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SLAM! WRESTLING

SLAM! Sports
SLAM! Wrestling







Friday, January 1, 1999

The Best and Worst of 98'

By "HARDCORE" CHRIS GRAMLICH -- For SLAM! Wrestling

In a year, which saw the WWF regain its edge, topple WCW's stranglehold on the Neilson ratings and have a convicted rapist working their biggest pay-per-view, it's time to examine both the good and the bad. The yin and the yang, the Stephen and Alec Baldwin, the old Coke and the new Coke, the face and the heel, the light and the darkness.

The World Wrestling Federation

THE GOOD

Stone Cold Steve Austin: Although Austin is in danger of becoming seriously overexposed, the fact that people haven't gotten sick of him yet is a good sign. His ability to do the job when required is an asset and he's seemed to have regained the step he lost after his near paralysis. He's not obsessed with being the champ and he's one of the best mic workers in the biz.

Mick Foley/ Dude Love/ Cactus Jack/ Mankind: The King of Hardcore lives on and as of next week will have achieved his boyhood dream of capturing the WWF Heavyweight Championship. By far the most insane worker in Vince's cadre, Mick has taken bumps that would have killed an average wrestler. Always striving to improve the sport and entertain the fans, 98' seemed to be the breakout year for Mick where he has established himself as a main-eventer and complete sociopath. Perhaps the best interviewee in wrestling.

Attitude: The WWF's new direction is indicative of what has brought them back to the top, harder action, more controversial angles, a disregard of the Politically Correct right and a number of vulgar catch-phrases. Sure there is a great deal of hostility towards the WWF's absence of family values. But the fans don't seem to mind and as a result neither does the WWF.

Fresh Blood: While the WWF can be criticized for only having four or five main-eventers, they haven't been shy about bringing in new talent at other levels. Al Snow and the J.O.B. Squad have been great so far and none of them have been used at half their potential. The Canadian contingent of Edge, Christian, Val Venis, Test and Tiger Ali Singh have all shown a great deal of promise and should make waves with a bit more seasoning. Gangrel is a steal, since he is a great talent who is tailor- made to be a heel and can wrestle the Hardcore style.

THE BAD

Vince McMahon: While he portrays the heel promoter better than anyone else, his reliance on himself to put people over is starting to wear thin. Still the genius everyone thinks him to be, McMahon is at his best when he's behind the eight ball and gets into ego trouble when he's not. He's in desperate need of more main-event talent.

Attitude: While the attitude angle has propelled the WWF back into the forefront it sometimes leads to some insipid ideas. The PMS/Mark Henry and Godfather angles for example.

The Underused: Kaientai comes to mind, as does Jeff Jarrett who will one day find a way to get over. Al Snow could easily become a major player with the right push. Marc Merro, Goldust, Too Cold Scorpio and Owen Hart are all waiting for that next level.

The Overused: Kane and the Undertaker who have fought too many times to even fathom another match. Degeneration-X who are great but really take up too much air time. The four main-eventers Kane/Undertaker/Austin/Mick Foley, as entertaining as they've been it's time for a change and there has been far too much talking and not enough wrestling to open Raw lately.

World Championship Wrestling

Weighted down by egos and far too much talent to push even with their numerous television shows, 98' will be remembered as the year WCW lost its grip on wrestling dominance even with all the wrestlers money can buy. The fact that they keep trying to have non-wrestlers in their main-events has not helped them either.

THE GOOD

Hogan's retirement: Although the horrible thought of Hogan coming out of retirement remains a strong possibility, stepping down and giving the reins to Nash (who is more in touch with today's wrestling fan), was the smartest thing WCW could have done.

Nash: Ending Goldberg's streak was another good idea. Sure the big man isn't the greatest wrestler but he is one of the most charismatic.

Chris Jericho: One of the most entertaining wrestlers in the biz today, Jericho is a superb athlete who talks a good game and wrestles an even better one. His interview and conspiracy theory segments are hilarious and he's one of the few wrestlers who seems to be having fun in the ring. He will be an even bigger star once Vince gets his hands on him.

The Cruiserweights: Rey Mysterio, Billy Kidman, Jeveuntud and Eddie have all stepped up to the plate to show the WWF how a lightweight division should be done. By far some of the best wrestling, both technical and high-risk the sport has ever seen. Although not given half as much air time as the heavyweights they've made the most of it.

ECW Talent: Even though Raven and Saturn have fallen on hard times, the acquisition of Bam, Bam Bigelow, the Sandman and Mikey Whipwreck should only help them in the long run. Especially it they wish to have any Hardcore type matches.

THE BAD

Hogan: Bischoff has let Hogan's ego run rampant and has subsequently paid the price. Hogan is over the hill, can no longer wrestle and books bad angles. Of course it's only a matter of time before they bring him back, so he can keep more young talent down and waste more Television time.

The New World Order: What started off as a great idea has turned into a protracted death knell. The White and Black has no momentum and few big names besides Steiner. The Wolfpack as a face group has been nothing special and unless the Outsiders reform, disbanding and then instigating a New World Order, it will continue its slow death.

Eric Bischoff: Not half as good at playing the heel promoter as Vince. Bischoff is an egomaniac who seems content to throw money at over-the -hill wrestlers when he has all the talent he needs to put himself back on top right at his fingers. His need to constantly be involved in all major angles is self-serving and pointless and the one thing he fails to realize is the fans don't hate the heel persona of Eric. They hate Eric.

Goldberg: While Goldberg is a big, strong guy, who has potential; he should never have been given either the belt or such an absurdly long winning streak so soon into his wrestling career. Now that he has lost, it'll be interesting to see whether anyone still cares about him after six months.

Flair: Although he was once one of the greats, it's time for him to retire. As much as everyone loves him, he is a pale imitation of his former self. Also when your greatest victory of the year is beating a non-wrestler (Bischoff) it's time to become a manager.

The Misuse of Talent: Strange that WCW has a plethora of talent yet we constantly see the same wrestlers week after week. Malenko, Benoit, Saturn, Raven, Eddie, Chavo. Booker T, all have talent and skills the WCW has failed to use for far too long. The list is virtually endless.

Commentators: Face it Tony sucks! Tenay is passable and Heenan always sounds drunk. Nowhere near as good as Jim Ross and the King, WCW's incessant hyping of crap by its announces has got to stop.

Extreme Championship Wrestling

While in serious trouble right now, ECW has basically been the prototype for the WWF's new attitude and has supplied both companies with numerous wrestlers. Still Hardcore and politically incorrect, ECW needs a minor miracle to survive these troubled times.

THE GOOD

Rob Van Dam: Perhaps the biggest thing in wrestling today. RVD has the potential to be the next superstar. He can wrestle any type of match, be it Hardcore, technical, high-risk or other. He is perhaps the most agile and gifted wrestler in North America and is extremely talented in the martial arts . RVD is equally adept at being a heel or a face and is still in his mid-twenties.

Justin Credible: Finally proving that he can be a main-eventer, Credible (formerly Aldo Montoya) is perhaps the biggest heel in the ECW taking over where Raven left off. The fact that he is an outstanding wrestler is just another reason why he's Justin Credible.

Taz, Dreamer, Sabu, and the Dudleys: The ECW alumni who have stayed, despite the numerous defections and the continuing contract offers. If the ECW is to survive it cannot afford to lose any of those previously mentioned.

Sabu: The most death-defying athlete in wrestling today had some great matches with the Sandman to redefine Hardcore in 98'. Sabu is too extreme for his own good and will probably die in the ring. The human-highlight reel is always a joy to watch.

HeatWave 98: Perhaps the best PPV of 98'. ECW reminded the Big Two what putting on a show is all about.

THE BAD

Mass Defections: Bam Bam Bigelow. The Sandman. Al Snow. Mikey Whipwreck. The Blue Meanie. All these guys have left ECW in a tight spot. With the remaining talent reviewing their options and the big two poised to scoop-up anyone who has ever been in the ECW, the future does not look bright.

November To Remember 98: Perhaps the worst PPV ECW ever put on, still better than any of WCW's though.

Television Problems: The ECW's inability to secure a national deal and numerous channels dumping has led to the mass exodus of talent. If the ECW is to get to the next level they need to be seen.

Canada: ECW still hasn't found a way to break into the Canadian market. One, which has proved to be a huge cash cow for the WWF and the WCW.




Chris Gramlich originally hails from "anywhere he damn well pleases" (a.k.a. Vancouver, BC). His hobbies include: wrestling, piercing various body parts, aggressive music, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Star Trek related programs, good animation, any all shark programs, video games, wrestling and walking his dog. Gramlich plays in a jazz/metal/punk/noise band called Association Area, being previous associated with bands such as Bad Blood and Tchort. Also a respected music writer based out of Toronto, "Hardcore" writes for the Exclaim and Doomhauled magazines.

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