|still the cover boy just because he hogs everyother spotlight
The WWE just really sucks
This may be my definitive column on the WWE. Im just absolutely and positively sick of watching them and writing about them. Im almost to the point where I was with WCW during the Nash era. The shows are just really bad and I dont know how many different ways there are to say that. The political BS just makes it that much worse as it did with WCW. When you have Shawn Michaels out their cutting bull shit shoot promos accusing the Rock of doing to HHH what HHH has done to the Rock, the writing team wanting to sacrifice Steve Austins credibility for a one week rating pop, Vince becoming more a part of the show then ever, that young up and comer Ric Flair being elevated to the top babyface position, Eddy getting jobbed to hurt Austins credibility if they ever feud, and X-Pac getting bookings changed all the times as if he actually matters all IN THE SAME DAY its just beyond frustrating. Its getting to Hogan, Nash, and Torrie Wilson in the hot tub bad. Smackdown is almost as bad everyweek as I have to watch HGH stink up my television and squash all the people who entertain me. I have to watch the original HHH pose, cut insincere promos, and stink up the show as only he can and as he has done for generations. I get to watch them kill the show. As Hogan has done for years, he was one of the reasons I hated WCW and the WWE was idiotic to think they could make it work because they wouldnt make the mistakes WCW made. And as HHH has since the middle of 2000 when he became secure in his spot and his power and became more lazy and started more clearly defining his terrible agenda.
This bad booking however did not just begin. Some would argue the WWF was booking poorly in 1999. Looking back at those shows from 1999 they certainly do suck. Ill just go from 2000 when I started to notice signs of problems. While I do Ill try to relate some stuff back maybe even show some patterns that have lead the WWF to where they are now: a company in a state of panic.
Lets flashback. If you dont believe the timeline I offer for my feelings you can ask Tim about them he can confirm that I was worried about the WWF long before most people were. My initial problem with the WWF arose during the McMahon/Helmsley era. I hated those shows. You had the endless boring HHH promos and the never ending stream of Handicrap matches meant to get him over as an out of control heel. I was frustrated but their was some good for instance youd get the odd HHH vs Rikishi match that would just totally deliver beyond your expectations. Foley might cut a great promo etc. WWF seemed to realize their problem quickly and went into one of their best periods ever over the next few months in every way. Great TV and great PPVs doing better business then the WWF had ever done before. The WWF had the future leading the way in the Rock. The first sign of the problems that have eventually brought the WWE to their knees came in Febuary of 2000 when the Radicals invaded. Money in the bank had arrived. With the ratings war still going on the reigning WCW champion jumped ships a rare opportunity and one that created an immediate ratings bump. While Benoit isnt top draw material by himself the situation allowed the WWF the chance to make him into that despite his personality shortcomings as well as make stars out of Malenko, Saturn, and Guerrero. First they jobbed them out to DX then within a week Benoit couldnt even get a clean win over Rikishi. All the momentum they had was killed and a potential huge money angle was lost so as to not upset the existing hierarchy. Let me just make this clear again people challenging the existing hierarchy draws money if done right and always has. People will pay to see someone try to take someone elses spot its interesting and it takes very little creativity to do. To go off on a side rant I think that could be one of the WWEs problems. I think the booking team simple over thinks everything. Wrestling is at its core very simple good guy vs bad guy works. Number one guy vs number two guy works. You did X that made me angry now Im going to do Y to you is the basic formula of wrestling. I think the booking committee is of the mind that their creativity and humor is what gets people over. People cant just get over because of their talent they need help. People who do just get over because of whatever reason like RVD did get run around in circles. Plus you have these intensely complicated storylines focusing around midcards with no character depth. How many love triangles do we need. Hello Stephanie Maven isnt more over, Tajiri is less over so their fued isnt working. Torrie was getting Tajiri heat with those geisha outfits but now she isnt getting Maven heat just getting herself heat. Simple stories propelled by characters with some depth would work about 10 times better then this crap.
Anyway the WWFs main goal at the start of 2000 was to get HHH over as a big time heel. The whole machine was behind getting him over and everyone in the company basically was called on to put him over (please contrast this to how everyone since then has been handled). It even got to the point where HHH became the first heel ever to win at Wrestlemania over the Rock who should have been ascending to the spot of unquestioned number one. This was the first sign that the Rock was going to get treated like any other top babyface before him had been treated. Before every top babyface won almost all their matches over whatever odds presented to them. Rock would be different failing often. When Rock won the title at Backlash his title reign lasted only one month. This was a totally dumb move. HHH getting the title in the ironman match which should have been the blowoff match where the former champ puts over the top babyface clean and they both move on to other things. Instead we get another title change and then the next month Rock wins the title back without even pinning the champion. This if your interested was the first sign that not all was as it seemed with HHH. Here he had politiced himself out of the feud with Rock without ever putting Rock over and winning their biggest match (the Ironman.) It was brilliant on his part but horrible booking on the companys fault. The Rocks natural charisma was enough to survive this insult but HHH and company would riddle him with so many bullet holes that eventually he would show the wear and tear.
The HHH vs Rocky feud had been done to death and everybody knew it. Naturally seeds had already been planted for HHH next feud. Jericho in a RAW match had for 17 minutes won the World title from HHH. The fans showed that they were absolutely ready to accept Chris Jericho as a main eventer. The feud was built nicely with Jericho insulting HHHs wife to build his ire. Meanwhile Chris Benoit got tapped as the Rocks ceremonial first opponent. A quick program was done to set up the match. Shane McMahon came on as a manager for Benoit and a number one contenders challenge was made. Interestingly enough to get a shot at the Rock Benoit would have to beat the Rock. In truly awful booking to build up a match for a PPV not only did they give the match away for free but Benoit lost the match. Benoit got the spot anyway but during the whole build up never got a win over the Rock. Jericho got some heat on HHH usually running in during his matches (HHH eventually outsmarted him on this one by doing a fake match with X-pac so when Jericho ran in they could ambush him.) Kurt Angle who had just won the King of the Ring got to take on the Undertaker. So it was set up three up and comers would take on the top three men in the company. One of them had to win (logic suggested Jericho.) However they all lost. Angle was squashed by Taker. HHH dominated the last man standing match but Jericho did get a nice run of offense and HHH just barely won by a second (although as I said HHH did dominate most of the match.) Benoit and Rock did a nice back and forth match with lots of interference from Shane and Benoits hand was held up after the ref made an erroneous call to DQ the Rock. (See instead of building Benoit up as a threat to take the belt the WWF decided to say Rock could lose the belt by DQ. That way they could say Rock could still lose the belt if he lost his temper. Foley came out and restarted the match and Rock made short work of Benoit.) In and of themselves were detrimental to the lossers the fact that all the up and comers had lost though spoke volumes. The worst thing came the next night though when HHH made his first stab to destroy Jerichos heat. Jericho came out and cut an impassioned promo about the match and admitted he lost but said he would improve and asked for another match. HHH in a nice piece of psychology wouldnt even come out but instead just appeared at the Tron (see Jericho wasnt even worth going to the ring for.) Basically saying it was a good match but Jericho couldnt get the job done and wasnt on his league and that he was done with him and that HHH had more important business to attend to. Amazingly at the time no one that I can remember understood how thoroughly HHH had just undercut Jericho. The fact that Jericho just took it like a lamb and didnt even try to provoke HHH into another match was even further damning. After all the insults and heat and blood Jericho wasnt even worth a trip to the ring. Jericho would never again get as close to being accepted as a true main eventer.
Next time HHH and Angle do the first Stephanie love triangle, Austin returns and Steph gets the book.
Almost anytime a promotion is in the doldrums a call is made to elevate new talent to the top. Its a simple theorem really. Fans like to see different people pushed to the top so they can see fresh matches. Also its pretty damn exciting to wonder if some young guy is going to be able to unseat somebody ahead of him on the hierarchy. In general this is true although I think less so in Japan then in America. In Japan the more emphasis on athletics and competition lend itself to a stiffer hierarchy working. The question is watching to see this person struggle slowly up the ladder facing stiff opposition getting a big win then getting beat back down. For instance from 1993-2000 Kawada chased Misawa in All Japan and I dont think ever passed him. He got wins he got pins but Misawa was always the man (until early 2000 when Kobashi finally ousted him.) American wrestling of course emphasizes stories at least equally to the in ring product. So its important to have fresh people for fresh stories. You can do an endless amount of matches between two people if the emphasis is athletic (if the Lakers and Kings meet next year and play 7 I think it will do good business) but in an angle driven company there is only so far you can go with the story lines for two people.
However is it true that fresh faces have to be elevated to create a hot period. Well the only was to tell is to look at hot periods. The WWF from 1984-1990 was extremely hot and did huge buisness. This boom started with the elevation of Hogan to being the franchise player and they fed Hogan an endless stream of different heels. During this period Savage was elevated and at the end Warrior was elevated. Then the next has to be WCW from 1996-1998. This hot period you had the new players come in (Hall and Nash) and they added a shocking turn to it. The hot period lasted for a couple of years off the momentum of those three men and then was sustained somewhat in 1998 by the accession of Goldberg. Then their was the WWF from 1997-2001 this period coincided with the rise of Steve Austin in 1997-1998, the rise of the Rock in 1998-1999, and the rise of HHH in 1999-2000. After HHH was established as a elite guy no one else reached that level and eventually the surge died and has been in regression as of late. However while all these booms coincided with new stars being pushed they also coincided to a change in booking philosophy. From 1984-1990 you had the more cartoonish gimmicks marketed for kids. In WCW from 1996-1998 you had more rational and dramatic storylines in the main events mixed with a more athletic and exciting undercard ring style. The WWF of course from 1997-2001 brought in attitude, it should be noted though the most financially successful year of the WWF was 2000 which was post attitude.
While like most things hot periods are probably caused by a multitude of things lets just say that elevating talent is one we are pretty sure is part of it. The question becomes how do you elevate new talent. Well my experience is that it is not brain surgery. There are also more then one way to do it. Lets try to except guys like The Rock or Hogan who just clearly were going to be the next big thing unless the company had a total brainfart on them.
The first guy Id like to look at is Bill Goldberg. Bill Goldbergs run equals about the easiest way to push someone. What happens is you find a guy with a great luck and good physical charisma and then you push. You put them over everybody that stands in their way gradually moving them up the card. Then you get to the main event and you put them over all but a few people on route to the title, never jobbing them. Then you slowly run the people who havent been routed past the monster. WCW failed in the next step of finding a young talent to instantly elevate by putting them over the monster. Of course if you think of Hogans 84 push the WWF never put any over him (till Warrior) and they did quite good business. The benefits of this push are obvious. First off since you start small you have plenty of time to gauge how well this guy is building before you pull the trigger on the final stage of his push. If you have the right guy for this push it is basically guaranteed to make a star. Goldbergs push did have its failings though. First off he became almost bigger then the company. Everyone else looked like a joke next to him so it was very difficult to get behind anyone else. Also when WCW tried to make him vulnerable it was hard for the fans to accept. He was built off being larger then life and invincible. Once he was no longer invincible many of his fans went away. However again Hogan is a good example of someone who got this push and made lots of money who the WWF never made beatable and drew them great money for years. The final problem is this push gives the wrestler so much so fast that it is a huge risk that they may get a swollen head. Guys who could benefit from this type of push: obviously the WWE believes Brock Lesnar.
The next example is the Misawa example. At the start 1990 Misawa was a very strong upper mid-carder with lots of potential. By the end of it he was a main-eventer and the protagonist in the hottest feud in wrestling. At the start of the year Baba had a pretty nice arrangement. His top star was Jumbo Tsuruta beside Jumbo as the top native was Stan Hansen. Genchiro Tenyru was challenging for Tsurutas spot while Terry Gordy was challenging for Hansens spot. Gordys partner was Steve Williams who was a firm number 3 native. Baba had an absolutely awesome mid-card featuring Misawa (under the Tiger Mask), Kawada, Kobashi, Doug Furnas, Dan Kroffet, Kikuichi, Taue, Fuyaki, the Great Kabuki, and Masa Fuichi. A pretty awesome roster from top to bottom. Then around April Tenyru left the company to form SWS eventually raiding several off the companies names including Kabuki and Fuyaki among others. However Tenyrus departure meant that there was nobody to challenge Tsuruta and no angle for him. So Baba swallowed hard and picked a top mid-carder, Misawa, and made a star. There is a myth that Misawa was made a star on one day. It was a quick process but it was a process. First Baba started the feud, then Baba gave us a video package moment, Misawa ordering Kawada to unmask him and then throwing the mask at Jumbo and attacking. Then they did a great heat up match where Misawa pearl harbors Jumbo with a vicious elbow heard round the world which Jumbo sells for like five minutes before going ballistic and having a mega brawl with Misawa which is inconclusive. Just the fact that Misawa was so able to damage and anger Jumbo with one elbow gave him credibility. The fact he won the match, but not by pinning Jumbo, only added to the build. Then they did the match June 1 st 1990 at the Nippon Budokan Misawa scores the upset pinning Jumbo clean. Everyone sells it like this is a huge moment. Misawa is carried around on the shoulders of Kawada and Kobashi as if to say he has arrived. From their Jumbo and Misawa feud with Jumbo winning the next three singles matches but Misawa getting several clean wins over Jumbo in tag matches. The lessons from this totally successful push are many. First off Misawa wasnt just suddenly given the big win. It had a short but effective build up to it. The build established Misawa as a threat so that his big win didnt come off as a fluke. The next thing is that the win doesnt have to be decisive but it does have to clean and it needs to not look like a total fluke. Jumbo sells well for Misawa throughout the match. And while normally the progression of events leads to a Jumbo win it isnt a squash. Then the win is followed up. Misawa is not suddenly better then Jumbo, Jumbo still is in every way the man, but Misawa does get the better of Jumbo and beat Jumbo and Jumbos team many times and takes him to the limit in their next two singles matches. A guy who would benefit from this would be Edge. You work an Edge and HHH program like this and there is a good chance youve created a new star.
Ive heard many people say that to much damage has been done to people like Jericho, Angle, and Benoit for them to ever be seen as credible main-eventers. I dont believe that can ever be true. A simple retooling is often all a person needs to overcome any damage. For instance something as simple as a new and effective finisher can be spun as the difference maker between a jobber to the star and the ace of the company. New Japan was trying this with Manubu Nakanishi and his Frank Gotch German Suplex hold but they werent willing to stay the course or I should say Inoki is a moron. One has to look no further then Steve Austin to see a wrestler who had to be considered damaged goods in 1996 but a simple retooling of his gimmack added to a new finisher was all he needed to become the biggest name in the sport. HHH is another example of a guy who looked to be just way to damaged goods to ever be able to get over in mid 97 but by the end of the year he was part of the hottest heel group in wrestling. The change was a total retooling of his character. Now HHH is an example of another way to make a wrestler. The try, try, try, try, try, and try again method. First they tried the blue blood gimmick which never got over. Then they gave him Chyna which got him some heat but not enough, still they gave him the King of the Ring. Then they made him part of DX which gave him a mildly successful run as a heel and then a awful babyface run that got over mainly because of two words. Then they turned him back heel and gave him wins over Rock, Austin, Foley, and the title but he still wasnt that over. Then they put him with the bosses daughter and gave him total control of the company in the storylines and he still was only mildly over. Finally Foley put him over clean repeatedly and then they put him over Rock again at Wrestlemania and HHH was finally over enough to justify his spot. Of course this only lasted a little while but still the WWF did it they made HHH a money drawer. The lesson is that if you have someone you believe has what it takes it can be very rewarding to keep shoving them till the fans accept them. Of course if its that hard then the benefit may not be as much as the risk. For instance did the WWF really benefit from HHH getting over? They could have firmly established the Rock as a franchise player but they choose to try to make HHH equal to him. The Rock has been hurt by all the losses hes had to take to try to keep people close to him. Also if you pick the wrong guy you risk a fan rebellion. That didnt happen with HHH because he worked hard to deliver. The WWF was one step away from doing that with Billy Gunn and that would have been a disaster. A guy who could benefit from this push would be Kurt Angle.
There are more examples then these. Its not super complex you just look at what got over people in the past. Sometimes with a guy such as Bret Hart its just perseverance. Bret worked his ass off for years before finally getting the main event push. The fans had learned to respect Brets determination and talent. When the WWF finally decided to give Bret the big push the fans agreed that Bret had earned it and were very responsive. Bret didnt have that charisma that is necessary to become a huge draw but Bret was a rock of stability for the WWF during a hard time and eventually a rock they used to build Steve Austin with. A man who could be that rock for the WWE is Chris Benoit.
Solutions for the WWF.
I don't do this very often. And as always I'm not going to do any fantasy booking because its Masterbaitory and I know that. However I will set out a mission plan the WWF should follow. Point by point.
1. Kurt Angle needs a mega push. For the past few months one thing has been perfectly clear. Kurt Angle is the most over heel in the company. The fans truely enjoy getting on Kurt's case and his work has been fantastic to back it up. Kurt just got a US MOTYC out of Edge of all people. The first one Edge has ever had really (ladder matches are all overrated remember.) Basically Kurt right now can make people look better then they are which is a great quality in a top heel. So its time to give Kurt a mega push where you put him over everyone in the company clean ala Triple H in 2000. Its time to elevate Kurt to equal status with Austin, Rock, and HHH speaking of whom.
2. Depush HHH till he is ready or able to work- At the moment HHH is one of the most intolerable things to watch on TV. His promos drone on forrrrrrreeeeeeevvvvvverrrrrrrr. He never says anything worth while and its just getting old listening to the announcer's blowing his cock about how great he is for this or that when he hasn't shown shit since he came back. The only thing more boring the a HHH match it seems is a HHH promo. He should put over Angle now not later. Taker, Hogan, and HHH are all in the same boat in my oppinon as far as guys who should be used to elevate other talent.
3. Find some people to fued with Austin- Steve Austin is the best guy in the WWF. Steve Austin is the best draw in the WWF. Steve Austin is stale. Austin's what stuff is cute and should be kept but Steve needs to turn it up with some hell fire and brimstone promos as only he can cut. Of course on of the main problems is that Austin doesn't have any good opponents. The only solution is to put the belt on him feed him some heels from both shows till you've got Kurt ready to take the belt off of him. The split going to work of course but the WWF is determined to do it so the only way to make the most out of your top star at the moment is to have him on both shows.
The owners problems- First off they shouldn't turn Flair heel no matter how bad he wants that. It never works for long and just isn't the proper usuage for him at this time. Vince is to present on smackdown. He's stale and him living out his masterbaitory fantasies on our television is just getting so fucking old. No McMahons on my TV would be so fresh.
Hypnotize the Rock into not being a movie star- NO comment needed.
Really its not complex. Hogan is tanking again after a strong buyrate start. Take the belt off him. Build around guys who can go Austin, Jericho, Angle use the guys who can't go anymore to put them over.
My philosophy on Wrestling writting
First off Zach Arnold wrote a op-ed on wrestling media this morning over at http://www.puroresupower.com while I agree with many of his points I have to take him to task on something. First off if your going to critize people name names. Don't say some, and everybody except a few people. It causes confusion among your readers. If you mean Metzler say Metzler. Your not going to hurt him or help him by saying you'll just allow people who have read him to think if they agree with your point rather then trying to figure out if you mean Metzler. You did the same thing with the promotion that did less then 40% of the attendence on the second show then it did the first show. Umm do you mean Ring of Honor? Or what? How do I know if you right if you don't even actually say what you mean?
Now so for my philosophy in general. Basically this is the philosophy I want but won't neccesarily insist upon from anyone who does or will ever write for this site. For instance I suggested Tim move towards it for his last ginxed column but he didn't and I respect that. So what the philosophy is is moderate and fact based arguments about wrestling. I want to avoid two major schools of thought that have popped up they really arn't used by any of the big time writters mainly small timers like myself.
The first has the goal to prove you know more then someone by liking less or by rating something with lower stars. How many times have you seen something like "Metzler's out of his mind giving that match 4 stars that wasn't even 2 1/2 stars!" It think Mike Lorefice you often gets critized for overrating matches did that several times recently. Its fine to disagree with Metzler and I often do in fact I usually do. The problem is it becomes a competition to critize more about a match then someone else or to rate a match lower then anyone else. Now people arn't afraid to rate matches that everybody loves from the past high (no one is going around saying "how can you rate Misawa vs Kawada 6/3/94 as 5 stars!") But on recent matches where they don't have all the old stuff written down on and their isn't a set view it becomes the competition to like something less. As soon as one person (looking at JDW) at http://www.otherarena.com critizes a match you'll get a flood of other people amening and saying but you missed this that made it even worse! Really I have no need to try to out critque something, I don't know more about wrestling then JDW so why should I try to act like I do? He's watched it longer then I have so I don't have any inferiority complexes.
The second even worse is to prove your a bigger fan of wrestling by not critizing anything or overly romanticizing everything. You know the people who write "if you don't like it stop watching and shut up." That ostrich argument really annoys me. The only way things improve is if people demand it.
So basically what I want and what I am going to try to do is to write more objectively. Emphasis facts while stating both what is good and bad about everything. If I make a point hopefully I will back it up with facts. Now if I say a match was sloppy I may or may not give specific examples. Anyway there it is. More facts. No trying to out critize people. That is the purotapes philosophy.
Well it that time again when the WWF puts on their biggest PPV of the year Wrestlemania. Since without question Mania is the biggest card in North America I think it deserves a special match per match preview.
The Rock vs. Hollywood Hulk Hogan- Well its a truely historic match. Two of the biggest draws and most charasmiatic wrestlers ever wrestling for the first time on the biggest card of the year. I'm not to excited though. To my knowledge Hogan hasn't delivered a good performance in at least 10 years. While I'm a huge Rock fan he isn't exactly the guy I would call to try to get the first good match out of Hogan in a decade. The real question is can Vince keep himself out of this match? He's interfered in the last three Mania main events so will the cycle continue? One thing for sure though either way this match will not have a clean finish which is another strike against it. However, this is a huge match and occasionally the WWF will let Pat Patterson design an important match so that it becomes better then it had any right to be. So my prediction is Hogan will win with lots of help in a match that could range from a dud- 2 stars.
Steve Austin vs. Scott Hall- This is an interesting match. Hall at one point was very carriable and charasmatic. However years of drug abuse have clearly taking their toll on the bad guy. Hall did show some signs of life against the Rock though, although I wouldn't call that a good match. Austin is better then the Rock but Hall could always show up drunk.... Prediction- X-Pac Interferes to cost Austin in a dud to 3 1/4 star match.
Chris Jericho vs HHH (WWF undisputed championship)- These two have generally been one of the best WWF matches the last few years. You would think with it being on the biggest card of the year they would both step it up. However this match has several handicaps against it. One the build has focused on Stephanie so when its time for Jericho to wrestle the match and carry the heel heat there is a good chance the fans won't respond. Another problem is HHH just can't sustain heat during his matches as a face. Then you add into the fact that you will have Stephanie distracting constantly and HHH hasn't exactly been that good since his return and you get the picture of a match that could go anyway. I doubt it will be bad. Rumours have it HHH will turn heel to win. Who knows the match could be 2 1/2 stars-4 stars.
Ric Flair vs. The Undertaker- Well they've built this one well. Flair and Taker are quite comfortable in their roles and you can tell. The match should suck as Flair hasn't really been that great in the last 10 years either. dud to 2 stars.
The rest of the card is a joke but I will say Kane vs Kurt Angle could be the sleeper good match on the card.