Welcome to the BRAND NEW edition of Wrestling's FACT or FICTION. Thank you very much for the great feedback from the column posted Saturday evening. I was pleased with my work with Da Ref, and for this week, the column only gets better!
Call it a 3 Way Dance, as this column will be written by Mr. Tito, Da Ref, and introducing, Optimus Schwab. Schwab, like Da Ref, is very knowledgeable regarding professional wrestling and is extremely tough to fight with when it comes to opinions. Here's the profile he provided:
Optimus Schwab (or SCHWAB as he's known on the boards): "Well, Iím Optimus Schwab. I wrote a column on LoPís main page about 1 year ago called the Optimus Files, but now I mainly sticking to writing long ramblings on the message boards on occasion. As far as how my opinion qualifies to be posted here with Titoís and Refís, Iíll just say I watch an absolutely massive amount of wrestling whenever time permits it from every corner of the globe. I have a strong passion for the business and have been that way for about 15 years. Even in my younger days I had a strong dedication to the NWA even though I was too young to truly appreciate it. These days I give my support whenever I feel it should be given, whether itís through buying tapes or attending indy shows on a frequent basis. Iíve been to many a show in my day and my tape collection got so big that I canít count it anymore, so I like to think that I do my fair share to support the business and stay informed about it."
This should make for an interesting column, by far. I HIGHLY encourage the readers to not only e-mail me, Mr. Tito, about this column, but to e-mail the other guys, telling them how they did or what you thought of their opinions. Their e-mail links will be at the bottom of the column.
Once again, this column is loosely based on ESPN Sportscenter's "Fact or Fiction" segments. A statement will be listed, and the 3 of us will state whether it's a Fact or if it's Fiction and give reasons why.
1) FACT OR FICTION: The WWE will have some momentum off of Wrestlemania 19 to improve business throughout the summertime.
Mr. Tito: I like the possible prospects of Bill Goldberg in the WWE, but I must say FICTION. There are initial fears that Wrestlemania will bring in the lowest numbers in years. Wrestlemania 17 and 18 had very high buyrates, and they were followed by a poor summertime. So what happens after a poorly bought Wrestlemania? It's scary. I'm willing to insist that Smackdown and the WWE as a whole is in deep, deep trouble if Kurt Angle is out for the year (assuming the miracle surgery isn't tried). Also, once the Rock is gone, who is going to be a good heel that puts over faces on RAW? Who? It's going to be another long summer for the WWE and possibly the longest one yet. I predict lots of jobs will be cut, more McMahons on television, and even MORE faces from the past will be brought in. All of which is nothing but a negative for the WWE. Business usually picks up around Summerslam for the WWE traditionally, so they should take May, June, and July to create new stars in time for August's big Pay Per View.
Da Ref: Don't take this personally but "Bitch, please!" In other words, I'm saying FICTION. WWE has yet to capitalize off of a well-received PPV in a long time. With the addition of Goldberg, it appears that their way of dealing with problems is to just throw money out there for familiar faces and see what happens from there. Meanwhile, the creative team is a bunch of "yes men", going along with anything that Steph suggests.
SCHWAB: Iím gonna have to say FICTION. Any momentum they would have had after WM was already killed with the numbers the pulled on Monday night, so this is basically just another extension of an already long slump in business. Add in the factor that WM was far from good and that they blew off zero angles that people cared about and you donít really have the winning formula on your hands. The brand extension has basically come into full effect of destroying any hopes of business boosts they planned on having after massive PPVs, because when you try to create a genuine sense of competition around an already declining fanbase, you really arenít leaving yourself many options as far as quick ratings fixes are concerned. So they had disappointing numbers going into the show and disappointing numbers coming out of it. Thatís what lackluster shows and poor writing do to you.
2) FACT OR FICTION: Backlash will have a higher buyrate than Wrestlemania this year.
Da Ref: A couple of weeks ago, I could've gone either way on that one. After the response that Goldberg got at RAW, it's pure FICTION. My favorite scene was when they came back from the promo for Backlash and everyone was sitting on their hands for a few seconds until a very small "Goldberg" chant started and died out almost as quickly. Meanwhile, Jim Ross is trying to make it seem like they were doing that from the beginning. The best thing to do is hype the match more about it being Maivia's last match than Goldberg's 1st WWE match.
SCHWAB: Iím gonna say FICTION for this one too. WM gets extra buys just because itís WM. Itís one of those consistent things that even the fans who normally donít tune into PPVs will buy because theyíve managed to build that ďHey, this is specialĒ appeal into it. Goldberg is not a factor. He hasnít been a major draw for any organization in years and is the last person who I can think of for a quick fix, simply because there isnít one. WMís buyrate usually makes Backlashís look small every year in comparison as far as PPV buyrates are concerned, and the past two years they even hesitated to release Backlashís buyrate to the public. Iím pretty sure you can credit the main events with that one.
Mr. Tito: I'll go against the grain and say FACT. Why? Wrestlemania's buyrate is going to be a joke when it comes in, given the poor build up to the show and overall lackluster material the WWE has provided the fans here in 2003. With Wrestlemania being lower, I sense that Pay Per View ads will hype Rock vs. Goldberg, and that will make many fans come out of the woodwork. Wrestlemania 18 was weak, overall, and had no interest to fans, as many bought it just to see the Dream Match of Hogan vs. Rock. Bill Goldberg is coming in and facing the Rock, which is a dream match, given that both guys are a celebrity outside wrestling. You're forgetting the Invasion Pay Per View, which brought extra WCW fans to the fold, despite the crappy build up for the matches on the card. WCW fans will return for one night only to see Goldberg wrestle one of the WWE's trademark stars, the Rock, who will work to make Goldberg look good before he runs off to Hollywood again.
3) FACT OR FICTION: Rob Van Dam and Kane will hold the RAW Tag Titles for more than a month.
SCHWAB: Itís FICTION in terms of WWE booking logic and common sense. WWE booking logic says these guys have been buried so badly over the course of the past few months or even years in Kaneís case that they basically just bounce around the tag division in meaningless title exchanges. I direct your attention to the highly praised Smackdown tag feuds of late last year, where they couldnít book anything better for six guys so they just bounced them around in multiple variations of the same match for months. Granted the wrestling was good, but itís not exactly something that makes other people want to tune in and maybe gain some extra fans, no matter how small that amount may be at this point. Common sense says those guys shouldnít even have gotten the straps in the first place so essentially the topic isnít up for discussion. They lack the push, the focus, and on top of that the workrate to succeed as a tag team or even the super team I bet they think theyíve created with those two. Newsflash: Two guys who had their heat squashed and stripped from them over the course of long, painful feuds with a certain world champ doesnít exactly qualify as super team in my book. Rebuild their credibility as singles workers and give some guys who canít get over in the singles ranks a chance to run in the tag division. Lance and Regal were good choices for a team, mainly because they donít work in the WWE style as singles wrestlers, so give them a run as a tag team. They got the straps far too early and were essentially shoved down peopleís throats as the best thing since sliced bread (gaining suck heat in the process), but with a gradual push and slow build they could have worked. The tag division and writing is far too flawed to see RVD and Kane go longer than a month with those titles. If they do though, we wonít be able to say they arenít trying.
Mr. Tito: Unfortunately, this is FICTION. I very much want to say that RVD amd Kane will hold the titles for a while, but I know better. They are 2003's version of Booker T and Goldust, only with less tag team chemistry. These 2 are yesterday's news in Triple H's eyes, and his ridiculous influence will make sure they lose the titles quickly to squash any crowd reactions they may be receiving together. I'm sure some stupid heel tag team will get together and take them off of RVD and Kane, although I have a feeling that the Dudleys or Storm/Morley will be the ones getting the titles very soon. Very unfortunate.
Da Ref: I'll say FICTION again. Wait, I'm not SAYING that it's fiction. It just IS fiction. WWE is just redoing Goldust & Booker T with Van Dam and Kane. They were two singles wrestlers that were put together and got over based on their promos. They challenged for the titles repeatedly and lost those matches. Then, they go into their last shot at the titles stating that if they lose, they'll break up for good. Finally, they go over. Goldust & Booker T's reign lasted 22 days. I'll be generous and say that Kane and Van Dam will last 27 days.
4) FACT OR FICTION: Brock Lesnar could be becoming a headcase, the more successful he becomes at the top.
Mr. Tito: I know I'll get hell for this, but hear me out. This is a FACT. Just think about it. First, he's a NCAA Heavyweight Champion, the best in American college sports. Secondly, he was quickly offered an awesome contract by the WWE in the face of the WCW-WWF Monday Night Wars. He's making nice money at an early age. Finally, success has come too soon for Lesnar in the WWE. All guys at the top have some kind of backstage stroke, and in many cases, and ego grows out of that. Brock is seeing success come to him too early in his career, and that would make him easily feel as though he's all that and a bag of chips. Nobody experiences the quick success that he's had at a very young age, so it would be acceptable if he got a little annoying backstage.
Da Ref: That's FICTION. Sean Waltman was a headcase but never needed to be at the top to become such. Anyways, the reason for all of this was because of the talk that Lesnar wanted to do things his way in the match. Well, think about Lesnar's career. He debuted the night after Wrestlemania last year and now, he's in the main event. He's also young and wanting to take advantage of the moment. You could chalk it up to being anxious. Besides, if he were to become a headcase, I'd think he would've done it somewhere around his program with the Undertaker.
SCHWAB: FICTION yet again. I havenít heard of any (credible) trouble with an inflated Brock ego, and if there is any, he doesnít show it in the ring. I canít predict a guyís state of mind months from now. Itís practically impossible. Itís fair to say that success can warp oneís chain of thought, but that holds true for many things in a variety of different situations, whether it be bragging or becoming paranoid about your worth to a company/business. If weíre referring to headcase in terms of tanking the ratings as a failing champ/company ace, Brockís over enough at this point that he canít be considered a complete failure. Not over enough to draw money, but over enough that he can stay in the upper card without causing any serious harm. Theyíre at the point of no return in terms of pushing him. So if he falls flat on his face at one point or another, I donít really think it would be his fault. Take Brock for what he is and thatís a gifted young worker who looks to have a promising future.
5) FACT OR FICTION: Kevin Nash will stay injury free and be a regular on WWE television until his contract runs out in about a year.
Da Ref: He's getting back in the ring. That's enough to tell you that it's FICTION. The idea that Nash will even make it to Summerslam is too far fetched. If he were coming back in a non-wrestling role, I could see it as fact but that's not the case. I don't know what else to say about that.
SCHWAB: Iím half and half on this one, mainly because of the duel nature of the statement. Overall I think Iíll have to go with FICTION, mainly because it takes a very broken down man to tear his quad walking. Take into account Nashís size and the years of pressure put on his knees. Almost every big man begins to suffer some knee problems at one point or another on a frequent basis. However, I think Nash wonít stay off TV this time if he manages to hurt himself again. I just have a feeling that theyíd try to use him for something without completely wasting his contract.
Mr. Tito: Of course it's FICTION. Just ignoring the quad tear, Kevin Nash has terrible knees from years of wrestling and basketball. Along with that, he's close to 50 years old, if not that already. He's not exactly the kind of wrestler who stays in shape year round, either. He just cares about getting the paycheck, and he'll milk any injury that comes his way, although I don't think he wanted that quad or bicep injury last year. I wouldn't even bother putting him in the ring anymore.
6) FACT OR FICTION: Brock Lesnar vs. Kurt Angle, at Wrestlemania, would have been a strong WWE Match of the Year candidate if Lesnar hit the Shooting Star Press.
SCHWAB: Yet again, this is FICTION. This wasnít even the best match at WM let alone the best one the company has held all year. Iíve been saying for months now that Kurt Angle is the most overrated good wrestler in the world, and what that means is that heís a good wrestler whose ability gets praised just a bit too much. Angle lacks the selling, transitioning, and most importantly substance to be considered the best worker in the WWE, let alone the world. Eddy and Benoit are still better by a country mile. Austin in 2001 was also a better, smarter worker than Angle is right now. Back to the match. Blown spots donít take anything away from a match, unless of course thereís dozens of them or more miss than hit. That would be considered sloppy, and for the most part the moves and sequences looked smooth here. One problem Angle doesnít seem to have is his execution of certain moves. They wonít make sense in the match sometimes, but at least they look pretty is what I always say. One blown spot isnít really going to completely ruin a match. Iíve seen the SSP get blown far worse by others and the match didnít drop into unwatchable or even bad. Of course the spot pretty much destroyed the last minute, but you have to also evaluate the other work fairly. This match wasnít good LONG before that spot got blown. It was a basic spotfest, with the moves thrown out before ever establishing a pace or story. The mat work meant little in the long run and was placed in the match just to show that they supposedly knew what they were doing. Kurtís selling left a lot to be desired as well, and he seemed to fall back on the same transitions he usually cycles through, which made the match feel like he was going through the motions rather than creating its own separate identity. The selling of one specific F5 was pretty bad on its own. So what youíre left with is a spotfest, and not even an interesting one like youíll see in the indys weekly. Very disappointing match.
Mr. Tito: I say it's a FACT. If Lesnar would have hit the Shooting Star Press, many fans and wrestling publications would have jacked off all over this match. I liked the shades of amateur wrestling to begin with, and the many reversals out of finishers and the false finishes made this match very much watchable. You're taking into account, also, that Kurt Angle is wrestling this match with one bad move away from being in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. But what else would have been WWE Match of the Year so far? Maybe take your pick of the Angle vs. Benoit matches, but it's hard to choose which one is the strongest. RAW and Smackdown have both lacked any super strong matches this year to brag about. Also consider that the Rock is leaving soon, Angle and Edge are out, and this could be reasoning to include Angle vs. Lesnar, if the Shooting Star was hit, to be included on the ballot.
Da Ref: That's FICTION. One move doesn't make a match. From what I've read, Michael Cole and Tazz did a good job covering it up by saying that Angle moved out of the way in time. To me, that takes the heat off of the situation. Plus, the fact that he could do it is noteworthy. If you were to judge a whole match based on one blown spot, there would be a number of matches that people claim to be spectacular under heavy scrutiny. Hell, let's hear anyone say anything good about Jeff Hardy then.
7) FACT OR FICTION: There is reason to panic over the 3.7 RAW rating on the show the night after Wrestlemania.
Mr. Tito: Complete and absolute FACT. Just think, the week before was only a 3.5 rating. RAW only went up 0.2 points after its biggest show of the year? That is pathetic. Just ignore the fact, too, that Bill Goldberg showed up on the show. Just simply put, RAWs after Wrestlemania traditionally jump up in the ratings because new storylines are created and something shocking can happen the night after. A 0.2 increase shows that Wrestlemania had less buyers this year, and not only that, the show might not have given fans reason to bullshit about it the next day around the watercooler. Low numbers means that things will only get worse in the summer, when the fans' and the WWE's attention spans become shorter.
Da Ref: I'll say FICTION because of what is said. The rating increased from last week, which is usually what happens after Wrestlemania. So, that's a positive. However, the reason the ratings increase is because people what to find out what happens next. Wrestlemania is looked at as like the end of the season. After Wrestlemania, it's a new start and the fans want an idea of the direction the company is going to head down. The real reason to panic is if they end up slipping back down next week and the week after that.
SCHWAB: Itís definitely reason to worry, but not panic, so FICTION. Theyíve been hovering around this rating for so long now that I hardly think itís the time to panic. If you want to panic, pay attention to Smackdown which needs all the added star power it can yet rather then piling it all on RAW. Another thing to panic about is how to fix the rating, because itís only going to go down if they keep relying on the shit writing theyíve been using. Cheap little added attractions only waste time, like WM with the catfight and Limp Bizkit. Itís a WRESTLING show. People seem to have lost that more now than ever in this new ďhire some old TV writers to put together a show that nobody cares aboutĒ era. Give the people what they paid for. Some good, old fashioned wrestling feuds, and I donít mean ďHey guys, go have a good match and call it a nightĒ like Heyman was doing on Smackdown. Give them something that they can pour their emotion into and support with genuine feeling. Yeah, I know. Keep praying.
8) FACT OR FICTION: If Steve Austin goes to Smackdown, he would improve the show's quality and maybe ratings.
Da Ref: I have to once again go with FICTION. The buildup for Austin's return helped RAW's ratings a lot. After that, they came back down. So, it's obvious that Austin got the fans back somewhat but couldn't keep them watching. As for Smackdown, what could they do with him? Who are the main heels on the show or at least the heels that could use a feud with a main eventer to help boost them to the next level? As far as how Smackdown is being booked, the first heels that pop into my head are A-Train and Paul Wight. I can't list Matt Hardy because they appear to be keeping him in the Cruiserweight Division and I don't see how you can book a feud between one of the company's all-time biggest names and a guy that was shoved into WWE's purgatory known as the Cruiserweight Division.
SCHWAB: It shouldnít say maybe for the ratings thing. If it did, maybe it would be fact, but as is, itís FICTION. Austin looked terrible at WM and very much got carried by the Rock to the passable match they had. I fear that heís used up whatever gas he has left in his tank and wonít reach the level he did in 2001. I hope Iím wrong, but this time he seems to be suffering far too much ďring rustĒ, which people seem to credit the slump too.
Mr. Tito: This is FICTION, only because Steve Austin is working through injuries. I, for one, and ITCHING for Austin to feud with Chris Benoit, a feud that should have happened last year, but Austin walked out. The only way Austin will be successful over on Smackdown is if Lesnar, Brock, or himself turns heel to make a feud interesting. Brock is doing good as a face, so no, can't turn him heel. Benoit is starting to gain momentum as a face, since Royal Rumble, so no, you can't turn him. Austin is a stale face... Well, we've tried a heel turn, so I don't know what to tell you. But what I can tell you is that Austin probably won't last long because of his injuries, and it's doubtful that an off-camera role will help any shows since his personality is the same since he started his badass face act in 1997.
##That's all for this week's edition of FACT OR FICTION. I hope you enjoyed the 3 Way Dance. I very much encourage you to e-mail Da Ref and Schwab about this column, along with myself for any thought, opinions, or improvements regarding this column.
-E-Mail All 3 Writers
-E-Mail Da Ref
-E-Mail Optimus Schwab
-E-Mail Mr. Tito