Ringside Shadows #102: The Faultlines Become More Evident
Wow. I don't think I can sum things up much better than Dave Scherer did earlier today on his Daily Lariat.. "In 10 minutes, the WWF did a better job of getting over the former WCW workers than WCW did during the 4 to 5 years that they had them." Several days ago, while browsing the Big3 Oratory in the computer lab that pays my checks, a friend took notice of the Oratory's banner, and commented. "I recognize Chris Jericho, but who's that guy on the right?" Just this morning, he mentioned his sudden recognition of the other face... Chris Benoit. It's like Foley meant when he asked "What's it feel like to look into the stands and see people??". These four are suddenly being seen by more than twice the viewing audience in less than a one month span.
On an evening that usually sees me flipping spastically between the USA Network and TNT, my remote lay surprisingly quiet by my side. After Raw delivered their knockout punch within the first 10 minutes, I was content to watch the midnight replay of Nitro, and I'm sure I wasn't alone. Sure, there were some interesting bits.. the young talent continued to gain invaluable experience.. Norman Smiley was just hysterical in his 'screamin demon' bit.. and an aging legend walked back into the light to the tune of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sure, there were two wrestling programs airing last night.. but the similarities pretty much end there.
WCW's Future: Week 3
For the third week in a row, we saw Crowbar, Kidman, Vampiro and members of 3 Count in the ring.. fans are beginning to take notice of the few remaining youngsters worth mentioning, and it's good to see. Despite having little to work with, Terry Taylor managed to make things somewhat interesting by including these guys... who said he never had a good eye for talent? Shane Helms bumped like a madman, as did Shannon Moore.. all the while getting Norman more and more over. Their personalities may not be ready for a Monday Night, and their work between the ropes may be a bit spotty, but they've got the most potential of any of the untapped talent in the big 3 these days. Take a look at an old Shawn Michaels tape or a new Hardy Boyz match, and you'll see bits and pieces of each in these guys.. most notably the way they bump flat on their backs.
Crowbar got a little bit of action, taking a pin and working a silly little garbage match. I hope WCW realizes what a steal they've got in this guy, after grabbing him away from his WWF development deal. His mic work this week borrowed a bit much from last week's, integrating his 'crimson mask' line again, but he remains comfortable on the stick and keeps a good head on his shoulders at all times. His is definately a character I'm looking forward to seeing fleshed out over the course of the next couple months.
Finally, Kidman was in action in yet another sub-par matchup on a Monday Night. Asking somebody to carry the Wall is basically asking the impossible.. and he wasn't even allowed to go over clean. I can't blame him for not killing himself out there, though it was a bit of a disappointment.
Stylin' and Profilin'? Just Plain Confused?
Amongst a mass of adoration and welcome back cheers, Ric Flair made his triumphant return to Nitro.. and promptly pulled one of the most unsuccessful heel turns in history. Flair knocked the local sports teams, and the crowd agreed with him. Flair verbally assaulted a fan's mother, and propositioned his girlfriend.. the crowd jumped behind him. Flair tore into WCW, and the crowd got even louder (not that I can blame them these days).. and then out strode poor Terry Funk.
To say the fans were firmly behind the Funker to begin with would be a shaky statement, though that old bastard tried and tried. He just couldn't get beyond the initial disappointment of those moody NC fans.. always seen as "the guy they went to when Flair said no," at least for the remainder of this WCW run. Definately not a title worthy of the hardcore legend. When the crowd overturned Flair's attempts to make them hate him, Terry had the unenviable job of trying it again. I don't think the best talker in all of wrestling could have made those fans turn against the Nature Boy, and Funk didn't really stand an ice cream cone's chance in eternal damnation. Flair didn't really seem to be in a mood to help.
If anything surprised me about the program WCW presented, it was this side of the 14 time world's champion. His demeanor seemed almost bitter, which I can certainly understand. He's asked for and been denied his release multiple times. He's been buried, avoided, ripped off and screwed over more times than I'd wish on my worst enemy, but he's always seemed to take it in stride. This time, he got lost on the way home. Ric slipped, and he didn't like that feeling. He can no longer decide his role in the eyes of the audience effortlessly. Much as it bothers me to say this, the horseman needs to head out to pasture. He's losing what made him special to begin with, and it's only a matter of time before he's just another washed-up old timer clinging to his youth atop WCW.
If Any Subject Needed no Introduction...
Benoit, Saturn, Malenko, and Guerrero have arrived.. and it was done near-flawlessly. From their arrival out of nowhere ringside to the perfect screams of JR echoing throughout the viewing audience, I don't think this could've been booked much better. Even Lawler managed to calm down a bit and allow the brilliance and historical importance of this moment shine through. Benoit played the more believably-cool of the 3, never really losing his amused smile through the evening, while Guerrero seemed to be trying a bit too hard for his own good. Saturn seemed to be in a daze which is par for the course, and Malenko may have stalled a bit during their introduction.. leading to the only flaw of the first quarter hour. In the crucial introduction, things needed to happen as quickly and violently as possible. The camera cut from the beatdown of the Road Dog to the T-Bone suplex and following frog splash by Saturn and Guerrero. They had the moment nailed, but Malenko hesitated just a bit too long before hitting his snap suplex and that train hit a chink in the tracks. That's quite a nit-picky thing to worry about, but it was the only thing that struck me as missing during the introduction. Everything from the crowd's reaction to the perfect placement of the camera crew was downright unbelievable, and resulted in several scenes that will stick with me until the day I die. The image as the program went to commercial of the 4 men standing atop the entryway, looking out into the audience is the stuff legends are made of.
How Do You Screw This Up?
Well, a chunk of the second hour is a start. Let's get this straight.. you've just signed 4 of the top workers in the United States, you've got D'Lo Brown, Edge, Davey Boy Smith, Gangrel, Kaientai, Val Venis, Stevie Richards and Test sitting on the sidelines, and we get Viscera and Harvey Whippleman in drag? The more things change, the more they stay the same I suppose.
What do I think about this NFL Announcement? It's bound to be straight hourseshit. Does anybody else remember Wrestlemania XI? No? How about the lesson WCW learned the hard way these past few years with Malone, Greene, Rodman and Leno? It doesn't work, and if they're intending to bring anybody out of the NFL into active contention, it's gonna put a nice sour taste in the fans' mouths that won't go away too quickly.
Then again, if this whole deal is just to announce a merchandising deal or something of that nature, I could care less.. I don't own a WWF or NFL t-shirt, and with the exception of a Y2J shirt, I don't plan to change that.
The Acolytes Become the Dudleys?
The Acolytes are heels again, I guess. I found it amusing that they took the gimmick recently played by the Dudleys in ECW and brought it into an angle with the Dudleys. Still, the tag division is in desperate need of heels, and the Dudleys have certainly managed to get over with their 'table killer' gimmick lately. Why not throw the Acolytes in there as allies to syphon off a bit of their heat? Despite the forced inclusion of these two (who I was actually growing to enjoy in their laid back personas), the tag division is going strong yet again, with the exception of the champions. I'm sick of the New Age Outlaws.. it's a shame the mindless thousands every Monday night aren't. Also worth mentioning; take a close look at Jeff Hardy on last night's program.. between the bizarre red and black outfit, the long blonde hair and bumping like a mother, Jeff Hardy's become more than just comparable to HBK. Though the triple table spot looked pretty nice (complimented by Jeff's limp sprawling job in the aftermath), it took ages to set up and I think that took away a good chunk of the heat that would've compiled otherwise.
The sign patrol noted a couple worthy phrases scribbled onto cardboard this past Monday, with my personal favorite being revealed during the New Age Outlaws intro. It read "You're Heels!!".. bravo.
I've got a couple letters to post, but I'm trying to keep this as short as possible since the design work is screaming to be done by this point. My responses may be less than concise..
Long time buddy Chris Kane (firstname.lastname@example.org) got the final word on this little 'wrestling jesus' string that's been running through the last few issues of Ringside Shadows;
"Wrestling Jesus was not first posted on Wrestleline, and according to the spiffy keen Chris Hyatte, now of ScoopTHIS.com, they ripped it off from him. Here's something I got directly from his Monday Night Mop-Up...
The first topic is Jesus Christ. Right before Christmas, I submitted a long piece to Scoops for my "And Another Thing" column. It was a piece about Vince McMahon hiring Jesus Christ and Satan to work for the WWF for a year. The rub of the piece was that midway through the year, Christ would turn heel and be a bad guy. It was a riff on the extremes wrestling has taken lately for the almighty rating point. Scoops didn't post it. S'okay, no problem. I could see why they wouldn't. It was a racy topic.
So, I sent it to CRZ's site. CRZ basically has a communal site going where anyone can submit something. No rules, no laws, no problems. CRZ posted it right away, quite happy to get an exclusive piece from me. I didn't get a lot of feedback from folks, those who did either loved it, or hated it. It was cool, I knew that I wouldn't get a lot of readers there that I would have if Scoops ran it. I just wanted to get it out there, so someone COULD see it if they wanted to, and if they surfed long enough.
Well, someone at Wrestleline saw it, and it gave them an idea.
Two weeks later, a piece arrived at Wrestleline about WCW debuting a "Wrestling Jesus" gimmick. No author of the piece was given. Mike Samuda screamed that it was "A WRESTLELINE EXCLUSIVE" which is a LIE. Dick Scaia assured us that he was NOT the author of that "racy column", claiming that he is much too PC now that he's under Wrestleline's umbrella. Well, Ricky, nobody thought you had the wit to write something like that anyway (I'm still waiting for his "Deep Probe" parody page), and nobody doubts that you are a total sell out. Let me assure YOU.
I saw somewhere where David Meltzer claimed it was Mark Madden who wrote the piece. Which makes a lot of sense to me. You see, Madden wants to be an "Internet Heel" of some sort. He is deathly afraid of the Internet because the news WE put out is timely, detailed, and MUCH more cheaper than his WCW Hotline number. That's why he downplays the Internet all the time and treats us like children. He ripped off my piece probably just to show me up, to show that he can write essentially the same thing I wrote, and get much more heat for it. Now, if Scoops posted it, it would have been a different story. If it showed up on Scoops, tons more would have read it and Madden wouldn't have dared tried to lift it. Scoops didn't post it though. CRZ did. So Madden got more heat from his piece because more people saw it. Hey, I should be mad, but I'm not. Mark Madden looked to ME for inspiration. Mark Madden needed ME to show him how to be controversial. Gosh darn it, I'm FLATTERED."
Thanks, Chris.. hopefully that's the last we hear of that subject, as I'm actually getting somewhat tired of it.
Closing out this short session of 'lookit my mail while i answer it here and save time' is email@example.com, with a tidbit about the Hardy Boyz;
"Where I live we see a wrestling show held by NCW. I only watched a couple weeks but they had a replay of '99 this week and it was very interesting. It displayed a match Rick Micheals vs. MATT HARDY(one half of my favorite tag team). It went to a 15 minute draw and showcased Matt's psychology since there was only 3 high-spots in the whole match and he sold a knee perfectly through the whole match. After the match they showed a Promo by Matt apparently done when him and Jeff just recieved WWFcontracts. It was interesting because he talked about Him, Jeff, and Jason(Venom Aka Joey Abs) grew up and apart setting up match between him and Venom. It also made me think why he doesn't get any mic time in the WWF."
I've never personally heard of the promotion, but I'd imagine it's either tightly associated with, if not a branch from the OMEGA promotion that spawned both the Hardys and Joey Abs, or else it was a promotion run by the WWF to housebreak new talent. I've been thinking of picking up some of the old OMEGA tapes that are floating around though, and I'd advise most anybody else with an interest in the Hardys to do the same.
That should pretty much do it for me this week.. I'll apologize right now for the crap-fest you just suffered through. It's been a long night, and I've an even longer one ahead of me as I dive into my design work at this point. I won't make excuses, but once I get through this busy stretch, things will start to go back to the usual. I'm planning several columns to be posted between Tuesdays (as my column's become something of a weekly fix of late), and hope to get to work on those again after things settle down here. I guess the faultlines are evident in me, as well..
As always, thanks for reading and for your support.
until next time, i remain