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The EXCELLENCE IN COLUMN WRITING is upon you, once again, exclusively here at WrestlingHeadlines.com, a LordsofPain.net company. Kind of a mobid week between the Dark Side of the Ring VICE TV documentary re-opening Owen Hart wounds and tragic death of former WWE wrestler and Cryme Tyme tag team wrestler Shad Gaspard. It’s a very good lesson that LIFE IS SHORT and you should attempt to live your life to its fullest. Especially with a deadly pandemic out there, if there is some creative endeavor that you want to pursue, go for it!
Honestly, I don’t have too much to say on Shad Gaspard as a tribute. I didn’t watch Pro Wrestling from June 2007 (when Benoit killed his family and himself) through late 2009. I saw maybe one year of Cryme Tyme and they weren’t really pushed on the WWE programs that I saw. If what the news stories are suggesting is true about Shad saving his son from also drowning in a rip current, then Shad is a hero and should be forever commended. Most fathers would do anything for their children, even risking their own lives to ensure the security and safety of their own flesh and blood. I’d do the same for my kids if I were in Shad’s position.
Now, I did watch Owen Hart wrestle for most of his career and I actually covered his death on the day after the WWE Pay Per View, Over the Edge, on May 24th, 1999. You can read that older column by Clicking Here
I’d say between Owen Hart and Eddie Guerrero dying, those were the two moments where I actually cried as a wrestling fan. Their deaths affected me as a wrestling fan and made me contemplate what was wrong with the industry at those times. I strongly recommend checking out Martha Hart’s book Broken Harts: The Life and Death of Owen Hart if you want to know more about what happened at Kemper Arena and why Martha sued the WWE for negligence at the workplace. It’s a damn good read that made me highly emotional when reading it… Owen Hart should still be alive, period. Wrestlers should never be forced to perform high risk stunts, period.
Onto your questions…
ASK MR. TITO – Your Questions, My Answers
Who is to blame for Owen Hart’s death?
Jesus, let’s get right to it… Obviously, Vince McMahon. He signs off on the Creative Decisions AND he’s the one who paid the stunt coordinator who set up the drop from the rafters. If you bring up the WWE’s accounts payable system, it is very likely that Vince McMahon’s signature (or maybe Linda’s) is on the Official Check paid the company hired for this stunt.
The most compelling reveal from Dark Side of the Ring was from Martha Hart… Owen Hart came home for a few days before the WWE Over the Edge Pay Per View. When he arrived home, which I’m assuming was Wednesday or Thursday before the Sunday Over the Edge show, the WWE offices were insisting that Owen fly somewhere to get measured for a vest for the rafter stunt at Over the Edge. In other words, Owen worked houseshows during the previous weekend and Monday Night RAW *yet* this stunt wasn’t creatively booked until AFTER Monday Night RAW aired. Think about that…
^ This evidence proves to me how dysfunctional that the WWE Creative Team became during 1999, particularly after the creative masterpiece that was Wrestlemania 15. Everything was done “on the fly” at that point with zero long-term planning. WWE kept recycling Austin vs. McMahon, the Higher Power debacle, and the many Intercontinental Title changes… Long-term planning was thrown out the window and the Attitude Era was clearly running on fumes of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s star power at that point. Then by November 1999 when Austin is out with his neck injury, the WWE officially peaked as attendance numbers began to dip without Austin on the shows. Following Wrestlemania 16, RAW’s viewership numbers began to slip.
As I was telling my Twitter followers, the Chicago Bulls and the WWE of the late 1990s were very similar… You had top stars at the very top of those teams (Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman with Phil Jackson coaching for the Bulls and Steve Austin, Rock, Mick Foley, and the Undertaker) that were hiding the dysfunction behind the scenes. Once Jordan retired after the 1998 NBA Playoffs, the Bulls went downhill fast and have never won a title. Once Steve Austin was out with an injury, WWE’s attendance and eventually viewership went downhill fast and was never the same.
For WWE Creative and Vince McMahon to CLEARLY not have this rafter jump booked well in advance, as indicated by Owen needing a vest measurement, that proves to me how the WWE lacked long-term booking for its Pay Per Views and wrestlers back then. Making a creative decision on a whim cost Owen his life. WWE had to scramble in just a few days to find someone to perform this stunt. In error, they hired a junior worker that was involved with one of Sting’s WCW jumps but he was clearly not a senior member of that staff based on the shortcuts taken on Owen’s jump. Because Vince McMahon and Creative decided to do this on a whim, precautions weren’t carefully taken to protect Owen Hart. This kind of stunt should have had more preparation, such as evaluating the stunt coordinator hired and considering how this leap would benefit Owen’s career. Had Owen successfully jumped, what would it matter? He was wrestling for the Intercontinental Title which was the town bicycle during 1999 (meaning “everybody got a ride”).
Many have tried to blame Vince Russo, who was head of Creative at that point. I don’t… He’s not the one signing off on a stunt like, nor is he hiring the stund coordinator. He was just writing storylines. Even if Russo came up with that idea during a Creative Meeting, it was up to Vince McMahon to hire the right people to execute this dangerous stunt safely. Vince McMahon signs the checks and approves any Creative decisions made. If I were in Vince McMahon’s shoes, I would struggle to sleep at night regarding the death of Owen Hart…. And then you get into the details of Vince McMahon and the WWE counter-suing Martha Hart and you really wonder about Vince McMahon’s conscience.
Should Shad Gaspard win the WWE Warrior Hall of Fame Award?
Let’s allow all of the details of the investigation come out first… This story is still too new. From early indications, it does that Shad saved his son from drowning and it may have cost his own life doing so.
But should the WWE have a hand in honoring him? He worked for the WWE for just over 2 years before the WWE decided to release him. In my opinion, the national media is doing a better job honoring Shad on a nationwide basis and his family does NOT need the WWE’s publicity machine to praise him. WWE had their chance to make Cryme Tyme into a more important tag team or split up Shad and JTG as singles… But they didn’t. They gave up on them like many other talents.
And I’m sorry to say this… But would Shad’s family want to be honored for an award named after the Ultimate Warrior? I know that things ended well with him as a family man and reconciling with the WWE again, but there are plenty of audio and video clips of awful things that the “Warrior” or Jim Hellwig said that reduces the value of this public relations award.
If it takes a heroic death for your former employer to finally praise you for something, I’d pass if I were Shad’s family. If you’ll notice, the WWE is releasing tributes to a guy that they only let wrestle on their programs for 2 years (kept him on the payroll for another 6 months after that). The national media is doing the job tha the WWE could never do in praising the potential heroics of Shad Gaspard.
What are your thoughts on Lance Archer in AEW as managed by Jake “the Snake” Roberts?
In my opinion, there is tremendous upside for Lance Archer. He’s an actual big man in a wrestling promotion that has hired many wrestlers UNDER 6 feet tall. He’s actually an older wrestler at the age of 43 and has legitimate experience dating back to the year 2000. Thus, he has the mileage and experience to back up that size.
BUT – He still isn’t well known as a wrestler despite having many stops at various promotions. Plus, the name recognition isn’t there. He is called “Lance Archer” in AEW but he has worked under his real name of Lance Hoyt elsewhere. Wrestling is all about branding and he still feels like an unknown wrestler because of that and having too many brief stints with multiple promotions.
Hence why Jake “the Snake” Roberts was given to him as a manager… While Jake’s promos have been compelling, they have been more about getting Jake over than Lance. A good manager should be able to complement his talent instead of overshadowing him. Maybe a few convincing wins for Archer will help offset the strong promos of Jake’s to “back up” what Jake is saying on the mic, but Jake is still the most interesting part of Archer’s career. Compare that to anyone Bobby Heenan or Jim Cornette managed, as they just cut promos to put over their managed talent. I believe if Jake toned things down and showed some fear against his adversaries, it would then allow Archer to step in and stand up for his older manager.
There’s upside with Archer, as his size and experience really make him stand-out from the rest of the AEW roster… But I believe that his brand needs built up a little bit more. Hence, why I’d recommend that Archer lose the TNT Championship finals against Cody Rhodes BUT he should replicate the Diesel reaction to losing his WWE Title at Survivor Series 1995. If you’ll recall, Diesel had the match won and tried to powerbomb what he thought was a weakened and tired Bret Hart. Bret rolled him up with a schoolboy pin to steal the victory. After the match, Diesel went off… He was visibly pissed and attacked Bret afterward, launching a new era of his character as a heel with a cool edge that made him into an even bigger star when he jumped to WCW. Lance Archer should also watch 2015 tapes of Brock Lesnar going crazy on the RAW following his WWE Title loss to Seth Rollins at Wrestlemania 31. POINT BEING, you can lose a match but perform actions that make you look stronger as a character… Hey, Steve Austin lost his match against Bret at Wrestlemania 13 and how did losing that match hurt his career?
As Jim Ross repeatedly says… Pro Wrestling is about CASH and CREATIVE. Good Creative can turn any loss into a positive. Period.
What are your thoughts on the WWE letting Drew Gulak’s contract expire?
Nothing, really… Was he a good in-ring talent? Yes… His work during 2020, many of which involved Daniel Bryan, was probably his best of his WWE tenure since 2016. He was pretty good in the Cruiserweight division on a technical level, too…
But again, and this is what I keep explaining to the younger generation of wrestling fans… It’s not about the athleticism shown inside the ring. There are MANY wrestlers nationwide who can perform great moves inside the squared circle. There are FEW right now getting over based on Charisma, Speaking Ability, Personality, Look, and appearing “Larger than Life” to wrestling fans. After he wrestles a match, he’d seem like a regular looking guy in street clothes.
Compare him to Daniel Bryan… Yes, Bryan is very technically sound but what made Daniel Bryan get over through 2013? His PERSONALITY, CHARISMA, and SPEAKING ABILITY. Tada! Bryan unleashed those intangibles and the fans overwhelmed him with support, insomuch that they forced the WWE’s hand to completely rebook Wrestlemania 30 instead of their planned Orton vs. Batista main event.
What Drew Gulak needs to do is to PROVE EVERYONE WRONG. Steve Austin, Undertaker, Mick Foley, Kevin Nash, Scott, Hall, and Triple H didn’t make it as top stars in World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Quite the opposite, as each of those wrestlers endured bad gimmicks or bad creative holding them back. If you look at Austin, Foley, and Undertaker in particular, they had Creative Teams flat out tell them that they wouldn’t make it and were just let go purposely by the company.
I really wonder in this modern day of wrestling if that FIRE is within wrestlers to get PISSED and prove their former promotion wrong. For all of the recent WWE releases and anyone let go by the WWE, there should be a hunger and an anger in place that creates the next top star… I just wonder with all of the guaranteed money that WWE and AEW now pays, is that fire still there? Are we creating too much comfort in the wrestling business?
What are your thoughts on Sami Zayn not willing to wrestle during the Coronavirus pandemic?
It’s his choice, his income… The same can be said about Becky Lynch. It’s her personal choice to become a mother at this point and forgo whatever the WWE was paying her.
That said, it brings up the obvious question about the WWE and workplace safety. Because the wrestlers have submitted themselves to be “Independent Contractors”, they are assuming much of the health risk onto themselves. If you don’t perform based on your contract, the WWE doesn’t have to pay you and there is zero recourse on the WWE’s part.
Right now, COVID-19 has caused almost 94,000 deaths and Vince McMahon is one of the most determined business owners during this process to keep operations going. After all, he played politics in Florida to his the WWE named as an “essential” business. As you can see by a recent news story, Vince McMahon is dead serious about having SummerSlam performed in front of a live audience.
Sami can do what he wants but the WWE, with his contract in hand, will do what they want. If this is a play to go elsewhere, the WWE will add on time to that contract. However, the WWE might not want to pay the guaranteed money on that contract as well… So you have a lot of interesting variables at play here. For all we know, Sami’s intentions are sincere and he just doesn’t want to sick. More power to him and I wish him the best.
In my opinion, the WWE has fumbled creatively multiple times on Sami, though the injury bug has bit him a few times too.
And now, my last rant…
THE LAST WORD
Can we stop comparing wrestlers of TODAY with PAST wrestlers please?
Dave Meltzer, author of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, often gets into arguments with wrestling fans and some personalities (like Jim Cornette) for daring to compare wrestlers of today with wrestlers of the past. While many of his comparisons involve New Japan wrestlers (his favorite promotion), the one that sparked Jim Cornette’s anger was comparing the Young Bucks to Jim’s managed Midnight Express.
Now, I’m not going to make this into a Dave Meltzer bashing session… You can read last week’s rant on the 18-49 Demographic Defense for AEW for that… But I have seen many attempt to compare today’s wrestling with the past.
Let me give you a few FACTS about Wrestling TODAY versus Wrestling 20 years ago:
(1) More fans attended wrestling events 20 years ago than today.
(2) More fans watched wrestling on television 20 years ago than today.
(3) More athletes and human beings wanted to be wrestlers 20 years ago than today.
Again, those are just FACTS…
And I could get into how things were 40 years ago with the Territory System, how big both WWE and WCW were together during the late 1990s, and then I could get into financial numbers how the rate of growth of salaries/wages has hit a plateau in the last 10 years. Things like that, you know, FACTS.
Things change, especially with more guaranteed money in place. Before WCW boomed through 1996, the WWE did not have guaranteed money in their contracts. Everything was based on attendance and merchandise sold along with Pay Per View revenues. Thus, if you didn’t work, you didn’t get paid. WCW pushed the downside guarantee to lure top WWE stars to jump to WCW, particularly Scott Hall and Kevin Nash during 1996 along with other AGENT NEGOTIATED incentives. That’s right, WCW contracts were often negotiated by actual sports agents representing their clients.
The business changed 20 years ago and now the past 2 decades worth of wrestlers are working under different climates. They are also walking into company Training Centers instead of starving for years on the Independent circuit or getting Creatively burned elsewhere. Just look at Steve Austin’s career… Short stint in World Class, good run with WCW but was never pushed as a Main Eventer. Hulk Hogan arrives in WCW during 1994 and causes the creative direction to change. Gets fired by WCW after suffering an injury during early 1995. This fuels Austin to go prove himself… He joined ECW and they gave him the microphone to cut promos on whatever he wanted and Austin lashed out on WCW, Bischoff, and Hulk Hogan. Austin then joins WWE as the “Ringmaster”… He has to overcome that gimmick and prove himself by creating an entirely new gimmick to get over on his own. The rest is history.
Wrestlers today aren’t going through that same process… Look what Mick Foley had to endure before joining the WWE in 1996. Same crap with WCW under-appreciating him but he endured lots of hell on the Indy circuit before eventually making a huge payday in WWE. Even Hulk Hogan had to took his bumps and bruises before making it big. It kept these guys hungry and wanting to succeed.
Now, Pro Wrestling has become corporate and caters to sponsors. Wrestlers are pampered with guaranteed contracts and as long as WWE doesn’t release them, that check is arriving every 2 weeks into their accounts. On top of that, the in-ring rules have changed. No headshots, whatsoever, even if performed safely. No blading… Wrestlers today are making so much money that they can charter a Private Bus to take them to each event. Wrestlers in the past had to pile up in rental cars together just to keep costs low against the much lower salaries that they commanded 25 years ago.
The end result is a lack of hunger to be great… The reason Austin, Foley, and Triple H became great is that THEY WANTED IT. Each of those wrestlers were workaholics and were willing to do whatever it takes to become the top dog of the wrestling industry. Alpha Males, as they were once called… While Foley and Austin are retired, look at Triple H… The man has NEVER stopped working and barely gets any sleep as a WWE executive who sometimes wrestles.
Can you point out ANY wrestler on either WWE or AEW’s roster who “wants it”?
I’d say maybe Cody Rhodes and Jon Moxley… They were poorly used by the WWE Creative Team and has lit a fire under them… After that? I don’t know…
Compare that to the National Basketball Association (NBA)… Before the 2000s, flagrant files weren’t called as much and you could put your hands all over your opponents to control their position (“hand checks”). During the 1980s especially and throughout the 1990s, defenders could actually clothesline any player driving the lane. That’s what made the “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons famous. Try to score an easy layup or dunk and either Rick Mahorn or Bill Laimbeer would take cheapshots. Fights happened regularly in the NBA back then, too… Things changed during the 2000s when David Stern wanted to clean up the NBA’s image and promote more scoring.
That is why Michael Jordan is the GREATEST OF ALL TIME (GOAT), period, as far as basketball or the NBA is concerned. He won 6 NBA Championships while playing in a much more physical version of the NBA. Meanwhile, Jordan actually did it with LESS guaranteed money than players today. Besides his last 2 years, Jordan only made a few million per year on his contract with the Bulls. You could suggest endorsement money, but remember, that money wasn’t there during the 1980s… Jordan built that from the ground up, as companies like Nike and Gatorade weren’t exactly established brands. Michael Jordan accomplished all of this greatness with the heightened expectations and mobs of fans wanting a piece of him. He still succeeded and probably should have won more titles.
Look at players today… They are all getting MAX contracts paying them over $25 Million guaranteed. That is on top of the endorsements paying them millions more. Meanwhile, the NBA rules are protecting them from injury and will keep players around longer and able to maximize on their earnings. Also, NBA players have more mobility than ever. Lebron James has switched teams 3 separate times. He joined the Miami Heat with 2 other stars to stack the odds in his favor to win NBA Titles. James later did the same thing with Cleveland and then joined the Lakers to reshape that team to attract stars to win.
NBA Basketball Players and Pro Wrestlers have it EASIER today than they did in the past. They are making more money, working in safer conditions, etc.
These comparisons are RIDICULOUS because the conditions are NOT in place to make Wrestlers/Basketball Players TODAY to be compared with the Wrestlers/Basketball Players of the PAST. The economic and safety conditions are just way different and today’s athletes have so much working in their favor. Because those are in place, the HUNGER TO BE GREAT is NOT THERE…
And hence why viewership and attendance is down for both…
You could argue both the WWE and NBA are stronger Internationally… But when did that growth begin? Oh yeah, that’s right, from the talent seen during the 1990s. The Dream Team of 1992 opened up many country’s eyes as far as Basketball was concerned and what does Saudi Arabia specifically want for their big WWE shows? 1990s stars…
No offense to today’s wrestlers, but I don’t see many comparisons of today’s workers versus the past… Maybe some of today’s top guys to midcarders of the past, I suppose? Most compare the Revival with Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard… But after that, where are the other comparisons? Especially to top stars?
I just don’t see it… I just don’t see the HUNGER and the DRIVE in today’s crop of wrestling talent to be great.
Remember when Braun Strowman tried to talk down Independent wrestlers to suck it up on paying their dues? Strowman thought that his stint at the WWE Performance Center was “paying his dues” while many wrestlers from the past STARVED on the Independent Center before even being looked at by the WWE. As you can see by Braun’s career, he’s not booming into a huge star that can draw in more viewers.
I could even argue that with the Women, too… Right now, women are pushing to be treated as serious athletes… Little do they know that the steep majority of wrestling fans are MALES and that the biggest draws in the wrestling business over the last 35 years were Miss Elizabeth, Sunny, and Sable. Among the 3 of them, only Sable wrestled a few matches and I wouldn’t call that “wrestling”. Particularly with Sunny and Sable, they didn’t have to be politically correct as today’s generation and had the ability to break barriers. Today’s women have guaranteed contracts in NXT and are told how to look and what to say.
Let’s stop this silly comparison game… I have YET to see any WWE star over the last 15 years resemble Steve Austin, Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, the Road Warriors, Macho Man Randy Savage, the Rock, Mick Foley, the Undertaker, Dudleys, Hardy Boys, Edge/Christian, John Cena, or Brock Lesnar and those men are among the GREATEST OF ALL TIME.
Wrestling, as a business, has evolved and that been an industry that pays wrestlers more guaranteed money but is also a business whose climate is attracting fewer athletes to try it despite that guaranteed money.
Nobody from today even compares to the past. Again, attendance numbers and viewership… Those are FACTS.
Wrestling today is NOT as good as it once was… HOWEVER, it is safer and more financially stable for the wrestlers now than it once was. That latter point might be better for the wrestlers but not as exciting for the fans.
Let’s stop these silly debates… Anyone telling you that today’s WWE, AEW, New Japan, PWG, Ring of Honor, and Impact are better than the late 1990s WWE, WCW, and ECW are FULL OF CRAP, period.
And it took those great talents of the 1990s to endure the pain, the lower paydays, and actually risking death from lifestyles to help ensure a better working environment for today’s wrestlers. Conditions just aren’t the same to push wrestlers in to greatness to defy the roadblocks that are put in place. There is just no hunger to succeed as there once was with something guaranteed in place.
Only way that we’re going to maybe see if any recent wrestlers have “what it takes” is if some of the recently released WWE wrestlers get pissed to prove the WWE wrong. Sadly, however, many of them have went to Social Media to express their sorrow instead… *Facepalm*
WWE didn’t hand you a great opportunity… It handed you unemployment during an economic recession. THAT SHOULD PISS YOU OFF TO PROVE THEM WRONG!!!!
So just chill… Until the next episode!
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Bookmark Mr. Tito’s Column Archive to read the current and past columns.
Play my Super Mario Maker 2 courses on the Nintendo Switch:
WWE Money in the Bank 2020: QD1-9QF-X1H
Super Mario Bros. 2 Multiplayer Mayhem: XHP-W6B-JGG
Attack of the Murder Hornets: GGN-9QT-LFG
Die Hard (themed after the Bruce Willis Film): 2YH-48W-HMG
Die Hard 2 – Die Harder: QQ1-MHW-YTF
Die Hard with a Vengeance: 5MB-2YG-VRG
Die Hard 4 – Live Free or Die Hard: MP2-3SL-RPF
Under Siege: BYG-8YQ-XNF
Under Siege 2 – Dark Territory: CKB-RLR-WYG
Can You Dig It, Sucka?: 884-G0H-FFF
Michael Jordan Overcoming the Detroit Pistons: RTK-LJ6-JDG
Hoarding the Toilet Paper: 43G-S79-TVG
Star Trek 2 – The Wrath of Khan: 1LV-L7L-KDF
Inside Her: FC1-TW9-7YG
Star Wars vs. Star Trek: N3X-R6M-Y9G
Legend of Zelda – Ocarina of Time Wrong Warp: 2RX-QCV-N9G
Super Link Bros: HBD-H5C-QRF
Santa Bowser Came Early: GL8-F48-3XG
Super Wrestling Bros: 0H6-9HT-S5G
WWE Royal Rumble: SDH-JC2-HFG
WWE Elimination Chamber: P3B-5DJ-91G
WCW World War 3: BT4-W1Y-HRG
Extreme Championship Wrestling: 42J-4GT-W3G
BEST OF TITO’s POLITICAL CARTOONS
– Alfred E. Vince McMahon on Wrestlemania 36
– WWE’s “Developmental System”
– How Triple H views CM Punk’s physique
– How Pro Wrestling Controversies keep pulling me out of the Retirement Home
– Seth Rollins cannot resist the Internet!
– Truth About WWE’s “Executive Directors”
– More Truth About WWE’s “Executive Directors”
– Jim Cornette as Godzilla against Indy Mudshow Wrestlers
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