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

Friday, January 8, 1998

Reflections on the past year

Eric Benner
Special to SLAM! Sports

A weekly
SLAM! Wrestling
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With the few hours I've had to myself on this enigmatic "vacation" of mine, I have been scouring my house for things to read. They just pile up over the months and months of school and work, and it seems like I never read anything anymore. The same can be said for what's written on the internet about wrestling. I went surfing for wrestling a few days back, and what I found was the heavy scrutinization of the year they call 1998.

I suppose I can't avoid it. We all have our opinions about what went well and what went not-so-well for whom in the passing year. I am grudgingly willing to add my two cents to the pot, but I have no intention of unveiling some scientifically-determined Wrestler of the Year or anything. I wouldn't know who that was. I just know what I like to see.

Call me pessimistic, but I'm going to kick this off with the might-have-beens of 1998. The things I would have liked to have seen that just didn't pan out.

First, for Mr. Chris Jericho. He put on some of the funniest shows this year. He is, in my opinion, professional wrestling's number one man for comedy. To refresh some memories, he spent the first couple of months this past year verbally attacking an absent Dean Malenko. He would bring out his blown-up picture and contemplate the end of a career (an ending Jericho claimed to have caused) which might have been "mediocre, with lots of hard work" as he put it. He brought out the fake Malenko and finally pinned someone with that arrogant stance. Finally, under the guise of Cyclope, Dean Malenko entered a ten-man cruiserweight battle royale, beat all comers, and won a title shot, then won the title shot, against Chris Jericho. From there, Jericho went on a crusade. He was the victim of an elaborate conspiracy, and no less than thrice did he 'win' back belts from those who had pinned him squarely. Following that, there was his tremendously funny Goldberg attacks, in which he 'defeated' Goldberg many times, and kept score. None of the victories were even close to legitimate, of course, and the powers that be in WCW prevented the two from ever stepping in the ring together, as planned for World War Three. And who could forget Jericho's personal security, Ralphus?

But where is Chris Jericho? He is without a title, without an angle, soon-to-be without a contract, and seemingly uninterested in working with the WWF. Either that or the WWF is uninterested in working with him. Well, maybe they just keep a good secret. Either way, things don't look good for the Lionheart, but I wish him the best for 1999.

What can I say about the Giant? Paul Wight has the look, the size, the strength, and the voice to be the biggest man in wrestling. Amazingly, he has never touched a (non-tag team) title since the birth of the nWo, despite the fact that he has been a part of it on many an occasion. He's let himself go and doesn't have the shape that made him the fearless and invincible man he was only three years ago, when he was the youngest WCW champion ever, at the age of 24. I hope that life in the WWF will be kind to the Giant, as it has not been to their other giants, Kurrgan, Golga, and that other guy.

I don't have much more to say about the Hart clan. This past year has been most unkind to them all, and I wish them well.

That's what struck me as being particularly wrong with 1998, but there was certainly a lot that went right, as well. I have high hopes for the new year of 1999, which is being brought in with such great things going (and things I expect great things from) as:
  • The Acolytes, the last of the power-house tag teams.
  • Wrestling television ratings at an all-time high.
  • The return of the original nWo, the one which actually made WCW *better*, not *worse*.
  • The Rock and Mankind as two new viable main eventers, replacing Bret Hart who left seemingly an eternity ago.
  • The reunification of the Outsiders - to hell with you if that didn't bring a tear to your eye, too.

And the things I hope will go well but have my doubts about:
  • The arrival of a third choke-slammer in the WWF. Hmmm, who will he feud with?
  • The Outlaws looking to go their own, separate ways?
  • A Corporation that's just too freakin' big.
  • No sign of life in the Harts.


I get mail. I post some and answer it, it's pretty simple. Well, not so simple for those who think that sending me the same message twenty times will make me see it any better. To those who do: sometimes your mail (I read them all) is good enough that I would otherwise have posted, if you weren't so damned rude. writes:
*When you say " my only joy in WCW came from watching Sting kick theirkeisters", that's the point! They want you to hate the nWo so bad that you only like them getting beaten up! That's called an angle.*

Fantastic. I don't want to wait an entire year to see Sting finally get revenge on the nWo, then have it carried out sloppily and repeated for me eight times. I want variety, and I want something to entertain me in the meantime, not Sting picking up an unconscious Diamond Dallas Page and bringing him up to the rafters every week. writes:
*They wanted the strap. That's how the cruiserweights do it. If you notice, they fight each other. If it wasn't for the fact that the LWO has started (and failed), you would see the old ways of wrestling by watching the cruiserweights. Guys battling it out so they can move up the rankings are fight for the chance to take the title.*

Alright, I'll bite. I see what you mean. I agree with you that cruiserweights should be there to entertain with solid wrestling alone, but the emphasis is should. They put the same storylines in with the cruiserweights that they do with everyone else now. Keep trying to tell me WCW titles have meaning.

Mary Catherine, from, writes:
*I noticed what you said about WCW wasting their talent in response to someone's letter and I just want to add my 2 cents. I totally agree that WCW is misusing their incredible array of talent. It appears that in the past few years, the WWF has forgone the big names and the big money contracts to quietly develop their younger talent into what they are today. I'm referring to guys like Steve Austin, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, The New Age Outlaws, Edge, The Rock, D-Lo Brown... you get my drift. A few years ago people laughed when the WWF started devoting attention to these guys. They said WCW was sooooo much better because they had signed away the big names like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall etc.... Now there are so many people jumping on the Austin/DX/Rock bandwagons it's not even funny. I bet these are the same people who thought that when these guys first started out in the WWF, they would never amount to anything. WCW has some very capable young talent in people such as Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, & Rey Mysterio Jr. but they always seem to be taking a backseat to the "old guard". I just hope that those guys will be offered an oppurtunity in the WWF someday, because I'm sure McMahon will know what to do with them. WCW will be sorry when all the wrestlers on their "Seniors Tour" retire in the next few years and they have all this underdeveloped talent and no where to put them.*

Your takes on the WWF and WCW talent are absolutely correct. Well, mostly. I do think it should be noted, firstly, that Steve Austin was a successful wrestler in WCW. By no means was he anything close to what he is now, but he did capture the United States title and the Tag Team titles (with Brian Pillman). It isn't important, but it's something I think everyone should know. He was, though, released, and Bischoff stated to him that there was no way a man in black tights and black boots could be successful in this business anymore. This is, of course, ironic on so many levels.

One other thing I'd like to point out is that very little talent jumps ship to the WWF. There's a reason for that. From what I hear, the contracts being offered to Benoit, Jericho, and Mysterio would make them all better-paid than all but two or three wrestlers on the WWF's roster. They obviously can't compete with that, not so much because they can't afford that alone, but because they'd have to give raises to everyone else in their organization. I can name almost two dozen individuals in WCW, each of whom are (to my knowledge) better paid than the WWF's last two champions, Foley and Maivia. That's kind of scary.

Well, that's it for this week. I hope that this year will treat you as well as last, or better where applicable, and I hope you're having as good a start as I am. Thanks for reading, thanks for writing. Have a great week, see you in seven.

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