Lex Express

A curiosity regarding Wrestlemania 10.  If the plan in mid-1993 was for Lex Luger to win the WWF Title from Yokozuna at Wrestlemania, why the double-winner booking at the Royal Rumble and double title defense at WMX?  We hear the urban legend about Luger blabbing about the title win and having the booking changed as a result, but what was the original intent with the dual main events?  Just an experiment?  Or was the Luger title win really never set in stone leading up to the show?

It was never set in stone.  They wanted Luger to chase the title for longer, but then they were waffling as usual and went with Bret instead.  As for the co-mains, here’s Meltzer after Royal Rumble 94:

In hindsight, the idea of the tie in the Rumble leading to the two title matches on the same show is a good one. This show’s biggest draw is not any matches, but the name "Wrestlemania," as evidenced by the show selling out in just a few days, before any matches had even been announced. However, neither Yokozuna vs. Luger or Yokozuna vs. Hart on their own is a box office bonanza as a main event. Luger’s popularity has cooled considerably since SummerSlam, and even that show, one of the most well promoted cards in history and with Luger riding a wave of publicity that should have but didn’t make him the No. 1 name in the business, did a disappointing buy rate. While not as focused as a singular title main event, there is no title main event that is ready to knock them dead at the box office so selling intrigue may hide the fact that neither match on their own is a killer at the box office.

So basically they didn’t have faith in Luger headlining alone.

Foxy Boxing

Hi Scott – haven’t seen anything pop up on the Blog since the press conference, so just wondered what your thoughts were on the seven year deal the UFC have inked with Fox?
Is it coming at the right time for the sport?
Do you see any potential downsides to it?
What do you think about TUF going live weekly?
Also – slightly related, if you do write another book, what are then chances ut would be an MMA one instead of wrestling focussed?

If they can avoid injuries in their main events, they have a deep enough roster right now that it’s definitely the right time for it.  Downside is that Fox isn’t known for their long-term planning and dedication to new things if they don’t immediately work out, but if UFC can snag football or Idol’s demos, it’ll go through the roof.  Ultimate Fighter going live is exactly the kick in the nuts that the show needs and I’m glad Fox pushed for it.  And there’s zero chance of me doing an MMA book. 

Rey the GOAT?

Hey Scott, got a question here, in the list of contenders for GOAT, why do you think that it’s always the more traditional wrestlers that get the rub, the Bret Hart’s, Bryan Danielson’s and Chris Benoit’s, the suplexers, the technical wrestlers, those with an amateur background.  But I believe that there are wrestlers of different styles that are just as good, if not better than this cadre of elite wrestlers.  In particular, I’m talking about high fliers.
Rey Mysterio is a wrestler that has been held up as one of the best in the business, and his consistently fantastic matches for 20+ years certainly back that theory up.  But as great as Rey Mysterio is and no matter how many five star matches he has, people disregard his talent, they call him overpushed, or a bad mic worker, or accuse him of wrestling the same matches, the thing is, you could throw these claims at many other contenders for GOAT, but they get excused because of their in-ring ability.  So if we’re judging Rey just on his in-ring talent (and honestly his ability as a draw is pretty underrated too) doesn’t he go up their as one of the greatest of all time, or at least greatest still working?  He has perfect babyface psychology, is an awesome seller and still has one of the most varied and extensive movesets on the roster.  People say that his moves don’t look like they can hurt, but if we buy a vertical suplex and the Sharpshooter as legitimately painful moves, how can we say that a moonsault doesn’t make any sense?
So, what are your thoughts on this phenomenon?  You yourself said that Kurt Angle carried him to a good match.  Why do we immediately jump to congratulating the technical wrestler when a quality match happens.  Why do we ignore the talent of wrestlers because they hit splashes instead of suplexes and ranas instead of leglocks?

Uh, I didn’t know there was a movement towards technicians or against high-flyers in the first place.  I’ve long considered Randy Savage to be probably the greatest all-around wrestler, and he mixed high-flying with brawling.  I have nothing against Rey, but I’d say wrestling mostly the same type of match over and over and roiding himself to the point of explosion kind of hurts his chances. 

Wrestling Is Not Cyclical

Scott –
Hey, since I am just getting back from Memphis, I thought I would pull the strap down and drop the fist in one of the more inane memes in wrestling fandom: "the professional wrestling business has always been and always will be cyclical."
This is wrong on so many levels.
1) And most obviously – the professional wrestling business has not "always been cyclical" because, it has not "always been".  It might be 100 years old, at best, the territory system more like 70 years old, and it died out; the modern wrestling era is not quite 30 years old; it’s been around a decade since the end of the Attitude era, which is gone.  It’s not anything like saying sunspots or the precession of the equinoxes are cyclical, but people say it with same decree of certainty.
2) At best, people make statistical generalizations based on maybe two data points and call that a trend.  It’s not.  The professional wrestling business may be down for good.  I don’t know, and neither does anyone else.
3) Game changers.  For years, a certain segment of the audience thought wrestling was not staged.  Like professional magicians when they show how their tricks work, once pro wrestling broke kayfabe it may have been only a matter of time before they lost audience, or, were left with the only segment of the population who still believes – kids.  Another game changer is MMA.  Why watch staged violence when you can see the real thing, particularly one that has learned a lot from wrestling as to how to stage events?
4) Divergence of audience tastes.  When Austin caught fire, virtually everyone liked him.  These days, that is virtually impossible, because adult men like certain wrestlers (in general, there are exceptions) while women & children like other wrestlers (like John Cena).  People who say "no one likes John Cena" aren’t listening to over half the audience, apparently because of the higher pitch if their voices.  Women and kids like the more traditional baby faces, guys like cool heels, and that may not change, or it may, I don’t know.
The upshot is, wrestling had a few cycles during it’s brief history as we know it (it has existed in barely related forms for ages, if one wants to go there), but there have been one-time changes that may have changed that business for ever (breaking kayfabe and MMA) and changes in tastes that have made a universal baby face character hard to achieve anymore.  It’s very possible that the only cycle we will see from now on is one where WWE reaches Impact Wrestling levels of cultural irrelevance.

Couldn’t have said it better.

UFC Rio Roundtable

Hey Scott!  I just want to THANK YOU again for your continued participation and support.  It means a lot!
Here is the link for The Roundtable Preview for UFC 134: Rio.
http://www.ultimatesportstalk.com/MMA/2011/08/26/the-roundtable-preview-for-ufc-134-rio/
Also, if you wouldn’t mind plugging my online Radio/Ustream show, The Ultimate Fight Show(http://www.blogtalkradio.com/theultimatefightshow and/or http://www.ustream.tv/theultimatefightshow).  LIVE, every Saturday at Noon ET, or also OnDemand at those same links.

I don’t see this one going well for Yushin Okami. 

Change For A Dollar

Hey Scott, All this discussion in recent months (years, really) about what is wrong with the current product/business, who should or shouldn’t be pushed, why so-and-so isn’t working, decisions that are tanking business growth, etc, got me thinking about an elephant in the room. As always I could be completley off here, but I really don’t think the issues that have plagued the business for the past decade aren’t as clear, cut and simple as "John Cena gets pushed too much" or "the titles don’t mean anything" – both of which I agree with to an extent, but I think we are ignoring a more complicated (ina strange way, fundemental) problem here. Let me lay this out with question: when was the last time you watched an episode of RAW or Smackdown that, with the exception of a some notable segments, matches or roster differences, felt like it could have taken place any time within the last 8 or 9 years? THIS has been my biggest hurdle to latching onto any regular viewing habit, the simple fact that the business has seemingly fallen victim to Mr. Freeze’s ice gun, because it hasn’t  moved since the original season of American Idol. Raw and Smackdown (and I won’t even get into TNA) are the same shows following the same formulas, norms, rules, presentation, and outlines featuring the same characters, promos, segments and matches over and over again, save for a few aforementioned details. For years I’ve gotten almost the exact same level of satisfaction and entertainment by reading online recaps than I would half-sleeping through a program. And why? I already know what is going to happen, or at the very least I feel like what had transpired on the show rarely warrants an actual viewing, because I can get the same effect hearing or reading about it. Show starts, Guy comes out and talks from script, Other Guy does the same, RAW GM makes match later, backstage segment, 3 minute match, announcers bickers, backstage comedy segment, 3 minute match, backstage segment, announcers bicker… Let’s get metaphorical: the WWE’s problem isn’t merely that their living room is in disarray (Cena and Orton are around too much), the dishes are piling up (too many titles, don’t mean anything), a lot of the rooms needs remodeling (new interesting characters, fresh booking) or the attic isn’t finished (little growth or few new ideas) – it’s the fact that their entire house is old and unsightly. The entire thing needs to make close friends with a wrecking ball. They need to move, establish a completely new way of producing and presenting a professional wrestling/sports entertainment product, just like they did during the Golden Era, the Attitude Era or, say, in 1993 when they first concieved Monday Night Raw and brought their act to a smaller, more personal venue for no other reason than to really change (I’m using the RAW move as an example, not a specific plea to repeat this particular formula). Does any of this make sense or do I need to crawl back into my hole for a while?

Makes perfect sense.  The interchangeable nature of the RAW shows is part of the reason why it’s so hard to remember anything about the shows from 2001ish until now.  They have their formula and there’s no incentive for them to break free from it.  Remember how fun and memorable the Old School episode was?  Different can be good.  I’ve said a few times they should break out of the box and do something silly like shooting from a train station ala the old Shotgun Saturday Night shows, or from Central Park or something.  Have some FUN with it again. 

The SmarK Rant for Impact! Wrestling–08.25.11

http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2011/08/26/the-smark-rant-for-impact-wrestling-08-25-11/

I have no idea what happened on this show.  None.

Your mandatory cheapshot:  If Ric Flair managed Fortune, they would likely be seized by the IRS.

Oh, and another thing.  They spend the whole show building up the “Bound For Glory” series, and then at the end of the show they’re like “No Surrender in three weeks!”   That’s some awesome PPV salesmanship right there.

Apter Responds

Hi Scott: Thank you for all your past support but I’m a bit confused about a recent column someone sent me. In it you mention that I was  "paid by the Crockett people." Nothing is further from the truth and I wish you would clear that up immediately. It bothers me when people don’t take the time to find out the facts before things like this are written. Again, I respect your writing and style so this really surprised me. The truth of this matter is that Crockett Promotions offered us a spot on their shows to promote our magazines. It was good business for both parties as PWI was on national TV and that also lent extra credibility to their product (having a magazine that was distributed all over the world interviewing their talent on TV).  WWF had the same opportunity available but had their own magazine and just like not recognizing other promotions, they chose not to recognize the magazines.

Thanks for writing.  I’ve always heard, from more than one source, that Crockett had actually paid for coverage and awards, but if not, then you have my apologies and hopefully this sets the record straight.  I’m of course a huge fan of the PWI magazines going back to my earliest days as a wrestling fan, so it was always upsetting to think that things weren’t on the up-and-up. 

Mo titles, mo problems

Since you did a question about wrestler’s title reign harming them, how about the opposite. What are examples of wrestler’s not winning a title harmed their career?  The classic example is usually Lex Luger not winning the title at Summerslam, thereby getting the choker label. But are there other examples? Or maybe by the time they won it, it was too late?
Also, are there wrestler’s that you think should have held a title (any title) that would have helped cement their legacy?  For example, I’ve always thought Brutus Beefcake should have had at least one reign as IC champion. Yes, he was tag team champion, but who honestly even remembers that.  He was way more popular as a singles.
I also think The Big Bossman should have gotten the IC title from Mr. Perfect at Wrestlemania 6.

Wrestlemania 7. Anyway, Luger at Bash 88 was actually much more harmful than Luger at Summerslam 93.  Yeah, they wanted him to be the next Hogan, but they didn’t NEED him to be.  Crockett, on the other hand, was losing money hand over fist and NEEDED someone to be the next big thing on top of the promotion.  Had Luger destroyed Flair and won the title, then lost it back at Starrcade if they needed to, they could have done quite well with him on top.  By the time Luger got to Summerslam, he was already a multiple time choker. 

Title values

I’m a long time reader and have recently enjoyed you responses to questions so I thought I’d throw one at you:
I’ve just started watching WWE again after a lengthy hiatus and was wondering how you felt about the impact that the brand split has had on the value of the WWE/World Heavyweight Championships?
If I could elaborate, back when I first starting watching wrestling in the 90’s there were never more than just a few former champions in the promotion at one time so it felt like the claim to have held the big belt at one time was something special. Watching SmackDown last week I can’t say I felt the same way about Khali, Swagger

The split mostly destroyed the Smackdown title, because no one gives a shit about that belt.  Like really, is anyone dying to see Orton v. Mark Henry at the PPV?  That being said, they might as well pull the trigger and put the belt on Mizark.  But yeah, I’ve said it many times before, but belts mean nothing.  They were doing a good job with the RAW belt during the initial Punk run, but then it went Cena – Punk – Rey – Cena – Punk – ADR in the span of a month and now I hope to god they let Del Rio run with it for more than a week before they throw it back on Cena again. 

Apter Mags

Scott,
Long time fan, and I love your work.
Just a quick few questions regarding the "Apter Mags" of the 80’s and 90’s. 
First off, I was always wondering why, whenever there was a kayfabe interview in, say, PWI, that it was never with a WWF superstar (at least in the late 80’s – early 90’s, when I was reading it). Also, it seemed that every time there was an article detailing a WWF personality, they would never quote that wrestler. Instead, they would have someone else discuss the individual. I know these "quotes" and "interviews" were all kayfabed, but was there some rife between Apter & McMahon that prevented PWI and the others from "fake quoting" these WWF guys? It seemed as though the NWA/WCW/AWA guys, as well as all the indy dudes, were always kayfabe interviewed and quoted, just not McMahon’s guys.
Also, while I get that these mags were geared toward kids, it always bothered me, even in my youth, how these wrestlers were quoted. Namely, when a guy like Ric Flair would be quoted referring to himself as "a rulebreaker", and say things like "I’m turning bad". This just sounded very unlike how these dudes would actually speak, and even when I was thirteen, it sounded extremely stupid. 
If you can use your wisdom to clear up these goofy questions, and add any more that you can about the "Apter mags", I would very much appreciate it.

Yeah, Vince hated the Apter mags because he wanted WWF Magazine to be the only source for wrestling journalism, basically.  Plus Crockett paid Apter to pretty much turn the magazines into pro-NWA propaganda.  Dusty Rhodes winning Most Popular wrestler in 1987, during the peak of the Megapowers, is the most egregious example I can think of off the top of my head. 

Quick hits

In the continuing effort to clean out my inbox, here’s a few very quick questions. 

Long time fan.  I got a quick one: What’s your take on Zack Ryder?

He’s OK, I guess.  He wasn’t terribly thrilling when he was tag champ, but his “Bradley Cooper stuck in the 80s” gimmick is at least different.

Edge or Christian?

Edge has had a lot of great and memorable matches, whereas Christian has a lot of good matches and no bad ones, but you don’t tend to remember them.  So Edge.

Scott,
As a former Demolition mark, did you ever want to see an updated version of the team over the years?  It’s not as if Bill Eadie and Barry Darsow were amazing in the ring, but the Demolition name, look, and MUSIC were awesome and they were quite over in their heyday.  I kind of thought a mid-90s version with Crush and Adam Bomb in an updated Demo garb could have been cool, especially when teams like the Smoking Gunns, Men on a Mission, etc were about the best you were going to get from the division at the time.  Also, can you see a modern Demolition being viable today?

Kronik kind of were an updated Demolition, and we saw how well that worked out.  They’re gone, let it go.

Ummm….interesting?
http://deadspin.com/5830900/a-definitive-taxonomy-of-pro-wrestling-gimmicks

Interesting but they left a bunch of stuff out, which bigger nerds than I have already picked apart. 

Hi Scott,
Thought this might make for some interesting general discussion on the blog since we all have different opinions about spoilers in general (wrestling, TV, movies):
http://kotaku.com/5830092/spoiler-alert-people-like-spoilers

Interesting, as I too have been trying to avoid Breaking Bad spoilers until I can get past season one.  OK, that’s all I got for now.

The SmarK Rant for AWA Classic Championship Wrestling on ESPN Classic (08.17.11)

http://wrestling.insidepulse.com/2011/08/20/the-smark-rant-for-awa-championship-wrestling-on-espn-classic-08-17-11/ I’m drawn to this show like a car wreck.  It’s like when you’re walking down the street and see people beating up a ginger kid, and you’re like “Man, I should help that poor freak” but then you stop and take a video for Youtube instead because it’s hilarious.  But you feel bad about it afterwards.  Like that.

Montreal-ish

Is there any other instance of a ‘Montreal-type’ situation taking place or nearly taking place?  In Japan maybe?  We hear about the standoffs, refusals to job, and general bickering about match results, but was there ever another instance in a wrestling promotion in which that kind of outcome either came about or nearly occured?  Thanks

Uh, to say the least, YES.  That’s why everyone came to warn Bret about getting screwed, because this kind of shit happened ALL THE TIME back in the day.  I don’t have a list handy because it would take forever, but Montreal was mainly notable for being the first time it happened on live TV in the so-called “modern era”, when wrestling was supposed to be out of the smoky bingo halls and run by a more sophisticated group of aristocrats instead of the skeevy promoters who would do that sort of thing in the past.  That used to be why the NWA would favor guys like Lou Thesz, who could take care of themselves if some two-bit promoter decided he wanted to do an unauthorized title change in his territory.  I mean, would you want to go in there and try to shoot on Terry Funk? 

Pointless WM9 fantasy booking

Uh oh, another “How to retroactively save WM9” post.   You know, Superman learned many times not to try to go back and change the past, because it just never works out.  But what the heck, let’s check it out. 

Thought this might be a good blog discussion, although this may have been covered before.  I recently watched WM9, and although I don’t hate the show as much as others, every time I watch it I always think what they could’ve done to make it a better show.  With a few tweaks here and there, it could’ve been up there with other great WM’s.  So of course, I had to think about it and come up with a plan like others probably do.  And for this card to happen, it really would involve only two little things to make it work:

Convincing Ric Flair to stick around for a couple more months, and Marty Jannetty not pulling a Marty Jannetty the night before the Royal Rumble and showing up in the condition he was reportedly in for his match with HBK  (I know, that one is a bit of a stretch and probably makes the following even more pointless than it already is) So here’s what I wish they would’ve done.  First, the matches left the same: -Steiners vs Headshrinkers – keep it the same, nice little power tag match -Crush vs Doink – I’m one of the few who actually liked the “fake Doink” thing they did there, it would’ve been fine if they hadn’t repeated it for six months afterwards -Hogan & Beefcake vs Money Inc. – If they wanted to bring Hogan back, this match was fine (just chop like 5-10 minutes off.)  Plus the Beefcake angle on Raw to set it up was cool.  Hell, give Hogan the tag titles for all I care, maybe that would’ve made him satisfied (that’s a huge reach, I know) -Undertaker vs Giant Gonzales – Undertaker was going through his “fighting giants, monsters & freaks” thing no matter what, so no need to change it.  Just get rid of the dumb chloroform thing; that chops like 10 minutes off right there.  Maybe Mr. Hughes debuts as Whippleman’s manager, causes a big DQ, and Kamala comes down to even the odds and make his peace with the guy that stuffed him in a casket?  Yeah that’s dumb, too. Here’s the matches I would change: -IC title:  HBK vs Marty Jannetty – set it up as Marty’s last chance, give them as much time as the Tatanka match, let them go all out and HBK just gets by with a pin.  Then maybe over the next few weeks Jannetty (realizing he’ll never get another shot and perhaps HBK’s just better than him) does the whole “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” thing, and joins back up with HBK as a part-time heel Rockers?  Can you imagine a heel Rockers vs Steiners match? -Tatanka vs Bam Bam Bigelow – these two feuded after WM anyway, right?  Have it start here.  Play up Tatanka’s undefeated streak.  Throughout the match Bigelow gets more frustrated that he can’t put Tatanka down so he snaps and gets himself DQ’d and beats the ever-loving hell out of him. -Owen Hart/Tito Santana vs Razor Ramon – gotta keep Razor on here, but instead of Backlund I was thinking Owen.  They did a little thing during the buildup to the Rumble where Razor took out Owen to get to Bret, so settle it here.  I remember reading though that Owen may have been hurt during this time; if so stick Tito in there to keep his WM streak going.  Razor wins though no matter who it is. -Mr. Perfect vs Ric Flair – do the career match from Raw here.  Save Luger for post WM shows.  Heenan’s upset that Perfect retired his meal ticket, so he brings in Luger to deal with it. -Earthquake vs Yokozuna – have the Natural Disasters be the ones to dump Yoko from the Rumble; Yoko wins in a squash.  Or if they’re really determined to put Yoko over as a monster, have him face both Earthquake and Typhoon, I don’t care.  Promote it as the heaviest match of all time or something. -World title:  Bret Hart vs Randy Savage – give Bret a big win over someone that can really put him over as the star of the future. What do you think?  If you really want to get wacky, post WM you can have Bret and Savage be “rivals who respect each other” but they’re both leery as Hogan’s around and they know it’s only a matter of time until he sticks his nose in the world title picture.  And then Yokozuna can be the monster that all three of them have to deal with?  Love to know everyone’s else’s thoughts.      

Pillmanized

I got a couple of questions that I don’t think his DVD really goes into
it.
1.) I know Pillman created the "Loose Cannon" persona to basically
trick Eric Bischoff into firing him, but what exactly was Bischoff’s
reason/plan for trying to work the wrestlers/employees in WCW with
this? Was he hoping that Pillman would work out this character in ECW,
then bring him back as anti-authority figure/rebel like Stone Cold
Steve Austin, maybe to battle the NWO? Was this supposed to be knock at
the WWE/Vince McMahon, since Pillman used to be Austin’s tag team
partner? Even if that was the plan, I still don’t see the reason to try
to work his employees.
2.) I know ECW was the rebel "anything can happen" organization, but
surely they must have been hoping they would have gotten alot more out
of Pillman besides a few promos/skits. Like maybe an actual wrestling
match?  Did they have any plans for him, even short-term ones?

The question of what exactly anyone, Pillman included, was hoping to get out of the Loose Cannon deal is a tough one.  I know Pillman was planning to go back to WCW after his “fake” firing, but the accident left him in a really bad bargaining position and he pretty much had to take the guaranteed WWF money instead.  By the time he was in ECW he was so deep into the work that lots of people commented on how he was losing track of the whole reason why he was doing it.  So no, ECW had no plans for him aside from screwing with the big two, and I don’t even think Bischoff had plans for him if he was to return.