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  Jan 4, 1999



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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.

Rating the feds




Mat Matters


Informative views and insights on the wrestling world from SLAM! Sports.

By JOHN POWELL -- SLAM! Sports

 1998 was an extraordinary year in pro-wrestling. Unable to ignore the growing fan base, the mainstream media finally stood up and took notice of a surge in popularity that many say eclipses the 80's wrestling boom. By their sheer numbers and enthusiastic support of sports entertainment, new and old fans joined together to elevate pro wrestling to new heights.

From a federation perspective business couldn't be better. Squared circle devotees of all ages clamored back to their local areas sending merchandise and ticket sales through the roof. Weekly television ratings soared often drawing larger audience shares than network-produced prime time programming or live sporting events.

World Championship Wrestling

1998 spelled disaster for the Ted Turner-owned wrestling promotion based in Atlanta, Georgia. Dominating 1997 as the gang-oriented WWF floundered in a state of flux, WCW never recovered from their post-Wrestlemania slump. Erratic last-minute booking and inconsistent angles critically damaged the WCW fan base. Audience dissatisfaction took its toll as pay-per-view revenues and Monday Night Nitro ratings plummeted throughout the year. Resurrecting old stars (Roddy Piper, The Warrior) and mixing in big name celebrities (Jay Leno, Karl Malone) failed to bring about renewed interest. WCW has a deep roster of multi-talented professionals (Benoit, Malenko, Mysterio, Saturn, Raven) wasting away as small fishes in a big pond.

Bottom Line: Based on their resources WCW should be pinning the competition. Mismanagement of a bloated roster and unimaginative angles are sabotaging the federation.

Solutions

  • Change in booking strategy. Formulate long-term angles that fans can become engrossed in. Book months in advance as the WWF does. Take back control of the company from those with political influence (Nash, Hogan, DDP).

  • Thin out the roster.

  • Re-establish the tag team division.

  • Elevate Thunder to the status of Nitro.

  • Ban the run-in ending.

  • Focus more time and effort on the pay-per-views. They should be "big events" concluding angles / feuds and sparking new ones.

  • One united nWo. No more factions.

  • Move Nitro to another night and draw a larger audience.


The World Wrestling Federation

It's raunchy. It's vulgar. Now and again, it pushes the boundaries of good taste. You can call the WWF whatever you want. It sure ain't boring. What the critics sometimes forget is there's a lot of good wrestling going on too. The WWF "Attitude" has shown to be a prosperous formula. However, their style has sporadically strained their relationship with the U.S.A. Network (the home of Monday Night Raw), other affiliates and cost them business (advertising, the NBC contract). Propelled by Austin's title win at WrestleMania, Vince McMahon and company have roared ahead and not looked back.

Bottom Line: Coasting on the McMahon - Austin feud may be eroding the federation's appeal. The WWF is running out of main event contenders. A serious influx of new talent is essential. Stepping over the edge is a dangerous practice. Will the WWF inevitably go one step too far?

Solutions

  • Develop mid-carders into main event challengers.

  • Tone the "Attitude" down a couple notches.

  • Conclude the Austin - McMahon angle.

  • Overhaul or eliminate the Light Heavyweight division entirely.

  • Mick Foley. Mick Foley. More Mick Foley.


Extreme Championship Wrestling

In the pro wrestling history books 1998 will be looked upon as the year ECW expanded the Big Two definition to the Big Three. Under the leadership of Paul Heymen, ECW has matured into a stable organization capable of putting on decent weekly broadcasts and pay-per-views which rival the competition's best efforts. You want workers? ECW has the best in the biz including Rob Van Dam, Sabu and Tommy Dreamer. What's stunting ECW's expansion is they're toiling away in obscurity. If they want to play on the same field as the "big boys" they've got to lock up a nation-wide broadcast and expand into the profitable Canadian market. Otherwise, they'll be in a perpetual state of re-building as their talent pool depletes.

Bottom Line: The bleeding must be stopped before all ECW is left with is a bunch of suicidal mid-carders. Then again...maybe that ain't such a bad thing. Recognition in 1999 is key to ECW's survival.

Solutions

  • Keep current talent happy and secure.

  • Restructure the content a tad so a nation-wide television deal can be inked.

  • Recruit new talent.

  • Make full use of the ties with Japanese promotions.

  • Better marketing. Get ECW noticed.




Agree? Disagree? .E-Mail me your response at jpowell@canoe.ca. Some responses may appear in the next column.


MAILBAG


The previous SLAM! Wrestling editorial

I grew up during Hogan's glory years, when he ruled the WWF, and although he provided many years of great entertainment, I can honestly say that I was somewhat relieved when he left for WCW in order to give such stars as Bret Hart, and The Undertaker the chance to build their own legends in the WWF.

When I first followed Hogan's career in WCW, I did not pay too much interest since he was the same character who had run it's course in the WWF, but then came along the NWO.

When Hogan "turned bad" it revitalized his career and, I think, brought the WCW to the healthy position it is currently in. But alas, it seems that another Hogan reincarnation has run it's course, and frankly, with his ability quickly diminishing, I think that the proper thing to do would be to retire now, and let such stars as Goldberg and Kevin Nash rule the roost.

Once again, Hogan has given another wrestling promotion unbelievable success, but I think that WCW can run on it's own, just as the WWF did, without Hogan. If Hogan retires as "Hollywood", it won't diminish the man's accomplishments, since in the eyes of long time and knowledgeable wrestling fans, such as myself, he will always be associated as the figurehead of the sport he revitalized.

Brian LeBlanc.




I am only 15 but I have had plenty of time to watch "Hulk Hogan" in my life. And from the times I watched him when "Hulkamania" was runnin' wild throughout the whole country and the world, he is one of the best wrestlers to step into the ring, if not the best.

If he were still in his prime he would be able to take the best wrestlers today, the likes of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Goldberg, "The Rock" Rocky Miavia, "The Giant," etc. No one did more for wrestling than Hogan.

The moment I remember the most was when he came back off a leave of absece from the WWF at Wrestlemania 8 in Las Vegas and won the championship once again off of Yokozuna.

Still to this day I get sick when I hear "Holywood" Hogan. He will never be remembered for the greedy, rude, and uncharcteristc ways he treated the fans as Holywood Hogan.

But he will be remembered for the butt kicking, lesson teaching, good behavior preaching ways he protrayed as Hulk Hogan. For him to win the presidency of America he has to bring back the old yellow and red ways of "Hulkamania" and let it run wild accross the U.S. He will never do it with the ways of Holywood Hogan. I hope, and deep down believe that wrestling will never leave him and he will return as "The American Dream" Hulk Hogan and turn the wrestling world upside down again.

Kevin Casey.