VS. #13 – Ben Morse vs.GRUT

VS. # 13 – Ben Morse vs.GRUT

Welcome to VS. where the most talented writing staff on the ‘net battle it out to see who is the supreme debater using wrestling as the great equalizer.

Competing this week are Ben Morse and GRUT. GRUT has been with the site since practically day one and frequently shows up with comically off beat analysis of the ongoing saga that is professional wrestling. Morse most recent efforts have been as the judge of VS. but has been with the Pulse for a long time in his own right.

The next question you must have is who am I and why was a trusted with this edition of VS. Well, I’m Big Andy Mac and I write Moments Ago which usually deals with the goings on in my personal favorite indy fed: Ring of Honor. As to why I am doing this, I don’t know but I plan to be fair, impartial and call things straight down the middle, and since the competitors did not know the judge beforehand they could not suck up to me and thus no sycophantic points will be awarded. Anyways on with the contest.

1. So now that we’ve seen the draft lottery, what roster was most improved by the moves that were made?

Ben Morse: I’d love to come out of the gate swinging with a wild, outside the box answer, but the fact of the matter is there’s no denying it: Raw came out of the draft the biggest winner and everybody knows it.

Picking up Booker T and Bobby Lashley gives Raw two more legitimate World title contenders to throw into a mix that already includes John Cena and Randy Orton and will also soon include Triple H and Shawn Michaels once again. Factor in Ken Kennedy and the occasional freak push for Snitsky and that’s more than enough main event combinations to sustain Raw and keep the shows fresh for some time to come.

Beyond the main event, Raw also got a less celebrated but equally important boost in the supplemental draft not only by acquiring Paul London & Brian Kendrick, but also by not losing any of their existing tag teams. Do you realize that between London & Kendrick, Cade & Murdoch and TWGTT as well as Cryme Tyme, the Highlanders and the perhaps never-ending Hardy Boyz reunion, Raw actually has a tag division? Not just enough teams to have a pay-per-view tag title match every couple months, but an actual TAG DIVISION that can feature feuds not over the belts!

Even a seemingly minor swap like losing Torrie Wilson for Jillian Hall throws another woman that can wrestle in the Women’s title picture (sure it would have made sense to keep Victoria on Raw, but she seems to have cycled through all the potential feuds available, so whatever I guess).

Perhaps the only spot in which Raw lost a bit was the Intercontinental title scene, as many of the younger mid-card guys like Johnny Nitro, Kenny Dykstra and Chris Masters get shuffled off. However, considering Umaga, Carlito, Super Crazy and others stuck around while William Regal and even The Sandman could cycle in to challenge Santino Marella. Also, let’s be realistic: the minute a young guy gets enough momentum in the farm system that ECW has become they’re headed to Raw like Lashley.

But you know what, ECW becoming the springboard for superstars-in-training is not a bad thing for that brand. It gives ECW a unique identity, something it sorely needs with only an hour on TV and a smaller roster. ECW obviously isn’t going to be the truly hardcore brand again anytime soon, so make it the place to see tomorrow’s stars.

Speaking of identities, Smackdown doesn’t really have one, what with Raw being the “flagship,” but is this really much of a switch from business as usual? A lot is being made of SD losing Booker, Kennedy and Benoit and not really getting much in return, but with Edge, Batista, MVP, Kane and more still around to supply star power and Undertaker and Rey Misterio Jr. on the way back, it will do just fine (may be about time to retire those tag belts though).

In conclusion, I really don’t think any brand got screwed that badly in the draft and it certainly shook things up, but no question: Raw got the best deal.

GRUT: ROUND 1:

RAW got King Booker, the man with the best gimmick of 2006. He’s a credible world champion and a credible Intercontinental champion with some of the best mike skills in the company.

Smackdown got The Great Khali, the former monster who destroyed the Undertaker and Kane before RAW’s Cena made him look like a giant bitch twice.

ECW got the Boogeyman, clearly the most confusing of all of Ed Leslie’s characters.

While the case can be made that Smackdown got the best of this deal, Khali’s recent losses to Cena and Booker T’s fresh return make this a point for RAW.

ROUND 2:

RAW got Bobby Lashley who regardless what I think about him is the biggest star in the company at the moment.

Smackdown got Torrie Wilson who is very pretty.

ECW got Chris Benoit who would be a major coup if they didn’t put Lashley over him first.

This one isn’t even close. Lashley is young and hot, Benoit is old and cold. RAW gets the second point.

ROUND 3+4:

RAW got the two most heavily pushed heels on the two other brands, Snitsky and Mr. Kennedy. Both are expected to have programs with champion John Cena.

Smackdown got Chris Masters and Ric Flair, two men without a future in a WWE ring in two years time.

Pretty decisive victory for RAW, no?

So Smackdown loses two of its top three heels and its popular crazy guy, ECW loses it’s world champion and top heel, and RAW loses three expendable characters and a chick who doesn’t wrestle. Is this a real question? Who the hell do you think won? RAW, jackass.

Big Andy Mac’s Big Andy Score: Both men agree in the obvious answer to a pretty obvious question. The draft did not even out sides, it just cemented RAW as the top brand. GRUT creates an easy to read and well written breakdown of the draft, but Morse had better insight on this question and went above and beyond by including some of the picks obtained through the supplemental draft, so the point goes to Morse.

Score: Ben Morse – 1, GRUT – 0

2. What wrestler was given the biggest opportunity from the moves that were made in the draft?

Ben Morse: The biggest single beneficiary of the draft was a guy who didn’t even jump shows: C.M. Punk.

So long as Bobby Lashley was on ECW it was going to be his show. He was going to be the ECW World champion who got sent to the pay-per-views and no matter how big Punk’s crowd reactions got, he’d be on the undercard feuding with the New Breed or whoever.

Now with Lashley on Raw, you’ve got a bunch of younger heels, older babyfaces and then you’ve got Punk.

Whether he wins the ECW World title this Sunday at Vengeance or in a few months, that belt is Punk’s destiny. Elijah Burke and Marcus Cor Von are also going to get a bump from Lashley’s departure, but neither guy is going to get over as a face anytime soon and that means with the money in the chase, the focus is going to be on when Punk will win the title rather than who is holding it.

As an added bonus, Punk got Chris Benoit as a mentor and future opponent thanks to the draft. Backstage scuttlebutt has Benoit ready to train a successor, and one has to figure an intense and disciplined technician like Punk will appeal to him as a protégé more than MVP ever did. Again, Benoit will have good matches with Burke and Cor Von, but he’ll have classics with Punk.

Lashley’s departure from ECW and no acquisitions who are both young and ready for a main event run means C.M. Punk will be the star of the show, and that means in a year or so, we’ll probably see Punk on Monday nights.

GRUT: Matt Hardy updated his MySpace blog recently with this big “The time we have been waiting for has arrived” type pronouncement. He was celebrating the draft before the draft happened. And he should celebrate. He is now king of Shithole Island.

The drafting of Mr. Kennedy, the obvious candidate for Edge’s next challenger after Batista, moved Chris Benoit into the number 2 spot. Then Chris Benoit was drafted and only major heels were drafted to Smackdown. Flair is great for an MVP run, but he shouldn’t be in a championship program with Edge. So we have Finlay (who is still officially a bad guy), Flair, Chris Masters and Matt Hardy as contenders to Edge. I believe that Matt Hardy is probably at the top of that list. He’s coming off a hot tag team reunion run, management is apparently high on him, his in-ring work has been better and more exciting than I remember it being in a long time, and he has pretty much zero competition. He should get a title shot he would not have gotten before the draft.

On the other side of the coin, Jeff Hardy has gone from upper mid-card to lower mid-card very quickly. Funny how life works sometimes, eh?

Big Andy Mac’s Big Andy Score: This is a tough one to call. Both men pick personal favorites of mine on the WWE roster. So, personal bias cannot be factored in. I think for this one I am going to have to go with GRUT, though. While Punk has gained a ton of opportunity he is still part of the more obvious stepping stone brand. Punk would probably have benefited more from a switch, in my opinion. Matt Hardy however may actually get a world title program now that Smackdown has a thin list of babyfaces to challenge Edge.

Score: Ben Morse – 1, GRUT – 1 all tied up.

3. Should the Ring of Honor pay per views be specific shows or compilations of specific matches? Why?

Ben Morse: If ROH wants to expand beyond the admittedly nice but limited niche it has established—and the fact they have negotiated a pay-per-view deal tells me they do—I think they need to eschew the “Best Of” clip show format and produce whole shows designed to stand alone but each designed to feed into the next.

At the end of the day, like all forms of scripted entertainment, professional wrestling works best as sequential storytelling. Interest is built based on what happens in one installment and readers/viewers come back to see what will happen in the next.

Telling sequential storylines is certainly possible by picking and choosing matches from different shows, but I’d argue you lose a certain professional polish along the way and the finished product is less slick. It’s hard to put into exact words, but when the viewing audience get to see complete shows they feel like they’re almost as much a part of the experience as the live crowd; when you chop up the shows, there’s a disconnect.

Compilations are a staple of the independent tape trading scene, and while that’s a market ROH has done well in so far, it’s also one they want to grow beyond and they need to dump that feel if they want to appeal to a national/international audience used to the traditional format. Sure that traditional road is strewn with the corpses of upstart groups like WSX, but it’s also how WWE and TNA got where they are today.

GRUT: I think that they need to work with specific shows. Compilations of specific matches should be saved for DVDs. They want to entice people to buy the next show on PPV. At the first show they introduce the Briscoe brothers and then they introduce El Generico and Mr. Wrestling as their next opponents. If you just have a Best of the Briscoe Brothers PPV why would I want to get the next one? To see the Best of Morishima? I don’t think he’s particularly good to begin with. Reward the people who stuck with your company, put on the best show you can and hope positive word of mouth spreads past those it has already spread to. Show advertisements for the Best of Samoa Joe and CM Punk and Bryan Danielson during the show. How else would Rocky Romero ever appear on television?

Big Andy Mac’s Big Andy Score: Both men are essentially making the same argument here. GRUT goes more into specifics of why the RoH PPV model needs to focus on single shows than Morse. GRUT, despite only attending one RoH show, presents a better understanding of the RoH product as well. He may not like Morishima, but as great as I think he is; he is an acquired taste. The point goes to GRUT here to take a one point lead.

Score: Ben Morse – 1, GRUT – 2

4. What is the most compelling relationship story in wrestling history? We’re omitting Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth from the question.

Ben Morse: Well, it’s not Matt Hardy and Lita.

I think there’s some backlash against the coupling I’m about to name both for reasons that go behind the scenes and because it had more than run its course before it actually ended, but the most compelling relationship story in wrestling history—barring Savage and Elizabeth—is Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.

Long before Stephanie became among the most legitimately reviled figures in wrestling, she was basically a non-factor; a damsel in distress without any real personality. Her pairing with HHH, the then-WWF’s number one heel, was intriguing to say the least and certainly got the audience’s attention.

Again, I think this gets lost because of the poor reputation she has earned over the subsequent years, but when Steph started out she really was a decent performer and gave HHH’s character a spark he was missing. I’d argue people didn’t really buy HHH as a true World champion until 2000 and it was his chemistry with Stephanie that legitimized him.

2000 was certainly a glory year for the WWF and the HHH-Stephanie relationship was at the heart of it. As mentioned, they had an undeniable chemistry, and the idea of a power couple ruling over a wrestling promotion as opposed to a stable or single wrestler was new.

Watching as HHH and Stephanie’s on-air marriage grew from one of convenience to one where they grew to legitimately care for one another made it compelling. They were devious heels, but there was an admittedly unconventional but well-crafted love story going on beneath the surface. While again the ending was less than satisfactory, the love triangle with Kurt Angle in the summer of 2000 had fans talking at the time and was probably as close as the WWF/WWE or any of their competitors had come to actually working decent soap opera into the show since Savage and Liz.

The undoing of the success of the HHH/Steph on-air union was a series of unfortunate events from HHH’s injury, to Steph’s ego growing, to his turning face, to her taking over scripting of the show. It wasn’t pretty in the end, but for over a year, it was damn compelling. Judging the relationship at its best, I’d give it the nod.

GRUT: Ben Morse and my cock. Wait, that’s not fair. Ben Morse and my cock never had the compelling storyline of the people I’ve chosen.

I actually wouldn’t have picked Macho Man and Liz. I find the Chris Benoit/Woman/Kevin Sullivan relationship to be much more complicated. Imagine pressuring your 15 year younger wife into living a gimmick where she’s sleeping with a guy about her age, slightly taller and better looking than you and at his sexual peak. IN-FUCKING-SANE. Really, just insane. Then she leaves Kevin to be with Chris in real life, and what does Kevin Sullivan do? He books match after match after match with Chris Benoit where they legit beat the crap out of each other while his ex-wife interferes on her new boyfriend’s behalf. Sullivan f*cking LOSES the majority of those matches and they just keep on booking them. Then Sullivan loses the booking job, gets it back and his first move is to make the guy who stole his young hot wife the world champion. Chris responds by quitting the company. Chris goes on to incredible success in WWE and makes the good decision to leave his wife at home. While he can’t cut a promo, he sure can learn from the mistakes of the past.

In a close second place is Maria and CM Punk, only because they’re both so beautiful that it must look like angels f*cking.

Big Andy Mac’s Big Andy Score: This might be one of the most well answered questions on both sides in the history of VS. Morse goes with the McMahon-Helmsley era as his choice, while GRUT focuses on the Benoit/Sullivan/Woman triangle. The question is an odd one however. Macho Man and Miss Elizabeth were a love story that played out both on air and behind the scenes. Their breakup was not the focus of storylines, nor was their real life marriage. (The one at Summerslam was totally staged) So is the question asking for the best story to play out in real life or the best to play out in kayfabe. I am going to take GRUT’s side in this one because I feel Ben left out the real life saga that was playing out while Triple H and Steph were running the show on screen. I guess that gives the overall nod to GRUT as he takes the majority with a three to one lead.

Score: Ben Morse – 1, GRUT – 3

5. In the history of Pulse Wrestling, who has been the most influential writer?

Ben Morse: If Grut doesn’t answer Hyatte here, he’s got a short memory—he’d also be wrong.

If you write a wrestling recap or review column on the Internet, odds are you’re borrowing at least something directly or indirectly from Scott Keith. If you write a wrestling opinion column, you’re almost definitely borrowing in some way, shape or form from Hyatte. Since this is the era of the blog and we’ve got way more opinion columns than straight up recaps in the land of the IWC, that makes Hyatte the most influential writer in the history of Pulse Wrestling.

Hyatte was one of the first guys to effectively mix humor and analysis, the goal pretty much everybody strives for today. Also, if he didn’t originate the standard format of a long lead item followed by several regular column features, some wrestling related and some not, that just about every IWC guy uses today, he certainly perfected it.

He was also among the first guys who brought a little bit of the theatrics of the show he was covering to his writing. Up until Hyatte, the majority of wrestling “reporters” took themselves a bit too seriously as “legitimate journalists,” whereas he saw himself as a character first and foremost and played his role to the hilt.

Besides the style he left behind, Hyatte’s also one of the few guys who took the time to cultivate a legacy in the form of writers he discovered or nurtured. I’m an example of this as are Grut and Flea. While I don’t think Eric S. was a direct “child of Hyatte,” he’d certainly be the first to admit he borrowed and learned a lot from him.

Love him or hate him—and most people didn’t really like him—just about everybody read him, and that made Hyatte the most influential writer in Pulse and possibly IWC history.

GRUT: WOW! Great question. Not me. Most people on the site hate me and my style. Um hmm this would have been easy in the past. I’d be able to type Hyatte and verbally blow him and be done with it. I think that Scoops, Scoopthis, DOI and 411 were greatly helped and influenced by his presence. He really hurt Insidepulse more than he helped it, making others involved with it miserable without improving overall readership. He always drove others crazy but in the past had a huge readership to back it up. For whatever reason it didn’t translate to Insidepulse.

My favorite writer on the site, my favorite writer about wrestling in general is Eric S. He’s a model of consistency and quality which anyone who wants to succeed at being a great IWC personality should strive to achieve. He is one of the few original voices still on the Internet and he’s probably responsible for half our column hits.

Besides Bill Apter (who is so outdated it’s hilarious) Eric S is the only wrestling writer I make sure to read the report of every week. OH, and Big Andy Mac. Huge inspiration to all of us.

Big Andy Mac’s Big Andy Score: Proving that he was down and not out, Morse comes out with the point to end things at a respectable three to two. GRUT makes a lot of good points in his answer, but Morse wins despite his confusing logic in the beginning. GRUT tried sucking up to the judge which is always nice, but in the end I have to give the nod to Ben.

Final Score: Ben Morse – 2, GRUT – 3

Well there you have it; a win for GRUT, but against amazing competition from Mr. Morse. This has been VS. Make sure you keep following VS., A Modest Response, and Moments Ago

I’ll see you next time

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