Ask the Editor WEDNESDAY'S ASK PWTORCH STAFF: When did Ric Flair's decline as a worker begin? Is it always a vote of no-confidence in wrestlers when WWE headlines a PPV with a three-way? What's the point of gimmicks if WWE exposes it all as a show?
Dec 4, 2013 - 1:25:52 PM
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Welcome to a new app-exclusive PWTorch feature! I am PWTorch founder and editor, Wade Keller. I've been covering pro wrestling since 1987 when I started the Pro Wrestling Torch Newsletter while still in high school. Over 25 years later, PWTorch reaches more wrestling fans every week than any other independent brand. When we launched PWTorch.com in 1999, one of the features I enjoyed doing the most was "Ask PWTorch." Although it took a long hiatus from the website, I did revive it in recent years in an audio format for PWTorch VIP members on my Keller Hotline. We reintroduced it to the website audience at the start of May 2013.
In the month of December, "Ask PWTorch: All-Star Panel" and "Ask PWTorch Staff" will be available on both PWTorch.com and the PWTorch App. In January, one of the daily versions of Ask PWTorch will return to being an App Exclusive and the other a PWTorch Website Exclusive.
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PWTorch reader Paul D. asks: For years, WWE's product has been heavy on gimmick wrestlers. Gimmick wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Cactus Jack, and the Brothers of Destruction helped support the business in the past while gimmicks like the Shield, the Wyatt Family, and Fandango are supporting it today. However, as time went by, WWE became more reality based. C.M. Punk and A.J. Styles almost sent kayfabe into oblivion with their worked shoots, social media is used for everything, Triple H is more insider on the mic now than he was before, WWE not only made a reality show about the Divas but also keeps showing us clips from it and uses the show as the only driving point for the Divas, and on the 11/25/13 edition of Raw, everyone involved in the MizTV segment no-sold anything that happened in the end. Why is WWE so hellbent on making their product more reality-based? And if this is the direction the company wants to go, what's the point of still having gimmicks?
PWTorch columnist Sean Radican answers: I agree that there's an issue with WWE being too reality based. I think that certain wrestlers think insider references and breaking the fourth wall is cool. However, this isn't something new and it's been going on for years and years. I think it comes from a fundamental lack of understanding what makes wrestling work. It's not about worked shoots or making insider references that only a small percentage of the fans get, but instead wrestling is about building interest in a personal feud between two people or two wrestlers feuding over the top title in the company.
I don't think WWE goes to that well too often, but it has been coming up a lot lately. I don't have a problem with WWE plugging Total Divas on Raw. It does create a strange dynamic when WWE pulls back the curtain on Total Divas and then tries to intertwine that show with their wrestling programming. I think because the two shows are separate, I don't have a problem with it. It's like when Walking Dead is followed by Talking Dead. The problem with what WWE does from time to time is bring the Talking Dead elements (Total Divas) into the Walking Dead (Raw). These two things should always be kept separate.
I think most wrestling fans know by now that wrestling is fake, but WWE has taken too many liberties with that knowledge. Raw should be presented as a show with characters confined to that universe. I don't have a problem with Total Divas being plugged or mentioned on Raw, but when elements of that show get mixed in with WWE storylines, it creates a problem. You would never see the lead character on a scripted drama break script. WWE should apply the same rules to their programming as other scripted programs do.
I just read Wade's take on an hypothetical triple threat main event at WrestleMania XXX, with him saying that it's a vote of no-confidence in wrestlers if they interjected a thrid wrestler in the WM main event mix. I'd agree with that, pointing to the WrestleMania XX main event as an example. However, this got me thinking about Wrestlemania 2000's WWF Title match. I mean, they had a money match with Triple H vs. The Rock and I doubt they didn't have confidence in either of them, so, why was the decision of adding Big Show and Mick Foley made? Was this always the plan? And if not, when and why did it change? Thanks for your time.
PWTorch columnist Pat McNeill replies: Diego, as far as I know, the plan for WrestleMania XVI was always, always, always to have it built around the McMahon family feud with a McMahon in each corner, dating back to the moment WWF knew that Steve Austin would be too injured to work the show. I suspect Vince McMahon knew that Mick Foley would come out of retirement for the WrestleMania main event before Mick Foley knew it.
PWTorch reader Mark T. asks: What do you guys think of TNA using old pay-per-view names on Thursday night Impacts lately? I think its pathetic. All it is is Impact with a different name. It doesn't even have a special event feel to it. Just another failed attempt to get people to watch a sinking Impact.
PWTorch columnist Pat McNeill replies: If TNA wants its fans to think of "Turning Point" or "Final Resolution" as anything more than a big episode of Impact, the company has to come up with more ways of differentiating these monthly shows. Maybe TNA should consider doing "Before the Bell" specials for these shows, and putting the prelims up live on the Spike TV website.
PWTorch reader Alejandro Bravo asks: Regarding Ric Flair, is it possible to mark out a date/time/year as "the beginning of the decline of Naitch" regarding quality matches? I'd choose 1994 onwards, but he still had some good matches.
PWTorch columnist Sean Radican asks: That's a good question. I'm not sure exactly when the time came, but Flair no longer could have tremendous matches on a regular basis around the time you mentioned. He was still capable of having great matches, though, on the right night and that continued through his last night as an in-ring performer in WWE. I remember a really good Flair vs. Bret Hart match on WCW PPV in the late-'90s and then several years later he had a very good match against Triple H on Raw. I think when the right storyline elements were in place, Flair could still have really good matches even though age and his bump card began to take a toll on him in the mid-'90s.
PWTorch senior columnist Bruce Mitchell answers: I've thought about that one, having watched as many Ric Flair matches as anybody since 1979. The four-star-plus matches virtually every night of the year (for years) probably ended with Ric Flair going to the WWF in the early-'90s, but he had a four-star-plus match on Raw with Triple H as late as just before his WrestleMania retirement, and his TNA match with Mick Foley was very good. The only person I saw do as well into his 50s was Nick Bockwinkel.
PWTorch columnist Pat McNeill replied: I'd say Flair had his biggest drop-off after his arm injury in November 1996. Given that Slick Ric was 47 at the time, he had a very good run wrestling at a high level.
PWTorch editor Wade Keller answers: I think he began to decline very steadily from 1986 on. He was 37 in 1986 and that's probably when physically he began to look less like a stud athlete in his prime. Now, let me qualify that by saying he was absolutely tremendous for years to come and arguably the best wrestler in the U.S. for another five or seven years, but answering your question literally, I'd say he was probably at his peak as a smart experienced worker and great stud athlete, in combination, in the early 1980s. Even running on fumes in a late-40s body he could still rise to the occasion and be among the best in the business. The decline before more noticeable and severe in the very late '90s.
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PWTorch editor Wade Keller has covered pro wrestling full time since 1987 starting with the Pro Wrestling Torch print newsletter. PWTorch.com launched in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps launched in 2008.
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He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)
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