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WRESTLING COLUMNS

A Resurgence Of Hope
July 15, 2005 by Tris Xavier


There's a lot to be upset with in the world of Professional Wrestling in this day and age, with the RAW Diva Search and untalented wrestlers dominating our screens, while talented wrestlers were released from the roster. But rather than concentrate on the negative aspects of the game, I believe that there's more good things out there than we care to realise. So as Paul Heyman says, I'm going to "accentuate the positives and hide the negatives" and share with my OWW friends what exactly there is to look forward to in the squared, or hexagonal, circle right now.

TECHNICALLY SKILLED WRESTLERS: We have seen a growing number of superbly talented wrestlers in the sport, which has turned the sport from a gimmick-dominated, slow power move based game to a fast-paced, thinking and exciting sport; something which the swell in technically-talented and thinking wrestlers has both contributed to and been a sign of. While we once had the likes of Earthquake, Doink and a decreasingly effective Lex Luger, we now have the chance to watch wrestlers such as Shelton Benjamin, Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho on Monday Night; Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio on Thursday Night; A J Styles, Christopher Daniels, Samoa Joe and Petey Williams on Fridays and many other increasingly talented wrestlers on indie promotions.

Where once matches used to be slow-paced and the top rope was the exclusive domain of a few wrestlers, we now see the advent of increasingly challenging and different matches which test the wrestlers to a big degree. I would put my neck out to say that the Ultimate X match would not have been possible 5 years ago with the calibre of wrestlers then. And would one have imagined Elix Skipper walking the cage to deliver a huracarana to America's Most Wanted 10 years ago" (besides Mankind and 'Taker in 1998 of course) Wrestlers have improved their game, and as a result matches have become more fascinating to watch and behold as they continue to take it to a higher level of skill than they had before.

While it is a shame that the champions of the biggest 2 brands don't exactly belong in this category, I find that more matches are exciting, fast-paced, well-thought and genuinely gripping as the wrestlers trade hold for hold, move for move, counter for counter. Regardless the bad decisions made from time to time at the top, the game is currently at one of its more exciting, athletic and enjoyable phases, something surely we can all look forward to with much enjoyment.

CHARISMATIC & MIC-SMART WRESTLERS: On the other side of the coin, we are also seeing wrestlers with incredible charisma and mic talent being allowed to come to the fore and show what they have. While this might be unfavourably compared with to the glory days of the 1980's (something which I wasn't a part of), one must remember that it was only 2 years ago when Scott Steiner repeated phrase after phrase on the mic while posing and showing off his unreal biceps; 5 years ago when Eric Bischoff dominated the mic at WCW, and even a couple of months back when a certain blonde-haired wrestler and poseur financial analyst / cowhand and a booker/guitarist dominated rings with incredibly long boring promos. It was a bleak, bleak time.

While some wrestlers should really not be given the microphone (Paul London and A J Styles among others), there has been a rise in charismatic wrestlers who talk a good game and have the look and charisma to pull it off. Edge, Carlito Carribbean Cool and Chris Jericho (who both have great interview shows) and grudgingly, John Cena appear on Monday Night to a very clear response from the crowd; while we see the likes of Muhammad Hassan (who is severely underrated as a speaker and the fact that he's pulling off an Arabic gimmick when he's actually ITALIAN), Randy Orton and 'Captain Charisma' himself, Christian on Thursday night. TNA features the ineffable Monty Brown who delivers some of the best promos despite his limited wrestling repertoire, the always entertaining 3LiveKru, the superb Scott d'Amore and again, Mr. TNA Christopher Daniels who cuts mean promos. Again, I apologise to all ROH and indy fans because I haven't had a chance to see the product, but C M Punk and Austin Aries have been highly rated for me to want to see them.

The point remains though, that there has been more chances given, and more chances taken in the wrestling domain to speak and make an impact; and I'm happy to say that the increase in quality promos and charismatic wrestlers has made the product enter a new level, one which wrestling fans can look forward to and enjoy.

TAG TEAMS: The tag team division was in a major slump over the past few years. Instead of teams that operated as a cohesive unit (LOD, Steiners, etc.), we had superstar wrestlers cobbled together and called a tag-team. While this wasn't initially the worst of ideas (Undertaker+Stone Cold and Kane+Mankind actually worked pretty well), it soon became an easy way to create feuds or storylines or just matches for otherwise-ignored wrestlers. Hurri-Kane, Hardcore Holly and the recently released Charlie Haas, Christian and Jericho, Edge and a top face... The list goes on, and continues to do so.

However, there seems to have been a realisation that tag teams should possess a singular identity (as Brian Folan pointed out in "What Ever Happened To The Tag Teams""), and that together as a team, be more than the sum of their parts, be much much more than just 2 wrestlers put together in a match in the same corner. I suspect the change might have arisen from the appearance of America's Most Wanted, 'Cowboy' James Storm and 'Wildcat' Chris Harris. While both men started out as individuals, they possessed this incredible charisma and teamwork to make the watching fan see and believe that these guys were part of something greater than just being Storm and Harris. AMW ushered back in the idea of a great tag team, in my opinion.

While the tag team division has yet to return to its heights and glory days, the appearance of MNM on SmackDown! has suggested a re-entrance into the days of tag teams and great tandem action. Johnny Nitro had his abortive stint as Eric Bischoff's assistant, but he and Joey Mercury, as well as the incredibly talented and beautiful Melina Perez, have formed a team that oozes charisma and wrestle great matches together. While the belts were perhaps rushed onto them, they have done everything to suggest they deserve to hold the gold. The Naturals in TNA, consisting of Andy Douglas and Chase Stevens, are another young impressive team who has risen to the top of the ladder by giving solid action, impressive workrate and generally good tandem understanding.

For the wrestling fan who cries out for tag team action, your day is coming soon I believe, with impressive young tag teams who are recreating a real tandem division again, right from scratch. I'm definitely enjoying the tag team action, as I hope many other fans are beginning to realise and do so as well.

STORYLINES & BOOKING DECISIONS: HBK turning heel. Eddie Guerrero messing with Dominic and Rey Mysterio's mind. Matt Hardy appearing on RAW while Edge and Lita elope. (ok, that's a bit dodgy but still.) In less than a month, we've had superb and compelling storylines emerge from the minds of bookers and promoters which will ensure we keep tuning in to next week's episode to find out what's going down.

I personally felt despair when Hogan returned for his umpteenth last match at Backlash. When Cena won the World Title at Wrestlemania XXI and then proceeded on to a poor Last Man Standing match with JBL. When Jeff Jarrett retained the TNA title for over a year and it seemed he was going to come out victorious from the King of the Mountain match at Slammiversary. Or when Triple H captured the title over and over and over again from up-and-comers and over talents who should have been given a chance, and when the U.S. Title was lazily slapped on Orlando Jordan just to free up Cena for the World Heavyweight Title. Even Survivor Series 2004, one of the 'Big Five', wasn't spared from bad decisions with last minute matches put up. 2003-2004 wasn't the best of times for me.

For those who are wondering, I don't have a problem with multiple title reigns or long title reigns, but some decisions have led to devaluation of the titles. Rob Van Dam had a wonderful 23-month stint as ECW TV Champ, and no one would begrudge him that because he gave stellar matches and gave credence to the title. Cheap shots (guitar or sledgehammer) or outside interference (by veterans or newcomers) do not constitute respectable title wins or defenses, especially if they happen again and again and again over other individuals who deserve it.

I'm happy to say that while airtime has been reduced for certain wrestlers with a triple repeat of their first initial, up-and-comers and people who have been waiting in the wings are getting their shot at the big time. The potential feud between Jericho and Carlito looks inevitable and looks like it will be one of the best for a while. Cena and Batista have impressed with their charisma and have apparently won the live audiences over, with no sign of Triple H for the past few weeks. The bookers have begun to accentuate the positives and conceal the negatives, showcasing athletic wrestlers in impressive matches and letting the talented people speak, while hiring impressive wrestlers to add to the roster. (Mexicools, anyone")

In fact, the return of the Blue Meanie to wrestle JBL was a superb booking move, while Matt Hardy's very shoot-style return has sent sufficient reverberations around the world. While some bad decisions continue to be made, one must also consider that for a typical Vinny Mac promotion to actually release Matt Morgan and sign on small talents like the Mexicools and give them sufficient ring time; and for the Jarrett promotion to release Dusty Rhodes as a booker and let the stars develop their own personality suggest that organisations are beginning to do what they always say they have: Listen to the fans.

In conclusion, while some decisions and events remain heart-wrenching and mind-boggling (Diva Search, Chris Masters, Jarrett bashing Gowen, Matt Hardy to some extent), wrestling isn't as bleak a picture as perhaps we have painted it out to be. Wrestling now isn't the greatest, but it definitely has some positives that we should appreciate and look forward to. All criticism and additions are more than welcome, and all I hope to have achieved is to let my fellow OWW readers think about and begin to feel that perhaps, there is some positivity, some hope, something to enjoy when we sit on a couch or a seat and watch that ring

by Tris Xavier ..


Erkka Järvinen wrote:
Carlito good on mic" You got to be kidding me...
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