They Got Us Again
R.S.P-W SHILLING: The nomination ballots for the rec.sport.pro-wrestling awards are online now. At several locations. Find! Nominate! Vote! Make Our Gracious Host's job harder than it already is!
OWF UPDATE: We have another PPV this Sunday - Dark Element. I'm in the semi-main event again - smack in the middle of a three-team TLC match with two titles on the line - the tag team titles and the International title. And I'm gonna job so hard you'd think I was wrestling X-Pac. (Not that I could BEAT X-Pac in REAL life, mind you.)
LINE OF THE WEEK: William Regal (about Trish Stratus): "She's quite the buxom wench, isn't she? Nice bristols." See? HE'S impressed. Get him to sit down with Kane and explain it to him.
As you can see from the title, you know what this week's deal is, unless you've been on, say, Pluto, all week.
Rikishi was the man that ran down Stone Cold Steve Austin.
I think maybe one person on the entire Internet had him as a serious suspect. (Sorry, CRZ, but a passing mention as part of a week-long running gag that also featured freaking BABY SPICE as a suspect does not count.)
So with that question answered (and a final segment that had me riveted to my screen and speechless), we get... a whole bunch of new questions. I'm gonna give you my answers to some of these questions and add some thoughts of where this story can go from here, because there are so many ways it can realistically go now.
1. Why Rikishi? (Or, if you're a smark, Why Not Jericho?)
Look, it's no secret that Chris Jericho was the popular choice among the Internet fans. But when you consider what's happened in his career since then, along with the motives Foley pushed during his investigation, it'd have been a real stretch to make him a believable culprit.
Let's say you want to revert back to his debut in the WWF and his promo about saving the company from the "scourge" of sports entertainment. You could have had him be responsible for running down Austin and claim that he targeted the top guy (and possibly framed the Rock) to make sure people took him seriously.
This wouldn't have worked because, instead of being discredited and scorned, the Rock became bigger than ever, which goes completely against Jericho's reasons for hitting Austin in the first place; a case of one "evil" replacing another. Also, upon the revelation that Jericho was the guilty party, the casual viewer would think that it was because Jericho wanted Austin's spot in the pecking order, which he clearly hasn't gotten.
Plus, it's not really in character for a heel Jericho to do something like this. Jericho played the arrogant yet cowardly heel when he first arrived in the WWF, but I don't get the impression that he'd be capable of something like attempted vehicular homicide. You could attempt to get away with it if you were trying to create a more serious, sinister Jericho, but I'm not sure the fans would buy it - WWF fans respond more to Jericho when he's funny ("What about the price of back bacon in Saskatoon?") or when he's pitted against someone they have very strong feelings towards.
By making Rikishi the culprit, it makes it a more personal issue for the man who was affected by it the most - the Rock. A common complaint people have about Rock is that he's a one-dimensional character. Now he's been put in a position where he has to deal with the twisted logic of a man who he considers a friend committing an unspeakable act - and claiming that he did it for Rocky's benefit. Will Rock decide that Rikishi was right and go heel to try to finish the job? Or was he as clueless about the incident as he claims he was? If done right, this could end up making the Rock as compelling a character as Austin was at the height of his popularity.
Austin's role in this becomes unclear as well. Who does he decide to blame? Does he focus all of his anger and fury on Rikishi? Or... does he decide that Rocky's lying about his involvement and attack him instead? And if so, what if Rock's telling the truth? Whose side do the fans take?
(I'm still of the opinion that had Austin not gotten hurt, he was going to turn heel at Survivor Series by attacking the Rock after losing the Triple Threat match. If the eventual payoff for all of this is Rock-Austin at Wrestlemania XVII, I'd turn Austin heel, as heel Rock vs. face Austin has already been done. Granted, it was a year and a half ago, but still.)
It's also not like Rikishi's feud with Kane was going to lead to anything compelling anyway. Both guys were getting face pops, for Foley's sake. From all accounts, Rikishi's a well-liked person backstage because of his hard work and humility, and the bookers decided to give him a shot as a top-level heel.
2. Umm... Rock had won the WWF Title three times before Survivor Series. How was he being "held back"?
Think about it. Rocky won those three titles as Vince McMahon's hand-picked front man in the Corporation. "Okay," you say now, "but how was being hand-picked by the boss holding him back?"
If you're just talking titles, consider that Rock lost to Austin at WrestleMania XV, then again at Backlash 99, after which the Corporation dropped him like Russo did with all of WCW's luchadores. His title bid at KotR 99 was thwarted by Triple H, who would go on to become the McMahons' newest "It boy" while Rock feuded with guys like Billy Gunn and the British Bulldog.
But if you're talking status and exposure, Austin was clearly the bigger star at that time. You could even argue that Rocky wasn't even the WWF's top heel - that Vince was still more hated than he was due to the overwhelming popularity of Austin. Even after Rock turned face, he still seemed to play second fiddle to Austin, although the gap closed over time.
Vince and Shane figured they'd blown it with Rock, as he wasn't able to get rid of the biggest thorn in their side, and under Rikishi's reasoning, he probably sees it in the same light. You could even interpret Vince's explanation for turning on Rock at WM2000 (the "Because of me" promo) as a symptom of this - even Vince really didn't think Rock was the man they wanted; he was just the best of their available options. And really, Rocky's only beaten Austin once - during their IC title feud in 1997 before the Owendriver (thanks, T), and it ended up not mattering one bit, which is greater motivation for Rikishi to do what he did. This all might have the additional effect of making Rock doubt the legitimacy of his success, and set him off on a path to prove to himself and everyone else that he does have what it takes to make it on his own.
3. Umm... Yokozuna was a former WWF Champion.
True. And Yokozuna the man was Samoan. But Yokozuna the CHARACTER was Japanese. (Oh, no, not again... - CRZ) That's just more fuel for Rikishi's argument, as he can say that the WWF made Yoko hide his heritage or something similar. This also ties in to the portrayal of other Samoans throughout the history of the WWF as mute, raw fish-eating savages.
Hell, Rikishi could even use his current character as an example - a 400-plus pound veteran wrestler whose shtick is dancing like a fool with a couple of skinny white homeboy wanna-bes instead of being taken seriously as a top contender.
4. Isn't it kind of a risk to play the race card here?
Sure it is. But you have to remember something. Russo isn't writing this. We're not headed for another Gang Warz era here. It's not as if all of the Samoans who have wrestled throughout history are going to come crawling out of the woodwork to the sound of PG-13 (?) rapping over an island beat and chant "We Are The Nation!" Too expensive, and I seriously doubt the fans would want to see that.
Also, consider the people involved. If you piss Austin off, he's not going to give a damn about what color your skin is. He's gonna kick your ass on general principle. The Rock has stated in the past that he's not a fan of race-based angles - see his "it's not a black thing" speech upon joining the Nation - so the WWF may alter course slightly and push the "Samoan brotherhood" aspect of Rock and Rikishi's relationship as opposed to making a straight racial angle out of it. With Rock pissing all over Rikishi's theory in his SmackDown! interview, we might be heading in that direction already.
There's also the possibility that race may not end up being the issue at all. I'd believe it if it turns out that somebody got into Rikishi's ear and planted that seed in his head so he'd take out Austin for him. The use of the Rock's car could serve to put the heat on the Rock, which, in turn, could pit Austin against Rock, with the true mastermind waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces. It'd have to be somebody with equal hatred towards both Rock and Austin, though.
I don't know.
But I want to find out.
NEXT WEEK: (and considering what happened when I put in a "Next Week" tag
LAST week, I'm asking for trouble again) Russo's "Life". I PROMISE.