July 10, 2001
No touchdown yet in interpromotional angle
Okay - maybe it's not a fumble. It's only a fumble if you drop the ball and don't pick it back up. The WWF dropped the ball big time on the WCW Invasion. But then they grabbed the thing and ran like hell with it for most of Monday night. Now they are juggling it on their fingertips. So close to a touchdown - but so close to looking like chumps, too.
Then - the run-ins. They were not the smoothest, and I still cringe at the thought of Rection's botched moonsault, but they did keep the promotion in the audience's eye and they did serve to build a backdrop of WCW as a guerilla group, downtrodden, forgotten and abused, but still finding a way to make an impact. So far, so good. A nice sweep around the end for 12-yard gain.
Even picking DDP as the "stalker" was pretty good. They actually used a "suspense" angle to introduce the marks to a new face. They did it in DDP's backyard for maximum effect and they actually had a believable and credible motive. Sort of like busting open a screen for a 20-yard gain.
So. First and ten at the 40. Crowd on their feet. The Stacy Kiebler cheerleaders dancing on the sidelines. And - zilch.
First - the bizarre and self-destructive decision to put Buff "The Duff" Bagwell in a make-or-break main event. That the WWF would sign a total stiff like Buff in the first place pretty much boggles the mind. I mean, yes, this is a company that inexplicably pushes X-Pac, and threw away Vinnie-knows-how-much money on the XFL - but putting Bagwell in a showcase main event against one of your top workers? I still shudder when I think about it. They say that Ric Flair could make a broomstick look like a superstar in the ring. That pretty much makes Bagwell the "anti-Flair" - able to make anyone look like crap. Stuffed in the middle and thrown for a loss.
Then, putting Hudson and Anderson on the table for the WCW matches on WWF TV. Yeah, Double-A was killer on the stick once but he has been away from the game too long. He knows his stuff, you bet, but he has forgotten how to talk to the viewer at home. He sounded lost and tentative - like a kid playing "radio" on dad's tape recorder. Combine that with the constant complaining by Hudson and Anderson about the WWF fans and you may as well flashed a big logo on the screen: "Amateur programming in progress - please turn off your set". They needed a confident and dynamic team on the table, although with Buff in the ring it's doubtful that Gordon Solie and Bobby Heenan could have pulled it out of the fire. As Heyman would say ... "Sack! Sack! Sack!".
Suddenly, the team is looking at third and twenty. They have to go for it. Yes, I am using a proper CFL metaphor here. And with their backs against the wall ... they come up with ... the pathetic and muddled attempt to show that WCW had heels and faces too. The whole upshot was a confused mess that had no cohesive storyline and no logic of continuity. Holy WCW, batman!! FUMBLE!
When the faces in Mudville couldn't be longer (Yeah, I know, wrong sport again. Sue me.) - they pick the damn ball off the ground and sprint for daylight! Despite the apathy of the fans in attendance, the WCW tag match on Sunday Night Heat was awesome and showed that the WCW still has a few aces in the ring. And, on Monday night they had me standing on my coffee table and marking out as if Kirk Gibson was hobbling around the bases after gimping the ball over the right field fence for the Dodgers.
Really, the last time I marked out on Raw was when Spike Dudley made his wonderfully startling debut and even that didn't have me on the table. But on RAW ... even before the fateful moment, I was on my feet. When I saw Tommy Dreamer's square head and Rob Van Dam's hair and shorts I was off the couch. When four ECW alumni were putting the boots to the WWF wrestlers, I was cackling with glee - and EVEN THEN I still didn't get the payoff. I just thought that Dreamer and Van Dam were being brought into the WCW fold. When the WWF reinforcements ran down to the ring, as soon as they hit the ramp, and I realized that every single one of them was ECW ... I was on the table and screaming, "Do it! Do it! Do it!" And when the WWF's "eee-cee-dubbers" turned around in solidarity with the Bingo Hall Boys, well, there is now a rather large crack in the top of my coffee table. 195-pound boys should not jump up and down on furniture. Even for Paul and his boys.
Holy Heyman, I thought, they have pulled it out of the fire! So many things clicked into place. The Dudleys and their decidedly non-Dudley attitude at the start of the night. X-factor's treatment of Justin Credible. Paul Heyman's off-hand comments throughout the night. EEE-CEE-DUB indeed!
Was this in the works all along from the time Heyman came to the company or was it a last ditch effort to save the touchdown drive when everything (and I mean everything) was in disarray? Probably the latter - the WWF usually knows their audience, and should have known that most of the WWF marks wouldn't know the ECW background of Taz, the Dudleys , or even Raven. A few casual mentions of their ECW history during the past three or four weeks of television would have worked wonders for the moment of truth last night.
But I digress. When the ECW army came down through the crowd last night in their "revolution" t-shirts and the fans were going crazy for them, I thought, "Touchdown!" They were at the 10-yard line and in the clear. ECW was suddenly resurrected as the "we don't give a damn" outlaw promotion that won our hearts all through the nineties. They had driven team WWF and team WCW into chaotic bickering and were once again the ultimate anti-heroes. Everything was right in the wrestling world again. And then, at the one-yard line, they bobbled the ball. ECW teaming with WCW? ECW teaming with anyone? That just isn't right! Seeing Stephanie in the ECW camp was a nice surprise but still not in keeping with the ECW mystique. They are supposed to be desperados, dammit! Not corporate stooges of anyone. Not Steph! Not Shane! No one! Just Paul and his merry band of maniacs wreaking indiscriminate havoc as they go!
So there they are. One step away from the end zone and juggling the ball. Where do they go from here? I think that the make-or-break on this whole thing could be what they do with the rest of the ECW alumni. What about Tajiri and Jerry Lynn? Why weren't they out with the army last night? What about guys like Doring and Roadkill who have been working WWF dark matches? Where are Beulah and Electra and the "Queen of Extreme" Francine? Is Super Crazy still stuck at the border? And - most pressing of all - what does this leave the ultimate ECW icon, Mick Foley?
I am already counting down the hours to Smackdown - considering that I didn't even bother to tape it last week, the WWF certainly comes out out a winner there. Whether or not I KEEP watching and turn into a rabid wrestling fan again ... well, lets see if they can finally get the damn ball across the line.
Mark Hornblower is from Hamilton, Ontario. He can be emailed at email@example.com.