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SLAM! Wrestling Editorial: WCW shoots are clear misses
By CHRIS GRAMLICH -- For SLAM! Wrestling

In a matter of weeks, WCW has gone from being an exciting program that was beginning to surpass the WWF in terms of wrestling, interesting plots and use of their talent, and have instead regressed into a befuddling mess of misdirection, lost tangents and missed opportunities. (Anyone else think they missed the boat by not having Muta and Vampiro feud right away?).

Many will point to the return of Vince Russo as the agitator in the whole equation; after all, it seems that when WCW was really making strides and gaining ground it was with Russo on the sidelines. Granted, Russo and Eric Bischoff did a number of excellent things when they first joined forces and unveiled the "new" WCW. The "New blood" versus "Millionaire's Club" was fresh and interesting and Russo putting the title on Booker T when he returned stands out as one of the smartest moves he's made in his career. But it seems to have been all downhill from there.

Gone are coherent plots and feuds, storylines have returned to being dropped, picked-up and dropped again, and although Russo is certainly a genius, he can only hide behind the Standards and Practices "hamstringing" him excuse for so long. Eventually he has to take some responsibility for the mess that WCW is in.

All the tools are there for him to turn WCW around. There are a number of marquee and creative talents at his disposal, many of whom were used quite effectively during the various Russo absences and the mysterious disappearance of Eric Bischoff, rumoured to have brokered some sort of non-wrestling TV deal with Fox.

Still, WCW's biggest mistake so far, besides allowing Mark Madden to get near a microphone, has been the "shoot" angle that has been playing out between Scott Steiner, Kevin Nash, Goldberg and now Russo (well, if Russo he can keep himself from being censored), all in an attempt to renew interest in their product.

It's no small secret that Russo is a big fan of the "shoot" angle, an angle that takes real life tension, drama and emotions, and juxtaposes them into the surreal world of wrestling. Sometimes this works, in the case of Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart, two wrestlers that legitimately disliked each other but put on stunning matches that were heightened by the fact that everyone knew they hated each other.

Sometimes it doesn't, the Hulk Hogan/Russo feud seemed confusing to all but the most obsessive of internet fans, and this one won't come across any better.

The mistake isn't in the utilizing of the genuine hostility between Goldberg, Nash and the missing-in-action Scott Hall -- an angle that is in fact interesting for a number of reasons, the future of Hall, predominantly -- it is the fact that in trying to be edgy, in trying to push the envelope, they have broken one of the fundamental rules of wrestling.

Call it kayfabe. Call it the suspension of disbelief. Call it the "Easter Bunny" or "Santa Claus" rule (and yes, neither are real, but we still believe, don't we?). Call it what you will, but WCW has admitted, on camera no less, during their own programs, repeatedly, that wrestling is fake, that matches are predetermined and that politics decides who wins or loses.

Now, this isn't exactly an earth-shattering revelation. After all, the average wrestling fan was forced to draw these conclusions long before puberty, hopefully, but to admit it on camera, in the middle of a wrestling program, is paramount to wrestling blasphemy.

Wrestling works and is popular because fans suspend their disbelief, it is the same reason why people can watch movies -- whether they suck or not isn't as important as how "real" they were and if they made you believe. What WCW has done would be the equivalent of an actor, say Russell Crowe, cutting an interview in the middle of Gladiator, discussing how the movie is "fake," how he hates his co-stars, feuds with the director and how he wins his fights because it was written that way in the script. Forget about flow and continuity, both go right out the window. Doing exactly this this during a wrestling show, belief is shattered and fans can't help but feel insulted.

After spending years being ridiculed for liking a "fake" sport, we now have the sport proclaiming the stigma it spent years fighting against. If Wrestling isn't a sport due to its booked finishes, it is an athletic event. It is full-contact, people get hurt and the athletic calibre of its overall talent is beyond reproach; the stories, the entertainment, that's what fake, and since the two co-exists as one, it'll always be perceived as equally fake and equally real.

What WCW did in no way serves to promote the sport of wrestling, it doesn't hype the Pay-Per-View (didn't you know, wrestling isn't real, save the Goldberg, Steiner, Nash match), and it doesn't do the wrestlers any justice. Fans of wrestling know that it is as much entertainment as it is sport, but we don't need our noses rubbed in it, and that's exactly what WCW has done, and continues to do.

Reader Feedback

  • July 27:Undertaker's a mid-carder now


  • Just wanted to say that while I sadly agreed with a lot of what you said about the Undertaker and the way his character has been mishandled by the WWF (especially since late 1998), I really don't think my favourite wrestler has been pushed to mid-card status. I think (and would certainly hope) that the WWF realizes that despite the years, the absence, the injuries, etc., the fans would not accept that. Now if he would've lost to Angle at "Fully Loaded", however, I would've blown a gasket. Angle's too new to get that kind of honour. In fact, I wrote to Bob Ryder to disagree with him, who was decrying the WWF not doing what he in essence called a "disservice" to Benoit, Jericho, and Angle for letting them all lose their main-event matches at "Fully Loaded". While all three of those guys are hot talent, particularly Benoit and Jericho, I felt none of them would've deserved to win their matches -- ESPECIALLY Angle.

    My take is that the WWF allowed the drastic gimmick change to the "Underbiker", as you so aptly called it, to appeal to the attention-span-of-a-gnat-gotta-be-hip group of fans who think a 10-second resthold is cause for a "BO-RING!!" chant. According to 'Taker himself on his "Byte This" appearance, he was so glad to hear what a great reaction he got when he returned at the "Judgement Day" PPV (I was there) here in Louisville. He seemed to not be "bashing" his old character, but seemed to sincerely want the change. He seems to want to keep some semblance of the old UT, but oh, I wished he'd have come back as the Invincible Phenom. I just wonder how many fans are still out there who've watched and loved UT from almost the beginning, when he began that mystique that continued and kept him at the top for so many, many years? This was the character that Vince McMahon was quoted two years ago as saying "I'm the most proud". I'd hope that the WWF will go back and "dance with what brung 'em". I'll be an Undertaker fan no matter what -- but I want the best for The Phenom -- not the American Bad Ass. There was only ONE Phenom; we already had plenty of "bad-asses" (yeah - the "D.O.A."?)

    Miss Pamela
    pincurl@earthlink.net
    In defence of the Undertaker-
    1) The Undertaker has been out for months rehabbing multiple injuries. It is probably better for him to ease back into the action.
    2) If you are out of sight, you are out of mind. The Undertaker admittedly came back before he was 100%.
    3) The Undertaker may not have the physique he once had, but no one should expect him to. He tore his pectoral muscle while rehabbing, among other things, an abdominal injury.
    4) Wrestlers such as The Rock, HHH and Edge are getting pushed because in addition to talent, they have youth. Barring injury, they could have ten or more years ahead of them. As much as his fans hate to admit it, the same cannot be said for The Undertaker.
    5) The fans may still want the "old" Undertaker, but does Mark Calloway still want to be him after ten years?

    Donna H.
    dmhasegawa@earthlink.net
    I want to thank you for your piece on the Undertaker. I've always been a mark for the Dead Man, and it perplexes me to see how so many Internet smarts and fans are still waiting for him to break out again as if we'd gone back to 1995. UT has deteriorated physically beyond the point of return to his prime, and the days of five star matches are behind him. That is why he needs the Dead Man gimmick back. The persona gives him enough mystique, intrigue and entertainment value to compensate for his depleted in-ring abilities.

    However, unlike you, I have no problem with Undertaker dipping into the mid-card occasionally. As long as he is still primarily a main eventer, he can help the company, as he has in the past. You said that years ago, Undertaker would never be putting over mid-carders looking for a push. That's not true. Goldust, Kama Mustafa, Kamala, and other mid carders have all gotten the better of the Undertaker at one time or another, and it didn't hurt his stock a bit.

    The main thing for the WWF is not to keep him elevated, but to keep him interesting, and that's what's missing with his directionless biker gimmick.

    Josh, Ottawa
    WallzofJericho@aol.com
    I am very pleased that there is someone out there who feels the way that I do, and has some power in this business. Great article on The Undertaker. I have been waiting for that article to come out for awhile now. But really, what can we do. I find myself watching the WWF's product and what they are doing with the Undertaker and, frankly, it makes me sick. Not so much the gimmick, although is has taken a turn for the worse, but the angles that they have the Undertaker in. I truly believe that if Vince McMahon was such a genius than he would understand the problem, but he doesn't. Just wanted to say that while I sadly agreed with a lot of what you said about the Undertaker and the way his character has been mishandled by the WWF (especially since late 1998), I really don't think my favourite wrestler has been pushed to mid-card status. I think (and would certainly hope) that the WWF realises that despite the years, the absence, the injuries, etc., the fans would not accept that. Now if he would've lost to Angle at "Fully Loaded", however, I would've blown a gasket. Angle's too new to get that kind of honour. In fact, I wrote to Bob Ryder to disagree with him, who was decrying the WWF not doing what he in essence called a "disservice" to Benoit, Jericho, and Angle for letting them all lose their main-event matches at "Fully Loaded". While all 3 of those guys are hot talent, particularly Benoit and Jericho, I felt none of them would've deserved to win their matches - ESPECIALLY Angle.

    My take is that the WWF allowed the drastic gimmick change to the "Underbiker", as you so aptly called it, to appeal to the attention-span-of-a-gnat-gotta-be-hip group of fans who think a 10-second resthold is cause for a "BO-RING!!" chant. According to 'Taker himself on his "Byte This" appearance, he was so glad to hear what a great reaction he got when he returned at the "Judgement Day" PPV (I was there) here in Louisville. He seemed to not be "bashing" his old character, but seemed to sincerely want the change. He seems to want to keep some semblance of the old UT, but oh, I wished he'd have come back as the Invincible Phenom. I just wonder how many fans are still out there who've watched and loved UT from almost the beginning, when he began that mystique that continued and kept him at the top for so many, many years? This was the character that Vince McMahon was quoted two years ago as saying "I'm the most proud". I'd hope that the WWF will go back and "dance with what brung 'em". I'll be an Undertaker fan no matter what - but I want the best for - The Phenom - not the American Bad Ass. There was only ONE Phenom; we already had plenty of "bad-asses" (yeah - the "D.O.A."?)

    Miss Pamela
    pincurl@earthlink.net
    In defence of the Undertaker-
    1) The Undertaker has been out for months rehabbing multiple injuries. It is probably better for him to ease back into the action.
    2) If you are out of sight, you are out of mind. The Undertaker admittedly came back before he was 100%.
    3) The Undertaker may not have the physique he once had, but no one should expect him to. He tore his pectoral muscle while rehabbing, among other things, an abdominal injury.
    4) Wrestlers such as The Rock, HHH and Edge are getting pushed because in addition to talent, they have youth. Barring injury, they could have ten or more years ahead of them. As much as his fans hate to admit it, the same cannot be said for The Undertaker.
    5) The fans may still want the "old" Undertaker, but does Mark Calloway still want to be him after ten years?

    Donna H.
    dmhasegawa@earthlink.net
    I want to thank you for your piece on the Undertaker. I've always been a mark for the Dead Man, and it perplexes me to see how so many Internet smarts and fans are still waiting for him to break out again as if we'd gone back to 1995. UT has deteriorated physically beyond the point of return to his prime, and the days of five star matches are behind him. That is why he needs the Dead Man gimmick back. The persona gives him enough mystique, intrigue and entertainment value to compensate for his depleted in-ring abilities.

    However, unlike you, I have no problem with Undertaker dipping into the mid-card occasionally. As long as he is still primarily a main eventer, he can help the company, as he has in the past. You said that years ago, Undertaker would never be putting over mid-carders looking for a push. That's not true. Goldust, Kama Mustafa, Kamala, and other mid carders have all gotten the better of the Undertaker at one time or another, and it didn't hurt his stock a bit.

    The main thing for the WWF is not to keep him elevated, but to keep him interesting, and that's what's missing with his directionless biker gimmick.

    Josh, Ottawa
    WallzofJericho@aol.com
    I am very pleased that there is someone out there who feels the way that I do, and has some power in this business. Great article on The Undertaker. I have been waiting for that article to come out for awhile now. But really, what can we do. I find myself watching the WWF's product and what they are doing with the Undertaker and, frankly, it makes me sick. Not so much the gimmick, although is has taken a turn for the worse, but the angles that they have the Undertaker in. I truly believe that if Vince McMahon was such a genius than he would understand the problem, but he doesn't.

    I have been a huge fan of wrestling for about 15 years. The Undertaker is my favourite of all time. Now, the Undertaker is a forgotten man and I know, I just know, that in the back of everyone's mind, they are saying, man wouldn't it be great to see UT return and just kick ass the way he did in the beginning. The only problem is that most of the fans are too willing jump to newest product as soon as it is produced. They push aside the fact that there are well established stars that still have more to give and want to jump on the new "talent" right away. What will eventually happen is that the new "talent" will be pushed aside even quicker than the previous, such as the Undertaker because there are always newer and newer talent coming along that are just as good as the others. But the key is Vince McMahon. He doesn't think that just because of his new attitude that the old Undertaker would get over very well. Are you kidding me!! If he came out with the black hat and the cloak, are you telling me you wouldn't have goosebumps. Are you telling me that you wouldn't put aside the Rock, Benoit, And Jericho for the time being.

    The Undertaker is back. Deep down, we all love the Undertaker of old. Vince even admits that it his best gimmick that he ever created. Why change it. If there was only a way to get this message, in general, to him, it would change the wrestling world for ever. The Undertaker would be over more than ever before and I think that he would no longer be the forgotten man. He would be a legend. If I were to change one thing about today's wrestling scene, it would be just that, and I'm sure many others just need that thought put in their head to bring a smile to their face.

    Dean Whalen Airway05@aol.com

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