Today the subject of the column is SummerSlam and Bill Goldberg. I will attempt to outline fully how we got to this point and why the best choice for short-term future is putting the title on Bill Goldberg, a move which would be very controversial. WWE doesn’t have the excuse that Goldberg didn’t bring anything to the table, despite what Linda McMahon said at the Investors Conference Call.
On Raw a few weeks ago, WWE announced an Elimination Chamber match in lieu of the big confrontation between Bill Goldberg and the promotion’s champion Triple H that was originally supposed to happen at Bad Blood, then SummerSlam, and now has probably been postponed to the second RAW-exclusive show, Unforgiven, in September. Joining the two are Chris Jericho, Kevin Nash, Randy Orton, and Shawn Michaels. All of those people are in respective feuds on RAW. It was a surprise to wrestling fans when Steve Austin announced the return of the most expensive gimmick match ever, but in many ways we shouldn’t have been.
Let’s look at everyone who’s had a feud with Triple H over the past year plus, what that feud was, and what the chances are for them to be a good choice to carry the title for the next several months.
The first is Kane, who’s feud was quite memorable with the whole necrophilia angle. While it was memorable, it was a bad mark against the company. Instead of bringing notoriety and controversy to the lips of people discussing the WWE, the desperation angle just further turned people off to the company. The old adage that any publicity is good publicity didn’t hold up in this case because it really insulted and turned away fans. The PPV featuring the match between Kane and Triple drew 300,000 buys for the end of the Intercontinental title, which as you probably know, has been recently rehashed. The 300K number is low by even today’s humbled standards, based on average buys (a number which I figured at 386,973/PPV since 1/2002). Even that number, I would attribute greatly to a hell in a cell rematch between the Undertaker and Brock Lesnar for the championship. During the feud, Triple H pinned him and Kane was buried. Kane is now a gimmick and he won’t draw at the top. There is no one that I know of, advocating for him winning the title, and that’s probably the best thing. Kane is a great gimmick (maybe that should be was) and minus twenty pounds he’s a very great athlete but like Lance Storm, that’s all old news.
The Shawn Michaels feud with Triple H is remarkable because he defeated Triple H for the championship during the first Elimination Chamber and lost it to him one month later at the horrible Armageddon PPV from last year in a 2/3 falls match culminating in an underwhelming ladder match. It was a meaningless political move. As for the prospects of Michaels getting a good run with the title, that was a movement at that time and now it’s a dead one. Michaels is tremendous wrestler and now he’s less problems politically. However, him as a champion is really stale for obvious reasons.
As for Rob Van Dam, who’s very popular with the internet crowd, he was in a semi-main event match with Triple H at Unforgiven, which happened to be the first of two times Triple H pinned him during the second half of the year. The second time was when Triple H had one of his dozens of injuries and took a week off from RAW. Shawn Michaels and Van Dam had a good angle and Triple H came back the next week to pin RVD and get a shot at Michaels’ title (see above). As I said before, Van Dam is extremely over with the fans, but being over is not enough for him to be a financially viable champion. Hogan, as a heel that attacked the beloved Rock, was so over that the WWE had to turn him face and decided to put him over as champion. Despite being extremely popular, his brief run as champion was so awful that the WWE felt trapped and had to put Undertaker over to get the title off Hogan. Personally, Van Dam is still not ready for a spot as champion. Whether he ever will be is not the subject of this column. Also, being 6’0″ in a world of people as tall as the people in WWE will not serve to his advantage. He was, as described in detail, pinned twice by the current champion Triple H.
The Scott Steiner debacle is the fault of WWE booking and directly led to Scott Steiner’s ineffectiveness as a draw. It’s ironic because they almost, only months later, did the same thing to Goldberg before someone got a clue. Steiner was a very good heel and his feud with Triple H was of high quality until he wrestled and lost all credibility. That’s incredibly dense booking. The problem actually isn’t that he wrestled, but that he wasn’t protected. WWE can do short matches but they decided not to for some reason, even after seeing what Steiner did on house shows. The fans were not kind.
The RAW title match from WrestleMania featured Triple H and Booker T, someone who is also very popular on RAW. Triple H said that people like him weren’t ever going to be champion and then Booker T loses. No credibility.
Kevin Nash feuded most recently with Triple H in a fairly lackluster series between the two. Not a good choice for the championship because he doesn’t have in-ring ability or charisma, as Goldberg has the latter of the two and as of now, still has the overwhelming support of the crowd. Fans are bored with his tussles with Triple H.
Chris Jericho is a dead issue because Triple H also went over him several times, even this was before Triple H’s current run as champion and when the company only had one championship. Over the last several months, despite being a former champion, and even going back before he won the title, Jericho was treated as nothing more than a mid carder. Accordingly, he never drew above that level as first “undisputed” champion and after he lost the championship. He has the charisma and ability whereas to be able to bounce back as time goes on, but he’s not invincible and winning the title at this point would be premature.
The only one who has not had a feud with Triple H before this is Randy Orton, who goes into the match heel. He’s a rookie and too new to be accepted as champion.
As for other wrestlers, just to make sure that we’ve eliminated everyone who has a remote chance of being brought back into the fray. The Rock is away making movies and doing something smart for his career. The Undertaker, who some are arguing be moved from SmackDown is a horrid champion and he’s been tried. A subtle Triple H waiting to happen. He’s also not effective in a top feud. Steve Austin, who is easily the most popular wrestler on RAW but is no longer active and can’t be brought back. Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar are not available for a logical switch at this time and Lesnar is an unproven, even this far in. Mick Foley is a great, popular talker but not active and can’t nor will want to come back as an active wrestler.
Eddie on the subject:
Bill Goldberg is not the best champion there is, but he’s the only man credible enough to fight with Hunter. He has defeated everyone else as you saw above. It’s no longer a one-on-one match at SummerSlam. It’s an Elimination Chamber. I won’t be surprise if Triple H loses the belt (ironically, the last time he lost his belt, it was in an Elimination Chamber match). But honestly… Does it mean as much now? I know that The Game is also injured, so we need to keep this on mind, but when he needed to wrestle injured in the past to get himself over, he’s always done the job and people (including myself) have praised him for that. Up until today I thought that Hunter isn’t trying to create anything or get away from jobbing to Goldberg, but if you look at his history, and you think about it, it won’t take you long to change your mind.
The worst-case scenario is for Goldberg to win the belt only to job it after a month or two back to Triple H. My friends, if that happens, then we have all “played The Game” and I think it’ll be best to just watch SmackDown.
I think if WWE do want the best for their fans, they’ll have Triple H win the Elimination Chamber, and the next month at Unforgiven, they’ll have The Game go one-on-one with Goldberg and drop the belt to him. The company desperately needs a new champion, and if within two months they don’t have one, I think the whole world will be sure in what’s happening. I won’t be surprised if we have to wait until The Rock returns, so Hunter can lose to him, and then Rock will have to job the belt to someone.
Popular Anti-Goldberg argument
# Doesn’t work house shows – That’s about right, WWE starts caring about the house shows when it comes to Goldberg. The fact is: the house show situation is an issue and it will continue to be an issue as long as WWE doesn’t make sweeping changes that will in general, show the fans that they care about their house shows. The championship situation is drastic and as the saying goes “drastic times call for drastic measures.”
# Limited wrestling ability – The champion doesn’t need to be a wrestling master to be a credible champion. Yes, it helps, but let’s not confuse the issue. If Goldberg’s matches are booked whereas he doesn’t have to go 20 minutes without losing fan support, like Vince McMahon’s matches are booked every time, than there’s no problem.
# Failed experiment so far – Purely due to the error of WWE’s booking. By that token, all of the writers should be fired because ratings are down.
# WWE is not WCW – What an ironic statement. As it pertains to Goldberg’s booking, they may need to take a hint from WCW since WCW made Goldberg work for more than a year.
Think about this as well: Let’s say Goldberg was brought in at about $1,000,000 which may be a high number based upon what I’m hearing but it could be more. If between a match with HHH at Unforgiven and Rock match at Mania and whatever falls between, if Goldberg adds 300,000 buys to those five Raw and combination shows (an easy feat if booked well, if we’re saying Mick Foley added at least 70,000 buys for a spot he was given as referee and a hard sell one week prior), he’s already worth 9 times his contract. If something goes wrong and he only does Mick Foley numbers twice for the two big matches plus whatever small numbers in between he’s still worth over $4,000,000 over his contract plus subsequent income. This booking isn’t rocket science, either. By the end of the year, statistically, Triple H is already a negative, meaning if he was figuratively eliminated, they would have saved money. And if, at this point, you are still saying that Triple H doesn’t have great influence over angles: you are incredibly naive, apologetic or ignorant.
The anti-Goldberg argument is strong, the anti-Triple H argument is stronger. It’s much more important to have a TV champion who can draw in the short term and not destroy credibility than to have someone who does as much damage as does Triple H. The idea is that you can use Bill Goldberg in the immediate future (Unforgiven, after building a strong HHH-Goldberg feud that ends with Goldberg beating Triple H soundly), perhaps the Rock in the middle term (after a Goldberg match at WrestleMania built up from the Royal Rumble), and spend the time until WrestleMania, building the Chris Jerichos, Booker Ts and Randy Ortons (undoing damage) to take the title from them.
WWE: save your company. Because if you don’t come to your senses, Viacom and the television industry will expose you for the incompetent has-been frauds you’ve ably filled the roles of since 2001. As you can see, the fans have found it easy to grab the remote and change the channel. In two years, they may not have a program to turn off.
Hey Trevor, I just got finished reading your column. About Miss Elizabeth, I can’t really comment. I was 5 years old when I started watching wrestling and she was the first woman I saw. I grew up watching her and to think that her life could end so tragically not only upsets me, but it also angers and confuses me. I love wrestling, but not at the cost of human lives. Something needs to be done.
About the hardcore Indy feds. I couldn’t agree with you more. I wrote in my column a few weeks ago about hardcore wrestling going to far, and it is true without a doubt. The problem is that you have asshole promoters who book this sóit just to fill a highschool gym, but you also have assholes who are willing to watch and support these promotions. Again, something needs to be done.
Hi Trevor, Got some comments for you regarding your column last week where you spoke about your thoughts on Extreme wrestling, and in particular women’s extreme wrestling.
And right off the bat, I gotta say I don’t like it. Extreme stunts done without reason are completely unnecessary. But obviously there must be an audience for it, those blood sport fans who probably don’t know a hammer from a hammerlock. That is the reason why I don’t think these extreme promotions should be allowed to market themselves under the wrestling banner. I know WWE use some extreme stunts in their show, but most are done for a reason, and while the purists argue the lack of psychology or whatever, sometimes a blood filled match or fall from the cell push a storyline from average to “Oh My God!”
However, people who get blamed for bringing us this sort of wrestling are just pawns in a chess game. How can you blame guys like John Zandig (CZW) and Rob Black (XPW) for just copying a style that works in order to make some money. Firstly, it was Japanese promotions that did it way back, using barb wire and explosives as often as most promotions use ropes and turnbuckles. And then you have the wrestling industry’s sweetheart, Paul Heyman, who is solely responsible for bringing it into the American industry. ECW was his baby, even before he bought it out and became sole owner. And it was he and he alone who kept pushing the boundaries of decency and placing underground brutal blood-fest fights under the wrestling banner. If you don’t believe his influence, then look at how all extreme promotions are called “ECW Pretenders” and how these promotions pick up what is known as “the old ECW audience”. And if people want to brandish insults toward the participants and promoters of this violent blood sport, start at the top, start with Paul Heyman, because as far as America is concerned, the buck stops with him. And I find it despicable how he gets no heat for it just because he was and is a part of the proper wrestling industry. Heyman is an amazingly talented wrestling writer and on screen personality, and for all the great things he has done for wrestling, from a media perspective, he has done more damage to the industry than any other one individual.
G. B. James
TH: I haven’t seen The Backyard, but from what I hear, it’s a movie that everyone should see. How people can passively watch and enjoy is beyond me. From a psychological standpoint, I’m sure there is some Freudian or even more rudimentary explanation. It’s certainly a chilling magnification of the macrocosm (a collective puerile interest in the exploitation of others, within limits). Within that general realm I can understand it, and it’s a facet of human nature more common in us than we would like. Maturation doesn’t eradicate it, even though many would suggest that. When we cannot control and set limits, where does that leave us? Our brilliant analytical nature and significant short-term technological advancement is only an ironic backdrop, if we can no more control what becomes of our emotions and what we value and how we structure our society. I think that extremely violent wrestling, playing upon not only the most basic animalistic nature of our beings, but also aggressive sexuality and violence against women, is pathetic and abhorrent at best… but not unfathomable.
As for today’s practitioners, namely John Zandig and Rob Black (I guess he’s not current anymore since he may be going to jail soon), from my own personal experience I know that the latter example is a man with serious issues and as a person I consider him disgusting. I have problems with a man who produces videos that simulate rape, albeit with consent. I suppose you can’t blame them for promoting events where people hit each other with crap to make money. Backyard wrestling and extreme women’s wrestling are worse because the first usually involves minors with abusive or neglectful parents and the second which promotes abuse against women, which is a more real plague to society than people who hit each other with light tubes.
As to the historical basis to tracing it back to and laying the blame on Paul Heyman and Paul Heyman’s ECW, it’s not an argument I can write off off the bat. When Heyman came in, he brought a revolutionary style based on his ideas and a style that existed internationally. His ideas were influenced and changed greatly by bloodthirsty fans.
I don’t think that just because Heyman introduced a new, violent, heavy work-based style, that he’s responsible for the changes that happened. The style today is not the same as ECWs, but in my mind, less credible. It’s ugly, brutal, nonstop violence. There’s a reason why it hasn’t cultivated the same amount of a base cult audience as did ECW. Mick Foley falling off Hell in a Cell in 1998 nor ECW are responsible for today. By that argument, you could also justify blaming P.T. Barnum for promoting wrestling in the east because he helped influence promoters to do the same thing, that he helped lead to this to because wrestling at one point became more and less, if that point makes sense. The fans and the promoters are responsible for the product they create/enjoy. ECW pretenders, they may be, but I dare call them low-rent versions. ECW had a foundation which included the “extreme” element, yes, but it was so much more than that, and that’s coming from a person who prefers tradition to spot wrestling by far. Smoky Mountain Wrestling was a traditional territory, yes, but that’s a similar bastardization of what it literally was and what it symbolized. Some of these newer promotions symbolize only a lowering of the bar.
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