Saturday, December 16, 2000

Ringside Shadows #156: The World's Greatest WCW Starrcade 2000 Preview

I've returned once more for another trek into the world of modern wrestling. This month, WCW trots out what should be regarded as the best they've got to offer, in the self-proclaimed "granddaddy of them all," Starrcade. Like many of the ongoing PPVs that remain from the NWA days, this event is hip-deep in tradition, and that's what makes the card this time around that much more disappointing. Though they've taken great strides in the last year and have more than a couple matchups that could draw a fair share on their own, none of those face-offs are going on here. Where the company's top two superstars, Bill Goldberg and Scott Steiner, should no doubt be facing off for the World Title in the match fans obviously want to see, each instead finds himself in another encounter elsewhere on the card. Several of the promotion's top rising stars aren't even represented on paper this Sunday night, (Chavo Guerrero Jr and Mike Sanders spring to mind) and those that are in action have their work cut out for them with opponents that won't be taking their match to the heights it could reach. WCW as a whole is in a holding pattern right now, and while that's admirably ballsy with their income so low, even I have to question their motives going into the PPV blowoff event of the year. This is the event bookers should have been planning for over the last full year, the culmination of dozens of storylines. Yet it feels like this lineup was scribbled onto a rest stop napkin not one month ago. Not the best way to play catchup, and a step back from the promise the last few months have shown on WCW TV.

The Cat vs. Lance Storm

The only real proof I need that WCW isn't as interested in promoting their future as they'd have us believe. In Lance Storm they've got a solid future main eventer, no question. He's strong in the ring, works the mic decently enough and has credibility written all over him. Instead of taking the natural progression up the card after his lengthy run with the US title, the bookers have here sent him a step or two backwards, trying to use his hard earned reputation to springboard the Cat back into the mix of things. The obvious next step in the booking would have given this feud to Elix Skipper while Storm made some sort of presence near the main event or just laid low while his ribs took time to heal. "Prime Time" and the Cat have had a small program of their own going for some time, and each occupies the same position on the card. At the very most, I'd have given Storm a small bit of involvement in the match on PPV, perhaps making a surprise return to give Skipper the victory nobody expected. Instead, we'll see an injured Lance Storm taking on a worthless Ernest Miller. Perhaps "The Cat" will justify his position with a strong performance this Sunday night... but I'm not counting on any miracles. Lance needs the win to bounce back from a loss last month in the US title hunt. He's my choice here.
Winner: Lance Storm

3 Count vs. Knoble & Karagias Vs. Jung Dragons
Triple Ladder Match For #1 Contender To The WCW Cruiserweight Title

Here's one to ponder; why isn't this match for the #1 contendership to the tag team titles, rather than the Cruiserweight belt? With the tag scene almost begging to be set free and rock the free world as a strong division, it's somewhat telling that Nash and Page have taken the title shot, while these three teams tough it out near the bottom of the card. Though none of the combinations here have refined their skills enough to be considered tag team champions, I'm betting the only thing they need is motivation. Despite the lack thereof, they'll still keep plugging out nice little face-offs month after month here, until the WWF finally picks up on what WCW has missed and makes them stars. Action packed, intense-yet-spotty goodness is what you'll get in this one. Chances are it'll be the best match on the card.
Winners: Knoble and Karagias

Mike Awesome vs. Bam Bam Bigelow

I'll maintain what I said last month: these guys could really cut loose and give the crowd something to remember if they were only permitted the time to do so. Both Awesome and Bigelow have a firm grasp of what it takes to make a good match into a great one, but have found themselves wasted with silly gimmicks, aborted angles and crash tv attention spans. As super heavyweights that need no gimmicks, these two would skyrocket. As sports entertainers, they'll likely fall flat on their faces. Still, I'm giving this one the nod as underdog of the evening, and I'll keep hoping Bigelow will go over with a monster spot that knocks Awesome right out of his horrid, horrid gimmick.
Winner: Mike Awesome

Crowbar vs. Terry Funk
Hardcore Title Match

It was nice to see Terry Funk back again this past Tuesday night, but I quickly found myself wondering just how many more times they can wheel out the old war horse before fans start to turn on him. It's the same thing they've been doing with Ric Flair (in Charlotte, no less.) He always seems to be off the airwaves just in time to make a royal return to his home state of NC, and though the roar is still monstrous every time, the crowd noise is slowly dying with each new return. WCW is oversaturating and overusing the things that worked for them at one time, and it's gonna bite them in the ass sooner rather than later. Still, this Sunday should be an interesting Hardcore match. Crowbar's got one of the best defined characters in WCW right now, and the little side story of a champion facing off against his idol is just enough to make this one worthwhile. I still wish they'd have given it another couple weeks to develop before throwing it onto PPV, though. I'll go with the Funker, since he's running with the momentum of his return.
Winner: Terry Funk

KroniK vs. Reno and Big Vito

I'm completely in the dark here. I don't remember any sort of angle leading up to the matchup, so I'll just completely skip that part of the analysis. In the ring, Vito's without question the most redeemable one here, with Reno still a little green to make any sort of definite decision about. Kronik... well, I'm no fan of Kronik. This should be a little slow-paced, a little boring and something of a squash for the green machines. I'll go with the big K, as Reno and Vito get into some sort of little family squabble and screw each other in the end.
Winners: Kronik

General Rection vs. Shane Douglas
U.S. Heavyweight Title Match

I'll admit it: though I still don't like the guy, WCW's actually built High Morrus to the point where I'll accept him as US Champion. I'm not sure if that says something about the building of Morrus himself or the de-elevation of the US title, but I'm accepting him with the gold either way. In Shane Douglas, they've got a decent enough star that's working through something of a slump lately. They haven't given the match any sort of feud here, which leads me to believe it'll be an introduction of sorts to an ongoing series that should last over the next couple months. If the glimpse of gold is enough to shake the Franchise from his current mindset, I've no problem with it. This Sunday, the two will likely be feeling each other out more than anything else, which is why I expect the match itself won't be breaking any sort of records. The feud's young still, as I said, and Rection should leave Sunday night with his belt firmly in hand, though I wouldn't completely rule out the opposite.
Winner: General Rection

Jeff Jarrett and The Harris Brothers vs. Konnan, Kidman, and Rey Mysterio Jr.

Though he ended up jobbing in the end, I'll be the first to admit the handicap match of sorts that went down on Nitro this week went quite a ways toward establishing Jarrett as a formidable competitor. Though Kidman and Rey haven't done anything notable lately, the fact that Jarrett could handle both for an extended amount of time on his own proved more than his multiple title reigns ever did. That's why I think it's silly to team him with proven failures like the Harris brothers this Sunday on PPV. The association alone can't do much to help his reputation, and will kill any hope for the match in terms of quality almost instantaneously. If Jeff takes the lion's share of his team's offense and Konnan bides his time on the apron for a while, we could still see some fireworks here... but that's asking quite a bit. I'll go with JJ and the Harris boys in the end here, since six people are far too many for one ref to keep an eye on, and Jarrett's got quite a few guitars.
Winners: Jeff Jarrett and the Harris Brothers

The Perfect Event vs. The InSiders
World Tag Team Title Match

Though I didn't have too much problem with it one month ago, the Page / Nash team is already wearing a little thin on me. Their matches have become formulaic in record time, and not even DDP's usual enthusiasm and ingenuity is enough to keep me interested. Likewise, their opponents aren't breaking down any walls lately, though they have made a good deal of progress since their intial teaming this past summer. Stasiak may make a decent heel after all. Though I know it's not much of a possibility, I'll still hope this is kept to a minimum. The tag titles could be so much more...
Winners: The InSiders

Goldberg vs. Lex Luger

One of the sillier choices on the card. Goldberg is without question the fan favorite, and though I'll give WCW credit for sticking by their guns on this second streak, they're taking quite a risk by keeping him out of the World Title scene at the biggest PPV of the year. I wasn't looking forward to their match last month, and the feeling holds true here. Luger's been playing a worthwhile heel for a change, and though the angles here have been a little silly, I can see how the bookers have been logically advancing the feud. Barring any ref spears or other outside interference, I'll stay the course and keep my choice from last month.
Winner: Goldberg

Scott Steiner vs. Sid Vicious
World Heavyweight Title Match

Not the best choice they could've made. Sure, half the roster's injured and the other half hasn't quite worked up to the point of main event just yet. Still, I wouldn't have opted to bring the scissor man back just to save a couple buys. But hey, I already pretty much stated my opinion in the last match, so let's just run with what we've got and take a look at what to expect this Sunday. Steiner's been established as the hard ass heel we all knew he was over the last couple months, eliminating Sting and Booker T and capturing his first World Title along the way. Right now he's a heel machine, and seems to be filling the role to perfection. Sid, on the other hand, well... if anybody knows what the hell he's doing, please raise your hand. His overselling on the car roof this past Nitro was laughable, as are his ridiculous plays to the crowd. This man's without question a product of the early 90s, Hulk Hogan's lost heir. Audiences have accepted him, based solely on the fact that it's been a while since we've seen him. Give it two months, that won't last. If not Goldberg, I don't know who they could've found to fill the shoes of the challenger, but I certainly wouldn't have gone with Sid. In the ring, these two aren't even half their former selves. In his prime, Steiner was one of the best and Sid was almost carryable. Nowadays, it would take Christ himself to make Scotty sell and the Psycho one hasn't progressed any from the old days. Just like the Rection / Franchise match further down the card, this could surprise me and end up halfway watchable, but I wouldn't count on that by any means. In the end, I'm taking Steiner to retain with the reverse chinlock of death. His title reign's still got several months left to go.
Winner: Scott Steiner

And that's all she wrote. Like I said, Starrcade is a card that should be built towards all year, and the fact that 2000 was yet another disappointing twelve months for WCW is painfully obvious here. Much of the talent is in the wrong place and those that aren't haven't even made an appearance. Disappointing as it sounds, my advise is to keep your $30. Christmas is upon us, and you'd do much better for yourself by spending it elsewhere.

Before I head out, I want to make a couple notes. Fiveja, a loyal reader, will be attending Raw this Monday night and has asked me if I've got any suggestions for a unique sign or two for the trip. Being the uninventive little bast that I am, burnt out from finals and all, I've pretty much hit the bottom of the barrel personally, so I've left it up to you guys. Wanna see your words on TV? This is your chance. Toss him a line at with your proposals. I'm sure he won't mind the help one bit.

Also, Max Power put up a great little piece about the greatest men of the sport's past and present about a week ago on the Oratory, which is a nice little read, and one well worth checking out.

Finally, my posting may be a bit sporadic over the remainder of December, but don't fret! It's been quite a while since I took a break from posting, and I think I'm most certainly due for another. That, and I'll be visiting my girlfriend's folks in Virginia, who recently cancelled their internet connection. I should be back on track before New Year's, but until then don't look for much out of me. I've got plenty on tap for 2001, so if I don't see you guys until then, thanks for reading and for making 2000 the best year of Ringside Shadows ever! Happy holidays, and all the best.
until then, i remain

Friday, December 8, 2000

The World's Greatest WWF Armageddon 2000 Preview

While several matches on the undercard could quite possibly deliver, what really matters is the last bit on the card, the one that takes us home. What exactly the WWF has done here has yet to be revealed.. whether they shot themselves in the foot by throwing all their main eventers into one match or revealed their path to success by covering the weaknesses of the unhealthy with the enthusiasm of the new faces, we won't really know before this Sunday night. Also, my partner's been correct in mentioning the lack of build in the undercard. This was something that bothered me with last month's Survivor Series lineup, and I'm not happy to see the trend continuing.

Hardy Boyz & Lita vs. Eddy Guerrero, Perry Saturn & Dean Malenko

I'm actually enjoying the hell out of this angle. Even though the whole 'date' was quite silly this past Thursday night and the LHW championship match on Raw wasn't all it could have been, there's just something that clicks with the backstage segments and these players. I've been hooked by the 'thrill of the chase', and find myself counting the days until Lita makes the big turn on the Hardys, giving the Radicals the momentum they need to be taken seriously. With that said, the action in the ring won't be shabby, either. The Hardys and Radicals are among my favorites in the sport, and to see them facing off against one another in any situation is cause for rejoice. Perhaps the brothers Hardy will be able to rub a little of their magic heat off on Malenko and company? I'll go with Team Extreme here, though the angle should run for a month or two longer.
Winners: The Hardys and Lita

Val Venis vs. Chyna

We've got a taste of irony going on with this one... somebody that's got everything it takes in the ring, but no sort of push or attention from the fans meeting somebody with little to no redeeming value on the mat, alongside the push of a lifetime and all the fan support you could ask for. Maybe 1 + 1 will equal two and the match will be surprisingly good.. or maybe we'll suffer through a little slop before these two go their separate ways and the viewers are left neither richer nor poorer for the effort. I'm betting on the latter, but I can definately see the former going down as well. Worth keeping your eye on.
Winner: Chyna

Ivory vs. Molly Holly vs. Trish Stratus
Women's Championship

The women's division, too, is doing fine and dandy.. in fact, better than it's ever been. As evidenced by this match, we've got women that are easy on the eyes, but can still work an interesting and believable match as well. While Trish may drag the match down a notch as the least adept of the three, her inclusion was almost a must to ensure the audience's attention, no matter how much positive publicity Molly's been getting over the last month. If kept short, this should be nice.. and I can't justify giving it more than five or six minutes. Ivory's my choice to retain, as her heat's been steady and she's a fighting champion. Can't ask for much more.
Winner: Ivory

William Regal vs. Hardcore Holly
European Championship

Regal's been a bastard this last month, completely destroying poor Crash and Molly, and it's a side of the British good will ambassador that I really enjoy seeing. After dropping the European title for a lengthy one day to the younger cousin, Regal's been built for this match quite nicely.. and the title shot for Hardcore himself is a natural progression from the events. The tension between this little 'family' has been teased for some time now, and while I won't say with any certainty that it's going to boil over Sunday night under the lights, I have been looking for it for a little while now. Regal holds onto the gold by the skin of his teeth, possibly splitting Hardcore from Crash in the process.
Winner: William Regal

RTC vs. The Dudley Boyz vs. Road Dogg & K-Kwick vs. Edge & Christian
Tag Team Championship

Though the re-turn of the Dudleys was quite a bit predictable, the way they did it came a bit out of left field. When they refused to tear off their suits and ties this Monday night, I thought the angle might be the real thing after all.. but just as I found myself believing the hype, we were reminded who really is in charge here, as they turned face almost immediately Thursday Night. Perhaps a bit of a rejuvenated feud was hinted with the Hardys, as their little ploy cost the Boyz the Tag Team titles, but that's still quite a ways off. Elsewhere, I like K-Kwick allright, though he's still green as grass, but in all honesty he doesn't deserve a title shot just yet. The New Outlaws' loss on Raw was more an issue of inexperience, rather than cheating on the part of the blondes, and I was surprised to see the decision overturned on those grounds. While this would be nicer without Road Dogg and the RTC, it won't be too ugly as is, and serves as all the proof you need to declare the Tag division healthier than ever.
Winners: The Dudley Boyz

Billy Gunn vs. Chris Benoit
Intercontinental Championship

Though I'd rather have seen Benoit involved in the main event and Guerrero granted the rematch for his title on PPV, this will do nicely on its own. If nothing else, the point of this match should be to get Benoit further over as a ruthless SOB that deserves his spot near the top of the card. Though an Intercontinental reign doesn't look to be in the cards for him, this should serve as a nice little retainer between feuds, and may just give Gunn the motivation he needs to quit sucking cheeks. Gunn retains through DQ, as Benoit takes it too far and slaughters the former Ass master.
Winner: "Number Two" Billy Gunn

Kane vs. Chris Jericho
Last Man Standing Match

Pretty much a guarantee as the blowoff here, I say it's about time. While both the participants are equally promising talents, they just haven't clicked in their brief feud and it's in the best interests of all to just move on and quit trying to build something where there's nothing. It would be nice to see Jericho continuing his slow, steady heel turn, while gaining some badly needed credibility along the way with a victory over the former champion in red. Paul Bearer's been rumored for Sunday, and I'd wager his appearance is more likely here than in the Cell. May or may not have an impact on the outcome.
Winner: Chris Jericho

Kurt Angle vs. Triple H vs. Rikishi vs. Steve Austin vs. Undertaker vs. The Rock
WWF Championship - Hell in a Cell

A quick show of hands; how many readers out there are looking for Rikishi to follow Mick Foley's path to fame with a dive from the cage this weekend?? Bloody hell, I'm not sure the arena's foundations could stand it. By keeping the card relatively small, the WWF has made it perfectly clear they'll be giving this match all the time it needs to develop into whatever shape it may choose to adopt. The possibilities here are endless, and we're pretty likely to see every two man combination in the match headed after one another before the final bell tolls. Vince will make his presence known during the match, though in who's favor I haven't a clue. Perhaps the long-rumored Austin heel turn will come to fruition behind the fencing, though he's got another couple matches with HHH down the road.. so I'd probably scratch that. With two injured men, one super heavyweight that isn't likely to scale the fencing and a veteran that's having more and more difficulty just getting to the ring, it all comes down to the Rock and Angle in the end. Though I expect things will get complicated, leading to the rumored Rumble for the gold next month, but we're pretty much expected to choose a victor in these things. "No contest" reads like "cop out" in my eyes, so I'm taking Kurt Angle for my man. His reign still hasn't lasted quite long enough for my tastes.
Winner: Kurt Angle

In Closing...

Really not that awful of a card, and a definate step up from last month's questionable Survivor Series. A number of feuds are either hitting full speed or blowing off this month, and the World Title's surrounded by quite a bit of interest as well. It's reason enough to blow off studying this Sunday night (then again, what isn't..?), but I think things will look even nicer at the Rumble a little ways down the line. Not their best work, but a far, far cry from their worst.
until next time, i remain

Wednesday, December 6, 2000

Ringside Shadows #155: Seven From the Fore

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, dragging with it my colleagues' own individual "best of" lists, I find myself looking back over the century past and recalling the good along with the bad. The final curtain was drawn for both Bret Hart and Mick Foley, while the play has only just begun for HHH and Lance Storm. Yet, despite what's likely to be remembered as the year that spawned both Helmsley and Angle, I just can't stop thinking about what remains the most significant event of the new century in my own eyes.

In the early evening of January 17th, I climbed aboard my Pentium 486 with a purpose. The gears of time were churning, nearly loud enough to shake the room, and it was all I could do to keep the speed my fingers were typing somewhere near the speed my thoughts were processing. Vince Russo had been removed from his seat atop WCW. In his place stood Kevin Sullivan, and in his wake came the story of 2000; the pilgrimage of the Radicals.

When I posted Ringside Shadows #99, things were still speculative. Alongside Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko stood Billy Kidman, Shane Douglas and Konnan. While the WWF was certainly the promised land, the name of ECW was also in the mix. Though I'm rarely one to embrace a rumor when it first presents itself, this one was too good to pass by. It was more than just food for thought, providing me with the shot in the arm I'd needed for a good six months. Even if nothing came of this rumored leap in the real world, I'd have made my speculation regardless. It was truly too good to be true, something everyone had crossed off their lists but still imagined in the back of their mind. Jeff Hardy vs. Billy Kidman? Chris Benoit vs. Yoshihiro Tajiri? Eddy Guerrero vs. D'Lo Brown? The possibilities were now endless, and it hadn't taken me long to spread my feelings across the waves of the internet ocean.

In "Seven to the Fore" (Ringside Shadows #99), I took a closer look at each of the seven men involved with this opportunity and put in my two cents. I theorized whether they'd be a better acquisition for the WWF or ECW, stated their strengths and weaknesses, listed their career accomplishments and even set them off on the right foot, booking the introduction for their first feud in the new federation. To this day, I consider it one of my greatest works and find myself glancing back at it more often than any other column.

Now that we're nearly a year beyond the shift that shook the wrestling world, I think it's time to take another look at these seven, as well as my own predictions for where the move would have landed them in the end. In some instances, my guesses were about a mile and a half from the truth, while in others I was a bit too close for comfort. The steel's come back from the fore, and not all of it came out in one piece.

Chris Benoit

With Benoit, I found myself booking big. Honestly, who could blame me? The man was now a former WCW World Champion, stripped of his title in absence and ready to play in the big leagues. He was the key player in this power move, without whom none of the undeniable impact would have been present. So I threw him into a feud with Steve Austin. Coming off a high profile play like this would net Benoit instant notoriety with the audience, his name still fresh from that World Title victory over Sid. In his feud with Austin, I molded Benoit into what Stone Cold had been missing for much of his Main Event career: somebody that could beat him any day of the week without missing a beat. I sent him to the ring in the middle of an Austin interview, backed by no pyro, no entryway music and no elaborate ring attire. Amidst little fanfare would appear this stoic figure, quietly strolling his way to the ring. When Austin notices him and calls him up to the apron, the Crippler maintains his composure all the way to their unavoidable staredown. Playing the role he was born to, Austin cracks a beer and sprays the wolverine down, only to find himself nearly knocked off his feet by a couple of Benoit's vicious trademark chops. Left with little alternative, Austin would land a stunner, which Benoit would ride all the way down and reverse into a crossface at the last moment.

I didn't send Benoit to ECW, because it wouldn't do his newfound image any justice. To jump from the WCW World Title to ECW wouldn't have meant anything... if nothing else, the audience would have seen it as a step down. What Benoit needed was a bit of a tweak in his image and mic skills, something Vince McMahon knows like second nature. With the Titan publicity machine churning by his side, Benoit's a surefire future World Champ. With Paul Heyman's distant third place promotion, he'd become a "could've been."

So, did I choose correctly? To an extent. The WWF didn't see the instant main event power I did in Benoit, but began the building process for a run at the top almost immediately. They established him as the leader of the Radicals, without question, and proved he was a force to be reckoned with by giving him a great, competitive match with HHH to begin his WWF career. He's challenged the Rock in the main event of several Pay Per Views, held the IC gold for an elongated run, and introduced a sort of technical renaissance to the mix lately, influencing Steve Austin noticeably. While he hasn't yet paid his dues long enough for a slot at the very top, the sky is certainly the limit for the Crippler within another six months. More importantly, though, he's rediscovered his love for the sport. For that reason alone, Benoit's much better off in the WWF. He made the right choice in heading North.

Billy Kidman

Also on my flight to Titan, I booked Kidman into a feud that eluded us during the WCW run of another superstar gone to Titan: Chris Jericho. I cast Y2J in the role of Razor Ramon and Kidman as the 1-2-3 Kid in a reenactment of the match that brought Shawn "X-Pac" Waltman to the WWF for his first run. Passed off by many in the WWF audience as a jobber, the voices of those who did recognize him would have been drowned out by Jericho's blaring Y2J countdown. Playing the role of the heel he perfected in WCW, Jericho would poke fun at everything from Kidman's haircut to the way he wears his clothes. He'd make note of the time both had in Atlanta, mentioning how he'd torn through everyone in the cruiserweight division except little Billy Kidman. With Kidman putting up more than a little fight for his first match, I had Jericho locking in the Walls after about seven minutes. Desperate, I called for Kidman to shake his opponent's balance enough to roll him up into a pinning combination. Afterwards, I had Jericho throwing one of the tantrums he made legendary at the very start of his run as a cruiserweight champ.

I had little reason for not sending Kidman to ECW, aside from this feud. Though he hasn't proven himself when push comes to shove in WCW, I think the bright lights of the WWF could bring out something that would be missing in the lower-tier ECW; a desire to succeed. Kidman has the skills, but hasn't been given reason enough to break them out. In the right situation, along with a little luck, Kidman could be the next Shawn Michaels. In ECW, he'd be just another talented guy that won't make it to the big leagues.

It's pretty obvious that of the three decisions Kidman could have made at the crossroads last year, he made the wrong one. Though he was promised the sun and the moon for his loyalty, nothing has come of his career over the last eleven months. In addition to that, the backstage depression that's poisoning Turner's brand of wrestling has infected this rising star as well. Much like his WCW comrades, it's beginning to seem as if Kidman just doesn't care anymore. He's lost the cutting edge enthusiasm that made him such a joy to watch, and doesn't seem to be the same man because of it. In staying with WCW, Kidman made a poor decision.

Perry Saturn

As a man without any solidified personality but plenty of ferocity in the ring, I sent Saturn off to ECW, for the talents of one Paul Heyman to groom into a complete package. His gimmick at the moment was the dunce of the Revolution, missing the point of many Shane Douglas tirades and playing the gimmick for all it was worth, obviously having fun along the way. Though the gimmick had shown flashes of brilliance, Saturn hadn't quite nailed it yet and would've been eaten alive if he'd tried it in the WWF. Therefore, I had Heyman work his magic in E C dub for a while until Perry had the whole schtick down pat. Then it would only be a matter of time before the WWF came knockin' with a contract ready to be signed.

Since then he's abandoned the gimmick completely and become what I'd hoped against hope he wouldn't; a big, talented guy with little to no personality. As a result, the fans haven't backed him and he's floundering in the lower mid card. I still maintain that Saturn could be a player in the near future, but it's going to require a strong personality or gimmick, a few lucky breaks and a feud that really clicks. He's still got what it takes in the ring, but needs a solid direction. With the roster as full as it is right now, Saturn's finding himself more and more lost amongst the deserving workers that are being forgotten amidst the shuffle. In ECW, he could have built a lot of momentum before jumping into the big pond. Though he's experienced some moderate success as a European champion, I think Saturn could've made something more of himself with a little time in Extreme, which is why I'm calling his move to the WWF the wrong one.

Eddy Guerrero

A shorter synopsis of my ECW booking plans for Guerrero wouldn't really do myself justice, so I'm opting for a direct quote here; "Cut to ECW on TNN, a week from this Friday night. Rob Van Dam and Sabu are having a rematch over the previously-contested TV championship, and actually manage to put on a tremendous match that wears both men to the point of exhaustion. In the end, Van Dam squeaks out a close three count, hanging onto his coveted belt once more by the skin of his teeth. Both men slowly get to their feet and shake hands in a sign of unity rarely seen these days. As the audience applauds their approval, out steps a lone figure from behind the curtains. A disenfranchised Eddie Guerrero is slowly making his way down the ramp and the audience roars upon recognition of the star come home. Sabu steps out, but Van Dam remains in the ring and even opens the ropes for the still-blank faced Guerrero, who ignores the courtesy and enters on the other end of the ring. The winded TV champion speaks as Eddie glances into the stands, proclaiming his respect for the ECW alumn... a move which seems to snap Guerrero back to the present. Eddie gets right in Van Dam's face, grilling him with questions about his "respect." Guerrero brings up Van Dam's drug habit, among other things and Van Dam backpedals. When the verbal assault subsides, Van Dam is dumbfounded and asks "what is it you want, man?" Guerrero points at the TV title... "I want my belt back." He then drops the mic and exits the ring, leaving Van Dam at a complete loss."

I wasn't sure about my decision to stick him in the world of Extreme when I made it, and Guerrero's proven why. In the end I stuck with ECW because of the history he's got there and the absolutely wonderful, deep, strong stories that could be told with it. He's a completely different man than he was during his first run with the company, and I think his presence could have catapulted ECW to new heights much like the Raven / Tommy Dreamer feud did earlier in its history. While he's still working something of a joke gimmick in the WWF, he could have been all business in ECW and built himself as even more of a legitimate package with their World Title around his waist.

Still, Guerrero's success hasn't been missing in the WWF either. Though I wasn't the biggest fan of his "Latino Heat" run, I will recognize that it's what made fans care about him as a character, a step Saturn and Malenko never made. Thus, when he finally made the heel turn I was dying for, it was accompanied by amplified boos and a great atmosphere. Guerrero's good enough to do well for himself wherever he goes, but the WWF is slowly becoming the only name in town. For that reason alone, Guerrero made the right decision.


I don't like Konnan. That much is obvious while reading my synopsis of where his career should have gone those fifty six issues ago. I sent him to both the WWF and ECW, where he was torn to pieces progressively. In the WWF, I gave him a big time entrance with fireworks, rap theme music and a new t-shirt. To the ring, he came, high as a kite. He hit his redundant catchphrases to a halfhearted response from the audience and was interrupted a moment later by the Acolytes. Verbally upset, Konnan broke kayfabe and asked the two what they were doing. Faarooq seized a mic and exclaimed "Son, you got a pantie on yo head," to which Konnan took offense. Attempting a bit of legit offense, he went for a moonsault from the apron to the floor, but landed a couple feet short. The Acolytes toyed with the corpse a bit before growing bored and moving on.

In ECW, I didn't even let him off the entryway. Peeking out from behind the curtain, I confronted him with Paul Heyman himself, who let us all know he didn't hire the guy. With Konnan on his knees begging for a job, I had Heyman powerbomb him through an armored car to a solid "E C DUB" chant. Nabbing a mic, Paul E. would've confirmed what Faarooq noted the Raw before, letting us all know that Konnan does indeed have a pantie on his head.

Konnan wasn't even that good when he cared about what he was doing. I would've loved to have seen my bookings come to life, (if just to see Faarooq deliver that line with a straight face) but realize it's got the chances of a snowball in hell. For that reason alone, I say Konnan made the right decision in staying on the sinking ship of WCW. He shouldn't be working.

Dean Malenko

Not going anywhere in WCW, Malenko needed a change and a jump to ECW could've been just what he was looking for. Landing at the same time as Steve Corino's "old school" gimmick, I sent the "man of 1000 holds" out to defend Joel Gertner from an attack by Corino himself (working a variation of the angle the RTC is using today in the WWF.) Berated and incited by Corino's excellent mic work, I'd teased Malenko's rage boiling over... right up to the moment he turned around and leveled Gernter with one quick, concise blow and embraced Corino. Since Corino was far from the World Title level he occupies today, Malenko would have been the main event man for his little stable, slaughtering all the top faces (New Jack, Spike Dudley and Tommy Dreamer) for destroying everything the gladiators of old had built. Booking The Sandman over Mike Awesome for the World Title in the main event, I sent Malenko out post match to assault the new champ from behind, polishing the spilled beer from the belt's surface and arriving as a force to be reckoned with.

Much like his Radicals teammate, Saturn, Dean Malenko is a brilliant worker without the personality to make it in the modern WWF. When the Radicals arrived on Raw that memorable Monday Night, it was Malenko that worried me the most. Barely achieving moderate success in WCW, where fans were more likely to watch a technical fight, I didn't give Malenko a chance in hell with the WWF. Unfortunately, I was right. Though his last Light Heavy match with Scotty Too Hotty on PPV was met with a great reaction from the crowd, the WWF showed their heart wasn't into it by pulling the belt's defenses from television and taking the federation in another direction. I placed him in ECW because the fans there are among the most educated in the world, and are about 75% more likely to enjoy his stuff than the more mainstream WWF audience. Now, almost a year later, I stand by my original decision. Malenko in the WWF is a puzzle with a mismatched piece.

Shane Douglas

A bit of a loudmouth, Douglas burned bridges both in the WWF and ECW, but as he was going nowhere in WCW found himself with a decision; he could swallow his pride and ask one of the men he'd scorned for another chance or stand by his guns and stick with the boat everybody was abandoning. For my decision, I went with ECW. It was here that the Franchise really proved himself, more so than he'd ever manage in the WWF, and it was here that he could rediscover just who he really was. I put him into a long term feud with Paul Heyman, which would be a ballsy thing for the company owner to agree to, since the two have a great deal of personal hatred between them. I'd handle the thing like the Austin / McMahon feud, though neither would be a face or a heel. The audience would be free to back whoever they wanted, and the thing would wrap up in no more than six months.

I didn't throw him into the WWF because of his age and ongoing personality problems behind the scenes. Though he still gets a great deal of credit for starting the revolution that became ECW, that alone isn't enough to risk the WWF's backstage harmony for.

As is, Shane Douglas hasn't made much out of himself anyway. Remaining in WCW, the Franchise has floated from one throwaway feud to the next with Torrie Wilson by his side. Though he didn't have many other options, remaining with the company that had proven they didn't know what to do with him wasn't the best choice on Douglas's part. Despite the fact I have no idea where he could have gone once released, I'd say Shane made the wrong decision by waiting things out.

And that, as they say it, is that. The sport is without question a much different place now that Benoit's challenging for WWF gold, and though a couple workers made the wrong decision when the dust began to settle, hindsight is always 20 / 20. At the very least they can say they were a part of the story of 2000... not a small feat by any means.
until then, i remain

Wednesday, November 29, 2000

Ringside Shadows #154: The Resurrection of an Empire

Wrestling works in cycles, as does everything else when examined to a certain degree. What's happened before will happen again under different circumstances. Though the ancient proverb is correct in stating "those who do not learn from their history are doomed to repeat it," very few are willing to complete the amount of work necessary to actually avoid such a fate. That's why it wouldn't surprise me to see the WWF once again toppled from their comfortable position atop the wrestling world within the next handful of years.

The ratings war is over, of that there is little doubt. Checking the ratings on a whim this afternoon, I felt my heart skip a beat when a typo listed Nitro's cumulative rating at 5.0, while Raw's lay at an uncharacteristically low 2.4. The Wednesday afternoon release of these overemphasized numbers is predictable, dull, even "boring." But was it really only four years ago that the ball was playing exclusively over in the other court? Eric Bischoff once made the observation, during WCW's 82 weeks of viewership domination, that the race was "no longer interesting." It just wasn't fun anymore, the ratings war of 1996 was "boring." Over on the other side of the fence, however, Vince McMahon knew better. The best time to strike your opponent is when you've been underestimated. McMahon knew the truth of this statement, and embraced it to tremendous success. If only the higher ups in WCW would take note of these similarities and use them to their advantage, we could be watching a whole new battle zone every Monday night, come mid-2002.

Even further down the halls, the similarities become a bit more obvious. The WWF of '94 had been the pinnacle of the industry for years, only to see themselves driven from their majestic perch by misplaced trust, poor decisions made at the wrong time and overpowering backstage politics. Sound familiar? Come 1998, WCW was in the same boat, having lost their substantial popularity due to causes identical to those of their rival not four years earlier. Hogan and friends had exploited their remaining clout for every penny it was worth, draining the company of the life that had radiated from within not two years earlier. Once the liberals, WCW had suddenly become the conservative while the WWF rediscovered their youth.

In some ways, WCW has already taken many of the same steps that helped Vince's boys reclaim the number one slot in early '98. One of McMahon's first actions during this movement was to almost completely clear out the locker room, eliminating many long standing problems and starting from a fresh, almost blank slate. Out of the picture were past and present main event players Bret Hart, Mabel, Ted Dibiase, Lex Luger, Jeff Jarrett and so on. Ready to take their place were fresh faces; Mick Foley, Brian Pillman, Rocky Maivia, Steve Austin and Vader. While some eliminations were questionable and several new recruits fell flat on their faces, McMahon learned to roll with the punches and emerged with a highly effective, young, strong roster. Likewise, WCW recently held a major league housecleaning with the apparent elimination of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Sid, Diamond Dallas Page and Randy Savage. Keeping with the trend, they followed these tough removals with heavy pushes for new players Booker T, Scott Steiner, Jeff Jarrett and Lance Storm.

Unfortunately, the lesson taught by their trouncing at the hands of the WWF has not yet been completely learned by WCW, as many of these old faces have begun popping up on their programming more and more often lately. While the WWF stood firm and supported their new players every step of the way, WCW has been shakier in their stance. When these fresh stars meet their first roadblocks and falter, the strength of WCW as a promotion isn't behind them. Instead, the powers that be look back to the problems they'd just eliminated, like a sort of failsafe. They're going through the motions, but aren't willing to take the risk necessary to effectively establish their next generation. And therein lies the problem.

When the WWF made their big move to overtake the threat of the Monday Nitro machine, they did so by risking everything. Had the fans not embraced them so passionately, Vince McMahon Incorporated would have been flat out broke. Out of the picture. When the first episode of the newly title "Raw is War" debuted with a brand new look, set, feel and set of morals, the results were not instantaneous. Crowds didn't flock to the changed product, they pretty much stayed right where they were. Ratings didn't change an iota. Still, McMahon had confidence in what he was trying and stuck with it. Fans eventually migrated to his set of trenches. When WCW launches something with equal potential to reap benefits, they yank it off their air if results aren't there within a couple weeks. Of all the stumbling blocks in WCW's path, this is probably the easiest to remove. It's a blow to the ego to back something that fails, but that's something you've got to risk in order to be number one.

Another problem in the WCW hierarchy that's easily repairable is their unwillingness to listen to a fanbase. Much like a combat situation, when it comes to booking for fan reaction everything that can go wrong will. When the WWF was still hatching their new round of faces, Bret Hart remained as one of the strongest players on the roster. A gracious face, Hart was content doing what he did best and the federation was content with letting him do it that way. As Hart made his big return from an extended absence, bookers did everything in their power to make fans hate Steve Austin and love the Hitman, but found the masses were aligning themselves with the Rattlesnake. Though Hart didn't like it, long term plans were changed and the notorious double switch went down at Wrestlemania 13, cementing Austin as the firm face and Hart his hated opponent. The WWF listened to their fans, and it paid off in spades.

In a similar situation over in WCW, however, a young Chris Benoit found himself the recipient of more and more vocal a section of that viewing audience. Despite tremendous feuds with Diamond Dallas Page, Raven and Booker T, as well as a successful run with the Horsemen, the bookers refused to acknowledge Benoit with any sort of memorable singles push. While crowds became more and more vocal about the Crippler after each match, WCW attempted to keep these cheers at a minimum, all the while pushing the tired Hulk Hogan-dominated main event they'd scripted months in advance. While Benoit did eventually achieve the alliance's highest honor, the WCW title, his view of the company had been jaded by so many years of burial and mistreatment. It truthfully poisoned what could have been one of the key moments in their comeback effort, the realization of a new savior.

Without question, the WWF could have never made the comeback they did without the aid of Steve Austin. He changed the landscape of wrestling, his brash personality striking a chord with audiences everywhere and directly attributable for the "Attitude" era of wrestling. Perhaps the most interesting part of this story, though, is that it was never supposed to happen. In the months leading up to King of the Ring '96, the event which catapulted Austin to national notoriety, booking plans called for HHH to win the tournament and move on to the spot Austin later filled at the top of their new roster. Fate, however, had a different song and dance in mind. When Scott Hall and Kevin Nash departed for the greener pastures of WCW, it wasn't without a slap to the face of their former employer. The two broke kayfabe, joining in with Shawn Michaels and Helmsley for a group hug, center ring, at their last scheduled appearance for the promotion. Since Hall and Nash were out of the promotion and Michaels was the residing champion, Helmsley felt the full brunt of the punishment for this show of unity against the system. The carpet was yanked out from under his feet, and his push was almost instantly disintegrated with Austin playing the part of his last second replacement. With nothing expected of him, Austin grabbed the ball and ran through the endzone with it. He believed in the company and jumped at the chance to make it competitive once again.

In WCW, though, Chris Benoit was the one placed by fate in a similar position. When an untimely injury forcing the current champion, Bret Hart, to abandon the World Title, (and later his career) Benoit found himself suddenly thrust into a position he was never meant to hold. With nothing expected of him, Benoit took the World Title in a match with Sid and knocked out a heartfelt speech afterwards that hinted at big things in the future and a near instant establishment as the be-all, end-all of pro wrestling excellence. Things seemed pretty similar to Austin's situation, with one glaring exception; the years of misuse had destroyed Benoit's faith in what the company could be. He'd become disenfranchised because of a silly past mistake on WCW's part, and left the promotion not one week after accepting its greatest honor. Though not through the same means as Austin, Benoit could have shaped the landscape of wrestling even further, re-igniting the actual sport of things through his superb grasp of technical wrestling and inspiring his peers to do the same. Instead, Benoit seems to have introduced that renaissance to the WWF and its workers, as evidenced by the shift in emphasis over these past couple weeks (specifically, the Benoit / Austin and Angle / Austin matches).

In many ways, the WWF of 1998 was thinking globally, shaping the future in their own image, while WCW remains a pale imitation of where the WWF's already been, what their competition has already done. Case in point: the creation of Degeneration X vs. the creation of the Misfits in Action. DX was a real life situation, employing the established heat of the backstage politics stirred up by the Clique and the obviously close personal relationship between HHH and HBK. Fans had for the most part seen right through Michaels' alleged knee injury that kept him out of action at Wrestlemania 13, and had begun to boo him as a result. The WWF heard this reaction, turned him heel, and thus was born DX. The MIA, in comparison, are a hollow attempt at the same sort of situation. No real emotions come forward during a Hugh Morrus speech, nor do crowds have any legitimate reason to love them or loathe them. While the MIA are a wrestling angle in soul, DX in its prime was a backstage situation that spilled over into the world before the cameras.

It was the same story with the "evil" Mr. McMahon and the "evil" Vince Russo. Fans absolutely hated McMahon for what he had done to Bret Hart, and the WWF amplified these boos by presenting him on television as the jackass promoter. I have vivid memories of my freshman year here at Ball State University (during which I was an adamant WCW junkie) of my neighbor in the dorms, Kieth, running into my room shouting "Why is Stone Cold gonna fight Vince McMahon?!?" The interest was unbelievable, and it's a huge part of why the WWF maintained their audience after the Montreal incident... which leads me to the next point on my checklist.

Nothing attracts a crowd faster than controversy. McMahon realized this with the Bret Hart conspiracy theory, as ratings on Raw jumped a full point the night after the '97 Survivor Series. They had the attention of the masses, and they rode that for all it was worth. The Montreal call brought in the viewers, but the ongoing superiority of the WWF storylines kept them tuned in to USA. WCW has also enjoyed a taste of this several times during their current slump. From the return of Ric Flair in late 1998 to the public expulsion of Hulk Hogan at this year's Bash at the Beach, it isn't the controversy side of things that WCW has yet to grasp: it's the consistent quality in their programming. Had Nitro showcased an absolutely stellar set of feuds and angles those nights, they'd be riding high today. Instead, they remain deep in a rut.

While building the legacy of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, the WWF paid a tremendous price, losing Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart forever. After playing their cards at all the wrong times, who's left on the roster that WCW can afford to lose today? Though it's obvious that WCW is slowly beginning to grasp what cost them the lead in the wrestling industry all those years ago, I fear the lessons themselves are still a long way from being learned. For the sake of the viewers and the industry as a whole, I hope they learn them soon, quickly and concisely. Because it's never much fun to watch a blowout.
until then, i remain

Sunday, November 26, 2000

Ringside Shadows #153: The World's Greatest WCW Mayhem 2000 Preview

Before I take my feet-first dive back into all things WCW, I need to make a bit of a discouraging announcement; my good buddy and long time PPV partner, John C, has opted out of continuing our tag team demolition of WCW PPVs as of this month. I can't argue with his reasoning, as the shows just aren't motivating him enough to write about them any longer, and it's with a heavy heart that I must move on. As always, John and I will be around for the WWF Previews every month at The Oratory, where we act as Co-Administrators, and I'll do my best to carry the torch lit by he and the MIA Matt Spence many moons ago with the "World's Greatest" WCW Previews. As of right now, I'm not sure if I'll be seeking out another partner (of whom I've already got one in mind) or not, but for the next month or two at the least I'll be going it solo. Best of luck to ya John, and here's hoping I can do the tradition justice.

The boys at Turner, meanwhile, keep trying to make the best of an overly poor situation. Their rediscovery of home grown talent continues this month, as the two men fighting over the World Title have WCW pumping through their veins, and the theme runs true all the way to the bottom of the card. As I mentiond last month, this is truly a rebuilding year for World Championship Wrestling... there's really no doubt who's running with the ball and who's jogging behind in an all too distant second. With that in mind, the guys in charge are finally allowing some of their wounds to heal. Younger, hungrier talent is finally getting their shot all across the board. The right names are coming up in the right places in the title hunt, (with the exception of Luger) and a vast majority of their gimmicks and storylines are originals, not merely pale imiatations of the WWF's past. It's a dark time for the company, without a doubt, but with one or two tweaks in the booking department, a lucky break or two and a slip on the WWF's part, things could fall into a whole new perspective.

3 Count Vs. Evan Karagias And Jamie Knoble Vs. Jung Dragons

Probably one of the best decisions WCW has made in the last six months has been the split of Three Count, though the follow through fell short in more than one aspect. The original lineup saw two fresh new faces and a tired former cruiserweight. By cutting Evan from the squad, Shane and Shannon trimmed the fat and should have been propelled into serious contention for the tag team titles. Perhaps it's still a bit too early to say, but unless something drastic goes down after the necessary feud with their former partner, the talented duo looks have found themselves slipping back into the same rut as before. The matches are strong enough, if spotty, but enough is enough. It's time to let the Jung Dragons / 3 Count feud take a little breather while both teams work towards earning the success they're due. My money's on the stronger gimmick of the three here, though my mind's telling me Evan and Jamie will be take the 'V' in their stead.
Winners: Three Count

Reno Vs. Big Vito Vs. Crowbar

Another set of WCW originals, mixed in with a veteran of the ECW trenches. Of all the young prospects in the Atlanta bullpen, Crowbar shows the most promise as a future main eventer, but all of that is lost in these throwaway Hardcore matches. Every time the men in charge decide to wheel out another redundant hardcore garbage brawl, fan support dives a little further. Once one of their strongest attributes, the WCW Hardcore Division is now nothing more than a ghost, a shell of that which has passed. While Reno shows promise, Crowbar has everything you need in a worker and Vito has delivered in the past, I'm not sure even this tight little knot of athleticism can save the Hardcore gold. For what it was, Crowbar and Vito had a nice little confrontation on Nitro this past Monday night; nothing too over the top, but nothing boring either. Makes me wonder how much more I'd be anticipating this Sunday's match if it were a straightforward wrestling match, as opposed to a junkyard brawl. While a no contest is somewhat likely here, I'd put my money on Reno. It's like they always say, strength lies in numbers, and Reno's got the Natural Born Thrillers in his corner.
Winner: Reno

Kwee-Wee Vs. Mike Sanders
Cruiserweight Title Match

In Mike Sanders, WCW has found a surprisingly strong addition to their roster. In Kwee Wee, they're doing their best to eliminate another. While Sanders is given the chance he certainly deserves, pushed near the top of the card as the acting commissioner, the former Alan Funk is stuck running with a lame catchphrase, little to no credibility and tight pink trunks. It's quite a paradox, really, as both deserve the chance to either jump that hurdle or fall flat on their face based on their own actions. No matter, if given enough time to properly develop and start to tell a story, this could be a surprisingly strong matchup. Both are young, so the flaws will no doubt be showing, but both also have the vigor and enthusiasm that's been lacking in the work of Kevin Nash and Lex Luger for years. For what it's worth, I expect a neat little cruiserweight battle here, with just a bit more matwork than the usual lightweight title defense. Kwee Wee takes the upset, since Sanders is by no means a cruiserweight.
Winner: Kwee Wee

The Cat (with Ms. Jones) Vs. The Franchise (with Torrie Wilson)

Though I'd usually be on the opposite end of the spectrum as my perennial Douglas-despising former partner, John, I can't help but agree with his criticisms in this instance. Shane's been headed downhill for a ways now, and seems to be growing more and more erratic as time goes by. You couldn't ask for a better promo than he delivered time and time again during his ECW days, yet he's seemingly become a completely different man in the rings owned by Turner. Far from aiding matters is his opponent this Sunday night, the consistantly annoying Ernest Miller. As commissioner, I had no problem with him. He spent far less time in the ring that way, and I could learn to live with his mic work. As a talker he's tolerable, but a wrestler he's not. In this instance, I find myself going with the lesser of two evils.
Winner: Shane Douglas

Mike Awesome Vs. Bam Bam Bigelow

Two ECW alum that haven't been given the chance to shine in the big leagues. Between Bigelow's free TV jobs to Goldberg in under two minutes and Mike Awesome's ludicrous gimmick, there's little question why this one isn't getting the attention it probably should. What could have been a nice contrast of styles is now likely to fall through the cracks as just another "could've been." Built properly, I stand firm that this could tear the roof off any arena in the country. As for Sunday, I'll wager Bigelow pounds the hell out of Awesome, knocking some sense into him and ridding the world of that terrible gimmick.
Winner: Bam Bam Bigelow

Lance Storm Vs. General Rection
U.S. Heavyweight Title Match

Probably won't be all it should be. Storm recently used his website to confirm the troubles he's currently having with his ribs, letting us all know he plans to give us 100% but not to expect five stars. Seeing as how the leader of team Canada's one of the brightest spots on WCW's increasingly youthful roster, that's quite a setback. As one of the most consistantly built, pushed and handled wrestlers in the sport, Storm's without question one of their "go-to guys" for the next three years. With his feud against General Rection and the MIA finally wrapping up within the next couple months, (likely blowing off at Starrcade) it's do or die time for those involved. One man will use the US title as a springboard to the top, while the other heads to the midcard for another visit. My money's on the Canadian.
Winner: Lance Storm

The Chosen One, Jeff Jarrett Vs. Buff Bagwell

I really haven't much to say here. While I was one of the loudest voices opposed to Jarrett's breakneck ascention to the main event, it wasn't so that he could be used like this in the mid-card. What Jeff needs is a solid spot in the US title scene and something to thrust himself back into the spotlight. One year ago today, he was in the exact spot he should have been, continuing a strong feud over the US title opposite Chris Benoit. A clearly defined, deserving face meeting his match in a clearly defined, deserving heel. Though there's no problem deciphering face from heel here, neither is at the level required for the World title shot they're dangling above the winner's head. Jarrett needs the victory to hit the skids on his decline, but Bagwell seems more likely to receive the big main event push.
Winner: Buff Bagwell

Kevin Nash and DDP Vs. The Perfect Event
Tag Team Title Match

A decent extension of the Nash / Thrillers feud. Though these aren't the teams I think of when the words "Tag Team Championship material" come up in a conversation, it's a passable facsimile. By turning on Nash, the Thrillers took on a little personality of their own and started down the long path of establishment. Now they've got to look strong in a nose to nose confrontation with the man himself and another top star, Diamond Dallas Page. Though the pairing is likely to end in a brief feud shortly down the line, their team is nice for the short term fix it is. The tag division gains a little length on its lifespan, and four otherwise aimless souls find something to do in the title scene. I've got Page and Nash cleaning up in this one, with rematches on the way.
Winner: Kevin Nash and Diamond Dallas Page

Lex Luger Vs. Goldberg

It was a nice twist thrown at us Monday, in the same vein as the Mick Foley stipulation at Wrestlemania, as Ric Flair announced this would be for the World Title at Mayhem if Luger managed to beat Booker T that evening on Nitro. Of course Booker held onto the belt, but the mere mention of the stipulation made it seem as though Luger couldn't help but win. A little unpredictable, and a nice twist... not overthought and double swerved, just a nice, subtle little trick that could've been easily overlooked. I'm hardly anticipating the matchup itself, as Luger's been poor for quite some time and Goldberg has been stagnating for the majority of his "second streak," but the build has been worthwhile, at the very least. There's no question who's playing the face and who the heel, and neither's worried about looking cool or selling merchandise; only nailing the angle and playing their roles. It isn't difficult to predict this one, as Goldberg heads into Starrcade with a head of steam and Luger softly fades out once again.
Winner: Goldberg

Scott Steiner With Midajah Vs. Booker T.
Caged Heat World Heavyweight Title Match

The gimmick's quite silly, (a straight jacket will be hanging above the ring) and doesn't really aid the match in becoming something it's not, but at the very least it won't be a poor match. Booker and Steiner have shown in the past that they can put on a tremendous show as professional wrestlers, (albeit alongside a shady finish that spoiled their cumulative efforts) and I'm sure the two of them can work around the slight handicap of the dangling jacket to give us another effort worthy of the main event here. While I don't agree with their decision to hold off on a Steiner title reign until one month before the blowoff PPV of the year, I will say with quite a degree of certainty that he's gonna take it here. What that leaves WCW is one month to build their top heel into an unstoppable champion, strong enough to hand Goldberg his first clean loss, build the encounter, add a couple heated exchanges and sell the fans on the whole schebang. Ideally, I'd have carried Booker's first World Title reign all the way through to Halloween Havok, where he'd drop the belt cleanly to Scott Steiner. Booker would be granted his rematch the next month, only to lose through shady measures and Steiner would dominate a short program of his own, biding his time while Goldberg built his streak to 175. But hey, what do I know? I'm just an internet junkie. The match should be worthwhile, though I'm still a bit skeptical of the gimmick. Steiner takes his first World Title only to drop it to Goldberg next month.
Winner: Scott Steiner

In Closing...

There's also a Jimmy Hart / Mancow match this Sunday night, but I've chosen to relieve you of that burden, as I'm sure we all hope WCW will by bell time as well. At Mayhem this Sunday night, WCW delivers something of an indecisive card. Many matches need only a spark to ignite their way into history alonside Kurt Angle, HHH or The Rock. It's that spark, however, that I'm starting to doubt. It takes only a glance to realize the workers in the company no longer care about the product for the most part. Spots are sloppy, movement is slow and the intensity is almost non-existant. With a few shining examples, the entire WCW roster is letting the slump get to them. Turner could have a powder keg here, but somebody forgot the lighter.

And that should do it for me. As always, all feedback is welcomed and read with an open mind. I'll be around at the usual time in the middle of the week (for real this time! I forgot about the holiday last week) for my regularly scheduled post, so...
until then, i remain

Friday, November 17, 2000

The World's Greatest WWF Survivor Series 2000 Preview

Following a run of absolutely beautiful PPVs, the WWF has finally given the string a little slack here. Part of the blame could go to this event's position as one of the 'big 5' PPVs, thus making it an easier sell than one of the lowly former In Your House events.. but that didn't stop them from putting on a dynamite Summerslam earlier this year, as well as a very notable Royal Rumble. I suppose the run had to end some time, and though the card may look a bit humdrum when compared to the past year's efforts, it's still head and shoulders above anything we've seen from the competition. With Rocky actually starting to hit something of a stride, Benoit taking monster steps toward a full time main event slot and Kurt Angle constantly improving and reinventing himself as champion, the WWF isn't even close to slowing down just yet. In all honesty, the new generation is just now starting to hit their real stride. The fireworks aren't even half over yet. Though it isn't a strong on paper as last month's offering, the potential for an outstanding evening is still certainly there for the 2000 Series.

William Regal vs. Hardcore Holly
European Championship Match

I'm not sure why Holly isn't involved with his cousin(s) further down the card here, but it's just as well.. I'd rather see a Hardcore face off with our current European Champion than Steve Blackman. When John says this guy's getting heat, he isn't yanking your chain.. attending the Smackdown tapings this past Tuesday, Regal was invoking such a reaction I couldn't decipher a single word of his promo. Audiences absolutely despise the guy, and he's loving every minute of it. In the ring he's never been stronger, and at his current pace, we could be seeing Stephen William in the main event within another year or two. On the flip side, Hardcore Bob Holly seems to be in position to head for the main event sooner than that. His return was treated as quite the event, with Kurt Angle selling for him like it was the second coming. What we're getting here is a preview of what could be in store for us even further down the road.. and I'm sure both men realize it. Could be a show-stealer, and I'll take Hardcore as the winner, but not the new champion.
Winner: Hardcore Holly

Steve Blackman, Crash and Molly Holly vs. T&A and Trish

I was quite pleased to see the former Mona finally arrive in the WWF, and though she completely blew her very first springboard, I think she's got big things in her future. Generally a crowd pleaser, we'll see all the big spots with very little substance to fill the gaps. T&A pick up the 'v', likely pinning poor Crash, who hasn't been given much of a push comparable to his ever-expanding talent.
Winners: T&A

Ivory vs. Lita
Women's Championship Match

I think Lita is definately carryable to a watchable match, and with Ivory acting as the WWF's strongest active female worker we're likely to get the best Women's title match possible right here. Ideally, we won't be going more than five minutes here, and I don't see Vince booking it much longer than that in the first place. We'll more than likely get some missed spots along the way, but overall I'd figure this as a neat little package of a match, which is much better than what we've been seeing from the division since its reintroduction during the era of Sable a couple years back. As for a victor, I'm a sucker for a dress, and Ivory fills hers out really well as a forefront member of the RTC. She retains.
Winner: Ivory

The Hardy Boyz & The Dudley Boyz vs. Bull Buchanan, Goodfather, Edge & Christian
Survivor Series Elimination Match

I really have no idea why the Goodfather is being pushed in the ring over Stevie Richards. Though I fully understand the idea of the 'cowardly heel', inviting audience reactions by constantly avoiding physical contact whenever possible, as the leader of the stable Richards needs to take a more decisive position. He's been booked as a legitimate threat on the few occasions that he's stepped between the ropes, yet he hasn't found his way into this one. If Guerrero weren't already a heel champion, I'd suggest Stevie look for work in the Intercontinental Title scene. John's right, I think we've seen Edge / Christian vs. the Hardys a bit too often this year. It's time for both for a blowoff, and I think that's waiting in the wings once we get this little elimination match out of the way.
Winners: RTC / Edge & Christian

Billy Gunn, Chyna, Road Dogg & K-Kwick vs. The Radicals
Survivor Series Elimination Match

On one end of the spectrum here we've got the Radicals, who have been called the most threatening stable in WWF history.. yet haven't been given any sort of push to give the fans that same opinion. On the other side stands what's left of DX: Billy Gunn, the Road Dogg, Chyna and newcomer K Kwik. Though they're far from an imposing collection, just about every one of them has been pushed to the moon and beyond in recent weeks. In both cases I feel something needs to change, and I don't think there's much question as to what that is. We've got something of a grab bag here, as the Radicals obviously have the skills to give us a great one, but haven't been delivering of late. Some of that is doubtless due to lack of motivation, and I'd suggest a strong showing here could mean good things for them down the line. John's idea of a Benoit solo victory sounds good, but if the WWF is serious about pushing these four as legitimate hardasses, they'll need more than just a solid leader.
Winners: The Radicals

Chris Jericho vs. Kane

This is probably Y2J's big chance to hit the brakes on his recent downhill slide and start back up the path to the main event. Though his character has been sort of directionless for some time now, his work in the ring has echoed the sentiment. If Jericho comes out ready to play this Sunday night, I'd be willing to bet it's a sign of things to come. Judging by his recent performances, I'd say that's more than likely. John's theory holds water, but I don't think the feud has legs to last further than this PPV. Jericho gets the victory here, as the WWF hasn't any idea of what to do with Kane in the main event picture.
Winner: Chris Jericho

Kurt Angle vs. The Undertaker
WWF Championship Match

It's something of a disappointment that Kurt Angle's incredible rookie year has found itself capped off with a second rate title, not one month into his first reign as champion. Though the Undertaker certainly retains his big name value, the man's lost more than a step or two over the last couple years, and I'm not sure Angle has what it takes to get a good match out of him. I've got no problem with him in the main event for right now, but the time is drawing near for the American Bad Ass to ride off into the sunset. Watching him hobble to the ring this past Thursday after Smackdown went off the air was as sad a sight as you're ever likely to see. The desire still burns, just as strong as it did during his first WWF appearance exactly 10 years ago, but his body just isn't up to it any more. Still, I wouldn't bet against this match serving as a sort of thanks for the decade of dedication to the Fed the 'Taker's put in. If there were ever a time for one last title reign, it's now. When it's over, though, I'd implore the WWF to give his career the proper sendoff it deserves.
Winner: The Undertaker

Rikishi vs. The Rock

Here's one that won't end with one PPV. I fully expect the Rock's ribs to play a crucial part in the way this one plays out, and now that the People's Champ has shown he understands what psychology's all about (in the Smackdown match John mentioned earlier), that expectation doesn't appear nearly as farfetched. It's no secret Rikishi isn't doing half the business he was expected to after his big heel turn (as evidenced by the re-turning of HHH.. the WWF's trump of all trump cards), and like John said he needs a huge win over a major league face to solidify himself as a force to be reckoned with. He isn't gonna get many more opportunities to take a clean win like this, and I'll be surprised if he does the job to an injured Rock this Sunday night.
Winner: Rikishi

Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Triple H

Though I won't go so far as to say I didn't enjoy the surprise HHH heel turn a couple weeks ago (quite the opposite, actually.. I loved it..), the whole thing feels like it's been rushed, as neither Austin or Helmsley have ben in top form while promoting it. This is something around which you could base the company for nearly a full year, and by lighting the fuse this soon after Stone Cold's return to the ring the bookers are trimming the impact down significantly. Neither man is physically able to give it their all as of this weekend, and that too will put things in a negative light. Certainly HHH's injury has something to do with the way we're viewing this card, as his continued efforts are a large part of what made the last year's worth of PPV broadcasts so incredibly successful. It could be said that a healthy HHH = an effortlessly good main event, and if that's so... what does an injured Austin and an injured Hunter add up to? In my book, it's a hurried match that won't hit near the high water mark it would have two months from now. I'm with John, we'll get a little taste of things here before both move on to other things for a little while. This is the kind of feud you don't want to spoil. I'll take Austin, for argument's sake, though my money has him taking it via a DQ.
Winner: Steve Austin


The WWF has a card worth the purchase here, though it doesn't hold as much promise as its predicessors. We've got several matches that ride the razor's edge and could very easily end up surprising us, but could just as well fall into the abyss of poor faceoffs. As one of the Big Five PPVs, the workers could be that much more motivated to give it their all this time, and I'm sure that will factor into the end result as well. Again, not a poor roster by any means, and a peek into what's to come from this federation if nothing else. I'll be along for the ride, no question.
until next time, i remain

Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Ringside Shadows #152: Smacked Down from Section 208

Just as I'd mentioned in my last post, I attended last night's Smackdown! tapings and plan to deal with them in relative depth here this evening. If you're the kind of person that delights reading the spoilers in their entirety, feel secure that I do the same. My work, class and personal schedule doesn't really allow me to catch Smackdown on a regular basis, and I'd just as soon read the results as watch them. If you're against the idea of spoilers as a whole, I can understand where you're coming from as well. Just understand that you'll probably want to wait until late Thursday evening to read this post. Don't say you haven't been warned...

So yes, I was among the screaming masses at this past Tuesday's big Smackdown! / HeAt tapings in Indianapolis. As the last televised event(s) before this year's Survivor Series card, I'd figured we'd see a bit of last second angle development alongside a solid match or two, and I wasn't let down. I made the voyage with my girlfriend, roommate, and Chris, a reader that I met moments before we hit the road. The ride was smooth, yet uneventful and we arrived at the arena with about half an hour to spare. While Chris went off to find a scalper with reasonable prices, (after all, scalping is legal here in balmy Indianapolis) the remaining duo and I stepped into the arena to find the first of several unpleasant surprises to come throughout the evening.

Our seats were atrocious. Though the event wasn't a complete sellout, as far as I know, we somehow managed to scrounge up chairs that sat literally one row from the very roof of the place. And not even that stopped three nameless wrestling fans from trying to steal the cushioned glory from beneath our respective tushes. After the three finally made the realization that they were in the wrong seats, we sat down and took a peek at the giant television monitor that would be providing us with our close-ups and backstage vignettes for the rest if the evening. Or at least we would have, had the Indiana Pacers' 1994-95 Central Division Championship banner not been hung directly in our line of sight. Eliminating that possibility, I glanced down at the oval tron. It was in plain sight, but backwards. Good enough, I suppose, though I'm still trying to sort out what happened at the end of the nevaR & zzaT / looC ooT match.

Pleased that I could see the ring well enough, I made the journey to the concession stand for dinner with ten minutes left until the opening bell. Twenty minutes, one match and twenty-five dollars later, I returned to my perch at the top of the world. Should've stopped by McDonald's on the way after all. Not that I was bothered to have missed the Jimmy Jabroni / Tommy TuTone dark match that started the whole shebang. I'd finished my fine dining by the time the ring apron, lighting and announcers had been properly introduced and tweaked for the HeAt taping.

Essa Rios & Funaki gave the crowd a rush as the first competitors of the night with their own Oval-tron videos, but were quickly overshadowed by their opponents for the evening, Edge and Christian. The former champs were surprisingly on the defensive throughout this one, with Funaki maintaining much of the control to everyone's shock. My girlfriend, Autumn, upset that Taka Michinoku would not be in attendance, made her first trip to the restroom. Meanwhile, Rios missed his moonsault but landed on his feet, only to do the same from a standing position on the mat in an inventive escape from a bit of Edge offense moments later. Not bad. E&C finally realized that enough was enough, though, and wrapped things up soon after with the clean pin. Poor Sho Funaki, always playing second fiddle in an aptly talented team that's going nowhere.

Next up was Al Snow, which made me wish I was seated a bit closer and had brought along the sign I'd brainstormed for the night; "Hey Al! Don't Job!" Alas, my well-wishings were all for naught as "Number Two" Billy Gunn made his way into the ring, pounded out some weak-hearted offense and put Snow away with the move that we aren't allowed to call the Fame-asser any more. Chyna was present for this match, inspiring the undersexed young man behind me to wake up and take vocal notice. Actually, that's not entirely accurate... I did catch a comment or two coming from his direction during the previous Essa Rios match; "Him agile." Wrestling events provide the best environments for just sitting back and listening to your peers. He went on to entertain me throughout the evening, telling us all about the WWF's recent purchase of ECW and other known facts. Just out of curiosity, when did Chyna cease portraying "a man, baby" and start acting as "a fine piece of ace"?

William Regal stepped between the curtains for a promo, giving us our first big heel pop of the night. I hadn't realized just how over this gimmick was getting him until last night, when I just had to sit back and smile as he did his thing. I couldn't even hear a word, the noise was so great.

Finally, Steve Blackman main evented this broadcast of HeAt against the sorely missed Big Bossman, in a hardcore title defense that didn't go backstage for a change. Pretty straightforward stuff here, as a kendo stick and trashcan made cameos. The Bossman introduced the kendo stick, immediately inducing the referee's rage... apparently this wasn't a hardcore match after all. Bossman, kind hearted soul that he is, handed the stick over instantly, but went for his billy club while the official's back was turned. Blackman also took notice, however, and drove the object back into its owner's face with a swift kick. A three count made it official and brought us head-on into the matches set to air tomorrow night on Smackdown.

While the ring crew began the half-hour chore of switching the apron and ring ropes, Lillian Garcia graced us with the national anthem, complete with a red-white-and blue lit entry ramp. Throughout the evening, perhaps the most interesting phenomenon was the constant lulls and delays between the segments. We'd get a five-minute match or quick backstage vignette, followed by about five minutes of down time. Occasionally we'd get a quick sales-pitch, reminding us to check out the merchandise stands, but for the most part these gaps were filled with absolutely nothing. It's an unfortunate thing, too, as the crowd would be really riled up and ready to go after a solid segment, only to die a slow death while the next match was cued up. Not a very professional way to treat your audience, really. All in all, I'd say there was about 45 minutes of dead time on the four-hour program.

Finally, the arena seemed to explode in upon itself as a pyrotechnics display opened up the tapings for this Thursday's Smackdown. Right out of the gates came Rikishi, who cut a weak-hearted little promo amidst a chorus of boos. As Phatu tried to find his way around on the stick, Mick Foley made his only physical appearance of the night, threatened him with fines, suspensions and whatnot, and finally sent the vicious officers of the Indianapolis Police Department down to the ring, where they stood around uselessly until Rikishi took off.

Following the less than stellar entrance of T&A, Crash and Molly Holly were introduced, to a monstrous pop. Even the guy behind me was out of his seat, and I was a bit shocked to hear it. Perhaps Crash is getting more credit than I'd figured. His cousin Hardcore was out next, and the men got it on in the ring. Crash and Hardcore worked a more technical match, while T&A flaunted their size advantage with a more powerful set of offensive maneuvers. Even so, the Hollys found themselves holding a significant advantage when the dust began to settle. The finish saw one of the two (from that height it was hard to make a call) Hollys delivering a swift schoolboy to capture the win for his team. This left T&A feeling a bit down, but the situation was quickly remedied as they kicked the holy hell out of the lookalike cousins. Paying no attention to what always happens in these situations, the ultra-fine Molly Holly stepped between the ropes. Moments later she was stretching out after her meal... a stiff Trish Stratus boot shot. A fun little match, for what it was.

We saw HHH on the screen, but for the life of me I couldn't make out what he was saying. Making the most of the situation, I shouted "Miss Biggy will BEAT youuu!!", probably my favorite line from Acclaim's WWF Attitude for the Playstation... easily the worst wrestling game in existence.

Too Cool took on Tazz and Raven in what was just another disappointing match for the former Flock leader. The end was swift, as Raven "accidentally" hit the evenflow on Tazz, then fell back into a corner and watched as Brian Christopher dropped a leg from the top and collected the easy fall. When Tazz finally climbed to his feet, Raven was waiting for him on the floor. The two got into a verbal disagreement, and the misunderstood one delivered the spot of the night; a super-sweet DDT from the ring steps, headfirst onto an unfolded and upright chair. Looked brutal as hell.

For the next match, I was stoked. Eddy Guerrero had been announced as taking on Stone Cold Steve Austin earlier in the night, which was enough to send me off into a world of personal bliss. When Guerrero stepped into the ring to moderate heat and delivered a strong heel promo, I was eating it all up. The threat of a run-in seemed great, but I figured at the least we'd get a couple minutes' worth of solid action before all was said and done. When Austin flattened the remaining Radicals backstage, even that possible detracting factor was gone. He hit the ring, and Eddy, about two minutes later. Apparently the bionic knees don't move as well as they used to. The two pounded on one another for a little while before Austin took a decided advantage and sent things out to the floor. Once there, Chyna's estranged lover grabbed a chair and wrapped it around the Rattlesnake's legs before sending the action back onto the mat. Inside again, Austin regained the advantage, racked Eddy three times on the ringpost, delivered the double bird and hit the stunner for the pin. Yeah, that was it.. and I think I nailed the description just about move for move. Needless to say, this one was a great disappointment. Only one thing could lift me from my displeasure, and Mick Foley delivered moments later. Chris Benoit vs. the Rock. Later tonight. Yeee-uh.

The next match involved three teams, three finishers and three minutes. The Dudleyz and Hardyz took on Right To Censor in an overly hurried little pile that achieved very little. We saw a 3D, the Whassaaaah spot and the Swanton Bomb before Matt Hardy grabbed an uncharacteristically quick three count. Buh Buh Ray called for a table afterwards, but even that was too much to ask, as RTC invaded the ring and mopped up their mess. Autumn made her second bathroom break around this time, as I shouted "My girlfriend is going to PEE!" for all the world to hear. Needless to say, this thrilled the folks around me.

The remaining pyrotechnics were shot off in rapid succession, as three of the loudest entrances in the fed came one right after another. Chris Jericho and the Undertaker took on Kane and Kurt Angle. Though the ref was vehemently against the Bossman's use of a kendo stick in the hardcore match earlier this night, he had no problem whatsoever with the introduction of a chair here. The steel object was used more than once, and eventually led to the outcome; a Kurt Angle pinfall victory over the Undertaker. Kane had slammed Jericho through the announce table and as the Taker prepared to hit the Last Ride, smacked his brother with the chair. Angle fell, butthole first, onto the Undertaker's head and collected the easy count. Post-match, the Taker was seen picking pieces of corn and peanuts out of his beard.

The Road Dogg and K-Kwik led the way in the match before our main event, taking on Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko. Partway through, the crowd started a weak "boring" chant, and surprising as though you may find this, I can't really argue with them. Malenko and Saturn weren't in good form, and the Road Dogg still sucks. Kwik has promise, but didn't get enough time between the ropes to show it off here. Besides, he reminds me too much of Pa Rappa the Rappa. Kwik-Dogg took the win in this one, after a bit of poor teamwork ruined the Radicals' chances. Incidentally, Kwik's finisher looked pretty lame.

Finally, we got what I was hoping for: Chris Benoit and The Rock in ten minutes of solid, Benoit-dominated action between the ropes. I had my doubts about this one going in, afraid they'd overlook Rocky's Monday Night injury completely and please the fans with a Rock slaughter, but it was not to be. The offense and psychology was realistic and top notch, and I'll tip my hat to Rocky for going along with it. He didn't look superior out there, and it went along with the storyline ideally. We got the first successful Benoit triple-German suplex in nearly a year, a Rock-delivered Sharpshooter / Crossface combo that didn't have Benoit tapping within seconds, and a ton of strong exchanges in between. This had potential to be the best match I'd seen in months, before Rikishi's interference led to a smoggy finish. No decision was ever announced to the live crowd, nor was the bell rung. Rikishi just stepped between the ropes, looked around, and dropped the banzai onto the already-beaten Rock. Aside from the finish, a terrific matchup and worth the price of admission alone.

And that's where I'll assume the Smackdown tapings will end. Rocky was bleeding from the mouth as Benoit and Rikishi furthered their punishment, and the fans wanted Austin with a vengeance. In his stead, however, came the Undertaker. The no-longer-dead man hobbled down to the ring and spooked the two heels from their task, then helped the Rock to his feet and wished us all god speed on our way home.

Far from the worst show I've ever seen live, (that honor goes to the last Nitro I attended) this was actually pretty average from start to finish. The only thing keeping it from being one of a kind was that Guerrero / Austin match, and the outcome there was as much the fault of the workers as it was the bookers. Despite the pissy seats, I got all out of the event that I'd expected and went home with a smile on my face. Perhaps next time I won't purchase my tickets over the internet.

I'll be around this time next week with a return to my regular style, as well as a comparison between the WWF of 1997 and the WCW of today. As always, thanks for reading.
until then, i remain

Wednesday, November 8, 2000

Ringside Shadows #151: Injured Reserve

An injury is a fickle thing. In a form of entertainment that many would call a "phantom sport," nobody's supposed to get hurt. When the gladiators step behind the curtains, all the wrinkles of pain should vanish from their faces, their limps gone on a moment's notice. In an ideal world, the only bone they'd have to pick with their opponent would be over a missed spot or a poor performance. Unfortunately, the world we live in is far too real and injuries have become more and more common as audiences continue to demand something more explosive and dangerous each night. The Owen Hart tragedy, in particular, should have shown us things were getting a bit out of hand in that department, though no lesson has apparantly been learned from that disastar. But I digress.

Injuries are no longer a risk, they're a part of the territory. They'd just as soon go after a future superstar as a born loser, with the outcome being the same all around. Still, their continued appearances in the industry lend themselves quite nicely to a sort of "what if" scenario. Mark Price already explored several possibilities a couple weeks back in a column of his own, and while we'll be covering some similar territory, each of our reports boasts a couple instances missing from the other.

What follows is a run down of several big names that would have, could have or should have shaped the industry as we know it. They were all current or future main eventers in their own right, without question, and were cut down at varying stages of individual success... certainly before they could accomplish everything they'd hoped. While several of these names remain active in the field, the path to which the injury forced them is quite different than the one they were treading at the time of their accident. It's interesting to imagine how vastly different the world of wrestling would be, had these men achieved all they were shooting for, though just how different is limited only by the dreamer's imagination.

Scott Hall
As Razor Ramon in the halls of the WWF or the man behind the nWo invasion of '97, Scott Hall's already made a substantial mark in the industry as it is. He basically co-founded the ladder match with Shawn Michaels, circa Wrestlemania X, led the way in the giant migration of talent from North to South in the mid '90s and threw together more than a couple excellent matches along the way. With the world at his feet, the only thing standing between Scott Hall and permanent success was himself. Unfortunately, it was here that he made all the wrong decisions. Near the end of his WWF run, Hall began to experiment with alcohol and drugs. Though he still put out fairly strong matches at the time, his personal life was falling apart. Later, as the nWo machine began to sputter and wheeze, Hall was visibly spiralling out of control. He was absent for longer and longer periods of time, while WCW and the industry as a whole went on without him. Finally, several weeks ago, Atlanta made his termination official. I seriously doubt we'll ever see him again.

That's a real tragedy, too, as Hall had main event potential and more. Though he was never given the opportunity to grab the bright spotlight and run with it in the WWF, there was little question that his time was on the horizon. With Shawn Michaels, his constant running mate, already at the top of the card, it was only a waiting game until Hall received his big money PPV shot. As a character, Hall constantly blurred the line between face and heel, making him both more interesting and more believable than his peers. While a standard crowd-favorite would always drastically alter his motives, personality and style in the ring when he turned heel, (or vice versa) Hall maintained the same attributes regardless of his alignment. He was arrogant, slimy and damn good in the ring, whether the audience loved him or hated him for it. Hall was truly the first "cool heel," and though it's a trend I'm glad to see dying down I can't discredit him for that. As an Intercontinental champion, Hall was good, but as a World Champ, I think he could have been great.

Eddy Guerrero
I suppose it's a question of "which incident" in this case. One of the industry's most gifted athletes, Guerrero is also one of its most injury-prone. He arrived in WCW some time ago, as the first cruiserweight to gain any sort of attention, and later developed into one of the greatest natural heels of all time. Leading the LWO, Guerrero was at the forefront of a scorching anti-establishment angle that could have seen his long-overdue rise to the very top of WCW's roster, when he was involved in a devestating car accident. Several months later, Guerrero had scarcely been given time to get his feet wet again in WCW's pool when an elbow injury put him out of action once more. While sitting on the sidelines, Guerrero became involved in the real life political struggle that saw the Radicalz jump from WCW to the WWF. Upon his first match with the new employer, Eddy ripped his healthy arm out of its socket in a sickening accident that put him out of action once again. Only recently, Guerrero nearly lost yet another opportunity, as he landed on his head moments after his first stellar heel promo in the fed and injured his hamstring in the process. He's healthy, only a little worse for the wear.

Probably the most interesting thing with Guerrero is the way his injuries have interwoven with one another. Had he not been involved with the car accident that put him out for months on end, I'm of firm belief that WCW would have realized his potential and elevated him to a slot near the top of the card, as evidenced by their strong television support of the LWO angle and all the related developments. In his position higher on the card, Eddy wouldn't have been involved with the Filthy Animals gimmick that produced his elbow injury later down the line and wouldn't have been out of action at the time of the Radicals' movement. Hell, he might have found himself headlining the Souled Out card that saw Chris Benoit's world title win in the place of Sid... an act which, in turn, may have kept them from jumping ship in the first place. If the said talent jump had, in fact, gone down anyway, Guerrero most certainly wouldn't have injured his arm in the WWF ring. As easily noted in the replay, Eddy was landing differently to lighten the impact on his still-recovering right arm, which put him off balance and resulted in a terrible injury to his left. With Guerrero still healthy, the Radicals would have remained a face stable, feuding with DX near the top of the card (as booking plans at the time called for.) The fact remains, however, that Eddy Guerrero has still got a chance. Whether in WCW or the WWF, there's little doubt he would be near the top of the card today... working as one of the greatest heels around.

Curt Hennig
As Mr. Perfect in the late 80s and early 90s, Hennig was stupendous. Often heralded as one of the WWF's greatest creations, the character was filled out to perfection by the blonde second generation athlete. Everything from his well groomed appearance to his snide offhand comments were dead on, and none could argue with the near perfection of his ringwork. Fans abhored this man, and he reveled in their hatred. Working with Bret Hart, Hennig proved himself in the Intercontinental hunt as a legitimate upper midcard contender, with the seeds planted and already sprouting for a run at the top. Unfortunately, it was at the height of his promise that fate stepped in, leaving him on the sidelines with a nagging back injury throughout the height of his popularity. Though he's returned on several occasions since, the spark his been missing from his eyes, that extra bit of youth from his step. Hennig had missed out, and he knew it. While he remained technically strong, he never managed to recapture the magic he'd enjoyed under the guise of Mr. Perfect. Now, as his age catches up with him, Curt must find himself looking back at what should have been a multi-time World Champion's career.

The WWF left little doubt as to Hennig's intentions during his initial run with the federation; Mr. Perfect and Hulk Hogan were destined to collide. With Hogan riding out the remainder of his popularity wave at the time, a feud with the super-hot Hennig was all he needed to rekindle that flame and soar with the eagles once again. Perfect / Hogan was definately in the cards, and I'd be willing to bet they'd have given Hennig the nod at least once, netting him incredible noteriety as the man who beat Hogan, heel heat the likes of which we haven't seen in quite some time, and a reign (however brief) as the WWF's centerpiece World Champion. With the continued push of his victory over Hogan behind his back, he could have embarked on feuds that never came to be during his tenure in Titan. More importantly, however, he wouldn't have taken so much time off in the prime of his career and would likely remain in terrific shape today.

Mick Foley
With his official injury list reading like a transcript from Faces of Death, Mick "Mankind" Foley built his career on punishing himself for the fans. Three hundred and twenty five stitches, six concussions, a nose broken twice, a broken cheekbone and jaw, four missing teeth, five broken ribs, multiple dislocated shoulders, second and third degree burns covering much of his body, a broken wrist, a torn abdominal, a broken knee and two thirds of an ear missing, there's little doubt Foley nearly killed himself for the business. Ultimately, though, that's what got him to the top. Without the crazy stunts, suicidal dives and inhuman threshold for pain, Mick would probably be flipping burgers in New Jersey today. Without the injuries, the word Foley would still refer to those guys that make sound effects for big screen productions.

Magnum TA
Back when WCW wasn't even a glimmer in Ted Turner's eye, the NWA was running rampant with match after match, feud after feud and star after star tearing up the scene. In the era that spawned the Four Horsemen, the Steiner Brothers, Lex Luger, the Midnight Express, and countless others, it was Magnum TA who had successfully captured the public's interest as a whole. With a brief feud with Ric Flair and the young Four Horsemen already under his belt, Magnum had delivered the goods with his now-historic "best of seven" series with Nikita Koloff. Just days before teaming with Dusty Rhodes in a match against the Horsemen, Magnum was involved in a terrifying car accident that tragically ended his wrestling career before it had really begun. He returned to provide color commentary on several occasions afterwards, as Koloff switched from heel to face and carried on in Magnum's stead. The NWA attempted to pick up the pieces and move on, but the industry had been knocked on its ear by the sudden departure of an up and coming, surefire main eventer.

It's strange to think this far back or in this broad a sense, but the loss of Terry "Magnum" Allen was something that literally reshaped the way things turned out today. Much like Hennig, it was only a matter of time until Magnum captured the elusive gold that fit snugly around Flair's waist, and the NWA was backing him heavily against the threat of Hulk Hogan in his heyday. Though Flair is undoubtedly the greatest of all time, the popular consensus will always see Hogan as ruler of the '80s, with the WWF plowing head-on into their "Rock'n Wrestling" success and introducing the industry to a vast new audience. With the intense popularity of Magnum to counter his unchallenged reign as king of heels, Flair and the NWA could have captured the WWF's new audience with an amazing feud or two and moved ahead as the new leader in sports entertainment. Instead of Hogan vs. Andre, the pinnacle of the '80s could very well have been Flair vs. Magnum. It's hypothetical talk, but very big talk all the same. We could have ended up looking at a completely different landscape, with different focal points and memories.

The Dynamite Kid
Similar to Mick Foley, the Dynamite Kid systematically destroyed himself to get where he was in the mid '80s, though not nearly to such a severe degree. Where Foley would dive headfirst off a twenty foot cage, into piles of thumbtacks or sharply onto a concrete floor, Dynamite's form of self-destruction was a bit more traditional. He'd deliver standard moves of the day in spectacular and original fashion, throwing himself and an opponent off the top rope all the way to the floor in a sickening superplex gone bad. He basically created the snap suplex, and redefined the diving headbutt. Through the years of beatings, stress and steroid doses, the Kid's back finally gave out on him, forcing his career to a close and dooming the Kid to life within the confines of a wheelchair. Dynamite's style was literally a generation or two ahead of its time, as he emphasized psychology, a unique blend of convincing submissions and spectacular high flying, and an effort of 125% each and every match.

Had Dynamite managed to escape serious injury all the way to today's scene, however unlikely that is, I think he could have made a profound effect on the direction of the industry and the dedication of the youth. Many of today's greatest young athletes consider him an influence at the very least, (with Chris Benoit going so far as to say he wouldn't be wrestling today if not for the Kid) and I think his presence in the backstage area as a peer and, later on, a mentor would have been nothing but healthy for the future. Where a Matt or Jeff Hardy isn't getting the chance they should to round out their game in today's crash TV format, Dynamite could step in and give them the schooling they need to utilize proper pacing and psychology, and then to integrate it into a five or ten minute match on Raw. Though I seriously doubt Dynamite could have gone much further in singles competition during his time, due to his size, I could see him having a profound effect on the upcoming generation(s) as a backstage presence.

Finding stardom in the WWF as the 1-2-3 Kid, aligned alongside Razor Ramon, X-Pac never achieved much during his initial run and was canned just after Hall and Nash left the promotion. Picked up as an early member of the nWo, Waltman became Syxx and entered into the highly competitive cruiserweight divison. Racking up successful feuds with Eddy Guerrero and Chris Jericho, among others, Syxx was building a name for himself as one of the industry's finest before a water bottle thrown from the stands scored a direct hit on his head... breaking his neck. Waltman had experienced troubles with his neck in the past, and this aggrivation of the injury put him on injured reserve for quite some time. Just as things appeared to be ready for his return to the ring, Eric Bischoff laid down the boom and sent him his pink slip. Noticing WCW's blunder, the WWF quickly snatched him back up, dubbed him X-Pac and sent him to the ring to join Kliq member HHH in the ultra-hot stable Degeneration X.

While it may be easy to disregard Waltman's injury, as he hasn't done anything noteworthy afterwards and remains in good health, one mustn't overlook the result of his jump to the WWF. The night after Wrestlemania XIV, X-Pac's arrival has been labeled a turning point in the war between Bischoff and McMahon. Viewers, curious to see the aftermatch of the biggest event of the year, tuned in to see Steve Austin and stayed to watch Syxx-Pac. His shoot interview at the beginning of the program will go down in history as one of the most important of the decade, and was a pure definition of what the WWF Attitude era was all about. Fans liked what they saw, and one by one flipped their channels from TNT to USA. Had Waltman not jumped ship at the right moment, fans may have checked on Austin's victory and then switched back to Nitro for the duration. Had his speech not been so heartfelt and memorable, many wouldn't have stuck around for half of it. Shawn Waltman was the right person at the right time, and he gave the WWF that extra something they needed to get going in the right direction again. Sure, Vince would have certainly overtaken WCW at some point anyway, but this way he did it in style. The WWF was doing the same they'd done for the past few months, but Waltman gave them the added attention they needed to strut their stuff. He brought the viewers on that night, and the boys got them to stick around.

Steve Austin
As a cult favorite star in WCW, Austin found himself rubbing the dog the wrong way for much of his time in the Southern promotion. By stealing the show alongside tag team partner Brian Pillman time and time again, Austin made all the wrong kinds of enemies backstage, a problem that seemingly solved itself when Ric Flair took over the reigns of the company in the mid '90s. Primping Austin as a future main eventer, Flair was oblivious to the power struggles going on behind the scenes until it was already too late. Eric Bischoff took over and, as Austin was on injured reserve, (the exact injury is debated, be it a shoulder or knee) fired him over the telephone. Austin went on to become a rocketship bound for stardom in the WWF, holding the Intercontinental Title for months before a botched sit down tombstone piledriver nearly broke his neck. He took a significant amount of time off before making his big return and climbing to the top of the card regardless. Years down the line, with the neck injury still nagging him, Austin took ten months off for intensive neck surgery and rehabilitation. He's recently returned, to mixed reviews.

Much like Guerrero, this is a game of "which injury, which time." Austin has made it no secret he was unhappy in the Bischoff-helmed WCW, and I'd imagine he would have left the promotion on his own if and when he were given the chance. Therefore, the time off that prompted his release over the phone (and subsequent development of the Stone Cold character) is insignificant in the end, as I'd see him ending up in the WWF either way. The real issue here is the neck injury, delivered at the hands of the late Owen Hart. Before this crushing accident, Austin was a brilliant technician in the ring. He took risks with his body that gave a certain unpredictable air to his character, a trait he held in common with a pre-main event Sting. He was probably one of the most well-rounded workers you'll ever find, and no better evidence can be produced than the opening ten minutes of the match that nearly snapped his neck. Austin and Owen worked together beautifully, and had put together a stupendous match right up to and including that fateful spot. They'd traded turns on the offense, kept the crowd interested with choice gestures at just the right moments, and were headed to a big finish that fell flat on its face when Austin laid motionless on the mat. Both men knew their art inside and out, and they were giving the crowd one to remember.

After his return, Austin was a completely different character. Much as Jushin Liger completely remodeled his style from high flying to mat-based after a knee injury, Austin reinvented himself. He went from a technician to a brawler, and proved his versitality by doing both well. The style shift fit his character, and crowds everywhere got into it, but the unpredictable nature that had made him so perfect was gone. Understandably, Austin wasn't about to take any more chances with his body, not when he was this close. He perfected the brawling and continued producing excellent matches up until last year's Survivor Series. I'll be devoting an entire column to his return later in the month, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

So, in retrospect, would the world be a better place if Eddy Guerrero hadn't gone out on that New Year's eve, or Austin hadn't laced up the boots that night? I'm not certain. Would things have turned out a whole helluva lot differently? Without question. These are the events that got us where we are today, the tragedies and troubles that shaped the way we see things. Just imagine who could be next, and what unexpected turn we'll take next.

I'll be attending the Smackdown tapings this Tuesday night in Indianapolis, so it's quite likely that I'll be dealing with the spoilers in next week's post. If that bugs you, skip over the column until they air and then stop in again to see the stories that go alongside the event. I promise this won't be like every other Smackdown report that hits the 'net. Oh, and in case you're wondering, I'll be in the nosebleed seats, so don't look for any inventive signs from me on that night.
until then, i remain