Ringside Shadows #107: WCW Talent Evaluations, Part II (D-L)
With a whopping 21 'stars' previewed right here, a long introduction would certainly qualify this for an overkill award, so I'll do us both a favor and keep it on the down side..
Part II of my exhaustively comprehensive WCW talent evaluation finally catches flight here, with such gems as Jim Duggan, Hugh Morrus and the omnipotent Hulk Hogan. Fear not, however, as the true cream of WCW's crop has its share of representatives amongst the masses here as well in Juvi, Fit Finlay and DDP. I've got quite a bit in store for you, perhaps a name or two you'd forgotten and maybe even a surprise. So take cover, trembling mass of the internet.. for the proverbial shit is about to hit the fan...
I was really hoping they wouldn't screw this up, too. After months of force-feeding, interest was slowly beginning to rise in the young Flair boy.. thanks in large part to Vince Russo and the new character he saw in lil' Davie. Don't misread this.. a lot of what Russo did was complete and utter buffalo chips. However, when he did manage something I liked, you weren't likely to hear the end of it. Such was the case with Flair. Formerly uncharismatic beyond reality, David had gone through a metamorphosis and become not only acceptable, but almost relateable.
In a way, Ric's kid had become a part of each of us. Everybody's been through a rough breakup at some point, and felt those bizarre twitches in their heart, begging them to do something about it. David embodied that dark side of each of us, and put a recognizable face to it. When fans started to dig it, WCW panicked and did the only thing they really knew.. oversaturated us with it. It's no secret that David's similarities to his father end when he steps between the ropes. In their exuberance, WCW threw him back in the ring way before he was ready. They gave him a new valet (and later, a tag partner). They gave him theme music. Even the makeup folks couldn't leave him be. Instead of that part of every one of us, David had gone back to being Ric's flunky son.. just with more personality. Since then it's just been downhill.
Overall Grade: C-
Diamond Dallas Page
Quite simply, the only main eventer who seems to care about his matches any more. It's well documented that Page isn't my favorite athlete in the world... he doesn't even make the top 20. What's important is his attitude. He knows he's not the greatest worker on the face of the planet, but damned if he doesn't try all the same. I never really understood why his 'triad' gimmick with Kanyon and Bigelow was dumped, since it was garnering fair heat (even strong, for a WCW showing) and utilized three men who have since floundered without direction. Maybe it was all those bad 'your mom' jokes.. who knows.
The point is this; DDP knows his place, cares about his performance and above all cares about the industry. If a young star is having trouble breaking into the main event picture, Page will willingly hop into a feud with him and give it his all to elevate the youngster as strongly as possible. I dare say the audience never would've accepted Chris Benoit or Billy Kidman with as open arms if it hadn't been for Page's efforts. It's always interesting to see his variations of the diamond cutter as well, as I'd place them near Chris Jericho's reversals into the lion tamer as the most inventive and entertaining of the industry.
Though his recent feuds have gone nowhere fast and he's aging quickly, Page gets the highest mark of all the main eventers.
Overall Grade: B+
Actually a rather versatile worker, Disco's since been shooed off to play manager for the Marmalukes. He's not the next Dean Malenko, but Disco's well above average in the bottom-heavy WCW heirarchy of wrestlers and is definitely carryable. While his current angle has been slightly worthwhile (his recent use of the tag titles to back out of matches has gathered some mentionable heat), he really needs to get active full time before the world's short attention span leaves him behind completely. Disco's a much better gimmick as himself (as long time listeners of WCW Live! can attest), and his current role has become quite stale. Given a bit of repackaging and a little effort, Disco could still go somewhere... but the clock's ticking.
Overall Grade: C+
I honestly couldn't tell you why they picked up the former Goldust following his release from the WWF.. because they obviously didn't lay out any plans for him. Maybe they had a wad of cash burning a hole in their pocket (if so, I'm available for special appearances as well) or they thought Dustin would be a big asset in their war against Vince McMahon. I don't really mind either way.
I was never a fan of his skills to begin with, neither as Goldust nor himself, and the years haven't exactly been kind to that end. His early repackage as 7even (strikingly close to 7-eleven) crashed on the launchpad, and I was lucky enough to be live in attendance at the Nitro where it was scrapped. Sometimes, the horses should just be put out to pasture.. and when your major contribution to the company has been a "don't do this at home" public service announcement, the choice can't be a hard one.
Overall Grade: D
If 3 Count fell into the same generalizations that plague boy bands ("the cute one", "the wild one", etc), Evan Karagias would certainly be "the untalented one". Something about his appearance instantly annoys me. I'm not sure if a special raffle was held backstage to determine the mouthpiece for the group or what, but it was absolutely an unreliable means, as it produced Karagias as the chosen member. Even though Helms and Moore may not have even touched a microphone in the past, I doubt they could do much worse than this.
Once you get beyond the gimmick and the mic, however, Karagias isn't a complete waste in the ring. He's still green as my dog's logs after chowing down on some grass, but that's apparently part of the gimmick so I'll let it slide a bit. He knows how to catch the other two from outside the ring, and I'll give him credit there; he fills his role as a target adequately. WCW's tried everything imagineable to get this guy over, but it's not gonna happen. It's a bit early to mention, but I'm already looking forward to the Three Count split angle, if just to get Helms and Moore away from this guy.
Overall Grade: C-
Fit Finlay is a manly, manly man. Not half a year after basically cutting his right leg off at the knee and not only is he walking, he's back in the ring cracking heads.. and outperforming the main eventers on a regular basis. I'll be honest; I was a bit let down when Finlay was introduced to the Booker T / Chris Benoit TV title feud all those years ago... he was a relative nobody, thrown in apparently at random. Since then, I've really taken a liking to the man that wears a clover on his drawers.
He moves deceptively fast for a man his size (especially considering the injury), and his moveset is accordingly powerful. His roll-over press slam is one of the nicest moves in WCW, and never fails to please. My main gripe is his lack of a character, which is also to blame for his non-response from the fans. This hardcore warrior schtick is silly, and is made even more so with its inclusion of Brian Knobs. If he had a personality, big things could've been just around the corner.
Overall Grade: B
Call me a jerk-off, but I actually like seeing Goldberg work. He's certainly got the look, as well as the fans' support, and his moveset improves by the day. It really is a shame he was hurt at such a critical time, because his absense has been one of the key points in WCW's downward spiral. He's big, quick, powerful and believable. His mic work isn't spectacular, but it's short and to the point. There really isn't much not to like, unless you've something against popularity as a whole. His main downfall is his attitude, and he can't really be blamed completely for that. Anyone pushed to the top as fast as Goldberg will eventually run into problems when they're finally asked to job. It's unpleasant to see him develop this prima-donna attitude, but I'm still not convinced that's enough to cast him into an eternal damnation. His feud with Bret Hart and the nWo could've been great, if the dice had rolled differently. Now it's yet another waiting game for his return.
Overall Grade: B
Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Eternally over, and eternally slow. It was great to see Hacksaw back after his battle with cancer, a feeling that was made even greater by the fans' reactions to him. I think he should stick around, but his days in the ring should've ended a decade ago.
Overall Grade: D+
A one trick pony. Morrus' moonsault is really unexpected and impressive, and I wonder how good he would be if he applied half as much effort to rounding out his game. Look at Vader.. he had a moonsault, but he can also get up and go if he's motivated. Morrus' rating is marred by his unavoidable association with what's come to be known as one of the worst stables in the history of mankind, the First Family. Morrus is one of the laziest workers on tour (right up there with Knobs), and I'm not altogether unhappy we never saw more of that surefire hit of an angle with his senile old "pops" earlier in the year. Just a footnote in the history books, and one you'll miss if you blink.
Overall Grade: D-
The stupendous one himself.. the Hulkster, still in the ring after all these years. I'll try to keep this one painless, so let's look at him in tiny little segments and examine what makes him suck in each different area..
Build: Hogan's body is as fake as those hair plugs. Say the world's been invaded by a single, lifelike yet synthetic robot and it's my job to find him. Hogan would be my choice, with Michael Jackson running a close second. The skin gives him away.. what, did he fly into the sun or something? Golden fried is a term used to describe a fully cooked chicken meal, not human skin.
On the stick: Hogan pioneered the 'creative ramble'. I can remember the majority of his interview from Wrestlemania 4 word for word, because it was so completely out of left field and ridiculous.. something along the lines of tearing Trump Plaza apart, throwing it into the sea, rescuing Donald Trump from the waves, and swimming to shore with each one of his Hulkamaniacs on his back. It's a shame ol' Terry's promos don't remain as creative, because that was the only thing keeping me focused.
In the ring: If you've seen one Hogan match, you can lay out a pretty good outline for just about every other match he's ever been involved in. Throw in a little variation, depending on the size of his opponent (he'll take a splash if it's a big man, and then taunt the bodyslam before hitting it) and you've got it down. I'd wager to say Hogan hasn't even tried to keep up with the times in this department. If the workers of the day favor a moonsault, Hogan'll stick with a back rake.. if the powerbomb is the hot topic, Hogan pulls out that good old big boot. Repetition quickly becomes boredom.
Crowd heat: Hogan's amazingly gone through a bit of a revival of late, which is the only thing saving him from rock bottom, and an 'F'. Inexplicable as it may be, the fans have jumped back behind him.. and I won't argue with the decision to keep him in the picture. You give fans what they want. Soooo...
Overall Grade: F+
The higher-ups have done everything in their power to kill Lodi's career. I don't know who's coffee he mistook for a urine sample cup, but they certainly have some long reach as he's run the gauntlet of bad gimmicks time and again. Surprisingly enough, he keeps coming back for more. Lodi's not a terrible worker, but he'll never get a chance to show it at this rate. His personality is actually quite funny (anybody remember the Nitro years back, where he produced a trout from the front of his pants?), and he'd be a nice fit in the mix of things. Sadly enough, I don't see him going much further than this.
Overall Grade: C+
Probably the last warrior to ever benefit notably from a jump South. Jeff Jarrett had a big problem in the WWF, as his reputation was quickly being tarnished. His 'woman beating' angle was the source of quite a bit of negative controversy, and came as a result of the WWF's lack of imagination at the time. They really had no idea what to do with him, so they took the easy way out and went for the controversy.
Where in the WWF, Jeff was stuck in the midcard (fans wouldn't accept him any higher than the Intercontinental level, and the main eventers wouldn't work with him), in WCW he's ready to break out as a World Champion. He took part in one of the brightest spots of the year in his feud with Chris Benoit over US gold. Given a couple months (and a bit of work on his mic skills), Jarrett could hit paydirt with a feud featuring Bret Hart, Kevin Nash or both over leadership of the nWo. He's definitely got the talent, the fans love to hate him, and he's finally getting the recognition he deserves. Jarrett's truly one of the only success stories in this report.
Overall Grade: A
Crossovers don't work. It's as simple as that. No matter how reputable the fighter, no matter what area he's trained in, a wrestler will take a specified fighter in a straight-up fight every time. Keep in mind that I'm talking a specified fighter here.. a kickboxer, boxer or martial artist; not a shoot fighter like Ken Shamrock or Dan Severn. Jerry Flynn doesn't work because he focuses too heavily on his kicks, and too little on rounding out his game and making himself into a believable challenger. That, and he shaved off his mullet! Negative kudos for that one, for sure.
Overall Grade: D
It really hurts to see Juvi headed down this dark a path. His 'Rock' gimmick, while funny at first, has crossed the line into monotony now, and gives the sense of a bush league atmosphere at WCW. His work in the ring (in the rare occasion that we're allowed to see it) has taken a bit of a step down lately as well, and that's really saying something considering the level of competition he was facing just before his injury. It just doesn't get much better than Jushin Liger.
Still, don't take this the wrong way. Juventud's easily among the top 2 workers left in WCW, with his hands tied behind his back. He's just been taking steps down pretty regularly this year, which serves to drop him lower than he really deserves to be. Along with Rey, injuries have really screwed him pretty heavily lately, and I can't promise that hasn't affected his grade. Juvi remains mind-bogglingly charismatic.
Overall Grade: B+
I'd dare call him the Dean Malenko of today's WCW, to some extent. When he's on, there are few who can keep up with Kaz in the ring. For a different reason than Dean-o, however, the entertainment chunk of his 'sports entertainment' package is on the low side and WCW has made sure he's punished more than enough for it. Kaz doesn't even get the dignity of being a jobber to the stars.. he jobbed twice in the Cruiserweight tourney, and that's where he should be owning the show right now. He can go, but he can't speak English, so he'll never be anything over here.. sometimes I wish we had the same moral values as the Japanese, who'll at least recognize a foreign talent when it's there.
Overall Grade: B
The woeful plight of Kevin Nash continues. I'll give him this; from the moment he jumped over to WCW he promised it was "just for the money", and not for the love of the sport. In that sense, he hasn't disappointed. Whenever he shows up, it really looks like he's just there to do his job, collect his paycheck and go home. He's fairly good on the mic and actually quite funny sometimes, which makes me think that's where his real interest lies.. and his role as commissioner isn't an utterly terrible thing after all.
For all the bitching and moaning I do about workrates and technicians, I rarely mention a good talker and that is Nash's forte. So long as he's kept out of the ring and his appearance rate remains at a minimum, yay for Nash. Putting it all together though, he's merely average. A 'D-' for ringwork, and a 'B+' on the stick.
Overall Grade: C-
I haven't seen enough of Kid Romeo to make an educated judgement yet. What I saw wasn't exceptional, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was an off night.
Overall Grade: N/A
I'll just say I'm really glad he didn't jump with the other four. Konnan's mere presence is enough to up the 'lazy' meter in those he surrounds himself with (see Mysterio, Rey Jr.), and that's not what the 4 Radicals needed to get over with the WWF crowds. Not only that, but his character doesn't fit with the others, nor does his style in the ring relate whatsoever.
I'd put him just over Hogan in terms of physical ability, in that you can lay out just about every match he's involved in after seeing just one.. but the moves he does elect to use are at least somewhat worthwhile. On the stick, he's that same notch below the Hulkster, because at least Hogan switches his phrases every once in a while. The 'K-Dogg' should've realized it was time for a brainstorm session when his catches begain recieving boos.. and he was a face. Away from the ring, Konnan needs to make up his mind and either quit WCW and bitch away or shut up, cash his checks and smile about it.
Overall Grade: D
Lenny was the more charismatic of the 'West Hollywood Blondes', and was probably the more ring-savvy as well. He seems to be busting himself to get back over now that he's been given the shot, and nearly killed himself looking for a somersault plancha on Nitro a couple weeks back. Since then, I wonder if he'll have the same reckless attitude he had coming in. His new gimmick seems destined to fail, and that can come as a real let-down for someone coming off the first successful gimmick of his career. He tries, and that's good enough to set him apart from the pack.
Overall Grade: B-
La Parka deserves an 'A' just for that goofy dance, the La Parka strut. He's always been among my favorites, if just for the way he'll find a way to slip that in at the least appropriate time. He knows his way around the ring well enough from his years south of the border, but knows next to no English.. which is why they hooked him up with that Bad Motherfuckin' voice. Fine tuning still needs to be done on it (I imagined a voice more similar to Isaac Hayes or Barry White), but I can see the silliness of those promos fitting flawlessly into his comedy-oriented style. I love La Parka, and it's great to see him getting somewhere.. even if that somewhere is a victory over Berlyn on Thunder.
Overall Grade: A-
Finally, the man with the wicked sideburns. Creative sideburns seem to be a trend in today's wrestling world (Jeff Hardy, Chris Jericho, the Rock) and LeRoux gets points for actually managing to carve a letter out of those suckers. He shouldn't be allowed to speak (the moments he spent as guest commentator several months back will not soon be forgotten), and he's still a bit green in the ring, but his future isn't all dark. If he sets his mind to it, he could really end up being something worthwhile, so keep your eye on him.
Overall Grade: B-
I'm sure you've heard enough from me by now if you did, in fact, make it all the way down to the bottom here. Thus, I'll be merciful until tomorrow when John and I will return for our No Way Out preview. I'm really looking forward to this one; so much so that I'm actually planning to shell out the $30 for it.. and yeah, that's a rarity. So stop by, eh? It'll be a good time. And as always, I'm out with..
until next time, i remain