To be the man you got to beat the man: Why Wayne Bennett is the NRL’s Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair all rolled into one

BY CURTIS WOODWARD – EDITOR

@woodward_curtis

A booker in a professional wrestling company is the fella that puts the matches together. It is his job to create a “card” and it’s he that decides which guys will fight. The goal is to sell tickets. Put butts on seats.

If they’re any good at their job they’ll create stars and get said stars to draw people to their show. It’s the oldest story in history. Good versus bad. Sometimes, good versus good. But it only works if fans truly believe they’re equals.

The legendary Vince McMahon of the WWE (still going at 432 years of age) made his fortune off Hulk Hogan. The ‘Hulkster’ was a god. Some say he still is. Vince made millions and millions and millions and millions on Hogan. They created villains fans thought could crush the world in their bare hands and set up a grudge match.

Please Hulk, save us!

Millions and millions.

In the deep south of the USA, the NWA did the same thing with Ric Flair – WOOOOOO!

Create the rivalry and sell shit loads of tickets.

The WCW then caught lighting in a bottle in the mid 1990’s with the nWo.

Vince’s WWE was saved from death by the incomparable Steve Austin a little later.

These guys are what you call a “draw”.

What’s this got to do with the NRL?

Look no further than Wayne Bennett.

Sorry, let’s do it the right way.

“From Warwick, Queensland, standing 8 foot and 3 inches, this man can kill you with a stare of his eye, an icon that stands above the greats of the sport, the living legend, Wayyyynneeeee…’Clint’……..Bennnnnnetttt!”

Who else has sold more NRL tickets in the modern era than Bennett?

Challengers come and go, sometimes he’s defeated, but Bennett is still a blockbuster draw.

He might play the game and manipulate the media for his own team’s benefit but nobody can argue his longevity. He himself has admitted that he just loves rugby league. Bennett has made a living out of taking bullets for his players. The whole while, he knows that being the “good guy” or the “bad guy” sells tickets.

When Brian Smith’s St George Dragons came calling in the early 1990’s, Bennett accepted the challenge. The Broncos dusted the Saints to win back-to-back premierships. Did Bennett care he was hated by everyone in New South Wales? Who cares? The bloke had two premierships.

Then Smith changed colours.

The feud continued.

The Eels against the Broncos became must-watch throughout the late ’90’s and 2000’s.

Bennett against Phil Gould has seemingly run forever.

Then there’s Craig Bellamy who began his journey as an imperious coaching legend under Bennett at the Broncos. While Bennett sat high above the ground, arms crossed peering out, Bellamy ran the water.

Who knew, right?

Does anyone though, in their heart of hearts, truly believe Bellamy has surpassed Bennett in rugby league folklore?

What about Bennett’s second exit from the Broncos?

Some say he was stabbed in the back by the front office to get the shiny new toy, Anthony Seibold, back to Red Hill.

Was it luck Bennett ended up at Seibold’s old club in Redfern?

Rabbitohs versus Broncos is one of the stories of 2019.

South Sydney downed the Broncos in Brisbane – Bennett rolled into the Rabbitohs sheds post-match doing his best Eddie Guerrero impersonation.

Viva la raza!

What now for the champion of champions?

How about this…

Wayne Bennett’s Rabbitohs walking into the hallowed Sydney Cricket Ground against Trent Robinson’s Roosters?

What’s the score, ref?

Rabbit Bennett 2 – Rooster Robbo 0.

What does Ric Flair say?

‘To be the man, you gotta beat the man!’

So come on, Robbo, what you got?

Wayne Bennett is waiting.

Wooo!

@woodward_curtis

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