Welcome to the latest edition of Wrestling's FACT or FICTION, this time coming to you on a Thursday. The intent of the column was to be on Thursdays, but mind you, all 3 of us, Mr. Tito, Da Ref, and Optimus Schwab are busy with our personal lives, work, or school. Besides, I kinda like posting it on Saturdays, given that there usually isn't much content on the weekends. Thanks again to everyone who has been supporting us and sending us feedback.
I took notice of a few feedback issues, as I enjoyed the idea of doing a "Retro Fact or Fiction" supplied by one reader (sorry, I forget your name!). This will give you insight on the opinion of a past wrestling event, federation, wrestler, and whatnot, such as today, where we discuss ECW's influence on the wrestling industry. With the exception of #5 today, we are sticking with the Fact or Fiction format because it seems to work really well. #5 just seemed like a good idea to add to the conversation.
I'll have you know that I have been saving the Fact or Fiction columns, and I will hopefully archive them soon for you to read the back issues.
And again, I encourage everyone to not only e-mail me (Mr. Tito), about feedback but the other two writers as well. Our e-mail addresses are listed below. On to the column!
1) FACT or FICTION: Backlash was a total failure for the WWE.
Da Ref: I'll go with FACT on this one. The company didn't really try to build it up except for the six-man and Goldberg/Maivia. With that, you have to figure out how to make the PPV memorable and it is possible. Just read what Foley was talking about for KOTR 1998. Yet, was there anything that really shined on that show? Was there anything that made people regret not buying the PPV? I didn't see anything that made me say that.
SCHWAB: Pretty much a FACT. I wasn't gonna watch the show, but unfortunately I ended up getting a tape of it and I have a rule of "No tape goes unwatched!" Those hours were painful, filled with bad wrestling and terrible booking. They also managed to screw up the small stuff in the process, which is just incredibly sloppy. I can't remember the last time I saw a show that had not one good thing on it. They really shouldn't have to worry about Goldberg getting heel heat at this point, but there it was. Brock and Cena fell on their faces with a bad match, exposing both of them in the process. The tags and the women's matches have grown stale thanks to a lack of motivation in the booking of them, and no one gives a crap about the Shawn, HHH, and Nash show with those 3 other guys. Can't forget the Big Show stepping on that little Rey. I mean, Rey's only over and Big Show isn't, but I guess Rey's too small. So, accomplishing nothing is usually what I would call a failure.
Mr. Tito: As much as I didn't mind the show as a whole, I have to say FACT. Just speaking economics, this Pay Per View is going to get a very low buyrate, despite the return of Bill Goldberg, one of WCW's biggest draws in 1998. But booking-wise, it was a disaster. The WWE set up Goldberg to fail as a face in his early goings, thus making fans more willing to cheer for Rocky instead of Goldberg. The six man was nothing big, and it had a forecast of a terrible feud we'll suffer through all summer in Kevin Nash vs. Triple H. Lots of recycling going on, too, such as the Wrestlemania 5 Warrior-Rude finish used in the Team Angle vs. Guerreros match. O'Haire's big wrestling return was terrible, as well, and Brock vs. Cena was a total letdown. But the fact of the matter is that the WWE didn't care to hype this show to begin with, as the storylines heading into the show were weak and many were saying the following the next day: "there was a WWE Pay Per View on last night?"
2) FACT or FICTION: Bill Goldberg, despite some early problems, can still have success in the WWE over time.
SCHWAB: Sure, why not? I'm not one to take away one of many possibilities, so I'll say FACT. Now, it isn't very likely to happen, but it's still possible. They should focus on bringing back the legendary art of jobber squashing, which is what got him over the first time, because obviously going over Rock in 13 minutes (after being booked like shit) obviously isn't gonna do it.
Mr. Tito: I'll say FACT just in hopes of a new WCW stable forming with Booker T and Bill Goldberg, along with possible names such as Sting being added later on. The WWE realizes, possibly, that these 1998 "Attitude" fans didn't exactly change the channels to watch WCW back then, thus they don't know about Bill Goldberg too well. By making him demolish midcarders, it will slowly build him up and maybe get WWE fans adjusted to him. But if the WWE truly wants to make something out of the million or so they are paying Goldberg, then why not send him down to OVW on his off days to train a little better so that he can look better in a main event match?
Da Ref: I guess it could be FACT. The thing is can WWE get away from him being a former WCW star and actually work on building him up. How many times have they dropped the ball on someone because they were more over in another company? How many times have we seen guys that the crowd pop for night in and night out get punted to midcard status? Goldberg's success is dependent on two things. It depends on whether or not he's willing to play ball with the company and be a team player. It also depends on whether or not the company is willing to work with him.
3) FACT or FICTION: There will be other Pay Per Views with lower buyrates than Backlash.
Mr. Tito: Overwhelming FACT. The RAW exclusive Pay Per Views are going to be the biggest jokes of the Pay Per View industry, possibly sinking to lows that the final days of WCW was achieving. Seriously. I don't know about you, but I don't want to shell out $35 or so a month on a Pay Per View absent of good Smackdown talent with Triple H and Kevin Nash headlining. The RAW roster isn't deep enough with marketable wrestlers to even put on a decent show. At least with Smackdown, they can throw out some Cruiserweight matches. The WWE stands to lose a lot of money this summer.
Da Ref: I'm gonna go FACT on this one. I still don't believe that people will buy into the whole separate brand PPV's that are supposed to be coming up. Right now, both brands have a limited number of wrestlers that would be considered real superstars. That would mean they'd have to rush to build guys into major PPV players. There are guys that started their initial pushes in singles from 2001 who haven't been given the credibility to be a factor in deciding whether or not a consumer will plop down the money for a PPV.
SCHWAB: This is FACT. I direct your attention to next month. I'm sure Big Show v. Brock and Kevin Nash v. HHH feuds are exactly what this promotion needs to rocket back to success. Pardon my sarcasm, but if they continue to book like this, they still have a way to go before reaching rock bottom. They've completely destroyed any chance of an Austin v. Goldberg feud drawing, and if it did happen they'd have one hell of a task ahead of them to build the interest back up. In short, they have no long term planning for actual money drawing angles. Instead, short term shit no one wants to see.
4) FACT or FICTION: Ron Killings, formerly K-Quik of the WWE and currently a NWA-TNA superstar, will return to the WWE soon.
Mr. Tito: I say FACT on this one. The WWE loves to cripple newcoming promotions. Just look at their attacks of the XWF (Curt Hennig) and WWA (Eddie Guerrero). They are going to make a shameful offer to Killings that he can't refuse, and overpay him to get lost in the fold in the WWE. But hey, the WWE picked away a potential bigtime superstar from NWA-TNA, or at least they think they did.
Da Ref: I have to believe FICTION. Does WWE even remember that Killings worked for the company? Looking at the way things are, what good would bringing him in do? There's nothing really for him. If he goes to RAW, the only thing for him is to work something with Teddy Long and that whole angle is a bust. On Smackdown, being in the Cruiserweight division would mean just being used as fodder for the bigger guys. In NWA-TNA, the guy got over with the crowd. Why ruin all of that?
SCHWAB: This is kinda tough, because on one hand you have Killings' complete lack of importance the last time he was in the company, but on the other hand you have Vince wanting to steal any of his competition's talent before they ever become a threat to him. I'm going to say FACT because it's always better to be safe than sorry when making these kinda predictions. Of course Killings will probably be a complete non factor like he was last time, but that wasn't really the question.
5) BROCK or CENA: (special question to this column) Which wrestler blew the match at Backlash?
Da Ref: I gotta go with CENA on this one. It's like I said before. The guy just wasn't at the level to be in a main event match. He hasn't been someone that the fans would be willing to pay money to see headlining cards. Don't take it as being "too negative" or anything. I still think the gimmick is good and he's decent on the mic. However, we're not talking about promos here. When it comes to the match itself, all of that doesn't matter.
SCHWAB: I'll say BROCK. Cena tried hard for what it's worth, but face Brock doesn't work, and this match shows it. The stuff before the match has nothing to do with that, because we're talking the actual match here. Brock was on another planet with the type of match they were going for, and the inexperience of both guys made the thing just collapse on itself. That equals directionless.
Mr. Tito: As much as they are both at fault for not fine tuning their match beforehand, I'll go with the World Champion, BROCK for the blame. As the champion, you should hold responsibility to work with whomever your opponent is. If you look at John Cena's other matches, they weren't as sloppy as the match against Brock at Backlash. The stuff Brock tried in the corners was just ridiculous. I'll agree with Schwab regarding Brock as a face, as he's not exactly the most over face champion the WWE has had in recent years. As World Champion, anyway, you should pride yourself in making your main event matches or PPV matches look good, but instead, Brock struggled to carry the load.
6) FACT or FICTION: Steve Austin will make RAW more interesting to watch as RAW co-General Manager.
SCHWAB: This is FICTION. The wrestling General manager (or Commissioner) is my most hated gimmick in wrestling history, mainly because nothing good ever comes from it. Ever. Besides, Austin worked this gimmick before and got absolutely nothing from it.
Mr. Tito: Austin was once a CEO in 1999, I believe, which is the same gimmick he's doing now as co-GM. However, does Austin and Bischoff HAVE to feud? What says that Steve Austin just won't turn evil one day and put an interesting spin on his role? I say FACT. The WWE can't be THAT stupid when it comes to repetition, although this is the WWE we're talking about. Say Austin turns heel and acts corrupt towards faces, such as Bill Goldberg.....
Da Ref: I'm using the past to say FICTION. I thought Austin did well in his segment on RAW. However, we've seen angles almost 100% just like this one. First, it was the co-owners angle in 1999 when Stephanie and Linda turned over their shares in the WWF to Steve Austin. The company killed it off at King of the Ring with an angle they have never even bothered to explain and give closure to. Then, Ric Flair was brought in as co-owner after Survivor Series 2001. Rather than try and come up with a new twist, the company killed that off after Steve Austin walked out. Then, it was Bischoff and Stephanie as GM's and that has left so many unanswered questions. So, it's not really a case of will Austin make RAW more interesting with this angle. It's more like will WWE allow the angle to BECOME interesting.
7) FACT or FICTION: Bret Hart will one day show up on WWE television, live and in person, someday.
Mr. Tito: I believe in Bret, so FICTION. Plus, I believe he was given what he's wanted all along, and that's video and photo access to his WWF materials throughout the years. He has no incentive to return to the WWE now. Plus, he's no hypocrite, unlike the many others. Bret Hart has more class than the other ones who have returned.
Da Ref: Flat out, I'll say FACT. We've seen Rena Mero go from suing the WWF because of "sexual harrassment" and not wanting to do a lesbian angle to kissing Torrie Wilson. We've heard Roddy Piper make a number of comments about the company to standing there next to McMahon and shaking his hand. It's almost to the point of where I believe anything can happen. I'm about three things away from investing in Lotto tickets. Will Bret appear very soon? I don't know about that. However, I wouldn't doubt it if he appeared within the next two years.
SCHWAB: I'll say FACT. Again, I'm never one to eliminate something that is a possibility. Vince has recently shown that you can basically come back from just about anything if he really wants to sign you. Whether it's filing a lawsuit against him or ranting against him on another program. So anything is possible.
8) FACT or FICTION: The WWE should bring in a major sports figure or major entertainer to spark interest with casual fans or to introduce new fans to their product, much like Mike Tyson or Cyndi Lauper helped the WWE achieve this before.
Da Ref: I'll say FACT but with a stipulation. They need to do something about their product. The big key to the WWF's(That's what it was then.) big success in 1998 was Tyson. When Tyson started doing stuff with the company, they had been in the middle of a rebuilding time. It took something to get the fans interested in checking out what they were doing to bring the fans in. That's what Tyson was. With that said, bringing in someone now with the product that's on TV won't have the same effect on things. Sure, the fans would tune it but they'd need something to keep them interested. If they can't keep their fans interested on a regular basis, what makes you think the casual fans will give a damn?
SCHWAB: Yeah, I guess you can say FACT, but I must stress that they don't depend on this method to pop a rating, or else they'll turn into WCW in another way. I still say building the guys you have as strong forces is the way to go. The Tyson thing was not only a success because of Tyson, but because the fan base already had an attachment to Austin. The fanbase isn't really attached to anybody on the roster these days.
Mr. Tito: This is FICTION only because there is no celebrity out there that would pop the WWE's ratings. Yeah, that stupid WWE fake wrestler who posted on another site suggested Eminem. Do you honestly think Eminem has full appeal to wrestling fans? Besides, Eminem is everywhere. Whether it's on a movie, on a magazine, on the radio, or on your toilet paper, you can't go anywhere without seeing him somewhere. If you remember with Mike Tyson, he just got out of prison, thereby making him a very dangerous person to be a "special enforcer". The fact that Steve Austin pushed a ex-convict and former Heavyweight champion took balls, and thus it sparked interest in the WWE product. No celebrity out there would add extra viewers, especially in the long run.
RETRO FACT OR FICTION: (New feature asking questions of the past) ECW's presence in the wrestling industry has helped make wrestling better than it has hurt the industry in the long run.
SCHWAB: Pure FICTION. I'm only saying it because ECW introduced two things I hate most in wrestling that still take place all the time these days. Not to mention people who openly praise ECW also complain about these things, but we'll ignore THAT contradiction and I won't elaborate on the subject that most ECW fans who openly praise the company didn't actually watch it when it was something to care about. I liked ECW in 1995 and early 1996. I attended a lot of their shows and made it a point to pay attention to them, but once I started looking into other things and expanding my knowledge, I realized that there really wasn't anything special about a promotion full of garbage matches and guys who wrestled better matches in Japan and Mexico. Not to mention the stuff that they were revolutionalizing was much more annoying than it was good. Like the high risk bumping and spotfest style of match. ECW introduced that whole "Get out all your spots and take the worst bump you can think of" style that the WWE has created almost a distant cousin of with the style they use today. They raised the bar so high on this stupid shit that people now get injured so frequently it's starting to become disturbing. Benoit's neck is far from healthy, yet still makes it a point to wrestle a spotty, dangerous style. Angle's neck is probably gone now thanks to working a spotty style and landing on his head 10 times a night. Edge has been gone TWICE for this stupid shit. SAFETY FIRST. The ECW style of wrestling requires absolutely no concern for a person's health. Notice a vast majority of the injuries were occuring during Heyman's reign as Smackdown booker. Also, ECW introduced the whole "beat a feud to death until no one cares about it". The whole Smackdown thing last year with the 6 guys wrestling each other over and over and over again is almost another form of Tajiri/Super Crazy, RVD/Lynn, etc. The story is weak. They're just spotfests with no direction. ECW isn't exactly on the top of my list as far as good wrestling is concerned, and unfortunately many of the reasons for that still exist today.
Mr. Tito: I'll say FACT because it helped start a fire underneath the WWE's ass in 1997 and change the industry, which was stale overall, at least on the WWE's side. Look at 1995-1996 WWE. You only had Shawn Michaels and Bret Hart busting out good matches, but even then, their characters weren't over or interesting enough to bring in more business. Aside from their great wrestling, the rest of the company put on boring matches and the storylines were still using the 1980's style, which was very outdated and corny to be exact. By copying off of ECW with it's more edgier storylines, the WWE was able to present a much different product than the stale piece of shit they were showing in 1996. Although, the edgier storylines only helped fuel the WWE from 1997 until 2000, and from 2001 to present, the shock value of the WWE's storylines is no longer there. But at least ECW's influence was used to give an updated look and feel to the WWE, which in my opinion, was so badly needed at the time.
Da Ref: I'm going to go more towards FACT on this one. For years, it was believed that a successful wrestling gimmick had to be something similar to a cartoon character. Yet, it was ECW that said you could create a persona based on a guy being themself and it could get over. You didn't need to go overboard with gimmicks that might just insult the fans' intelligence. They created the idea of taking a person's real nature and turning it up to eleven. I gotta believe that if it wasn't for Heyman taking control of the company, who knows what would've happened with Steve Austin, who pretty much laid the ground work for "Stone Cold" in ECW? Overall, I think ECW changed how fans viewed the business.
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