Big Daddy's Beefs
By DONNIE ABREU --
For SLAM! Wrestling
Nick Tylwalk said it best regarding Monday's historic episode of the all new Raw brand. "If you're a fan of change, tonight's Raw is for you." Personally, I've always been a fan of change. I have written numerous articles over the years where I talk about the importance of keeping the audience visually stimulated but the April 1st broadcast seemed to just be jam packed. So, I bring you The Good, The Bad and The Ugly for this week's historic episode of Raw!
Union Underground started things off properly with a hot new intro track for the WWF's flagship program. The song is aggressive and tight. Raw really needed a new theme! It's been years! The music was matched nicely with the visuals and the new harder edge graphics. So far, I'm happy.
Unconfirmed rumors have it that Rob Van Dam has been unhappy in recent weeks despite his Intercontinental title win at Wrestlemania. The reason being, he's not getting the type of TV time he is looking for. When RVD was in ECW, he said something to me in an interview to the effect of "I hated my matches in the WWF" talking about his first stint as "Mr. Monday Night" during the ECW Invasion. "Three minutes with the Road Dogg isn't what I want. Thirty three minutes with Jerry Lynn is what I'm about". Well, Lynn is a member of the WWA now, and it wasn't a thirty three minute bout but Van Dam did have the first match on the all new show -- defending his strap against Booker T. That match ran about 7 minutes. That doesn't sound like much but in the world of WWF television that's a really long match! Hopefully this is a sign of things to come for "The Whole Dam Show".
It was great to see Eddy Guerrero back in the World Wrestling Federation. Eddy who was released last year to deal with "personal demons", was last seen on a WWA pay per view winning the Cruiserweight championship. Suddenly, he has been thrust into an Intercontinental title program with one of the hottest names in the world today. What would really make me smile, is if a match between these two is interrupted by a returning D'Lo Brown! Yes, the former European and I-C champion is a member of the Raw roster! Can you imagine a three way dance for the title under "Frog Splash Pinfall Only" rules? I'm loving that!
Will Spike Dudley ever be a top level star in the company? No. However, steps were taken this week to elevate the little guy and they did it the old fashioned way! Having the major underdog pick up a non-title win against the veteran champion. Non-title matches DO still have a place in wrestling to elevate lower card talent. That should also be the main function of the European title. It worked for the aforementioned D'Lo Brown when he upset Triple H. It worked for Christian... It even worked for current champ William Regal (during his first reign). It might just work for Spike.
Kane has long been considered a main even talent but you can count his main event appearances on pay per view on one hand. On Raw, Kane will be expected to step up to the next level. He won't be alone though as it appears Bradshaw is finally getting a chance to show that he can run with he big dogs. He didn't look out of place throwing Hall and Nash around. He's got the size, the charisma and the reputation. Shine Bradshaw shine!
Brock Lesnar on Raw. Period.
I don't like the new set. Not one bit. Sure, part of it had to do with the first week glitches (images were not centered on the slanted Titan Tron, and the side screens didn't work all night) but it was more than that. To me, it looks like something the WWF would have produced four years ago. In terms of aesthetic appeal, it lacks some of the harder edge that the old set was so famous for.
I've always been opposed to changing the championship belts. I still curse the day the front office got rid of the old Intercontinental title belt (the one worn by Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, etc) and replaced it with the slim-line pro-boxing-style strap that exists today. I enjoy looking at old pictures and seeing the champions of the past, holding a particular title belt that is being worn by one of today's stars. That always seemed to be a way to make the belt mean something to the fan. Shawn Michaels broke down and cried when he won his first WWF World title at WrestleMania. That particular belt had been worn by big names like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Bob Backlund and Andre The Giant (although only for a day). The WWF title belt that is now being put on the shelf has only been in circulation since 1998 when Steve Austin defeated the Heartbreak Kid. I understand, the idea was to start fresh and prevent every new champion from holding two belts, but still.... I don't like it.
What I do like is Raven's new look which was revealed last week on Smackdown when he finally returned to the show. His makeover was so well done and so drastic that it tends to make fans forget about the on-air joke that he had become. The WWF didn't start his "push" all that well having him drop his piece of scrap metal to Bubba Ray Dudley. Bubba Ray is a tag team icon but a virtual unknown in the singles division. A loss to Raven would not have hurt him one bit because nobody expected anything from him. If he had put Raven through a table at the end, the crowd would have popped even louder than they did for the switch. A win for Raven might have been a big step forward towards credibility. In the end, who's going to make more money for Raw: Raven or Bubba Ray?
The nWo is over ladies and gentlemen as soon as it began. The "poison" that was injected into the company has gone from attempting to destroy the WWF to making a bit of a mess in the backstage play area. I must admit, I also thought it was ridiculous that the APA's office looked the way it did on Smackdown despite the fact that the two shows were in different arenas, in different cities.
Why weren't the Hardy Boyz split up? There is absolutely nothing left for these two to accomplish as a WWF tag team. The bookers attempted a "traditional" tag team split between but the fans didn't like it ... so it seemed the draft would be the perfect opportunity to see if Matt or Jeff could make it on their own. Both have had modest singles careers already, picking up a little hardware along the way but not nearly enough to establish them as being individuals. If they stay together I expect to see them used as food for up and coming tag teams to build a reputation and of course, as Lesnar's throw pillows.
A show "run" by Ric Flair features a Bikini match between two non-wrestling females on the roster. To make things worse, there's a paddle on a pole. Oh dear. I know that Ric has always been a "wheelin dealin' kiss stealin' son of a gun" but isn't this the sort of thing he used to balk at when he was in World Championship Wrestling? Couldn't we have seen a match featuring Goldust, Justin Credible, Tommy Dreamer or Stevie Richards instead?
Mr. Perfect good. Teamed up with the Bossman? Bad. Very very bad.
Word has come through from the good people at 1Wrestling, that as of the April 1st show, wrestlers are no longer being invited to the post-production meetings. Traditionally, workers were welcome to voice their input, offer suggestions or just listen in. More than likely this is related to the WWF's laughable media ban and they have made this move to try and stop leaks to the press. What it will likely accomplish though is a decreased level of moral in the locker room.
Don't you think that if you know more about your job and what's going on in your workplace, you'd be a happier person, and motivated to work harder? This gives the boys all the more opportunity to gossip amongst themselves about their storylines and direction. We don't even have to mention the fact that the writing team isn't exactly batting a thousand over the last couple years! You'd think ANY suggestions from their talent would be appreciated! Despite this new rule, do you really think that Triple H, Hogan or Austin will be kept out of production meetings if they REALLY want to be there? Won't that be creating a tiered system within the company that has long bragged about their happy little family backstage? Wasn't that one of the big complaints in WCW? If these reports are indeed accurate, this is bad. Very bad.
What was the deal with the crowd's reaction to the Nature Boy? When he asked for a "Hell Yeah!" the fans just gave him a luke warm cheer. They didn't "Hell Yeah" for him. At the end of the show, there was a very long, awkward period after Steve Austin signed his Raw contract. Flair was strutting, Austin was staring and the crowd was silent. No music. No heat. Nobody cared. The only thing that partially saved the bit was Austin hitting the legend with a Stunner but even then the crowd seemed somewhat subdued. What's up Albany? Don't want to be fair to Flair?
For the first time in his five year WWF career, Kane lifted his arms to the sky and when he brought them down ... NOTHING happened! Good thing he had a mask on or the guys in the back row might have seen the seven foot monster blush from embarrassment!
I HATE broken stipulations! Just one week after Vince McMahon said goodbye to Raw "forever" he is back on the show and ends up with more air-time than any other performer. The more things change ...
I will say this ... the new show did enough to make me want to see how Smackdown! responds (since they are in "competition") and I am curious to see who else is elevated and how much time is given to actual wrestling matches on the show. All in all, not a bad first kick at the can. They haven't ruined this angle in week Number One ... which is a lot more than we could say for the Alliance story of 2001.
March 27 ... Hey Vince! We remember Montreal
March 13 ... Tough talent choices lay ahead for WWF
March 6 ... What's wrong with Wrestlemania?
Feb. 28 ... Random targets
Feb. 15 ... I hate 'WHAT?'