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Triple H, October 2011:

“When I grew up, I hated Hogan. I thought he was terrible and didn’t like to watch him. I was like Punk in a way. I liked the Steamboats and Flairs and the ones that could go. Would I be right in saying that Hogan was the wrong guy to go with, and they should’ve changed directions and gone with Steamboat because he was the better wrestler? Ludicrous.” - Triple H. October, 2011.

Road to Summer Slam 2007 - 5

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Part 4 is here.

Very briefly.

The matter, of course, that we haven't covered from the road to Summer Slam '07 is Benoit.

For purposes of the Counterfactual, there's not much to say. Benoit left the storyline after XXII; I brought him back just after XXIII for the surprise farewell, so he could give up the Triple Crown title and say goodbye.

There's not much addressing of it that we'd do on the TV shows. A ten bell, I think, for the whole family, a commentary from the studio, away from arenas, not part of programs. If there were wrestlers who wanted to wear armbands, that would be fine.

Right after Owen died, Jericho arrived. The Clique had a "this is our sandbox" now moment; I tried as best I could to not have that be about Owen, but instead about the seeming end of the Clique/Hart feud, given that Bret and Davey Boy had also left. I didn't have any desire to use "win one for Owen" in the storyline, that doesn't appeal to me, but I am committed to this Clique/Harts throughline; I like it in the same way that a soap opera family feud might exist for generations. Coincidentally (spoiler alert) Jericho's about to come back, and he's coming back in a Hart/Clique context (double spoiler alert) and the subtext of Jericho once again riding in after the death of a Hart babyface is unavoidable.

Probably, in Counterfactual world, Summer Slam occurring when it does means a toned down product in terms of the level of violence which would be tasteful. Hard to see a way a throat slash gesture is salvageable, for example, for the foreseeable future. I do have a violent conclusion coming to a current program and I think the narrative requires it - my thought is it can happen after Summer Slam, however.

Benoit doesn't disappear from the record books - doesn't vanish from Counterfactual history; hard to do that with the greatest wrestler who ever lived (possible exception of Kobashi) and solidly the greatest in Counterfactual history.

Beyond that - a year after the events, I'm unsure my thoughts have changed that much. I think the science on concussions is fairly embryonic, but there is some data that's worth taking into account in considering the last days of Benoit. That aside, I assume I think about it in a way similar to most of you. Sort of hard to squarely consider. Meltzer wrote really emotionally about Flair's retirement; he clearly identified his own life in wrestling with Flair's career - and took personally the moments when Flair was given less respect, less due, than Meltzer thought he was due. Like an athlete you might follow from college to the pros to the HOF, Meltzer rode the ups and downs with Flair and had a heartfelt reaction to his retirement.

I didn't. For me, Flair was just a guy. No disrespect - Flair was a very good (if a little overrated, honestly) worker, but I didn't have the emotional attachment that others did. His last match didn't make me cry; Eddy and Benoit hugging after XX made me cry; they were the guys whose careers I followed, they were the ones whose careers my interest in wrestling tracked, and through Japan and ECW and WCW and the years in the WWF middle, they were the ones I formed an attachment to. That they're both gone (and Owen and Pillman and Davey and Rude and Hennig and you know the list) is hard to look at.

It didn't end wrestling for me though, both because while the type of wrestling I like, stiff, bump-filled, high impact - takes a physical toll in a way that a career in the NFL leaves its retirees broken - the death toll in Japan, which has a far more physical style than worked here, just isn't there. So, it's not the suplexes that are killing people - it's the drugs, recreational, pain killing, performance enhancing - it's the North American wrestling cocktail that's led to the body count. Wrestling doesn't kill more people than football does. The North American wrestling lifestyle has.

And the second reason is that at the turn of the millennium, I found new guys - like tape trading is where I found Benoit/Eddy in the early 90s - a new round of tape trading, facilitated by DVDs and the internet, led to my finding the east coast indie circuit in the late 90s and the turn of the millennium, where I could follow guys like Punk and Joe and Danielson and AJ from their first days in the ring. I feel invested in their careers like I did in Benoit's and Eddy's; I didn't cry when Punk won the big gold belt the other week (seriously, did that happen? that's a weird moment given how I've structured the Counterfactual) but I popped big. And while I know the most likely result is a wild decrease in his match quality, a downturn in ROH (which is my favorite North American promotion ever) and maybe a burial of his place in history -- the mark in me really wants Danielson to sign with WWE. Both because I'd get to use him, and because I want to see him holding up the belt, maybe hugging Joe, after XXX.

That's it.

Summer Slam 2007 will be posted in August. Punk v. London is your main event.

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