July 3, 2004
Wrestling sinks to new low
Great American Bash pay-per-view 'murder' conclusion embarrassing
By TJ Madigan - Calgary Sun

My spellchecker doesn't recognize the word 'hokey.' It keeps suggesting, via an annoying pop-up window, perhaps I meant to use the word 'hockey' instead. Obviously, my computer is set to Canadian English.

And 99% of the time, it would probably be correct in assuming I'd simply made a typo on a late-night writing blitz.

But in this particular situation, 'hokey' is definitely the word I want, since my editor won't allow me to describe the Great American Bash using the string of expletives I'd naturally lean towards.

Many critics declared the Bash to be the worst pay-per-view in WWE history but the closing moments took 'hokey' to a whole new level.

The show climaxed with The Undertaker turning heel on Paul Bearer, not by enlisting any of the usual grappling gimmicks but by actually killing his former mentor on live TV.

As The Undertaker wrestled the Dudley Boys, Bearer was locked in a glass chamber with a huge cement truck ominously parked nearby.

The idea was 'Taker would rescue Bearer from the tank after winning the match but in true bad-guy fashion, Taker pulled the lever himself and filled the chamber with cement.

The wet concrete covered Bearer completely, drowning out his screams as the show went off the air.

Of course, it wasn't actually wet concrete and Bearer had been replaced by a dummy long before the cement levels started rising.

Earlier in the day, Bearer had acted out his dying moments for the cameras, taping controlled close-ups in the chamber which would be edited into the live broadcast to make the whole thing seem more realistic.

The plan backfired when the satellite feed of the pre-tape was anonymously intercepted, recorded and posted on the Internet for all to see.

Hours before the Bash hit the airwaves, fans around the world logged online to watch pirated footage of the evening's big twist, in a rare out-of-character environment.

Seeing clips of The Undertaker fluffing his lines and being corrected by company agents was bizarre.

Seeing clips of the murderous ending was just plain embarrassing.

In fact, the angle played out so horribly someone in power should have axed it from the show completely, or at least taken measures to reduce the cheese factor by a couple of notches.

Stephanie and Shane McMahon, Triple H and WWE producer Kevin Dunn were in charge of the production and should have stepped up to the plate. But the blame for the warped murder angle ultimately falls on the shoulders of the boss, Vince McMahon.

McMahon wasn't present at the event -- he was at home recovering from diverticulitis, an internal infection which forced him to sit out a PPV for the first time in more than a decade -- but he was responsible for approving the storyline and was reportedly delighted with the way it played out on TV.

The wrestling media didn't share his enthusiasm. Critics unanimously came down hard on the angle, partially because WWE's corporate website claims they would never portray murder on their shows and partially because this kind of tripe should never have made it to TV in the first place.

Yes, wrestling is an entertainment genre and its storylines have always pushed the boundaries of believability but there comes a point when someone at WWE headquarters will have to take a stand and switch McMahon to decaf.

From Bearer's entombing last weekend to the Jerry Springer-style 'Who's the father of Lita's baby?' stuff on Raw, tuning into wrestling Monday and Thursday nights is becoming embarrassing.

Based on all reports coming from Titan Tower, it's a trend that's likely to continue over the coming months.

I've reluctantly programmed the word 'hokey' into my spellchecker.

Unfortunately, it looks like I'm going to be needing it.


Visit the SLAM! Wrestling store!


  • See Chris Benoit In Japan
    Order a best of video tape


  • CANOE.CA SLAM!