Great-ing Gimmicks of the Past: The Evil Owner â€“ WCW/WWE, 1996-present
Back during the 1980â€™s, you would barely see a companyâ€™s promoter making an appearance. In the USWA, Eddie Marlin only showed up to break up a fight. Ole Anderson and Bill Watts would appear in the commentary booths to give information about upcoming matches or to do full commentary.
Fritz Von Erich was possibly the closest to the modern-day idea of a promoter, but even Fritz would only come out occasionally for an interview where he would make a match (usually involving his sons vs. the Freebirds). It was very similar to the modern-day commissioners.
However, Fritz did have one â€œevil promoterâ€-esque moment. 1986 had been a disastrous year for World Class. David Von Erich was dead. His brother Mike was out of the ring following a near-fatal bout with toxic shock syndrome. Gino Hernandez died in January, and Chris Adams was out of the country for an extended period. Then, in June, Kerry Von Erich had been in a motorcycle accident that would not only take him out of the ring for over a year and a half but would also cost him his right foot.
Remember, the top faces in WCCW were always the Von Erichs, and their numbers were dwindling. Fritz decided to go back in history to his old partner and â€œcousinâ€ Waldo Von Erich. Fritz brought in a young man named Lance Von Erich and introduced him as Waldoâ€™s son.
However, in the middle of 1986, booker Ken Mantell had left the company and headed to Bill Wattsâ€™s Universal Wrestling Federation. After the UWF was acquired by the NWA, Mantell started his own company â€“ Wild West Wrestling. One of Wild Westâ€™s stars was the Fabulous Lance â€“ AKA Lance Von Erich, whoâ€™d left WCCW after money disputes with Fritz.
To say Fritz was furious would be an understatement. The moment I mentioned above happened in late 1987. The fans at KTVT tapings had a question-and-answer session with Fritz which was set to be broadcast. One lady asked what had happened to Lance. Fritz simply replied by saying that he was never really a Von Erich. Thus â€œouted,â€ after Wild West closed, most former WCCW stars were welcomed back â€“ except for Lance. Lance would soon vanish from the wrestling scene.
The next notable occurrence of the evil owner occurred in 1996. The New World Order was running rampant and WCW was fighting back as best it could. Hollywood Hogan was demanding a match against Roddy Piper, and embattled WCW VP Eric Bischoff was doing everything he could to keep the peace. Finally, on the November 18 Nitro, he headed to the ring where the NWO was waiting to make an announcement about the match. He announced that heâ€™d been meeting with Piper to make the match happen, and then Piperâ€™s music hit. Piper came out and called Bischoff a liar, saying heâ€™d never been to see him. The NWO attacked Piper and Bischoff hugged Hogan, to show that he was the newest member of the NWO.
Bischoff spent the rest of his WCW run managing the New World Order. He also fought in storylines to keep his official WCW position so he could stack the deck in the NWOâ€™s favor when it came to setting up matches.
The WWF version of the evil owner arrived at the 1997 Survivor Series. Bret Hart, the WWF champion, was jumping to WCW and debuted the night after the PPV. Bret refused to lose the belt at the show since it was in Canada, saying instead that he would come out on Raw the next night and hand the title over.
Vince McMahon was in a corner and he got out of it by ordering referee Earl Hebner to ring the bell while Shawn Michaels had Hart in a sharpshooter. McMahon then began appearing on WWF television to try and explain why he had done what he had done. It didnâ€™t work, and McMahon decided to ride the wave. He began feuding with Steve Austin.
McMahonâ€™s feud with Austin ran until the middle of 1999, when McMahon lost a loser leaves Raw match. Although McMahon made appearances over the next few years, he was doing so as the controlling patriarch of the McMahon family, not the evil boss, although he did get involved in a feud with the Rock.
In late 2001, McMahon returned to the role of the evil boss. This time, he was feuding with Ric Flair in the aftermath of the failed WCW invasion. This led to the original brand extension and the installation of the next evil boss:
Eric Bischoff returned in July of 2002 as the general manager of Raw. Bischoff spent the next three years attempting to run roughshod over the Raw roster, only to be thwarted and attacked at every turn.
In January of 2003, McMahon began feuding with Hulk Hogan. This ran until the summer, when Hogan left the promotion.
October saw McMahon feuding with the Undertaker. In the end, McMahon defeated Undertaker in a buried alive match.
Bischoff began his own evil boss feud in late 2005. He had two targets â€“ Teddy Longâ€™s Smackdown and John Cena. Bischoff left the WWF again in December of 2006.
In October of 2005 McMahon began feuding with Jim Ross and publically fired him. That didnâ€™t take long, so in December McMahon went after Shawn Michaels. In the end, Shawn Michaels teamed with Triple H to defeat McMahon , Shane McMahon, and the Big Show at September 2006â€™s Unforgiven PPV.
Meanwhile, yet another evil boss was on the rise. On ECW, Paul Heyman turned on Rob Van Dam, costing RVD the ECW World title by helping Big Show defeat him. Heyman continued to go after various ECW talents such as Tommy Dreamer and Sabu before leaving the company in December of 2006.
April of 2007 saw McMahon go after Bobby Lashley and even saw McMahon win the ECW title from Lashley. June 3rd saw Lashley regain the belt.
Have you ever heard of the Dusty Finish? Thatâ€™s the end of a match where a wrestler (usually a face) thinks heâ€™s won, only to be disqualified by the referee so that the heel can win (and usually keep a title belt).
It was a great move. Used sparingly, the finish would see that face come this close to overturning his rival, only to see the title remain the same for television.
The problem was that Dusty Rhodes did not use the finish sparingly. He used it so much during his tenure as WCW booker, that the finish actually began killing off business. The fans realized that whatever happened, the face was going to â€œwin,â€ and then the referee was going to DQ him for some technicality.
Thatâ€™s what I thought as I watched the opening of Raw this week. The fifteenth anniversary of the show starts with the evil boss making his way down to butt heads with one of the companyâ€™s top faces. That was fitting, because thatâ€™s how many Raws have opened over the last ten years.
But it hasnâ€™t only been McMahon. Itâ€™s been GM Eric Bischoff. Itâ€™s been Paul Heyman on ECW. Itâ€™s been Vicki Guerrero on Smackdown. Itâ€™s happened at a multitude of independent wrestling shows.
When the McMahon/Austin feud started, it was new and edgy. Now, however, itâ€™s tired â€“ much like the Dusty finish. The feudâ€™s been running for nearly a decade, with McMahon remaining the same character he was in 1998 and faces switching out on the other side. Austin gave way to the Rock, who gave way to Flair, who gave way to Hogan, who gave way to Undertaker, who gave way to Jim Ross (briefly), who gave way to Shawn Michaels, who gave way to Lashley, whoâ€™s now given way to Triple H.
The best thing at this point would be for the WWE to allow the evil boss to fade into the background for a while. Vince could take another vacation from television, and Vicki could be used in other roles. It would take time, but eventually the evil boss role may be useful again. Time can make all problems disappear.
Hey, even Triple H became a top face after being out for a year.
Tags: ECW, Raw, Smackdown, WCW, WWE