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He’s back and this is going to be big… and quite likely awful. I must admit though, it is always good to see Vince get beat down. The big problem with bringing Hogan in is that it basically says that the direction they’ve been going, with good matches from good workers, is crap and they need to bring in Hogan to save the ship. This will only hurt the product, which has stabilized with the recent weeks, and not help. All in all, SmackDown was fairly good. The Team Angle matches were great. Charlie Haas will be a star, as he can work the style of Benoit already, and is quickly learning the heel work that he’ll need to make it in the WWE. The Benoit match had all the elements you want, and it proved that the WWE understands that they have a guy they need to groom to stardom. The Shelton Benjamin vs. Edge match was also good, since Shelton may be the 3rd best submission style worker in the fed, behind only Angle and Nunzio. The match was shortish, but had a good story, solid work, and Shelton made Edge look good on the comeback. Bill DeMott vs. Rikishi went too long, but was not unwatchable. I am warming up to DeMott, as his style as a bruiser is little seen outside of guys like the Undertaker. Which brings us to the Undertaker vs. A-Train. Bad match, though UT has had worse. As always, Vince thinks by bringing back old favorites who are passed their primes that he can turn things around. It won’t work, but there may be a decent match or two left in Taker. Nunzio vs Shannon Moore was a nice total package of a match. A good set-up, with Matt talking to Nunzio beforehand, followed by a nice, fast match that was everything it needed to be. Shannon Moore ran from the ring, with Matt pursuing, eventually hiding in a box in a chase right out of a 1960s French farce. These things the guys do well, little stories that wrap themselves up all in one show. Angle vs. Rey was everything I expected. Kurt is the best wrestler in the world, hands down, and Rey is the best flyer in the world, with maybe a challenge or two from Mexico or Japan. These two mesh very well, and this was no exception. The match moved perfectly, and the finish, with Angle putting Rey on his shoulders, dropping Rey face-first into the turnbuckle, then falling back and rolling him up for the pin may be the first truly fresh ending I have seen in months. Solid, and this will hopefully start the build up of Angle as the unbeatable for the match with Brock at Mania. All around, good, with some questionable long term decisions, but the matches were good, the interviews worked, and the little things went right. I liked it.
News (or in this case, rumor) There are plans for a new Gong Show series for syndication. Now, I loved the original Gong Show and had hours of them on tape as a kid, though many got taped over when I started madly taping wrestling. Well, one of the hosts being thought of is Jerry “The King” Lawler. I am of a mixed mind on this one. Lawler has great charisma, and his goofy WWE character could pull off a hosting gig, but there will always be Chuck Barris looming in the air of any Gong Show, so it’s hard to live up to that. Other news includes Paul Heyman getting suspended for a week from the creative part of the show. Not many details, but the thought is that he clashes with higher-ups named McMahon, and that it went too far and he got taken off the week from booking, but was allowed to show up on air. Heyman and McMahon were bound to clash, it’s just Heyman’s way, and I’ve always worried about the conflicts. Then again, Heyman has few other options right now, so I imagine he’ll straighten up and fly right. Tough Enough Well, season three is over and Matt and John won. So I was two for two on my Tough Enough picks, which masks my poor Rumble predictions. No question, those two could add to a Cruiserweight division, and the stuff that John was busting out on the highlight reel was amazing. I’d say he’ll do the better of the two, but will still need more training time. Matt is harder to figure, but I think he’ll do OK once they find a direction for him. The only thing I have total faith in is that we’ll see these two regularly before we’ll see Jacky and Linda from last season.
FlashBack! Moer words have been written about the events leading up to and following Survivor Series 1997. From a 10,000 article in the Observer, to Wrestling with Shadows, to pieces in PWI, Rolling Stone, and Entertainment Weekly. I’m here to add a few more, but with mine, you get opinion: Vince was right. The WWF is in a tight spot, and Bret Hart has the belt, along with a big ol’ contract that they need to dump to stay afloat. Now, Vince, being an honorable man, gave Bret permission to negotiate with WCW, this less than a year after Bret had been lured away from Bischoff and company with a 20-year contract. Bret made some contacts, but didn’t actually talk to Bisch until a few days before the last possible. There are many versions, but the reality is, Vince needed to get out of the contract, since he needed all the money he could get to woo Mike Tyson in for WrestleMania. WCW did the classic Canadian Anthem to announce that Bret was coming in, and the WWF had a huge event on its hands, along with a problem: Bret wouldn’t do the job.
Different scenarios were tried, Bret dropping the belt at MSG, Detroit, handing the belt to Vince on RAW, and many more. At one point, Vince tried to sell Bret on doing a screwy finish where Bret would drop the belt and give him a black eye from a real punch, but Bret said no, he wouldn’t drop the belt in Canada. His hatred for Michaels was legendary, especially after the classic “Sunny Days” comment that insinuated Bret had an affair with Sunny, a rumor that had been floating around for a few months, and that Wrestling with Shadows seems to make believable. No good choice was found, Bret had Vince in a no win situation, Bret was not going to drop the belt in Canada, and he had the contract clauses to back up his resolve. The event came, and the ending they chose was a DQ ending with the Harts and DX running in, but Vince apparently said that he would decide how to handle the handing over of the belt the next afternoon. The match took place and the famous screw-job was on, with Hebner calling for the bell when Michaels caught him in the sharpshooter for a few seconds. Bret was flamed, and Wrestling with Shadows shows that everyone in Michaels camp was under high scrutiny, but all maintained their innocence. Afterwards, Bret slugged Vince when he went back to explain, Bret showed up on WCW pretty quick, and quickly Vince became the top heel in the world, and Bret slowly faded. And that’s part of why Vince was right. Bret didn’t do the job, but he had the right to declare that, but he did it for the wrong reasons. Had he not wanted to job to Michaels because he wouldn’t be a good champion, well, I see some validity in that, but he was so caught up in his Canada’s Favourite Wrestler bit that he couldn’t do what was right for business. It turns out that Vince forced Bret into doing what was right for the business. He used the opportunity to build a new superstar in Evil Vince McMahon, he gave Bret a great new angle where he could claim to be the true champ, though they shied away from that. HE gave Michaels the best heel push you could get: he had had his belt handed to him, much like Triple H had one handed to him later. Plus, Vince knew that Bisch would not let the opportunity to knock McMahon go without a shot, no matter what Bret said. You see, Vince had been embarrassed once before by a champ walking out with the belt. Medusa showed up on Nitro and threw the Women’s Championship into a garbage can. If anyone had cared about the Women’s title, it could have been very bad, but the World Title was a different story. Vince worried that Bret could have showed up with the WWF belt, and done any of a number of things that Bischoff would think up. Supposedly, one of the ideas floating around was that Bret would show up with the belt, and defend it as champion on air. Even when he would have to return it to the WWF, he would call himself the real champion, fragmenting the belt in the eyes of fans. Vince needed Bret to drop the belt, and he needed him to do it in a way that would help his company. It’s always been my belief that Michaels wasn’t in on it except after the fact. Michaels told Bret after the event that he would throw the belt down, but give a guy a belt, tell him he has a contract and that he has to go out and perform, and he’ll do anything. HHH wouldn’t have been in on it at all, as things like this require a tight loop of people to succeed. Hebner screwed Bret by swearing on his kids that he wouldn’t screw him, but he’s an employee of Vince like everyone else.
This was Vince’s idea, and everyone had to play along. Good thing too, as he saved the company by doing it. Within a year, Bret was stagnating in the WCW and the WWF was taking off on the back of Austin, the coming of The Rock, and the new Hard Core ways. Without Montreal, there is no WWF resurgence. Vince was right, and I’ll say that ‘til my dying day. Anyhow, that’s another Falls Count Anywhere. Come Tuesday, more RAW, more news, more opinion, and a look at the 1980s interview segment: from Piper’s Pit to Brother Love.