Wrestling News, Opinions, Etc. 03.20.02

Get that f*cking CUNT off my screen. – Dave “Dubbaya’s As Liberal As You, Eric” Hume

Proving once and for all that Stephanie McMahon is a force for unity in this tragic world of ours, bringing together people of all political persuasions. Let me be the first to put her name into nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize, and urge the United Nations to send her to Afghanistan, the West Bank, Columbia, Northern Ireland, and anywhere where she can use her ability to inspire pure hatred of her to bring lasting peace.

It’s Auld Lang Syne Wednesday here at 411, as the final episode of WWF television as we once knew it is in the can, and we all prepare for the Draft on Monday. So let’s get right to it, so that I can get to work/apartment hunting

THE PIMP SECTION

Morse!

Letawsky!

Gamble!

Cole!

Nason!

This is what happens when one oversleeps again.

QUICKIE SMACKDOWN COMMENTS

An intergender Triple Threat world title match?! With Steph!?!? With all things being equal, there are six possibilities for pinfalls in this match. One of them leads to Steph being exiled (Trip pins Steph). Two of them lead to Stephanie McMahon, Undisputed World Champion (Steph pins Trip, Steph pins Jericho).

Given the various volumes on “You Screwed Bret”, it’s quite apparent that Anglophone Canada cares more about this issue than Francophone Canada does. I wonder if the situation would have been different if it had been Jacques Rougeau that Vince screwed.

Weren’t Trish and Lita ready to come to blows after losing the Triple Threat Women’s Title match on Sunday? That was sure a fast forgive-and-forget to be that effective in winning a tag match against superior competition like Jazz and Ivory.

Regal is quickly become the singles version of the Dudleys: something’s fundamentally wrong with the universe if he doesn’t hold gold, and nature will correct that situation as quickly as possible.

It’s always a sad day when two superheroes fight over a misunderstanding, isn’t it? Too bad that it’s only Helms and Molly. Memo to NegativeCreep: I am liking Brock Lesnar more and more, especially after this beatdown. However, I would have done something different with Heyman (see below). The good news about this is that it may be the beginning of the Return Of Managers With External Genitalia. How long until we see Paul Bearer back? Or Fonzie With His Goddamn Whistle? Unfortunately, we now also have to deal with Billy and Chuck’s “stylist”.

Okay, one returning member of the Clique down, one to go. And after that? I’ve got a lot of mail from people saying that Trip’s face turn is a failure (something I’d put more on the shoulders of certain unnamed bookers than Trip himself). It’s obvious then: meld WCW nostalgia with WWF nostalgia and create Degeneration NWO.

AND IN OTHER WRESTLING NEWS…

Let’s see if that 5.3 for Raw this week is sustained or yet another transitory blip. Remember, last year, the post-Mania Raw popped a big rating, then the numbers dropped like a boulder over a cliff the next six weeks as the Austin heel turn disappointed people. It’ll all depend on whether or not they create any interest with the draft. There should be some sustaining of ratings over the next few weeks due to audience curiosity over the Split, so, personally, I’ll give them some leeway in that area. However, if the ratings start dropping post-Backlash, it’ll be proof positive that the WWF still doesn’t know what to do in order to attract and retain an audience.

How much should we read into Austin’s walkout? Right now, I’m not certain. Yes, he has every right to be upset with “creative”, but this time, he’s not in the catbird seat if Flex goes off to do another movie, which has been rumored. The fed has Trip and Hogan there to take Austin’s spot as top face, and are really milking Hogan for all he’s worth right now. Austin may find that his leverage has become non-existent. It isn’t the end for him in the fed if he tries to make his feelings known (look how long the WWF tolerated Hogan’s ego ravings the first time), but it could be the beginning of the end. Flex may not be the first person to Go Hollywood permanently among the upper-card.

And while we’re on the subject, memo to K. C. Chapple: No, I haven’t really bad-mouthed Austin, because most of his problems over the last year have been externally induced rather than caused by his own faults. He’s made the most of a bad situation that he was placed in (the disastrous heel turn) and even got a new catchphrase out of it, which I got sick of quickly (and which has been the focus of most of my Austin criticism, I have to admit). The problem with putting him up against Hogan at WM is the fact that Austin’s been booked in such a way that his ability to spark an audience has been grounded. He’s no longer being booked as being a Force To Be Reckoned With, and the audience has responded to that booking. His image right now is similar to that of the Undertaker: someone who’s always going to be in and around the upper-card, but who will always be put on the back burner for the Flavor Of The Month. In a sense, you could claim that the NWO didn’t do their homework by going after Austin first. I still would have booked an Austin/Trip title match at WM, if only to regain Austin’s edge, with the NWO facing off against Flex/Angle/Jericho (in order to save the WWF from the “poison”, faces and heels band together). However, I can see where your booking makes sense. I don’t think there’s an Austin backlash coming from Net writers, because most of us are seeing things the way I am: it’s not his fault, and we’re going to point the finger exactly where it should be pointed.

MAILBAG!

Lotsa mail about the possibility that the fed is delaying until Backlash for the Flex heel turn (and an equal amount of mail from people stunned they didn’t do it either at WM or on Raw). Yeah, it’s possible, but it still doesn’t have the impact of a turn at WM. Jeff Spence, in particular, wrote me a great letter on the difficulty of the logistics of a turn on the fly. My respose to that, Jeff, is that it’s a matter of pre-planning, even for something that spontaneous. The WWF has to be savvy enough to have a generic plan for doing a turn on the fly, something that only needs a code word or something to activate. Besides, it would have been simple to sell given the fact that both Hogan and Flex were already playing face and heel respectively in the match.

Gotta give a shout-out to Sylvain Parent. Hey, I’m just a nerd with a background in hard sciences, so I have to work hard to parse a deep run through the world of semiotics, symbology, and sociology like your letter. Just wanted you to know I got it, I love it, and I hope to have the time to respond to it.

Memo to Kurt Dieckmann, he of the beautiful, pregnant wife: Hogan injured his ribs in his warmup match against Rikishi a couple weeks ago. So the grimaces after the WM match were actually legit in nature.

The Priz returns to the Mailbag and asks me a few things, so I’ll knock out some answers. Where’s Shane? God knows, but they need him right now. Leaving David out of the Horsemen and going with Test, Edge, Booker, and Benoit makes sense, but that’s too many Canadians for my taste (having David in there gives a nice sense of continuity as well). Booker would be the first black Horseman, though. Wrestlers tend to use the same moveset in non-PPV matches because, in general, it’s easier to book a free TV-length match with fewer moves, and you need to include those that have proven audience pop value, so movesets tend to be limited. This plays to the advantage of wrestlers who have small movesets to begin with and can’t effectively tell a long story in the ring (that’s why Van Dam/Regal worked reasonably well at WM and not in any of their matches before that). My brackets were hit by Gonzaga moreso than Cincy, but I have nothing left in the West right now, literally. And I think I’ll forego comments about child molesters and child murderers right now. There are some bounds of taste that I don’t cross, other than to note that Texas really should implement a “guilty but mentally ill” verdict. If any state needs one, it’s Texas.

As for what my entrance music would be, when I was doing a little e-fedding, I primarily used Faith No More’s “Epic”. After I was turned heel, I switched to the KLF and Tammy Wynette’s “Justified and Ancient” for two reasons: 1) My character’s age was being used against him in promos, and this turned the tables, and 2) I had just moved to Wisconsin, and I couldn’t resist the pun of “All bound for MuMu (Moo-Moo) Land”. If I was doing it right now, I’d either go with Sisters of Mercy’s “This Corrosion” or Einstuerzende Neubauten’s “Haus der Luege”, both of which certainly fit in with my feelings about the WWF, although if I was going for more of a “personal philosophy” statement, I’d use Franka Potente’s “Believe”.

GoatBoy4Life (love the handle) wants to talk about Gnutella and Morpheus: Hey I remember a week or so back you brought up the whole Morpheus situation and how they switched to Gnutella. And I think that you mentioned a different service that you preferred. If so please share. I used to love Morpheus and swear by it but this Preview Edition crap is ridiculous! 90% of the time I can’t even get it to connect to even begin the download let alone get past the ridiculously slow receive time. Any help would be greatly appreciated. No, the service that I prefer is Gnutella, but my preferred client is BearShare (which pushes ads more heavily than ever in its newest 2.50 version, but offers much enhanced functionality). You’ve got to remember about Morpheus that they had less than a week to cobble together a Gnutella client, and the Preview Edition is nothing close to being optimized for heavy-duty use right now. My suggestion right now if you want to see how good Gnutella can really be is to get BearShare (remember, don’t install any of the extra programs; the desktop icon is okay to put on) or to wait until Morpheus has a ready-to-release version available.

Memo to Doug Hills: I don’t have a copy of “Jamie the Axe” floating around anymore due to the fact that my personal archives were wiped out a number of months ago. Maybe someone else has a copy.

I’m leaving Jason Witt for last. He asks me straight out how I would turn the WWF around if I was given ultimate booking power, the only limitation being that Benoit can’t have every belt (damn, gotta go to Plan B). I didn’t really want to answer this, since it verges on fantasy booking, and I detest fantasy booking; however, think back to You’re A Moron a few weeks ago, and you realize that I have to answer this challenge. Everything’s complicated by the Split, but I can actually take advantage of that in this case. Let’s start with the basic format of the shows:

Turn Raw into a wrestling-focused show, make SD the sports entertainment venue. That’ll also come into play in splitting the card; put the guys who can wrestle on Mondays, put the spot artists, crowd-poppers, and guys with limited movesets on Thursdays. Raw is now the serious wrestling alternative to Smackdown, which will attract a stable audience. The key to growing that audience is to provide quality storyline material for wrestlers to work with. SD will live or die on its SE material, with wrestling supporting it rather than the other way around as it’d be on Raw. Give the audience two different programs to work with, and you may attract a broader base of fan for the other.

Announcers would be Ross and Lawler on SD, and Schiavone and Tenay on Raw. Coachman is main interviewer for Mondays, Cole for Thursdays. Ring announcers will be Lilian Garcia and Tony Chimel on SD, and David Penzer and, coming out of retirement, Gary Michael Capetta on Raw. Give Raw a real Nitro-type of feel to differentiate the product and attract Nitro’s old audience back.

Obviously, I am holding the book, subject to no one, including Vince McMahon. Assisting me in booking SD’s story material will be Stephanie McMahon (it was forced on me in the contract, but I can tone down her rough edges), and Raw’s story assistant will be Paul Heyman. You will notice below that they’re booking shows that they are NOT on, and the particular shows lie within their greatest area of talent. Vince Russo will be rehired as a creative consultant, with his ideas subject to my approval. Jim Cornette will also be involved as a creative consultant in addition to his OVW duties, partially to balance out Russo. Russo’s ideas will mostly get filtered to SD, Corny’s to Raw.

My match bookers will be Dean Malenko, Arn Anderson, Pat Patterson, and Johnny Ace. Duh.

New writers will be hired; I plan on a mixture of veteran dramatic series writers and longtime veterans of the wrestling community who would be willing to submit ideas for direction and can help the drama writers to understand the unique demands of wrestling as an entertainment product. Story material will be more mature in nature on both shows, especially Raw (we have to deal with what used to be called “the family hour” with SD). No more dog crap and shampoo commercials. My goal here is to focus demographically on the 18-24 audience with SD and the 25-34 audience with Raw, all while giving them storylines that won’t insult anyone’s intelligence or seem patronizing. It will be assumed that WCW and ECW continuity is part and parcel of WWF continuity, and reference will be made to past events frequently. I am still debating about work-shoot storylines. I like them, most fans don’t.

PPVs stay at once a month, but alternate between traveling companies, thus giving each group two months between shows and decreasing the possibility of contempt through familiarity and match repetition. Crossovers between the groups will be kept to a minimum after the first three months, only happening for the two major PPVs, Wrestlemania and Starrcade.

The only ego in the locker room is mine. If you can’t stand it, get out.

Now, as to the composition of the upper-card on each show. This would be the “final” composition after a transition period necessary to perform all necessary turns and get things into place. Obviously, we’re not going to turn everyone in one night. That would be excessive, even for me:

Raw (Flair’s half of the settlement): Faces: Trip, Benoit, Booker, Edge, with Flair and Arn as main mouthpieces. Heels: Jericho, Regal, UT, Test, with Steph and Shane as main mouthpieces (book it so they want to get their shares of WWFE back from Flair).

Smackdown (Vince’s half of the settlement): Faces: Austin, Angle, Van Dam, Hogan, with Bischoff and Heyman as main mouthpieces (brought in by Linda to take care of Vince; this assumes that Foley won’t do it). Heels: The Rock (I have ultimate power, remember?), Hall, Nash, Kane, with Vince as main mouthpiece. Play off TBS as a tweener until the team finds something for him to do.

Just a note: SD is a little more loaded with star power, but that’s because it’s the network show with the larger audience, and that most of the WWF upper-card is geared right now to SE rather than wrestling.

Obviously, the world title belts would have to be split, something the WWF is not doing. Have The Rock challenge Trip to a match on the first post-split SD for the WWF “half” of the world title and have him go over courtesy of a little help from Vince. He’ll have immediate challengers in Austin, Angle, and Van Dam, and Hogan will eventually want revenge. On the other side, Trip is now “vulnerable”, and Jericho will be there to take advantage of that (without Steph as a crutch). If given a real, wrestling-oriented program, those two could go to town.

(Keeping those particular feuds running would also have the benefit of continuity for the audience. They won’t be heading totally into the unknown at first. But more focus can be brought to bear on them after the Split.)

As per other events, reestablish the Horsemen with Benoit, Booker, Faarooq (see below), and David and make their first mission to get revenge on UT for the ass-whipping Flair took at WM (UT WILL sell for David Flair when necessary or his ass is fired; I have ultimate power, remember?). If there’s anything that can bring the “lost” WCW audience back to Monday nights, it’s the Horsemen.

Meanwhile, on Thursdays, obviously Hogan will have his hands full with Hall and Nash, who recruit Kane as a new member of the NWO (Kane’s got good workrate and a rep as an ass-kicker, which will be sorely needed if the NWO is to be taken seriously). I’d expand the membership slightly more with certain worthy midcarders, but no more than six members.

In other words, make one dominant stable the focus of each show, but not the be-all-and-end-all. The early days of the NWO in WCW should be the model for this, before things went to hell.

Now, on to the midcard and lower card. Again, the wrestlers go to Raw, the spot artists to SD. Resurrect the US title for Monday nights after having Edge lose the IC belt in a very questionable decision to Christian (who goes to SD and finally blows off that goddamn feud). Edge has immediate competition in Regal (sans knucks); let them cut loose on promos against each other. Christian/Van Dam would be a decent feud for Thursdays (and their match on Raw was a nice demo teaser for that possibility). Brock Lesnar and Sheldon Benjamin (Mondays) and Rico Constantino (Thursdays) could be instant plug-ins at this level, much like Angle was. Give Hennig one more run on Mondays and try to retool Val Venis for Thursdays. Maven has enough potential as a pure wrestler to keep him on Mondays, but Chris Harvard and Josh Matthews would make great SD additions (and the WWF already knows how much potential they have).

Keep the EuroStrap and bring back the TV Title. You’ll have enough third-echelon guys to battle for them in both groups.

As for the smaller guys, serious Nitro-style cruiser battles on Monday, high-flying, crowd-popping spot fests on Thursday. Have X-Pac reappear from whatever rock he’s been under with the WWF LHW belt and (re)join the NWO (oops, he did; I wrote this on Monday, folks, and BFM can prove it). He’ll have some competition, especially from Jeff Hardy. That’s because I’m going to do something else:

Split up every tag team that’s current and separate them to different shows, with the exception of the Dudleys, who’d make great competition for a Horsemen tag team (even a purer wrestling show needs its moments of garbage wrestling, and the Dudz aren’t viable on their own). Again, wrestlers on Mondays, spot artists on Thursdays. So Matt Hardy becomes Tajiri’s main competitor for the Cruiserweight belt (along with Helms, Chavo, and Funaki) while Jeff takes on X-Pac (and they’ll have Spike Dudley and Crash Holly to contend with, not to mention TAKA). Palumbo becomes a US title threat (feud him with Tazz to start), while Gunn goes to Thursdays. Bradshaw finally gets his IC title push, while Faarooq gets a good talking-to by Arn Anderson, who offers him his spot (not a liver spot, not his dog Spot) as enforcer of the Horsemen as a reward for his long service to wrestling and his ability to kick anyone’s ass. Rikishi and Albert can feud on Mondays while Taylor gets an IC shot if he gives up the Worm and gets a real finisher.

In the meantime, new teams are formed for an eventual pair of tournaments. One team definitely gets revived for Thursdays: Credible comes back from exile and reforms the Impact Players with Lance Storm (yes, Dawn Marie will be brought back, with the side benefit of Simon Diamond being a great heel addition for the mid-card). Other “permanent” teams can be formed from the guys the creative team can’t figure out how to plug into the mix without disrupting it and from the developmental talent (now the loss of Russ Haas hurts). I’d try my damndest to get Steve Corino and Mikey Whipwreck under contract and teamed for Mondays, if Whipwreck wants to stop promoting his indy cards, that is. Raven and Saturn together again…the possibilities for tag teams become infinite when you work from a zero base.

I would not bring back Jeff Jarrett, Randy Savage, Road Dogg, Eddy Guerrero, or either Steiner, so don’t ask. Any other WWA “talent” is fair game, though. Devon Storm, US Title Contender, anyone?

What about the women, you ask? Again, split them on wrestling/eye candy lines, with the Women’s Title staying with the Raw group instead of being available to both. Jazz, Jackie, Molly, Lita, Ivory, and Trish (who would have been in the other group a few weeks ago), and a few imports stay on Monday. Terri, Torrie, Dawn Marie, My Beautiful and Beloved (who gets no breaks for putting out for the booker), and perhaps Francine (Heyman creating an ECW stable right under Bisch’s nose to get back at him for the talent raids that left ECW bare?) will be on Thursdays, which is valet’s territory only, verging slightly into pudding matches whenever Lawler’s Viagra kicks in.

That’s how I’d start. Believe it or not, the transition would be rather easy and would only take about three to five months to accomplish. By Starrcade, the shows would be separated for long enough to have developed running threads of their own, and Starrcade could be promoted as a true “night of champions”, with each group’s best facing the other (no titles on the line, of course; just an old-fashioned “what if” fulfillment thing). Whatever would result from this would definitely be more interesting than what we have now.

I’ll now give Grut a chance to play with our mutual toys until he turns the sandbox over to Flea. I’ll be back next week with an analysis of the Draft. Let’s hope that, in the words of Bob Seger, this time, they’ll get it right.