan Behal - Toronto Sun).
By the time Austin was set to return, I had totally missed him. I longed for those inspiring speeches and awesome story arcs. We got none. He's just getting used to the ring again, so I don't begrudge him that, but his feud with Rikishi/The Rock/Triple H has been flat out poor. His catchphrases seem dated, and sometimes he appears to be a caricature of himself.

Broken promises

It used to be that Vince McMahon's guarantee meant something. In the latter half of 2000, that is no longer true. The pay-per-views aside, the WWF has simply not delivered on its promises. The search for Austin's driver was drawn out over ten episodes of Raw and two pay-per-views, and even then it was a let down. The feud between Kurt Angle and Triple H was never resolved. Hell in the Cell was not nearly as "hellacious" as promised or as anticipated. The WWF is not delivering anymore, and is looking like a federation asleep at the wheel of a really nice car. If they don't wake up soon, they'll find themselves in a ditch.

Well, that's my take of things. They're not facts, just a point of view. If you disagree, as so many always do, please write in and let me know.

Well, that's my take of things. They're not facts, just a point of view. If you disagree, as so many always do, please write in and let me know.


Here's that mailbag thing.

RDoug Carlson, from dcarlso@telusplanet.net, writes:
"Eric: I have to think that wrestling is in some sort of decline, certainly from my point of view. I used to watch both WWF and WCW pay-per-views every month, then quit watching WWF when they went anti-family, then quit watching WCW when Bret Hart retired. I also have thought for some time now that there are too many pay per views. They used to be the culmination of months long feuds, now they are only the result of 30-day "feuds", if that. In fact, most pay per view matches now seem to be made in the week prior to the event. Not only that, most of the time you can watch the same show the next night on raw or Nitro for free anyway, so why order the pay per view? While I do not watch much anymore, I do keep up on the SLAM! website every day, and it has appeared to me that most pay per view matches are matches involving the same people over and over and over. Wrestling needs to generate some sort of feuds that the fans want. I mean, how many times can the Rock wrestle HHH? Austin and whoever? Now the main event is all six of them in one match. What feuds involve six wrestlers when there is no "gang" represented by any of them? That's all for now, but wouldn't you just love to see Bret Hart return to the WWF in a feud with Vince and his "son-in-law?" just imagine the ratings, and the possibilities! Oh well, we can all dream, can't we...."

Doug, I have to take exception to your opinion. While it's one thing to think that wrestling is in a state of decline today, much of what you described: the WWF being anti-family, either company without Bret Hart, feuds to common to properly hype each pay-per-view -- these were all actually elements of the boom. This is akin to me saying 'we're in a recession now, because unemployment is down, the real estate market is booming, and people are richer than ever!' I'd be backing up the view opposite my own. What you described is exactly what wrestling was like when it was booming. That's hardly proof that it's in decline. And if there's one thing that I never, eeeeeever want to see happen, it's to watch Bret swallow his pride and go work with Vince McMahon for another payday. That would be one hell of a feud, but I don't know if I could stomach it.

Barry McCallum, from bdm@sfu.ca, writes:
"In my humble opinion, I think part of the reason is because Monday Night Football has had some much better games this year, and with Dennis Miller is also much more entertaining. Remember how it was said not so long ago that RAW was killing MNF's ratings? Well, ABC and the NFL must have thought that too, because they've taken steps to reverse that trend. But in another couple of months the NFL season will end and the WWF will have time to start to win back the casual audience."

That's actually an excellent argument. I hadn't heard that before. Still, I'm finding that this decline in ratings just happens to be coinciding with a sort of a lull in the storylines, which I'm not entirely sure is a coincidence. But you're right, it is likely the casual viewers who are leaving to watch other things, and they can always be brought back later. Monday Night Football is, after all, a way more highly rated television show.

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, thanks for writing in, and have yourselves a great week!


Send email to ebenner@hotmail.com.

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