Ringside Shadows #95: Missing Something? A Tuesday Review
I feel like I'm missing something. As I melted into the couch for a well-deserved break from classes, I flipped on the screen to catch some Monday night action and took a quick glance at myself. Next to my roommate and girlfriend, I saw a grim face. Gone was the excitement, the tense last moments before the familiar 'WCW' logo appeared on-screen. To be honest, I think the only reason I was bothering was due to my nearly-unstoppable love for the tradition of it all. I didn't want to watch the evening's programming, but I felt almost a duty to do so. It's been over 3 years since I rediscovered the youthful exuberance of professional wrestling, reopened the emotions I once proudly displayed as a child. In those 3 years, I've seen an industry grow overweight with popularity and careless with prosperity. When the fans that have stuck by this sport through thick and thin start to desert is when I say wrestling has become too large for its own good.
So why do I even bother? I'm not quite sure. Hope, maybe? The belief that somewhere, sometime, I might catch a glimpse of what attracted me to the set in the first place? If so, there remain glimmers. Through the garbage brawls that were Benoit/Jarrett and X-Pac/Jericho, I saw technical masterpieces waiting to break through the crust of "Sports Entertainment", and truly become performance art. Even in these strong workers, the influence of each particular Vince has found a way to worm in and take hold. Benoit is finally over, but at what cost? Jericho carries his first federation gold, but does that truly mean something anymore? I'm definitely missing something.. but McMahon has hidden it well. Now I suppose the question isn't what I'm missing so much as where it's been taken.
With that said, let's take a gander at NITRO
WCW should start thinking about getting their act together anymore. If they plan to announce the evening's matches before the event (as they have been doing on WCW.com of late), they shouldn't try to build them as spur-of-the-moment ordeals. Jeff Jarrett's challenging of Chris Benoit, while believable, was cut way down in sponteneity because half the audience already knew that the match was booked for later in the show. Adding a storyline and reason to the match is commendable, as is the traditional formula of competitive matches booked for the purpose of moving up the ladder. However, there isn't much crossover between the two, and.. well, let's just say the way this was carried out wasn't ideal.
TAFKA Iaukea had promise, until he entered the ring. I like his introduction and his off-canvas personality is definately a step aside from anything else in WCW right now, in the vein of David Flair. However, once he stepped between the ropes, he regressed into the exact same character played in his last role. I wonder; did he give any thought whatsoever about maintaining a persona? His almost melancholy attitude on the rampway intrigued me.. but his overbearing, 'please get me over' offense in the ring completely clashed and pretty much turned me off from his relaunch. A character like that should be a bit hesitant to tie up, and use primarily cheap, underhanded offense. He'd never meet a fight head-on.
Somebody needs to tell Evan Karagias both Spice and Madusa are married. And besides, Spice belongs with me.. heh.
It's promo time; Bret Hart trotted out one of his more convincing speeches in some time, pretty much assuring his heel turn in the next week. For the first time in a while, I think the Hitman was given ample time and forewarning to put together a competant segment, effectively pumping the crowd and hyping his World Title match against Goldberg. Later in the evening, Jim Duggan meandered out to one of the evening's biggest pops. You know, he's been around over 2 decades and the crowds have loved him every step of the way.. there's something to be said for that. I despise his ringwork, but so long as it's kept to a minimum (now is a good example), I won't complain a bit. In fact, he's one of the few older men over enough to justify new life under the RussoFerrerian age.
Speaking of new life, I seem to recall two names at the top of the lists when the 'powers' made their jump.. Kidman and Buff Bagwell. Let's take a look at where they are now; both enjoyed immediate pushes, Bagwell as the leader of the anti-establishment, Kidman as a part of the Filthy Animals. Now, Kidman's hurt and Bagwell has been heavily de-emphasized in the last month. Neither has a logical role in the next PPV. Then again, the men in charge were also telling us they wouldn't be playing a large on-screen role, either. I wonder.. were they screwing with us all along?
Jeff Jarrett and Chris Benoit gave us something to believe in, though it was masked behind the kind of junk brawl usually reserved for the likes of Brian Knobbs and other tubs of shite. Benoit has apparantly been anxious to work such a match, as his past few feuds have regressed to backstage brawls and garbage fights. Still, I don't think he's had an opponent that can keep up with him in such a style until now. Both took some hard shots and sold realistically throughout (well.. aside from Jarrett's slide up the side of the ladder. what was that?!), and the audience responded in turn. For the second straight week, the crippler has teased the diving headbutt from the ladder, which gives me some motivation to buy the PPV.. and the whole mess ended with a sick, sick headfirst landing from the ladder. If that wasn't believable, I don't know what is.
In the single notable wrestling hold of his match, Tank Abbott looked mean as hell. I'm still not sure if he was stiffing the shit out of Meng or not, but the big man's change of character leads me to believe he was. Instead of a 'Huff... huff' mantra, the master of the tongan death grip uttered something along the lines of 'hunh... oof. (dude, settle down). ow!'
Much to the opposite of what I'd told myself, I think I'm starting to get into the old-school revolt against Russo. They've found probably the three most able old men in their backstage area to head this thing up, with the exception of Ric Flair, and each one has shown the younger guys how it should be done. It was damn good to see Paul Orndorff again, as he was truly the shit for several years in the mid to late 80s. So long as his ring action is kept to once a month, I can really live with seeing these guys around a bit. Look at the roster; Arn, Zbysko, Orndorff.. the only guy that can really screw this up is about to become involved.. Hogan.
Good god, is David Flair great. Every single thing about this character is being done to perfection.. he's got the laugh down, the attitude (both in and out of ring), the look (the latest addition of lines under his eyes are great), and he's being put in the right situations. Don't get me wrong, he's not ready for world title shots or anything, but as compared to what was being shoved down our throats 6 months ago, this is a complete about-face. Everybody's had relationship problems at some time, and Flair plays out the dark side of every thought that goes into your head during such a time. In a way everybody can relate, and I think that's why I dig him so much. I was hoping to see if he'd improved in the ring with his match tonight, but he was effectively played out of the picture.
Also on the positive side of things, we've seen the return of Kanyon, one of WCW's more promising young stars. On the negative side, he's still using a Russian Leg Sweep as his finisher (as the true 'innovator of offense', couldn't he come up with something a little more.. credible?) and the triad is officially dead now. I suppose John, Matt and I must carry on the torch for now, but the gimmick of '3 boys from Jersey' doesn't really work with a Canadian, a Hoosier and a resident of Maryland.
What does it say about the credibility of a chairshot when an entire match is based around them as the sole form of offense.. and it goes longer than a minute? Later, Goldberg proved his cardiovascular endurance, outlasting a blowing-up Kevin Nash (well.. that's not saying much. I can outlast Kevin Nash), and an aging Scott Hall in the evening's main event. His selling continues to need work, while his offense is slowly but surely maturing. I'm unhappy to see Hart selling another knee injury, but I suppose this was the only way to understandably end the match, though I didn't think Bret was the legal man. It was a sight watching the Canadian Hero fold those big legs into the Sharpshooter, though..
Overall Grade: C
Better than last week, but I glazed over a lot of the suck.. plus, the main event was probably much worse than I remember, seeing as how I was drunk for it. Puckers is a wonderful thing. Though I don't like their methods, the men in charge built logically towards this Sunday's event, which i will be <shameless plug> previewing with John C. either Thursday or Friday</shameless plug>. Not terrible, but I'm still missing something.
And while we're at it, what happened on RAW?
The report I'm reading for Raw is much shorter than the one I checked up on for Nitro, so this review might be much shorter.. sorry. Plus; I ate a pickle! Nothing helps you prepare for tomorrow's design history final like a dill spear, rest, and writing up a column on professional wrestling! You're correct, this paragraph was a shameless attempt to lengthen my anaylsis of Raw.. let's go ahead in.
For the first time in many moons, I was hard-pressed about which match I should be watching. Four of my favorite workers were squaring off on opposite programs.. Jericho met X-Pac, while Jarrett and Benoit clashed. While difficult, such decisions are far more welcome than deciding whether to watch Jerry Flynn/The Wall or Big Show/Viscera. The new intercontinental champion played the clear face in this one, and hints of a team with Chyna were dropped, even though she seemed to have been after him. If this match were given more build and time, it could have been classic. As is, I'm hoping a continuing feud comes of it, as the two have quite a history together and I believe they could raise each other to new heights.
Stephanie tried and tried to play a heel, but she just wasn't believable. I guess that's why she got a perm, eh? Does she think that if her mic work won't get her over, her hair might? blech. She's taking baby steps, but there's still a world to go before I'd put her near the class of her father or brother. Then again, all it took was a heel turn to get Shane-o some personality originally, so I guess I'll give her time.
Not only were we treated to a shot of Mae Young and Mark Henry in bed (be still, my beating heart.. can I continue to carry a torch for the lovely miss Young whilst she sleeps with another?), but apparantly enough damage was not done, as the two were involved in-ring against The Godfather, of all people! Why not just throw your ring announcer in mud?? It would make as much of an impact, and would be just as enjoyable... oh, wait. They did throw their sad excuse for a ring announcer in mud. And I'll bet that garnered the night's top ratings segment, as millions of horny boys pleaded for Miss Kitty to replay last night's extravaganza. I can see Vince's goals now.. strip a woman on PPV and feature her on Monday night.. the lemmings will enter, looking for a replay.
Wade who...? I could care less who's in the audience, especially if they're sports stars. He gets millions a year, and I guarantee you he didn't pay a dime for that seat. Back to the match, where the hottest angle in wrestling fell victim to the ongoing desires of Vince to see his children in positions of power. The whole 'HHH and Steph are in charge' angle didn't work for me anywhere but in the main event. Why did they think the cage match would've been such a big deal? (I'm not complaining! I'm not complaining!) To soften the teams for the Outlaws? Nope.. the Acolytes are supposedly getting the next shot. All together, everything but the main event would've made just as much sense if it were booked with Vince still backstage.
In the aforementioned 'mud match'.. (well, I suppose it was pudding) it was interesting to see everyone's efforts not to hurt themselves. Kane ate it hard, and gladly collapsed to the ground when DX attacked. The ring announcer didn't land softly, and I'd be surprised if Tori wasn't banged up a bit from X-Pac's botched splash. Is such a gimmick worth it, when you put it up next to the potential risks taken with the talent? I suppose we'll see when the ratings come in.
Wanna know how to get a team monster over? There's two nice examples right here. The Acolytes chose the easy way and just stiffed the living hell out of the MSP in their match. The chair shot that pretty much ended that squash was harsh as they come, and I'm amazed Joey Abs is still walking after it. A bit crude, a bit reckless, but they're just a bit more formidable now than they were last night. Meanwhile, the Hardys and the team of Edge and Christian took the path less-travelled, and tried their damndest to get over based on sheer bump-taking insanity. Then again, the audience apparantly didn't know what to make of this. With a couple exceptions, they just sat on their hands while these four killed themselves for our amusement. Jeff's missed swanton bomb from the top of the cage vies with Benoit's fall from the ladder as the bump of the month, and Edge's somersault from the cage, though blown, still looked nasty. Finally, the powerbomb into the cage, sending Matt and Christian to the floor together was a superb spot, though a bit stalled-out. All in all, these guys proved they know how to set up a nasty match.. all while the crowd waited for Tori to flash them or something. Welcome to the WWF.
Anybody remember the last credible challenger to the world title? I wonder; was HHH trying to punish Vince when he booked this match.. or us?
Good closure to the Stephanie/Test ordeal, teasing a reunion before blowing the whole thing to shreds. Test's future has never looked brighter, but he does need to work a bit on adding an offensive maneuver or two before he goes far. I'll be honest.. I didn't really watch much of this one, so I'm not qualified to make much of a comment. The closing shot seemed more like the end of a play's act then the close of the evening's wrestling.
Overall Grade: C-
The HHH/Stephanie bit drug on for way too long, ending with the spot it should have also begun with. Their hands weren't necessary in the Acolytes match, the Big Show match, the cage match, etc. The angle stunk, basically, and pretty much screwed up the rest of the evening's flow. I'd like to thank Vince personally for the Hardys/Canadian Blondes match though. Stellar.
That'll do it for me. I've too much studying to even mention right now, but the promise of a month's freedom is a nice thing to look forward to. Maybe I can get my mind off the state of wrestling today. Like I mentioned, John an I will be back Thursday or Friday at better newsboards everywhere with our Starrcade Preview. After that, I may or may not have something up before next week's Tuesday review, after which I'll be spending some time in Virginia for the holidays.
until next time, i remain