Ringside Shadows #91: The Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse: A Tuesday Review for the Ages
So what's the deal... what's this "Fifth Horseman" crap? Chances are, if you've been a follower of my column in the months past you've seen more than your share of negative reviews, bitching, moaning, and all-around ragging. For every good, I can find a bad. Call it bullheadedness, call it disregard for the industry's future, I'd rather label it "criticism" and "hope". As a graphic design major, I realize the importance of learning from and improving upon your mistakes through critique. I've worked 3 months on a single project, only to see it torn to shreds by a prof with an attitude and a point. It's one of the toughest experiences anyone can be asked to withstand, and a lot of students don't make it through the first semester.
Where am I going with this...? There's a tie.
The truth of the matter is this.. a professor or employer doesn't criticize your work because he/she dislikes you, actually the opposite. Each wants to see you succeed, which in turn will lead to a success of their own.. either financially or morally. In that manner, I consider myself to be in the position of the prof and pro wrestling as a whole to be the student. I don't tear into the Monday programs without remourse just because I can.. I criticize them because I can see what they could be.. what they should be. But maybe I've been too harsh. Some time Sunday night, I was discussing the low points of the Mayhem PPV with another columnist when I suddenly asked myself; "What the hell am I doing?" Sunday's PPV was a damn good program but I looked past the solid finishes of the tournament, advancements of Booker T and Chris Benoit, and absense of older talent on the card. Instead, I complained about Bagwell's performance, about Brian Knobbs' employment, et al. Somewhere, a page turned and I realized that despite some terrible bookings, ignorant angles and absolutely piss-poor Nitros, Russo and Ferrera had intrigued me.
Why's this a Review for the Ages? Instead of sitting down in front of my television as a critic, I sat down as a fan. Monday Night.. I saw 2 programs that I enjoyed.
This one will be a bit short, however, as I'm about to leave for Pittsburgh, need to pack, and I'm expecting my new bed to arrive shortly.. I'll be back in full swing next week. At any rate...
-Nice introduction, setting up another month's worth of angles. Jarrett's main event push is a damn good idea, especially considering how he's busted his ass these past weeks. Meanwhile, Hart's interview skills still haven't met their previous high-water mark. Much as I don't want to see it, he's quite a bit better suited as a heel.
-Oh, they tried to screw things up last night.. Elizabeth in action.. a double serving of Meng.. but there was too much goodness thrown in to counteract the efforts.
-Goldberg's still got a ways to go before he's competant on the mic. He mumbled so quietly into the stick backstage that I was clueless as to what he'd just said.
-It was damned good to see Fit Finlay back last night, though the scar on his leg was horrendous. I was a bit worried he might mess himself up by returning to action so shorty, especially after seeing the muscle deterioration in his legs. Still, seeing him deliver the forward roll slam bodes well for the future. Too bad the crowd had no idea who he was..
-I liked having the Maestro's piano music continuous throughout the backstage segments.. if somebody had no idea what they were trying to say, I could always just zone out and enjoy the music..
-As the cruiserweight belt (along with Disco Inferno's pride) is drug through the mud, Saturn is given a well-deserved push. I've known for years that, given an interesting personality, this guy could tear the house down.. it looks like he's on the verge of that now. Would it have been too much to ask for Karagias to continue jobbing without the belt?
-The bookers had a field day with Wall / Vampiro. They effectively killed any heat the Berlyn/Wall breakup could've gathered by rushing through it (Ted Dibiase and Virgil were an identical predicament in the mid to late 80s, and that went on for years before it was finally completed, to much fanfare). The 'Oklahoma' mockery continued to rival Big Show/Bossman as the most disturbing angle in wrestling, and both Dr. Death AND Vampiro looked weak with the botched spin-kick over the top that stopped the insanity.
-Jarrett / Hart; thank you. A match worthy of a PPV, which I wouldn't be surprised to see before too long. Despite a dirty ending, this one was NICE.
-Kidman / Guerrero; what, are they trying to impress now? These two put on a clinic, but the audience wasn't buying. Practically a workshop of believable offense and selling here, with a little bit of psychology thrown in for good measure. A nice lead-in to a feud, but I hope we haven't seen the last of it.
-A quick note: the production quality continued to be terrible last night. Camera angles were both bad and inappropriate. And they still haven't figured out how to get all the smoke from the pyros away from the ring, giving the entire program a greyed effect.. Little pieces of that whole set WCW behind the WWF, resulting in a less professional feel.
-Now, more than ever, Meng looks like a tool. Get him a haircut, get him some pants and get him out of the ring.
-Our $2 X-Men punching bag can attest to the devastating power of Lash Leroux's finishing maneuver.. it didn't survive my first attempt.
-Instead of the sad little Nitro Girls match, why couldn't we have just been treated to a couple minutes' worth of Spice, prancing in her schoolgirl outfit and just looking sexy in general?
-Is Hennig ever gonna get another chance to play a legitimate face? Every time he finally gets the crowd behind him, he turns on them. I think this may've been the last straw in many eyes. Still, the turn was pleasantly unexpected, and meant Bagwell took punishment, so I'm all for it.
-Benoit comes out with laser lights, fog, new music, new tights, and a surprisingly bad match. Why does the best worker in the world need lasers? Sometimes I wonder if these guys get it.. and I don't mean as in the WWF's slogan. Had Benoit and Malenko been allowed to do what they do.. put on a mind-bogglingly intense technical masterpiece, I'd be dancing in the rafters shrieking "hooty hoo". Instead, we see a couple innovative moves, controversy, and a large piece of ugly that I could've done without.
-I could only groan when I heard Russo ask for Juvi, as I dread what's likely to transpire.
-Nobody even mentioned the poetry in motion that was Sting and Meng... and I think it's best left that way.
-Finally, it was actually a good call to throw Sid into the picture as a face.. though the company is now dangerously low on main event heels. Sid wasn't going anywhere fast as a heel, and a show of mutual respect tied up the loose ends in his feud with Goldberg. The match.. was ugly.. but that was to be expected.
Overall Grade: B
This one bordered on a B+, but there was enough terror to run that off. Following up one of the year's stronger PPVs, and a helluva long cry from the pathetic heap that was vomited out in Indianapolis, when I attended 2 weeks ago. There was plenty to like about this show, but then.. there was plenty to dislike as well. I figure once everything starts to click, another ratings shift may be in the cards.
And hey.. I need a room with the title "Powers that be" on the door.
-The bit with the Al Snow action figure has just run its course. The segment with Holly becoming enraged over its being pulled were funny, but I can't see that being used anywhere else without bleeding of overexposure. Then again, Vince never was one to know when to quit.
-Classic, classic "evil" McMahon.. hiding in his car with a ball bat, looking for fresh air. The comedic tension was great.. I'll take this over the Godfather any day, hoes or not.
-Kurt Angle / Mark Henry; honestly, I couldn't give a drop and a half of dirty poop water about this one, and my television sat on TNT for the duration.
-Watching Vince smash the hell out of the limo, I thought to myself.. "if I ever become a billionaire.. I'm doing that at least once." Never let it be said that Vince can't compete with Turner financially.
-Nobody says it like it is quite like Chris Jericho. His in-ring work has been sub par since coming to the WWF, but his mic work has taken strides. He's like the internet wrapped up into one.. and I love it.
-Amusing to see Edge cheesin it up with the new ring announcer, who didn't even bother to finish announcing half the competitors. Not a terrible match with the Dudleys, but no Kidman/Guerrero either. It ended with a miscalled reverse 3D, as JR plugged away at the Parents' Group trying to take them off of television.
-Speaking of the Parents' Group, I'm a bit disappointed about how the WWF has handled this 'threat'. I've always admired the way Vince & co. could take a verbal lashing from it's rivals, enemies, and former friends, yet keep their mouths shut and do what they do best... put on a good show. By even ackowledging the movement made by this group, they've opened themselves up to more ridicule and have dropped a notch in my respect. No longer are they above a little lashing of their own. JR's pre-typed message came off sounding dry, fake and insincere, as he was obviously reading it word for word from his sheet. I wouldn't have thought it to be so hard to just put it in your own words.
-Al Snow played the jealous heel while Mankind went back to his Rock n' Sock character.. that I didn't miss. Still, if it means Snow's getting a push.. bring it on. He and Foley could have some classics, and it's definately something to look forward to..
-The Mae Young wars continue.. an old friend of mine have an ongoing answering machine war, leaving the message "I love Mae Young" after the beep..
-Jeff Hardy / X-Pac was a great letdown, as these two have potential through the stratosphere.. I wonder if they're too used to working short matches anymore? Still, if a feud is on the horizon.. I'll pay to see it.
-Was anybody happy to see Viscera approaching the ring, let alone during Kane's world title shot? Yea, I didn't think so.
-Let's relive a moment from last night's RAW:
Shane: ..and not only that, but Vince has ordered that tonight..
(crowd starts to get excited)
Shane:..in this very ring...
(crowd readies itself, eager)
Shane:.. you will be in a handicap match
(crowd pops, saving itself for the high-calibur match that's sure to be announced in seconds)
(crowd awaits it's cue to explode with unbound joy)
Shane: The ACOLYTES!
(crowd goes for a beer)
-Was I the only one who noted a more than coincidental similarity to Yokozuna in "Rikishi"'s debut? Well, aside from his dancing..
-Following the sub par main event we were already expecting, HHH took a mean dive from the stage, but we never got the camera angle to do it justice. A nice way to build the McMahon / Helmsley match next month, and a good way to end the show, to boot.
Almost a C+, but not quite. A bit too much of Vince for my liking, as he dominated the program with checkups at least once every segment. Still, there's some good ground laid for the future in Test, X-Pac/Jeff Hardy and Too Cool.
So much for keeping it short.. still no bed however, so it's on to..
EFi6084413@aol.com had some questions about the Mayhem preview I offered up..
"I can tell by you have no sense about how to make money in US wrestling. First off you say that your biggest star shouldn't be in the main event of your biggest PPV of the year,WTF? Who should Goldberg be wrestling then Nash Again?Sid again? Hall again?. Give me a break. You always talk about how the fans want somebody as champion and to give them what they want. The fans want Goldberg as champion so what better way to give it to him then at Starcade oh yeah I forgot its because Souled out is more important."
Honestly, I wasn't offering an opinion on what would make money.. rather, what I would like to see. A deciding factor behind my endorsing a World Title Tourney rematch for Starrcade is because I don't want to see Bret Hart with a one month title reign after 2 years of disrespect, nor do I look forward to seeing a run-in during the main event of WCW's biggest PPV (the only alternative to a one month reign, as Goldberg won't be jobbing again). At this point, I'm gonna have to see how the hype the Starrcade match before I'd like to comment further. You do have a point though, that a good majority of fans would like to see Goldberg with the belt.. just not in Canada.
He goes on to say...
"Then you say that Chris Fucking Benoit should win the world title. Chris Benoit? A guy that if he makes it to the finals is only there because the PPV is in home country. Oh yeah I forget even though him and Bret Hart combined have about a fifth of Goldberg's heat they do have the all so important "workrate." You know what I say about that? fuck workrate. I have been watching wrestling for 13 years and I now or never will ever care about workrate and neither will many other "wrestling" fans. Well thats all I have to say,I had to point out a couple of things about your post,Peace."
In this case, I was looking for the most exciting finish to what ended up to be an anticlimactic main event. WCW is hurting for main event heels right now, with Sid turning face. Once Benoit has reached the upper echelon of the WCW elite (which I believe he did Sunday night), a heel turn would give him the unenviable role of lead heel for the promotion. What better way to turn him mean heel than to turn him on Bret Hart, at home, 2 years after Bret was last screwed out of a World Title? Fans would be screaming for Benoit's head on a stick both here and up North, and we'd have one helluva mean heel champion heading into WCW's "grand daddy" PPV, not to mention the momentum and excitement to possibly send them over the top in their war against the WWF. Incidentally, I don't believe for a second that Benoit made it to the finals because it was in his home country. Russo and Ferrera are admittedly high on the Crippler (as can be evidenced by his new, "improved" entrance of last night), and he was the most obvious in his bracket to advance. Malenko's not near main event, unfortunately.. Madusa? No. Scott Hall? Had a chance, but he's never really been perceived as anything but "the guy who turned in some ladder matches with Shawn Michaels", not to mention is unreliable. Benoit was the only logical choice. As for your assesment of audience reaction.. it all depends on the area. Everywhere but a chunk of the US, Goldberg is booed out of the arena while Benoit and Hart are respected for what they've done. All 3 are over heavy in the US, and I'd go with a combination of workrate and popularity when selecting my main eventers.
Thanks for writing, I love a good debate.
Closing out, Frank (BgBnkFrnk@aol.com) finds his way onto the post with an ungodly amount of brownnosing:
"Just wanted to say that I enjoy your columns more than anyone's in the Oratory, and it damn near killed me when the Big3 went down for about a week. Your Benoit theory is exactly what I've been hoping for for a few weeks. Hopefully it all pans out. Although, I don't think you can really go wrong with any of the four guys left. Well, in closing let me just say, I live for the Tuesday Reviews. Gawd, I'm such a mark for you...Heeeeeey, I'm a drq mrq! Whooo!!"
Not much I can say to that, except thanks. "Drq Mrq" has a nice feel to it.. heh.
Anyway, I'm off for the week. I'll catch everyone next time.
until next time, i remain