by Joe Crowe
The WWF's problem is they were too complacent for too long. No one can argue that the WWF has it all over WCW in production values. They have instant replay during matches. They show hot moves from all different angles. They have cool announcer voices for their PPV promos; even for their next-week-on-Raw promos. Their history packages are edited well and include great music. Their shows, quite simply, just look good.
Looks aren't everything, though. From the Shotgun Challenge matches I have seen, doing them right after Raw is a mistake. There is a different crowd at a TV taping and at a Monday night show. I've attended both. At a TV taping, you expect jobber matches and only a couple of big-timers to appear. You just don't expect to freak out too much. But you get up for it, in its own way. When you attend a live Monday night show, crowds are screaming, everything is happening, all the big stars are there. It's a thrill ride that ends after two big hours.
How excited are you about the Ferris wheel right after you have been to Space Mountain? The wheel is cool, but it's not the same excitement level. Plus, it seems dark on the Shotgun matches, with no fireworks always going off. The crowd has calmed down and they seem sleepy. They've been given too much, and whatever comes after can only be a downer.
WCW, on the other hand, is stuck in a rut of their own making. They are complacent with Nitro enough to think that's all the effort they need to expend. There is too much WCW wrestling, and their seat-of-the-pants booking style doesn't work with the hours of matches on tape they have to incorporate into continuity.
WCW crossed a line with their Orlando tapings. Hercules and Xena tape months in advance, not wrestling. Wrestling is very immediate. Titles change hands, wrestlers turn from bad to good and from good to bad. Tag teams form and dissolve. Wrestlers leave the fed and they arrive. Every couple of months, WCW puts hours and hours of wrestling in the can for use later. Nothing can happen on these shows, because it would have to be reflected on the more-current tapings. Nothing can happen on the current tapings that could affect the matches already in the can.
Wrestling is not about just wrestling, and never has been. The Orlando matches have no storyline, no drama. It's just two guys in a ring, like a video game. One wins, one loses, you push reset and they go again. The fans aren't into it because they are tourists who probably just wanted in out of the heat, and they are carefully instructed whom to cheer and boo. And if they don't cooperate, WCW can sweeten the audio with the solid minute each of cheers and boos that they get the audience to perform before the show starts.
WCW provides the illusion of immediacy by having the announcers tape that week, and talk over the Orlando matches about what just happened on Nitro. Title changes are mentioned by commentators, who pulled the tape off the dusty shelf that week. Perhaps every taped match is aired regardless, because it's hard to understand why some matches make it, given a choice. The Orlando audience cheers somebody who just turned bad that week on Nitro, and the announcers have to cover it up. Wrestlers who have been gone from WCW for months still appear weekly. What if somebody jumped to the WWF right after wrestling a tapeful of Orlando matches?
I personally cannot get into a single Worldwide, Pro, or Main Event "exclusive." The illusion was ruined for me after Nick Patrick began wearing a neck brace and growing his hair long, but there he was with short hair and a healthy neck on World Wide the same week, with Tony Schiavone grumbling "His neck's not really hurt! Look, he decided not to wear the brace this week!"
The Mothership on Saturday Night is almost as bad, even though it's taped every week. I never want to see that orange crane again. Tony and Dusty aren't even there. They stand in front of a studio backdrop with a tape of crowd noise playing.
Don't get me started about the announcers pretending the matches are happening that day. Now Scott Hudson and Larry Zybszko pretend that it's live to the point of saying that wrestlers on that show will be hopping a plane right afterward to make it to the PPV. I can deal with it when it's taped every week or two. But month-old matches? Take that to the extreme. "Next week on the Pro: Terry Funk vs. Jack Brisco!"
WCW is wrestling in a can. Those other hours are wasted time. Wrestling is cheap filler for TBS in between Clint Eastwood movies and the Flintstones, and WCW has plenty of it. The WWF has one show, but you have that show memorized after the weekend is over. In the WCW, 20 matches happen that don't and won't matter. There has to be a middle ground somewhere.
I realize the weekend shows are not for the net-surfing fan. We know the results as soon as the tapings are over for every taped show. But the quality of the wrestling and the production drops on the weekends. I fully understand the need to focus on Monday nights. The big ratings and the big live attendance and merchandise bucks are there. Why even put on a weekend show?
The WWF needs a bi-weekly taping. Their Superstars tapings were cool because something would build up one week and pay off the next. WCW needs to let somebody besides the overworked Tony to do the weekend shows--and that somebody needs to be on the premises. World Championship Wrestling tapings were cool because matches and interviews always broke down into brawls. The smaller crowds were really into it.
How about this: BRING BACK THE JOBBERS. Every WCW guy who loses is a young up and comer that you feel sorry for. Every WWF guy who loses is somebody saddled with a gimmick they're not getting the opportunity to use. I almost long for an hour full of squashes. I don't care who the next Hulk Hogan is. Who's the next Iron Mike Sharpe? Some people are just destined for mediocrity. Jobbers put other wrestlers over without bad attitudes, without fights with bookers, without last-minute script changes.
I mourn weekend wrestling because Saturday night rasslin' was how I became a fan. There is nothing better than wrestling late at night, and I got hours of it right after Saturday Night Live. The weekends were where wrestling began for many of us -- and for the federations themselves. It's high time that both feds remembered that.
And bring back Italian Stallion!
Joe Crowe is a regular contributor to Solie's.
Part V: Rating the WWWF/WWF Champions
by Matt Benaka
Note: During 1971, the WWWF World Heavyweight Title was secondary to the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) World Heavyweight Title. In fact, The WWWF Championship was reduced from World Title status to a regional title when Capital Wrestling Corporation, owned by Vince McMahon Sr., rejoined the NWA. Around 1981, the WWF withdrew membership from the NWA and re-elevated their title to a World Heavyweight Title. While the champions during this decade were not known as World Heavyweight Champions, this piece will view them as such. Many of those men met the criteria that I have used to determine each man1s worthiness of his title(s). Thus, the same criteria will be utilized for ALL past and current (W)WWF Champions.
Bruno Sammartino is a two time former World Wide Wrestling Federation World Heavyweight Champion. He won his first title from Buddy Rogers, and his second from Stan Stasiak. He was champion for more than fourteen years. He defended his title in Asia, Europe, Australia, and anywhere else he was challenged. He fought men of all sized men from the size of Pedro Morales to the likes of Gorilla Monsoon. Lastly, he was a true Champion. He never backed away from a challenge, won his matches fairly, and always was proud to be the World Wide Wrestling Federation World Heavyweight Champion. He was all of those words; a true class act as World Heavyweight Champion.
Bret Hart is a four time former and current WWF World Heavyweight Champion. He won his titles from Ric Flair, Yokozuna, Diesel, Steve Austin-The Undertaker-Vader in a four way, and The Undertaker again. He took his reigns to Asia, Europe, North America, The Middle East, and Africa. He has always been willing to defend his title in any part of the world and is the best representative of a World champion in the history of the title. He has faced everyone from Virgil, Michaels, Flair, Owen Hart to Yokozuna, Razor Ramon, Diesel, Sycho Sid, and The Undertaker. He has always been a sound Heavyweight champion. Then there is the word Champion. Even as a rulebreaker, his biggest violation of the rules is the figure four on the ring post. He has been proud to be a champion, and never backed away from a challenge. He earned the title Champion. Bret Hart is probably the soundest World Heavyweight Champion the WWWF/WWF has ever had grace the ring. He earned all three words.
Bob Backlund is a four time former WWWF/WWF World Heavyweight Champion. He defeated Billy Graham, Bobby Duncum, Greg Valentine, and Bret Hart for his titles. He defended his title in Asia, Europe, and North America. His status as a World champion was established when he lost the title to Antonio Inoki in Tokyo, Japan followed by a series of rematches in Tokyo. He faced everyone from Ric Flair, Bret Hart, Greg Valentine, The Iron Sheik, Ken Patera, and Jimmy Snuka to Don Muraco, Harley Race, Billy Graham, and Diesel. He truly was a Heavyweight champ. Lastly, he was always nothing short of a true Champion. Besides his last reign, he fought all comers, in all nations, and never resorted to taking shortcuts. He wore the WWWF/WWF strap with pride as a true World Heavyweight Champion.
Pedro Morales is a one time former WWWF World Heavyweight Champion. He won the title from Ivan Koloff and reigned as champion for 2 years 9 months 22 days. He took his title to Asia, Europe, and through North America. He established himself as a World champion. He faced all comers and is a true Heavyweight champion. Morales never took shortcuts and always showed himself to be a proud and powerful Champion. In short, Pedro Morales was a true World Heavyweight Champion.
Shawn Michaels is a two time former WWF World Heavyweight Champion. He defeated Bret Hart and Sycho Sid for his titles. He took his title through Europe and North America to earn his position as a World champion. He faced the likes of Owen Hart and Bret Hart to the likes of Vader, Sycho Sid, Davey Boy Smith, and Diesel. He was a true Heavyweight champion. While his second reign was cut short due to Michaels vacating of the title, I feel that his first reign more than made up for that. Many claimed that Shawn1s ring music was replacing Hogan1s old music with its ability to bring the people out of their seats. He was the greatest entertainer of the year and always gave 100% for the fans. In short, Shawn was a true Champion. He was one of the few men to wear the title that were able to be all three: World Heavyweight Champion.
Diesel is a one time former WWF World Heavyweight Champion. He took his title to Canada and into Europe so as to establish himself as a World champion. He faced everyone from Shawn Michaels, Jeff Jarrett, Owen Hart, Bob Backlund, and Bret Hart to Bam Bam Bigelow, Sycho Sid, Mable, and Davey Boy Smith. His willingness to face anyone of any size established him as a Heavyweight Champion. Lastly, he was able to parlay a limited number of moves and a smattering of charisma into a successful reign as champion. During his reign, he faced everyone head on and was never shy about proclaiming his pride of holding the WWF Title. Thus, he established himself as a Champion. Diesel was a genuine World Heavyweight Champion.
Randy Savage is a two time former WWF World Heavyweight Champion. He won the title from Ted Dibiase and Ric Flair. Savage took his title to Europe and Japan to establish himself as a World champion. He faced Dibiase, Flair, Virgil, Hogan, Bad News Brown, The Ultimate Warrior, Andre The Giant, Akeem, and The Big Boss Man to name just a few. He was a fighting champion and would face men from any weight class. He was a Heavyweight champion. Was he a Champion? He won his first title with the help of Hogan1s trusty steel chair, and his second came as he pulled Ric1s tights for the three count. Putting aside the fact that he wasn1t shy about breaking rules, he did face all comers. In the 1988 Survivor Series, he fought by himself against men twice his size for a long time (Until Hogan was released from The Big Boss Man1s handcuffs). He always was proud to hold the WWF Title, and made countless attempts at the title before getting the duke. In short, Savage was a World Heavyweight Champion.
The Ultimate Warrior is a one time former WWF World Heavyweight Champion. He defeated Hogan for the title. He took his title to Japan and may have toured Europe as well. Thus, he earns the designation of World champion. He faced Hogan, Savage, Dibiase, Sgt. Slaughter, Rick Rude, Dino Bravo, Mr. Perfect, Greg Valentine, and The Earthquake to name just a few. He was a fighting champion and would fight anyone from the size of Dibiase to Earthquake. Thus, he earned the Heavyweight distinction as well. Lastly, was he a good Champion? While he had a cartoonish gimmick and limited wrestling skills, he faced all comers for his title, and didn1t lose it until Savage interfered on behalf of Slaughter. He always appeared to be proud of his title reign, and thus earns the title Champion. He was a true World Heavyweight Champion.
Ric Flair is a two time former WWF World Heavyweight Champion. He won the 1991 Royal Rumble for his first title, and defeated Savage for his second reign. To my knowledge, Ric never ventured outside North America with his title and thus can1t be regarded as a World champion. He faced Sid Justice, Randy Savage, and Bret Hart as champion. By surviving over an hour in the Royal Rumble to win the WWF Title, he earned the title of Heavyweight champion. While he did cheat Savage out of the title, he did pride himself on being WWF Champion and seemed to be genuinely happy during his time at the top. This attitude along with the heart shown in winning The Rumble earned him the title of Champion. So, while he was a little weak in the World category, he was a Heavyweight Champion.
The next installment of the WWWF/WWF World Heavyweight Title continuation is coming soon!
Matt Benaka's Wrestling Title Histories are a permanent part of the Solie's web site.
by Ervin Griffin Jr.
Part 14: Hogan
The year is 1994 and Hulk Hogan had invaded WCW. Directly, his first target was WCW World Champ Ric Flair but Sting got caught in his cross-fire too. The night before WCW Bash At The Beach (at least according to the storyline), Sting wrestled Ric Flair on WCW Saturday Night. This was a match Hogan claimed he "wanted" to see. Personally, I really don't think he wanted Sting to beat Ric Flair for either one of two reasons: 1. He might not have gotten his shot at Flair at Bash At The Beach or 2. if he did, he did not really want to face Sting.
In any event, Sting won the match by DQ because of Sherri Martel's interferance. He left the match with an injured left eye that put him out of action for about three weeks. In September 1994, Sting accepted a triangle match against Vader and The Guardian Angel to determine a top contender for Hulk Hogan's title. Sting, after giving a supreme effort, was once again screwed (a la Bret Hart) by outside interferance. This time, a masked man came in and clipped Sting in his bad left knee, causing him to lose (Sting could almost sympathize with Bret Hart). Anyway, Sting made an appearance at Halloween Havoc '94 after the cage match between Hogan and Flair. Hogan was attacked by The Butcher, Kevin Sullivan, and Avalance. Sting came in to save him and would help him on and off his feud with "The Three Faces Of Fear."
In 1995, Sting's career was left in limbo once again. Feuds with Avalance and Big Bubba Rodgers were getting him nowhere. Even his WCW US Title Tournament victory over Meng got him little attention. He did raise more than a few eyebrowse when, in PRO WRESTLING ILLUSTRATED, he said that he "would not take his belt and hide!!!" Making an obvious reference to then WCW Champ Hulk Hogan, who was going two or three months without a title defense!!! Personally, I think this is where the Hogan/Sting feud really began and not when the NWO was formed (as WCW would have us believe).
Next: The Luger/Hogan Controversy
Coming Soon: Diary Of A "HitMan"
If you have a question, comments, criticism, or just want to talk pro wrestling, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ervin Griffin Jr. is Solie's resident historian and also contributes to the Ringside Insider on a regular basis.
That's it for this issue. I will be back the regular Monday Night Wars Edition. Until then...
Anyway, that's the way I see it...
editor Solie's Wrestling Newsletter
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