2005-02-10 / Arts & Entertainment

Through The Ropes

Okay, anybody who reads this column on a semi-regular basis knows my unbridled love for Ric Flair. So this might sound like whining. But I don’t care! Flair should not have been forced to jobbed to Shawn Michaels on the Japan edition of RAW.

Not because I’m a Flair lover, but because the time-honored traditions of respecting a guy coming “home” are not being respected anymore. No, Flair wasn’t born in Tokyo, but he defended the NWA World Heavy-weight Title in Japan and other parts of the Far East on and off for nearly 20 years. His history there is much more solidified than Michaels, who pretty much made and kept his career in North America.

In other words, Michaels should have tapped to the figure-four leg lock, that simple. We’ve seen the same disrespect almost every time Jim Ross comes back to Oklahoma. World Wrest-ling Entertainment’s creative team al-most always does an angle with Ross there because of his Sooner ties. But more often than not, it’s Ross looking like a jerk in the end.

It used to not be this way. Bob Holly, when he was doing his “Spark Plug” auto-racer storyline, was barely a mid- carder who spent most nights “counting the lights” as his shoulders lay on the mat for a three count. But the late Owen Hart, one of the biggest stars in the company, gladly allowed Holly to get the win when the two faced each other in Alabama, Holly’s home state. It didn’t remove Hart from main-event status. Everybody in the building knew it was merely a courtesy, accepted it and respected it.

The day after Christmas in 1996, myself and business partner Chris Stowe co-promoted a show in Gastonia, N.C. that featured a main event of Rob Van Dam versus the Barbarian. They stole the show, fighting all over the building and putting on a performance that was worth much more than what we paid for.

But in the end, it was Barbarian hitting Van Dam with the big boot for the win (loosening a couple of Van Dam’s teeth, by the way). We didn’t book that finish. Van Dam knew he was to go down because the match was right next to Charlotte, where Barb was a staple of Jim Crockett Promo-tions.

Had Barbarian traveled up to, say, Camden, N.J, he would have jobbed due to Camden’s proximity to Phil-adelphia, Van Dam’s “home” with Extreme Championship Wrestling.

Of course, as in most cases of wrestling losing any semblance of its history, it’s Eric Bischoff’s fault. Re-member the angle in which Curt Hen-nig joined the Four Horsemen, only to turn on them and head to the NWO? Flair was laid out in classic pay-per-view fashion. The next night on Nitro, Hulk Hogan paraded around Charlotte’s Independence Arena (a facility Flair made into hallowed ground when it was the old Charlotte Coliseum) in Flair’s robe, with Flair at the hospital.

Nobody had ever been so disrespected at home, and for no good reason. But that was Bischoff reminding everybody that wrestling was a business with no heart. Why didn’t he just stab Babe Ruth at Yankee Stadium?

Vince McMahon should never let that part of Bischoff’s legacy seep into his company.

You can contact Josh Stewart at throughtheropes1@cs.com.

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