The End Of A Feud... And Interest | Buzz Blog

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The End Of A Feud... And Interest

Posted By on January 5, 2010, 10:22 AM

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Hey kids, we're gonna go off the beaten entertainment path here for a bit and wander through the fields of pro-wrestling for a few. Gianni, I need to borrow your podium. Don't worry; I'll only put one foot up on it.  --- Last night on the two-hour hazardous waste zone that is WWE Raw, hell finally froze over. Longtime company pariah and the single biggest voice against the Vince McMahon empire, Bret Hart, returned in an on-air capacity as the show’s host (wait, why the hell does this show need a host? Isn’t that like having a tourguide for your bathroom?) and put to rest the long standing feud with both the company and longtime real-life rival, Shawn Michaels.  And in the process helped successfully kill any remaining interest most fans probably have left in pro-wrestling.
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We’ll skip the fact that I sadly know way too much about the industry for my own good and get right to it. If you're a fan of the sport (and yes, we're going to call it a sport even though it is scripted) then you know of the impact that the two words "Montréal Screwjob" have had on the industry. For those of you unaware (or who have never cared), click the above Wikipedia link and read up on it. Seriously, I’m not typing sixty paragraphs to describe what transpired in the WWF back in 1997. That’s right, I said WWF… because I’m not stupid. Or for those of you not into reading, here’s a couple of videos from both Hart and Michaels’ DVD documentaries of their careers. (For Michaels, feel free to skip to 6:35)  

What followed was complete chaos. Then senior referee Earl Hebner (who was in on the plan) ran like hell to the airport and didn’t look back. Michaels got out as quickly as he could, denying everything and getting back to the hotel with a security escort. Hart spit on McMahon and later coldcocked him in the face, but not before destroying equipment and letting people know on camera where he was headed. Career wise, Michaels only kept the belt for six months, during which he tore up his spine and dropped the title to Steve Austin before heading out for surgery. He became an addict, got married and had a child while still addicted, became a born-again Christian which helped him get clean, returned to the ring five years later and has been performing full-speed ever since. Meanwhile Hart went to WCW for two years earning titles before suffering a concussion at the hands of Bill Goldberg, leading to his retirement and subsequent stroke in 2002. He successfully recovered and wrote a biography about his career. And eventually came to terms with WWE in 2005 for merchandise rights, a DVD collection, and a spot in the company’s Hall Of Fame.

Twelve years and two months after the initial incident, Hart signed a contract agreement with the company to come back to the show, and last night successfully “buried the hatchet” on-air in storyline mode with Michaels. Which if it happened in the ring, that translates into simple knowledge that there were a lot of discussions about what would be said and who would do what and how it would all be timed into the show. Point is, if they could do it on script without throwing punches or putting in subtle jabs, they probably both came to terms in real life and did their best to finally end this feud. But the reason this event is so poignant is because it brings to an end what can be considered the greatest of the long-standing hatreds in pro-wrestling, and in the process showcased to a large audience the worst of current WWE television.
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McMahon and company had an opportunity they’ll never see again unless Dwayne Johnson decides to come back, and that was to grab an audience of both old and new together and show them the finest the company has to offer. The last time that chance presented itself was back in 2002 when Hulk Hogan returned, which they blew that one by focusing strictly on Hogan and not elevating the company as a whole. They milked Hart & Michaels for all they were worth on Monday, and then proceeded to show off a lackluster set of matches, promoted ECW (which no one cares about) and Smackdown (which some markets don’t even carry), highlighted their pasty temporary champion, and topped it off with a cookie-eating leprechaun merchandise pitch and Hart eventually getting kicked in the junk by McMahon himself. At best they made a pitch for the WWE Hall Of Fame with Hart’s father, and that was about the only bright light in this tunnel after the opening handshake.
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Pro-wrestling itself, no matter what three letter moniker you toss it under, will most likely keep chugging along whether anyone is watching it or not. Its been doing that for over a century, even at the worst of times during the Great Depression when people knew it wasn’t real fighting, to the most recent slew of deaths and suicides fueled by enhancement drugs and pressure. But World Wrestling Entertainment (and TNA, who I should mention had both Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair come back to the sport last night) have now put themselves in a very unique position that could set the tone of what will become of their respectful futures. Both companies may have successfully brought back millions of viewers and subsequently turned them off from ever watching again, all within two hours. Both brought in old legends for a quick pop who either don’t wrestle anymore or can barely work a match, and ended up showcasing the negatives to both products. TNA has fine talent, but doesn’t utilize them to the best of their ability while still running with the gimmick of a six-sided ring. As opposed to WWE who wastes time squashing their younger talent, and forcing its audience to watch the same match combinations of older wrestlers who have maybe a year or two left in their careers. Overall outcome of the night: we got a trip down memory lane with nothing appealing to keep people coming back, truly showing the dead end at the peak of the drive.
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Where these two companies will go from here is uncertain. TNA has been collecting an impressive array of veterans who if they actually wanted to, could put on one hell of a show. But who knows when that will happen, or when you’ll see it since their events aren’t even filmed in major arenas. While WWE heads into the Royal Rumble scrambling to figure out what they’ll be doing for the clusterfuck this April in Phoenix known as Wrestlemania XXVI. In any case, and this is coming from a knowledgeable fan that’s literally sitting in the middle of the male age demographic they both aim for… I’m not interested and I don’t care. I’ve seen this song and dance before and have been let down royally, along with millions of other fans. At best I’ve been an occasional drop-in viewer on dull nights for over seven years now. But after last night I’ve lost all interest in ever watching it again… and I know I’m not the only one.

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