And Another Thing: Jimmy Hart Killed The Radio Star
Posted by Hyatte on 12.03.2000
WCW has lost the war. It’s over. Kaput. Toute Fini. Find a nice, juicy spot on its rump and stick the fork in.
I’ve said it before, many times in fact. I’m saying it again… just so there are still no doubts.
WCW has lost the war. It’s over. Kaput. Toute Fini. Find a nice, juicy spot on its rump and stick the fork in.
It’s at its lowest point, fiscally. It’s dropped oodles of money… more money than either you or I could ever dream of seeing. It can’t fill an American house to save its life. Other than having Ric Flair comes walking out on Nitro for the first time after months, there is no star that can offer any legitimate threat to Raw. It doesn’t have a single on-air talent that can make the crowd sit on the edge of their seats in awe, unlike the WWF, which has two… maybe three… and possibly even four. Their biggest star, Goldberg, still relies on piped in cheers and his impressive entrance. Their new world champion, Scott Steiner, is one urine test away from every State Athletic Committee in the country banning him from competing in his condition. After the initial charge of seeing these two physical specimens for the first time live and in person; the audience quickly grows bored of their actual in-ring work-and these two boys are WCW’s biggest selling points!
Leadership wise, WCW is a ship with no Captain. Brad Siegal hardly qualifies as anything other than a “Chief Engineer”. Vince Russo is gone, and doubtfully ever coming back, but he wasn’t much of a leader anyway after proving for almost a year that his shtick is all smoke and mirrors without a Vince McMahon to make him fine tune and polish his ideas before running with them. Bischoff is… well… if we know one certain truth about Eric Bischoff it’s that he has a time-share lodged deep within Hulk Hogan’s tuckus, and that’s not expected to change, I’ll wager. As of this writing, WCW is a boil that Time/Warner is desperate to have lanced before presenting itself nice and pretty to AOL in another one of these “mega-mergers” that just continue the path down to a time when the entire world will be run by one conglomerate unit. For my Christian friends, that’s when we see if those Left Behind books really hit the nail on the head… but I digress.
The real tragedy is that WCW has exhibited a sadistic tendency to shoot itself in the foot. Whenever things do start looking up, they always do something asinine to ruin it. Something so miserably bad, that it ruins the entire product as a whole. Goldberg had a real, honest-to-goodness chance at being the biggest thing in Wrestling, so they over-pushed him to the point where chills of annoyance would shoot up our spines whenever he showed up because we knew the Announcers would start behaving as if Christ Himself had just stepped out. They had Sting all set up to undergo a re-birth as dramatic and as captivating as Hulk Hogan’s heel turn, and yet squandered it by keeping him up in the rafters for almost two years. Even the NWO, a brilliantly executed concept, floundered over time. There is the return of the Horsemen. Ric Flair, who returned to television after spending half the year trying to sue, cut the best damn promo of his career on Nitro only to watch it get turned into a means to get Bischoff over as a Heel the next. This propensity to shoot itself in the foot practically defines WCW. This year alone, we saw a promising start of the new century with Vince Russo at the helm be cut off by the infamous Sullivan Coup De Tat. We saw the even more promising Bischoff/Russo Alliance cut off by David Arquette. We saw Booker T’s most-promising-than-anything-else elevation to top star be spoiled by turning him into a Rock imitator. That was this year alone. This is WCW. This is why it will never win.
And yet… something happened. The damndest thing occurred while we weren’t looking.
WCW, became rather… good.
Not great, not spectacular… certainly nothing to keep the vast majority of viewers tuning in during Raw. It just got solid. From the absolute bottom of the barrel, legs and arms shattered, unable to grab the bottom rung and start climbing back up, WCW is churning out a quiet, stable, quality product. It is building a decent main event program, a decent mid-card program, and even a “not-bad” opening card program. No gloss, no promotions, no major announcement to the media announcing that “WE’RE BACK!”. None of that. While no one was looking, and as the eyes of the world look to the WWF as a barometer on the “coolness” of wrestling in today’s pop culture, WCW has built itself a genuine, concrete foundation.
Old stars and young stars are finally mingling with each other in various programs that actually help each other, and not put one person over as the other is wasted. After a year of looking bored and acting pissy without Scott Hall by his side, Kevin Nash seems to be having fun again working with Dallas Page against the very young Natural Born Thrillers group. Maybe it’s because Mike Sanders can almost mouth off on the mic as well as Big Sexy, thus finally offering a decent opponent to trade promos with. Or maybe it’s because the Thrillers turn on Nash was such a cool surprise? Either way, Nash has been inspired to have some fun again, and it shows. WCW has handled the tricky Goldberg situation wisely. Knowing that it would be tough to build anything around him if he was the champion, they have decided to keep the Russo-devised “Re-enact the Streak” gimmick for the time being. It gives the kids a chance to see Goldberg work for five minutes, yet keeps him smartly out of any real title picture. Scott Steiner, as cumbersome a worker as he is these days, offers a real edge as the “Don’t Give a Crap” loaded gun. He’s unstable, he doesn’t care, he is a nut job. There are worse people to have as your champion when you’re building something. It is building something, and for the first time in ages, that something is solid. No nonsense, no desperation, just strong, simple wrestling. WCW has gone back to basics. Perhaps they have finally learned from their past mista…
Then someone pulled Jimmy Hart out of mothballs, and came up with one of the dumbest ideas ever.
Radio DJs. Mancow. Dear God.
Why WCW, why?
“Stunt Casting” in wrestling has been around since the dawn of television. Adding a celebrity to the mix, when done right, helps promote the company, get the celeb on television, and adds a certain spice to the proceedings. Sometimes, it’s done perfectly. Mr. T comes to mind. Cyndie Lauper may have ruined her career when she got into bed with the WWF, but for a while, she was one of the biggest stars around… really. Andy Kaufman scored. So did Lawrence Taylor. They used Dennis Rodman as well as someone like Dennis Rodman could have been. Karl Malone fared better, but only because he was obviously more enthusiastic. Mike Tyson served his purpose well too.
Other bits of stunt casting have bombed, dramatically. Master P. comes to mind. Jay Leno humiliated himself and the sport. Football star Kevin Greene was so bad, he actually made Mongo look credible. Anyone remember Reggie White? Didn’t think so. And did we really need two more go-rounds with Dennis Rodman after a successful first?
I could go on all day, but you get the point. In all reality, stunt casting only works when it’s taken seriously. It has to mean something. Mr. T. was attacked by Roddy Piper, as was Cyndie Lauper. Bam Bam Bigelow shoved LT. Rodman was Hogan’s buddy and started trouble because that was who he was. Mike Tyson is unstable and unpredictable, Boxing's lead “Heel” so to speak. Stunt casting, in this form, made sense. It does not embarrass the business, or make the fans ashamed to be fans.
So who, in WCW, amid this mini-renaissance that they have seemed to have stumbled into, thought that putting Jimmy Hart against moronic Howard Stern wannabes like Mancow was a good idea? What idiot thought this was good “stunt casting”?
First of all, there’s Jimmy Hart. With the Age of Managers being little more than stuff of History nowadays, replaced by Female Valets in tight little outfits, we could have been perfectly happy to have this relic of 80’s Exaggeration shuffle quietly into obscurity. Jimmy Hart never fit into the “New Era” of Wrestling. Ten years ago, his high, reedy voice accentuated by a Bullhorn coupled with his taste for loud, obnoxious clothing made him an ideal WWF Manager. He talked fast, he never took off his sunglasses, and his laugh could shatter eardrums. Backstage, he had an ear for 80’s type music, and was responsible for generally most of those heavily synthesized theme songs that were both catchy and pathetic at once. Where Heenan was cool, Hart was goofy. Where Slick was silly, Hart was irritating. Jimmy Hart as a WWF Manager was the Fly at your picnic table. You just wanted to swat him down and kill him.
Hart knew this too, which is why he learned “the Jimmy Hart Bump”. Nothing fancy, nothing that could cause any actual harm, just a simple fall. He climbs up to the apron and yells at the Ref. The Face then walks away and punches him. Hart turns around, jumps off the apron, and catches himself on the guardrail. Then he falls down and the crowd pops. The dastardly Heel manager gets some come-uppance for once in his evil life. Hooray!
The problem is that, like 90% of these Dinosaurs from the past, Hart never bothered to adapt to the new. The 90’s came and blew up the business to unheard of levels, yet their was poor Hart, taking a baby punch and selling a baby bump just like he has for the last 20 years. It didn’t matter that WCW never gave the fans any reason to hate Hart
anymore. He hasn’t used a bullhorn in years, he doesn’t even manage anyone, really. Every so often, he’ll step out with some mid-card talent and not say anything. He’ll just patiently wait for his cue, then climb to the ring apron and take his baby bump. Has Hart noticed that nobody cheers that anymore? Does Hart realized that this sort of pap is best saved for the Independent circuit? Does WCW?
I guess not, because here they are, trotting him out as if he’s still relevant after all these years-issuing silly challenges to radio disc jockeys. Why would anyone think the audience would care?
The DJ’s would care, of course. They would do anything to get noticed. Radio DJs, for the most part, are just rather dim people with deep voices who want to be stars in the worst way. Hell, half of them are in the business today because they heard Imus and Stern and thought, “I can do that.” They want to be these “wild, untamed, cool, Rock and Roll rebels” who speak for the “people” (of course, usually, the people do not give a rip about these clowns). In short, they are total marks for themselves and the image they have created. The problem is… Radio DJs are normally bone ugly, and either too skinny or too obese. See, their job requires a lot of sitting, and not much time for exercise. Besides, their sponsors are always supplying all this free food for them to sing about on-air. Who has time for the Gym when Krispy Kreme just dropped off two dozen Jelly Rolls?
So, these “Rock & Roll Bad Boys”, like Mancow, will show up on Nitro, offer some outlandish excuse for why they are there, (“Oh, Goldberg’s my best friend!”, “Oh, me and Torrie were just massaging each other!”) then end up fighting Jimmy Hart “In defense of the great town of… wherever I broadcast”. Hart will look like a girl and the DJ will sneer a lot. Then 3 Count will show up and attack the DJ. Of course, since looking “tough” is always the #1 priority, the DJ will keep sneering and fighting even against two trained, buff workers and Hart. The match will be set for either on TV or on PPV, and nobody will care.
Apparently, this isn’t stopping with just Mancow either… this will be an ongoing gimmick. Because, despite the fact that the fans hate this, despite the fact that even Vince Russo, who never met a cross-promotional event that he didn’t like, had the good sense to dump the first Hart/Mancow meeting at the bottom of a PPV and file it in the Loose Ends drawer. Despite the fact that Jimmy Hart has to hold up a sign to remind us that he had anything to do with Andy Kaufman because the movie’s producers could not have cared less. Despite the fact that there is no way this can continue without humiliating the business more and more. Despite the fact that even the Radio DJ’s most faithful listeners probably hate this as much as the rest of the Universe, who are quite happy to have never heard of these clowns before and will be quite happy never to hear them ever, do. Despite all that...
Plus despite the fact that, when no one was looking, WCW has gone and re-built itself into a very nice, very cool, and very respectable wrestling organiza…
They just can’t help themselves.
This is Hyatte too.