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Matt Spaulding




"Wacky night, huh?" - Shane Osman, to me, during the post-Bash at the Beach online chat in the Thread aPa~! room on Delphi.


It's been quite the week already. Vince Russo returns to badmouth Hulk Hogan, and Booker T. becomes WCW World Champion. I should be ecstatic.

And yet, at first, I wasn't. Partly because I wasn't sure if the fans were ready for Booker T. as world champ, as his win on Sunday seemed almost... fluke-ish when you consider the relative lack of buildup AND the fact that he seemed hopelessly trapped in that insipid "G.I. Bro" gimmick just one month ago. (I would have given him a run with the U.S. belt first, but that's just me.) But my wishy-washiness is based more on the fact that this is STILL WCW, and part of me still expects WCW to royally screw this up.

Think about it. This is the company that could put Torrie Wilson and Major Gunns in a catfight in a pool of honey and screw it up. This is the company that screwed up the NeW blOod/Millionaires' Club angle by making the NB side - the side the smarts wanted to ROOT FOR - the heels. It took these people three months to realize they had it backwards? I figured that out in 35 minutes, and I'm not NEARLY as "smart" as I used to think I was.

And the Hogan work has Russo's fingerprints all over it. It IS a work, you know (and if you don't think it is, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you), and you also know that it's leading to something else. With everything else that happened on Sunday that was NWO-connected (Nash's loss, and Hall's contract "termination"; and Bischoff "walking out"), I figured the NWO was coming back. I also figured the NWO was coming back on Nitro, since Russo has become notorious for rapid-fire hot-shotting, more turns than the Grand Prix of Monaco, and being a "minute man" when it comes to playing out angles. I also figured that when Booker ran down Goldberg to open the show, that we'd get a title match with Goldberg going over.

Thankfully, and surprisingly, none of that happened.

I don't know if Russo's figured out yet that he needs to slow this stuff down if he wants it to be effective. But the fact that he didn't hot-shot the title again, and the fact that he didn't reform the NWO on Nitro both tell me that something's different, if only on the surface, and if only for this week.

The questions remain, however: what's WCW going for now? Will they trust a Booker-Jarrett program to headline a PPV and draw money? Or will they still decide to run with NWO Version 5.0? Does Booker's win have something to do with the lawsuit? Are they going to do the rumored "split" into two promotions?

Who knows? But people are talking about WCW again, and it seems like this time, it's not all negative.

And I, despite my skepticism, will try to enjoy Booker as WCW World Champion for as long as it lasts.

Meanwhile, the WWF no doubt noticed this, and responded by doing exactly what it should have done in a situation like this.

Absolutely nothing.

It would have been very easy and probably justifiable for the WWF to try to top what happened at BatB by hot-shotting a few things of its own. They could have whipped together an angle that would create some hot new stable. They could have swerved us with an unexpected top-level heel or face turn. They could have given us Rock/Benoit for the title for free - and put Benoit over.

But none of that happened, either, which is also a good sign. It means that the WWF didn't panic when faced with that rarest of things - a good decision by the WCW booking committee. It means they're confident enough in their own direction that they didn't feel the need to counter WCW's big move with any big moves of their own. The ratings proved this; Raw beat Nitro head-to-head for the 83rd week in a row, tying the record.

Don't mistake that confidence for arrogance, though. Vince McMahon is well aware of what the events at BatB could mean for both WCW and his own company. He just isn't afraid of it.

If things do seriously begin to turn around for WCW, though, you can bet McMahon will cook up something to stay out in front.

Which could lead to many more "wacky nights."

And the REAL winners... WILL be the fans.

Matt Spaulding
One half of the ECW World Tag Team Champions...but for how much longer?

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