Ringside Shadows #103: Make Your Own Heat
Here's a recipe worthy of the Iron Chef.. (yeah, I'm hooked on that damned import, too.. the infamous 'pepper-eating' scene that kicks off each episode still has me rolling. Um. On with the sentence...) mix a hot crowd with an even spicier product.. throw in a dash of new blood, and stir vigorously. When the dish begins to react, toss in the whole fucking roast, put it in the oven and run.
Right now, the WWF's product is so hot, things are on the verge of a danger level. With the addition of the 3 top North American workers, the ring action has never been hotter. Riding high off the controversial acquisition of Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, Chris Benoit and Eddy Guerrero, the storylines have no choice but to define the word tremendous. Most surprising of all, though, has been the evolution of the WWF audience.
Once known for their gullibility, complete disregard for anything worthwhile between the ropes, and near-mechanical spewing of catch phrases, the WWF fan has become a contradiction of his (or her) former self. Oh, sure.. there's just as many idiots chanting the Rock's name. Every time the Outlaws come to the ring, 90% of the audience recites their introduction along with the Road Dogg.. even Jericho's once-vast list of phrases is common knowledge.. so what's changed? The same slugs that blow the roof off for the Godfather have been sitting tight during epics from the Hardys, Edge and Christian, the Dudleys, the new guys, Jericho, and countless others.. and they're actually enjoying it. Hell, the Hardys have managed to get over without even touching a microphone, something that's commendable in the day of crash tv. So what's that you say about a wrestling program on TNT?
Nitro Changes it's Name to "Who's Left?"
I saw probably the most well-thought out sign of the year in the audience at Raw.. "Will the last guy out of WCW remember to turn out the lights?" Damn, look at this turn-around.. all of a sudden, the WWF is riding high with one of its most talented rosters.. ever, while WCW toils with a handful of redeemable workers. The WWF no longer needs to concentrate on walking the razor's edge, and have actually done a mentionable job of toning down the program's content, while WCW tries desperately to grab the attention of a single viewer by filling the void. Hell.. look at this textbook definition of 'ramble off topic'.
The point's this; nobody could have predicted the impact 4 men could make on the industry by merely switching channels on Monday Nights. If all four were multiple-time world champions, maybe something like this could've been expected.. but four midcarders? Despite all the praise amongst internet columnists, insiders, reporters, whatever.. a good chunk of the wrestling fanbase never really considered these guys to be major players. However, looking at what's left of Turner's product speaks volumes for their value. Jeff Jarrett's jump, a major move when he had a superb feud with Benoit to look forward to, is losing steam fast. He's been shoved into the World Title picture before he's really had time to develop, and it shows. Kidman's becoming overripe for his long-due US title push, as is Booker T, and both look to be in danger of burial with the return of the fallen stars. Without a strong midcard to support the worthless main eventers, it's only a matter of time before WCW shows us that it is indeed possible to get lower than their current spot.
Can Flair Get Over As A Heel?
Hell, even if he can't.. they're dead set on it. This is something that the higher-ups in WCW must've flexed their corporate biceps and put their foot down over. "Piss on these fans, he's a heel! Goddamn it, I'll teach these fans to boo him if it kills me! I'll teach your grandmother to suck eggs!"
The only thing I can think of during this whole mess is Terry Taylor.. and how much I really hope he's not behind this debacle. Taylor's booking has been far too good for far too long to blow it now. Granted, he doesn't have much to work with, but his eye for a good storyline and even better talent means he'd know better than to turn Ric Flair on his first night back, and he'd know a lot better than to include his son in the whole schpeel.
The Raw of 2000
...so why did X-Pac come down to start off Raw, anyway? His presence the entire evening seemed to be more of a substitution for Eddy Guerrero, as including him in the main event was nonsensical without throwing the Outlaws in there as well. Personally, I'd rather be seeing a feud with Jericho over the IC gold.. a feud that would elevate both men to near the level they should already have reached.. and that's saying something, considering how much I like this deal with the 'Radicals'.
The event itself kicked rather hard, though, and it was quite refreshing to see a main event brawl of this sort. I won't be the first guy in line if these things start showing up week in and week out, but for the one-shot deal it was, it was great. Nearly no spots were blown, the audience was hotter than anybody has a right to be, and it all tied together stronger than anyone could believe. Not only that, but Benoit lands the pinfall.. icing on the cake, baby.
While we're talking about the WCW Four (come to think of it, when aren't we?), let's touch on that heel turn.. and how I didn't see it coming until Hunter was all but in the ring. I'd like to think of myself as somewhat educated (and here comes a chunk of modesty), and I can generally see future angles weeks before the turn takes place. I called HHH and Chyna's turn at Wrestlemania as soon as they reunited earlier in the same broadcast. I even called half of Cactus' partners last night (which was simple, and nothing worth bragging about).. but Vince had me on this one, hook, line and sinker. I fully expected HBK to hand over their contracts last night, and to watch them continue their war against DX far into the night.. the whole thing leaves me wondering if this was all thrown together to cover for Guerrero's injury. If so, Vince's abilities go far beyond the reaches of mere genius.. either way, I tip my hat to him, because this thing's been played unpredictably and ideally since its very inception.
Throw in the return of Kane (which you'd be crazy to think was put together for anyone but the Undertaker), and you've got the best show I've been treated to on any given Monday in quite a while. If this is what the WWF's got in store for us throughout 2000, count me in.
Somebody in the Ring Crew Went Home Early
Before I get too frisky with the WWF and its improved product, what was up with the ropes during Jericho's match? After nearly killing himself within the first few seconds and botching a springboard dropkick, Jericho went on to have a really, really off night against Viscera (which is pretty easy to understand.. taking on a quality opponent the calibur of the Big V is a daunting task for any man), who also had a segment of suck under his belt. Watching his blown run-in during the Acolytes/Hollys matchup was one of the brighter points of the evening, because it all seemed to happen in slow motion. I don't think he was ever really on-balance, and when he hit the spilled beer... it was all over. How Bradshaw kept a straight face, I'll never know.
With the recent reasons to enjoy wrestling, I've had a bit more of a desire to write these things up lately, though I'm afraid it isn't really showing yet thanks in part to a recent problem with my home PC. I somehow contracted a virus, so don't look for me to show up on IMs for another several weeks.. but this setback, combined with the recent (or not-so recent, depending on how you look at it) relapse of WCW has given me a purpose again. I should have my long-awaited talent evaluation of their roster within the next week or two, in a 2 or 3 part post. After that, I hope to finally knock out that planned piece on the history of the heel in our sport, and maybe a surprise or two along the way. Add to that the scheduled 'World's Greatest' Previews covering Slamboree and No Way Out, and you've got quite a line-up to look forward to. A couple surprises may be on the horizon as well, but after watching two such occasions fall apart, I'm not in too much of a hurry to announce them just yet. As always, thanks for reading and I'll be back as soon as this weekend.
until next time, i remain