EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, December 22, 2000
I'm not going to write a review here. We've already got that covered. After a few hours of No Mercy, my consciousness was transferred to another plane of existence, a plane of pure wrestling. No Mercy is not a perfect game. It's lacking Lawler's zingy one-liners and pretty much any common sense as far as interference goes, but it's as good a simulation of the squared circle as I've ever seen. It didn't take long for me to get hooked for this game, and as if it were a narcotic, it induced in me a state of higher thinking, in which many serious and not-so-serious thoughts about wrestling occurred to me.
Firstly, if No Mercy is truly an accurate simulation - and it is - then wrestling has really evolved over the past few years. If you really want an idea of what I'm talking about, try playing a match between the Hardy Boyz (works best of you've got a partner handy) and Edge and Christian or The Dudleyz. It's crazy. They may get old with time, but I couldn't believe how many innovative spots were programmed into the game. Jeff Hardy's standby, the Swanton Bomb, is replaced by a corkscrew shooting star press that doesn't even look possible. The trouble is, despite the fact that I don't think any human being could realistically pull off that move, the Hardy brothers have impressed me on so many occasions that I'm not so sure they couldn't.
Then, when Matt Hardy grabs the ladder, and the chaos ensues (mostly him swinging it around), I can't believe how vicious he is. Edge is knocked clear out of the ring, right over the top rope, Christian is bashed to the ground and then beaten with it, and even partner Jeff is stunned by a stray hit.
You may be thinking to yourself "Who cares how things go on in a video game?", and you'd be right. Except that I then went and reviewed some of my favourite Hardy matches on tape, including their much-heralded three-way ladder match with Edge and Christian and The Dudleyz at Wrestlemania, and most of what we see in the video game is true.
I guess the WWF has slowly trained me into thinking that this kind of stuff is realistic. That a man could throw another man over four feet of cable rope, outside to the ground ten feet below, and then that man can jump right to the top rope, and just as the other man is getting up, leap from said top rope, flipping once and twisting thrice and landing somewhere in the general vicinity of the second man's head, and that both men are briefly stunned, but that the match still goes on and this isn't even part of the finish! If that sounded confusing, then I think I've properly portrayed how it looks, because some of these moves are so high-flying, so over-the-top, that they don't even make sense.
I've been conditioned. Jeff Hardy somersaulting from the top of a twenty-foot steel cage, finishing his twirl so that he lands on his back only inches from the landing point - in this case, his opponent - and somehow never injure his head or neck. Some men with agility barely beyond a normal person simply risking their bodies to create a big spot, others with inhuman speed and dexterity creating similarly inhuman spots (that's Jeff), and then the crowd popping for two or three seconds.
Yeah, it's dangerous. Yeah, it could end their careers. Yeah, it'll take them to the top. We've realized all these things before, as I hope the men involved have, but either it's never really sunk in or it has too long ago.
If Shawn Michaels was the next Ric Flair, and Jeff Hardy is the next Shawn Michaels, and Shawn Michaels has given his body to wrestling, and Jeff Hardy will beat his record time in doing so, then what in tarnation is "the next Jeff Hardy" going to have to do to make his mark? I think a pact with the devil is pretty much the only alternative here. There are only so many twists and turns one can do in the air, only so many bones to break, only so many chances to take, before the dice come up snake eyes and the sun sets on a man's career.
I'm not here to preach to or about Jeff Hardy. Alright, fine, Matt Hardy either. Their antics are entertaining and if they want to perform stunts like this, that's up to them - after all, circus performers have given up way more countless time before and I've never so much as said a word. But I can't help but notice the absurdity of it, and that even the Spanish and Japanese languages combined don't have the words to describe some of these new moves, with four somersaults, and three triple axles, and a corkscrew, all of which sound more like they belong in an Olympic dive than a ten-foot drop onto a coworker.
This is the kind of thing people sometimes think about, when they're under the influence of an addictive substance - WWF: No Mercy, for example. It doesn't have to offer a recommendation, or advice for the future, or a solution to the problem. Just the realization and the epiphany are significant enough. The Hardy brothers and 3-Count and Eddie Guerrero and the Jung Dragons and Lita and Edge and Christian and Rob Van Dam and the rest of the high-flyin' kin are a gift to their trade, and a boon to our entertainment. Here's a Christmas (or holiday) toast to them, to theirs, and to their continued success in wrestling.
Merry holidays, everyone. Voici le mailbag.
"I suspect that the reason why wrestling is boring fans is that it's on 4 nights a week plus reruns. In the old days it use to be on maybe once a week on a Saturday on TV or a Sunday and you wouldn't know what happened until the next show if there was a surprise ending. They keep replaying the same old angles over and over again MIA vs. Team Canada, Triple H vs. the Rock there isn't anything really new?"
Good point. I guess the over saturation of the wrestling television market has just become a constant, and I forget about it. But there is too much wrestling on TV, especially if you want to follow all of it. I never catch all the shows, and I know few people who can. Thereís just too much. Itís very possible that this could also be behind the perceived decline in wrestling performance of late.
Shirley Sawka, from email@example.com, writes:
"Good column on The Highs and Lows of WCW and WWF for the year. One thing you mentioned Over The Edge as a PPV and I do believe that Over The Edge became Judgment Day (May PPV) due to the tragic death of Owen Hart at that particular PPV. I was wondering if you were referring to Fully Loaded."
Point taken and touche. I always seem to do that. Itís probably subconscious and I guess I can't let go of that particular night. The funny thing is that whenever I mention the B pay-per-views, I always seem to forget one and replace it with Over the Edge. I wonder what Freud would say about that.
That's all for this week. Have a safe and happy holiday!
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