#JCPWCWWeek: Difference of Opinion (Ish?)

After having so much fun with the stables last month in celebration of the Survivor Series, we’ve decided to turn this December — and all Decembers in perpetuity — into Promotions Month. For a curtain jerker, we have WCW and its predecessor, Jim Crockett Promotions. This is the Final Day of #JCPWCWWeek, the fourteenth installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week Series. We mixed it up by giving you a crash course in JCP and WCW and asked you to Essentially View a Promotion You (Should) Probably Know Better. We exposed some harsh truths with the debut of Lies The WWE Told Us and quenched your thirst for Listicles with a Juice Make Sugar Top 10 List. Now, we end everything with a Difference of Opinion, where JMS HQ actually doesn’t erupt into a civil war. But if we did, it would take place inside of a Doomsday Cage.

Nick: This was a weird week for us. I’ve written extensively about WCW and you are a pretty big JCP fan: Although our press times wouldn’t tell you it, this was actually a pretty easy week for us.

Dave: Well, I’m not old enough to be a real JCP fan, but I appreciate the hell out of what I’ve seen. And I feel like this week and last we had a lot of good stuff to say, so times be damned, I felt like it was important to unload both barrels.

Nick: So, the opposite of next week’s promotion, ECW?

Dave: I love several ECW stars (Sabu is one of my all-time favorites), but the promotion as its story lines are the most overrated body of work ever.

Nick: Yeah, and I feel like WCW and JCP especially are “underrated”, inasmuch as that kind of thing exists.

Dave: Agreed! You took the words out of my mouth. Bagging on WCW is so en vogue that people forget the good years JCP/WCW put together.

Nick: Like, “Roy Hibbert” underrated And even when they were “crap”, it was still good. The FPOD wasn’t “bad” in and of itself, at least for me. It’s that it was indicative of a real sickness in the company itself, but it’s not the first time somebody’s thrown a match for a buddy.

Dave: As I wrote in my comment on your FPOD post, I think it was outrageously unnecessary… but not the dump on the chest of wrestling that a lot of people make it out to be.

Nick: And I’ve seen those late-period WCW PPVs. There are some REALLY good matches. 3 Count is REALLY REALLY REALLY GOOD.

Dave: Yeah, the quality of in-ring work was always insanely high outside of the main event in WCW. But most of their main eventers were either miles past their prime or larger than life characters who couldn’t deliver physically.

Nick: What’s weird is that almost all of the WCW fans I know NEVER gave a shit about the main event. At least in the sense that it being good was more of a bonus.

Dave: I feel like most of the WCW fans I know were in it for the match quality. Unlike WWF/E fans who love to engage in the top story lines.

Nick: As a life-long WWE mark I can attest to that. And I think that’s where WCW got into trouble. It wasn’t when they decided to get in the Hulk Hogan business, it was when they let him try to tell them to be like WWF. Where he ran roughshod over everyone with the idea that “the fans will love it, brother.”

Dave: Hey, look! It’s the same mistake TNA has been making the last decade!

Nick: That’s the most notable thing about JCP. It’s SO MUCH DIFFERENT than WWE.

Dave: Oh yeah. It’s SO sports-like.

Nick: Like, if you’re TNA, why aren’t you just recreating JCP now?

Dave: I couldn’t agree with you more.

Nick: And, I get it, WCW was primarily a television show first and a wrestling company second, but I totally agree with the guys on the Rise and Fall of WCW DVD, if JCP had stayed in the mid-Atlantic, they’d still be in business, probably national at this point. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if Magnum TA didn’t get into that car accident.

Dave: Magnum could definitely have been their Hulk Hogan. And, as you said, the Crockett name was so beloved in the Carolinas that their business could have stayed viable, but they got greedy, especially when they got the Road Warriors, and wanted to promote Chicago. JCP turned a great profit until they overextended themselves, whereas WCW intentionally operated at a loss in order to make money for TNN/Turner. People bag on Bischoff and Turner for handing out huge contracts, but the fact of the matter is that the expectation of WCW never to make money on its own. Which makes it unique in the history of big time wrestling.

Nick: Yeah, the difference between the WWF and WCW was always that WWF’s business, as I alluded to earlier, was the WWF and WCW’s business was “the wrestling show of a television network.” Whether or not they made any money was irrelevant. Things didn’t have to be sustainable, they just had to move the needle. And for a while, it worked. They were better at being “televised wrestling” than the WWF was at being the WWF. And it’s because they only had to be concerned about getting people to watch.

Dave: Right, they didn’t have to deal with nearly the same budgetary constraints.

Nick: Like, Bash at the Beach 1996 is the Platonic ideal of what a wrestling PPV is supposed to be. It’s almost a perfectly constructed wrestling show, and a singular moment in the history of wrestling. Purely in terms of “spectacle for which you would pay to see”, WrestleMania III is the only other one in the discussion. And that’s a TERRIBLE show, with one good match and one palpably important match, but that match is what made Hogan (spoiler alert) being the Third Man in ‘96.

Dave: This may be an unpopular opinion, but Hogan was much less of a piece of shit in WCW than he was in WWF. There were things he refused to do and guys he refused to put over, but it wasn’t like WWF where he wanted to be the only big star.

Nick: WrestleMania IX is 100X worse than the FPOD: It shits on his successor while making himself look like a million bucks, at least he just looked like an asshole after the Fingerpoke.

Dave: Yes, because WMIX actually involved undermining the five-year future of the company, whereas FPOD was done against another well-established top star with that guy’s consent (in fact, I think Nash had a hand in booking it.)

Nick: But, like I said, the FPOD of doom IS super important, because it is them blatantly giving up. They were literally saying “we can’t come up with something more interesting than Foley winning, so let’s just see how much heat we can get for something”.

Dave: The sad part is, the majority of wrestling writers still think that way: “How can we get the most heat on the heels?”

Nick: Which is the least WWE thing ever. The WWE is OBSESSED with “giving the people what they want”.

Dave: Rather than “How can we get heat on the heels to make the baby faces look good” And then when a company actually takes care of a top face (Cena), “smart” fans resent the hell out of it (as you and Andy have covered many times).

Nick: Exactly, people say “John Cena is Superman” because he never loses, but what they don’t get is that he never loses, because he’s Superman.

Dave: Yeah, you want to see Speed Racer in danger of losing the race, but he shouldn’t actually lose.

Nick: Daniel Bryan, Spiderman, is going to have to let Gwen Stacy die every once in a while. And CM Punk is always be angry, just like Batman.

Dave: It’s almost like these are time-tested archetypes…

Nick: And while I love that style, I think the real tragedy of WCW’s demise is that there will never be a truly viable alternative to that style in North America. There’s never going to be a professional wrestling organization that feels like a sports league again.

Dave: Absolutely. WWE has redefined the business in a way that has forever changed the discussion in a way that favors them.

Nick: Because they are Wrestling. When people say wrestling, they don’t mean TNA.

Dave: Right. Or ROH. Or Chikara. Or PWG…

Nick: You would be hardpressed to find someone who isn’t friends with a wrestling fan that has even heard of TNA. Most people in the country knew what WCW was.

Dave: Yeah, it’s pretty sad, but it’s a problem that seems impossible to solve.

Nick: So, to be clear, you don’t see TNA signing John Cena after they get bought by TNT when they lose the rights to the NBA, then get Punk and finally have Daniel Bryan/Big E. Langston to “invade” a few years later?

Dave: …Yeah, I think that’s safe to say. They’re still miles more successful than Pro Wrestling U.S.A., though.

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The +/- #’s: Impact Wrestling, 12/5

In hockey, basketball, and other sports I’m sure I’m forgetting, individual players are held accountable for their team’s performance during their time in the game through the plus/minus statistic. This week, as ever, this Impact review will attempt to score each segment as a hit (+1; a superior match or well-executed story-building segment), a miss (-1; offensive to the eyes or ears), or a push (+0; wholly acceptable, but nothing memorable) in order to find an overall rating to the show. This week, for the first time, however, Dave’ll be doing his best to explain his reasons behind the score. 

MagnusAngle

Seg 1: Kurt Angle/Magnus Promo Exchange

Thoughts: Kurt Angle’s had so many head injuries in his career that all his promos sound like he just got a head injury.

Magnus needs to stop hedging and turn heel. Talking about having heart and desire in promos isn’t at all consistent with his in-ring actions in what was supposed to be a star-making vehicle against Sting at BFG.

Roode cut a solid heel promo, but the best part was the closing line when he told Magnus he will “never ever be World Heavyweight Champion.” Mangus sold being legitimately insulted, too, which made it even better.

Jeff Hardy starting his own “Hardy” chant was awkward on a lot of levels, most notably: If TNA had booked one of the most over wrestlers of the last 15 years with any competence at all, fans would pop for him on their own. On the other hand, can we already go back to blaming the Orlando crowd for not being into anything?

Score: +0

Reasons: None of these promos were home runs — heck, Roode only hit a double. With that said, Impact opened with a segment that featured wrestlers promoting the two big matches on the card without any authority figure meddling. That’s a good, rare thing these days.

RoodeTable

Seg 2: Jeff Hardy vs. Bobby Roode — Tables Match

Thoughts: A few minutes into the match, Hardy bumped right onto his head on a short-armed clothesline from Roode. It looked really scary, and the announcers threw to a replay, suggesting he took an awkward amount of time live to recover. Things got even worse when Hardy crashed and burned on a Whisper in the Wind attempt on the next spot. If Hardy starts respecting his body more, he’ll be able to make money wrestling for many years. If he doesn’t, he won’t.

Hardy and Roode simultaneously bumping through the table from the apron was very well-timed. If that spot had gone wrong, it would have made for a really awkward decision: call for the bell on the fly, possibly changing the finish, or pretend it looked good. Lucky, it looked great, preventing what could have been a bad situation. Also, it was a nice, logical spot to throw to commercial on, rather than cutting away in the middle of in-ring action.

The finish on this match was great in that the right man won, and he did it in an original way. Hardy had already hit the Swanton and the Twist, so finishing on the mule kick off the apron felt fresher than “here’s my finisher again!”

Score: +1

Reasons: Strong TV match between a great babyface and a great heel. Several good spots throughout with a clean, different finish.

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Seg 3: Ethan Carter III vs. Earl Hebner (yes, you read that right)

Thoughts: Based on the tight shot of Carter during his promo, it’s safe to say that all his “You suck” heat came out of an extra large can of Goldberg Brand Canned Heat.

This segment was an awful, awful idea, but you know what the worst part of it was? No babyface wrestler came out to stop EC3 from being a gigantic jerk wasting the fans’ time. As I said in my preview, whoever’s booking this angle thinks they’re being “old school” by building Carter on an island separated from any real wrestlers, but that strategy has already cost the character valuable heat. On this trajectory, EC3 will never become a heat magnet, just a channel up button.

Score: -1

Reasons: This whole segment felt like a pre-intermission house show bit, and a bad one at that.

Seg 4: A Collection of Short Promos/Vignettes

Thoughts: The Sam Shaw vignette was really, really good. It successfully made me, a faithful but fairly jaded TNA fan, excited to see more. Shaw actually came across as a decent actor in the segment, and Hemme’s been defined as just a ring announcer for so long that the idea of her actually being involved in an angle seems fresh and intriguing.

Roode’s promo, while short, was a nice touch too. Too often, wrestlers lose an important match and then move onto the next thing with no further thought. It’s good to see TNA actually take care of one of their top characters after a big loss.

The time dedicated to Dixie Carter would have been far better spent as an extra thirty seconds for either Shaw or Roode. Obviously TNA’s writers feel obligated to give their boss X minutes per episode.

Score: +0

Reasons: Cheers to Shaw and Roode. Jeers to Dixie.

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Seg 5: Bad Influence “Expose” Joseph Park

Thoughts: Bad Influence have been one of the most consistent, and consistently strong, acts in TNA since they came together. With that said, being involved with Joseph Park so long has really dragged them down.

After 10 minutes of peeking through my fingers at the TV for fear the awfulness of this segment might blind me like some kind of solar eclipse of shit, I suddenly realized that this whole exchange solved absolutely NOTHING other than set up a match with Eric Young in it.

Score: -1

Reasons: I haven’t cringed so much during a wrestling segment since Claire Lynch. I usually complain when story lines are dropped with no explanation, but this Joseph Park mess was the time to do it. Every time they tease that they’re going to end the angle, I get hopefully optimistic, and every week they just kick the can down the road.

Seg 6: World Tag Team Champions The BroMans vs. GunStorm

Thoughts: The BroMans exist in this existential singularity where I can’t tell if I really hate them or if they’re just good heels.

This match had some solid mid-card action, which was exactly what this episode of Impact was in desperate need of.

The finish of this match was predictably awful. I can never decide if that’s better or worse than an unpredictably awful finish.

Score: +0

Reasons: Watchable midcard match, but nothing special. A solid step down the path for both The BroMans as champions and GunStorm heading toward a breakup.

GailKim

Seg 7: Knockouts Champion Gail Kim vs. Laura Dennis

Thoughts: Gail Kim’s real-life husband, Robert Irvine (of Food Network fame), heeling in Kim’s pre-match promo was fantastic. It’s good to know that heels are married to other heels. This actually felt like a nice “cable-level celebrity” rub for Impact, as Irvine is, in his own way, a very well-established TV character.

Dennis’ offense was mostly punch-kick, but her timing was good, which resulted in the smoothest and most watchable Gail Kim challenge match to date.

ODB’s save looked really good. She came to the ring hot and put together fast-paced offense without looking even slightly blown up. Her clothesline of Tapa over the top rope successfully made her look like a threat to the Kim/Tapa empire.

Score: +1

Reasons: Another watchable match that actually enhanced Gail Kim as champion, and a strong return for ODB. Also, the Robert Irvine heel turn put The Knockouts over the top this week.

RoodeDoode

Seg 8: Magnus vs. Kurt Angle — Last Man Standing Match

Thoughts: This match had some decent action, especially from Magnus, but Kurt Angle’s limitations are getting harder and harder to hide.

Roode’s interference felt like the ultimate copout. This finish will help Roode’s ongoing feud with Angle, but it didn’t do a thing for Magnus who this tournament is supposed to build up as the next main event star in TNA.

This was a good enough match, but it honestly didn’t feel as “main event” as the opener between Hardy and Roode. Angle has a well-established reputation, but I think both matches would have benefitted from this match happening in the first hour and Roode/Hardy main eventing.

Score: +0

Reasons: This match was fine for what it was, but not anything special. A clean win for Magnus would have been a +1, but this match wasn’t good enough to make up for such a bad finish.

OVERALL +/- SCORE FOR 12/3 EDITION OF IMPACT: +0

Final, Final Thoughts: There was about thirty minutes of extremely strong content on this show. Unfortunately, it was a two-hour show.

While Hardy vs. Roode, Sam Shaw’s vignette, and the Knockouts were all positives, ECIII and Joseph Park provided just enough horrifically boring, terribly draggy segments to bring the whole episode back down to earth.

Say It Like You Mean It: The Impact Preview, 12/5

Like every other wrestling company, TNA creates a weekly preview of its flagship show, Impact Wrestling. And, like every other wrestling company, they don’t always tell the truth when hyping their product. Thankfully, Dave is here to try to figure what TNA is trying to say, and tell you what he thinks, so you don’t have to do either.

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TNA Says:

Next Thursday, it will be the Semi-Finals of the ongoing World Heavyweight Championship tournament, with the two winners advancing to the FINALS to crown a new titleholder! The Final Four are set, and one of these four superstars will become the NEW World Heavyweight Champion: Jeff Hardy, Bobby Roode, Kurt Angle or Magnus!

WORLD TITLE TOURNAMENT SEMIFINAL

Tables Match

Jeff Hardy vs. Bobby Roode

WORLD TITLE TOURNAMENT SEMIFINAL

Last Man Standing Match

Kurt Angle vs. Magnus

What This Probably Should Mean: Three of the most talented, over wrestlers in the TNA and the company’s rising star put together two strong wrestling matches. Hardy and Roode bump all over the place for each other, with Hardy eventually getting the win on one of his signature big spots to cement his return to the main event. Magnus and Angle work a long, physical match that puts over the toughness and desire of both men. Magnus gets the win, dropping Kurt Angle with his Michinoku Driver for the clean pin.

What This Probably Shouldn’t Mean: These matches are rushed at ten minutes each so the crowd can be treated to more time with Joseph Park and Dixie Carter. Both matches have B.S. injury finishes, with Hardy crashing and burning when he flies too close to the sun setting up the crowd-thrillingest spot of all time and Angle slipping on a banana peel and “injuring his neck” again.

Dave Thinks: While there’s always the loud (and often correct) contingent of TNA fans who ask “Where the hell is Samoa Joe?” TNA has brought this title tournament down to as good a final four as they can muster. Angle is a massive star who, in spite of his recent troubles, is still over like crazy and would make a credible champion at any time. Roode is the most underrated main eventer currently on TV, and would also make a great champion, as he seems at the height of his powers in the ring. Jeff Hardy is one of the most over babyfaces of the last fifteen years and, when he feels like it, can have a great match with a sack of potatoes. Magnus is a terrific wild card, as he is young and fresh, albeit unproven. TNA has made more booking mistakes than you can shake a stick at, but they’ve done well with this tournament.

***

TNA Says:

Christopher Daniels and Kazarian have informed TNA officials that they plan to EXPOSE Joseph Park once and for all on Thursday night! According to Daniels and Kazarian, they took a road trip this week to find out the truth about Park – and came back with evidence that could destroy him! What will Daniels and Kazarian reveal about Park this Thursday? Tune in and find out!

What This Should Mean: This should mean that Joseph Park is successfully “EXPOSE[d],” turns back into Abyss permanently, and returns to kicking ass unapologetically. Daniels and Kaz bump like wild men, displaying for everyone that Abyss is back and ready to become a tank.

What This Shouldn’t Mean: Take 27 of the following sequence:

“I’m not Abyss!”

“Yes, you are!”

“No, I’m not!”

**Sloppy brawl in which Park gets busted open**

“Rawr!”

**Park Black Hole Slams Kaz and Daniels, then just stands there looking at himself, befuddled**

Dave Thinks: You know when the police put down those spike strips that pop the getaway car’s tires, but the crooks keep trying to drive away on the rims in a shower of sparks until the wheels are so hopelessly bent that they can’t move anymore? Joseph Park is that car.

***

TNA Says:

In addition on IMPACT, World Tag Team Champions The Bro Mans will battle the former titleholders James Storm and Gunner

What This Should Mean: Gunner and Storm both take turns looking strong against The Bro Mans, who stall and beg off like cowardly heels. Ultimately, DJ Zema Ion creates some kind of distraction that leads to Robbie rolling up Gunner for the win. Storm looks frustrated, but ultimately consoles Gunner after the match.

What This Shouldn’t Mean: An unbelievably lightning quick victory for the heels that makes Storm and Gunner both look like (1) weaklings and (2) idiots. Gunner and Storm immediately start doing the back-and-forth-shoving tag team breakup thing, culminating in Storm knocking Gunner to the ground and storming (Ha! Get it?) out of the ring.

Dave Thinks: This feud would actually make sense: The Bro Mans are goofy 2013 Honky Tonk Men and GunStorm are no-nonsense, ass-kicking babyfaces. The only problem? It’s hard to see this match being much more than a chapter in the GunStorm breakup angle. If this was happening before Gunner threw in the towel for Storm, I’d be excited about the prospect of these two teams mixing it up, but as it stands, I’m already cringing, waiting for the miscommunication spot that leads to Storm jobbing and glaring at Gunner.

***

TNA Says:

Plus, TNA Knockout Champion Gail Kim’s Open Challenge continues – is there anyone that can step up to beat the Women’s World Champion?

What This Should Mean: Kim faces a challenger from the indy circuit who can have a smoother match than her previous opponents have given her. Kim actually shines the babyface and looks to be in danger for a minute before cutting her opponent off, hitting her finisher, and retaining.

What This Shouldn’t Mean: Kim squashes her opponent in 30 seconds, then Lei’D Tapa comes into the ring and beats the girl down more. They pose. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Dave Thinks: Gail Kim’s open challenge gimmick has officially run up against the rule of threes with this match. Kim’s a great worker and a tremendous champion, but by the end of January, 2014, there needs to be an actual Knockouts Division for her to defend against. Fresh faces are great, but if you don’t have an established base of talent, “fresh face” just starts to look like “next warm body through the revolving door.”

***

TNA Says:

Ethan Carter III (aka EC3) is going to challenge a Legend!

What This Should Mean: EC3 calls out a returning TNA star — let’s say Jimmy Yang (one of the interesting/funny things about Impact being back in Florida is it’s actually feasible that random wrestler could show up at a moment’s notice). Yang, or whoever, gets in a crowd-pleasing spot or two against Carter, but ultimate takes EC3’s headlock driver and the clean pin in the middle of the ring.

What This Shouldn’t Mean: Wow, I could rattle off a pretty damning roll call of D-list wrestling “legends” if I wanted to… but I’ll go with Koko B. Ware on this one. EC3 should not wrestle Koko B. Ware

Dave Thinks: It was a good (albeit belated) move last week for EC3 to go over a real jobber in Shark Boy and not a comedically jobbery jobber. It feels like whoever is behind this angle feels like they’re being “old school” in the way they build up EC3, but the fact that he hasn’t even glared at a serious babyface is officially starting to catch up with him. He officially needs a breakthrough, over match against an established TNA babyface — Eric Young sounds like the perfect opponent.

Final Thoughts

This show looks frustrating on paper because what TNA’s presenting is utterly schizophrenic. On one hand, we have two serious match-ups between some of the company’s top stars, but on the other, we’re presented with Joseph Park and The Bro Mans. As long as they try to play the WWE’s comedy sketch game, TNA will continue to struggle. If they don’t embrace the fact that the million or so people who actually tune in every week are hardcore wrestling fans (as in serious, not trash can lids and barbed wire) who want to see in-ring action, they’ll never rise above the level of second-rate ripoff artists.

Juice Make Sugar Presents: #JCPWCWWeek Top 10 – WCW PPVs (Other Than The One You’re Thinking Of)

Because we’re wrestling journalists — and Buzzfeed contributors —  we’ve decided that we needed to start creating a top ten list based on each Wrestler, or in this case, Promotion of the Week. We’ve decided to not include any criteria for the list, because we’ve been told by experts in the list-making field that it would just muddy our ability to explain why we’re right. You should understand, because you read us, that we know more about wrestling than you and what we think is best IS best. We promise. If you want, you can guess what why we’ve chosen these people the way we have in the comments. Where you belong.

So, without further ado, we give you the definitive list of the Top 10 WCW PPVs (Other Than The One You’re Thinking Of) :

1. Slamboree ’94

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2. Starrcade 1991

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3. Starrcade 1996 

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4. 1996 Great American Bash  GAB_96

5. Great American Bash 1998

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6. Bash at the Beach 1998

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7. 1998 Spring Stampede

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8. Uncensored 1997

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9. 1991 Great American Bash

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10. Fall Brawl 1993 

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#JCPWCWWeek: Lies the WWE Told Us, The Finger Poke of Doom

Wcw_doomAfter having so much fun with the stables last month in celebration of the Survivor Series, we’ve decided to turn this December — and all Decembers in perpetuity — into Promotions Month. For a curtain jerker, we have WCW and its predecessor, Jim Crockett Promotions. This is Day Three of #JCPWCWWeek, the fourteenth installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week Series. We mixed it up by making JCP and WCW a Promotion You (Should) Probably Know Better in two parts. On Monday, we talked about the transition from JCP to WCW, and yesterday we gave you the finer points of JCP’s oeuvre with some Essential Viewing then finishing the epic story of the great lost promotion of our time. Today, we’re going to start exposing harsh truths with the debut of Lies The WWE Told Us. After Hump Day — and throughout the week — we’ll be quenching your thirst for Listicles with a Juice Make Sugar Top 10 List and a couple of odds, before ending everything with a Difference of Opinion, where JMS HQ erupts in a civil war, which will take place inside of a Doomsday Cage.

When Dave and I talked about The Varsity Club for #VarsityClubWeek’s Difference of Opinion, we spent much of our time discussing a rarely talked about part of WWE’s cultural hegemony in their little part of the entertainment world: To the victor goes the spoils, and as the ultimate victor in the fight for the soul of the medium, the WWE’s prize was complete control over the “story” of professional wrestling.

Which is to say that there’s no one checking the facts behind anything the WWE tells us happened in the history of wrestling. At least there wasn’t. UNTIL NOW. Okay, actually, there are plenty of people, but as you all know, we love you the most. And that’s why we’ve decided to spent some time talking about the some of the lies WWE has told us about its greatest rivals, Jim Crockett Promotions and WCW, in celebration of #JCPWCWWeek, and there’s perhaps no one lie more famous than the role Finger Poke of Doom had in the downfall of WCW.

Some of this is, of course, semantics. In a lot of ways the Fingerpoke of Doom was the end of “WCW”, but while it was symbolically the end of what had separated WCW from WWE, it wasn’t anywhere the deathknell of the company’s run as a major wrestling promotion, or even as a viable second wrestling company in the way that DVDs like The Rise and Fall of WCW would have you believe. Ignoring for a second that someone laying down for a title was something that WWF had done a full two years earlier (over the significantly less important European title, of course), the FPOD wasn’t even the most embarrassing thing that would happen to the championship in the in the next year and a half. That’s an honor that would go to David Arquette — even less of a wrestler than Hulk Hogan was an actor — winning the title in a match with Eric Bischoff, Jeff Jarrett and Diamond Dallas Page, for free, on a taped Thunder.

Though for every bit it wasn’t the end of WCW chronologically, or even the nadir of its creative and narrative directions, it was the end of WCW’s attempts to challenge WWE’s storyline development or credibility amongst fans in terms of “entertainment value”. What’s lost by most WCW detractors, the WWE included, is that the greatest blunder WCW made was giving it away for free. Story lines like this are fine, or at least not catastrophic, in situations where the fans are given a chance for retribution. The problem wasn’t that Hogan and Nash were in cahoots again, but that they gave away an actual conflict that people were genuinely interested. Of course it’s embarrassing to have your major title handed over from one man to the other in such a blatant disregard for the idea of competition that is at the heart of many fan’s love of the spectacle. Sure. But the really appalling thing is assuming I don’t want to pay for the right to be this angry.

If this would have been used as a way to generate heat, to develop the idea of “anything can happen on a WCW PPV”, if this was an attempt to reignite of the weird spark that the original Hogan turn at from 96’s Bash at the Beach had created , why not make us pay for it? By giving this away for free, WCW said, “we’re willing to do anything to get you to watch us, including give away major resolutions for nothing instead of letting you pay us for them… ” which should have been followed almost immediately after by “so give all of your money to WWF, please, we’re all set.”

Fans want to be treated with respect, sure, and the Fingerpoke is one of the high-water marks of a promotion’s wanton disrespect for its fans, but more importantly they wanted to be treated like people who paid to watch a show about conflict resolution done by interpretative dancers in underpants. So, while it didn’t kill WCW, by any measure, it broke the covenant between fans and promotions: it told us our money didn’t matter and they were going to do whatever they wanted while forcing us to watch it.

Anyone who has ever worked retail can tell you the only thing worse than a consumer believing that a company doesn’t stand behind its products is the belief from a consumer that they don’t want their business. WCW, or whomever made decisions at that point — you’d have to assume some sort of manatee-and-word-ball-based writing system like the folks over at Family Guy —  had to understand, or least had to see the possibility, that if the people who had previously bought PPVs saw the disregard for their feelings that they were willing to display before they gave them their money, that they’d assume this just didn’t want their money to begin with. 

People buy wrestling PPVs and tickets not just to see something they’ve never seen before, but, to feel like things will never change, that they’ll always be entertained by the familiar things: the idea of good vs. evil, the excitement of trying to figure how close to reality something truly is, and most importantly for the sustainability of the business, that they’ll be given the right to pay for something in exchange for a finish, whether or its satisfactory or not. And The Poke ended that.

But what The Fingerpoke of Doom ended wasn’t WCW life, though. It was WCW’s will to live.

Watch, Skip or Skim: Spoiler Alert with “Angry” Andy (12/4-12/6)

Over the course of seven days, there’s a lot of wrestling on TV. But only some of it is actually worth watching. That’s where Spoiler Alert comes in: we break down the spoilers of all of WWE’s pre-taped shows to let you know what you should watch, and which segments and full shows you should skim or skip. This week, Andy starts planning what he’ll do with the time he would have spent watching Main Event and Smackdown.

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(spoilers via Wrestlezone.com)

Goldust d. Ryback

This was the advertised main event for this one, and I have a strange feeling it’s not going to deliver.  Goldy wins by DQ when Curtis Axel interferes.  Cody gets involved too.  I’m sure this is building to a tag title match for the least-over team in the company, but let’s face it.  WWE is desperate for this Ryback-Axel pairing to work.  Axel needs heat, and Ryback needs to work with more talented guys.  Unfortunately, the only time anyone cares about these two is when Ryback lifts a giant, or when the crowd decides to chant for a guy who hasn’t been relevant in a decade.

The Usos d 3MB

Jinder and Drew are representing 3MB here.  No idea what gimmick they’ll be representing, but I’m sure it’ll be fun.  The Usos are almost always fantastic, and this should essentially be a showcase for them.  The best current team never to hold the tag titles keeps on impressing.

Damien Sandow d R-Truth

In a logically-booked world, this match becomes an overbooked cluster-f featuring run-ins from Dolph Ziggler, Brodus Clay, Tensai, and Xavier Woods.  You know, because all those guys are currently intertwined in the storylines.  Maybe it happens, or maybe it’s just a simple match that Sandow wins.  I don’t know, because nobody seems to have any detailed spoilers.  Way to go, Tulsa.  This is why we can’t have nice things.

SKIP this show.  Yeah, sure, there is some decent talent on the card… but no one is doing anything interesting.  The only match on the show that matters is building toward a title match no one wants to see.  Spend this hour watching South Park re-runs and preparing for the latest new episode.

WWE-Smackdown

(spoilers via PWinsider.com)

Tyson Kidd d Justin Gabriel

…in the dark match, that is.  Tyson, your 2-week push is officially over.  If you want more TV time, I suggest cheating on Natalya during a Total Divas taping.

Randy Orton says he’s going to beat John Cena at TLC, and apologizes to The Authority for being a big jerk on Monday.  Daniel Bryan says he should be apologizing for being a bogus champion.  Under wrestling law, they must fight tonight.

Big E Langston d Fandango in a nontitle match.

Bad News Barrett says some things.  No idea what kind of things, but I’m sure they’re delightful.  No, seriously.

Kofi Kingston vs Alberto Del Rio never happens, because Del Rio murders Kofi before the match.  I suppose the Miz was busy making straight-to-DVD movies.

The Shield talked about murdering CM Punk, and teased some dissension.

Ryback & Curtis Axel d Cody Rhodes & Goldust in a nontitle match.  They’re seriously building to a title match here.  Ryback and Axel have done NOTHING to earn a title match, mind you, but they’re getting one.  Not the unstoppable Usos.  Not the popular Prime Time Players.  Not the heat-magnet Real Americans.  The so-called team who have maybe wrestled a half-dozen matches together.

CM Punk d Dean Ambrose in a nontitle match.  Reports are this was a good match.  Punk tweeted that he shit himself during the match.  Just like that, you have two reasons to watch.

Natalya d Tamina Snuka, which probably qualifies her for a Divas title match at TLC.

Big Show & Rey Mysterio d The Real Americans I’ll allow it, but only if Rey Mysterio takes a giant swing from Cesaro.

Randy Orton d Daniel Bryan with the RKO.  Bray Wyatt appears on the screen, inviting Bryan to join the family.

SKIM this show.  It definitely doesn’t seem like it’s worth 2 hours of your time (welcome back, Michael Hayes!)  That said, I would not miss Punk-Ambrose or Orton-Bryan.  Everything else?  Grab the remote.

@AndyMillerJMS

#JCPWCWWeek: Essentially Viewing A Promotion You Should Probably Know Better, Part Two

nWonew

After having so much fun with the stables last month in celebration of the Survivor Series, we’ve decided to turn this December — and all Decembers in perpetuity — into Promotions Month. For a curtain jerker, we have WCW and its predecessor, Jim Crockett Promotions. This is Day Two of #JCPWCWWeek, the fourteenth installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week Series. We mixed it up by making JCP and WCW a Promotion You (Should) Probably Know Better in two parts. Yesterday, we talked about the transition from JCP to WCW, and today we’re giving you the finer points of JCP’s oeuvre with some Essential Viewing then finishing the epic story of the great lost promotion of our time. On Wednesday, we’ll expose some harsh truths with the debut of Lies The WWE Told Us. After Hump Day — and throughout the week — we’ll be quenching your thirst for Listicles with a Juice Make Sugar Top 10 List and a couple of odds, before ending everything with a Difference of Opinion, where JMS HQ erupts in a civil war, which will take place inside of a Doomsday Cage.

It’s fundamentally impossible to provide an Essential Viewing of pre-80s Jim Crockett Promotions: there isn’t a lot of decent-quality surviving tape out there because it was over thirty years ago, and (as fans of Dr. Who know) it wasn’t uncommon practice as a cost-cutting measure to tape over old shows in the days of syndication and even if the video had survived, to internet generation types who post videos of wrestling online, anything before the computer revolution might as well be a blurry daguerreotype of a Civil War soldier’s ass.

And so, in spite of thirty years of prior history, we’ll touch on the biggest (and last) decade of JCP’s existence: the 1980s, before Nick provides undeniable video evidence that they took all of the greatness they had in North Carolina, moved to Atlanta, became WCW and crapped all over it.

In the 1970s, Wahoo had been a huge part of the Mid-Atlantic’s transition from featuring mostly tag teams (as I covered yesterday) to being a territory with legitimate main event singles matches. McDaniel legitimized first the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship through his feuds with Johnny and Greg Valentine and then later the United States Title when it became JCP’s top singles title (not counting the traveling NWA’s World’s Champion.)

So when he took on Flair — who for anyone that managed to watch wrestling outside of the WWF’s considerable shadow was the 1980s in professional wrestling — it was undeniably fascinating, even if only to see the spectacle of the territory’s top star of ’75-’80 wrestling the top star of ’80-’88.

The fact that Flair and Wahoo held the World and U.S. title belts respectively places this match in the fall of ’81 during Flair’s first run as “The Man.” and while the match isn’t either man’s best, as Wahoo was past his prime at this point, Flair was a fantastic athlete at the time (as he was for much of his career) and coming into his own as a character. Furthermore, it’s interesting to see the tricks that Flair took from Wahoo and made his own: the way he paces the match early, the stiff chops to pop the crowd, the well-timed color, among others.

As the 80s took shape, Ric Flair’s talent and charisma were so evident that the Crocketts would have been fools not to hitch their wagon to him. Pushing Flair became the top priority of JCP (and by extension the NWA who they largely steered) to the point that the first Starrcade was literally called Starrcade ’83: A Flair For The Gold (which should have carried the subtitle: Spoiler Alert, He Wins).

In the build to Starrcade, the Crocketts cast Flair as the hometown boy about to make good by taking on big bad Midwesterner Harley Race. Flair wasn’t as magnificent a babyface as he was a heel, but he knew what to say and do and how to play to the fans in the Mid-Atlantic. This set of promos from the build-up to Starrcade shows Flair cutting promos on Race and pledging assistance and brotherhood to babyface (and once and future rival) Ricky Steamboat.

As we touched on last week with our Tully Blanchard feature, Jim Crockett Promotions at its height wasn’t just about Flair and Dusty, it was about robust cards filled from top to bottom with some of the greatest role players of all time. The mid-to-late 80s were a deep era for tag team wrestling in both the NWA and the WWF, and one of the Crocketts’ most valuable acts at the time was The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express.

Neither Ricky Morton nor Robert Gibson was a total package as a wrestler, but as a team they were one of the top ten acts of the 1980s. Even on worn out old tapes, their matches sound like Beatles concerts with near-constant high-pitched feminine screams throughout. Ricky Morton got the heat on heels with his selling as well as anybody every did, and Robert Gibson cleaned house in a way few wrestlers of his size ever could. If men (or in this case tag teams) are to be measured by the mark the make on history, The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express are one of the most important tag teams of all time. Easily half of the babyface tag teams that followed them from The Rockers to The Hardy Boyz were direct imitations of the The Express.

This match sees The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express take on NWA Tag Team Champions Ivan Koloff & Krusher Krueschev (two evil Soviets played by a Canadian and a guy from Minnesota). The match is ‘80s tag team psychology at its best and helps illustrate how good both wrestlers and promoters were at giving the fans what they wanted to see at this point.

As our journey finds us in 1985, it would be impossible to write anything about Jim Crockett Promotions resembling Essential Viewing without talking about Hard Times. As we covered last week, The Four Horsemen broke Dusty Rhodes’ ankle in maybe the biggest injury angle of all time. When Dusty came back, he cut the now-legendary Hard Times promo, connecting his own suffering as a wrestler to that of working class Americans whose industrial jobs were suffering in the early days of Reaganomics. Hard Times is to wrestling as Born in the U.S.A. is to rock music. Was it presumptuous for the rich and famous Rhodes to compare himself to struggling laborers? Probably. Did it get him white hot over? You know it!

In the latter half of the 80s, Jim Crockett Promotions’ goal was to wrap up the pantheon-level Dusty-Horsemen feud in a way that created the next big star to lead the NWA. The Crocketts and booker Dusty Rhodes were heavily invested in pushing Terry Allen, known as Magnum T.A. (Tom Selleck pun? Yeah, we’re in the 80s.) as the next top babyface in the territory. Allen brought a lot to the table: he had a good look, could talk so well he often did color commentary, and understood how to build sympathy and build a comeback.

Dusty rubbed Magnum T.A. the only way he knew how: by putting him storylines with the great Dusty Rhodes. Rhodes’ self-centeredness aside, the plan worked, and following a fantastic feud with Tully Blanchard (some things just keep coming up, don’t they?) that culminated in their brutal, amazing I Quit cage match at Starrcade ’85, Terry Allen looked well on his way to becoming the next face of Jim Crockett Promotions.

This match shows Magnum at the height of his babyface powers taking on Nikita Koloff. Nikita was not a great worker, but he had tons of Cold War heat and played his character well. This match displays everything that was right with Terry Allen. If you close your eyes and imagine an alternate course of history, you can see how the guy who wrestled this match could have gone on to do big things.

Unfortunately for JCP, wrestling fans, and most of all, Terry Allen himself, Allen was involved in a horrific car wreck in the fall of ’86 that left him paralyzed and ended his career. In addition to being a tragedy on a human level, Allen’s accident was a kick between the legs to JCP and the NWA, who were close to putting their eggs in his basket.

In an interesting turn of events, with Magnum T.A. unable to wrestle, Dusty and the Crocketts decided to turn his rival Nikita Koloff babyface. In a move that shook the foundations of Cold War wrestling booking, Koloff showed sympathy for his injured opponent and essentially claimed to fight in his honor in spite of their political differences.

Two years later, Jim Crockett Promotions would be out of gas and out of money. The loss of Magnum T.A., the cost of jet fuel, and the company’s decision to serve two masters by promoting nationally while still trying to stay a regional company all came together into a thick, meaty stew of failure. The Crocketts, The Horsemen, and Dusty Rhodes had created some of the greatest wrestling moments of all time during the ‘80s, but they had been crushed by the weight of their own ambitions. Even though Ted Turner acquired JCP’s roster, title belts, and lineage, something died when the last great regional promotion became a cable TV show.

***
After making it through much of the pre-nWo fiascoes following the transition of the organization from the wrestling offshoot of a promotions company to the wrestling offshoot of a media company.

Even though it marked a paradigm shift as massive as anything the industry had seen before, Hulk Hogan turn into “Hollywood” Hogan at 1996’s Bash at the Beach wasn’t even the most remarkable thing that happened that night, nor would it have the longest-lasting impact on the industry. That distinction belong to the first match of the night, a lucha libre barnburner between Psicosis and Rey Mysterio, Jr:

The bout, which ends after a top-rope powerbomb from Psicosis being reversed into a hurricanrana by Mysterio, gives a delicious slice of the true lesson/legacy of WCW, and its predecessor, Jim Crockett Promotions, the idea that being a global phenomenon in the world of professional wrestling means doing everything, and doing it well. A card from the golden era of post-NWA WCW — essentially between the ‘96 Great American Bash, from just one month before this match to July 6, 1998, when Goldberg defeated Hulk Hogan on an episode of Nitro (for free) — is like remind you of what most of the cards for WWE PPVs look like today, with an eclectic mix of performers, gimmicks and story lines that scream “there’s something here for everyone, we promise!”.

But, as we talked about yesterday, this was the Terry Bollea show. Instead of allowing the things that needed to happen to build a company around the wattage and heat that came from the nWo’s name on the marquee, Bollea — along with Nash, Hall and eventually Vince Russo — would do seemingly whatever it took to keep their names in lights.

The nuts and bolts story of WCW’s downfall is well-tread, even by yours truly. There are pressures points that are brought up constantly: ending Goldberg’s streak with a cattle prod, the Fingerpoke of Doom, Ric Flair being declared insane and ending up at a mental institution, the Russo-Hogan incident, Ed Ferrara’s raison d’etre:

Which makes sense, as these moments, and the moments like them are “what” caused WCW to fail. The “why”, comes from a much different place, though. Someone in charge thought most of these were a good idea, whether it was for the company, for wrestling or for themselves. That’s the only explanation for letting people like Chris Jericho, William Regal, Eddy Guerrero, Dean Malenko, HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED and Brian Pillman go, even after matches like these:

Unlike JCP, who was put out of business WWF largely through backroom political/business maneuvering and machinations, WCW’s “lost” the battle against Vince McMahon much more than he won it. And because of this, WCW’s demise meant something much larger. Ending the way it did didn’t just mean that the WWE had lost a competitor for cultural hegemony. It meant it had lost competition for cultural hegemony, period.

By proving unable to beat out WWE even with piles of Ted Turner’s money, it created a vacuum both inside the industry — by leaving almost the entirety of recorded wrestling in the hands of one entity — and wreaked havoc on any other high-profile media company — the only people who could possibly match WWE’s production values and marketing muscle — ever trying to reach for the throne again.

We’ll spend more time this week talking about what that all means, but ultimately, it means that professional wrestling is worse off for what happened to WCW, and because of that, we’re all worse off. Period.

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