January 18, 2007 marks the day where 2 heavyweight pundits confronted each other for the first time. They did so twice.
Appearing on each other's shows, Stephen Colbert entered Bill O'Reilly's "No-Spin" Zone", whilst Bill was greeted with a "Mission Accomplished" sign and a few boos on Stephen's show. The national media and the blogosphere was abuzz analysing and recounting their favourite zingers.
Stephen Colbert is gaining 'household name' status for his caricature of right wing punditry, most notably Bill O'Reilly (whom he affectionately calls Papa Bear). Stephen on a nightly basis pretends to be an absurder more comical version of Bill, host of ratings hit The O'Reilly Factor. Garnering magazine features and TV profiles, Colbert's program became a destination for politicians to earn 'street' cred during the current midterms. It was only a matter of time before the real Bill O'Reilly would finally go face to face with his fake counterpart. It was going to be huge and was going to get meta.
In the showdown, O'Reilly remarked to Colbert that he wouldn't have a career without him and probably owes him a lot of money. Stephen countered by saying there's a big difference between imitation and emulation - imitation means he owes a royalty checque whilst emulation means he doesn't, "Check your lawyer!".
The encounter is noteworthy, it marks the collision of two heavyweight pundits with duplicate styles representing rival fan bases, Fox News and Comedy Central. Its closest wrestling equivalent would be a showdown between WCW Heavyweight Champion Goldberg and WWE jobber Gillberg however this is only a superficial comparison and falls extremely short.
Gillberg was a parody created by the WWE to irritate and undermine its rivals' (WCW) main draw. It was at best an exercise in character assassination. Goldberg was a far more imposing and formidable figure both in reputation and physicality. He would have clearly decimated him in a shoot fight or any fight for that matter. In essence Gillberg was a Goldberg "Mini Me", his character existed solely to trade off the value of the imitated. You could argue that there were no genuine Gillberg fans, his only support came from people who despised Goldberg and what he represented.
Gillberg and Goldberg never faced off. It could never happen. Apart from the fact they participated in competing federations, it would make no sense for Bill Goldberg to occupy any space near his caricature because it would completely diminish his cache of supremacy. Goldberg was a Heavyweight champion, top moneymaker and fan favorite. Gillberg just happened to look and act like Goldberg, albeit a goofier more compact version.
Stephen Colbert at worst could have been a lame parody piggybacking off O'Reilly's image. This Main Event showdown is a testament to what Stephen has achieved in such a short time. He has outgrown Bill's Shadow, his growing relevance means he now occupies the same space as heavyweight Bill O'Reilly. A man of influence.
The much anticipated match drew record ratings for Stephen Colbert, 1.7million viewers at the 11:30pm timeslot. O'Reilly received a spike to its consistently stellar ratings of 3million viewers at an 8pm timeslot