Well season’s greetings 411-ites, and a happy new year to you all. As this 2001 comes to an end, I find myself thankful both that the site is still alive after the weekend we just had (and that Widro is still alive, even though I understand he’s retreated to a remote island in the Caribbean for an undetermined period of time) and that Ben Morse has become a fixture here on 411wrestling.com. At the beginning of the year, The Mean was simply a pipe dream of mine, and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever make it on a major site. To not only be on 411 but to be one of the guys who is maybe best associated with the “newÃ¢â‚¬Â 411 is too good to be true. I’ve got to take the time out to thank Hyatte for reading my tryout in the first place, Widro beyond belief because the guy has been incredibly helpful and because without him there is no site (seriously, the guy’s a machine), and the readers who have been awesome to me with great feedback and awesome responses.
As a site we’ve certainly had quite the year: from the departure of Hyatte, to the new blood revolution lead by myself and the horde of other new columnists, to the addition of Scott Keith, the awe-inspiring return of Ashish, and Widro’s continued vigilance. However, now with fifteen editions of The Mean under my belt with The Rock being the latest, I feel I have enough material to take a look back and make some musings and predictions. At the end of each column, I’ve done one or two paragraphs basically predicting what I thought was the next step for the wrestler I examined. In this special year-ending edition of The Mean, I’m going to take a look back at the predictions I made for each of the guys I took a look at, see how accurate I was, make some further calls for what I do believe 2002 will bring, and remember a bit; sound good? Ok, but first, what edition of The Mean would be complete without the most infamous opening paragraph in the history of philosophy related professional wrestling internet columns
The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle believed that everything in life could be broken down into two extremes: excess and deficiency. He believed that if a person could find the medium or mean between the two extremes in all that they did in life, they would travel down the path to happiness and virtue. With pro wrestling fans, the two extremes are clear: the deficient “markÃ¢â‚¬Â enjoys watching wrestling more than anybody but has very little knowledge of anything not on TV, while the excessive “smartÃ¢â‚¬Â knows every backstage dealing, but as a result can become highly bitter and cynical, losing their ability to enjoy the show. These two extremes view each wrestler differently, often disagreeing with each other. Each week I look at both perspectives and then attempt to find “The MeanÃ¢â‚¬Â between the two. This week, let’s take a look at Kevin Nash, Chris Benoit, The Undertaker, Justin Credible, Billy Gunn, Scott Steiner, Jerry Lynn, Tazz, Widro, X-Pac, Diamond Dallas Page, Raven, Chris Jericho, Test, and The Rock
The Teaser: Didn’t know what a teaser was at this point.
Memories: I actually shopped this around as a try-out column to several sites before it landed in 411, so it spent a lot of time on the ol’ laptop before actually hitting the net. I knew with the rough concept I had, Nash was going to be the easiest guy to begin with, because nobody divides the marks and the smarts so perfectly. It’s gotten harder week after week to find ways to make the concept work for other guys, but Nash was a piece of cake; it was also probably my shortest career retrospective ever.
I Said It: “You don’t have to like Kevin Nash, but you’ve got to respect the man. Even if you don’t agree with his tactics (and it’s pretty difficult to) you have to acknowledge that the man has achieved tremendous success and sustained it over a long period of time. Nash could be seen as a man living what I would call “the modern American dreamÃ¢â‚¬Â: he has achieved maximum success with minimum effort. He has used what he’s got naturally (a good look and body) and tempered it with an important skill (political savvy) to cover up what he does not have (tremendous athletic skill). People often refer to Triple H as the smartest man in the wrestling business, but I would not be surprised if ol’ HHH gained most of his knowledge from his old buddy “Big Daddy Cool.Ã¢â‚¬Â Nash is not a stupid guy (breaking away from the stigma of the “big dumb wrestlerÃ¢â‚¬Â); once he got his big break, he recognized that it was principally the marks that make up the majority of the wrestling fan landscape. Nash was blessed in the fact that he already had a look and size that appealed to the marks, and he augmented this by developing an array of cool-looking power moves and highly likeable persona. Finally, Nash created a safety net by learning the ins and outs of backstage politics; this is what Nash hopes will save him should the smarts become the majority (and you better believe that Nash foresees that on the horizon; again, the guy is no dummy). Nash has never cared what the smarts think of him and likely never will; he’s not going to develop a workrate to appeal to the smarts, he’s going to fall back on his connections backstage. The job of the mean is not judge, but to evaluate: in final evaluation, Kevin Nash is truly one of the smartest men in wrestling.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hindsight Being 20/20: Didn’t really make any predictions here, but nothing over the past half a year or so has done anything to alter my opinion
Outlook for 2002: Most people think it’s a lock that Nash will end up in the WWF regardless of what Vince offers him; based on Nash’s history, I’m not sure that will be the case. Frankly, Nash is not one to play ball unless the other kids play by his rules, and if he’s not offered the contract he wants, there is no “need for the spotlightÃ¢â‚¬Â that’s going to cause him to compromise his demands; Nash has stated plenty of times that he’s in it for the money, not the love. Nash can make a decent salary with the WWA or in Japan working less for the time being, but if neither place can provide “Big SexyÃ¢â‚¬Â with the fast cash he craves, that’s when he’ll be willing to talk with the WWF again. The next time the WWF and Nash negotiate, both will probably need each other far more than they do now, and as a result Nash will once again come out a winner.
The Teaser: Does being a fan of the “Canadian CripplerÃ¢â‚¬Â make you a morally corrupt person? Read on and find out
Memories: I was going straight for the jugular of the internet fan on this one, and I think it produced probably the most controversial and eyebrow raising of all my columns. I was knee-deep in the ethics portion of my philosophy class at this point and the question of whether being a good craftsman or a good human being did or did not need to coincide intrigued me.
I Said It: “Respect Chris Benoit for being a hard worker and a great athlete, but the fact is, there are more important things in life than how well you do your job. Benoit made a decision in the Nancy Sullivan situation that was both unethical and immoral (entering into an affair with a married woman), as well as tremendously stupid (entering into an affair with your boss’ wife!). As much as I love to watch Chris Benoit in the ring, I feel no pity for the fact that he was held back all those years in WCW; he got what he deserved. This of course raises the question of what exactly it means that smart fans hold a man’s ability to perform in the ring over his moral character (mark fans are exempted here as most probably have no idea about the Sullivan situation). I tend to see nothing wrong with the view of the smart fan; they are observers of a form of entertainment and really have no obligation to take the entertainers for task for their ethical decisions. Smart fans have the right to support whomever they want, and as fervently as they want. As far as Chris Benoit goes however, the man is a tremendous wrestler; further, he possesses several traits that have to be seen as virtues: dedication, work ethic, athleticism, etc. But the fact is: Benoit committed adultery, and I don’t see how you can justify that. Perhaps Kevin Sullivan did abuse his powers in an unprofessional manner, but he certainly had the moral grounds to do so. Regardless, the Sullivan debacle is in Benoit’s past now, and he has a whole new opportunity before him in the WWF; whether or not the sins of the past come back to haunt him remains to be seen.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hindsight Being 20/20: I was definitely taken to task by a number of letter writers who disagreed strongly with some of my opinions and in fact did get me to change several, but not all of them. The issue of Kevin Sullivan being wrong in abusing his power was one I didn’t touch on enough, but it doesn’t alter that Benoit did a foolish thing career-wise. A lot of people brought up the “it takes two to tangoÃ¢â‚¬Â theory and placed more blame on Nancy Sullivan, but regardless, Benoit remains the second guy in the aforementioned tango. The best statement I made was simply that fans should ignore the backstage crap sometimes and this is a perfect example; Chris Benoit is a stellar performer and I’m glad to see that he’s succeeded in the WWF and enjoy watching him wrestle.
Outlook for 2002: When Chris Benoit returns from nearly a year on the shelf as a result of a neck injury, he will begin his biggest year ever. He will have a rub he’s never had before, since he’s never been off television for so long before. If the fan’s response back when he hosted Heat over the summer was any indication, the guy is very much missed, and more over with the marks than he has ever been. If he remains a badass babyface, which I’ve always said is where he belongs, I believe he’s going to fit perfectly into what will be a very stale World title picture once he returns and will finally get that elusive World title for more than a day.
The Teaser: Is The Undertaker the same man today that he always has been? Let’s take a look
Memories: I had just come out of a heated debate with my future colleague and Ã¢â‚¬ËœTaker’s biggest detractor, one Scott Keith, and was determined to prove that the ol’ workhorse was still an asset to the WWF. I was very happy with the way I presented my argument, and even happier to find with the responses I received that a lot more internet fans held the opinions I did than I thought.
I Said It: “Speculation is all well and good, but evidence and testimony from people who were actually there always wins out. As I mentioned, every time I’ve seen a wrestler interviewed or read a wrestler’s book, The Undertaker is referred to as a guy who is great to work with and who is unbelievably unselfish; indeed the “company man.Ã¢â‚¬Â These aren’t just mid-card suckups I’m talking about, the names I’ve thinking of include Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Steve Austin, HHH, Mick Foley; basically a veritable who’s who in the pro wrestling business. Granted The Undertaker no-sells, but it has always been a part of his gimmick; when he’s told to sell, he does so (he’s been knocked out by countless Stunners and Rock Bottoms and been taken out by the Mandible Claw on repeated occasions). Undertaker doesn’t job a lot, but he does when necessary (did anybody really expect him to job to Kama or Giant Gonzales? But he did job cleanly to Steve Austin at Summerslam ’98 in a match that elevated him to legit World champion, if he wasn’t there already). Basically, it’s important to distinguish between the worker and the guys backstage. The Undertaker character, if he were real, would be a no-selling, never-jobbing, piece of crap. As a human being, Mark Calloway is a hard worker and, according to those who know him, a heck of a nice guy; all he’s ever done is what he’s been told. If you disagree with the things Ã¢â‚¬ËœTaker has done as far as selling and jobbing recently and over his career, more than likely you have a problem with the powers that be in the WWF, not with Mark Calloway.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hindsight Being 20/20: Given the way the rest of 2001 went, I’m not nearly as solid in my pro-Taker stance as I was when I wrote the column. Wrestling wise, he took a dip even further down, and now (in my eyes) has come back up and then some with the heel turn and the move to the Hardcore division (watching Ã¢â‚¬ËœTaker beat up the cruiserweights is a guilty pleasure on my part, I’ll admit, and not because I dislike the cruisers). There is still in my mind no disputing Undertaker’s professionalism in the past, but I think the Undertaker of 2001 is a different man than the Undertaker of 1998, and it’s a bitter pill for some to swallow. The only thing I can say in the guy’s defense at this point is that when you’ve been around the business as long as he has, maybe it’s impossible not to get caught up in the politics; we’ll see if the same holds true for a guy like The Rock, who has yet to play the backstage game, but has still only been wrestling for five years, in a decade or so.
Outlook for 2002: It’s been said for like the last three years, but I truly believe this is the last ride for the Ã¢â‚¬ËœTaker. I think he’s going to be built as a monster via the Hardcore division, work with some guys he hasn’t gotten to work with before, make a challenge to a babyface champ, and end up putting that guy over in one final main event before finishing out his career with one final babyface run. Of course for all we know he could still be Hardcore champ by this time next year, he’s a tough guy to predict.
The Teaser: The column 411 readers have been waiting all week for! Why? Because there is no mention whatsoever of the Hart family!!!
Memories: I was doing a bunch of things here: 1) I was covering a primarily ECW guy for the first time, 2) I was doing a guy who was just starting his second WWF run, and 3) I was feeling confident enough to “test the watersÃ¢â‚¬Â with my first column on a guy who was not a household name.
I Said It: “At least give the guy credit for trying. Justin Credible is clearly not the best in the business, but he shows an enthusiasm and love for wrestling that is rare. The fact that he continued on after the Aldo Montoya gimmick is admirable. The vigor he puts into his matches and interviews is respectable even if he sometimes lacks the ability to measure up. Yes he’s swiped some moves and mannerisms over the years, but I bet he only did it because of his incredible desire to be over in a business that has given him hell over the years. He might not be the coolest, and he might not be the best, but his dedication and enthusiasm is just incredible. I’ve never been the biggest Justin Credible fan, but I’ll give credit where credit is due, he really wants it. Whether or not he will ever get it, I don’t know. Much as I’d like to see him succeed, there just doesn’t seem to be anything that sets Justin Credible apart from the hungry mid-card pack in today’s WWF. I could be wrong though; I kinda hope I am. Maybe Justin Credible will someday prove me wrong.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hindsight Being 20/20: Sadly, in the WWF of 2001, enthusiasm does very little in such a power-packed roster. X-Factor fizzled, and Justin did next to nothing but team with Raven on Heat as an Alliance member; his highlight was probably even getting to be in the ring during the infamous ECW “invasionÃ¢â‚¬Â or getting to sing solo during Austin Appreciation Night.
Outlook for 2002: The best he can really hope for is that Hall & Nash come back and he ends up an nWo or DX b-teamer; sorry P.J., I truly am.
The Teaser: It all comes full circle in the end
Memories: This was a column a lot of people had been requesting, and a fairly easy one to write in that it was another case of marks and smarts being very clearly divided and because along the way I found a way to tie it back to my Nash column. The twist of course was that along with PK I may be the only other Billy Gunn fan on the internet
I Said It: “”Nash could be seen as a man living what I would call “the modern American dreamÃ¢â‚¬Â: he has achieved maximum success with minimum effort. He has used what he’s got naturally (a good look and body) and tempered it with an important skill (political savvy) to cover up what he does not have (tremendous athletic skill).Ã¢â‚¬Â That was from my first column on Kevin Nash. Billy Gunn is very similar to Kevin Nash, but with one fatal exception. Like Nash, Gunn has a good look, and a good body; he appeals to the mark fans because of this. Like Nash, Gunn does not possess tremendous in-ring skills, although he is considerably more athletic and thus more talented than Nash. Unlike Nash, Gunn is not adept at the game of backstage politics. I don’t know Billy Gunn the man, but I can make one of two assumptions: he is either not that bright, or a really nice guy. These are the only two explanations I can think of for why Gunn has not capitalized on his natural abilities like Nash and become a superstar. If Gunn learned to play the political game like Nash, then just like Nash he would be able to parlay the mark reaction and his physical gifts into a long term run as a main-eventer. But because he does not play the game like Nash, Gunn can not get away with being lazy, he can not cover up what he lacks, and he can not succeed like Nash has. At this point I would like to believe that Billy Gunn has learned his lesson. After so many failed pushes and demotions, he has to have realized that this latest heel turn may be his last chance. He has to (excuse the pun) get off his ass and recognize that there is no room for laziness. He has a lot going for him, but he’s lacking just as much. If he’s not going to play the backstage game, then he’s got to do his work in the ring. Has Billy Gunn learned his lesson? Will he finally become a superstar?Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hindsight Being 20/20: I think Billy has indeed learned his lesson, and even that hasn’t helped him out. He has been working hard in the ring since the spring, but the timing of various events outside of his control have conspired to screw him over. First his heel turn was cut short by the Alliance angle, and then his potentially decent team with the Big Show was done in by TBS being required in other angles. He ended up getting stuck in a team with young Chuck Palumbo, but he at least seems to be making the most of it, showing he at least has learned to stay motivated.
Outlook for 2002: The Gunn/Palumbo pairing is a hit or miss concept. Their “pretty boy heelÃ¢â‚¬Â comedic gimmick is very much a throwback, but the West Hollywood Blondes got very over on a similar gimmick only two years ago. Gunn & Palumbo certainly have more in-ring ability and charisma than Lenny Lane & Lodi, but how long a gimmick team can stay over in today’s WWF may be a challenge. The lack of depth in the tag division will only help these two. If the team fails, I really don’t see what comes next for Billy Gunn other than a pink slip and reunion with Road Dogg in the WWA.
The Teaser: The one edition of The Mean you can NOT miss!
Memories: Never ever did I receive more negative feedback than I did for this column. I intended it as a joke and a sort of off-handed tribute to all of Widro’s hard work on the site, but people called me a suck-up and told me I’d “disgraced myself.Ã¢â‚¬Â To this day I ask the question what I had to gain from sucking up? I was just having some fun, but some people just didn’t want to get that. The coolest part of the whole ordeal was getting e-mails from former 411 guy Dave Gagnon, a guy I used to read a lot and whom I goofed on in the column, saying he liked my work.
I Said It: “To the outside world he is many things: hard-working, mysterious, cynical, sarcastic, hard-edged, businesslike and more but to the few who actually get the privilege to speak to the boss on a regular basis, he’s a sweetheart of a guy. Yeah, he’s cynical, but he’s a funny sonofabitch, fun to talk to, and extremely knowledgeable. And as far as the hard work goes, picture all the work you assume Widro does and multiply it by about a hundred. Am I writing all this just because he’s the guy who can fire me tomorrow? I guess nobody will ever truly know (note to Widro: I’m not), but take it as the truth. Widro is the heart and soul of this site, and whatever we become in the months to come, you can be sure he’s the man behind the curtain. Oh yeah, and he’s got two nipple rings, looking for some way to get a third.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hindsight Being 20/20: Woe to those who piss off the big man, but working for Widro is a blast, as he will never demand more of you than you can deliver and you can always count on him to maintain the site’s respectability. In the latter part of 2001, Widro dealt with Hyatt’es departure from the Internet with great wheeling and dealing as well as intrasite maneuvering with the hiring of Scott Keith and shuffling of Josh Grut, Eric S., and Flea into the rotating news position.
Outlook for 2002: An extended vacation or a trip to the nuthouse are really the only options
The Teaser: He’s over, he’s impressive but is he worth the attitude?
Memories: I wrote this column right around the time when the Invasion was beginning and there was a lot of speculation going on about which WCW superstars were necessary for the angle to be successful and how many of them the WWF would actually get. It also ended up being the first really intensive history I’d write, and when I finished the article, I really felt the pain of the smarts that mourned what Scott Steiner could have been that much more.
I Said It: “In 1991, Scott Steiner made a decision that for better or for worse changed his career, and his life, forever. Perhaps he felt that adding the extra muscle would prolong his career, and perhaps he was right. Perhaps as spectacular as he was in the ring, the smaller Scott Steiner would always in the end have been overshadowed by his more charismatic brother in a business that was (and continued to) shifting from sports to entertainment. He has suffered, in the form of injuries, but he has also prospered. It is not hard to see why Scott Steiner has an attitude: to get the success he has attained in the wrestling business, Steiner has had to spend much of the past decade in tremendous pain. Scott Steiner is a hard worker and has always done whatever it has taken to succeed in the wrestling business. It doesn’t give him a right to his bad attitude, but it is at least understandable if not excusable. I do believe that what Scott Steiner can give to the new WCW is worth it for Vince McMahon. I also believe that under the WWF management of the 21st century, Steiner is smart enough to know that he will have to leave the bad attitude at home. Furthermore, Steiner does not deserve to be forced out of the business he has sacrificed so much physically for; and the professionalism Steiner demonstrated on the final Nitro cannot be ignored. As I said, Scott Steiner made a choice a long time ago; it will only be once his career comes to an end that we can speculate whether or not the decision he made was worth it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hindsight Being 20/20: I still think that Steiner really worked hard for the business and it was sad to see him get cut down when he was finally getting his shining moment. In even further retrospect, the decision Scott Steiner made in 1991 to go from a flashier wrestler to a power guy was a good one business wise, though it has killed him in terms of injuries and workrate; cool as he was in his day, I don’t think the Frankensteiner-throwing babyface Scott Steiner of 1990 would have ever been a truly credible World champion.
Outlook for 2002: In my mind, the final Nitro will prove to be the key to the remainder of Scott Steiner’s wrestling career, as he made another good decision and acted professionally. The WWF wants Scott Steiner, and he wants to be there, and if it didn’t happen by mid-2002 at the latest, I’d be surprised. I think Steiner has seen what happened to his old pal Buff Bagwell and is willing to check his attitude at the door; plus he knows what kind of ship Vince McMahon runs. I do hope “Big Poppa PumpÃ¢â‚¬Â can remain injury free in 2002, but it’s always a roll of the dice with this guy.
The Teaser: (Didn’t have one)
Memories: This was a very different column as I wrote it during whatever free time I had while working at an overnight camp during the summer, and decided to test how much of a fanbase I had truly garnered by doing a less popular guy like Jerry Lynn. The result of the former was a pretty disjointed column, the result of the latter was general disinterest in the column; not my proudest moment.
I Said It: “Alas poor Jerry Lynn, because it really does seem like the adage discussed at the beginning of this column is true in his case. In a WWF with so much talent and so many guys who can both work a great match and deliver a good interview, it is no surprise to see Jerry Lynn lost in the shuffle. Until he can develop interview skills, Lynn gives short attention span minded WWF fans no way to remember him from match to match. ECW shutting down hurt a lot of people, but Lynn is certainly at the top of that list. ECW fans were a rare breed, and the only type who could really appreciate a guy like Jerry Lynn. In ECW, where substance mattered over style, Jerry Lynn had finally found a home. The upside for Jerry Lynn is that there will most likely always be a place in wrestling for him, unfortunately it just won’t be at the top of the card. Wrestling will always need guys like Lynn, Malenko, and the like to put on solid technical matches to wow the crowd, help the new guys, make guys look good, etc. Even after his active career is over, I would not be surprised to see Lynn flourish as a trainer. But for all his hard work and skill, it is truly sad that wrestling can’t find a better place for a guy like Jerry Lynn. I for one would like to see him on TV more often in any role. Will that happen? Only the WWF knows for sure.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hindsight Being 20/20: The “nice guys finish last ruleÃ¢â‚¬Â is still in full effect for Jerry Lynn. He lost the Light-heavyweight title to Jeff Hardy in the spring, then barely wrestled (despite an awesome match with old rival Rob Van Dam on an edition of Heat), was strangely left out of the ECW portion of the Alliance, and has now been home for months nursing an injury; fans aren’t exactly counting the minutes to his return.
Outlook for 2002: Even a spot as trainer is looking slim now as the WWF has plenty of mid-card guys who have been with company longer such as Al Snow and Bob Holly who are willing to do the job. The WWF is looking to cut it’s roster in the new year, and you have to know Lynn’s head is right on the chopping block right about now.
The lost edition of The Mean, as I wrote it on the computer at camp and it is the only column I don’t have saved on my laptop.
The Teaser: Career choices who made them and were they the right ones?
Memories: Definitely a personal pick for me here. I was a big ECW Taz fan, but also enjoyed him as a WWF commentator, and had a great deal of trouble reconciling the two. I thought by writing this introspective maybe I could understand Tazz a bit better.
I Said It: “I’m sure there is a part of Tazz that longs to be in the ring dropping people on their heads, but at the same time he’s a smart enough guy to recognize that he had a great deal of success partially because he was in the right place at the right time in ECW, and that because of that he has now earned a new kind of success, and one that hurts a lot less; for a guy whose whole gimmick for awhile consisted of being miserable, I’m betting Tazz has to be pretty darn happy right now. Tazz is a lucky man. There are many former ECW stars who found success in ECW simply they were allowed to do things there they can’t do elsewhere (Mike Awesome, The Sandman, etc.), but even without what made him Taz in ECW, Tazz is still a success in the WWF. In addition to the announcing career he already has, the popularity of “Tough EnoughÃ¢â‚¬Â is going to open up doors for Tazz he never even knew were there. I see in five to ten years Tazz being the new Jerry Lawler, a beloved fixture of the WWF who sits behind an announce table but whom the crowd goes will for whenever he feels the need to step out and resolve an issue. The real question is, will the memory of Taz, the unstoppable bad ass from ECW ever completely fade from fan’s minds?Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hindsight Being 20/20: Just when I thought I had Tazz figured out, the last few months have made him a total enigma in my mind once again. There have been times over the past half year or so I’ve thought Tazz really wanted to go back to wrestling full time, and others when I thought he wanted more to be a commentator. At this point, I truly have no idea, and I’ll tell you, I really don’t think he does either. I guess the problem (if you can call it that) comes from that Tazz has now experienced success as both a wrestler and an announcer and is waffling between the dream he worked so hard for, and a more secure future.
Outlook for 2002: I don’t think Tazz will ever give up his announcing gig or his wrestling one on a fulltime basis. He’s settled into the Heat show nicely, and while Al Snow was decent in the interim, it truly is Tazz’s show and he works beautifully with Michael Cole. However, now that he’s only doing Heat and not Smackdown, he can wrestle a bit more. Tazz is over enough to warrant a pretty decent push, but his Heat job will probably present a hurdle to ever moving beyond European or Tag Team title reigns to Intercontinental and World. However, if Tazz does become popular to the point where the fans are screaming for World champion Tazz, what does he do then?
The Teaser: X-Pac rules! No I’m serious
Memories: A labor of love that took a plane ride to San Diego and back to write. The longest column I believe I’ve ever written, but also one that opened my eyes, and I believe the eyes of a lot of others. Following this column I watched every X-Pac match in a far more appreciative light and found myself enjoying them more and changing the channel less.
I Said It: “X-Pac rules. There, I said it and I mean it. Sean Waltman has proven over his career to be one of the most talented, but more importantly one of the most adaptable wrestlers around. Few wrestlers have enjoyed both success as a face and a heel the way he has, and as far as light-heavyweights who have, I could probably count the number on one hand. To the people who say X-Pac has become lazy, I bring up the point I made earlier in my column: flashy high flying moves like the moonsault get pops, and that’s not the type of stuff a true heel is looking for. So many heels nowadays want to play the “coolÃ¢â‚¬Â heel (HHH or Rob Van Dam are prime examples), getting applauded for their great offense but still getting booed, and that’s ok, but for every RVD out there it’s important there are real heels like X-Pac out there to maintain wrestling’s cosmic balance, because eventually every “coolÃ¢â‚¬Â heel becomes a babyface, and then there’s nobody left for the babyfaces to feud with. I look at Billy Kidman’s failed heel turn against Hulk Hogan in 2000 as a prime example of why X-Pac is doing the right thing. Kidman lost all his matches and continued to employ his usual daredevil offense; the crowd had no reason to cheer him. When X-Pac wrestles the “fake lazyÃ¢â‚¬Â style that he has perfected, and then goes onto win matches he has no right winning, the fans have good reason to hate him and that is why X-Pac rules.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hindsight Being 20/20: X-Pac put on some of the better matches of his recent career in late 2001 prior to his injury and I enjoyed it a great deal. I still do believe nobody else can play a better small heel and continue to praise his ability to get over.
Outlook for 2002: The injury is a temporary setback, one that X-Pac has worked through before. Even Kevin Nash & Scott Hall do show up in the WWF in 2002, look for one of Ã¢â‚¬ËœPac’s biggest years in quite some time; if not, look for him to continue as a great Light-heavyweight champion, especially with all the great imported WCW and ECW talent.
DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE
The Teaser: An in-depth examination of perhaps one of the most confusing psyches in wrestling today.
Memories: First column back at college, and one of only two to feature the popular, but unfortunately short-lived “Trojan TalkÃ¢â‚¬Â portions. After all the poor treatment DDP had received from the WWF, I was truly curious to get in the head of somebody who loved the game as much as DDP did and find out why he was able to put up with it all.
I Said It: “More than anybody else I’ve ever done in this column, I wanted to understand Diamond Dallas Page and what makes him do the things he does. Even after writing the column I still feel like I only partially comprehend the man, but the one thing that shines through is this: this is a man who truly loves what he does. Clearly he’s not in it for the money, or else he wouldn’t have given up his Time Warner contract, or even given up his nightclub business in the first place. Whenever he was faced with a tough decision during the course of his career, Page took the hard way rather than the easy. Granted he has been selfish at times, manipulative at times, but in many ways it is the nature of the business. It is unfair to lump DDP in with a Hogan or a Nash because he clearly has far more respect for the business of pro wrestling than those two; he gives up so much (financially, physically, seeing his wife) just to do what he loves. It’s strange, but in a way I feel like Diamond Dallas Page represents better than any other wrestler the psyche of the smart fan in general and the internet writer in specific (he also represents the theater major, but that’s not particularly relevant here). Page lives for the spotlight and is willing to sacrifice plenty to get his piece; he is quite simply addicted to attention and the spotlight. Internet writers love the attention they can get by writing and being controversial on the Net in ways they’d never consider in real life; they’ll sacrifice large amounts of time and sometimes money to run websites, write columns, etc. Perhaps DDP shouldn’t be so much of a mystery if we all simply take a closer look at ourselves gives you something to think about no?Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hindsight Being 20/20: DDP has perhaps been treated even worse since I wrote that column and yet he keeps on trucking in the WWF; when was the last time you heard about the guy complain about his horrible treatment both on and off camera? I stick to my theory of a combination of love of the game and love of the spotlight being the driving force. It truly is uncanny at times what DDP puts up with
Outlook for 2002: I’d like to believe at this point that a veteran such as DDP has paid his dues to the point where Vince McMahon will realize that the man is a former World champion and sacrificed a lot of money to be in the WWF. Even if he can’t be rebuilt to World title levels, DDP’s new gimmick is a decent one and he’s still a solid performer who should be an asset to the company, not a joke. But as they say: anything can happen in the WWF
The Teaser: What about Raven?
Memories: After hearing Raven being referred to by J.R. as being so smart and so cerebral so many times, I had to do this one. I’m also a minor Raven fan; he isn’t one of my favorites, but he’s been a guy who has consistently entertained me and rarely let me down as a fan. Also responded briefly the 9/11 attacks and offered my predictions for Unforgiven, so quite a packed column.
I Said It: “Scott Levy should hope that the one bridge he has not burned is with Vince McMahon, the man who assured him in 1994 that there would always be a place for him in the WWF. Raven the active wrestler was quite the success story for several years; if Scott Levy wanted to prove that he could be more than just a light-heavyweight or a manager, he succeeded. But Raven’s body is giving out on him, and the current landscape of professional wrestling is such that he probably will not be able to book for himself the great feuds he has booked in the past anytime soon. But the mind of Scott Levy is still quite potent, and if there is anywhere he is needed right now, it is behind the scenes of the WWF. If he and Heyman can get along, once Levy retires from active wrestling, or at the very least scales back and is given a chance to do more booking (a chance he turned down in 1994), they could possibly forge storylines that will make the WWF as revolutionary in the coming years as ECW was in 1995. Raven’s time might be coming to a close but is Scott Levy’s only just beginning?Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hindsight Being 20/20: Since the column was written, Raven has lost to a man with a mop on pay per view, and headlined several editions of Jakked with tag team partner Justin Credible.
Outlook for 2002: Well, Terri has resurfaced as of this past week on RAW, but Raven is still nowhere to be seen. Only a few years ago he was one of wrestling’s most highly touted free agents, but now Raven is anything but. With the WWF hitting something of a creative slump in recent times, I still believe Scott Levy on the booking committee, particularly if he can get along with Paul Heyman, would be a very good thing. I don’t believe Vince McMahon wants to let Raven go, but we may see him as an announcer before we see him as a writer, however I do believe it’s only a matter of time. As far as Raven the wrestler, “Never moreÃ¢â‚¬Â do I think we’ll see him up too high on the card.
The Teaser: As we stand on the eve of Chris Jericho trying to once again “win the big one,Ã¢â‚¬Â we must ask once again why hasn’t he already?
Memories: For a very long time Chris Jericho was my favorite wrestler, and this was just weeks prior to his highly-touted match with The Rock at No Mercy. Interest in Y2J was at a major high and I was anxious to write about him (this was also the winner of a 411 Fan Forum poll, narrowly edging out Christian).
I Said It: “The bland babyface was not the real Jericho, so that can be dismissed. The comedic heel was fine for a bit, but no comedy act, no matter how funny, wins World titles. Same thing goes for the comedic babyface. Jericho clearly must learn to be able to play a serious character while keeping the comedic showmanship that has made him a star, something few people outside of The Rock have ever done successfully (HHH more or less dropped the comedy when he became a true star; ditto for HBK). This brings us to the all-important question: face or heel? The consensus seems to be that Jericho always worked best as a heel and has grown stale as a face, so bad is the way to go; I disagree. Jericho was fine as a heel when he was competing against Cruiserweights, but at his size, nobody is going to buy him as a legitimate heel threat to he likes of The Rock and HHH. Y2J has that underdog look about him that a heel simply can’t have; I do not think he will thrive as a heel. A few months back (I think around Wrestlemania), Michael Cole of all people referred to Jericho as a “vigilante,Ã¢â‚¬Â and for some reason that just struck me as perfect. I think the character that Jericho needs to adapt is one of the guy who is too small to go out there and threaten people, but who picks his shots and isn’t afraid to stand his ground. He needs to be a face with an edge, a character he seems to have been slowly developing since his feud with HHH; it’s time to pull the trigger all the way. There is no way somebody with the charismatic-athletic skills of Chris Jericho should go his entire career without holding a World title. If there’s one thing you can say about Y2J, it’s that he has not been adverse to change over the course of his career, and is willing to adapt into whatever and whoever will help him succeed. The ball is really in the WWF’s court as they have a tremendous performer who they need to find a place for. The WWF is extremely talent heavy right now, but if his feud with The Rock has shown us anything, it’s that the fans want Y2J to move up, both in the arenas and on the internet. It’s time for Chris Jericho to stop “making a living off of potentialÃ¢â‚¬Â and it’s time for the WWF to help him do it. Is it finally time for the potential to be shed and the star to emerge? We’re going to see very very soon once and for all.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hindsight Being 20/20: Well, the choice was made to turn Jericho heel, and then to make him the man to unify the WCW and WWF World titles. Y2J is now riding the biggest wave of his career, but in my ever-humble opinion, I still don’t like him as a heel. I think his interviews are getting stale, and frankly his repertoire is still too limited to carry the middle portion of matches. I think the World title will be good for credibility, but Jericho’s heel spark is gone, and I think his long-term future would be more fruitful as a face with more of an attitude; at the very least he now has a long-term future.
Outlook for 2002: I see the World title reign going a month or two more, but certainly not to Wrestlemania; the only real question is if HHH, Rock, or, Austin will go over Y2J. Still, the wins he has gotten have established him, and he’ll most likely never be a mid-card joke again. I think a lot of Jericho’s future will be determined when Chris Benoit returns; the two will either reform their excellent tag team, or reinvigorate each other with another chapter of their excellent feud.
The Teaser: The next “bigÃ¢â‚¬Â thing
Memories: Wanted to do another interesting mid-card guy, and one I thought had a lot potential and an interesting story: Test fit the bill. Also, I talk about Hyatte’s departure and Scott Keith’s arrival.
I Said It: “By having HHH feud with Vince rather than Test, by having HHH marry Steph, by pushing Cactus Jack and The Rock as his opponents and putting HHH over, the WWF built one of the biggest superstars ever, and helped keep the Federation alive during the year Steve Austin, their biggest star, was injured. Test may have been sacrificed in 1999 and 2000, but his sacrifice opened the door for HHH, The Rock, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, and much of the WWF’s current success. Test proved the ultimate team player and the word is that he didn’t complain once. Now it’s two years later and Test has been patient; I really do think his time has come. I’m looking forward to Test over the next couple years. I’m a Test fan; I like his offense, I think he’s becoming a better interview by the day, he’s a hard worker, and he can only get better. I do think he is the best and most versatile big man in the business. Whether or not he ever makes the main event, only time will tell, but he’s talented and dedicated (and big) enough that he’ll always have a place at the very least. Test made quite the sacrifice in 1999, and I do believe he will be rewarded in due time. It would have been cool to have seen WWF Champion Test in 1999, but if he ever does earn it for real, it will be much better, and the WWF as well as Test will be ready for it. Will the time ever come? We shall see.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hindsight Being 20/20: At this point, I wouldn’t be too excited to see World champion Test. I think the WWF screwed up again as he was given only a one month reign as Intercontinental champion. Ever since winning immunity, Test has been somewhat entertaining outside the ring (though not always), but he can still work in the ring. Still, he needs another decent reign as IC champ to boost him to the top.
Outlook for 2002: Too much talent on the roster has always plagued Test, and the present is no different. Still, he’s getting more TV time than he’s ever gotten in the past, and who knows, he may catch on. Short term forecast isn’t great, but the long term is pretty wide open.
The Teaser: The smell of success the stench of jealousy
Memories: Really my other end of the year “thank youÃ¢â‚¬Â to the readers as it was a long-requested one.
I Said It: “His detractors can claim that Rock’s act is stale or that he’s over-pushed, but the facts show that Rock has given far more than he has taken from the wrestling business. Fact #1: Yes Rock has something of a repetitive in-ring style, but at the same time he is limited in the time he is given and was “raisedÃ¢â‚¬Â so to say on Vince Russo and his three minute matches. When time comes for Rock to put on a quality long match on pay per view he always steps up his game. And look at Rock from 1996 or 1997 compared to 2000 or today and you’ll see a man who has worked hard to become the best wrestler he can be under the circumstances provided. Fact #2: Rock has almost without fail done what’s best for the WWF first and The Rock second. He never asked for what he was given early in his career, but he has done everything he can to give back. He has jobbed on pay per view to Mark Henry! He has dropped the WWF title cleanly when called upon to do so, and one time on an untelevised card only weeks into his first reign as champ to a guy who many others with bigger egos probably would have refused to lay down for. He could easily have asked for more time off following his hiatus to film the “Scorpion King,Ã¢â‚¬Â but he rushed back into the ring because the WWF needed him. Fact #3: His catchphrases can get old, but he consistently gives some of the most entertaining interviews that wrestling has seen since Ric Flair; it’s what’s in between the catchphrases that counts. Fact #4: Between he and Kurt Angle, wrestling has never had ambassadors to the “realÃ¢â‚¬Â world that make it seem classier than it does now. Fact #5: Rock has put guys over, given the rub and made careers. He put HHH over twice in an attempt to build him. He most likely would have done the same for Billy Gunn. He tried to do so for Rikishi and did in part for Chris Benoit. Now he’s in the process of turning Chris Jericho from a guy who has been “this closeÃ¢â‚¬Â for years into a legitimate main event superstar. Fact #6: Nobody (and I mean nobody) wrestles with the intensity of The Rock. For him even simple moves like punches or kicks are executed with a wealth of emotion; his spinebusters and DDTs have a snap to them unmatched. But at the same time, when’s the last time you heard of Rock injuring his opponent or even of The Rock taking time off to tend to his own injuries. Often times in life we blame people for things that aren’t their fault, especially celebrities. Duane Johnson to the best of my knowledge has never done anything not asked of him by his bosses in the WWF, but there are those wrestling fans who will forever hold him responsible for the sins of Vince McMahon and others. For better or worse, The Rock has always been unselfish, hard working, and has stood at the helm of the good ship WWF through good times and through bad. I’m sure the grumbles of a few unsatisfied fans are drowned out by the millions and millions cheering for him each week, but perhaps there is still a pang of hurt as it has to evoke painful memories of the abysmal early days of his career. Still, Duane Johnson has never stopped working hard to justify the opportunities he’s been given, and as a result, he’s been handed even more. It’s more or less impossible to please all of the people all of the time, but who knows, perhaps The Rock can be the man to do it Ã¢â‚¬Â
Hindsight Being 20/20: Really not enough time has passed since I wrote this one for reflection
Outlook for 2002: Look to Hollywood friends; I saw the trailer for “The Scorpion KingÃ¢â‚¬Â last night, and it looked damn good. I don’t see any reason why he can’t be the next big action star in a genre that needs new blood, but hopefully we wrestling fans will still get to see him once in awhile.
Well everybody, thanks for a fantastic 2001 and thanks for reading; here’s to a great 2002!
In the mean time, thanks for reading…