As a fan for over ten years now, I’ve never really lost my love of wrestling. Sure, there have been times when I got bored with it, with some of the angles and characters and wasted opportunites, but I’ve never really been angry until recently, with the WWF’s handling of its ‘feud’ with the WCW/ECW alliance. I thought it was horrible, really. How could the WWF dismiss an organisation with so much history as WCW as simply yesterday’s news? How could they treat their top-line talent as second-rate jobbers? How could they mess it up so badly?
It was like a dream come true when it first happened, the WWF buying WCW – finally, the two biggest wrestling promotions in the western hemisphere would clash! But then the badness started happening. WCW was promoted on WWF television as a heel group – every wrestler in WCW was tarred with the same brush. And in response, even the most dastardly heels in the WWF were pushed as faces. It just wasn’t right.
And it got worse – the corpse of ECW was resurrected and merged with WCW, and the McMahon kids were unveiled as the respective ‘owners’. Throw in a whole lot of bad television writing (courtesy of Stephanie McMahon – face it girl, you couldn’t write an entertaining angle to save your life) and it all started rolling downhill. I was annoyed, but as far as I was concerned at the time, it was still salvagable. The fans were cheering for some of the Alliance members, such as Billy Kidman and Rob Van Dam, so they didn’t have to be heels even if they were Alliance representatives. And it was getting close to the end of the year, when WCW held it’s annual supercard, Starrcade. The WWF’s December PPV could have been replaced by an Alliance-hosted Starrcade, much like the nWo held a PPV in WCW a few years ago, which could have provided and opportunity to tie up any loose ends and helped WCW assert itself as a separate group rather than just an invading force.
Did any of this happen? No.
The WWF defeated the Alliance in a survival match at the Survivor Series, and the Alliance, for all intenst and purposes, was ‘put out of business’. I wasn’t happy at all. No Starrcade. No competition. A completely wasted opportunity. Aas far as I was concerned, Vince McMahon blew it.
My opinion of the product just got lower over the next few weeks. The ‘Kiss My Ass Club’? Please. And Austin, the dastardly heel leader of the Alliance – all of a sudden he’s a face again? It just didn’t make sense. The Undertaker turns heel by attacking Jim Ross – what to the fans do? They still cheered him. he beats up a few more faces – what do the fans do? They still cheer him. My head was spinning. But was there anywhere else I could turn to? Nope. The WWF has no competition anymore. It bought the opposition, then chewed it up and spit it out.
I wanted to get a second opinion. I was eager to read the new Power Slam, to read what they had to say about what was happening. According to them, however, what I apparently saw of the situation wasn’t the popular opinion. The WWF/Alliance ‘war’ was unpopular with the American fans in general. Maybe it was the September 11th tragedy that contributed – I mean, who wants to see ANOTHER war on TV? – but then I realised that it was simply a case of me being a different kind of wrestling fan.
The average American WWF fan despises anything that isn’t WWF, and particulary despises anything WCW. Therefore, how could the WWF establish WCW as a separate brand on the same level with the WWF when they had spent years belittling the then-Turner-owned product? On the other hand, I’m the kind of fan that just loves wrestling. It doesn’t matter what promotion it is – WWF, WCW, New Japan – whenever I had the opportunity to see wrestling, I did so. I’ve never had any particular brand loyalty (although I do have to say that if I had had access to broadcasts of WCW television from 1996 onwards – ITV cancelled WCW at the end of 1995, and I didn’t have an Astra dish to get Nitro on TNT Europe – I probably would have been a WCW mark).
So I re-evaluated the situation. I could now see that the WWF was now trying to make things work as best as they could. They took a step in the right direction pushing Chris Jericho as the World Champion. They made up for treating Booker T like a chump by writing him into pretty entertaining angles with Steve Austin (the supermarket brawl, the church – funny stuff! Seems like somebody took Stephanie’s pen away from her!). As the fine writers of Power Slam reported, they’ve realigned the chess pieces into much more comfortable positions. Austin is a face because the fans love cheering for him. Jericho is a heel because the fans love booing him. The Undertaker? Well, they’re still a bit dodgy with this one because half the crowd is still cheering him. That won’t be fixed until he calls them all idiots or something to that effect.
The result? Well, WCW and Starrcade may be gone forever, but at least the WWF ended things before they did any more damage to its reputation (which, I do have to admit, really started a few years ago when Vince Russo started booking). And they’ve kept on some of WCW’s better talent, like Lance Storm and the Hurricane.
But of course, there are still problems. For some reason, Vince McMahon doesn’t like smaller, agile, lucha-style wrestlers like the many cruiserweights that they recently fired, yet he seems perfectly happy with booking meaningless matches with big boring wrestlers like Albert and the like. Why not replace them with some exciting cruiserweight battles like they had in WCW? Bring in some ringers from Japan and Mexico, entertain the fans. Some of them might actualy get a bit over, like Tajiri, or Taka Michinoku and Shoichi Funaki. Make everyone happy, all the time. It’s not like the cruisers are gonna have any pretentions above their station if they want main event glory they can get that in Mexico or Japan (Jushin Liger has drawn thousands upon thousands to the Tokyo Dome – can’t say the same for Steve Austin, can you?). Don’t bore us with Billy Gunn and Chuck Palumbo versus Albert and Scotty Too Hotty, please. If people are gonna leave their seats or change the channel, they’re gonna do it anyway.