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Gangrel Returns... Who's Next?
September 17, 2004

by Denny Burkholder
Courtesy of WrestleLine.com


What the hell was I watching last night on Smackdown?

No, not the Billy Kidman "I'm afraid to wrestle" promo, although that angle is a bit of a head-scratcher itself.

Let me rephrase: Did I really just see The Undertaker get jacked up by Gangrel and friggin' VISCERA? As part of a story arc in a WWE CHAMPIONSHIP angle? In the non-Attitude-Era year of 2004? 

I was about an hour late turning on Smackdown Thursday night. There was a good movie spinning in the DVD player at the time, so I wasn't in a rush to switch to UPN at 8 p.m. TiVo was picking up Smackdown from the beginning anyway. I figured waiting an hour to watch was actually a GOOD thing. It would allow TiVo to get far

enough ahead of me so that I could fast forward through the shitty parts and still finish the show by 10 p.m.

When I finally turned on Smackdown, I thought I'd accidentally hit the "way back" button on the remote (side note: wouldn't that be a cool feature?). Gangrel was in the ring, wearing the same outfit he wore in the WWF's Attitude era, smacking around The Undertaker. Two short months ago, I saw that same man wrestle a dark match at Raw in Miami, and listened to Howard Finkel introduce him to the crowd as "David Heath"... like he was just ANY old jobber with FANGS. All of a sudden, the ghosts of WWE past are back on TV.

Even more shocking was the sighting of Viscera, who may have finally tied Ray "Big Boss Man" Traylor for the record for most returns to WWE after being released/leaving "for good." My first thought about Viscera: either the color black is WAY more slimming than I remember it being, or he's lost at least 50 pounds since we last saw him (which feels like 30 years ago). I dwelled on that minor point for about three seconds, then bounced straight back to "what the hell am I seeing" mode.

So the ghosts of the late-1990s WWE have returned to haunt us. And they're sticking around for at least another week, judging by the promo for their handicap match vs. 'Taker on next week's program. You may have seen that promo last night. It was in the same cluster of Smackdown ads as the one pimping next week's "season premiere," for which we've been promised appearances by three more WWE relics of old in Hollywood Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Mick Foley.

No wonder Billy Kidman's afraid to wrestle on Smackdown. He's probably frightened that Lodi or Prince Iaukea will leap over the barricade to lay a little "remember me?" smack down on his no-shooting-star-pressing ass.

It really makes you wonder, if this trend of dragging past talent into present storylines continues, who'll be appearing on WWE television in the next few months. A few scenarios:

-- Michael Cole, still a nervous wreck from his ambiguously gay poetry reading in a dark room with Heidenreich, finds himself sitting alone in the locker room, trying to recover what's left of his manhood. Suddenly, he's visited by former host of "WWF Mania" Todd Pettengill. Pettengill reminds Cole that he's the glue holding Smackdown together, and the locker room needs him. Pettengill then roars into a medley of awful showtunes with the lyrics altered into a pro-Cole motivational speech. Cole suddenly realizes that no matter how much he frosts his hair, he'll NEVER be as fruity as this schmuck, and returns to the announce position after giving TP a wedgie and hanging him from a locker by his pants.

-- As WrestleMania approaches, the huge success of all these months of returning superstars spawns the idea for a revival of the Gimmick Battle Royal of 2001. This time, the participants feature mostly stars of the 1990s, such as Bastion Booger, The Smokin' Gunns (it was the only way they'd let Billy Gunn onto the WM card), Men on a Mission, TL Hopper, "The Pug" Alex Porteau, Mantaur, Max Moon (Konnan under the mask, because returning to the Moon gimmick was the only way he could get his foot back in the WWE door), Sexual Chocolate, Ahmed Johnson, Shawn Stasiak as "Meat" and Naked Mideon. Once again, The Iron Sheik will win the battle royal. However, his knees will have deteriorated to the point where all he can do is sit in the middle of the ring and watch the others leap over the top rope in fear of his spiked boots and off-putting moustache.

-- On the Raw side, Lita begins to really grapple with the fact that fans aren't sympathizing with her for getting knocked up by Kane as a way of "protecting" Matt Hardy from physical harm. On an early-November episode of Raw, Matt will make a surprise return to confront Lita at ringside as Kane is receiving medical attention backstage (he was attacked by his former partner Rick "Razor Ramon" Bogner at the top of the hour). Matt says he's finally over the whole Kane thing. He's had a change of heart, and here comes the reason why: Tammy Sytch walks down the ramp, 40 pounds heavier but still amazingly poured into her old spandex Bodydonnas outfit. Vee-One-Ugh says they're even now... he's gone and knocked up Tammy Sytch as a way of protecting her from Chris Candido. When Lita asks for a reason why having sex with Sunny would protect her, Matt asks why when *he* does it, all of a sudden it has to be LOGICAL.

-- After Kenzo Suzuki doublecrosses tag team partner Rene Dupree, the Japanese mullethead seeks a new partner in an old face - Jinsei "Hakushi" Shinzaki, who still comes to the ring with a fake Bret Hart skull in a bag. Outnumbered and not able to convince Sylvan Grenier or Robert Conway to join him on the blue show, Rene Dupree brings his mystery partner to the Survivor Series... of course, it's "The Model" Rick Martel. The Canadians win the grudge match when Martel uses his Arrogance cologne to spike up Kenzo Suzuki's mullet into a "There's Something About Mary" hairstyle, and uses Kenzo's head as a weapon to knock Hakushi out cold. He would have used the Bret Hart head, but Vince McMahon was secretly meeting with the head backstage. They may have been negotiating a DVD release, according to Dave Meltzer. Post-match, Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake struts out and lobs off the spikey part of Kenzo's mullet with a pair of oversized hedge clippers as the fans go wild.

-- Using a little nostalgia to spice up house shows, WWE adds a pair of bona fide legends to wrestle each other exclusively at non-televised events across the country. Fans turn out in droves to watch "The Dream" vs. "The Funker" one more time. The plan backfires after several cities riot upon finding out the match is actually Jimmy Jack Funk vs. Akeem, the African Dream.

Are these storylines probable? Hell no. Not in a million years. Never gonna happen.

Then again, those are the exact words I'd have used to describe the chances of a Bradshaw title reign this time last year.

Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it?


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SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




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