Welcome, one and all, to the trial run of what may turn into a regular feature, depending on success/subject matter/general laziness on my part. I'm pretty much tired of churning out random reviews for no-one in particular, so, rather than waste time and energy watching King Of The Ring '95 to recap it for Mr Nobody, I thought I'd get those creative juices a-flowin'. So, without further ado, welcome to Blown Spots!
The definition of a blown spot in this crazy mixed-up business of ours is a move or sequence that is so badly done that it is a)comical or b)painful to the recipient (sometimes both!). But we all know that piddling little MOVES aren't the only thing that get blown by those in the wrassling biz. Angles, commentary, feuds; you name it, somewhere along the line a wrestling company has fucked it up. This column is dedicated to chronicling those terrible screw-ups and missed opportunities, as well as ruminating on what might have been had certain parties not been so bone-headed. Our first stop on this Cavalcade Of Catastrophes? Let's go back....
January 16th 2000
It was a pretty tumultuous few weeks for WCW (nothing unusual there, then). After a hot start at the helm of the Atlanta-based promotion, Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera ran into their first speedbump. And boy, was it BIG. Going into Souled Out 2000, there were two big attractions slated: the US Champion Jeff Jarrett would wrestle Chris Benoit three times in the Triple Threat Theatre, a series of three separate gimmick matches designed to pull in the punters; and Bret Hart would defend his WCW Championship against Sid Vicious. While not exactly a world-beating card the match quality was there and it probably would have been one of WCW's better efforts. But for one man.
Well, two actually: Bill Goldberg and Jimmy Snuka. While everybody knows of the concussion that effectively ended Bret's career a month prior to Souled Out, not many people remember just why Jarrett wasn't present on the card. A couple of week before the show, Jarrett ran the gauntlet of old stars on Nitro, and in a steel cage match with Snuka he wound up on the wrong end of a Snuka Splash/Air Canada combo. Subsequently the Chosen One also ended up with a concussion, and big changes had to be made to Souled Out.
No-one really knew what to expect heading into the pay-per-view, as match details were sketchy at best. The first question was soon answered: rather than Chris Benoit facing an alternate opponent for the Triple Threat Theatre, Kidman took his place and squared off against Dean Malenko, Saturn and The Wall in three separate matches. So where was Benoit? Answer: With Hart on the shelf, the world crown needed a new holder, and so Benoit faced off against Sid in the main event for the vacant strap. After fifteen minutes of one of Sid's better matches, Benoit slapped on the crossface and special referee Arn Anderson made the call. After years of being screwed over, Benoit had finally won the WCW Championship. Many people hailed it as the new era of WCW, and Scott Keith went to sleep a happy man.
Nobody counted on Kevin Sullivan to ruin it all.
Vince Russo and Ed Ferrera had been released directly before the pay-per-view. Management were not impressed with Russo's suggestion of transferring the title to Tank Abbott and the end result was the Unibrowed Wonder's departure. Kevin Sullivan was brought in to hold the fort for the big show, and was chiefly responsible for Benoit's booked title win. Odd, considering Benoit stole the man's wife, eh? Nobody bought the gesture of goodwill, least of all Benoit, who suspected that once his initial title run was over it would be back to jobbing to the veterans. So, on arrival for the following Nitro, Benoit-accompanied by buddies Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn-requested his release. Rather than play smart and keep the foursome under lock and key, Sullivan made the dumbest move of his career: he released them fully, relieving them of all obligations. Idiot. Which brings us to....
January 31st 2000
For two weeks the internet community had been abuzz with rumours of the WCW Four's Stamford arrival. The general consensus was that it was no longer a matter of if, but WHEN they would show up on Raw. Everybody got their answer on January 31st. Beginning like any other WWF show, the New Outlaws sauntered down to the ring for their WWF Tag Team Championship defence against comedy duo Al Snow and Steve Blackman. Before the match could get underway, something infinitely more interesting appeared at ringside: the WCW Four had taken front row seats, and were, according to JR, simply here to watch the action.
JR was, as on so many occasions, proved to be a big fat liar just five minutes later. After Dogg took an errant swing at one of the quartet, the air of peace exploded. Hopping the guardrail, the men soon to be known as the Radicals absolutely pulverised the Outlaws, including a GORGEOUS frog splash by Guerrero on Billy Gunn. Following the beating the four made their way to the back, where it was revealed that they were the guests of Cactus Jack. The Radicals had arrived, and in super-hot fashion.
So what the Hell happened?
Four Men, One Elbow
The Rads' first night in the promotion ended on as higher note as possible, as the four men drilled then-WWF Champion Triple H with suplexes and punches as Raw went of the air. Things were already looking good. But the following night, disaster struck.
The SmackDown tapings got underway with Cactus and his newfound friends requesting the presence of the McMahon-Helmsley Regime so that the new arrivals could sign WWF contracts. Triple H soon arrived and made an intriguing suggestion: the four men (or "Radicals" as JR had dubbed them) would face DX in three separate matches, and if they won two out of three then they would have jobs. The matches were set: Malenko Vs. X-Pac, Guerrero/Saturn Vs. The Outlaws, and Benoit Vs. Triple H. Now THAT'S a SmackDown.
Malenko/X-Pac passed without too much hoo-haa, as Pac got the tainted pin with a low blow/X-Factor combo. Then came the tag team match-and that's where it all went wrong. As Guerrero came off the top with a sweet frog splash on Gunn, he landed hard on his left elbow, immediately dislocating it. The previously-booked ending of a Rads victory had to be changed on the fly, as Dogg mercifully pinned Guerrero about a minute later. The initial prognosis: Eddie would be out four months.
While it didn't take that long for Eddie to return, it certainly scuppered the fed's plans of having the Radicals main event No Way Out in some form. The remaining active Rads were moved down the card after hastily turning heel on Cactus Jack, and found themselves booked against Too Cool and Rikishi for the upcoming pay-per-view. Their profile had already been diminished, and worse was about to come.
The six-man match at No Way Out was pegged by most as a stepping stone for the Rads to move onto bigger things. Too Cool and Rikishi were mightily over, but no-one could really see them moving up the ranks like the Radicals could. Which made the outcome of the pay-per-view match all the more perplexing: Dean Malenko jobbed to Rikishi's Banzai Drop at the thirteen minute mark, cutting the Rad's push off in mid-swing. The beginning of the end was underway.
Numerous mistakes were made in the handling of the quartet after No Way Out. While Chris Benoit's intensity and physique won him an immediate upper-card push, the remaining three were left dead in the water. Rather than push them as what they were and play off of their WCW characters-intense, vicious wrestlers-the WWF refused to acknowledge their careers up until that point. Instead the group were each allocated a persona to build upon, a goofy gimmick to portray. Career death in other words.
The unit was split just a month after WrestleMania, and Guerrero and Benoit continued their moderate success by combining charisma and ring skills. Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn were not as lucky. Refusing to book them as straight wrestlers, the WWF threw two quick fixes at them-Malenko became, in JR's words, "James Bond-like", while Saturn was lumbered with Terri as a valet. Needless to say, both angles bombed, big-time. And, for all intents and purposes, that was the end of the Radicals in the WWF. What happened?
Exhibit A: Lack Of Push-As demonstrated by the nWo, a coup such as this should literally change the promotion. The Rads dismantling over any and all superstars, titles being won left right and centre, top matches from the get-go-this should have been the way the Radicals' push commenced. Instead they were shunted progressively further down the card and not given any leeway in terms of significant wins. That segues nicely into....
Exhibit B: Predictable, Unnecessary Losses-Partly the fans' fault, but mostly the blame for this lies squarely on Vince McMahon's head. Vince's ego has always prevented him from allowing "outside stars" to run roughshod over his creations-as seen in the current incarnation of the nWo. This egotism is what led to the Rads' nonsensical loss to the Too Cool/Rikishi triumvirate in their pay-per-view debut. The trend continued through to WrestleMania, where Saturn, Guerrero and Malenko jobbed to Too Cool and Chyna. Two losses like that will kill your heat from the get-go. This point also relates too...
Exhibit C: Lack Of Acceptance-Another of Vince's little foibles is his refusal to take advantage of superstars' dealing with other companies. Here it cost him big. WCW had shown Vince how to be moderately successful when handling these four-package them as badass wrestlers with little to no morals and let them run with the ball. As this was WCW's way of handling things, Vince immediately wrote this off as an option. Instead we got the WWF's pathetic attempts at gimmicking them-Malenko's Bond tendencies, Saturn's mop-screwing, Benoit's "Mr. Wrestling" interviews. Vince and co. should have taken a leaf from Mick Foley's book-literally: the most successful characters are those that are closest to the real-life person. Is Dean Malenko a smooth operator? Hell no. Does Eddie Guerrero REALLY talk like Cheech Marin? I don't think so. That's why Eddie was so much cooler when he went rudo in October 2000.
What Could Have Been: Many suggestions have been made for the handling of the Radicals in the WWF, both at the time of their arrival and in the two years since then. Perhaps the best idea I have heard was to have introduced them as a IV Horsemen-type group, and KEEP THEM that way. In many ways, the split is what killed the Radicals' chances of success in the WWF. As singles wrestlers, they barely scraped together enough heat to pop the Nassau Coliseum. But as a group, they could have helped each other remain over. Imagine Benoit as the no-frills assassin he eventually ended up portraying, ably assisted by the sneaky, cheat-to-win Eddie Guerrero and the silent-but-violent Malenko and Saturn. I particularly like the latter two as a tag team combination, it would have been sweet to see the two of them as the fourth team in the Hardys/Dudleys/E&C trio.
But we will never see that, thanks to the sheer thick-headedness of WWF bookers and management. The dream of thousands of fans was on the cusp of becoming reality on January 31st, 2000, but within a few short months those dreams were over and nothing had changed.
That, my friends, is a blown spot.