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SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.

Friday, February 16, 2001

A Heyman hiring has potential

Eric Benner
By ERIC BENNER
Special to SLAM! Sports


A weekly
SLAM! Wrestling
Editorial Column

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There's been a lot of talk, what with ECW's top wrestlers being stripped away and its chances for continued survival becoming infinitesimally small, about the idea of Paul Heyman working for the WWF. In one corner, fans are clamoring for a real booker-writer, not the kind of television-scriptwriter that the WWF seems to have been hiring lately. In another corner, folks are whispering about the possibility of a (second) ECW invasion angle.

This angle has already been played out once, a few years back, when some of ECW's top talents, I believe at a Philadelphia show, "invaded" the WWF to drum up interest in both products.

Of course, this would be a completely different ballgame, as everyone is already on the WWF's payroll and there would be none of the typical worries of which fed comes out on top, since everyone would really be WWF here. Jim Ross, in his Ross Report, has expressed interest on behalf of the WWF in Paul Heyman's services, though it is the fans who have made the leap to think he might be part of an angle and not just a booker.

The idea certainly has promise. ECW has some very strong wrestlers, and the WWF has signed or is very close to signing a good chunk of them. Aside from all of the other previously ECW employed champions (Tazz, The Dudleys, Raven, and others) who could get involved, Rhino and Jerry Lynn could also be a part of that picture. In fact, Justin Credible is already in the picture.

There are a multitude of other connections here, too. The already-established former ECW champs already have friends and enemies, and Credible certainly has a history, behind the scenes as it may be, with X-Pac and Shawn Michaels, all part of the famous clique.

The World Wrestling Federation could certainly use a good shot in the arm right now, that's for sure. With storylines becoming -- at the very least -- not so innovative, and ratings taking a less stellar turn over the past few months, a new idea might be just what the doctor ordered.

This time, there would be no excess risk of giving too much 'rub' to the ECW wrestlers by having them mingle with main event WWF wrestlers. In fact, the more rub they should get, the better.

Much like the original run of the Radicals, this could all just be a well-hyped trial run, an audition of sorts. Those ECW mainstays who earn themselves good crowd reaction through their matches and their charisma could get a push, as Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero found themselves with. Those who don't, well, at least Dean Malenko and Saturn were given a chance.

Of course, we were talking about Paul Heyman. Heyman could be the key that unlocks this whole mess. He knows more about the talent involved than anyone else, he's a proven on-screen talent, he knows as much about wrestling as anyone else, and he could be in top form if the weight that is the struggling Extreme Championship Wrestling federation were to be taken from his shoulders.

Now, many of these arguments could be used to support the idea of Heyman simply playing the role of a backstage booker. His ideas alone could infuse the WWF with a much-needed shot in the arm. Make no mistake, though, the WWF's product isn't bad, it's just not new. After a certain point, there is no distinction between those two things, so they have to act soon.

If I had to take my pick, I personally would like to see Heyman fill both roles, booking his own attempted takeover of the WWF starring his former employees as his new cronies. He would bring back some esteem to the role of manager, possibly bring about the kind of invasion angle we've been salivating over in North American since the inception of the nWo. In the long run, he could get some of his ECW guys over and then play a prominent role in booking the WWF. I would love that.

There's only one problem -- Paul Heyman. All the interest I've heard about has been on the WWF's side. I don't know exactly what's left of ECW, but I'm sure Heyman is still busy with it. I doubt he'll let go until he has to, and even then I'm not sure he'll be so eager to run back into wrestling working for his former competition. We'll see. I'm not suggesting he wouldn't want to, just that we can't tell, and it would be foolish to simply assume that he would.

I just hope so.

Here's the mailbag:

Pete Langton, from gushunnybun@hotmail.com, writes:
"I was just wondering if you would consider writing a column about the WWF main eventers and their PPV history. It was said recently that Triple H hasn't done a clean job on PPV for ages, and I can't think of a time when The Rock has over the last year or so (although you could say he did at Armageddon). I haven't got the best of memories but I'm sure that many 'senior' WWF stars (Austin, Undertaker etc.) don't very often lose their matches cleanly. Now to me, one of the most important things about a match is the ending because a bad ending can spoil a decent match. I'm fed up of constant run-ins and screw jobs, especially in the main events."

Pete, it's important to make one distinction here. I agree with you that I get tired of screwjobs ending main events as much as the next guy. In fact, I would love to see some people just lose a little bit more often instead of 'sorta' losing.

About Triple H or The Rock losing on pay-per-view, though, I think that's sort of a different story. Right now, I believe these two are the WWF's top stars, and to a certain extent, they have to be protected.

Maybe there exists a world where wrestlers can lose without losing credibility, but I think fans are trained to associate winners with success. That's why you can spot a Vince McMahon-ordered face turn a mile away -- pick a heel that really starts kicking butt. People identify with winners, or would like to, despite what we might think.

Maybe if we were exposed to a different way of thinking we could adapt to it, but until we do, don't expect many losses for top WWF stars.


Bryce McNeil, from Bryce_Mcneil@umit.maine.edu, writes:
"You did a column on the XFL and said nothing of the league's obvious CFL influences? Or the fact that none of these teams could in fact 'cream the entire CFL roster' as one XFL official claims? The XFL-CFL comparison is more valid than a XFL-NFL comparison in my view."

That's a fair argument, Bryce. I know I'm Canadian, and this site is Canadian, and there's certainly no doubt that the XFL has been influenced by the original smashmouth football league -- the CFL -- but I think the whole mythos surrounding the XFL has been its fight against the NFL. Every comparison, every suggestion, every selling point of the XFL has been opposite of the NFL. That's just the tone that's been set, and I'm following it. But you're right, comparing it to the CFL would probably have been just as appropriate, and would have made my analysis more complete.

Go Als!

That's all for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to write in your feedback, and have a great week!


Send email to ebenner@hotmail.com.


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