Klassic Keith: That’s [Sports] Entertainment!


The Netcop Rant: “That’s [Sports] Entertainment!”

You know, not to rain on anyone’s WCW happiness parade, but I think the

Russo / Ferrera signing is going to blow up in WCW’s face, sooner rather

than later.

The fundamental problem is this: WCW isn’t very popular right now.

Sure, but that’s why they brought in the Dynamic Duo, right? To fix it,


It doesn’t work that way.

See, in 1997, when the oh-so-talented Mr. Russo took over the writing

duties for the WWF, things were really bad. Much like today in WCW.

Buyrates were dying, ratings were nowhere near Nitro (although RAW was

MUCH closer to Nitro during that era than Nitro is to RAW today) and

there didn’t seem to be any fresh ideas. So what turned them around?

Well, if you’ve read the Lazarus Rant where I explained the WWF’s

miracle comeback in 1998 (and shame on you if you haven’t), you’d know

that three things triggered the ratings resurgance for the WWF:

1) Steve Austin’s rise to prominence

2) Curiosity following Bret Hart’s little incident in Montreal

3) Hatred from the fans towards Vince McMahon following that


When #1 and #3 came together, it was ratings gold and WCW had nothing to

counter with except hot-shotted title switches and giving away PPV main

events. It wasn’t enough, and now WCW is back to where they were in

1996: Hulk Hogan running around like an idiot in his red-and-yellow

underwear while the announcers decry that he’s once again in the prime

of his career and everything is wonderful.

Newsflash: Fall Brawl, featuring Hogan defending the World title

against Sting, did less than 0.35 as a buyrate, which makes it the

second-largest bomb in WCW history. To wit, everything is most

definitely not wonderful, and the golden boy is no longer a draw, and

now the numbers are finally there in black-and-white for someone to

confront him with once and for all.

But no one will. And that’s the problem.

But I digress. Back to Russo.

See, no one cares about WCW right now, and there’s nothing on the

horizon to make them care. They’re catering to a very limited audience

right now, and the plan seems to be letting Russo add elements from the

WWF. . . elements which most WCW fans despised when the WWF was doing

them on a regular basis.

You can’t just tease some Nitro Girl lesbian jello wrestling matches and

“I married a transvesite!” trash TV-type stuff and expect the casual

audience to magically appear out of thin air. When the WWF tried it, it

was the ice cream on the cake. The cake was Austin-McMahon, which

people cared about, and the ice cream was the gratituitous sex and

violence, which people didn’t care about so much as they preferred to

watch it over whatever Nitro was doing on the other channel. The

fluctuations in the ratings tell that story quite clearly. RAW would do

a 5.x for a wrestling segment (the core audience), shoot up to 6.x for

the “sports entertainment” quarter, then suddenly drop back down in the

5s again. In WCW’s case, it’s putting a nice big scoop of ice cream on

a steaming pile of cow dung, and lord knows no matter how much ice cream

you put on there, you’re still gonna get a spoonful of cow dung.

The major problem WCW has at this point is that the core audience is

only 2.x, and even the trash spikes the ratings, it’s only spiking it up

to 3.x. Is that worth changing the dynamic of the federation and

pissing off your core audience? The WWF thinks so, but then they pull

in 6 million viewers every Monday, so they have that sort of luxury. WCW

has no such comfort zone.

So what DO they need? Well, history has shown that the big turnarounds

in the ratings wars occurred when something earthshattering occurred —

in WCW’s case, the invasion of the Outsiders in 1996. In the WWF’s

case, Bret Hart gets screwed. So of course, in classic WCW fashion, the

Outsiders “invade” again, because if it worked in 1996, it’ll work again

in 1999, right? Someone should tell them the statute of limitations for

angle theft in wrestling (even from yourself) is seven years. This

time, it won’t work, because Hall and Nash are WCW 4 Life and everyone

knows it by now. The thrill is gone, and you can’t just recreate the

magic moments on demand. About the only thing that would turn the tide

at this point is if a MAJOR star from the WWF (we’re talking Rock and

Austin territory here) suddenly defected to WCW.

Now if *I* was in charge, and god knows I should be, I’d go the WWF’s

route by putting the World title back on Hogan at Halloween Havoc, then

screwing him out of it (in the literal, Bret Hart sense of the word)

against (who else) Bret Hart at

whatever-the-November-PPV-is-being-called-this-week. Mark Madden has

suggested that there’s a place for Hogan in WCW putting the younger guys

over, but since that sort of fantasy exists in the same wonderful

Shangri-La where Hendrix never died and Benoit is treated with respect,

I think we can safely show the Huckster the door and let him fend for

himself in the big bad world of wrestling from now on without WCW’s teat

to attach himself onto like a giant orange parasite.

See, that’s why Russo isn’t the miracle cure that WCW Live’s propaganda

crew would have you believe it is. Russo is, at best, talent

enhancement. He is not talent in it’s own right. The fans have to care

about something — Russo just makes them care a little more, and gives

them some T&A to look at in between doses of what they care about. That

formula is no big secret, which is why I’m sure Vince McMahon is upset

about Russo’s leaving, but hardly sweating bullets over it. One

Austin-McMahon or Austin-Rock feud later and the problem is solved


Even if you want to look at it strictly from the perspective of Russo’s

dubious writing abilities . . . I mean, let’s face it, the guy is a

hack. For the past year now, the WWF has been doing the same stuff WCW

did in 1997 . . . the stuff that led to WCW’s demise. People turn and

turn back with nary an explanation, plotlines are set up and never paid

off . . . the parallels are pretty striking.

I mean, the Magic Briefcase argument was used by WCW fans after King of

the Ring, not to mention the huge plot-holes pointed out by Mark Madden

in regards to “who owns the WWF, anyway?” as a result of that match.

Plus you have X- Pac and Kane seemingly breaking up and making up at

will, with no one ever bothering to explain WHY they’re back together or

why one was pissed off at the other in the first place. Plus the New

Age Outlaws, plus Mark Henry’s 18 heel / face turns in this year alone

(I mean, A SEX ADDICT??? C’mon!), the whole “The Ministry and the

Corporation hate each other until it’s not profitable anymore, and then

they become the Corporate Ministry” thing, the numerous Shawn Michaels

turns THIS YEAR ALONE with no explanation (turned face around WM15,

fired as commisioner, mysteriouly returns, still as commisioner, never

explained. Turns on Rocky, never seen afterwards, never explained).

HHH’s heel turn was never adequately explained, even though there was a

perfectly good reason even a 4-year old could think of (Hmm, Shane

McMahon is from Conneticutt, and so is HHH. You do the math). Chyna

can’t decide from one SEGMENT to the other if she’s a heel or a face,

let alone one month to the other. Shane McMahon’s change of heart

regarding Test was never explained, and probably never will be. The

whole concept of the Union was dropped without further mention. The Big

Show never explained why he teamed up with the Undertaker. Hell, we

still don’t know why the Brood ever formed in the first place, and that

was more than a year ago!

The problem is that Vince Russo has the attention span of an 8-year old,

as he sets up interesting angles with “Mystery Theater” payoffs that are

supposed to come “down the road” but never do. The most glaring example

of that is the now- infamous Rock N Sock skit from two weeks ago, where

he couldn’t even focus his attention enough to write an ENDING for the

bit. Simply put, he’s got some creative ideas, but as a writer he’s no

great shakes. The WWF wanted to use him to move onto “legitimate”

sitcoms on network TV and the like, but you could probably pick almost

any sitcom on any network (even on UPN) and get writing that’s at least

as good, or in many cases, better than Russo’s. Why? Because they’re

trained professionals, and Russo is at best an enthusiastic amateur who

was in the right place at the right time. McMahon’s bluster about

“sports entertainment” aside, given a choice between watching a

half-hour sitcom featuring the Rock N Sock Connection and a random

repeat of Friends, I’ll take Friends every time. And so do 20 million

other viewers every week.

Anyway, the point of this thing is that while signing Russo was a smart

move on WCW’s part, and probably their smartest move in so many years,

it’s not the solution, and in fact putting him in a position of overall

power without really knowing what the WCW fanbase wants to see in the

first place (Here’s a hint: It starts with “Gold” and ends with “Berg”)

and trying to attract a new audience to cover up the disenchanted one is

a foolhardy move at best. WCW is part of the Time- Warner

mega-corporation — I’d be willing to bet that there’s at least 40

writers on the payroll of Warner Bros. Studios alone who are

1) Looking for work

2) 10x more talented than Russo and;

3) Experienced in writing serial drama and/or soap operas.

Why not hire them? Or at very least, make Russo and Ferrera prove that

their brands of “sports entertainment” will actually sell south of the

Mason-Dixon line before you put them in Eric Bischoff’s old job. I

mean, my god, it literally took MONTHS for these people to decide that

Jimmy Hart MIGHT be a good choice to book WCW Saturday Night, but Vince

Russo, unproven as a head booker, calls them on a Friday night and has

the second-highest post in the company Monday morning? What drug-induced

haze are the Turner suits operating under?

Anyway, I personally give Russo and his compadre a good three or four

months to try to work their magic before management realizes that

they’re still treading water and still pushing the same old goofs (who

of course have full creative control in their contracts) before Russo

gets a nasty taste of corporate reality and ends up on the unemployment

line, or crawling back to McMahon for a job, whichever pays better.

I have a feeling it’ll be the former, considering how long McMahon has

been know to hold a grudge.

Oh well, that’s entertainment.