Point of View Archive 2
Point of View, December 17, 2002: Wrestlemania 19
Wrestlemania 18 wasn't half the show it could have been. It was bogged down by injuries (Benoit, Rhino, Nash), the HHH-as-babyface title chase, and the awful nWo angle. Even Rock vs Hogan wasn't enough to make it the worst Wrestlemania probably since the days of Vince Russo.
Wrestlemania 19, however, will have it all. Rock will be back. Nash and Rhino will be back. Among other possible returns are Austin, Hogan and Goldberg. Benoit is already back and in top form. Lesnar has emerged as a megastar. Shawn Michaels has returned for one last run. Eddie Guerrero is now a model employee. Scott Steiner is already one of the biggest names on the Raw roster before he's even had a match. In my estimation, Wrestlemania 19 will have the most loaded card in the history of professional wrestling from the standpoint of big names.
That said, Wrestlemania 19 should also be the end of an era. It's time for guys like Michaels, Nash, Hogan, Steiner, and Undertaker to put over the next generation of stars and allow the overall product to focus on the future instead of the past. With that in mind, here are 5 short-term and 5 long-term wrestlers that the WWF needs to push at Wrestlemania 19 to usher in the next generation.
Short Term (1-3 years)-
1. Booker T. Why short? His knees won't last much longer at the rate he's going, and his face act might grow stale if he doesn't get to main event soon. Booker has the liability of being an incapable heel, so he's not as adaptable as most top guys.
2. Rey Mysterio. Exact same situation as Booker, but maybe even more short-term. Rey has killed his knees three or four times already, and the WWF's touring schedule won't help anything. He should either be the top star of a bigger cruiserweight division or a solid upper-midcarder, as he has been since his debut over the summer.
3. Chris Benoit. He had the vital neck surgery, but even that won't help him forever. Benoit is perfect for getting wrestlers ready for main events, and he's also a credible challenger. I wouldn't have him as champion for anything more than a month, but he should have an important role at every PPV. When he's gone, there's one less great wrestler to rely on.
4. Rob Van Dam. Not a long-term main eventer by any means, RVD has stagnated his moveset and failed to develop mic skills. His Summerslam match with Benoit showed many fundamental flaws with how Rob wrestles. That said, he's incredibly popular. That popularity could wane if people get tired of his highspots, so now is the time to give him the ball.
5. Chris Jericho. After seeing the reactions he got as a heel in 1998, and as a face in 2000, I think Jericho has been irreparably damaged by HHH. He's been steadily declining in terms of workrate since his peak... in 1995. His forced transition to 'heavyweight style' last year didn't help, and he's about 10-15 pounds overweight for what he should be, so he's liable to catch the injury bug soon. At the same time, Chris is still a very capable worker and a great heel, and should get at least a couple more runs at the top to capitalize on his talent.
Honorable Mention. Jeff Hardy. Very popular, sells a lot of merchandise, but he's going downhill fast physically because of the swanton and he's an abomination on the mic. Keep him around for all the fat chicks who cheer him.
Long-Term (5-15 years)-
1. Brock Lesnar. Over the last three months his heat has doubled, if not tripled. I credit the victory over Undertaker in Hell in a Cell and the Heyman turn with most of it, but Brock has really stepped up as well. He's young, in fantastic shape, and most of all is FRESH. That's what the WWF needs more than anything.
2. Kurt Angle. Even if he goes to the Olympics, he's still somebody to be kept strong. Can't go wrong pushing Kurt, as we saw from the pop his victory on Sunday got.
3. The Rock. His movie career won't last forever, but Rock is in such fantastic shape that I think he could outlast Lesnar as a wrestler. Rock is the biggest money maker the WWF has, and it might be nice to actually let him win at Wrestlemania.
4. The Hurricane. Helms is a fun worker, his merchandise sells a ton, and he gets a solid pop no matter how little he's used. For a bizarre reason he's more likely to be squashed than have a serious match on Raw, and when he was Kane's buddy he got punked out by HHH time and again in under ten seconds. If the WWF gives him a REAL push, he could be a Rey Mysterio type star and a dependable midcarder.
5. John Cena. Crisp worker, great charisma, great look. Ditch the rapper gimmick (though he's really good) and let him start having traditional feuds so that when the time is right he can get bumped further and further up the card.
Honorable Mention. Matt Hardy. The 'Mattitude' gimmick is one of the best things of 2002. That said, he's a very vanilla worker and he's a boring babyface. I think now more than ever there's money to be made from Matt vs Jeff.
So, there you go. If the WWF advances enough of these stars at Wreslemania 19, then 2003 will hopefully be a better year for business than 2002.
Point of View, October 29, 2002: 10 Wrestlers Not Under WWF Contract You Should Know About
I'd be stunned if many of you know all 10.
-M-Dogg 20. He's the latest in a long like of CZW spot-machines, and in my opinion he's the best. A master of the hurricanrana (even inverted ones), insanely agile (no-hands lionsault), innovative (shooting star press into a DDT), bumps like a madman, and even climbed up to the rafters for a 20 foot elbowdrop through a table. And did PULL-UPS ON THE RAFTERS. Currently works out of CZW.
-Takaiwa. A power-style cruiserweight with one of the best movesets around. Multi-bomb, high-angle michinoku driver, DVD, and some MEAN lariats. He's had some really good matches in the last two years, and since he doesn't do moonsaults and frogsplashes he could be around a while. Currently works out of the Zero-One promotion in Japan.
-Genichiro Tenryu. At 52 years old, he puts Ric Flair to SHAME. Not from a physical fitness standpoint (they're equal), but from a workrate and match building standpoint. Where Flair has been going through the motions for the last decade, Tenryu switches things up in every match, often stealing his opponents' trademarks. Also does great chops and has some simple but effective finishers. He's had match of the year candidates both this year and last, which is simply unreal at his age. He currently works out of All Japan.
-Satoshi Kojima. A rising star in Japan, he's very charismatic and has a nice set of trademark moves. In the past year he's shown unprecedented growth as a worker and has gained quite a following because of it. He and Tenryu turned out a classic in July. Currently works out of All Japan.
-Naomichi Marufuji. Japan's answer to RVD. He doesn't do the "tumbling" stuff, but he works in a lot of flash while still managing to put together a great match outside it. 2001 was his breakout year, but sadly he suffered a knee injury and thus was forced to be a non-factor in 2002. Before leaving he was one of the most popular figures in Japan, but was fated to never get the main-event treatment. Yup, that's RVD all over. Currently works out of NOAH in Japan.
-Doug Williams. The best British wrestler I've ever seen. As a technician he's about on par with Guerrero, a fact which was proven in their match in February. He manages to take simple stuff and make it fun, and then throw in a few flashy moves to pay off the audience's patience. He could easily make it in the WWF, since he's a lot more fun than Regal. Currently works for a variety of promotions, most notably Ring of Honor.
-Manami Toyota. In my opinion, THE most underrated worker of all time. Why? Because she's a woman. Combining athleticism, emotion, stamina and the greatest suplex arsenal EVER, she's been in **** matches every year since 1992 and is still going strong. Manami isn't just in another league from the WWF women's wrestlers; she's in another league from most WWF MALE wrestlers. She currently works out of the GAEA promotion in Japan.
-Milano Collection AT. Trained by Asai (aka. Ultimo Dragon), Milano is an unstoppable force of nature. He doesn't do it through power, or through highspots (though he has plenty), or through low-blows and run-ins. He does it through wrestling. He's graceful, fast and crisp, and he can tie an opponent up in a pretzel better than any man on the planet. Milano is part of Toryumon 2000 Project, and in my opinion they can revolutionize wrestling while at the same time making it safer.
-American Dragon. He graduated from Shawn Michaels' wrestling school three years ago. He's already one of the best wrestlers in the world. Phenomenal mat skills, great agility, fun stiffness, solid cardio and some nifty moves make him a real total package. He was part of my current 2002 Match of the Year with Low-Ki on March 30th in Ring of Honor. The WWF has gone out of its way NOT to sign him. That's sad. He's currently in New Japan, but he's generally in the US indy circuit.
-Bob Sapp. What's to say about him? 6'8", 350 pounds, all muscle. One of the best shootfighters on the planet. Able to do a dropkick. Easy to get along with outside the ring. Willing to be a little goofy, able to be incredibly intimidating a millisecond later. If you crossed The Rock with Brock Lesnar, this would probably be the result. Not only is he a major success in Japan, but I guarantee that he'd be worth millions to the WWF.
There you have it. Ten people to keep your eyes peeled for. Though most (or all) will never be on Raw or Smackdown, all are amazing performers. It goes without saying that all 10 can be found at Ditchtapes.
Point of View, October 14, 2002: WHAAAT?!
The WWF has the most talent of any wrestling federation in history. You could take any *two* feds in Japan and they'd still have a hard time matching up. In addition, the WWF has an insane amount of airtime (8 hours a week).
If they wanted to, next week, they could start to present the best wrestling federation ever. Maybe not for those of you who want nothing but skits and 3 minute matches, but certainly for those of us who like *professional wrestling* and *not having our intelligence insulted*. We've seen the results of that line of thinking. Smackdown on 9/26 and 10/3 had awesome matches that anybody could enjoy, from the hardened cynic down to the wide-eyed newbies. The crowd was on fire for both shows. Then, on the 10/7 Raw, the WWF- at Vince McMahon's insistence, make no mistake- took the EXACT OPPOSITE PATH.
He decided that wrestling isn't the way to increase revenue.
He decided that necrophilia is the way to increase revenue.
It's hard to really describe what's going on in my head right now, but let me start off by say this:
Despite the roster, and despite the TV time, the WWF is the least wrestling-oriented wrestling federation on the planet. From Europe to the US Indies to Mexico to Japan, you can take any federation- ANY FEDERATION- and see more emphasis put on what happens between the wrestlers in terms of an athletic competition. To Vince McMahon, that's not enough. Understandable. Showmanship is important, and there are plenty of fans who can't grasp the perfection of Chris Benoit. But to actually go so far as to think that an angle reeking of such desperation and shortsighted thinking as *necrophilia* is superior to actually putting a little more faith in the workers? It's mindboggling. It's absolutely mindboggling.
Go to WCW. Look at all the morons who ran it. Look at how Kevin Nash took a great wrestling company and ruined it. Look at how Vince Russo made it worse. Look at how Kevin Sullivan in early 2000 somehow made it even worse than either of his predecessors. NONE OF THEM DECIDED TO IMPROVE THE PRODUCT WITH CLEARLY FALSE ACCUSATIONS OF MURDER AND CORPSE RAPING.
How far gone is Vincent K. McMahon? I can understand him making the Alliance look bad in the Invasion. I can understand him preferring to push HHH and Undertaker. I can even understand him wanting to try and go back to the formula that worked so well in '98 and '99, when they had to use storylines to cover for a decidedly sub-par roster.
But to sink progressively lower over a year. Kiss My Ass Club... Attempted vehicular homicide (Hogan to Rock)... Gay wedding... HLA... Murder/Adultery/Necrophila accusations. Each of these has been focused on as THE reason why the WWF is worth watching, each of these was dropped within weeks, and each of these is exceedingly worthless. Over and over they go back to pure shock value rather than actual wrestling feuds that *tell a story*. It's unthinkable. I literally can't understand Vince's reasoning. I'd wager that there aren't any more than a handful of people in the entire wrestling industry who would choose to go over the edge again and again just for its own sake rather than actually doing something to generate long-term fan interest.
I said a couple weeks ago that the WWF will never die. Now, I'm not so sure.
Vincent K. McMahon has lost his mind. And if anybody has a better explanation, I'll post it here next week.
Point of View, September 21, 2002: Booker T and Me
Those of you who are longtime Ditch fans know that I've been a Booker T mark for some time. It started with a match in late '97, where he gave Jeff Jarrett an especially graceful Harlem Sidekick. Soon after, he became a solid babyface and a singles wrestler by beating Disco Inferno for the TV title with the Harlem Hangover. I was hooked. He had the moves, the charisma, and the BEST ENTRANCE MUSIC EVER.
He feuded with Benoit for several months, having roughly ten singles matches. What a treat. Sure, anybody can have a good match with Benoit, but so many in so short a timeframe? They could easily have gotten boring. Instead, each match was different. Booker T held up his end, even taking a dragon suplex or two. The match (to me) that was most telling was the 6th match of the Best of 7 series.
It was in Michigan, and the crowd was energetic but unfocused. Booker T, down 3 matches to 2, needed the win. Benoit dominated until Stevie Ray came down for a pep talk. Booker T made the comeback, getting the crowd REALLY behind him, and he debuted the twisting sunset flip out of the corner for the win. He does it regularly now, but at the time it was jaw-dropping.
Sadly, Booker got a knee injury, and had his singles run cut short very abruptly. He returned in early '99 and won his 6th TV title from Scott Steiner, holding it two more months before dropping to Rick Steiner. He held the title for 9 out of 18 months from his first reign to his last, which was quite a feat considering how long he was injured. So, to follow up on his momentum, WCW... kept him off the next two PPV cards. Yeah. Harlem Heat reunited and had two more tag title wins, but it really didn't do anything for Booker.
Then Russo came, and things got worse. Not only was Booker getting beat down on EVERY SEGMENT HE WAS IN, but he lost 4 straight PPV matches before finally getting a meaningless win in a tag match over Harlem Heat 2000 (remember them? Don't sweat it if you don't). Russo's second reign saw Booker lose in the semi's of the US title tournament, get left off the next PPV, then beat a heatless Shawn Stasiak. It had now been a year since he held a singles title, and in that year he had remained one of the most consistently over people in WCW.
FINALLY, at Bash at the Beach 2000, Booker got handed the ball. He beat Jarrett in an unscheduled WCW title match, and would go on to have it for the better part of the next 4 months. However, by that point it was too late. Nobody cared about WCW, ratings were down, and Booker was all too often booked as a Rock copy. After losing the title to Scott Steiner, Booker took time off to rest his knees. He came back to win the US title from Rick Steiner, then the WCW title from Scott Steiner on the last Nitro ever.
Booker hasn't had a real highlight since.
The WWF booked him as a heel, first and foremost, thus guaranteeing failure. Booker is many things, but a capable heel isn't one of them. After getting treated like a joke champion for a couple months, he wound up jobbing SOUNDLY to the Rock at Summerslam. He lost to Rock again, this time in a handicap match with Shane McMahon. He lost again, this time to Undertaker, who didn't feel like selling much. He was fodder in the Survivor Series main event, and returned at Vengeance to screw Austin out of the Undisputed title final against Jericho. So, that set up a big-time feud with Austin, right?
WRONG. Austin dominated him at every turn, and the payoff (I guess) was Austin dumping Booker in about 90 seconds at Royal Rumble. So, Booker goes on to tag with Test and *lose* to the team of Tazz and Spike Dudley, who today are announcing and job fodder, respectively. Wrestlemania? Loss to Edge. Backlash? Not on the card. Judgment Day? He spent the show building the 'Golddust wants to be Booker's friend' angle. Same thing at King of the Ring. Vengeance, he beats Big Show two years after the world stopped caring about Wight. Summerslam, he and Golddust fail to beat Storm and Christian, even though both Undertaker and Kane showed the ability to handle the tag champs single-handedly.
At this point, Booker T is the most over man on Raw. By a lot. I love RVD, but Booker gets twice the reaction. He's wrestling about on par with his 1998 level, the spinaroonie is over, he's still got the WHOMPASS entrance music, he's got Golddust as a sidekick, he's got several catchphrases (all of which are over), he's still seen as something fresh by the WWF fans, and he's proven his loyalty to the WWF by not complaining despite the INSANE lack of push he's received.
On Sunday, Booker T is part of a midcard 8-man tag match. He's not even as heavily pushed as his teammates Kane and Bubba Dudley.
I'm fed up. I spent two and a half years rooting for him in WCW before they woke up and made him a main eventer, and now I've waited another year while the WWF has stupidly sat on him for no feasible reason other than that he's a WCW-produced talent.
Screw you, Vince McMahon. Booker T can make you millions, but it seems like you won't give him that chance until the ratings have completely tanked. Maybe if you tried *pushing* him, *now*, he could reverse the downward trend of Raw's ratings.
Point of View, July 19, 2002: Bumper crop?
The WWF (yes, I'm still living in the past) has introduced 6 male wrestlers to the spotlight in the last year. Are these guys really the future? Do they have what it takes? Are they being handled properly?
'Harvard' Chris- So he's from Harvard. So what? And what makes him *any* more usable than Jake from Tough Enough 2, who has a better look and is far more over among Tough Enough viewers. There was no need to bring him in at this stage in his career. Maybe in 2-3 years, once he looks more polished in the ring and on camera.
Maven- Well, he had a broken leg, so that didn't help anything. At the same time, Maven could stand to have a lot of things, like *a finisher*. He'll never be impressive physically, he'll never be charismatic enough for that to carry him, and he's nothing special in the ring. We got a feel for him, that's good. Now he needs to disappear until 2003 and come back with something interesting.
Randy Orton- Best looking wrestler out there. Also has Maven's moveset. Again, he's not drawing money, he does nothing interesting and moreover he CAN'T do anything interesting. Maybe all it would take is another 6 months of OVW, Velocity and dark matches for him to spice up his in-ring work and develop a character that's deeper than 'he looks good'.
John Cena- Now, here's a guy worth having on a big show. He's got more charisma than any of the other six, has demonstrated more technical skill than any of the other six, and is getting a better (in terms of quality) push that the other six. But wait, you say... isn't Lesnar's push better? Lesnar spent MONTHS dealing with the likes of Stasiak and the Hardys. Cena jumped right into Angle and Jericho, both of whom fit him like a glove in the ring. Cena is money.
Leviathan- Known as Deacon Batista. I prefer Leviathan, his OVW name. He's right up there with Sean O'Haire in terms of being a 'monster of the future', but is even more intimidating than Sean. Leviathan is a better monster than even Lesnar (I'll get into that in a second), and could be more over than guys like Test and Kane in a few short months given the right treatment. Oh, and let him NOT USE A SPINEBUSTER AS HIS FINISHER. Sheesh. The whole federation uses it now, make him unique.
Brock Lesnar- The ultimate example of the WWF watering down something until it's tame enough for them to use it. Lesnar could go out there *now* and use mat technique, suplexes, big power moves... and what do we get? Shoulder thrusts, bearhugs, backbreakers, and a spinning pancake. So, why was he dumbed down? Because the WWF has guys like Undertaker, HHH and Hogan hanging around the main events, and if Lesnar fought at an Angle level with his size, then 'taker and HHH look like chumps who wouldn't stand a chance.
Further, Lesnar is getting the wrong push. He's being marketed as a monster heel, when he should be marketed as a badass heel. The difference is subtle but important. Monster heels tend to have a very distinct look: dark, tall, subdued. Kane, Undertaker, Big Show, Leviathan all fit that. Lesnar has light skin, light hair, isn't even 6'5", and always looks energetic (bright eyes, hopping in place, etc). Lesnar also does a great job of standing eye-to-eye with other wrestlers. He needs a badass push, more along the lines of '99-'00 HHH, only with the added element of being a dominant *wrestler*.
Bottom line on Brock is that he isn't over enough to be headlining a major PPV. Give him the push, give him semi-main events, but don't make him shoulder Summerslam before the crowd accepts him at that level. And on top of it all, he's not beating the faces clean. I mean, RVD I can understand. Bubba? Flair? Why does he need Heyman's help THERE?! A monster heel should dominate all but a select few, and get clean wins over all but the top 5-6 faces in the company. Bubba Dudley is NOT in the latter category. If he's going to be a monster, treat him like one.
Final Thoughts- With so many of these guys, it's a matter of being green. Kurt Angle was okay to headline after a year on TV, and Rock was okay after two. HHH needed five, Austin needed five, Jericho needed five. I'd say Lesnar is in the Rock/Angle 'advanced placement' group, Cena is in the HHH/Austin 'slowly but surely' group, and the rest will be lucky to draw any serious money in their careers.
Point of View, April 2, 2002: Of ref bumps and Raw turns
We're often told that 'sports entertainment' dictates having non-finishes and non-matches on Raw and Smackdown in order to build interest for the PPVs. I can appreciate that, to an extent; it's the old "why buy the cow when the milk's free" scenario. But, do we REALLY get our money's worth?
To me, a PPV should be about stars having matches with the kind of decisive finish that we simply wouldn't be privy to on free TV. When something happens like a run-in or a screwjob, you're left with a longer version of a TV match, with a finish that's little more compelling than what we get for free.
The WWF has moved away from the Russo era, in which nearly every single match requires a run-in. However, they've simply replaced the run-in with another time tested way of cheating the fans out of actually having big names to real jobs. The ref bump. Here, now, is a look at ref bumps from 2001 on, in PPVs.
Royal Rumble 2001: HHH and Angle have their last PPV match to seemingly blow off the feud from the summer. The match progresses, HHH has it in hand, but the ref gets bumped and Austin runs out. Kick, wham, stunner, Angle retains. This was used to build to Austin vs HHH at No Way Out, even though the feud was very much established without having this screwjob ending.
No Way Out 2001: Ref is bumped for some transitions in the Angle vs Rock match. Poor Earl Hebner...
Wrestlemania X-7: Angle vs Benoit is marred by a ref bump, when Angle taps but it isn't seen. Angle comes back to win, and they feud some more, even though any number of things besides a ref bump could have prolonged the feud.
Ref is bumped for about 12 minutes during HHH vs Undertaker, allowing HHH to get in a sledgehammer shot for a nearfall. Undertaker wins anyway. Boy, doesn't HHH look good here after headlining for the whole of 2000?
Ref is bumped in Austin vs Rock, and misses no pin attempts. It was a no-DQ match, thus there was no reason at all for this to happen. Oh, my bad, it's Earl Hebner.
King of the Ring: A ref bump saves Edge from Angle in the KOR final, allowing Shane to run in and cost Angle the match. Way to build the future star, WWF!
Earl Hebner gets bumped in the main event. What a shocker.
Invasion: Earl Hebner gets bumped, allowing Austin to screw Team WWF. Earl is 6 of 7 in taking bumps in the main event of PPVs.
Summerslam: Ref bumps are the FINISH of the main event. Earl: 7 of 8.
Unforgiven: Dueling ref bumps screw up the finish. Earl: 8 of 10.
Survivor Series: Hebner and Patrick bump each other, allowing Angle to screw Austin and Team Alliance. Earl: 9 of 11.
Vengeance: Hebner is bumped for most of the finish. Jericho becomes the undisputed champ ONLY because of Booker T's interference. Boy, that's the sort of push Bischoff was never going to give him, right? Earl: 10 of 12.
Royal Rumble 2002: Rock vs Jericho sees Hebner get bumped, allowing Nick Patrick to screw around with Rock enough for Jericho to get a layered cheating victory. Earl: 11 of 13.
No Way Out 2002: Ref is bumped for most of the Rock vs Undertaker finish, which is nothing but dueling screwjobs.
HHH vs Angle has about six or seven ref bumps AND a screwjob ending.
Austin vs Jericho sees Hebner get bumped, allowing the nWo to beat up Austin and give Jericho the win. Earl: 12 of 14.
Wrestlemania X-8: The ref gets bumped in both nWo matches, yet Austin and Rock go on to win clean anyway, thus making Hogan and Hall look about two or three notches below them.
Earl Hebner got bumped in 12 of the last 15 main events, and 8 of those were vital to the finish. At what point, exactly, did we start paying our hard-earned money for ref bumps? I say, watch PPVs in a bar until they start giving us at least moderately clean finishes for the big matches.
Raw has become a mecca for interviews, backstage segments, recaps, "moments ago", and recaps of what happened "moments ago" in an interview taped backstage. We give up match time in order to have well-developed storylines... right? Well, let's look at ten major plot points, and see what impact they're still having today.
1. Jericho & Benoit beat Austin & HHH. This led to the King of the Ring main event, after which both HHH and Benoit were out for the rest of the year. Jericho was forgotten about until his feud with Rock. Most of the problem here is injury, which I can forgive them for.
2. ECW re-forms in Atlanta. This was just an excuse for Stephanie to put herself on TV again. The only ECW guy to get a push was RVD, and that was only because he got so over so quickly. Today, ECW is dead and buried, along with WCW. No impact of this development.
3. Rock returns to the WWF. No real impact, because he just did everything he's been doing since 1999.
4. Regal screws Angle out of the WWF title. This was supposed to be the "Biggest Raw ever", but the main development was canceled out mere WEEKS later when Angle turned on the WWF. Ye gods.
5. Angle turns on the WWF. Well, he hasn't gone back to being a face, but the actual action has long since been forgotten.
6. Rock and Austin sing songs before Survivor Series, at which point Rock attacks because he still hasn't forgotten about what happened at Wrestlemania. Anyone remember how many WEEKS after this it was before Austin (who never apologized for trying to kill the WWF, or for screwing Rock at X-7) was tagging with Rock? Why should WE care about main event storylines if the writers drop major plot points which are overtly brought back into the spotlight mere weeks earlier? If the WWF was a normal television show, Stephanie would be fired for gaffes like this, but because her last name is McMahon she's set for life.
7. Raw is Flair. This still has impact, since it led to the Flair/McMahon feud, which is still going on and caused the fed split.
8. Undertaker makes JR kiss Vince's ass. Undertaker is still a heel, but this action is long since forgotten. JR doesn't seem any more upset with 'taker than with any other heel.
9. Raw is HHH. They still play up his heroic return from injury, so I guess that's impact.
10. Stephanie and HHH break up. This only happened a month ago, and they wrapped it up last week (I hope). Let's try and forget the whole "Vince and Steph are fine with each other" part. This had all the impact it could have possibly had, and was specifically brought up over and over again. Interesting that Stephanie is involved, eh?
So, to sum up. PPVs are no longer for settling feuds, but for having screwy non-finishes designed to make sure nothing is blown off ever. Raw is used for storylines, but only rarely do said storylines contain plot points which are brought up after the next PPV. Also, said storylines are usually filled with holes and are only rarely intriguing. The WWF has the most talented roster in the history of wrestling, but rather than revolve around the wrestling, the product revolves around the abysmal writing of Stephanie McMahon.
And people wonder why I'm so critical of the WWF lately.
Point of View, March 28, 2002: I went to Wrestlemania and you didn't.
Wrestlemania. The big crowd, the big matches, the big hype. Did Wrestlemania 18 live up to its build? In a word: no. But I'd rather go over the show and let you decide.
Heat 6-man. The only one who got heel heat was Scotty. Go Toronto crowd! Wrong man got pinned. Match was nothing special.
RVD vs Regal. I must say, putting the IC title on RVD, while Edge goes to feud with Angle, is the right booking move. Regal needs to go where his style will work, like Japan, or Britain, or ANYWHERE; he's death in the WWF. The half nelson suplex was great, and I wish more people had RVD's balls to take that kind of bump. There was a lot of smoke from the opening pyrofest that obscured this (and only this) match.
DDP vs Christian. Christian got reaction for his DDP-style smile, and the "now hailing from Tampa" bit. Once more, this was a match that only differed from what's on TV with one move, DDP's rotating powerbomb. This match could have been on Heat, and the time given to something else, and nothing would have suffered.
Maven vs Golddust. Lame. Let me point out that the hardcore title skits later were decent; Hurricane is OVER! Imagine that. Nothing took up much time, so I'm not offended.
Drowning Pool. NOBODY CARED. At the end, the lead singer yelled "I can't hear you!" to which I replied "Because you suck!" I got a bigger pop for that than the band.
Kurt vs Kane. When a match on Smackdown between two wrestlers is CLEARLY superior to one on Wrestlemania, there's a problem. News flash: if you're not going to give Kane a serious push, job him and fire him. He's just wasting money right now. Angle got the most heat among all heels; he's so money.
Undertaker vs Flair. Let's see... Flair did the same things he's done in every no-rules PPV match he's had since before I was born. Undertaker is a complete slug compared to a mere 4 years ago. I applaud them for the superplex, but if that's the 'big highlight' then I'm afraid this going into the list of "not quite Wrestlemania" matches.
Booker T vs Edge. This match was SO VERY GOOD... for six minutes. Take away DDP/Christian or one of the band segments, give them 12-18 minutes, and you've got a real Wrestlemania level contest.
Austin vs Hall. No real redeeming qualities. Everyone wanted to see the Outsider's Edge, and they didn't do it. The feud never really should have happened in the first place, and now Austin is pissed because of it. Can't say that I blame him.
4-way tag match. Hmmm, let's see. TLC the last two years, and now this, which *once again* was nothing but the usual Raw and Smackdown stuff, leading to absolutely no payoff at all. Speaks for itself, in my opinion.
Women's Title. Now this at least felt like Wrestlemania level effort realative to every other WWF women's match ever, ESPECIALLY the high-end finish. Nobody cared, of course, but the effort is what counts.
HHH vs Jericho. When everyone's leaving because they don't care at all about the WORLD TITLE MATCH, that's a problem. The booking was wrong on so many levels, not the least of which is that the pedigree on Steph had more value and buildup than the one on Jericho. Chris had no chance of winning with the lionsault or the liontamer, and when he didn't hit the pedigree it was clear the match was over. HHH is a shadow of his 2000 self.
All of the above was not what I expect out of a Wrestlemania given the WWF's roster.
Oh, wait, I'm forgetting something.
I WATCHED ROCK VS HOGAN.
The match transcended everything. Right away, it was clear that the crowd forgot about the semi truck incident about as fast as the Rock stopped selling it. Hogan might as well have been waving the read-and-white maple leaf and coming out to "Real Canadian", considering the palpable face heat everything he did received. The *back rake* got more reaction than anything in 90% of the other matches put together. Criminy! Not to mention that the Rock fans went right along and cheered Hogan, and not to mention those like me who are dyed-in-the-wool smarts who know that Hogan has been lowering the bar on wrestling matches for decades.
The booking of this was flawless. Hogan had to pass the torch, but in order to do so, he had to be the Hulkster. The crowd knew this, and treated him as such. He was the hero again, and Rock was villain by default. By the time the People's Elbow hit, Rock was getting some cheers, and when Hogan didn't kick out at 3 and 1/10th like he did 12 years ago, it was plain to see that the torch was handed off. The post-match stuff sealed the deal; Hogan wanted everyone to cheer Rock, the better man, and the crowd did so. Great, unforgettable, classic stuff.
...which still doesn't give them license to bring back X-Pac.
The Ditch, who prays that the next Wrestlemania he goes to has Benoit vs Lesnar as the main event.
Point of View, January 28, 2002: A study in buyrates.
Forget television. Forget merchandising. The real money is in PPV buys. If you don't like numbers, be prepared to be bored. If you can handle it, then by all means, continue.
WCW PPV Buyrates from 1994 to 2001
-94: 0.5, 0.53, 0.48, 1.02 (Hogan's first WCW PPV), 0.53 (no Hogan), 0.97, 0.6. Average: 0.66. Average with Hogan in a singles match: 0.86.
-95: 0.95, 0.96, 0.57, 0.51, 0.82, 0.48, 0.6, 0.43, 0.36.
Average: 0.63. Average with Hogan in a singles match: 0.83
-96: 0.63, 0.7, 0.44, 0.48, 0.71 (nWo formation), 0.62, 0.65, 0.7, 0.55, 0.95.
Average: 0.64. Average with Hogan in a singles match: 0.75.
-97: 0.47, 0.75, 0.89, 0.58, 0.6, 0.6, 0.78, 0.65, 0.53, 1.1 (Havoc), 0.56, 1.9 (Hogan vs Sting).
Average: 0.78. Average with Hogan in a singles match: 0.97
-98: 1.02, 1.1, 1.1, 0.72, 0.72, 0.75, 1.5 (Karl Malone = Buyrate?), 0.7, 0.78 (Havoc), 0.75, 1.15.
Average: 0.86. Average with Hogan in a singles match: 0.99.
-99: 0.78, 1.1, 0.73, 0.6, 0.48, 0.43, 0.39, 0.55, 0.35, 0.52 (enter: Russo), 0.45, 0.32. Average: 0.56. Average with Hogan in a singles match: 0.69.
-00: 0.25, 0.1, 0.13, 0.27, 0.14, 0.2, 0.26, 0.18, 0.16, 0.15, 0.12, 0.11
Average: 0.17. Average with Hogan in a singles match: 0.17.
-01: 0.17, 0.15, 0.1.
Bash at the Beach '94: Hogan comes in and props up buyrates for a good six months. After that, things go downhill. He leaves after World War 3 '95, by which point things are where they were when he first came in. The nWo brings the buyrates up only a little, and even then it was all for the big Hogan matches. What does this prove? Hall and Nash aren't draws. The nWo storyline was only useful as a vehicle to turn Hogan heel.
Havoc '97: A really solid card. Piper/Hogan was the draw, but there was also DDP vs Savage, Luger vs Hall, Flair vs Hennig, and a FANTASTIC Eddie Guerrero vs Mysterio match.
Starrcade '97: WCW's biggest buyrate ever, but they blew it HUGE with lots of overbooking, especially having a non-finish to Hogan vs Sting. Had this show been done better, it could have helped sustain WCW's time on top.
1998: WCW's best year ever. Guys like Benoit, Booker, DDP, Raven, Chris Jericho and Goldberg all become stars, while Sting returns from injury and Bret Hart starts wrestling for WCW. This again shows that Hall/Nash/Hogan weren't the draws, since those three did much more in '96 and '97, where buyrates were lower. Karl Malone and Dennis Rodman help boost Bash at the Beach's buyrate; Jay Leno does not do the same for Road Wild. So, athletes are much better to have cross over than actors. See also: Arquette, David.
Halloween Havoc '98: Great card, but only a good PPV. Hart vs Sting, Hogan vs Warrior, and Hall vs Nash all fall well short of expectations; Steiner vs Steiner finally gets a finish; Goldberg has his best match ever by a mile (vs DDP).
2000: WCW's worst year ever, between bad business and bad wrestling. This year shows two things: first, that 'sports entertainment' as the first priority does not lead to good things. The WWF had lots and lots of great wrestling in 2000, with a lot more feuds and gimmicks that didn't revolve around comedy, and they did great (I'll get to that when I cover the WWF's buyrates). WCW moved from 'wrestling' to 'sports entertainment', and buyrates NEVER got back to where they were. The second thing this year showed? Hogan's drawing power is GONE. Shows with him on it got the same average buyrate as shows without.
WWF PPV Buyrates from 1994 to 2001:
-94: 0.9, 1.68 (WM 10), 0.85, 1.3, 0.9.
-95: 1, 1.3 (WM 11), 0.83, 0.65, 0.7, 0.9, 0.7, 0.4, 0.57, 0.3.
-96: 1.1, 0.77, 1.2 (WM 12), 0.81, 0.45, 0.6, 0.37, 0.58, 0.48, 0.44, 0.58, 0.35.
-97: 0.7, 0.5, 0.77 (WM 13, Sid vs Undertaker), 0.5, 0.57, 0.5, 0.59, 0.8, 0.45, 0.6, 0.89, 0.44.
-98: 0.97, 0.52, 2.3 (WM 14, Austin vs Michaels), 0.85, 0.58, 1.1, 0.9, 1.48 (Summerslam, Austin vs Taker), 0.86, 0.89, 1.3, 0.78.
-99: 1.88, 1.21, 2.32 (WM 15), 1.06, 1.24, 1.13, 1.07, 1.47, 0.85, 0.88, 1.14, 0.97
-00: 1.6, 1.2, 2.35 (WM 2000), 1.65, 1.05, 1.19, 1.04, 1.4, 1.5, 1.35, 1, 1.15
-01: 1.35, 1.6, 2.18 (WM X-7), 0.9, 0.76, 0.96, 1.63, 1.32, 0.82 (no data after Unforgiven)
1997: A low point for the WWF. Sid and Undertaker do everything they can to suck out the workrate, while such individuals as Faarooq and The Patriot get PPV title shots. Yikes. Wrestlemania 13 (Sid vs Taker) is the worst-drawing Wrestlemania ever, by a whole lot; it's the only year that Summerslam (Hart vs Taker) draws better.
1998: It all turns around when Austin finally wins the strap; Wrestlemania 14 out-sells Wrestlemania 13 by THREE TIMES. Austin vs Undertaker at Summerslam is UT's biggest-drawing match ever.
2000: The WWF's best year ever. All kinds of great matches and feuds, and a more wrestling-centered product draws the big buyrates month after month. Backlash, which sees Rock finally take the belt from HHH, gets the all-time highest buyrate for an "in-between" PPV. Wrestlemania 2000 was the highest grossing PPV ever.
Average Buyrate, by people in singles matches for the WWF title (minumum three matches):
Foley (all forms): 1
Shawn Michaels: 0.87
Bret Hart: 0.87
So, what's my big conclusion?
No matter how many people claim that the nWo will be the "shot in the arm" that the WWF needs, said people are simply wrong. Not only did the ORIGINAL nWo formation not draw the kind of numbers that the WWF has done for the last two and a half years, but all three of the top guys are way over the hill in terms of workrate and buyrate. Unless all three are brought in, job 60% of the time, and pass the torch to guys like Angle, Jericho, RVD and Benoit (Austin/HHH/Rock don't need it), they'll be a waste of time and money.
The WWF should take the money they'll give Hall, Nash and Hogan, and use it to sign Scott Steiner, Rey Mysterio, and Reid Flair. And yes, I'm serious about the last one; he's the heir of Ric, not David. Hell, with all that money they could also afford to sign Blitzkrieg and Joey Styles, but then I'm just nutty like that.
The Ditch, who spent more time compiling those stats than even he can believe.