I suppose this might be similar to my two part retirement column that I wrote in 2007, but this is something that’s been building up and I want to get it out there for discussion. It stems from something that’s been a constant in my recaps as of late, and it also creeps it’s way towards a subject that I’ve been meaning to put more emphasis on and that I will write about in the near future when it comes to the current WWE product. Bottom line here is that this piece is about wrestlers knowing their roles.
I hate that I got the idea to write a column because of Kevin Nash, but that’s where this all really started to boil over for me. Nash signed a legends contract in January 2011 that committed him to WWE. Nash got a decent pop(not THAT huge like he says) at the TD Garden when he entered the Royal Rumble. He put on a fair showing(not mediocre but not great either) and ended up being eliminated by Wade Barrett. After that, we didn’t see the guy again. I thought to myself, hey this is pretty cool that we get an appearance from an old school guy but he isn’t going to shoved down our throats. Seven months later, Nash is thrust into the biggest storyline on RAW with his appearance at Summerslam attacking CM Punk and costing him the WWE Championship. Nash has been on and off tv since then and has been doing what he’s always done with his appearances: making people change the channel. People are bored by him. I understand he had a certain charisma and fan following in 1995 as WWF Champion(I was one of the biggest fans of any six year old I knew at the time, and I’m not exaggerating in the slightest), but Nash wasn’t that good of a wrestler. His mic skills were not that impressive and his size and face turn are what put him into the title scene long before he was ever really worthy(if he ever was). The guy is slow and injury prone. Hell, he was slow and injury prone sixteen years ago! The fact that he looks even worse now should be enough for WWE to wake up and realize that he’s hurting more than he’s helping. Despite what anyone tries to say, he was never very good on the mic, either. The fact that his best wrestling matches to reflect on were with Bret Hart speaks volumes for how good Bret was at what he did. Bret made a lot of guys look good that had no business being in the same ring as him(Goldberg anybody? I would love to have that argument, too!). Nash won the world title from Bob Freakin Backlund in eight seconds. It was Bob Freakin Backlund! Give me a break! Nash on his own slowed down the pace of his title match with HBK at Mania 11. The WWF(at the time) had so little faith in his ability to rock the crowd that Lawrence Taylor and Bam Bam Bigelow were the main event that night rather than the WWF Title match! Yes, I actually said what I’m about to say. Bam Bam Bigelow was considered more important feuding with a retired pro football player than the rising HBK was with the slowest WWF Champion in history. I won’t dig into Nash during his time with WCW. For those who want to argue that he did alot for the company, look up who made the decision that Nash would end Goldberg’s streak and then look at Nitro’s main event on January 4, 1999 and tell me what he did for them. Better yet, look at his VERY FIRST PROMO EVER on Nitro in 1996 where Nash says the word “play” is an adjective. Nash looked like he struggled to lift Santio Marella on RAW this past week. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s just my subjective dislike for boring guys that buy into their own hype, but check it out for yourself and tell me if it’s as bad as I think it was.
Next up, we’ll do a short one with Mick Foley. Foley is a funny dude with cheesy lines that you can’t help but absolutely love. He’s the man and he’s real and you’ve never once thought of the guy as someone that buys into his own hype or thinks he’s above anybody else. I love Mick Foley and I’ll say it a thousand times. Foley has done the on/off thing since retirement, but he hasn’t bored anybody and he’s still worked respectable matches to put over other talent. His 2004 match with Randy Orton at Backlash was gold, as was his street fight with Edge at Mania 22. His Christmas appearance on Smackdown was cheesy and his involvement with The Rock and John Cena before Survivor Series lacked any real point, but the guy never fails to make me laugh. If you don’t like the guy for the lone fact that he’s hilarious, check out his WCW days and watch him really put his body on the line in nearly every match he was in. The point here is simply the fact that Foley hasn’t tried to overshadow anybody. He hasn’t tried to put himself over as one of the greatest of all time(even though he absolutely is) and he hasn’t tried to force his way onto television more than need be. If people didn’t want to see Mick Foley do what he does, I’m sure we would have heard about it by now. He’s been doing it on and off since his “retirement match” at No Way Out in 2000 with Triple H. Nobody is complaining and I would like to think I’m speaking for the majority of fans when I say that I truly appreciate what Mick Foley has done for this business before and after the “retirement.”
I’m not going to rip into Hogan and Flair. Those two guys would each take five pages on their own and they aren’t worth it at the moment. Consider this the intermission section where I explain some of the honorable mention considerations for this piece. Hacksaw Jim Duggan, despite being insignificant to many, still makes his contributions to the business by wrestling the independent circuit guys and sharing his knowledge. The guy never asked for anything, despite the fact that he was never pushed. He knew his role. The same could be said for a guy like Mr. Hughes that spends a lot of time training new talent. The giving back that some of these guys do speaks more for their character than anything else.
The next two guys I want to talk about put out a fantastic DVD collection together recently and are two individuals that I grew up idolizing. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Shawn had an absolutely fantastic career. For how much I enjoyed watching him growing up and how much I was begging for his miraculous return, I can easily forget the fact that he was out of the ring for four years. The guy put on quality matches night in and night and could keep a crowd into a match like no other. Since his legitimate retirement from the ring, Shawn has stuck to his word and known his role. He’s made a few sporadic but very limited appearances on WWE tv, and he’s been a part of a pretty entertaining hunting show on the Outdoor Channel. Bret Hart, on the other hand, retired prematurely due to injury. I can’t tell you how excited I was on January 4, 2010 when he walked back onto WWE tv. Yeah, Impact was on that night and it had Hogan’s premier, but it didn’t compare to how excited I was as a fan to watch Bret come into the ring and say “Well I guess Hell froze over” and then proceed to embrace Shawn Michaels as they resolved the longtime feud. Bret made random appearances after that and worked in a couple matches with somewhat limited participation. No lies though, I jumped out of my seat when Bret won the US Title from the Miz. Who cares about the circumstances and the involvement of the Hart Dynasty? To me, it was one of my favorite moments for Bret since his return to the company. The guy has worked more matches than anybody in WWE history. However, Bret has done what has been asked of him and has actually been pretty humble about his accomplishments over the course of his career. Someday each of these guys will get their own tribute column from me. It will most likely be even more subjective than the rest of this has been.
The last guy I’m going to discuss in this piece will be The Undertaker. Talk about a guy that has always known his role and done the absolute best with whatever fantastic, good, or even horrible opponents that he’s had to work with. The guy has worked the same character(give or take some quirky twists) with virtually the same signature maneuvers(with a couple changes here and there) for 20+ years. People aren’t sick of him like they are of guys like Hogan and Flair. Is he banged up and getting older? Of course he is. Is it somewhat sad that his match at Mania 28 will mostly be his last after not working a match for an entire year? Very sad indeed. The guy is a lock for the 2013 Hall of Fame(I said something similar about Benoit once, but I feel better about this one as I write it). The Dead Man took whatever was given to him to work with and he made it work. He has maintained a fan following that nobody has yet to match. The business has changed a lot since the days of The Undertaker’s debut, and he seems to realize that as he has never pushed for a top spot but has always been one of the most heavily respected locker room figures backstage as he does what is asked of him. He has put guys over in the past by losing to them(Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar, Mick Foley, and Steve Austin to name a few) and has even put guys over as he defeats them(Rob Van Dam, Jeff Hardy, Shawn Michaels, Rey Mysterio). You can’t ask for a more standup guy that has accepted his role in a company with more loyalty to this business than The Undertaker.
Okay, so here’s where it’s at. I wanted to talk about Triple H, The Rock, and a few other select individuals. I’m thinking we can save that for a part two on this subject. This thing seems to read more like a rant and praise as I look at it, but it’s moments like this that I feel fortunate to be able to put my writing out there for you to read and generate some discussion. We all have opinions, and I’m looking forward to hearing all of yours! Until next time, you’ve been ThunderStruck!