WWE: The Right and Ridiculous of Kevin Nash's Comments on Benoit and Guerrero

Justin LaBar@@JustinLaBar Featured ColumnistAugust 8, 2012

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com
Photo courtesy of IMDB.com

In regards to Kevin Nash's recent comments on Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, I find great accuracy and great ridiculousness in them.

I logged on to my Twitter account Tuesday evening, only to be greeted with an overload of upset wrestling fans who expressed there thoughts while requesting mine about the seven-foot former champ, whom I've had the privilege of working with in different capacities.

It was all based around an in-depth piece on the life and career of Nash on Grantland.com, an extensive quote that has caused an uproar online from wrestling fans.

The following is an excerpt from the article.

Here's one reason Nash will never be an Internet darling: He called Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero—small-statured, gifted technical wrestlers that lacked big in-ring personalities but were beloved by fans—"Vanilla Midgets." He now claims the comments were a double work. It drew heat from the marks that cheered for Benoit and Guerrero because they were baby faces. It drew heat from the smart marks that cheered for Benoit and Guerrero because they were great wrestlers. Even though both are gone now, he still thinks they never belonged in the main event.

"When Benoit and Guerrero hugged [at the end of WrestleMania XX], that was the end of the business," he says. "Has business been the same since that WrestleMania? Has it come close to the Austin era? Has it come close to the nWo or the Hogan era? You put two f****** guys that were great workers that were the same height as the f****** referees, and I'm sorry, man. Are you going to watch a porno movie with a guy with a three-inch dick? Even if you're not gay, you will not watch a porno movie with a guy with a three-inch dick. That's not the standard in porno films. So you put a 5-foot-7 guy as your world champion."

He has the same problem with today's Internet heroes, Phil "CM Punk" Brooks and Bryan "Daniel Bryan" Danielson.
"They are not bigger than life," he says. "I bet they could both walk through airports and not be noticed unless they have a gimmick shirt on and the belt."

Let's first keep in mind that, in the article, it acknowledges Nash admitting Benoit and Guerrero were talented workers and over with the crowd in wrestling.

He says they lacked “big in-ring personalities.” I can't disagree with this.

I wasn't excited when Benoit and Guerrero walked out of WrestleMania with the world titles. It wasn't an issue I had with their size, but I never looked at them prior as main-event stars and never did after that. In my mind, they were two of the work horses in the midcard of WCW and it felt like a letdown of a WrestleMania to have them walk out as champions.

This isn't to say I wasn't entertained by Benoit in a street fight with Kevin Sullivan in Baltimore at The Great American Bash in 1996. This isn't to say I wasn't entertained by Eddie Guerrero when he tossed the steel chair in his opponents hands, dropped to the ground and framed them for a disqualification.

They were a value to a wrestling show, but me, personally, I was never sold on them being top billing.

My issue with Nash's comments are not about the two deceased talents, but the logic surrounding his opinion.

I do believe “the sidewalk test” is a relevant measure with a professional wrestler's appearance. The test of if they walk down the sidewalk, do they look like someone special? Do they stand out, or are they just another guy? There is something to this test, but I don't feel it's the end all, be all.

Nash sites how someone like CM Punk or Daniel Bryan wouldn't be recognized in an airport if not for wearing gimmick shirts or holding a championship belt.

My immediate thought (probably like most other fans) was, what about a guy like Shawn Michaels? HBK and Bret Hart were two guys in the mid-1990s who seemed to break the mold of big bodybuilders being the top stars. Michaels of course being a well-publicized friend and on-screen partner of Nash.

Shawn Michaels doesn't have a look that would stop anymore people in an airport than a CM Punk. If anything, CM Punk's tattoos and grunge look would at least make someone do a double take in consideration that he's in a rock band.

The same can be said for a lot of other guys. Over the last decade in professional wrestling, the medium size has gotten smaller.

While Michaels can be used to negate the comments Nash makes about walking through an airport, Michaels does have something Nash makes reference to that Benoit and Guerrero didn't―“big in-ring personalities.”

I'm not taking away from the comedy or good heel work someone like Guerrero could display, but when it came time to work a match, the reality was he was another guy. Solid in-ring work, but nothing that drastically made him stand out in between bells from many other guys of a similar style.

Some of this opinion on Guerrero is a victim of the time period. He would become world champion at a time where the size had already gotten smaller in the locker room.

Shawn Michaels became champion in 1996, a time when wrestling across the board in any organization featured more big guys in big spots.

Shawn Michaels is larger than life when he is in the ring. He might define “big in-ring” personality the best while being able to have the best match of the night with anyone. His arrogant and charismatic antics made him a successful competitor in many matches against Sid, Vader, The Undertaker and Kevin Nash.

Nash's comments about Guerrero and Benoit, like a lot of things in wrestling―likely go deeper than what always meets the eye with politics behind it.

Eddie Guerrero wrote in his Cheating Death, Stealing Life biography,

“Considering how little talent he had in the ring, Nash is one of the most arrogant people I’ve ever had the displeasure to know. He’d walk right past you and not acknowledge your presence unless he thought there was something he could get out of you. I don’t say this lightly, but I genuinely feel that Nash is evil.”

I'm not suggesting Nash's recent comments are directly a response to being spoken of poorly in a 2005 book, but it would make sense that the two never were going to be fans of each other.

So were Benoit and Guerrero walking out was world champs the death of the business? In my opinion, no.

I feel if we're going to pronounce the business dead, we need to look at 16 writers on a creative staff, which is too many hands in the pot.

I feel we need to look at WWE being the only game in town and their process of scouting or developing new talent.

Ultimately, the root of it all, in my opinion, stems back to what I've written before regarding the WWE becoming a publicly traded company. When that happened in 1999, followed by buying their own competition in 2001, dark days were ahead.

The business has changed. It's no longer a big man's world as it once was. This certainly isn't favorable for a wrestler like Nash, who succeeded off of his towering size, which complimented his quick verbal wit. If a 35-year-old Diesel debuted in WWE tomorrow, it would likely be a different path and pace to the top than it would have been compared to his debut in 1993.

The business has changed since WrestleMania XX and more “average”-sized guys have surfaced in professional wrestling. Much of the attraction of professional wrestling dating back decades was a comic-book, must-see circus. It featured the battle of good versus evil, with characters who you had to see to believe.

The business has changed. The champions are smaller. The best bell-to-bell performers are of smaller stature. Sadly, for the big guys, a stereotype seems to pop up with big guys in this era relying on their look and being tough to watch in the ring (I said earlier that problems can be traced back to scouting and developing talent).

In wrestling, you always want to make the most of your energy. If you give a move, take a bump, you want it to have maximum effectiveness. This is true for big or small guys, but it's crucial for big guys. When they are in the ring, the show is about their opponent overcoming their size. The big guy is suppose to do very little and inflict a lot of damage—that translates to the audience how powerful their size is in the story.

This kind of style is not as dominant anymore on any level. The “indy” style, the chain wrestling, the high-flying by guys who aren't wearing masks―it's all more common. This isn't because Benoit and Guerrero killed wrestling but because times changed. Major movements have cleaned the locker rooms up from steroids.

There used to be a lot of bigger guys on steroids in the '80s and '90s, so they worked as a bigger guy would: let me do as little as I can with maximum damage. Punch, kick, big-guy pose and then a powerful move. Repeat.

So a guy like Kevin Nash, who made a lot of money off of this formula, of course he isn't going to be in favor of the change in wrestling. Part from a personal standpoint and part from a business standpoint. There is a business risk or hit when you ask people to pay to watch two guys who are smaller than the fan. Once the fan sees Daniel Bryan versus CM Punk, hopefully they are sold on it being worth their money, but it is a tougher sell to a new fan.

Kevin Nash's comments have warranted a response from wrestlers. Chris Jericho responded quickly after the comments got public via his Twitter.

Funny how @RealKevinNash says wrestling “died” when Benoit and Guerrero were champs-Yet the worst year for WWE biz was 95 when he was on top

Hope @RealKevinNash doesn’t tear his quad tweeting! #typicalbigman #nowthirdwheel

1995 wasn't a great business year for WWE, so Jericho had a relevant tweet there. Relevant, that is, without looking dumb, because I'm sure Nash made money for himself in 1995, so I doubt those comments will hurt his feelings.

To the tearing-the-quad comment, I don't get this. Every message board loves to make a quad joke about Nash, and the comments on this story won't be any more original. I don't get it. If a wrestler had never torn a quad, OK, maybe it's notable because it's the only time. Vince McMahon tore a quad running to the ring. Triple H tore a quad posing after hitting a spine buster. Wrestlers have torn or broken things in the ring.

It just seems like a lame jab at a guy that you would never say to his face.

Quads and wrestling deaths aside, one thing you can't deny, Kevin Nash always knows how to make himself the hated heel. Regardless of how big or small in size, a hated heel is always a key component to a big-money fight. At the end of the day, that's what wrestling is about―making money.


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