EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Thursday columnist.
Friday, September 18, 1998
Shamrock's just a sham
Whoa. Where am I? I woke up this morning, uncertain of whether Monday's excellent WCW and WWF programs really happened and this week's pay-per-view was a dream, or whether Fall Brawl really happened and the superb editions of Raw and Nitro never happened. Because they couldn't possibly both be real. Let me get this out of the way from the get-go: I don't know what happened this weekend in the mind of Eric Bischoff. I cannot, with any logic, explain the string of awful matches (save, as always, for the perennially strong Saturn/Raven match-up and Jericho's usual antics), the awful gimmicks, the horrible main event, and the all-around weak card. And I don't want to talk about it.
What I do want to talk about is Ken Shamrock.
I promised myself that I would take my readers' advice. I swore to myself that I wouldn't pick on any of the athletes I write about each and every week here at SLAM! I told myself I'd be different. Well, I'm starting to understand how Donnie Abreu felt. I personally am a huge fan of Bret Hart, I can only begin to understand what he went through last year, and I wish him the best in WCW, so I didn't really see how Donnie could get so viciously angry at one person, so consistently verbally violent with the same person.
Well, now I understand.
"The World's Most Dangerous Man," a nickname he earned by being beating by several of the "world's even more most dangerous men" in UFC, was given to Ken Shamrock by ABC television, in a special they did about extreme fighting. Shortly after, Mr. Shamrock appeared in the WWF, and one can only assume that the two are linked. The guy, after all, is a monster - he just lacks any semblance of a personality. When WWF officials heard about the ABC special, one could suppose they decided they could slap this on him and pretend he was interesting. Amazingly, this worked. Fans started cheering for the man with the three-leaf clover on his red kimono, something he no longer wears. He would walk to the ring with less intensity and less personality than Goldberg, beat on his opponent with a stiff style that I think works for his punches but not for his wrestling, and then leave without saying a word. Oh yeah, and sometimes he'd raise his hands in the air and 'snap.'
On the merits listed so far, I suppose I have no problem with Ken Shamrock. What I have described above could probably be applied to Steve Blackman or maybe Ernest Miller - a boring but credible fighter. So why is Blackman merely uninteresting but Mr. Shamrock, a slap in the face to myself and all wrestling fans of like mind?
It's a combination of things. First, his attitude; second, his push; third, his misnomer.
The last time the World Wrestling Federation came to the esteemed town of Montreal, it was for a house show on the Highway to Hell tour which preceded SummerSlam. The card was good and the crowd was nuts, as usual. Everyone had a good time. But that's not the point. Before the show, the WWF did some promotional work with a local television station, CFCF-12, and about ten wrestlers showed up at a park to sign autographs and have their pictures taken with the kids. There's a write-up for that on August 4th in the archives. Many of the upper mid-carders showed up, including two who would lock up that night, Mr. Shamrock and Owen Hart. Mr. Shamrock showed up about a half hour before Owen, because Owen doesn't like to travel in limousines - he prefers to catch a ride with his friends. When Mr. Shamrock arrived, sharing two limos with the Outlaws, Edge, and Val Venis, everyone chatted with the fans but him. Even Edge, whose character is to be a lone pariah, took the time to say hi to the people who greeted him. Not Mr. Shamrock, though. Everyone gathered in one of the tents at the park. Some signed autographs, and some had their pictures taken with the kids. Then they rotated. Not Shamrock, though. No pictures. As he signed his autographs (Ken Shamrock - no messages, no frills, no personal touch), Shamrock, for the most part, ignored the fans. That is, when he wasn't being rude to them.
When asked by a fan where he worked out (he was wearing a faded T-shirt on which was written the illegible name of a gym), Mr. Shamrock coldly and rudely and sarcastically replied: "I don't work out." Yeah, right. He even ignored the kids, when they asked him if he was going to beat the Nugget that evening. Well, that was his good side. Then Owen Hart arrived. He crawled in through the back of the tent, then stood up to raise his arms. The fans cheered him more than a heel usually gets, probably because they were relieved to see someone with personality arrive. Mr. Shamrock wasn't happy at all. From what I gathered from my vantage point in the tent, he didn't feel it was appropriate for two men who were about to fight that night to be in the same tent, signing autographs. So he threw a water bottle at no one in particular and left. I didn't see him again that day. That's probably a good thing.
In Mr. Shamrock's defense, Joanne Rougeau, who was organizing the event, told me there was some kind of problem at the airport. He didn't expect to have to do promotional work today, and was pissed off when he found out that he had to spend time with the kids, I was told. In my frank and, in this case, far from humble opinion, that does not excuse his actions that day. WWF athletes get paid quite a bit more than the minimum wage for a reason - not because there's a lack of people who want to do their jobs, but because of what it involves. Being a wrestler is hard, especially in the WWF. Generally speaking, two hundred and fifty days a year are spent on the road, with thousands of maniacal fans, and that can take its toll on a guy. But WWF wrestlers get paid to do their jobs, and it reflects badly on the sport as a whole when they don't act professionally. I have little sympathy for these celebrities. There are upsides and downsides to what they do, but they have to choice to do it and to continue doing it. In making that choice, they absolve themselves of the pity that they may later ask for or demand.
This isn't the only problem I have with Ken Shamrock though. How is it that a person with exactly zero titles on his record doesn't job to the hottest commodity in wrestling today when a man who has paid his dues ten times over, the Undertaker, does? Why is it that the WWF won't allow Mr. Shamrock to lose? If it's because of why I think it is, then I have something to tell them: Ken Shamrock is not the future of the WWF. He's a zombie. He has no personality. I feel awkward watching him deliver a single line. Let alone an interview. Goldberg has better personality skills than him. So does Taka Michinoku, despite that he doesn't speak a word of English. His wrestling is stiffer than his UFC fighting. The only two moves I can stand to watch him deliver are his ankle lock and a punch. Everything else just looks too fake. Even as a heel, and probably more so as they progress toward facedom, Rocky Maivia and Hunter Hearst Helmsley are superior to Ken Shamrock in all aspects of the sport. They are the future of wrestling.
The only advantage Mr. Shamrock brings to the WWF is his credibility as an extreme fighter, and even that isn't justified! I'm admittedly not a huge follower of the UFC, but some of my friends are, and from what I do know, he isn't as impressive as the WWF would have you believe. Sure, he's at a 1-1 standstill with Dan Severn. But did you know that Severn's win was clean, but that he had a very bad case of the flu when he lost? A third decision would certainly go to Severn. And Severn isn't even the undisputed best of the UFC bunch. There are others who have beaten him, and many who have beaten Mr. Shamrock. No, Ken Shamrock is not the "World's Most Dangerous Man." Not by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe the "World's Stiffest Tongue" or the "World's Rudest Individual." Any incarnation but the one he has now would do. I'm Judge Eric, and that's The Truth.
Eric Benner, wrestling columnist during the French revolution, had this to say to Marie Antoinette about the food shortages: "let them read mail."
Unfortunately, everybody seemed to agree with me this week. I'll try to anger more people in future.
Gary Rushneck writes:
*I cant agree with you more about this one. I am a diehard WWF fan, to me its just a better product. I was one of those people who used to go and order all the WCW PPVs and expect them to finally be something good. Unfortunately they never were. I think the last one I got was the first nWo Souled Out. Every since then I find that I am just as entertained by just going on the net and finding the results after the PPV has ended. I also have found no interest in seeing the celebs attempt to wrestle. I do feel that Raws/Nitros are somewhat more exciting then the PPVs for either organization. Oh, when you mentioned the WWF PPVs memories you also left some noteworthys out: Austin nailing McMahon with the chair; Austin stunning Chyna and from SummerSlam last year, HBK nails Undertaker with the chair setting up the feud that led to the Hell in a Cell.*
You're definitely right about the WWF moments I forgot. My point, though, was that it isn't hard to think of a lot. Thinking of all of them is mission: impossible. I partly agree with you about celebrities - watching them wrestle isn't pretty. But I take it because it's good for the sport. But when only wrestlers are involved, and something as poor as Fall Brawl '98 is what you get, there's no excuse.
*I seem to realize there is a lot of anti-Hulk feeling on the net. I just don't understand the lack of respect. Hulk too old??WHAT ABOUT SLICK RIC? He is not one third the wrestler he was 5 years ago. Lack of moves? What about Lex Luger? Hulk is now a heel and just about the best in wrestling, if you exclude The Rock. I just think there is a lot of jealousy over Hulk's finacial earnings and general achievements.*
You actually make a good point, Nich. I think that often, Ric Flair is given too much credit when Hollywood Hogan is given too little. I think I can explain that, though. Hogan is destroying WCW. His influence reaches out far further than Flair's. If you don't like Flair, fine, you change to Raw for ten minutes on each Nitro. If you dislike Hogan and what he's doing, well, you have to switch over to Raw for nearly a whole hour during each Nitro and you will always miss the main event, even if Hogan isn't in it, because to a certain extent, he pulls the strings and decides what happens. I personally love both of them. I wish they'd stay on and do interviews until the cows come home. Just keep them both far away from a wrestling ring, and don't let either of them control the angles.
Well, that's it for this week. Thanks for tuning in again. Welcome to my readers from the various wrestling sites I used to write for. This is now my home, so come back every Thursday and look me up. We'll do lunch. See you in seven. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.