EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, February 5, 1998
Montreal deserves better
Picture this with me. The scene is Montreal. November 1997. Live from the Molson Centre, the Survivor Series! A great card including Kane's first match in the WWF, the beginning of Shawn Michaels' last title reign, the end of Bret Hart's last title reign and his last match, some good survivor series matches to showcase young talent, and Steve Austin finally gaining a measure of revenge over the man who almost broke his neck.
The card was great, but that wasn't the point. Keep that imagination open, though, and keep picturing: twenty-two thousand screaming fans, mostly francophone, blow the roof off the joint, making it one of the loudest pay-per-views in recent history despite the lackluster finish. Can you see it? I was there, five rows from the ring on the rail where the competitors made their entrances and exits, and let me tell you, it was something.
My beef today lies not in that event, but what the WWF has offered this fine city since then.
But first, let me give you some more history.
I've been a fan of the WWF's for years. At the Molson Centre as well as the old Forum, I've seen Hogan v. Andre, Hogan v. Macho, Hogan v. Undertaker, Bret v. Yokozuna, Razor v. Jarrett in a ladder match (just trust me), Rougeau v. Hogan, and so on, and so forth. The shows were always good but not great, and I kind of lost interest in the whole sport around when everyone else did, in the early '90s.
But the Survivor Series (Gang Rulz, if you just need that element of detail) instilled back in me that fire that for so long had been burned out. It made me remember why I loved wrestling. In addition, it demonstrated to me a new element in wrestling, the internet. I really wanted to know if Bret's departure was real, so I looked it up, and I found a whole barrel-full of great sites, including this one, which appeased my doubts.
I also wrote my first column that night, as my hero had finally been dethroned and sent-off in a less than diplomatic way, and putting it lightly, I was not happy. So I wrote about it. And here, about fifteen months later, I am, happy with my weekly column at SLAM!.
Finally, the climax. My beef with the WWF is that they haven't brought a real show back since then. We've had a pair of house shows, neither of them spectacular, and nothing else. No Raws, no more pay-per-views, nothing.
Why am I only complaining now? Well, for some reason that I can only begin to speculate into, the WWF is actually passing us over entirely in their next Canadian 'tour,' which will hit Toronto on Feb. 8th with that massive Raw show everyone's talking about.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Toronto doesn't deserve Raw. But Montreal has a great crowd, and I think we measure up to almost any in North America in terms of the sheer consistency of our volume. We'll pop for Steve Austin, Owen Hart, Gillberg, or hell, even today's Undertaker. I didn't catch the show on pay-per-view (only later on video), so I'm not sure how that night's crowd measured up on television, but I doubt we were so bad that Montreal is being boycotted.
Are we too far from Toronto? Does it have anything to do with the prominence of the French language locally? Did I do something to piss off Gerald Brisco?
I really have no idea why we've been getting no WWF action recently, but the enthusiasm for it in this town, abundant as it is, won't last forever unless it's nurtured and cared for. Since our last big show, there have been pay-per-views in Vancouver, Hamilton (?), and Raw in at least Toronto. Not to mention two or three pay-per-views and Raws each in Madison Square Gardens and the United Center, in New York and Chicago, respectively.
I'm not asking for special treatment. I'm not suggesting we should get any more than anyone else. But this is a damn fine city for crowd noise, and I just don't get why we're being passed over. Not even a house show? Come on.
If anyone can shed any light on the situation, I'd love to hear from you.
Marty, from email@example.com, writes:
*Well, I just have to give you credit for nailing this one one the head. A few columns ago you said that Team Corporate was beginning to resemble the nWo too much, and if there were ant doubts before about your argument they were put to rest this past week. Firstly, "Mr. McMahon" wins the Royal Rumble and, in the process, making the same mistake Bishoff was making in that he is now too in love with his own creation. McMahon basically ruined what legitimacy the Royal Rumble had, since if an middle aged non-wrestler who entered in spot #2 can win it, what exactly is the big deal about it and why should the winner get the shot at Wrestlemania???
Then, at the end of RAW we saw the classic non-sensical heel turn that ruined the nWo. One week after beating up the Stooges, Chyna inexplicably becomes a member of Team Corporate?!?! I suppose the excuse will be that she did it for the money, but it makes about as much sense as the Giant turning nWo again, for which WCW was heavily criticized. At the end, when all the Team Corporate was in the ring at once, we could plainly see that is has swelled to nWo sized proportions. WWF best learn very quickly that the "shock value" of nonsense heel turns and a too big and too powerful Team Corporate will quickly spell disaster. WCW has improved recently. If the WWF continues to falter, they may soon regret it.*
There isn't much I can say about someone who agrees with me, but for everyone out there who isn't named Marty, listen to this guy. He knows his stuff. Don't forget, though, that the McMahons have a history of swerving all of us. Don't be surprised if there's a rebellion or some other surprise, maybe at Wrestlemania and maybe coinciding with the Gian't debut. And who here really believes that Chyna's heel turn was anything but either one, a way to get her in a ring with Sable, who is also a majorly over face, or two, yet another DX swerve?
*A rumor around the web is saying that HBK is as hurt as we think he is. That he was at one of his mentor Jose's shows and doing superkicks and stuff. Maybe he's holding out on Vinnie Mac for more money?*
I have to say, the part of me that loves to watch this guy piss everyone off and loves even more to watch him get his butt kicked around the ring really hopes that there's something to this rumour, but I have to say I really doubt it. Believe what you will, since it doesn't matter as long as he isn't wrestling anyway.
Thanks for writing everyone. Keep it coming. If anyone has any questions about my stance on one thing or another, just ask me, and if it's interesting, you'll see it here with your question at the top of the column. Keep it short and interesting. Thanks for reading, too. Have a great, see you in seven.
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.