Last night was a good night to be a wrestling fan.. Both programs gave us a far better offering than had become the norm, and actually made the competition between cards something worth mentioning again. Nitro went to it's strength, focusing on the work of their superb athletes, while intertwining some interesting angles which seem to have legs for a change. Meanwhile, Raw put an end to probably the most controversial World Title reign of all time and left us wondering how much farther they can go. Between the Bossman's GTV urination and Jeff Jarrett and Chaz's continuing abuse angles, there's very little they can still do without dealing with rape, abortion, elder abuse, and possibly even murder. The crowd still ate it up though, proving if there's on thing the WWF knows.. it's their audience.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
-It's only taken the bookers backstage a couple weeks to figure out how to correctly build, execute and air a good recap segment. Though we watched it on Thunder a couple weeks back, the bit on Sting's turn was well done, and did a good job of bringing new fans (or old fans returning to the fold, for that matter) up to speed on the past few years' happenings.
-I'll admit, when I heard it announced that Chris Benoit would be receiving his world title shot that very evening, I didn't believe a word of it. When Flair came out to give Sting a piece of his mind, I was almost sure of it. Kudos to WCW for finally following through on this one.
-What?! A match between Juvi, Psychosis, Rey and Kidman... and it goes to a clean finish!? Somebody pinch me. I'll be the first to tell you I wasn't excited about the 'Filthy Animals' gimmick when I first heard of it. However, if it means higher-profile feuds for the luchadores and the rejuvinated cruiserweight division, as well as matches like this one I'll be the first to stand firmly behind the young stable. Hell, I'll even tolerate Konnan. Regarding the match, it was a fun meeting, with Juvi basically dripping charisma and a solid effort from all 4 men. A bit spotty, as are most American lightweight matches anymore, and I don't know if that was meant to be a heel turn by the 'Animals' at the end, or not. I, for one, sided with Chavo... I'm not pleased that the only way a lucha gets any attention in WCW is if he agrees to unmask, but I'll have my tv stuck on TNT for the duration of that one next week. As for those who are sure to cite this as punishment for Kidman.. grow up. Everybody needs to job sometime, and it's been ages since we've seen Psychosis or Juvi get a clean 'V'. It's a rarity these days, and I'm glad to see WCW surprise us.
-Of all the people to sell for, Goldberg chooses Knobbs? I was hoping to see that waste of good flesh do a squash job in under a minute..
-Good interaction between Flair & Benoit, though Chris proved he's still got a ways to go before he's ready to call himself a good mic worker. At least they're portraying him as a man with balls, not afraid to stand up for what's his.
-My vote for this week's Nitro Girl... the one with the hair..
-I wonder if I'm expected to go ape shit, and cry foul over Benoit's world title shot? Should I kick and scream, write a letter to the company, or just boycot it in general? None of the above.. I thought the match was excellent, and I couldn't have booked it better myself. Simply put, Benoit isn't ready for the World title. Not yet. Give him 3 or 4 months of this push, and fans will buy him as the real deal. Put him over Shane Douglas in their now-inevitable feud, followed by the eagerly anticipated "last hurrah" with Ric Flair. After those feuds, the fans will be eating him up. Regarding last night's match.. the Crippler has reached a higher standing than ever with that one. You knew Sting was going to retain, the question was how. Though the match was a bit slow to start, once it hit the halfway mark (Benoit's break of Sting's sleeper), the action was off the chart. I flew out of my chair when Chris teased the dragon suplex, and when he hit the diving headbutt. Truly a great meeting, and I'd venture to say the best worked and booked match of the year thus far. Great to see Sting wasn't afraid to put Benoit over like that (he was pinned for more than 7 seconds on more than one occasion), and it gives me boundless hope for the future.
-On the flip side, Berlyn has gone down the pisser in a hurry. They're pushing this guy on us too quickly, and the fact that he hasn't won a match cleanly yet doesn't help boost his credibility a bit. I realize that Germans aren't known for their healthy, golden tans.. but I think maybe a bit of color is in order for the repackaged Mr. Wright. He hasn't come close to shaking his ring rust, and they still haven't dropped the translator. Would it have been too much to have one of his 'bodyguards' double as a male interpreter? I've said it before, but the squeaky, friendly, American female voice doesn't exactly intimidate opponents as much as a deep, growling, German male's.
-DDP even gave a halfway decent interview last night, getting to the point, and keeping the crap to a minimum. I liked the subtle whispering of 'retire', too. Maybe somebody should get this guy talking to Hogan?
-When I saw Blitzkrieg coming to the ring, I knew he wouldn't be going over. When I saw Evan "My jeans tear off" Karagias coming down the rampway to his generic jabroni entrance music, I was already looking for Sid or the Dead Pool. Surprisingly, the meandering giant allowed this one to end before extracting his revenge on all the cruisers in the world for consistantly outdoing his matches. If Blitzkrieg could get his timing in order, work on his spottiness, and tighten up the flow of his matches, he could be beautiful. As is, he's got a special place in this column (his premiere on Nitro came the same week Ringside Shadows #1 was posted), and I'm willing to give him time. The rewards down the line are well worth the wait.
-I've nearly wet myself several times since the prospect of a Filthy Animals / Revolution feud reared it's head... well.. maybe that's exaggerating a bit. Let's just say I'm looking forward to it. This lumberjack match of sorts was slightly overbooked, but the tension was strong throughout and you could tell these 8 men really wanted to get it on... Um.. Hoo boy. That sounded really bad. These guys can't wait to kick the hell out of each other! Yea..
-I could complain about the commercial break in the middle of the previous match, but hell.. Nobody's perfect. Look at Sid. I'm thankful to have seen it at all. Who doesn't smell this Douglas turn? It's a good idea though, and if it comes to pass you'll be looking at the best stable of the 1990s with Benoit, Malenko and Saturn. Get Flair in there, and we could have the greatest Horsemen since the idea's inception.
-I see Hogan was again given free reign on the stick. I wonder if I can catch Mideon on Raw?
-Despite the painfully obvious spot calling, the Lenny Lane match vs. Shaggy 2 Dope was pretty much enjoyable. The wicked clown isn't afraid of any bump, and takes them better than 95% of WCW's active roster. Not only that, but he executed a kickass Liger bomb and almost made the spot at the end, knocking Lodi into his comrades, believable. Though their music has gone steeply downhill since Riddle Box (which was also when I quit listening to them), the entrance theme they threw together for the "Dead Pool" is sweet. Almost worth picking up the WCW album for. Almost.
-It was good to see Scott Steiner back, for a couple minutes. Once he hopped up on that biatch...make that.. once he got the mic, he went back to his old tricks. I could hear censors everywhere scrambling for their 'bleep' buttons. Personally, I could care less how often the younger Steiner 'pushes the pink'.. I'm getting my share, but I don't feel the need to let everybody know. There's something to be said for monogamy, too..
Still, if he and Hogan are gonna go at it, that's fine by me. That means neither will be mucking up a better worker's match in the main event, and either way I'm bound to see somebody I dislike lose. Just when we thought the nWo was finally out of it's misery...
-I was sorry to see Kanyon disrespected as he was last night. He grabbed the mic, but the production crew busted right on through to Booker's music. The match itself was almost a straight job. I suppose it's for a greater cause though, as Booker T needs to keep his momentum going. These two could have a good one, if given ample time and motivation though. I'm still hoping to see a feud down the line once both have been elevated a bit.
-A bit of a disappointment for the main event.. still, I'd rather see Flair / DDP than Hogan / Luger. Oh, well.. at the very least, they didn't take themselves too seriously. The bookers understood this wasn't exactly a 'money' match, and gave it appropriate time. Flair looked like piss.. his body is going downhill, fast.
Overall Grade: B+
A damned good program, probably the best WCW has given us in years. Sure, they're still jerking us around in the main event.. sure, Konnan got some tv time while a few good workers sat at home (and I mean a few.. WCW utelized their roster well for the first time in ages..). Every program's bound to have dark spots, and this week we saw Hogan and Sid go wild on the mic and the 'Hulkster' try to steal every bit of the spotlight he could. Aside from it all, this week symbolized the powerful return of WCW's midcard lineup, which is cause for rejoice.
And what was on the other channel? Let's take a peek.
-You wanna know the honest truth? I didn't watch the first 15 minutes of Raw. If I'm given a choice between a Chris Benoit / Sting world title match, with no commercial interruptions, and commentators shilling for the Crippler like it's going out of style.. or Vince's big return to Raw, and the long-ass 20 minute interview to start the show that comes with it... guess what I'm gonna choose? I'm sure the ratings will show that mine wasn't a view shared by many, but I take pride in enjoying such a match rather than listening to Vince go on about 'contractual obligations', and seeing Austin hit the ring with "Ass this" and "Beer that". Quite possibly the best series of signs in wrestling history say it best: "Shut up and wrestle".
-Still, reading the transcripts (the internet is a vast, wondrous place..), it was good to see the WWF didn't completely spit in our faces, and explained the specifics of the deal about Vince's return. I don't see why he and Austin can suddenly get along, but I'm not here for the character development.
-During the Rock's bit with the older security guard, I was constantly reminded of Ben Stiller in Happy Gilmore.. the crazed retirement home worker. Woman: "My fingers hurt." Stiller: "Ooooh.. well now your back's gonna hurt.. cause just just pulled lawn duty! Anybody else's fingers hurt?!" Entertaining as hell, and I loved every bit of the 'tender side' of Rocky.
-Mankind played the unsuspecting victim to a "t" in the boiler room, when he spotted Mideon and offered him a warm "hello", along with a compliment on the new ring tights.
-Half an hour into the program without a match. Does anyone see why I've pointed this out? It's got nothing to do with business.. change the name or live up to it.
-Jericho has gone over Billy Gunn now.. Can you say "instant elevation"? The only problem is, incocievable as it may sound, Jericho's not getting over. I'm not sure who pointed this out, but I agree wholeheartedly.. Jericho shouldn't be a full blown heel. He's the best as the whiny, bitchy, arrogant coward.. but not as a complete heel. Mr. Huge hit a nasty DDT on Ass to the floor.. looked like it may have hit much harder than it should've. If they're gonna take up the padding on the floor, make sure somebody more accustomed to dishing out bumps delivers the follow through. Personally, I preferred Ralphus to the Fink and Huge.. his 'deer in the headlights' gaze worked with Jericho in so many ways. Hey, at least we got to see the man (Jericho) work on a Monday night. It's been ages.
-The Rock interview with Michael F'n Cole was formulaic, which isn't exactly unusual for the People's Champ.. I guess I was just becoming accustomed to his ingenuity in the past few weeks. Still, the sleeping bit was funny. Mankind saved the segment with his butcherings of the Rock's catches.
-I knew that fan was Luna as soon as I saw the fake-ass black hair in the audience. At least they aren't trying to make their plants too conspicuous? I saw quite a few people at that event with cowboy boots and a dress the color of a nasty-green Pinto. At least they're hyping this one a bit. Hey, Timbo! WOMEN'S HARDCORE!
-With all the segments building Shane's enthusiasm prior to the main event, I sort of expected a bit more up his sleeve than Test..
-A sub-par match from the Hardys, but still probably the best-worked match on last night's Raw. They gave it some time, we saw the Hardys in action, and it furthered a feud. I can't complain, really. The 3-D to close the match came out of nowhere, though, and was I alone in noting some sort of alliance between the "New Brood" and the Acolytes post-match?
-With all of the disgust over this terrible angle with Jarrett beating women, I thought it was hilarious when he strapped the makeup girl into the figure four.
-Post-match (which was wrapped up with a variation on the gut-wrench powerbomb, not the top rope elbow as was reported in the RAW review I'm working from), Jarrett got probably the loudest heel heat in the fed when he locked the figure four on Debra, surely gathering the rage and fury of John C, Austin, and millions of fanboys worldwide. Me... well, did you see that cellulite on her ass? Besides, I'd go for something a little less plastic.
-The Undertaker's stipulations just get sillier and sillier. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw an 'enima from the darkside' match in the near future. Meanwhile, I wonder if we'll ever see Wight as this "unstoppable monster" the Taker keeps proclaiming him to be. At the announcer's booth, the man from the darkside managed a somewhat decent reaction to Kane's refusal to align with his brother.
-Why doesn't Mariana just stick with Stasiak? Neither of them are doing anything.. Psycho chick...
-I was waiting for Kane's pyros to go off, igniting the big red machine. He went right for the corner after the save, and seemed to be leaning as far back towards the ringpost as possible. Would've been interesting. I guess we've seen him burning before though.
-The Bossman took a NAST shot to his right eye with that pitcher. He's still not a decent worker, but I've found some more respect for him after continuing the match through to its end with a wound like that. I think that's the only time we've seen the man from Cobb County, GA pinned after handcuffing his opponent to the ropes..
-The main event was short, and concise. Shane has blossomed into a good worker, willing to take bumps.. though he didn't really showcase it so well here. HHH ended up over strong, delivering the pedigree to both men on his own. He's still a force, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him take the belt in the 6-pack main event of Unforgiven.
Overall Grade: B-
Above average, but not by much. The show just didn't have that something special, which sends it over the top. Add to that a couple low-midcard matches, 3 poor gimmicked tag team matches and little-to-no in ring action, and you have a disappointing show.
Before I go, I'd like to touch on my previous post, regarding the WWF and it's direction. I recieved a few reader mails about this, and they all pretty much centered on the same point. So, insted of becoming repetitive and answering the same thing a dozen times, I'll just respond to this one. That's me, always looking out for you and helping you manage your time.
MrRichHead@aol.com sent me the following, under the subject "give it up already...":
"its seems as though you and matt spence are the only ones that really give a shit about the "wrestling" aspect of this business. I have news for you...the nearly seven million people that watch RAW every week watch it because of its storey lines and angles. I highly doubt that Vince Mcmahon is going to change is format to please you and Spence, and let down the millions of other fans that enjoy entertainment. I have an idea for you and Matt...You should take the first flight to Hawaii...Have a gay marriage...Move to Japan so you can watch those candy asses "wrestle" all day. Then you can take all those japanese wrestlers that you like so much...you can greise them up...AND STICK THEM STRAIGHT UP YOUR CANDY ASSES!!"
This one was almost an intelligent reply, up until the last bit.. Ah well.. takes all kinds, I guess.
It's true that a good number of today's wrestling fans could give 2 poots in a plastic specimen cup about the "wrestling aspect" of the business (A funny phrase, as the business itself is wrestling last I checked, and not sports entertainment.. no matter..). Also true is that these 7 million fans are there for the angles, storylines and maybe a little hardcore. My question is this.. where were these fans 5 years ago, and where will they be 5 years from now? The answer to both questions... more than likely not watching the World Wrestling Federation. The WWF is hot right now. Really hot. They're drawing in new viewers, and the fad is nearly in full-swing. Maybe a year from now, maybe 2, these fans will find something else to occupy their time with, be it the new Playstation2.. another television program or sport, or something we can't dream of. The point is this, the WWF has alienated a lot of its older, loyal fans with its product and when this fad passes will find itself in one hell of a hole, quite similar to the one WCW finds itself in today. Vince McMahon is quite a businessman. He knows what people want, and how to give it to them.. and I wouldn't expect him to change his programming, were I the world's largest and most influential journalist, or the crappy little opinionated columnist getting a little attention on the internet. Vince lives by the rule, and will die by the rule.. it's only a matter of time.
Regarding the column, I'm interested in how I could recieve so much hate mail from pro-WWF fans, since I actually stood up for the WWF and gave them another handful of chances. I still believe Vince can give us a kickass WRESTLING program, but I guess that isn't what anybody wants anymore.. right?
As for Matt and I's marriage... we had to call it off. Our girlfriends were pissed. So to everybody who recieved the invitations... sorry.
Anyway, I'm out. I'll be back later in the week with my Unforgiven preview.
until then, i remain