And Another Thing: The Angle That Made It All Possible
Posted by Hyatte on 01.01.2000
One idea, one man, one moment and everything was different.
I remember this column.
It had been a while since I did any AAT’s, like a couple of months or so. I was anxious to get something out there but nothing really excited me.
So, I decided to explore the one point that more or less introduced the new era of pro wrestling, (which is the previous era to the one we’re in now, here in the Summer of 2002).
(originally presented January, 2001: 411 wrestling)
Want to know what irony is?
In the 1980’s, Professional Wrestling had captured the attention and imagination of the mainstream media and audience as it never had before. Large, muscular, inhuman cartoon characters came to life to battle each other inside the squared circle. Those days, the characters were clearly defined... they were either Super Heroes, valiantly battling for truth, justice, and everything that’s good and right in the World, or they were Super Villains, greedy rouges intent on inflicting pain and harm for sadistic thrill and the sake of a buck. The sides were clear and unmistakable.
But, that wasn’t all. See, the Bookers also built stories around these characters. Complex, compelling, and often-times silly Angles were created to give the Hero a reason to battle the Villain. The Villain needed a reason to antagonize the Hero, and the Hero needed a motivation to defend all things virtuous against the Villain. Whether it is simple, such as the Villain wanting to take a title belt away from the Hero; or detailed, like if the Hero wanting to avenge his best friend who was needlessly piledriven on the concrete floor by the Villain. It is a good Angle that adds emotion to a match. It’s the Angle that gets the fans wanting to see the Hero finally vanquish the Villain and make everything right in the world... until the next Villain comes along with a brand new storyline with him.
It is not the Angles that made Wrestling popular, but the Wrestlers themselves. What a good Angle does is channel the best attributes of a Wrestler in order to get the maximum response from the crowd. What a Wrestler also needs is a Gimmick, a made up character trait that showcases his personality and skills in the best possible light. A Wrestler can have all the charisma in the world, but it won’t mean squat if he doesn’t have a good Gimmick to let his charisma shine and a good Angle to give it something to shine on.. Just ask the Rock after his first year in Connecticut. It is the Wrestler that makes the fans watch the show, but it is the Angle that makes them come back each week.
After the ‘80s, the fresh Angles started to dry up, and so did the audience with them. Fans grew tired of the same old ending to the same old storylines. Someone attacks the Hero, the Hero gets mad, the Hero vows revenge, the Villain cackles triumphantly, the Hero finally faces the Villain on Pay Per View, after a few scary moments, the Hero defeats the Villain, all is right with the world. Over and over until the fans went elsewhere for entertainment and escapism. For Professional Wrestling, the early 90’s were a long down period where they played to half-filled arenas and lousy PPV buyrates. Instead of making it a point to watch Wrestling on TV, fans might catch a glimpse of it while surfing around the tube and maybe... if they were lucky, hang around for a segment or two. Wrestling lost it’s luster... it lost it’s coolness.
Then Razor Ramon walked onto Nitro.
Some may say the “New Era” of Professional Wrestling began in June of 1994 when Hulk Hogan signed with WCW. While yes, it was certainly played a very important part in Wrestling’s resurgence, it didn’t begin anything. The mainstream audience barely commented on it, and treated it more like an afterthought at that. While seeing Hogan jump to WCW was a huge deal for wrestling, and it did stir up a little interest, those who tuned in for the first time in years were treated to the same old, same old story. The same Angles, the same storylines from years past, recycled ad naseum. No, it would be a full two years after Hogan joined WCW that the New Era would really begin.
“You wanna war? You got one!”
When Razor Ramon and “Big Daddy Cool” Diesel started showing up on WCW television, it got the fans attention. When they became the Outsiders and started to work the “We Are Taking This Company Over” Angle, it got the fans in a frenzy. Once the hardcore fans began discussing this mind blowing storyline with each other and started eagerly awaiting the very next installment of Nitro, it got the mainstream audience’s attention. No, Wrestling didn’t quite bounce back to the levels that it reached in the 80’s, that would come later with the fully realized NWO and the brilliant re-inventing of Hulk Hogan... but Razor and BDC’s Angle as WWF-talent staging a coup d’йtat got the ball rolling. Even when WCW started calling them by their real names, Hall and Nash, it was hard for the fans to adjust to this new reality. To us, it still looked like two WWF stars causing trouble for poor old WCW.
Quite simply, it was the most original, ingenious Angle ever created.
Through this Angle alone, how it managed to captivate the audience and bring fresh new viewers to the table, is what started the New Era of Professional Wrestling. Because of this one Angle, which so effectively used two major stars from another company, Professional Wrestling was able to escape out of the doldrums of the early 90’s and re-aquaint itself with the mainstream audience. This one Angle forced Vince McMahon to completely revamp and overhaul his company and take a new look at how the WWF is presented. This one Angle, masterminded mostly by Eric Bischoff, can lay a solid claim to being the first spark that saved Professional Wrestling. All thanks to Eric Bischoff and WCW.
And yet, it’s also the Angle that might just kill WCW once and for all.
See, Bischoff created the Angle, nurtured it, and executed it perfectly. He brought in Hall and Nash and gave them an introductory storyline that the fans not only sunk their teeth into, but devoured it completely and begged for more. This Angle made Bischoff a very rich man and brought him in contact with many affluent people. This Angle made Eric Bischoff.
The problem is, he made the Angle too perfect.
When a Wrestler signs a contract to work for a particular company, there will always be a clause in the contract that clearly states that all gimmicks and characterizations that the performer uses while under contract with the company stays with the company should the performer leave. The gimmicks and characterizations are all trademarked by the company and remain the property of said company. This is why “Stunning Steve Austin: the Hollywood Blonde” did not show up in the WWF. Sometimes, wrestlers who are so closely associated with their gimmick are given the option to either pay the company to keep using their gimmick after their contract ends, or sue the company for the rights, or perhaps the company simply signs the rights over to the performer just for the hell of it. After all, why begrudge Koko B. Ware the use of his bird on the Indy Circuit? The man still has to eat and pay bills.
Unfortunately, the WWF insisted on keeping the gimmicks that Hall and Nash used there. The only place where Razor and BDC and the characterizations they used would ever be seen was on WWF television. It wasn’t a big deal for Nash, who simply got by on his own natural personality. But what about his partner? Razor Ramon was really a guy named Scott Hall who spoke with a trashy faux Spanish accent... an accent that he could only use on WWF TV? Why was this guy using that gimmicked accent in the competing company and discreetly alluding to a huge war between the two companies? As the fans watched this in awe, the WWF watched this and thought, “Copyright Infringement!”
The lawsuit was quickly filed.
Whether the WWF had a case or not, we’ll never know. It never went to trial. WCW agreed to a settlement with the WWF and quietly made it all go away. Although the monetary details were never revealed, one small clause to the settlement was made public. It’s this one small clause that might change the course of wrestling forever.
See, this one, small clause that WCW agreed to was that if and when Time Warner does sell the company, the WWF will automatically be given the opportunity to match any offers of purchase and buy WCW for themselves. The WWF gets first dibs to finally achieve what Vince McMahon has wanted to do since he bought the WWF from his Father 20 years ago... to completely rule American Wrestling. Never before has he had this sort of chance.
Wow, maybe that “We Are Taking This Company Over” Angle really wasn’t an Angle after all?
This is Bischoff’s real legacy. This is the legacy he’ll never admit to being accountable for. This Angle he created... this beautiful, glorious, imaginative Angle he built around the arrival of two wrestlers from the competition might very well be the one thing that finally hands the keys to WCW Headquarters over to Vince McMahon. Eric Bischoff’s foresight brought WCW to it’s greatest heights, and yet Eric Bischoff’s shortsightedness may very well wipe WCW out of existence forever.
Should you ever see him, make sure to tell him what a fool he was.
So, The Greatest Angle of Them All helped make Vince McMahon a Billionaire, helped bring Pro Wrestling to new heights, helped “Monday Night Raw” the most watched cable television series ever, and might even help the WWF finally swallow it’s chief competitor whole and become the ONLY major Wrestling company in North America.
And it wasn’t even McMahon’s Angle... it was someone else’s.
That, my friends, is irony.
This is Hyatte too