"Where the big boys play" is quickly becoming a past-tense, and unless WCW takes some giant steps from what I saw last night, a return to state fairs and bingo halls can't be too far behind.
The Cruiserweight Tourney Stands To Regain Past Glory
Probably the shining light in the vast, never-ending darkness of WCW's present has been the opening of the past 2 weeks' shows. Psychosis met Kidman in an excellent luchador duel on last week's installment, while he opened off this week's program with a victory against the equally spectacular Kaz Hayashi. So long as the talent remains the emphasis of this new division, I think failure would be difficult.. but not unattainable. Case in point; this week's match. These two are among the most consistant of all North American grapplers, yet their match left a lot to be desired. The crowd was hot, so nothing was missing there. I can't argue with the booking (well.. Juvi's 'Rock' gimmick is getting old), so the problem isn't there. Even the talent can't really be blamed, as everyone has off nights. What these two were missing was heart. In a federation so plagued with backstage difficulties, it's painfully obvious that morale has sunk to an all-time low, and that's saying something. There was no life behind Kaz's mean plancha outside the ring. Psychosis stared vacantly into the crowd instead of showcasing the charisma that he focused on after losing his mask. These two went out, no longer because they loved what they were doing, but because they had a job to do. In the shambles of the Turner (wait.. AOL...) empire, nobody's backstage giving them a reason to show a spark, and that is why this relaunch has already failed.
Even the little things are returning to the hopeless form that we'd left behind with Eric Bischoff. As Bob Ryder noticed on WCW Live, there were no brackets presented in this new tournament. This not only leaves the fans in the dark, but the talent as well. The proof that this hasn't been thought through correctly is obvious. Even with Terry Taylor masterminding this new division, I wonder.. do they really mean what they say? Do they know what made the original cruiserweight battles so special, or are they simply falling back on something they know worked in the past? Without Blitzkrieg, 90% of their luchador roster, and an injured Juventud Guerrera and Rey Misterio Jr., can this manage to get off the runway before it collapses? Or will a new class step up and take the slots abandoned by their predecessors 2 years ago?
WCW Talent Check: week 2
Nearly everybody I mentioned as promising last week saw work on this week's edition of Nitro. Crowbar proved that he's got the talk to walk the walk, during his hysterical segment on Nitro. Three Count's Shannon Moore took some of the nastiest bumps this side of Madison Square Garden. And... um.. that's it. Damned, WCW has little to no future. Just for tits and wiggles, I'll toss the Vampiro / Kidman match into this little segment, too, as I think both more than qualify as 'talent'. Let's start with Crowbar. While some would look past his work on the mic, instead paying attention to Daffney's attempts at stealing the spotlight or David's mumblings, I can see the writing on the wall. Crowbar (that name's tired already) took the time to raise his character to a totally different level, separating himself from the Flair clone that he'd become and showing off his voice in a fashion that didn't demand attention, only asked for it. I got a chuckle or two from his off-hand remarks, and he obviously was seeing the match live.. so he couldn't have scripted his reactions or phrases. It's often been said that the best promos come from the heart, and he's apparantly already mastered that aspect. As the intellectual psycho, Crowbar (there's that name again) could go places in a hurry.
Of note before I move on; on WCW Live last night, Mark Madden mentioned that "Miss Hancock should learn to act because she was laughing during David Flair's dance on the table." Come on, Mark.. she wasn't hired to play a sexy lawyer, she was hired to dance as a Nitro Girl. I think she's done a good enough job as is, and her smiling at Dave could actually be worked flawlessly into a future storyline (actually, I'll be surprised if it isn't). Daffney knew something was up, and took to the assault.. nothing's better than a feud over a love. I got more than one laugh out of David's table dance, though.. classic stuff.
Three Count saw action last night against Norman Smiley, and managed to play the perfect annoying heel. These 3 have really grown into the roles they seem to have been born to play, and the audience has responded in turn. The crowd loves to hate them, and they can apparently get anybody over by taking a bump or two.As the bastard child of the Hardy Boyz and Too Cool, I could see Shane and Shannon branching off from Karagias and having a go of it as formidable, solid faces in the next months. Another couple of guys to keep your eyes on, for certain.
Finally, Vampiro took on Kidman in one of the more anticipated bouts of the evening.. and promptly blew nearly every spot along the way. Like I've said above, it's understandable for the talent to have an off night.. it's just preferable that it all doesn't hit on the same night. Kidman and Vampiro both have long, promising futures ahead of them, and I think their match can be filed away in the same category as Psychosis/Kaz Hayashi. There was no fire in this one, just a job being completed. That morale better lift quickly, before Busch & company have completely lost any foundation from which to build.
Poor Terry Funk, and the World Title Picture
I've said enough already about WCW, so I'll keep this brief. Terry Funk plays a damn good sympathetic face. Much like his blood brother, Mick Foley, this guy isn't just appreciated by the general public.. he's loved. If he brings Ric Flair back into the dance, the deal is sealed. While the inmates have again captured the asylum, Sid Vicious picked up the world title he probably should've grabbed at Souled Out.. for safety's sake. In a memorably bad match that a surprising number of people wanted to see, he 'tricked' little naitch, Charles Robinson, and won the match through questionable tactics. Whoopeee! I'll just say this; for every fan that cheered for Sid last night, there was something in the audience that made me forgive them. I saw, in no particular order, signs reading "WCW SUCKS", "we hate Goldberg", several dozen lucha masks, and interest in a match involving Psychosis. Hoo haa is right.
The Hot Feud of the Moment
If you'd like to know how to build a feud, take a glance over at the recent Hardys/Dudleys bits. Last week's singles encounter built to Smackdown, which in turn built to the PPV in a near-flawless manner. By putting both Hardys through a table and presenting an air of danger afterwards, the instance was burned into our minds and really stood out from the show. For example... how many of you remember the night Mick Foley and Terry Funk were thrown off the stage while inside a dumpster? OK, now what was the main event that night? See, if something sticks into your mind vividly like that, it's important to recognize it and expand upon it almost immediately. Maybe the WWF was just trying to build a little interest in the undercard of their Royal Rumble PPV... they unleashed a monster and instead of trying to capture it, they've climbed on and let it go its own way. At any rate, I think the moment that I realized just how genius this whole thing has come together was last night, when Buh Buh broke up the pinfall that would've resulted in the Hardys' second Title reign. I actually felt personally betrayed, and wanted to see the Dudleys pay for taking this special moment away from my favorite tag team. If a feud like this can break the plane of truth and fiction with me, somebody who doesn't think too highly of storylines to begin with, think of how easily it broke that division with those who thrive on them. This one's worth every second it's been on the TV screen, and I hope it continues for a good run.
Al Snow Steals the Show
Damn.. and he just got new theme music, too. Just when every hint of that loveable, fun Al Snow had been scraped away in favor of his newer "pissed off guy with a mannequin head" look, he tears out that promo with Steve Blackman. Honestly, the skit itself was merely amusing.. it was Al's encouragement and ultimate success with the crowd that made it hilarious. Only in an Al Snow match could you even think about hearing an audience chant "head cheese." After a long, strange trip (I shudder to use that tired old phrase, especially since I despise the Grateful Dead), Al Snow's finally found a character that works.. a darker version of himself. He's not the psychopath that talks to dogs and heads.. he's not the vengeful, betrayed friend.. he's not even Leif Cassidy (though I have no idea why that didn't get over). He's just himself, or a twisted version of such. Truth is stranger than fiction, and often more interesting to boot.
Grudges Don't Die.. They Just Get Boring
Can they drag out this Jericho / Chyna thing a bit longer? Yea, they respect each other.. whee ha! They don't need to prove it week in and week out by either saving or attacking each other. The feud's run its course, and needs to end. Now. As good as the WWF may end up being, the truth is there are dozens of lessons they still need to learn, and one of them is knowing when to end a feud. It was the case with the 'gang wars' of 1997, it was the case with the Undertaker's Ministry of Darkness, and it's the case now. This is getting beyond the point of raising Chyna's stock or establishing Jericho's credibility, this is dragging them both down. Al Snow barely recovered from his extended matches with the Big Bossman (though I'm not sure Paul Wight ever will). Don't let the same be true with Chris Jericho.
Finally, on a couple notes that don't fit much of anywhere, it was good to see Stevie Richards and Droz back and in good health this week. Their presence really lifted the spirits of the evening, as well as delivering a smile or two. Richards' violent kicking spasms post-match especially stood out as one of the evening's funniest moments.
And hey! I've got a couple letters.. let's pop open that mailbox .. lube that sumbitch up real good... and answer a message or two. What, you thought I'd try to stick that thing up your ass? You have any idea how much those things run? Anyway.. lame, sad humor aside, here's
Hammerly99@aol.com wrote in to clear up some of last week's confusion regarding the 'wrestling jesus' character;
"Wrestling Jesus was a parody that was first posted at WrestleLine. It was funny as hell if it wasn't taken to seriously."
Thanks for clearing that up, I hadn't a clue where this rumor would've started in the first place. Moving on..
Ravager30@aol.com has a thing or two to say about the WCW shakeup;
"Well, as hopefull as we all are that we may soon get to see Benoit in WWF, saturn, malenko, & mysterio in ECW/Japan, and Konnan working at Taco Bell, I'll believe it when I see it. Benoit & Kidman have had prior opportunities to leave, and passed on it(of course, things have never been this bad in WCW to my recollection). So, while I want to believe as much as anyone else, I won't fully believe it till they actually show up on another network. Hell, maybe a couple of them should go join good old Teddy down in Florida (Dibase is the commisoner of some federation called WXO down there). They could actually badly use some superstars with there top guy being Dan "the snorefest" Severn"
Yours is the most dependable outlook on things, and one I share myself. In this world of false internet reports, faked taping results and the like, it's difficult to take anything at face value any more. Though it all seems to be a done deal at this moment (with The Daily Lariat reporting it to be fact, and Perry Saturn's official website confirming his official release), I'll again wait until a Raw or Smackdown appearance to place all my trust in the final jump. It should also be noted that WCW.com hasn't removed any of the 4 men rumored to be out (Benoit, Saturn, Malenko, and Guerrero) from their 'superstars' list, though Jericho had been on WWF tv for nearly a month before he was removed. At any rate, things look good for the four I mentioned and very bad for Konnan and Douglas, who were apparantly left in the dust with this exchange.
I've also heard of Dibiase's federation, and the fact that he's behind it lends instant credibility in my book.. though none of the workers in question would really fit into such an environment. The former Million Dollar man runs a clean, wholesome show aimed at a family audience, which is a niche that definately needs filling in today's industry. However, a step down at this point would be critical to Benoit.. not one month removed from carrying the WCW world title. Konnan, Saturn, Guerrero and Douglas are out of the picture on general principal, as all are best suited in their controversial roles, while Malenko would probably be the easiest fit. All in all, I'd really like to see Dibiase survive, but I don't think it's meant to be. Anyway, thanks for your letter and for reading.
For those keeping score, the Suicide Machines / mp3 hunt has come to a successful conclusion thanks to Greg Porter (email@example.com), who wrote a bit more that was cut out.. sorry..
"Napster has a music player, the option to build playsets to listen to certain downloads in, people can upload your music that you currently have, and like I said, it has everything (remixes, live shows, Woodstock, etc.). Give it a shot by going to "www.napster.com" and download it to your database. You will not be disappointed. DRQ, thanks for the great column & y'all take care."
I'll personally vouch for this one, it's pretty sweet. Where else would I have found an mp3 of Mr. Bungle playing the Super Mario Brothers theme song? Smooth...
Wrapping things up on a wrestling-related note, TROY, FROM MARYLAND (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes;
"WHEN IS SHAWN MICHEALS GOING TO RETURN. TROY, FROM MARYLAND"
To put it bluntly, he's not.. Shawn Michaels has retired. The reign is over. The dynasty has collapsed. The man has moved on. He has a family now, not to mention an incomplete back. If he returned to action, it would not only be at a tremendously limited position (he would let us all down, after this immense buildup), but he'd be risking his life to do it. Personally, I'd rather keep all those good memories than see him go the way of a Roddy Piper or a Randy Savage and run with it until he's nearly ruined all the good matches with his bad.
That should do it for me. I've finally got my work caught up, an empty mailbox, and a fresh column on the boards. Add to that the fact that I'm nearing the end of Final Fantasy V, and Life is grand.
until then, i remain