Friday, August 30, 2002

Ringside Shadows #187: The New Radicals

Well, I suppose now's as good a time as any to rust off these old chops and try my damndest to punch out a new run of columns. What with the new Oratory sitting on our doorsteps and a renewed excitement surrounding the potential of elevation in the WWE, one can almost forget the ass-tastic booking we were seeing less than three weeks ago and dive headfirst into the writing pool once again. On my plate for this week? A modified trip down memory lane.

Hard to believe it's been nearly two and a half years since Chris Benoit, Eddy Guerrero, Perry Saturn and Dean Malenko made headlines by leaving their old stomping grounds in the dust. But alas, time flies... even if many of the members of this ragged, "who woulda thunk it" group of shooters aren't exactly having fun.

It's taken a year for the group's most high profile member, Chris Benoit, to recover from neck surgery. Perhaps even more devestating than the time away from the ring was the timing. Benoit finally seemed poised for a successful run at the top of the fed, after an unbelievable month leading up to the 2001 King of the Ring, when the neck injury sidelined him. And, while it's great to see the Crippler back in action once again, it's a tough pill to swallow that we'll likely have to wait some time before such an opportunity presents itself for a second time.

Eddy Guerrero, likewise, has been through the wringer over the last year. In the midst of a potentially huge storyline of his own with the Hardys, Guerrero was suddenly taken off television the day before he was scheduled for a KOTR qualifying match against Matt. While "Latino Heat" endured rehab for an addiction to pain killers, the Hardys went on without him and the storyline fell by the wayside. Months later, Guerrero appeared ready for a big return to the federation when a DUI charge led to his complete release from the WWE. Now back with the federation, Guerrero's had a fire lit underneath him, cutting some of the best promos in the business and taking part in the best matches of his life, bar none. Perhaps he's making up for lost time.

Finally, both Malenko and Saturn haven't been seen on television in months... something I'd actually predicted to happen much sooner on the eve of their arrival those thirty months ago. Both were sound technicians, a skill that still had value during their tenure in WCW, but were sorely lacking in personality. To their credit, WWE tried to get these guys over, but their hearts weren't into it and before long Malenko was jobbing to Lita, while Saturn was carrying out a romance with a poor imitation of "Wilson" from the film Castaway.

So there's the rest of the story. On one hand you had the future of WCW, the heart and soul of the association's superb midcard roster, leaving as one for the competition. On the other, you had four men who were wrestlers first and sports entertainers second, leaving for a company where (and I'll quote Paul Heyman here) "wrestling is a dirty word." It was an angle with legs, a group of men betrayed by the company they'd stood by for years, doing everything in their power to tear it down. And, again to their credit, the Federation ran with it for quite some time. Hey, they even gave us a short-lived reunion, but by that time the four had all but gone their separate ways, finding their own unique niches on the card. In short, the Radicals had merged with the collective. Their goals were the same as those of the rest of World Wrestling Entertainment.

The entire concept of Benoit, Guerrero, Saturn and Malenko as Radicals, men who weren't meant to be seen on McMahon airwaves, was no longer applicable. Especially since the demise of WCW, there's no way to logically further their part of the story. However, the concept itself of a radical, someone "favoring or effecting revolutionary changes in current practices or institutions" (thanks,!) has never been more appropriate.

The current WWE is certainly something in dire need of change. As a monopoly of the wrestling scene in every possible meaning of the word, Vince McMahon's baby has all the power in the world. If you want to work in North America, you've got to bow before the mighty Titan Towers. You must become a card carrying member of the "Vince McMahon Kiss My Ass Club." And you've got to love every minute of it.

It's a sad state of affairs, surely, and if the federation wasn't so big headed as to overlook its own flaws, they'd see the opportunity for a tremendous angle therein. They need the Radicals now, more than they've ever needed them, but a reunion of the former WCW-ites isn't what I'm talking about. What they need is a new force to be reckoned with, the kind of fear the nWo by all means should have inspired. A new set of Radicals, someone to take the mantle crafted by the first four and twist it into something uniquely their own. Sure, the four would logically and legally have to be on WWE's payroll to portray such a role, but the magic would come in convincing the fans otherwise.

So who's important enough to make this thing convincing? Who's controversial enough to keep people talking? Who's sound enough to make the payoff matches exciting? Well, I've got a couple ideas.

Juventud Guerrera
Yeah, you heard right. The guy who tore his clothes off in Australia and was unceremoniously dumped from WCW. The guy who fearlessly instigated a bitter on-air, cross-promotional verbal war with none other than the Great One, Rocky Maivia. One of the greatest cruiserweight champions you will ever see. And, most importantly, the most charismatic son of a bitch in the world. See where I'm going with this? Despite his small frame, Guerrera would be something of the centerpiece of this stable. His "never say die" attitude and willingness to speak his mind in any instance, even if the contents aren't pretty, is the sort of thing whole federations could be built around, let alone successful angles.

Plain as day, Guerrera is inspirational. He could lead people headfirst into a meat grinder if he honestly believed it would aid their cause. While you'd need a larger man to convincingly take the role of the leader, Guerrera would be always behind the scenes pulling at strings. His sharp tongue would get them neck deep in the kind of issues the new Radicals would need to be confronting, and the team's well rounded roster would in turn plow their way through the opposition.

Add to that the latest resurgence in the WWE Light Heavyweight / Cruiserweight / Lightweight / Featherweight / Really Small Guys Who Like the Top Rope division, and you've suddenly got a perfect opportunity for the domineering heel Juvi. If this stable's going to work, you need a cruiserweight and you need a mouthpiece. Juventud fills both roles to perfection.

Jeff Jarrett
Talk about a man mired in personal controversy with Vince. Double J's ongoing saga reads like a bowl of spaghetti; lots of twists and turns, a few chunks and some sloppy bits. Everything in the world has been leading to a Jarrett / McMahon feud, no matter how unintentional. You had Jarrett doing the right thing on his way out of Titan, working the night after his contract expired to put over the new Intercontinental Champion. On the last night of WCW, you had Vince responding by cutting down his former employee with no possibility of retort. McMahon basically told the viewing public there would be no place for the former World Champ in the new World Wrestling Federation, even before Jarrett knew the facts himself. It's the perfect continuation of the "McMahon as evil tyrant" storyline, and the real base of this whole revolution. While Juventud is the fire, Jeff is the catalyst, the spark if you will.

And, as if the multiple title reigns in various federations didn't speak for themselves, Jarrett can more than keep up in the ring. Feuds with RVD, Matt Hardy, or even former Radical Chris Benoit would be godsends to the upper midcard. Jarrett can walk the walk, talk the talk and run with the big boys. His inclusion with the group would lend a touch of credibility and familiarity, though perhaps not quite as much as the next member. Of course... if you're taking the heart out of the NWA: TNA before it's even begun, you may as well take its champion...

Ken Shamrock
Possibly lacking a bit in the controversy factor, Shamrock would here create his own. It's been years since we've seen the World's Most Dangerous Man in the Federation, and when he left we were led to believe he'd be back sooner rather than later. Now that he has returned to active contention in the squared circle, it's with Jarrett's own NWA: TNA, not within the familiar confines of WWE. You've gotta figure McMahon sees that as a slap in the face, though not nearly as stern a slap as the choice to join a stable directly opposing everything his federation currently stands for.

Shamrock, from what I recall, was sorely lacking on the mic. Instead of cutting long winded promos, Ken would allow his actions to speak for him. Rather than telling Vader all about how he would be turning random objects sideways and sticking them in unmentionable areas, Shamrock instead "snapped" and nearly crippled the Mastodon. While his unpredictability helped make him one of the WWF's most exciting stars, a little direction could turn him into a well oiled mechanism of destruction. Everything about his look, from his physique to that almost-blank stare, leads one to believe the former UFC champion would be easily led. I'd be counting on Guerrera and Jarrett to exploit that to the fullest. Imagine a berserk Ken Shamrock tearing into Brock Lesnar... while the former NCAA champ would find himself looking to Paul Heyman for advice and direction, Shamrock would only need to be pointed in the right direction and cut loose.

Scott Steiner
You knew it was coming. One of the most outspoken guys in wrestling, from his expletive-laced promos to his out of control behavior backstage to his wildly obvious steroid abuse. To be taken seriously, these four would need someone ready, willing and able to absolutely decapitate the WWE main event scene. For my money, you need look no further than Scott Steiner. While he's far from the worker he was in his prime, Steiner has finally stepped forward into the prime time role he's been groomed for time and time again. Now, over a year out of action, he's rested. Anticipation for his arrival is at an all time high. He's ripe for the picking, and all it would take to launch him into the stratosphere is one killer angle.

I'd keep him off the stick whenever possible, as the promos these guys are cutting need to be sharp and to the point, but in the ring there would be no questioning Steiner as the physical leader. The man is absolutely brutal. One short squash would forever establish the four as an undeniable force, whether he busts out the Steiner Screwdriver or not. Just like his teammates, Scotty embodies everything the term "Radical" is all about. Anti-authority, cutting edge and perhaps a bit too honest for their own good.

Finally, because of the sheer nature of this entire angle, there's one guy I deeply considered and feel more than a little obligated to mention. He's the first, most obvious choice you could make for any sort of direct assault against Vince McMahon. He's a legend in his own right, and if Hulk Hogan could find a way to come back to the federation, it's possible that he could as well. Of course, I'm talking about Bret Hart. He's one man who could single handedly take this angle and make it work, no matter if he was backed by Shamrock, Steiner, Jarrett and Guerrera or the Big Show, Kane, Bradshaw and Billy Gunn. In many ways, Hart is the original Radical, and I'd love to see him heading up something similar in Vince's league at any point in the future.

Certainly, there are more than a few things wrong with WWE as it is today. Whether the federation decides to tackle it backstage or in front of the cameras is still up in the air... but the fact remains that it does need to be tackled, and soon. Sooner or later, Vince is going to have to swallow his pride or have it forceably shoved down his throat. If it comes to that, it's my opinion that the men I've listed above are the right guys for the job.
until then, i remain

Monday, August 26, 2002

WWE RAW Review: 08/26/02

Really the first RAW I've seen in the last few months that I'd consider to be below average. I was riding on a high after Summerslam, and simply could not WAIT the 24 hours to see what they did with the Monday connection. Unfortunately, they fumbled the ball coming off their hot streak and did pretty much everything I'd hoped they wouldn't.

So the two top contenders for the title are Triple H and the Undertaker. Boy, I couldn't have seen that coming.. a guy who's just reaffirmed his slot as one of the company's top heels, or a guy who's stale as all fuck, just turned de facto face, kills every main event draw he's ever been involved with, and has no chance in hell of having a good match with somebody like Brock. The Undertaker has no business near the main event scene right now, and to be honest neither does Triple H. Both held the gold in the last six months, and both were resounding failures, yet they're still clinging to the title scene. Meanwhile, guys who could take the refreshing youthful aura that surrounded Sunday's event and turn it into a full blown revolution, are sitting with a thumb up their asses. I chastised Dave in The World's Greatest Summerslam Preview for worrying Booker's position in the WWE to death, but I'm starting to really see his point now, a mere 48 hours later. If you want to see a surefire feud that would draw, would establish two brand new main eventers, and would give everybody out there a fresh match, you couldn't look any further than Booker / Brock. But we can't have that...

Moving beyond the main event picture, RAW was just missing something. Everybody was off just a step, and the show never felt complete. The Snuka segment was predictable, as once I saw him on his way to the ring I was thinking "three minutes," and sure enough... here come the Island Boys. As Jay pointed out, Jericho was golden last night, but even his match was on the pissy side. Much as I enjoyed seeing shades of the Lyin' Heart of WCW, annoying fans right through a commercial break, I really didn't like the match that followed. It felt much less like a competition and much more like two guys just going through the motions.

Hell, even Kane's much-ballyhooed return didn't do it for me. He looked fired up as hell, and he's really put himself in great shape, but that new outfit is just atrocious. With the dropping of his original mask, they've completely obliterated every shred of his first, superbly designed wardrobe. He's now just a guy with a goofy mask and bright red clothes. And, to see such a visually stunning character go that route just makes me sad.

About the only good segment of the evening was that RVD / Dreamer match, which was just phenomenal. I've said it a couple weeks running now, but with the right build Tommy Dreamer could yet make it as a WWE uppercard talent. He's been on an absolute tear of late, and I've been loving every minute of it. Though he dropped the match and, ultimately, the title, there was no shame in doing so after a match like that. Big thumbs up here.

Scratch that, there were two good segments. I laughed my ass off watching the Undertaker, as he attempted to recover from running his bike into the black barricade, while circling the ring. This fan was just standing there staring, emotionlessly, as the Taker slowly backed up, nodded, and scooted away with his tail between his legs. It was like an awkward moment of silence, and it's not the first time I've enjoyed a silently comedic moment like that involving the Deadman.

For a killer hardcore match and an Undertaker fuck up, I give ye a...

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4

Friday, August 23, 2002

The World's Greatest WWE Summerslam 2002 Preview

Holy god, has the WWE actually managed to piece together a card worth getting excited over? There isn't one match on this sheet that I'm not looking forward to, and yes.. that even includes the Undertaker / Test connection. When Vinnie Mac announced pre-KOTR? that the tournament's winner would be in the Summerslam main event, there was this nagging voice inside my head that said this year's "#2 event" could be something special. It actually feels like Summerslam means something this year, which was something they couldn't do with last year's card, despite the fact it was one of the best shows of '01.

Undertaker vs. Test

Here's where we get to see how serious the creative team is about pushing the UnAmerican angle. If things continue the way they've been going, Test will land a few punches, which the Undertaker will no sell. The Taker will then hit all his signature spots, run to the back, beat up Lance and Christian, drag them to the ring, and pin all three of them separately. Then, Monday, all three will come out and try to look like main eventers anyway. See why this thing is hesitating on the runway?

I think the whole UnAmericans angle can really go places, but it has to start here. They'll never be considered threatening unless they have a serious main eventer in their midst, and it's looking more and more like Jericho is headed in a different direction. Test, surprisingly enough, is suddenly right there, and with a little nudge from the DeadMan, he might yet round the corner. He's finally started to become confident in the ring, and is evoking an air that sounds more like "Hey, I don't mind watching this guy," and less like "Harr.. his name is 'Test'. He used to be in 'T&A'."

Keep it short, keep it brutal, and keep the right man in charge. This could go somewhere. The Undertaker will have more than enough chances to get his heat back, but this could be Test's one shot at advancement. Let's go with the dirty Canadian.
Winner: Test

Eddy Guerrero vs. Edge

I'm really looking forward to this one, for many of the same reasons I'm looking forward to that last one. Like Test, both Edge and Eddy are right there, and with a big performance here, they could make their own way. It's not really Eddy I'm worried about, as he's been the most consistantly spectacular worker in the WWE since coming back. Edge, however, isn't nearly as sure of himself in the ring yet. His big rub alongside the Hulkster and his short feud with Y2J really did wonders for him, but the rest he's gonna have to do on his own.

Still, he couldn't have chosen a better dance partner. Like Lil' Davey said, this has the potential to be really good, and may yet steal the show on a very, very strong card. If Guerrero's on, he could drag somebody like the Big Show, kicking and screaming, to a watchable match. With somebody who can actually move about, Edge for example, he can do that much more.

Listen closely Sunday Night, and you might just hear the sound of two new stars being polished. It's a really tough call, because they both need it badly, but I'm gonna say Eddy needs it more. He's coming off a string of high profile PPV jobs, and a loss to Edge, no matter his ascending status, would be a major blow to his credibility.
Winner: Eddy Guerrero

Kurt Angle vs. Rey Mysterio, Jr.

I really haven't been watching SmackDown as much as I should. I miss Kurt, Chris and Eddy, and the lure of spoilers has been too great for me on many an occasion. Thus, I haven't seen much of the apparently-brief build for this one. Regardless, the meeting of styles alone is interesting enough to carry my interest over from that last match. Both these guys are the absolute best of their breed, with Kurt absolutely untouchable in the heavyweights and Rey playing a god?amongst the lightweights.

Matches like this have worked very, very well in the past. Take a look at old RAW and Nitro tapes if you don't remember, specifically Triple H vs. TAKA and Ric Flair vs. the very same Rey Mysterio. In my humble opinion, neither of the aforementioned heavyweights can hold a torch to Kurt right now, since it was late in Flair's career, so this one should be that much better. Psychology is really gonna be key here, with Rey's knees the likely area of concentration. They could take a cute, interesting match and make it classic with just a sprinkle of logical working on an appendage.

Not sure who needs it more here, which seems to be a real emerging trend in this issue of the preview. Rey needs a big 'V' to make his mark early, but Kurt needs it to keep his spot a serious one. I'll go with the gold medalist here, perhaps teasing an unmasking after the match and setting up the real match next month.
Winner: Kurt Angle

Booker T & Goldust vs. Christian & Lance Storm
Tag Team Championship

Every one of the main eventers are currently occupied with legitimate, healthy feuds. Only HHH is facing off against someone who isn't considered a young talent, and he's fighting HBfrigginK, so it's forgiveable. What they're doing with Booker is keeping him fresh in fans' minds, keeping that momentum rolling. His team with Goldust works well enough, so they're pushing it a little further. If the T-stah is still mired in a tag match next month, there's reason for complaint. But right now, I think he's in the best position possible. At least he's on the card, and personally I think he's a major contender for a spot as Brock's first PPV title defense.

Take all the key points I mentioned in Test's match, and apply it to this one as well. The UnAmericans have to come off as really, really strong here. Not that I have as much a question about Lance and Christian's match as I do with Test's. Let's just hope this one is Undertaker-free. Goldust takes the clean pinfall, while Booker is otherwise occupied.
Winners: The UnAmericans

Rob Van Dam vs. Chris Benoit
Intercontinental Championship

Benoit doesn't even need this belt, which makes the match that much more fun to watch. It's been great to see the Wolverine back in form, and he's got a great match here, opposite RVD. I don't have nearly as many problems with Mr. Monday Night as you do, Spinner. Sure, he's been spotty in the past. He's been rock solid since the Invasion angle, and has really worked hard to overcome the problems that plagued him in ECW. You say he's directionless without the title, and I can't help but agree. But that's a fault you should lay on the bookers, not the worker. You're complaining about Booker's spot this month, but don't blame the Suckah himself for that. There's a lot going on, and it's easy to get lost in the shuffle.

But back to the match. This one should be just brutal. Benoit can?dish out some of the toughest offense in the fed when he's got a willing participant, and RVD loves to bounce around that ring. Their styles match almost ideally, with Benoit dominating the ground and Van Dam taking it to the air. Both can cross over into the other's specialty with little effort. Damn, this one's gonna be hot. I say Van Dam takes it, while Benoit finds someone a little higher up the card to make his name with.
Winner: Rob Van Dam

Chris Jericho vs. Ric Flair

I've made no secret about my excitement for this one, if you read our weekly RAW recaps. The feud would've benefitted tremendously with just a little more room for mic work, but you take what you can get and what we've got has been above average. Flair really seems motivated again, and seeing something like that gets you excited for almost any kind of match. Meanwhile, Jericho (as Dave noted) has been completely spot-on in his portrayal of the Y2J character. He's able to change emotions and evolve sensibly, while giving a lot of obvious thought to his character's mentality and motivations. It's an attention to detail that isn't really seen anywhere else, and it's a big part of why this match will have the crowd whipped into a frenzy by the time the final bell tolls.

Flair's much better suited as a heel, but that's a role that he's been having more an more difficulty assuming over the last couple years. People are just so genuinely happy to see him that they refuse to boo him. Jericho's familiar with the problem; he ran into it upon his debut in the WWE, resulting in a face turn that lasted way, way too long.

Should be interesting to watch on the mat, since Flair's still struggling to regain his old form and Jericho's been hot and cold, but if they're both on and manage to tell a long story, this could be one for the ages. Give me odds like that and I'll line up to buy each and every time. This is a feud that I don't think can be wrapped after one short month, so I'm thinking we'll have at least one rematch over the course of the next few PPVs. Logic would then tell me Jericho's going over, but my little mind thinks differently. Why not reverse the 'chase' scenario, where the face traditionally chases the heel, looking for gold? It might be cool to see Jericho chasing Flair, looking for the big win he's been starving for. The Nature Boy needs the immediate win, but could stand to lose the war... and Jericho could stand to drop this one, but would benefit tremendously with a long term victory. Ric's my pick.
Winner: Ric Flair

Triple H vs. Shawn Michaels

What, like you didn't know, the minute Kevin Nash introduced him, that it would come to this. Shawn Michaels is back in the ring, "for the last time." Again. For, like, the third time. But that doesn't matter, really, because they built this one extremely well when Monday night did its fade to black. Shawn actually took a bump like a wrestler again, and followed it up by superkicking Brock Lesnar and nearly botching a plancha over the top rope. It was still great to see one of the all time best, doing what he used to do in a new set of circumstances. Unfortunately, at the same time it was a little scary, and I mentioned why on last week's RAW recap.

Just after taking that clothesline bump flat onto his back, Michaels cringed and held his back. Even after hitting the superkick and brawling up the entryway, his continued holding his back. There's a good chance he was just doing some good storytelling, working an injury to the part of his body that we all know is most vulnerable, but there's also that chance that he wasn't "just acting." I guess we'll have to wait until Sunday Night to see for sure, but if HBK has any sort of continuing problems with his back... maybe the whole thing wasn't such a good idea. Not only could it impede the match, but it could shape the rest of his life. You wouldn't want to see Mick Foley sailing off the top of the HIAC cage, four years after his last match, would you? Maybe that's a poor question...

Nagging conscience or no, I'm really looking forward to this match. If he isn't having any physical problems, I have no question Shawn will give his heart and soul to go out with a big, big bang here. Truthfully, this is the match that's been building since the night after Wrestlemania 14, when Trips told us all that Shawn had "dropped the ball," and it's become almost larger than life in the four and a half years since.

Truth be told, this match can only serve to do one thing, and that's put over HHH. What good would a victory by Shawn Michaels do? It might send fans home smiling for one night, but it would also act detrimentally toward The Game's future. If he can't get it together enough to beat a man, albeit one of the best, four years out of the business.. what hope does he have against guys who are hitting their prime right now? On the other hand, if he coldbloodedly destroys the former legend, he'll have written his own way into the history books. This will be ugly, this will be bloody, and this will more than likely go all over the arena. Triple H has my vote.
Winner: Triple H

Brock Lesnar vs. The Rock
WWE Undisputed Championship

What more can be said about this one? You've got arguably the biggest present name in the WWE, in The Rock, facing off against the man the McMahon hype machine has everyone convinced is the future. If you're looking for the right way to build interest in a main event, you need not look further than these last couple of weeks. Lesnar and Heyman have been used to perfection, with Rocky nailing his role as well as we've come to expect by now. The electricity is there when these two face off in the ring, like you know something huge is about to happen. It's almost reminiscent of huge matches of the WWE's past; Hogan / Andre, Austin / Michaels, Hogan / Warrior... almost.

As far as the match goes, I think this one will actually surprise you. I'd imagine Brock will pull out a few of the moves he hasn't used since hitting it big, though that big shooting star press is probably too much to ask for. Rock's slowly, steadily, somehow become one of the best all around performers in WWE history, and if Brock needs any help he'll be more than happy to pick up the slack. While I don't agree with Dave's opinion that Lesnar can't do much of anything on his own, I do agree that he's still very, very early into his professional career, and in a matchup of this importance he'll be under a lot of pressure. Chances are good he'll stumble once or twice, the key will be how well they recover from it.

One thing that really has to either come to a big conclusion or be kept to a bare minimum is Paul Heyman's interference. I'm a big, big fan of his presence at ringside, as I really think the manager / agent role has been largely underused over the last five years, but during a match of this importance, he can't be breaking up every single pinfall attempt.

When the dust settles, I fear this result is too predictable. Everyone and their brother expects Brock to appear Monday with the title, and I count myself amongst those masses. But let's not overlook the possibility that Rocky will pull it out in the end, just to screw with everybody. Regardless, I do think Lesnar will be holding the gold before long, and the scales seem entirely weighted in his favor Sunday night. Should be a good match, possibly the kind that creates new stars, and in the end the youth movement will have its captain.
Winner: Brock Lesnar


It wasn't until I started doing the match by match, but there's an overriding theme to this year's Summerslam, one that's directly connected to connected to the quality of the card. Almost every match on the card involves one or more new face in a big position to make their own place in the future of the industry. It'll be really interesting to see how things have shifted this time next year; who made a big impact and reaped the benefits, who screwed the pooch and isn't even appearing on Heat. As the first PPV to really shine a bright light right at these guys, it could be said that it all starts here and I, for one, am excited.
until next time, i remain

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Factions: A Look at the Stables of the 1980s

Marcus Madison: In this part 1 of a 2 part look at factions, I asked a long time friend to take part in this journey. drq and I have a mutual respect for Depeche Mode which I can now openly say I enjoy listening to. Maybe just admitting it here wasn't the best of places to have done it all along. We also enjoy watching Kevin Smith films, however for this journey we will keep our mutual interests outside of wrestling to be put to the side and do what we do best, and that's talk wrestling. We decided to look at whom and what has contributed to the current success of the wrestling business, and made it what it is. We redirected our efforts and united passions outside of Fast Fashion into discussions on how a particular group of men taught us both how there was no "I" in team and that strength in numbers only solidifies a place in history.

drqshadow: Marcus is right on several fronts; we do indeed share a passionate love for the great synth bands of the 80s.. whether it's The Cure, Depeche Mode, A'Ha or that pesky Flock of Seagulls, we're both ready to throw on those leg warmers and jump onto the neon dance floor. He's also correct in stating there is no "I" in team, though there is a "me," if you rearrange the letters liberally. Still, if it's attention you're after in the world of professional wrestling, strength most certainly comes in numbers. The idea of what constitutes a stable has been pushed and shoved in many directions over the years, but the basic ideal has remained unaltered. When several like-minded individuals unite both in and out of the ring, there is no force greater. And, while each and every stable in pro wrestling history has exploded at some point or another in grand fashion, the benefits enjoyed during the team's tenure far outweigh the troubles endured after their split.

Marcus: What we have decided to do in part one of this two part series is look at which factions in the 80's were representative of the decade, what did they do and why did they do so? Over the span of ten years, five different factions defined the meaning of team work and how it is intended to be seem. Words such as "tradition" and "legacy" are tossed around with a lot more regularity today. During this decade these five teams represented their federation, and will all go down in wrestling history in some way or another.

Jimmy Hart's Family

Marcus: Jimmy Hart's collection of athletes was synonymous with two wrestlers in particular. The great white north has been home both Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart and laid down the "foundation" for their careers. During their tenure in the WWF in the early to mid 80's they pieced together one of the greatest teams in wrestling history. Hart and Neidhart being not only trained by Bret's father Stu, but their relationship as brother in laws to some extent made their in ring communication that much smoother.

Their long standing feuds with teams such as the British Bulldogs were what solidified their place in the company's tag team division. As time went on their faction of 2, although dissolved temporarily, was strengthened in the 90's. The additions of the late Davey Boy Smith, Brian Pillman and Owen Hart helped to resurrect this great faction into a dominant force once again. Their impact in the ring symbolized more than simply a team with incredible chemistry. They in some respects truly defined what team work was all about. To this day teams owe the entire Hart faction a collective thank you for helping to pave the way.

Several other members have made up Hart's family over the years as well. Greg Valentine, The Honky Tonk Man, they comprised the tandem of "Rhythm and Blues". This team met relative success with a tag team title run. Hart played the part of manager for Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake for a brief time. He actually played the part of a lackey to be quite honest. Terry Funk, Dory Funk, Jimmy Jack Funk all funnily enough played the part of the Funk brothers. One problem was that Jimmy Jack wasn't related. The names have changed within Jimmy Hart's family but one thing always remained the same, "the mouth of the south" and his historic megaphone would never be matched. What also needs to be remembered is that Hart's regime would never duplicate the success that the Hart Foundation ever had.

drq: Jimmy Hart was perhaps one of the most annoying managers of all time, always shouting in his over-the-top southern drawl, always using a signature megaphone to do so. Buried underneath layer upon layer of sparkling, shimmering, glittering wardrobe, he was teh definition of the WWF's so-called "circus era," a posterboy for the flamboyant, and everything the "Attitude era" was made to protest. Hart was the kind of guy who you wanted to see knocked out in the worst way. And, in that role, he was flawless. He drew those first flickers of attention to the Hart Foundation during their early years, helped to get them off the ground. While the real stars were certainly Bret and Jim, the "mouth of the south" was always there to entertain during the lull of the match, to annoy the living HELL out of you in those backstage interviews. Jeez, I'm getting worked up just thinking about it..

As Marc touched upon, Hart moved on from his famous coalition with the Anvil and the Hitman toward a more.. um... colorful roster. Perhaps more in tune with the cartoon character he'd portrayed on television for the previous handful of years. As the manager of the Honky Tonk Man, Hart was at his prime. He was a goofy, annoying manager who strode to the ring alongside a goofy, annoying wrestler. He was always there to inflate Honky's ego, to pat him on the back after a successful feat of strength. They were a perfect fit; dueling southern drawls, matching glitter outfits, that same 'oh sweet lord, kill him now' personality. While others came and went, the Hart Family was the heart and soul (no pun intended) of the undercard during the age of Rock'n Wrestling.

The Four Horsemen

Marcus: Alright the mark in me is coming to the forefront, what can I say. I took the time to watch this collection of the most talented and technically sound athletes to grace the squared circle, and as a team they were without question able to harmonize this incredible team work that is unmatched even by today's relatively high standards. Although the names have changed the symbol of excellence is synonymous with the Horsemen. Tully Blanchard, Barry Windham, Ole Anderson, Sting, Lex Luger, Dean Malenko, Chris Benoit, Steve McMichael all contributed to their success, but without a doubt all the very foundation of the Horsemen rested on the collective shoulders of Ric Flair and Arn Anderson.

During their tenure during the 80's, Jim Crockett's NWA was infamous for its "heels" and although at times the Horsemen took on the role of a face, they without a doubt appeared to have taken great pride in being bad. As I look at their roles from a societal standpoint, and how the Horsemen are a reflection of society the parallels are incredible. In order to get ahead in this cruel world one needs to do what ever they need to do to survive, this was a reflection of the Horsemen. As we look at how their characters, dressed outside of the ring were reflective of those in the "concrete jungle" of the business world. The Horsemen were a symbol of excellence that will never be duplicated.

drq: Oh man, like I even need to really expand here. If you were with us little over a year ago, chances are you caught my unreasonably large, 12 part "History of the Four Horsemen" column, wherein I laid out every moment in the stable's history (If you missed it, you can catch up in the archives by clicking here) . But yeah, I'm a relatively large fan of the four fingers. More than any one group, the Horsemen took the whole concept of a stable, forged it in solid steel, introduced it to a major market and perfected it. They were absolute heels, the very epitome of what I loved about the monsters of the NWA's golden years. There was nothing they would do alone, were it wrestling a match or going out on a date. They were living the high life, didn't want to share, and because of their undeniable strength (both physical and political), they got away with it.

It's a testament to the impact of that very first lineup that the stable has maintained its legendary status through the years, especially considering the lows they visited in the mid 90s. Paul Roma. Sid. Steve McMichael. Jeff Jarrett. The stable went through the shits on numerous occasions, but still managed to remain iconic, an untouchable title. And, to their credit, Flair and Anderson did manage to pick out a few stars worthy of the honor. Benoit. Malenko. Pillman. Sting. They've had their ups, and they've had more than their share of downs, but they've always been at the top of the heap in my book, as well as many others.

The Fabulous Freebirds

Marcus: This was a faction that stood out like no other of its time. Unlike the Horsemen, the Freebirds all had a flair that was unmatched by any of their opponents. Michael Hayes, Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy, Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin, and Buddy Roberts all comprised this team of men that hailed from Bad Street U.S.A. I am fully aware that Corey may be reading this so I cannot neglect Fantasia himself, Brad Armstrong that played a moderate role in the team's success. They were the ever so popular heels of their generation. They all attained success to varying degrees but clearly Michael P.S Hayes and Gorgeous Jimmy Garvin were the most successful of the group while competing individually. Jimmy Garvin, whose brother Ronnie who was also an active wrestler during this era was about as flamboyant as anyone. He was in many instances a modern day "Gorgeous George"(and not the valet, the wrestler). He was accompanied to the ring with his beloved Precious but his charisma and character was an important element in the Freebirds' success.

The majority of this team?s glory years can be found in Verne Gagne's AWA. Why was this collection of athletes as successful as they were? The answer is quite simple. Each wrestler worked towards their strengths, and the mark in me believes they would do whatever was needed to prevail, which they ultimately did. The late Terry Gordy was about as tough as any wrestler of that or any time. Gordy added the strength to this team. Buddy Roberts was reminiscent of Tully Blanchard in the Four Horsemen. He added technical ability and really that is what tends to go underrated in many wrestling circles. Every group has a leader that was epitomized what the group was intended to be perceived as and Michael Hayes was the leader of this group of anarchists. So as several wrestlers made up the Freebirds over the span of their run only 3 have made this team as major a part of wrestling faction history and Roberts, Hayes and Gordy are them.

drq: I'll admit right now, my memories of the Freebirds are fogged by the passing of time. While they're absolutely one of wrestling's most noteworthy and important stables, they've also become one of its most overlooked. And that's a problem that's been handed down to the stable's members. At the epicenter of the group's fabric were Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Jack Roberts. All three, particularly Gordy, were good-to-excellent workers and charismatic personalities, yet none stand out in any history books today. Hayes works in a limited capacity for the WWE, Buddy has dropped off the face of the Earth, and Gordy passed away. Not really the bang you'd expect such a group to go out with.

More than anything else, the Freebirds should be noted for their ingenuity. They introduced concepts and attitudes that changed the way you see things in wrestling today, probably the most notable being their unique concept behind title defense. With the tag team division the stable's prime focus, naturally their greatest concern was winning, and retaining, the tag team titles. Thus, they introduced the "3 man concept", in which the team's lineup would change with every match. Some nights it would be Gordy and Roberts competing for the gold, others it was Hayes and Gordy. It was a concept more recently used by WCW with The Triad, and served to legitimately throw off their opponents' strategy. How can one prepare for a match if he doesn't know who he'll be fighting? The Freebirds were a loud, obnoxious, extremely violent group, as evidenced by the brutality of their wars with Ted Dibiase and the Von Erich brothers. They were also ages ahead of their time, enjoying their heyday in the early and mid 80s. It's a shame the years haven't been as kind to the 'birds as they have been to the Horsemen.

The Heenan Family

Marcus: During one family, one manager reigned supreme. Bobby Heenan's family consisted of a variety of different athletes at different times. The late Big John Stud, Ken Patera, Hercules, Rick Rude, Haku, Fatu, Harley Race, The Barbarian, Lex Luger(I think he got wet when he first introduced audiences to him, personally), Mr. Perfect, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard are all the names of for the most part legends in the sport itself. To varying degrees these men all were met with some success. Heenan's character always claimed to know exactly the other man was thinking even before they knew. As a fan at the time we were encouraged to boo and hiss, respectfully of course. For every action there is an equal and voluntary reaction. Heenan knew his role perfectly. So while we were growing up during the rise of the Heenan family both drq and I were the fans falling for everything Bobby sold us hook, line and sinker. Call me a Heenan mark, I just don't care!

The success of a faction, during the 80's, in the WWF was measured by that of what Bobby Heenan had created. A great deal of that success, regardless of the individual measuring sticks that the talent themselves had created were based largely around Heenan's character. The faction rose to prominence not just because it was scripted as so but that he captivated the interest of the audience alone. He was witty, articulate and earned the right be called the manager of the century. We fans of the 80's appreciate what Bobby Heenan paved the way for before us. So before I leave my look at the Heenan family I am reminded of a quote. "It's not until you fully embrace your past that you can truly move forward". Thank you Bobby, we now can safely look forward to what stands before us.

drq: Even the title "manager of the century" doesn't go far enough to explain the role Bobby Heenan played in the WWF during the 80s. He was the premiere mouthpiece, loud and evil enough to turn anyone on him within minutes. My mom hated Bobby Heenan, and she's watched maybe 20 minutes' worth of wrestling in her entire life. Heenan must've had a gland dedicated to producing the aura of a slimeball, yet he still managed to attract an extremely talented list of athletes to work underneath his banner. He slid right into relationships with the Horsemen, managing Blanchard & Anderson as the Brainbusters, as well as Ric Flair during his short stint. He was the intellect behind Rick Rude's rocketship to the top, as well as his eventual downward spiral. He gave legs to Harley Race's sagging career. The man could do almost anything with a nobody, which made his biggest coup all the more impressive.

When Heenan landed Andre the Giant, leading him into perhaps the biggest feud in wrestling history, there was no denying the man's importance. While the big-name impact of Hogan and Andre got fans interested, it was Heenan and Ted Dibiase who did all the talking. The Giant and the Hulkster attracted the curious, but Heenan made the hard sell. Fifteen years later, the match remains the most well attended in North American history. That's one hell of a sale.

Eventually "The Brain" saw his roster slowly growing weaker and weaker and cut his losses, diving full time into a role as an announcer, where he was every bit as at home as he was beside the ring. Over the years, the man managed Tag Team Champions, Intercontinental Champions, and (for a brief moment) a World Champion. It's a record that remains impressive even today, and only further solidifies his position as ringleader of the greatest stable in the WWF during the 80s.

Slick's Stable o' Style

Marcus: So the WWF wasn't perfect at the time, but they sure could make drq and I laugh. ?He's a jive soul bro, a jive soul bro and he didn't get anything in the end. Oh he got it in the end.? The Doctor of Style was really the WWE?s first attempt at a pimp only without giving it a title per say. He literally created a family of misfits. The One Man Gang magically denounces his Mohawk and becomes African. Does that sound fair? Nope. Slick gave birth metaphorically speaking to Akeem the African Dream. A man that was way too big to be flying for a white guy. Then we took a trip down to Cobb County, Georgia where Ray Traylor whipped out his night stick,(not the one your thinking about drq, you sick freak) and became the Big Boss Man, a correctional officer with a fetish for men behind bars. Together Akeem and the Bossman were the Twin Towers. United they stood, divided the fell... oh, they fell alright.

The family also included the Warlord, a man that had a strikingly similar resemblance to Road Warrior Hawk. Maybe? I don?t know maybe it was just me. We cannot forget "The Natural" Butch Reed. See at the time Butch Reed was known as "Hacksaw" and that name was being used by Jim Duggan. Do you care? Probably not. Reed was nicknamed "The Natural" because he had blond hair. Which most people would have bought if we weren't blind? Sheesh.. For goodness sake anyone could see the man....had black roots. Slick's band of wrestling?s version of the Misfits of Science collectively was very successful. So maybe they didn't capture our hearts of our imagination but at least they entertained us and really isn't that we look for in wrestling at the very least is to be entertained? Thanks Slick, you made us smile.

drq: To this day, I'll still quote "the master of style" on occasion, especially while trash talking my way through a multiplayer video game session. Visions of purple suits filling my head, I'll sing to no particular melody, "Turn off the lights.... the party's overrrr..." Yeah, that gives you a pretty good idea of what kind of a dork I really am. I quote obscure managers from the WWF's past while playing video games against friends. Sometimes I'll even trash talk the computer. It's sad.

But I'm getting off track! Slick, Slick, Slick... the older I get, the more I appreciate the humor involved with this man. Is it wrong for me to laugh at the mere mention of Akeem, the African Dream? Is it worth even mentioning that the "Twin Towers" Marc mentioned just above actually defeated the team of Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage? Oh, poor Slick, what a tangled web you wove.

On a more serious note, it's in remembering men like Slick that I realize how empty the ringside area has become more recently, as the manager has become something of an endangered species. When a match slowed down, Slick was always there to do a dance, make a face, or shout some encouragement. While Akeem gyrated somewhere in the background, Slick was filling all the big man's interview time for him. He was there to goad audiences into hating or enjoying a wrestler. And, most importantly, he was there to take a punch when the time was right. All that, and he loved fried chicken. Seriously, the image I used above is all the reason I need to go back through some of my old tapes of Saturday Night's Main Event, scouring for the Slickster.

And that should wrap us up. We'll be back sometime in the next few weeks with part two of this two part series, covering the dominant stables of the 1990s and today. It's been a blast, and we'll hope to see you there. Marc, any closing words?

Marcus : I have several closing words drq. In fact I have several ways in which to say them also. Where do I ever begin? The most important words I have to say my friend is thank you. Thank you for taking time out from your incredibly hectic schedule to finally put this concept to paper. Readers should know that this idea was discussed by drqShadow and myself close to a year ago. Finally, we have brought home the honey with our fish net stocking loving appreciation of factions through the 80's. Part 2 won't take us that long, unless drq begins his on again off again relationship ship with llamas and I take time out of my schedule of searching through warez sites for interesting and thought provoking reads outside the world of organized calamity that is wrestling.

drq: ...and I've sworn off the long necked, goat resembling mammals. We'll be back sooner than you'd suspect. Take it easy, and we'll see you in the 90s. Me, I'll be off gleaming the cube somewhere.

Marc and drq

Monday, August 19, 2002

WWE RAW Review: 08/19/02

The 24-7 rule is dead! Let us run to the street for hours of singing and dancing! Actually, I was probably one of the only fans of that poor, maligned rule in the division nobody loved. It helped the hardcore belt to stand out, and probably helped to ensure it would outlast the European Title more than any flimsy trash can could. When Crash Holly held the gold, the rule was probably at its peak. While a lot of people really, really hated the idea, I thought it was just hysterical. Some poor janitor somewhere would try to pin him and collect their fifteen minutes of fame, and Crash would roll them up for three, turn ass and haul. With that said, the time was right to eliminate the rule, and ultimately I'm glad they did it. The ECW crew seems to be taking the division in the direction it's been destined for since their old playground closed up shop, and the first step towards making it legitimate is eliminating that golden rule. Tommy Dreamer's still the champ, Terri didn't make the run-in I was terrified she would, and all is well in that little world.

Jericho / Flair didn't really turn the corner like I was hoping it would, but their interaction was done well enough, and I'm still interested in seeing where they run with it Sunday. The Nature Boy is cutting promos like he's young again, and blading just as often. It makes me happy, especially since he's working with a guy that's been needing someone like this to play off of for years. Fozzy was a pretty large disappointment, though I wasn't expecting Mozart, and I wonder if the band was aware they'd be turning heel that night. Ah well... one of the dozens of guitarists was wearing an outfit that seemed to have come straight from Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail, so all is forgiven.

They tried to catch lightning in a bottle again last night with the six man tag, and it didn't really work out as well as last time. It was a solid match, but I'm really wondering how the UnAmericans will be taken seriously if the Undertaker can single handedly take them out with just his "soup bones" and a smile. And why the hell is Goldust an "American Hero"??

And then there was the main event. Not sure why, but I couldn't really pay attention to the match itself. Brock was used intelligently and consistently, especially in turning on Shawn Michaels in a blind rage. I really, really didn't see that coming, and I loved it. It was all good on my end until HBK took that first real bump, a clothesline from HHH, and spent the rest of the program holding his back. I hadn't been that concerned about his upcoming match until I saw that. Maybe he was just doing a good job, selling an injury everybody knows he has, but it didn't seem that way to me. Sunday could be bad...

Regardless, I found myself pretty well entertained by the show. Not quite as much as last week, but still a few steps above your average program. I'll give it a smiley face, but no gold star.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 6.5

Monday, August 12, 2002

WWE RAW Review: 08/12/02

Honestly, I wasn't impressed until I'd had a good night's sleep on the matter. Then, when I sat just now to do my weekly recap, I realized something; RAW was damn good last night! Sure, sure, it was far from perfection, but even the bad segments (with the exception of the intergender tag match) weren't really that bad. I don't even mind that the Big Show is still lumbering around, because they're using him logically and building him back up to fill the only role he can do convincingly.

Jericho / Flair almost hit a stumbling block last night, because I feel that these two can build the match far better on the mic, with fleeting physical confrontations. But damn, the match was actually really hot and incredibly good, considering the tag partners involved. The pant-removing segment was awkward and bizarre, but Flair looks like he's genuinely having fun out there and giving his all. It just makes me tingly all over, thinking about what this Summerslam match could amount to, especially if they build it just a little further on the mic next week. Y2J had the right idea at the end of the segment, hacking out an excellent character promo. Now Flair just has to solidify himself as someone fans can get behind, and we're in serious business. Good show.

Man, I wish whoever was responsible for the fire burning underneath the crowd last night would become a regular member of the RAW tour. All the proof I need that an incredible audience can improve a show by 100%. The main event really wasn't anything that special up until the last couple minutes, but with such a volatile crowd I was hanging on every minute. On top of that, Booker was the top face last night. The man could do no wrong in Seattle's eyes. Were I still thinking the way I was last week, this is the part of the writeup where I'd complain about his being stuck in the tag scene. Last night, however, I realized something. They aren't holding him back, they're keeping him fresh in the minds of the audience. The tag titles, believe it or not, are still high profile. They can still main event a RAW. And with available slots in the main event, it's the best they can do with Booker until Brock wins the title. Maybe Lesnar / Booker is just around the corner? Perhaps...

Hitting a couple quick points, I was pleased as hell to see MiniDust smeared around the ring, and hope it's the last we've seen of him. Tommy Dreamer is breathing new life into the Hardcore division, and his matches with Richards are becoming mini classics. The finish to the Hardcore match last night may not have been as impressive as their previous meeting, but the bulk of the match itself was. Test vs. the Undertaker isn't that great of an idea, considering it'll likely kill all of the UnAmericans' credibility. But there's still that chance he WON'T no sell all of Christian and Lance's interference, that he WON'T pin Test cleanly inside of ten minutes, so I guess it's worth a shot. Right?

Thumbs up from me, man.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7.8

Monday, August 5, 2002

WWE RAW Review: 08/05/02

Following up a superb July, August's WWE programming stumbled a bit out of the gates, tripping over its own enormous feet before picking up the pace again. There were segments of this show that were really, really good. With that said, there were also segments of this show that weren't quite up to par. Don't misread, I'm still much more entertained right now than I was two months ago. I no longer watch RAW with a feeling of dread, but that doesn't mean there's no chance that feeling will ever return. They can still screw this thing up.

One thing I found absolutely hysterical, for little or no reason, is the little segment between Chris Harvard and Victoria. He didn't remember her name, but he remembered it was written really big across her ass, so he took a peek when he needed to address her. I laughed for like twenty minutes about that little gag, and I don't know why. Maybe it's because wrestlers have been wearing their names across those rear cheeks for as long as I can remember, and there hasn't really been any reason for it until now.

Jericho was in rare form last night, used to his full potential for the first time in ages. He's at his best when portraying the heel who takes himself so seriously it becomes a joke to his peers and the audience. I loved that he was interrupted twice, mid-sentence, and that despite all that he still got the last word. He and RVD had the kind of match that makes you sit up and realize these guys might just make it in the main event. And, judging from the Nature Boy's enthusiasm post match, Y2J's feud with Ric Flair is going to be one to remember. There's nobody out there who can touch Flair when he's excited, and despite the slow betrayal of his body, the man's excited. Might be the last great series we'll see out of him, so enjoy it.

Every last one of Triple H's segments last night reminded me why he doesn't work as a face. Despite the big time interest level in his angle with Shawn Michaels, he was painfully boring and uninspiring the whole night through. I honestly didn't care that he'd pulled out his sledgehammer again... especially after he shattered the damn thing hitting a table in front of Team Canada. I didn't think he was entertaining, even when it was revealed that he was Shawn's assailant after all. Why bother with the tease, when they'd already turned him in a big way two weeks ago? All it accomplished was taking Shawn off TV in the weeks leading up to his big comeback match. Whoopee. I don't really care about this match anymore, no matter how insane that might sound. Here's hoping that changes...

Good, but not great. It needed a kick in the pants that never really arrived.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 6.2