Tuesday, March 28, 2000

Ringside Shadows #115: In A Word...

I think I overuse the word "mediocre".

Of course, with lukewarm programming on both sides of the fence the likes of which was aired last night, I've little alternative. Wait.. scratch that. Things were never really lukewarm. Both programs went from frigid lows to scorching highs on a whim, and we were all along for the ride. After a rehash of every Hogan interview ever aired (that I could have done without), I was treated to more of the Jung dragons... (that I liked). Another elongated Raw introduction follows itself up with two of my favorite workers worldwide. The said match is then given a solid 2 minutes to run its course, before an ugly, hurried finish ties it all up. Things just couldn't get on level ground either way last night, and I only hope Wrestlemania ends up a little better lest it be labeled as poor as last year's offering.. itself quite mediocre.

The McMahon Spring TV Special

Apparantly it wasn't enough to merely stick it on cruise control, sending HHH to pull out the same epic saga of a promo as the week before. No no, this is the week before Wrestlemania and I'll be damned if we won't start the program off with every remote relative of the McMahon family on the rampway, absorbing the adoration of the masses. Hey, Vince... do you realize why "In Living Color" went off the air (well, besides the fact it just wasn't funny anymore)? Nobody wants to see a complete family tree endlessly throughout the evening.. as to why, that's anyone's guess. It's one of the mysteries of the universe. I won't even get into the specifics, nor the magnificently gaping holes in the plot therein.. the problem's a bit deeper than that.

Honestly, I don't think you need to look much farther than Linda herself for the problem. The woman wasn't meant for television, as she's proven time and time again. Her voice grates at the nerves, her "hard-ass mom with a 'tude" persona doesn't work and the crowd could give a shit if it were Linda McMahon or a dancing monkey with one hell of a package. Hey, the monkey with the package would likely get the bigger pop of the two. To include her in the promotion of an already lackluster main event is nonsensical, but to give her a full 10 minutes of uninterrupted mic time (more than Mick Foley, even) borders insanity.

I suppose I'm just a bit sick of the main event angle as a whole. Including family in wrestling angles is always a bit difficult to swallow once or twice, but the McMahons have jumped back and forth between alliances and oppositions faster than anyone in their right mind could possibly track. Believablility has since gone out the window, as Vince has tried to kill his own son (not to mention ripping off Austin's "20,000 people calling you an asshole" line, and going full circle along the way), Stephanie's called her mother a slut and wrestlers seem thrown in just for shits and giggles. If they try to spread this one any thinner by continuing it beyond the big WM, you can count me out.

The 'New' Nitro

"When you tune into the April 10 Nitro you're going to see just how serious we are in turning the company around." -Vince Russo last night in a wcw.com interview.

If I tune in to see Bischoff and Russo's smiling faces in an on-air feud right off the bat, I'll be very.. very upset. I'm not sure what's more unsettling.. the image itself or the fact it's more than likely about to happen. As I said just after his big jump from the WWF, Russo could be a big deal... and not an altogether bad one, either. If given a superb talent coordinator (my suggestion at the time was Ric Flair) to slip in a couple worthwhile workers along with Russo's infamous scripts, things could be in really good shape. If he's allowed free reign with Jim Duggan, the Harris Boys and Oklahoma again, everything could be headed to the big ring in the sky for Turner's bastard child, wCw, in a hurry.

I've more confidence in Bischoff than Vince and Ed... under Eric it was a game of hit and miss. Under his watchful eye, the world's top workers jumped at the chance to visit the aprons (and wallet) of wCw. Juventud Guerrara. Chris Benoit. Rey Misterio, Jr. Eddy Guerrero. Each made their first TNT appearance under Bischoff's eye. Sure, the main event was plagued by the likes of Hogan and Nash.. but we're living with that right now. After a couple months of this putrid shit, I'd gladly take a return to the form of 1997 or even 1998. At least then you had a decent undercard with which to work.

Russo is promising "the best Nitro that you've seen in a year." He claims it'll "make a statement that Nitro is getting back in the game. " I hope so. You've got our attention for what may be the last time, guys. You'd better make the best of it this time.

Sometimes Stuff Sucks, Even When it Shouldn't

Hey, it was great to see Benoit and Guerrero in the ring (even better, considering how long it had been since we'd seen Eddy). They looked strong as a team, and started to get the crowd into it.. which was commendable, considering they only got 2 f'n minutes! How the man himself can justify a half hour crock of shit for an intro, but less than 5 minutes for the top workers in the world is beyond me, and I'd wager he would have a hard time explaining it under pressure himself. Add Chyna to the mix, and you've already guaranteed failure... but Vince remains a genius, right?

Gimmicked wCw shows are, as a whole, stupid.. this week's installment was no exception. With little to no planning (as evidenced by the shaky cameras, weak lighting, poor ring setup and about 15 other notables through the night), a strange placement and matches that didn't really do anything to make us notice something was different, events of this kind give wCw the bush-league feel they've been trying to avoid for yearsn now. On top of it all, what the hell was up with Liz? Did she really think those various objects were helping Luger win the matchup? Ahh, come to think of it.. it was fun watching Sting sell an ice cube tray to the ass. I'll let it be.

Goddamned, did I miss Mae Young and Moolah. I don't think we could've made it through another Raw without their gorgeous visage(s). The joke's been over for months now... why can't we just let it DIE?!

It was nice to see DDP back. A shame he wasn't around to do anything but plug wCw's new movie. If the guy's gonna risk himself to fly in for an interview (his back isn't near healed yet, so a ride on an aircraft was risky), why would they dis him so, relegating him to an injured reserve billboard? Still, he provided the line of the night (as noted by Blasingame) "My back... is gonna be jacked!" All that, and Kimberly should be kept a long, long ways from microphones nationwide.

You know, if I'd blinked I may have missed it. Hogan put over a couple athletes below the age of 45. Watch the skies, for the armageddon is surely at hand. I'm convinced this was less the actions of the Hulkster himself and more those of his superiors, but it was still a thing of beauty to see. Despite becoming Hogan's personal bitch in the span of one night, Vampiro's push is headed heavenward with no signs of slowing down. There's one I owe to wCw... I can't really do much but recognize their efforts in this case, while the rest of the talented minority await their turn.

Am I Ready for Wrestlemania?

Eh. It doesn't really seem to be coming up this weekend. The WWF's done little to promote anything other than the main event (which I'm personally not especially looking forward to). The card's already overflowing with gimmicked matches, which beg to be overbooked. Benoit/Angle/Jericho should be brilliant, so long as Jericho comes ready to work (and Benoit ready to whip him into shape, should he not..) but in an ideal world, that would exist as the only multi-participant match of the evening. Special stipulation matches work best when allowed to stand out as the unique events they are. Throw in too many of them, and the audience becomes overwhelmed and bored by the main event. Sure, the tag team ladder match could be nice.. but I'd be willing to bet the result would be nicer if limited to two teams. Did the Bossman really need to show up on the card? Or Moolah? OR MAE?? Did Chyna need to play a role in the Radicals / Too Cool feud? I refuse to get as worked up as I was for last year's big event.. feuds aren't nearly as well built as they appeared to be before last year's big XV, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one to feel let down by such a disaster.

I'll wholeheartedly agree... the matches themselves should be much stronger this year (the majority of the poor workers are neatly tucked into matches of their own), but I won't even give this one a chance at PPV of the year, which is where it should rightfully be.

And that should do it for me. Following the chaos that was last week's posting schedule, I'm planning to settle down a bit this time. John and I will return Friday evening with (what else) the World's Greatest Wrestlemania Preview.. the grand daddy of them all. Here's hoping it isn't mediocre. Cheers!
until then, i remain

Thursday, March 23, 2000

Ringside Shadows #114: WCW Talent Evaluation (M-R)

It's true, it's true.. the unthinkable has come to pass. In what's likely the most long-winded series of columns on the net, I've decided to finally step up with part III of my WCW Talent Evaluation. I'm coming fresh off an afternoon packed full of **** and above masterpieces (I popped in an old tape that featured Otani / Liger, Benoit / Liger and Benoit / Black Tiger (Eddy Guerrero), so I'm actually chomping at the bit to get this one started. Be that as it may, we've got some real stinkers here.. everything from the aging stars of yesteryear like Mike Rotunda and Ric Flair to the high flying lucha youth of Rey Mysterio, Jr. and Psychosis. Variety galore, and don't be surprised if I get cranky by the closing.

Of note; when I typed 'I popped in an old tape..' in the last paragraph, I accidentally typed 'pooped in an old tape'... three times. Luckily, I caught the mistake each time and made the necessary correction. Puro coming out of my ass is something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Come to think of it, anything coming out of my ass isn't.... Enough. Let's get this beast rolling.

(again, credit goes to wcw.com for the profile listing)

Hasn't seen much of a role on Nitro lately, and you won't find any complaints here. As the WWF women's champion Alundra Blaze, Madusa lacked the extra something required of memorable champions. Once she made the jump to wCw though, things lept to the other side of the seesaw as she overadjusted. Now an overbearing, prosthetic shell, Madusa never really did much in or out of the ring to help out wCw's then-struggling product (who am I kidding? 'then struggling'? heh). Her feuds with Oklahoma and Evan Karagias were largely forgettable, and the only worthwhile possibility in her future (that being a series with the super-fine Mona) was shot down before it really had a chance to get off the ground. Presently, she seems to be sitting back, awaiting a long overdue repackaging.

In the ring, she wasn't quite magic.. but she could surpass a good number of wCw's more highly-paid men in terms of watchability and presence. Take note; that wasn't a compliment, but more of an observation of wCw's continuing woes. She isn't afraid to get a bit risque or pull out the occasional high-risk offensive maneuver, so I'll give her points for that. As is, she stands as likely the worst cruiserweight champion of all time (because I refuse to even acknowledge Oklahoma's "reign").
Overall Grade: C-

The Maestro
Never got a chance to even spread his wings. Packaged correctly, the Maestro could actually draw in a solid amount of heat as the arrogant snob. Thrown together with Ryan Shamrock, he could become the man audiences love to hate.. but officials have yet to realize it (much as they did with the fumbled Berlyn gimmick). Sending him out with a conducter's rod (I won't pretend to know what the technical name for it is), a cape and bubbles (?) only gives fans something to laugh at for a moment before all their attention goes. Between the ropes, Maestro's got promise.. if given the drive to perfect his craft. He's got a good enough head on his shoulders in the ring and his promos are well enough, when featured. He's got the look, so I'm still surprised they wouldn't give it a go with that 'Gorgeous George' gimmick of old.. I hear he's got a bit of practice with the part. Chalk this one up a letter grade higher if wCw had any clue how to handle him.
Overall Grade: C+

A bit above mediocre, the Marmalukes haven't really been in the best position as far as booking goes. Originally paired with Marinara as a part of this big 'mob' shindig, then turned into a modern-day Goodfellas slam, Big Vito and Johnny the Bull look the part of Italians. That's not to say they should play such a gimmick. I'm told the more things change, the more they stay the same and it certainly applies here. In a politically correct world that sees wCw sued for racial descrimination, we've these two.. cornered into a gimmick that sees them feasting on spaghetti and speaking in ridiculous accents while their blatant Godfather-themed entrance theme blares across the stadiums. It reminds me of a story from Bruno Sammartino's autobiography regarding his first encounter with Vince McMahon, Sr. McMahon contacted Sammartino to move up to the big times in the WWWF, and Bruno was flattered.. until he found out McMahon had never really seen him wrestle. Turns out Vince Sr had just lost another Italian worker, and planned to play up Sammartino's nationality. Once things got to the ring, hey.. Bruno was on his own. Like I said, the more things change..

The Marmalukes, like a great majority of struggling workers, show promise but lack the necessary drive to really unlock their potential. They've some interesting double team spots, and both men have the endurance to make it through a decent-lengthed match without fully blowing up. Despite the horrid gimmick, these two seem to be giving it a go anyway, which should be commended. They pulled out a decent enough title reign, but with the beating they took at the hands of the omnipotent Harris boys I'd be surprised to see them near the gold again soon.
Overall Grade: B-

So what, I'm constantly asked, has become of Meng? What's happened to the afro that wouldn't die? Sadly enough, it would appear the man is on his way back.. but the 'fro has since been drastically reduced. Meng's been around a bit, with appearances at multiple Wrestlemanias throughout history, but he's never really been much more than the psychotic big guy that hurts people. In the vein of Jim Duggan, Meng's offense leaves quite a bit to be desired and his promos simply don't exist.. yet he never seems to have trouble finding work. Meng's wCw run has been a clinic in no selling, bad storylines and even worse 'hardcore' wrestling. If it was bad and he was in the area, chances are Meng had a hand in it.. his membership in Jimmy Hart's First Family, arguably the worst stable in the history of mankind, is just about all the proof I need.
Overall Grade: D

Mike Rotunda
Now long since washed up, Rotunda wasn't all bad in the middle to late 80's. Actually, things looked pretty bright for his future in the ring.. his amateur status spoke volumes and he really knew his way around the ring. He met decent success in the NWA and took on Rick Steiner in a horrifically overbooked matchup at the famous Chi-Town Rumble back in 1989. The two actually managed to salvage something of an amateur showcase anyway (Steiner was accompanied by his brother Scott, his faithful sock puppet and a memory of some 'accident', which caused whatever condition the NWA claimed he was suffering from.) The finish was clean, but not before Kevin Sullivan ran out and told Rick what a wonderful dog he had backstage, which was apparantly a threat.. as it's common knowledge each wrestler is accompanied to their performances by a loyal hound.

Since then, Rotunda's run the gauntlet of terrible gimmicks as IRS, Captain Mike, Michael Wall Street and V.K. Wall Street. His recent return to action also saw the resurfacing of the Varsity Club.. why he can't just wrestle is beyond me. He's been pretty much ignored recently, used as fodder for the random match here and there, but never anything noteworthy. Mark this one up as one more example of a grade dropping thanks to the promotion's misuse of talent..
Overall Grade: D+

Another star never given her chance to shine. Paired with Randy Savage and his 'team madness' originally, Mona was the curiosity of the three women... the unknown variable. When she hit a hurricanrana a couple weeks in, the curiosity became a strong interest. Columnists and audiences demanded more, astonded by what they'd just seen.. and wCw seemed ready to let this rocket shoot to the top in the near future. Along the way, something happened. Mona hasn't seen a camera in some time, and I'd wager the common fan has forgotten about her. It's a shame too, since Mona represented a last chance at reality. She had morals and her body was her own, not one given to her by a plastic surgeon. She could've been a real return to form, but instead she's become just another could've been. Mona gets a B+, wCw a D-... I guess that evens out to a C.
Overall Grade: C

Norman Smiley
Hey, what's this..? A worker with talent, a catchy gimmick, audience support and something of a push? Well.. it was something of a push. Struggling for nearly a year to get over with the bitter wCw audiences, Smiley introduced his dance, "the big wiggle" (later so named by Wrestling's living imposter, Larry Zbysko) at Starrcade '98. Fans dug it... a lot. I've memories of a couple fans that may've had a drink or two at the said Starrcade, standing each time Smiley would tease the dance and doing it along with him.. ear to ear grins all the way. It's probably the saving grace of that card (well.. besides Kidman vs. Rey vs. Juvi and Kidman vs. Eddy). Somebody noticed Smiley's growing noteriety and stuck him with this hardcore gimmick, which he's adapted to magnificently. His ringwork's lost a bit or two along the way, but I'll accept it as he's still far from horrible between the ropes. Honestly, Smiley's one of the few universally good things going in wCw. He can work well enough to satisfy bitch-asses like myself, he's growing a personality, and the mainstream fans enjoy it all the way. Too bad the bookings seem to be moving away from him yet again.. damned, and that angle with the Demon's gear was hilarious, too.
Overall Grade: A-

I challenge anyone out there to justify this guy's existence before the cameras.
Overall Grade: F-

Probably the most talented of the currently active and unhindered roster, and he's just floating about wCw nirvana somewhere. Psychosis should've won the cruiserweight tournament, but he missed a match along the way due to a problem with connecting flights.. it's nobody's fault, and I don't offer any blame for the situation. wCw found a way around the problem and advanced with a new champion. Thing is, after all this talk about the 'rebirth' of the once proud cruiserweight division, I'm not really seeing anything that deserves to carry the name. In its heyday, we had Juvi, Rey, Kidman, Eddy, Malenko, Psychosis, Super Calo, Blitzkrieg, the occasional Liger visit, and more luchadores than you can shake a stick at. Title matches were nearly guaranteed to be worthwhile television. With Psychosis' gravitation to the nether-regions, it looks like the division pretty much consists of Iaukea, Chavo, Candido and the eternally-jobbed Lash Leroux. ..but I'm getting off track.

Psychosis is a great talent, probably among the top ten in North America. He finally lost his mask in a nice little matchup with Kidman (well, if you'd like to get technical, he lost it to Rey Mysterio, Sr. in Mexico in the weeks prior), and was in line to receive a strong push as a result when the big shift in power took place. Lost in the shuffle, I don't really blame Psycho for losing a lot of his steam.. and that's what it seems he's done. His gimmick's going nowhere, and his workrate is slowly starting to show the signs. Psychosis needs a strong kick of a push, and he needs it soon.
Overall Grade: B+

Rey Mysterio Jr.
When he had his original knees beneath him, Rey was simply unbelievable.. poetry in motion. His hurricanrana pinning combo was a thing of beauty, and his moveset was the most innovative in the game. As the dying legacy wrestling's forgot, he made the mask work, and the audience appreciated him for it. Now injury-prone with a constantly hurt knee, Rey occasionally shows the youthful exhuberance that got him where he is today.. but it's tainted. Much in the fashion that turned Sting from a high flier and a risk taker into the much more conservative man we know today, Rey's body has turned against him and he doesn't know what to do with it. Confronted with the same problem, many have turned to technical skills to pick up the slack left by the absence of patented airborne spots, but it doesn't work with Rey. His minute stature was accounted for tenfold by his stunning and believable offense.. it was the only way he could compete with the big boys. I hope the bookers can find a way to prove me wrong, but if the track record holds up, I fear for Rey's future. With his foothold stable in shambles following the talent jump of several months ago and his physical skills slowly deteriorating, I can't give Rey the grade he deserves to be earning any more. It's like watching a puppy grow older.. sad, but a fact of life.
Overall Grade: B-

Ric Flair
If you need me to tell you why Ric Flair's so respected by his peers, chances are you've a long way to go before understanding this business. Ric's paid his dues and he's been repaid two dozen times over. The fans couldn't get sick of him if they tried.. his speeches get better with age.. he's willing to put over the right guys at the right times. The only thing that's missing anymore is his physical presence. Ric looks like shit in action, which is why that commissioner role was so perfect for him. From what I've heard, the rejection wasn't on wCw's part but Ric's. He didn't want to take such an inactive role in the product. Now I hold the utmost respect for the man, but enough's enough.. the ride couldn't last forever, and I think it's past time he realized it. The last series I really wanted to see from the man has gone out the window (Benoit vs. Flair for the future of the Horsemen), and all that's left for him is to slowly ride off into the sunset. Sadly, Flair's becoming another Hulk Hogan and overstaying his welcome.. milking to the bone the industry that made him. That's something I can't condone, whether we're talking abot Kamala the Ugandan Giant or the thirteen time heavyweight champion of the world.
Overall Grade: C

Rick Steiner
One of the promising young talents of his time, Rick's since taken a turn for the worse. Hell, there's no turn.. he plowed head-on into it. His promos tempt viewers to remove their genitalia with the aid of rusty nails, a toboggan and several dirty washcloths. It gets worse when he finds his way between the ropes. God, was the 'sock puppet and dog' deal of 1989 really so bad after all? The only things saving Rick are his good years in the 80's.. and those are becoming a distant memory.
Overall Grade: D-

Rowdy Roddy Piper
In four words, Piper shouldn't be active. With one false hip and another ready to give at any moment, Roddy's such a far cry from the man he was in the 1980s, I scarcely recognize him.. but then we get to the promos. Sure, he's been blasted in the past for grabbing up all the cheap heat humanly possible.. he'll insult a city, a sports team, a fan sitting in the front row.. all for the evasive attention a heel craves. However, for every evening he takes the easy way out, Piper gives us another couple worthwhile and truly entertaining promos. I'll never forget the night he asked Randy Savage if his parents built him a swing facing the wall when he was a kid. God, I think I pissed myself that evening.

While the years haven't been kind to his body, they've more than balanced the scales as far as his interviews and the like. So long as wCw realizes he's best used as a mouthpiece and not as a physical attraction, his return in late April could be a turning point. Put him behind a young star that hasn't quite mastered the stick yet.. a Vampiro, Psychosis or Crowbar. Use the past to build the future, and the product can't help but improve. As a whole, Piper's grade depends on his treatment in the months ahead.. and I can't offer a grade beforehand.
Overall Grade: n/a

..so that's it. Part IV may come your way as early as next week, but I'll be back for certain Tuesday evening to have a word or two about the programming of one night prior. I've been killing time lately checking out my favoritest of all the favorite sites out there, Xavier Doom's Slayground (note... site has dropped from the radar since the writing of this column), home of some of the strongest wrestling-related humor on the net. Check it out if you get a chance... it's well worth your while, and you might even see a thing or two you remember from the good years. Norman the Lunatic all the way, man! I'm out
until then, i remain

Ringside Shadows #113: Cleanup Duty

Ok, I blew it... and the readers called me on it.

As a part of last night's post, I berated the WWF for their shabby treatment of the sprouting tag team division. I made a couple main points about Edge and Christian's title shot (or lack thereof), the 'out of nowhere' tournament and the Dudleys' lack of defenses. At the risk of stealing a line from the illustrious Mr. Spence, here's the deal;

I work Thursday nights. Plain and simple. I've two roommates with much more interesting and extensive lives than I, who wouldn't think twice about erasing my vcr timer on a whim (nor to play a bit of Playstation), so I rarely get a chance to see Smackdown (or Thunder on Wednesdays, for that matter) nor the results that go down therein. Sure, I read the spoilers.. but text doesn't hold the same archival sense that video, audio and live action do. Any visitor of an internet porn site could tell you the same thing.

Two dozen e-mails later, I stand corrected.. Edge and Christian recieved their due title shot, and the Dudleys have defended their belts within the last month.. but I'm still not convinced this was such a superb turn of events. After all the build surrounding the Edge and Christian / Hardys match at No Way Out, with the special 'winner gets a title shot' stip engulfing it all the way, I figured at the very least a shot on Raw would be in order... if not at Wrestlemania. Instead, the WWF's premiere weekly broadcast trots out the Godfather and the Big Bossman, while the Dudleys laze behind the announcer's table. Not exactly becoming of such fighting champions. The tag division could and should be so much more, with the talent bursting from its seams (Kaientai, Too Cool, the Hardys, the Hollys, the Dudleys (a family feud of sorts..), Head Cheese, even the Acolytes are worth more than they let on). I suppose I'm more than a bit let down that Vince could find a way to do anything but tear the walls down with such a lineup and I'm letting it jade my view of the Dudleys' role as champs.

As I said, I found a few letters in my mailbox this morning.. more than a couple had another word or two beyond the "Do you watch Smackdown?" rephrasal, so I'll address those here. I'll cut through the irrelevant (and repetitive) corrections and get right to the meat, so I apologize in advance if these are hacked to pieces.

Faur Power (ytwofp@bobcat.bradley.edu) commented on the big week for wrestling in the media;

"I assume you watched SNL and the rock. It had a couple of good skits (Rock as the neanderthal, Rock singing, Mick's People's Elbow)"

Actually, yup.. I watched the chosen champion on Saturday Night, as well as DDP on The Brak Show and Foley, Piper and Hogan on Larry King Live.. and I was more than a bit let down with all. Rocky fell into the typical role I feared he might through the majority of the show, and the skits were all quite bland. SNL's been straight crap for a number of years now, and I'd really have liked to see the Rocky of today working with the SNL players of about ten years back. The 'invasion' bit with Mick, HHH and the Show was stupid for the most part (with the occasional gem... Show's backup singing and expressions were great, and Foley's big elbow took it home), and really made the show seem sophomoric and unprofessional. I guess this is why I don't watch SNL anymore though, save the repeats on Comedy Central. Dana Carvey could've carried the Rock's ass through anything.

DDP showed up on Cartoon Network's Brak show, the second such wrestler to appear on the Space Ghost-related programming (Randy Savage played Space Ghost's uncle on an older episode of Coast to Coast and was hysterical). He sang (!) a little ditty with the enlarged locust, Zorak, and before you knew it the segment was done. I'm no fan of the Brak show (I think he works best as a sidekick), and this was pretty much dumb as well.. still, it was a surprise to see his presence in the first place. If you missed this one, don't bother looking for a repeat.

Finally, I watched the aforementioned Larry King Live.. the best of the three. King seemed surprisingly civil to his guests, which came as a real shock to me.. I'd almost expected him to grill the three right from the opening bell. In the end, he seemed almost swayed over to our side.. ready to accept wrestlers as the athletes they are and not the jokes the media plays them up to be. Hogan made the usual ass of himself, attempting to one-up Foley in the injury department and claiming that when throwing a punch, he lands full force on his opponent's face (particularly funny was Hogan's commentary over a recent match against Flair.. the Hulkster threw a boot that missed by a good 6 inches, and informed King "now, I'm hitting him right in the jaw there.."). Piper was, as always, a great guest and Foley seemed the more humble of the three.. always understated and never really allowed to complete his thought. Despite Hogan's showboating, it ended up a worthwhile hour.. if much too short.

Hilgeman (djh@tznet.com) threw out more than one idea;

"I know who hit Steve Austin, who's behind G-TV, and who raised the briefcase. It's Marty Jannetty. Don't tell anyone though, the WWF has had big plans for him ever since HBK retired. And I can see where your coming from, but let's be realistic, it's not the Dud's fault, it's the WWF who's booking the matches and if they want the Dud's screwing around with Mae Young, putting her through tables, then there's nothing they can do about it. Hopefully, after Wrestlemania they will re-evaluate and realize that they should....

1. Unify the Euro and IC Title and...

2. Add another Tag Team title, they've got Headcheese, T+A, Too Cool, Dud's,Hardy's, Acolytes, still E+C, Holly's off and on, Radical members off andon, Headbangers, Taka and Funaki, and from reports Joe E. Legend and Scott Vick might make up a tag team."

Regarding the Marty Jannetty bit... hah, I'd love to see it. I understand he was meant to be the 'higher power' originally, but Vince was thrown in at the last moment. From there he went to WCW, where he drove the original hummer and then back to the WWF in time to raise the briefcase and run over Steve Austin. Not bad for a former Rocker who's since lost every bit of bounce to his step, eh?

As for your more serious statements, I'm not sold on either. I'd expect the Euro title to stay in the hands of Kurt Angle (thus giving him a pinfall over Benoit or Jericho in one of the two falls at Wrestlemania), and the IC title to find contest between Benoit and Jericho for months after the big PPV. Personally, I think that puts both belts in good hands for the foreseeable future and well beyond. Angle's almost ready to carry anybody to a watchable match (almost! almost!), and Jericho/Benoit will be quite the sweet series. Besides, 'retiring' the Euro title would cheapen its previous champions.. the Bulldog, Shawn Michaels... and Shane McMahon. What good would the title of 'grand slam champion' be without a fourth belt to complete the diamond?

Finally, I think another tag title is completely out of the picture. WCW tried it many moons ago with the oft-forgotten and much-maligned 6-man tag straps, and the experiment failed miserably. In this instance, I think it would only serve to further confuse the already-messy tag situation. If anything, things need to be streamlined now and adding another belt would just unleash a mass of chaos on the unsuspecting public.

GMEN27@aol.com had a gripe with my treatment of WWF fans;

"After reading your review I was disappointed in how you didn't mention how hot the crowd was for RAW. Foley got an unbelievable pop and the main event had unreal heat. The Hardys were also way over. In the Benoit vs. Jericho, there were several Y2J chants. Yet, you ignore it. "

Honestly, I'd thought I had mentioned it.. both Nitro and Raw had unbelievaly hot crowds Monday night, and I think it went a long way towards making the two programs the best they've been in months. One never really recognizes the importance of a strong crowd until it's absent. Thanks for noticing my slipup (another for the list attached to issue #112, I suppose), as it's definitely something I'd meant to cover.

Finally, Christopher Brennan (christo-b@webtv.net) had a view or two to share about the Wrestlemania lineup;

"..I don't agree with this booking, just because we already have enough schmozes at Wrestlemaia as it is. I mean there is not even one singles match on the card: a 4-way main event, triple threats for the IC and tag titles. A quickly put together tag match with Kane/Rikishi and X-Pac/Road Dogg, and a six man tag for Chyna, Too Cool, and the Radicals. What happened to our blood feuds? Well, I'm getting off on a tagent, but I just wanted to say that there is a reason behind Raw's tournament and that it's not an unexplained mistake on the WWF's part."

That's another great point. With the big main event, the IC / Euro matchup and the tag team 3 way, Wrestlemania is shaping up to be a monster card... a bit too monster. It's no secret that the WWF has gone over the edge in the past, and it's cost them in the long run.. Perhaps the greatest Wrestlemania in history, WMX in 1994, was nearly marred by the inclusion of a shaky Main Event that included Lex Luger and Yokozuna along with Bret Hart. I worry Vince has already boxed himself in by overbooking Wrestlemania weeks before the show goes on the air. Sometimes, one should just put two workers in a ring and let them do what they're paid for.

At any rate, thanks for your feedback, Christopher, as well as everyone else who took the time to write in a response/correction to my last post. I suppose I must be doing something right if so many care enough to correct my oversights.

And yo ho ho, look who's back.. as of this writing, it would appear Eric Bischoff's taken back the reigns of wCw.. effectively bringing us full circle. Interest in the Turner product seems to be higher than it's been in months this evening, and I never thought I'd say this but.. it's good to see Eric back. I fear he, too, will fall short thanks to a heavily depleted roster but his infamously horrid main event bookings were always backed by a stellar undercard.. much as he seems to downplay it, Eric does have an eye for good talent. He was at the helm when Benoit, Malenko, Guerrero, Mysterio, Psychosis, and Juvi were brought in (among others).. I only hope he's got more than a couple new prospects here, since he's got a hefty bag full of jack to mold in wCw.

As always, thanks for reading.. I'll be back either late tomorrow or sometime this weekend with the illustrious part III of my WCW talent evaluation, and then again Tuesday with the ceremony that's become the Tuesday Review. As always, feedback is appreciated, read, responded to and often posted. I'll make you a star!
until then, i remain

Tuesday, March 21, 2000

Ringside Shadows #112: What?!

Of the proposed swerves and storyline twists, only one really caught me off guard.. that tag team thing Raw pulled on us. wCw managed to put out a worthwhile show (and a valet actually spoke rather well for herself in Paisley.. probably better than the man she's representing), while Raw made a dream reality. Nah, I'm not talking about that big 'Mick Foley' schpeel.. this Intercontinental Title 3 way is the stuff I was looking forward to the moment the wCw 4 jumped ship. My text editor has decided it might be a fun game to not type the occasional letter.. bear this in mind, while we hit the Tuesday Review.

That Tag Team Thing

Where'd that 'tag tourney/battle royal' thing come from? Last I checked, Edge and Christian had secured a shot at the belts.. but I guess that's gone right out the window. The whole thing, while quite hurried and out of the blue, actually played out pretty well and gave us some nice action. And then there was the finish. What's the point of building an entire program around a central theme (ok.. 2 central themes) if it's just to result in a run-in and a no decision? Too Cool's matchup with the Radicals took the cake as far as the tournament's concerned.. which is actually somewhat surprising. I'd expected a Rikishi run-in or Guerrero interference causing a DQ, but they actually allowed both teams to stand strong for the duration. Malenko even set in with a false finish before a distracted ref caused the loss. Applause.

I never thought I'd be saying it one month back, but the Dudleys aren't making the best of tag champs. Oh, they're a nipple and a half above the Outlaws.. don't get me wrong.. but I was hoping for a strong title defense or two in between PPVs. As of now, I haven't seen the belts actively opened up for competition on Raw more than once. The table spots are nice and all, but what's the point if they aren't built as strong competitors? What would it hurt to compete on air, and then move on with the big spot? With that said, this week's table spot with Jeff Hardy was quite vicious, eh?

How Well Are the Belts Being Used?

Since we're on the topic of good champions, what were all the other gold-plated warriors up to this week? Over in wCw, Chris Candido made his official debut with a firm jump into the cruiserweight scene. While the new acquisition said all the right things in his promo (attempting to maintain his fitting 'no gimmick necessary' attitude), Mark Madden was already contradicting it all by filling us all in on his launchtime gimmick, "hard nox". Despite the near-instant plot errors, Candido did his best to give us a good show and came out with a pretty solid match against the maligned Lash Leroux. It'll be interesting to see if his enthusiasm holds strong a couple months from now, when management is likely to have deemed anything less than earth-shattering popularity a failure.

The U.S. strap's still around the waist of Jeff Jarrett, while he continued his big main event push. After teasing us with the same main event for the 3rd straight PPV, Jarrett revealed he'll be stepping back down to regular defenses by the time the evening was over. Isn't it great how wCw can pick and choose when to enforce that '30 day' thing? Meanwhile, talent that could've benefitted from a 2 month US title reign continues to meander unnoticed in the midcard.

Speaking of the midcard, Kidman and Booker had a go at the wCw tag titles last night. Despite both Harris boys' glaring display of "how NOT to take the rock bottom", the unlikely duo nearly drug a watchable match out of them.. just out of spite. And hey! Torrie popped out! Maybe the outcome wasn't all bad.

Finally, we limp to the World Title scene. Sid's soothing voice still whispers sweet nothings, stroking the belt during his promos. If I ever find myself with trouble falling asleep, I think of Sid's calming promos... many a night have I fallen asleep to the soft strains of "i am... the master." From the look of things, Sid's all too predictable turn is leading to the Wrestlemania VIII rematch nobody really wants to see. Guys, I saw the first encounter live and let me tell ya... it wasn't pretty. Still, I'll give it to the crowd.. no matter how wCw tried to kill them, they stayed strong throughout. Congrats, Florida. You're stronger fans than I.

Over on the other end of things, the IC feud I'd kill for has finally become a reality. Benoit/Angle/Jericho has the potential to steal the show at Wrestlemania, and the participants proved the storyline has enough heat to carry the crowd through all this necessary 'workrate' side of things. Sure, Jericho's lost a step... maybe Benoit isn't the same man who owned the world in '95... perhaps Angle's still a little green. Put the three of them together and I'm predicting magic. At this stage, I'll take Jericho going over at Wrestlemania with Angle defending his European belt while Benoit continues a long feud with Jericho, eventually elevating Y2J to the main event. Count me in.

In the main event, we saw what Dale's proclaimed to be the worst act since original sin... Foley's return. Say what you will, so long as he doesn't come back full time I'll buy it. His return felt right, despite yet another unnecessary appearance by Linda McMahon. I hate the woman. Her children have adapted well enough to the mic, and her husband remains among the best, but does she have any idea how to address a crowd? Memorizing your lines and reciting them in the same fashion as you'd read aloud the ingredients in a bottle of "man-delay" (it's a real product, kids..) doesn't really cut it. It isn't becoming of the big boss of the WWF, and it was the only detractor to Foley's big return. I'm still not convinced about a 4-way main event at Wrestlemania, but if anybody can make it work, Vince can.


And here we go with a few random observations that don't really fit anywhere else. David Flair took the nastiest bump of the night, but only because no video was shown of Crowbar's fall Sunday night. I'll maintain that pushing a man to take such bumps in exchange for a push is immoral and downright wrong, but I admire him for taking it like a man. Is it me, or does it seem like an eternity since Eddy Guerrero injured himself on Smackdown? My wait becomes more and more impatient each week, as Eddy gets more and more familiar with his role and his surroundings. So much of what Eddy does is hidden away in the little things, to the point that it nearly goes unnoticed. Case in point; the finish of the Radicals' tag match. Guerrero made one last big dive in an attempt to break up the pin, landing a split second after the final count.. and he did so in a convincing manner, something that should be mentioned. It's one thing to play the heel and 'accidentally' lose the match for your team. It's a completely new game to be the heel, and convince the audience there was nothing more you could do in the verdict.

Crash Holly's title defenses get more humorous by the week. What once looked to be a complete waste of air time (the MSP's assault in the hotel?) has become something worthwhile, and Crash fills the role perfectly. The moment anything remotely hardcore nears him, Crash turns ass and SPRINTS. Fun, fun stuff. Hey, how about the post production last night? Here's to a full minute of cumulative blank screen between both shows, an early announcement of Sid's partner and an extra ten seconds of Bob Backlund staring at the fan looking for a high five. Television at its finest.

What was Sid hopped up on for the opening interview of Nitro? Good god, I thought he was about to piss himself. Hugh morrus came back? I hadn't noticed... Finally, it's nice to see Curt Hennig finally enjoying that last big push. I never thought they did enough with that Mr. Perfect schtick in the WWF and though this is likely a case of too little too late and he's playing with the demon himself in Hogan, I'll still applaud wCw for going through with it. If only he were still in shape..


Well, hey! Let's peek into the mailbox to see what's caught my fancy this time around.

bryan (jones820@aol.com) has a word or two about the recent hot word in the industry;

"I don't know what percentage of the Oratory writers have seen beyond the mat..but I saw it on Saturday..and it was awesome. I learned what a truly screwed up existence Jake the Snake roberts has and that he is every bit as evil out of the ring as he is inside it. Parts of the movie were sad, such as Roberts disturbing life and his rocky relationship with his father and daughter, parts of it were touching..seeing MIc Foley with his wife and kids and Terry Funk giving the opening prayer at his daughters wedding. Parts of it were funny and amusing...seeing Darren Drozdov getting the name Puke in Vince McMahons office, and seeing Austin, who was totally out of character, talking to Foley's kids. I think I even got a glimpse of Kane without the mask.

All the stuff that was in the movie made it good...but what made it great was what it lacked, thats right the man who made wrestling, brother, the man with the Leg Drop of Doom, and master of the Yappapie strap match, the yellow llamma, Hollywood Hulk Rogaine was not in this film. That fact alone makes the film worth the price of admisson."

I haven't had the chance to see this one yet (Mainly because there remain 2 theatres in the STATE that have chosen to air it, and I refuse to drive over an hour to see any movie. Wait, scratch that. I drove an hour to see 'Being John Malkovich'. But still.. it should be showing nearby), so I haven't much of a comment on it. I caught a couple glimpses on Larry King live this weekend, including the mentioned Droz "puke" scene, and found it hysterical. Definitely one that's on my list, if I ever decide to take the risk that comes along with taking my car over a couple miles at a time.

Moving on to a couple responses to 'The World's Greatest Uncensored Preview', mark (Confusatron2000@hotmail.com) writes;

"John, you already know I love your posts anyway... but I have to give it to Drq... your sarcasm was absolutely brilliant! I laughed my ass off reading how you both basically said everything I've been pissed off at the WCW about for the past two years. To be honest, I stopped watching completely. I could care less about WCW right now. I only catch ECW's TNN show about once every other week, if that, because it's on while I work and my VCR doesn't tape TNN for some reason. But in any event, I can honestly see ECW becoming second in ratings, with WCW a distant third. Then maybe talented people like Vampiro and Booker would go to a better federation! We can only hope...

Oh, and I hope the main event at Uncensored becomes a 3-way dance between Sid, Jeff Jarett, and The Dog. And I hope the Dog wins the title, too, because it would completely signify the direction WCW is going these days.

What does it tell you about WCW when:

1) More people watch WWF Sunday Night Heat than WCW Nitro, for chrissakes!?

2) Jeff Jarett is the number one contender for the heavyweight belt in WCW, while the biggest push he got in the WWF was for the I.C. belt? And he gets that status for the title belt the minute he comes into WCW?

3) I have fallen asleep during Nitro, waiting for Raw to come on... I'm serious... and I ended up missing about 5 minutes of it... but to be honest with you, I'm pissed at WCW for making me miss those 5 minutes of Raw.

Well, Raw is coming to my city in July, and because my boss knows someone at the box office, it is expected that I will get somewhere near the front row for Raw... so on Monday night, July 17, 2000, look for a sign on Raw that says something like "Smell ya later John C" or "Mideon = ratings". That'llbe me."

I'm glad you enjoyed my sarcastic look at the upcoming wcw ppv. I had a lot of fun writing it, and with a few exceptions it looks to have been a hit. Unless wCw gives us something to get excited about, you can look forward to similar previews in the future.. I'll tell you, they're much easier to put together.

As far as Booker and Vampiro jumping to ECW, i'd love to see it.. but i know we won't. Booker's been with wCw through thick and thin for over 7 years. He's supposedly a great guy backstage, but also a very quiet, nonconfrontational man. Unless the company folds completely, he won't walk out on that large a paycheck nor that long a history. As for Vampiro, I'd agree if not for his recent push to the moon. Vamp's the only bright spot in the recent bookings, and I'd be really surprised to watch him give all that up on a whim, especially considering all he went through to get there. Fans are associating him with the big names, and he's forming a team with Sting.. arguably the company's #1 face. Who knows, he may even be in the world title scene a year from now. He's much better of than.. say.. Kidman or the Jung Dragons.

Good luck finding tickets for Raw. I missed the announcement of their visit to Indianapolis, and tickets had sold out within an hour. If I can find a scalper I'll be making it (3 cheers for legalized ticket scalping in Indiana!), but if not.. I won't be a happy puppy, let's say that.

Anyway, thanks for writing and best of luck on your ticket hunt.

Bryan (BrianM1419@aol.com) brings up the rear of this letters section with a negative response to the previous preview;

"I dont like the direction WCW is taking either. Right when they "let go" the radicals was my final straw. I also think their storylines are dumb as hell and everything. But is it really helping to berate them at every moment you can. Its not going to change what they are doing. What you are doing is embarrising yoursleves by showing how partial you are to the WWF. Just report what is happening in the news and stop with your personal agenda to turn everyone off WCW. It's really sad!!!!"

Sorry you didn't enjoy the preview, though I find your classification of 'partial to the WWF' to be a bit harsh. I have no personal agenda against wCw, nor do I hope to see fans turned away from the product. Only six months ago, I was dodging assaults to the polar opposite.. I held hope for wCw far longer than was probably wise, because I maintained hope. If the product could get itself together again, I honestly saw things becoming competitive again with the WWF... and that only produces two better Monday programs. Strong competition gives programs that extra boost normally absent in day to day operations. Look at the years wCw owned the ratings: the WWF put out what's come to be known as arguably the best string of shows in the history of the sport, and it caught up to wCw.

This isn't all to say that I can't see things competitive again. Given a new beginning, new players and an interesting overall story to tie things together, I maintain that Turner can rebound. As is though, it would've been a struggle to get through that preview as a writer.. and if the writer doesn't like what he's doing, it drives away his audience. As is, I had a good time with the preview and the majority of the readers seem to agree.

As for your closing statement, 'Just report what is happening in the news'.. honestly, that isn't my job. I have no sources, no inside connections.. I just state my opinions. I don't expect anyone to agree with them, nor do I expect them to be read. They're just out there to add a little diversity, to spice things up a bit.

..and that should pretty much wrap things up for me. I'll be back later this week to contribute part three of my oft-delayed wCw talent evaluation (!), so keep your eyes, ears and other orifaces peeled for that.
until then, i remain

Friday, March 17, 2000

The World's Greatest WCW Uncensored 2000 Preview

What a beaut we've got for you here this evening, as WCW offers up it's next cruise through the oceans of blow, Uncensored. I'd find it pretty humorous if the officials in the production truck went with company policy and put the blur lines in front of a fan's sign (as they've been doing glaringly on Thunder lately), effectively censoring uncensored. Anyway, we've got plenty of surefire hits on the card this evening.. Hogan and Flair reprise their 'main event that never gets old', Luger has shockingly turned on his long time friend, Sting, and if we're all really good the Demon might bust out another of his insane hardcore puro masterpieces. It's a good night to be alive this Sunday, and here's why...

The Artist vs. Psychosis
Cruiserweight Title Match

I just hope Juvi's there, because I can't get enough of his 'Rocky' gimmick. Prince Iaukea will rightfully take the win over the no talent Psychosis. This victory will have nothing to do with a close friendship with booker Kevin Sullivan and more to do with raw, untapped energy, talent and potential.

The Demon & Norman Smiley vs. Rave & Lane

So is it Lodi, Idol or Rave? No matter what name he comes out with, the man's going up against the Demon.. so his days are numbered. Since WCW isn't just letting this gimmick die a slow death until they've fulfilled their contract with KISS, I fully expect the Demon to debut a superb new aspect of his gimmick... the infamous Muta mist spot! Though Tajiri's been utilizing the bit himself lately over in ECW, he'll surely drop it the instant the 'God of Thunder' outclasses him and starts using it personally. So yea, I'm looking for that near the finish of this one... but something will go wrong! The Demon mysteriously spits the mist into Smiley's face! Oh no! Thus, the undeserving new duo roll Smiley up and take the win before our chosen champion has time to realize what he's done.
Winners: Lane & Rave

Stevie Ray & Big T. vs. Booker & Kidman

I'll only say that I hope the newest addition to Harlem Heat, that mammoth 'Cassius' machine, jumps into this. That would, of course, open the door for the obviously talented... uhm.. what's his name.. (you know, the guy with 26" arms we've been hearing so much about?) to step in, making this a 3 on 3 war of pleasure. Because anyone with 26" arms is instantly a sensational worker, there's little doubt this will impress. As for a winner, I'm looking to see Harlem Heat just pounce all over little Billy, while Booker looks bewildered over in a corner. Following a double backflip and a handspring, 'Big T' will put together something that belongs in Blitzkrieg's playbook to seal the deal.
Winners: Harlem Heat 2000

Bam Bam Bigelow vs. The Wall

Following up his breakthrough performance last month against the Demon, the Wall could be looking to keep the insiders talking about him this Sunday night. Only time will tell if a follow-up to his shooting star press from the balcony, through 2 tables and into piranha infested waters is in order here.. but I don't think Bigelow would take it. Some workers just aren't as manly as, say, the Demon. Me, I'm expecting something equally as earth shattering from the Wall... perhaps a dual-flip Shooting Star Press? Perhaps not.. but either way, Bigelow'll move out of the way and selfishly take the 'V'.
Winner: Bam Bam Bigelow

Terry Funk vs. Dustin Rhodes

Much like a good wine, Terry Funk just gets better with age. I don't think I'd have any argument if I claimed the Funker was the only man over 50 to ever even attempt a moonsault, let alone deliver one. Because Rhodes is senselessly being buried (god's sake, he's a stupendous technician!), Funk will take this one all the way home in a glorified squash. He'll finally put away dad's bastard son by picking up the entryway (yea, the whole thing.. the big 'wCw' and all) and dropping it's full weight on the poor former Intercontinental champ.
Winner: Terry Funk

The Mamalukes vs. The Harris Boys
Tag Team Title Match

I'm having a hard time containing myself where this Tag Team Title match is concerned. Never before have 2 more powerfully entertaining teams met with so much on the line. There are so many possible spots I could list during this one, as both teams have a near-unlimited repertoire... of which I can only hope we see a fraction. I'll go with the Harris Boys, wrapping things up when one of the former Bleus turns a sunset flip to the outside into a powerbomb from the apron, just as the other waits on the floor and accentuates the move by adding a reverse neckbreaker on the way down.
Winners: The Harris Boyz

Fit Finlay vs. Vampiro

Vampiro's unprecedented push continues. I haven't the foggiest idea what WCW sees in this man, yet they seem content to push him all the way to the top...while such stupendous talent as the Dog and Mike Rotunda toil at the bottom of the card. He's never even carried any gold! At the very least, Finlay's held the TV title in between undeserving champions like Booker T and Chris Benoit. This one's set to be the disappointment of the card, barring a run-in by a talent like Brian Knobs. Because nobody makes any sense in the booking department, Vampiro's push will continue through the cloverleaf.. he'll put him away with a firm right hand, or something equally as dumb.
Winner: Vampiro

Sting v. The Total Package
Lumberjack Match

For what must be the first time in their long history, Sting and Luger are bitter enemies. Though he's been out of action for quite some time, Sting won't need to worry about ring rust taking a toll here... he can rely on Luger to help carry some of the load. Luger's current 'logo on a chair' gimmick is among the most inventive and exciting of all time, and I can't wait to see how it pans out here... perhaps Sting will be wearing one of those increasingly popular arm casts before the night is through? Luger will go up top, looking for a somersault guillotine leg drop, but the Stinger will find a way to get out.. and he'll follow it up with top rope brainbuster for the win.
Winner: Sting

Ric Flair vs. Hulk Hogan
Strap Match

I've just climaxed at the mere mention of this one, and we've still a couple days before the men are in the same building again. A long string of orgasms will fill the arena and pay per view audience, and no words can do this match justice. Hogan will once again shock the world with a stunning promo at some point (one which will hopefully include a reference to his tearing down the arena and swimming to safety with every last hulkamaniac on his back..as well as Donald Trump), and may just break out a Tiger Driver, which Flair would sell like a champ. It's matches like this that have convinced me WCW isn't missing Bret Hart or Goldberg one bit. Hogan takes this one home following a beautiful top rope tombstone and a diving headbutt across the ring.
Winner: Hulk Hogan

Sid Vicious vs. Jeff Jarrett
World Title Match

Impressive as he's been in the past months, Jarrett still can't hold a torch to the thundering majesty that comprises Sid. With killer promos, all around ring awareness second to none, and an array of submission holds so vast even Malenko runs for cover, Sid is literally the be-all, end-all of our sport. This one should spill over it's boundaries and fill the arena with it's awe-inspiring goodness.. and if he remains true to form, I don't see Sid dropping the strap this early. For the high spot in this one, I'm calling for a Sid 450 splash from the roof of the arena... through a half dozen flaming tables, a scaffold, and Mae Young's recently-birthed prosthetic hand (which recently jumped ship, according to rumors across the net). If it's on the internet, go ahead and mark it down kids... your winner, and still World champion is the immortal, homicidal, beast from the mountains... Sid.
Winner: Sid

In Closing...

Tell me the mere image of Hogan delivering a Tiger Driver didn't just drive this bitch home.. If you haven't realized the fun I've had at WCW's expense by now, go take another look at the card. None of my match by match descriptions should be taken seriously.. not that there's need to mention such an obvious fact. The higher ups have serious issues in expecting anyone to pay $30 for this, and I'd be surprised to see them break a 0.2 in the buyrate department. Something should be said about learning from the past as well, since the card is filled with aging talent and hacks nobody would like to see (with the obvious exception of Finlay/Vampiro and the Booker/Kidman team). Where are members of 3 Count? I realize Helms is suffering from a broken nose.. does that mean the other members can't head into the ring? Where's the Jung Dragons? What about Crowbar? Things seem to be continuing their brown-streaked downward spiral for WCW, as we haven't reached the end of the fall just yet.
until next time, i remain

Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Ringside Shadows #111: The Youth Movement

Along the way to this past Tuesday Review, I stumbled across an interesting topic and expanded a bit on it. In all the hooplah surrounding the big talent jump of just two months back, I found it really easy to spell out the end of the road for everybody's favorite Turner subsiduary.. but I've forgotten something. Possibly the first rule in this business is to never count on a victory until the bell has sounded and the winner's been announced. Bischoff and company made that mistake regarding the collapse of McMahon's empire five years ago, many have since done the same with a singles match or two, and now I've done so without really thinking about it with the bastard son of Kevin Sullivan. Let me expand.

Youthful exuberance

It's really easy to overlook the facts when a promising young star like Chris Benoit or Eddy Guerrero jumps ship. It's effortless to fall right into the naysaying, claiming WCW will never find a suitable replacement, no matter how thoroughly they might search. The facts argue the opposite point though, as for every good worker lost another half dozen stand ready to grab the abandoned ball and run with it. Where were Kurt Angle, 'Crowbar', Essa Rios, the Jung Dragons or 3 Count at this time last year? One of the most entertaining aspects of this profession is the endless supply of young talent... one finds a certain amount of satisfaction in watching a promising young worker develop into a solid veteran. Let's take a look at today's prospects, and how they're doing at the moment;

Over in the WCW side of the court, we've seen the official introduction of the 'Jung Dragons' stable in an encounter with 3 Count that may as well have been labeled a stable match. It's great to see a bit of promise behind Kaz Hayashi for a change, as he looks to be the leader of this group by default. Easily the most competant of the 6 in-ring last night, even Kaz couldn't save the end result from a spotty mess... but we won't hold it against them just yet. Much like the Hardys of last year, 3 Count's greener than a dog's ass in the summertime (?) but consistently showcases a willingness to learn and improve, as well as an ingenuity to create and execute new stuff. The 'sleeper cutter' (hey, Madden called it..) that finished off the match last night, while a bit silly, looked strong and really drives the point home. I'm not completely sold on either of these teams just yet, but I'd certainly choose to watch a rematch over another overdone Hogan / Flair segment.

The Wall's recently been granted the gimmick men would kill for, often labeled as a 'Goldberg push'. While not completely horrendous, the Wall isn't up there in my list of personal favorites. He had potential enough as Berlyn's bodyguard, but was hurried out before that gimmick had time to fully develop. I suppose they were afraid of losing two workers to the toilet bowl of popularity, but when they snapped Berlyn out of the picture, they sucked more than a failed gimmick out of the mess. In the months after Wright's departure, the Wall's efforts have been on a consistant downward spiral. It must be pretty easy to forget why you even bothered in the past, when all it takes is a mean look, a big body and a nice push. It's a shame, but I suppose you couldn't have your black without white, your Jeff Hardy without Viscera. The Wall could still surprise me and put forward an effort to improve, but for right now I'd seriously doubt it. I mean, why not? The money's all the same.

Before I take the cross-promotional leap, I've a word or two on another of the names I'm keeping an eye on.. that being Crowbar. While he needs to get away from that name as fast as possible, his ringwork's still offering a thing or two and he's far from shabby on the mic. I'd scold the higher-ups in WCW for encouraging him to take more and more risks with his health as a means to get more over with the audience. Sure, it worked for Foley, but a good reason the said push worked had as much to do with his nearly legendary history as his monsterous bumps. All that and they've just proven they don't really know how to do such a push correctly.

Again making the comparison to Foley, the man was lovable because he didn't know when to quit. No matter how terrible the shot, how large the opponent, Foley kept getting up.. and we cheered louder and louder each time he defied the odds. Mick's the essential sympathetic hard-ass, and it wouldn't have worked any other way. The best way to elevate Crowbar (if you insist it must be in this extreme fashion) isn't to just send him out there, bandaged up, to absorb table shot after table shot and then wheel him out on a stretcher. If anything, such a push would label him as a target, an easy victim. Fans would remember him as "the guy who takes the stiff bump, but never dishes it back out". Or, in other words, the born loser. Why bother?

Over in the WWF scheme, things have really started to pick up. The recent introductions of Tazz, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Perry Saturn, Kurt Angle, Dean Malenko and Eddy Guerrero have pretty much built their future for the next decade. Add to that the reintroductions of Rikishi and Essa "Papi Chulo" Rios, and things really do look bright. It's out of the workers' hands and into those of the bookers.

From the introduction of the WCW 4, I'd feared for Tazz and Jericho above all else. With such an intense heat coming from the net just englufing everything around this huge jump, there were bound to be casualties. Unfortunately, it would appear that I was half right. Jericho's continued along on his merry way, playing a tame face, right in the middle of the Intercontinental picture. Tazz has seen things go the other way, though, as he's gone nearly unnoticed since his big introductory 'V' over Kurt Angle. When he feels like selling (which he apparently wasn't this past Monday), Tazz can kick out some of the most intense, well fought matches in the industry. His suplexes are as wicked as you'll get, and he's got a nice finisher in the Tazmission. He's built perfectly as the unstoppable monster and if he's pushed that way, there's little to stop him from being absolutely huge. Associating him with the Big Bossman was a poor choice, and the weeks without a solid victory have certainly taken their toll on the modern beast from the east. Tazz isn't somebody you develop over time, he's somebody you roll over competition all the way to the top. Unless the higher ups in the WWF realize that soon, it might be over before he's even had a chance to get started.

Hasn't enough been said about the WCW four? If you've read any of my writings prior, you'll realize just how much I enjoy seeing each of these men work. Benoit's been a heavy favorite of mine for years, with his unparalleled mesh of styles. Malenko knows the mat like few others and recently captured the freshly relaunched Light-Heavy title.. which he's bound to build a strong division around. Saturn kicks it like nobody has a right, and remains one of the workers I'm highest on at the moment, and Guerrero's been among the world's top 3 or 4 workers for what seems like an eternity, and he's got the attitude to go all the way in the WWF. It would be quite easy to get over-anxious with these guys and shove them right down the throats of the audience... I know I would've blown it with them by now. Luckily, the writers in the Federation have done right for a change in this instance.

Benoit's taken the leap to high midcard within months, as we all expected him to (I mean... he was carrying the WCW World Title not two months ago). Malenko and Saturn, the two I was most worried about, are just coming into their own niche as tag workers. And then there's Eddy. When I read news of his accident at the Smackdown tapings, I was literally in shock. I've never spoken to a computer screen before (I'm told it's unhealthy), but help me, I let slip a bewildered "oh, no" when Matt Spence passed along the bad news. I honestly thought there was no way out of this hole, and I was a bit disturbed that he'd hurried back to action. Again, I was proven wrong as officials held true on their promise to "turn a bad into a good" and now Guerrero's nearly ready to return to action, at least as high on the card as before.. if not higher. When push comes to shove, I've been far from trustworthy about the treatment of these guys. Only recently, I realized things have been progressing perfectly from day one, and I'm finally ready to just sit back and enjoy the ride they have in store.

..and then there was the "ayatollah of rock and rollah". The man who many had pegged as the essential cog in the machine of the future. I'll give it to you, he had all the tools during his WCW run. His matwork was superb (matches with Malenko, Mysterio and Guerrara rocked naked goat nuts), he was consistantly inventive and entertaining on the mic, and he played the cowardly heel like none had ever done before. His intro to the WWF ranks was the best ever put forward in my book. They piqued our interest with the 'Millennium Countdowns' for weeks prior. They delayed it just long enough to drive us crazy, but not long enough to send us away.. and then the music hit, and "JERICHO" flew onto the Titan Tron. It's a great memory, and I really wish they could've followed it up with a stronger initial run. Instead, he came out with a incredibly weak version of the liontamer, a bigger build and a surprisingly limited moveset. Where he'd once been known as the most creative mic worker in the country, Jericho now worked the same catches into each promo. Don't get me wrong, Chris is still among the cream of the crop.. he's just a shadow of the man he could've been. His talk of 'paying his dues' came true in a way none of us would've hoped for, an extended feud and association with Chyna. Now that he's found an opponent who can keep up in Angle (and Benoit!!), the answers should start to appear.. has he really lost a step, or was he merely pacing his opponents all that time? Either way, I can't complain with where he's headed.

Certainly the surprise success story of the year, Kurt Angle has impressed both in and out of the ring by developing a superb heel character and creating a ready-made combo of an olympic / pro wrestling ring style. Angle's certainly come a long way from the green rookie nobody wanted to see, working a dark match at the Heat I attended several months back. He plays the role of the cocky jock almost too well, and I couldn't see a simultaneous Intercontinental and European reign working as well for anyone else. It was interesting following his unbeaten streak, and it's just as interesting watching him gather gold today. Angle's simply the guy you love to hate (don't tell me you've never met anyone with a personality similar to his), and he's doing an admirable job. There's just nothing else to it.

Finally, the man we've heard so much about as the Mexican pimp daddy, Papi Chulo. Though green as... green (no more senseless dog ass jokes here), Chulo's got quite a bit of potential and plenty of time to pick up his slack. His look fits the role to a 'T' and he isn't afraid to take off on a whim. His moonsault is a thing of beauty and he brings along Lita, certainly the most interesting new face in the WWF. An extended feud with Malenko would be beauty, and it's even more appealing now that it looks close to being a reality. Rios showed a willingness to pick up as he goes Monday night, and a couple more Malenko carry jobs / teaching sessions may be just what the doctor ordered to put this lucha together into a solid worker. I haven't seen any promo work, which leads me to believe he's either terrible on the stick or doesn't know English well enough to try. It's sad what a factor that is, but without it I wouldn't look for him above European level. The WWF looks to be high on this kid though, so I'm hoping to be proven wrong there.

And that, as they say, is that. I've certainly left off a good chunk of promising young talent from this list (most notably ECW's youth).. names like Super Crazy, Yoshihiro Tajiri, Blitzkrieg, Juventud Guerrera, and Psychosis are certainly contenders to keep your eye on, and may be subject to a follow-up column in the near future. Simply put, no matter how many nay sayers like myself there may be across the bandwidths, there'll always be a new generation of young talent eager to prove their readiness and make a name for themselves. So long as that burning desire remains, the future is always a place worth waiting for.
until then, i remain

Tuesday, March 14, 2000

Ringside Shadows #110: Let's Give a Big Hand for Mediocrity

Hey, hey.. it's the return of everybody's favorite ramble-o-rama, the Tuesday Review. I'll try to keep the column short this week, but considering the ammo last night's programs gave me, I may have a bit of trouble doing so. That, and the fact I've never kept a column as short as I'd hoped...ever. At any rate, Nitro wasn't as insufferable as it had been in months past, but it didn't exactly give me just cause to waste another $30 on Uncensored this weekend. The return of Sting seemed to boost morale, if just momentarily, and Hogan continued his stampede over the airwaves. Still; there were a couple points of note, including but not limited to the addition of the Jung Dragons (and the more than overdue push of Kaz Hayashi therein) and the inexplicable continued elevation of Vampiro.

Raw lost a step somewhere, but made it up in the eyes of the ticketholders by the time we went off the air. Vince's return was handled as well as can be expected, with the big boss making sure the night's most memorable entrance was saved for himself. We had a couple nice little matches with Malenko vs. Essa Rios, the European 3-way and the Radicals' tag match. Shane's lost a thing or two in his months away, Jericho's face run just isn't working out, and Tazz needs a much heavier push before we can even dream of nationwide acceptance as a legitimate badass.. and look at me bitch! We haven't even made it to the major points yet guys, so brace yourselves. Troubled waters ahead

The same old story..?

Here comes the statement of the week... I took a look at the Rock, and saw something I liked. Something I thought Rocky had forgotten long ago; desire. Maybe he's really into this new push, maybe he's sick of being ridiculed amongst my peers and I, but the people's favorite son has unleashed a completely new perspective in the past month. I'll admit, his ring skills still don't send me to the moon in a state of orgasm (to be honest, nobody's do), but he's at least giving us the old college try. That, and he's becoming one of the least egomaniacal men on television.. be it doing his best to elevate Benoit, taking the Dudley Death Drop through a table or just giving the crowd the catchphrases they want, Rocky's really been on a roll lately. I may never proclaim him as the messiah, but I'll give credit where credit is due.. he's making the most of what he's got right now, and he's sharing the wealth. I can't give him negative marks for that.

Picking up where the Rock left off, Vince made his much-heralded return to the WWF last night. As if his "corncob up the ass" strut down the entryway didn't send the crowd into an uproar to begin with, he nabbed the task of returning the Rock's predictable Wrestlemania title shot as well.. and it was all over after that. Vince could've set fire to an infant and the audience would've cheered him on. Despite all his glory-hogging, I honestly missed the old bastard. RAW just isn't RAW without his vintage sneer, or his ragged voice tearing up the speakers.

Holy lord, what's this? Bam Bam Bigelow's found himself in unfamiliar territory; an angle. The beast from the east has been floating harmlessly in storyline limbo since the inexplicable disappearance of his Triad teamup with Kanyon and DDP, which I actually enjoyed. Even if he just takes the role of a father figure for David and Crowbar, I wouldn't be against it. In those moments handcuffed to the ringpost last night, Bigelow showed more personality than ever in his 20 year career. He can still move faster than the majority of men his size, and he can keep up with the younger men at the moment, so why not? Give him the shot he never got during the Goldberg feud. Give him something, just do it soon.

Finally, Sting and Vampiro didn't exactly end the rumors surrounding their future as a tag team, finishing the night in the same ring. Despite both men's "loner" gimmicks, I think a team could work in the short term and could really push both into solid main event competition (back into competition, in Sting's case). Vampiro's suddenly on the verge of being there right now, and an association with the man in black could be just what he needs to fully break through. I've been really caught off guard by his whiplash of an ascention, and the audience's acceptance of him is a pleasant surprise. With Jarrett continuing his move for the World Title, it doesn't make sense to not have Vamp wearing the US gold. Overall, the Nitro main event was actually stronger than it's been in months, with the crowd doing more than just tossing garbage in disgust.

There's no 'I' in team, but there is a 'me'

Goddamned, I'm sick of watching a 20 minute promo to open up Raw. Mindless repetition nearly cost Raw everything all those years ago and though I'm not calling for the downfall of this dynasty just yet, the cracks are beginning to peek through again. So we're told HHH has a great mind for booking... that may be so, but it's no excuse for giving him an uninterrupted forum at the opening of each show. It's obvious that Hunter's brain works a bit slower than the more witty talkers of the past, and he shouldn't be talking more than five minutes, max. When you throw in Stephanie's stalling and cheap heat, Road Dogg's flat intro line and the Rock's imminent rebuttal, there's little time for anything worthwhile. What used to be a special feeling following the fireworks and that familiar heavy guitar lick has since been replaced with glances at the clock and switches to Nitro (!) in hopes of some action.

Speaking of Nitro; I wonder..how much did they offer Arn to dis Flair for the yellow and red stain? For a moment, I was expecting to actually hear him say the words "Hogan's the man... Flair isn't." Sure, it was implied, but I'd like to think Anderson knew better. His monologue was, as always, masterful.. but this one lacked something. Perhaps the Enforcer's getting a bit sick of the state of things? Nah.. I smell a swerve in the works here, spelling the oldest horsemen in history in Flair, Arn, Luger and an unnamed 4th member. Hey.. what's Mongo doing these days?

Oh yeah, and Hogan should be commended for carrying on after that obviously painful shoulder separation. He's a hero.

And that should wrap up this slightly slimmed down version of the Review. I don't think I've ever been that positive in the past... call it a forgiving mood. I'll be back tomorrow (possibly even later tonight) with a quick take on the youth of the sport and then again Thursday with a preview for WCW Uncensored, reprising my 'World's Greatest' team with John C. For those who continue to ask, I really don't know when to expect the next installment of my WCW talent evaluation. I'd planned to get one out before my little hiatus, but was stricken with "the rrhea", and couldn't get much time away from the pot to type it up. Rest assured I plan to have it completed soon.

Also, after reading my last post I realized a good bit of my statements toward John came out a bit pissy, which wasn't the point at all. The whole thing has thankfully pretty well blown over for now, so I'd rather not open it all up to debate again.

Before I go, I've a fun little observation, sent in by one of my readers; jobberkilr@aol.com:

"If Paul Bearer is the father of Kane, doesn't that mean that Kane's name is Kane Bearer? I would love to hear them announce him like that."
until then, i remain

Saturday, March 11, 2000

Ringside Shadows #109: A Return, A Reintroduction, A New Beginning

What a week to go on vacation, eh?

I've returned from sunny Sarasota, Florida.. landing in a now snow-covered Muncie, Indiana home, and my how things have been shaken. As is common knowledge now, I've been writing my PPV previews with John C. for about 4 months and I've known him for well over a year. There's been a great deal of uproar surrounding his departure, and I'll have a thing or two to say about that further along. As is right now, I've a bit of catching up to do.

Like the complete gimp, I set my VCR to record the Monday evening programs here in the frozen tundra while I was away. I just checked the tapes out late last night after situating myself once more, and I've a couple words on the goings-on therein.

Nitro was a waste, plain and simple, with the only possible redeeming areas falling short with unclean finishes in Psychosis vs. Kaz and a teaming of Booker & Kidman.

Then again, Raw wasn't much better. We had a couple nice little gems with the Radicals vs. Edge and Christian, and Benoit vs. The Rock (Who would've imagined the Crippler would go that strongly with the WWF's top name, not one month into his contract?), but a great collection of ass-suck to counter it all out, majestically featuring Mark Henry and Viscera's ugly mugs. A subpar card with a weak introduction from which the audience never really recovered. Again, it's too bad the night's best match (The Radicals vs. The Old Brood) couldn't end more cleanly. Malenko and Saturn were putting on a clinic, for anyone interested in the finer values of straight ring psychology and superb tag team dynamics. There's a feud that deserves a clean finish. Oh yeah, and how about Kurt Angle's breakneck elevation? Not even 6 months into his rookie year, and he's already halfway to a grand slam champion... and much better than the majority of his elders. This guy's going places.

At any rate, much more of an in depth dissection would fall on deaf ears this late.. I'll return to the standard Tuesday Review format this coming week, where we should get more of a solid feel for the upcoming Wrestlemania and Uncensored cards.

A word about John C...

I've always told John I'm not the one to carry grudges, and that certainly holds true here. My only hope is that he realizes how poor a taste this entire ordeal was in. It seems everyone I've known in my short time on the net has tried this 'false identity' schbang at one time or another (Be it my buddies Dale and Bill as Todd and Happydude respectively, or John's years-long "master plan"), and I still don't claim to understand it. It's distanced me from nearly everything I put faith in on the net, all seemingly without cause. If anything, this puts yet another barricade of mistrust between the writer or reporter and the only people who really matter, the readers. It's nearly crippled the once-proud Big3 Oratory, and there isn't any rhyme or reason aside from a sick power trip.

What am I getting at? I've decided, in the words of one Vince McMahon, to turn this negative into a positive. It's no secret my words have lacked emphasis lately, and I've been pushing out columns more for the sake of finishing them than for the enjoyment of it. I'll take this shocker as a kick in the ass, and dive back into what I like to think I do best... watch and observe. It's a new beginning of sorts, in more ways than one.

I've recently been asked to join the crew at one of the internet's premiere wrestling sites, The Pro Wrestling Daily, which I've gratefully accepted. Honestly, it couldn't have happened at a better time. To emphasize this new beginning, as well as formally introduce myself to this new audience (as well as to others, who never really recieved a proper introduction), I'll do my best to answer a simple question;

who am i?

Quite honestly, a dull man with a passion for the different. I'm a 20 year old graphic design major who puts together banners for a large number of my online friends. My true passions lie in art, wrestling, the internet, and music.. but to uphold the clarity of it all, I'll focus on my wrestling interests.

I know what I like, and I'm painfully blunt... often times to a flaw. If I see something that sucks, I'll call it as I see it.. there's no in-between. I'm a big time fan of the more established, near-beauty of submissions expertise and technical prowess, as well as the flash and danger of high flying lucha libre. I've seen maybe a half dozen perfect matches, none of which fall within the last 3 years (the last being Hart/Austin at WM13). I've been against the chosen path of the last few years, and only recently really found myself excited again when the WCW Four made their leap to the greener pastures of the WWF.

Simply, I'm in heaven when Super Crazy and Tajiri get into the ring. I'll be on the edge of my seat if I see Benoit going up against Bret Hart. I don't like seeing New Jack or The Wall, and though I don't dislike him as much as several others, I'm no fan of the Rock. I'll go for the athletic portion of the sport long before I'll take the monotony of a 15 minute promo.

All this, but I don't consider myself to be closed-minded. My mind can be changed, you've just got to convince me first. I'll welcome all e-mail, and I'll respond to every one of them (be it in my column or personally through e-mail).

And I guess that's it. Again, I'll be back Tuesday for the return of my Tuesday Review format and I should be back later in the week with part three of my four part WCW talent evaluation.
until then, i remain