EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, October 9, 1998
What the future holds
What will the future of wrestling hold?
We live in an age where wrestler isn't "fake fighting" anymore, it's sports entertainment. We're all witnesses to the absolutely huge boom that wrestling has experienced in the past two years. We've seen the ratings wars, the new stars born, the rising stars, the falling stars, and in too many cases, the novas - for those of you unaware, October the fifth was the anniversary of the tragic death of the Loose Cannon, Brian Pillman.
There's a time for looking back, though, and a time for looking ahead, and this is one of the best times ever to be a wrestling fan. What better chance to look into the future and see what Fate has in store for wrestling?
First, I'll look at the WWF, then onto WCW, and then the wrestling world as a whole.
Vince McMahon has to be grinning right now. He's operating the finest ship in the fleet of wrestling promotions, and he's doing it with a skeleton crew. I still don't think most people would call Kane a stable main eventer, at least not by WWF standards, and that leaves Steve Austin and Undertaker. This can only be good news for Mr. McMahon, though, as he has a large roster of great talents waiting to step up to the plate.
I don't think anyone will be taken aback when I say that the Rock is just about there already. He's a great wrestler, getting better literally every week (as opposed to Jim Ross' use of the word literally - "he *literally* decapitated him with that clothesline," I actually mean literally), his mannerisms and work on the mic are maybe unparalleled by anyone, anywhere, anytime, and he has more catch phrases than Steve Austin. I don't know when they'll hand him the Big One, or maybe when he'll steal it, but he'll be on that scene real soon for a real long time.
Mick Foley can't possibly have too much gas left in his engine. And even if he does, a good head-on collision may send him to the chop shop sooner than later, so I expect him to join the title scene late this year or early next. Yeah, yeah, he had two title shots earlier this year, but you all know as well as I do that that was filler, and that no one intended to give him the title. He had to have the ref, the time-keeper, the fans at ringside, and the angels in the outfield on his side before the WWF thought anyone would even think it was a fight. Truth is, this guy can go toe to toe with the Rattlesnake, who'd only be the second-toughest SOB in the WWF when in the ring with Dude-kind Jack.
Some might say that Mr. Shamrock will soon join these individuals atop the WWF food chain. No way, forget it.
Despite his former heel status, when he comes back healthy, enters the arena to everyone's ecstatic surprise, walks down the ramp, gets in the ring and tells everyone they can "suck it!", he'll be on fire pretty much right away and be in a position to challenge for the title sooner than later. The beauty of this is, I'm talking about two different people: Shawn Michaels and Hunter Hearst Helmsley! Both are in the same situation right now, and if brought back at different intervals, the WWF will double their fun.
Some rumours have the Giant signing with the WWF before or in early 1999, and there's always the chance that a break-out star will emerge before then (who do you think? I'll run a column about that later), but either way, the WWF is set and worry-free. Look what they've already done, imagine what's coming.
As far as WCW goes, well, that's a lot harder to predict. There are many question marks. How long will Goldberg be an unbeatable tank? Who will put him down? How long will the Warrior stick around before getting fired or truly disappearing? How long and how tightly will Hogan hold the reigns? The answer to that question determines the answer to the question: who will be a main eventer in 1999?, as well. There isn't much I can say about WCW. If they don't get their act together at a management level, they'll never be able to fully take advantage of their incredibly rich roster of talent. If they ever should, though, I'd say Titan would have a mammoth problem on their hands. For the record, the previous sentence is a catch phrase. Obviously, truth and especially commentary truth is subjective. Readers be warned. Here goes: I'm Judge Eric, and that's The Truth.
I get mail. I put it here. No complicated intro needed.
Modern Video, from firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
*IF YOU GUYS HAVE ANY TYPE OF AFFILIATION WITH BRET HART, PLEASE LET HIM KNOW THAT HE'S SCREWING US FANS. TELL ME TO GET HIS ASS OUT OF WCW, THEY'RE RUINING HIM!! HE CAN GO BACK TO THE WWF AND EASILY REGAIN THE TITLE. SURE, HE WAS SCREWED, BUT THAT'S OVER WITH, EVERYONE KNOWS THAT. ANYTHING, AND I MEAN ANYTHING, CAN BE WORKED INTO SOME KIND OF ANGLE.*
For obvious reasons, I would usually avoid posting a letter like this one. However, it makes a perfect representation of a point which everyone likes to make but which is completely untrue in all cases. Bret Hart didn't quit the WWF. He got fired. Vince McMahon told him that he would no longer pay his salary, and encouraged Bret to go to WCW while he was in a position of strength. Granted, there were problems with the exit (though I am tempted to say that may have been a work all along, and I'll explain that in yet another future column), but he was fired. When you get fired, and you go somewhere else, returning to where you got fired from is no longer an option. This should be obvious. He can't go back to the WWF. He won't go back to the WWF. Live with it.
Crunch, email@example.com, writes:
*Are you kidding me Raven in the Four Horsemen. After all the troubles Benoit had with him do you really think they could co-exist in the Horsemen. if I had to pick a Four Horsemen team it would probably be Benoit, Saturn, Goldberg, and last but not least Jericho, but thats just my opinion. I do agree that Mongo, Flair, and Malenko all have to go. Flair is old. Mongo is boring. Malenko is slow and boring.*
I have to admit, you make a good argument. Speaking frankly, though, I never recommended Raven as a Horseman. My picks for the Four were the same as yours, but you substituted Jericho for Mongo. I respect the pick, but I think Jericho's talents would be wasted if he didn't go solo, not to mention the Horseman should be a group of intense individuals. Jericho joining the Horseman would be like the Rock joining the Nation. Wait a minute... No, seriously, I like Mongo as a Horseman. There's really little else he can do, and I think he's done a good job so far. Why replace him when he and Benoit are the only two from before? If you're really set on hating Jericho, why not just add him? If Anderson, Flair, Benoit, Malenko, and Mongo can make up the Four Horseman (all five of them), then we can pick a team of five, too.
Thanks for tuning in this week, folks. Next week, I'll be taking a closer look at what makes some of our favourite wrestlers so popular, and what's missing from everyone else. Have a great week, see you in seven. Don't forget to drop me a line.Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.