SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

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

Friday, January 15, 1998

Nitro has been the better show

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

A weekly
SLAM! Wrestling
Editorial Column

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I get a lot of email from disgruntled World Championship Wrestling fans. They claim that this column is one-sided, that I'm an avid World Wrestling Federation supporter, that SLAM! Sports tends to favour the WWF in our coverage. Frankly speaking, this just isn't so.

SLAM! is a professionally-run website. We state unbiased facts and express our own personal opinions when they're called for. These opinions are subjective, but the fact of the matter is that when the WWF puts on better programming, that will be reflected in what you read here.

That having been said, I have some very pro-WCW things to say today.

I rarely have time to watch Raw and Nitro as they're aired. Nearly invariably, I tape them both and watch them back to back at some ungodly hour later the same week. I'm writing this column after having watched eight consecutive hours of wrestling, remote in hand with my thumb on the fast-forward.

Put simply, WCW Nitro was, in my opinion, a better show than WWF Raw this week and last.

Don't get me wrong. Raw has been strong - very strong. I've been enjoying they're good, consistent programming for months and months, now, and I have few complaints. The matches are good, the finishes are solid, and the plots are creative and fast-paced. That sound of broken glass which precedes the entrance of the Rattlesnake may very well be the most electrifying sound in sports entertainment today. Watching Mick Foley take the WWF strap was a great moment. The undercard these things followed was filled with non-stop action from some of the youngest, most agile, and best technical wrestlers I've ever seen.

But Nitro was better.

I don't know who's responsible, but World Championship Wrestling may finally be picking up the pieces of its shattered, former self and making a legitimate effort at reclaiming the top spot in wrestling. Maybe they just finally realized that the WWF's latest endeavour to feature more adult themes isn't a novelty but a new mainstay, maybe the higher-ups at Time-Warner are putting some pressure on Eric Bischoff to shake things up, or maybe Bischoff, to whom I give all the credit in the world, is starting to smarten up and realizing that the formula that made him number one wasn't constant run-ins and endless factions, but one good, elite faction and a very solid undercard.

But what about continuity? How will these changes be instituted without making the product seem completely different and alien? Well, Ric Flair's new interim presidency the departure of the Giant, the returns of Randy Savage, Curt Hennig, and (hopefully) Sting, and the reformation of the original nWo are certainly possible ways. They're off to a good start for 1999 - a very good start.

Don't get me wrong. The WWF is still putting on solid programming, and I still expect more from a WWF pay-per-view. I don't expect good things from Souled Out, but I'll be parked in front of the Royal Rumble. Wrestlemania is still the hallmark of wrestling events. None of this is particularly important news. Think of it more as a possible sign of things to come.

The creation and expansion and over-use of the WWF's Corporate Team is certainly partially responsible for my being turned off by Raw of late. It's bad enough that I have to see Ken Shamrock and Ray Traylor on my television set at all. Four or five times a night is just too much.

Of course, the WWF still has a lot going for them, and I expect the tide will probably turn back in their favour shortly as they hit their road-to-Wrestlemania marketing mode soon. That's when everyone gets all worked up about them. I just hope that WCW takes that as a challenge to rise up to, not an effort to be mocked or attacked.

In a brief word, I'd like to say that I find the current antics of the federations as mildly humourous, but I expect that if continued and escalated, they will shortly cross the line into unprofessionalism and turn me completely sour.

I had some email problems this week, so the reader mailbag will not be featured this week. To make up for it, I have two questions I'd like to throw out to you, and I'll print the most interesting five next week. They are:

What factors can make or break 1999, first for the WWF, and also for WCW? What changes (or constants) would make you watch one or the other, and what would make you turn your attention to the other side? Basically, what would you like to see?

That's all for this week. Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, many apologies to those whose mail never got to me, and have a great week. I'll see you in seven.

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