Welcome to another wonderful edition of Wrestling's FACT or FICTION. This column has really taken off on popularity since its origin, and I'm happy with its progress. This week, we have Mr. Tito, Da Ref, and the returning William Martinez. Marty was the one of the original writers in the early editions of Fact or Fiction, and it's good to see him back working for LoP, informing the readers of the latest wrestling news once again.
Not much else to say on the introduction other than I ENCOURAGE YOU TO E-MAIL US WITH FEEDBACK. Our e-mail addresses are at the bottom.
1) FACT or FICTION: The Kane gimmick is in deep trouble now that he has been unmasked.
Marty: I believe this is FACT. Sure Kane being unmasked can profit from its novelty for a short period of time but the entire gimmick was based around that mask. Now, that's not to say that all is lost for Glen Jacobs. I still believe Kane can be an effective main eventer in WWE provided that he is pushed properly although it appears that WWE finally pushed that panic button on the Kane gimmick.
Mr. Tito: Although he hasn't exactly been getting a good push since his feud with Triple H, the mask is Kane's identity, so FACT. It's sort of like the Mexican wrestlers and how their mask DEFINES the wrestler. He was supposed to have a face damaged by burns, but now, the mask is off and that mystique surrounding him is now gone. He'll just become another tall hoss with no unique qualities to him, other than he's easier to watch than Big Show, Nathan Jones, Albert, or the Undertaker. It's rather funny that Kane also lost his hair when he lost his mask.
Da Ref: I say FICTION only because it was in deep trouble when the Undertaker came back with the American Badass gimmick. Before that, Kane was his "brother" and the two gimmicks managed to co-exist pretty well even with Kane's frequent heel turns. When Taker came back at Judgment Day 2000, Kane's gimmick should've been modified also. I'm not saying make Kane a biker also but at least get him away from the gimmick that had become associated with the whole "Kane and Taker are brothers" angle. That way, you could work with Kane. All him being unmasked does is put the nail in the coffin for Kane. The new look just start putting it into the ground and covering it with dirt.
2) FACT or FICTION: Despite being a longtime WWE wrestler, since 1994, Billy Gunn does NOT deserve the constant pushes he receives.
Mr. Tito: Could I get a "duh" from the majority fans of the WWE? This is FACT because Gunn is the most worthless WWE wrestler out there. Sure, he has an impressive physique, but so what? Lex Luger was never known for his great wrestling. But the difference between Luger and Gunn is that Gunn is a sloppy, sloppy wrestler. I have memories of his feud with Chris Benoit a few years back where he nearly press slammed Benoit on his neck. And Gunn's wrestling ability is obviously bad. His pop from his entrance is quickly silenced when fans witness how horrible of a wrestler he is in person. Screw the seniority. Gunn has NEVER done anything to improve his wrestling ability, unlike many other WWE veterans before him. Find another tag team for Gunn's pathetic wrestling ability to hide.
Da Ref: Absolute FACT. This guy is WWE's answer to Lex Luger. His in-ring work is very weak. He has no personality. His promos are awful. (I take that back somewhat. Luger actually cut one or two decent promos during his career.) It's a pattern with this guy. The bookers believe that Gunn is ready for a good push and do so. Yet, the crowd doesn't give a damn about him. Then, you have the times where he gets injured, comes back, and gets a decent pop. So, the bookers think they should push him because of the reaction he got on his return, which is customary for pretty much every wrestler that comes back from an injury. As the push is going along, the fans are dead when he comes out and the bookers cut the push short (or too late, if you think about it). Meanwhile, you have guys who could serve as a valuable asset to the company that are languishing in the lower midcard while a push is being wasted. If being loyal earned you a push, where is Steve Lombardi's push? The guy was with the company even longer and has done more for the company behind the scenes than Gunn.
Marty: This is also a FACT. The first and foremost thing WWE needs to look at when pushing a wrestler is the money that wrestler can bring in. Gunn has minimal talent, minimal personality and a gimmick that deserves to be in the main event almost as much as Val Venis. Time and time again, WWE has had to learn the hardway that Gunn had little to do with the success of the New Age Outlaws. The fact that his 1999 feud with The Rock tanked should have been enough to show WWE that he isn't worthy of the pushes he gets and that will he always be a tag team wrestler.
3) FACT or FICTION: If competition from another fed just so happens to challenge the WWE in the future, Vince McMahon would consider fixing the WWE's creative team, namely the stale WWE road agents, Stephanie McMahon, and the soap opera writers that have been hired in the past years.
Da Ref: I gotta go with FICTION. If there was a company that came up and actually put out a product that could seriously challenge WWE, I don't think Vince would even recognize it. Right now, Vince thinks he's bulletproof and because of the bigger names that he's got signed to contracts, he doesn't believe there is anyone that can really create a problem for him. Even when WCW was starting to build up steam in mid to late 1995(debut of Nitro, many performers getting TV time outside of WCW programming, etc.), Vince wasn't even phased. After WCW started taking over the ratings and people were talking more about them, Vince still wasn't really doing anything in terms of his product to come up with a way to draw the fans back. As a matter of fact, Vince didn't really make a move until well after a year of RAW getting beaten by Nitro. If a company were to come up tomorrow and they were doing some early damage to Vince's control of the industry, he's arrogant enough to claim that it's just a passing fad or something like that.
Marty: Have to say FICTION. As long as Vince continues to be delirious and blame everything but the creative team for WWE's decline, the company will never improve. The McMahons can continue to blame bad business on war, the economy or a downpoint in the cycle all they want but the fact remains that a piss poor product is being put television every week and people have no interest in paying $50 to see a piss poor product live or $35 in seeing a piss poor product on pay-per-view. Vince needs to wake up, and soon.
Mr. Tito: As much as I think Vince McMahon thinks his girl, Stephanie, is flawless, I say FACT due to prior experience. Back in the 1980's, Vince was competing with the rival promotions of the time that HAD cable access, namely what was to become WCW. When he sees competition, he'll put on something better to squash it, meaning he's a better fighter when his back is against the wall. People forget how much he changed the WWF in 1997 when WCW was crushing him every week, and USA Network was just inches away from taking the WWF off their programming. He changed the style, at a time when he had a boner for creating goofy gimmicks and pushing big fat slobs. He then changed that thinking and pushed new stars, and thus here we are in 2003 with the WWE as the only company on cable television now. We're in a different environment, too, because if another fed catches fire, Viacom would let go of the WWE, and seriously, who would pick up the WWE after all of the advertising problems it has had? Vince was absolutely scared in 1997 against competition taking his baby, the WWF/WWE away that he'll make the honest adjustments to squash his competition again.
4) Quick Break from Fact or Fiction: Award which WWE wrestler receives the best wrestler award for the first half of 2003 and why.
Marty: Sadly, no wrestler really sticks out to me as being the best for the first half of 2003. But if I have to make a choice, I would say BROCK LESNAR. Despite having the handicap of having to work with The Big Show the past several months more than any other worker should be forced to, Lesnar has constantly been consistantly improving and giving Show the best matches of his career. Had it not been for the botched shooting star press at Wrestlemania, I believe that would have been the match of the year.
Had it not been for Kurt Angle's neck injury, I would have definitely given him the nod for wrestler of the half-year. Angle's match with Chris Benoit at the Royal Rumble remains my choice for match of the year so far and provided Angle has a healthy second half of 2003, I see no one standing in his way in become wrestler of the year.
Mr. Tito: I don't honestly believe a single wrestler should get it. Many have had their ups and downs this year, and there is no man in the WWE who clearly dominates the shows, although Angle is close if he didn't get injured. But I do have a tie for best wrestler and that's the team formerly called TEAM ANGLE in Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas. They've been an awesome tag team and have easily made names for themselves as OVW wrestlers, when many others are still sinking or swimming.
They took a role that could have busted and made names for themselves. They have such great tag team chemistry, it's ridiculous. Who would ever think that those 2, from way different backgrounds, could function as a very good tag team? And better yet, they both can handle themselves as singles wrestlers as well. Benjamin and Haas are seriously going to make names for themselves in the future due to how well they function as a tag team, and they'll both make a lot of money for this.
Da Ref: What would probably be easier for me is to come up with a list of guys that weren't qualified for a nomination. To come up with a best wrestler based on just ability is hard because you have some great talent on both shows. For me, there has to be something more. I believe that it also includes the ability to remain in the fan's mind no matter what and do so no matter what's given to you in terms of storylines. I won't say Kurt Angle only because he was not around for the full 1st half of the year. If it wasn't for his neck, I'd definitely say it was him. With that, I came up with two guys that I think deserve recognition and since RAW and Smackdown are considered to separate brands, I'm going to do the same.
Therefore, I am picking CHRIS JERICHO as RAW's Wrestler of 1st Half of 2003 and MATT HARDY as Smackdown's Wrestler of the 1st Half of 2003. On RAW, Jericho has been shoved back down to midcard level and is being used more as someone to put guys over, whether it's in the ring or during his Highlight Reel segment. However, he manages to be one of the very few guys to regularly draw a serious reaction from the crowd. He can get the crowd going during a match no matter what and that's always an important factor in what makes a good wrestler.
The same goes for Matt Hardy. Back in 1999-2000, everyone was saying that Jeff Hardy would be the big breakout star of the Hardy Boys. Yet when they broke up, Matt showed that, unlike Jeff, he actually had a personality and wasn't reliant on simple spots. He went through the 1st half of 2003 first as just being there in terms of angles. Then, he won the Cruiserweight Title and slipped further into storyline obscurity. However, he never faded off completely. He was keeping himself out there and the fans took notice. Now, he looks to be one of the serious contenders for the new US Title, which I think he deserves to be.
5) FACT or FICTION: The United States title on Smackdown will be a better midcard title than the Intercontinental Title on RAW.
Mr. Tito: Oh, of course it will be. FACT. Smackdown has better midcard talent than RAW, as we can have Cena, Hardy, Rhyno, Eddie Guerrero, and even, sadly enough, Chris Benoit fighting for the title. RAW's midcard is extremely stale right now, especially since Christian matches haven't been setting the world on fire ever since he was crowned champion. No offense to Christian, as I like him as champion, but he doesn't have a solid midcard face to challenge him right now, and Booker T is too unbelieveable to win anything at this point or to be wrestling for the IC title. Then again, rumor suggests that Billy Gunn might be pushed to the United States title...
Da Ref: Based solely on my personal opinion, I say FACT. As I have stated before, I was a huge NWA/WCW fan. To me, the US Title was always better than the IC Title. The feuds for it led to matches that really made the belt seem just as important as the World Title. The Dog Collar Match between Greg Valentine and Roddy Piper. The "I Quit" Cage Match between Tully Blanchard and Magnum TA, which had Magnum go over after jabbing a broken piece of a wooden chair in Blanchard's eye. The Best of Seven Series between Magnum TA and Nikita Koloff after Magnum was stripped of the title for attacking NWA president Bob Geigel. The Ladder Match between Eddy Guerrero and Syxx, which I thought was better than Guerrero's Ladder Match against Rob Van Dam for the IC Title. To me, that showed just how important the title was. Plus, both the IC and US Champions are looked at as the #1 Contender for their company's World Title. The US Title was always pushed as such. Meanwhile, the IC Title was never recognized that way.
Marty: Definite FACT. The United States title would be hard-pressed to do any worse than the Intercontinental title thus far. RAW's IC title division has been handled very poorly. The match to decide the champion had a sham of a finish. The champion lost cleanly to Goldust just a few weeks later and Christian's title defense at Bad Blood had one of the most poorly-booked finishes in recent memory. By having a division comprised of two wrestlers and its champion booked as having zero-credibility, the United States title division can only be better. I believe the tournament format has always been the best way to introduce a title as it seems to add a level of prestige to the winner of the tournament, and thus the title.
6) FACT or FICTION: Mick Foley is the absolute BEST hardcore wrestler (or wrestler using no-DQ rules) ever.
Da Ref: Oy vey! That's actually a tough one for me. I'm going to say FICTION and please read my reason why. When you use the phrase "Hardcore Wrestler" in terms of a style, I think more about guys in like ECW, CZW, FMW, IWA Mid-South, and such. To me, it's mostly about guys that use all sorts of weapons, take crazy bumps, and bleed buckets. A lot of times, those matches aren't hard to do only because you're looking for the sick spots and a lot of the fans of that style cheer for any chair shot, table break, and whatever no matter what. When it comes to Foley, he thought more about why he would do what he did and was able to get the fans to look past the sick bumps he took. He got over with the fans based on sick bumps like at KOTR 98 but he got even more over based on the person that was taking those bumps. He went from being over as "Mankind, Sick Bump Machine" to being even more over as "Mick Foley, Mrs. Foley's Baby Boy." He connected with the fans as is evident by the pops from the crowd during his role as Commissioner and during his recent stint with the company where he didn't have to do anything that dangerous. To me, that doesn't limit Foley as a "hardcore wrestler."
Marty: Hard to say considering my exposure to wrestling outside of ECW, WCW and WWE is very limited but I'll say FACT. Not only did Mick Foley bump the way no wrestler has ever bumped but he always did them in a way that made sense. It never seemed like he did a meaningless bump just for the hell of taking a bump. It is because of Mick Foley that WWE incorporated table matches, TLC matches, etc. That being said, Mick Foley was so much more than just a hardcore wrestler. To me, no other wrestler connected with fans the way Mick Foley did and his bumping always overshadowed his very underrated promo skills.
Mr. Tito: I firmly believe that Terry Funk is the best Hardcore wrestler, ever, so FICTION for me. Funk has been doing this violent style of brawling, and hell, he's a big influence on Mick Foley. Some of Funk's brawling matches just make you wince in pain, especially since the old man takes nasty bumps that nobody at his age should. He did just as much violent stuff as Foley did in Japan and ECW, but a difference between Funk and Foley is that Funk didn't fall off or through the Hell in the Cell, which is Foley's big benchmark. Funk is still wrestling like a madman today, and he won't stop until it kills him, whereas Foley retired or is working semi-retired.
7) FACT or FICTION: Kurt Angle will NOT remain a face and turn heel very soon.
Marty: Definite FACT. When The Big Show is Smackdown's top heel, you know that they're in dire need of another top-level heel and Kurt Angle is just so much more entertaining as a heel. WWE will need the Brock Lesnar/Kurt Angle feud to take them through the summer and by having that a face/face feud, it makes it far less effective in terms of interest. I figure Angle will make a heel turn once he distances himself enough from Haas and Benjamin.
Mr. Tito: This is such a FACT, given what happened in the past. During the Invasions of 2001, Kurt Angle was given his first face push, and you know what, the WWE writers of the time became bored with it. They quickly yanked the World Title from his hands and turned him heel once more. Then, he turned face again at Survivor Series 2001 only to turn heel then again. He's more marketable as a face because he'll SELL for the faces and make them look so good in the ring. It's history repeating itself. I will say, though, that Smackdown does lack another top babyface, given that it seems that Lesnar is the only good guy around to fight against the evil guys of Smackdown.
Da Ref: Eventually, the "Welcome Back" pop will die down. Therefore, I'll say FACT. Angle has always been over more as a heel than a face. As I pointed out, Angle is a face more because he just came back from neck surgery and people are glad to see him. After a while, I think the whole idea of Angle being a good guy will eventually start to get old. Plus, Smackdown does not have much in the way of main event guys who can get good heel heat. I'm not saying that they should put Angle back with Haas and Benjamin. Let them get over more as heels on their own. However, Smackdown needs Angle to be back in the heel role.
8) FACT or FICTION: An official teaming of Chris Jericho and Lance Storm could give much needed life to the RAW tag team division.
Mr. Tito: Call me negative if you want, but I say FICTION. Both wrestlers are purposely booked badly, on a weekly basis, just so they don't happen to outshine Triple H. Heaven forbid we give the fans better wrestling! The only time the WWE liked Storm was when he was with William Regal, a close friend of Triple H. Other than that, who has been the whipping boy of the RAW brand? Lance Storm. Jericho is always booked to lose in the long run, despite being a much better heel than Triple H could ever dream of at this point. But besides that, who is going to be the face team to challenge Storm and Jericho, the Dudleys? Oh come on!
Da Ref: Looking at the lack of teams there are on RAW, I'll say FACT. Right now, there are just two teams with the Dudleys and La Resistance. With the Dudleys fading in and out of the spotlight mixed with La Resistance being green, Jericho and Storm could be a good addition to the tag team picture. They have experience as a team from their days in Canada, Japan, and Smoky Mountain as Sudden Impact and the Thrillseekers. Plus, the company isn't really doing anything with either of them. Regardless of what a lot of people want to believe, Jericho has been pushed back to the midcard and it would appear to be that way for a long time. However, if Jericho and Storm were teaming officially and actually getting somewhere in the tag team division, it could help things. If anything, you'd have one more team, which would improve things.
Marty: This is FACT. A teaming of Jericho and Storm could definitely be as effective to Raw's tag team division as the teaming of Eddie and Chavo Guerrero did for the Smackdown tag division. An official teaming of the two could also add some much-needed life to Lance Storm stagnant career. His "boring" gimmick will go absolutely nowhere. Wrestling aside, the vignettes between Jericho and Storm could become legendary and they could easily become the most entertaining tag team since Edge & Christian. But, if it makes sense and if there are dollar signs all over it, WWE won't do it.
RETRO FACT OR FICTION: WCW would be in better shape if Kevin Nash wouldn't have beat Bill Goldberg at Starrcade 1998 (meaning that Goldberg's "streak" would continue).
Da Ref: I'll say FACT to the idea that WCW would be in better shape if Nash hadn't gone over on Goldberg at Starrcade 1998 and on that matter only. I don't know about "The Streak." As I stated last week about Goldberg, he was one of the main things keeping WCW afloat after WWF took the lead back in the ratings. To have Goldberg defeat bigger guys like the Giant, who actually had some athleticism back then, and then lose to a guy that was among the least mobile in the company was definitely something that didn't go over well. Plus, Nash was a booker. To have the booker not only go over for the title but also end the thing that really got Goldberg over, you definitely start some trouble. Another thing to think about is that if Nash hadn't gone over for the title, we wouldn't have seen the famous Nash-Hogan match that first week in January with the "finger poke of doom." I'm sure that was a reason why there were people walking away from the WCW product.
Marty: Hard to say but I'll go with FICTION. While this match can be pinpointed as the match where Goldberg's WCW run started to go downhill, I don't think this title change was meaningful enough to change the fortunes of an entire wrestling company. The loss did nothing to harm Goldberg's credibility. Although Nash was very low on the list of people that should have ended Goldberg's streak, that streak storyline was beginning to run its course.
Mr. Tito: I have to say FICTION on this one. WCW was dead already the second they let Hogan make decisions for them, dating back to the embarrassing finish of Starrcade 1997 and Hogan getting back the title later that Spring. Hogan was going to get the World Title back, eventually, and what many people seem to forget is that Hogan was slated to be the first man to defeat Bill Goldberg and thus end the streak and title reign. I'll agree with Da Ref in saying that the Kevin Nash Finger Poke of Doom was very damaging at the first Nitro of 1999 at the Georgia Dome, but I firmly believe that WCW would have made another bad mistake to make fans turn away in droves. Besides, the midcard was going to shit, anyway, at that point and the investments WCW was making weren't paying off, such as the Warrior, among other things. They would still love to keep pushing Hogan, and Goldberg would become an afterthought and become the same paranoid wrestler he'd become after his streak ended.
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