I’m in the middle of watching the recent Steve Austin DVD produced by WWE. I am noticing the routine ridicule of WCW’s treatment of stars that moved on to bigger things under Vince McMahon’s watch. Steve Austin may be the most famous example, but in the midst of WCW going with Hulkamania, and the eventual N.W.O. angle, even in retrospect it is difficult to see where Austin could have succeeded had he stayed. Other examples are Mick Foley, Chris Jericho, or how mistreated Bret Hart was when he went to WCW after being the boss in WWF.
While I do love the WWE line of documentary DVDs, I am starting to get annoyed by their selective memory, as well as their ignorance of blasting a company for making mistakes 20 years ago, that WWE is making today.
Let’s compare the abortion of Bret Hart’s career in WCW. While I never think of Hart as a true main draw for any company, just a guy who fell into that position when no other option was available, he’s still a name that could have been taken advantage of in WCW. There was money to be made with dream matches against guys like Hogan, Sting, and Flair. While these matches may have occurred, they certainly weren’t well booked because I don’t remember them.
But let’s rewind to 1996, when Vader debuted in the WWF. After being the beast in WCW, and running roughshod over everyone not named Hogan, the most talented big man in the business came to the company where the boss loves big men. Recent WWF Champions at the time included men who were over 500 pounds, and those almost 7’ tall. Yet, Vader came in, and only won a single angle, and that was against Yokozuna. Not a lot of money there. In fact, Vader never had a singles match at Wrestlemania. It’s hard to defend that decision. I think Vader’s WWF treatment is far worse than Bret’s, because at the time Vader was in WWF, Vince NEEDED new stars to work around his New Generation. Instead, he main evented SummerSlam, and lost without any real impact.
As for Mick Foley… can anyone really convince me that there was a star to be made out of Cactus Jack in WCW? His talent was how well he took a beating. We know today that he’s capable of so much more, but it took a while for WWF to discover this as well. He never had the opportunity in WCW to display how he could have great 4 star matches like he did in the E, nor the time on the microphone to cut a promo like he did in ECW. It took the change of character and environment, along with the mega push that Undertaker needed, to find a spot for Foley as a star.
Then there’s Jericho, who couldn’t escape the cruiserweight division in WCW. The men in charge saw Jericho connecting with the audience, yet never really took advantage, and flubbed a major money making angle with Goldberg. He debuted in WWF, and the rest is history right?
And Austin. Well, Steve-O was midcard champion several times in WCW, along with tag champ. He wasn’t exactly treated like shit, but he never was given the ball to run with. He then was injured, WCW had high cost of incoming talent that did lead to their rise in the ratings, and he was unceremoniously fired.
Seems like WCW sure was a shitty place to work, doesn’t it?
How many people have been screwed creatively by WWE? I’m not talking about guys like Charlie Haas, who feel like he was never given the chance, even though he didn’t have a lick of charisma in his wet carrot of a personality. I’m talking about the guys that IF there was legit competition to WWE, they might have become blow out stars for that company. Now, we’ll never know if these men could have made a difference in a ratings war if WCW still existed, or TNA was actual competition. But it’s so easy for these pompous dicks in WWE archives to proclaim their achievements to be better than another company, and shit all over them, all while ignoring the skeletons in their own fucking closet.
MVP, Mr. Kennedy, Elijah Burke, Val Venis, William Regal, Sean O’Haire, Eugene, Chris Masters, Kenny Dykstra, Finlay, Colt Cabana/Scotty Goldman, Mike Knox, DDP, Ultimo Dragon, Shelton Benjamin, Jimmy Wang Yang…etc.
There are many names of guys that at some point, someone thought WWE could have done more with. I personally feel that the above list had a lot more potential than they were given credit for. While none of those guys went on to surpass the success of Foley, Jericho or Austin had in WWE, there’s no North American company for these men to achieve greatness with because there’s only one real company in town. Maybe they’ll return to WWE and prove them wrong, or return and fail, proving me wrong. Maybe they’ll never get their chance (obviously for some of them, it’s too late). Either way, WWE had a chance, and in my opinion, failed to take advantage when they had it. Sometimes these wrestlers continued trying afterwards, but in the end, these guys were not stars the way they could have been.
Oh, and as for Austin, Foley and Jericho. How well were they treated in WWF? I seem to recall Jericho debuting huge, and then not doing a thing that matters for almost a year. Austin was the fucking “Ringmaster,” and was only given the chance to shine because HHH was being punished. Then there’s Foley, who was given a chance to be himself… only for nothing to happen for 2 years. It took making a mockery of his persona and being the antithesis of the Rock character to really give him the opportunity. In fact, had it not being for the Rock’s popularity, Mankind would have never been a 3 week champion.
Lovely work Vince, you’re a fucking genius.
Dropping the Ball with CM Punk
These WWE productions can beam with their pride about how well they capitalized on guys like Foley, Jericho and Austin, but in the same year the Austin DVD came out, they had the next person in line to work along the same lines.
Now, I’ll NEVER say CM Punk has the same appeal, nor could he ever be the same draw. But lots of people saw the possibilities with Punk getting a bigger portion of spotlight, yet Vince dragged his feet. Or maybe it was HHH. We will most likely never know.
The Austin DVD mentioned several times how lots of the stuff they did with Stone Cold couldn’t have been written with anyone else, and that a lot of it was so genuine and naturally developed. Concerning the Wrestlemania 13 match, it was described as something easy to pull off on paper, but has only happened once.
Again, I’m not comparing Punk to Austin in terms of money making or talent, but the fact is that for the first time since John Cena’s rise in 2005, and Stone Cold before him, CM Punk was riding a wave of momentum not found often in wrestling. No one could have predicted how successful Cena, Austin, N.W.O., and Rock would eventually be when they started their runs. What can be said is that when the audience started reacting to them, those in charge knew to take advantage and ride the wave.
Yet, the WWE have failed to do that so many times lately. CM Punk is the main one. He was hot shit in the summer, and gave him the top title in a HUGE event. Twice. Yet they fucked it up. Why did he lose the title? Why did he lose to HHH?
Austin and Cena are great templates to push new stars. When they were getting over, they were given midcard pushes to grab everyone’s attention. They rose up the ranks, and then won their titles at Wrestlemania. They grabbed the brass ring at the biggest time possible, and WWE built it up amazingly.
Think about how little that title winning matched actually mattered in the storylines for Stone Cold and Cena. Both matches are below par. But the build up to their crowning moment was what made those events special. Their evolution as stars was so natural and unforced, it was accepted and welcomed.
Yet, WWE couldn’t do the right thing with Punk. They tried to make a star out of Del Rio instead. That failed. In the meantime, Punk’s momentum limped on with terrible booking involving Nash, HHH, and now Johnny Ace. And now that they’ve accepted that they can’t go anywhere without using Punk, they are stalling the whole ordeal because he’s got no one to work with. Ziggler is a great talent, but he’s the third wheel in the Rumble main event. If Jericho faces Punk at Wrestlemania, I am hard pressed to find a really good angle to build it up without it coming off as “we need someone to work with Punk, this guy is free.” It’ll be just as forced as the Orton angle was, and just as underwhelming.
Look, I know I have bitched about the Summer of Punk being complete trash for a long time, but it still irks me how little WWE seem to learn from not only the mistakes of WCW (that they proudly and incorrectly claim they never make) but the mistakes they do admit to, and it only costs them in the long run. They had something creating a stir, and they let it drop. And now the heat from Punk is tepid. Fingers can be pointed in lots of directions, but they should be looking in the mirror.
Punk is not Stone Cold, nor is he Cena, nor should anyone expect him to be. But you can’t cut him off at the legs and expect anything positive to take place.
I don’t mean to discredit anyone and their talents. Not Vince and his creative team, nor any wrestler I may have besmirched. My point is that for a life long WWE fan (I never switched to only WCW, and even during the wars watched Raw live while taping Nitro), I’m a bit fed up with their bragging for things that are pathetically see through. I’m glad they found the right way to use Stone Cold, but it fell in their laps, just like most success stories in WWE.
And if they are going to revisit their successes, you’d think they’d bookmark the methods used to make it happen. I think it’s hard to deny any face character being as close to taking over the Cena mantle as CM Punk was this year. Orton is a great talent, and had a hell of a 2011. But
My problem is that while they had a great hand dealt to them in 96, and won in the end, they have held all the cards since, and continue to lose. Instead of taking chances, they’ve refused to steer away from the Cena path. And while I’m a big believer that he is the best performer in the WWE today, you can’t depend on one man to carry the company in this era for as long as they have. Hogan lost ratings, and they had to switch gears several times once his time was up. And he was on top for 9 years in an age without social media, 4 hours guaranteed weekly WWF TV time, TV programming without 90% squash matches, 12 PPV title defenses a year, multiple challenger matches…etc. Cena has been on top for 7 years now, with all those roadblocks. He’s done astonishing well, and will most likely never be given the right amount of credit for what he’s done. But just like Hogan was put down like Old Yeller, WWE needs to move past the Cena age somehow. And if they continue rushing decision like they did with Ryder (for better or worse) or what’s rumored to happen to CM Punk, then they’ll never have a replacement for when he can’t carry the company any longer.
And on that note, peace out.
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