AS I SEE IT 11/27: Classic angles re-done

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

Gotta say that I got a kick out of one angle in this past week's TNA Impact.

For those who didn't watch...on the TNA prime time special, "authority figure" Jim Cornette stripped LAX of the NWA tag titles and demanded the belts be returned on last Thursday's show.

Cornette introduced Petey Williams, who is now playing the role of the Canadian who was a Team Canada heel but "realized he's been given an opportunity in America", and thus kept LAX from burning an American flag a week earlier. Williams came out and did his but, soon to be followed by LAX, who had "their lawyer" with them who sued TNA and Cornette for violating their First Amendment rights, and this preventing the belts from being taken away.

LAX then came out to jump Williams, with Cornette stepping aside and looking for security (GOD, I miss the Cornette of old who had his racket and would have plowed at least one heel before being jumped).

LAX then "buried" Williams under the American flag...right out of the legendary UWF "Eddie Gilbert and 'the Russians' angle.

For those of you who weren't lucky enough to see that 1985 Bill Watts's UWF angle, it's one of my favorite angles of all time.

To appreciate it, you have to accept three things. In Bill Watts's Mid-South, America was good, was Russia was bad and fans "still believed".

This 1985 angle was set up by "Russians" Ivan Koloff, Nikita Koloff, and Kortsia Korchenko. The Russians were set up to plow over a succession of opponents, with Korchenko then draping the Russian flag over them. Watts, as commentator, of course waved the American flag at the dastardly Russians week after week.

Then came the payoff at a UWF TV taping.

An in-ring confrontation involving Eddie Gilbert, Kortsia Korchenko and The Blade Runners Sting and Jim Hellwig) against Steve Williams, Ted DiBiase and Jim Duggan started the fun in the ring, before being broken up by Bill Watts. After Korchenko tried to jump Steve Williams, Watts finally got physically involved and another brawl broke loose. After the brawl, Bill Watts then began to question why Eddie Gilbert would be involved with "people who were against America".

Later, Eddie Gilbert appeared in the ring and called Watts to come to the ring. Gilbert apologized for being involved with the Koloffs and Korchenko. Then, Watts came out; but as he did The Blade Runners appeared in the aisle. Watts questioned why The Blade Runners had come out.

Eddie Gilbert explained that he was no longer going to be associated with the Russians but he would still manage The Blade Runners. Gilbert then went on to agree with Watts about wrong it had been that he was involved with the Russians, and how Watts "had opened his eyes to this".

Gilbert then offered a Russian flag to Watts to show how sincere he was about leaving the Russians, and said that he could even burn it if he wanted to. Watts took the flag, the Russians stormed in through the crowd and attacked Watts. Gilbert then joined in on the fun. Steve Williams, Ted DiBiase and Jim Duggan ran down the aisle to attempt a save, but were fought off by The Blade Runners. Mind you, as this is going on, the crowd is going absolutely insane. This is the height of the Reagan era Cold War and these folks believed that Bills Watts was getting attacked by Russians.

Watts got the crap kicked out of him in the ring, as the Russians and Gilbert used a red shovel and chain (remember Nikita Khrushchev's "We will bury you") on Watts. Finally, Gilbert and the Russians laid a Russian flag over a battered Watts with Jim Ross screaming "They're putting the flag over the Cowboy" over the audience which was trying to come over the entrance ramp at Gilbert and the Russians. Jim Ross got that one over so well, you half imagined T-72 tanks were bursting through the back walls of the Tulsa Convention Center with troops to follow.

Finally, Williams, Duggan, DiBiase fought their way through and got to the ring, followed by Watts’s three sons, Joel, Micah and Erik rushed to the ring. Joel was well-known as UWF's TV director, responsible for TV that was 10 years ahead of its time. Joel held his dad’s bloody head in his hands, as the program finally went to as hot a segment as aired for years on TV.

So as LAX re-did that angle, I can imagine that wherever they were Thursday night, or if someone slipped them a DVD, Bill Watts, Ivan and Nikita Koloff were was Eddie Gilbert watching from a better place.

(Now if they'd only had Petey Willims do a swerve, and had LAX bury Cornette...they could have taken it ALL the way)

To your letters...

From "Jeff":

"I am a big WWE fan, and have been to 40 live WWE events in my 27 year old life. While the latest few months have been pretty stale, I am nonetheless a WWE fan and do enjoy a lot of aspects of each show.

But TNA's debut was great. It was the FIRST time I watched TNA ever. It made me think ... Monday Night Wars. Now don't get me wrong, I do not think we'll ever see something replicate the 3 or 4 best years in any 'modern' wrestling fans lives. But one thing I would like to point out ... when WCW started gettting stale, and WWE was putting the better matches on at the time, WCW won most of those ratings battles. During that 83 week run, the last 30 weeks or so, the WWE put on a compelling show, but that couldn't get people to change the channel.

THAT begin said, I can't figure out why TNA didn't draw more than a 1.0.

I do think that Kurt Angle may be a bit overhyped. I think Kurt is the greatest wrestler in the business today, and he works crazy. But Kurt is different than say Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, The Rock. It didn't matter who those three wrestled, you came to see those three. But Kurt is his best when he is wrestling someone. People came to see Kurt vs. Chris Benoit, Kurt vs. The Undertaker, Kurt vs. Shawn Michaels, Kurt vs. Eddie Guerrero, even Kurt vs Big Show. But people came to see Kurt IN THE MATCH. Right now, a lot of people don't know the other TNA starts. Their core base needs to expand the fan base, and TNA needs to get out to the more main stream...

...Anyway, I am a fan now ... but they need to build on that. TNA has to decide ... do they want to do more storylines or more wrestling? "

There's one reason people aren't giving it more than a 1.1. I think, from a business standpoint, that Vince McMahon's done killer marketing, because he has mainstream fans and the media believing that his is the only top brand of "sports entertainment". Thus, anything else seem minor league by comparison, and will only be viewed by niche audiences.

As for Angle, think of wrestling as a dance. You need a partner, no matter how good you are. No matter how talented he is, Kurt Angle's no different than anyone else. He needs a partner that can keep up with least somewhat...or can at least be led through the dance.

From Shirleigh Kaur of London, England:

"In my opinion, TNA delivered on all parts this week. First the prime time. I think that TNA can pull off a barbedwired steel cage match MUCH better than WWE did with Big Show vs JBL at No Way Out 2005. The ending was so awesome, and the match when they decided what Rhino and Cage got was interesting. I am also glad that TNA didn't load the show with the newly formed VKM. If they did, we wouldn't be honoured with the spectacular matches such as Styles-Sabin-Daniels. I should re-iterate what you said in your last column when you said that WWE should take note.

Now onto Genesis. I haven't personally watched it yet because it's on the same day as Survivor Series in the UK, but from what I have read, it was again another solid show for TNA. The Joe-Angle match obviously stole the show, but I did hope Samoa Joe would win because now WWE can truly say they have the Undefeated Samoan....which TOTALLY SUCKS as I've always hated AAE and Umaga because Umaga=Joe (DUH!!!!). Anyway back to the PPV. I think that Styles' possible heel turn is pretty good, and it seemed convincing the way TNA planned. And lastly, they Sting-Abyss match. It kinda ended abruptly, but I still think it was a quality match from what I have read and seen on"

In my opinion, Armando Alejandro Estrada can't hold James Mitchell's jockstrap. Estrada's basically a catch phrase...and that's about it. Estrada was said to be a lot funnier in OVW when they let him go a little bit.

As for Mitchell, he does an actual promo as a heel manager is supposed to for his heel character who "can't talk" because he's "a monster". He's an integral part of the Abyss character (as seen when TNA recently came to Philadelphia without Mitchell). Estrada snaps a cigar and lets out a catch phrase.

The only problem with Mitchell (and other managers like Jeff G. Bailey) is that they were born about 20 years too late. Imagine Mitchell (or his previous incarnation as Darrell Van Horne in SMW...who in a great moment years ago, actually freaked out longtime announcer Bob Caudle during a live interview) 20 years ago. Imagine someone like Mitchell in WWF way back when.


From Jesse Lee:

"Just finished reading today's (11-20-2006) column and I have an opinion for the TNA primetime. While reaching only 1.0 at 9pm may seem disappointing, keep in mind that their ratings have dropped/dropping long before their primetime debut. I like TNA's wrestlers, but seriously, everyone calls them the 'WWE Rejects.'

When the casual fans hears someone say that, it doesn't make them want to watch it, because then it's implanted in their head that it's where 'those who aren't good enough' to be in WWE. Then those who keep calling people like Cage, James Gang, Rhino, etc., rejects start to complain when ratings drop. I don't really see how they can be rejects. Nash and Hall weren't WWE rejects when they left for WCW. Batista isn't an OVW reject. Today, Monty Brown isn't a TNA reject. It's only that when they leave do a lot of "smarks" (in online chat rooms and many wrestling forums) call them a reject.

As for the actual show itself, it could have turned a lot of possible new viewers away for having a ridiculous amount of unexplained history. Let's make a brief review.

AMW runs in to interrupt the anti-American opinions of LAX with little to no back up history.

Samoa Joe, while doing good explaining his undefeated streak and pushing him as a huge star, had a very short match. If you're pushing someone to be a big star to new audience as an unstoppable force, you don't match him up against a man who barely has meat on his bones and looks as though any guy Joe's size could take him out (not a knock on Lethal, a knock on TNA's bookers.) Then, if you do, don't make the match seem so short, that it was just a commercial.

The bathroom segments with Nash being a judge could have been used to give more time to matches (like Joe's) or more matches. This stuff is what WWE produces... not an alternative.

Team 3D promo, back story, and match with The Naturals was gold. Though, unfortunately, perhaps too late in the show for new viewers to see, unless they really stuck with the 'WWE reject' to give it a chance.

"...The whole Voodoo Kin Mafia/James Gang thing should have been explained a bit more. The casual (not smark, but casual) fan of 2006 may not know anything about 1998-2000 when these two were on top and in DX. It was never explained why they were angry at Vince and perhaps didn't even know who they were talking about until the 'DX sucks' chant started. What could have saved them was a lot of explanation of their background history.

Nothing like Brian James babbling away about Hickenbottom, Levesque, and "an oiled up billionaire", and then somehow making a connection to Democrats winning Congress. I guess we Democrats are somehow responsible for Vince McMahon's ass fetish. News flash, Brian. Research says more Democrats are wrestling fans than Republicans. Nice way to piss off your potential audience...and by the way, McMahon's well known for being a Republican.

Christian Cage vs. Rhino was a great match. However, as said before, the casual fans usually ends up reading from smarks that these two are "WWE rejects" very often and probably wouldn't have cared about them. With that in combination of no real explained back story (other than Rhino screaming) then the casual fan probably decided to turn to something else, unfortunately.

"The X Division match was great, no complaints here. Even the finish was understandable (though, again, could have been explained exactly why AJ was angry with Daniels, why AJ was real angry with Cage, etc.)"

Good point...I'M not sure why AJ's pissed at Daniels, either.

"The LAX-flag-Williams thing would have a been a lot better if, again, more explanation was given for the newer audience. I'm pretty sure they would understand why LAX would burn the flag (considering they know about politics and such) but who's this white guy? There was little explanation to who he was and he looked American. When Williams decided to change his mind about it (or reveal his real intension) the casual fan wouldn't know why exactly he was there other than just to do that (and being "invited.)" And why should they respect LAX if they're American and they just tried burning the American flag?

The set-up for this actually aired the week before. I hope people have memory spans of one week at least. Dunno how Canadians "look American" and vice versa.

The Abyss/Angle match was a great way to finish with adequate background for both. Though, the finish of the night had little explanation into it. They never explained to the casual viewer who Sting was (his last time appearing, night when WCW went out of business. It's 2006 now. Mix that in with a crummy Invasion angle that made a lot of fans stop watching (including my sister and three of my friends) then you have yourself a new mixture of fans who only know about 2003-up WWE.) Combine what I said about Joe earlier and what I said about Sting, there was little reason for a casual fan to care, other than curiosity and initiative to figure everything out.

Though, there were explanation problems throughout the whole show, the casual fans might have decided not to watch after the first bathroom segment. As far as smarks not tuning in (though, I personally think 1.0 rating is great when your main audience are smarks when compared to casual fans) I think it's because the basic formula for TNA Impact is always used. A lot of run-ins, a lot of unexplained history, and a lot of 'gotta respect.'"

Until next time...

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