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Here's who was really over in Chicago
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By Paul Herzog

The toughest thing a booker has to do is to determine who can carry a push. Itís relatively easy to come up with angles, to figure out where the company should go and how to get them there. The big question involves the pecking order within the organization. Who should be in the main event, who should have titles, and who should be in the first match every night? These questions are usually skewed to a certain extent by backstage politics and personality conflicts. Other times, like at the WCW Pay-Per-View in Chicago, the answers are clear Ė if youíre willing to listen to the crowd.

If an active wrestler is doubling as a booker, the results can be disastrous. Chavo Guerrero put himself over Ernie Ladd in Los Angeles, and what was a downhill trend for that territory turned into an avalanche when the fans didnít believe it. Iíve always held that Eric Embry holds as much responsibility as any other single person for the collapse of Dallas as a wrestling town. Embry made himself as the lead babyface and put himself over the best and the baddest that was available. Ericís physique and size didnít exactly put him across as the toughest guy in the world, and Dallas was a town built on the backs on the ass-kickingest professional wrestlers available. The fans didnít buy into Embry, and they stopped buying tickets.

I was at the Spring Stampede PPV, along with about 14,000 other folks, who came to see what was going to happen in the culmination of Week 1 in the Bischoff-Russo era.  Itís rare that a company would have the chance to completely re-define everything. Professional wrestling is a linear business. Angles take fans from Point A to Point B to Point C, and typically, that history is kept. WCW is shaking their Pro Wrestling Etch-a-Sketch upside-down. The pecking order can be completely reset if they choose to. There is no history in their mind.

There is, however, still that fans remembrance of points A, B and C, and all the years of history that preceded everything to this point. A good booker will pay attention to what the fans want. And at Spring Stampede, they wanted Hulk Hogan, they wanted Diamond Dallas Page, and they wanted Kevin Nash. To a lesser extent, they wanted Sting as well, but itís been so long since Sting really meant anything that I donít blame some people for not caring about him. The smart marks can talk all day about Billy Kidman, or Chris Candido, or about Vampiro. The vast majority at the United Center, the unwashed masses that buy tickets and tune in faithfully every Monday night, didnít want Kidman, Candido or Vampiro. Kidman and Vampiro had the most spot-filled singles match of the night. The hardcores who collect tapes and give 5-star ratings probably loved it. I liked it too. But the fans around me were more interested in Scott Steiner v. Wall. Theyíve given Billy Kidman everything it should take in todayís professional wrestling to move to the top of the hypothetical ladder. Heís hanging with Bischoff and Russo, heís got the hottest thing going on his arm, and heís the target of Hulk Hoganís ire. Itís not working. Why?

The same can be said for Vampiro, whom I like very much. I like that his style can adapt to absolutely anyone, I love the look, and I like that heís in better condition now than at any time in his career (he was really skinny in Mexico, for example). Heís in a big-time program with Sting, and was given the hottest shot on the PPV, when he came through a hole in the mat to lay Sting out and cost him the U.S. title. So why didnít he get the kind of reaction that was reserved for a single crutch shot from Kevin Nash?

Itís a little tougher for me to comment on Chris Candido, and last nightís reappearance of his valet, Tammy Lynn Sytch. Security was trying (and failing) to quietly escort a couple of drunks from my section, and sitting on the aisle, they were standing in front of us the whole six-man Cruiserweight match. Iíll have to go back and watch the tape, but I donít remember Sytch getting any great heat, even during her catfight with Paisley (and believe me, Iíll have to watch that on tape again too). She should have gotten 1000x times the reaction as the run-in by the returning Wrath & Brian Adams. Why didnít that happen?

The answer to all three of those questions goes back to the biggest issue facing a booker. What is the pecking order? The fans will tell you who they want in what roles. They told WCW last night. And as much as some people might not want to hear it, they want who they have been wanting for the last 10 years.

Paul Herzog has spent far too many hours as a columnist for various Internet sources, and the Wrestling Lariat newsletter, over the past six years. He is a systems engineer at Tellabs in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and is lucky to have a wife that likes the wrestling business, too. He can be reached at grapsfan@worldnet.att.net.

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