Rivalries. They are the backbone of American entertainment. Not just wrestling, but everywhere we look. Some of them are real, and some are created by the media to catch public interest. Regardless of the origins, people simply seem to be more excited when we have two people fighting for something rather than one. Every baseball season, for instance, somebody is labled as THE player who will set the single-season homerun record, but in 1998 when we had two men competing for the record, it was magic.
So, what makes a rivalry great? How do we seperate "rivalries" from "feuds"? Well I will try to provide some answers. I am keeping this wrestling-oriented but it applies to other industries too. For example, instead of "Great rivalries change the way people look at wrestling", you could say "Great rivalries change the way we look at TV sitcoms", or whatever other indistry you want. So, on with the criteria.
Great rivalries change the way we look at wrestling. By a lot of my other criteria listed, Shawn Michaels v. Bret Hart wouldn't quite make it. However, perhaps more than any other, this rivalry is responsible for "smartening" a lot of fans, or so I would imagine. I can't back that up with numbers or anything, but I believe it. Due to these two, people found out Vince actually was the owner of the WWF. Another one that makes it here is Steve Austin v. Bret Hart. These two men by themselves caused an almost complete switch in what it meant to be a face and a heel. The McMahons' never-ending family feud has changed booking from "These two will meet in the main event tonight just because" to "These two will meet in the main event tonight because the owner/commissioner/CEO said so."
Great rivalries produce great matches. Ric Flair v. Ricky Steamboat is the first one to come to mind here. One that is known for it's matches and little else is Flair v. Luger. Yes, Lex Luger actually had some great matches bacl in the eighties. While a rivalry doesn't have to have "great" matches, it must have at least one memorable one. That one match that you associate with those two men. Benoit v. Jericho could sneak in here as well.
Great rivalries can carry a promotion. This is what kills most potential rivalries. Benoit and Jericho cannot, at this point, stay at the top of the WWF against each other for any significant time without hurting business. Last summer, Triple H v. the Rock was it. The WWF needed them during a time when the Undertaker and Stone Cold were both off TV, and while some may argue this, these two put on some excellent matches. The WWF lived off of Austin v. McMahon for over two years. Three if you count the time Vince and Austin were buddies as a continuation of it.
Great rivalries cover long periods of time. Many times they even carry over from one promotion to another. Ric Flair and Randy Savage are the only two men to fight each other for a world title at both a Starcade and a Wrestlemania (And both times they were sent to the midcard so Hogan could have the main event for his grudge match. Ha!). Hogan and Flair started fighting in the summer of 1994, and continued to fight until near the end of Hogan's days in WCW. Another way to reach this is to be rivals in the midcard, and then have the rivalry pick back up once both men are main eventers. Triple H v. the Rock and Triple H v. Mick Foley are excellent examples of this.
Great rivalries elevate those involved. Triple H spent the summer of 1999 feuding with the Rock, who was already a former WWF champ. The two men had been fighting for years, but the Rock just reached the top faster. So Triple H's past with the Rock was brought up, and Triple H had his first near main event opponent as a heel. H's fighting with Austin, Foley, and other former world champions did this. Originally, I wasn't going to include this, as I thought "Shouldn't anytime a main eventer gets into a feud result in elevation?", but then sadly realised I was wrong.
There you have it. I was going to include a chart, much like the one The Cubs Fan used recently, to rate the top ten rivalries by these guidelines, but couldn't figure out how. If anyone could help me out, I'd appreciate it and will probably show the chart next week. I think the ten rivalries I will grade are:Rock/HHH, McMahon/McMahon/McMahon/McMahon, Austin/McMahon, Undertaker/Austin, Flair/Hogan, Flair/Savage, Flair/Steamboat, Hart/Michaels, Hart/Austin, and either Benoit/Jericho. If you think I should take out one of these for a pair of guys I'm overlooking, let me know, and I'll think about including them on the table (Assuming I can even make it).
After next week, I will probably be writing less, as classes are starting this Monday, and I don't know if I'll feel up to it. I'm also considering getting Road Runner, I'm sick of AOL and their crap. Until next time, I am Bucs792.
(Of course, I took too long putting this up, so Bucs had the chart sent to me! Here's part two... - CRZ)
Drawing Rivalry Change Rivals Matches Power History Wrestling Elevation Total Triple H/Rock 3 3 1 7 3 20 Austin/McMahon 8 1 5 1 2 17 Hart/Austin 6 6 8 3 1 24 McMahon family 10 2 9 2 5 28 Flair/Savage 4 9 2 8 7 30 Flair/Steamboat 1 5 6 9 8 29 Flair/Hogan 9 4 3 5 10 31 Austin/Undertaker7 7 4 7 6 31 Hart/Michaels 5 8 7 4 4 28 Benoit/Jericho 2 10 10 6 9 37
So I figured out how to make a chart on my Microsoft Works program, then it takes me even longer to figure out how to put the damn thing in an email. I screwed it up, and wound up doing almost the whole thing myself in the mail, but oh well. As you can see by this table, of the ten rivalries I've chosen, Steve Austin v. Vince McMahon ranks as the greatest. I posted another column this week explaining my criteria for judging them, but I made some changes for this chart. For example, where I said great rivalries last for a long time before, I said rivalry history here. Instead of carrying a promotion, I said drawing power. This was pretty hard to decide, especially since I put Flair v. Steamboat in there. I couldn't remember exactly how well their rivalry was played out all those years ago.
Anyway, on to my second topic of the week, the McMahon family. More specifically, what their role on WWF television should be. The McMahons have caught a lot of criticism over the years from people saying the show focuses too much on them, and not enough on the wrestlers. However, what these people fail to realize is that the McMahons are not stupid. Everything they do, they do for a reason. You don't become the head of a billion dollar corporation by making poor decisions.
So why isn't it a poor decision for the McMahons to be the centerpeice of WWF television? One word:security. When the WWF actually had some form of competition, and especially in the 1996-1998 period, wrestlers jumping from one company to the other was a common occurence. However, the people in Connecticut knew that with the McMahons, they wouldn't have to worry about it. Shane wouldn't cut a promo with the Corporate Ministry for a taped Raw, then show up with the Outsiders on a live Nitro at the same time. Stephanie wouldn't show up on Nitro to dump the women's title in a trash can. And Vince wouldn't walk out of the company while WWF champ and refuse to job it on the way out the door.
Besides, even with all the stupid "Oh, both Vince and Shane own 50% of the company, to go with Linda's 75% and Stephanie's 50%" stories, the McMahons still bring logic to the show. For years, matches on a show were just announced, without much said about who actually decided they would take place. Now we have the owner himself making these decisions, and there is no way we will go back to not having that authority figure who makes the matches on TV. I know I'm not the only one who, when two wrestlers agree to fight each other themsleves, wonders "But don't they need commissioner Regal's approval?".
Another good thing about the McMahons is their main event status. They are the only main eventers who's status is never in jepordy. That's not saying that headlining Raw with a Stephanie match every week is a good idea. It simply means the crowd sees the McMahons as important charecters who can always find a way to win. And the McMahons use this status to give others the rub. Wether it be by befriending them or fighting them, no main eventer in the last four years has gotten over without associating with the McMahons in some way. Wrestlers and angles just aren't taken seriously anymore unless the McMahons are involved. It's as if people say "How important could it be if the McMahons aren't even worried about it?".
To finish this, I just want to sum up what the McMahons bring to the Fed in three words:Credibility, Respectibility, Reality. Goodbye everybody.