NJAF Presents: WWE’s Even Playing Field

Not Just Another Fan


WWE’s Even Playing Field

I have been watching wrestling since WrestleMania IV in 1988. Not since then have there been so many contenders for the biggest prize(s) in Sports Entertainment. Ironically, the time that I started watching wrestling was when the WWE’s roster was at one of its peaks. There were 46 SuperStars (by my count) that performed that night at The Trump Plaza. Of the 46 men that competed, 14 of them were entered into the WWE World Heavyweight Championship Tournament. That is a huge percentage of the roster. I want to discuss the parody that is the championship contenders picture and a whole lot more in this week’s column. Before you get done reading this you will know why really popular people call me Not Just Another Fan.

It hasn’t been that long ago when it seemed that the only guys that were even in World/WWE Title contention were Goldberg, Triple H and HBK on RAW and Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar and The Big Show on SmackDown. Since that time there has been a huge shift in who we as fans can legitimately consider as contenders. In my opinion, this all started around the time that The Rock, Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold were all gone from WWE television at the same time. Vince McMahon through all of his time and energy into one man. That man was Brock Lesnar. We all know by now that this was not Brock’s childhood dream and that Sports Entertainment was not what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. When Vince realized that Brock was leaving earlier this year he was in a desperate situation. He could do what everyone probably thought he would do by giving the belt to someone like Kurt Angle or The Big Show that was already established as a “Main Eventer” or he could do something completely different. This was a Turning Point (pun intended) in WWE History.

2004 will go down as a huge year when it comes to WWE laying its foundation for the future. In American Sports we would call this a “rebuilding” year. Sometimes, in order to get better you have to get worse. We have seen the emergence of many new faces and they all need to get exposure in order for us to get familiar with them. Were guys like Eugene, Heidenreich, Luther Reigns, Carlito Cool & Gene Snitsky really ready to be on PPVs? That is a question that I really can’t answer for sure. But I can tell you that it was necessary. If WWE plans on moving forward without the stars of yesteryear than the young talent has to be able to get exposure on the biggest stages of all.

Take a look at this short little list below:

Legitimate Raw World Title Contenders in 2004:

Randy Orton, HBK, Chris Jericho, Triple H, Batista, Kane, Edge & Chris Benoit

(On The Bubble: Shelton Benjamin & Christian)

Legitimate SmackDown WWE Title Contenders in 2004: JBL*-current champion

Eddie Guerrero, The Undertaker, Kurt Angle, The Big Show, Booker T & John Cena

(On The Bubble: Rey Mysterio & RVD)

Compare the quality of the contenders listed above to the 14 men in the Tournament at WrestleMania IV:

Jim Duggan: Fan favorite for his act…but not really good at much in the ring.

Don Muraco: He was “The Rock” for a reason. He had a great build but limited ability.

Dino Bravo: He put on consistently decent matches; nothing spectacular though.

Greg Valentine: He was a better tag team wrestler than singles while in the WWE.

Butch Reed: Tough guy. Him and his former Tag Team Partner in WCW Ron Simmons were very similar. He was the better athlete of the two if you ask me.

One Man Gang: We complain about the big guys today? This guy was a joke…honestly.

Bam Bam Bigelow: He was an athletic big man. He was really never anymore than a mid-carder though.

Rick Steamboat: Truly one of the best in wrestling history. His WWE career wasn’t long enough though.

Rick Rude: He was amazing in the ring and he had a great character. Unfortunately he never seemed to reach his true potential.

Jake Roberts: He was an innovator not just in the ring, but also with his character. He was never a Main Eventer, but he is a legend.

Ted DiBiase: Great worker and one of the best heels of all time. Underrated for his day.

Randy Savage: At the time he was a total package. He was amazing in the ring and cut great intense promos.

Andre the Giant: The Greatest “Big Man” ever. He was going down hill at this point in his career, but he was still amazing to watch.

Hulk Hogan: I don’t think I can say a whole lot about him that hasn’t been said a million times. He was one of a kind.

Maybe I am bias towards today because this is where we are historically, but today’s contenders list seems a ton better. To be fair, Sports Entertainment has changed a lot over the last 17 years. The wrestlers are healthier, better paid and overall more athletic now. So lets take a look at the most recent WWE Title Tournament held at Survivor Series 1998. This was ten year later than WrestleMania IV and just 6 years ago. Many people consider this the Golden Age of Sports Entertainment. Take a look at the list of competitors from that tournament:

Goldust: He is talented, but nothing more than a mid-carder.

Big Boss Man: Athletic for his size. He was just average in the ring.

X-Pac: I know…I know. He had a lot of heart and educated feet. That was it.

Steve Regal: Or is his name William Regal?! He has and will always be decent in the ring. He just had no charisma at all back then.

Al Snow: He should stick with showing people how to wrestle. He is forgettable without that manikin head.

Jeff Jarrett: Never more than an average Intercontinental Champion in WWE.

Duane Gill: Don’t worry. I couldn’t believe it either.

Ken Shamrock: He has skills and his character was believable. He could have won the belt legitimately and no one could have complained.

Mankind: This is the night that the casual WWE fans fell in love with him.

The Undertaker: His character was its darkest at about this time. He has always been very capable of holding the belt.

Kane: He was a newer face in the WWE Title picture…but at the time he belonged.

The Rock: The young buck reaching to the next level. This is one of the moments that defined his early career in WWE.

Steve Austin: Same as Hogan. He was on a level all of his own.

The top 5 or 6 guys were definitely legitimate competitors. The rest were just thrown in to create buildup between the top few. The title changed hands a lot back then…but usually just between the top 3 or 4 guys. Did that make is more important or did it dilute the belt’s importance? You can answer that for yourself.

Overall, when you look at the talent and the level of competition in the WWE today you have to admit that it is a more even playing field than possibly ever before. The Royal Rumble is the perfect example. I do not remember the last time that we were this close to the Royal Rumble and everyone didn’t pretty much know who was going to win it. There are so many possibilities.

A lot of people like to say that Vince McMahon is stupid for giving the WWE Title to JBL. I disagree. In fact, I feel that he has created an ideal situation for most of the roster. It would not have been near as possible for a young guy like Renee Dupree to go over a Brock Lesnar Monster type character…but he could definitely go over a JBL. You might think that means the title has been downgraded. I have to disagree.

Even look at the hated Triple H. He has done “the job” for Eugene, Shelton Benjamin and Chris Benoit all in the last year. For a guy that plays so much politics and doesn’t care about the industry, I find it odd that he would continue to perform through injuries the way that he has and continues to this day to make WWE his number one priority unlike some other guys have. Oh well…

If you agree or disagree with anything that I have said about WWE’s Even Playing Field please let me know at feedback@notjustanotherfan.com. I reply to every wrestling related email.

Not Just Another Old School Trivia Question: If you know the answer please email me at feedback@notjustanotherfan.com and I will include your name in my next column.

Who did The Hart Foundation beat to gain their first WWF Tag Team Championships?

I only had 14 people answer my last Trivia Question. They were:

Matthew Kuhns, Matt Koivu, Dave Gullo, Gavin Langdon, Mike Delaney, Jason C, Dave(Ninja Turtle), Valleyboy, WmsptPlaya, Jim, Touhoua Yang, Tommy Hall, Gregg Purcell & J Mitch

The Question was: “When Andre The Giant and Big John Studd fought at the original WrestleMania in the Body Slam Challenge, how much Money was on the line?”

The Answer was: $15,000.00 (That was a lot back then…I promise!)

Summary:

Since I have so many lists in this column I didn’t think I should do my rankings this week. I will have those for next time. I hope you enjoyed reading this. I try to look at things from a different perspective.

Have a Merry Christmas and if I don’t get another column posted…A Happy New Year!

John Wilson

Not Just Another Fan

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