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Jack Epstein




Its that time of year folks... It's the second annual "lets put our best workers in dangerous gimmick matches on free TV" extravaganza. This new tradition lasts from May to June, and consists of the WWF sticking some of their most talented workers in a series of gimmick matches on free TV in order to boost ratings. Lets do a little timeline...

In 1998, Mick Foley capped off his inspired heel run with almost dying in the Hell in the Cell match. Those bumps inspired all sorts of idiots to sacrifice their bodies to impress 50 fans at independent shows. Bookers and promoters saw the financial impact that Foley's bumps had on the wrestling business. Hell, as a tape dealer, I saw the impact. For two years, Foley vs. Undertaker was the most requested match on any custom tape I made. Killing yourself on TV = Big $$$ for the wrestler and promoter if done right.

Flash forward to 2000. The WWF has their first "Tables, Ladders, and Chair" match at Wrestlemania. The fans went crazy for it. So what did they do? They gave us another one at Summerslam, and a third one a year later at Wrestlemania X-7. These matches did more to kill the career of all six participants than extend it. An extra $10,000 payday isn't worth the risk of crippling yourself.

2001. ECW is dead. WCW is dead. The WWF is the only game in town. HHH is injured, the Undertaker still sucks, and Rocky is filming a movie. The WWF is all out of identifiable maineventers. They elevate Chris Benoit and Chris Jericho to fill the void at the top of the card. Then somebody got the bright idea to work Chris Benoit until he broke. At Judgment Day, Benoit had a classic 2 out of 3 falls match with Kurt Angle (culminating in a ladder match). Later that night, Benoit and Jericho won a tag team turmoil match to become the #1 contenders to the Tag Team Title. The next night, Benoit and Jericho take the tag straps in the tag match of the year. If that wasn't enough, on the following night, Benoit and Jericho are involved in a TLC match on free TV in which Benoit hurts his ribs diving through a table. It gets even better... On the following Monday Night, Benoit has two matches, one against Rhyno, and the other one against Steve Austin. The next night, Benoit goes 20 minutes with Steve Austin in the best match of 2001 at the Smackdown tapings. The cherry on the cake was a cage match against Kurt Angle on RAW the following Monday (Benoit destroys his neck by doing a headbutt off the cage). Benoit guts it out for two more weeks and mails in his performance at King of the Ring so he can get neck surgery the next night, and be out of wrestling for a year.

The above is just one example of how to seriously injure a worker with bad booking. Between Judgment Day and King of the Ring last year, we were treated to a plethora of matches, which injured workers that did nothing to boost overall ratings. They include:

HHH/Austin vs. Benoit Jericho "Tag Team Title" (RAW 5/21/01)
  • HHH tears his quad muscle, out of action for 8 months

    Benoit/Jericho vs. DUDs vs. Hardyz vs. Edge/Christian (Smackdown taping 5/22/01)
  • Benoit breaks his ribs

    Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle "Cage Match" (RAW 6/4/01)
  • Benoit destroys his neck, needs surgery asap

    Kurt Angle vs. Shane McMahon "No DQ Match" (King of the Ring 6/24/01)
  • Angle hurts tailbone, both wrestlers cut hardway from the glass

    Time to take a trip to the present. Ratings are in the toilet. Wrestling is no longer the cool thing to watch anymore. But Hulkamania is running wild! So how do you win back fans?

    You give Paul Heyman the book again, and let him destroy the future of the WWF
    (Get the F Out). Eddie Guerrero and Rob Van Dam go for 20 minutes in one of the most unusual ladder matches I've ever seen. The ladders were cheaply constructed, and gave way repeatedly all throughout the match (RVD could have killed himself from falling off the top). That fan interference didn't help matters either. In the long term, RVD and Eddy had nothing to gain from the ladder match. RAW has one of its lowest ratings in 4 years. Being IC champ in the WWE is like watching porno when you could be having really great sex.

    The latest victim of the May/June injury bug is Edge. Edge needs surgery on his shoulder from his cage match against Kurt Angle last week. Edge was in the middle of a significant push that would eventually have placed him at the top of the card. Instead of thinking about maineventing house shows, Edge is praying that the WWE doesn't have anyone else to push into his spot for the 8 weeks he'll be off the shelf. Once again, Smackdown drew one of its lowest ratings in show history.

    There are 4 weeks left in June. Lets all hope the WWE stops using all these absurd gimmick matches (we had Hell in the Cell, Ladder, and Cage matches all within 2 weeks of each other). I'd take better booking over a "Holy Shit!" bump any day of the week.

    Jack Epstein

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