THE BROOKER MAN
The Night I Gave Up On WCW...
Good morning, afternoon or evening depending on whichever best suits the time of day you're reading this. The whole time-lapse thing still catches me out but then again I never claimed to have the world's most accurate body clock.
Anyone that's read my selected words of wisdom so far will tell you that I am, for the most part, a positive person. I like to think of myself of as a glass-half-full type person. Needless to say, the worst thing that can happen to anyone with that outlook is find out that the glass is half empty after all. On Friday night the glass didn't just out to be half empty. It turned out to be mostly empty, chipped on one side and had a really nasty fuschia lipstick mark on the rim. I was not a happy fella.
Therefore if this installment of The Brooker Man starts to sound more like The Brooker Moan then please forgive me. On the other hand I'm speaking out on behalf of thousands of fellow sufferers that quite literally packed the Birmingham NEC to capacity so I think a little righteous indignation is in order. Allow me to set the scene.
Those good folks at World Championship Wrestling last set foot on these shores in 1994 with a tour headlined by Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair along with the far more intriguing Steve Austin V Sting as the semi final. Sadly I missed this one. Little did I suspect that they wouldn't cross the Atlantic again until I woke up in the year 2000.
Please note also that, due to their deal with Channel 5, WCW is the only wrestling outfit that has anything close to a prime time terrestrial TV deal in this country. Until recently the only way to see the WWF was on Satellite or Cable. You'd think that gave them a pretty strong foundation and, in this case, you'd be absolutely right. A whole new generation of WCW fans were right there for the taking.
Come March 10th thousands of Channel 5 and TNT viewers literally filled the NEC to capacity. They wanted to be entertained, nay they had a RIGHT to be entertained. After all, when was the last time that Time Warner's merry band of bone-benders filled ANY arena to capacity. These were a heady mixture of brand new fans and hardened cynics and the atmosphere, though not quite electric, was at least there. Not a bad foundation to start building on. For once, WCW was building on rock instead of sand.
Memo to WCW: Next time remember to bring some bricks with you.
The alarm bells started going off when the ring was still being put together at 7:20 PM and then never really stopped ringing all night. I was even fool enough to start thinking "This might not be so bad after all" during David Flair and Norman Smiley's comedy opening match, replete with hilarious screaming contest between Daffney and Stormin' Norm. Then, slowly but surely the show went South. Seems to be a metaphor for things going horrendously wrong in all contexts these days...
The Wall and Bam Bam put on a fair big man matchup. Fit Finlay and Booker had a fairly good match if a little sloppy and devoid of some of Booker's high spots. Then Jim Duggan put his TV title on the line against Brian Knobbs in a sloppily tedious Hardcore match and the rot set in. The Mamalukes and the Harris Boys were average at best and not helped by a meaningless finish involving Miss Hancock. Terry Funk and Dustin Rhodes fought in front of apathy and the occasional chants of "Goldust". Vampiro did his best to carry The Total Baggage who just didn't give a hoot. Throw in a couple of Nitro girl numbers that were obscured by pathetically leery pre-pubescent cat callers standing on their seats. There were also non-wrestling appearances by Bret Hart and Kevin Nash but I'll get to these later.
Then we came to the main event. A farce of such epic proportions that it deserves to be picked apart in it's own right. For starters down the aisle came none other than Michael Buffer. He then proceeded to rattle off the most horrifically transparently insincere monologue. "The best fans in the world are right here in Birmingham, England". Well, until WCW hit London the next day I'm sure... For some reason it managed to come across as a pathetic sniveling session. Possibly because that's just what it was... In any case he did manage to build up the anticipation for the night's main event.
Ric Flair walked the aisle curiously though he came without his robe. Come on WCW, that's real penny pinching. He strutted to the ring, went through his "fat boy/take your wife home/make a woman outta her" and everyone held their breath in anticipation. It's a bad sign when the music starts and the supposed pop is replaced with a universal noise of puzzlement. You could almost see the little "?" hovering over people's heads. Then out came Curt Hennig. Oh my lord. There was an epic sigh of unrepressed disappointment. People actually started leaving. Many of those that stayed started chanting "Goldberg" or "We Want Sid!". Needless to say they were disappointed on both counts. The two former Horsemen did their damnedest and put on a tidy little match. Sadly I doubt they could have fired up the audience if they'd walked on water, raised the dead and managed to feed the entire NEC with two loaves and a tin of tuna. In fact, as The Brooker Lad pointed out to me, Charles Robinson spent the second half of the match asking if he should wind it up. Buff Bagwell came running out to help overcome a little Luger-based interference and got a reaction that started as a pop and then became downright indignation when people fathomed that we wasn't actually there to wrestle.
I've been to some wrestling shows that I've found unsatisfying. Notably the infamous Sid/Farooq four minute "main event" back in 1996. On the other hand I've never been to a show that's seen pretty much EVERYONE leave unhappy. Who exactly was WCW trying to appeal to? What was the point of sending Bret Hart, Kevin Nash and Buff Bagwell out when they couldn't compete? If the show had been loaded with talent then they'd have been effective cameos. As it was, it was as if WCW stood up and said "Let's take a look at what you could have won..." by parading three of their more recognisable stars. Not least of which because the majority of the UK crowd wouldn't know that they were legitimately unable to compete, especially Hart and Bagwell who both seemed superficially healthy and able bodied.
I laughed, I cried and I left before Bagwell took the stick. I moaned, bitched and explained to Kev exactly why the show was such a bust during the drive home. Luckily he didn't decide to kick me out of the car on the M25 near Leicester to get some peace. I decided to vent my spleen and had a WWF champ take my confession. My soul was purged but I still felt like I'd spent upwards of =A350 on a second rate show.
Best of luck selling out the NEC next time folks.
Sorry about the relative lateness of this week's column, a combination of a virulent stomach bug and other more pressing issues. I'm also going to have to take a hiatus from the WWF Classics report for now as I have to concentrate on my sitcoms. Not every year the BBC throws out an opportunity like the one on offer. Fear not though, they will be back and TBM isn't going anywhere.
'Til next time, keep it smoooth...
What is it? It's the place for UK wrestling fans to get together and talk about the WWF, WCW, ECW or damn near anything that has the letter W in it in some capacity. It's Yahoo's number 1 UK wrestling club and absolutely everyone is welcome.
Every Sunday there's the now obligatory Sunday Night Greet (pun intended) when Nat and myself will be there to talk about anything and everything with anyone and everyone. 7pm GMT
Starting with No Way Out every WWF PPV will have match by match results posted by myself. I'll also gladly do WCW PPVs when the tight fisted millionaire bastards at Turner see fit to actually let us see them over here. If anyone wants to cover the WCW events then that would be much appreciated by the millions ( And Millions ) of UK fans.
There's also going to be the chance to trade tapes, merchandise and even your creations for WWF 2000, WCW Mayhem, Attitude and so on.
Who knows, if things take off we might even be able to get a few exclusive guests and interviews. ( How about it CRZ? ) Join in anytime, the more the merrier and I guarantee this is one club you will not regret being a part of.
Click it. You know you want to. <http://clubs.yahoo.com/clubs/ukgrappler>