AS I SEE IT - 6/01/2000
by: Bob Magee
Welcome to WWF Hangout (http://1wwfhangout.hypermart.net), Wrestling Suplex
(http://twsuplex316.virtualave.net), From the Cheap Seats
(http://www.fortunecity.com/olympia/wolfpac/782), The Wrestling Wire
(http://www.thewrestlingwire.com), and The Ring Post (http://ringpost.net), which have
begun carrying this column over the last two weeks.
This makes 70 websites carrying AS I SEE IT. I thank those webmasters for their encouragement and support.
Before I get to my main topic... a followup to some of last week's column on wrestling online.
It seems that someone thinks that I'm important (or gullible) enough to start sending fake news stories to... in what may be an attempt to make either PWBTS or myself look bad. These stories, first sent to us the week I left for California, are always well-written, with certain details designed to try to make them look legitimate...but come from Hotmail addresses under obviously fictitious names.
At first I assumed it might have been Scotsman, well-known for his "fake news stories" contests, which were apparently designed to prove the point that "Internet reporters" will post anything sent to them. It appears this was not the case. I have some ideas as to who these "sources" of fake news are in at least two of the cases.
Among these fake stories, one was a "tip" on an incident involving the death of a friend of Mikey Whipwreck. The "source"... someone using a "Mike Wallace" address at Hotmail claiming that former ECW referee and manager Jeff Jones was to blame, because he had supposedly provided a GHB substitute to this person. Considering the relationship between PWBTS and ECW, this seemed to be a obvious sucker story to make PWBTS look as though we were "beating up on ECW again".
While this story was reported in the Pro Wrestling Torch two weeks ago, it is VERY NECESSARY TO NOTE that little to no documentation has been provided for this story as of this date. Accordingly, given the serious nature of the alleged story, one MUST assume it to be an unfounded rumor. Until we receive documentation on it, it won't run on PWBTS as a news story or even a rumor.
Another "tip" was that the campaign against regulation of "extreme wrestling" by the State of New Jersey that has been championed on this website... and Combat Zone Wrestling was somehow being investigated by the State for illegal practices in attempting to illegal influence pending legislation.
There was never any proof of this supposed investigation provided to me, even after I requested this yet-again anonymous person to provide it. This, no doubt, because the story was false.
The most recent "tip" was received a week ago...claiming that a well-known New Jersey independent wrestler who also runs an independent promotion and wrestling school in North Jersey had engaged in racially discriminatory behavior at his wrestling school, and that this story had appeared in the Newark Star-Ledger.
One small problem: the story is not on the Newark Star-Ledger website, and the "source" again never responded to my request for a URL for this supposed "story".
Nice try, folks...but save your time and effort, whoever you are. Go find someone else to play for a sucker. Some of us weren't born yesterday.
The moral of the above story is this: keep a eye on the stories you see on wrestling websites. Give your online time to those websites that will try to document what they report on, to those websites that appear to have shown credibility over a period of time with what they write.
Nearly every site has occasionally have rumors that don't come off as reported (and PWBTS has had this happen, as well as the other sites you read this on). Let's face it...storylines or the prospects of signing new talent are changed by every promotion, and what was planned yesterday might not be the plan today.
But overall, the bottom line is that the more sensationalistic a site is, the less credible it normally will be, and the less of your time it's worth.
This lets me segue to the main subject of this column...to another pair within wrestling that doesn't exactly define credibility: WCW and Vince Russo.
Let's see...where do we start? How about four examples...
1) Vince Russo booking David Arquette, Mr. Courtney Cox and Mr. 1-800-CALL-ATT....as the WCW World Heavyweight Champion.
Um, yeah. Right.
I have no doubt Buddy Rogers and Pat O'Connor have been doing spins in their graves ever since.
Before the WCW lemmings send me their hate e-mails claiming I'm ideologically in bed with Vince McMahon (yet again)....and try to preach me the gospel of their hero Vince Russo that a belt is just a dramatic device. Guess what?
I'll agree with them. But in a way that makes my point just as strongly.
On WCWLIVE, WCW writer Vince Russo said that the titles were mere props to him to be used in angles and swerves. OK... We all know that wrestling is a work ... a dramatic TV presentation designed to get ratings on Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday nights by WCW and the WWF, and Friday nights by ECW.
In wrestling, a "Heavyweight Title" was always traditionally a payoff for a worker who has earned it by the people he (or she) has put in the seats over time, the crowd reaction (s)he got; and back in the days of the old NWA title... also a tribute to the political stroke of NWA member promoters.
Of course, it was also a dramatic device to further the storylines that put people in the seats at house shows...and as time passed, to draw TV ratings... and even later, PPV buyrates.
Now in the era of the Monday Night Wars... an era of wrestling all to often designed SOLELY to get TV ratings and PPV buyrates...with high-stakes financial results for each PPV buy and each TV rating point... why cheapen its effectiveness to do that very thing by putting it on an Hollywood actor, instead of one of your workers that you've developed a storyline around to have the title change make sense?
The following semi-related note is a nice little story; yet is sadly ironic at the same time: David Arquette donated his WCW salary to the estate of Brian Pillman, the medical expenses of Darren Drozdov, and to help pay the outstanding medical expenses of the late Brian Hildebrand. It sounds like Mr. 1-800-CALL-ATT has more respect for those within the wrestling business than those who actually run the company he worked for.
2) WCW's increasing meaninglessness of title changes and poor storywriting
WCW seems to think that the ever-dwindling number of viewers (proven again by the Slamboree buy rate of less than 0.2...a buyrate which wasn't released by WCW because the figure was such an embarrassment) of their product have the attention span of an MTV video... that they want their wrestling fast, splashy, and with limited substance.
Well, even videos by a garage band have better production values than most WCW programming these days. Witness the already infamous production glitch where fans saw Mike Awesome getten "beaten up" and taken away by an ambulance, only to move right into a skit with Vince Russo and company escorting a coffin supposedly representing Ric Flair's career. Even if you didn't see this glitch, you can probably guess who was in that group of "pall bearers", having taken an incredibly quick shower and having found sunglasses...Mike Awesome.
Let's even assume that we buy Russo's logic of "MTV wrestling", and forget that Paul Heyman did it better once upon a time with one-tenth the money. Even if we buy this Russo concept, we know that there is only one way to see a storyline advanced fairly rapidly: A LOGICAL PROGRESSION to it... with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Instead of logical progression, WCW randomly changes titles each week under Russo's "Crash TV" concept, in a futile attempt to hotshot TV ratings. It's a philosophy that reminds me of the old joke about cooking spaghetti...you throw it to the wall and see if it sticks. Well, even this 43 year old male knows that you follow a recipe to cook your meals....with a logical progression of steps...which results in the meal you want. The same thing is true of writing wrestling storylines.
Which leads to the following...
Even though we know wrestling is just another type of dramatic presentation, just like movies, books, or TV programs.... people still suspend their disbelief for the period of time they're watching a TV program, reading a book, or watching a movie at home or in a theatre. You don't spend each moment of your time thinking..."Ah, this is just pretend". If the writer has interested you...you get involved for those minutes you're into the story.
But there's hell to pay if you don't. Remember the most well-known example of what happens when you fail to employ a logical storyline method within mainstream entertainment... the "Dream Season" of Dallas? Where Pamela woke up and Bobby Ewing was still in the shower...as if he'd never been killed off?
In a moment, an entire year's worth of episodes were basically written off and the emotional investment of viewers was just thrown in the proverbial trash can. Viewers were jarred by this, and Dallas never was the same until it went off the air.
This is the stage where WCW is at today. EACH AND EVERY WEEK is a "dream season" episode. Viewers are so jarred by the fact that storylines are illogical or nonexistent... they are so far beyond the stage of being able to suspend belief... that they either watch Monday Night RAW, Smackdown, or no wrestling at all.
3) Vince Russo's spin-doctoring
Vince Russo was once the man who once told us all that he looked at the Internet for feedback on how his angles were playing...witness this excerpt from a September 1999 interview on WrestleLine.com:
"...The Internet has really helped mold the business into what it is today, because you cant work the fans anymore, and that was the problem. The problem was the Internet was growing so rapidly, people really knew what was going on and here we were still trying to work the fans, and that was the problem. But I think it has really, really shaped and molded the way that this business has gone."
But now that he and the WCW product are being savaged on that same Internet, he's suddenly had a change of heart and gone into spin-doctor mode. Recently, Russo said on a WCWLIVE post-show:
"I really don't read too much on the Internet anymore... we really need to take a close look at whose payroll certain individuals are on...It's become a joke to me."
Readers can insert the name of Dave Meltzer into Russo's proverbial blank. Russo has recently started trying to smear Dave Meltzer, given how critical the Observer has been about WCW over the last six months.
You see, Vince Russo responded much as many on the Internet who are solely fans (or employees) of a PROMOTION, as opposed to being students or fans of WRESTLING often do... when you can't argue with the facts or opinions of another person, you dismiss them as a mark for the opposing company.
Unfortunately, that playground-like tactic of namecalling those who don't agree with you got old about eight booking committees ago. It's a mark of desperation that WCW employees and fans seem to practice since they can't argue with the lack of success of their product.
4) WCW's practices of racial discrimination
Let's face it, wrestling isn't politically correct. Nor does it need to be. Some things that offend me won't offend others and vice versa.
As an example, I'm personally not very fond of some aspects of the WWF's use of Eddie Guerrero right now, with some of the more blatantly racist aspects of the "Latino Heat" gimmick. Some of the worst aspects seem to have been toned down, such as the fake accent... but the character is still largely unchanged.
Even if we disagree about character depictions on wrestling shows, most people agree that racial discrimination in real life is unacceptable under any circumstances. In the increasingly multi-ethnic society we live in, discrimination is also bad business... even in "the business".
WCW is now being forced to answer charges of racial discrimination by
Harrison Norris, Kazuo "Sonny" Oono and Robert Walker in Federal Court. There are many will no doubt argue that on talent alone, the dismissal of these three was justified.
But there are other examples of a climate of racism within WCW toward many other non-European wrestlers that can't be as easily dismissed, such as the well-publicized racial joke circulated via e-mail by a secretary of Eric Bischoff that never resulted in discipline by Time-Warner/Turner; or the Russo-inspired "pinata" skit on Monday Nitro.
In a comment that will no doubt come back to haunt WCW in the upcoming racial discrimination case, Vince Russo offered his perception of the average American's view of foreign wrestlers:
"You will never ever, ever see the Japanese wrestler or the Mexican wrestler over in the mainstream American wrestling. I'm an American and I like watching wrestling here in America. I don't give a sh*t about a Japanese guy or a Mexican guy because I want to see American guys...." One could easily assume Russo was inserting the word "white" into the place of "American".
Russo's belief that foreign-born workers won't get over is no doubt explained by the success of Paul Heyman and ECW in getting over Eddie Guerrero in 1995... to the point that his farewell match with Dean Malenko was perhaps the most memorable moments in ECW history... that Heyman got over Rey Misterio, Jr., Psicosis, Juventud Guerrera in 1996.... and that he is currently getting over Super Crazy, Yoshihiro Tajiri, and Masato Tanaka in 1999 and 2000.
In an WrestleLine interview with Ben Miller on May 15th, Kazuo Oono's attorney Cary Ichter stated the following about this situation:
"...What's amazing to me is that there has been this long-standing relationship between New Japan and the WCW, which has been a talent exchange until Mr. Russo appeared on the scene.
And up until that point in time, there never seemed to be any sort of problem with having Asian wrestlers who didn't speak English, or having Mexican wrestlers who didn't speak English, who had managers who played the part of heels, and they provided the necessary persona ... so that the only thing that you would have to look at in dealing with an Asian or Mexican wrestler who didn't speak English was a question of pure talent."
In short, WCW and Vince Russo is playing the race card. Because Vince Russo assumes that everyone holds the same prejudices he does, he has written off potential segments of his viewing audience; and largely written off WCW's business relationship with New Japan Pro Wrestling.
So with all these problems, WCW's ratings continue to remain non-competitive. The company seems to take less and less care with the TV product. WCW continues to be in denial about the company's deeply-rooted problems. Worst of all, the PR time bomb of a racial discrimination lawsuit against WCW looms....as do talks about a sale of WCW by AOL/Time-Warner.
I'm as tired of writing about WCW's lack of success as WCW fans are of hearing me and dozens of others write about that lack of success. But until these problems are dealt with....we'll be able to write about it again and again.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)