Looking Back on… Karma’s a bitch, ain’t it? (WWE, 2003)

(This one would’ve been written sometime around the Royal Rumble in 2003, so it just recently celebrated its twelfth birthday. God I’m old.)

Y’know, the other day, I came to a realization. For those of you that haven’t been keeping up, the WWE has been running for around, oh, fifty or so years, (The company started out back in 1952 as Capitol Wrestling Corporation under Jess McMahon, so that would indeed be more or less correct as a time assessment. Not bad with no Wikipedia to reference.) but has only been running under the leadership of Vince McMahon Jr. (that’s the douchebag presently in charge, for those of you not aware) for the past twenty-five of those fifty years. (He took it over sometime in 1979, so again, roughly accurate.) In those twenty-five years, the man has had two REALLY big periods, which largely occurred without his help, but rather almost by accident, (Incorrect; the 80’s boom period of Rock and Wrestling was almost entirely his doing, as he ran the territories out of business with a shitload of luck, a strong business plan and Hulk Hogan, so he knew what he was doing. The Attitude Era was kind of a lot of accidents happening in a row that ended up making him billions, however, so yes, that one was certainly not his doing in the strictest sense.) and two periods of downturn, which were almost exclusively his doing, by letting the inmates run the asylum. (We’re still in the middle of the second one with no end in sight, sadly, mostly because every time they get somewhere that could spike interest Vince shits right in it.)

In other words, I’m about to put forth one simple theory. I don’t believe, as many of the internet faithfuls might seem to, that McMahon is any sort of genius. I also don’t believe that he’s exceedingly lucky. Rather, I’m of the impression that, truthfully, somewhere down the line, maybe in his childhood or in a past life perhaps, Vince Jr. did something incredibly good, and everything that’s gone on in the past several years is some sort of karmic payback. In other words, the universe, for reasons we can’t even begin to comprehend, appears to like Vince to much that it’s willing to bail his sorry ass out no matter how badly he digs himself into the hole. (While that’s kind of a stupid theory when it’s spelled out like that, it’s partially sarcastic, partially in service to an entirely different argument, and partially kind of true when you consider that he apparently wrote the last month or so of Roman Reigns promos, then realize that guy runs the top wrestling promotion in the US.)

Think that’s heavy? (No, but stupid, maybe.) Oh, I’m just getting started.

See, regardless of anything else you can say about the present state of affairs the WWE is finding itself in, one thing that is PAINFULLY obvious is that the reason that it’s there right now has a lot to do with the guys that put it there in the first place; Shaun (Shawn; I have NO idea why I thought it was spelled with a U.) Michaels, HHH, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall. (Also Sean Waltman to a lesser extent.) Granted, guys like Hogan, Warrior, and their ilk have often contributed bad bits here and there, but those four guys share responsibility for the bad that happened then AND the bad that’s happening now, though now it’s more HHH and less the others. (The basic argument here goes like this: if the Clique hadn’t happened, HHH wouldn’t have been pushed into the main event or learned all of the political tricks he picked up. If THAT hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t have integrated himself into the booking teams or gotten the main event run he was destined for. If THAT hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t have gotten close to Stephanie McMahon or become a key player in booking and decision making. If THAT hadn’t happened, 2002-2004 wouldn’t have been a massive booking shitshow.)

So what’s the point? Simple. The last downturn in business was almost single-handedly the fault of “The Clique” as they have come to be known, and just before the WWF was about to tank, fate took over and saved Vince’s ass. (Well it was a combination of factors that almost tanked the WWF at that point, though yes, the Clique not being even remotely over from a money-making perspective didn’t help much.) Nash and Hall went to WCW, HHH got pushed to the bottom of the card for being a fucking moron, (See the Curtain Call incident we talked about a few weeks back.) and Michaels injured his back so bad he had to retire. (To be fair, Michaels probably would’ve made money during the Attitude Era hand over fist had he been healthy enough to participate, but he wasn’t, so he didn’t.) Everything that was wrong with WWF TV fixed itself damn near overnight, (Which was then replaced with a million other problems because Vince Russo isn’t a great writer.) the fans returned to see Stone Cold v. McMahon, and life was good again.

Now, some several months later, we see history repeating itself; HHH, Michaels, Nash and Hall all migrate back to WWE TV, and the ratings begin to tank. (To be fair, the ratings tanked due to a combination of, depending on who you ask, HHH refusing to do the job to Kurt Angle during one of the hottest programs the company had at the time, Steve Austin turning heel at the worst possible time with a character people didn’t want to pay money to see, and The Alliance. Michaels, Nash and Hall came back long after the damage had been done.) Once again, the same people are causing the same problems, because the same moron in charge is letting them walk over him, just like he always has. (False; while Nash was pushed into a series of matches with HHH for the title despite not even remotely deserving it, Michaels had no real creative stroke to speak of outside of being HHH’s friend, and Hall was bounced from the company in short order when his demons took over again.) It’s almost as if nothing has changed, and everyone once again fears the end of the WWE, sooner rather than later.

For the record, I just don’t buy it.

In fact, I’m willing to make a rather risky prediction. I’m willing to predict that two years from now, the WWE will be looking to its next huge upturn of business. (As incredibly weird as this sounds, I wasn’t too far off; 2005 was when the WWE went and actually made the effort to push two guys to the moon in Batista and current Alpha and Omega of the WWE, John Cena. The company didn’t see a huge upturn in business, but Cena became a merchandise machine for about the next decade and they’ve done reasonably well for themselves up until the Network basically destroyed their profits all over again.) I’m willing to bet that all the negative aspects we’re seeing now will be swept under the carpet, and that all of the huge locker room cancers we’re seeing now will be gone with the wind. (HHH was still kicking around, but eventually kind of relegated himself to the backburner, putting over Cena clean and running a DX Reunion to make some cash, though brand new locker room issues popped up to replace him. He then became part of the on-screen authority and we’re kind of back where we started.) And I’m willing to bet that a decent amount of the present locker room crew will either be retired or terminated from their contract. (Kind of, but not the ones I was thinking.) I’m figuring that, two years from now, Undertaker, (Nope, wrestled as recently as 2014, though he became a much better worker a couple of years later and stepped back to “attraction” status.) Marc Henry, (Mark, asshole. And nope, mostly a non-factor until recently, when he finally found the gimmick that made him awesome and became a really good character… then got injured and has been treated like a chump ever since. Oh well.) The Big Show, (Sigh, no, still around, still kind of pointless.) Shaun Michaels, (Retired several years later, but certainly not in 2005.) Kevin Nash, (Came back for one more main event run, then kind of went off to TNA for a while before being given some shots a couple years ago where he failed to accomplish anything of note.) Steve Austin, (Forced into retirement due to injuries, kept as an on-screen authority figure for a while, but otherwise, yes, retired by 2005.) Scott Steiner, (Turfed out after a terrible feud with HHH and a bunch of non-factor feuds, ended up in TNA, presently has alienated himself from every major wrestling corporation in existence.) and the game himself, HHH, (HAHAHA Nope.) will all be out of the WWE, and the new stars, whoever they might be at the time, will bring about a new sort of renaissance, and everyone will be wearing wrestling T-Shirts again, and life will be dandy. (It wasn’t that good but yes, Cena, Batista, Orton and to a lesser extent Edge kind of helped get things going again around 2005 or so, until they also got stale and we’re right back where we started, with the new blood coming in and the old guard basically kind of being ehhhh.)

Now, for those of you out there that might think I’m over-estimating myself here, I’m about to validate my argument, at least to a certain degree. (To whatever possible extent you can verify the things you pulled out of your ass aren’t made of poop, anyway.) You might not buy it, but hey, I’m not here to convince you, only to make you think about it. And if you DO think about it, then my job is done. (Ah, the bastion of the conspiracy theorist.)

Now, look at the facts: The Clique, or whatever name you’d like to identify them by, is slowly decaying down to nothing. The fact of the matter is, they’re being phased out, whether by their own fault, or by acts outside of their own power, and it’s only a matter of time before they’re all long gone. (To be fair it’s just HHH at this point, but it’s not like any of the rest of them meant anything outside of 2000.) I mean, just take a look:

Scott Hall, hired back into the WWE fold by one Vince McMahon, was terminated within three months because of his rampant substance abuse problems. (Knowing this THEN, I don’t know why I thought he meant anything at the time of writing this. I was clearly very stupid.)

X-Pac, longtime Clique mainstay and WWE do-nothing, was finally terminated, as the WWE “didn’t have anything for him to do”. Rumors persist that his ego was seriously out of control, but the fact remains, he’s gone, hurray. (Sean Waltman is a very strange case, in that the company kept him around for a VERY long time because he was known as something of a workhorse who could have a good match with anyone, to the point where several stars, including Jericho, had their “first” matches with him to see how they’d do. However, in the early 2000’s he began generating what was termed “X-Pac Heat,” which was literally a sort of fan response that was less “Boo this heel” and more “We don’t like this wrestler and do not want to see him at all, ever again.” He eventually rehabbed his image with smart fans due to a combination of solid work in indie feds like CHIKARA, several shoot interviews that presented him as personable and likable, and a disastrous relationship with Joanie Laurer, who we all thought was a crazy person up until HHH said she couldn’t go into the Hall of Fame because she did porn. Not that this was a good excuse, of course, but “because she’s a fucking raving psychopath” probably wouldn’t have gone over well either, so.)

Kevin Nash, one of the biggest backstage politicians in memory, and, by all accounts, one of the primary reasons that WCW tanked as fast as it did, tears his bicep almost after entering the fed, and in his second wrestling match in WWE, tears his quadricep… WALKING ACROSS THE RING. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, he tore his quad taking a walk. (To be fair, he was running. On the other hand, the fact that this was not a sign to him that he maybe should have hung it up then speaks volumes. I maintain that, yes, Kevin is absolutely correct when he says that people’s hatred of him is often irrational, and that the beating of Goldberg and subsequent Fingerpoke of Doom themselves were the death of WCW is kind of silly. On the alternate side, however, the fact that Kevin often makes it apparent that he’s lying to protect his friends, the fact that Kevin often dismisses valid arguments with a wanking motion and general mockery, and the fact that Kevin doesn’t realize that the subsequent beating down of Goldberg constantly in the wake of the Fingerpoke of Doom was the catalyst for the death of WCW kind of also points out that he’s either not as smart as he thinks he is, or a much worse liar than he thinks he is.) He is expected to be out for another half of a year, and assuming he can even wrestle again, one has to wonder if Vince will even have a use for a guy he’s been paying for almost a year now to do dick. (Putting over HHH was the only real use they could come up with… oh, and screwing CM Punk out of the title, which tanked a potential money-making angle before it got off the ground, of course.)

Shaun (GODDAMMIT.) Michaels, the “Showstopper”, has pretty much shown that his name means damn near nothing anymore. He can still wrestle a semi-decent match, to be sure, but he’s a far cry from the awesome worker he used to be, and his in-ring work shows it. (He, of course, subsequently became the “showstopper” all over again, and even with a boring-as-hell feud with HHH around this time that went on for-fucking-ever, he had some amazing matches afterward, as well as a damn near perfect feud with Jericho that ended up getting Jericho the belt a second time.) He’s in no kind of shape to be claiming he’s a sexy anything, the Pro-God gimmick never got over when Jake Roberts and D-Von Dudley used it, and his name recognition means shit, as he’s basically tarnishing whatever legacy he left the WWE with. (Let it never be said that I was always right about things, especially when it comes to wrestling.) Combine this with the fact that he’s got bad knees and a bad back, and is taking incredibly sick bumps for someone in his position, and it won’t be long before his ass ends up on the shelf again, either from injuries or apathy. (Nope, he retired of his own volition while he could still walk and probably has a bunch of good matches left in him, frankly.)

And finally, good old HHH. Regardless of anything else you can say about the man, the injury trail is a pretty easy one to follow. Mega-star in 2000, worked his ass off, had fantastic matches with damn near everyone he wrestled, and had a valid reason to be called “The Game.” Sure, he was porking the boss’ daughter, but, at the time, he was generally unselfish enough to do the right thing. (Say what you want about 2002-2004 HHH, but he legitimately was “that damn good” in 2000, and absolutely deserved every bit of praise he was given at that point.) So, in 2001, the man tears his quad, and is out for almost a year. He comes back, to a huge amount of publicity, and the fans love him for a few weeks, until they realize his work’s for shit. (No, you don’t understand, he was really fucking bad. Like “couldn’t have anything but a passable match with Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho” bad.) And then, through the next year, he injures his arm (bone chips in his elbow, I believe), suffers a crushed windpipe, and messes up his right quad, almost back to back to back. And that’s only the injuries we know about, as wrestlers can often times sustain an injury they might attempt to work around that often don’t become public knowledge. (HHH, being of the old-school Harley Race style mentality where working hurt is the correct way to do things, almost certainly did this very thing a whole lot.) Now, injuries are part of the game, to be sure, but the man has suffered more injuries in the past two years than, say, a Kurt Angle, (HAHAHA no, Angle’s just even stupider about working hurt, as he’s shown pretty much ever since, as his body is likely being held together by a whole lot of dumb luck at this point.) a Chris Benoit, (*cough*) or god forbid, a Stone Cold Steve Austin, (Austin was working super hurt for a long-ass time, and just never told anyone, as we found out years later.) all of whom work three times as hard as he does. In short, HHH is suffering an abnormally large amount of injuries for a below average amount of work.

In other words, I think karma’s kicking Paul’s ass, big time. (This one is something I’m still willing to believe, considering how much he got injured in a short period of time.)

So, back to the two years thing. See, as we’ve seen, two of the five Clique members are already out the door, with no real reason to be re-hired. (Neither was, though both have Legends contracts at this point for being in the Hall of Fame, and Waltman still works regularly, at least. Hall is thankfully trying to maintain his sobriety and trying to help his kid get over in wrestling.) One’s convalescing with a damn near career ending injury, and may never return to WWE TV. (Sadly, that wasn’t at all accurate.) One’s damn near a walking cripple, is working with rehabbed injuries, and continues to push his body harder than it should be pushed, to recapture glory that might as well be unattainable. (It turned out that he was just rusty and he ended up having a better in-ring career than he’d ever had, but with the wisdom needed to do the right thing, and he’s become one of the most beloved workers out there as a result unless you got fucked over by him during his druggie phase.) And one’s suffering injury after injury overcompensating for an injury that could re-create itself at any time, and has suffered more SERIOUS injuries in a two year span than a lot of wrestlers suffer in an entire career. (I do believe he fucked the other quad not that long after this, come to think of it.) Now, I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that, one way or another, SOMETHING is forcing the Clique out. I mean, Hall and X-Pac were believable as “examples” of how you should and should not act, but more than enough of the WWE roster does the same things with little or no recourse sought against them. (As several wrestlers have attested since this point, while the odd case of a Randy Orton comes up now and again, the current Wellness Policy more or less has put a stop to that, and you will get fucking fucked for being a drunk or a pillhead.) And Michaels is reasonable enough… people who come back after retiring almost NEVER get over as much as they did back in the day (see Hogan, Hulk.). (I don’t know which time I meant there, but Hogan “left wrestling” a bunch of times so it could’ve been any of them save for the nWo turn.)

But I find it hard to believe that Nash would suffer back to back injuries upon entering the WWE, thus effectively putting himself on the shelf for well over year, after only wrestling TWO DAMN MATCHES, one of which he stood in the corner a lot and choked someone with his foot, and the other he walked (Ran.) across the ring and injured himself. And HHH has suffered more injuries in the past two years than most people in his position, whether they were caused by others or himself. (Combination of putting himself into risky situations, and, allegedly, steroid abuse.) He works less often than most other wrestlers, doesn’t work nearly as hard as most guys in the ring, and on top of it all, is overcompensating for an injury he received over a year ago by working slower than he’s capable of going, all to keep himself in prime physical shape, yet somehow, he KEEPS GETTING INJURED. (Yeah, I never got that one; if you’re still getting fucked up constantly, just go back to working how you used to work, fuck it. Go big or go home, pretty much. It’s also great that this was written before the Goldberg match that HHH won with a groin tear.)

Pretty heavy, no? (No, it still sucks, but it’s fun for me to comment on.)

So maybe karma’s on Vince’s side. (The Network and everything bad that came from it may have something to say about that.) Or maybe HHH and company have malignant spirits working against them. Or hell, maybe Bret Hart has a voodoo doll of each of them and works it over whenever he’s bored, I don’t know. (Considering he was on that James Randy special, this one wouldn’t surprise me too much.) But whatever the fact is, the point is this: for whatever reason, the WWE always comes out on top. By whatever magic, Vince always seems to stay alive, even when, by rights, he shouldn’t. And no matter how powerful or potent the cancer, the WWE always manages to come out alright, whether it is by pure miracle, or some higher power.

And in the end, isn’t that the most important thing? (Well no; the most important thing is that they stop putting out a product that sucks out loud, but they’re not really doing any better with that even now so…) Well, that and HHH retired, but still…

World Wrestling Entertainment needs an enema.

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