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SLAM! WRESTLING: And Nothing but the Truth

SLAM! Sports
SLAM! Wrestling







Thursday, July 23, 1998

SLAM! Wrestling Guest Column

Staying neutral in the wrestling wars

By ERIC BENNER -- For SLAM! Wrestling
Why is it that I'm starting to feel like Switzerland whenever I watch the latest chapter in my favorite soap opera, Monday Night Wrestling? Or for the rest of the week, for that matter. That's because the border skirmishes we know as Raw and Nitro have broken out into full scale war, and I'm caught in the middle of it!

What if I asked the same question but phrased it differently? Why is it so wrong to like both World Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation? I just don't see it. Maybe that's why I'm a first class mark.

I can still remember what it was like when I was eight years old. It wasn't so much about selling moves, or chair-shots, or faces, or heels, or contracts, or jobs; it was about good guys, bad guys, and having a good time. I remember it so clearly because for me, that's still what it's about.

It's true that I've matured as a wrestling fan. My interest has grown, as has my database of wrestling trivia, and I have taken to the internet to get the 'inside scoop,' but with that satisfaction of knowing the real stories behind my favorite characters has come an extra scoop of cynicism and disgust.

Have you ever been to the bigger all-wrestling sites? It isn't for the weak of heart, and I don't recommend it to anyone with a heart condition, an unborn child, or a queasy stomach. Somehow, the internet community has managed to suck out all the life and all the fun from wrestling, which may I remind you is sports entertainment. I think some people have it down to a science. They don't even care about the television shows or the pay-per-views anymore, it's about who can get the quickest and juiciest scoops, whose site can get the most hits. It gets so competitive out there that I think a lot of people lose sight of what's important, and that's the show. Newsboards are full of 'reporters' who try endlessly to discredit each other. Editors do the same with their editorials. Apparently, a lot of sites have even found a way to cheat their own hit counter, to make theirs inflated. This all disgusts me, but luckily, I can flick my computer switch and leave that world. Unfortunately, I think some of that cynicism has spilled over into the real world.

I have to admit that ever since WCW introduced their nWo gimmick, about two years ago, I have become more interested in wrestling, basically because wrestling became more interesting. The competition between the two companies and their flagship Monday night programming made for some interesting television. But it got out of hand very, very fast. Soon enough, Eric Bischoff was revealing the results of taped Raws on the air in an attempt to steal viewers from them. Eventually, he got his viewers, not because of his childish antics but because the nWo was the hottest ticket in town. So hot, in fact, that Nitro would win the next ninety-eight weeks in a row in the almighty ratings. That doesn't mean the antics stopped there, though. Months of WCW signing WWF wrestlers followed, and it seemed they had a new surprise for us every week, from Razor Ramon, to Diesel, to the 1-2-3 Kid, to Mr. Perfect, to Ravishing Rick Rude, to the Ultimate Warrior (wait, not the Ultimate Warriors), to Brutus the Barber Beefcake, to Crush, to Bret Hart, to the British Bulldog, to Jim the Anvil Neidhart, to the Ultimate Warrior (wait, still no Ultimate Warrior), the endless stream of former WWF talent just kept on coming. It also helped that the foundations of WCW was based on two former Titan employees, Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan. Following that, there were two full years of low-brow, behind the back, subtle insults, from Jim Ross and Shawn Michaels to Hulk Hogan and Tony Schiavonne and right back. This eventually escalated recently to dX 'invading' WCW, and in the process editing footage to make it look like WCW was giving away many, many tickets to a Nitro, when in reality it was pictures of the sign for Nitro mixed with those of another show that was giving away tickets. Then there was Eric Bischoff's challenge to Vince McMahon to fight at a WCW pay-per-view. Bischoff won this match by 'count-out' since McMahon never showed or even discussed it -- well, except when he made an off the record comment that he'd fight Bischoff "any place, any time, in any parking lot, but never on WCW television." Fair enough. But did you have to send your employees to harass WCW?

I have to admit, this is all kind of amusing. WWF and WCW executives and employees are kind of like children in that regard. And as everyone knows, children are a pleasure to watch, but can be a pain to deal with.

That's why when fans started adopting the ideas and principles of their idols, I think things took a turn for the worse. All of a sudden, I would be condemned by a large portion of wrestling fans for liking Shawn Michaels, and condemned by the other equally large portion for liking Diamond Dallas Page. I was no longer allowed to enjoy both federations. I had to choose.

In the end, I chose not to. I still love both federations, both of their flagship shows, bother of their pay-per-views. I like wrestlers from Titan and I like wrestlers from Turner. And that's why I feel like Switzerland - I'm staying neutral in a war that seems to involve the whole world. To be honest, I think the entire situation is ridiculous. This is television. It's the equivalent of boycotting Drew Carey because you like Frasier; there's no reason not to just enjoy both of them. You're free to enjoy both, or one, or the other, or neither - but you shouldn't have to choose between them.

The truth is, I think broad-based statements about either federation are misplaced. Both organizations have their strengths and their weaknesses. In all honesty, I think you'll see better wrestling in WCW, but that's because their roster is triple the size of the WWF's. And in the WWF, there tend to be better pyrotechnics, promos, and all-around angles. But there are exceptions to both of those rules, as the WWF does have some very talented wrestlers and WCW doesn't have slouches for marketing executives.

Equally, both company presidents have their strengths, and of course, their weaknesses. Vince McMahon tends to avoid using shock as a reason to tune in to Raw. Eric Bischoff takes his time with angles and builds them up very slowly, which is a luxury his huge roster affords him. McMahon reads a crowd very well and generally markets his wrestlers well. Almost every former WWF star has achieved more success under the guidance of Bischoff. Conversely, McMahon likes to make title changes at pay-per-views to appease the fans and then basically revoke them the next night in a rematch (the most recent examples of this are Kane's recent world title victory at the King of the Ring, and the Hardcore legends' tag titles victory over the New Age Outlaws at Wrestlemania). Of course, many would argue that a title change then rematch is far superior to the large variety of repetitive screw-jobs found in WCW. Others would argue that they'd rather see interference if it means an occasional loss for some wrestlers, such as Ken Shamrock.

Eric Bischoff has taken the helm of his organization from the bottom of the barrel to the top in only a few short years. Vince McMahon has managed to recover from their two year reign as number two and win their ratings title back with a fraction of WCW's roster. Like all things and all people, the WWF, WCW, Vince McMahon, and Eric Bischoff all have their talents and their flaws.

So I don't see why everyone can't like both. On Monday nights, I tend to tape Raw and watch Nitro live, in that order only because I often discover Raw's results in advance. But the point is that I watch both, because I enjoy both.

And so often, the arguments of either camp are hypocritical. WWF fans cite that Hogan steals too much mic time, that his nWo angle is too dominant, that too little time is given to the real talent. WCW fans will rebut that Austin is given way too much mic time, that the dX angle is too dominant, and that McMahon restricts his cruiserweights and mid-carders to only a few moves "to increase their familiarity with the fans." If you examine those arguments closely, they generally tend to be one and the same. It occurs to me that fans of either organization could just as easily be fans of the other company for exactly the same reasons.

So why must I be chastised constantly for just liking both. For "marking out" to both of their programs? That's all I am, after all: a mark.

And why is it that my feet feel so small? That's because my shoes are so huge this week. I'm replacing the vacationing Donnie Abreu this week. He writes a consistently excellent column and I'm hesitant to even call myself a replacement. But here I am. My name's Eric Benner, I write a weekly internet wrestling column entitled 'The Ramblings of a MontreaLunatic,' and I'm happy to write this week for SLAM! Sports. Send any and all comments or feedback to ebenner@hotmail.com, and thanks for tuning in.

Looking forward to hearing from you

Ciao
Eric


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