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Ringside Shadows #104: WCW Talent Evaluation (A-C)

Sorry to disappoint, but there won't be a Tuesday review this week.. between the relief of a design project completed on time, the nast of a sinus infection, an overpoweringly loud class in the lab this evening, and a mediocre Monday evening, I've decided to take the week off from my usual duties. I've still a couple comments on the past performances, which should serve as an interesting segue into what's sure to be a full-blown assault on WCW's roster. Here goes;

So we got Rocky vs. Chris Benoit, and JR's quoted as having "looked forward to this matchup for a long time".. strangely enough, so have I. Benoit more than proved his point, by carrying Rocky to his first watchable match in quite some time.. and then actually landing the pinfall! If anybody would like an example of what sets a good worker apart from a lazy worker, they need look no further than this matchup, and the post-matchup performance from each man. While Rocky was nearly dead on his feet (I was wondering if he'd even make it to the top of the runway.. and he wasn't even through his first segment) after what's likely to be the most demanding match of his career to date, Benoit light-heartedly jogged after him and proceded to deliver a bit more of the punishing offense he's come to be known for... not to mention his headbutt from the top rope. Of all the Radicals, Benoit seems to be recieving the most acceptance, after going over the Rock, delivering the pinfall of last week's main event and claiming an unofficial victory over HHH on Smackdown two weeks back. Malenko and Saturn, however, seem to be another story. Malenko is fading fast from the rejuvinated technician we saw in Pittsburgh 2 weeks ago, and I'll give him another couple months before he's mired in the lower midcard once more.

I got my first extended look at Papi Chulo (erm.. make that.. Esse Rio?), and I was quite impressed with his initial speed, even though he blew up within the first 5 minutes of the somewhat short matchup. He's certainly got the look, not to mention a manager well worth her time. I flipped when she hit her own flying head-scissors on the floor, and her moonsault has definate potential. The relaunched Light-Heavy division needs some new faces and fast, lest it fall into the same pit as before.

WCW really didn't have anything worth mentioning.. I even watched a bit of the dog show in its stead. Judging from last year's meager offering in this same position, you'd think WCW would have learned its lesson and produced something worth watching this go round.. not so. We get a 3 hour taste of dog pene, capped off with performances from Ronda Singh, Oklahoma, Hulk Hogan, Sid, Rick Fuller, "the new" Harlem Heat, and ERNEST F'N MILLER. God, how I've missed 'The Cat'. If History truly does repeat itself, WCW may as well fold now and cut its losses to a minimum.

Here's an textbook definition of "fooling yourself"... WCW.COM had this to say about their spectacular performance last night "WCW delivered huge in their promise to take over the big apple." I'll leave final judgement to the viewer, but to be honest, I was more entertained by the silly fan sitting behind Madden and Schiavone at the show's intro than I was by the program itself.

And with that glowing introduction, there's no better way to jump right into my

WCW Talent Evaluations, A-C

I'm not quite sure when I'll finish these up, but rest assured we'll get through them before the end of February. This is likely to be a 4-installment series, and remember; this hurts me just as much as it hurts you.
(credit to wcw.com for the 'superstar' list)

3 Count
If you've been checking out my posts on a regular basis, you'll realize I'm quite high on these guys.. well two thirds of them, anyway. Shane Helms and Shannon Moore are a good chunk of WCW's future right now, and they're actually getting off to a good start with this 'Backstreet Boys' gimmick. I'll be honest, when I heard talk of the said gimmick months back, I thought it was a load of piss and drizzle.. but Helms and Moore have made me a believer. Despite being obviously green between the ropes, the two have a willingness.. no, an eagerness.. to learn the basics. As almost seems to be a fundamental these days, they'll bump.. and they'll bump well. I've made comparisons to the Hardy Boyz, Too Cool and even the great Shawn Michaels (especially in the case of Moore), and if you realize how high a respect I hold those mentioned in, you'll understand what a compliment that really is. The crowds have turned these three into monster heels, perhaps the most successful in the company, and I think it's great. Give these guys another year to blossom and hope WCW doesn't drop the ball along the way.
Overall Grade: B+

Generally going nowhere since her unceremonious dumping from the Revolution, ass-yuh pretty much blows a solid goat. She fills the role of a bodyguard in the vein of Chyna or an old-school Luna, but can't even hold a torch to the others when in the ring. When left to the occasional low-blow from the outside, she isn't entirely wretched, but the second she tries anything new.. well, fans would best leave the arena. My only fear is we'll be seeing more and more of her with this rejuvinated women's division, and that's a bad thing.
Overall Grade: D

Bam Bam Bigelow
As one of the more solid heels of the past two decades, Bigelow's since been dropped into the hardcore division where he currently defends the strap against the likes of Brian Knobs, Meng and Hugh Morrus. If WCW had any semblance of a clue, Bigelow would be plowing over the competition as a monster heel near the top of the card. His introduction was done quite well, setting him up for a run against then-champion Goldberg, and heat was really starting to build betweeen the two of them. As usual, though, the higher-ups became antsy and hurried the angle. Within 2 months of his arrival atop the heels, Bigelow had jobbed to Goldberg and was rapidly falling down the ladder. His stint with the 'Triad' (DDP and Kanyon) was quite good, but who knows what became of that, either. Misdirected, Bigelow will mire forever in the middle to bottom of the card.. but given a little guidance and direction, he could be superb for another few years. His grade has less to do with his ability and more to do with his misuse.
Overall Grade: C-

One of the more promising debuts of the year, Berlyn has since gone straight to hell. He never really recovered from the 1-2-3 punch of a terrible mouthpiece (the female 'interpreter'), ring rust, and Buff Bagwell's constant bitching / no-showing. Again, had he been handled correctly, Berlyn definitely had the tools to go somewhere. The crowd heat was quite strong for a new face, and given a little tweaking, Wright could've adapted himself perfectly to the role. His ringwork was a step down from previous runs, though, and I can't attribute it all to rust. Had officials spent more time worrying about the substance of his new gimmick and less about the flashy lights, camera effects and pyro, Berlyn really could've gotten over as the cocky, anti-American heel. Instead, his name falls into the pit of anonymity.
Overall Grade: D+

Big Poppa Pump
As a frequent troublemaker backstage, I'm quite surprised Scotty or his brother still have jobs with Turner. That, and he's been hurt for nearly a year and never fails to catch the censors off-guard during his interviews. His initial heel turn was well done, but really lagged on for far too long. One can only be teased with a Scott vs. Rick matchup for so long before all the interest drips out, and it takes a good eye to recognize the difference between jumping the gun and holding on too long. In his earlier years, Scott was a superb athlete. It's been a sad, sad ride watching him decline into the roided-up freak that now stands before us. Where a Hulk Hogan has the option of retiring when he feels like it (which seems to be.. never..), Scott's on the brink of losing that option. It's always sad when you put an old dog to sleep, but I think this is an instance where that's almost necessary.
Overall Grade: D+

Big T
A waste of your time and of mine. As Ahmed Johnson, he had his build and vicious looking power-moves to fall back on. Today, his stomach grows larger every night and his offense has given way to a sick, sloppy style that's likely to hurt somebody before long. A botched spike-Pedigree (which isn't really even supposed to be done anyway) nearly killed the Disco Inferno last night, and I'd rather not see him given another opportunity. Tony Norris and Stevie Ray, as Harlem Heat 2000, should've been removed from the roster before their debut. I don't even want to think about how much of WCW's money is going towards this waste.
Overall Grade: F

Billy Kidman
A bit slowed following injury, Kidman's been stuck in some dead-end feuds lately. As the only remaining active Filthy Animal, Kidman's dumped that gimmick and I couldn't be happier. Still the top performer left in the sinking ship, Kidman hasn't busted out the Shooting Star Press in some time, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it again when he's ready. Kidman's over with the fans, but still has a ways to go before he's ready to assume the role of a savior.. and that's what WCW's desperate to find right now. Though he should've been at that level a year ago, it's not too late to push Kidman up the card to US status right now. A feud with Jarrett would be the only thing really worth watching on Nitro, and would elevate both men in the process. If given the opportunity, Kidman could be ready to run with the ball by this time next year.. WCW needs to get off their asses and start pushing this guy now, along with a select few others, if they ever hope to be competitive again.
Overall Grade: A-

Booker T
Along with Kidman, worthy of a push to US status.. if not a bit above. His feud with Chris Benoit has become classic, and he could do the same with Kidman, Jarrett, Hart or Kanyon. His matches, while a bit methodical, are always entertaining and he moves incredibly fast for a man of his stature. Fan support is nothing Booker's lacked in the past, but the angle with his silly new music (which I think is hysterical) is actually killing off his fans.. a sign the feud should be re-written, and fast. The officials have made the right move by separating Booker from his no-talent brother, and it's up to them to see that his singles push gets back off the ground soon.
Overall Grade: A

Bret Hart
Plagued by injury of late, Hart's status with the nWo has yet to be resolved. The good resolution would be to reveal him as being in cahoots with Jarrett since day 1, thus solidifying his heel turn, leadership of the new nWo, and relaunch of the Outsiders as a face duo. Hart's best days are behind him, and with the departure of Chris Benoit goes the hope of a passing of the torch as well. Currently the only acceptable main eventer pulling his weight, WCW needs the Hitman back in a bad way. If the leadership issue with Nash isn't resolved quickly, Hart will soon be lost once more in the spiral, perhaps never to be seen again. At over 40, Bret can still go.. but I wonder how long he's got before we're looking at a story similar to Ric Flair's.
Overall Grade: B+

Brian Knobs
Put simply, Brian Knobs is a hack. I've no idea whose Don Johnson he's been muddling with to deserve his recent push, let alone his continued employment, but they're likely to be someone rather important. Knobs goes in the category with Harlem Heat 2000 and Tank Abbott as workers you should be afraid of.. not for their proficiency in the ring, but lack thereof. These guys don't know what they're doing in there, and it's only a matter of time before one of them hurts somebody seriously. Thrown into the hardcore division, Knobs never fails to disgust and waste time. His is the sort of "gimme a garbage can" hardcore style that I despise, and I never fail to switch channels when he's on-screen.
Overall Grade: D-

Buff Bagwell
Apparantly on the verge of a breakthrough feud with DDP, Bagwell has since dropped off the face of the planet. Not to sink his boat, but nobody's really noticed. I don't think enough people are watching WCW anymore to really notice when former stars come or go. Bagwell was decent enough as a heel, and a stooge to the original nWo.. and then he turned face. Since then, it's been repetition, repetition, repetition, and a taste of repetition. Were I to open a dictionary and point at a word, I could form a Buff Bagwell promo centered around it (For example; obdurate. "I'm Buff, I'm odurate, I'm the stuff, and that's enough.") His ringwork, for the most part, sucks. It sucks real hard. I'd compare him to Billy Gunn.. pushed without reason. I did truly believe that Page could've taught him a thing or two, but that angle's been left on the cutting room floor. File under: Also-ran.
Overall Grade: C-

They killed this guy quick, didn't they? It wasn't fast enough for me, since he found his way into both Jushin Liger matches this year, effectively turning me solidly against him. His original character reeked of Dude Love and the 'hippie' version of Van Hammer (I'll bet you miss that guy, eh?), and his latest incarnation was such a shameless rip off of his brother that fans refused to get behind it.. even in protest. When he isn't mired with a terrible gimmick, Brad Armstrong can hold his own in the ring. It's really too bad that means next to nothing anymore, as I'm sure all the Jerry Lynns of the world can attest.
Overall Grade: C-

Chavo Guerrero
Possibly the most under-appreciated talent of the late 90's. Chavo's worth his weight in gold both on the mic and in the ring, but fans have never really flocked to his side. Chavo's quite entertaining, not to mention a flawless face, but things have never really been the same since his stint with Eddy. I'm sure he lost a lot of the popular respect after his ordeal with Pepe, the stuffed horse, and he's floated uselessly since then. Things looked to be coming together for him, forming a stable with Juventud and Psychosis, but god knows what happened to that one. Chavo's never really been given the chance to do much of anything, and I'd put him in the same position as Kidman a year and a half ago. More than worthy of a push, but seemingly going nowhere.
Overall Grade: B-

Chris Kanyon
One of the more inventive men in the field, Kanyon really surprised me after breaking out of the shell of his 'Mortis' character many moons ago. Rumors abound of his departure from WCW, which is a real blow. Kanyon not only played a role on screen, but also spent time recruiting talent (he claims to have discovered the worthwhile members of 3-count) and working in the Power Plant with trainees. Kanyon was at his best in the Triad with Bigelow and DDP, where he could be himself.. this whole champagne thing never did anything for me, and lowered my opinion of him a notch or two. I'd like to see him turn up in a place that would respect his abilities and allow him a chance to become the star we know he can be.. ECW doesn't look too bad at all.
Overall Grade: B

Another recent breakthrough, we haven't really begun to see what Crowbar's made of, though I've been impressed with what he has busted out. He's far from shy when it comes from the mic, and knows how to use what time he's allotted to maximum extent. I've yet to hear him stumble along without a point (a'la HHH) or put forward a stupid, worthless segment. He's been building his current character quite well, to the point where he's among the few in WCW with a distinguishable personality. His ringwork, while never really being stretched, has impressed thus far as well. Much like Chavo, given a year or two to really develop and become a standout in the fans' minds as well as the bookers', Crowbar is certainly worth watching.
Overall Grade: A-

Curt Hennig
Hennig's lost more than one step since he was the embodiment of perfection in the WWF. He's gained some weight, lost a good chunk of his endurance, and doesn't really seem to care much any more. When the promise of a push was dangled before him late in 1999, shades of the old star came back out to say hello.. but the body just couldn't take it any more, and he blew up within the first few minutes. Since then, his push has dissolved as has his desire. I'm tempted to say it would've been fitting to see him ride off into the sunset in Toronto, when he received a standing ovation after his 'last match' at Mayhem.
Overall Grade: C+

If you thought I was harsh on Brian Knobs, I haven't even touched Hogan, Nash or Sid yet... the fun continues in part II. All this, and more, when I unleash the second installment of this thrilling talent evaluation some time within the next week.

And that should do it for me.. it feels good to do another column aside from the cookie-cutter Tuesday Reviews I've been shoveling out of late. Rest assured, ye olde Review will return with next week's Monday night programming, and I should be around a bit more than recently, with the completion of this mammoth design project. Once I finish up this evauluation, I'm itching to get one out on the WWF, with ECW not completely out of the question (as the world collectively groans), and I'd still like to knock out that column on heels in the industry. As always, John and I will be around this Friday with our World's Greatest Superbrawl Preview, and you can look for my work as a part of the first-ever Oratory-Wide column over at the Big3. As always, thanks for reading and:

until next time, i remain

The Triad


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