Ringside Shadows #106: It Couldn't Last Forever
With tax time just around the corner and several projects on the close horizon, my annual springtime commute to Sarasota, FL is looking really good right about now. With that said, I'll take any relief from the workload I can get, including this past Monday's evening programming. After the past few weeks' worth of solid shows from the WWF camp, I was really looking for something over-the-top and spectacular this week.. especially considering the location (Atlanta, GA.. right in WCW's backyard) and the size of the crowd (nearly 30,000 as JR never failed to remind us). What we got wasn't really bad per se, but definately leaned a bit towards the bland. Then again, there was still a big load of dump on TNT to remind me how good we've still got it.
I couldn't even bear myself to watch the majority of Nitro, the taste of defeat was so bitter and strong. Kidman found himself relegated to the first match, which never really saw a finish. Booker's angle with his no-talent brother, the 'mysterious' Cassius and a pink-clad Ahmed Johnson rambled on with no end in sight. Hogan, Luger and Flair continued to put on the same old play in the main event slot. Everything that made Nitro special has since gone to hell, and everything that made it monotonous has intensified. I was honestly more interested in Chuck Norris's "death" episode on Walker than I was in what Nitro was running.. and that's bad.
So what'd I think about Raw? Read on, ye of little faith and even less attention span..
Taking advantage of the other boys' hometown
The audience effectively sat on their hands for the WWF in Atlanta. Rightfully so, I say. If the boys in back don't bring out the goods, the same shouldn't be expected of the crowd. I was quite surprised a larger issue wasn't made out of the "Radicals" in their former headquarters (Any sort of mention at all would've been nice), a vignette, an acknowledgement, anything. Since the success of their initial multi-participant tag match 2 weeks back, the WWF has been slowly killing the heat and uniqueness of the idea by throwing out the same thing in each consecutive week since. A good part of what made the initial brawl so strong, memorable and all around dynamic was in its participants. Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko and X-Pac rode the apron on one side while Mick Foley, Scott Taylor and Brian Christopher manned the slightly weaker face team. Including workers that know what's going on alongside the big draws and gimmicks ensures both audience participation and a strong match. This past week's 'blockbuster' removed each man who had a strong influence on its success (with the exceptions of Foley and X-Pac), thus pretty much upending the scales and tossing out the potential heat.
What I'd like to see in the WWF right now
With the recent return of the Bulldog, I'm really aching to see Davey Boy tear it up with Chris Benoit (surprise there, eh?). Not only would the resulting matches result in each man getting over with the audience (a department in which each has been lagging since their big debuts), but it would hold an immediate historical reference. After the split of the British Bulldogs, there was never a Dynamite Kid / Davey Boy grudge match. What's become a no-brainer today (and often times, a cliche) never came to fruition yesterday, in what would've surely been one of the best worked grudges of its day. Looking at both men's history and the fact that neither has spoken with the other since pretty much explains why (Then again, Dynamite claims Davey Boy's scared shitless of him.. even in a wheelchair.) Given more than a decade to build, this could give new fans a bit of trivia for their hungry little brains and would surely entertain the old-time fans of the sport. If you've ever seen the Dynamite Kid in action during his prime, his resemblence to Benoit is uncanny. They walk alike, the punch alike, they deliver clotheslines alike. They both even give that extra little stomp before delivering their snap suplexes. If Vince had an ounce of common sense, he'd put 2 and 2 together here.. if just to please one long-time fan.
I'm sure to get some heat for this one, but I'd like to see an end to that Too Cool dance.. at least with Rikishi. It had remained entertaining for the entirety of its existance, and when a split was teased at the Royal Rumble I was ready to take the bait and watch it unfold. Instead, both sides went the road less traveled nowadays and settled their differences without coming to blows. As of last night, I was cool with it. The audience can't get enough, the workers are competant enough, and I actually dug the silly little dance. After Rikishi started to leave, but found himself coerced back in to do the deed by the 'Grand Masta', I realized I'd had enough. Things had just jumped over into monotony. Either find a new and interesting way to present it or put an end to it.. the fans may not like it now, but it'll eventually produce a more well-rounded WWF.
Finally, I want to see Tazz going somewhere. When the Radicals made their leap, I was afraid to see who'd feel the adverse effects and I'd be lying if Tazz wasn't one of the first names to come to mind. For the first couple weeks, things seemed to be getting along well. He'd entered into what looked like a feud with the European Champ, Kurt Angle and was even getting a bit of a rub from the Rock. Then, from out of nowhere, in steps the Bossman.. and the audience takes a look at beer prices. A good part of what makes or breaks Tazz is his opponents, and their reaction to his vicious power offense. Give him a lightweight or heaviweight that knows his way around, and they'll be selling like they'd just been shot in the gut with a Civil War cannon.. and the gimmick would work. Give him somebody that has no idea, like the Bossman, Mideon or the Godfather, and you get nothing. No interest, no believable offense, no crowd.. just an out of place wrestler and a short man with a mohawk and a towel over his head. Since he hasn't much to do aside from elevate the Godfather, why not put him into a feud with Saturn? Give him the Hollys, or a returning Stevie Richards. Even someone like Gangrel, who's been floating in limbo for some time now, could make this a mutually helpful experience. Anything's better than the touch of death associated with the Bossman.
The Harris boys take over Sid's role
Back on the Nitro end of things, it's just more and more obvious that the inmates in charge never really had a clue to begin with. Why is it when I imagine the booking scene backstage at Turner, I envision this big lottery roller, as seen prior to the Royal Rumble? Gimmicks never really seem to get old for those guys.. Kidman revisits the nae-successful camera gimmick made famous by Syxx all those years ago. Booker and Stevie Ray seem to be in the same boat as the Steiner Brothers during their split (with Stevie Ray's "friends" playing the parts previously filled by the nWo). Now the Harris Boys took a draw and came up with Sid's 'millennium man' gimmick all over again, so they take the cheap heat route. Breaking up potentially strong matches for a weak bit of offense (and an even weaker Madden catch; "That destroys everything within a 20 foot radius!") won't get you over as strong heels.. it'll just piss people off. Those same folks won't mind a bit when the Harris boys mysteriously drop off the cards in the next year or so.
While I was throwing this together, I took a look at the WCW feedback section for shits and giggles. It's incredible how one company might try to convince it's fans they're in good shape, when it's readily obvious things are just the opposite. All but one letter featured in the aforementioned section was positive.. and the sole negative letter was actually about 50% positive. Perhaps if the folks in the CNN tower were polling random folks out on the street it would be a little easier to swallow (not much, mind you), but this was conducted on the internet, which is known for having much higher standards.. to the point of flaw. In a promotion known for tricking its fans time and time again with fake signs, ticket giveaways to fill seats and canned heat, WCW isn't doing much to salvage their good name here.
Anyway, I couldn't bring myself to watch the main event.. after about an hour and a half of straight garbage, I'd had enough and set my remote down while on the USA Network. I've seen Luger/Hogan so many times in the past that I'm pretty sure I didn't miss anything.
Keeping up with the huge letter column I wrote last week, I've an update to post regarding the Bill Reil situation, thanks to JRstonecold@aol.com;
"I just saw in your mailbag report someone asked you about Billy Reil. Well I dont know that much about him either but I do know that he writes a column at prowrestlingdaily.com. Just thought i'd let you know just in case you cared."
He also mentioned that his column contains bio information and the like, so if you're interested.. check it out. We may be seeing him in WCW before long.
And that should put another one away for me. Look for part 2 of my WCW Talent Evaluation before the end of the weekend, and John and I will return for our No Way Out Preview late Friday evening. So..
until next time, i remain