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SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: Consider The Radicals before jumping
By CHRIS GRAMLICH -- For SLAM! Wrestling

With the WWF's current domination of the wrestling landscape, it comes as no surprise that talent from other less prosperous federations would view them and their product as the holy land of sports entertainment. Currently, rumours abound about who wants to sign, will sign, has signed or should sign. It seems that the old adage, 'the grass is always greener on the other side,' still holds true, for the WWF is far from perfect, despite its current popularity stranglehold. Free agents and potential free agents should consider this proverb, and recent signings should proceed with caution.

While there is no disputing that Vince McMahon and the WWF creative team can spin gold, not all their ideas are foolproof or even McMahon proof. Not everyone deserving a push will get one and the top dogs (HHH, The Rock, and Austin when he returns) will stay the top dogs for the foreseeable future.

Talents such as Buff Bagwell, Chris Kanyon, Diamond Dallas Page and just about every other disgruntled WCW employee has expressed interest in making the leap to the WWF. However, everyone should take a moment to consider where talents who were in similar positions are currently at in the WWF and then stay where they are.

Many will no doubt disagree with the previous statement, and with great veracity, wholeheartedly believing that Vince and the WWF can do no wrong, chanting it over and over again like a mantra. You're not to blame; it has been driven into you since that first episode of Raw, Smackdown! or even that first episode of Superstars you may have witnessed when you were knee-high to a grasshopper. But there are reasons for such statements.

There has always been 'coup' signings for each federation. Kevin Nash and Scott Hall for the WCW, Chris Jericho for the WWF, but none seemed to have as much untapped potential as the recent signings for the former Radicals: Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Chris Benoit.

Obviously no one could foresee the impact Hall and Nash and the NWO would have, but it wasn't really that surprising. Hall and Nash were proven draws, popular as heels or as faces and therefore a proven commodity. The Radicals were not, despite the group possessing all the ability in the world, none were top dogs, but all possessed the potential to elevate themselves and believed the WWF would provide that opportunity. They believed it so much that they all took pay cuts and burned bridges to jump to the WWF. Perhaps they now wish they hadn't been so hasty, especially since Vince Russo has returned to power.

Let us first examine the status of the Iceman Dean Malenko. Malenko is possibly the greatest pure technical wrestler, pound for pound, in modern wrestling and he is currently in no feud, is a mid-carder at best (and that's being incredibly generous) and has been given multiple female valets to help get him over, which hasn't worked. Charisma has always been at a premium in the WWF (which is where many of The Radicals are deficient) and Malenko's charismatic abilities do not equal his in-ring abilities. However, Malenko is a wrestler and can get over just by wrestling, which the WWF has not given him the opportunity to do. Take for example his incredible (and I do mean incredible) series of matches with Eddie Guerrero in ECW, which established both he and Eddie in American wrestling. His series with Jericho or his series with Rey Mysterio Jr., both in WCW, if proof is needed of Malenko's ability to get over via his strengths. Obviously, what the WWF needs to do is let him have a series of matches with a wrestler of comparable skill and he would impress. Whether this would work with the WWF crowd is another question. It has worked in his stints in WCW and given the push Lance Storm has received as a technical wrestler, it seems obvious that Malenko would have received the same, mic skills or no mic skills. He won't, however, get over any other way and even that may not be enough in the WWF.

Next up, Perry Saturn. He is another excellent technician, one of the best ECW has ever produced and also not as talented verbally as he is physically. The man was one half of, arguably, one of the greatest tag-teams in modern wrestling, the Eliminators, and established himself as an exceptional singles wrestler and was too hardcore for hardcore. He is currently involved with a feud by association (Terri versus The Kat), meaning he doesn't really have a feud. Not only that, but he hasn't been in a memorable one since he entered the WWF and it doesn't look like one will be forthcoming. Much like Malenko, Saturn's strength is in wrestling and his greatest asset is his ability to wrestle multiple styles, but he is more suited to get over by association with a group or a tag-team, like he has in the past with Raven's Flock and the Eliminators. However, do not forget his successful singles runs in the WCW, where he feuded with Booker T and helped launch Booker on his road to singles glory. Saturn's stiff, technical-oriented style isn't suited for the WWF's brand of wrestling and, much like Malenko, he lacks the necessary vocal skills to engage the fans. Saturn will most likely never rise above mid-card status. However, also like Malenko, his only hope lies in a series of stiff feuds where he is allowed to exhibit his considerable skills.

Many WWF supporters will point to the success Benoit has received as proof that Vince McMahon can do no wrong. However, Benoit is hands down one of the top pure wrestlers in the game, he has the ability to make good matches great and great matches unforgettable. Still, even though he is currently involved in a high-profile feud with Chris Jericho, has battled HHH, The Rock and the upper echelon of the WWF's roster, he is still one feud with Rikishi away from being relegated to Sunday Night Heat staple. Considering he is a former WCW champion and left (along with the rest of The Radicals) because Vince Russo was temporarily out of the picture, there is no telling how far his WCW push would have gone with Russo back in charge. But much like Saturn and Malenko, his lack of mic skills is his only weakness. Despite the fact that he seems to be The Radical who is most likely to make the jump to the WWF successfully, many believe that he will never be a top dog, but the wrestler who constantly makes others look good. They have a word for this in the industry; it's called a jobber. Chris Benoit may very well be the greatest technical wrestler in the WWF, but it won't be enough with the WWF's current fans that favour one-liners and catchphrases over talent. A man who ECW owner Paul Heyman said he wished he could have has their flag-bearer for the new millennium and he will only serve to put over lesser talents.

Lastly we come to Eddie Guerrero. Eddie's success in the WWF should have been a sure thing; here's a man who is one of the greatest modern day wrestlers Mexico has ever produced. He is an outstanding technical wrestler, has great mic skills, is a team player and can play either a heel or face to perfection. However, he is currently paired in the degrading Latino Heat angle with Chyna, an angle that not only smacks of racial stereotyping but also puts Chyna over Eddie more often than not in terms of angles. Subsequently, he has spent the majority of his matches carrying their tag team and hasn't been given an opportunity to run a successful feud where he could demonstrate both his incredible ring and mic skills. Eddie Guerrero is one of the last, true artists in wrestling, combining high-flying and solid technical wrestling; Guerrero should be leading the charge, and probably would be in either WCW or ECW. His feuds with Malenko, Jericho, Mysterio, etc. are classics and no one can play a better heel. However, without Chyna he is merely filler 'til the next Rock promo. Forget his denigrating angle, Eddie needs only mic time or a feud to establish himself, but will probably receive neither from the WWF.

While none of The Radicals have been in the WWF for very long, time will surely tell whether they receive the chance to establish themselves or are slotted into Heat and Livewire territory. However, their current history looks bad against them and other wrestlers in both the WCW and ECW may want to evaluate pride versus paycheque and the opportunities to establish oneself as a name, rather than just another wrestler, which would therefore translate into more money. The WWF's constant long-term misuse of talents like Al Snow, D-Lo Brown, The Acolytes, Tazz and a host of others doesn't bode well for wrestlers currently wanting to join the WWF, as there are only a limited amount of spots and Vince has already picked his favourites, regardless of talent. But in the end, WWF talent doesn't always prevail, usually look, mic skills and one-liners determine the hierarchy, pure wrestlers don't stand a chance. The former Radicals are throwbacks to a different time, one where learning your craft and being the best at it guaranteed success and that probably won't be enough in the WWF.

Reader Feedback

  • Aug. 24:It's easy to lose interest today


  • Great article! Although I am in the States, my experience as a fan seems to parallel your own. Wrestling has gotten so pat, so safe and so predictable that I marvel at how bad cable programming must be that both of the majors finish so well in the ratings. Again, nice article.

    Shawn Martin

    I have to agree with almost everything you said. The only question is who do you now tell who will listen? I mean in WCW. They are by far the better company morally and talent wise. There is no point in telling Vince McMahon anything because he really wouldn't listen or care, being that he is God in his own mind. He is not there for the fans but rather for the bank. There are no morals or even entertainment value left in his shows. His wrestlers are even getting sloppy looking. WCW however, is still something you can understand. Where most of the storylines are putting wrestler against wrestler rather than pregnancies with 80-year-old women and 25-year-old men. Mothers and daughters taking swings at each other, or whole families in absolute turmoil and disfunction. No one there takes their vitamins or says their prayers anymore. That all ended in Kansas City last year. As a parent and wrestling fan, I feel in necessary to tell you that I agree with you and I am sure that Vinnie Ru knows what he is doing.

    K. Yuris
    kyuris@direct.ca
    Glad to see that I'm not the only one who's been watching wrestling for years losing interest. I used to either watch or tape all of WCW's shows as well as some of the WWF shows, look forward to watching ECW and attend as many live cards as I possibly could. Lately, I've given up completely on WCW, not even bothering to watch the odd show. The reason, the Russo era looks almost identical to WWF from a few years ago. I stopped watching WWF because of the booking by Russo way back then.

    Your comments about ECW are very true regarding Justin Credible. He's a very competent wrestler but not championship material. The bright lights that are in ECW are people like Tajiri (some of the best facial antics around today), Super Crazy, Jerry Lynn, RVD, Mikey Whipwreck (in his latest incarnation) and Kid Kash. There's lots of newcomers, but to me they don't have an identity yet because I'm not exposed to them enough. The loss of key characters such as Sabu, Awesome, Lance Storm, Taz and others have really hurt the promotion. And you're right about the fact that we may not be seeing ECW after September, so it's hard to get wrapped up in the story lines.

    Gave up on WWF a few years ago because of the T&A. Personally I have nothing against it, but I certainly can't watch that when my kids are around (even my wife who is fairly open minded was disgusted by some of the angles). Lately they seem to have toned it down quite a bit and the WCW has taken over (again, Russo).

    Live indy shows tend to mirror what the majors are doing and because of this I haven't been to a show since the winter. Used to go to every local show and sometimes travel several hours for any indy show.

    Just my 2 cents, and I'm glad that I'm not alone.

    Dave O'Halloran

    I'm sure all of the wrestling insiders are sitting around a table right now saying, "Holy s**t! Alex Ristic is losing interest! What the hell are we gonna do? We certainly can't survive without Alex Ristic!"

    Go ahead and change the channel buddy. Nobody cares.

    Don Stradley

    You read my mind and I'm sure read many others. Wrestling and fans in general are burning out. I will always be a wrestling fan, but like you said. Just last night, Smackdown! was on, but I was tired, so I went to bed without even taping or caring about it. It's just getting old, plain and simple. It needs a breath of fresh air, and I am waiting to see if Stone Cold Steve Austin is the answer.

    Corey Thacker

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