After watching the Nitro replay tonight, I guess I was a little harsh on the show in my report. I still don’t think it was a great show, but it was pretty well booked, and everything logically is building towards Starrcade. The undercard in WCW is severely lacking, and WCW is starting to fall back on its veteran star power a bit too much. But since they are involved with even-playing-field rivalries with newer wrestlers (unlike the disastrous New Blood/Millionaire’s Club debacle), I will learn to deal with it.
And while WCW might want you to think Starrcade is a huge show of Wrestlemania proportions, it just isn’t, at least this year. The main event of Scott Steiner vs. Sid is not a huge climax of a year of WCW angles. Rather, it is the beginning of what could be WCW’s big chance to regain some momentum. They finally have a match that, if saved and built properly, can pop a buyrate on PPV and increase TV ratings.
That match is Scott Steiner vs. Ric Flair.
In a shocking twist, WCW has not only realized the money to be made in that match, but they have taken special care not to blow it as an unadvertised main event for a random Nitro. It has actually been an undercurrent in WCW TV for more than a year, and was notable in the suspension of Scott Steiner after he bashed Flair on Nitro for forcing Steve Austin out of WCW.
Behind the scenes politics notwithstanding, the feud between Scott Steiner and Ric Flair has developed into a compelling on-air rivalry that looks to continue for at least a few months. A cursory look at Nitro tonight will reveal that the promotion’s two top faces from the past 6 months, Booker T and Sting were barely mentioned. Goldberg, who remains in booking limbo, finally got involved in some mainstream angles last night, but still remains out of the loop.
And although Sid Vicious has the main event role upcoming at Starrcade, don’t kid yourself: the top babyface in WCW right now is Ric Flair. Sid is merely a pawn in the ongoing game of “human chessÃ¢â‚¬Â between Ric Flair and Big Poppa Pump. Flair will continue to throw everything he can at Steiner before resorting to a last case scenario: reinstating himself and taking on Steiner for the title he has help umpteen times in the past.
If Vince Russo or some other hack booker was writing this story, Flair would have been rushed out of retirement in time for Starrcade, and the small boost in buyrate for the event would have done nothing to foster any growth for WCW in the future.
Instead, in a rare case of forethought and patience, WCW has opted to use a big name in Sid Vicious as a sacrificial lamb to Steiner at Starrcade. WCW has shown incredible care in their construction of the Flair/Steiner matchup thus far, continuing on each episode of WCW TV, but still having another story as the main focus. Even Monday, when WCW mercifully shipped Sid to jail for the bulk of Nitro, they made sure to bring him back at the end to reinforce that the match we should be watching for is Sid vs. Steiner, and not Flair vs. Steiner.
But after Steiner plows through everyone’s favorite softball playing grappler at Starrcade, what is next for Steiner? He beat Goldberg at Halloween Havoc. He took out Sting on Thunder. He put Booker T out of action. He’ll have defeated Sid. Perhaps a rematch with Sid? Maybe another big returning star like the Macho Man to feed to Steiner?
Once the time is right, WCW will proceed with the full fledged Steiner/Flair program. Could Flair reform the Horsemen to take out Steiner, only to finally face Steiner himself after his troops can’t take him out? Maybe Steiner will injure David Flair forcing Ric to seek revenge.
The key for WCW is finding the right time to pull the trigger on Flair/Steiner. They can’t wait another year and make fans tired of waiting (like they did in 1997 with Sting/Hogan), but they also can’t rush the match, because it is the one real shot they have at making some headlines. And as Ric Flair is getting older and older each day, it is a fine line between having Flair as a threat to Steiner and having Flair as an embarrassing old flabby man against a giant unstoppable champion.
Already WCW is getting a positive buzz for its traditional, if unspectacular booking over the past month. While they continue to do more right than wrong, the show still has a vanilla feel with no real impetus to watch each show. Scott Steiner as WCW champion is beginning to bring an unpredictable element back to Nitro, as WCW tries to restore a “must watchÃ¢â‚¬Â label to Nitro.
I used to be called WCWidro around these parts, and while my fandom of WCW in particular has been reduced, I still want WCW to come back and re-ignite a stagnant wrestling landscape. Flair/Steiner could be amazing if done correctly, but relying on WCW management to book the promotion correctly is impossible. And with Eric Bischoff (a notorious Flair hater) rumored to return to a vital role in WCW’s management, I can only wonder if I will ever see Steiner/Flair, let alone a well-booked angle and compelling storyline.
My pessimism may be seen as bias, but having watched more WCW TV than anyone over my 2 years at 411, I have gotten excited too many times by possible WCW angles only to have my hopes squashed by more inept booking and behind the scenes politicking.
A well-booked angle leading to a climactic match between Steiner and Flair could bring new viewers to WCW, and bring back the traditional wrestling audience lost under Vince Russo.
To be the man, you have to beat the man, and if Big Poppa Pump is going to be the man to lead WCW back to prominence, then he’s going to have to beat The Man one day.
WCW hopes that day will usher in a new era of prosperity for the promotion. I just hope they can follow through and give it a chance to succeed.