Cheap Heat 8.15.01: Those Who Forget History….

Some thoughts:

Test has another shot at getting over. They keep turning him and whatnot, but how about giving him a couple of, you know, victories to make people think he can win something?

Of all the things they could have kept from WCW… did they have to keep Spinarooni? I’d prefer to forget Mark Madden altogether.

Palumbo and O’Haire are both 6’8″ and probably almost three hundred pounds. Being a wrestling fan, I can suspend my disbelief quite a bit… but to believe these two young guys got absolutely squashed, without any sort of offense, by a guy probably 20 years older, and much more out of shape, left a bad taste in my mouth. Well, for O’Haire anyway… I don’t like Palumbo that much… except to use the term “Jungle Kick” at every possible opportunity.

Which leads very nicely into this week’s column.

Remember the good old days of wrestling? I’ve started a column with these exact words before and, like before, I mean Eighties WWF. When you knew exactly who to cheer for, there was one superhero who eclipsed the others, and he was a role model to be loved. In WCW, you had Ric Flair. He was the flagship of the company. The wrestling industry had a firm caste system, with Hogan, Flair, and whoever they were currently feuding with on top, a whole “middle-class” bulk in the center, and jobbers, failed gimmicks, and near-retirees on the bottom. Wrestlers didn’t move between castes very easily.

While a lot of us who still watch look back on the past with nostalgia, I would wager folks like Paul Levesque, Michael Hickenbottom, Steve Williams, and Mark Calloway look back and give praise to whatever gods they believe in that they survived the backstage politicking they had to fight with early in their career.

Those four guys, who would eventually become the top people in the industry, had to fight a glass ceiling for a lot of years. They had talent, they had charisma, they could wrestle a hell of a lot better than the guys on top of them… but they were pushed down, saddled with ridiculous gimmicks, and made to look as stupid as the “good old boys” on top wanted. The established stars saw the future of the industry in the young stars, and wanted it stopped. Steve Williams became high-flying “Stunning” Steve Austin. Paul Levesque became “Terra Rizen” and then, later, a Connecticut snob named Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Mark Calloway became the Undertaker, a gimmick that managed to succeed in spite of the intense silliness of the idea ((a wrestling zombie?)). Michael Hickenbottom became Shawn Michaels and managed to get out of a tag-team with a drug addict, through a boy-toy mid-card gimmick, and get to the top of the card.

When Hulk Hogan left the WWF, guys like The Undertaker and Bret Hart found themselves at the top of the card. Shawn Michaels, who was told he was too small to make an impact, was rushed to the top. They guys who were held under the glass ceiling were suddenly at the top of the card.

But, those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it.

Shawn Michaels moved quickly to establish himself as a Good Old Boy. In the void left by the departing Hulk Hogan, and the subsequent ego that went with it, Shawn Michaels established himself in both positions. The folks who were at the top with him were safe, but no one else was. Bam Bam Bigelow, Shane Douglas, Vader, and Owen Hart were all very talented WWF performers that were, in some manner or another, held back by Michaels, while his friends Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, and Helmsley were given continued pushes. I’m sure Bret and the Undertaker did their share, too… but Michaels was famous for it.

While over in WCW, Ric Flair, notorious for keeping guys under him, was suddenly faced with a man even he couldn’t match politics with. Hulk Hogan entered WCW, and created his own spot in the caste system, above main eventers who were with WCW for decades. Guys like Triple H and Steve Austin had already left for the promised land of the WWF… a place where, they probably thought, the wrestlers weren’t in charge.

They went over at a good time, as it turned out. As it always happens in the business, it came time for the top star to leave. Michaels retired, Bret left for a huge contract, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall left, and Barry Horowitz decided he’d have better luck in WCW. A young, up and coming badass by the name of Steve Austin was the one who took the torch from Michaels, and another fresh face, Triple H, took over the reigns of the most influential group in the WWF, DX. And the Undertaker, who kept on trucking through his Decade of DestructionTM.

Which is where we still are today.

Now, rumors fly that Triple H, The Undertaker, and Austin are using their backstage power to hold the young stars back. The proof is easy to see, if you’re looking for it. You have the Undertaker squashing Palumbo and O’Haire at every outing. Austin faces Matt Hardy and barely sells a punch. Triple H faces Jericho and Test, and pounds them at every outing. Austin beats both Benoit AND Jericho in a Triple Threat match, then gets credit for putting Benoit out for six months. Jericho, on the other hand, could have been given credit for tearing Triple H’s quadricep with the Lion Tamer, thus putting the move WAY over, but doesn’t. In my estimations, the next guy to receive a firm squashing will be none other than Rob Van Dam.

RVD represents everything the current good old boys once did. A talented, young star with the charisma to pop a crowd, the athleticism to take your breath away, and complete willingness to put his body on the line. The good old boys see the future in him. Unfortunately, RVD, along with all the Alliance guys, have another matter to deal with.

The WWF guys.

Since the moment RVD began negotiating with the WWF, people condemned him. They said he wouldn’t fit in, he’d cause backstage problems, and he didn’t have the right attitude. Since he’s entered the federation, he’s been a model citizen. But the entire locker room wants him out of there. All of the following bits come off the 411 Newboard.

RVD works stiff.

RVD plays to the crowd, which he shouldn’t do because he’s a heel. They seem to forget that, when Van Dam was in ECW, he played to the crowd as a heel, too. If he didn’t play to the crowd, he’d still be cheered, because he’s that exciting to watch. Johnny Ace said Van Dam is trying for cheap heat, even though most of their heels insult local sports teams.

The top stars in the WWF don’t like the number of spots Van Dam does in his matches. It makes them look bad.

His spots take too long to set up, and he doesn’t sell big moves from opponents for long enough.

He was given the Hardcore Title specifically so he can display his skills in various Hardcore matches. Umm… isn’t this how you build new stars?

Now, I don’t necessarily blame the lowercard WWF guys for being a little pissed off. Some of those guys have worked solely for the WWF for a lot of years. All of the sudden, the WWF owns the rival federation, and some of the wrestlers from the other fed suddenly get positions on the card above them. But should it really bother the upper card guys? The ones who’s jobs really won’t be affected by anything that goes down underneath them? When I read about today’s superstars holding back the young guys, it amazes me because every single one of them went through the same thing. Except one.

The guy whose PPV record from Wrestlemania 2000 to Wrestlemania X7 was 7-5, with two of those victories off a Dusty finish… ie: winning after losing and then having someone restart the match.

The one guy who put over the Big Bossman.

The one guy who SHOULD have the biggest head in the business.

The Rock. You never read about him holding anyone one back. You never read about him refusing to go out and job. The biggest star in the business has NEVER won a Wrestlemania main event, and he’s been in three. And I can almost guarantee he’ll be putting Booker T over this Sunday. He entered the WWF ((as his current incarnation)) when the WWF was in dire need of charismatic stars. He didn’t get held back, he got catapaulted. He could wield enormous political power backstage, but he doesn’t seem to, and it definitely doesn’t come through on television. He may be ungrateful, as Foley puts it, but he certainly doesn’t try to stop others from succeeding.

When one of the established stars put themselves over Van Dam, and it will happen relatively soon, mark my words, it won’t be the Rock. This Sunday will be very telling when it comes to the immediate future of RVD. If he beats Jeff Hardy to get the Hardcore Title back, they’ll keep establishing him in that division. If Kurt Angle comes out to make him lose, which is the finish I predict, then RVD will be moving out of the Hardcore Division and entering into upper mid-card feuds. Which also means Austin will beat Angle.

The WWF is very close to recreating the problems they had with the Clique. The Invasion of WCW returned the freshness to the promotion for now, but it continues to suffer from the same problems. Austin, Rocky, the Undertaker, and Triple H are the only top-carders, and they’re reluctant to allow anyone else on top. Even with the invading army coming in, fresh with their own world champion and a legacy behind their title, we’re still seeing WWF guys vs. WWF guys in main events. The only truly cross-promotional feud going on is Rocky vs Booker. The rest are jokes… primarily, because Rocky will sell ((such as he does)) for Booker T. The others won’t.

Watching Van Dam over the next six months will be a good indicator of backstage WWF. He’s already over with the crowd and doing the amazing stuff that won him the love of ECW fans. People throw around the moniker a lot, but he really is the next Shawn Michaels. His WWF career is, so far, paralleling Michaels… minus the start as a tag team wrestler. He’s starting at the bottom, being smaller than the competition around him, and not having the backing of the powers that be. Eventually, the fans get behind him, and the pops can no longer be ignored. Michaels succeeded in the wake of a departing Hulk Hogan. For Van Dam, barring injury, the upper tier of WWF stars will be around for a long time. There won’t be a sudden opening at the top because of retirement or because guys jumped to a rival federation. Unfortunately, there’s only so many times you can watch the same four guys hold the belt.

Just ask Eric Bischoff.

End transmission.