by : Fritz Capp
October 31, 1999
All I want to say right now is "Sit down and shut up!"
That's right, it's about time I get something off my chest that has been bothering me for a few weeks now. For those of you who do not want to hear the absolute bottom line truth that I am about to speak, here is your chance to bail because I do not want to waste my time and effort on closed minded Internet people who think that their opinion is the only thing that matters.
You see, recently I have gotten totally fed up with the way wrestling is always bashed, BY WRESTLING FANS!
Now I will come right out and say that I too have fallen into that trap on quite a few occasions but it has to stop somewhere and with myself it stops right here. Call it what you will, I am tired of seeing wrestling dissected to it's smallest denominator by the same people who swear they support it.
What ever happened to being a fan?
This all started in my head with the acquisition of Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera by WCW. We all had an opinion on how this would directly affect WCW's product. While this is cool in of itself what has happened is a total travesty.
Before I go any further I am reminded of something that happened to me at the beginning of this decade.
Two days before Summer Slam in 1990 Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter accident. This news devastated me as I will always say that Stevie Ray was one of the best guitarists ever and I had followed his career for as long as I can remember. Anyway a year or so after the accident Eric Clapton was coming in concert in Philadelphia and my girlfriend at the time wanted to go. Of course I took her. Now being a guitarist for over 20 years at the time I was very familiar with Clapton. So we went to the concert. While waiting for the band to go on my girlfriend could tell I was noticeably aggravated and asked why. I didn't really give her a response but the truth of the matter was I was remembering the last concert I had been to which was Stevie Ray. The show started and without the first song even being over I turned to my girlfriend and told her, "He's no Stevie Ray Vaughan!", then turned back to continue watching the concert. A few moments went by when she tapped me on the shoulder, looked at me and said, "That's because he's NOT Stevie Ray". All of a sudden a light went off in my head and I realized what I was doing. I was not giving Clapton and sort of a chance in my head because he wasn't who I wanted him to be. Sure, they both played the blues and were both renown for doing just that, but I had closed my mind to the concert before I had even given this man who had dedicated his life to playing music and entertaining a chance. All of a sudden my total outlook changed and I was now viewing the concert in a whole new perspective. Needless to say, it was one of the best concerts I have ever seen, and I have seen hundreds.
That same scenario is happening throughout the wrestling world as far as the fans go. NO ONE is really giving WCW a chance to show what it is going to become except the WCW fans themselves and to be honest they are being a little hypocritical in their vocalizations.
NITRO IS RAW!
Is Nitro really Raw? Not by a long shot. While it is true that WCW now has part of the WWF's booking crew WCW does not have the same talent to put those ideas across which means things are going to come off slightly different. Add to this the absolute fact that except for the ultra extreme gimmicks that someone may dream up all we are doing is witnessing the same things that have been recycled throughout the industry for over 50 years. There is only so many ways to work a match and I can almost guarantee that if you had the complete archive of all wrestling matches you will see that your favorite match from 2 years ago was similarly wrestled 20 years before. Maybe not in this country, but it was wrestled.
This means that everyone's cries of ‘WCW is copying the WWF" or the "WWF is stealing from ECW" is absolute and unmitigated garbage!
Let's go back in history for a bit so I can show you what I am talking about.
Everyone talks about the great ladder matches that have been held in the WWF with the most recent one being Edge/Christian vs. The Hardy Boys but most people remember the August 27, 1995 ladder match between the then Intercontinental Champion Shawn Michaels and Razor Ramon (Scott Hall). Now I would hope that everyone realizes that this was not the first time a ladder was ever used in a match. In fact in 1962 it was Ray Stevens who did his "bombs away" off of a ladder onto his opponent Pepper Gomez in a grudge match that sold out the San Francisco Cow Palace to the tune of 17,000 fans and a paid gate of $65,000. The result of that move was an injury to Gomez's throat. Do I hear a chant of "He's Hardcore"?
How about the WWF's recent broadcast where Triple H's had to wrestle numerous opponents in one night? Do you think that was a first? Well it wasn't. In fact it was on February 27, 1973 where the Giant Baba wrestled 10 matches in one night. His opponents that night were Bruno Sammartino (one win, one draw), Terry Funk, Abdullah The Butcher, The Destroyer, Wilbur Snyder (one win, one draw) Don Leo Jonathon, Pat O'Conner and Bobo Brazil. Quite a list of wrestling luminaries wouldn't you say? Do you think Hunter would have faired as well as Baba did? Baba went on to win 8 out of 10 matches with 2 draws and no losses that night. Quite impressive if you think about it.
So you think that wrestling is a little to violent and should be toned back? Do you honestly think that pure and utter violence is something new to pro wrestling or something that was started by ECW back in 1993? Forget it pal, wrestling has always had violence. In fact it was December 15, 1977 when Dory Funk Jr and Terry Funk teamed up together to beat Abdullah The Butcher and The Sheik in what is considered through Japan as one of the most violent matches ever. In fact this match was so violent that this match turned the Funks into fan favorites with the Japanese wrestling fans.
You think playing the crowd is something new? Once again it has been done before. In 1947 Buddy Rogers and Billy Darnell had a match in New York that was so wild a ringside fan died of a heart attack. Hey I'm not making this up, this stuff actually happened.
How about gimmick matches? Think they are a product of the last 20 years? No way! The first "Brass Knuckles" match was held in 1953 in Houston, Texas and was promoted by Paul Boesch. The two combatants were "Irish" Danny McShain and "Wild" Bull Currey. Oh yeah, Currey won the match.
What about having all members of a tag tam match in the ring at the same time? Known as a "Texas Tornado" match the first match of this kind was held in Houston, Texas on October 2, 1937 and is credited to being the brainchild of Morris Sigel.
Wrestlers and music are no strangers together. While the latest music/wrestler connection is accredited to a few different people on January 21, 1944 there was a benefit that paired the Houston Symphony Orchestra and the likes of Lou Thesz and "Wild" Bill Longson in the main event. In fact, one of the matches, Ellis Bashara vs. Dave Levin had their match set to a symphonic arrangement which saw Bashara, after winning the match, knock aside the conductor and lead the orchestra himself.
While I could go on and on the point I am trying to make is that there is no one today that isn't doing something that hasn't already been done before. The cries of "Nitro is Raw" is very premature and unfair to a promotion that is trying to turn itself around.
RAW IS PORN!!!
Oh do I remember when this tidbit catch phrase came out. Of course it was being done by a rival promotional columnist but it did catch on across the Internet. But in all actuality was Raw porn?
That would depend on what side of the fence you were standing on I suppose. While what I call "ratings wrestling" is not something every child in America should watch all the time to label the WWF porn for doing the EXACT same thing that was being done on almost all of network TV and in Hollywood is absolutely ludicrous. Let's look at shows that range from "Silk Stalkings to Baywatch to any soap opera on every afternoon and the American public is totally and completely inundated with sex in one form or another. Why was it wrong for the WWF to grab some of this for themselves?
Now a lot of people lately have come down on a tag match this past Monday night that had The Outsiders (Hall and Nash) go against some well endowed women. The cries are going out that this was not needed. Why not? What was really wrong with it? This match was done as a joke. In my estimation the guys are starting to have a little fun down there in WCW. This match was proof of it. They said the whole time that this was for ratings and ratings only. What does that tell you people? They were mocking the whole ratings thing themselves. Does it matter that one of the women is in the porn industry? And if it does why? Can't anyone just take what is being shown as what it is without having to dissect each and every moment as if it was a life and death situation?
Now before the answers start flooding my e-mail box sit back and think for a second and make sure that you are not one of the people who sat in the ECW Arena and popped when Tommy Dreamer would piledrive Beulah. Also remember that before Tommy would apply the piledriver he would hold Beulah (or sometimes Francine) upside down with her crotch in his face and as he turned around so everyone in the crowd could see the shot of her panties while she was upside down he would wag his tongue in a very suggestive manner. Where were your cries of pornography then? Where was your moral indignation at that time?
The WWF had Sable come into the ring one night with nothing more than a pair of hands painted over her nipples. I defy any red blooded male to say that he did not enjoy that segment. But now later on after the erections went down everyone in retrospect now says that the WWF was wrong in airing that segment. What are you guys nuts? Stop trying to blow smoke up someone's butt because I know that every guy in the world who saw that popped for it. (Probably in more ways than one)
Wrestling has and always will push the envelope to generate a reaction from the crowd. That is part of its total makeup. It is our society that has allowed wrestling to venture into the risque, not the wrestling promoter. Don't believe me, turn on HBO or Showtime.
RATINGS, RATINGS, RATINGS
Personally the ratings war are total bullsh*t and was created by Eric Bischoff as a measuring stick so he could see just how much he could pat himself on the back week to week. While Bischoff did not create the ratings per say, he is the one that I have to credit with making them so damned important in the minds of every wrestling fan. Did anyone care about how their favorite wrestling show did in the ratings before the Monday Night slugfest started? NO!!!
I cannot remember ever worrying about how Mid-South did in the ratings or World Class Championship Wrestling or Georgia Championship Wrestling or any of the other promotions I have been able to watch over my lifetime.
Not until the WWF and WCW went head to head. At first, there was some excitement to it because here was someone who was actually going head to head with the true number one at the time, the WWF. Or were they the true number one? Not according to Nielsen. And for 80 sum odd weeks we saw that WCW was the absolute superior product. Or were they? According to the numbers they were but not in actuality. In actuality the WWF was putting on a far superior product for at least 4 months before the wrestling fans caught on and switched the channels. The same could happen again with WCW now as they are turning themselves around but now the wrestling fan is used to switching that dial at 9 pm and some habits are hard to break.
I am a bit miffed as to why the ratings still hold their appeal like they do. Do the ratings tell you what you should or should not be watching? Do you have to check the ratings on Tuesday to know whether or not you enjoyed the previous nights programming? I should hope not. Our obsession with the ratings are totally unfounded anymore, at least to the point that we are all chasing the numbers week to week.
THE WWF HAS CROSSED THE LINE OF DECENCY?
To say that the WWF has crossed the line on many occasions is being the master of the obvious. But to condemn the WWF without crucifying the other promotions is totally bogus because all three of the promotions are guilty of pushing the envelope in this area.
The WWF recently has run an angle with Paul Wight where he is on camera saying how he just found out that his father is dying of cancer. The public outcry is ridiculous in my estimation. Everyone is acting like this never happened in wrestling before. Can we all say, "Fritz Von Erich"?
How many times did Fritz Von Erich use failing health to sell out the Sportatorium? Did this turn off the fans? No, in fact it helped sell seats. So why is the WWF being chastised for this angle? If Paul Wight is ok with doing this (his father did pass away from cancer years ago) why is everyone so upset? It is an angle people, nothing more, nothing less. In fact, it has helped put Wight over as a face in the promotion, so not only are they using the angle, they received their desired response. Isn't that what it's all about? When did the wrestling fan become so damned politically correct anyway?
When Ric Flair and WCW used a "fake heart attack" on Nitro there was minimum backlash from most wrestling quarters. In fact, I caught more heat from doing my parody of it on "Layin The Smack Down" then Ric and WCW did for actually doing the angle. At first I attacked the angle but for the wrong reasons. I didn't attack it because it was wrong, I attacked it because it was WCW doing it. Like I said, I admit to being caught up in the crap right along with the rest of you.
Not letting health be the only thing that crossed the line ECW had Joel Gertner go off on JFK Jr. right after his tragic plane crash which drew some heat to it. While this could possibly be the most tasteless promo cut this decade guess what people? Everyone got over it and went on didn't they? Because wrestling always crosses the line no matter what promotion your talking about. Tasteless draws heat, which draws viewers wanting to see what you will do next. It is nothing more then the nature of the beast and it is time that we as wrestling fans remember that simple fact.
WHERE OH WHERE HAVE THE TRUE WRESTLING FANS GONE?
While living in New Orleans during the most part of the 80's I watched a myriad of wrestling shows. Bill Watt's Mid-South, Fritz Von Erich's World Class Championship Wrestling, Georgia Championship Wrestling (NWA) and the World Wrestling Federation. The one cool thing is that back then that although there was competition between the different promotions behind the scenes it never came across on the television like it does today. That is unless there was some cross promoting going on which was prevalent between the NWA, Mid-South and World Class. That is probably what kept it really interesting as far as I was concerned because on any given house show or TV broadcast you could see the Von Erich's, Ric Flair, The Freebirds or any other number of people wrestling in another promotion. Of course the WWF was always the island unto itself.
One thing I remember distinctly though is that no matter which of the promotions house show I would go to the fans were all the same. They were true wrestling fans. No one was there complaining about how this one sucked and the other one was better. We all talked about the card that night and everything we were following on television. Another thing I noticed was that the people I would run into at a Mid South card were the same people I would run into at a WWF show. And the talk was always the same. About everything that was happening in all the promotions.
Today's wrestling fan is extremely loyal to one particular promotion and that is it. The same people who liked Chris Jericho in WCW now despise him because he is in the WWF. (Not all, but some) The same people who used to pop for Diesel in the WWF think Kevin Nash is a bore in WCW. The ECW fans recently told The Dudley's they sold out by going to the WWF.
Are any of these people or any of the others who have jumped to another federation any different now that they have gone somewhere else? Has their talent suddenly been depleted? Are they any less articulate on the microphone? Has their outlook on the world somehow been altered because they went somewhere else? Not in the least and they should not be vilified or chastised because they saw and took another opportunity that happened to come their way. How can you be a fan of someone one minute and just because they are now wrestling somewhere else not be a fan at all?
When Benoit/Malenko/Guerrero left ECW I had a choice to either blow them off and forget about them because they left the hallowed halls of ECW or if I wanted to continue to watch them I would have to watch WCW. Needless to say I watched WCW so I could see they guys work. Hell I have followed Jericho's exploits from ECW to WCW to the WWF. I watched Austin in NWA/WCW to ECW to the WWF. And so on and so on and so on.
WHO IS UP TO THE CHALLENGE?
Wrestling is wrestling people, it will never be anything else but. It will never find the cure for cancer, nor will it ever win the Nobel Peace Prize. It is not chocked full of vitamin C nor combined with a glass of milk will it ever give you the minimum daily requirements. Wrestling is not bio-degradable and while some may think it should have there is no Surgeon General's warning on it. It will not make your whites whiter, your teeth brighter or your grass greener. Wrestling will not get you cheaper phone rates, a break on your taxes or an extra scoop of ice cream at Dairy Queen. It will not remove that stain from your carpet nor will it eliminate pet odors. It does not have wings nor is it the most absorbent. While it does come in a multitude of flavors none is approved by the FDA.
My challenge to each and every wrestling fan is simple. Forget your so-called loyalties for one week. During that week watch each and every wrestling program with an open mind. Do not bother yourself with such trivialities like which promotion you are watching. Take each and every one for what they are presenting themselves to be. Open yourself to the possibilities because right now you may be witnessing something that may not happen again for a long time. With the resurgence of WCW, ECW starting to find it's footing in it's new TNN program and the WWF chugging along as it always does the wrestling fan has a chance to see the GOOD that all three promotions are trying to give to you. All you have to do is look. All three promotions have positives going for it right now and all three have talented and dedicated people who want to entertain you. Can you take a moment to give them a chance to do this without having any pre-conceived notions? That is after all, all they ask.
And with that I'm outta here. Remember wrestling is nothing more than it appears to be.
Fritz Capp is the editor of Pro Wrestling's Between The Sheets - for comments or opposing viewpoints please e-mail to Fritz Capp