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Phil Francis




Every time I read some opinion column-or-other on the various wrestling web pages that are trying to harp on the "hypocrisy" of the federations, trying to show how "smart" they are. As if the big chiefs don't know what kind of image they're projecting, of how people - the casual observers and the followers of this pseudo-sport - are going to perceive their decisions. If you see something on T.V. and wonder to yourself, "What the hell was he thinking?" the problem as to why YOU don't "get it" is probably on YOUR end. I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt to even the biggest perceived moron promoter in the world - oh, you know I mean Uncle Eric - despite the many gripes attributed to his style of management.

To wit, I mean to address the most bitched-about element in WCW - the family values/G-rating thing. Have you ever seen "TV-G" pop up in the corner of the screen? Have wrestlers gotten into the ring for a "time-out" match? In that case, you've totally missed the boat.

The statements Eric Bischoff has made concerning putting on a Turner(tm) values program is a two-pronged program to try to distance WCW from the WWF in the public eye. It is both a way to show that WCW isn't plagued with legal battles and wrestlers dying in accidents. BUT, the second effect his statements have is that EVERYONE has seemed blind to. Now, I'm giving Eric the benefit of the doubt that I don't think most wrestling columnists are willing to give.

Everyone's been criticizing the "Savage backhands a valet," "Lodi and Lenny are so freakin' gay," and "a psychopath tries to kill Nash with a Hummer" as obvious NON-family values. Well DUH, you morons!


"But...but....what about what Eric said?!?" you're stammering right about now.

You've been worked.

What was the point of Eric's statements? Well, we've all watched him steal material from the WWF for years. I can only imagine him watching Vince put out 90 minutes (approximately) of T&A and vulgarity-laced talk to about 30 minutes of wrestling every Monday night. And crush him in the Neilsens week after week after week. Don't you think that if he didn't have to apply a rectal cleaning to Turner every day that he wouldn't have a show just as "trashy" with the same emphasis, the same proportion as the WWF? You've seen the one-upmanship of Eric and Vince and their little game of Can You Do This?... Ask yourself honestly.

Now, why the G-Rating thing? It's a ploy, plain and simple. It gets the nit-pickers talking about his product. It filters through the public in general via the media, meaning families - who pay more money than just some chump-ass 'Net columnist - show up at his events and fork over cash. It gives fodder to WCW's PR machine and their shills. It's a false front that gives Nitro controversy without having the REAL controversy of RAW! No drag-queen BJs on-camera, no references to Hos, no public lawsuits, and markedly less blading. It's pure genius. Or, at least it could be if he could have some original ideas on how to promote the future superstars that are going to have to come up and compete with the WWF when the Old Guard get too decrepit to move around the ring (or, is that right now?).

Eric Bischoff has put on a mask and played a little joke on you. Vince McMahon pulled the same trick with "Get it?" and you all missed THAT one, too. When he went out and proclaimed "I'm just giving people what they want" and "if you don't like what we're about, you just don't Get It!" he was pulling a fast one. I think that if you pay real close attention to how he was referred to, of how he spoke about himself, you'll find that he was FULLY in-character as MR. MCMAHON. Not Vince McMahon, but the heel MR. MCMAHON.

It was all a work, little pigeon.

Vince McMahon might be a workrate freak and stylistic purist like a Bruno Sammartino, but he knows what is "selling" these days in pro wrestling. No more wrestling garbage men, bush league hockey players, or - thank the gods - clowns. People go to see The Phantom Menace not because they know they're going to see starship battles with moments of high excitement but because of the compelling storyline, for the characters and their dynamic interaction. You know that Anakin is going to one day become Darth Vader, but what twist in the storyline is going to turn a naive 9-year old into the force of evil?

Is Kane going to go total babyface as a part of DX? He's got history with the Corporate Ministry. With the Undertaker. With X-Pac. With Mr. McMahon. With Paul Bearer. Which way will he turn? There's your suspense, the hook that puts your ass in front of the TV every Monday night. The anticipation of "what's next?" brings you back every week. Will we see some puppies come flying out of a top? Will Jericho make a huge splash on the scene? Will Al Snow give us another **** Hardcore showcase?

Vince and Jesse Ventura don't shake hands at the podium of Jesse's announcement. IT'S ALL A WORK. Vince knows what he's doing and he's playing you all like a fiddle. He's injected enough realism and consistent story-telling into the mix that the lines between what's part of the story and what is reality becomes blurred. It's just masterful.

As soon as Eric learns the value of having plot consistency - not just some weeks, but ALL of the time (Why was Sid helping Nash on Nitro? And Arn Anderson the week before?) - he might be able to retake the #1 Monday night wrestling ranking. I think a few ego checks at the door would help, personally.


Buff Bagwell "moving up" to a program with Ernest Miller? That's like moving up from a third-string position on a basketball team to being a bench-warmer for the band leader.

You know, there's a point where having a buxom, salinated valet can give you heat, but the wrong kind. You could get ANYONE over - even Van Hammer - by having him come out with a top-heavy blonde. But like the situation as it stands with Jeff Jarrett, he'd get booed while trying to give a mid-ring spiel because his jabber is disrupting the "Pup-pies! Pup-pies!" chant and his walking around is inevitably blocking someone's view of her chest. And if it wasn't for the valet, he'd get apathy-booed right out of the building. Randy Savage should think about that.
	Typical Monday Nitro chain of events, Opponent down on the Mat
SAVAGE: To the top rope CROWD: ... SAVAGE: Drops the big elbow CROWD: ...
Don't get me wrong about Ernest Miller; as a talker, he's good at getting himself over as a heel. I never liked the Honky Tonk Man because he sucked as a wrestler, but he knew how to make fans hate him.

However, I've been really impressed with Hardcore Holly lately. He's proven to be fantastic on the mic and has been given a great angle as the "fearless hardcore talent" who foolhardily walks into ass-kicking after ass-kicking. Despite being popularly considered the "odd man out" in the Royal Rumble brackets, he's gotten my attention more than EVERYONE else who was in that tournament, including the winner Mr. Ass. And in the same breath, Mr. Ass may not be "ready for prime time" yet, but he can sell his opponent like nobody I've seen in a long time. If only he had a more ordinary moniker, he would probably supplant the name of Ricky Morton ("Mortonizing" in a tag team match) as the best bump-taker of all the smaller wrestlers active today.

And finally, I'm looking forward to two things later on this year. No, Chris Jericho is not in my personal top two. One, is the return of Big Poppa Pump. Say what you will, but I like the guy. His routine on the mic was another one of those Rated-G tweaks that you guys weren't getting, and I thought he was damn funny. Without Bagwell hovering around, cracking up every time BPP said something to help sell it, he may not be as funny next time around. I hope so, though. Two, being a resident in the state of Arkansas, I'm looking forward to ECW's TNN debut. FINALLY, I'll be able to get at least some sort of exposure to their weekly product. And, with any luck, one of my local cable channels will get interested enough to pick up the sydicated package so I can see the more unfiltered version.

Until next time, relax your sphincter...You'll enjoy Monday night more.

Phil Francis

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