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Valets and the XFL
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By Paul Herzog

There are some times for everyone who writes for a living where the words donít seem to flow from brain to fingers to the page.  Other times, one runs into a situation where there are multiple topics, which are both solid ideas, and the decision-making process is a difficult one.  For me, this is one of those latter situations.  So bear with me, cause weíre gonna talk about both.

The first is a recent layoff at World Championship Wrestling.  Now, I understand that their payroll is vastly bloated for the revenues theyíve been generated.  And in general, youíll never get an argument from me that there are too many women in professional wrestling.  Most of them are solely eye candy, and while there isnít anything wrong with that, it sort of becomes overkill after awhile.  Hey, watching adult movies can be a good thing from time to time.  Watching nothing but porn makes it commonplace, and for any red-blooded male, the last thing the female form should be is commonplace.  So, back to WCW, theyíve recently dropped the contracts of Torrie Wilson, Leia Meow, Daffney, Paisley and Major Gunns (did I miss anyone?).  Itís not like any of them were Missy Hyatt or Tammy Sytch in their primes, and I doubt that the fans really miss their contributions.

What I find interesting, however, is that they all had one thing in common: they were all at various levels on the undercard.  Leia Meow and Paisley came out with cruiserweights that were usually in the first match or two on any given show.  Daffney was involved in several stories that, while interesting, were purely mid-card.  Torrie & Gunns were higher up, coming out two steps behind their respective titleholders (Shane Douglas or Lance Storm), but rarely used in anything directly involving their wrestling.   Whatís left on WCWís valet front is Midajah, main freak for world champion Scott Steiner, and Miss Jones, sidekick of The Cat.  I know that Miss Hancock is still on the roster, but she hasnít been on TV for months. The Wrestling Observer is reporting that Midajah is out after the Revenge Pay-Per-View.

Am I the only one who sees two problems with this?  First and foremost, I think Miss Jones has less talent than any of the women let go.  Daffney could talk, although was relegated to screaming most of the time.  Paisley and Torrie are stunning to look at.  And Leia and Gunns brought a certain, well, top-heaviness to the proceedings that canít easily be replaced.  On top of all of that, I think that all of them were better at getting involved when need be, whether it is distracting the referee or grabbing the ankle of their wrestlerís opponent.  Which brings me to the other problemÖin their place on the mid-card, they were better positioned to help raise the visibility of those angles, those titles.  Itís easy to argue that the Jung Dragons got a better reaction because of Leia in their corner.  Thatís definitely a true statement for Major Gunns with Misfits in Action, Paisley with Prince Iaukea and Kwee Wee, or Torrie Wilson with either Shane Douglas or Billy Kidman.  Itís tough to make the same point for how much Miss Jones helps Ernest Miller.

So, if the WCW office was looking to keep any valets, why Miss Jones?  Any answers to that are purely speculative, and Iím not the one for speculation that I used to be.

Now, on to my other topic.  What do the numbers 78 and 25 represent?  The first is the combined number of points scored in four XFL games this weekend.  The other is the percentage drop from Week 2 to Week 3 of the XFL television ratings, a drop that puts the ratings below the number promised to sponsors.  The first number means that a truly boring brand of football is being put on the field.  This is different than mediocre football, which is what should be expected from the XFL.  A 42-38 game can be tremendously exciting, at any level from pee-wees up through the NFL.  A 9-3 game played by minor-league pros can drive a hardcore football fan to watch Golden Girls reruns.  The second point is even more damaging to the XFLís future, because that now means that NBC, UPN and TNN will be giving away free ad time, or refunding money, to sponsors.  Networks donít like that kind of thing.

If you missed ESPNís Sports Reporters this Sunday, Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press made a comment which sums up the problem Iíve had with the XFL since the beginning, more accurately and concisely than Iíve managed to so far.  Albom said that what makes professional wrestling work is the marketing of its performers within the context of a sport, and the sportís ability to adapt as time goes on to keep the performers appealing to the fans.  This point is 100% dead-on, remarkable from a man who most likely has never sat through an hour of wrestling in his life.  When fans in the early part of the 20th century bored with contests, professional wrestling turned into predetermined performance.  When fans tired of hour-long matches, they were shortened.  When headlocks and suplexes werenít enough, matches became more violent.  When violence wasnít enough, T&A and four-letter words were tossed into the mix.

Albomís contrast with the XFL was that football is, well, football.  One can make some minor rules tweaks, which the XFL did before play began, and did again before Week 3.  But the basic construct is already in place, and adaptations like the ones that wrestling has been making for over 100 years are not possible.  Itís not like the XFL started from scratch with their people and invented something brand new.  All of the players were players in other high school, college, and perhaps professional leagues.  All of the coaches were coaches at other levels.  Football is what they know.  If the XFL brass expected something different, their short-sightenedness is inexcusable, and will quite probably lead to their downfall.

Vince McMahonís foray into boxing lasted just a few fights, his movie production company a couple of films, his WBF one major show.  Should it really be that surprising that his latest non-wrestling venture suffers the same fate after only one season?

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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