March 6, 2003
Smart bomb
By TJ MADIGAN -- Calgary Sun

One of the biggest problems the WWE has struggled with over the past few years is the advent of the smart mark -- a term that describes the estimated 2% of wrestling fans with behind-the-scenes knowledge of the industry.

Thanks to Internet sites, newsletters and even newspaper columns like this one, an increasing number of viewers have access to the inside scoop on pro-wrestling, from future results to the next big star.

The WWE responded by developing a policy that sought the element of surprise at all costs. They started hot-shotting angles to swerve the smarter fans, often throwing logic out the window in favour of a cheap pop. It made for some tough-to-watch TV.

You see, gearing the product towards 2% of your market means 98% of the audience is left scratching their heads and wondering what they missed. This kind of booking was one of the biggest nails in WCW\'s coffin and it seemed the WWE was headed a similar route, damaging storyline after storyline by trying to out-smart the smart fans. Luckily, the last month of developments suggest Vince McMahon isn\'t going to let history repeat itself.

The road to Wrestlemania is very clearly marked. There\'s only one way to get the angles where they need to be and it looks like the WWE is going to let logic take its course and do the right thing, no matter how predictable it may seem.

The Rock will be headlining Wrestlemania, probably going up against Bill Goldberg in the main event. To get there, Rocky has to make a full heel turn, a process the WWE is already setting in motion.

The People\'s Champ also needs to be kept strong until \'Mania so the audience believes he has a chance against Goldberg (it\'s already decided he\'ll be losing), which means he\'s slated to beat Hulk Hogan at No Way Out.

Of course, a bad guy can\'t defeat a legend without a little outside interference, so the evil Mr. McMahon will be helping the Rock put away the Hulkster. This sets up heat between McMahon and Hogan for their own \'Mania matchup, which Hogan is expected to win. On a side-note, Rowdy Roddy Piper is apparently in line to be the guest referee for that particular bout.

On the championship side of things, the World title will be decided when Brock Lesner takes on Kurt Angle. The WWE has done an awesome job of building a back-story to the feud, making Brock chase the strap before he wins it back at \'Mania. Lesner needs to be painted as the underdog, with Angle playing the typical heel champion who knows his belt is in jeopardy and will do anything to save it.

The other obvious \'Mania match is between Shawn Michaels and Chris Jericho, a definite show-stealer if both men are on form. Test and Jeff Hardy should be used to keep the two apart at this month\'s pay-per-view, giving HBK and Y2J a first-run collision on March 30 at Safeco Field.

The Raw title match is still undecided but based on hints in this month\'s Raw magazine, I\'m thinking the WWE might run with Steve Austin vs. Triple H. Hunter will be going over Scott Steiner at No Way Out (he was supposed to win at the Rumble but they changed plans at the last minute to milk the feud for another month) and there\'s no way Austin will be happy with a second-tier position.

Of course, there are certain variables in this equation. There\'s talk of headlining the card with Austin vs. Rock and Triple H vs. Goldberg instead. There\'s even whispers Sting could be the backup plan if the negotiations with Goldberg fall through. Either way, the same direction needs to be followed to keep the right people in the right roles until the big day.

Elsewhere in wrestling:

* Vince McMahon is closer than ever to getting his hands on the ECW tape library. The ECW bankruptcy case is reportedly nearing the settlement stage, with WWE waiting to buy the assets, including use of the ECW name, character trademarks and video archive.

* Triple H will be out of action until No Way Out, after suffering a haematoma in his left quadriceps muscle.

The haematoma, a ball-like build-up of blood in the muscle, is the Game\'s second in the past year and another addition to his nagging list of injuries.


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