Friday, June 5, 2009

Epic Fail: A look back at nWo Souled Out and other wrestling flops

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops. The book reminded me that for every Star Wars, there's ten Battle Beyond the Stars and that no artist has a perfect track record (Spielberg had 1941, Lucas had Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, and Francis Ford Coppola had Godfather III). In the spirit of kicking a man while he's down, I've decided to take a look at some of wrestling's biggest flops of late Join me as I look at some of the biggest misfires in the history of the squared circle.

nWO Souled Out:
Oscar Wilde once said, "Nothing succeeds like excess". While there's something to be said for damning the torpedoes and going full speed ahead, sometimes our zeal can get the best of us. Whether you call it zeal, excess, or plain arrogance, Eric Bischoff decided that it was time for an NWO themed PPV. The result was Souled Out, a pay-per-view held on January 25, 1997. The show featured the stars of the nWo and WCW but the PPV focused on the stars of the nWo. The PPV featured Eric Bischoff and Ted DiBiase on commentary, nWo referee Nick Patrick, and an nWo-themed set.

Looking back, it's hard to argue with Bischoff's reasoning. The nWo was a runaway success in WCW, thrusting the company to the top of the wrestling game and crushing the WWF in the ratings war. If the nWo meant ratings, surely they'd translate into buyrates for a PPV. Furthermore, if the PPV proved to be a success, more nWo themed events were just a matter of time. In their book The Death of WCW R.D. Reynolds and Bryan Alvarez speculate that Bischoff was testing the waters to see if there was enough demand for two PPV's a month (The show was also held on a Saturday, a rarity and probably an experiment to test the PPV waters for a night besides Sunday).

Apparently there wasn't. The nWo Souled Out PPV was a flop both in terms of buyrates and the reaction of the fans. Watching the show, you almost get the feeling that the powers that be felt they could do no wrong (which, truth be told, really was the case up until this point). It was almost as if Eric Bischoff and friends wanted to see how bad of a show they could run and still make money. The PPV was a study in excess. Bischoff ran down the competition throughout the show and one of the show's highlights was a Miss nWo Beauty contest featuring what looked like a contingent from Kevin Nash fan club. Viewers had to wonder if they hadn't died and gone to hog heaven both in terms of the contestants riding Harleys and their "looks".

The show itself featured a mixed bag of wrestling. As was the case at the time, the nWo ran roughshod on the WCW stars, defeating them in most of the matches. While there were highlights in terms of wrestling quality (it would be next to impossible to have all bad matches given that guys like Chris Jericho, Eddie Guerrero, and Syxx worked the card), there was little to justify ordering the show. Unfortunately the powers that be at WCW failed to learn the lesson here. Eventually, the nWo would go the same way as the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Curry Man: He's hot, he's spicy, he's Christopher Daniels??? Leave it to TNA to take one of their best workers and reduce him to a joke with the slightest of ease. While you could cut TNA some slack and say that they'd already done a great job turning "Fallen Angel" Christopher Daniels into a shell of the wrestling character he was, it's hard to imagine saddling him with a gimmick as bad as this one. Not since Terry Taylor clucked his way into obscurity has a wrestler had to deal with such a millstone around his neck. The only good thing about this gimmick is that Daniels' wore a mask so not everyone knows his shame. TNA can claim that Curry Man was way over in Japan but there's still no excuse for Daniels being stuck with this turkey in North America.

Fake Kane: The psychologically unsound Kane took a turn for the worst when he began hearing voices and being plagued by the mysterious date of May 19 (Coincidentally, the release date for his WWE Film See No Evil). WWE fans used to having their suspension of disbelief stretched to the breaking point had to deal with Kane hearing voices and seeing things that everyone at home saw but which no one around Kane saw (The fact that this angle was reminiscent of the One Warrior Nation angle in WCW where Hulk Hogan hallucinated seeing the Warrior tells you all you need to know about the quality of this one).

As usually happens with Kane, the Big Red Machine made the best of a truly bad angle, hoping to salvage it from the Katie Vick section of his career. Thanks to some good work from Kane, his ongoing breakdown proved to be catchy and fans started to wonder what was so important about the date. Eventually, it was revealed that May 19 was the anniversary date of the tragic fire that killed Kane's mom. We also learned that a mystery imposter Kane was behind it all, leading to a terrible match between the two at the 2006 Vengeance PPV. In true kneejerk reaction, Vince McMahon pulled the plug on the angle when the first match between Kane and Faux Kane went south. The next night on RAW, Kane destroyed his doppleganger, sending him packing faster than the time DX wiped out the Spirit Squad and sent them back to OVW (due to time constraints, we'll have to save that one for another time).

Tony "Mouthful of Marbles" Atlas, Manager: For years, wrestling fans have been clamoring for the WWE to bring back managers so what do they do-they pair one of their worst talkers (and workers) with WWE Hall of Famer bad talker Tony "Mr. USA" Atlas. Debuting on ECW, perennial babyface Atlas turned heel on Colin Delaney, aligning himself with "World's Strongest Man" Mark Henry. While the heel turn was a lot of fun, things quickly went downhill from there. For years, Booking 101 held that you pair poor talkers with managers in order to help get them over. The only thing the WWE forgot was that the manager has to be able to string together a sentence or two himself. Not since Mushmouth graced the Fat Albert set has there been such a poor representation of the King's English. Give the WWE credit where credit is due. After Atlas' run as a manager, no one is going to be clamoring for managers anytime soon.

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