EDITOR'S NOTE: Eric Benner is SLAM! Wrestling's regular Friday columnist.
Friday, January 19, 2001
The logical WCW main eventers
The first priority of any wrestling organization has got to be around whom to centre the promotion. All of the success stories and all of the failures in wrestling have consistently been linked, in part or in whole, to the central characters and athletes in that federation. The Rock and Steve Austin most recently in the WWF, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash, and Hulk Hogan earlier in WCW, Hulk Hogan and others again in the WWF even farther back -- all have had major roles in their organizations' success. Then you've got Verne Gagne, Kevin Nash, and others, each inextricably connected to equally massive failures.
No matter what's going on behind the scenes, backstage, and in the background, who you have leading the charge in the foreground matters a great deal. That choice has to reflect your organization's culture, its direction, and its strategy. It would have been silly, for example, for the WWF to have professed 'Attitude' and to have had The Ultimate Warrior as their number one wrestler. There was a time and a place where Warrior was a good fit for world champion, but that time is at least ten years old now.
There's no one answer as to who WCW should choose as their champion, or as their eternal-challenger (like Austin circa 1997-98).
For example, they could go with Booker T. Booker is a face and in the minds of most WCW fans, just about always has been. He's not a renegade, he isn't anti-establishment, and he doesn't feel the need to use three tons of profanity to get his point across. He's not cutting edge, but he's not un-hip, either. If WCW wants to go the clean route, profess to be family entertainment, and make themselves mostly immune to the rhetoric of groups like the PTC, then Booker would be the way to go.
Or, conversely, they could try Scott Steiner. Both men are proven champions, if not necessarily proven draws. Steiner is the anti-Booker. He's more comfortable as a heel, and fans love to hate him. His bad boy reputation backstage makes him a perfect candidate for an innovative, almost-real heel to suit an age of better-informed wrestling fans. If WCW was going after the WWF's core audience in an attempt to gain ratings immediately and build from there, then a few stunts from Steiner couldn't hurt. Of course, there are consequences to this course of action not present in the Booker T option -- Steiner really has proven to be a menace, and that's not always the kind of person to build a company around. Also, Scott Steiner is no spring chicken and won't likely still be wrestling five years from now.
Meanwhile, there's still always Kevin Nash. He's still got more name recognition than anyone else left in WCW, and he's got that always important WWF seal of approval on his resume. Nash is big and has instant credibility based on his looks. When he's on his game and motivated (not always the case), he can go toe-to-toe with anyone in a war of wits. Nash also has that hint of being a backstage bad boy, but he also has a reputation as an old, lazy has-been. Though he's certainly got usefulness left in him, this may not be the man WCW will want to hitch its trailer to for the long haul.
There are other choices, as well. I like to throw Lance Storm into the mix even though he needs more time and build-up. There's Jeff Jarrett, too, but his name has come up less and less in main event situations, and I don't really think WCW has any faith left in him. Of course, there's also Hulk Hogan, with more name recognition than most of these guys put together, but Hogan doesn't bring a lot more to the table than that, and at the end of the night, he walks away with a big chunk of the money.
Personally, and I hate to say it, I don't think WCW can afford to think exclusively about the long run right now. They have to generate some short-term interest through good booking and solid wrestling, and they'll probably get the best performances out of the likes of Steiner and maybe even Nash, if someone motivates him. That will only work, though, if while that's going on some attention is paid to the next few years down the road and some guys are properly built up. Then, have Steiner pass the torch and the title along to someone more suited to be the centre of the WCW universe, and hopefully build a stable fan base around whoever that is.
Of course, there are a lot of ifs in all of this. Good booking, solid wrestling, sensible storylines, and logical choices for main eventers have been anything but a given in WCW in the past. I just hope they won't continue down that road, or this may be their last big run.
Here's the mailbag.
Carl Hancock, from firstname.lastname@example.org, writes:
"Just thought I'd drop you a line after reading your recent article. You mention Vince Russo in practically every paragraph, as if he is a sure bet to return to the new WCW writing team. But I think you need to go back and read one of your own quotes:
'Exodus. Eric Bischoff, from all accounts, doesn't know how to bury a hatchet. He holds grudges, or at least he's known to. That means some wrestlers must already be looking for work or waiting to. If I were the Radicals, I'd be glad I left when I did.'
Vince Russo won't be back under the new Bischoff regime because the two don't get along, and during Bischoff's last run with WCW working alongside Russo... they blew up on each other climaxing with Bischoff getting so fed up with Russo and his antics that he LEFT at Bash At The Beach due to the Hogan fiasco.
'Bischoff and Russo know they have to make a big impact at the onset of this newly owned, revitalized promotion if they want to make a dent in the WWF's momentum and dominance.'
You speak about the two as if they will be running things side by side when in fact the chances of Vince Russo returning and being a contributor to the new company are extremely slim, so slim that it really isn't worth speculating on what Russo would do upon his return because the fact is he probably will not be back.
Bischoff doesn't like Russo's brand of wrestling, and he made that clear in his media conference call held to announce the sale of WCW to Fusient. Russo's time in wrestling has come and gone, he was a one-trick pony whose 15-minutes of fame have come to an end."
I'm not commenting on the logic of bringing back Russo, or Bischoff's feelings about it. May I point you back to the second paragraph of the press release we printed on the site as the news broke last week:
'The winner? Meet Fusient Media Ventures. The boss? Same as the old boss, Eric Bischoff. Upon his return Bischoff is also bringing back television writer Vince Russo to put together the angles / scripts for WCW.'
Until someone tells me otherwise, that's what I will assume. Fusient is a business, and if they own WCW, Bischoff may not even be making all of these decisions.
That's all for this week. Thanks for reading and have a safe and happy weekend!
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