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  Wednesday, March 13, 2002



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READER ALERT: For all the latest wrestling happenings, check out our News & Rumours section.


DONNIE ABREU
By 'BIG DADDY' DONNIE ABREU
Special to SLAM! Sports


A weekly
SLAM! Wrestling
Editorial Column

Tough talent choices lay ahead for WWF

Big Daddy's Beefs

By DONNIE ABREU -- For SLAM! Wrestling

Since the end of last year wrestling fans everywhere have been talking about a roster-split. For weeks, and months it seemed this concept may be nothing more than internet rumor and speculation, but the "emergency board meeting" on RAW this week was certainly the beginning of the split. Jim Ross has referred to this move in his weekly article as "brand extension". He makes reference to the fact that it will allow for a change in the talent mix. The one part about this that I simply do not understand is this logic that once the company splits or has been "extended", that there will be so many more roster spots for current stars who aren't getting the TV time they deserve and time for young developmental wrestlers who are awaiting their opportunity. The WWF roster is absolutely huge and I don't see this split bringing more people on board unless they are willing to part ways with many of their current stars.

A typical episode of RAW features 6 or 7 matches. This week's show had 21 men in competition and 4 women. There were also another 10 that were on the show in a non-wrestling capacity (including Triple H, Jericho, Vince and Stephanie McMahon, Ric Flair and the bikini dancers at WWF New York). That brings our grand total to 35 performers that helped make this week's installment of RAW.

The WWF's roster currently lists more than 70 men and women who are under contract who could see TV time on any given day. This number does not include men like Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, The Stooges or Shawn Michaels. It does however include many member of the "Alliance" who have been out of action as part of the angle or nursing various injuries.

It's easy to forget about a superstar -- no matter how big when they've been off TV for an extended period of time. The WWF barely missed a beat when Austin, Rock and Triple H all had separate extended leaves of absence. Allow me to refresh your memory as to what the WWF has on the shelf right now. The following men are all expected to return after the roster split.

  • Chris Benoit was red-hot as a baby face and tag team champion with Chris Jericho before shutting it down to deal with a serious neck injury. He has steadily improved his mic work and has kept his game at a very high level. He is a legend in Canada and seemed to be just as loved in the United States. When he returns, I would expect to seem him resume his chase for a world title.

  • Remember Rhyno? The last time we saw him on TV he was being suspended as a member of the "Alliance". Truth is the man beast has been recovering from some serious injuries. He should be returning some time after WrestleMania. Prior to the injury, he had been a part of some high caliber feuds and had picked up wins against many of the top stars. Not to mention the fact that he dominated Y2J in singles competition. That could lead to a hot feud when the former ECW World Champion makes his return.

  • Mark Henry has been off WWF television for about two years paying his dues. He's been working small shows for small crowds while also trying to reduce his waistline. It seems that he had dropped all the way from 400 plus pounds to 320. Recently he bulked up again in preparation for the Arnold Strongman Challenge -- which he won. Instant storyline! Expect to see the former "Sexual Chocolate" make a return and do something to show the WWF wasn't insane when they signed him to a 10 year contract!

  • At one time D-Lo Brown simultaneously held the Intercontinental and European Championships. That could be a sign of a thin roster or it could be a sign that the bookers were very impressed with this young star and his potential. D-Lo first came into his own after defeating Triple H in a title match. Brown has been held off TV since his tag team with Chaz (who has since been released) failed. D-Lo is too good to sit on the sidelines any longer. One of the two shows will need him.

  • Mike Awesome. Yes, he struggled early on in WCW but as the ECW Heavyweight champion, Mike was truly awesome. Some sort of a gimmick change or makeover may be needed to push him to the next level in the World Wrestling Federation. Make no mistake about it though, Awesome has the size, ability and attitude to rise to the elite level in the WWF. All he has to do is learn to take care of his opponents a little better... something he has received a lot of criticism for in the past.

  • Raven Yes, he has been forgotten by many but apparently not by the office. Raven has a track on the new "Forceable Entry CD". If a song was cut for Raven, you can likely expect to see a lot more from this hardcore icon. He is the classic underdog who can cut a great interview. Promos don't always have to be catch phrases and comedy . When Raven speaks it reminds me of vintage Tully Blanchard or Arn Anderson. He is a throwback with a new millennium image.

    In addition to those stand outs, we also have men like Chris Kanyon, Hugh Morrus, Justin Credible, and Tommy Dreamer who can all contribute positively to either show.

    When it comes to developing young talent, the WWF has become a victim of its own success. Not since Val Venis, Edge, Christian, Test and Gangrel all entered the company has the WWF been faced with an infusion of so many fresh talents that can perform at a high level. Finding room for some of the blue chippers "down on the farm" may be difficult but it is necessary.

  • Brock Lesnar is a true superstar in the making. He has been working dark matches for what seems like forever. He has been unfairly compared to men like Glen Kulka. Certainly Lesnar's impact will be much greater than that of the former CFL star who never made it to WWF TV. Others have compared Lesnar to former WCW megastar, Bill Goldberg. Lesnar has the size and strength but that's where the similarities with Goldberg end. Lesnar is a college wrestling champion with far more mat wrestling ability than Mr. Jackhammer. He truly has the potential to be something special. On Monday, Brock did something that shows he may be getting closer to a television debut by pinning a member of the regular roster, in Spike Dudley.

  • Third generation wrestler Randy Orton was recently named Pro Wrestling Illustrated's 2001 rookie of the year and with good reason. Randy, who is the son of former WWF technical wrestling star "Cowboy" Bob Orton, has his father's intense work ethic and dedication to improving his craft. At just 21 years of age, Randy has plenty of time to develop, but those who see him on a regular basis believe he is ready for the big time now.

  • Three-time Ultimate Fighting Champion Ron "H2O" Waterman is a monster-sized individual with a tremendous amount of wrestling ability. The one factor working against Waterman is that he is a 35 year-old rookie. His window of opportunity may be closing before he even shows the world what he can do. Yes, he's in terrific shape, but without question, his time is now. Let's see what H2O can do.

    And let's not forget those who carry very valuable last names. In addition to Orton, we also have second generation performer David Flair (last seen being destroyed by The Undertaker), who has apparently worked very hard to make people forget about the character he was in WCW. David deserves a second chance -- keeping in mind the way WCW was run. David should have had all those horribly embarrassing moments in front of 200 people at an indy show somewhere ... not on National TV. And then there's Eric Angle. Kurt's older brother has had one WWF appearance but it was a memorable one. While wearing the same tights as his little bro, they pulled off the old "switch-er-oo" ala The Killer Bees and all those Doinks. Eric is bigger and stronger than his brother and seems to be a natural fit on the WWF roster. Might be interesting if they are separated after the roster split and Eric assumes Kurt's gimmick, claiming that he invented it anyway... much like Booker T and The Rock from 2001.

    As if that wasn't enough to take into consideration we also have tremendous prospects in the OVW like Prototype, Rob Conway, Nick Dinsmore, Sean O'Haire and Leviathon.

    Yes, it is a good problem to have. Certainly the WWF brass are elated to have these sorts of options and this kind of flexibility with their personnel. Things are a lot different than they were in the mid 90's when men like Mabel, Faarooq or the 1-2-3 Kid could be seen in the main event of a pay-per-view. The big issue here is to keep those who will entertain and drop those who have over stayed their welcome. It is not enough to simply assume everything will be okay after the split. Tough choices lay ahead. I'm glad they're not mine.

    Previous Columns

    March 6 ... I hate 'WHAT?'
    Feb. 28 ... Random targets
    Feb. 15 ... I hate 'WHAT?'





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