Klassic Keith: SmarK V. The Glass Ceiling!

SmarK v. Glass Ceiling aka “The Blame Game”.

Man, the online wrestling community must be lacking for something to talk about if they’re turning on each other. I mean, I know there’s a good chunk of people whose lives revolve around dissecting every sentence I type and searching for the hidden meaning, but then let’s face it: I AM a hero to millions and I can see how that might inspire some jealousy. But when your average Joe Smartmark is posting a scathing column to the Torch website about how everyone else on the ‘net is viewing a given show in the wrong way and needs to be corrected, well, I think the wrestling world needs some sort of big story to give these guys something INTERESTING to write about.

Be forewarned: This is not that story. This may not even be on the “interesting” side of the ledger. But it’s at least about wrestling and not the metatextual nonsense that CRZ is currently blaming himself for creating. Sez I: That’s amateur-night egocentricism. For the main event, check this out: The famous column recently posted to WWF.com by that Seth Mates guy was pretty much written about me.

“Hey wait a second”, you’re probably saying, “I thought this column wasn’t about writers writing about each other?” Well, it’s not.

It’s about HHH.

Yes, I know, just what he needs, more exposure. But I have a point. I think.

Basically, much like CRZ has become the front-runner in putting forth de rigeur inter-site bashing, I seem to have become associated with putting forth the Glass Ceiling theory of the WWF main event as of late in my RAW reviews on my website, TheSmarks.com. (Thumbs up, cheap pop)

The Glass Ceiling is the favored smarkish term for one guy holding back another, and the image implied is a guy pressed up against the highest level he can go, looking through a piece of glass at the people higher up than him, whether they’re justly there or not. It was first used in reference to WCW in the mid-90s, when guys like Hulk Hogan went out of their way to make sure anyone under 6’1” and 240 pounds didn’t advance past the US title because they were “too small” or couldn’t draw or what have you. To use a website analogy, let’s say one talented and popular writer was led to believe that he’d be getting the recapping job for a new television show launched by a certain promotion in 1999, but in fact due to the politics involved in the site, the job had already been promised by someone else to the guy who already had three or four other recaps for the site at any one time. This is strictly hypothetical, of course. Now on one hand you could say to yourself, “Hey, tough shit, the guy with the initials has proven himself doing this stuff while the other guy is just some B-Show recapper for a second-rate promotion”, and on the other hand, you could say “Hey, who’s to say that if given a chance, this guy couldn’t do just as good a job, and may even turn his own meager website into a successful venture and end up with a book that’s in a store near you as we speak?”

See, and that’s the problem with HHH (another guy who goes by three initials), and Austin and Undertaker and whoever else the WWF feels is a “top guy” because they happen to be either genetically or chemically gifted. The WWF made the choice to push them to that spot and some of them have even drawn money for the WWF there. The problem comes when someone like a HHH is pushed so hard, so often, in so many different situations, that there doesn’t appear to be any room left in the main event scene for someone else. Let me set the record straight on something right now, because I’m often thrown into a group of rabble-rousers that I have nothing to do with: I have nothing against HHH and his current mega-push. Wrestling is as much about politics as the in-ring performances, and if HHH is That Damn Good and can maneuver Vince into keeping him as the only guy with the stroke around the WWF, then more power to him, in both the literal and figurative sense. He goes out, busts ass, and puts on **** matches night after night with a variety of opponents, and is generally (stress on GENERALLY) unselfish enough to do the right thing. However, with someone that good and that consistent, when he DOES act like a jerk, and say, squashes Jeff Hardy and gives him no offense for the better part of 10 minutes, it stands out as a major aberration and makes the fanbase collectively go “Hey, what the hell happened there?” When someone like Kane does it, it’s less noticed because it happens all the time and no one pays much attention to it anymore. When that happens, I freely criticize him for doing so, because he’s being a jerk, not because I’m some Jeff Hardy fanboy. In fact, I don’t think the Hardyz are anywhere near ready to main event. That, however, is not the specific issue for that match: The issue was that regardless of whether Jeff had “earned” that spot yet, HHH treated him like a jobber and reinforced the idea that he was a fluke champion in the minds of the fans. I guess the point is that I just don’t see the downside to HHH doing the job on that RAW that the HHH-boosters seem to. Back in a Ross Report in Dec ’99 or so, when WCW was going to hell in a handbasket and everyone wanted to go to the WWF, Jim Ross made a comment about how he’d love to have to choose between too much main event talent rather than too little. Well, now that situation has presented itself, and suddenly there seems to be a dearth of main event slots open.

Now, there seems to be a popular theory, and I have no idea where it comes from, that there’s only room for four (and four only) main eventers in the upper card at any one given time. At least that seems to be the argument put forth by those who are diehard fans of the people on top, because whenever letting someone else into that club is mentioned, the topic immediately switches to “But if (such-and-such) jobs, he’ll go crashing back down into the midcard forever and (so-and-so) will have taken his spot!” Maybe I’m slow here, but doesn’t the WWF have FOUR HOURS of high-exposure TV time to fill each week, in addition to two recap shows and a semi-live semi-recap show on Sunday? Are you telling me that various combinations of four guys are supposed to be enough to adequately fill the attention span of the viewership, if only you make sure to turn one or two of them and create “fresh” matchups out of the same deck of cards? Hey, Austin’s a bad guy now and Undertaker’s a good guy, so let’s run another PPV with that on top and hope the fans are too stupid to remember the last time we beat it into the ground two years ago! Now, I know that wrestling prides itself on never overestimating the intelligence of it’s fanbase, quite rightly so in a lot of cases, but there was a very good reason why they were forced to stop running shows headlined by Undertaker v. Steve Austin – people stopped paying money to see them. That’s generally the motivating factor in any major decision in wrestling. If people are willing to watch guys like Benoit & Jericho and Angle & Regal do their thing in the main event instead of the opening match, then why not try it?

And that’s where we come dancing back to the article written by Mr. Mates from WWF.com.

First of all, since this is the WWF we’re dealing with, some retroactive history-changing is in order, as he asserts that people (such as myself) were crying for HHH to be pushed to the main event and made World champion back in 1999. Now, those of you who have e-mailed about this time after time can prepare to gloat, because I’m about to destroy this argument by quoting something I wrote, about HHH no less, in 1999, when people such as myself were supposed to be clamoring for him to main event.

From my “Hell Freezes Over” rant…Jan. 9 / 99

“- Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Okay, here’s one of the secrets of wrestling that NBC didn’t mention: Bad wrestlers make better faces than heels. Why? Take HHH: The biggest cricism levied against him is that he’s a good seller, but is limited to four offensive moves, two of which involve using his knee. So why is he suddenly being carried to watchable matches by guys like Rocky Maivia? Because heels control the match. When HHH was a heel, he’d get beat up for the first minute, take control for the middle portion, and then fall victim to the face’s big comeback for the end. So Helmsley had to fill in the middle portion with an actual offense, and the fans noticed how shitty he was as it. Fast forward to the present, and HHH’s face turn. Now the situation is reversed: He gets to beat up the heel for the first minute with two of his offensive moves, spends the middle portion selling for the heel, and then makes the big comeback with his Pedigree to win. This style is much more suited to him, because it means we don’t have to watch him struggle through the offensive portion. However, a formula match is formulaic for a reason: It’s boring. Who the hell wants to watch HHH do the exact same match 20 times a month because he’s incapable of doing anything else? That’s why he’ll never be a World champion (and thank god for that), because he’s simply not as adaptable as a Steve Austin, Mick Foley, or Shawn Michaels.”

This was of course written some 8 months before he won the first of 4 World titles. I assure you, I was speaking for the majority of the online fans back then when I wrote that. There were VERY few people who thought he had any kind of shot at being a legitimate World champion, although many people admired his hair-care.

Of course, as history goes, HHH DID get his shot at the bigtime, and despite 4 months of abject failure, finally improved on his own to the point where Mick Foley was able to put him over the top as a mega-star with a couple of well-timed jobs and a marriage to the boss’ daughter.

What, you may ask, is the lesson here?

Simple. HHH was big. Some might consider it an amazing coincidence that he suffered a knee injury, returned some 50 pounds of bloated muscle mass heavier, and was immediately pushed as the next big thing. I don’t. Vince likes big guys. I think that’s plainly obvious by now and should come as no great shock to anyone. So you’ve got this big guy with no obvious charisma or “main event talent”, but he’s big, he’s got a great physique, and he has great hair. So what happens? You put him in main event after main event, give him every nickname and catchphrase in the book, have him destroy other main eventers with his sledgehammer, give him a new theme song and tights and elaborate entrance, reunite D-X as flunkies for him, have him beat the owner of the company into a bloody pulp on national TV, put him over Steve Austin, and if all of that STILL doesn’t get him more than a lukewarm crowd reaction, you marry him to the daughter of said owner, steal the company from him, win the title back, and retire one of the biggest stars of the promotion. And THAT is how HHH got over. The pish-posh about his hard work accomplishing the deed generally ignores the 9 months of insane push (completely unwanted by the fans, mind you) that he got leading up to the Stephanie marriage angle in December of 99. All the WWF’s propaganda about the fans choosing who’s over and dictating the direction of the company is total nonsense when faced with the case of someone like HHH who they were determined to make into the next star whether the fans liked it or not. Hey, you do what you gotta do. Look at Steve Austin, out there doing everything short of pushing over old ladies and getting a midcard heel reaction so that the WWF can justify their own decision to turn him at Wrestlemania without having a good reason in mind beforehand. Chanting “Asshole” is one thing, but show me the gate receipts for the title match against the strong babyface that gets a 1.0+ buyrate. I accept that the WWF does what it does because they don’t want to look weak in front of the marks, I can handle that.

However, I draw the line at having my intelligence insulted by this same group of shysters telling me that guys like Jericho and Benoit have to “earn” a spot in the main event and that the fans need time to accept them there. Looking back at the history of the WWF easily proves what a load of horseshit that is. The WWF pushes who they WANT to the top, and that’s that. If Jericho and Benoit aren’t in the main event, it’s simply because someone doesn’t want them to be there, and if history is still accurate it’s probably because they’re smaller than the guys currently on top. Look at Bret Hart – stuck in the midcard while being more over than half the promotion for much of the 90-92 period, and only elevated to the main event on a whim one afternoon in Saskatoon when the WWF was doing such god-awful business with Ultimate Warrior’s 14th return that they had no choice but to try someone else out. However, WWF Accepted Historyâ„¢ has now rendered that singles period as a “tryout” time for him, when he was “earning” his spot at the top by working his way through the ranks and gradually getting moved up the ladder.

Well, that’s all well and good, but what about Kevin Nash? Debuted in mid-93 as a loser bodyguard, elevated through friendship into I-C champion, tag champion, and an 8-second squash of Bob Backlund to win the WWF title, a title that he would hold for an entire year. Did I miss some huge chunk of time where Nash “earned” his spot in the main event as a popular babyface, or does the WWF maybe just push big guys to the top and justify their reasons later? Further, was anyone particularly hot to jump on the Lex Express? I mean, does getting a big pop from a bunch of guys on an aircraft carrier on the Fourth of July suddenly translate to “paying your dues” and earning a multi-million dollar push that would last for nearly a year before failure was finally admitted? I mean, look at how long they hung in there with two freakishly huge guys like Luger and Nash and look at how fast they gave up on Benoit and Jericho and try to tell me that the latter two aren’t being held back. The WWF can make these guys believeable main eventers ANY TIME THEY WANT TO and they refuse to do so because of Vince’s ingrained prejudices against those smaller than his boys on top. Why does the WWF hold this power? Because wrestling fans (and I’m speaking of the larger group of slavering WWF fanboys in general) are so used to being told what to think and say by the WWF marketing machine that it’s ridiculously easy to not only make someone into a star, but then convince these same people that it’s because of their support rather than simple politics.

For instance, another popular argument going around says that Undertaker is still over, therefore he deserves his current main event push. Well, I should HOPE he’s still over – he gets a 10 minute entrance, personalized Limp Bizkit theme song and video, a motorcycle to ride to the ring on, a good chunk of the TV time on every show, rarely jobs, never sells, and is booked to inspire fear in the top heels in the business simply by walking to the ring and looking menacing. If he WASN’T still over with that kind of effort behind his push, I’d be more shocked than anyone. Hell, if you applied even half that stuff to a Benoit or a Jericho then THEY’D be so crazy over that there’d be no choice but to push them to the top, too. It’s called a self-fulfilling prophecy — where you manipulate the conditions to meet your expected outcome. The WWF wants Taker to be over and in the main event, so they make sure that the fans react how they want them to react, and thus they can justify their own position later on. The WWF doesn’t want Benoit & Jericho to reach the top, so they leave them trading wins and losses with other midcarders in the midcard and the WWF says “Well, we WOULD push them, but they’re not over enough yet”. And if a section of the fanbase complains loud enough, they actually get one of their paid shills to write a column basically saying “Your opinion doesn’t matter to us because we’re making tons of money, nyah nyah”.

Let’s think about this for a second, though.

When a group of people is asking for a new face in the main event scene, they’re basically saying “I will pay to see this person main eventing”. The WWF is essentially replying “We don’t want your money because your opinion of a main eventer differs from ours”. And in fact, when Benoit WAS given his shot at the main event, at Fully Loaded 2000, the buyrate exceeded that of the established guys, a fact which is conveniently jettisoned by the WWF whenever they’re arguing the subject. I mean, to me, that would seem to the primary indicator of a guy being ready for the main: Being put into a main event and outdrawing other, blonder guys who were working with the same guy. Wrestling’s all about the golden rule: If it makes the gold, it rules. Shooting yourself in the foot to spite your nose is never a good strategy under the best of circumstances, and doubly so when your #1 babyface goes off to shoot a movie and you’re left with a huge gap in your main event roster and a string of excuses as to why you’re not even giving someone else a TRY in that spot. I mean, did you know the WWF was forced to take away anti-Rock signs in the weeks leading up to Wrestlemania X-7 because they were doing such a poor job of convincing the fanbase that Rock was the babyface in the situation? Isn’t this the same company that bitched out Ted Turner for doing exactly that same thing?

But hey, Vince has always favored the big guys and talked out of both sides of his mouth (and even other orifices), and probably will until they pry the WWF out of his cold, dead hands, so I’m certainly not holding my breath for the situation to change anytime soon. But I guess my point is: Don’t blame HHH for the politics, blame Vince for allowing it. Don’t blame the jaded online fans for expressing their viewpoint, blame the WWF for stifling contrary opinion to the point where they have no choice but to bitch online.

You may, however, feel free to blame CRZ for necessitating this column.

(To be continued?)