EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Thursday columnist.
Thursday, September 10, 1998
Remembering forgettable WCW events
How many of the last two years' worth of WCW pay-per-views can you remember as having a meaningful, evocative finish? How many can you even remember at all? For the WWF, it's easy. Oh my God, the Undertaker just nailed Austin with the chair and Kane is the champ. Oh my God, Mike Tyson leveled Shawn Michaels and Steve Austin is your champion! Here's Kane, to chokeslam Undertaker into the casket and set it on fire! Goodness, Bret Hart has just been screwed! Kane has just entered the hellacious cell! Bret has the Patriot in the figure four around the ring-post, and he won't let go!
Try to remember a single ending in a WCW pay-per-view since Bash at the Beach '96 that didn't involve the same, repetitive screw-job. I didn't think so.
WCW has, in the past two years, delivered pay-per-view finishes so mind-numbingly transparent that I loath to even buy a small share of one. Let's review.
I don't have a list on-hand and I don't have a photographic memory, especially of what repulses me, so I'll instead categorize the latter half of 1996, 1997, and 1998 so far into groups (of main events).
Alright, for the first group, let's start with Roddy Piper. He's made, in the past two years, no less than three WCW pay-per-view main event appearances. He beat Hollywood Hogan cleanly twice, and suffered at least once to the wrath of nWo interference. This is probably not as bad as some of the others, but essentially, it's two, old, over-the-hill men arguing about who the icon is. And why did Piper never win the belt if he beat the champ cleanly twice?
The next group of WCW main events has to be the Sting-Hogan series. They fought three times in four pay-per-views, if I'm not mistaken, or maybe one of those matches was a regular televised appearance. The sum total of those three matches: fifteen months of great wasted hype and two screw-job victories by Sting thanks to Bret Hart, who tarnished not only his own but also Sting's good name by making the "fast count" (which many claim was the slowest count at Starrcade).
Another category of main events would have to be the mixed tag matches. Often these involved entertainers from outside the scope of wrestling. I don't even want to discuss these matches. They were a waste of your time and mine. Screw-jobs, a plenty!
Aside from this, WCW pay-per-views have featured various other screw-jobs, cage match gimmicks, and other unwholesome fare that no one online appreciates come Monday.
Why is it, that time after time, WCW fails to deliver, be it with their pay-per-view attempt as a whole or the final match?
Some would suggest that Eric Bischoff's tactic of keeping the audience in a constant state of shock is the reason.
Since the strategy worked for months after the debuts of Scott Hall and Kevin Nash on Nitro, Bischoff has relied heavily on the element of surprise to keep his crowds interested. One obvious side-effect of this is that it results in an endless series of screw-jobs, which, ultimately, keep fans unhappy. The WWF has always at least tried to deliver solid main-event work, and when it is a screw-job, it sets up a long feud, generally speaking.
Another possible reason for the constant failure of WCW monthly mega main events is their star power. They have too many popular personalities who either no longer or never could wrestle. No one wants to see them actually don tights and step into the squared circle. Give me a Hogan interview a week forever and I probably won't kill myself but put him in the ring, be it with someone he should run over like a freight train (Jay Leno) or someone he should be jobbing cleanly to nine times out of ten (Sting, Giant, Macho, and the list goes on), it's just boring. He can't wrestle anymore. He can't entertain me when he's in that ring.
Some would argue that what WCW's weakness has to be is its desire to plug the free shows with its paying ones. This is definitely a possibility, and it definitely makes little sense to me. Why would you want to piss off your elite paying viewers to please your casual cable audience? The WWF rakes in a lot of money in the pay-per-view department, and even when they're losing in the ratings, they can continue to rely on cleaning up there. When the WCW loses ratings, well, there are panic attacks, firings, and unexplained deaths.
So what's the end result of all this? I think that eventually, WCW is either going to have to seriously shake up that booking, er pecking order, or they're going to go under, and be a permanent fixture at number two. This time around, the WWF will be smart about things, and probably won't fire Austin or Undertaker over contract disputes. I'm Judge Eric, and that's The Truth.
Every week, here at the SLAM! post office box here in Montreal, Quebec, we get tons and tons of letters. My talented staff sorts through it and selects this week's best, most popular, or most interesting opinions, then strings them up like a pinata so I can take blind swings at them with a baseball bat. Here goes nothing.
*Darryl, from email@example.com, writes:
Enjoying all the columns. The Shamrock situation is interesting. I've never met Shamrock so I can only address your comments, but if he is not 'friendly' to children I'msure this will effect his 'push' in WWF. What are your thoughts? It is my opinion that all the wrestlers who have gained any 'real' success in the industry have always been 'available' to their fans, young and old. The WWF usually 'plays' this up in their magazines and contests. A few years back when the WWF did a C.N.E. week-end the wrestlers were heavily involved with the fans. I seem to remember Psycho Sid having the best time and he was a major heel ( and psycho to boot! ). The WWF house shows are filled with children and I'm certain they account for alot of the merchandise being sold. Perhaps that's why Shamrock doesn't have a t-shirt........? Hmmmmmmmmm.*
I think that you're onto something here. Shamrock's push in December to main event status seemed to quickly fade, and though he appears to be in line for a second title shot, it's barely an angle and will probably only serve to build or re-build his angle with Dan Severn, or perhaps with a new target. Either way, I think I will so have to write a full column about Shamrock, to put all of this to rest. The whole story, coming up, very possibly, next week, right here at SLAM!
*Stephen, from firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
I agree with your response to the e-mail which suggested Bart hook up with DX. Having him join the group would not be a wise move. However, what might be a more interesting storyline is to continue the fued with the brothers. Have Bad-Ass try to make up with his brother and join DX and have Bart refuse, setting up a rivalry between Bart and DX. This would allow the WWF the opprtunity to give Bart the push everyone thinks he'll get for winning the boxing thing. Heck, to take it one step further, they might even try to get Bart back into the western cowboy digs and team him up with Bradshaw, thus giving him a bit of a push for also reaching the finals, and get them to challenge the New Age Outlaws for the tag belts. Heck, no other tag team seems to be interested in the belts.*
I think a Bradshaw/Bart Gunn tag team is actually a great idea. It makes a lot of sense to put these two legit tough guys together. A long feud with the Outlaws might prove fruitful, too. If they started with just Bart, for now, then added Bradshaw later, they could probably make this their Wrestlemania XV tag title match.
Thanks for tuning in this week, folks. I'll see you in seven. Send email email@example.com.