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Mark Coale



A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dikkens
(That's Dikkens, with two "K's," the well-known Dutch author)

It was the best of times for a wrestling fan, it was the worst of times for a wrestling fans.

Sure, any Internet nerd can get on the net and complain about the HHH funeral parlor angle. But that's like shooting fish in a barrel. Plus, I haven't seen it. And while I still have it on tape from Monday night, I don't want to watch it. In fact, I've not actually watched RAW in at least a month. No desire.

On the other hand, I've actually become eager to now watch Smackdown every week. Of course, the show has most of the great workers in the company, but it also has better storytelling and, dare I say, booking.

Readers of this space know I have no great fondness for Paul Heyman, except for the time he managed the Original Midnight Express and that was more than 10 years ago now. I was a longtime detractor of ECW and that was when they before they lost all the quality wrestlers and became mainly a garbage wrestling promotion. And you can see the flashes of misogyny and sloppy wrestling that was the hallmark of the South Philly bingo hall known as the ECW Arena.

However, to give the devil his due, Heyman has made Smackdown imminently watchable, even with the overexposure (but not in the right way) of the Queen of Akimbo, Stephanie McMahon.

It's tempting to say that a room full of monkeys filling out booking sheets could come up with a quality program featuring Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Rey Misterio and the Guerreros. But, of course, we've seen that it's possible. I mean, Vince Russo has four of the five under contract in WCW and couldn't do it right.

Hell, you don't need to examine the recent past to see how to bollocks up a rosterful of talent. All you have to do is look down the hall to see the RAW offices. How can allegedly intelligent writers create an unwatchable show that contains Ric Flair, Chris Jericho, William Regal and yes, even HHH?

I wish Eric Bischoff were actually booking RAW, because he would be an easy (and welcome) target. He acts (?) so smug and smarmy that it's impossible not to hate him and want to tune in to see him get his just comeuppance. But Easy E, at least to this viewer, has acquired Sean Waltman/Big Bossman/Shane Douglas negative heat and whenever I see him on the tube, I just want to switch to Monday Night Football or whatever else is on.

But, he's just a performer. And he is actually just doing his job (if perhaps a bit too well). No, we have to go up the food chain for that. And we have to go right to the head shark.

Vince apparently likes RAW the way it is and has no plans to change it. Thousands of people watching at home will complain (since they probably don't have millions of viewers anymore) or get on their favorite message boards to wail and moan.

Not me. It's just not worth it anymore. Vince isn't going to change. My opinion won't sway his path.

At this point, I'm content to ignore RAW on Monday, read CRZ's recaps on Tuesday (if we're lucky), get up Wednesday morning, read the Smackdown spoilers and watch patiently until Thursday until the show comes on to see Benoit and Angle and Eddy and Chavito and Rey Rey and Edge and Knoble and Tajiri. Oh yeah, and watch Friends. I'll be taping Smackdown, since for the first time in months, there are matches actually worth saving.

At least until Vince decides that Smackdown needs more adultery and soap opera storylines. What? Al Wilson? Tracy whatshername? Really? I'd just been fast-forwarding through all that crap. Go figure.

(Hype alert: See me this weekend at the Baltimore Comicon, downtown at the Baltimore Convention Center. A few times during the show, Flash, JSA and Avengers writer Geoff Johns, interviewed in the current issue of our magazine, will be at our table.)

Mark Coale
Odessa Steps Magazine

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