Wrestling News, Analysis and Commentary

News  -/-  Recaps  -/-  Columns  -/-  Features  -/-  Reference  -/-  Archives  -/-  Interact  -/-  Site Info

Donate to Online Onslaught!
     Daily Onslaught
     Obtuse Angle
     RAW Satire
     The Broad

     Inside the Ropes
     OOld Tyme
         Rasslin' Revue
     Title Wave
Crashing the

     Smarky Awards
     Big in Japan
     Guest Columnists
     2 Out of 3 Falls
     Devil's Due
     The Ring
     The Little Things
SK Rants
The Mac Files
     Sq'd Circle Jerk
     RAW vs. SD!:
         Brand Battle
     Cheap Heat 
     Year in Review
     Monday Wars
     Road to WM 

     Title Histories
     Real Names
     PPV Results
     Smart Glossary
     Message Boards
     Live Chat 
     OO History

If you attend a live show, or have any other news for us, just send an e-mail to this address!  We'd also love to hear from you if you've got suggestions or complaints about the site...  let us have it!

End of the Innocence?, or
The Mania I Don't Care About...
March 13, 2002

by Rick Scaia
Exclusive to OnlineOnslaught.com


-  An object lesson:

On Monday nights, my band (a new one called The National Drink, leaving our basement sometime very soon!) practices, so I have to tape RAW for viewing after our late night Seinfeld is over.  my housemates usually sit in when I watch.  They are like me:  they enjoy being able to fast-forward through commercials and stuff like that, so it's better to watch it with me than watch it live.  They are also like me, however, in that they recognize crap when they see it and don't mind if I fast-forward some of that, too (usually, this takes the form of "Moments Ago" segments that were even FEWER moments ago if you're laying on the fast forward button).  But sometimes -- SOMEtimes -- I'll be told, "Hey, go back, I want to see that."  Well, on Monday night, I was laying HARD on the fast-forward button after it became obvious that dog shit and god-awful board meetings were going to major plot points all night long.  But for all my thumb's zest, I was actually told, about mid-way through this below-average show, "Hey, go back, I think I want to see that."

The reason:  one of my housemates thought he spotted the new Anna Kournikova commercial.  He was right.  It was one of the night's few highlights.  I have a feeling I could have fast-forwarded whole vast tracts of actual first-run content from that RAW, and nobody would have stopped me...  but Anna?  Hoo, baby, we gots to take a look!

That little anecdote is about as entertaining a way as I could come up with to underscore what a forgettable RAW we got on Monday night.  And that would be bad news on any typical Monday night.  But it's even worse when it takes place on the Monday before WrestleMania.  And things nosedive from there when you stop to realize that other than last week's RAW and one SmackDown! from a few weeks back, the entire last month of TV has been little better than Monday's show...  doesn't anybody besides us fans realize this is Wrestle-freakin'-Mania, here?

Kevin Kelly (on Byte This) can espouse the theory that Hogan/Rock sells this show all by itself all he wants, and therefore justify his lambasting of fans who dare criticize the Fed for adding two-thirds of the card in the final week before the show...  but the fact is that Hogan/Rock, so far, has been so much better in theory and in vignettes than in reality that it has NOT single-handedly buffed this year's Mania to a glossy finish.  When one face-to-face promo and two music videos are the best part of a "feud," you do not have yourself a show-saving mega-match; nope, you've got yourself a missed opportunity and then a bunch of other PPV matches that don't do a lot to sell a show.

[By the way, I do have a whole tangent about Kelly's opinions as voiced last week on Byte This, which I'll do later since it doesn't really fit in here....]

I'll actually go so far as to say that the actually STORYTELLING between Steve Austin and Scott Hall has been marginally better than between Rock and Hogan, if only because its soaring height of stupidity (the "cinder block" attack) peaked lower than that of Rock/Hogan (the ambulance gambit).  WMX-8's supposed saving grace takes another hit...

Hell, until Monday, it might even have been THIRD on the WMX-8 Storytelling Depth Chart, because the best build-up of all had been for Ric Flair vs. the Undertaker.  But the necessity of splitting Flair's interests between Taker and Vince (as part of the upcoming Split) put a big time damper on that Monday.  Those board room scenes were dreadfully done:  over-long and overly dramatic (and as always, over-acted), with a pay-off that could ultimately have been handled more compellingly (and more briefly) with a quick announcement than with 3 or 4 extended skits.  I realize that there is a perceived importance to laying the foundation for the split in grand style (and believe me, that's where Monday's vignettes are leading), but to think it should be done at the cost of what had been the hottest feud going into WM?  That's not what I would have advised....

And worst of all, we are now poised on the brink of just about the most poorly-put-together WWF Title Feud EVER at a WrestleMania.  When I was running it in my head yesterday, I came up with Undertaker/Sid (at WM13) as another slip-shod title match effort...  but upon further review, Triple H/Chris Jericho may be even a notch below that, as it shares Taker/Sid's we're-making-this-up-as-we-go vibe with the ADDED ATTRACTION of the sheer retarded-ness of the  Hogan/Slaughter storyline at WM7!  Yee haw!

I hope it's not just me... here, you decide.  Which of these two Triple H quotes makes you more excited to see him challenge for the WWF Title on Sunday:

"Chris Jericho: you have two months.  Two months to prove to the world that this is not a fluke.  That you are not a joke.  That you are the man, that you deserve to have everything that you have.  [...]  But Chris Jericho, you have only got two months, because in two months' time, it will be WrestleMania.  And if you make it to WrestleMania as the Undisputed World Wrestling Federation Champion, unfortunately for you, at WrestleMania, for you, it will be time... to play... the Game." [Triple H, 1/21/02]


"I'm warning you, don't screw with my dog."  [Triple H, 3/11/02]

Yeah, that's what I thought...  I guess maybe this is the WWF's attempt at Non-Traditional Storytelling.  Sure, the NORMAL way to do things is to make things build to a dramatic crescendo where viewer interest increases over time...  but WrestleMania's no time to be NORMAL!  No sir, this time of year calls for something special, such as putting Triple H in such embarrassing skits so as to lose that King Midas "Man Who Can Do No Wrong" rep that even those asshole smart marks were willing to grant him there for a while.  And mostly, it calls for making sure that a match that would have electrified an audience and carried a whole show two months ago is now little more than a luxury add-on to this PPV card.

Screw that!  These two guys are too good to be asked to carry such shitty material (just when I thought it couldn't get any worse after the past few weeks of genitalia-based humor, we moved on to DOG POOP!  YES!), and on top of that, this IS the WWF Title we're talking about.  Two guys this good, feuding for the big piece of gold should be this PPV's goddamn V-8 engine, and NOT its metaphorical second in-dash lighter jack so you can plug in a CD Player AND smoke your Marlboros at the same time!

It's not that these are matches that I don't want to see...  it's just that the past month of TV hasn't given me any particularly compelling reasons to WANT to see them.  That's fine for a Monday night line-up or even for an off-month PPV.  But when it's WrestleMania rolling around, it just amounts to massive sums of Missed Opportunity...

It extends to the undercard, too...  I mean, in theory, Kane vs. Kurt Angle isn't a horrible idea.  If both have nothing better to do, why not put one of the Fed's best all-around performers (Angle) in there with a solid big man (Kane) and see if they can't have a good match?  But the motivation for this came out of nowhere...  why not plant the seeds a little sooner so that the interactions in the last month mean a little something extra?  

Or Booker T and Edge having a feud based on a Japanese shampoo commercial?  This is so completely ridiculous that I can't believe one sane voice didn't speak out in those creative meetings to say, "Uh, you're just joking, right?  You don't REALLY want to do a storyline about a bogus Japanese endorsement deal, right?" (unless maybe the sane voices just didn't want to get fired, so they went along with the insanity)..  it's so sad when you see two guys so utterly capable of having a very good match being asked to have that much under such a ludicrous pretext.

And THEN, if they'd just capitalized on the opportunities to set up four or five really enticing main event and upper-mid-card matches, THAT is when you're in position to argue the "Well, it doesn't really matter if the bottom half of the card is put together at the last second" point.  If those top matches had clicked, then you'd be looking at RVD vs. William Regal in a different light.  Instead of having to hope against hope that it's a surprising show-stealer that helps prop up an otherwise spotty card, it could just be taken on its merits as the next big step in what has been a very entertaining build-up of Regal as a marketable heel, and the first big step for RVD to take a stab at important singles gold.  The two individuals here are compelling and fresh enough that it wouldn't matter so much if there wasn't a three-month-long story arc linking them... or rather, as I said above, it wouldn't matter if the rest of the card was a bit stronger.  [The same could then be said for the promising-in-a-train-wreck-sort-of-way four-way tag title match, too.]

Then, once you're up to seven matches that all fit into their niches on the card, you can also toss the icing onto the cake.  A three-way women's title match isn't going to be a terribly complex affair, since most of the audience just likes the idea of the hot broads rolling around together...  a DDP/Christian Euro Title match tossed on at the last second after Christian dismisses DDP's motivational antics would be a good five minute palate-cleanser somewhere on the card... and then you can throw in the Bull Buchanan Special (the one match on the card that nobody cares about, so named after the man who participated in said match that last two years running!) and a big Battle Royal or Hardcore Schmozz (just to get everybody onto the show), and you've got yourself a PPV.

You know, in saying all this, I realize that I'm really making two points, one of which IS a back-handed compliment to the WWF.  Hey, I'm saying that these are matches that could very well comprise a memorable WrestleMania PPV...  but overriding that guarded optimism is my pragmatism, the part of me that realizes that this is, hands-down, the least excited I've been for a WrestleMania since 1997, and it's not because of the talent roster or the selected matches (like it was for WM13).  It's just because the promotional effort hasn't been the same.

I wish I knew whether that was the easy part or the hard part to fix...  and even more:  I hope it's not too late to somehow fix it for this year.

-  I alluded to Kevin Kelly's dressing down of a Byte This caller who made some of the same comments about this being a hastily-put-together edition of WM above...  and since it's increasingly clear that the WWF is aware of these criticisms (a quick look to my visitor logs confirms that wwf.com was #29 for the month of February among the thousands of different domains supplying me with readers, so they are even aware of my pandering fan-boy defenses against the majority of criticisms, too!), it becomes an interesting topic to also discuss their responses to the criticisms.

Unfortunately, as soon as you hear the response, the debate becomes lots less intriguing, on the grounds that it becomes apparent that no debate is welcome on the subject.  "Everything is peachy in the WWF, and if you're a real fan, you'll buy WrestleMania, no questions asked, anyway.  Case closed."  Not much wriggle room for a response, they, eh, Mr. Kelly?

Now, I admit, I am not an ardent ByteThis listener or anything close to it...  as a fan, I have two modes:  the one that sits down and enjoys the shows with a certain amount of suspension of disbelief, and the one that sits here in front of a keyboard and tries to get to the real heart of what I just got done watching.  I just have no room in my fandom to subscribe to the "new work" (which tries to straddle the crevasse between smartness and the completely worked TV product, but without really capturing the intrigue of either).  But that said, sometimes, I get wind of something interesting and have to listen in, as was the case with last Friday's show.

So, Kevin Kelly rebukes the argument of a smarter fan who dares to question the product by telling him, in essence, "Real fans wouldn't question us, they'd just buy the product."  The fact that this fan is actually traveling to Toronto this weekend for the PPV, despite his reservations, sort of put the kibosh on Kelly's self-righteousness, but it doesn't detract from what I assume was his ultimate point:  that there is a major distinction between fans (who should sit back and watch the product) and those involved in the business (who are the only ones with any right to criticize).

I don't want to get into a whole big tirade right now...  but let's at least say that the WWF should count its lucky stars that it's got fans who CARE enough to point out when things aren't going quite right, who'll grant them a grace period to fix things, and who are frequently intelligent enough to be on target with their observations even if they are not "in the business."  I'm not talking about the (admittedly large) class of fans who assume they're smart because they read the internet and who are first in line to talk about how Rocky Sux because he only knows four moves, or whatever, either...  I'm talking about fans who are -- by the dozens -- writing in to me saying things like "You know, I can't believe it, but this is gonna be the first WrestleMania since 19[xx] that I don't buy," and who go on to outline the reasons why they've lost their interest in the last year or so (and in eloquent fashion, at that).

Look, I'm not saying that anybody at the WWF has to take the criticisms of a small, intelligent fragment of its audience so to heart that it quits telling stories for the other 90% of fans (to a large extent, I think that's what got Vince Russo in trouble!)...  but I did get kind of upset that even the WWF's pretend Smart Show was so quick to dismiss any kind of valid criticism in an effort to stick to the WWFE party line.  The same show that spends a significant amount of time openly mocking the intellectually-deficient callers who call in also turns around and then tries to quickly rebuff anyone who'd dare step up with a well-argued dissenting "smart fan" viewpoint.  Which kind of show is it?  A smart one where you taunt the stupid marks?  Or a kayfabe one where you dodge the tough issues?

I don't expect any kind of resolution on the matter, so I guess I'll just go back to reading EC's weekly recaps to see if anything interesting does manage to happen again...  and again, apologies for the tangent, but I did want to get it off my chest that I feel like I (and the majority of you folks) are justified in retaining our rights to both (1) make constructive criticisms, and (2) keep our Wrestling Fans in Good Standing Status intact.  With all due respect to Kevin Kelly, I don't believe the two are in any way mutually exclusive...

-  One last quick thing, when I'm criticizing, I try to also provide the start of a solution along with my identification of the problem...  just part of my own personal distaste for assholes who are quick with the "That sucks," but who become ever so slow-witted when asked to provide the "And here's what I'd do to fix it."

So I'm saying WMX-8 isn't shaping up particularly well, and it's because of the creative/promotional effort...  well, step one for what I would have done differently is simple, and I can't believe that this isn't mandatory every year:  right before the New Year, I would have taken stock of what talent I had available and what would be coming in, and I'd try to brainstorm a few WrestleMania matches that would sell the show, and then a few storyline concepts that would be able to play out in the months before the PPV.

Putting myself in that spot, in late December, 2001, I can only assume that I'd be privy to the info that Hogan, Hall, and Nash would be coming back, and that the WWF would be well within its rights to use the nWo concept (afterall, the nWo announcement was made to fans right near the end of January, so SOMEbody would had to have known this was happening four weeks prior)...  so there's no surprises, no reason why I'd have to use the excuse "Oh, we're looking for a creative direction for them" to explain why they don't appear on TV immediately.  And also, I'd know that building up to a split of the WWF into two rosters would have to take place at some point after WM.

Anyway, my brainstorming process would start this way:  I'd keep Jericho vs. HHH for the WWF Title as a center-piece of WM (Steph and HHH would still split, too, though I'd have kept the soap-opera overtones to a minimum, and written Steph out afterwards so that this could be about the TITLE and not about any other BS; you can always reprise the divorce angle later).  I'd keep Hogan vs. Rock, too (more on how that plays out later).  

But after that, it goes like this:  Austin vs. Angle have their big blow-off at WM, and we call it a Triple Main Event.  The Outsiders win the WWF Tag Titles in their first WWF match (a week before No Way Out), dominate the division with their heinous acts afterwards, and at Mania, they are ordered by Ric Flair to "run the gauntlet" against the Hardys/Dudleys/APA/Booker&Test/Scotty&Albert/Chuck&Billy in a match designed to recreate some of that old assk-kicking nWo mystique while letting the other teams do -- you know? -- the actual wrestling.  I like RVD vs. Regal for the IC Title, so maybe I'd keep that, along with the Regal defeat of Edge for the strap and the whole sweet-ass brass knucks subplot.  

I'd also do a slow-simmering pair of "reunion" storylines, with it appearing that Edge and Christian are getting back together (use the Toronto tie-in, and the fact that they want to work together on the biggest show ever in their hometown, maybe?) and that Undertaker and Kane are also pairing up again (and here, I'd tie it into the Outsiders dominance of the tag division, as Kane approaches Taker about defending his company, his WWF, against the nWo, and Taker seems to agree).  Of course, in my mind, the way to pay this off is to have E&C vs. Taker/Kane end with Taker betraying Kane and joining the nWo (hey, nothing else has worked to make his heel status stick, so why not?).  The Outsiders could even join in the attack, and then E&C would be re-established as a possible contending team (or you could go with Christian going back heel, as he gets pissed at Edge for losing the match...  your choice).

Toss a divas match in there...  get Lance Storm, the Hurricane, Tajiri, and/or Spike Dudley somehow involved in one or two Cruiserweight type matches...  and you're damn close to having a full card.

The other big thing I'd be doing would be the split of the WWF into two rosters, and that'd be predicated on Flair vs. McMahon.  Here's how I'd do it:  instead of them wrestling at Royal Rumble, the genuine hostilities start when Vince starts demanding Flair grant him full creative control over the company because he (Vince) is the only one who knows how to give the fans what they want.  Flair, afterall, is a WRESTLER, not a promoter.  This escalates into a wager between the two:  they will each get two "wild card" slots for the upcoming Rumble match, to fill with surprise entries not currently on the WWF roster.  The fans reactions will determine who has made the two better free agent signings, but there's no real stipulation attached to the wager.

Flair's two wildcards are:  Val Venis and the Godfather...  Vince's two are:  Mr. Perfect and SCOTT HALL.  Hall gets the biggest pop, of course, and even Flair has to admit that the short-term pay-off of hiring Hall has made Vince look good.  But he warns that the long-term results could be very bad, because of Hall's spotty personal past and track record.  Hall takes the jabs personally, and we get a Flair/Hall match set-up for the No Way Out PPV.  

Two weeks before No Way Out, Flair and Hall are having a brawl when Kevin Nash comes in from out of the crowd to make it a two-on-one beat-down.  Vince lords it over Flair, saying he's brought back two of the biggest stars from WWF history, and that it proves he knows how to please the fans.  This is still about total control of the WWF.

At No Way Out, Flair fights the good fight, but between Nash and Vince at ringside, he stands no chance against Hall.  Things get even more interesting after the match, when the nWo music starts up, and HULK HOGAN comes out, led by ERIC BISCHOFF.  Up till now, Hall and Nash haven't even touched on the nWo subject, but when Hogan and Bischoff hit the ring and join Hall and Nash in attacking Flair, Vince all of a sudden goes from gloating to having a scared look on his face and does the Gulp of Terror.

The next night, a promo reveals that Vince's short-sightedness opened the door for Eric Bischoff to completely re-assemble his nWo in the WWF, and now, he's taking over, and screw both Vince AND Flair.  Vince and Flair start working together to try to figure out a way to get rid of the nWo, and it somehow pans out this way:  when Rock and Hogan agree to face off in a Battle of the Icons, the Rock will be "sponsored" by Vince/Flair and the WWF, while Hogan will be sponsored by the nWo and Bischoff.  Whoever wins gets full control of the company for his sponsor; a key plot point will be to make sure that it's Vince who pushes to make this stipulation.

At Mania between Hogan and Rock, each party is allowed to have one man at ringside.  For Hogan, it's Bischoff.  For Rock, Vince insists on being at ringside.  And the big swerve comes at the match's end, when a ref bump results in Hall and Nash (oh, and Undertaker, too!) coming out to join in the attack.  Vince looks on, and eventually, Flair comes out to stand by his side; they look like they're gonna step in and neutralize the nWo run-in.  But instead, Vince pastes Flair with a chair shot, and then helps Hogan get the win.  After the match, Bischoff tries to get in the ring to celebrate, but the entire nWo, now led by Vince, turns on him, and destroys him (never to be seen again on WWF TV).

This whole extended story sets up the post-WM split, in which Vince will go on TV and explain that HE was the one who sent Hogan, Hall, and Nash down to WCW to destroy the company, and that Bischoff only THOUGHT the nWo was his idea; instead, he just took Vince's real life evil plan and turned it into a storyline that eventually did result in WCW's crumbling to the ground.  Now Vince's nWo has just taken 100% control of the WWF, and it's time for a New Golden Era. 

But wait:  you do some sort of storyline where the WWF Board of Directors determines that Vince's involvement with the nWo is a conflict of interests, and they relieve him of his 50% ownership position, which somehow results in Flair (and maybe Bischoff, if he's effective in an on-screen role, which could even give legitimacy back to using the WCW name as a rival promotion) in getting back into a position of power.  You'll have to imagine all the details for yourself, but the upshot is that shortly after WM, the WWF's TV/PPV/promotional assets are split 50/50, with Flair and Vince each controlling half.  They do a live draft, and by the April PPV, the WWF is effectively split in two.  But that's a whole other story....

Damn.  Maybe I SHOULD have done the full-blown Fantasy Booking again this year.  It was kind of fun.  And it would have been lots better if I'd actually done something more than just toss it out there off the top of my head!  I could actually have done some detailed thinking about the HHH/Jericho and Austin/Angle matches, instead of just focusing (as I did by necessity) on the nWo thing, anyway...

Anyway, I say: So there.  My proposed start to the solution.  That's how I'd have envisioned WM and the build-up to it if somebody had asked me.  I sure as hell wouldn't have booked it on the fly, at least.  Which is how it seemed to me these past few weeks and months...

And if you made it this far, you REALLY need a break.  How about hopping on over to the OTHER page of today's OO, which is a lot shorter, and limited to a few actual news items.


Rick Scaia is a wrestling fan from Dayton, OH.  He's been doing this since 1995, but enjoyed it best when the suckers from SportsLine were actually PAYING him to be a fan.

SMACKDOWN RECAP: Bonding Exercises
RAW RECAP: The New Guy Blows It
PPV RECAP: WWE Night of Champions 2012
RAW RECAP: The Show Must Go On
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Boot Gets the Boot
RAW RECAP: Heyman Lands an Expansion Franchise
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Losing is the new Winning
RAW RECAP: Say My Name
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Deja Vu All Over Again
RAW RECAP: Dignity Before Gold?
PPV RECAP: SummerSlam 2012
RAW RECAP: Bigger IS Better
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Hitting with Two Strikes
RAW RECAP: Heel, or Tweener?
RAW RECAP: CM Punk is Not a Fan of Dwayne
SMACKDOWN RECAP: The Returnening
RAW RECAP: Countdown to 1000
PPV RECAP: WWE Money in the Bank 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Friday Night ZackDown
RAW RECAP: Closure's a Bitch
RAW RECAP: Crazy Gets What Crazy Wants
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Five Surprising MitB Deposits
RAW RECAP: Weeeellll, It's a Big MitB
RAW RECAP: Johnny B. Gone
PPV RECAP: WWE No Way Out 2012
RAW RECAP: Crazy Go Nuts
RAW RECAP: Be a Star, My Ass
RAW RECAP: You Can't See Him
RAW RECAP: Big Johnny Still in Charge
PPV RECAP: WWE Over the Limit 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: One Gullible Fella
RAW RECAP: Anvil, or Red Herring?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Everybody Hates Berto
RAW RECAP: Look Who's Back
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Care to go Best of Five?
RAW RECAP: An Ace Up His Sleeve
PPV RECAP: WWE Extreme Rules 2012
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Sh-Sh-Sheamus and the nOObs
RAW RECAP: Edge, the Motivational Speaker?
SMACKDOWN RECAP: AJ is Angry, Jilted
RAW RECAP: Maybe Cena DOES Suck?
RAW RECAP: Brock's a Jerk
SMACKDOWN RECAP: Back with a Bang
RAW RECAP: Yes! Yes! Yes!
PPV RECAP: WWE WrestleMania 28




All contents are Copyright 1995-2014 by OOWrestling.com.  All rights reserved.
This website is not affiliated with WWE or any other professional wrestling organization.  Privacy Statement.