Friday, April 28, 2000

The World's Greatest WWF Backlash 2000 Preview

There's no denying the fact Wrestlemania, No Way Out and the Royal Rumble were all great letdowns (especially when you factor the tremendous potential going to waste with half the roster), and because of that I've lost some faith in the Federation's ability to put on a compelling PPV. Still, the WWF's employing a rather sound strategy here.. teaming their resident talent with the still-fresh new guys will give us quite a variation in the card, as well as what's likely to be a nice little match or two. We've got Essa Rios taking on Eddy Guerrero, the Jericho / Benoit clash that's been eluding us for years and a LHW title match that could be quite good if not for the obligatory crowd pleasers (and yea, I'm referring directly to 'the worm' here). I won't comdemn this one just yet, especially with the way the midcard looks at the moment, but I won't be the first in line to sing it's praises, either. Not this time.

Dean Malenko vs. Scotty Too Hotty
Light Heavyweight Title Match

The fans don't accept the LHW division, and I sense it's on the verge of being canned once more.. perhaps that's got something to do with a lack of effort. Seriously, what storylines have we seen since this division's revamp? Add up no character development (an area where Dean really... really needs some help) outside of Scotty's worm, a roster of about 3, a belt that changes hands every tv taping and you've got a perfect recipe for a dead crowd. While Scotty tried to keep up, I'd expect Dean to keep breaking out more mind-blowing reversals, near falls and nice combos... while the crowd looks for the soda vendor. I hope I'm wrong, but I won't kid myself by believing it isn't true. Maybe I should just sit back and enjoy this while it lasts..
Winner: Dean Malenko

Acolytes vs. Bull Buchanan & Big Bossman

Egh... it's a good thing the Bossman made this card. I was getting worried. Whatever incriminating evidence the Bossman's got against Vince, I hope we never see it.. because it's gotta be pretty bad to justify such a waste of a push. The same goes for the Acolytes, though their gimmick isn't nearly as tired. Maybe this one will be trimmed from the card in favor of a taped Toryumon match or something, because that's the only way we'll see something nice in this slot. Nah, scratch that. When he doesn't screw it up, Faarooq's finisher is somewhat vicious looking. If they hope to maintain their role as the WWF's bad-asses, they can't afford to sell anything this whole match.
Winners: The Acolytes

Crash Holly vs. Hardcore Holly vs. Saturn vs. Tazz vs. Jeff Hardy vs. Matt Hardy
Hardcore Title Match

The WWF seems to have realized the spottiness that's becoming a constant with the Hardys, and have thus been putting them into big free for alls so they'll have somewhere else to point the cameras while the next big spot is set up. It's a shame these two haven't been allowed to round out their skills in the fast paced 'crash tv' of late 90's, early 2000 WWF.. but I'm not about to write them off just yet. They're young still, and an extended feud with any of the Radicals or the more solid workers in the WWF could still bring about that big revelation. Until then, I guess big table dives and ladder spots are the standard.. which is fine and dandy, considering the division in which they're now competing. Tazz, Saturn and the Hollys round it all out here, though I'm sure we'll see more workers involved before it's all said and done. Here's a couple guesses: somebody will blade, the title will change hands more than once, and Jeff Hardy will hit that beautiful Senton Bomb that I'll never get sick of. There's really no point to even attempt a call with this one, so I'll get random on yo ass and go with...
Winner: Saturn

Dudley Boyz vs. Test & Albert w/Trish Stratus

Say, what happened to the Dudleys' push? Was it just 2 short months ago that these guys were on a rocket headed right for the top, powerbombing anything and everything through a table? Buh Buh Ray and D'Von are living proof of how quickly a push can die any more. Test and Albert will, in the end, be nothing more than also-rans in the scheme of things, but the Dudleys have something special.. they're keepers. If the WWF doesn't realize that and avoid their burial here, they've got problems. And as far as I'm concerned, the WWF has problems.
Winners: T&A

Eddy Guerrero vs. Essa Rios
European Title Match

If there's one thing I'm glad I'll be missing with this PPV, it's Jerry Lawler's excruciating "Latino HEEAT!" catcalls. Sombody put a stop to him before the fans revolt. The action here has potential to steal the show, but I'm sure the cameras will be more focused on what's going on with Lita and Chyna outside the ring. Five bucks says this ending is overbooked, which is par for the course. There's no way in hell we'll see Rios as the European Champion, which actually increases his chances. I'm sticking with Eddy though, after the guy who does that f'ing Taco Bell dog's voice does the run-in and completes Eddy's fall to the depths of gimmick hell. But damn, Lita is a fine lady..
Winner: Eddy Guerrero

Edge & Christian vs. X-Pac & Road Dogg w/Tori
Tag Team Title Match

They've done a decent enough job of building this one, but the 'DX as quasi-heels' thing has gotten more than a bit stale. It's sad that an otherwise watchable match is judged by such means, especially since X-Pac and the blondes have more than enough talent to carry the worthless Road Dogg here... but so it goes. If the belts go back to DX, they may as well retire them. It's already become painfully obvious that the once extremely promising tag division is destined to be underpushed, but the eventual descent will be slowed by a good champion team. I like the pseudo shoot manner in which Edge and Christian conducted their announcing on Raw, and that's pretty much all keeping this angle's head above water. We'll see a cloudy finish that leaves the belts on these two until the big rematch next month.
Winners: Edge and Christian

Kurt Angle vs. The Big Show

Even Angle's tremendous heel work can't save this one. The whole impotence idea was really pretty funny the first time around. It was cute the second time. If it dies a quiet death following this PPV, I'll be happy. Then again, Vince isn't really one to let a joke die (see: Latino Heat, the Repo Man, the Mountie, etc..) so we could be looking at Kurt Angle's new gimmick. Despite the fact that he's progressing into a top worker, Angle's in no position to be carrying anyone.. much less the wide load that is the Big Show. If this is kept short and concise, we'll all be much better off.. and Angle could really use a win.
Winner: Kurt Angle

Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho
Intercontinental Title Match

Look for Jericho to make his ascension to main eventer permanent tonight, while filling his previous role with a more than worthy replacement. A'la Bret Hart at Wrestlemania X, I fully expect Y2J to put Benoit over strong before making a strong presence in the finish of the main event.. possibly even turning heel in the process (though I wouldn't put money on that). If the big mama jama feels like working Sunday, we're in for a barn burner.. if not, I'll trust Benoit can find a way to correct the oversight. Perhaps both will tear out moves that have been collecting dust far too long in the closet.. maybe the liontamer can come out of retirement, if just for one night. I'm sick of the pale imitation they're calling the 'Walls of Jericho'. If they're looking to elevate the men here, they should put Benoit over clean.. but we're likely to see a screwjob ending at the hands of the Crippler's new buddy, HHH.
Winner: Chris Benoit

Triple H vs. The Rock
WWF Heavyweight Title Match

So here we are. Again. Rocky/Helmsley MCMXLVII. It's amazing how many times these two have met, considering the fact they've each been in the federation less than 5 years. For once, Austin's presence won't be able to boost the workrate of this one and we'll be looking to HHH if we want to see anything worthwhile here. Boy, as if that sentence isn't enough to make one shudder. It's been an oft-overlooked fact that Vince is actually doing a good job of making this belt respectable again. It's been in HHH's hands for nearly 6 months, and every PPV along the way has been challenged by a worthy competitor. I've been fooled more often than not by the magical hype Vince weaves, and it's something that's gone unmentioned across the net. With that said, Rocky's taking off for a week to film his 'Mummy 2' footage (surely Oscar material), and I'm expecting the belt to stay around HHH's waist.. for now. Jericho's presence, as I've said, is more than likely and he may end up costing the Rock his shot. I'll go with the champ.
Winner: HHH

In Closing...

Just as in the past, this looks relatively nice on paper. Perhaps we'll see a miracle and the execution will follow through on it, hurm? I suppose I can dream.. I don't figure Austin's inclusion to factor into the match itself until the very finish (in which he'll deliver the necessary stunner.. though I won't begin to speculate on whom.), aside from maybe some guest commentary and several close-ups throughout the course of the main event. I find it pretty interesting how quickly the Radicals have amassed their collection of gold, as well. Tell me, did you ever believe three of the four would be holding WWF titles within 2 months of their arrival, with the fourth in strong competition for his own? Just thought I'd comment on it.
until next time, i remain

Tuesday, April 18, 2000

Ringside Shadows #119: Just Another Trade

Following a pretty good PPV, Nitro proved it would take more than one big night to put it back into consistant competition, while Raw pulled out what's sure to go down as the most entertaining first hour in years. As Russo and company played out a scene we've been through dozens of times in the past (a ticker tape celebration? with falling leaflets and balloons? c'mon, why didn't they just break out the spray paint and write 'nWo' on the heavenly paper? and how many times have we seen that tired 'security guard' bullshit?) and threw out childish jabs at his former co-workers, Raw let it all hang out.. building a program on the backs of former WCW employees. Though things look a lot better in a wide lens, WCW's problems are far from overcome as the same old act is being played out once more with a couple new faces and a few missing players. Be it cosmetic changes like the new "Turner tron" or personnell changes such as Benoit, Jarrett and Jericho, today's Nitro and Raw are trading more than just words..

"Leading by Example"

Hey, this one comes straight from the source.. while Perry Saturn has led the revolution to "lead by example" through more than a few harsh words on the invisible gossip mill of the internet, Hogan never seemed to pay any mind to the situation as a whole... until last night. Sure, Perry's prodding was without a doubt the instigator of this feud with Kidman (which I'm certain Hogan had no intention of following through with, before it became an issue of saving face), but Hogan held the moral ground (!) by never really ackowledging the verbal abuse and basically turning the other cheek. Big Hulk never proclaimed himself a leader, whether he was given the task or not.. and I could almost see his side of the story. Last night, though, he opened the floodgates. Hulk Hogan claimed up to a duty he's been neglecting for nearly a decade and a half.. he announced himself as the leader, behind which others were to follow. As of now, he isn't giving us much of a legacy to follow behind. In "leading by example," Hogan has shown us the proper way for an aging superstar to act is to;

a) sell only for your friends, and never for anyone smaller, younger or less credible than you

b) dispel the obvious signs of your aging, bullheadedly claiming you're still good enough to headline every show in the promotion

c) always blade for the boss -and-

d) hold onto the limelight as long as your broken body will allow

For Hogan to assume such a position at this turning point shows one of two things: poor planning on WCW's part or an ego beyond any previous bounds on Hogan's end. Where Hulk takes the time to tell us he'll be leading and we should watch ("hey! hey! look at me! over here! me!"), stars like Sting and DDP are out there, quietly doing it the right way. (ooh, that sounded bad.. Sting and DDP are over in the corner, quietly 'doing it'.) Sting's taking the time to do his feud with Vampiro justice, and all parties involved are benefitting, as Sting's career gains legs, Vampiro's grows wings to help his continued push and the fans are along all the way with an enjoyable feud. DDP's over in the other end of the woods, putting over Mike Awesome and Jeff Jarrett like crazy and giving Kanyon a chance to shine as a face. Methinks the Hulk dost talk too much..

The Continuing Adventures of the McMahons on Basic Cable

When it comes to Linda McMahon, enough is... apparantly... never enough. Leave it to everybody's favorite CEO to spoil the party, proving once again that rumors of her dispatch are greatly exaggerated. The world's most charismatic individual put forward her motherly side, through her on screen cinematics with Shane and her lip-trembling reaction to what she'd done to Stephanie. She damn nearly took one for the team, though she's much like Kidman... you'll never powerbomb her, as she's likely to do that 'flippy-into face buster' reversal.

Seriously, the McMahon saga has long since grown tired and overdrawn. Not even Vince's "big" return less than a month ago gave the first family enough gas to keep chugging for much longer. Stephanie's slowly become less and less interesting, Shane's wild bumps are likely not gonna cut it any more, and Linda never belonged before the camera to begin with. If Vince really knew how to give the fans what they wanted, he'd quit while the gettings are still good. I thought he "got it" last year, losing the match that proclaimed he'd never return to television again.. but it wasn't meant to be. As is, the McMahons as a unit have about six months left before fans go from mild recognition to ignorance to danger levels (and we're talking Bossman-degree danger levels here). Set the ego aside and do what's right for the company, Vince. Step aside once and for all, and bring your family along for the ride.. I guarantee the lined pockets will more than soothe your bruised ego.

Other Mentionables

I've a couple random comments left behind, and seeing as how they don't fit under either of the other headings, it's best to clean them off my plate here.

Leading off, I've got nothing but praise for the way things have been handled with Tazz since winning the ECW title, but they haven't had much of a chance to mess it up yet. If the rumors of another ECW invasion come true, this could be one for the record books. The last ECW invasion pretty much led to the new WWF "attitude," not to mention some memorable moments and a couple worthwhile matches.. who's to say where it'll end up this time? So long as this issue's overly-mentioned worker, Perry Saturn, is kept in the mix as a top contender, it promises to succeed. JR shilled like none hath shilled before regarding Tazz's title situation, and I can only hope it's a precursor of things to come.

Just as things looked to be lined up perfectly for Essa Rios, they're knocked back down again.. or are they? A team with Eddy could've been more than enough to float Essa's linguistic difficulties past the picky WWF crowds. Long enough for them to catch a glimpse at his spectacular ringwork, that is. If the Hardyz can get over without saying a word, Rios would have no problem whatsoever.. especially with the proven power of Guerrero behind him. Alas; it wasn't meant to be, unless the WWF pulls the ace from their sleeve and pushes a feud between the two. Lita's presence alone would cancel out the only negative in Guerrero's package.. the beastial Chyna. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Kudos to Mike Awesome for taking a vicious powerbomb through the table. Though Nash tried to wuss his way through it again, Awesome's landing more than made up for it... a neck just isn't meant to bend that way.

Who's to say Raw can't have an equally interesting intro centered around a match, rather than an interview? This week's Y2J / HHH fiasco served up some of the best television we've seen all year, despite the ending nobody wanted to see. The main event may have been asking a bit much (I'd have saved it for next week's show), but damned if it wasn't enough to get me off my seat and into the air. Great television, and a perfect way to follow up Taka's near win under the same circumstances last week.

How's this..? Shane apparantly turned on HHH earlier in the night, protecting his blood, yet he was inexplicably by his side for the main event. Maybe I missed something.

The battle of the 'Perfects' was actually an angle that I was intrigued with, one that I think could definately work. However, instead of allowing the angle time to develop and properly plan the upcoming twists and turns, WCW pushed it ahead for use on its big Nitro last week. Stasiak, obviously unprepared for the sudden push, has pretty much blown the image in the past 2 weeks while Hennig tries valiantly to make it all work. Just another reason why WCW's still light years behind their competition... both of them.

But Nitro wasn't all bad, and it wrapped up on a really good note (no, I don't mean that Hogan / Hart bullshit. I mean the real draw, the main event.) Steiner was one face I didn't see coming, and the two put forward a strong event on their own.. one that elevated both parties involved and introduced Booker T to the big push we've all been anticipating for what seems like a lifetime. Scotty's obviously in a steady decline, as his body catches up with years of constant abuse in the ring, but his match with the new world champion last night proved he can still go when the time is right. Now for that big feud with Booker, as I called for in our Preview a couple days back.

And that wraps up a brief version of the Tuesday Review for this week. With things heating up on campus, in preparation for finals, I'll be out of action for the next couple weeks.. but not to worry, I'll still be around with my Tuesday Review(s) and PPV previews with John. Speaking of which, the other half of the World's most llamarific PPV Preview team is tossing out a well thought out WWF Talent Evaluation as we speak. It's nicely done and though I don't agree with all his points, it's an entertaining read at the very least. All this, plus he's much better planned than I.. his 4 segments will be up within the course of 2 days (!), as opposed to the 2 months it seemed to take me with my WCW talent eval.

As for me, it's off to the art building.. I've got so much to do I don't even know where to begin (actually, the apparant launching pad for finals preparation is writing a long winded conclusion, because that's what I'm doing right now). Take it easy.
until then, i remain

Friday, April 14, 2000

The World's Greatest WCW Spring Stampede 2000 Preview

Much like the most recently aired "greatest Nitro of all time," WCW's leaving us pretty much in the dark for their Spring Stampede PPV. As of this writing, we've only a total of 2 set matchups with which to work.. and a couple tournaments for good measure. Though the actual stripping of all titles was certainly a key moment of Monday's show, the follow through isn't really that impressive after a glance at this lineup. Without a doubt, many of these workers have the goods (and now the motivation) to deliver, and the matches themselves will knock the prestige of each belt up a couple notches. There's just something of a bad taste lingering around the bland tournaments and 6-ways surrounding each decision. Perhaps it unnecessarily clouds things. Either way, I'll be happy if the cruiserweight rumble we were treated to on Thunder is any indication of what we have ahead of us.

Personally, I'm not convinced as to WCW's success just yet (yea, and that's what.. a surprise??). I won't begin to argue the finer points of this past Monday's show, because for what it was.. there really wasn't much more possible. Honestly, I enjoyed it.. but I enjoyed the prospect of competition even more. With the WWF apparantly resting on its laurels, this is WCW's big shot to tear the house down with a superb PPV. The hype's there, the interest is there (!), and the talent's got more than a few representatives present in each matchup. For the first time in ages, two watchable workers are vying over the world title, and we'll have a worthy champion no matter who walks away with the gold. I'll back the human slut machine here, and agree that if Booker's ever gonna get his fair shake, the time's now. So let's take a look at what's replaced Hogan/Sid, Vampiro & Sting/Team Package and Candido/TAFKAPI...

Juventud Guerrera vs. The Artist vs. Chris Candido vs. Crowbar vs. Shannon Moore vs. Lash LeRoux
Cruiserweight Championship | Six Man Elimination Match

Though it was spottier than Mean Gene, this past Wednesday's edition of Thunder gave us a glimpse at the past, the present and the future of the cruiserweight division. With teammates turning on each other and supreme fan interaction.. not to mention a high spot or two thrown in to keep things interesting, the battle stole the show. Remember when that wasn't just a pleasant surprise, but a near guarantee? With new talent like Candido and LeRoux heating things up, past superstars like Juvi and Rey continuing to do what they do best, and rising stars like Moore and Crowbar busting out revolutionary new stunts every time out, things could look worse. A division that's notoriously fast paced, with a title that changes hands seemingly at random, the cruisers look to be recapturing that old flame here in the most unpredictable match of the night. I'll go with Candido, because he needs it to establish himself with the WCW crowd. However, none of these guys can be really marked out of the ending.. a good sign.
Winner: Chris Candido

Screamin' Norman Smiley vs. Terry Funk
Hardcore Championship Match

Another surprisingly fresh twist on a theme that's long since become tired and redundant. Throw the Funker in with crap like Brian Knobs and you're likely to get crap back out the other end.. throw him in with somebody that knows their way around and you just might find something special. Smiley's never been a big bump taker, so I'd look for Terry to complete destroy himself here (what else is new), effectively getting both Smiley and himself over like madmen. So long as the gigantic Surge tubs are left backstage here, it could be a keeper. As for a winner I'm going with Funk, seeing as how Smiley's supposedly unhappy with his current position within the company. Beside that, Funk's never really been treated with proper respect and I'd consider the Hardcore title to be a cheap little token, meant to recognize him while not tying up any of their "important" titles.
Winner: Terry Funk

Match #1: The Mamalukes vs. Team Package (Ric Flair & The Total Package)
Match #2: Buff Bagwell & Shane Douglas vs. Harlem Heat 2000
Match #3: Winner of Match #1 vs. Winner of Match #2

Tag Team Championship Tournament

If it's a competition with the WWF's roster these guys are looking for, they may as well retire the belts right now. It ain't gonna happen. Suppose the WWF didn't have half the roster it currently boasts; it would still put the current WCW roster to shame. There's no question this is the weak link of the fed, with 4 singles wrestlers paired together (seemingly for 'one night only'), one sub par regular team and what's possibly the worst combination in the history of our sport in Harlem Heat 2000, things could look a whole lot better for today's tag belts. On a fluke, I'll go with Harlem Heat 2000, and may they be buried along with the belts they'll possibly carry.
Winners: Harlem Heat Suck-000

Bracket #1: Scott Steiner vs. The Wall, The Cat vs. Mystery Opponent (Probably Sid). The Winner of Steiner/Wall takes on Winner of Cat/Mystery. Winner of that match is in the finals.

Bracket #2: Sting vs. Booker, Kidman vs. Vampiro. The Winner of Sting/Booker takes on Winner of Kidman/Vampiro. Winner of that match is in the finals.

U.S. Heavyweight Championship Tournament

Since more than half of the listed combatants are already involved with feuds of their own, the finale of this one comes down to Booker, Scott Steiner and the Cat. Hogan will find a way to eliminate Kidman, pushing toward the feud we've been looking forward to for ages. The Wall and Sid are likely to start the series nobody demanded by eliminating each other, while Vampiro and Sting effectively take each other out of the runnings as well. A Flair interference isn't completely unlikely, which could hurt Scotty's chances... and if they put the Cat over Booker, we've come all this way for nothing. What I'd like to see is a big Booker/Steiner showdown in the finals. A solid heavyweight brawl with just enough ring presence to keep complete geeks like myself satisfied throughout. When he still had his senses, Steiner was more than worth his while in there and a clash with the newly motivated Booker could be enough to bring out shades of old in the younger Steiner brother. While a rumored feud with Goldberg is on the horizon for the slowly elevated "Big Poppa Pump," a short program over the US title could do nothing but aid both men. I'll take Scott over in this one, with Booker eventually taking the blowoff..and the title.. within a couple months' time.
Winner: Scott Steiner

Diamond Dallas Page vs. Jeff Jarrett
World Heavyweight Championship Match

As if the return of the 'power that was' didn't pretty much guarantee a world title reign for Double J, the inclusion of DDP iced the deal. With a willingness to job for rising stars that's become almost legendary, picking Jarrett seems almost too predictable.. but I'm willing to take that chance. After working his ass off for the past 3 months and effectively getting Sid over, Jeff's more than deserved his spot in the limelight. He's among the handful of straightforward, solid heels left in the business and is without a doubt the best worker of the bunch.. his promos aren't butter, but they aren't vinegar either. After several 'tweener' champs (and one standout, overnight champion that shall remain nameless), WCW really needs a strongly defined champion to take charge and lead the federation back to glory. With Sid coming off a failed attempt at the same effort and Jarrett just breaking into his prime, there couldn't be a more ideal choice.
Winner: Jeff Jarrett

In Closing...

If things fall together on this card as they have more than enough opportunity to, we could be looking at a full scale assault on the WWF's lead...but then again if the card falls into disarray and poorly conceived angles, this could be the final nail in the coffin for the boys down in Atlanta. It's a make or break PPV, and without a doubt WCW's last chance. I've more faith in the promotion now than at any point in the past 2 years, and I believe Bischoff and Russo've learned from the mistakes they made in the past. At least, for the time being. If Booker and Jarrett come away from this wearing gold, you're likely to never hear the end of it from me, which is why it ain't quite likely. I'm confident these two are more than one trick ponies this time around, and we'll come out of this PPV with an angle or two with legs enough to carry the promotion into a new competition. And that should take care of it for me.. so, until the next time Vince and the Rock raid my catchphrase closet (not to mention our PPV banner), i'll be around.
until next time, i remain

Tuesday, April 11, 2000

Ringside Shadows #118: The Night That Shook the World

So, here we are. It's time for the "big" Nitro, and I'll admit.. I'm actually looking forward to it. Not only did Bischoff and Russo do the unthinkable and get me excited enough to leave work early to ensure I wouldn't miss anything (F'n Indiana time zone changes..), but they somehow managed to deliver along the way. With a card and angle lineup that reads almost like an internet wish list, it's no secret what audience they were playing to here. Sure, they tripped a little along the way with the follow through, but the evening as a whole was surprisingly solid.

Meanwhile, Raw countered with an unnaturally mediocre card. The magic was there, but it came and went at its own leisure. The counter-main event of HHH vs. Taka was great (as for why, I'll get to it later), but came on the heels of yet another drawn out intro interview, an apallingly horrible Kat / Terri quasi-angle, and a cloudy tag title match. Then again, they brought out Kurt Angle.. and goddamned, I like Kurt Angle. He's the only man that could work abstinence into a promo convincingly... and is it any surprise he was booed for it? Angle knows how to play the youth, he's got the talent, and he ain't afraid to talk. If I had to put money on a surefire main eventer within two years, I'd skim right over Jericho, Benoit and even Guerrero. Put me down for twenty bucks on this guy, as entire federations have been built around less.

I suppose I've rambled on long enough to call this an intro, so let's get into the specifics of the eve, shall we?

The Angle of the Night

For the first time since that all-too short post Bischoff booking run last summer (you know, the poor fellows that got sandwiched between Eric's firing and Russo's hiring?), I can't wait to see what comes next. While I'll bitch and moan every time I see a uselessly boorish half hour intro, this is one occasion where I'll shut up and admit it was necessary. Though things weren't entirely erased and begun from scratch (You notice how Hogan and Sid were never on camera at the same time? How Sting went right for Vampiro? How Jarrett and Hennig played up their roles in the 'powers that be' saga?), it's about as close as we're likely to get, as anything more would've been confusing. Words can't really describe how much impact that filled ring added to the promo (though Van Hammer was disturbingly featured time and again). Just so long as this doesn't become a weekly event, it delivered that necessarily special atmosphere.

Meanwhile, as I mentioned above.. the angles were custom-made for internet consumption. The Hogan / Kidman angle's been a hot subject of late, especially with Perry Saturn's commentary. The backstory behind Flair and Douglas is the stuff of legends. Even the most recent story of them all, Mike Awesome's introduction, was internet-stamped prior to its airing. Not that I'll complain... I mean, these are the kind of things I've been itching to see for ages. I just hope Turner doesn't expect a full blown ratings comeback from it, as we don't make up the majority of the viewing audience. But with all modesty aside, I think the casual viewer could catch on to what we're into pretty easily.

As Matt Spence commented in his earlier column, the whole 'New Blood' angle strikes too closely to the same old nWo for my liking, with the spraypaint as the dead giveaway. Still, the whole thing could work if it's handled correctly. Case in point, Hogan vs. Kidman and Flair vs. Douglas. Ric proved why he's still the man, and always has been by selling an equal amount of Shane's offense.. effectively getting him over as a formidable threat and getting fans really, really into the feud. On the other side of the ball, Hogan only sold Kidman's intial cheap shot offense, while the former Flock mainstay made the Hulkster look like a million bucks throughout the rest of the segment.. selling in a fashion that could draw a comparison to X-Pac. I guess Hogan feels the rub alone is enough, and he's above actually selling any offense. Hell, I'd even planned to make a John Tenta remark here, but Spence beat me to it again! Damn you, Matt!!

All kidding aside, both angles still have a lot of potential.. but it all rides on the long term. If Bischoff and Russo planned more than an intial leadup here and have a blowoff in sight, things could be on the rebound faster than anybody could've foreseen. It's easy to come up with a cool concept, but it's even easier to lose it again on the execution, as the nWo showed us all. Week two's likely to show us what we have to look forward to, much more effectively than this liftoff could. We're off on the right foot, now let's see if we can keep it together long enough to make things interesting again.

Not the Invasion I Was Looking For

As rumors flew across the web in the days leading up to the big show, one in particular caught my eye.. the ever present ECW invasion potential. As ludicrous as it all sounds, the telltale sign would be the presence of Mike Awesome... and when he was delivered, my eyes were immediately peeled for Heyman at ringside or another such sign. Maybe a Super Crazy interference in a cruiserweight match.. maybe a Tajiri run-in during Jarrett / Hennig. If anything could get these two far and above the WWF's lagging product, it would be a combination of forces... and I'd love to see it.

Instead, we got an invasion of different sorts. Mike Awesome was involved, certainly.. but instead of Little Spike Dudley we got Sean Stasiak. Where I'd hoped to see Masato Tanaka, we got Tank Abbott. Not quite as intriguing, nor as effective, but an invasion nonetheless. Awesome's come in with a ride straight to the top, jumping headfirst into an angle with Kevin Nash. Abbott made a splash as the cold blooded shootfighter that wants a bit of Goldberg (and actually doing a surprisingly good job of it). Stasiak played the flunky of the three, blowing his 'new Mr. Perfect' gimmick right off the bat with the ugliest Samoan drop you'll ever see. So much for that idea..

Waitaminute.. Raw Taking a Page from Nitro?!

Was anybody else reminded of the Rey / Flair encounter of almost precisely one year ago, during the main event of this past Raw? HHH vs. Taka Michinoku picked up right where Nitro left off in this ongoing David v. Goliath battle, and played the card beautifully. Much as I might dislike him in the ring, I'll give HHH all the credit in the world.. he sold this entire match, and did so in a fashion that made Taka's lightweight offense credible. That's more than Flair could say (remember those ugly head scissors he tried to sell?), and he deserves a pat on the back for a job well done. Vince, too, is owed a congratulations for making us all believe the title would change hands.. he had my attention, and I was immediately behind Taka. Hell, he had a captive audience in Southern Florida convinced that Michinoku could pull this one off.. and they would've loved every minute of it. Bravo.

After all the dick sucking that went on there, I couldn't help but follow it up with a complaint. DROP THE WOMEN'S DIVISION!!! It isn't working, Vince. It's never worked, Vince. Segments like last night's only serve to destroy the credibility you've worked so hard to gain, and I'd challenge you to find anyone entertained by it. So why, you may ask, does this fit under the same heading as the last? Guys, Nitro may not have invented the terror of a women's divison that sucks an ass larger than Phatu's... but they certainly perfected it. Here's hoping Bischoff doesn't decide to destroy everything he's begun to rebuild by bringing that crap back into the picture.

Vince Centers on One Man

If I called it a panic button, I'd be lying, because it's classic McMahon. Whether it's Hogan, Hart, Michaels, Austin or Rocky, Vince doesn't seem to have room at the top for more than one superstar. While it could be argued that Helmsley still holds the title, last night's champion wasn't the man wearing the strap. McMahon always has and always will build the federation around one man, and unless Austin can recapture his past glory in a hurry.. the man of 2000 is the Rock. Surprisingly enough, though, Vince was playing the face last night. Personally, I didn't like either man.. but I saw Vince's point. He really did build Rocky.. he really was behind the man's popularity.. and he had a valid argument. The Rock's response? "Uhh... the rock doesn't CARE what you think!! yeah.." Hell, Vince even brought a llama into the argument, proving where all their past year's worth of storylines have been coming from.

Nah, I won't be as conceded as to claim Vince got anything from my columns, or to even claim that he knows of their existence.. let alone spends a moment of his time reading my opinions. I just think it's a bit annoying that I'll have to put a disclaimer at the top of every future PPV preview thanks to this little coincidence. I'm the originator of the llama, and I feel fine.

Apparantly though, enough is never enough for Vince. Not until the Big Bossman's become one of the aforementioned "men to build a federation around". Somebody explain his presence in the main event to me, quick. I need a laugh. And then, as icing on the cake, he couldn't leave well enough alone. As the ending was tailor made for a huge Undertaker return, he sends out... the Acolytes? Sure, sure.. they've more business in the event than the Bossman, and they're getting somewhat over. Just tell me you wouldn't have been left in awe when all the arena lights cut to black, right as HHH readied to deliver that big pedigree on the chair. Tell me that familiar 'gong' wouldn't have been enough to send shivers down your spine. Tell me the Acolytes had more business in the cage match than a returning Undertaker, and I'll tell you where to find a complete tool. Just another case of McMahon holding a trump card and then flushing it down the toilet.

All in all, it'll be good to have a little competition again.. and from the looks of things, it couldn't have come at a better time. Raw's disregard for this big Nitro was blatant, and I'm sure their performance was a test to see just how little they could get away with airing while still carrying a tremendous ratings advantage. Granted, they didn't suffer much from all the hype.. which is enough to cause concern. Until WCW can compete head to head in the ratings, the WWF doesn't have reason to take it out of cruise control and get creative again. As for now they seem content to ride that wave, and though I don't like it.. I can't blame them, either. The ball's in WCW's court now. If they choose to drive all the way to the basket, things could get close in a hurry. If they hesitate, they may as well head back to the showers now.

My neck's been sore all day. Just thought I'd fill everybody in. John and I will be around Friday for our World's Greatest Stampede preview, and I'll be taking this week a bit lighter than usual in hopes of getting a lot of work done with my web site. Thanks to everybody who wrote in with thoughts on my concluded WCW talent evaluation.. it was a lot of hard work, and I'm glad it was appreciated. I should return within the next week or so, with a couple columns outside the bounds of my Tuesday Review and PPV previews, so keep your eyes peeled. It's starting to become a good time to be a wrestling fan again... but don't blink. You might miss something earth shattering.
until then, i remain

Saturday, April 8, 2000

Ringside Shadows #117: WCW Talent Evaluation (S-Z)

Just in time for the beginning of the new regime, I'm wrapping up this long-winded WCW talent evaluation. Since we obviously haven't seen any of the new roles these guys'll be portraying just yet, I'll be grading them based on their characters, ring presence and overall value at this point. Some things could change in the next two short nights, but it wouldn't be fair to judge the last quarter of the wCw's field in a different light than I did the rest. There's a good variety in this little closing section, with some fallen stars, some competant workers, some straight ass and one hot body (mmm hmm). Picking up right where I left off, let's take a glance at the razor himself..

Scott Hall
The man around whom the angle of the decade was built. Sure, some might argue that McMahon and Austin took the cake, but for what it was, nothing could hold a torch to the nWo 'invasion' angle when it was in full throttle. Unfortunately, neither was based with a well conceived ending in mind, and it really hurt both in the long run. Anyway...

Hall's problems both inside and outside the ring are the stuff of legends, but for all the wrong reasons. Hall's a notorious troublemaker, and his image, workrate and stance within the company have all suffered as a result. Without his difficulties with alcohol and a backstage presence that's shaky at best, there's little doubt Hall would have at least one world title under his belt by now. Instead, he remains one of the industry's most high-profile "also ran"s. In his prime, Hall was stupendous between the ropes, with more than one five star match behind him. Heat is never an issue where Scott's concerned, as fans love to hate him.. he just drips of heel charisma. Icing on the cake is his finisher, which I never really get sick of. It's really too bad to see problems getting the better of him, and I firmly believe he should've stayed away from the temptations of the road while he still had the chance. When he was on top of his game, healthy and clean, I'd give Hall an A. Now that he's fallen from grace, the result isn't quite as pretty.
Overall Grade: C

Sid Vicious
I didn't really care for him in the old NWA days, as a member of the four horsemen. He's always been intimidating as hell, both due to his size and his persona.. but that's pretty much the limit of his scope. His chokeslam used to be a thing of beauty (check a tape of Wrestlemania VIII... in the preview before his match with Hogan, they spotlight the story leading up to the feud, and a couple are shown there), but have since gone somewhere else. I have no idea how he got over as a face, nor why he was pushed as one.. but WCW's been anything but logical in the past months.

Despite his generous portion of suck, Vicious was really the only credible champion WCW could've chosen at the time (with Sting out, Flair aging even more poorly, DDP out, Goldberg out, Hogan bitching, Nash out, Hart out, Benoit leaving the promotion and Savage out).. so I won't argue with their reasons. His promos are listed under Websters' definition of "horrid," and his match quality is a footnote on the same page. Being over counts for something, I suppose, and a well enough planned turn raises his value beyond the failing region.
Overall Grade: D+

Remember when Spice was enough to make the mouth water? This goes to show you how much a terrible haircut can affect one's appearance. Sure, she's still the owner of quite a fine body, but that hair color and style just... oi. That's not to say I would pass her up, given the option. Anyway, I just needed to make a comment on that recent turn of events. Give me back the "short haired nitro girl" I loved all those years ago!
Overall Grade: Still Gorgeous

Stevie Ray
A man that exposes the industry and puts his opponents at risk every time he steps into the ring. Stevie's so completely inept that he can't even climb through the ropes with his credibility intact. His pedigree ('slapjack') is performed so terribly that it's more than a slight risk to the poor sap forced to take it. If I were in the position to choose between taking Stevie's finisher and walking away from the promotion, I'd take the latter... it's that bad.

When on the mic, Stevie Ray makes even his brother look like a speech major, graduating at the top of his class. His offense is worse timed and less varied than Sid's (oooh), and he's among the few to ever blow up during a rest hold. Stevie, along with every other member of this new Harlem Heat 2000 should 'blow up' in a different sense.. and the rumors of his massive pay cut aren't enough, in my book.
Overall Grade: an emphasized F

Sting's been there through basically everything. Built as the new franchise way back in 1990 (in a match that fellow columnist Matt Spence witnessed firsthand), the Stinger's more than carried the torch for his generation. His feuds with Flair and Vader have been very worthwhile, and he was given the enviable spot as the leader of the nWo's opposition back when the angle still meant something. Eternally over, Sting ranks up with Flair as one of the most respected men in the industry. Though his offense has been on a decline of late, Sting still ranks as one of the best rounded main eventers in WCW today and more than deserving of a new run as world champ in the near future. When he felt like it, his promos were top notch.. though he seems more interested in shredding lines from "Batman and Robin" and "The Crow" lately. He's never had a problem with putting guys over when the need arises, and that alone deserves bonus points in my book. Sting's a loyal player, and his heart's clearly in it for the betterment of the sport. Unfortunately, his time's almost up gang, so enjoy it while you can.
Overall Grade: B

Tank Abbott
Not good.. and little potential has been shown for improvement, let alone willingness. Abbott's one of those guys that's in it to look good and grab some money while the sport's still hot. I guarantee when this big revenue for the industry drops, Abbott won't be anywhere to be found. His work's lazy, dull and monotonous, his build is anything but fantastic, and his single promo stands as less than quality programming. I'm sure WCW was hoping for another Ken Shamrock when they snatched this guy up, but without the well-rounded experience and the Harts' training... Abbott's nothing of the sort.
Overall Grade: D-

Terry Funk
Another story of "the body that would not quit." Funk's been in more than one position that I'm surprised he walked out of, and he continues putting himself at risk today. As a fifty year old that can hit a moonsault, there's only one Funk in every generation. He's been largely underrated by the masses, but even those who recognize his abilities are starting to doubt his sanity anymore. With his aging, just about everything that originally made him special has since left him. He'll still take a nasty bump, bleed like a stuck pig and try to put a good match together, but he doesn't fit in with the state of wrestling today. Already a veteran when Foley was just breaking in, Funk's taken nastier bumps over a longer period of time.. and Foley's retired. It's obvious his stint with WCW isn't working with the audience he was brought in for.. leaving him more than a bit confused and directionless. It's a sad sight, and I'd really like to see it put to a halt soon.. before his last match leaves him with more than a broken leg or a dislocated shoulder.
Overall Grade: C-

TAFKA Iaukea
The cruiserweight champion... and not at all confident with his new gimmick. They've stuck him with Paisley, who's actually done an admireable job in her efforts to get the man over.. but it just isn't working. He doesn't care for the gimmick, and it shows that he hasn't done a single thing to turn it around. His mat style hasn't changed a bit and should be much slower, with a possible emphasis on submission moves.. a technique that really doesn't fit with the division. Instead of a precise striking method that should retain credibility while looking as minimal as possible, the Prince has stuck with his halfhazard wannabe lucha kicks and top rope efforts. His finisher, while not as horrible as Stevie Ray's, remains ugly as can be.. even with champs like Kidman and Candido selling it. Another gimmick that needs to be rethought and a worker that needs to be given direction and a swift kick in the ass or a pink slip.
Overall Grade: D

The Total Package
Another former member of the Horsemen, Luger hasn't done much to improve his game in the last decade. Always one to emphasize his physique over a match's quality, the Package isn't responding well to the betrayal of his body as the years go on. Where his intimidating build would suffice before, a poorly executed clothesline is far from a suitable replacement. Stuck with Flair once more in this big 'team package' schpeel, the two aren't exactly improving their stock with bad angles, poor interviews and declining presence. Luger should've gone out on top after winning the title from Hogan in '97.
Overall Grade: D-

It's damned nice to see Vampiro elevated to a much higher spot on the card, especially considering some of the shit he's gone through to get there. While many doomed him from the start due to his famed problems with Konnan, Terry Taylor (the man responsible for bringing him in) has stuck with him, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out he's the one behind the whiplash elevation going on this past month. His push gives new hope to notoriously buried young stars like Booker and Kidman, and shows us that WCW isn't all about the elders. I hope his acceptance by Hogan wasn't a token move meant to deflect critics of his pompous attitude, but only time will tell there.

While he remains a controversial figure, Vampiro's been pulling out some nice little matchups lately against the likes of Flair and Luger, and his offense is a nice amalgam of the high flying lucha style and the mat based ethics of old with a couple nice kicking combos thrown in for good measure. While they could've made a better choice for elevation, they could've made much, much worse and I have no argument against Vampiro's selection.
Overall Grade: A-

The Wall
Overpushed, and as a result despised by the majority. He showed some promise as Berlyn's bodyguard, but WCW dropped the ball with the angle as a whole, and became too hurried with their push for the big man. He's beginning to break into the big time, with a big rub from Hogan (???).. and his workrate's steady decrease has continued. Much like the Undertaker in his infamous KOTR Hell in a Cell match, the Wall is defined by the workers that take the bumps for him.. with Crowbar jumping immediately to mind. WCW seems intent on making up for the mistake they made initially for this guy, but I just don't see it happening.
Overall Grade: C

...and that does it for this series, way overdue for a conclusion. Since I'm pretty much positive nobody plans to stick around for the anal retentive little sum-up that follows, I'm gonna go ahead and wrap up my comments here, with an unrelated thing or two thrown in. It's the spice of life.

I swung by a couple times over the past few days, initially to grab the rest of the names for this evaluation and then later as an interested fan. I've got a bit of praise to offer... on the big page, built to preview Spring Stampede, WCW's done right by me. They've got a little section called 'history', offering complete matches from four previous Stampedes.. including workers that aren't involved with the promotion any more, workers who've been anything but kind in their post-employment words. There's Austin vs. Muta and DDP vs. Raven in there, alongside Goldberg vs. Nash and an atrocious Luger vs. Harlem Heat vs. Giant shitfest. The point is they aren't ashamed of their past, nor are they hiding the workers that made them money years ago. They're spotlighting the ENTIRE MATCHES, not just a highlight reel. My major problem is a technical one.. they chose motherfucking Real Player to encode them. Real Player has to be the bastard child of the internet community.. it streams like ass, and acts like it's streaming even when it isn't. The video is nasty at best, and the audio's grainy... but hey, at least they're trying.

One final thing before I go, a question sent in by a reader that I got a kick out of; wrote;

"I know your not an advice columnist, but this pertains to wrestling so I thought you could a dedicated member of World not built like The Complete Tool, but im in great shape nonetheless...but I saw something last week on Thunder that really disturbed me....Brian Knobbs was wearing a World Gym shirt....just like one I own but its a different color... how does one deal with the pyschological torment when one owns a shirt like Brian Knobbs? do I (a) Burn my own shirt...(b) get membership at gym not endorsed by the master of the Pit Stop...or (c) just hire some thugs to shove him in a crate and fed ex his fat ass to Greenland?"

Like he said, I'm no advice columnist... but nothing really speaks like the masses. Got advice? Send us an e-mail. We're listening. Personally, I'd say to hide the shirt away, wearing it only in the privacy of your own home.. or perhaps the gym itself. An association with Brian Knobs is one step away from an eternal damnation in the pits of hell.

And that should do it for me.. I'll be around Tuesday for the Tuesday Review, and John and I have our Spring Stampede preview lined up for Friday. Should be a good one this Monday night, so enjoy.
until then, i remain

Tuesday, April 4, 2000

Ringside Shadows #116: Catching Up Once More

Remember all those moons ago, when an unopposed night would give Raw "a chance to catch up in the ratings?" Funny how complete a turnaround we've seen, isn't it? I don't have very much to say this week, so I've decided to fill up the rest of the space with a couple letters that have been digging at me for some time. Wait, wait! Don't go just yet! They're actually all a pretty good read, and tie in rather nicely with the subjects I'd meant to cover this week. Before we get into those, though, let's take a look at

(or, at least, the lasting results..)

I had a double-fuck of a time this weekend. Not only did the time zones shift (Living here in Indiana, we recieve little to no warning and switch from Eastern to Central time on a whim), so I nearly missed the event, but my Cable box quit working entirely.. so I did end up missing it after all. I suppose that's $30 I can spend elsewhere. I spent the 3 and a half hours cruising about Hotline Client, looking for decent files.. no luck. Just a bad weekend, I guess. But enough about me.

He has no shame, and now he's tainted his biggest success story.. Wrestlemania. Effective this past Sunday night, Vince pretty much killed the tradition in one fell swoop. When the main event ended in a swerve and a dirty finish, Wrestlemania became just another PPV. What could once be looked at as a definitive closing chapter isn't allowed that honor any more.. it's all thrown away in favor of that elusive "big next PPV".. and, to me, that really sucks.

I can't argue with the tag match, and from what I've seen it was stupendous.. I'll admit the winners came from nowhere, and from their promo on Raw last night I can safely say they've found a nice little niche. This is one feud I wouldn't mind seeing continued. Benoit picked up one hell of a rub, at the expense of the other rising stars in the matchup. I'm gonna sound like a little ingrate here, but I don't think Benoit deserved the IC gold just yet. He isn't nearly as over with fans as his competition and he hasn't been around nearly as long. I'd have liked to see an extended feud over the gold between Benoit and Jericho, effectively elevating both men. Alas; it isn't meant to be, and Benoit's apparantly moved on. A Jericho / Guerrero feud would be much better suited over the Intercontinental belt, while Benoit further establishes himself as the European champ.

Nitro's recap was poorly slapped together, which doesn't really bode well for this new regime. If they hope to improve the company's image, it starts with the visuals. If they had a week to put together this program and still suffered through basic technical errors, I dread seeing a live program. If nothing else, the "Best of Nitro" reminded us of 2 important notes;

1) A Poorly clipped 'recap' segment can ruin any matchup. Pillman/Liger was a supreme match, but once the flow is chopped to bits even the best in the world look like spotty rookies. Sadly, this problem plagues Japanese broadcasts as well as ours... is nothing sacred?

2) The Bossman and Hogan sucked just as hard in 1995.

Anyway, I've said enough about Raw's intro to let be for a couple weeks.. at least this week's follow-up was given a bit more to work with. Eddy looked energetic as all get out, and ready to get it on from the opening bell. He and the Y2J put on a couple really nice spots, with Eddy taking Jericho's double powerbomb like a man. The Chyna turn was predictable once she made no effort to knock him from the top.. but it's still nice to see some gold around his waist. Is it some sort of new rule that one must work an angle with this beast before graduating to gold-level? The low-rider seemed a bit excessive, but Guerrero seems to dig it.. I'll let him play. Honestly, how many out there would've predicted 3 of the 4 Radicals would be carrying gold within their first two months in the WWF? I know it's exceeded my expectations already.

Vince's turn on Shane in the main event was also pretty predictable... what's that? It didn't go down? I suppose I just outsmarted myself. As far as the Big Show's comedic turn, I had a laugh at the initial worm, but it got old and silly quite quickly. Far be it from the WWF to exploit anything remotely interesting.

..and that's all I really feel like commenting on this week. Something of a disappointment, really. Especially for Raw, but I guess they had nothing to compete against.. and thus, no motivation. Not terrible by any means, but not commendible.

So let's look at some letters.

Long time writer had more than a few good points, for arguments' sake.. as always;

"One simple question, why do you dislike Vince Mc Mahon so much? Are you one of the purists who believed he ruined wrestling in the 80's? As for as the genius thing, just a couple of tidbits. When asked about Mc Mahon on Off the Record, Chris Benoit responded "He is a true genius"- he said this while still employed in WCW. In a recent radio interview, Jericho stated "There would be no Y2J without Mr. Mc Mahon" Perry Saturn on his website stated "Vince made wrestling in the 80's. He's created almost every major star in the business. Him and Shane are great bosses". From wrestleline interview, Price Iakeau- "Vince Mc Mahon is a genius". In my opinion, the reason you don't like him is because he really has never catered to the workrate fan or freak and you fall into that category.

I'm not saying you have to respect him but when the buyrate for Wrestlemania comes out, it will make a lot of people a lot of money. Oh, and for the record, the match with the Mc Mahons at the end of RAW had unreal heat and drew a 7.5, which is higher than the Triple Threat match last week and the Benoit-Rock match. You might dislike him but obviously some people dig his character."

There's no denying Vince McMahon's importance in the field. He truly revolutionized it, introducing it to heights that were unheard of twenty or thirty years ago. Under his watch, Wrestlemania bloomed into a national media event. Stars like Hogan, Austin, Savage and Rocky grew larger than life, and the wrestler was regarded as a celebrity. Along the way, yeah.. he's had some incredibly bright spots. He's also had some disastrous failures. For every Savage vs. Steamboat, there was a Gobbledy Gooker. He's had some strokes of brilliance, but he's made some decisions that only leave the viewer scratching their head.

To answer your question, I don't hate Vince.. nor am I a "purist" from the 80's.. if anything, I have Vince to thank for introducing me to it all. The first real wrestling memory I retain is Hogan/Andre from Wrestlemania III, and it was pretty much head-on fanfare from that point on (aside from that big black spot between WM 9 and 13, where I was "too cool to watch wrestling.") I'm willing to give a little to Vince, given his track record.. I suppose I'm more than a bit sick of seeing his face plastered across the screen. Since he's only been back 3 weeks now, that should say something. His Raws are becoming formulaic, with a long-winded intro opening the show and a strong match cut short to follow it up. Every once in a while, we'll mix the two up just for the hell of it. For such a genius, he seems to be running really short on ideas.

I don't doubt Vince's popularity and upstanding image in the eyes of the workers. With a couple unsightly dark spots (read: Bret), his relations with workers have always been top notch and truly classy. He won't hold back the workers if they don't hold back the WWF.. that's fair enough, and I'll give him credit. To call Vince a genius is, to me, a bit much.. especially considering the slop he's been passing off the past year or so. He's a glory hound, as the main event of the past 2 Wrestlemania events can attest (XV saw Vince as the victim of Austin's wrath as the show went off the air.. XVI, well.. I'm sure you remember that).

To me, Vince will always be a skilled promoter who got a couple big breaks in the world of professional wrestling. He opened the floodgates, made the necessary ties and pushed the right people at precisely the right time... and lightning struck twice.

The point will be argued time and time again, with no real winner stepping forward. Every time one side claims to have that extra edge, ending the debate, the other side counters with an equally prudent point. It's all personal preference, and the final decision is the individual's. You can believe that Vince has had a set gameplan from day one, that's blossomed to near perfection.. or you can believe it's been a hit and miss game, with McMahon finding some really lucky breaks (perhaps happy accidents) along the way. I'll go with the latter, with gimmicks like the Bossman, Akeem the African Dream and Steven "Man's Man" Regal to back me up.

Great letter, as always.. the argument's far from over.

Up next, shared a few of my opinions on the Nitro of a week past, along with a request;

"The Jung Dragons' pre-match segment on last night's Nitro was absolutely hilarious!!! In your next article, could you post a request for someone to scan a good quality picture of the Jung Dragons singing? They're a good team. They've got some awesome aerial skills, and for some reason the mock 3-Count gimmick just seemed right. They're young, they're new (except for Kaz Hayashi, who debuted 2 years ago on Nitro in my hometown of Sacramento!), and they can get over if the bookers ever decided to use the tenth of a brain cell it takes to realize that their characters should be developed. Anyway, just a humble request from one of your readers. Keep up the good work. And if you know where I can download the "J-Pop" version of "Can't Get You Out Of My Heart," please fill me in!"

I had a blast watching the said segment, as well. Not only that, but the match itself wasn't alltogether shabby. The Dragons worked their asses off, making the Marmalukes look like a million bucks along the way and neatly building themselves a tad in the process. The bump over the top rope all the way to the floor was just sick, and the gimmick fits perfectly. I even dig that little lone ranger mask, which is just simple enough to work with the stable. We can only hope that Russo and Bischoff spend a little less time worrying about the main eventers and a bit more working out scripts for these guys, as well as other midcarders. As for the images and sound clip, I'd ask the readers to send along any info they've got by tossing the two of us an e-mail. I'd like to get a sound file of that version myself..

Moving on to the Wrestlemania feedback, Chris ( echoes the common idea;

"Little parable-I'm a huge hip-hop fan-not that Puffy, DMX, Eminem garbage on the radio-real, meaningful shit, beats, rhymes etc-stuff that was intelligent. 6, 7 years ago everything was tight, the best time ever for hip-hop. No music on the radio, strictly underground. Then that fat bastard Notorious B.I.G. came on the scene, showed the world rappers could make big $$ and it became commercialized. It's all gone downhill from there as 12 year old white girls in Montana now listen to rap-and people think it's the same thing I listen to. But I have fond memories, and I keep an ear out for the few jewels I can find now. DRQ, I think you have the same prob-only with wrestling. Man, just deal with it, and enjoy it.

Can't you just enjoy the card for what it is-there is an entertainment value to watching Foley, Rock, HHH, Show main event. Damn, you even found a way to bitch about the ladder match. I don't ever hear that much bitching from Phil Muschnick, or whatever the hell his name is. Bottom line, relax and enjoy what should be a great event. Not to say that 4 matches won't suck hard, but the rest should compensate easily. And every match doesn't need to be ****1/2 to be enjoyable."

Most of the feedback from our Wrestlemania preview was in this vein, and I can understand where it all came from. I was really hard on the lineup, but there is a method to my madness. Vince & co. continue to build Wrestlemania as the premiere card in all the land, year in and year out. Along with this billing comes buyrates, certainly.. if you're going to purchase one card all year, this'd better be it. As far as I see it, this doesn't just mean an easy buyrate.. this raises the bar. Workers are expected to put on their best faces for the event, year-long feuds finally blow off, and the Federation starts from scratch around the champion on the legendary Raw after. I consider this criteria enough to harshen my judgement more than usual. You take the good with the bad.

As I've said before, I consider my writings to be criticism. When the product is perfect, I won't have anything left to write.. and that's what I hope for, in the end. If I seem harsh, it's because I can see potential left to waste. I write because I care (awwww..)

Your point is well said though, and it's been taken. I've been notoriously hard on things since day one, but it's been especially bad of late.. perhaps it's the pressure of school, perhaps too much on my plate.. either way, I won't hope to excuse it. If I'm in the same league as Mushnick, something needs to be done.. I mean, that's what we've got Blasingame for, right?

Thanks for your feedback, and the parable.. I'm in the same boat with the music I enjoy.. it's quickly becoming extinct, or more and more difficult to dig out.

So that does it this time. I've been killing time recently at the Dynamite Kid's website, catching up on old interviews and the like. He's got some great things to say, and it's guaranteed to be interesting.. when asked if he could get into the ring with one worker in the world today, he responded "if I was in my prime and my legs were working and I was on the steroids, looking the part, I would love to go in the ring for 20 minutes, nonstop, with Sid Vicious. If I was in with him for 20 minutes, I'd be walking around the ring by myself for 18 minutes, because they'd have carried Vicious off on a stretcher after two, the fucking soft shit." Only Dynamite, folks.. only dynamite. You can check it all out at (note: the site's since gone down) As for me, I'm out for now.. I'll be back by the weekend with the final chapter of that long winded WCW talent evaluation, and who knows what's beyond that.
until then, i remain

Saturday, April 1, 2000

The World's Greatest WWF WrestleMania 2000 Preview

To call a card with a couple *** matches a success might be acceptable on an IYH or maybe even the lesser of the big 5, King of the Ring.. but for Wrestlemania, Vince is expected to deliver with everything he's got. He needs to shoot that load, and start off fresh Monday night with a whole new scene. Wrestlemania is more than the premiere event of the WWF, it's the culmination of a year's worth of angle development, character advancement and talent coordination. It's the last major wrestling event withholding a speck of its initial glory, and to defile it with cards like XV and now XVI is almost unforgivable. I'll go against John here and say on paper, this can't even match up with No Way Out or even the overrated Rumble. On paper, this stinks pretty heftily of ass and it's a shame.

Hardcore Championship Match - Battle Royal

Hey, here's a tasteless way to wait out the contracts of a few talented workers.. Taka, Funaki, Tazz, Crash Holly, and the only man with over 100 ***** matches under his belt, Viscera, all cram themselves into the ring alongside another handful of directionless WWF hacks. Is this how far we've come? This is an excuse for a Wrestlemania title match? Yeah, this one's bound to follow in the footsteps of Michaels/Razor, Hart/Austin, NAO/Hardcore Legends and any other legendary Wrestlemania 'hardcore' brawl. I'd have passed on this as a curtain-jerker on Heat. Since the favorite should certainly be Tazz, I'll go out on a limb and pick Crash Holly, retaining his belt through all adversity (and because I get a kick out of his 'run like hell' gimmick)
Winner: Crash Holly

D'Lo Brown & The Godfather vs. The Big Bossman & Bull Buchanan

I haven't seen enough of this new 'Bull Buchanan' guy to build an honest opinion, but I'll assume he's been placed with the Bossman for a reason.. to make the gimmick work. Either way, there's no excuse whatsoever to this match's inclusion on the card, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it knocked out during the pre-show event or Heat. Of the four, D'Lo is the only one worthy of even appearing on the event.. and his presence is token at best. I'll go with the Bossman and 'Bull' team, which I've re-christened 'full body cavity search'.
Winners: Body Cavity Search

Test & Albert w/Trish vs. Head Cheese

Remember when Test seemed destined for a main event push? Coming off a successful run as the next member of the extended McMahon family, the audience was certainly high on him. His work between the ropes wasn't earth shattering, but it wasn't poor by a longshot.. and he seemed eager to learn. Then he dropped off the face of the Earth for a while. Now he's stuck completely redefining his personality as a member of the bottom of the barrel tag team, 'T&A'. The same could be said for Al Snow. Around the same time, Al was embarking on a huge feud with the Rock, one that had that extra something special. It was a feud I was willing to buy, hook, line and sinker. Then, suddenly, Al's off television. Now he's clawing his way back to the establishment with this 'Head Cheese' gig. Sometimes life just ain't fair, guys. In ring, this one could actually end up quite surprisingly well. Test and Snow ain't no slouches, and Albert and Blackman generally suck very few assnuts on their own. I'll go with Head Cheese, though the whole thing is really rather hard to call.
Winners: Head Cheese

The Kat vs. Terri

Let's... just hope it's kept to a minimum. Terri and the Kat are both fine, fine ladies but I wonder if they'll be the ones baring themselves this Sunday night. Not only that, but if I pay for a wrestling program, I'd like to see a wrestling program. If I pay to rent a porn, I expect a porn. Let's keep the crossovers out of it entirely, shall we?
Winner: Terri won the coin toss

Too Cool & Chyna vs. Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn & Eddy Guerrero

One of the near-explainables of the card. Too Cool and the Radicals have had a nice little feud running since Malenko and Co. made the big jump, so a big time blowoff at the king of all events is certainly in order. So tell me, why's Chyna anywhere near these guys? Maybe this is another one that's been explained over the course of a dozen or so episodes of Smackdown, but I just don't get it. Things won't be too bad, as Taylor and Christopher can more than keep up with the technicians and it'll be almost an afterthought to carry Chyna between them. I wonder how strong this could've been if anybody else had been thrown into the mix, let alone somebody talented. I'm going with the Radicals because I just don't learn..
Winners: The Radicals

Rikishi & Kane w/Paul Bearer vs. Road Dogg & X-Pac w/Tori

So much for that exploding ring match, I suppose. It's probably just as well.. the WWF would've likely glamorized it and pretty much destroyed the credibility along the way. Still, I wonder if X-Pac would've done that something crazy in order to take that final step in the eyes of the WWF fans. It worked for Mick Foley, and it's beginning to look as if Waltman's situation is just as bad. He's sunk into the 'midcard for life' rut, and it's not his fault whatsoever. The audience as a whole has difficulty accepting him as a main eventer thanks to his size, and I really think this could've knocked him out of the ditch. Anyway, I don't expect to see anything here that hasn't been thrown together multiple times before.. and Kane will finally get his retribution. Let's move this one on, huh guys?
Winners: Kane & Rikishi

The Dudley Boyz vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. Edge & Christian
Triangle Ladder Match for the Tag Team Championship

We've all heard the tale of these three teams, working for months in preparation for what many hope will be the ultimate ladder match. I won't argue the point, if the stories are true and each player puts forward the night of his life, this could be one hell of a program. Then again, we could litter the atmosphere with more than enough table shots, disgusting bumps and high spots, while the audience loses interest minutes in. It's a really touchy subject, and if everything's gonna go just right there aren't 3 teams I'd rather see giving it a go. The image of 6 workers scurrying along a single ladder is more than a little bit much, but sometimes things need to be seen to be believed. The cool thing? Even if the winner walks away with the belts and the losers toil away elsewhere, the tag division still has plenty of legs to stand on. It's that strong. For winners, I'll take the Hardys and Suicide Blondes eliminating each other, with the Dudleys taking the win.
Winners: The Dudley Boyz

Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho
Two fall Triple Threat Match for the Intercontinental and European Championships

The only match of the card that I'll guarantee will break ***. Even if Jericho's in pure-lazy form, Angle gets lost on his way to the arena and Benoit works with a fractured skull, things will find a way to work out and develop into a super-nice three way. I like the format, I like the dual-belt push Angle's enjoying, I like Benoit's immediate entrance into the thick of things, and I like the prospect this physical confrontation presents. I'll take Angle to keep the Euro title, while Benoit sneaks away with the IC glory. Words can't explain how much I'm looking forward to this one, which is all the more reason it's likely to suck to high heaven.
Intercontinental Winner: Chris Benoit, European Winner: Kurt Angle

Triple H vs. The Rock vs. Mick Foley vs. The Big Show
Fatal Four Way Elimination Match for the World Wrestling Federation Championship

Here's our big, year-ending blowout of a main event. Something of a let-down, isn't it? Of course, if you don't pick Foley walking away with the strap in this one you're a tool.. which leads to an interesting dilemma. The WWF has swerved us so often in the past (Rocky's loss at No Way Out), a Foley win seems too obvious.. yet, Wrestlemania's main event is historically predictable (Austin/Rock last year). I'll take the legacy over the glory, which is to say I'm sticking with Mick. The match itself promises to be uglier than Rosemary's Baby after surviving a post-corn dinner Rikishi Ass-Smash. The Rock, aside from a few select spots and the catches known the world over, is pretty much useless in the ring without the undivided attention of a competent worker (an Austin, a Benoit, a younger Foley). The Big Show is, for lack of a better term, a waste. HHH, though taking big strides recently, still has a long way to go before he'll be comfortable as the company's top heel. That, and he's always been a bit too repetitious in the ring. Mick, though more than solid in his prime, has sadly taken several big steps down since his big Summerslam return. I just don't know what to think about this one, except to hope it doesn't go over 40 minutes. The image of a sweaty Big Show, a bloodied Foley, a stone-eyed Rocky and a straight-up ugly HHH is almost too much to bear, and that isn't even mentioning the McMahons in each corner.
Winner: Mick Foley

In Closing...

It's a step up. Following the downright ugly display at last year's event, I think just about anything would've been acceptable (barring a Bossman main event). A LHW defense would've added a lot of much-needed structure to this card, and trimming 3 of the 3-way matches from the lineup wouldn't have hurt, either. I've been more than vocal over the past couple weeks about my dislike for this card, so I'll keep it down this time around. There remain a couple worthwhile glimmers in the midst of this chaos, and that's good enough for me. I'd order this card based solely on the IC/Euro dance, so expect it to suck hard just to spite me. Ah, hell.. let's not analyze this one any further. If you aren't kicked back Sunday night watching this one, um.. well, you won't be watching it. But for those that are, try to enjoy it. You're bound to see something you like.
until next time, i remain