EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, April 20, 2001
To Raw and Smackdown and back again
Before I continue, I'd like to apologize for missing a column deadline last week, one of my first in several years at SLAM!. Thanks to those readers to mailed in inquiring about me -- let's just say that circumstances warranted it and leave it at that. Now let's get to the rasslin'!
First off the bat, I think that we should probably give Steve Austin's heel turn some time. It may not be the most original thing this side of the New World Order, but I think it's playing out well so far. At the very least, when The Rock makes his return and Austin is established, that will be a hell of a feud. Many of the problems with Austin's heel turn though have more to do with the next issue than Austin himself.
With no competition, there was some argument as to whether the WWF would stay fresh or grow stale, and depending on how you look at it, I think one could make arguments either way right now. Not that it's any excuse, but the WWF has no less than twelve pay-per-view main events to fill each and every year, and I guess not all of them can be epics. Some of them have to be Kane and Undertaker vs. Steve Austin and Triple H. Personally, I think we've seen too many incarnations of this already, and it always seems to fall on this exact time of year. The one good thing that could come of this angle is perhaps a feud between Austin and Kane that actually develops Kane somewhat, but I'd probably expect an Undertaker-Austin feud more of the two.
There are other problems plaguing the WWF, though. Based on SLAM! readers who have wrote in, and I guess this could be Canadian bias, but it would seem that few people really agree with the Big Brothers Grim winning the tag team titles from Edge and Christian. For some reason, Edge and Christian, dominating as they may be in the tag ranks, always get squashed by the main eventers, and while it's certainly not helpful to Edge and Christian, I don't even believe it does anything for the Undertaker and Kane in this instance. A closer match would have helped, or maybe if Kane and 'Taker needed a few tries. But it basically seemed as though they could go and take the tag titles whenever they wanted to. That may be true based on size, but the tag division is a real winner in the WWF right now, and I wouldn't want to bury it.
That leads me to the next issue, which is that of Jeff Hardy's seemingly overnight push and burial. I wouldn't look into this too much. Insiders expected Backlash's main event to materialize as is since pretty much the day after Wrestlemania (again, it's Austin and Triple H against Kane and Undertaker), and going through the Hardy Boys was just a more interesting way to get there. I don't think this was done for the Hardyz in any sense. I think it was a means to set up Backlash. Secondarily, it was an effective way to push Austin's new heelness. If Jeff Hardy or Matt Hardy gained some rub as a result, so be it. At best, I think this may have been a test, and if so, then all the better, because it would seem that the fans reacted very well to Jeff as Intercontinental champion and opponent for Triple H. This will probably spell bigger and better things for them later. But they're young, and we shouldn't really worry about rushing it.
What people have been worrying about, though, is language used by The Big Show this week on Raw. In his tirade to Shane McMahon, he may or may not have allegedly used a racially derogatory term in describing Kaientai. Personally, I didn't catch it clearly enough to decipher what he said, but it sounded like that may have been exactly what he said -- or perhaps not. I just can't tell. This situation does remind me of a few years ago, on the pay-per-view in which Hulk Hogan and Jay Leno were involved in a WCW main event (I hesitate to say they "wrestled"), and Hogan had allegedly used a similarly derogatory term about Leno's sidekick Kevin Eubanks. That case, also, may have been a misunderstanding. It's so hard to tell, but when you don't know for sure, I wouldn't make a big deal about it.
Another matter of some concern this week has been AOL-Time Warner's unwillingness to allow certain performers, specifically Konnan and Shane Douglas, from wrestling in the XPW promotion while still under contract with the former WCW. Simply put, this is a dumb publicity stunt and a perfectly fair stance. Konnan and Douglas are collecting pay cheques without wrestling, and there's no reason that AOL should have to allow them to go and get more pay cheques from other sources while getting a free ride with them. If the information circulating is true, then they can always sign away their contracts for a fairly generous payoff, and that would rightly leave them free to work wherever they want. XPW, which at times makes the WWF look like Masterpiece Theatre, is just looking for some publicity here, and this 'story' should be buried here and now.
WCW's restart is apparently delayed by a month or so now. I was surprised when they said they could get it up and running so fast, so I sort of expected this. The longer they wait, the more time they'll have to prepare and do things properly, and the more time we'll have to forget what the name WCW has meant to us lately. For me, at least, it's a name that has not inspired confidence for a long time.
Well, that's what's going on in the world of wrestling this week. I've been itching to pen an article about submission holds, so hopefully I'll be able to get to that next week.
Here's the mailbag.
Steve Bretti, from firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
"I enjoy your column and read it each week. I read a lot on wrestling over the Internet but I felt today that I needed to voice my opinion about Wrestlemania and the final two matches on the card. Between Undertaker and HHH there were over 50 punches thrown, and in the the Rock-Austin "extravaganza" there were -- and I counted them in disbelief -- 140 punches, all right handed. What I'm trying to say is that their wasn't a lot of wrestling actually happening, and knowing that these guys aren't really punching each other it kind of disheartened me. I'm used to seeing Austin punch, its pretty much all he does -- but The Rock! He didn't do a spinning DDT, a Samoan Drop, a clothesline after bouncing off the turnbuckles, there were no suplexes, and his spinning neck breaker wasn't executed well at all. My point is at what point do we start calling it wrestling. It used to be that the punches were used to wear down the opponent long enough for you to actually execute a wrestling maneuver.
HHH was the same, although I am to understand that he had bronchitis and with Undertaker still not quite right, I'll let that slide. The TLC II match had so many major bumps in it that it nearly made me dizzy. I loved it all the same but there was just so much of it and all happening at the same time that when someone, I think it was Christian, had a major fall to the outside and the camera was still pointed to the middle of the ring and barely captured it. So these poor beggars are hurting themselves for all of the five people he landed in front of and just barely everyone else. Any way that's what I thought."
I'm not saying I don't agree with your points, Steve, but I think the WWF does this on purpose. Though brawling has clearly become a staple of wrestling in the 21st century, I think that the lengthy, punch-filled brawls that occupy pay-per-view main event slots are actually more about demonstrating a grudge and less about being competitive. For Triple H and Undertaker, it made sense. After all, they probably wanted to kill -- not pin -- each other. The shortest distance between two men is a fist. With Rock and Austin, though, it was supposed to be about the title, so I probably also would have been more comfortable with a really strong wrestling match than a big brawl. For grudge matches, though, brawls make more sense to me.
As for the camera work, there's not much I can say about that, except that it seems to have become an unfortunate pattern for the WWF of late. Hopefully they will get their act together.
Mike, from email@example.com, writes:
"You hit the nail right on the head when you said Wrestlemania had some very good matches. However, we can't (although I very much would want to) overlook the bomb of Chyna vs. Ivory, a squash that just about everybody could predict what was going to happen. Didn't the WWF realize this? And why has Chyna been in an "on again, off again" state. Please tell me there's still wonder left in the Ninth Wonder of the World."
Mike, I think you know as well as I do that Chyna isn't on the WWF roster to impress you with her dazzling array of skills. At this point, I think she is a legitimate well-known WWF personality who probably does more good than harm to their bottom line by being on the card, so if they're willing to keep her match time down, I am willing to look the other way.
Well, that's all for this week. Tune in next week for more of the same. Have a great weekend.
Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.