Tuesday, May 30, 2000

Ringside Shadows #123: The Days You'll Remember

It's been a good couple days for me, personally, and it's been a good couple weeks for wrestling fans in general. The three day weekend gave me as much time as I'd needed to get a chunk of work done on the Horsemen project (which, I'm proud to announce, will launch anywhere between this Wednesday and the beginning of next week), and along with that came a well timed discovery at the local video store. This past Sunday, while the nuclear family was out scorching up a BBQ in their heavenly backyard, I found myself curled up with copies of Starrcade 1986 and 1987, as well as the All-American Great American Bash '89.. possibly the greatest PPV of all time. Takes all kinds, I guess.

As if that wasn't enough, I found some old school *.mov files elsewhere in the 'net that brightened my day even further. Everything from DDP's encounter with Raven on MTV to Flair's second World Title victory over Harley Race graced my monitor, while I gleefully took it all in. Taking the cake, though, was the Ultimate Warrior's initial speech upon his arrival to WCW. To think that I was pissing my pants with pleasure the first time this aired was enough for a smile. Watching it a second time nearly two years later was good for a laugh or two. Jeez, this guy's even more long winded than I.. behold; "History tells us, Hogan, that a man's legacy is build from the premise that within his life the moments lived, once lived, become a piece of his history. Somehow, you have conveniently, even eloquently, misplaced pieces of your history."

Right. So I'd said something about the present, too. Nitro and Raw gave us a couple worthwhile programs last night. Neither were without their flaws, but even those were threaded in with the good stuff well enough to be overlooked, for the most part. I don't agree with the way everything went down, but I'll admit both presented an admirable effort. Despite the presence of slop like the Godfather and Ernest Miller, the WWF and (occasionally) WCW are giving us some really solid, memorable programs of late. Just like the Flair / Sting blowoff at the 1990 Bash, I'll remember the night the Radicals arrived in Titan until the day I die. Though the importance is arguable, Ric Flair's World Title victory from nowhere two weeks ago will live on in my mind for years to come. These are some the days you'll remember as you grow older and the industry changes once again. We've finally defined the boundaries, and both federations are allowing themselves to blossom and fill out the new rules. The "Attitude" years are reaching their peak.. take note and enjoy them.

"Take control of the limited ability you have to understand the words I am about to say."

WCW's Upper-Midcard Facade

It's good to see "Big Poppa Pump" finally making his long-promised World Title push, after several near misses and derailments. More now than ever in the past, I'm willing to accept Steiner as a serious contender to the belt. He's got the look, he's got the confidence and the crowd's behind him. It's too bad his ringwork's deteriorated as far as it has, but I'd rather see him given a shot than proven failures like Kevin Nash or redundant victors such as Hogan. Steiner's captured my curiosity, and once his US Title is finally jobbed to a deserving midcarder (here's your shot, Booker..) he'll be free to make his own way in a headlining feud.

Speaking of which, I don't really have much to say about Booker's new role as G.I. Bro, except.. well, it's ridiculous. Maybe Booker presented the idea himself, maybe it is a cute little throwback to his breakthrough role in the old days... but it's also to blame for a strong loss of credibility. In a day that's more centered on the image than the substance, something as simple as a name change could make or break the career of an upcoming single like Booker. The audience has been firmly behind him for years, so a gimmick change was far from necessary at this stage. He didn't need anything else to be noticed, aside from a US title push and some air time… and even if the whole thing was presented by Booker himself, that's where Bischoff and Russo need to step in and start doing their job. You'd have to be an idiot not to see the potential there, and to waste it with a gimmick that's failed before entering the gates is senseless. Still, a feud with Mike Awesome could be more than worthwhile if both continue bumping in the same fashion as weeks gone by. The two are among the only true heavyweights worth the time of day, and an extended feud would serve to elevate both. The first minute or two of last night's encounter sucked pretty fiercely, but the finish more than made up for it; sweet as can be.

Goldberg's return came at an extremely important time for his flailing home promotion, and goddamned.. how they need this guy back. It was a bad idea to show us all that he wouldn't be back for the main event (proving it was safe to watch Raw), but even that wasn't enough to kill the man's hype. Let's get Steiner to the World Title for a couple months while Goldberg heals and obliterates Tank Abbott, then turn the youngest Steiner heel and let the crowd eat it up. It almost books itself, but Russo won't allow that.. it's too "predictable". Shit, predictable isn't always bad if it's used sparingly. It goes hand in hand with giving the audience what they want. Starrcade '97 was a failure, because the booking focused so heavily on being anything but predictable, and WCW's been falling ever since as a result. The buyrate was superb for the late winter event, and everybody tuned in to see Sting take a clean victory over Hogan after months of chasing. Instead, Hogan dominated the match, handed out a clean pin early (oh, wait.. that was a "fast count") and the whole thing ended in a schmozz. Sending Sting out the clean champ would've been predictable, but it also would've suited the situation. You're outswerving yourself here, guys.

What would've surprised me is a solid, ten minute match to a clean finish between Sting and Kidman. The two showed glimpses of what could've been, with some inventive spots involving the rampway, but overbooking once again reared its ugly head and took us home within three minutes. I'll even argue that Sting should've gone over here, because Kidman is far from a credible opponent at this stage. Building Kidman up a bit more does nothing but good for all parties involved. Even a loss against WCW's franchise could raise the public perception of Kidman after a hard-fought match, resulting in more interest in his rematch (or is it a threematch?) with Hogan on the upcoming PPV. Sting would get the credit for a clean win, and Kidman would get the rub he's been missing from Hogan.

Raw's New Main Event Plans

Last night saw Kane's hat thrown back into the mix for the World Title, in another of those moments that gets filed away as "Cool moment" in the back of my head. There, it's doomed to forever bounce around with its peers; a Perry Saturn dive to the outside on Raven, the Big Show's scream and pose after pushing a dumpster onto the Bossman's car, Chris Benoit and Jimmy Snuka's dives from the cage months ago. All extremely sweet lead-ins, great camera angles and superb positioning. You saw it coming, but it didn't matter. All was well in the world, but you knew nothing was really gonna come of it. Sure enough, Saturn toiled in WCW's midcard for years, Raven quit the promotion, the Show's title reign was a farce, and Benoit's ascention had already halted. I'd like to believe Kane will finally receive the slot he's been denied thus far, and with the main event scene as limited as it is I may be proven wrong yet again. With the case being what it is, I'll put my money on a British Bulldog-esque main event run (ONE PPV), some fireworks and a possible run with the tag titles. Still.. he looked freakin' smooth standing above HHH, title in hand, while the Rock and the Taker shared bewildered glances.

Speaking of which, the Undertaker's presence pretty well seals HHH and Rocky's final arrival as true main eventers, in my book. Here's a man that's seen the past four solid WWF champions through their reigns: Hogan, Hart, Michaels and Austin. He's main evented with all of them with the belt on the line... and beaten all, to boot. To the casual WWF fan, the Undertaker is the standard torch bearer, and he's finally given his blessing to the main event of today. Now if we could only do something about that DOA gimmick and Kid Rock theme music..

Yeah, I caught Kid Rock's performance. I wasn't happy about it (I'd rather have seen it in head to head, so I could watch something else), but I saw it. I'll say the same thing I said when WCW gave us KISS and Vince gave us Motley Crue (or was it Poison? Hell, I don't care..); it was a good waste of a quarter hour. I caught the censors' slip up, too, and wasn't really that shaken by it. They miss that word every time X-Pac's theme music comes on (suck it.. two tears in a bucket.. i'm not the one they tried to fuck wit'), so I don't see why it's such a big deal this time around.

Earlier in the card, we got a solid five minutes out of Kurt Angle and Eddy Guerrero, despite the silly finish and near-blown hurricarana wrapup. I'd love to watch these two go to a clean finish sometime, as their styles are perfectly suited for one another. The crowd eventually sided with Guerrero here, though both seem to be on their way to a face turn (by popular demand), which is really a shame. The WWF needs solid heels right now, but can't get one over without another crowd turnaround. In this day and age, the only way to establish yourself as a solid heel is to oppose the Rock in singles action. So, anyway... whatever DID happen to that Al Snow / Rocky feud?

Anyway, I've wandered long enough for today. Though it might now show in my words, I found both shows worth my time for the majority of last night, and I can only hope things continue along the path they've taken for the past weeks. The intra-fed feuding is getting old, and while the WWF realizes it and marches on, Russo throws jab after jab in the media. I'm none to keen on Vince Russo right now, come to think of it.

So hey! Get your ass out to the video stores and look about for some old NWA action! Good times, good times... Thanks for taking the time out to read, and keep your eyes peeled for my exhaustive Horsemen series, coming soon to better newsboards across the nation.
until then, i remain

Tuesday, May 23, 2000

Ringside Shadows #122: Letting the Mind Wander

I'm sick of drawn out Tuesday Reports, recitals and reiterations. So, for this week I've limited my ranting to one section and my playing about to another entirely. There were a couple things worth discussing in depth last night, and I think I need to get those off my chest while they're still somewhat lukewarm. After that, it's probably best that you skip to the finish, because I'm gonna try to be funny. I've discovered several photos from last night's programming that inspired a bit of good natured ribbing on my part. So long as I keep myself amused, it's good all around. Check back here again next week for your regularly scheduled sarcastic, pessimistic shithead.

Nitro was a heap of poo this week, and between the unceremonious stripping of Ric Flair's title, its placement once again on Jeff Jarrett (who has yet to successfully and cleanly defend a World Title) or Terry Funk's anticlimactic 'retirement' speech, there's little question why. All that, and they took away the throwback entryway almost as soon as I'd begun praising it. Screw you, guys. I later found myself begging for a worthwhile channel to explore, finally resting on The Stand on the Sci Fi Channel.. fucking great TV Movie.

Raw's first hour was pretty well the polar opposite of Nitro as a whole. It delivered several quality matches, advanced an interesting storyline throughout, and did it all with limited McMahon appearances and a combined 0 minutes' worth of HHH and/or Rocky promos. I'll buy that for a dollar. So, keeping that in mind.. Nitro's program gave me more ammunition to tear apart in the photos, while Raw received a bit of praise (!) in the paragraphs. Before we get to all of that though, I've a word or two to say about a phenomenon that's becoming more and more prevalent.

The Big Spot

Now take it easy, this isn't just another episode of my "old school fan tears apart the current state of the industry" series. I'm actually behind highspots as a whole, provided the workers understand when to use them, where to use them, and how to use them. In a world where Mick Foley's Hell in a Cell dive made an otherwise slow paced match into a "greatest of all time" candidate, it's really easy to just say "to hell with buildup, we'll just jump from one spot to another." Many folks have made a good sum of cash with that mindset... take a look at New Jack.

Now I'm not here to give a lecture. If I'm gonna go into a full-blown, in-depth look at bumping and spottiness, I'll just blow a whole column on it and go all out. I'd just like to make a comment on a trend that's been taking place in hardcore matches around the nation; no selling big bumps. Every federation has been guilty of it at some point, but it's never been as blatant nor as worthless as this past Monday on Nitro with the Wall. The man went through a table from the ring apron, and was back on his feet within seconds. That doesn't make me respect him as a hard-ass, that doesn't make me applaud his stamina. That makes me shake my head and wonder what this says about big hits in the past. A table spot was usually enough to take a man out for a couple weeks. Now they're passe, almost comical. When will somebody take a dive off the top of a 20 foot steel cage, only to get up and go on with the match? And what will that say about those who've done it in the past?

How about Kanyon? He took a fall from a cage to an obviously padded entryway, which Schiavone, Madden and Hudson have sold as life threatening.. and then, not ten minutes after his footage from the hospital is aired, the Wall pulls this.

I seem to recall a man who paved the way for Hardcore, Mick Foley, chiding the youth about this kind of thing.. and it wasn't that long ago. Have we truly forgotten him, just months after his retirement? It's time to take a step back and give our predecessors a little respect. The fight to top the same old set of historical moments will flow eternally, but to do so by completely disgracing the past... well, what have you really achieved? The future will always build upon the past, and it's not such a good idea to knock out your own support structure.

Clean Cut

Raw is really beginning to flow. Now that their initial difficulties have been overcome (the smaller roster, the poor match quality, the overbooking, the ridiculous gimmicks.... wait, scratch that), the boys from Connecticut have just been perfecting the art. The booking of the Benoit vs. Jericho finish at Judgment Day was quite good (and CLEAN!), as was the way they handled it this Monday night. I wouldn't have used Venis this close to his return, but Holly needs the change and Jericho's presence will add the necessary crowd interest one more time. Speaking of which.. good lord, how over can a man be??? He didn't have to say a word in Indianapolis this week, his body language and presence were enough to send the crowd into a frenzy. Between his charisma and popularity, I'm sure I wouldn't be alone in comparing last spring's hottest free agent to Sting in his mid-80s glory days.

Elsewhere, the tag team division won't go away. The Hardys and T&A provided just about as perfect a match as could be expected for the time given, and really impressed me. Just as I was starting to lose faith in Matt and Jeff, they go out with another two guys that I'd never given a chance and light the place up. Hot crowd, constant action (dig the way there was NO time to rest throughout) and a buyable, clean finish.. what the hell's got into the WWF? And how nasty was Jeff Hardy's senton / swanton / superton bomb?

In the character development area, they snuck up on us with the Acolytes. Once a team that I dreaded seeing, they've become general hard-asses with some of the strongest character depth in the WWF. It's almost a treat to see them climbing into the ring... but then you realize their skills haven't really kept up with their gimmicks. Still, they're still a step and a half above anything WCW can offer. Bradshaw does have a mean clothesline. Elsewhere; we'd kidded about it, we'd laughed... and now it's come to pass. Dean Malenko and the Godfather. Need I say more?


Oh, Lord, the PAIN!
Now scarred-for-life referee Mickey Jay attempts to recover from an accidental glance up Tank Abbott's shorts, while the wCw superstar heads to the ring...

There there, big fella.
...to lend a gentle helping hand in Scott Steiner's hour of need. Steiner had just begun his new, Austin-esque "rebel" gimmick and, after pelting the audience with obscenities, accidentally drank a mouthful of Icehouse-brand "beer." Steiner's vomiting continued through the night and Abbott reportedly never left his side, cradling and cooing Big Poppa Pump like an infant.

Little Stinger #1
Vampiro gapes in surprise and agony, as Sting treats the viewing audience to a little frontal male nudity. Later, the former World Champion wowed fans by 'teabagging' the young star into submission.

Hand Job Central
...(I don't think much more can be said)...

Hey! It's THAT GUY!
Devon Storm wonders why he didn't go to the WWF, while that guy makes another unprecidented appearance in the front row. For a man that must be a millionaire, he certainly has poor taste.

Positively No Dumping
Chris Candido questions the integrity of placing a toilet in such an open area, while Shawn Stasiak admires his effort and Eric Bischoff begs with "Hard Knox" not to strain himself with the big ones.

Ever Get That Not-So-Fresh Feeling?
Embarrassingly, Kevin Nash forgot it was "his time of the month", leading to this little accident.

Dimpled Like a Golf Ball
The WWF Cameraman's dream shot (and the sick thing is, it's true.. enough with the Rikishi ass shots, please)

Kid Freaking ROCK?!
and this just parodies itself

So that's it. I had fun, and managed to toss out a halfway decent point for a change. Perhaps I'll get back to that subject in a column some time. For now though, it's back to my illustrious Horsemen project. With any luck, I'll have it completed by next week, so cross your fingers. It's slowly becoming a better time to watch wrestling again, so long as you skip most of WCW (and that's coming from somebody that would watch Nitro religiously not a year and a half ago). As always, thanks for reading. And a big welcome back to Matt Spence, returning after several weeks away! Hoo haaa.
until then, i remain

Friday, May 19, 2000

The World's Greatest WWF Judgment Day 2000 Preview

With the WWF breaking their string of disappointing PPVs in last month's Backlash event, things seem to be on the rebound once more this time. Each of the WWF's 2000 events have looked absolutely spectacular on paper, and though the main events have been somewhat lacking (here comes the critical e-mail), the undercards have more than made up for it. So it goes this month, as the Radicals seem ready for the split that's been anticipated since their arrival, Benoit and Jericho seem ready to blow off their feud in the next couple months with a dynamite submissions match, and the tag team champions side up with Kurt Angle as replacements for the Radicals, feuding with Too Cool. Though I won't go so far as John in saying the entire undercard's bound to rock more sheep than a drunken farmer on a Friday night (TM & copyright Matt Spence. Where are ya?), I'll agree it holds quite a bit of potential. As for the main event, I'll applaud the WWF; they've got balls, and they've got everybody talking about their product. It's got the hype Vince was hoping for, and I think HHH and Rocky are finally ready to let this beast blow off with the big Iron Man match. I'm far from convinced the match is gonna be pretty, but I'll gladly put my hands together for it. It's garnered interest that was surprisingly lacking from their Backlash encounter, with a Michaels appearance there to seal the deal. It's HHH's big night, and if he runs with the ball he's home free.

The Dudleys vs. Road Dogg & X-Pac w/Tori
Tables Match

As lame and pale an imitation of DX as we're seeing right now.. it would be even worse if Billy Gunn were around. The Dudleys and X-Pac are worth every penny in the ring, and these are the type of opponents X-Pac compliments best. Thus, the match should logically showcase a distinct Dudley advantage, as they tear X-Pac apart bit by bit. The inevitable tide turner will come about as Pac gets the tag to the Road Dogg. We'll watch him drop the same knee, hit the same punches, and then try that silly pump handle slam. With any luck, he'll try it on D'Von.. which would be reversed right into the 3-D. I'm going with the Dudleys here, since they put over T&A last month. The Tori story (snort) will be played up a bit more than it should be here, and Buh Buh may tease a powerbomb through the table. I don't think we'll see it Sunday, though. By the way, I forgot to throw out some kudos Tuesday morning for her spot on Raw.. she took a mean dive, and didn't flinch on her way down. It's got my respect.
Winners: The Dudley Boyz

Eddy Guerrero w/Chyna vs. Dean Malenko vs. Perry Saturn
European Title Match

Shit, when did the European title become so talent-heavy? Essa Rios and Eddy last month, Dean and Perry this time. The belt's recovering its past legacy in a hurry, and is quickly escaping the reigns of such deserving competitors as Mideon and Shane McMahon. With Eddy breaking through as a big time crowd favorite, interest should be higher than usual for this one. Dean's been on a tear of late, especially following his well received LHW title match against Scotty last month and Saturn earned my respect months ago. All signs point at Perry grabbing his first WWF gold here, and that's what I'll be looking for. Words can't really describe how nice this match could be, and I hope it acts as the kind of Hardy Boy-esque breakthrough the Radicals need as their split becomes official.
Winner: Perry Saturn

Kurt Angle, Edge & Christian vs. Too Cool & Rikishi

I love Kurt Angle, Edge and Christian. Strong heels who know what they're doing in the ring and on the stick, they're doing a damn fine job with their present roles. Too Cool and Rikishi I could live without, but they're over enough so I'll allow it for another month or two. This looks to be speckled with a generous serving of Rikishi ass shots (what sick bast backstage keeps plastering those all over my television, anyway? BAD! BAD!) and a good amount of action. Like I've said before, aside from his redundant gimmick, Rikishi keeps up remarkably well for a big man. Too Cool isn't in the form they were in a year ago, but they're still miles above average. And you know my opinion on the heels. I'm going with Too Cool and Rikishi, to even out the heel vs. face scores of this card a bit. It could just as easily go the other way, though.
Winners: Too Cool, Rikishi and the Ass that won't go away

Shane McMahon vs. Big Show
No Disqualification Match

Not surprisingly, I'm already sick of this one. Shane takes a nasty bump, and the Show's moveset relies pretty heavily on an opponent that knows how to make him look good. If we get more than 20 minutes of this goodness, things'll get uglier than a nude Mae Young bronco buster. I'll go with Shane, through some sneaky, dirty, underhanded tactics. Since the younger McMahon man has been pretty confident lately, it leads me to believe he's got something up his sleeve. Let's all hope it's not the Undertaker. Talk about a momentum killer.
Winner: Shane McMahon

Chris Benoit vs. Chris Jericho
Intercontinental Title - Submission Match

Rumors swirl around the conclusion of this one as well, claiming Benoit will pass out from the pain while locked into the Walls of Jericho. Somehow, this is supposedly all gonna result in a face turn for Da Cripplah.. and if that's what they've got planned, it won't work. Not yet, anyway. The WWF fans haven't been given reason to care about Benoit as a heel just yet, which would make a face turn largely unsuccessful. Case in point; the Dudley Boyz. Their recent run-in to save the Rock was a wildly popular turn, but only because we didn't expect it. They did so well as heels that when it was time to turn face, we cared enough to back it all the way.

Of course, this talk is all hypothetical. It's based on a prediction that hasn't come true just yet, and I'm willing to bet won't. In a dream world, these two would go half an hour to 45 minutes in a grueling fight to the death. Benoit would escape the liontamer (look how i said the Liontamer, and not the Walls Of Jericho. If Jericho doesn't whip out the old-school, vicious Liontamer Sunday night I'll be very disappointed), and Jericho would survive the Crossface. It would be a lesson in crowd control, building and executing spots, and keeping an arena hot throughout a grueling submission. In the end, both would take a major spot and wouldn't be able to answer a 10-count, resulting in a rematch the next night on Raw. In the rematch, Jericho would lock Benoit into the Walls when HHH makes the all-important run-in and jumps all over Y2J. Benoit gathers himself, rises, and turns on HHH. Together, the two chase him off and you've got a successful turn. Y2J keeps his credibility and moves on to feud with HHH, Benoit keeps the belt and starts a face run on the right foot. I guess I'm not the booker, though. I'm going with Benoit just to stick up a big middle finger at those who believe everything they read on the 'net.
Winner: Chris Benoit

The Rock vs. Triple H
Ironman Match for the WWF Heavyweight Title

I pretty much covered this one in the introduction, aside from a few points. I'll continue to applaud Vince for this ballsy move, but for the match to live up to the hype both men are gonna have to put forth the effort of their lives. The comparison to Bret/Shawn at Wrestlemania XII is inevitable, so I may as well get it out of the way here.

The first Iron Man match is still the subject of a good amount of debate to this day, 4 years after the fact. While a good chunk of the viewing public calls this match the best of all time, a larger section calls it a disappointment. Not surprisingly, I count myself among the latter. You couldn't ask for a better opening and closing 15 minutes from these two, but the middle half hour was a straight up snore fest. Their pacing and timing were off, and that can be attested to the fact this was only their second official singles meeting. They hadn't found a good mesh of their styles yet, and they certainly weren't ready to go an hour. The result was a strong 15 minutes, a half hour of loosely assorted small spots and rest holds, and a slam bang closing 15 minutes.

Rocky and Hunter won't run into the same problems that Shawn and Bret did but I stand confident they'll find more than a few of their own. They've been working together long enough to know each other through and through, so a mesh of the styles isn't really an issue. I doubt the stamina of both men right now, and I doubt both have the moveset to go an hour without overlapping more than once. HHH mentioned on Raw there would be no overtimes, so I expect a competition of falls in this one.. which may very well be the key to keeping things interesting. It's gonna be hard to do, but I think Helmsley and the Rock may just surprise us this Sunday night. If not, well.. I guess all the pessimistic biatches like myself will strut for weeks to come. Call me a sheep in wolf's clothing, but I'm expecting a surprisingly good blowoff.

As for the conclusion, I'm looking for Michaels to be crucial. I won't call a turn in either direction, and I don't think the Undertaker will be making an appearance. If anything, I'm calling that because the WWF's been so obvious in their hyping of his return. Anybody remember last year's King of the Ring ads that called for the Big Show to "plow through 4 WWF superstars"? Vince loves to swerve us, and I'm willing to bet that's what all this is about. Then again, I may be swerving myself by expecting a swerve. Swerve, swerve, serve. Remember when stuff was surprising and out of the blue?

I've rambled on way too long already, so I'm putting my money on the Rock here. If Vince pulls another "Survivor Series Finish", he doesn't know when to quit and should be lynched live on Monday's Raw. It was entertaining once, it worked twice. The third time was a bit excessive and a fourth would be ridiculous.
Winner: The Rock

In Closing...

I'm spent. The WWF's really jumping on the ball with their PPVs, giving us more good than bad and failing to overbook as many good matches as in the past. Even the main event is a worthy bit of debate, which rises interest in a match that wouldn't have drawn anything without a gimmick. I was satisfied with the results of Backlash, and I really hope they can deliver with this, since it's an important card for more reasons than one. The main event will be HHH's proving ground. If a card with this many worthwhile matches retains the crowd's interest throughout, the WWF may continue heading back to a wrestling atmosphere and away from showcasing story over substance. The Radicals are about to prove if they can make it alone in Connecticut, and Jericho needs one last great one to solidify a main event slot. Mark this one down, it could go down in history. Then again, we could see another Rocky/Mark Henry quality matchup. Wrestling's damn fickle. John? Send us home with some words of wisdom.
until next time, i remain

Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Ringside Shadows #121: Inspired Writings

You know, between the nast of the hyped Vince Russo / David Flair video, the stank of a long-deserved title reign for a nameless ho, and the injustice of the Hogan vs. Kidman vs. Hogan match, a couple rather decent shows managed to squeeze their way into our Monday evening programming. For the most part, both tried their best to give us something new, something inventive. Something worth the time of day. Though I wasn't really in the right mindset to appreciate it, I'll admit; last night aimed to please and for the most part, it delivered.

Shake It Up

Though they've done just about everything possible in an effort to attract new viewers, a couple ideas have stuck.. and for good reason. Some changes are cosmetic, others affecting the layout of the show as a whole. Chances are if they've stuck around this long, they're here to stay.. until another new wave of viewers is needed.

In what was likely to be a one-time shot, the old-school WCW entryway has made its triumphant return in the month past. While it served one main purpose at the PPV that saw its return, the tall ramp has added a whole new dimension to possible offense and wrestler entrances to the otherwise humdrum WCW set. Where the WWF's athletes are just beginning to scratch the surface of their entryway possibilities, WCW's got years of history from which to work and expand. It's been years since the days of a Sting / Cactus Jack grudge (featuring a heavy use of the rampway), and I'd like to think such a groundbreaking feud could be on the horizon once more today. In a day that would just as soon spit on the past as learn from it, it's nice to see the comeback of something distinctly WCW.

On the other hand, I'm afraid the number of viewers has been hopelessly outnumbered by the sheer mass of announcers clouding Nitro's announce tables. To appoint Scott Hudson was a good choice (a choice I would've made months ago, when he auditioned for the role), but to do so alongside Mark Madden makes things a bit too crowded for my dollar. Once the occasional workers make their way down to offer commentary, things get completely out of hand. The superb Flair vs. Jarret main event was almost completely marred as FIVE men screamed over one another, with topics ranging from the match at hand to Russo's wardrobe. Something needs to be done.

The Goldberg monster truck is a silly idea.. but it provides its share of entertainment, as well. Don't get me wrong, I'm not among the mass that thinks a popular athlete is at his best atop a fifteen foot truck.. memories of the Hogan / Giant "sumo truck" incident spring to mind.. I don't really enjoy watching qualified drivers in those things anymore. No, my fun comes in observing the overly powerful Goldberg truck as it gets stuck on top of the car it's meant to be crushing time and time again. It's two for three in that aspect, but who's counting? Maybe it really is Goldberg up there..

Finally, I'm all about the main event curtain jerker. Using Sting/Vampiro to open the program was a good theory, and might help their first hour ratings a bit in the weeks to come. Though the match itself didn't live up to its expectations, the move is a wise one. If WCW can show what audience it's got left they're willing to give us quality from the opening bell, they might find themselves back in the game sooner than we've all predicted.

The Main Eventers

Let's go back a year, shall we? If you'd been told the May 15th, 2000 edition of Raw is War would feature a Chris Benoit vs. Rocky submission match main event that featured a Chris Jericho run-in.. would you have honestly believed a word of it? To tell the truth, one year ago I was still having trouble grasping HHH as a credible main eventer. The job Vince has done, building a credible roster of main event champions, challengers and contenders in the absence of Austin, the Undertaker, Michaels, Foley and Kane, if nothing else proves he knows what he's doing. Sure, we've seen several of the same matches for the past 3 months now.. but they're each staying alive with new twists and new gimmicks and where I'm getting tired of the Rocky vs. HHH title matches, Benoit and Jericho have only scratched the surface. Mixing and matching partners has successfully elevated all four men to heights previously unreachable, not to mention giving us something nice to watch. With two superb workers, one worthwhile athlete and one carryable entertainer (Rocky..), the chances are pretty good that we'll get a good match out of the toss up. I won't complain.

The Youth Trip

Above most everything else, this past Monday was an evening in which most of the youth took a step back and watched.. or screwed up of their own right.

Crowbar and Chris Candido led a series of follies in the ring, culminating in what had to have been one of the worst missed spots of the year (that "on again, off again piledriverbomb") atop the new entryway. The intergender violence debate is apparantly not even an issue anymore. Nor is building a believable match, apparantly, as the two not presently involved in the match would stand by, about a foot away, and calmly await their turn. What could've been a decent match was instead relegated to a mixed-tag brawl for the cruiserweight title and another flash in the pan title reign. I'm not ready to write the upcoming Candido / Crowbar feud off just yet, but if last night was any example.. well, last night wasn't any kind of example. Perhaps I expect too much..

This space would normally be reserved for my bitching about the Hogan vs. Kidman match, Hogan's lack of selling.. yadda yadda. But I'm beyond the point of caring. Maybe I'd say something if the Hulkster did something extraordinary, but with things cruising along as they are.. I guess I'm desensitized to it. What once held promise as the strongest angle of the bunch is now pretty well extinguished. It's nice to see the man in yellow's willing to elevate his nephew, though.

While David and Vince wandered through the Flair estate, Daphne nearly saved the segment in the backdrops. Inversely though, her crazed mentality wasn't really suited for the ring, especially not during the supreme promo of the Flairs. She's a good asset to the company, but they need to learn when enough's enough. However, while we're somewhere near the subject.. wasn't that promo masterful? Little Davey picked up one of his dad's traits pretty well.. too bad it's a clean miss on the rest.

Over on the other side of the pond, the Head Cheese has molded. While I'm sure Al Snow and Blackman are going somewhere with this new angle of theirs, I fear the whole thing's about to be axed before it gets a chance to play out. When 90% of the audience isn't getting the joke, and the others just don't think it's funny.. maybe it's time to find something new. Like I said.. one year ago, Chris Benoit and Jericho weren't near the main event. Al Snow had a shot though, and it wasn't given a chance. It's really too bad, since his work rate generally reflects his stance in the company.

Remember Hardcore Holly? He's in the same boat. His "Big Shot" gimmick was generally pretty well recieved, and brought his career out from the shithole. Where the hardcore division pretty much defined him, his "cousin" has since taken that role. What's left is a man without a purpose, and he needs something new. Soon.

Fifteen Time...

Really quickly, just how cool was that Nitro main event? Though I'm afraid Raw will slaughter it once again in the ratings, Ric and Jeff put on an old school matchup with a few modern twists to keep it fresh. How long has it been since we've seen a World Title decided by a schoolboy? With everyone expecting a Flair loss leading into his retirement match at GAB, this came out of left field and I really enjoyed it. Aside from the announcing (which I eventually muted) and the recent title changes (which took from the match's importance), this one was worthy of another showing. Though Jarrett's already dropped the belt three times now, he's getting his chance to run with the big boys and he's living the dream. This is one that should've been saved for the PPV and given a bit more time. Bravo.

To wrap things up, I've an interesting little debate as conducted through e-mail this past week. It's worth your while, so check it out.. coming to us from cgbeltz@prodigy.net

In your last column I noted that you said Jeff Jarret, gets proportinally as much heat as Triple H. Yet, don't you think that the reason Triple H gets more audience, more attendance, more heat is because people would actually rather see him and what he has to say rather than JJ? I mean they are both the top heels, both in the main event picture. If JJ was really getting such great heat, why don't more people tune in to see him rather than HHH when the shows are running at the same time? Sorry to drag on, just thought it was a little jaded of a point you were making.

Hey, no problem. I love a good debate.

At this point, I think it's a bit unfair to expect any one man, face, heel or behind the scenes to take full charge and responsibility for the state of their ratings. As of right now, the WWF is so hot they could throw a big hunk of ass out to the masses and still double the ratings TNT is pulling in. HHH and Jarrett have neither been on top long enough to make a dent in the slow-motion see-saw game of the ratings. Sure, HHH has been in the main event for nearly a year now, but WCW was giving us some real crap programs near the end of 1997, early 1998 and were still light years ahead of the WWF in the ratings aspect of things.

For my money, I'd rather see Jeff Jarrett walk, talk, work and whistle than HHH. Now, my love affair (or lack thereof) with Helmsley is well-known by this point, however I'll give credit where credit is due. He's pulling in some of the most solid heel heat in the world, and he's doing it steadily. Where the Dudley Boyz or Kurt Angle may be doing a better job as heels, they're both on the verge of becoming faces due to the fickle audiences. HHH (and Jarrett, for that matter), has been mercilessly booed for the majority of his run, and that's something that's really underrated and overlooked today. It's hard to remain hated without becoming 'cool' in the process. Jarrett's woes aren't just limited to bizarre booking, a failing program and a discredited title belt.. they're seeds that have been planted long ago by the likes of Hogan and Nash, Sid and Sullivan. His lower stature has more to do with the legacy of WCW than his performance.. and though that's a rough thing to deal with, it's something he knew coming in.

However, to answer your inquiry; I don't think people tuning in or out for each man has anything to do with their individual performance.. it's the channel they're on. Sometimes I wonder how the ratings would look if WCW appeared on USA and the WWF on TNT.. just once. It's got a lot more to do with habit than any of us really want to admit. Thanks, at any rate, for the great letter.

That should wrap it up for me.. I'll apologize for this column, as like I said.. I wasn't into things last night. Work started up for the summer this go 'round, and with the big Horsemen column I've got in the works I guess I'm already a bit burnt out. Once the upcoming beast gets posted, I guarantee it's worth your while. And maybe we'll get our old drq back, as a bonus.

Thanks, as always for taking the time to get this far.
until then, i remain

Friday, May 5, 2000

The World's Greatest WCW Slamboree 2000 Preview

I'm looking to eliminate the overly pessimistic view I've used in the past, so it's time to grit my teeth and jump in headfirst. Actually, it won't be so hard after all. With DDP and Jarrett working together for the second straight month (this time incorporating a gimmick, necessary to keep things new), Mike Awesome clashing with the heavily underrated Chris Kanyon and Shane Douglas's age-old grudge with Ric Flair finally concluding with a head on meeting, Sunday is far from the worst card WCW could produce. The Cat isn't in action, so that alone's reason enough to rejoice.. and I haven't even mentioned the Sting/Vampiro feud, which leads the early 'feud of the year' competition in my opinion. While they've been slaughtered in the ratings (some might say rightfully so), Russo and Bischoff have indeed had a worthwhile impact on WCW's product. Sure, David Arquette's holding the world title. The old timers still dominate the card. Hogan still breathes, our battle isn't over just yet. Things still look brighter than they did just 2 short months ago.

Shawn "The Perfect One" Stasiak vs. Curt Hennig

Here's another case of WCW rushing to finish an angle that was taking longer to get over than they'd expected (also see: the Berlyn/Wall split). Where they should've had Hennig constantly chasing his replacement seeking revenge, they instead hurry to the climactic blowoff. Just don't expect anybody to cheer.
Winner: Shawn Stasiak... the new 'perfect'..?

Terry Funk vs. Screamin' Norman Smiley with mystery partner
Hardcore Championship Match

So how anti-climactic and silly was that 'mascot' bit during Nitro? I just kept telling myself it wasn't really Sabu, and fate smiled upon me. It wasn't. I wonder if Ralphus will appear by his lonesome to accompany Norman Smiley.. or will the Jerichoholic Ninja make his presence known as well? The comedic possibilities are there, but I don't think the whole Ralphus thing works without Jericho there to justify his presence and magnify the stupidity of it all. What the hell though.. I'll give Norman a shot before I condemn it. I won't give him the benefit of the doubt in this match though, and expect Ralphus (if that's really who it turns out to be) to be more of a distraction than a help.. more than enough to send Funk home with the belt.
Winner: Terry Funk

Chris Candido vs. The Artist
Cruiserweight Championship Match

Apparantly continuing their feud from a couple weeks ago, these two are ready to go at it despite little to no exposure on Nitro. I'm not sure Tammy was even properly introduced, though one can't say she didn't try. Unfortunately, the Cruiserweight division is suffering from many of the problems that plague the WWF's light-heavy belt. As the talent that made this belt special slowly dissipates, bit by bit, the belt can't help but fall into obscurity. Candido's a worthy champion, but the audience barely recognizes him and has been given no real direction.. should they cheer him or boo him? Fighting a former champion (!) in TAFKA Iaukea won't really produce a high flying match either, and it's a real shame. I fear it's just downhill from here.
Winner: Chris Candido

Mike Awesome vs. Chris Kanyon

If I had to choose two ideal opponents for Mike Awesome in WCW, I'd go with Crowbar and Kanyon. It's that simple.. both have the crowd skills to bring the fans into the feud and the speed, ability and willingness to keep up and trade bumps with the former ECW champ. If given a good 5-10 minutes of back and forth offense, these two could get the crowd on their feet and ready to enjoy the night, which is why I think it's a perfect curtain jerker. Though his association with DDP has raised his stock a bit, Kanyon isn't on the level to go over Awesome just yet. He'll make it a contest, but in the end an awesome bomb will seal the deal.
Winner: Mike Awesome

Buff Bagwell vs. The Total Package

Grab your schedulers, this one's my nomination for the official 'go take a piss, grab a beer, call your girl or get better acquainted with yourself' match of the night. I know, this is supposed to further the Team Package/Buff and Shane feud, but we haven't been given any reason to care about the participants or the outcome. Therefore, I'm exercising my right to do just that... not care. A coin toss has revealed the winner as:
Winner: Buff Bagwell

Scott Steiner vs. Hugh Morrus
Non Title Match

If this isn't an extended squash, WCW's fooling themselves as to the misfits' potential.
Winner: Scott Steiner

Ric Flair vs. Shane Douglas

I'll give it to these two.. they've set aside their differences (if momentarily) and agreed to work together as professionals for the betterment of WCW. While both aren't quite in the shape they've been in the past, and both haven't been exactly prominent on tv lately, they've still got enough in them to keep it interesting. We haven't really touched the tip of the possible iceberg in this feud yet, so I really hope Sunday doesn't act as a blowoff. Since he's moving on to main event the next big PPV though, I'd be crazy not to pick the Nature Boy.
Winner: Ric Flair

Sting vs. Vampiro

As if I haven't salivated over this feud enough. Vamp and Sting are pure dynamite together, be it working the matches, the vignettes or the chemistry of it all together.. something's just clicked. The crowds have been hot for it, and the feud has done wonders for both men. Seeing as how both men can be really good in the ring if properly motivated, this is another one that could rock the casbah. To give the feud legs, I'm taking Vampiro through questionable tactics, though it could just as easily go the other way and maintain its hype.
Winner: Vampiro

Hulk Hogan vs. Billy Kidman
With Special Referee Eric Bischoff

Yeah, like Hogan's gonna take the clean pin here. Seeing as how Kidman has yet to land more than a few cheap shots over the course of a full month, while Hogan's run through his moveset thrice over, it's pretty elementary from here. No audience in the world could buy Kidman's chances here, so I really hope his new 'Jericho-esque' personality takes off. Each time Hogan's been set up on a table with Kidman up top, I've been sitting on the edge of my seat looking for the resurfacing of the shooting star press, and I've got a feeling Sunday night may be the right place. To do right by me, Hogan doesn't have to do the job here.. he just needs to make Kidman look formidable. Let him land more than a jab or two. Lay down for a near fall once or twice.. give the fans a show, and for god's sake don't hulk up. Win it like a man, not through no-selling. Oh yeah, and if Hogan takes the shooting star press I'm looking for, I'll go a month without saying a negative about him. He'll have earned my respect.
Winner: Hogan

David Arquette vs. Jeff Jarrett vs. DDP
WCW Championship Match in the Triple Cage

I think I've pretty well covered this one between last month's preview and my introduction. If Arquette isn't eliminated immediately, the match quality will certainly take the big step down.. but I figure Bischoff and Russo know they've done wrong here (I hope?), and to cut the angle off ASAP. I'm still of the firm belief that Jarrett and DDP could have a dynamite meeting sometime down the line, perhaps even Sunday night. After regularly working with each other for a couple months, they're beyond the feeling-out stage and appear ready to start trying something exciting. The addition of the cage is interesting, though I seriously doubt either will be taking the Foley-esque bump that looms in the back of everyone's minds (don't tell me it never crossed your mind! liar! liar!). If these two can combine their technical skills and throw in some crowd-pleasing spots, along a breakneck pace, I think this could be one helluva match. My money's on Page, with Jarrett taking the belt back on Nitro for an extended reign. In order for this New Blood angle to work, they need Jarrett as a vocal champion and leader.
Winner: DDP

In Closing...

There remain a few rough spots on the card, but overall I'm impressed. If you'd been shown this card before the Bischoff/Russo coalition, you can't tell me you wouldn't accept it over Hogan/Sid or Sting/Vampiro v. Team Package. It's important that Vince and Eric keep putting out good Nitros (an area where they've been lacking in the last week or two), so when Raw does inevitably screw up the fans will be given reason to stay on TNT. This program's a start, so let's see how the follow-up rates.
until next time, i remain

Wednesday, May 3, 2000

Ringside Shadows #120: Like Bret Said

...so my half of the 'World's Greatest Backlash Preview' wasn't exactly heralded with sparkling reviews. In fact, it birthed one of the more unanimously negative collections of reader mail I've seen thus far. Where in the past I'd just brush it all off and move on, I've taken more than a couple minutes to sit back and really let this all sink in. It could be worse.. there could be nobody writing in, leaving me to my own methods (trust me, that would be a lot worse.) The way I figure, there's nothing to be gained from a 'me against the world' approach to Ringside Shadows. Much as I'd like to believe otherwise, no amount of bitching's gonna change the way things are. I can still enjoy a Benoit / Jericho match, whenever we're lucky enough to be treated to one.. I'm through centering on the negatives of the industry.

If this means I'm not motivated enough to write up a regular Tuesday Review, so be it. Honestly, I'm surprised I made it this long with such a rigorous schedule. However, I'll make a promise to deliver something at least once a week.. probably more once finals conclude this Friday. I've already brainstormed a couple worthwhile ideas in between marathon study sessions, and co-writing with a nameless fellow columnist or two isn't out of the question either. Don't get this wrong, I'll still be around to let you know when something sucks a harsh bottom.. I'll just be doing it a helluva lot less.

So before we jump into a quick rundown of this week's happenings, I'll share the quote that inadvertantly brought about thse drastic changes.. as posted by Bret Hart in his Calgary Sun column this past week.

"Being a wrestling champion used to be a symbol of who was the best wrestler. Now they hand the belt to whomever will get the most people to tune into the storyline that Monday night. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. Purists can complain, but the truth is ratings have never been higher. I just wish they'd stop calling it wrestling because that's not what it is any more.."

Not exactly the cheeriest of quotes, but I figure if Bret can accept what the sport's become.. well, I may as well give it a shot.

With all that said, this week's programming didn't give me much a chance to get off on the right foot.. so, let's hear it one last time for the overly pessimistic Tuesday Review! The last of its kind..

"Earl Hebner ... the People's Hero"

This obnoxious headline towered over the majority of the WWF.COM Raw Report, much to my chagrin. Here's something I've been looking for in the big two for quite a while.. a referee that doesn't go down after an inadvertant tap, slap or nudge.. and they slap it right on the kisser of the devil himself, Earl Hebner. Vince's shameless attempts to get this bast over following his honesty-shattering betrayal at the infamous '97 Survivor Series have been nothing short of staggering. Anything that could've possibly hung over Earl in an unfavorable light has been avoided. Hebner was at the helm when Austin took the belt multiple times, and often celebrated in the ring with him post-match. On the house show circuit, Hebner was "the cool ref that drank beer and gave the crowd crotch chops". Earl's to blame for Y2J's recent "championship" win. Now he's leading the refs against the heel factions of the Federation.

McMahon's intentions may be well (if Hebner were a heel after the SS, fans would've likely torn him apart. Where Vince is certain to have a big crew maintaining his wellbeing, Earl wouldn't be as lucky), but they aren't changing my opinion of the man.

Leading By Example.. Part Deux

One week beyond his cryptic statement, Hogan continued his path to enlightenment. Just for argument's sake, I'll keep this beast going for another week; comparing Hogan's leadership to that of his "Millionaire's Club" cohorts, Sting, DDP and Kevin Nash. Because we love him so, I'll start this one off with Mr. "FUNB" himself, the immortal Hulk Hogan.

Hogan's extended his program to include Mike Awesome, the Wall and Hulk's own nephew Horace as well as Kidman in his effort to build towards the future. Not even a group assault is enough to keep him down, which pretty well eliminates any hope of credibility in the near future for these guys. If three large, energetic young men can't keep an aging fallen star down, what hope have they against their equally hungry peers? The excuse of "building a cowardly heel," as used with Kidman, can't apply in this many cases at once.. can it?

Meanwhile, in a graveyard somewhere, Sting and Vampiro have quietly built one of the strongest feuds in any of the three major promotions. Originally paired as a tag team, the two have shown strong chemistry in the past few weeks as stars instead locked into a singles feud. Certainly, I could pick at this until the point was moot.. but I'm too entertained to really give it much thought. If WCW can build to a decent finish here(an area where they've been more than lacking in the past), things can look nothing but up for both men involved. Where Vampiro's enjoying the huge boost in status thanks to a prolonged give and take feud with WCW's resident franchise, Sting's slowly decaying career is accepting a breath of fresh air from the youth and vigor of it all. The crowd digs it, and they aren't the only ones.

Kevin Nash made the latest in a string of 'comeback' appearances this week, assuming the role of a taller Hulk Hogan in his little run with Kidman & co. See my comments about killing three careers at once for this one, since the two haven't done much differently between one another. Konnan and Rey's returns were both killed at once here, effectively labeling both as ineffective little ingrates. The same angle doesn't work for half the roster, guys.

Finally, DDP did his best to further elevate Jarrett and Abbott this past evening. While it was something of a step down from last week, one can't fault him for trying. He gave his all in an effort to get Tank Abbott over as the monster truck, plowing over the roster and succeeded as well as any can be expected.. especially considering what he had to work with. His main event with Jarrett this Sunday shouldn't be nearly as worthless as the proposed Hogan vs. Sid event of one month past would've been.. though the stipulation can only lead to a big letdown. Well.. that or a fatality.

The New Blood... Both of Them

After reading the defense of Kidman's new character (a "cowardly heel,") I looked for signs this week, and was actually surprised to see a couple. Kidman cut a superb promo this time around, especially considering the dreadfully long wait for Nash's arrival. For somebody new to the stick, he's got more than a little potential.. but the role isn't meant to elevate (which is what the higher-ups are promising this angle's aiming to do.) As is the case with Vampiro / Sting, the real measuring stick of this one will come with its conclusion. A firm, difinitive finish could seal the whole deal up nicely, while a lingering feud that ends with a whimper would destroy all the hype that's gathered this far.

Speaking of cowardly heels, Jericho seems headed back to the days of old.. or are we just being led to believe it? God knows I'd love a return to his heel persona over the silly, crowd pleasing face he's become.. though I'm sure that isn't a popular opinion. Chris seems to work harder as a heel, he'll use his imagination. Who doesn't remember his trip to DC in WCW, or his ability to get everyone over, be it the anti-personality Dean Malenko, Ultimo Dragon or Prince Iaukea? You loved to hate him, and that's something the industry's missing right now. It all started when Jericho 'snapped' and put Penzer into the Liontamer.. let's hope we can see more of the same, only with a WWF twist.

While we're on the subject of added twists, how about the new Mr. Perfect, Sean Stasiak? It's been nearly a decade since the ultra silly Hennig promos in the WWF, and I figure it wouldn't take that much creativity to upgrade the gimmick.. but apparantly I ask too much. As is, I quickly tire of Stasiak's cracks at the past.. and his ringwork isn't comparable to Hennig in his prime, much less perfection. At least Curt could do what he was attempting, without the aid of multiple cutaways. It may have taken him a while (according to the Dynamite Kid's bio, several hours), but he did it.

I really like Edge and Christian's new gimmick. It's introducing them to the mic, it's given them a recognizable personality for the first time, and it's given them direction. As cocksure, silly heels they're really impressing me (Referring to Test and Albert as 'T' and 'A', respectively, was great stuff). If the follow-through's as impressive as the teaser's been, I'm willing to strap in for the ride.

Does Mark Madden understand what he's saying whenever an 'attractive' young lady comes down the aisleway? "Snootchie Bootchies" isn't a reference to women, Mark...


Because I'm too lazy to respond and post feelings on the same matters here, I'll post some of the ventings of my readers. That works well, I guess.

edfinley@uswest.net leads off the mail parade;

"I'm sorry but I don't understand some of your comment sin your back lash preview. You say the Light heavy weight title is going to be canned due to lack of interest and feuds. Maybe you don't pay much attention to the WWF but it is apparent to almost EVERYBODY that Scotty 2 Hotty and Malenko have been feuding every since Malenko came into the the WWF and have been feuding over the lightweight title every since Malenko won it. As for lack of crowd interest I have yet to see a light heavyweight tile match (except Rios vs Malenko) where the crow didn't get into it by the end so I don't see where that complaint comes from.

Next you complain about the Dudleyz lack of a push, So what are you saying the WWF should have done. Continue there feuds with E and C and and the Hardyz going and going without ever elevating any other team to get involved in it? So those three teams could of just feuded till the next WM without ever elevating another team because that would be a sign of a depush huh?

Then you say to elevate Jericho he should lose clean? HOW the HELL would that elevate him? How would somebody buy him as a world title threat after losing clean in an IC title match? and don't try to use the Bret Hart/Austin comparison either. It was totally different in that at the time Austin was a heel and heel lose cleanly, it wasn't till after the match that he became a face."

I'll start off with a universal thanks for taking the time to write.. it does mean a lot to get feedback, guys, and while I can't promise I print everything, I will do my best to respond in a timely manner. You're the reason I'm here, and don't think I don't know it. That holds true for all of the letters about to follow.. even the last one.

Getting down to it, I never said the lightweight division would absolutely be canned.. I just figure it's only a matter of time. Vince has never been high on the cruisers to begin with, and he's always on the lookout for an excuse to kill the division once again. Granted, the inclusion of Too Cool has sparked some interest in the once-sad competition.. but I still don't think it's enough. With the audience being as it is today, no action-heavy division really has a hope of survival.. least of all one that features Dean Malenko, the antithesis of personality. I'd love to see it work, and I'll eat my words if it does.. but I'm still not convinced it's a done deal.

Moving on to the Dudleys, I don't think the WWF should've stuck with the three teams featured at Wrestlemania, however the World Champions are always given a rematch after losing their belts. Always. It's nearly tradition. Instead of the Dudleys though, X-Pac and Road Dogg get the nod, which is pretty nonsensical. Buh Buh Ray's angle with Trish was fun while it lasted, but I think it would've been better served later in the game for the Dudleys. After winning the titles, they've pretty well stagnated in the ranks while the others passed them by.. that's why I claim they've been "depush"ed.

Finally, my claims with Jericho and Benoit were also built on something of a tradition. Before moving on to full fledged main event status, a worker will lose clean to the man that's supposed to fill his shoes in the midcard. Take a look back, Hart did it with his brother Owen (not Austin), Rocky did it with HHH, and Flair did it with Bret (way back). Sure, Jericho may not be making the leap to main event just yet.. in which the point is moot.. but in this day and age of crash TV and short attention spans, it would seem to make sense and remain a tradition worthy of upholding.

G MEN27@aol.com had a thing or two to say about HHH;

"You still aren't giving HHH any credit? Can you honestly say that he hasn't improved over the past 6 months or so? I know you won't agree, but I say he is the best heel champ since the days of Flair. I'm not saying HHH is near the worker Flair was, but he plays a heel well. What I don't understand, is that you praise guys like Jarrett and DDP, when they are not as over as HHH and they haven't been in as many huge main events this year. I mean the way you talk about Jarret, you' would think you were talking about Mitshura Misawa. Jarrett is a good worker, but is he that much better than HHH? I get the feeling that you don't HHH because he doesn't have a great moveset, but he sells for EVERYBODY, even Taka and Vince Mc Mahon. While everyone, including Meltzer, is at least giving HHH some credit, you continue to ridicule him with your little sarcastic comments( Which in all honesty are getting quite annoying). The way you talk about him you would think he was some jobber. Hell, when workrate freaks like Matt Spence are giving him credit, you have to stand up and take notice. I mean come on, man...no pun intended, what are you getting brainwashed by Blasingame?"

I'd thought I had given HHH credit earlier in the preview, praising his ability as a successful, long-running heel champ. I just don't think he's up to the level of carrying Rocky to a good match. Not yet, anyway. Jarrett may not have the public acceptance of HHH (which, in itself, is actually pretty debatable. I'd figure Jarrett's getting proportionally equal heel heat, considering the limited audience. So yeah, I'd take his better workrate and moveset to HHH's long promos any day. But this is getting off the point), but he's giving it just as much effort.. an area where both should be commended.

I don't like Hunter as a character, face or heel, but I'll admit he's doing a well enough job in his main event role. He contrasts Rocky decently, and he gives it an effort while in the ring, which is a lot more than can be said for most. By all means, I should be enjoying his stuff, but there's something missing that I just can't put my finger on. Maybe it's a catch.. something. He still hasn't made the full transition to a prime time role, worthy of carrying the company in my opinion, but you're right.. I have been too down on him. Gaining my respect is a difficult task, but Helmsley has it over somebody like the Rock or Hulk Hogan.

Joe N. (phace66@hotmail.com) had an interesting idea of his own, which ties into my next column;

"I like the idea of HHH keeping the belt, but I think he needs a new stable. I think he should go with an old 4 Horseman gimmik. HHH as the leader dumping DX and the McMahons. He could have the man who needs no gimmick as his ass kicking right hand man in Chris Benoit. He then could go get himself two henchmen to do his dirty work. How bout those two he had whup upon the Rock awile ago in the Dudley Boys. All these guys should get long runs with there respective belts, but there main goal is to keep the World Title around HHH."

Not a bad idea, really. There's no question DX and the new McMahon-Helmsley regime isn't getting any fresher as the weeks go on (though it's nowhere near the longevity record, the rambling nature is reminiscent of the nWo's downfall), and a HHH split and reformation would benefit the individuals, the former friends and colleagues, and the federation as a whole. The Four Horsemen are one of the few things left sacred in an industry ravaged by our generation, and they'll be the subject of my next column (If anybody's been around this long, they were actually the subjects of Ringside Shadows #2, also.) A modern day version would seem empty without Flair, but if anyone could've taken the reigns from him, it would've certainly been Chris Benoit. Where he's missing in the mic department, HHH could ramble along enough to cover while the Crippler learns. Malenko made a nice addition to the four in WCW, so he'd take the slot of the technician in the WWF.. which leaves room for a powerhouse. If he weren't occupied in WCW, Mike Awesome would be a premiere choice.. but what about Tazz?

It's a fun thought, and the Dudleys would certainly fill the roles as well. The subject is always open for debate, and the stable is one of my favorite wrestling angles throughout history.

Thanks for the e-mail, Joe..

Taking us home, James A Holt (rock001@juno.com) followed up the literary masterpiece of his subject line ("YOU GUYS SUCK") with this moving transcript;

"YOU SUCK DICKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"


And so goes the last really pissy Tuesday Review. I'll be working on the said 4 Horseman piece all through this week and into the next, so expect to see it sooner rather than later. I've several more surprises lined up for the rest of the summer (assuming I have time to get to all of them), so keep your eyes peeled... it's sure to be fun.
until then, i remain