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Questions

Scott,
 
Long-time reader who has been following wrestling since the late 1980s, but some things puzzle me:
 
1)  You say that the Austin heel turn at WM 17 was a big mistake. In the long term, you seem to be correct. However, at the time it seemed to make sense because Austin had pretty much run through the established main eventers (except Angle) as a face. Austin v. UT, Austin v. HHH, Austin v. Rock, and Austin v. Kane - all been there done that. Wasn't the concept at the time shake things up (by doing some of the same matches but with the face v. heel role switched) not a bad idea, at leas theoretically?
 

The heel turn wasn't a bad idea in of itself, the problem was that they pulled the trigger at the biggest show of the year, in Austin's home turf.  And he had no followup promo where he explained his motivation and made everyone hate him for it, leaving the whole thing kind of murky.  And then we lost HHH to injury soon after, leaving Austin as the guy who had to carry the entire heel side with that act.  
 
2)  I recall watching alot of NWA / WCW in the late 80s and early 90s and was a huge Sting fan.  However, everyone pans his first run with the title in 1990-1991.  I see that run not succeeding due to poor booking (see Anderson, Ole) and long-term, structural problems at the NWA (see Flair, Ric). Yes, Flair could wrestle but he could not sell tickets north of the Mason-Dixon line or west of the Mississippi. From 1981 to 1994 (up to Hogan taking the belt) and excepting the time Flair was in WWF in 1991-1992, he held the world title like 90% of the time.  During that period, some challenger would be given the title after a Flair loss but the new champ would have the belt a short period of time and be given crappy challengers (like the Black Scorpion) or Flair would be given a ton of rematches. Kerry Von Erich, Dusty Rhodes, Steamboat, and Garvin all fell into this trap. Why should have fans cared when they knew Flair was getting the belt back almost immediately and no other serious challengers were created to face the new champions? It seems to me that the promotion was set up to glorify Flair and Flair alone, even though his box office potential was limited.
 
Your thoughts? 
 

Well the system used to work differently, because WCW was a part of the NWA and you couldn't just switch the title on a whim.  You had to get NWA approval and work out belt deposits and dates and stuff, so generally guys weren't going to get long title reigns outside of Flair because promoters had no interest in a drugged up Kerry touring with the belt to their territory.  Plus let's face it, Flair was really good at taking care of Flair.  If it makes you feel better, they really did want to make Sting into The Guy in 1990 on a permanent basis.  But yes, you have nailed down a major problem that brought about the end of Crockett and many other promotions -- same guys on top, no new challengers that fan buy into.  
 
JKR

Comments

  1. Turning Austin heel was the right move, but the kind of heel he became was totally wrong. He slowly devolved into a blithering idiot chickenshit for no real reason. They had the perfect opportunity to repair his character with the Invasion angle and choked.

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  2. When I think back to Austin's heel turn nowadays, I'll say it was more or less the right move at the wrong place (possibly the wrong time too). Austin & Vince could've worked as an "unholy alliance" or sorts, but when Austin totally changed his character, as well as incomprehensible pairing with HHH which made NO sense, that's what caused to not be a success on a creative level. Plus things like Austin not having many credible threats to the WWF title and not giving an explanation (outside of "I needed an insurance policy"), things that Scott always mentioned, played a role as well.

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  3. It is kind of eerie in the way that Sting and Warrior's first reigns were linked in terms of timeline, circumstances, and the way strong characters and good booking failed to make either guy the #1 attraction at the box office. 

    Both organizations went back to their tried and true champions after giving the heir apparatus short reigns and within a year both were gone from their respective organizations -- Hogan experienced his first backlash from the fans and took a hiatus from the WWF, while Flair was fired from the NWA. 

    It's just sort of weird how both Sting and Warrior, who were booked well and majorly over with the fans prior to their title reigns were both done a disservice by bad booking and a lack of quality opponents.  It's like after all that trouble to get the guy over, don't you make sure he has a hot opponent to face before you have your long-term champion lie down for them?

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  4.  It would have worked better if Austin, after WM, renounced the Stone Cold character and reverted back to Stunning Steve Austin. Would have made the chickenshit bully/comedy stuff better if Austin was in full blown evil preppy mode....

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  5. Christopher HirschAugust 24, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    Even with the face/heel dynamics changed, UT vs. Austin, and Kane vs. Austin was still stale as shit.

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  6.  Good points here. I think Sting had more of a chance to be a better champion than Warrior did. I personally don't think good/decent booking would've helped the Warrior at all. After he beat Hogan (clean) at WM6, that was essentially it.

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  7.  At that point in 2001, I agree. The tag team match at Backlash, for the titles, with Austin & HHH vs. Taker & Kane, as well as the one on one matches at Judgment Day that year (Austin vs. Taker and HHH vs. Kane) did nothing for me.

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  8. I think Sting would have been a better champion in terms of putting on better matches, but much like Sting, Warrior was crazy over with the fans and sold a ton of merchandise.  The fans definitely connected with him, but it was never really the same after that during his time as champion -- many fans started to openly boo him at house shows following WrestleMania. 

    I remember they gave away something like 11,000 paper Ultimate Warrior masks at a TV taping, just to give people the impression that he had a ton of support.  All of this was before a repeat challenger (Rude) officially came into the picture, but I suppose if the follow-up was stronger that people could have forgiven him for unseating Hogan -- I think that combined with the EQ angle garnered a lot of sympathy for HH and sort of made Warrior out to be the bad guy.  I guess that is the danger in doing face vs face matches.

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  9. I'd have loved that... he would need the ponytail or the short reform school boy haricut though haha

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  10.  That certainly is the danger of doing face vs. face matches indeed, good point. You also make another good point about people having forgiveness for Warrior if the follow-up challenger was stronger. And considering their roster at the time, Rude, based on the buildup, was not the way to go.

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  11. Yeah looking back, it was unheard of back then to rehash a feud for PPV that had already been seen less than a year before on two PPVs.

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  12.  Exactly, and with much better matches too.

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  13. Christopher HirschAugust 24, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    Yeah, I remember being really bored with the product around that time, then they eleveated Benoit and Jericho which was exciting, started the Invasion storyline, but then I was off to college and not watching nearly as much.

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  14.  I hear you on that. Although I continued to watch at the time, I was a little bored myself, BUT, we did get a series of very good matches at that time, especially on TV. Benoit had two excellent matches against Austin on Raw (5/28) and Smackdown (5/31). And we can't forget the excellent Austin & HHH vs. Benoit & Jericho match from the 5/21 edition of Raw as well.

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  15. Ah the Black Scorpian. Poor Sting. He always deserved so much better then he got.

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  16. I don't think you can compare Sting's first run with Kerry Von Erich or Ronny Garvin's title.  Sting was intended to be the guy, and then his reign flopped and they went back to Flair (I'm not saying it was Sting's fault it flopped - the Black Scorpion mess and WCW's booking in general in that time period were a disaster).

    There was never any plan to give the title permanently to Von Erich or Garvin.  Kerry just won the title to send the crowd home happy at the David Von Erich memorial.   As far as I know, the plan all along was for Garvin to win the title and then drop it back to Flair.  I'd guess the same is true for Steamboat.

    Dusty's titles in the 80s were from a completely different era completely. 

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  17. THREADJACK:

    Apparently last night at the NXT tapings CM Punk tagged with Seth Rollins to take on The Kings of Wrestling, and it is said to have been amazing.

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  18. Christopher HirschAugust 24, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    Definitely agree, those Austin/Benoit matches were amazing. Also, right after the Jericho/Benoit tag win was the TLC Smackdown match that often get's forgotten.

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  19.  Yep, the amazing TLC match (first time ever on network TV, the 5/24/01 edition of Smackdown). I haven't watched that one in quite some time.

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  20. The problems with Austin's turn were it occurred in Texas, it came without many top faces to feud with, and the Invasion started.  If the turn had occurred on its own with no Invasion in sight, I think it would've worked.  But when that storyline began, everyone wanted the Rattlesnake to destroy WCW.  No way was a heel Austin gonna work at that point.

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  21. I always thought Austin's motivation was that he wanted the title so bad he was willing to do anything to get it...even sell out to his worst enemy.

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  22. plus he had just come back from major neck surgery so it can be inferred that he was doubting himself at this point

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  23. Maybe they should have done the Earthquake angle with Warrior instead of Hogan. The WWF formula of challengers facing the champion was new monster comes into town, steamrolls over all the competition, confronts the champion, hurts champion, challenges the champion for the title claiming he has the champion's number, champion answers the challenge then dispatches the monster. Earthquake was the big new monster town in 1989 but instead of challenging the new champion, Ultimate Warrior, he challenged the former champion, Hogan. Warrior instead of facing the big bad monster in town wrestled Rick Rude, someone he dispatched less than a year before.

    Ultimate Warrior was the champion but Hogan still got the main angle. Why does that sound so familiar.

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  24. Worst_in_the_WorldAugust 24, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    Crazy to think that the WF thought Spring 2001 Austin, who was more over than John Cena has every been on the most over day in his career, was getting stale to the point that they needed to turn him. And yet today, after 5 years of half their audience openly booing the main babyface in an era when TV ratings and PPV numbers are either stagnant or declining, still refuse to turn Cena. It's just so nuts.

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  25. I was 9 or so when that all went down so I was completely awestruck by the Scorpion. =/

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  26.  Vince should've slowly changed Stone Cold into something like "Superstar" Steven Austin. That segment where Vince brings out the new and improved Stone Cold, well, that's what they should've done with him turning heel. He wears suits, he doesn't cuss. Everything about Austin that people like should have been purged. That would sell that Austin was so afraid of losing his spot he sold his soul and then you can eventually have him snap and turn back to being a face.

    But hey, at least the WWF had the balls to do the turn, even if it wasn't executed well. They really needed the Rock around, so the fans had a strong babyface.

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  27. Sting's title reign was also hurt by the fact that it was coming about a year late.  Had he not blown out his knee climbing that cage, he would've won the title much earlier.

    I have no problem with Austin's heel character since he did such a great job with it and a great job of actually making the beloved Stone Cold someone you'd dislike.  The core of the Stone Cold character was the cool and rebellious credo of Don't Trust Anyone --- so the only way to take that to be a heelish extreme was to become completely paranoid and whiny about everything.

    Of course, the bigger problems with the heel turn were as Scott mentioned.  Houston, Texas was absolutely the worst place in the world to try and make Steve Austin a bad guy.  Also dumb was keeping HHH a heel and forming the Two-Man Power Trip.  HHH's non-face turn was even more inexplicable when you consider that the Rock (the natural adversary for Austin) was going to be off for four months doing Scorpion King so the void was right there for a new top face.  Instead, we got retread opponents like Undertaker and Kane, plus guys like Jericho and Benoit who WWE wasn't ready to fully push as top threats yet.

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  28. Agree with what everyone has said about the turn (right idea, wrong time & lace)

    But something else that was wrong with the execution of it was it lacked a defining moment.

    Think of some of the great heel turns (HBK throwing Jannetty through the barbershop window, Hogan dropping the leg) and they have one moment where you know they've gone heel.

    Vince sliding Austin the chair and him using it a million times isn't dramatic enough for such a big turn, therefore the whole thing lacked a bit of impact

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  29. Well, that video of Punk and Rollins surfaced on Youtube, and John Cena interrupts Punk on the Titantron to a chorus of boos from the crowd, at least in the live video taken by a fan.

    They edited out the boos in the actual video and make it sound like 30,000 people are cheering Cena, rather than the hundreds in attendance.

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