AS I SEE IT: Monday Night Thoughts

Bob Magee
Pro Wrestling: Between the Sheets

It’s been a really long time since I had a wrestling choice on a Monday night (before I get sent e-mails from ROH fans, remember Comcast cable doesn’t carry HDNet… so those of us in the Philadelphia/South Jersey region are left without the shows, unless we go to bootleg online streams). But we did this past Monday.

Calling it a “Monday Night War” is pushing it…as of yet… but at the very least, people had a choice. From various ratings analysis, both WWE and TNA got fans in desirable demographics that haven’t been watching wrestling in some time.

The positives: New fans got to see AJ Styles vs. Kurt Angle in their usual tremendous match….and Hogan actually put them over as great talent on the air. They also got to see women’s wrestling that looked like women’s wrestling with Awesome Kong/Hamada vs. Taylor Wilde/Sarita, as opposed to “Diva’s wrestling” that all too often looks like something that should be kept in the back room of a strip bar. They also got to see Samoa Joe-Abyss and that submission can mean something in wrestling (and that all wrestlers don’t have to look like rejects from a Wellness test failure list).

Jeff Hardy coming out from the crowd was a major surprise, but wasn’t given the importance by Tenay and Taz it should have been. I love Ric Flair, and Hogan may be the big name of the moment, but Jeff Hardy put more asses in seats than either of them in 2009. Then again, after his indictment for drug possession a day later that might have been just as well; which begs the question why he was put on TV if he wasn’t going to be used properly, even if for the shock value.

The negatives: If you’re going to try to be the new trendy promotion that’s the choice on Monday night, don’t bleep the “Bullshit” chants of fans when you give them a screw-job DQ finish in the Steel Asylum match, and bleep “holy shit” chants when they liked something you do. Then, there’s an old fashioned AWA style crowd shot (wonder where the guy in the lumberjack shirt ever went) after ODB pulled Tara‘s trunks, a real-life camera shot that was no worse than on every city park and beach each and every summer. Also…if Hulk Hogan was in the buiilding all day…how did he gets a police esort into the building to build the first hour of the show, so fans wouldn’t flip to USA Network to watch Bret Hart. All of these sounded and looked ridiculously juvenile…and makes them stand out all the more. If you aren’t willing to deal with the things that happen with having a live wrestling show…then stay pre-taped.

Then, there was the moment that most of us never thought we’d see…Bret Hart, Vince McMahon and Shawn Michaels in the same WWE ring.

Yes, Bret Hart looked older…12 plus years, a stroke, and a major concussion later. Yes, WWE had to remix that classic entrance music. But coming out it was still Bret Hart coming into a WWF/E ring.

Hart and Shawn Michaels had their face-to-face, with and Bret calling for a truce. Michaels reponded by saying that Hart “deserved what happened in Montreal for disrespecting him and the business”. But he also said “there’s a big part of him that doesn’t regret any of that, but that another part of him knows in 12 years a lot of things have changed.” Michaels then said “he always respected Bret but he felt that Bret didn’t respect him”, but prefers to think of Bret and their Iron man match in Anaheim, rather than Montreal. Michaels offere to move on and bury the hatchet, with Hart offering his hand in friendship.

At the end of the show, Vince McMahon came out with Hart in the ring, and (storyline?) feigned that since Hart and Michaels put Montreal behind them, he would. McMahon said that he still does believe that “Bret screwed Bret” and indicated that he hadn’t forgotten the things Bret has done. Hart responded that he “looking for closure”. He said he got to make peace with Shawn Michaels. McMahon then talked about Hart’s career; said he felt like Hart’s father figure (Manson family father figure might be more like it), and then said he’d nominate Stu Hart for the WWE Hall of Fame (reportedly part of the legit deal for Bret Hart to come back) this year. Vince thanked Bret for being “the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be”. They shook hands and Vince raised Bret’s hand and walked around the ring; until McMahon turned on Hart, kicked him in the gut and walked up the ramp while glaring at Hart to end the show.

So it looks like (for the moment) that WWE is going with Hart vs. McMahon as the program rather than Hart vs. Michaels. Vince McMahon might also realize that there’s no way that Hart and Michaels can re-create the magic they once had, between Montreal, and Hart’s physical limitations. I’d almost be sure that there’s no way in hell that Bret Hart can or should do more that a Street Fight with McMahon, even if that much. . It might be safer if there’s a program ending at Wrestlemania where McMahon is manager for say, Legacy…and Hart is manager for the Hart Dynasty. We’ll find out tonight or whenevver Hart is next scheduled to appear.

With all of that, this week’s Wrestling Observer reported that a really moving scene happened after the cameras with most of the babyfaces, with the notably exceptions of HHH and Shawn Michaels, came out to honor Bret Hart (as well as The Hart Dynasty, Jack Swagger, Chris Jericho and Mark Henry (who most don’t realize had gotten training from Bret Hart). A fan actually came out post-show, when Hart was doing autographs, with a Calgary Hitmen jersey that had been autographed by Owen Hart which had Hart understandably almost go to pieces. Dave Meltzer reported that there were cameras rolling for this, and that it might wind up on a Hart Family DVD. Let’s hope so, because a moment like that deserves to be seen.

Another much sadder moment occurred recently as “Dr. Death” Steve WiIlliams died after a long fight with throat cancer. Williams last appeared publily at the K&S Wrestlefest Wrestling Convention up in Carteret, NJ on December 12. More than a few people; including at least one who knew Williams personally, came up to me at CZW’s Cage of Death and at other indy shows after that date telling me how shocked they were at how badly Williams looked.

More on him next week, but one thing’s for sure…he’s in a better place, and the Miracle Violence Combination is back together again. Rest in peace, Dr. Death.

Until next time…

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