EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch for Donnie Abreu's column every Thursday.
Friday, June 5, 1998
Wrestling, it's a popularity contest
This week on Raw Is War, I saw a fan hold up a sign when Degeneration X came out. It simply read "SHUT UP AND WRESTLE!" Have you ever heard anything so ridiculous? For months I've received email from listeners of my RealAudio show and readers of Slam! stating that there is entirely too much talking on any given WWF or WCW program. You know what REALLY burns me up about this? These are the same people who go to a house show and chant "BOR-ING ... BOR-ING" during every single match because all they're doing for 2 hours is watching a bunch of guys bounce around! I realize that many of you are well aware of the importance of a wrestler's interview, but for those of you who just don't get it ... allow me to explain.
There are many ingredients that go into making a successful wrestler. Obviously image is very important ... the guy's gotta have some sort of a unique look! In ring ability helps, but isn't always crucial. The Ultimate Warrior, Sid, and Andre The Giant were not exactly tacticians. The ability to make yourself and your opponent look good is definitely a plus! Finally, the most important part(s) of that recipe is the ability to work a microphone, relate to the fans and get a reaction. That may not have been the case 30 years ago, but in 1998 (a time when we've "seen it all!!") it's probably the single most critical component. In fact, it's next to impossible for any grappler to "get over" without the ability to deliver a half decent monologue.
The average wrestler has a "silent shelf life" of about a year. In other words: For 12 months your favourite star will impress you, win you over, make you buy their t-shirt, and swear they are the greatest. After that one year mark, most fans start getting bored of just watching a guy kick butt. They demand more. People like to know about their heroes ... they want to relate to them. Just look at the biggest names in the sport today. Steve Austin, Hollywood Hogan, Mick Foley, Kevin Nash, Triple H, Rocky Maivia, and others. All of them are as good (or better) with a mic as they are with an opponent.
Ric Flair has been called the greatest of all time ... but when you speak of Flair, do you mention the arm bars, snap mares or elbow drops? No ... all you say is "WHOOOOO!" Even the WWF tag champs, The New Age Outlaws ... does anyone cheer them based on what they do in the ring? I don't think so! Before they ever opened their mouths they were just a couple of jobbers with bad gimmicks. Now they're one of the hottest things in the business and we love 'em cause they're a couple of hysterical guys with a bad attitude. Now think of the names that impressed you for a time, but then for one reason or another, fell out of favor. Malenko, Benoit, Bulldog, Luger, Mero, Jarrett, and even The Wolfpack's newest prize ... Sting!
When Sting was hiding up in the rafters for a year, wrestle-heads everywhere fell in love with him all over again. He won the title and then what happened? You got bored. He didn't entertain ... he didn't make you laugh, or shiver ... he just stood there, looking like some kid who was thrown out of a Marilyn Manson concert.
Why do you think Lex Luger NEVER won a damn thing when he was in the World Wrestling Federation?
The Undertaker, despite his all too brief title reign in his first year with Titan, was really an afterthought in the minds of most until he started speaking for himself, and Uncle Paul hit the bricks!
Kane is a lot like the Undertaker was in the beginning ... a big silent destroyer. The only difference is Kane has been getting huge ovations! Sooner or later though, the pops will stop and we'll wanna hear him say .... SOMETHING!!
Goldberg. He's arguably one of the most popular in the galaxy today ... (though I can't understand why!!) but will you be saying that in June of 1999? Doubtful. I play tape of a Goldberg interview to cure insomnia. To paraphrase Jerry Lawler ... "Goldberg is sooo boring that when he gave a speech ... Christopher Reeve got up and walked out."
If you really want to know what the future of WCW is, look to the "Conspiracy Victim" Chris Jericho. Sure, the Lion Tamer is impressive, but when he talks, people listen!
To WCW's credit, they have tried to silence those who lack the gift to gab ... but doing so really handicaps them in the eyes of the consumer. Why else has The Crippler Chris Benoit been screwed for so long? Benoit could very well be the best pound for pound grappler in the universe ... but it doesn't matter!
I know some of you are sitting there reading this and saying to yourself, "Well, I don't need to familiarize myself with these guys ... let's just see 'em fight!" OK ... So how many of you want to see 2 or 3 hours of televised wrestling? I mean "wrestling" ... nothing but! Just a couple guys rolling around in their underwear ... While we're at it, why not take away the play by play man too? We wouldn't want to take away from the action!! Please. Vince McMahon himself said on Off The Record that fans demand more that the bare basics ... hence their new attitude.
There are tons of examples of "good wrestlers" that people just don't care about ... Alex Wright, Jerry Flynn, Bart Gunn, Marty Jannetty, Taka Michinoku, Lenny Lane, Dan Severn and others. What do they all have in common??
To all you professional wrestlers that read my column (and I know there are a few!) and to those young up and comers who struggle to speak when put on the spot ... take my advice...Here are...
Big Daddy's 3 Easy Steps to being popular
Agree? Disagree? Think I'm completely out to lunch? E-Mail me your response and let me know. firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll sample some responses in next week's column.
Each week at the end of my article I will include a random selection of letters I received from the readers of Slam! Wrestling. Dear Big Daddy, I have an idea for a wrestler to join Jackal's freak-show,... How about Ric Flair! I mean this guy is old and nasty. They could play up on that disgusting growth on his back. He could touch people with it and make them puke,.. in fact that would be his finishing move. He could feud with Puke (cause he is used to puking, so it wouldn't hurt him as much). Does this insult those of you in the "free Ric Flair movement"? Oh well, I hope he never wrestles again, for god's sake Bischoff is in better shape.
Well personally, I've never been a big Flair fan ... and I'm not on the "Free Ric" bandwagon. To me, he's not good enough to qualify for The Parade of Human Oddities.
Some other rejects i'd like to see in the circus, King Kong Bundy, he's a living saint, Peggy Bundy, dead porn star John Holmes, kim campbell who led the federal pc's to a whopping 2 seats, Killer Kahn he's an odd ball for sure and some guys from stampede the cuban assassin, Moamar Kuaffi and Sadame Hussein, these boys know how to party.
I like your suggestion of our former Prime Minister! I could see her dressing up like Princess Luna! John Holmes? Naw! We've got the 1998 version now! Canada's own Sean Morely AKA Val Venis!
I can only hope you were kidding about that human oddity crap being anything other than another, in a long line, of vinnie mac's childish soon to be failures. Celeberty? Careers? did I misread or did you use these words in conjunction with Howard Stern's stable of losers on loan to the vinnie mac ripoff Bischoff hour.
P.S. I bet you probably enjoyed the Mad Dog Vachon/Lawler disgrace as well. Did'nt you.
Actually yes! I loved seeing Lawler stick it to Vachon! When is Mad Dog gonna learn? The only time they ever invite him to a Pay Per View is when they wanna literally rip someone's leg off!
I would like to see Kurgan and the Undertaker wrestle I think it would be a good match. But I think Kurgan has got a lot to learn. O I could care less about the Jackyll. I have been watching wrestling for years about thirty to be exact and I have never heard of him untill now. He just gets on my nerves.
Rick Carter email@example.com
Kurrgan has some potential ... Hopefully his new gimmick (which was dreamed up by Mick Foley and The Undertaker) will help. The only problem is that he's 7 feet tall and is about as strong as a wet paper towel. Just because you've been a fan of the WWF or WCW for a long time it doesn't mean you know everything there is to know! Jackal lit up the independents, both as a singles wrestler and as a tag team with Rick Martel. He's young, arrogant, and he's gonna be around for a looong time!!
Remember me well i'm the one who said that the HITMAN RULES, weel guess what he does. Their is not in my opinion another tecknical wrestler like the hitman, Hogan, give me a break , he should not be W.C.W champion, the hitman should be, and it won't be long now and he will be.Guys like hogan, they can't fight out of a paper bag,anyway you don't know nothing about wrestling,who the hell hired you anyhow.
HITMAN FAN FROM THE EAST COAST
PLUS, I GOT TO MANY THINGS TO DO ON MY TIME OFF THEN TO WASTE IT ON SOMEBODY LIKE YOU,.
It's like a drinking game! Take a letter written by a devoted Bret Hart fan ... for EVERY grammatical error or spelling mistake, take a shot! If this person has better things to do than waste their time on me, WHY do I keep getting email from them??
Where is and what is the latest update on Tiger? Is he still contracted with the WWF or has he departed for the WCW or ECW?
Lastly what are your personal views on him as a wrestler and what prediction do you have is any on his future?
Looking forward to your earliest reply.
He IS still under contract ... In fact, just this week I received word from the WWF that Tiger Ali Singh will be back soon! To date, he's been on one pay per view (and even that one wasn't available to the U.S.) where he beat Al Snow, and he's had one match up on Raw.
I consider myself lucky enough to have gotten to know Tiger. He's a great guy with a fantastic attitude ... He is definitely one of the most abused in the sport, but I think he feels like his time is coming! He has the potential to be star for many years ....