“I say it here, it comes out there”, to quote Albert Brooks in “Broadcast News”. In my last column, I suggested that there was a big change afoot in the WWE-the smaller men were about to take the Fed into a new era. I also urged the WWE to give Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero a chance with the big straps. And what do we see post-Wrestlemania? Chrissie and Eddie and legitimised champs. If I didn’t know better, I’d wonder if someone at Stamford was reading this column for ideas.
Why not? I read this column, and I love it. My words are pearls of the highest purity, and I should be deified for deigning to caress my keyboard for you. And now, onto the pearls.
Eddie Guerrero, if he ditches his embarrassing “loco Mexicano” act, could be a great champion. He has a great rapport with the fans, oodles of talent behind the stick and can back it up in the ring-we may be seeing that gold around his waist for a few months yet.
The same can’t be said for Chris Benoit. His grappling talent should make for some good matches with HHH (like we didn’t see that coming), but his obvious deficiencies will prevent him from making his mark. If the WWE are serious about him being anything more than an interim champion (and I hope to God they are), he is going to need strong writing. But that, on it’s own, is not enough. He needs someone by his side to speak for him.
And the WWE have just the man. Step forward, Chris Jericho. Jericho has nothing else to prove. He’s been champ, but I think for him it’s always been about the respect of the fans. He came to the WWE with a big rep, a rep he failed to live up to; he was trying too hard and fans can smell that desperation a mile away. It’s only since the advent of The Highlight Reel that he’s seemed at ease with himself, and that fans have started to warm to him. And the excellent work he’s done with Trish has helped to show his “softer side”, of course.
Jericho could really help The Crippler. I’m not advocating them wrestling together-that could only water-down Benoit’s major strength. But as a mouthpiece for Benoit-a buddy who speaks for him-much more of a manager than a valet (they never work, nobody really seems to know their function), he could use his undoubted vocal talents to entertain us, and concentrate our minds on what The Champ does best. Everybody wins.
As a “double act” Champ, Benoit has a shot at winning us over. As a single he doesn’t have 3 months.
But despite his obvious shortcomings, he’s the living embodiment of the WWE’s new belief. The era of the Little Big Men (see, the title means something after all!) Vince has decided to go with the little guys, not just as a trial, but as long-term strategy-why else do we have dual middleweight Heavyweight champs after the greatest PPV of the year? Vinnie has thrown his considerable weight behind them and told the fans in the best way he can that they have his blessing. Remember, we also have the Great John Cena as IC champ, a vibrant Cruiserweight division, and plenty of talented guys like Matt Hardy and RVD who were held back simply because of their size.
With Brock Lesnar taking an unspecified leave of absence and the Undertaker just dabbling around the margins, the field is clear for the Little Big Men to make their mark. And if they draw money, any money at all, even Vincent K’s love of the big men will bow to the rustling of the almighty dollar. This really could be the beginning of a sustained period of brilliance for the WWE, and the first real wrestling change the company has seen since the mid-80’s.
We could be present at the birth of something huge, something that is talked about for years to come. I really think it’s that special. Don’t mess it up now guys, the wrestling world is counting on you.
Talking of Little Big Men, it was wonderful to see Bobby Heenan being inducted into the otherwise rather ridiculous WWE Hall of Fame. And how like him to name check Gorilla Monsoon in his speech. Monsoon was perhaps the luckiest commentator ever- with Jesse Ventura, Roddy Piper AND The Brain to help him (OK, let’s forget Lord Alfred Hayes), but it’s a mark of the man that Heenan was so generous to those he worked with. But then he could be, he had a lot of talent to spare. In this month’s issue of Power Slam magazine, there is an article written by Greg Lambert about the influence of managers on wrestling. And only a few months after I covered it in my column! Nice to be a trendsetter. In the same article, he mentions himself as a manager on the same page as The Brain and Gary Hart. Surely that’s like comparing Woody Allen to Dom Joly?
Managers are on writers’ minds because they work. Heenan provided protection for his wrestlers, worked with their feuds and storylines, created families of wrestlers so the boring could feed off the charismatic, spoke for them and made them sound interesting. And, most of all, he BELIEVED in them. So we did too. That’s what the LBM’s need, a support system to pick them up when we become over-familiar with them, someone to sell them to us so that they can get on with the business of wrestling.
The WWE have a great future ahead of them, if they get it right. They can’t programme them like the behemoth’s they’re used to. They’ve made a step I never thought was possible, now they need to nurture them. After all, from the smallest shrubs can come the hardiest perennials. Just move all sharp cutting implements out of Vince’s grasp.