AS I SEE IT - 11/24/2000- 2000 Year End Awards
I should note that my selections are based on what I've actually seen this year; which
primarily means North American wrestling.
2000 PROMOTION OF THE YEAR:
World Wrestling Federation
Quite honestly, who else is there?
As a blow-away business success over 2000, leaving WCW in the dirt waiting to be sold, with ECW teetering on the brink of bankruptcy... the WWF is the only realistic choice for this award.
I'm not especially happy about that, since a more competitive environment is essential for wrestling companies to come up with good ideas and better programming, house shows and PPVs.
But this year...let's face it, for good, or for bad...wrestling in the United States is again spelled W-W-F.
* 1999 winner: WWF
* 1998 winner: WWF
* 1997 winner: WCW
2000 WRESTLER OF THE YEAR:
Paul (Hunter Hearst Helmsley) Levesque
Talk about a guy picking up the ball and running with it. Everyone used to complain that HHH was a top flight talent that wasn't working to his full potential. If it was ever true, it isn't any more.
HHH would deserve it if for no other reason than his Hell in the Cell match with Mick Foley as Cactus Jack at No Way Out on February 27. But other matches with The Rock (especially their match at the May 21st Judgment Day PPV), Chris Jericho, and Kurt Angle cinch it for HHH for his consistently top-notch performances all year.
* 1999 winner: Chris Benoit, WWF
* 1998 winner: Steve Austin, WWF
* 1997 winner: Eddie Guerrero, WCW
2000 WORST WRESTLER OF THE YEAR:
Let's see....what if you had a job where:
You worked when and if you want to.
You got paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to work the mike on a TV show that less and less people are watching (which you admittedly do well). Your major responsibility appeared to be saying amusing things for smart marks on the Internet to laugh at, and pretending to "shoot" on your employer (OK, maybe you really did once when they fired your best friend).
Then when you did get in the ring, you were allowed to exhibit a workrate that a "ticket-seller" for an indy promotion would be ashamed to possess. You could get the nickname "Big Lazy" and laugh about it.
If you had a job like this, you'd be Kevin Nash.
* 1999 "winner": Hulk Hogan, WCW
* 1998 "winner": Giant Silva, WWF
* 1997 "winner": Hulk Hogan, WCW
2000 TAG TEAM OF THE YEAR:
Matt and Jeff Hardy, World Wrestling Federation
These two daredevil brothers... who are as exciting as hell win this award from me for the second year running. They do things that no team in a major promotion does, or will likely do anytime soon. The series of matches with Edge and Christian were great to watch each time, with the TLC match topping the list for the year for me.
Fans had better enjoy them while they can. Lord knows how long the Hardys can keep up this style at this pace.
* 1999 winner: Matt and Jeff Hardy, WWF
* 1998 winner: Sabu/Rob Van Dam, ECW
* 1997 winner: Sabu/Rob Van Dam, ECW
2000 ANGLE OF THE YEAR WINNER:
* The Stephanie McMahon-Vince McMahon-Shane McMahon-HHH-Kurt Angle soap opera
This is more or less a continuation of the previous year's Test and Stephanie storyline, since of course, after the aborted Test-Stephanie
"wedding", HHH and Stephanie turned heel and things moved on from there.
Wrestling is basically a testosterone soap opera with storylines as real as the soap operas that air mid-day. Vince McMahon is just admitting as much these days.
I mean...between HHH and Stephanie's "fights" over one thing or another, then Kurt Angle not-so-innocent involvement with Stephanie, then HHH-Angle fighting, then Vince showing up to threaten both of them, then Stephanie being Angle's "business advisor" to show up her "husband" who wasn't letting her get involved....etc. etc. etc. it's pure soap opera.
And in that way, it succeeded.
* 1999: Andrew Martin-Stephanie McMahon Wedding angle
* 1998 winner: Vince McMahon as heel promoter versus Steve Austin, etc.
* 1997 winner: nWo-WCW angle
2000 WORST/MOST TASTELESS ANGLES OF THE YEAR:
Stacey Keibler-David Flair and Mark Henry-Mae Young "pregnancy angles"
Most of the time, I have nothing against pregnancy angles for moral reasons, just for common sense reasons. They're generally idiotic.
There are only so many ways you can resolve one in wrestling. Either the female character "loses the baby" (which is tasteless as hell for a wrestling program as far as I'm concerned)...the couple "has the baby" where in the case of Mae Young, the "baby" turned out to be "giving birth to" a female self-pleasuring device, stupid beyond belief.
The third option, used in many TV shows, is the one when the female character is actually pregnant in real life, then you do the obvious thing, write it into the storyline...then write her out at the appropriate time.
There have been rumors (that are hopefully just that) that Vince Russo wants to come back and say Ric Flair had an affair years back with Stacey Keibler's mother, thus creating a pseudo-incest angle. At least the WWF's Ken Shamrock had the good sense to refuse to do one when the WWF suggested it with he and his "sister" Alicia Webb (aka Ryan Shamrock). God willing Time-Warner management shows the same sense.
Honorable mention goes to Edge and Christian for their remarks at Fully Loaded in Dallas: "So many people make such a big deal about the JFK assassination. Was it a lone gunman, or was it some sort of conspiracy? It doesn't make a difference, because if JFK had spent five more minutes in Dallas, he would have committed suicide anyway."
* 1999: The Paul Wight/Big Bossman "cancer angle"
* 1998 winner: Ric Flair "heart attack" angle and the Hawk/Scott Hall drug angles
* 1997 winner: DeGenerationX/Nation of Domination "racial angle"
2000 MATCHES OF THE YEAR:
* WCW Booker T vs. Jeff Jarrett, Bash At The Beach, Ocean Center, Daytona Beach, FL, June 9, 2000
* WWF Tables, Ladders and Chairs Match - Matt/Jeff Hardy vs. Dudley Boyz vs. Edge/Christian, SummerSlam, Raleigh, NC, August 27, 2000.
* ECW Psicosis-Yoshihiro Tajiri, ECW Arena, Philadelphia, PA, August 19, 2000
With Booker T and Jeff Jarrett, we got to see what happened when you took two of the best workers in the company and let them work largely free of Vince Russo's usual nonsensical bullshit.
With the TLC match you had violence, breathtaking high spots, and six men working like hell for a crowd.
And with the Psicosis-Tajiri match, you had the ECW Arena rocking life that night like it hadn't since the RVD-Lynn matches.
That's why they are the matches of the year.
* WCW Chris Benoit-Bret Hart, Monday NITRO, Kemper Arena, Kansas City, MO, October, 1999
* WWF Matt/Jeff Hardy-Edge/Christian, Tag Team Ladder Match, "No Mercy", Cleveland, OH, October 17, 1999
* ECW Rob Van Dam/Jerry Lynn, ECW Arena, Philadelphia, PA, August 28, 1999.
* WCW Chris Jericho/Eddie Guerrero-Chris Benoit/Dean Malenko, November 29th, Knoxville Civic Coliseum
* WWF Mankind (Mick Foley)-Undertaker Hell in a Cell Match "King of the Ring" PPV, June 28, 1998
* ECW Jerry Lynn-Rob Van Dam, August 8, 1998, ECW Arena
1997 winners :
* WCW Rey Mysterio, Jr.- Eddie Guerrero, WCW "Halloween Havoc" PPV, 10/27/97, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV
* WWF Shawn Michaels-Undertaker, "In Your House: Badd Blood" PPV, 10/5/97, Kiel Center, St. Louis, MO
* ECW Great Sasuke/Gran Hamada/Masato Yakushiji-TAKA Michinoku/Dick Togo/Terry Boy, "Barely Legal" PPV, 4/13/97, ECW Arena, Philadelphia, PA
2000 MICK FOLEY BRAWLER OF THE YEAR:
Wifebeater, Combat Zone Wrestling/Big Japan Pro Wrestling
I've attended CZW shows all year, seen their ups and downs, but one worker's willingness to take an absolutely psychotic amount of pain, take unmentionable bumps onto floors, into barbed wire, glass and damned near anything else.
If you're into sick, twisted stuff, witness these matches: How about a "barbed wire board/ Fluorescent Lamp Board/Lemon-salt box/Thumbtacks/ Barbed wire baseball Bat/Ice water" Death Match. He's doing it in Japan on December 3rd. Wifebeater worked Nick Gage in a ring surrounded by fluorescent tubes on June 25th in CZW. He worked Gage again the next month in a "Fans bring the Weapons" match that featured a staple gun, a bat with mouse traps glued to it, shovel, a sink, paint roller with tacks, and a lobster which Nick Gage put down Wifebeater's pants.
Until recently, he's held the promotion's "Iron Man Title" with matches in the States against the IWA/JCW's Madman Pondo, CZW's Zandig, Lobo, Hardcore Nick Gage, Ric Blade and T.C.K. In Japan, he's worked Ryuji Yamakawa and Kintaro Kanemura of FMW, Shadow WX, Tomoaki Homma, and Men's Teioh of BJPW, along with the legendary Abdullah the Butcher.
But along with the "ultraviolent" (or "hardcore", or "garbage wrestling", whichever name you prefer) style, he's incredibly physical in the ring...not reckless, but a very physical style. It's one you can feel while on the other side of the rail watching these matches.
It's not a matter of saying he's the equal of the other two to get this award. He'd be the first to say he isn't. But he deserves something for all he's put out this year.
* 1999 winner: Mick Foley/Mankind
* 1998 winner: Mick Foley (a.k.a. Cactus Jack/Mankind/Dude Love), WWF
* 1997 winner: Tommy Dreamer, ECW
2000 CARD/PPV OF THE YEAR:
WWF "Fully Loaded" Reunion Arena, Dallas, TX, July 23, 2000
Between the Jericho-HHH "Last Man Standing" match, The Rock vs Chris Benoit (even with the Benoit screwjob finish), Angle-Undertaker, the Rikishi-Val Venis Intercontinental Title Steel Cage match that featured the psycho dive off the top of the cage by Rikishi, Acolytes-Edge/Christian for the Tag Titles, and Guerrero-Saturn for the European Title, it was the most al l-around consistent effort of the year.
* 1999 winner: "Anarchy Rulz", ECW Odeum Sports and Exposition Center, Villa Park, IL, September 19, 1999
* 1998 winner: "Survivor Series", St. Louis, MO, Keil Center November 15, 1998
* 1997 winner: "Barely Legal", ECW Arena, Philadelphia, PA, April 13, 1997
2000 WORST CARD/PPV OF THE YEAR:
WCW "Slamboree", Kemper Arena, Kansas City, MO, May 7, 2000
Let's see...with a match where Terry Funk was sentenced to a "hardcore match" with Norman Smiley and noted hardcore legend Ralphus...the match where Ric Flair beat Shane Douglas in a DQ after being attacked by Vince Russo, Buff and David Flair (and where Kevin Nash put himself over again doing a run-in...the three tier cage match for the ages... one that blew away any Kobashi-Misawa match...the one where David Arquette became a WCW World Champion, and if that weren't bad enough, where Kanyon did a stunt fall from a cage to the floor in the same building where Owen Hart had been killed not even a year before.
That did it for me.
* 1999 "winner": Fall Brawl, WCW
* 1998 "winner": Fall Brawl 1998, WCW
* 1997 "winner": Hardcore Heaven 1997, ECW, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
2000 TV SHOW OF THE YEAR:
Monday Night RAW, USA Network and TNN
It's the destination show on Monday nights again this year for wrestling fans. There are some who complain that, with having beaten WCW into the ground, that the show has lost the edge it had; and that the ratings are down from it's heights of 8.1. The latter may be true, but the vast majority of wrestling fans choose RAW on Monday nights... because they aren't sure what Vince McMahon will come up with next.
That's still true.
* 1999 winner: Monday Night RAW, USA Network
* 1998 winner: Monday Night RAW, USA Network
* 1997 winner: Monday Nitro, Turner Network Television
2000 WORST TV SHOW OF THE YEAR:
Nitro has become an embarrassment to the promotion that years ago (as the NWA/WCW) was my favorite...the one that I went to the Philadelphia Civic Center to watch with anticipation each month...the one that made me feel good to be a wrestling fan back in the day when the WWF was widely referred to as "the circus".
Nitro has become an exercise in filling two hours on TNT with no continuity or plot development... with Vince Russo allowed to run an ego-indulgent circus from week to week (during his two tours of duty)....with few watchable matches... with Tony Schiavone doing a better (!?) job at imitating a carny huckster then Gene Okerlund, with Mark Madden not able to decide if he's going to play to smart marks or to be an old school heel announcer...
Nitro has become an embarrassment to Time-Warner-Turner and to every wrestling fan.
* 1999 "winner" Monday Nitro, TNT
* 1998 "winner": Music City Wrestling TV
* 1997 "winner": USWA Television, USWA
2000 TV ANNOUNCER OF THE YEAR:
Make fun of his often imitated phrases, if you want.
Complain that he's pushing his cookbook and the various extra-curricular activities of WWFE too much on the air.
But tell me that there is a better English-speaking wrestling announcer in North America. Or one who does a better and more consistent job of getting over the matches in the ring.
I doubt you will.
Ross has become the standard of excellence by which all other living announcers are measures. As Jim Ross himself has frequently stated, the standard that he will always try to measure himself against is Gordon Solie.
* 1999 winner: Jim Ross, WWF
* 1998 winner: Jim Ross, WWF
* 1997 winner: Mike Tenay, World Championship Wrestling
2000 WORST TV ANNOUNCER OF THE YEAR:
* 1999 "winner": Tony Schiavone
* 1998 "winner" Bert Prentice, MCW
* 1997 "winner": Tony Schiavone, WCW
2000 NEWS STORIES OF THE YEAR:
Mainstreaming of wrestling continues, WWF-ECW-TNN-USA TV network roulette, WWF goes public, PTC censorship attempts continue... but with organized efforts fighting them, WCW set to lose as much as $80 million
* 1999 stories: Deaths of Owen Hart and Brian Hildebrand, Foley's "Have A Nice Day" goes to #1 on New York Times Best-Seller List , WWF CD DEBUTS at number 4 on Billboard Chart, ECW TV on TNN, Parents Television Council censorship attempts
* 1998 stories: Changes in WWF product, making it more adult in nature; ECW's 1998 problems; Mainstream attention given the wrestling business; Jesse Ventura's election to Governorship of Minnesota
* 1997 stories: Brian Pillman death, Bret Hart leaving WWF/Title Change Doublecross
Now, as always, the unofficial awards to the naughty and to the nice...
Since it's Santa's time of year...here's some awards for the "naughty" and the "nice".
To the nice...
* To Mick Foley
Thank you for a career that's been memorable to me and more fans than you'll ever know.
I remember meeting the real-life Mick Foley, back in 1989 at Joel Goodhart's meet and greet style luncheons when Foley introduced his new wife Colette to the group at one of these luncheons; and looking at her with a warmth that would melt ice, said to us: "Well..I can't use my trademark line 'I'd rather hurt a man than make love to a woman' any more"... looked at Colette and just let loose a grin.
Those of us in Philadelphia got to meet and find out about the real Mick Foley... just another fan who dreamed of being in the business since he was a kid...the kinds of things that the rest of the country saw years later on WWF TV in the footage of Foley as a kid who cut wrestling promos and jumped off of a roof into mattresses. We got to see the Mick Foley who was a mark for the business just like us.
We've also had the opportunity to read the real-life Mick Foley tell a very real-life story in his history-making book that made the New York Times Bestseller List last year. That achievement still has those of us who have been wrestling fans for a number of years (and who had to deal with the ridicule from those who weren't) beyond amazement.
Mick Foley worked as Cactus Jack all over the world, in the USWA, World Class, Continental, WCW, ECW, and IWA/Japan with some of the wildest spots ever and in some of the most insane "death matches" ever... involving barbed wire, thumb tacks, exploding mine, and fire matches.
If you never saw a Mick Foley match, his career would be memorbale for one match: Hell In The Cell II.
I sat in front of the TV that June night with several friends who work in wrestling, and watched the match, figuring on seeing something special. But I had no idea what I was about to see. As the match began, and Mick Foley ascended to the top of the giant Hell in the Cell cage...then moved to the edge of the cage, I thought "No...not even HE'S going to try that...". But as we all know, he did. Off of the top of the cage and through the announcers table... Then Foley came back to the match...If that wasn't bad enough, he then went THROUGH the cage, driving a tooth into his nose and knocking himself silly. If that still wasn't enough, he decided to take bumps into thumb tacks.
I remember writing in this column that, while the Hell in the Cell match was something never to be forgotten, I hoped I'd never see anything like that again. I still cringe when I see the spot replayed. Even Vince McMahon was quoted as saying backstage to Mick Foley that he never wanted to see him do it again.
Then there was the 1999 Royal Rumble, which featured the most horrifying site I've ever seen in wrestling: the ten unprotected chair shots to the head.
Foley ended his career this year (with the exception of the one match at WrestleMania) with his memorable matches against HHH. When you've seen as many matches as I have, there aren't that many that make you throw disbelief right out the window and root for one wrestler to win like an eight year old kid. Mick's last match with HHH was like that for me. I felt down when Vince McMahon didn't let him go out on top, and still do...even if it was the right thing for long-term business.
* To Gordon Solie
I was fortunate enough to briefly meet Gordon Solie at the NWA 50th Anniversary Celebration in 1998. He had recently lost his wife, and one could hear the hoarseness in his voice that turned out to be the throat cancer that was to take away the most memorable voice of any wrestling commentator in our lifetime. Even with all that, the "Walter Cronkite of professional wrestling" was still incredibly gracious and didn't mind sharing a few stories and some memories of the old days.
I'm proud to have received a letter from Solie's daughter thanking me for mentioning him. But it wasn't hard at all to write those thoughts.
Especially when I could talk about an announcer so talented that I could point him out to friends and family back in those days where you hid the fact that you were a wrestling fan like it was some dirty secret. I could point to Gordon Solie doing Georgia Championship Wrestling, or the Championship Wrestling from Florida tapes that ran on a local Philadelphia TV station. I could say "Look... it's not always such a circus..listen to him". Gordon Solie converted more than one friend or family member of mine through his simple and dignified on-air presentation.
Gordon, to paraphrase your trademark line that you ended each and every Championship Wrestling from Florida show with...from all of us who love this unique form of entertainment called professional wrestling "So long, Gordon, from the Sunshine State of Florida...from the United States, and from those of us all over the world."
To the naughty...
* To the webmaster of Feel Our Pain.com who didn't think that my mentioning the story of Jeff Peterson, the indy wrestler mentioned twice this year for his battle with cancer was worthy of his website. I hope he learns that whether or not Austin goes over Benoit on a PPV isn't as important as the real life stories of those in the business he claims to be a fan of. One other thing: hopefully he never suffers the same lack of care he gave that brave young man, even if he deserves it.
* To former NWA promoter Dennis Coraluzzo, who decided to do a "shoot tape" in which he decided to mention me and a friend of mine (and former employee of his) in a manner I won't dignify by outlining. I will say that the woman he slandered is a far better human being than he could ever dream of being. She's a better person for not having given him exactly what he deserved.
He'll have to deal with the consequences of his many actions through the legal system if he's lucky...or worse if he isn't. I have no doubt in my mind that he will have to deal with the consequences of his actions far sooner than his unending arrogance tells him he will.
* To the unknown person(s) who sent computer viruses to John Woods of Wrestling Fans Against Censorship; individuals that more than a few people suspect had major problems with the stance WFAC and others have taken against the actions of the PTC... the truth will come out sooner than you think about your hero Mr. Bozell and what he's been doing. That truth is exactly what we've said all along; that L. Brent Bozell is a fraud, a hypocrite, and a political extremist well outside of the political mainstream of the United States.
As the facts come public, his political friends will scatter like the wind, and he will stand all alone as a pathetic figure whose time is done.
Watching him will be your ultimate payback for what you did to John Woods.
That's the AS I SEE IT year in review.
Until next time...
(If you have comments or questions, I can be reached by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)