By Mike Mooneyham
Jan. 27, 2002
The old wrestling adage of “Never say never” has never been more applicable than in the case of Vince McMahon and the original NWO. The WWF owner made it official at last Tuesday night’s Smackdown at the North Charleston Coliseum when he revealed that the group that wreaked havoc in WCW – inside and outside the ring – will, indeed, soon be testing the waters of the World Wrestling Federation.
This major move has met with varying degrees of skepticism and concern among the WWF crew, especially those who have experienced firsthand the slick maneuverings of Hulk Hogan, Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. Jim Ross and Vince McMahon are putting a positive spin on the situation, realizing that it’s a gamble but confident that the WWF locker room of 2002 is a far cry from the poisoned atmosphere of WCW during its final years and the heyday of The Clique in the WWF.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]Undoubtedly the three will provide a quick ratings fix, but what happens when the smoke clears?
Let’s just hope McMahon’s cryptic comments last week don’t come back to haunt him. “I’m about to do something even I’ll regret,” he warned Monday night on Raw. His even more ominous message on Smackdown conveyed his intent to kill the company himself by injecting it with a “lethal poison.” Added McMahon: “If anyone is going to kill my creation, I’m going to do it. Me and the NWO.”
Fact or fiction? Shoot or work? Only time will tell.
It is a fact that the formation of the NWO was a boon to WCW business and the Monday night wars in 1996-97. But it’s also no secret that “Scott and Kevin’s Excellent Adventure” turned into “Scott and Kevin’s Bogus Journey,” and that Hogan’s backstage sleight of hand laid the groundwork for the eventual collapse of the company.
Both Ross and McMahon expressed last week that the leadership of the current WWF locker room won’t tolerate anything short of a strong work ethic and a solid sense of team play. Both stress that judging anyone by their history with WCW would be far from an exact science. Others in the company aren’t sold that is the case, however, claiming that the three play by their own set of rules with little regard to others.
Vince McMahon may be magnanimous in giving the trio a second chance and an opportunity to reshape their legacy. But is it a prudent decision business-wise, in light of increasing ratings, the emergence of Triple H as the biggest player in the business, and a successful move to the center with the long-overdue acquisition of Ric Flair? How long will it take before this new alliance takes aim at dismantling Flair, whose impact on the WWF has not been lost on its owner, who humbly categorized his recent match with Flair as “one of the greatest highlights of my career.”
Ross, perhaps, sums it up best when he says: “It should be an interesting year.”
– Vince McMahon, along with his marketing and creative teams, met with Hall, Nash and Hogan on Friday to go over the NWO storyline. Hogan was expected to sign his contract over the weekend. Hall and Nash, who will both have limited schedules, inked their deals on Jan. 18.
w It was a nice touch to have Ric Flair make the save for Steve Austin, who was being double-teamed by Kurt Angle and Booker T, at the conclusion of last week’s Smackdown. Austin later paid tribute to the legend by doing some of his favorite sayings before mingling with the fans and sharing some “Steveweisers.” Unfortunately, a portion of the sellout crowd had already made a mad dash to the exits after the final match, missing the post-show activities. At future events, it might be a good idea for the announcer to inform the crowd that the evening’s not over following the final bout.
On another positive note from the show, the Lowcountry throng behaved much better than the Madison Square Garden crowd several weeks ago that chanted “What?” in between verses of the National Anthem. Only scattered chants from rude and disrespectful “fans” could be heard at the Coliseum during Lillian Garcia’s rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner Tuesday night. As was stated in this space last week, the “What?” chants are not only slowing up the show, they’re making some of the promos unintelligible.
– Ratings were up slightly last week for both Raw and Smackdown. The post-Rumble Raw posted a 4.6, while Smackdown did a 4.2.
– A word to the wise: It doesn’t always pay to make an appearance on the Howard Stern show.
Despite Stern’s high-profile program and the exposure (no pun intended) it provides, some would be better off passing up the opportunity. In the case of Booker T, he was not only ridiculed (Stern sidekick “Stuttering John” Melendez asked him belittling questions, such as “How do you spell WWF?, due to his less-than-stellar outing on a recent edition of “The Weakest Link” that featured several WWF personalities), but unwisely volunteered that he had once served time in prison. Last week smokinggun.com, after researching Booker’s statement, disclosed that Booker (real name Booker Tio Huffman) had served 19 months in jail after pleading guilty to armed robberies at several Wendy’s fast-food restaurants in Houston in 1987. The report also revealed that Booker, who was employed at a Wendy’s at the time, and three cohorts actually wore Wendy’s uniforms at the time of the holdups.
Huffman pleaded guilty in December 1987 to two aggravated robbery counts and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was released after serving about one-third of that term and was placed on parole until April 1992.
Bottom line: Don’t look for Booker on a Wendy’s commercial anytime soon. – This week’s Raw from Richmond, Va., will be headlined by Steve Austin vs. Kurt Angle with the winner meeting Chris Jericho for the WWF title at the No Way Out pay-per-view on Feb. 17.
– The fledgling XWF continues to experience setbacks in the talent department. Having already lost two of its bigger names, Jerry Lawler and Curt Hennig, to the WWF, the Florida-based company now appears to be in jeopardy of losing Jimmy Hart, reportedly part of Hulk Hogan’s WWF package.
– Evan Ginzburg has produced another winner with this year’s Wrestling Then & Now annual. The numbered collectible, personally autographed by The Honky Tonk Man, features exclusive interviews, clips and articles on his career, plus a tribute on women in wrestling (including interviews with Stephanie McMahon, Trish Stratus, Rena Mero, Debra and Malia Hosaka, and features on The Fabulous Moolah, Sue Greene and legendary lady valets,) a Terry Gordy tribute, 10 years of rare result listings from Detroit’s Cobo Hall, and an interview with Ron “Golden Gladiator” Hill. The 72-page professionally printed magazine features rare photos, clips, merchandise listings and more.
The annual is $12 U.S./$15 overseas. Make all checks and money orders payable to Evan Ginzburg at P.O. Box 640471, Oakland Gardens Station, Flushing, N.Y. 11364.