Featuring Ivan Trembow's Self-Important, Random Rants on Mixed Martial Arts, Video Games, Pro Wrestling, Television, Politics, Sports, and High-Quality Wool Socks
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
Pro Wrestling--- Coming off a very good WWE Unforgiven pay-per-view, I can't help but still have a lot of negative thoughts and feelings about the direction of the company. As for the event itself, Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit are two incredibly good in-ring workers-- arguably the best in the company-- who had an incredibly good match that was only slightly sullied by the non-clean finish. Edge and Eddie Guererro are two potential main eventers who had another great match to add to their collection, and the Triple H vs. Rob Van Dam match was laid-out very well even though it did have a screwjob finish. After doing a clean submission job to Ric Flair at SummerSlam last month, the writers couldn't even be bothered to give Chris Jericho a clean win this month. There goes the believability factor if anyone in the WWE expects fans to believe that the in-his-prime Jericho can't beat the 55-year-old Ric Flair.
Putting all of that aside, the thing that stood out most at Unforgiven is the fact that The Undertaker is more out of control than ever, as management continues to cater to him at the expense of the next generation of talent and the current on-air product. Some of those young guys can actually (gasp!) work a decent match in the damn ring. The Undertaker was never a good in-ring worker even in his prime, and make no mistake about it, the 40+ year old Taker is years and years past his prime. I wouldn't care if he was 20 years old or 60 years old if he could get it done in the ring, but he can't. His in-ring performances have slipped even more in the past few years, and he has no business being on television at all as anything other than maybe a mid-card novelty act elevating younger talent.
But that's just the thing. The Undertaker never has elevated other talent, he's certainly not elevating any other talent now, and he's probably never going to. His repeated, one-sided "squash" victories over Edge and Christian a few years back did damage to their careers that they have still not completely recovered from. The Undertaker constantly no-sells his way through matches, and when his opponets do gain an advantage on him, it's almost always due to a low blow or some other dirty heel tactic. Seeing The Undertaker do to a clean job to a top-tier established star, much less an up-and-coming wrestler with potential, is unheard of in recent history.
Say what you will about Hulk Hogan and his years of backstage political machinations, but when the time came, Hogan did the right thing. He did a clean job to The Rock at WrestleMania. He tapped out to Kurt Angle in a clean submission loss in a high-profile PPV match in the middle of the ring. He not only did a clean job to Brock Lesnar but allowed himself to be destroyed by Lesnar after the match and left lying. He worked side-by-side with young stars like Edge in a way that gave them star power rub and actually elevated them rather than conditioning viewers to think of the younger stars as inferior.
Meanwhile, who in the hell has The Undertaker ever elevated? Take away years of undeserved main event matches and burying of younger, better wrestlers, and just think about it starting from April of this year. At April's Backlash pay-per-view, he had an absolute stinker of a 30-minute match with Steve Austin that is going to be on the Pro Wrestling Torch Worst Match of the Year list at the end of the year, and he got the win over Austin. In May, he inexplicably main evented the Judgment Day pay-per-view and had another stinker of a match, this time against Hulk Hogan (who had just come off good matches against The Rock and Triple H). Even more disturbingly, The Undertaker won the match and won the WWE Title. It's the equivalent of George Foreman winning the heavyweight title in boxing today.
At the King of the Ring PPV in June, The Undertaker had a horrible match in the main event against Triple H (who has had good matches with just about everybody). Undertaker got the win and retained his title. At the July Vengeance PPV, Undertaker was in the main event yet again, having a decent Triple Threat Match with Kurt Angle and The Rock that was largely carried by the two non-old-bastard wrestlers. The Undertaker always stands up and lectures people in the locker room about doing what's best for business even if it's not best for you personally, and yet he didn't even get pinned to lose his own title, as The Rock pinned Angle to win the title in the Triple Threat Match.
At the August SummerSlam PPV, Undertaker got a well-deserved demotion to a mid-card match with Test, and things were finally looking up for people who enjoy quality wrestling in their $35 pay-per-view main events. It wasn't a good match and Undertaker got the clean pin over Test, but at least he wasn't stinking up the main events anymore. Now here he is, back in the main event at the September Unforgiven PPV against new champion Brock Lesnar. Not surprisingly, it's a pretty bad match, and Undertaker dominates most of the offense, and Brock only gets the upper hand after hitting Undertaker in the face with the title belt.
The Undertaker gets to beat up Lesnar after the match and leave the situation with the upper hand, and he didn't even have to do a job of any kind in the process (much less a clean job) thanks to the BS disqualifcation finish that sent the Los Angeles crowd into a near-riotous state. Why, you ask? How could that possibly be best for business? Well, it's not. But that's not what is important, what's important is that The Undertaker gets out of doing a job under any circumstances, and even more sickening, he gets to weasel his way into another PPV main event when he gets his rematch against Lesnar next month at the No Mercy PPV.
If World Wrestling Entertainment wants to blame someone for the fact that TV ratings, arena attendance, and PPV buyrates have gone down drastically over the past six months, who could possibly deserve more blame than The Undertaker? He has main evented four of the past five PPVs, he has stunk up the ring with sub-par matches in all four of those matches, and he has avoided doing any jobs in any of those four matches. He wouldn't elevate an elevator at elevator convention, and he is sure as hell not going to elevate any of the WWE's multitude of young, talented stars in the making.
Shawn Michaels left wrestling in a meaningful way back in '98, pushing his injured back to the limit en route to doing a clean job to rising star Steve Austin. Mick Foley left in a meaningful way, busting his ass in classic PPV matches, doing jobs to and making a star out of Triple H. Hulk Hogan left in a meaningful way, laying down for Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar and having the occasional good match along the way. It's time for The Undertaker to be doing a retirement angle and making it a real retirement, not main eventing PPVs and wasting fans' time and money. Actually, it was time for that a few years ago, but better late than never. Get him out of PPV main events, get him off my TV, and get him off the active roster altogether.