Archive for the ‘Wrestling’ Category

1973 saw the premiere of The World at War. Considered a landmark in the history of British television, this World War II documentary was considered ahead of its time in rekindling interest in military history.

A generation later, World at War producer Jeremy Isaacs returned to produce the Cold War documentary for CNN and BBC.

Last August, the most important documentary of our generation debuted, its final two episodes aired in early January of 2015. This documentary aired on the WWE Network. This documentary, was the Monday Night Wars.

For the uninitiated, the Monday Night War was a period from September 4th, 1995 t March 26th 2001, during which the TNT network aired WCW Monday Nitro, head to head against WWF Monday Night Raw. Considered by many fans to be wrestling’s greatest era, early on WCW was dominant, with a villainous Hulk Hogan leading the groundbreaking NWO faction. WWF later fought back, with it’s Attitude Era and new edgy stars like DX, the Rock, Mankind, and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Eventually WWF purchased WCW in early 2001, hence winning the Monday Night Wars.

The first episode features the background of the rivalry between Ted Turner and Vince McMahon, how Eric Bischoff became head of WCW and started the Monday Nitro program. The first episode of Nitro is highlighted, with it airing live from the Mall of America and the surprise appearance of Lex Luger.

The following episode features the NWO, which included the most shocking heel turn ever, Hogan going bad. His reluctance to turn heel is mentioned, as is how innovative and real life the story line felt.

At this point one of the weaknesses of the documentary becomes apparent. Every episode feels the need to spend 5-10 minutes recapping what we already knew, or at least learned in the first episode. So basically there could be up to 190 minutes of material you already heard, that’s almost like losing 3 episodes.

It’s interesting to see who appeared for an interview for this and who did not. We get Vince McMahon, Vince Russo, Lex Luger, Hogan, Nash, HBK. There are a few older clips of Vince, Bischoff, and others. However there are no interviews of Sting, Madusa, Chyna, and very little of the Undertaker. I can’t help but wonder what was a bigger factor in not having Chyna, her past relationship with HHH, or that she is a porn star during the now PG era of WWE. There’s an old interview from Ted Turner from 1998 where he talks about WCW. (This interview, often the same segment of it is played repeatedly throughout various episodes). An exclusive Ted Turner interview would have been gold.

Each episode is given a specific topic. The third episode is about the WWF Attitude Era, followed by episodes for DX, Foely, and Bret Hart. It was interesting to see how Bret and HBK were friends early on, when WWF started its “Youth movement.” It’s generalized how WCW didn’t use Hart well but it’s not followed up on specifically. (And they show Hart with the WCW belt.) An ECW episode follows telling how Vince invested in the company and how they kept losing their roster to WCW. An Austin episode airs before going back to WCW with the Cruiserweights (where see Benoit and hear his name said) and Goldberg, where the numbers of his undefeated streak are called into question, and CM Punk says no, in fact he was not and Austin Clone. Then we go back to WWF with the Rock.

The best episode is easily Diva’s gone wild, even though Madusa isn’t interviewed for it. After the Madusa incident, where she appeared on Nitro and threw the WWF women’s title in the garbage, the WWF legitimately did not have a women’s title for 3 years after this. Chyna is covered even though she wasn’t interviewed for this. They also cover Sunny and Sable and how the Diva’s evolved over time. (It should be said that WCW’s women’s division is given little to no coverage)

The following celebrity episode was very interesting, but the most disappointing episode was about Sting and the Undertaker and how neither of them jumped ship. This episode aired after Survivor Series of 14, where Sting finally made his WWE debut. A good portion of the episode is spent time speculating on why neither of them ever switched sides, and it simply boggles the mind why nobody just asked them. Again Sting does not appear on camera for this at all, Undertaker briefly appears in a few other episodes, but not this one. Why on Earth would they not simply just ask the guys? They both work for the company right now. For God sakes it’s not like they’re both dead!

While that was the most disappointing episode the following one was probably the dumbest. Fifteen episodes in and we keep getting the narrative that WCW lost because they didn’t build new stars. Now this episode tries to say how they did. They talk about the Giant (Big Show) and how he “beat” Hogan to become champion in his first ever match. They don’t mention how that match is considered one of the all-time goofiest things in wrestling, with the YET-TAY (big giant guy wrapped up like a mummy) coming to the ring and he and the Giant dry hump Hogan. Also not mentioned is how in the storyline the title gets vacated anyway and Macho Man wins it at the next PPV (ala WMIV) which was WW3, WCW’s attempt to out-do the Royal Rumble.

We get an episode on the Kliq, how one group of friends influenced both companies. The next to last two episodes are Mistakes on the Battlefield and the Fall of WCW. Here we see Bischoff’s frustrations in the later years and Russo’s tenure at WCW. The lawsuit between Hogan and Russo is mentioned but not covered much. The general disarray of WCW’s final days is covered, from the later gimmicks to the KISS appearance to the Viagra on a pole match. The Oklahoma gimmick mocking J.R. is ignored. Russo still defends putting the title on David Arquette, because it got a mention in USA today. They keep the traditional narrative of Nash and Hogan played politics and didn’t let new talent flourish, but we don’t really get Hogan and Nash’s side of the story. I would have liked some coverage on the Thursday night war too, when Smackdown and Thunder aired head to head.

The final episode covers the purchase of WCW by WWF, and how the Invasion angle was underwhelming due to the contract situations. It is mentioned how WCW had no TV deal, and it is suggested that WWF couldn’t air WCW programming on another network due to the nature of their contract with TNN (on which RAW aired at the time). However they did air Smackdown at this time so I would have like to have seen that clarified more.

The subsequent years of various WCW alumni appearing are covered, as is the return of Hogan/Hall/Nash to WWF and how they came in with their NWO gimmick. Interestingly they say there was this Executive Creative Control table that voted against bringing Hogan back, but Vince over ruled them.

There was a sports writer that appeared for this documentary, and he said that in the history of television, there’s never been two sports federations that went head to head. That was an interesting insight.

The Monday Night Wars is one of my personal obsessions, and because of that I knew a lot about it going into this. However, despite my criticisms above, it did offer a lot of insight into various aspects of that time. I would have liked to have seen a few things be elaborated on, but that’d probably be the case no matter what.

The Monday Night Wars documentary is a fun nostalgia trip that offered some good insights into wrestling’s greatest era. However, ultimately, as a documentary, it was a little disappointing. In conclusion, it’s obvious that someone needs to write a book about the Monday Night Wars, and that someone just might have to be me.

(Note, some of this is rehashed from an earlier blog now deleted.)

One year ago at this very moment, the second Monday Night Wars began. While some hoped a new great era in wrestling was begining, the truth was the second Monday Night War was not even a war, it was more of a skirmish.

The original Monday Night Wars, when WCW aired Nitro head to head against WWF Raw, is considered to be one of wrestling’s greatest eras. It lasted from 9/4/95 to 3/26/01, ending when WWF bought out WCW.

In the wake of WCW’s demise, wrestler Jeff Jarret started his own company in 2002, TNA, or Total Nonstop Action. It started small, initially broadcasting exclusively on Pay Per View. Eventually it got a weekly show called TNA Impact on Spike TV, broadcasting on Thursday Nights. In late 2009, it was announced that Hogan and Eric Bischoff, (Who ran WCW) joined TNA.

On Monday, January 4th, 2010, Impact aired from 8-11pm with the TNA debut of Hulk Hogan. This was the first time in almost a decade that a wrestling program went head to head against Raw, which airs 9-11pm. TNA did not beat RAW, but got 2.2 million viewers, it’s most ever.

On the heels of this they broadcast Impact every Monday starting March 8th, from 9-11, the same time as Raw. The ratings were not as good, and it moved from 8-10 on April 5th as a trial run, continuing that time slot the next week. However, the last Monday Impact was May 3rd, as it moved back to Thursdays on 5/13, hence ending the second Monday Night War.

The ratings were never even close (Impact did rate higher than secondary WWE shows like NXT and Superstars). Management said from the beginning they didn’t expect to beat Raw, but just grow their own audience, they did neither.

In fairness they brought as many big names as they could. With Hogan came Bischoff, Ric Flair, the Nasty Boys, and Hogan’s friend/shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge,  Mr. Anderson (WWE’s Mr. Kennedy), and their biggest in ring acquisitions of course were Jeff Hardy and RVD. Later in the year WWE diva Mickie James returned to TNA. (She had wrestled there in 2003) They also had Hogan’s daughter Brooke in the audience, but wasn’t utilized much. Brooke has her own fanbase, which could have been tapped more by giving her a music segment. She could have even had a conflict with the women wrestlers, maybe help manage one of them similar to the Cyndi Lauper/Captain Lou Alabano angle of the 1980s. Even more outlandish would have been something like Abyss kidnaping her, using viral media to build a story about trying to find her. Speaking of female talent I like that they have a women’s tag division. With the women wrestlers they have real matches as well as girly stuff.

Bischoff said when he started Nitro back in 95 he thought of every way he could to make it different from WWF. Hence he aired live (Raw was taped at the time), used wrestlers real names, had international wrestlers, smaller acrobatic wrestlers like Benoit and Guerrero etc. Biscoff did not follow his own logic this time around. TNA used to have a six sided ring, which made for innovative matches, especially in the tag team division. The six sided ring was ditched immediately last year in favor of a traditional 4 sided ring. The X Division, their championship division of high flyers was not pushed enough. They could have shook that up for example by Hogan declaring the title vacant and holding a Super X Cup tournament, a tournament they had in the past.

In short what TNA needed to do was sell the image to the general public that TNA is the place for cutting edge wrestling, and has been for a number of years. One thing wrestlers like about TNA is the easy schedule because all the IMPACTS are taped in Orlando. To grow their audience they need to have a few tapings on the road, (They’re just now considering this) with Hogan and TNA originals doing autograph sessions. TNA needs to sell the notion that they are the future of wrestling. They have a partnership with youtube where old matches can be viewed in their entriety. They should have advertised this on Impact and featured some of those videos on their website to show the general public the kind of wrestling they had in the past and promise more was to come in the future. (They did a short lived tv show called TNA Epix, but I’ll get to that later.) All the different matches that made TNA unique needed to be featured last year, World X Cup Tournaments, Super X Cup Tournament, King of the Mountain, etc.

Instead they recycled old wrestlng angles like the Montreal Screwjob, NWO, Hogan turning heel, and ECW. Not that that’s bad by itself, but many of these angles were just kind of there without the impact or shock value that originally had or still could have had.

They’re tried to recreate the NWO angle with Nash, Hall, and Waltman in a group called The Band. It didn’t have near the impact the NWO angle had, as they obviously weren’t invading from the WWF (The initial idea of the NWO) and didn’t really shake things up. They were just another group vying for the tag team titles. The Band needed to truly disrupt the show, attack the announcers, get kicked out of the building etc, They could have even teased the possibility that they were invading from WWE, by saying they were getting orders from “Vince”, and tease that “Vince” was coming on the show at X date. On said date reveal that “Vince” is in fact VInce Russo, former WWE writer that now works for TNA. They briefly had a championship ranking system where fans voted for who got a title shot. A young TNA star could have been billed as a computer whiz and hacked the system to give, say Kevin Nash a title shot. If TNA pushed the X-division, The Band could disrupt the matches, insisting they’re the real show, resulting in Waltman getting the X-title and spray paint The Band on it. That would have really upset people, and led to a program with Jeff Hardy trying to win it from them/conflicting with the band. These are the kinds of disruptions and chaos a group like the band needed to have.

Things got a little better when ECW alumni were brought in for Hardcore Justice reunion PPV (usually called Hard Justice), but it didn’t mean much. What would have really shaken things up would have been if at the PPV Sabu beat RVD for the title. Have a title controversy, as some thought it wasn’t a title match, but RVD willingly turns the belt over on the next Impact. Sabu has a few title defenses before RVD regains it.

I said last year I couldn’t understand why Abyss was the guy Hogan passed his legacy onto, it creatively made no sense. Now it’s evident that the Hogan heel turn using Abyss was the plan all along. Still I think the legacy thing didn’t work, and Abyss is much better as a monstrous heel, with his spiked board he named Janice. That was good stuff. Ric Flair making A. J. Styles the next Nature Boy is great stuff too.

There were lots of little things in production that need sharpening. There’s too many commercial breaks during matches, especially special matches where the circumstances change off air. They have the news ticker on screen but it comes on at odd times. For example, one episode had the return of Samoa Joe, a great emotional high point of the broadcast. However right at this emotional high point they ran the ticker. We don’t want to read news while a big star is returning and smashing everyone.

Speaking of which the crowd goes absolutely bannanas for Samoa Joe, and instead of main eventing he’s losing fake MMA matches to Jeff Jarret (Who should have been in The Band).

Finally TNA jumped the gun by announcing Hogan’s coming too soon. In October of 2009 Hogan had a press conference in Madison Square Garden to promote his new book. Eric Bischoff had the idea of announcing then that he joined TNA. Much was made of the announcement being made “Right in Vince’s (WWE’S) backyard. A lot of good that did. They should have waited until a few weeks after Wrestlemania to go head to head. January to March is Wrestlemania season, where all WWE TV builds up to their biggest show of the year. In the last few years RAW ratings were high in the early months, then fell off after Mania. On March 29th, the night after 2010’s Mania, the rating was 3.66. The next week it was 3.15. They should have waited to the week or two after Wrestlemania to go head to head. Hogan always gets publicity, because he’s Hogan. TNA could have started 2010 by announcing Hogan was coming. They’d have three months to build that up. Meanwhile keep “The Band” on the payroll but have them hit the gym and appear on TV to tease a Hogan led NWO (Which wouldn’t happen), meanwhile play up other wrestlers reactions/expectations of Hogan’s arrival. See what Angle, Sting, etc, feel about it. Some would be for it, some against it, play that up until March.

Then a week or so after Wrestlemania start going head to head. Bring Hogan in, clash with The Band. Start the Flair angle, push Samoa Joe, have an X-division tourney with Band interference, music spots by Brooke Hogan, 6 sided ring, championship ranking system with fan participation. All that talent makes potential for great TV.

Instead for the first time in five years the average rating for Impact actually decreased instead of increased. In 2005 the average rating for the year was .79. In 2006 it was .89. 2007 was 1.04. 2008 1.06, and 2009 1.14. 2010’s average rating was 1.07. TNA probably couldn’t have beaten RAW this early, but they at least could have had a fighting chance.

But it’s all in the past now.  TNA now needs to regroup, and put on the best shows possible in 2011. The live audience is really into it, but that needs to reflect in the ratings. TNA can still change the whole game, by making Thursday nights the new night to watch wrestling.

Legion of Doom vs The Road Warriors

Papa Shango vs The Godfather

Kane vs Issac Yankem

John Cena vs The Prototype

Steve Austin vs The Ringmaster

X-Pac vs The 1-2-3 kid

Papa Shango vs the Godfather

Hulk Hogan vs Mr America.

Brutus the Barber Beefcake vs Zodiac

Mr. Kennedy vs Mr. Anderson

 Big Bubbah Rogers vs Big Bossman

One Man Gang vs Akheem

These matches would be Natural Disasters

Earthquake vs Shark

Tugboat vs Typhoon, with special guest referee the Shockmaster.

The number one match that absolutely positively could never happen.

 Mick Foely vs Cactus Jack vs Dude Love vs Mankind in a Fatal Four Way Barbed Wire Hell in a Cell Japanese Death Match.

These matches could never happen, but one match that could happen is

Scott Hall and Kevin Nash vs Diesel and Razor Ramon

Observe.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtHmf1ZWaXs

I’ve been out of touch with video games for a while, but last year I played the Smackdown vs Raw series. (07-09) In the story modes of these games you can choose to be on Smackdown or Raw, you can switch brands, and there are stories with cross brand rivalry. ECW is also in the mix in the 08 and 09 versions. Being new to me it got my wheels turning to an idea I’d become obsessed with. What if they made a Monday Night Wars video game?

(The Monday Night Wars was when WCW aired Monday Night Nitro head to head against WWE’s Raw. It began in 1995 and ended in 2001, when WWE bought WCW)

Imagine a game with every wrestler, gimmick, TV personality, TV Show, announcer, match type, PPV, etc, that aired on WCW and WWE from 9/95 to 2001, with maybe a few things after 01 as well. It would also include the entirety of ECW. Triple cage matches, multi-ring battle royals, World War Three matches, etc. What a game that would be!

I see the game broken down by different eras for each company. For example, WCW would start with the pre-NWO era, from 9/95 to 96’s Bash at the Beach. The next era would be NWO, then NWO Wolfpac, then New Blood/Millionaires, or something like that.

The game modes for each era would be like  games we have now, Story mode, championship modes for the various singles and tag belts, and a career mode. I always wanted to see a stable mode where your group must get the world title, tag titles, and one secondary belt. This mode would have some story, as you have to keep the stable together and maybe recruit and fire members. A separate Stable Challenge would be a Survivor Series, World War 3, type match against other stables.

Career mode would be pretty sophisticated. You pick one wrestler, and choose a company to start in, WCW, WWE, or ECW. Your goal is to win the world titles in all three companies. Secondary goals are to win at all the PPV and match types of each company, and finally to simply survive the Monday Night Wars. This could also be like a role playing game where you have to train your character, develop different skills, avoid injury, and make money to buy other unlocked characters, PPVs, match types, outfits, etc.

Each company would have advantages and disadvantages for this mode. ECW would earn you the least money, but would make you the most popular. Their training would be average. WWE would have the best training, average money, but not make you as popular. WCW would pay the most, give average popularity, but the lowest training.

There’d be lots of unlockables, like different wrestlers or old gimmicks, (Like Austin’s ring master gimmick, etc.) The look of each years PPV would be unlockable as well. (Example, Wresltemania XVI, XVII, XVIII etc)

One feature on SVsR that seems interesting but is actually kind of dull is the general manager mode. I don’t know how to make this interesting, but we’d need to have a mode where you actually run WCW, WWE, and ECW. You have to fight off invasions from other brands, deal with network and locker room politics, etc. One idea is for WCW you invade the WWE taped shows to steal there results. If you win a backstage brawl, then you get the results back to WCW for a ratings bonus. For WWE, you’d defend against the same thing. In here you could have different outcomes to the era. Like what if WCW ended up buying WWE, or what if by some miracle ECW emerged victorious.

Other what if scenarios can be played out, such as what if the Montreal Screwjob turned out differently? After the wars, what if the NWO lasted longer in the WWE? What if ECW kept all it’s big stars? The possibilities are many.

The final mode would be Fantasy Match, where you get to play big matches that never occurred. Hogan/Austin, DX/NWO, Sting/Undertaker, etc.

A game like this, and wrestling games in general could use a trivia game.

Now let me address the two elephants in the room. With all due respect a lot of us fans would love to have Owen Hart in this game. I would agree to not have his Blue Blazer gimmick or the Over the Edge PPV.

The other is Chris Benoit. The WWE has virtually wiped away Benoit from it’s history. I don’t believe putting him in a game condones his horrible actions, but I understand the sensitivity of the matter. One compromise could be to have a wrestler called The Crippler, who looks and has the same move set as Benoit. Then he could be in the game without having to use his name.

I believe that having both wrestlers in some capacity in a game is not meant to exploit tragedy, but for fans to remember their in ring work during this incredible era.

For a game like this I want it all, but if it were really made what realistically would be in it? Probably not Owen and Benoit, the KISS wrestler, celebrities like Dave Arquette and Mike Tyson, and probably not some of the more obscure characters from the era. It’d be a shame not to have Sting. There’s so many announcers, so for simplicity sake it’d probably be Bischoff and Heenan for WCW, J.R. and Lawler for WWE, and Joey Styles for ECW. Either way if they made a game even close to this I wouldn’t leave the house for a year.

Oh well, here’s to dreaming.

#1 Hogan vs Austin

Tag Line: Who was the Biggest Superstar of all time?

Or

The face of wrestling in the 80s, the face of wrestling in the 90s, the face off in the new century.

Why? Training prayers and vitamins vs Hell Yeah beer swilling and middle fingers. Who was a bigger star, who’s the bigger icon, whose the greater legend? Who was the biggest name wrestling history? Austin/Hogan may be wrestling’s most debated fantasy match.

Could it have happened?

Looking back, Wrestlemania 18 should have been Hogan/Austin, instead of Hogan/Rock. They had that match for the Rock to help his movie career. It helped the Rock get mainstream exposure, but has he had a successful movie career? Of course Hogan wrestled this match in his NWO gimmick. The real fantasy match is the real American, red and yellow Hulkster, against the black and white, foul mouthed Stone Cold Steve Austin. This match at least could have happened at the next Wrestlemania, or Wrestlemania 20 if Hogan stayed with the company till then, which he didn’t. A real shame because, with the WWE promotion machine, this absolutely could have been the biggest match ever.

Could it still happen? Hogan is now in TNA, while Austin makes occasional appearances on WWE TV. Could Austin jump ship to TNA and steal wrestling’s #1 fantasy match from WWE?  Even if he did, Hogan is very limited in what he can do in the ring these days. 10 years ago this still could have went down and been a good match. It’s a shame really.

Who would win? At this point Austin, only because it’d be more believable. Plus Austin is pushing to be a Hollywood action star.

Who should win? Of the whole series, this is the toughest call. I love them both, but I give it to Hogan.

Check this out.

Honorable mentions:

Shawn Michaels vs Sting

Chris Benoit vs the Dynamite Kid

John Cena vs the Ultimate Warrior (Haha)

Eddie Guerrero vs HBK

Dudley Boys vs the Legion of Doom

Kurt Angle vs Ken Patera

and finally, one match we’ll definitely never see,

Cactus Jack vs Mankind in an Ultimate Death Match.

Hope you enjoyed this.

 #2 DX vs NWO

Tag Line Two Words For Life

Why? The stable that made WCW, vs the stable that re-made WWF. The two most controversial stables in wrestling history. Who had a bigger impact on wrestling, who was tougher, who was the baddest?

Angle: Of all matches on the list this would have been the most fun angle to watch. DX pranks/traps vs NWO beat-downs. In 2002, the NWO came to the WWF. It didn’t last long. Kevin Nash had repeated injuries, Hall soon left the company for personal reasons, and Hogan’s return was met with such positive reaction that he left the group and turned face/back to the red and yellow. That summer Shawn Michaels returned to the ring. If the NWO gimmick had lasted longer, and Hogan stayed with them, NWO could have feuded with HHH, (Which they were teasing at anyway, with wanting him to join) prompting him to bring HBK out of retirement. DX vs NWO could feasibly have been booked for Summerslam of 2002.

My number one scenario for the match is the simplest, NWO=Hogan, Hall, Nash, vs DX=HBK, HHH.

Another scenario would be the NWO recruiting Big Show/The Giant, leading DX to recruit the Billy Gunn and Road Dogg A.K.A. The Road Dogs. X-Pac would bring intrigue to the angle, as he’d been in both groups before. Who would he side with now? He’d go with DX since NWO would have The Giant.

Who would win? In a WWE ring, DX of course.

Who should win? NWO, with Hogan scoring the pin fall over Michaels.

WWF vs WCW vs ECW; Three Way Five Man Survivor Series Elimination match.

Tag Line: The Final Battle. 

Participants 

WWF: Austin, Rock, Angle, Undertaker, HBK,

WCW : Hollywood Hogan, Flair, Sting, Goldberg, The Giant

ECW: Mick Foley/Cactus Jack, Rey Mysterio, RVD, Tommy Dreamer, Raven. (I’m tempted to replace Raven with Sandman or Mike Awesome, also tempted to take Rey out but he’s is a big star obviously)

Angle:

After WWF bought WCW in 2001, and ECW was out of business, the Invasion Angle was launched. What potentially could have been the greatest angle ever turned out to be one of the most disappointing. The reasons are many, and not all of them WWF’s fault. Many top stars like Hogan, Flair, Goldberg, etc, actually had contracts through AOL Time Warner, hence couldn’t appear on WWF programming anyway.

I could write an entire book on how the Invasion angle could have turned out, but for simplicity sake let’s just talk about this match. We’ll pretend this was the main event for Survivor Series 2001, one big blowout match where only one company could survive. This was the kind of match needed to end the Monday Night Wars. 

Who would have won? Vince always put his own stars over, so of course WWF.

Who should win? It would have been healthy story wise to have WCW win to keep that brand alive and maybe continue having it’s own show.