The year wasn't so bad
By Rennie Detore
Sunday, January 2, 2005
The end of 2004 marks a down year for World Wrestling Entertainment.
Everything from live attendance to overall interest tapered off, with
inconsistent writing and subsequent logical gaps in storytelling
No legitimate main-event stars were created, and one of the company's
major ones -- Brock Lesnar -- left for the NFL.
But while focusing on what's wrong with WWE is almost too easy, the
few positives moments often are lost.
5. DVDs -- The decline of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and the part-time
status of The Rock virtually eliminated WWE T-shirts from pop-culture
acceptance. With merchandise sales not what they used to be, WWE fired
back in 2004 with a slew of incredible DVD offerings, starting with
Ric Flair's three-disc, career retrospective "To Be The Man," easily
the best and most anticipated DVD in WWE history.
Not to be outdone were two other notable releases: "Hard Knocks: The
Chris Benoit Story" and "The Rise and Fall of ECW," both of which
became top sellers for the year. WWE also introduced its new WWE 24/7
WWE deserves credit for finally using the company's 75,000 hours of
footage it received when it bought the television rights of ECW and
The only downside to the success of retrospective DVDs and 24-hour
wrestling channels is the idea that fans are more interested in the
past than what WWE has planned for the future.
4. No McMahons on TV -- The major downfall of WWE in the late 1990s
and into 2000 was its propensity for constantly featuring the McMahon
family as regular characters. Vince McMahon won the WWE title, and his
daughter, Stephanie, captured the WWE women's championship. When
Stephanie finally gave up wrestling, she managed then-Undisputed
champion Chris Jericho and eventually emerged as the bigger star.
Shane became WWE's version of Sabu with his unbelievable, albeit
unnecessary, high-flying dives. Linda even reared her monotone head,
playing Vince's sedated wife heading into "Wrestlemania X-7" in 2001.
Thankfully, those same characters -- other than a few appearance from
Vince -- haven't returned in several years, leaving the WWE superstars
as the rightful owners of the company's spotlight.
3. Sheldon Benjamin, Edge, Batista pushes -- Benjamin developed a
strong personality and won the Intercontinental title. He holds three
wins over Triple H and continues to get better each week. ... Edge,
after finally ditching the goofball character he's been associated
with since debuting in 1998, easily is the most entertaining heel WWE
has had in years. His interviews, matches and poise are main-event
style, and he's one major feud (and win) away from being a top draw.
.. Batista has emerged as WWE's biggest babyface with his continued
interactions with Triple H. Fans clearly are ready to rally behind him
after last Monday's "Raw." Batista told off "The Game," and the live
audience erupted. In one of the writing team's few bright spots, it
continues to build slowly each week toward Batista's full-fledged turn
on Triple H. Wait a second, is it any wonder that WWE's strongest
storyline features Triple H?
2. The departure of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin -- Austin is by far the
WWE's most successful and enjoyable superstar of all time. The birth
of his "Stone Cold" character in 1996 rescued WWE from its
one-dimensional ways and led to an "Attitude" era that rivaled the run
That said, the 2004 Austin was laughable as the "Sheriff" on "Raw."
The "Stone Cold" who terrorized Bret Hart and the authoritative Mr.
McMahon was supplanted by a guy wearing a badge, racing to the ring on
a quad and spouting out catch phrases about following rules.
The departure of Austin this year afforded more TV time to younger
wrestlers and saved what was left of the "Stone Cold" legacy. Austin
still can be beneficial to WWE, but his role would have to be as a
manager or advisor and not as the headliner.
1. Chris Benoit wins Heavyweight title at WMXX -- Heading into
"Wrestlemania XX," even the most die-hard Benoit fans reasoned that
Triple H would retain the WWE Heavyweight title in the main event
against Shawn Michaels and "The Crippler."
That assumption mainly was formulated because WWE changed the main
event from Benoit vs. Triple H to a three-way that added Michaels,
suggesting Benoit couldn't carry a pay-per-view on his own.
The sight of a usually emotionless Benoit crying, celebrating in the
middle of a WWE ring and clutching the Heavyweight title is exactly
the way "Wrestlemania XX" should have ended. It also provided the
respected Benoit with a fitting moment that truly defines what his
career always has been about: hard work, perseverance, and finally,
Rennie Detore's Pro Wrestling Insider appears Sundays in the