Last night gave us a mediocre offering on both sides of the coin, but produced some bright spots including (but not limited to) the return of Bret Hart, another superb lucha tag match, and some match between a couple "good little wrestlers" with a world title match at stake. Meanwhile, we also witnessed another breathtaking lesson from the 'new brood', D'Lo Brown, and the Edge / Christian pairing, and Kane established himself as a serious main eventer.. But hey.. I'm getting ahead of myself.
-Out of nowhere, something completely foreign to Nitro started the show.. a surprise! Bret Hart's music blared, and I perked to attention to see what was going down. About a minute later, Tony Schiavone finally exploded with "My god! That's Bret Hart!". What a tool. Aside from the moronics of the lead broadcaster, Hart's interview still seemed to be missing something. He had a bit more heart behind his words this week, and made a good point when mentioning that he was "thinking too much". After which, he jumped feet-first into his long-awaited feud with Hogan. Who makes the better heel? Check out the letters at the bottom of this column to see my opinion.
-Riding high on that wave, Turner-land wasted no time in killing the night's expectations, taking us right to DJ RAN and RICKI RACHTMAN!!! Wooo! I think I'd rather watch tennis than this. Wait.. scratch that.
-During the cruiserweight match, I kept waiting.. and waiting.. and waiting for mention of Kaz Hayashi to solidify the match I'd hoped would make it's way to the Fall Brawl lineup. Alas; no such luck. I really hope August/September's jobber of the month, Evan Kurrageous (and his Van Halen wannabe entrance music) doesn't walk on to the cruiserweight challenger's slot on the upcoming PPV.
-Out came Vampiro and the ICP, who must've taken note of Sid's use of the run-in to boost his record and hoped to use it to their advantage as well. Hell, using that logic the "fan" that clocked Lenny is already 1-0.
-What was the reasoning behind the steel cage main event? Did they just have a cage handy, and decided to go ahead and throw that in as a 'bonus'? Usually, these things happen for a reason. DDP/Savage from many moons ago was to keep the nWo b&w out.. War Games is a tradition in the steel. Tonight's use was worthless, and didn't do anything to help the match anyway. Just more stupid, stupid booking by the WCW committee. I'm wondering if there wasn't a storyling planned behind this, and Hogan didn't screw it up and spoil it in his interview? I guess we'll never know.
-Quoth King Schiavone: "We're giving away a million dollars! This has never happened in our industry!" What a short memory span.. Didn't the WWF do it at a Survivor Series or Summerslam a couple years ago? I'll forget about it, if I'm given the said cash though..
-Why couldn't the pianist keep playing during Sid's rant this week?
-Oi, was the Harlem Heat interview a folly of errors. I almost thought it to be a humor segment, between Gene's dropping of the mic, Booker T's fury, and Stevie Ray's mucking up the difficult 'sunglasses removal' hold.
-Why do I get the sick, sick feeling that they'll try to convince us that Bret Hart jumped Sting in the locker room last night? Here, let me spell it out for you.. "HE WON'T WORK AS A HEEL". Don't mess it up.
-I am enjoying a bagle with cream cheese!
-The battle royal was actually a refreshing change of pace, especially considering it ended cleanly and we didn't have to suffer through too much of Brian Knobbs. Good to see the Revolution going over strong in this one too.. Given the contestants, I don't think I could've booked it better. They even portrayed Shane Douglas as the weak link of the Revolution. Bravo!
-For another change, I enjoyed the Cat-Bo segment. I hate Tae-Bo, and this segment was just hilarious. Mega points were awarded for that guy at the end, saying "Now I can be the greatest.. just like the Cat!"
-Why was Johnny Swinger v Prince Iaukea on this card? That's barely suitable for Saturday Night. It hasn't been long enough since I've seen Swinger, and the only time Iaukea was interesting was during his feud with Jericho.
-It's sad that Steven Regal is jobbing to Buff these days. Ah, well. I guess they had to put him over someone to soften the blow of jobbing to Berlyn on the PPV. Still; if this was legit, Bagwell wouldn't be walking right now.
-Blitzkrieg/Juventud Guerrera/Psychosis v Kidman/EddyGuerrero/Chavo. How could this match NOT kick my ass? As for rumors that Juvi's change in wardrobe was 'punishment' to Kidman, I'm really wondering how that can be so. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, plus if they consider another Kidman/Juvi feud, this time with more behind it than the cruiserweight belt to be punishment, then WCW needs to begin punishing a helluva lot more often. I can't even begin to note the cool-ass spots this one saw, except Blitzkrieg didn't recieve nearly as much offense as he deserves. Again. Still, teased tension between Kidman and Chavo can only mean one thing: a feud. And feuds in the cruiserweight division is reason to rejoice.
-I almost thought I saw some intensity behind Shane Douglas again. Alas; it was gone before I had the chance to look closely enough.
-Sadly, Berlyn's translator hasn't recieved the axe yet. Not only that, but they've assigned her a German name and are trying to pass her off as a native. Yea, German's HER first language. I maintain that Berlyn could be a genuine hard-ass, and one HELL of a heel if they brought a big, pissed off german guy in as his translator. To me, just hearing a deep voiced German man speak is intimidating.. throw in some threats and you have a gimmick that works.
-Benoit & Malenko gave us some of the best exchanges we've seen on television here in quite a while. Sadly, the crowd showed us that they weren't there to see wrestling.. most seemed to expect a circus. Still, I thought I saw a glimmer of hope when these two received applause for a tough series of near-falls. When I saw Sid, I about dumped my pants. Spence said it best: "WCW had me fooled.. Benoit v. Malenko with the winner receiving a title shot. Ha!". Somebody really likes to tease us with potential before pulling it away and tearing it all to shreds.
-As for the main event.. what arse. Sid no-sells all night for Malenko and Benoit, but gets in the ring and it's sell city for Hogan and Goldberg. Speaking of which, I think big Bill sold more on that Spree commercial they jammed down our throats than he did in the entire main event.
Overall Grade: D+
Not much better than last week, overall. Sure, there were some extremely promising moments, but almost all of them were spoiled by Dusty Rhodes and his "Run-ins are the answer" policy. On a side note, does anyone have the beginnings of a clue how fraggin' cool it would be to see Benoit kick the living hell out of Sid this Sunday? You're damned right it won't happen, but let me enjoy the notion while it's still something of a possibility.
-There's really not much more I can say about the Rock on the mic. Sometimes I wonder how someone could be so inventive on the mic week in and week out. I got sick of Austin quickly, but I honestly look forward to these segments anymore. He read all of our minds regarding Kane's voice box, and if there's anything I love it's brutal honesty.
-While we're on the Big Red Machine, tonight took big steps toward re-establishing him as a monster deserving of the title 'former world's champion', in more ways than one. Aside from his actions during the main event (which we'll get to later), he had a handicap match against the Rock & Mankind won before Helmsley interfered, and even then made a strong comeback. WCW, are you taking notes? This is called 'building a contender'.
-The Undertaker just keeps looking and acting more and more ridiculous. It's almost to the point where I'm ashamed to have enjoyed his gimmick. He's not a biker, he's a mortician! From hell!
-Let's see... No Debra... no Austin... Hmmmm.
-Was it me, or was the JJ / Jacqueline match disturbing? When it's Chyna in question, the violence is almost acceptable. She asked to be placed in the men's division, and has accepted any problems that might arise in that field. Even in that sense, I'm against it.. but I can see how it might be acceptable. With Jacqueline, things are different. No matter how you mask it, violence between sexes is wrong and I'm ashamed to be seeing it.
-I thoroughly enjoyed the Acolytes v Edge / Christian offering, though I didn't like the way it was portrayed in the end. They seem to have built this as more of a fluke win (ie the Hardys' title win over the Acolytes a month or two back), and in the long run may have hurt these two rising stars' credibility.
-If there's one lesson we learned last night, it's this: never... EVER... question the proportions of a Giant. Especially while he's pissing. Then again, Val was apparently urinating through his shorts, as there was no zipper on them. Maybe he just wanted to check out the Show?
-I'm glad to see Stasiak has escaped from his 'Meat' gimmick. Maybe he'll be given a decent chance this time around.. Oop... he's been jumped by the MSP. Never mind. On a side note; I find it bizarre that both Chaz and now Stasiak have broken kayfabe, and are involved in a feud with each other. Strange...
-What's a "punk card"?
-Leave it to the Dudley's to remind us that the 3 commandments are "Thou shall not kill, Thou shall not steal, and Look out". Moving on, I honestly can't say I'm looking forward to a feud between the former ECW stars and the Acolytes..
-It's been 2 weeks since he's appeared live on Raw, and he's yet to wrestle on the program. When are we gonna get more Jericho on Raw? They're still giving the Undertaker as much time on the mic as he wants, but Jericho gets about half a minute. I'm not complaining.
-I didn't like Billy Gunn as a face in DX.. not much has changed. Which leads me to wonder.. why is he a face, all of a sudden? Useless..
-At least we're not being smothered with the Stooges anymore. It was good to see them again, which means the bookers learned their lesson last time.. and hopefully they won't be overexposed again this time. Keeping it in context, JR gave us the line of the night when Patterson tore off his shirt with "Oh, god Pat! Don't!". Did Test jump as far as I think he did to deliver that flying elbow?! Good lord, he flew over three quarters of the ring!
-The Hardys / Hollys was a good example of how things should be handled these days. They got some time on the mic (which Holly .. er... #1.. made good use of, though my laughter was a bit guilty regarding the Karen Carpenter joke), and were given a good chunk of time to work with. The only problem I have is that the wrong team came out on top. On a side note, I'm really digging the whole 'new brood' bit.
-I thought for a moment that Al Snow was "coming out of his problems", and moving on to a push as... (suspenseful pause).. himself. Then he started barking. God, what a waste.
-Rock on the Undertaker: "Die, die, die. Die." I love it.
-2 GTV's last night?! Hunh. I wonder who Marianna was on the line to... maybe Thrasher?
-The women's title match was almost acceptable, until they tried to use the iron. Terrible!
-OK, the main event gave us 2 advancements to main event status in Billy Gunn and Kane. Which one doesn't belong? Maybe if Gunn could've successfully performed his finisher on HHH I'd have bought it. MAYBE. Then again, with a finisher that weak.. I doubt it.
Overall Grade: C+
If anything came of tonight, it was Kane's advancement to a serious contender for the World title. Not even when he was carrying the belt (For the long 24 hours following last year's KOTR) was Kane this formidable, and all I have to say is "about time!"
Anyway.. I've gots me some letters. Let's take us a gander.
Steph (email@example.com) wonders:
"Did it not strike anyone that the WWF advertised the following for RAW last night: "The Original DX reunites! What's on the minds of HBK, HHH, and Chyna? Find out tonight on RAW" We didn't see the three of them together. Hell, we didn't even see Michaels. Am I the only one who noticed this?"
That's a good observation, especially a week later. (sorry..) Since the reunion of the original DX on the initial broadcast of Smackdown, we have yet to see the HBK on WWF television. Maybe this will change on this week's installment of the aforementioned Thursday program, but only time will tell. And here I was, thinking this angle was a great way to make Michaels earn his paycheck by appearing on the weekly programs while logically involved in angles. I guess we can only have it so good, eh? Anyway thanks for writing, Steph, and keep reading. This situation with HBK isn't near over yet, and it should be interesting to keep an eye on.
Fellow columnist Pat Ekstrand (firstname.lastname@example.org) threw in his 2 cents regarding the hummer debate:
"Regarding your hummer question, I believe it was a white hummer originally. They always referred to it as just a hummer until the black one showed up. You can check my facts, but I do believe that is correct."
...but then comes back later and tells us:
"Well, I went and looked at some old Video Captures, and sure enough as far as I can tell the Hummer was black? I am curious as to the change though. Why bother with it? They have a black Hummer, why not use it? Unless of course this is part of the angle. Maybe we're supposed to notice the change. Anyway, I wanted to apologize about my earlier e-mail. Thanks"
Sorry if I made you look like an ass there Pat, as it wasn't my intent. Your consecutive mails pretty much summed up the unanimous confusion and questions regarding this 'white hummer' bit. To this day, I can't say with any certainty that it was a black hummer, a white hummer with a white ragtop, a white hummer with a black hard top, or an f'n piss yellow pinto.. but I think I can rule out the last option. I went to the WCW web archives, where they'd posted a video of a white hummer with a black top ramming nash's limo. I don't know if I'm giving them too much credit or not, but I don't think WCW would have the brains to correct old web videos immediately following the program. Who knows though, maybe this is all a big schpeel dreamed up by Bischoff to make us all look like fools. I'm not really that concerned about it anymore, but I won't know for sure until I find another, unbiased video capture elsewhere on the net. Thanks for your letters, Pat. If you haven't yet, you can go check out Pat's column "Pat's Peak" right here at the Oratory..
Finally, Kevin Doherty (email@example.com) had a couple topics in mind..
"Regarding your comments on Sid's mic work ("Would it have been so hard to just powerbomb the workers, and say 'I'm Sid. I'm mean. Be afraid.'??"), Sid reminds me a lot of the episode of South Park where Stan is cloned, but his clone is this big dumb monsterish sort of thing, and now I can't see Sid without thinking "Me Sid pchewychomp pchewychewychomp!" :)"
Not much more to say here, except I agree wholely. Hell, I think the clone would make a more entertaining mic worker than Sid does.. he wouldn't even need those silly blue lights.
"Also, I had noticed Hogan's comments about clean finishes as well, and found it rather telling when they booked a run-in/no contest last week in his match with Sting. Apparently clean finishes are only applicable where Hogan gets the win. It seems obvious to me that the only reasonable course of action there would be for Sting to win cleanly and for Hogan to retire (as a face), with much fanfare and adulation from Sting, the announcers, the fans, etc. But, of course, this isn't to be."
At this stage of the game, I've learned to take everything Hogan says in an "I'll believe it when I see it" state of mind. The man has 'retired' so many times, gone against his word so many dozens of times, and has repeatedly shown that he will support no idea that places him anywhere but at the top that I really can't listen to a word he tried to pass off. How's his presidential nomination going, by the way?
"Also of note from Hogan's comments on WCW Live a few weeks back was his comment on how he didn't want to go out as a heel and wanted to be a face. Of course we've been hearing heel turn rumors on Hogan for weeks now, and if he wants to do a real feud with Bret Hart, one of them is gonna have to be face, and I'm really afraid that it'll end up with Hogan turning heel, retiring, and then coming back 3 months later because he didn't want to retire as a heel. We can only hope that someone cripples Hogan before then (as that's the only way I can see trusting him to retire)."
Even then, I think he'd find a way to 'triumphantly' return to the ring, if only as an announcer. At this point I'd rather watch him than hear him, so I suppose we're witnessing the lesser of two evils right now. Regarding the solidification of his feud with Bret Hart, I stand firm that the formulaic 'heel vs. face' formula doesn't always have to be the case. In my opinion, two of Hogan's more memorable feuds came in the form of Randy Savage at Wrestlemania V (in which Savage was technically a heel, but had only recently been a face) and the Ultimate Warrior at Wrestlemania VI (in which case both men were faces, with their own unique fan followings). If executed correctly, a face v. face feud can garner more heat than a heel v. face feud as the fans try to decide which side to take. I have fond memories of the excitement I had built going into Toronto all those years ago, and they remain among my most cherished memories regarding this industry. So, in the end, I don't think either man must be a heel in order for this feud to work, but taking a look at the bookers in WCW today, I think that's the way it has to be. And that's a real shame.
But I suppose I've gone on for long enough. Thanks for your letter, and thanks to everybody for giving this issue of Ringside Shadows a read.
until then, i remain