Friday, 31 December 1999

The Two Sheds Review Archives - 1998-99

Observations of a Wrestling Fan #1

15th November 1998

It is just over three hours until the beginning of the Survivor Series, and the so-called "Deadly Game" tournament for the WWF championship.

And I begin to think of the reasons why such a tournament is taking place, and the reason is quite a simple one - the ego of Vincent K. McMahon.

The WWF has been without a World champion for nearly a month now, and it is entirely the fault of the main stock-holder of Titan Sports, Vince McMahon. If it wasn't for his now constant interfering in the athletes affairs, none of this would have happened.

Don't get me wrong. I have a lot of respect for McMahon. If it wasn't for him, the wrestling business wouldn't be where it is today. He turned what was a regional promotion into a world-wide success, and others, most notably, Eric Bischoff, and to a lesser extent, Paul E. Dangerously, or Paul Heyman, or whatever he calls himself, have followed. Bischoff, particularly, condemns everything McMahon does, but refuses to acknowledge that without McMahon, he himself would be out of a job.

But recently McMahon has been getting out of hand. Where a few years ago he was merely content to sign the paycheques, sign the best talent available, and commentate on the matches, McMahon now takes a more active role, a role that was once taken by the likes of puppet-Presidents Jack Tunney and Gorilla Monsoon.

McMahon is now getting in the faces of his employees. His recent, well publicised altercations with Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Kane and the Undertaker are perfect examples. He has tried to mould them, to control their careers, and when they didn't bow to their every whim, he pubished them, by putting them in the ring with his so-called yes men, men who could push them hard, take them physically to the limits, and even threatened to end their careers in the WWF, all because they didn't share his point of view.

And all because of his own huge, inflated ego. You see, I believe that McMahon is a highly intelligent man, and if he was to fire the likes of Stone Cold and the Rock, it wouldn't be long before a certain Mr. Bischoff would be knocking on their doors, offering them multi-million dollar contracts, weekends off, and paid holidays at Ted & Jane's wonderhome.

So my thinking is this - McMahon should return to what he does best - return to his behind the scenes negotiations. By continually getting in the faces of his athletes, and getting the proverbial shit kicked out of him, he is not only risking serious physical injury, but he is also perhaps risking his life.

And one other thing, McMahon - get rid of the stooges - Gerald Briscoe, Pat Patterson and Sergeant Slaughter are now nothing more than yes men. Whereas I didn't like Briscoe and Patterson in the first place, probably because I never saw them wrestle, Slaughter made a great commissioner, a great rule-maker, who never took crap from anyone. Now McMahon has reduced him to the role of third stooge, a role totally demeaning considering the way he fought and kicked the crap out of the likes of Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior - and don't get me started on those steroid monkeys!

Until next time - it's been fun!

 You Smell What The Rock Is Cooking?

In this, the second of my series of articles about the wrestling business, I had originally intended to write about the WWF Light-Heavyweight division, what was wrong with it, and what could be done to improve it, but recent events at last week's Survivor Series and on Monday Night Raw changed my mind.

One of my predictions for the winner of the championship tournament was Dwayne Johnson, aka Rocky Maivia, aka The Rock. I thought that the final would be between the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, but once again, the machinations of Vince McMahon, and his son, Shane, robbed this great athlete of the title he so readily deserved.

McMahon also played Mankind for a fool. Mick Foley is also a great wrestler, the true king of hardcore wrestling, a man who is rightfully known as the hardcore champion.

You see, everyone thought McMahon was setting Mankind up to be his personal choice of champion, giving him an easy opponent in the first round, making him fight harder than ever before against Al Snow and the aforementioned Austin, and getting through to the final.

Meanwhile, he seemed to be making it hard for the Rock, who had been getting ever more popular with the fans, rightfully earning the self-proclaimed title of the People's champion.

His first round opponent, Hunter Hearst Helmsley, didn't show because of his knee injury, so McMahon sent down the Big Bossman, who had already lost at the hands of Austin, as his opponent. The Rock easily disposed of the Bossman in a record four seconds. In the second round, he faced the Intercontinental champion, Ken Shamrock. Once more the Bossman made his presence known, as he tried to hit the Rock with his night-stick, instead striking Shamrock, giving the Rock the win.

The final, between Mankind and the Rock, promised to be a classic. The Rock, who had been thrown out of the tournament and had fought his way back in, wrestled what appeared to be the match of his life, but things promised to go awry when Vince and Shane McMahon came down to ringisde. Shane was now back in his father's good graces, after having screwed Austin out of his chance in the semi-finals.

Then, with Mankind down, the Rock used a move associated with Bret Hart, the sharp-shooter, and in a move which brought back memories of lasy year's Survivor Series, McMahon ordered that the bell be rung, and the Rock was proclaimed the new champion, even though Mankind had never given up.

Then the full extent of the conspiracy came to light, as the Rock was openly congratulated by the McMahons, as Vince began to brag about his big plan, and how Mankind had proved so gullible.

The next night on Raw, the McMahons once again bragged about how wonderful they were, as Vince revealed his own "corporate" team, as during the program he recruited Shamrock to be part of his team, along with the Rock and the Bossman.

Austin, meanwhile, was having none of this, making sure that a promise made previously by Shane was kept. He was granted his title shot, but in retrospect, with Shamrock and the Bossman on the outside, he never stood a chance. Now, with the champion firmly in Vince McMahon's pockets, he may never get another title shot. A truly sad state of affairs.

I have a lot of respect for Vince McMahon, as I've said before, but the WWF was a far happier place when he worked behind the scenes, and just told the world how wonderful his champions were, rather than making sure how wonderful they are.

Also on Raw, a sad incident happened. The personal problems of Mike Reznick, aka Road Warrior Hawk, were once again brought into the public eye, as he attempted to take his own life. At this moment, the extent of his injuries are unknown to me, but as someone who has suffered his own share of personal trauma over the years, I wish Mike well, and I hope he makes a speedy recovery, and that he gets his life in order soon.

I would also like to jump on the bandwagon and congratulate the new Governor of Minnesota, Jesse "The Body" Ventura. I have never met Jesse, and even though I never saw him compete, I admired his style of commentary, and the regular verbal sparing matches with Vince McMahon. If he's as good a politician as he was a comentator, then he'll go far. Just imagine, Jesse the President staring down Saddam across a wrestling ring.....hang on.....didn't something similiar happen in a Frankie Goes to Hollywood video?

And finally, on a recent edition of WCW Monday Nitro, jackass of all trades and Vince McMahon wannabe Eric Bischoff made the following announcement: "Ric Flair won't be wrestling tonight. He couldn't pass the physical because he's just too old!" Couldn't the same be said of most of your athletes, Eric?

The WWF Light-Heavyweight Division - Going To Waster

The current state of the Light-Heavyweight division can be perfectly summed up by it's current champion - Duane Gill. To be perfectly honest, as a wrestler, Duane Gill is crap, and he only beat the previous title-holder, the gothic-like Christian, due to interference by the so-caleld Job Squad, Al Snow, Bob Holly and Scorpio.

The current champion of this division really says it all about it's current state. For year, I believed that this was where the WWF lost out against it's opposition. Guys like Hakushi and the then named 1-2-3 Kid screamed out for a division of their own. Most of the time, these men were matched against opponents that outweighed them by some fifty pounds, and although they were, and still are, able competitors, they didn't do that well in the long run.

So I applauded the powers that be when they introduced a light-heavyweight division a little over a year ago. Finally, the WWF could now compete with WCW on every level. After an 8 man tournament, the final between Brian Christopher and Taka Michinoku proved to be a great match, and in Taka, the WWF seemed to have a great light-heavyweight champion.

But slowly, it seemed that the Federation began to lose interest in this division. Contenders for this new title seemed a little thin on the ground, what with Brian Christopher now teaming with Scott Taylor, becoming the Two Much tag-team, Taka competed against his fellow Kai-En-Tai countrymen, and soon joined forces with them. Once more, interest seemed to fade in this division.

Then, at a recent pay-per-view event, Taka defended his title against Christian, team-mate of the vampiric Gangrel, and brother of newcomer Edge. Christian was wrestling what turned out to be his first WWF match, so he had never really earned a reputation for fighting other contenders in this division, mainly because there wasn't really any, because Taka had defeated them all. So, in what could only be considered an upset, Christian defeated Taka.

But who could Christian defend against? He wasn't given any re-match against Taka, his only real contender. No. Once more, the tiele belt was gathering the proverbial dust for weeks, as it went undefended.

That was until the last edition of Monday Night Raw, when, for some unknown reason, Christian was forced to defend his title against Duane Gill, who, on his only other match since his WWF return, had been soundly defeated by Mankind, in the Survivor Series Deadly Game tournament. CHristian was easily beating Gill, but due to interference from the Job Squad, Gill beat Christian.

So who will Gill defend against? Whoever it is will probably beat him, because he's just so crap. But that is not the point. The point is that this division is in trouble, and I have a few ideas who this division can be saved.

1) The current weight limit is 215 pounds. By increasing it to, say, 230 pounds, this would allow athletes as X-Pac, Owen Hart, and should he return from injury, Shawn Michaels to compete in this division should they so wish.

2) Begin another recruiting drive, and try to attract the best light-heavyweights in the world to the WWF. By bringing in the best, those currently competing in the Federation would raise their own game, making it a far better division. Below is a list of a few wrestlers who could help do this.

HAKUSHI - This native of Japan had a classic series of matches against Bret Hart during his last stint in the WWF. However, his greatest mistake was hooking up with perennial loser Barry Horrowitz, during the moron's short-lived winning streak, mainly against Body Donna Skip. Given his chance, he could hold the title for a long time.

JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER - If truth be known, I have only seen this Japanese legend wrestle a few times, and a couple of times in Britain years ago, before he donned the mask. This man is a legend, who has held the IWGP and WCW light-heavyweight titles on a number of occasions. Put him in the ring with the likes of X-Pac and Hakushi, and those matches would be classics.

THE GREAT SASUKE - I only saw him wrestle twice, in matches against Taka, and I believe that if he had hung around, and not returned to ECW, he would have gotten to the tournament final and beaten Taka or Brian Christopher.

REY MYSTERIO JUNIOR - A lucha libre legend, and several time WCW cruiserweight holder, this man's talents are now sadly being being wasted by Eric Bischoff. Perhaps I only like him because he's smaller than me, at only 5'3", but that is not the point. This man has all the talent in the world, and if he ever got away from Atlanta, he could go all the way.

CHRIS JERICHO - The current WCW TV champion, and former cruiserweight champion, but unlikely to leave WCW - yet. When I first saw him, he reminded me a lot of a young Shawn Michaels, in terms of talent and cockiness. Maybe one day McMahon will tempt him.

CHRIS CANDITO - Another who used to compete in the WWF, as Body Donna Skip, he returned briefly, but went back to ECW. A former tag-team champion, perhaps now would be a good time to return to the big stage and show his talent.

SABU - The protege of the legendary and blood-thirsty Shiek, and a man willing to take risks. Once again I admit to only seeing him a few times, but I liked what I saw. Willing to take risks, and risk serious injury to get the job done.

I could really go on all night about those I would like to see compete for this title - Rob Van Dam, Eddy Guerrero, the list is endless. But this is just my view. This will probably never happen, and I believe that, sadly, the WWF light-heavyweight tournament will gradually grind to a halt. A pity.
 

Owen Hart - A Personal Viewpoint

I first found out about this tragedy early last Monday morning. At 6:30am, just as my alarm clock radio went off onto Radio 5 Live, the news came on. An American wrestler had died the previous night after plunging fifty feet into the ring. The newsreader didn't say who it was.

Usually after my alarm goes off I lay in bed for about thirty minutes listening to the news, but on this day something was different. I put some clothes on and rushed downstairs. Switching onto teletext, I quickly found the news page, and found out that the man who had died was Owen Hart.

I couldn't begin to describe what I began to feel when I saw those words. In a way, I felt the same way as, say, when an actor I admired, or a pop star I liked had died. I suppose it was a mixture of shock and disbelief. I knew it had happened, but in a way, I didn't really believe it.

I flicked through the various news channels. G.M.T.V. had a three minute report on it. The B.B.C. news made no mention of it. It seemed like Sky News, at first, were not taking it seriously, until someone e-mailed them, demanding information.

My thoughts on the situation were with me all day. As soon as I got home, my brother gave me the video of Over The Edge. I wasn't sure whether I should watch it or not. Perhaps some morbid fascination began to take hold. Perhaps I needed visual proof that Owen Hart really was dead.

I soon got it. The Godfather-Blue Blazer match was the third one scheduled for the event. Then, it happened. During a recorded segment, the tragic accident happened. To their credit, the W.W.F. didn't allow anything that happened in the ring to be shown on television. This wasn't about ratings. This was about a man's life.

To be honest, if I had been in charge that night, after the accident, I would have called the rest of the event off. Jeff Jarrett, whose match was right after the accident, clearly had his thoughts elsewhere.

I wasn't sure if I should carry on watching the video, but for some reason I did. Later, with just two matches left, Jim Ross broke the news to the entire world. Owen Hart had died. Once again, if I had been in charge, I would have stopped things there and then. Sure, it would probably have meant a loss of television money, and perhaps some of the fans would have wanted a refund on their tickets, but then, what is money, compared to the loss of a man's life?

I will now move forward a few days to the following Friday. Because I usually work when the rest of the wrestling shows are on, I mainly watch the wrestling on Fridays. At 9pm, I turned to watch W.C.W. Nitro. Between his stints in the W.W.F., Owen wrestled in W.C.W. for a brief time. I thought they would have said something, paid some sort of tribute after all. You read in the wrestling magazines that even thought they work for different companies, many of the wrestlers are very good friends. But nothing. Not a word.

At 10pm, I turned onto Raw. The first thing I saw was the tribute that every wrestler and referee paid to Owen Hart. Many of them were in tears. I must admit, I almost joined them.

This edition of Raw was different. All the arguments between the wrestlers were gone. This broadcast was about one thing - paying tribute to a friend whose time had come far too soon.

During the evening, segments that were recorded by the wrestlers were played, each paying a glowing tribute to Owen. I found many of these very moving. It showed a side to the wrestlers that many of the public do not see. It showed that no matter what they say to each other in public, no matter what storylines they follow, the wrestlers, who virtually live in each other's pockets for most of the year, are very close to each other.

The matches that evening didn't mean anything. It was obvious that many of the athletes didn't want to compete that night. Road Dogg and Godfather chose to forget their match, take a few drinks together, and swap Owen stories. The likes of Val Venis and the Rock dedicated their match to Owen. Jeff Jarrett, Mark Henry and Triple H all broke down after their matches ended. And all through the night, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler told glowing stories of the pranks Owen used to play on them, and each time they told their stories, they had to hold back the tears.

Finally, Steve Austin came out. After taking the applaud of the crowd, and called for the usual beers to be tossed into the ring. Then, as Owen's picture appeared on the giant Titantron screen, Austin opened the beers, slammed them together, and toasted Owen. Without saying a word. Austin paid tribute to the man who had had some classic battles with him a couple of years ago.

The death of a man that you had watched for nearly fifteen years on television was a shock. I remember years ago watching Owen wrestle Marty Jones on the old I.T.V. Saturday afternoon shows. I remember seeing him wrestle Curt Hennig as the Blue Blazer at Wrestlemania V in 1989. I remember him winning the King of the Ring tournament a few years later. His tag-team with Davey Boy Smith was one of the best.

Owen may not have been one of my favourite wrestlers, but he was one of the best. To his wife, children and family, I offer my sympathies.

Rest in peace, Owen. I hope that now, as you look down upon us from wherever you are, you realise just how many lives you've touched.
  

The WCW Debate

While reading Mick Foley's book, particularly the chapters regarding his time with World Championship Wrestling, several times he used the phrase "misuse of talent". This is true when you consider the names of stars who were nothing in WCW, and became stars elsewhere, or who were stars elsewhere, but became just one of the guys in WCW.

I don't want to sound like I'm starting a list, but just look at the names who were floundering in WCW before Vince McMahon saw and unleashed their full potential; Steve Austin, Mick Foley, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall. The list is endless. And just look at some of the names who went nowhere in WCW - Owen Hart ws there for a while, as was Road Dogg. Triple H, Sean "X-Pac" Waltman, and many others. These men are now probably in the top twenty wrestlers in the world today. And don't forget Bret Hart - one of the top draws in the WWF, who became lost in the crowd in WCW, until their new creative direction came into being.

So what is going wrong in WCW at the moment? Just look at the talent they've lost in the past twelve months - Raven, the Big Show, Chris Jericho. Add to that the recent departures of Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Dean Malenko. Add further to the facts that Chris Kanyon, Buff Bagwell and Shane Douglas want out of their contracts, and that Scott Steiner has been suspended for 90 days for speaking out on television about WCW's current sorry state.

What is more confusing is the fact that Vince Russo, the man credited with changing the fortunes of the WWF with his more adult storylines, and who jumped ship to WCW to head up their writing team, has now been demoted. His creative genius was probably one of the few things that could have saved WCW in this time of crisis.

WCW has always, and will continue to play second-fiddle to the WWF. The reason that these top performers are leaving WCW is simple - misuse of talent. Unless you are Hulk Hogan or soe other sad, over the hill has-been who behaves like a man half their age, you won't get anywhere. In the WWF talents are valued -in a space of a few weeks, Chris Benoit has gone from wrestling the likes of Villaino IV on a hardly watched show to wrestling the likes of Triple H, Rikishi Phatu and The Rock on the hottest programmes on US television right now.

So it's obvious what's going on in WCW - their athletes may be getting paid a small fortune, but they have no job satisfaction. How long before the likes of Goldberg and Sid Vicious jump ship?

WCW will always play second fiddle to the WWF, and that's the bottom line!
  


Fantasy Dream Match: Andre the Giant vs The Big Show

Before I start this piece I would just like to say something -although Andre the Giant is a wrestling legend, and the first man inducted to the WWF's Hall of Fame, I never watched him in his prime, which, from what I hear, was in the 70's and early 80's. I've read stories and articles about him, and about how he would execute moves that Matt and Jeff Hardy would be proud of. I never saw that Andre. I first saw him wrestle in 1989, against Jake Roberts at Wrestlemania V, so it's that Andre I'm going to write about, because it's that Andre I know, it wouldn't feel right doing a piece on something I haven't seen myself.

So the question is, who would win a match between Andre the Giant of 1989, and the Big Show of today?

Andre, in 1989, and for a few years after, was, from what I have read, not a prime specimen. Injuries, and age had reduced Andre to nothing more than a lumbering hulk, whose matches basically consisted of him pushing around, choking and punching his much smaller opponents, and basically crushing them in the corner by backing into them. Andre was, in my view, living on reputation alone, and should have retired.

The Big Show of today is, in my opinion, just hitting his prime. The rookie who kicked the hell out of Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair in his first few matches is just getting into his stride. His matches with Kane and the Undertaker proved he can keep pace with the heavy-hitters of the WWF, and he seems much happier in McMahon-land than he was in the last year or so of his WCW stint.

But back to the matter at hand. Who would win? My vote would have to go to the Big Show. This man is just hitting his stride. Although shorter than Andre, his speed and greater mobility would allow him to easily avoid the lumbering Andre of 1989. Andre could try and over-power him, but the much younger Show would easily recover.

So would Show be able to finish Andre off with his trademark chokeslam? Perhaps. Perhaps not. He did chokeslam Viscera once, so he might be able to. As for Andre, well, maybe I'm not being fair to this wrestling legend and fellow European. If someone can get me some tapes of Andre in his prime, before he teamed with Hulk Hogan, and before the so-called Wrestling Classics that Sky now show, then I would be willing to re-evaluate my thinking. Although I would like to say that the Andre of 1989 would be more than a match for the other huge giant goofballs who didn't really do that well in the WWF, Jorge the Giant Gonzalez, and the Oddity Giant Silva. These two are proof that size alone doesn't matter. (If ever you see these two men in person, though, please don't say that I insulted them!)