WHAT BISCHOFF AND RUSSO MISSED - HOW APRIL 10th'S NITRO COULD HAVE BEEN EVEN
April 10th's Nitro was an excellent start to WCW's new era, but it could have been better. First the faults, then the solutions:
1. It was a mistake to strip all the champs of the belts. I get the symbolic nature of the move, but it would have been much better for Bischoff and Russo to say they were going to give the champs real challenges and break the glass ceilings and give opportunity to all and then follow through. Crowning new champs after short tourneys destroys credibility and just isn't the best way to go about changing the title picture. Sid, as world champ and a "Millionaire" is the one special case. Since the other champs are already new blood, why take the belts?
2. It was a mistake to have Sean Stasiak, someone that no one ever really knew or ever cared about, debut by interfering in a match.
3. It was a mistake to have Mike Awesome, someone many have never heard of and someone many probably didn't even recognize until long after, debut by attacking Nash.
4. It was a mistake to have Douglas and Flair fight the same night Shane came back.
5. It was a mistake to cram Kidman's win, Eric's turn, and the white hummer into one night. I know they were making sure people would take notice of the angle, but it would have been better to build to each plot point instead of throwing them all out at once. Eric and Vince said they didn't expect to turn things around in one night, so pace the storylines.
6. It was a mistake to turn Vampiro on Sting. Let me explain this one here: Have Vamp walk out of the meeting at the open of the show and refuse to shake Eric and Vince's hand. Have an interview later in the show were he says he's heard talk before and doesn't care about politics. He grew up idolizing Hogan and Sting and even Flair and Luger who he's had problems with. He'd rather be with his heroes who he respects than just another asskisser to the new boss. What this does is immediately adds dimension to the story line. It's not just Group A vs. Group B. Here you've got someone who should be in one group preferring to be in the other. This forces every other wrestler to define his stance. Flair and Luger don't want him, got no use for him ,doesn't think he belongs. Others, Sting and Luger in the Club welcome him. Page and Sid for example could accept him but not trust him. Vamp as part of the Club would be great for all involved as it would require each to sound out how they feel about being in the outcasts. Some, like Kidman for one, of the New Blood will try to talk Vamp to 'come back where he belongs and fight for the right side, the right cause.' Others in the New blood will be mad at the "traitor." Eric and Russo get to also take stands on Vamp (ie Eric goes 'let him burn ingrate' Vince argues 'let's get him back.') This puts Vampiro in a special light (and I don't mean the red and green ones) since he's being different from everything else going on around him, it's an added push for him. It also gives two more spots for New blood since instead of Sting vs. Vamp we get Sting and Vamp vs. whoever. It also doesn't hurt that the club is getting the face heat and Vamp's been getting face pops. All of this plus the fact that instead of turning everybody tonight, you could pick a better time to turn Vamp on the club or the club on Vamp when it would be more dramatic and noteworthy and not just lost as more of the same in the big hotshot angle tonight.
A short revision on April 10th's Nitro. As always, note that fantasy booking is easier than the real thing because on the outside I'm not aware of all the details that might influence decisions.
1 - Start the parade of people to the ring. Don't have people standing and then send a second wave, treat everyone like equals. It wouldn't hurt to trim some of the talk out, esp. stuff about the WWF. Tell everyone they'll be getting opportunities. Millionaire's Club gets called out, Bischoff takes the world belt, not because all the titles are stripped, but because they're going to get things straight tonight. Jeff vs. Sid for the world title in tonight's main event. (I know it's been done on PPVs and not drawn, I'd count on the Russo/Bischoff angle to keep people watching since it's free tonight.) For the PPV, the Millionaire's get one last shot at glory, just to prove that Bischoff and Russo are fair and run the tourney they did this week.
2 - Jarrett and Russo in the ring. Russo intros Sean Stasiak as a close friend. Russo has Jeff lay down to Sean to win the US belt. Note - I'm well aware of what I'm doing to the US belt. I point out first that it's better than just stripping the belt again and running another tourney for it again. The reason I do it is because half a dozen good angles can be sprung from this. First it intros Stasiak to the crowd and gives him a high profile position. Give him the ball and let him run. Hennig gets mad that he's overlooked, he goes after the belt (and then when Stasiak does his Perfect mannerisms, it's part of a logical angle). Several other wrestlers will notice that Russo is handpicking champs and start to wonder if the Good Ol' Boy network is getting replaced by a Good New Boy network, that can be developed. If Stasiak can't uphold the belt, move it to Hennig or whoever quickly and work from that (perhaps Stasiak gets mad that Russo wasn't protecting him and turns).
3 - I'd go with Sting vs. Page and Luger vs. Flair as the tourney brackets (avoid Sting vs. Luger and Sting vs. Flair reruns, Flair brings out the best in Luger and you get to run a 'Team Package fighting' miniangle in that matchup). Page vs. Sting goes first. As I said, Vamp doesn't turn so you can't use that excuse to get a job. I'd probably run Sting as being unmotivated in the match due to his loyalty and dedication being questioned and let Page go over clean. The show could use the variety of a clean finish.
4 - Kidman calls out Hogan. Hogan sucker punches Kidman with the mic, does the punk out of Kidman, does the leg drop, then walks out of the ring. He spends the rest of the show trying to find Eric to explain the remarks. Use the Hogan/Eric angle to get people to watch Thunder. At Thunder have Hogan say 'No one wants to see me wrestle Kidman, give me Jarrett for the title' Eric tells Hogan that Hogan will wrestle Kidman at the PPV. Maybe even have Kidman at Bischoff's side at the time and do a little fight there to hype the PPV match. Do the Eric and Hogan conspire behind the closed door at the end of Thunder to get people to wonder what will go down at the PPV. Is it a doublecross? Buy the PPV to find out! Eric then does the turn at the PPV with blade job and chair shot and all. Yes, people would complain Tuesday morning if Kidman gets punked by Hogan (but then people always complain about everything about Hogan anyway) on Nitro, but you need to look at the bigger picture. Tell a story. Let it play out. Build from plot point to point, don't just ram them all out there to shock people. Kidman gets a bigger push from the Hogan job in the end if you build the angle and spend some time on it. The angle with Hogan and Eric is less rushed, more natural and has a chance to grow and to catch the user's attention. Wouldn't you much rather see Kidman vs. Hogan at the PPV, give the match 10 minutes? Wouldn't it be bigger and better for Kidman to go over at the PPV? The Eric turn more dramatic at the PPV? Plus it would give time to work Torrie better into the angle of Kidman calling out Hogan. It's easy for Torrie to be happy right now. Real character would have to be developed before and during the match. What would Torrie think the day after Kidman got punked? What would she think of Kidman challenging Hogan again? What if Torrie got involved in the PPV match? They would have been interesting questions.
5 - No embellishment's for Tank Abbott's angle. It could go down as we saw it. I will say this, it might be a good idea that if Goldberg isn't going to make an appearance on air, have him come out before the cameras roll so they don't chant for him at the wrong time.
6 - Next match Flair vs. Luger. Flair does his rant. Match begins. Here's where Douglas makes his debut, costing Flair the match. Not that Douglas/Flair needs more, but hey, costing Ric a shot at the world title would help the issue for those who don't know the history between the two. Maybe make Flair vs. Douglas Thunder's main event, or a PPV match. Save the fight, build to it, bring everyone up to speed on the feud. This booking also helps Luger who could use the win. Of course Poppa Pump doesn't get to do his anti-Flair rant, but certainly something could be created for him. He could also be part of the eventual Douglas/Flair match to further that.
7 -I'm removing a fair bit from the show. To replace a bit of time I'd book a New Blood battle royal with the winner getting a world title shot next week on Nitro. I'd have Booker win the title shot, though you could go with any number of people I suppose. It'd be a good way to reinforce the "opportunity" idea behind Russo/Bischoff. Maybe it'd take away a bit from the 'superstar matches' they ran to have something involving Three Count, Los Fabulosos, etc, but it'd give more people an active role in the big show (<- no pun!). Booker would be good in a role of not believing Russo/Bischoff's hype. The skeptic. On Thunder have Gene interview booker, Gene pushes Russo and Bischoff as providing the opportunity, Booker says he earned it on his own and deserves all the credit himself. They didn't give it to him, he's taking it. Don't make everyone in the New Blood just fawn over the new regime and praise them. Last week Booker wasn't impressed so keep him unimpressed. Contrast that with Kidman the hopeful. Vampiro the traitor. Knobbs the mercenary. Wall the psycho. The Club is hateful. Etc.
8 - Kevin Nash interview. 'Big Sexy in the House. I didn't see any paperwork, but I'm guessing I'm not commissioner anymore. Insert most of the rest of his speech... jackoffs ... Outsiders ... Gange ... Dog ... Now it's no secret I broke my ankle. And it doesn't need to be a secret that Scott Hall had surgery and is on the shelf right now. But there's an old saying, while the cats away the mice will play. Well Bischoff, Russo, you two rats, play all the games you want. Just watch out, because whenever we're ready, we'll return and end your games.' Nash leaves the ring. Understand, sometimes it's ok for an interview to be just an interview, a match to just be a match. Let Nash state the case and move on with the show. If you teach the fans that it's always the beatdown after the interview, always the screwjob that ends the match that's important, you'll have to do it with every single one to not have something "boring" out there and that leads to overkill. Part of keeping people guessing is that you DON'T attack on every interview, you DON'T do a run in on every match.
9 - Page defeats Luger. I guess you can go with Buff (or Wall's) interference here. We'd have to a bit of rework to still get the guitar shot on Kim in. Easy thing to do is put it on Thunder, but we can get it on Nitro. No need to save everything for later!
10 - Hogan needs to be dealt with. I'd have him find Bischoff in a payoff scene to his rants and search vignettes throughout the show. Have him attack Eric and then security removes him from the building. 'You'll have to deal with me sometime Eric. I'll see you at Thunder!' (Also important to give Kidman his time in this show, going to Bischoff to demand a match, Torrie there trying to talk him out of it -which would be good relationship development material 'You don't think I could beat him?' 'Well yes, but you're falling for his mindgames...')
11 - Main event Jarrett vs. Sid for the World title. Ok, here is the prime example of fantasy booking limitations. The perfect case would be Mike Awesome debuts by Awesome bombing Sid through the announcer's table leading to Jarrett getting the win and the belt. It would give Mike the best debut in either fed since Jericho's WWF (best in WCW since Hall). But then again it may be something too hard, too dangerous to do since Mike hasn't worked with Sid and Sid hasn't taken many Awesomebombs in his career. I can't make the call being here on the outside. Also there was Sid's concussion to consider. But a regular powerbomb through a table would be ok and since the Wall did it to Sid, I guess we could put that here at the least, Awesome powerbombs Sid thru table. Backup plans if Awesome couldn't get clearance to appear on Nitro would still allow Bischoff or Russo or Stasiak or whoever to interfere to cost Sid the title. As for Mike's contract and such, I wouldn't even mention ECW if it wasn't a condition of having Awesome appear. Just let him be a big bad guy new on the scene. Anyone who knows who he is would already be impressed that he's on Nitro. Anyone who doesn't know doesn't need to hear about ECW. Again, I don't know the details there. But the basics are what matter: Jeff gets the belt to start the new era, Awesome gets a great high profile debut (and Awesome vs. Sid is something to run now rather than building to Awesome vs. Nash down the road). Win, win, win.
As for post-match, fellow Club member Page could come out to Sid's aid, Kim could come out with her man (ill-advised perhaps) to take the eventual guitar shot in the confusion. Awesome and Page could mix it up (which come to think of it, Page taking a tableshot could be good motive for Kim coming out), Booker (winner of the battle royal) could be next on the scene to help hype his world title shot next week. You've hyped Thunder, the PPV and next Nitro with the main event, general melee can ensue from there. Not too shabby.
Oh, and I'd have Bret and Goldberg come out to close the show. Eric and Vince run away from them. Goldberg and Bret walk to the ring. The melee dissipates. Goldberg and Bret on the mic together "Weeeee're back." Big smile, big cheer. End the show there. That's just my preference. The concept would be that Bret and Goldberg, old and young, work together for their own reasons. Again, having a group D to confuse issues more (well, Hall and Nash (and Konnan?) would be D so Goldberg and Bret would be E.). Yes I remember the Goldberg/Bret confrontation (one of the best moments of all of 99) but it'd be very simple to explain away. Or have it be just Goldberg that Russo and Bischoff and everyone else runs from, let Bret stay in the stands this week, do something more next Nitro (and have him tape an interview with Gene to play on Thunder). Again, I guess there are backstage conflicts that I guess kept Goldberg off of the show that seemingly would be so important for him to appear on.
So there you have it. Russo, Bischoff, if you'd like to have some help with detail work, grunt work, to ease the load, to help fill gaps, to deal with Saturday Night and Worldwide, you've got my email.