Tuesday, February 29, 2000

Ringside Shadows #108: Making Do...

Following up on one of their most eagerly awaited PPVs, No Way Out, the wheels started turning for the WWF once more with their now expectedly spectacular post-event episode of RAW. Much like the big throw down the evening before, the card looks great on paper, but didn't really pan out as well as it could, thanks to a mismanagement of time, horrendous overbooking and a slightly sub-par delivery from the workers. Yet despite the chaos, both shows tied themselves together pretty nicely, and I'll be the first to admit this is a far, far cry from the WWF of half a year ago...

Nitro flailed desperately, and tried to convince us they'd seen the err of their ways by granting us a decent matchup or two throughout the night. They continued Vampiro's whiplash of a push, throwing him right up to US title contention. They teased us with a potential blockbuster in Kidman vs. Booker. They even somewhat intrigued us with Sid vs. Tank Abbott, but in the end the product was left as flat as ever, if not more so. My thoughts on the evening's programs, as well as a bit or two about last night lie in ambush just ahead... keep your head about you.

Nitro Tries to Make Do With What's Left..

The evening started off harmlessly enough, and managed to withhold a bit of interest in the card itself. Kidman vs. Booker had all the potential in the world, as both men needed a proverbial kick in the ass anyway. Since the departure of the old creative team, neither's given nearly the same amount of 'oomph' in the ring as before, and I can't say I really blame them. As far as Tony Schiavone's concerned, everything Booker's done has been in retaliation to his brother, and Kidman doesn't even get the respect of a mention anymore (sans the always interesting Madden word or two). I'd have preferred to have seen their split as a team given more time to mature, but the concept of waiting and developing a storyline seems as foreign to these bookers as a Cantonese lap dance.

All storylines aside, these two stepped in and stepped up, delivering a juicy bit of believable offense. Kidman made Booker's axe kick look credible, even after a prolonged delay.. and then began his trademark comeback. Hell, I was even looking forward to the Shooting Star Press at some point.

Vampiro and Jeff Jarrett are all the reason I really need to watch a match up, and though both were a little bit off in their fight, the booking nearly made up for it all. Vampiro was booked as the solid face, and the crowd really ate it up.. which tells volumes about the improvements Jarrett's made in the past months, considering Vampiro had lost a good chunk of his heat recently. For the first time in many moons, a smile crept across my face during a Nitro broadcast as Vampiro kicked out of the belt shot. Of course the premature ringing of the bell nearly spoiled the ending for me, but you can't blame the bookers for that.

...And Then Shows They've Learned Nothing At All

What you can blame them for is the rest of the evening. That Kidman vs. Booker instant classic I was praising earlier? Ended not with a strong pinfall.. not with a justified DQ.. not even with a double count-out. It was a no-contest, after the Harris Boys did their Sid-like run-in. They put the wrong man over in the Vampiro/Jarrett match (why do you need a US belt, if the title's holder is preoccupied in the main event?) They ran the same main events that've killed their PPV buyrates for the past 2 years... and nobody really noticed. I'm surprised they didn't air an angle portraying a 70 year old woman giving birth to a prosthetic hand (oooh.) On top of all that, they punished their audience for being interested in the matches. Just as one of the evening's matchups reached the boiling point and the audience started to get a bit crazy, somebody in the production truck killed the audience sound! And they wonder why it's so difficult to fill the arenas these days. All that, plus the triumphant return of the Cat! What a great day it really was.

It's the 'Twist of Fate', Samir..

I'll be giving you a lot on the WWF this time around, so I'll try to keep this short.. they've done a superb job in elevating their young talent. I'll touch on this later in the next paragraph, but just from last night's show they've balanced out the Hardys' loss, moved Jericho and Saturn on into a highly anticipated series and thrown Kurt Angle into a lions' den, dropping him right in the middle of the Radicals/Too Cool feud. The only talent I'm really not happy with thus far is Tazz, as he's stuck in the antithesis of good, the Big Bossman. His match with Benoit could've been epic, and served to get both over with the WWF crowd in as little as 5 minutes, but the run-in apparantly could not be delayed. It's a shame, really, as Tazz could fit into this puzzle effortlessly. I guess I'll just have to 'settle' for the possibility of Jericho vs. Saturn, Angle vs. Benoit, Malenko vs. Taylor and Guerrero vs. Christopher.

Why the Current Stuff Clicks

Quite simply, it all fits. The storylines the WWF's writers have put together lately are so intricate and interwoven, things start to fall into place and make sense on their own. Seeing Jericho and Chyna played into the Too Cool angle was priceless stuff, working to elevate everybody involved and stirring the crowd into a frenzy. Everything might not go as I'd like it to (most notably, the Benoit/Tazz match), but I'll accept the bad with the good so long as there's a good worth accepting out there.

The WWF's in the situation right now that most promotions dream of; nearly everyone on their roster is an acceptable main eventer either now or in the near future. The higher ups can literally pick and choose their future right now, and they've quite a collection to choose from. On that same page, the competition for said spot(s) is fiercer than ever, but friendly. The efforts of each guy in the back serve to push their peers that much harder and higher, in hopes of outshining the previous guy. All this, and everything's just healthy competition. Cool.

No Way Out... Didn't Meet My Expectations

I know, I know.. I'm a negative bastard, right? It's true... it takes one hell of a show to impress me, and I don't think much could've done this past Sunday night, after building it up in my mind for weeks beforehand. Sure, the HIAC was memorable... but it lacked the sponteneity that made the King of the Ring match so special. It was a superb idea to give the Hardys and Edge/Christian a full 15 minutes, but both teams weren't wearing their game faces and the match suffered quite a bit as a result. I'll keep these short, and for the first time in human history... I'll award a star-based rating (Oh, lord.. I've descended to the level of the ordinary)

-Kurt Angle over Chris Jericho-
This was quite the opener, and the crowd appreciated it, until they actually started wrestling. Angle started the job of releasing the Jericho of old upon the world again, as the Y2J looked to become innovative again. His lionsault off the ring steps could've been one hell of a spot, had he given it enough push to get more than a foot off the ground. As is, it landed and passed as a kick to the head and Angle sold it like a pro. The false finishes were very well done, and achieved their goal of getting both men over, as well as waking up the audience (who'd just started to nap due to excessive ringwork). I wonder... would Angle have made it to the ropes if Jericho had strapped on the Liontamer, instead of this poor, watered down imitation called the Walls of Jericho? Very nice, and the ending was played well enough to keep each man's heat constant.

-The Dudley Boyz over the New Age Outlaws-
Hot damn, were the fans happy to see D-Von and Buh Buh Ray. For the first time in a good while, the Outlaws were treated as heels. Nice. Too bad that was the only really memorable part of the matchup. Nice spot to start the injury angle (looked mean, but why wouldn't you just put him through a table? It goes with the gimmick so much better), the right team won, and the crowd dug it.

-Mark Henry over Viscera-
I was kidding when I mentioned Viscera as a potential add-on match in the preview... really. I was actually glad when the video feed cut out for a couple minutes, because this was just dumb, with the high point being the crowd's chant of "boring".

-Edge/Christian over the Hardys-
A much slower pace than I'm used to with these teams, and the crowd seemed to feel the same way. Christian was in there entirely too long and they fell into the rut I feared they might, simply rehashing portions of their previous encounters. Sure, Edge's spear from the top was nice but I've seen that one before, and they still haven't hit it quite correctly. Like I said, the match's pace was a bit slow for my liking but when it did take off, the action was intense. The finish was typical Hardys-fare, with Jeff selling Terri's shove as though he'd been shot out of a cannon (and taking a mean face first bump to the rail on the way down) and Matt taking Christian's finisher like a man for the 1-2-3.

-Tazz over the Bossman-
Was this altogether necessary? Tazz was over like a monster in his old stomping grounds, and they send him out there to do a minute-long DQ match against the master of the bad sale, the Big Bossman. Taking the nightstick shot was a decent enough spot, but the surrounding 4 minutes on either side pretty much slowed the night's energy level to a crawl. It takes a lot of shit for me to give a match the dreaded DUD rating, but it would be a struggle to even call this one a match.

-X-Pac over Kane-
This gave us a couple worthwhile spots.. and a bit of ingenuity, as well. I really wish X-Pac had utilized the entryway cage more than for that one brief moment, but it's all for naught I guess. For a matchup that went all around the arena and back again, this one was over rather quickly. The finish was well done, again allowing both men to keep their momentum. In this case, X-Pac took a step up after a somewhat clean victory (well.. ok, it was a bit dirty.. a bit) and Kane doesn't lose a thing.

-Too Cool w/Rikishi over the Radicals-
I'm surprised as hell the WCW 4 were treated this way, especially considering their initial push to the moon. Guerrero was a non-factor, and Malenko nearly jobbed within the first minute. I don't sense a burial in store here, though they do seem to be rapidly losing their vigor... again. Malenko's trying his best to put forward a little personality, playing the role of the little prick, always the hero when the opposition's down, but the first to run when the tides have turned. Either way, I can't complain in a match that elevates one of these teams, because they're both deserving in my eyes. This one had too many knee dives to register any higher than...

-Big Show over the Rock-
Last night marked the first time in weeks the Rock had landed a people's elbow without interference. Just thought I'd point that out, as an attack during the fabled maneuver is becoming cliched. These guys gave us just what was expected, nothing more and nothing less. Both came out of the curtains on fire, but ran out of wind about 30 seconds in and didn't improve from there. The swerve was an added attraction, but one I could've done without. A clean finish may have garnered this one another quarter star. We got nothing inventive, just two guys playing it safe on a 'secondary' PPV.

-HHH over Cactus Jack-
In some ways, I'd give this one stars above the legendary King of the Ring HIAC match.. though in others it pales in comparison. The stakes for this one were, of course, much higher, and the audience was much more receptive than that sad Pittsburgh gathering in 1998. The match was better developed as a whole, but that isn't saying much considering the second HIAC wasn't much more than 3 big spots and a lot of stalling and rest holds. Gone, however, was the sponteneity. There was no sense of urgency, as though Foley's life hung in the balance this go round. Gone were the physicians (and Terry Funk!) from ringside, pleading with Foley to quit while he was still breathing... in their place was a solitary ref and HHH, kicking Mick in the same manner he would a dead rat.

Even JR's perfected calling of the match was off, as he spouted out nearly the same remarks as that late autumn evening a year back. "My god, he's broken in half!", "Call off the damn match! I'm serious!"... it just doesn't have the same impact the second time around, and I'm a bit ashamed that JR couldn't come up with something a little more... I don't know, original?

Surely, this was the best match on the card, hands down. However, it's a far cry from the 5* clash my buddy John made it out to be. Mick poured his heart out in this by heading back into the cage one last time, an effort to please his overbearing following. I'll give him all the credit in the world for giving it his all one last time, but his best days are well behind him. Even with HHH putting everything he had into it, I don't think Mick could put together a match on par with Austin/Hart or Michaels/Razor.. both the epitomy of a 5* match today. I'm sorry to see him go, but I'd be even sorrier to see him stay and watch him deteriorate into a Funk or worse... a Hogan.

And that should wrap it up for yet another installment of the drqest column on the networks (boy that was lame, eh?) I've finally pretty much cleared my computer of the e-mail virus I contracted a couple weeks ago, but I've unfortunately lost all the mail I'd collected for print within the week. Sooo.. if you e-mailed me (or John and I) over the past week, I didn't get your mail. Sorry.. hopefully I won't have to deal with this sort of thing any more.

At any rate, I'll be back later in the week to progress on my unending WCW talent evaluations, likely this Friday. There will be no Tuesday Review next week (nor any columns, actually), as I'll be headed to Sarasota, FL for my annual Spring Break on the beach. I'll be back stronger than ever in 2 weeks time though, and as always...
until then, i remain

Friday, February 25, 2000

The World's Greatest WWF No Way Out 2000 Preview

The differences between this card and the WCW joke of a PPV run much deeper than just good booking, a strong card or even the talent involved therein. Probably the WWF's greatest advantage over the Turner lackeys is their morale. Following the now-infamous 10 man tag event on Raw, the team atmosphere and all around good spirit in the locker room was said to have reached an all-time high. Where a Buff Bagwell or Konnan would moan about working house shows over in Atlanta, Vince is actually turning workers away from his tours... because everybody wants to work! They say when you enjoy what you're doing, you can't help but give it your all... I can say it's true, both with the majority of my writing and with my design work. Putting it bluntly, theWWF is sitting on the verge of a renaissance. It's no longer all about the cash flow (though I wouldn't be so deluded as to claim that's not an important factor), it's about improving the overall product and, overall, enjoying yourself. The fans can tell if the workers don't give a shit, and it drags down the entire atmosphere of the show.. effectively killing all the heat. To put it simply, I'd be surprised if that Flair/Funk encounter topped any match on this card (barring an exceptional last second add-on match, featuring my good cousin Mideon vs. Viscera) because of that very reason.

In the day and age of crash tv, short attention spans and pokemon-induced seizures, a card with just 7 matches (and even 8, including that Mideon/Viscera instant classic) is completely out of the question. Surprisingly enough, the WWF fans seem almost ready to accept it, and the longer matches it will certainly contain. Sure, he could stick that middle finger high and send out the Rock or HHH for a 20 minute promo, but I'm willing to trust Vince for the moment. He knows how high the interest has boiled for this one, both on the internet and amongst the general public and I doubt he'll drop the ball now. Barring a program a half an hour short (as was the case with the stupendous KOTR 99), this could tear down that wall and tack up the new rules for the WWF.. just in time for Wrestlemania.

Edge & Christian vs. The Hardys
To determine the #1 contenders for the WWF Tag Titles

Another one we've seen before, but I'm still not complaining. The WWF hit gold when they put these two together, and everybody knows it by now. I'm pleased as hell to see both teams as over as they are with the WWF's fickle audience, with next to no mic time. For a cranky, workrate-obsessed bastard like myself, that comes as a sort of miracle. I'm afraid these guys have done everything possible with this pairing twice over, and it may become more of a highlight reel of all their past encounters.. but it's sure to be worth your while either way. The bookers have done a good job improving on the only factor that's been missing from these teams' encounters in the past, with that being the lack of emotion between the two. The time-proven method of teaming a feuding group together and watching the fireworks has flowered perfectly in this case, and I think they're ready to seal up their long-standing feud once and for all here. I'll go with Edge and Christian, with a teased Hardys split thrown in just for the hell of it.
Winners: Edge and Christian

New Age Outlaws vs. The Dudley Boyz
Tag Team Championship Match

Goddamned, won't it suck if the Outlaws don't drop the fraggin' belts here. They've sat upon the gold throughout the resurgence of their division and have yet to really put forward the effort that should be demanded of champions. Now, with the division literally bursting at the seams and in better shape than it's been in since the day of the British Bulldogs, it's absolutely crucial that the Dudleys get a piece of the gold here. With a good chunk of face teams around, they all need a solid heel champion team to challenge, and there exists no better team than the Dudleys. They've been built quite well lately, with their big 'powerbombing through tables' gimmick sending them into the stratosphere of heel heat. If there's a match on the card that will let you down, this is it.. but I'm hoping the Dudleys are good enough to realize what's going on around them and really give us a memorable showing.
Winners: The Dudley Boyz

Kane vs. X-Pac
No Holds Barred

We've only seen this one... how many times in the past? Even the Rock / Big Show has a bit more allure than this one, though we're sure to see a much better match here. After all their encounters, I'd imagine X-Pac and Kane could've mixed up some unbelievable spots, seeing as how they're so used to working with each other by this point. A loss here could really crush Kane's big push to the top, but it's just what I'm looking for, with a revenge victory finally putting this feud down for the count at the big WM. If X-Pac's in full back-breaking, bump-taking, lactating mode and Kane feels like coming in for an effort, this could end up as the premiere David and Goliath story, with the roles reversed a bit just for the story's sake.
Winner: X-Pac

Too Cool & Rikishi vs. The Radicals: Benoit, Saturn & Malenko w/Eddy Guerrero
Six-man tag team match

I'm actually a bit surprised to see Benoit in the tag ranks here, but I guess there wasn't really anybody else to stick him with in a singles match. Easily one of the matches I'm most looking forward to, the WCW 4 will be able to forget about carrying their opponents for a change and concentrate on giving us one for the books. Taylor and Christopher know what they're doing in the ring, and bring all the heat you'll ever need with their charismatic approach to.. well, everything. Rikishi is actually quite good for a big man. He can keep up for the most part, and isn't afraid to take a nasty spill or two along the way (see Benoit's german suplex on Raw).. so I think he'll fit in fine here. The real action, of course, will be with the other 5 but I'm looking to see Rikishi in for the finish. I'd expect this to be the last match of the Radicals' big introductory push, and they'll have to make their own way from here on.
Winners: The Radicals

Chris Jericho vs. Kurt Angle
Intercontinental Championship match

Here's hoping Jericho's willing to jump out of the lazy little rut he's been hanging in recently and show us all he's still got it this Sunday night. It's no secret he's been a completely different worker since the big jump, concentrating more on the almighty catch phrase than on maintaining his impressive work in the ring. Perhaps the white-hot Kurt Angle can drag something out of him that his prolonged feud with Chyna didn't, who knows. Even if he remains in lazy-heart mode, this one will be very worthwhile. Don't expect a clear-cut winner here, since a loss would knock both men down considerably. I'llpostpone the inevitable Chyna turn until Wrestlemania and call for either a double countout victory here or a DQ in favor of Y2J. Still, I'd look for a very competitive matchup here, as the two young stars justify their position as solid upper mid carders. Each will hit his finisher, but neither will take the fall.
Winner: (if any) Y2J

Big Show vs. The Rock
For a shot at the WWF Champion at WrestleMania

Let's just say I'm looking for this to be kept to a minimum. That wouldn't make good business sense though, especially considering most of the fans are there to see Rocky. He'll likely cut a brief promo early in the night, fight for 10-15 minutes here and then get involved in the main event for the big finish. I'd given it thought to make this my big upset pick of the night, with the Show taking the unprecedented victory over the Rock (and then, of course, losing his #1 contender's slot in the following month), but he's punked out the people's champ one time too many lately. They're giving him just about every advantage, which means he's sure to fail. I must admit, though, I had quite a laugh at Rocky's promo on Smackdown. The slow-motion replay was icing on the cake, and showed he does know a thing or two about building interest in a slug. At any rate, Rocky takes the V and then gets chokeslammed delivering a post-match elbow.
Winner: The Rock

Triple H vs. Cactus Jack
Hell in a Cell for the WWF Heavyweight Title

Here's the big one.. the one we've all been looking for, and don't think Mick doesn't know it. I guarantee we see that stock footage of the KOTR 98 dive more than once Sunday night, and if Mick tries to match it, he's insane. I was surprised at Hunter's willingness to bump at the Royal Rumble, and hope he realizes the expectations he's garnered himself for this night. It'll be hard work to match it, and it'll come down to HHH, not Foley. Part of what hurt Mankind's previous HIAC was the Undertaker's non-presence throughout the majority of it, as well as the long delays between big spots. If they're looking to top my memory of that one, the secret lies in tying the match up really tightly, more than physically topping those big bumps. I'm taking Foley, who will carry the strap into Wrestlemania.
Winner: Cactus Jack

In Closing...

Not too shabby, whatsoever. I'm actually speechless as to how a company can do such a tremendous turnaround. In the two months since Armageddon, the company's dropped Chyna from it's active roster back to her role as a valet, elevated their young talent like Kurt Angle from a match with Steve Blackman to an Intercontinental title shot, rejuvenated their tag division once more, moved several steps away from the talk show they were becoming, and given us a World Title scene worth caring about. All that, plus they signed 4 nobodies from down South. All in all, not a bad couple of months.
until next time, i remain

Thursday, February 24, 2000

Ringside Shadows #107: WCW Talent Evaluation (D-L)

With a whopping 21 'stars' previewed right here, a long introduction would certainly qualify this for an overkill award, so I'll do us both a favor and keep it on the down side..

Part II of my exhaustively comprehensive WCW talent evaluation finally catches flight here, with such gems as Jim Duggan, Hugh Morrus and the omnipotent Hulk Hogan. Fear not, however, as the true cream of WCW's crop has its share of representatives amongst the masses here as well in Juvi, Fit Finlay and DDP. I've got quite a bit in store for you, perhaps a name or two you'd forgotten and maybe even a surprise. So take cover, trembling mass of the internet.. for the proverbial shit is about to hit the fan...

David Flair
I was really hoping they wouldn't screw this up, too. After months of force-feeding, interest was slowly beginning to rise in the young Flair boy.. thanks in large part to Vince Russo and the new character he saw in lil' Davie. Don't misread this.. a lot of what Russo did was complete and utter buffalo chips. However, when he did manage something I liked, you weren't likely to hear the end of it. Such was the case with Flair. Formerly uncharismatic beyond reality, David had gone through a metamorphosis and become not only acceptable, but almost relateable.

In a way, Ric's kid had become a part of each of us. Everybody's been through a rough breakup at some point, and felt those bizarre twitches in their heart, begging them to do something about it. David embodied that dark side of each of us, and put a recognizable face to it. When fans started to dig it, WCW panicked and did the only thing they really knew.. oversaturated us with it. It's no secret that David's similarities to his father end when he steps between the ropes. In their exuberance, WCW threw him back in the ring way before he was ready. They gave him a new valet (and later, a tag partner). They gave him theme music. Even the makeup folks couldn't leave him be. Instead of that part of every one of us, David had gone back to being Ric's flunky son.. just with more personality. Since then it's just been downhill.
Overall Grade: C-

Diamond Dallas Page
Quite simply, the only main eventer who seems to care about his matches any more. It's well documented that Page isn't my favorite athlete in the world... he doesn't even make the top 20. What's important is his attitude. He knows he's not the greatest worker on the face of the planet, but damned if he doesn't try all the same. I never really understood why his 'triad' gimmick with Kanyon and Bigelow was dumped, since it was garnering fair heat (even strong, for a WCW showing) and utilized three men who have since floundered without direction. Maybe it was all those bad 'your mom' jokes.. who knows.

The point is this; DDP knows his place, cares about his performance and above all cares about the industry. If a young star is having trouble breaking into the main event picture, Page will willingly hop into a feud with him and give it his all to elevate the youngster as strongly as possible. I dare say the audience never would've accepted Chris Benoit or Billy Kidman with as open arms if it hadn't been for Page's efforts. It's always interesting to see his variations of the diamond cutter as well, as I'd place them near Chris Jericho's reversals into the lion tamer as the most inventive and entertaining of the industry.

Though his recent feuds have gone nowhere fast and he's aging quickly, Page gets the highest mark of all the main eventers.
Overall Grade: B+

Disco Inferno
Actually a rather versatile worker, Disco's since been shooed off to play manager for the Marmalukes. He's not the next Dean Malenko, but Disco's well above average in the bottom-heavy WCW heirarchy of wrestlers and is definitely carryable. While his current angle has been slightly worthwhile (his recent use of the tag titles to back out of matches has gathered some mentionable heat), he really needs to get active full time before the world's short attention span leaves him behind completely. Disco's a much better gimmick as himself (as long time listeners of WCW Live! can attest), and his current role has become quite stale. Given a bit of repackaging and a little effort, Disco could still go somewhere... but the clock's ticking.
Overall Grade: C+

Dustin Rhodes
I honestly couldn't tell you why they picked up the former Goldust following his release from the WWF.. because they obviously didn't lay out any plans for him. Maybe they had a wad of cash burning a hole in their pocket (if so, I'm available for special appearances as well) or they thought Dustin would be a big asset in their war against Vince McMahon. I don't really mind either way.

I was never a fan of his skills to begin with, neither as Goldust nor himself, and the years haven't exactly been kind to that end. His early repackage as 7even (strikingly close to 7-eleven) crashed on the launchpad, and I was lucky enough to be live in attendance at the Nitro where it was scrapped. Sometimes, the horses should just be put out to pasture.. and when your major contribution to the company has been a "don't do this at home" public service announcement, the choice can't be a hard one.
Overall Grade: D

Evan Karagias
If 3 Count fell into the same generalizations that plague boy bands ("the cute one", "the wild one", etc), Evan Karagias would certainly be "the untalented one". Something about his appearance instantly annoys me. I'm not sure if a special raffle was held backstage to determine the mouthpiece for the group or what, but it was absolutely an unreliable means, as it produced Karagias as the chosen member. Even though Helms and Moore may not have even touched a microphone in the past, I doubt they could do much worse than this.

Once you get beyond the gimmick and the mic, however, Karagias isn't a complete waste in the ring. He's still green as my dog's logs after chowing down on some grass, but that's apparently part of the gimmick so I'll let it slide a bit. He knows how to catch the other two from outside the ring, and I'll give him credit there; he fills his role as a target adequately. WCW's tried everything imagineable to get this guy over, but it's not gonna happen. It's a bit early to mention, but I'm already looking forward to the Three Count split angle, if just to get Helms and Moore away from this guy.
Overall Grade: C-

Fit Finlay
Fit Finlay is a manly, manly man. Not half a year after basically cutting his right leg off at the knee and not only is he walking, he's back in the ring cracking heads.. and outperforming the main eventers on a regular basis. I'll be honest; I was a bit let down when Finlay was introduced to the Booker T / Chris Benoit TV title feud all those years ago... he was a relative nobody, thrown in apparently at random. Since then, I've really taken a liking to the man that wears a clover on his drawers.

He moves deceptively fast for a man his size (especially considering the injury), and his moveset is accordingly powerful. His roll-over press slam is one of the nicest moves in WCW, and never fails to please. My main gripe is his lack of a character, which is also to blame for his non-response from the fans. This hardcore warrior schtick is silly, and is made even more so with its inclusion of Brian Knobs. If he had a personality, big things could've been just around the corner.
Overall Grade: B

Call me a jerk-off, but I actually like seeing Goldberg work. He's certainly got the look, as well as the fans' support, and his moveset improves by the day. It really is a shame he was hurt at such a critical time, because his absense has been one of the key points in WCW's downward spiral. He's big, quick, powerful and believable. His mic work isn't spectacular, but it's short and to the point. There really isn't much not to like, unless you've got something against popularity as a whole. His main downfall is his attitude, and he can't really be blamed completely for that. Anyone pushed to the top as fast as Goldberg will eventually run into problems when they're finally asked to job. It's unpleasant to see him develop this prima-donna attitude, but I'm still not convinced that's enough to cast him into an eternal damnation. His feud with Bret Hart and the nWo could've been great, if the dice had rolled differently. Now it's yet another waiting game for his return.
Overall Grade: B

Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Eternally over, and eternally slow. It was great to see Hacksaw back after his battle with cancer, a feeling that was made even greater by the fans' reactions to him. I think he should stick around, but his days in the ring should've ended a decade ago.
Overall Grade: D+

Hugh Morrus
A one trick pony. Morrus' moonsault is really unexpected and impressive, and I wonder how good he would be if he applied half as much effort to rounding out his game. Look at Vader.. he had a moonsault, but he can also get up and go if he's motivated. Morrus' rating is marred by his unavoidable association with what's come to be known as one of the worst stables in the history of mankind, the First Family. Morrus is one of the laziest workers on tour (right up there with Knobs), and I'm not altogether unhappy we never saw more of that surefire hit of an angle with his senile old "pops" earlier in the year. Just a footnote in the history books, and one you'll miss if you blink.
Overall Grade: D-

Hulk Hogan
The stupendous one himself.. the Hulkster, still in the ring after all these years. I'll try to keep this one painless, so let's look at him in tiny little segments and examine what makes him suck in each different area.

Build: Hogan's body is as fake as those hair plugs. Say the world's been invaded by a single, lifelike yet synthetic robot and it's my job to find him. Hogan would be my choice, with Michael Jackson running a close second. The skin gives him away.. what, did he fly into the sun or something? Golden fried is a term used to describe a fully cooked chicken meal, not human skin.

On the stick: Hogan pioneered the 'creative ramble'. I can remember the majority of his interview from Wrestlemania 4 word for word, because it was so completely out of left field and ridiculous.. something along the lines of tearing Trump Plaza apart, throwing it into the sea, rescuing Donald Trump from the waves, and swimming to shore with each one of his Hulkamaniacs on his back. It's a shame ol' Terry's promos don't remain as creative, because that was the only thing keeping me focused.

In the ring: If you've seen one Hogan match, you can lay out a pretty good outline for just about every other match he's ever been involved in. Throw in a little variation, depending on the size of his opponent (he'll take a splash if it's a big man, and then taunt the bodyslam before hitting it) and you've got it down. I'd wager to say Hogan hasn't even tried to keep up with the times in this department. If the workers of the day favor a moonsault, Hogan'll stick with a back rake.. if the powerbomb is the hot topic, Hogan pulls out that good old big boot. Repetition quickly becomes boredom.

Crowd heat: Hogan's amazingly gone through a bit of a revival of late, which is the only thing saving him from rock bottom, and an 'F'. Inexplicable as it may be, the fans have jumped back behind him.. and I won't argue with the decision to keep him in the picture. You give fans what they want. Soooo...
Overall Grade: F+

Idol (Lodi)
The higher-ups have done everything in their power to kill Lodi's career. I don't know who's coffee he mistook for a urine sample cup, but they certainly have some long reach as he's run the gauntlet of bad gimmicks time and again. Surprisingly enough, he keeps coming back for more. Lodi's not a terrible worker, but he'll never get a chance to show it at this rate. His personality is actually quite funny (anybody remember the Nitro years back, where he produced a trout from the front of his pants?), and he'd be a nice fit in the mix of things. Sadly enough, I don't see him going much further than this.
Overall Grade: C+

Jeff Jarrett
Probably the last warrior to ever benefit notably from a jump South. Jeff Jarrett had a big problem in the WWF, as his reputation was quickly being tarnished. His 'woman beating' angle was the source of quite a bit of negative controversy, and came as a result of the WWF's lack of imagination at the time. They really had no idea what to do with him, so they took the easy way out and went for the controversy.

Where in the WWF, Jeff was stuck in the midcard (fans wouldn't accept him any higher than the Intercontinental level, and the main eventers wouldn't work with him), in WCW he's ready to break out as a World Champion. He took part in one of the brightest spots of the year in his feud with Chris Benoit over US gold. Given a couple months (and a bit of work on his mic skills), Jarrett could hit paydirt with a feud featuring Bret Hart, Kevin Nash or both over leadership of the nWo. He's definitely got the talent, the fans love to hate him, and he's finally getting the recognition he deserves. Jarrett's truly one of the only success stories in this report.
Overall Grade: A

Jerry Flynn
Crossovers don't work. It's as simple as that. No matter how reputable the fighter, no matter what area he's trained in, a wrestler will take a specified fighter in a straight-up fight every time. Keep in mind that I'm talking a specified fighter here.. a kickboxer, boxer or martial artist; not a shoot fighter like Ken Shamrock or Dan Severn. Jerry Flynn doesn't work because he focuses too heavily on his kicks, and too little on rounding out his game and making himself into a believable challenger. That, and he shaved off his mullet! Negative kudos for that one, for sure.
Overall Grade: D

Juventud Guerrera
It really hurts to see Juvi headed down this dark a path. His 'Rock' gimmick, while funny at first, has crossed the line into monotony now, and gives the sense of a bush league atmosphere at WCW. His work in the ring (in the rare occasion that we're allowed to see it) has taken a bit of a step down lately as well, and that's really saying something considering the level of competition he was facing just before his injury. It just doesn't get much better than Jushin Liger.

Still, don't take this the wrong way. Juventud's easily among the top 2 workers left in WCW, with his hands tied behind his back. He's just been taking steps down pretty regularly this year, which serves to drop him lower than he really deserves to be. Along with Rey, injuries have really screwed him pretty heavily lately, and I can't promise that hasn't affected his grade. Juvi remains mind-bogglingly charismatic.
Overall Grade: B+

Kaz Hayashi
I'd dare call him the Dean Malenko of today's WCW, to some extent. When he's on, there are few who can keep up with Kaz in the ring. For a different reason than Dean-o, however, the entertainment chunk of his 'sports entertainment' package is on the low side and WCW has made sure he's punished more than enough for it. Kaz doesn't even get the dignity of being a jobber to the stars.. he jobbed twice in the Cruiserweight tourney, and that's where he should be owning the show right now. He can go, but he can't speak English, so he'll never be anything over here.. sometimes I wish we had the same moral values as the Japanese, who'll at least recognize a foreign talent when it's there.
Overall Grade: B

Kevin Nash
The woeful plight of Kevin Nash continues. I'll give him this; from the moment he jumped over to WCW he promised it was "just for the money", and not for the love of the sport. In that sense, he hasn't disappointed. Whenever he shows up, it really looks like he's just there to do his job, collect his paycheck and go home. He's fairly good on the mic and actually quite funny sometimes, which makes me think that's where his real interest lies.. and his role as commissioner isn't an utterly terrible thing after all.

For all the bitching and moaning I do about workrates and technicians, I rarely mention a good talker and that is Nash's forte. So long as he's kept out of the ring and his appearance rate remains at a minimum, yay for Nash. Putting it all together though, he's merely average. A 'D-' for ringwork, and a 'B+' on the stick.
Overall Grade: C-

Kid Romeo
I haven't seen enough of Kid Romeo to make an educated judgement yet. What I saw wasn't exceptional, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was an off night.
Overall Grade: N/A

I'll just say I'm really glad he didn't jump with the other four. Konnan's mere presence is enough to up the 'lazy' meter in those he surrounds himself with (see Mysterio, Rey Jr.), and that's not what the 4 Radicals needed to get over with the WWF crowds. Not only that, but his character doesn't fit with the others, nor does his style in the ring relate whatsoever.

I'd put him just over Hogan in terms of physical ability, in that you can lay out just about every match he's involved in after seeing just one.. but the moves he does elect to use are at least somewhat worthwhile. On the stick, he's that same notch below the Hulkster, because at least Hogan switches his phrases every once in a while. The 'K-Dogg' should've realized it was time for a brainstorm session when his catches begain recieving boos.. and he was a face. Away from the ring, Konnan needs to make up his mind and either quit WCW and bitch away or shut up, cash his checks and smile about it.
Overall Grade: D

Lenny was the more charismatic of the 'West Hollywood Blondes', and was probably the more ring-savvy as well. He seems to be busting himself to get back over now that he's been given the shot, and nearly killed himself looking for a somersault plancha on Nitro a couple weeks back. Since then, I wonder if he'll have the same reckless attitude he had coming in. His new gimmick seems destined to fail, and that can come as a real let-down for someone coming off the first successful gimmick of his career. He tries, and that's good enough to set him apart from the pack.
Overall Grade: B-

La Parka
La Parka deserves an 'A' just for that goofy dance, the La Parka strut. He's always been among my favorites, if just for the way he'll find a way to slip that in at the least appropriate time. He knows his way around the ring well enough from his years south of the border, but knows next to no English.. which is why they hooked him up with that Bad Mothafuckin' voice. Fine tuning still needs to be done on it (I imagined a voice more similar to Isaac Hayes or Barry White), but I can see the silliness of those promos fitting flawlessly into his comedy-oriented style. I love La Parka, and it's great to see him getting somewhere.. even if that somewhere is a victory over Berlyn on Thunder.
Overall Grade: A-

Lash LeRoux
Finally, the man with the wicked sideburns. Creative sideburns seem to be a trend in today's wrestling world (Jeff Hardy, Chris Jericho, the Rock) and LeRoux gets points for actually managing to carve a letter out of those suckers. He shouldn't be allowed to speak (the moments he spent as guest commentator several months back will not soon be forgotten), and he's still a bit green in the ring, but his future isn't all dark. If he sets his mind to it, he could really end up being something worthwhile, so keep your eye on him.
Overall Grade: B-

I'm sure you've heard enough from me by now if you did, in fact, make it all the way down to the bottom here. Thus, I'll be merciful until tomorrow when John and I will return for our No Way Out preview. I'm really looking forward to this one; so much so that I'm actually planning to shell out the $30 for it.. and yeah, that's a rarity. So stop by, eh? It'll be a good time.
until then, i remain

Tuesday, February 22, 2000

Ringside Shadows #106: It Couldn't Last Forever

With tax time just around the corner and several projects on the close horizon, my annual springtime commute to Sarasota, FL is looking really good right about now. With that said, I'll take any relief from the workload I can get, including this past Monday's evening programming. After the past few weeks' worth of solid shows from the WWF camp, I was really looking for something over-the-top and spectacular this week.. especially considering the location (Atlanta, GA.. right in WCW's backyard) and the size of the crowd (nearly 30,000 as JR never failed to remind us). What we got wasn't really bad per se, but definately leaned a bit towards the bland. Then again, there was still a big load of dump on TNT to remind me how good we've still got it.

I couldn't even bear myself to watch the majority of Nitro, the taste of defeat was so bitter and strong. Kidman found himself relegated to the first match, which never really saw a finish. Booker's angle with his no-talent brother, the 'mysterious' Cassius and a pink-clad Ahmed Johnson rambled on with no end in sight. Hogan, Luger and Flair continued to put on the same old play in the main event slot. Everything that made Nitro special has since gone to hell, and everything that made it monotonous has intensified. I was honestly more interested in Chuck Norris's "death" episode on Walker than I was in what Nitro was running.. and that's bad.

So what'd I think about Raw? Read on, ye of little faith and even less attention span..

Taking advantage of the other boys' hometown

The audience effectively sat on their hands for the WWF in Atlanta. Rightfully so, I say. If the boys in back don't bring out the goods, the same shouldn't be expected of the crowd. I was quite surprised a larger issue wasn't made out of the "Radicals" in their former headquarters (Any sort of mention at all would've been nice), a vignette, an acknowledgement, anything. Since the success of their initial multi-participant tag match 2 weeks back, the WWF has been slowly killing the heat and uniqueness of the idea by throwing out the same thing in each consecutive week since. A good part of what made the initial brawl so strong, memorable and all around dynamic was in its participants. Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn, Dean Malenko and X-Pac rode the apron on one side while Mick Foley, Scott Taylor and Brian Christopher manned the slightly weaker face team. Including workers that know what's going on alongside the big draws and gimmicks ensures both audience participation and a strong match. This past week's 'blockbuster' removed each man who had a strong influence on its success (with the exceptions of Foley and X-Pac), thus pretty much upending the scales and tossing out the potential heat.

What I'd like to see in the WWF right now

With the recent return of the Bulldog, I'm really aching to see Davey Boy tear it up with Chris Benoit (surprise there, eh?). Not only would the resulting matches result in each man getting over with the audience (a department in which each has been lagging since their big debuts), but it would hold an immediate historical reference. After the split of the British Bulldogs, there was never a Dynamite Kid / Davey Boy grudge match. What's become a no-brainer today (and often times, a cliche) never came to fruition yesterday, in what would've surely been one of the best worked grudges of its day. Looking at both men's history and the fact that neither has spoken with the other since pretty much explains why (Then again, Dynamite claims Davey Boy's scared shitless of him.. even in a wheelchair.) Given more than a decade to build, this could give new fans a bit of trivia for their hungry little brains and would surely entertain the old-time fans of the sport. If you've ever seen the Dynamite Kid in action during his prime, his resemblence to Benoit is uncanny. They walk alike, the punch alike, they deliver clotheslines alike. They both even give that extra little stomp before delivering their snap suplexes. If Vince had an ounce of common sense, he'd put 2 and 2 together here.. if just to please one long-time fan.

I'm sure to get some heat for this one, but I'd like to see an end to that Too Cool dance.. at least with Rikishi. It had remained entertaining for the entirety of its existance, and when a split was teased at the Royal Rumble I was ready to take the bait and watch it unfold. Instead, both sides went the road less traveled nowadays and settled their differences without coming to blows. As of last night, I was cool with it. The audience can't get enough, the workers are competant enough, and I actually dug the silly little dance. After Rikishi started to leave, but found himself coerced back in to do the deed by the 'Grand Masta', I realized I'd had enough. Things had just jumped over into monotony. Either find a new and interesting way to present it or put an end to it.. the fans may not like it now, but it'll eventually produce a more well-rounded WWF.

Finally, I want to see Tazz going somewhere. When the Radicals made their leap, I was afraid to see who'd feel the adverse effects and I'd be lying if Tazz wasn't one of the first names to come to mind. For the first couple weeks, things seemed to be getting along well. He'd entered into what looked like a feud with the European Champ, Kurt Angle and was even getting a bit of a rub from the Rock. Then, from out of nowhere, in steps the Bossman.. and the audience takes a look at beer prices. A good part of what makes or breaks Tazz is his opponents, and their reaction to his vicious power offense. Give him a lightweight or heaviweight that knows his way around, and they'll be selling like they'd just been shot in the gut with a Civil War cannon.. and the gimmick would work. Give him somebody that has no idea, like the Bossman, Mideon or the Godfather, and you get nothing. No interest, no believable offense, no crowd.. just an out of place wrestler and a short man with a mohawk and a towel over his head. Since he hasn't much to do aside from elevate the Godfather, why not put him into a feud with Saturn? Give him the Hollys, or a returning Stevie Richards. Even someone like Gangrel, who's been floating in limbo for some time now, could make this a mutually helpful experience. Anything's better than the touch of death associated with the Bossman.

The Harris boys take over Sid's role

Back on the Nitro end of things, it's just more and more obvious that the inmates in charge never really had a clue to begin with. Why is it when I imagine the booking scene backstage at Turner, I envision this big lottery roller, as seen prior to the Royal Rumble? Gimmicks never really seem to get old for those guys.. Kidman revisits the nae-successful camera gimmick made famous by Syxx all those years ago. Booker and Stevie Ray seem to be in the same boat as the Steiner Brothers during their split (with Stevie Ray's "friends" playing the parts previously filled by the nWo). Now the Harris Boys took a draw and came up with Sid's 'millennium man' gimmick all over again, so they take the cheap heat route. Breaking up potentially strong matches for a weak bit of offense (and an even weaker Madden catch; "That destroys everything within a 20 foot radius!") won't get you over as strong heels.. it'll just piss people off. Those same folks won't mind a bit when the Harris boys mysteriously drop off the cards in the next year or so.

Fooling themselves

While I was throwing this together, I took a look at the WCW feedback section for shits and giggles. It's incredible how one company might try to convince it's fans they're in good shape, when it's readily obvious things are just the opposite. All but one letter featured in the aforementioned section was positive.. and the sole negative letter was actually about 50% positive. Perhaps if the folks in the CNN tower were polling random folks out on the street it would be a little easier to swallow (not much, mind you), but this was conducted on the internet, which is known for having much higher standards.. to the point of flaw. In a promotion known for tricking its fans time and time again with fake signs, ticket giveaways to fill seats and canned heat, WCW isn't doing much to salvage their good name here.

Anyway, I couldn't bring myself to watch the main event.. after about an hour and a half of straight garbage, I'd had enough and set my remote down while on the USA Network. I've seen Luger/Hogan so many times in the past that I'm pretty sure I didn't miss anything.

Keeping up with the huge letter column I wrote last week, I've an update to post regarding the Bill Reil situation, thanks to JRstonecold@aol.com;

"I just saw in your mailbag report someone asked you about Billy Reil. Well I dont know that much about him either but I do know that he writes a column at prowrestlingdaily.com. Just thought i'd let you know just in case you cared."

He also mentioned that his column contains bio information and the like, so if you're interested.. check it out. We may be seeing him in WCW before long.

And that should put another one away for me. Look for part 2 of my WCW Talent Evaluation before the end of the weekend, and John and I will return for our No Way Out Preview late Friday evening.
until then, i remain

Sunday, February 20, 2000

Ringside Shadows #105: Emptying the Mailbag

Since John and I put out the World's Greatest PPV preview a couple days back, my mailbox has taken a substantial hit. Must've hit a nerve, entertained, what have you. At any rate, I'd planned to put together part 2 of my WCW talent evaluation today but have decided to pass until the middle of the week for that, in light of this immaculate reception of sorts.

This is bound to be a long one, so if you aren't all about the idea of an entire column devoted to mail this isn't likely to rub you in any special ways. There won't be much aside from raw opinions and the like, some mine and more than a couple yours. So let's just dive into this beast, then.

G MEN27@aol.com gave me one of the better responses I've had the pleasure of answering in some time this past week;

"God,man, two weeks in and your already predicting that Malenko will be buried. As far as the Rock goes, I don't think he is as lazy as you say. Hey, at least he took Benoit's chops, unlike Sid. Also, why don't you compliment him on jobbing to Benoit? Whether he is lazy or a good worker, he is the company's top face and he jobbed to someone who is just starting his second week in the company. He has also jobbed to Mr. Ass, Bob Holly, and THE BIG BOSSMAN over the past 6 or 7 months. Sure, he is no Mitshura Misawa, but he doesn't seem to have a huge ego like Hogan or even Shawn Michaels. Do you think Shawn would have ever jobbed to Bob Holly as the company's top face? Perry Saturn, on his site, said that the Rock is a real down to earth guy and has a lot of talent, unlike Hogan. My point is that you are just so damn negative all the time. I have come to the conclusion that you will NEVER like the WWF, unless D- lo , X-Pac, and Benoit are having triple threat World Title matches on every televised show, PPV, and house show, and everyone 6'6" or taller is turned into a jobber. You are becoming more and more like Herb Kunze with each column you write. The WWF will never have 60 minute technical masterpieces with clean finishes and there will be more "garbage" wrestling on their shows, so why don't you just quit watching American wrestling."

Regarding Malenko; it's not a prediction, but more of a gut feeling.. the audience could've given a shit about his match with Saturn against Rikishi (who remains one of the most over men in modern wrestling), and his personal disappointment showed near the end. I'd love to see the WWF prove me wrong (wouldn't be the first time), but I really don't see this clash of the styles being resolved soon, if ever.

As for the Rock's credit for jobbing, I'd meant that to be a big part of that paragraph, but guess it got left out.. I have tremendous respect for the Rock, though I don't often show it. He knows what to do, when to do it, and how it should be done.. and for that, I commend him. I'm no fan of his work, but I'll recognize his cool head and willingness to do the right thing for the company, whether that benefits him or not. I guess I'm letting his laziness overtake his charisma in my mind.

I'm actually enjoying the WWF quite a bit right now.. perhaps more than ECW, and that's saying quite a bit. It bothers me to see D'Lo teamed with the Godfather and X-Pac held back, yes, but it balances out in the end, as Vince has been putting out top notch shows since the big jump. I'll admit I prefer watching speedier, smaller guys in the ring, but that doesn't mean I'll never give a tall guy the time of day. Mike Awesome is a tall mother, and I'm rather high on him at the moment.. Kane constantly surprises me.. and Kurrgan is superb (ah! gotcha..) I try not to bias myself by physical appearances, the facts just appear to be lined up in such a way that taller workers don't put forward the effort of their smaller counterparts, because they don't have to. Their presence gives them an immediate advantage, and it's an uphill climb to be accepted as a smaller worker. I'd challenge you to list a gigantic worker that didn't resort to a 'methodical' pace, which is commentator for "slower than shit, and boring as hell".

I'm not sure who Herb Kunze is, but I'd assume the comparison is not a positive one..

I'll agree with your observations here; the WWF has had few 60 minute matches (the only true 60 minute match that springs to mind, Bret/HBK at Wrestlemania 12, was far from a masterpiece). They've taken a more 'hardcore' edge, which can be termed as a garbage style. That's not to say everything hardcore needs to be complete and utter crap. Compare a Mike Awesome / Mikey Whipwreck match against a New Jack / Angel pile of shit, and you'll see that the right workers can make a hardcore match just as interesting as a technical masterpiece, if not more so. (On that note, Samir had a good paragraph or two on this subject in his recent Trendsetter Press, which you can check out by visiting the Big3 Oratory) In the end, it comes down to heart and a love for the business. The cream will always rise to the top. As for why I still watch American wrestling.. aside from the rejuvination of the WWF in past few weeks, I watch for one simple reason; hope. At any rate, thanks for taking the time to read my column and to respond. Your feedback, positive or negative, is truly appreciated.

Gkurupt27@aol.com gave us a thought or two on a victim of the sarcastic drive-by that was our preview, Scott Hall;

"S.Hall is the man he will be a camp very soon"

..just a little fodder to show everbody it's not that glamorous as a columnist. Anyway, I've been looking to see a Scott Hall title reign for some time now. I'll be the first to say it: if WCW puts the belt around his waist now, we haven't even begun to see the bottom of this spiral. Personally, I'd be surprised to see the belt around the waist of the Razor in this lifetime... esse.

Brian Broederdorf (mack@mc.net) had this to say about the 'Chosen One', J-e-double f J-a-double r-e-double t;

"Imust say you guys majoraly under rate JJ JJ is great and is ready to be champ"

Actually, I did end up picking Jarrett to win the title tonight, but I'm far from confident in that one. I'm one of Jeff's biggest supporters in all actuality, and the tunes of delight were a-many during his extended feud over the US belt with Benoit earlier this year. However, much like Benoit (who everybody apparantly knows I adore), Jarrett's not ready for a World Title reign. The public as a whole views him as the US champ that tags along with the nWo, not a viable contender. Not yet, anyway. Six months from now could be an entirely different story, with proper building of Jarrett as a solid worker that can go head to head with the big boys, even without the aid of his characteristic guitar. Just like Benoit's world title reign (apparantly wiped clean the night after) at Souled Out, a Jarrett title reign here would be an act of desparity. He's simply not on the same level as an Austin, a Rocky or even a Kevin Nash. Not in the eyes of the common fans, and that's what's important. It's holding Kidman and Booker back now, and it's one of the major reasons WCW's in so much trouble right now.

Sexi Lips@aol.com had a bone to pick about the man of the hour, Scott Hall;

"those comments about scott hall were unnecessary. alcoholism is an addiction, a disease. hope you or your love ones one day have to walk a mile in his shoes and experience what he is going through!! you unsensitive thng."

In all honesty, I've sympathised with Scott Hall one day too many. His problems have been well recorded for the past 2 years, and I was willing to accept his absense from the scene for good when he seemed to be finally getting his act together away from the limelight. I really did feel for him, and I was happy to see him overcoming his own personal demons. That all quit, however, when he returned and delved headfirst back into the bottle. Several times. He's played a parody of himself on national television, for god's sakes. Don't tell me he couldn't have said "no" and walked away from that, because it's just not true. I'm seeing something along the lines of the boy who cried wolf with Hall anymore, in that he's done the wrong thing so many times that he almost has no choice but to try the right thing once in a while. Add to that his opening himelf up to public ridicule by returning to the airwaves and I don't see any reason to support him any further. The man was a superb worker in his prime, but these days he deserves everything he gets, as far as I'm concerned. Sorry if that was a bit harsh, but if there's anyone out there undeserving of your sympathy it's Scott Hall. These are his demons, and if he needs to leave the business to conquer them, so be it. At any rate, thanks for your e-mail and understand that I do put a lot of thought into my words before I write them (though I understand if it doesn't appear so). If somebody gets a ribbing from me, it's in good spirits for the most part.

Tyler Betts (live4christ@netzero.net) had a thing or two to say about the preview as a whole;

"I have just a few problems with your predictions. Number one, you say that people watching the pay-per-view will not like this, and not like that. That's incorrect. Nobody will be watching it. Why would anyone way 30 bucks to see this crap, when I can get much better entertainment flushing turds down the toilet. I used to be WCW's biggest fan. I defended it through anything it did. I now see only one thing that might help WCW's future. Get someone over as a heel by having him assassinate Hogan. That's the only answer. That'd be a good gimmick, for, say, Sid, wouldn't it? Oh well, as long as Hogan is in WCW (and it's not just Hogan, it is Luger, Nash, Hall, Sulivan, Steiner, et al), it will continue to suck. War, Out, ECW!"

We share a common ground here; we both stood behind WCW until the very end. As you pointed out though, the end's come and gone as far as I'm concerned. What's left is just a crust, with a few cherries hidden underneath. Oh.. that, and we both derive a sick pleasure by leaving a solid log in the porcelain temple.

"Bryan" (Jones820@aol.com) had a comment about the majesty we're sure to see in Demon/The Wall tonight;

"Yes. I think the wall Vs the demon will be a 5 star match...if i use enough hallucinagenic drugs it will seem like one,"

Christopher Brennan (christo-b@webtv.net), John Pritchard (pritj00l@wfu.edu) and TWOJoey@aol.com all had contributions to our ever-growing list of the word "Big" in the WCW roster (both past and present), so I'm grouping them all together. The comments appear in the same order as the writers just above these words;

"I read your Superbrawl preview and I'd thought I'd add a few names to your list of guys with "big" in their identity of nickname of ring name. Don't forget J. Biggs, the evil lawyer of doom, or "Big Sexy" Poochie Nash, and Scott Steiner calls himself the Big Bad Booty Daddy. Just a few extra names to spice it up."

"Didja forget "Big" Sexy?"

"I want to thank you for the hilarious Supercrawl preview....but you forgot to mention a couple of my all time favorite BIG people big sexy kevin nash, big boss, and who can forget the lovable Big Josh. Just think maybe BIg Van Vader will return as a mexican luchadore with the name Super Big. Thanks for taking the time to read this and hope i put a smile on your face too."

I was surprised to see this little thread of John's picked up upon, but I guess it's always the quiet ones, you know? Anyway, thanks for the contributions guys, they've surely been added to the archives. Personally, though he doesn't really fit in this list, I've always been a big fan of the unique ring stylings of one Norman the Lunatic. Anybody remember him? Anyway, are we missing anybody else? And what does everybody think about the name "Big" John C.?

Alan Lisenba (Crimson_Storm@webtv.net) ties in some of his own experience with this response;

"I'm a WcW reporter on the 'net and I gotta tell you, it's depressing as hell these days. I've been a loyal WcW viewer for almost two fuckin' years and I don't feel like I'm getting rewarded for it. Who wants to see a 90-year-old Funk flab around the ring with an (almost) equally old Flair. Why's the WWF doing so much better.......because they know when to push the old farts out of the way and promote younger fresher faces (btw, no offense to the "old farts")? The real difference between the WcW and WWF (I think) is because McMahon has wrestling in his blood and he's the president of his own company, which is the only thing he has to do. He's not the owner of 100,000,000 cable channels or a billion skyscrapers, he just eats, sleeps, and breathes wrestling, while Ted Turner hasn't a damn clue as to what wrestling is! He oversees nothing in the WcW company and wouldn't know what to do even if he did! In short, Ted Turner doesn't give a shit whether WcW lives or dies because he's got those damn Braves to tend to or all the other business ventures he's into. McMahon cares about what he does and frankly, doesn't have a major sports franchise to run, along with the aforementioned channels and skyscrapers!"

Well put, though I'd have a bit of an argument about that last sentence.. Vince does tend to dillude his interests, what with the World Bodybuilding Federation and the recent announcement of the XFL. But those don't tend to last very long anyway, and this is likely to be a short expedition as well. Your points are well said though, and your observations relevant. On an interesting sidenote; Vince actually worked for Turner at one point in the early-to-mid 80's, though theirs was a short-lived alliance. Something along the lines of Vince flooding the market with his own ads.. Anyway, thanks for the well-put response.

Gerard (GML17@aol.com) sympathized with our 'duties';

"Man, that you guys will watch this pay - per - view should at least get you out of your jobs with a disability pension or something. Keep up the good work."

It should be noted that Gerard's subject line read "taking one for the team", which I found pretty funny. Anyway, I won't be watching this one.. even if I had access to one of those mystical black boxes, as is the case with John, I'd seriously consider skipping this one. The possibility of a disability pension is certainly tempting, but.. sometimes money isn't everything. Serious mental instabilities could follow this one, and that isn't something I really need to deal with right now. Thanks for the sympathy note, but this one should be saved for John.. even with the leisure of the fast forward button, I wonder if he'll come out of it the same.

Michael Barker (barker@foxinternet.net) talks about Hogan;

"I'll have to agree with you on this one, hand Superbrawl a straw because it sucks. I have been a long time WCW fan, and I can't believe how crappy it has become. I have yet to get a PPV because I am waiting for a decent one. There was a real good point brought up in your preview. "Push the guys the people like." Shit, Hogan's act is OLD and from what I hear, he's a major Tracy (Dick Tracy). God, why couldn't they have pulled their heads out of their ass and kept Jericho, Benoit, and the rest? I would rather watch "The Giant" than Sid. Anyway, this Bud's for hoping there's a light at the end of the tunnel. (And that the light isn't China from digging them selves such a big hole.)"

The Hogan point seems to be becoming a moot one these days, as the man has unimaginably gone through a rebirth in popularity (at least, judging from the reaction he got last week). Much as a great majority of us don't want to see him any more, there's still a partition (however small) that wants to see his fake-ass hair under those lights, hitting that big boot and dropping that legdrop. It isn't something I'll tune in for, but at least they know what audience they've got left. Here's a great story; Hogan spent $12,000 on a lock of his own hair. Since he hasn't got any left (well.. real), he hopes scientists can use this strand, saved from his youth, to regrow his own hair once more. Is it me, or is the whole idea of artificial Hogan hair growing somewhere in America absolutely frightening? As for the Giant.. well.. I don't know if I'd rather see him than Sid. Both suck a pretty hearty portion of ass. Maybe if it was under a stipulation like 'Loser washes down the rest of his meals with Dran-o...

N8URE B0Y@aol.com sends along the first of a couple necessary corrections;

"it wasnt chad that said the purple reign comment, it was borash"

Sorry about that.. I was relying on the report posted on the Daily Lariat, since I don't really bother listening to Live any more. It's interesting how the plight of WCW can be traced all the way down to their internet production, isn't it? At any rate, thanks for the correction, and for reading.

Keeping with that theme, Steve Riley (Riley@steve007.freeserve.co.uk) corrected my more glaring blunder;

"Sorry to be pedantic, but in your sarcastic prediction of Big Al v Tank Abbott you mentions Steve Austin's 1997 KOTR speech - his famous '3.16' and 'Bottom Line' speech was at the 1996 KOTR speech! By the way I enjoy your previews."

I must've overlooked that one.. Don't you wish Word '98 would correct idiocy, as well as spelling? Thanks for spotting that one and pointing it out though.

With tongue planted firmly in cheek, JrStonCold@aol.com touched on the Wall/Demon 5* classic already underway;

"ARE YOU GUYS F#$KING NUTS?!?!?! The Wall and Demon being a 5 star match??? You have to be kidding me. Is Mideon one of the top high flyers in the world? There is no way this match is going to be a 5 star match!! Man you guys are stupid. Its 4 and a half TOPS! Hogan Luger on the other hand has 5 stars written all over it!"

Grizzly Adams did have a beard. Anyway, there's rumors of Mideon coming in tonight in a surprise appearance, helping the Wall deliver my predicted Shooting Star Press off a balcony, through 13 tables and into shark-infested waters. This one's bound to be a keeper, folks!

BStardogg@aol.com had a more serious question;

"Do you know anything about this Billy Riel and are you going to talk about the impact he might have on WCW?"

I'll admit it, my knowledge of the independant scene lands somewhere between slim and none. Thus, there's very little I know about Billy "Highlight" Reil aside from his nickname, and chances are quite low that I'll touch on his potential impact unless he actually shows up on WCW tv, where I might see him. Sorry, I don't think I'm qualified to say much of anything about him just yet.

Another poop reference surfaces with a mail from Mike (MICKEYSKIN@aol.com). Must be floaters;

"Good article, it's a good thing both of you have good creative writing skills! If not I would not have read this cuz' this PPV SUCKS! Nobody cares about WCW, okay maybe some people care, YEAH THE PEOPLE WITH LESS OF A LIFE THAN 99% OF US. My friend gets every PPV, and I usually watch them but not this one. I will look at the tape the next day, but I am not going to waste 3 hours for this shit! Can't wait until next week so you can write about something wrestling fans actually care about. I would like you all to start writing more about ECW, atleast I can watch their whole show not less than a 3rd of it. When is WCW going to get better or just GO AWAY."

Mike went on to address John, which I won't touch for obvious reasons. I'm actually thinking of forking over the $30 for the WWF PPV next weekend, as they look to have lined up a slam bang of a show. Then again, how could they do anything but kick our asses with the stellar lineup they've got on staff nowadays? WCW found a way. I, too, think ECW's missing a lot of coverage. A lot of that has to do with their exposure and timeslot. For a good chunk of the country (myself included), the only ECW television in the area is the TNN show, which airs Friday nights at 8. Probably the worst timeslot imaginable for this type of show, as everybody does something Friday nights! With that said, I've only seen one show in the past month and it wasn't spectacular. I caught a bit of the show 2 weeks ago, and there was no Tajiri match, no Super Crazy, no Raven in action, no Little Guido. A lot of Dusty Rhodes, though, which I could care less about. ECW remains the untouched frontier, and reaps both the positive and the negative ends of that label.

Finally (woohoo!) we'll wrap it all up with mail from AboveTHErim99@aol.com about the king of it all, Hulk Hogan;

"im not one of those biased fans, but i want to know why do u bash hulk hogan so much? i mean the guy did make wrestling. ive been watching wrestling for 11 years, and i know the man is not what he used to be in the ring, but do u ever watch and of his matches? the fans are always cheering extrememly loud for him or booing the hell out of him when hes a heel, so people still give a damn about hulk hogan. now he might be trouble backstage, but dont lie to me and tell me that if u had done exactly what he had done for the business u wouldnt act the same, so dont fuckin lie and say id be nice and put guys over cuz u wouldnt. now hogan isnt even my favorite wrestler, even though he is one of my more like ones(beniot, rock, hhh r my favorites) so give the man at least a little respect for what he has done for the business. And i bet u liked the man 5 years ago too, and if u didnt, then so be it, but quit bashing the man like he is the devil of the wrestling business. also im not sayin this cuz i dont like ur site because it is my favorite wrestling webpage, thanks for readin my comments"

I knock Hogan for much the same reason I knock Scott Hall.. because he begs us to. Hogan should've realised when the time was to pass the ball, instead of keeping the credit (and accompanying cash flow) for himself. You ask me if I'd put over the younger talent if I were in his shoes, and I'll tell you without hesitation: yes, I would. It's all about values and a love for the sport. If you respect wrestling and its long, near-mythological history, you'll give the same credit to the future by building its stars with your own fading power. You'll see it through to the next generation. Andre knew when it was time, as he passed the ball to Hogan. Jumbo Tsuruta knew when it was time to move down.. he even owned the promotion and put himself lower and lower in the card, while elevating the youth. Would it be hard to say goodbye to the guaranteed money? Sure. Along those same lines though, with great power comes great responsibility.. if you're earning the big bucks, you better be putting it away somewhere because everything that goes up must come down. Just when you think you can't be touched, everything can fall apart around you. I have no sympathy for sports stars who've gone broke, all the while sitting in their 15 million dollar homes and waxing their fleet of porsches. I have no sympathy for a man who can pay $12,000 for a lock of his own hair. In excess is loss, and Hogan's the king of excess.

Whew, was that a load and a half.. I feel like I just took a big, giant dump. Relieved, yet.. slightly empty. At any rate, I'll definitely be back Tuesday evening with the triumphant return of the Tuesday Review, hopefully sometime later in the week with part 2 of the WCW Talent Evaluation and then again Friday with John for our No Way Out Preview, which does look to be quite good. Thanks for suffering this far.. I know it wasn't easy. As always...
until then, i remain

Friday, February 18, 2000

The World's Greatest WCW SuperBrawl 2000 Preview

I'll be blunt; I'd take my chances as a chocolate rabbit running through a Jenny Craig weight-loss camp before I'd willingly watch this ensemble. All the usual suspects have wormed their way back to the lid of the bowl again, as this one sees the main event returns of Hogan, Flair, Sid, an 'injured' Kevin Nash and Lex Luger. Further down the card we've got a glint in the Vampiro/Kidman matchup, but I'd bet both men are beyond giving it their all following their cumulative 'de-push' of late. Seeing as how I'm of the belief it's wrong to kick a dead horse, I'll do my best to keep these predictions to a minimum. Thank me later. It's been said all good things must come to an end, but that won't keep me from lamenting the fall of what was once a strong promotion.

The Demon vs. The Wall
(I kid you not, WCW has billed this its) "Special Main Event Match"

All hail the majesty of the Wall. The next big thing, WCW hasn't been skimping in their efforts to elevate this guy right up to the top. When you factor in the inclusion of The Demon (who boggled the mind as the stellar "MVP" not long ago), this one should be up there between Flair/Steamboat and Misawa/Kawada as the match of all time. I won't hope to contain this one to words, but I'm putting my money on the Wall, after a shooting star press from the balcony, through 13 tables and into shark-infested waters.
Winner: The Wall

Tank Abbott vs. Big Al
Skins Match: Leather Jacket on a Pole Match

"So I said 'let's just throw that jacket up on a pole and duke this one out!" I'd rank that one up there with Austin's KOTR 97 speech as one of the more memorable promos of our time. Tank Abbot's just magic on the mic.. a true find. Physically, this one's bound to put the Michaels/Hall ladder matches out of our minds. It looks that good. No amount of sarcasm can make this one interesting, so I'll just drop it. If you think they're jobbing the 'tank', you probably bought most of that first paragraph.
Winner: Vicious Tank Abbott

Screamin' Norman Smiley vs. 3 Count

Hey, why don't members of 3-count use those sweet-ass circles more than they do? You know, the ones they stand one during their phat music videos? You could put an eye out with a well-placed shot from one of those. Really. Seriously though, if Evan buggers off and finds a good hole to hide in, this could really be something to watch. 3-Count, while spotty as all get out, has more untapped potential than anybody left in WCW (sans Crowbar, of course). Norman's been around a bit, so he knows how to put these things together. If they let him, he could mask the flaws in Moore and Helms' games just enough to produce a competent matchup. I'm going out on a limb with this one and taking 3-count in their first clean 'v'.
Winner(s): 3-Count

Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Brian Knobs
Hardcore Match

Expect a garbage can to find its way to the ring. Both men will come out wielding the ever-popular plastic dumpster, filled to the brim with dumb, useless instruments that expose the industry. A Five star encounter on par with Hart/Austin at Wrestlemania 13 is just around the corner with this one.
Winner: Bam Bam Bigelow

Booker vs. Big T
Winner Gets Ownership of the Harlem Heat Franchise

The only good that will come of this is Booker's singles push. I feel like a rabbit chasing a carrot on a stick there, though. WCW likes to tease us with the potential of a talented worker near the top of the card, so I fully expect this feud to take up a good part of 2000. Pardon me if I don't jump up right now, looking for tickets to future tv tapings. If Booker doesn't go over here, things are wrong. Wait, scratch that. Things are already wrong.. if Booker doesn't win here, he's got a justifiable excuse to commit homicide.
Winner: Booker (whose new music I adore..)

Lash Leroux vs. Prince Iaukea
Cruiserweight Title

Chad Damiani proved just how un-funny he is this past week on WCW Live! by claiming an Iaukea victory would be a 'purple reign'. Sadly, I think that one joke was the whole reason Iaukea made it to the finals. In a tourney that saw Kaz Hayashi job twice, 3-Count eliminated in 2 rounds and the disappearance of Psychosis, we're 'treated' to two of the lamer gimmicks in recent memory. LeRoux has a good chunk of charisma and I really dig his finisher, but the ridiculous accent really has to go. Iaukea wasn't really that strong to begin with, and hasn't made any effort whatsoever to get into his new gimmick.. again, I don't blame him. Against my own judgement, I'm taking LeRoux here. He's jobbed in title matchups long enough to deserve his own reign by now.
Winner: Lash LeRoux

Billy Kidman vs. Vampiro

Won't be as good as it could be. Vampiro might come out with yet another musical group, since the Misfits have apparently dumped him as well. If something happens backstage and these two find their way into the World Title match, we might see a little fire lit under both men. If not, don't look for a spectacular effort.. and I don't blame them one bit. Oh yea, I'm calling a match here, too. I'll go with Kidman over, as Vampiro continues down his road to burial.
Winner: Kidman

The Mamalukes vs. David Flair and Crowbar
World Tag Team Title Match

Here we go with our 'Sicilian Stretcher match'.. which, as everybody knows, Italians around the world are feared for. So long as Crowbar carries the majority of this load, it could actually turn out to be decent. I've been all about the man named for a... crowbar (there really aren't many ways to introduce that name, are there? Bloody hell..) for some time now, and he's finally starting to build a name for himself. With that in mind, I'm going with WCW to do the right thing here and put the emerging star's team over.. though it'll probably be through means of "Big" Vito's mother turning on him or something equally as ludicrous.
Winners: Crowbar and David Flair

"Nature Boy" Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk
Death Match

By default, both these men will bleed. They could be wrestling in a barbed wire cage or a room of pillows.. it won't matter. Their foreheads are so scarred up from years of blading, an errant paper cup could bust them ear to ear. The matchup itself actually doesn't look to be half bad. Don't get me wrong, it won't send you back to memories of their first feud, but it's bound to be several times better than Hogan/Luger. The fans won't go home happy if Flair doesn't go over, and that seems to suit WCW just fine, so...
Winner: Terry Funk

Hulk Hogan vs. The Total Package
Featured Attraction Match

Good lord, did WCW think adding all these unique titles, stipulations and imaginative explanations would really help out the buy rate that noticeably? I doubt Hogan / Luger could've even hoped to measure up, had it gone without the title 'featured attraction match'. I know it's already enhanced the experience for me. There's already been one Hogan too much for my liking in this review, so I don't see any need to contribute another.. I'll take the bastard in yellow over Flexy Pooh when Sting makes his incredibly unpredictable return and Schiavone creams himself with delighted surprise.
Winner: Hogan. Brother.

Sid Vicious vs. Jeff Jarrett vs. Scott Hall
No Disqualification 3-Way Dance World Heavyweight Title Match

I'm feeling particularly unhappy about the main event, because I don't see it panning out as anything but another Sid romp. Jarrett may give it the old college try, and if Scott Hall was 10 years younger, 20 pounds lighter and 40 beers cleaner he might have made it worthwhile. As is, Hall will show up drunk, stoned or 'hurt' because he doesn't want to job. Jarrett's not ready for the title yet, and Goldberg's not ready to make the run-in and take the title. If Hart gets off his ass and shows, he could make me interested. This just in; Sid's a punk-ass, and apparently won't be showing for this event. That pretty much screws my prediction to hell, since I'd picked Sid, if just because he'll constantly soothe me, whispering "i am the master." Seeing as how Hall's been getting funky with his 'drinky drinky' again lately, I'm seeing Jarrett take the belt.
Winner: Jeff Jarrett

In Closing...

Damned, am I glad to put that one behind me. I'd bet we hit an all time low in hits with this post. After it's all said and done, WCW's in one hell of a pit. If they don't quit digging themselves further and further in, they won't be able to claw their way back up (assuming it's not already too late). Looking for a bit of comedy? Take a look at the buyrate they're bound to collect here. And I'm spent.
until next time, i remain

Friday, February 11, 2000

Ringside Shadows #104: WCW Talent Evaluation (A-C)

Sorry to disappoint, but there won't be a Tuesday review this week.. between the relief of a design project completed on time, the nast of a sinus infection, an overpoweringly loud class in the lab this evening, and a mediocre Monday evening, I've decided to take the week off from my usual duties. I've still a couple comments on the past performances, which should serve as an interesting segue into what's sure to be a full-blown assault on WCW's roster. Here goes;

So we got Rocky vs. Chris Benoit, and JR's quoted as having "looked forward to this matchup for a long time".. strangely enough, so have I. Benoit more than proved his point, by carrying Rocky to his first watchable match in quite some time.. and then actually landing the pinfall! If anybody would like an example of what sets a good worker apart from a lazy worker, they need look no further than this matchup, and the post-matchup performance from each man. While Rocky was nearly dead on his feet (I was wondering if he'd even make it to the top of the runway.. and he wasn't even through his first segment) after what's likely to be the most demanding match of his career to date, Benoit light-heartedly jogged after him and proceded to deliver a bit more of the punishing offense he's come to be known for... not to mention his headbutt from the top rope. Of all the Radicals, Benoit seems to be recieving the most acceptance, after going over the Rock, delivering the pinfall of last week's main event and claiming an unofficial victory over HHH on Smackdown two weeks back. Malenko and Saturn, however, seem to be another story. Malenko is fading fast from the rejuvinated technician we saw in Pittsburgh 2 weeks ago, and I'll give him another couple months before he's mired in the lower midcard once more.

I got my first extended look at Papi Chulo (erm.. make that.. Esse Rio?), and I was quite impressed with his initial speed, even though he blew up within the first 5 minutes of the somewhat short matchup. He's certainly got the look, not to mention a manager well worth her time. I flipped when she hit her own flying head-scissors on the floor, and her moonsault has definate potential. The relaunched Light-Heavy division needs some new faces and fast, lest it fall into the same pit as before.

WCW really didn't have anything worth mentioning.. I even watched a bit of the dog show in its stead. Judging from last year's meager offering in this same position, you'd think WCW would have learned its lesson and produced something worth watching this go round.. not so. We get a 3 hour taste of dog pene, capped off with performances from Ronda Singh, Oklahoma, Hulk Hogan, Sid, Rick Fuller, "the new" Harlem Heat, and ERNEST F'N MILLER. God, how I've missed 'The Cat'. If History truly does repeat itself, WCW may as well fold now and cut its losses to a minimum.

Here's an textbook definition of "fooling yourself"... WCW.COM had this to say about their spectacular performance last night "WCW delivered huge in their promise to take over the big apple." I'll leave final judgement to the viewer, but to be honest, I was more entertained by the silly fan sitting behind Madden and Schiavone at the show's intro than I was by the program itself.

And with that glowing introduction, there's no better way to jump right into my

WCW Talent Evaluations, A-C

I'm not quite sure when I'll finish these up, but rest assured we'll get through them before the end of February. This is likely to be a 4-installment series, and remember; this hurts me just as much as it hurts you.
(credit to wcw.com for the 'superstar' list)

3 Count
If you've been checking out my posts on a regular basis, you'll realize I'm quite high on these guys.. well two thirds of them, anyway. Shane Helms and Shannon Moore are a good chunk of WCW's future right now, and they're actually getting off to a good start with this 'Backstreet Boys' gimmick. I'll be honest, when I heard talk of the said gimmick months back, I thought it was a load of piss and drizzle.. but Helms and Moore have made me a believer. Despite being obviously green between the ropes, the two have a willingness.. no, an eagerness.. to learn the basics. As almost seems to be a fundamental these days, they'll bump.. and they'll bump well. I've made comparisons to the Hardy Boyz, Too Cool and even the great Shawn Michaels (especially in the case of Moore), and if you realize how high a respect I hold those mentioned in, you'll understand what a compliment that really is. The crowds have turned these three into monster heels, perhaps the most successful in the company, and I think it's great. Give these guys another year to blossom and hope WCW doesn't drop the ball along the way.
Overall Grade: B+

Generally going nowhere since her unceremonious dumping from the Revolution, ass-yuh pretty much blows a solid goat. She fills the role of a bodyguard in the vein of Chyna or an old-school Luna, but can't even hold a torch to the others when in the ring. When left to the occasional low-blow from the outside, she isn't entirely wretched, but the second she tries anything new.. well, fans would best leave the arena. My only fear is we'll be seeing more and more of her with this rejuvinated women's division, and that's a bad thing.
Overall Grade: D

Bam Bam Bigelow
As one of the more solid heels of the past two decades, Bigelow's since been dropped into the hardcore division where he currently defends the strap against the likes of Brian Knobs, Meng and Hugh Morrus. If WCW had any semblance of a clue, Bigelow would be plowing over the competition as a monster heel near the top of the card. His introduction was done quite well, setting him up for a run against then-champion Goldberg, and heat was really starting to build betweeen the two of them. As usual, though, the higher-ups became antsy and hurried the angle. Within 2 months of his arrival atop the heels, Bigelow had jobbed to Goldberg and was rapidly falling down the ladder. His stint with the 'Triad' (DDP and Kanyon) was quite good, but who knows what became of that, either. Misdirected, Bigelow will mire forever in the middle to bottom of the card.. but given a little guidance and direction, he could be superb for another few years. His grade has less to do with his ability and more to do with his misuse.
Overall Grade: C-

One of the more promising debuts of the year, Berlyn has since gone straight to hell. He never really recovered from the 1-2-3 punch of a terrible mouthpiece (the female 'interpreter'), ring rust, and Buff Bagwell's constant bitching / no-showing. Again, had he been handled correctly, Berlyn definitely had the tools to go somewhere. The crowd heat was quite strong for a new face, and given a little tweaking, Wright could've adapted himself perfectly to the role. His ringwork was a step down from previous runs, though, and I can't attribute it all to rust. Had officials spent more time worrying about the substance of his new gimmick and less about the flashy lights, camera effects and pyro, Berlyn really could've gotten over as the cocky, anti-American heel. Instead, his name falls into the pit of anonymity.
Overall Grade: D+

Big Poppa Pump
As a frequent troublemaker backstage, I'm quite surprised Scotty or his brother still have jobs with Turner. That, and he's been hurt for nearly a year and never fails to catch the censors off-guard during his interviews. His initial heel turn was well done, but really lagged on for far too long. One can only be teased with a Scott vs. Rick matchup for so long before all the interest drips out, and it takes a good eye to recognize the difference between jumping the gun and holding on too long. In his earlier years, Scott was a superb athlete. It's been a sad, sad ride watching him decline into the roided-up freak that now stands before us. Where a Hulk Hogan has the option of retiring when he feels like it (which seems to be.. never..), Scott's on the brink of losing that option. It's always sad when you put an old dog to sleep, but I think this is an instance where that's almost necessary.
Overall Grade: D+

Big T
A waste of your time and of mine. As Ahmed Johnson, he had his build and vicious looking power-moves to fall back on. Today, his stomach grows larger every night and his offense has given way to a sick, sloppy style that's likely to hurt somebody before long. A botched spike-Pedigree (which isn't really even supposed to be done anyway) nearly killed the Disco Inferno last night, and I'd rather not see him given another opportunity. Tony Norris and Stevie Ray, as Harlem Heat 2000, should've been removed from the roster before their debut. I don't even want to think about how much of WCW's money is going towards this waste.
Overall Grade: F

Billy Kidman
A bit slowed following injury, Kidman's been stuck in some dead-end feuds lately. As the only remaining active Filthy Animal, Kidman's dumped that gimmick and I couldn't be happier. Still the top performer left in the sinking ship, Kidman hasn't busted out the Shooting Star Press in some time, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it again when he's ready. Kidman's over with the fans, but still has a ways to go before he's ready to assume the role of a savior.. and that's what WCW's desperate to find right now. Though he should've been at that level a year ago, it's not too late to push Kidman up the card to US status right now. A feud with Jarrett would be the only thing really worth watching on Nitro, and would elevate both men in the process. If given the opportunity, Kidman could be ready to run with the ball by this time next year.. WCW needs to get off their asses and start pushing this guy now, along with a select few others, if they ever hope to be competitive again.
Overall Grade: A-

Booker T
Along with Kidman, worthy of a push to US status.. if not a bit above. His feud with Chris Benoit has become classic, and he could do the same with Kidman, Jarrett, Hart or Kanyon. His matches, while a bit methodical, are always entertaining and he moves incredibly fast for a man of his stature. Fan support is nothing Booker's lacked in the past, but the angle with his silly new music (which I think is hysterical) is actually killing off his fans.. a sign the feud should be re-written, and fast. The officials have made the right move by separating Booker from his no-talent brother, and it's up to them to see that his singles push gets back off the ground soon.
Overall Grade: A

Bret Hart
Plagued by injury of late, Hart's status with the nWo has yet to be resolved. The good resolution would be to reveal him as being in cahoots with Jarrett since day 1, thus solidifying his heel turn, leadership of the new nWo, and relaunch of the Outsiders as a face duo. Hart's best days are behind him, and with the departure of Chris Benoit goes the hope of a passing of the torch as well. Currently the only acceptable main eventer pulling his weight, WCW needs the Hitman back in a bad way. If the leadership issue with Nash isn't resolved quickly, Hart will soon be lost once more in the spiral, perhaps never to be seen again. At over 40, Bret can still go.. but I wonder how long he's got before we're looking at a story similar to Ric Flair's.
Overall Grade: B+

Brian Knobs
Put simply, Brian Knobs is a hack. I've no idea whose Don Johnson he's been snarfing to deserve his recent push, let alone his continued employment, but they're likely to be someone rather important. Knobs goes in the category with Harlem Heat 2000 and Tank Abbott as workers you should be afraid of.. not for their proficiency in the ring, but lack thereof. These guys don't know what they're doing in there, and it's only a matter of time before one of them hurts somebody seriously. Thrown into the hardcore division, Knobs never fails to disgust and waste time. His is the sort of "gimme a garbage can" hardcore style that I despise, and I never fail to switch channels when he's on-screen.
Overall Grade: D-

Buff Bagwell
Apparantly on the verge of a breakthrough feud with DDP, Bagwell has since dropped off the face of the planet. Not to sink his boat, but nobody's really noticed. I don't think enough people are watching WCW anymore to really notice when former stars come or go. Bagwell was decent enough as a heel, and a stooge to the original nWo.. and then he turned face. Since then, it's been repetition, repetition, repetition, and a taste of repetition. Were I to open a dictionary and point at a word, I could form a Buff Bagwell promo centered around it (For example; obdurate. "I'm Buff, I'm odurate, I'm the stuff, and that's enough.") His ringwork, for the most part, sucks. It sucks real hard. I'd compare him to Billy Gunn.. pushed without reason. I did truly believe that Page could've taught him a thing or two, but that angle's been left on the cutting room floor. File under: Also-ran.
Overall Grade: C-

They killed this guy quick, didn't they? It wasn't fast enough for me, since he found his way into both Jushin Liger matches this year, effectively turning me solidly against him. His original character reeked of Dude Love and the 'hippie' version of Van Hammer (I'll bet you miss that guy, eh?), and his latest incarnation was such a shameless rip off of his brother that fans refused to get behind it.. even in protest. When he isn't mired with a terrible gimmick, Brad Armstrong can hold his own in the ring. It's really too bad that means next to nothing anymore, as I'm sure all the Jerry Lynns of the world can attest.
Overall Grade: C-

Chavo Guerrero
Possibly the most under-appreciated talent of the late 90's. Chavo's worth his weight in gold both on the mic and in the ring, but fans have never really flocked to his side. Chavo's quite entertaining, not to mention a flawless face, but things have never really been the same since his stint with Eddy. I'm sure he lost a lot of the popular respect after his ordeal with Pepe, the stuffed horse, and he's floated uselessly since then. Things looked to be coming together for him, forming a stable with Juventud and Psychosis, but god knows what happened to that one. Chavo's never really been given the chance to do much of anything, and I'd put him in the same position as Kidman a year and a half ago. More than worthy of a push, but seemingly going nowhere.
Overall Grade: B-

Chris Kanyon
One of the more inventive men in the field, Kanyon really surprised me after breaking out of the shell of his 'Mortis' character many moons ago. Rumors abound of his departure from WCW, which is a real blow. Kanyon not only played a role on screen, but also spent time recruiting talent (he claims to have discovered the worthwhile members of 3-count) and working in the Power Plant with trainees. Kanyon was at his best in the Triad with Bigelow and DDP, where he could be himself.. this whole champagne thing never did anything for me, and lowered my opinion of him a notch or two. I'd like to see him turn up in a place that would respect his abilities and allow him a chance to become the star we know he can be.. ECW doesn't look too bad at all.
Overall Grade: B

Another recent breakthrough, we haven't really begun to see what Crowbar's made of, though I've been impressed with what he has busted out. He's far from shy when it comes from the mic, and knows how to use what time he's allotted to maximum extent. I've yet to hear him stumble along without a point (a'la HHH) or put forward a stupid, worthless segment. He's been building his current character quite well, to the point where he's among the few in WCW with a distinguishable personality. His ringwork, while never really being stretched, has impressed thus far as well. Much like Chavo, given a year or two to really develop and become a standout in the fans' minds as well as the bookers', Crowbar is certainly worth watching.
Overall Grade: A-

Curt Hennig
Hennig's lost more than one step since he was the embodiment of perfection in the WWF. He's gained some weight, lost a good chunk of his endurance, and doesn't really seem to care much any more. When the promise of a push was dangled before him late in 1999, shades of the old star came back out to say hello.. but the body just couldn't take it any more, and he blew up within the first few minutes. Since then, his push has dissolved as has his desire. I'm tempted to say it would've been fitting to see him ride off into the sunset in Toronto, when he received a standing ovation after his 'last match' at Mayhem.
Overall Grade: C+

If you thought I was harsh on Brian Knobs, I haven't even touched Hogan, Nash or Sid yet... the fun continues in part II. All this, and more, when I unleash the second installment of this thrilling talent evaluation some time within the next week.

And that should do it for me.. it feels good to do another column aside from the cookie-cutter Tuesday Reviews I've been shoveling out of late. Rest assured, ye olde Review will return with next week's Monday night programming, and I should be around a bit more than recently, with the completion of this mammoth design project. Once I finish up this evauluation, I'm itching to get one out on the WWF, with ECW not completely out of the question (as the world collectively groans), and I'd still like to knock out that column on heels in the industry. As always, John and I will be around this Friday with our World's Greatest Superbrawl Preview, and you can look for my work as a part of the first-ever Oratory-Wide column over at the Big3. As always, thanks for reading and:
until then, i remain