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Tom Dean




As I say every week, if you write in to this column, YOU WILL BE PUBLISHED ON THE BY GOD INTERNET. Last week, Michael McCullar wrote in with some cutting comments about ol' Stone Cold Steve Austin, whom I had defended. I printed his letter and responded, and now he responds to my response.

Hola. Imagine my surprise and shock when I look at this week's article and see my email reprinted? I'm blushing!

It's our guarantee to you, THE CONSUMER.

Anyhoo, when I read your responses to my email, I was a bit surprised at the level of vitriol I exhibited. I guess I was much more hurt by the situation than I realized. Let me explain a bit. I grew up in Dallas watching the Von Erichs and WCCW. I saw Steve Austin when he debuted, and his subsequent feud with Chris Adams, which to this day I still think was one of the best done feuds I have ever seen (take two guys and throw a chick in the middle; see how it worked for Raven/Tommy Dreamer). I saw him move on to WCW, and then he disappeared from my radar screen. I didn't see him again for a few years, as I was a total WCW mark and didn't look at WWF until they brought in Mike Tyson. When I tuned in for a peek, guess who I see but Steve Austin, now "Stone Cold" rather than "Stunning". I kept tuning in and was hooked. SCSA has been my favorite wrestler since that point. My interest waned when he was out for a year with the neck injury. In fact, the only PPV I purchased during that time was I believe Backlash, or whichever one it was when he made a guest appearance to help the Rock win. I jumped back in with both feet when he came back and have been here ever since.

So maybe what he has done here in the past couple of months has affected me more than it would have with any other wrestler. Maybe that's why I am so upset. But I still believe that the tactics Steve has employed here are totally wrong. You just don't abandon ship, especially when, by all accounts, the organization is trying to accommodate you in every way. You may argue that he did not hurt the nWo angle since it was flawed from the start, but he did screw it up. Vince comes down to the ring and screws SCSA, helping Scott Hall to win. This sets in motion the "brand extension" that was to take place, as well as solidifying the nWo as a force to be reckoned with. Losing both of their matches at Wrestlemania just made the nWo look like a group of bitches. And whether you like the angle or not, it never had a chance to get out of the water after what Steve pulled. Plus, now the roster split looks convoluted.

You'll have to connect the dots for me, because I don't understand at all how one would get from "the nWo beats Austin" to "the company had to be split". I hope you're not implying a storyline in which the nWo's poison succeeded in destroying WWF. That would be pretty laughable. The only time the nWo was EVER presented as company-killing poison was in Vince's promos before they even came in. Once they actually got there, they were simply not used that way. I don't see what the point would have been of pretending otherwise. A Wrestlemania win wouldn't have changed what has already been established.

The only reason they ever needed for the split was "Ric and Vince don't like each other", which is what they used, and that was fine. I can't imagine the programming today would be any different if there had been a different reason for the split. Seriously, do you?

And, to top it all off, after he gets his way at Wrestlemania, Steve still pulls up stakes and walks off the next day.

I can't get on Steve for this when no one really has any idea what the hell happened.

So even after they catered to him, he still stormed off in a huff. But it's SCSA. Arguably your biggest draw, and for damn sure the major reason Vince is currently a billionaire. So you let it slide. Chalk it up to burnout. Let your numero uno top dog go blow off some steam. That works once.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

This time, when Steve comes back, Vince gets him more involved in the creative process. Steve asks to work a program with Eddy, since he's the best worker on the roster. Vince agrees and does him one better, giving him Benoit and Flair to work with as well. Who among us out here weren't salivating at the possibilities? The two best workers on the roster, and arguably the greatest wrestler in the history of the business, a man who, at 53, could still probably carry a broomstick to a *** match. But then Vince asks him a favor. "Steve, we've got this kid we're trying to get over. Brock Lesnar. The Next Big Thing. We'd like you to help us out by putting him over." Steve says UH-UH! and bails for a second time.

Now, whether it was a good idea for Brock to be put over Steve is debatable. Personally, I don't think so, although I'd bet a dollar to a donut that it wouldn't have been a clean win, but instead involved Benoit/Flair/Guerrero interference of some kind, thereby keeping the feud going while elevating Brock in the process. Either way, Steve walks, and now this is two angles in two months that he's jacked up.

That's irresponsible and inexcusable, no matter how you cut it. No matter how you try to justify it, it just wasn't professional.


He had to be let go.


And who knows? Maybe they would have let him stay at home for a few months to really recharge the batteries and then bring him back fresh, but after Saturday that won't be a viable option for quite a while.

No doubt about that part. [Saturday being the day that the spousal abuse story broke.]

If you want to see some irony, go check out the ECW Path of Destruction DVD and look at Steve's promo he cut right after arrival. Compare them to his actions of late and tell me that he hasn't turned into what he once hated. Name me one person he's elevated in the past year. Tell me one match that you could honestly believe he was going to lose. Steve had become bad-ass to the point of ludicrousness. Look at the RAW right before the Invasion PPV, when he single-handedly beat the shit out of 15 men. 15 men! He killed the Invasion. It just became Austin vs. Vince, Version III. Hell, Austin/Flair was just Austin/Vince, Version IV.

You're blue-skying here. Did Austin book his own angles? Obviously not, otherwise he'd still be there, right?

Could the fact that Austin was presented as the strongest wrestler in the promotion POSSIBLY have to do with the fact that he was the most popular wrestler in the promotions, and the fans really wanted very badly to see him win?

I dunno. Maybe the well had run dry. Even Hogan realized that Hulkamania had to die. Maybe it was time to kill Stone Cold. Maybe Steve just couldn't bring himself to do that. Because maybe he really had become Stone Cold, like Jim Hellwig became the Warrior.

Scarily enough, that does seem to have a lot of plausibility to it, given recent events.

Or maybe it was just simply that Steve couldn't accept that, like everyone else who came before him, his time had come. Which is a natural human reaction. But what do you do when you're a manager of a company and you have a guy who was once your number one money maker, but who wasn't getting it done quite the way he once did?

Oh, obviously FIRE HIM. Obviously!

What do you do when you try to get him to do some things a bit differently and he says no and goes home, not once but twice? You thank him for his years of service and you show him the door. Hulk Hogan was never bigger than the business. Bret Hart wasn't. Ric Flair wasn't. Shawn Michaels wasn't. And Steve Austin isn't.

Michaelangelo McCullar

Well, I disagree with your main thesis, but you make some good, articulate points for sure. Especially given your opening paragraphs, I'm sure we both agree on one thing: THIS SITUATION SUCKS.

Sooooooooo. I missed a column last week. Thankfully, that means I didn't have to write about Vince Russo. The scary thing about Li'l Vince is that the idea that supposedly got him knocked right the fuck back down -- i.e., an invasion of RAW with Bret Hart, Goldberg, and Scott Steiner -- is exactly the one that I'm using in my Extreme Warfare Revenge game. Of course, in EWR, the WWE can actually, y'know, sign those guys. If you COULD sign them all at once, it would probably be a cool storyline. Problem is you can't. In any event, Li'l Vince seems to pretty much be gone, and I tend to doubt we're any worse off for it.

Anyway. I know the rest of you Internet folks, who of course would NEVER EVER EVER let yourself be manipulated by the McMahon PR machine that you claim to comprehend so well, have nonetheless completely forgotten about the guy who, one month ago, was the biggest star in wrestling. Just like Vince wanted you to. Just like how it took you all of a few days to forget about Mick Foley, who only represented every aspect of this business that is great. I haven't forgotten, though. And I'm still pissed off at everyone. So as my revenge, I am going to do one of those super-lame "stream of consciousness" columns. That'll show 'em... that'll show 'em all.

- Supposedly, NWA-TNA's buyrates plummeted for their second show. That's interesting, because 1) I didn't see a ton of advance hype for the first one, so I'm surprised it had a big first week, and 2) everyone was raving about the second week's main event. Both weeks, I have tried to catch the replays, but screwed up and missed them. Anyways, like I've said earlier, I don't see all that many people putting down $10 a week for this product. Probably their best shot is to hope they can hang in there until someone decides it'd be smart to put them on TV. That may or may not ever happen.

- XWF has given up on getting on TV in America, and is going to try to get their groove on in Europe. This is sensible, in my humble opinion. Still, the fact is that the promotion claimed for MONTHS that they would be announcing an American TV deal "any day now". It's obvious now that that was extreme wishful thinking, if not outright knowing lies. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior is pretty much standard among the non-WWE promotions. It makes it hard to root for David against Goliath, which is a shame because who the hell really wants to root for Goliath?

- Speaking of international markets, I do understand why WWE wants to revive the "Team Canada" angle. The wrestling business is doing way better internationally than it is in the U.S., no question. Canada is no exception. The product seems to be much hotter there. And it's easy for WWE to tour there. So it makes sense for the company to cater to that market a little bit. Unfortunately, as much as Canada might care about this angle, that's how little *I* care about it. As an American, I feel absolutely zero rivalry with Canada. Hearing someone trying to pretend that there IS such a rivalry just does nothing besides bore the crap out of me. To me, it's the definition of cheap "yeah, okay, we'll boo because that's what we're supposed to do right now, not because we actually care" quasi-heat. It's pretty sad to me that they can't find anything better to do with three really talented guys in Christian, Lance Storm, and Test. Christian, especially, is a wrestler who could be doing about twenty thousand more interesting things.

- I have no idea why Chris Jericho thinks his match with RVD at King of the Ring was so great. He himself has had better matches (with better crowd reactions) against RVD several times. Hell, his Smackdown match with Hogan was better in my humble opinion... It's really tough to know what to make of a guy who says that he appreciates the people who enjoyed the match, that he thinks that the people who didn't enjoy the match are wrong, and then says that he won't be writing for ANYBODY because of the people who didn't like it. Not exactly a logical syllogism. Well, we love you anyway, Chris. Get better soon.

- Nidia seems to be getting over despite not wrestling and not having any acting ability whatsoever. I think the reason is simply that the "Mickey & Mallory" thing is a good gimmick to see for a few minutes a night. Hopefully they won't screw it up by having Jamie Noble challenge people to matches in the backs of trailers or something. Another Tough Enough person that seems to be getting over very well is Chris Nowinski. He definitely seems like a guy people are going to love to hate, again, assuming they don't go overboard and make it more gimmick than character.

- Although Booker is getting over with the "suckaaaaaaaa" catchphrase, they are going to have trouble getting him over any more than that if they're not careful. The reason I say that is because the nWo are very decidedly tweeners. It definitely seems to me that the crowd is pro-Kevin Nash and Shawn Michaels. The crowd is anti-X-Pac and Big Show, true. But, those guys are seen as second-stringers, and don't get as strong negative reactions as Nash and HBK get positive ones. And unfortunately, those are the two who, y'know, wrestle. My overall point: As far as the crowd is concerned, the nWo are not heelish enough, as a group, to get someone over as a face by feuding with them. So they either have to make the nWo more heelish, or try to get Booker over some other way.

- BUT, I am really glad that apparently, neither Ric Flair nor the nWo is going to be asked to fill the main event slot on RAW. They are not exactly the future of this company. I hope the plan doesn't change when the shows get crap ratings. Which they will. 'Cause, y'know, no Austin.

- And, whaddaya know, the last two RAW main events have indeed been very good. I felt that the RVD-Lesnar rematch was a lot better than their King of the Ring match. Lesnar talking for himself, I think, is A Very Good Thing. He acquitted himself nicely on the mic and in the ring, and then destroyed RVD nicely. And Undertaker-Jeff Hardy the next week was also a match that I feel will do a lot for everyone involved. J.R. did an excellent job of dramatizing the event. Unfortunately, the announcing has been so piss poor the last few months that that really stands out. The ending was extremely well booked to get Hardy over as a lovable maniac and to turn Undertaker back towards facedom.

My main comment on the last couple of weeks is that the unending emphasis on "ruthless aggression" seems to have seeped down to the wrestlers, with very positive results. It seems like there is an effort being made -- both by the folks in front of the cameras, and those behind it -- that wasn't there before. Admittedly, it's kind of sad that they would HAVE to harangue people to give their best effort. You would think that earning (and increasing) one's paycheck would be sufficient motivation. Nonetheless, there it is, and if it works, don't screw with it.

That's all you get till next week, you miserable toerag.

Tom Dean
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