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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, June 22, 2001

WCW "invasion" off to a slow start

Eric Benner
By ERIC BENNER
Special to SLAM! Sports


A weekly
SLAM! Wrestling
Editorial Column

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With a largely unhyped King of the Ring card up at the plate, most fans are instead looking toward the on-deck circle, at next month's Invasion pay-per-view. Given that this kind of interpromotional feud has been dreamt about by many a wrestling fan since the Monday Night Wars began, I can't blame them. With Austin's downright odd handicapped title defense headlining the pay-per-view and the King of the Ring tournament itself seemingly an afterthought, it's no wonder fans are looking ahead to Invasion, skipping their attentions past this Sunday's show as if it were In Your House: Insert Name Here. After all, it almost seems as though this WCW invasion angle is a sure thing, a definite hit. Well it isn't, and as of right now, the WWF is not doing so hot.

Sure, I'm enjoying what I've seen so far of the WCW mini-invasion. That's not because it's been handled especially well, though. Fans have been waiting for this kind of thing for years, now, and I'm convinced that you or I could write out this angle so that it at least wasn't terrible. People are already receptive to it. It sells itself, because of the build-up. Last time I checked, though, not being terribly wasn't a particularly lofty goal to strive for. It's no accomplishment to get fans to pop for a confrontation between Diamond Dallas Page and Undertaker. The accomplishment would be to get fans to chant loudly, to make this invasion memorable and shocking. So far it has been none of that.

The now-infamous nWo angle is in many ways the exact equal and opposite to this angle. Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, shortly after finishing their last WWF run, ‘invade' WCW and form a group. That angle, too, was in many ways a sure thing. It was just such a cool idea that it immediately hooked with fans and doubled WCW's fan base within a year. If it had proceeded at the same snail's pace as the WWF's more recent invasion, though, who knows what would have happened.

First, Lance Storm interferes in a lower mid-card match. Then, Hugh Morrus interferes in a higher profile match, but his entrance is as clumsy as his moonsault and he doesn't even attack someone involved in the match. Miss Hancock distracts Rhyno and causes him to lose the hardcore title. Shane McMahon interferes half a dozen times himself, mostly annoying Kurt Angle. No performer is ever seen more than once, and the appearances seem more random than anything. At this point, the WWF was off to a bad start. They could have really started this angle with a bang, but instead opted for a whimper.

Finally, a former WCW champion appears, as Diamond Dallas Page reveals himself to be Undertaker's stalker. While definitely a good payoff as a mystery man in the stalker feud, Page's entrance didn't do much to further the invasion. Sure it was fun to watch, but it wasn't a water cooler moment. Kevin Nash powerbombing Eric Bischoff five years ago was a water cooler moment. Scott Hall shooing away Sting and Lex Luger was a water cooler moment. DDP lying in Undertaker's bed -- not exactly.

It's not as though the WWF has burned its bridge and can't really light a fire under this angle. Far from it. There's still plenty of time for that, and I fully expect this megafeud to rock the house before its time is up. But their chance to start it off on the right foot, to make its beginnings the stuff of legend, that's gone. If anything, what we've seen so far has just desensitized us to seeing WCW wrestlers on WWF television, so that when Booker T or Buff Bagwell or whomever show up, we'll be ready for it. The buzz will have been killed.

The WWF creative team has to realize that though this angle is a sure thing, it's only sure to be good. It's not sure to be great. That's up to the bookers, the writers, and the performers. So far, I'm leaning toward good.

MAILBAG

Chris Beach, from cbeach40@hotmail.com, writes:

"I just read your most recent article, Overexposure and desensitization, and I thought it was pretty good. In the part at the end where you answered the reader mail, someone asked why they use those chain-link cages and not the old blue steel ones. Basically, I think the reason is that it just takes too damn long to set up and take down. I was watching an old Pay-Per-View, and it took them about seven minutes to set it up, and seven more to take it down. That just doesn't really work for live TV and PPV. The other ones just drop from the ceiling and the bolt the bottom. I personally preferred the old ones, but that's just my opinion."

"That's a good point. I know that at house shows, where they still use the blue stuff sometimes, it can be a long wait. Much more than seven minutes often, since it's not a pay-per-view and I suppose there's no rush.

But I stick to my guns on this one, the chain link fence is superior. I can't imagine Hell in the Cell on the blue bars.


Cory, from cgavin1@attcanada.ca, writes:

"I can tell you right now why the WWF is declining in ratings, popularity, etc. They simply dropped the ball. They had a great chance after an awesome Wrestlemania to take the wrestling world by storm. They bought ****ing WCW!!! This should have been the biggest angle ever! We could have had Goldberg come out the night after Wrestlemania, and spear Austin. We could have had Flair, Hall, Nash, anybody. But no, Vinny Mac doesnt sign any of these people. Sure it may have cost a lot, but think of the buy rate of a WCW-WWF PPV headlined by Austin-Goldberg. Wrestling would be mainstream for the first time since Andre-Hogan. Ratings and attendance would be through the roof. Instead we get Hugh Morrus give Edge a botched moonsault in a match that Edge wasnt even in. WWF simply dropped the ball.

Yes, for the right price, the WWF probably could have had Goldberg spearing Austin. But Goldberg is still collecting pay on his way overpriced Time-Warner former WCW contract, well into the seven digits. So not only would the WWF have had to pay him a massive amount of money to get him out of that contract and an equally high amount of money to get his ego on board, but they also would have totally disrupted their own pay structure, which doesn't often call for really high guaranteed salaries. So all of the guys who have stuck with the WWF would have gotten the shaft, and their finely-balanced locker room would have been disrupted. Then it would be all about egos, folks would feud behind the scenes, the product would suffer, and in six months I'd have to write a column about how the WWF shouldn't have signed Goldberg. Same goes for Kevin Nash, only he's got less of a future. Same for Scott Hall, only he has personal problems.

As I wrote above, I don't think that Hugh Morrus was the answer. I also agree that the WWF may have dropped the ball on this one so far. Maybe signing Diamond Dallas Page and Booker T right off the bat would have helped. Either way, signing WCW's high-priced not-so-free agents was not and is not the answer.


That's all for this week. Have a great weekend!


Send email to ebenner@hotmail.com.


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