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Standing At The Edge: The Big Angle

Now THIS is more like it.

THIS is what I live and breath for, when it comes to pro wrestling. It’s like 1997 all over again, and all because of one action. One simple sentence, that masks a huge controversy, and has massive implications. Something we can all talk about, all have different opinions about, and something that has me emailing my friends to talk about.

Kurt Angle has been signed by TNA.

All of a sudden, it reminds me of a time before 2001, when concepts like ‘dream matches’ existed, and there was a real feeling that ‘anything could happen’. For the first time in a long time, I’m interested in what the hell is going on in the professional wrestling business. For long time readers of my columns, you may have noticed that I’ve not been writing much recently – this has been down to that self same lack of interest in the current product. Nothing was happening, nothing was changing, and even the backstage side of things seemed boring.

That’s all just changed. Wow. So, let’s take a look into the background and implications, shall we?

In 1996, suffering from a broken neck, and against doctors orders, Kurt Angle became an olympic gold medallist, and a national hero. For so long, it’s been part of his gimmick that it seems strange to write a sentence like that, and have it be a genuine capsule biography of his acheivements. It’s a truly staggering thing to be able to say about somebody. Following this, Angle briefly turned up in ECW, just in time to see the infamous ‘crucifixion’ segment involving Raven and Sandman. Angle was offended (or, at least, took it to be an offensive segment) and wanted no part of it. As a result, the segment was pulled, and Raven was made to apologise to the fans. Angle refused to have any more dealings with ECW at the time, and instead joined WWE, who sent him to train in OVW (with Edge, Christian and Test, along with Steve Corino, I believe). Angle picked up the game quickly, and debuted on WWE television in late 1999. He was main eventing Raw against The Rock in no time, with one of the more entertaining ‘winning streak’ angles there’s been. Around this time, he was a somewhat goofy clean-cut heel. Over the next year, he became one of the biggest names they had, thanks in part to his astonishing aptitude for pro-wrestling, and in part to his hilarious persona (not to mention the best build up to a story in years, with the Stephanie angle). By the time of WrestleMania X-7, Angle was regularly taking part in matches of the night, and along with Chris Jericho and Chris Benoit, helped change the fundamental nature of the in ring style in WWE at the time. Prior to their pushes, the emphasis in WWE tended to be on brawls – Angle and Benoit’s submission based matches were a revelation.

In the build up to WrestleMania X9, for the first time, Angle’s neck became an issue. It was an issue to the point that there was serious talk about changing the main event, in order to let Angle heal up. However, as detailed on the behind the scenes documentary, Angle convinced them he could do it, and at WrestleMania X9, Angle main evented the show with a broken neck. Afterwards, he finally took some time off, and had ‘unobtrusive’ surgery on his neck. He was back within four months.

This became a pattern for the Olympic Hero. Injuries would mount up, forcing him to take time off, and then he’d return sooner than expected. Around the same time, he tweaked his persona – no longer the comedy heel, Angle’s character became more serious. According to some, this was in order to establish himself as a more credible wrestler. Angle didn’t just want to be one of the best – he wanted to be THE best. As a result, we saw a slow change from ‘talkative, goofy’ Kurt Angle to ‘Monosyllabic Machine’ Kurt Angle.

Meanwhile, the matches were still awesome. A good run with Eddy Guerrero. A great run with Shawn Michaels. Even, recently, a superb series with The Undertaker. And in all of them, Angle was put over strongly – the Angle Lock (with grapevine) is one of the most protected moves in the business, up there with the Pedigree and the Tombstone.

As his credibility continued to grow (when Batista was out, Angle was the immediate choice to jump brands and take the title), his persona became incredibly popular. Whether booked as a heel or face, Angle was cheered, which led to him being pushed as one of the figureheads of the new ECW. But while this was happening, rumours started surfacing about him, which suggested that all was not well.

Apparently, he was becoming more and more difficult to work with backstage. He wasn’t happy about being in ECW, as he regarded it as a step down. His painkiller addiction was far worse than anybody was letting on. He just wouldn’t take the time out to heal properly.

It appeared that enough was enough for WWE, and one day they released a statement that nobody expected to see. Kurt Angle had been fired, due to a refusal to seek help for his problems.

Angle being Angle, even being fired didn’t seem to be enough for him to take the hint. Almost immediately, Angle was releasing statements via his agent that he was training to go into Mixed Martial Arts.

TNA has been building up a ‘huge surprise announcement’for the last week. At first, everyone was expecting this to be a damp squib, and indeed, it was announced in due course that the ‘big surprise’ was Vince Russo signing with TNA. Anticlimactic or what? Except, something strange happened…all of a sudden there were rumours flying around that this wasn’t the surprise. It was something bigger. Much bigger. Rumours began to fly. Goldberg? Lesnar? Benoit? Jericho? A monday night slot opposite Raw?

Of course, as we all know now, the announcement was actually a dual announcement. Firstly, TNA had a new timeslots on thursday nights – and secondly, they’d just signed Kurt Angle.

The Internet Wrestling Community went insane. TNA added a new front page to their website, with the slogan ‘Our ring has six sides…but only one ANGLE’.

Easily the biggest story in years, the ‘Kurt to TNA’ story is a breath of fresh air. TNA has had big signings before (Christian, Sting, Billy Gunn…stop sniggering), but even Christian being the first to jump companies didn’t have the level of impact that Kurt Angle jumping will have. After all, we’re talking about one of the most protected wrestlers of recent time in WWE. We’re talking about the man who beat The Undertaker cleanly, which nobody does nowadays. We’re talking about the man who beat Shawn Michaels clean (by tapout, no less), which NEVER happens. We’re talking about the man who beat Randy Orton in humiliating fashion at ECW One Night Stand. We’re not talking about an underrated midcarder – we’re talking about one of the biggest stars WWE had.

It changes a lot in the wrestling landscape. All of a sudden, TNA has a legitimate draw (at least, compared to who they currently have). Their new contractee fought for a world title at three of the last four WrestleManias – and he spent the third having the easy match of the night, and an arguable match of the year. The ONLY people who TNA could have signed that would have been bigger would have been HHH, The Undertaker or Shawn Michaels. Nobody else would have been quite as big a story – not Lesnar, who hasn’t been seen in the States in two and a half years, not Goldberg, who hasn’t been seen in similar time…realistically, TNA could not have made a bigger signing. Combine this with the fact that TNA has now been around long enough to start looking credible, and the fact that they now have a primetime TV slot, and you can see why the landscape suddenly looks different. TNA will shortly be entering mainstream awareness in a way that it just hasn’t yet. And that means that WWE has real competition for the first time in five years. And for all the reasons everyone has been saying, that’s a good thing. It forces WWE to look at raising their game, and it gives everyone an alternative. This can only be a good thing for the wrestling business. It can also only be a good thing for the wrestlers – WWE wrestlers now have leverage when it’s contract re-signing time. And TNA guys have the chance of being poached by wwe.

So, on one hand, it’s the best thing to happen in the wrestling business in a long time. On the other hand, it has the potential to be the worst.

After the death of Eddy Guerrero, one of the stories that was causing waves in the internet wrestling community was Wade Keller’s story that there was somebody on the WWE payroll who was on ‘deathwatch’. This person was having people check on them each day, just to make sure they were alive. And it was a BIG name – one that would dwarf Guerrero’s news in the mainstream. Kellar was careful not to name this person – hell, I thought it was Ric Flair.

Kurt Angle put out an open email in response to Keller’s story – which essentially confirmed that it was Angle that Keller was talking about. In his statement, Angle went out of his way to reassure his fans that he would never – and had never – done anything that would seriously risk his health. And in doing so, he lied. One way or the other, Kurt Angle betrayed one of his famous three ‘I’s’. Integrity. A couple of years beforehand, Angle had main evented WrestleMania with a broken neck. Ten years ago, he won a gold medal with a broken neck. I don’t know about anyone else, but if I broke my neck, I doubt I’d be doing anything more strenuous than lying in bed, wondering when I’d get better. You don’t get more risky than doing something as dangerous as professional wrestling with a broken neck. So if Angle lied about that, what else might he have lied about?

When WWE broadcast the video of the Wellness Policy on their website, it was notable that the first person to ask for clarification on the video was Kurt Angle. It seems to be an open secret that Kurt Angle has a serious problem with painkiller addiction, and that it is this addiction that most concerned his WWE colleagues. It also appears that the painkiller addiction was caused by the breakdown of his body.

Look at Kurt Angle. Just look at him right now. His arms have shrunk, and in the last year or so, he’s been clasping and unclasping his hands after every major bump, in order to get the feeling back. Let’s not forget that he confirmed the problem with numbness in his hands in the past, either. Also, his head has grown – it’s blatant, just compare pictures. His head has grown substantially, swelling around the forehead. Now, obviously, it would be a legal quagmire for me to suggest any specific conclusions to do with this. So, instead, to go onto a small tangent, I thought I’d list a couple of the side effects of ‘Human Growth Hormone’ AKA HGH, which is something some athletes use to build up muscle mass, after…say…people pointing out that your arms are getting all stringy.

A list of reported side effects of HGH.

* developing irreversible acromegaly (abnormal growth of bones of the hands and feet and face)

* high blood pressure

* heart damage

* premature aging and death

* soft tissue swelling

* thickening of the skin, abnormal hair growth

* colonic polyps

* liver damage and glucose intolerance

* muscle weakness

* enlargement of the internal organs

* arthritis

* impotence

That first one about abnormal growth of bones in the hands, feet and face is really fascinating, isn’t it?

Vince McMahon FIRED Kurt Angle. They didn’t walk away from that meeting with a hug, and a ‘see you later’. Reports are that the meeting was heated, and that Angle left an emotional wreck. But also, it must be pointed out that, unless TNA get in a REALLY interesting court case soon, Kurt Angle was released WITHOUT a no-compete clause. Something that is usually standard in this kind of situation. Why on earth would he do that? Why on earth would Vince McMahon allow one of his biggest stars to just walk out?

The only explanation I can come to is terrifying. It’s because Vince McMahon didn’t want Kurt Angle to die on his watch.

Now, I’m not making out that TNA are the bad guys here. It’s entirely possible that – contrary to reports of Angle’s addiction and behaviour being worse than Pillman’s and Shawn Michael’s at the height of their addictions – everybody is wrong, and Kurt Angle is right. Also, I have no doubt he can be astonishingly convincing. And let’s face it – it’s the biggest gambit that TNA could have played. But lets bear one thing in mind here. When it comes to Kurt Angle, as ‘Turning the Tables’ author John Lister pointed out, Vince McMahon can now claim to have the moral upper hand. That’s a terrifying thought.

And it could be a good thing for Angle. He’s gone from a busy schedule to a light one – chances are that he’ll be wrestling a couple of times a month miximum, and obviously that’s better than wrestling on a regular basis. So this could genuinely work out to be the best thing for everyone.

But IF the reports are true…and just about every person on the ‘inside’ appears to be saying that they are…

And IF Kurt’s problems are as serious as they appear to be…and his physical appearance, and the reports coming from WWE suggest that they are…

And IF Kurt’s health is such a concern that WWE fired him, because he wouldn’t get help, and the only other option appeared to be Angle dying in the ring, and bringing all the bad press on them that such an event would warrant…

IF, IF, IF……then Kurt Angle could be making a very big mistake.

I don’t mean to be a prophet of doom, so I’ll end this on a positive note.

This is the most fascinating, and unexpected story in professional wrestling in a long time. No matter what happens, I’m hooked again. I’m hooked in the same way that Bret Hart’s heel turn hooked me in 1997 when I nearly quit watching. I’m hooked in the same way that Foley’s retirement kept me watching. And I seriously doubt that I’m the only one. So for that, I say ‘thank you’ to Kurt Angle. I also say ‘take care’.

Please.

MSN:christopherbrosnahan

AIM: chrisbrosnahan

Sites I write for:

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oratory.rajah.com

www.earth-2.net

www.fractalmatter.com

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Standing At The Edge: Illusions, Smarks, and The Spirit of the Carnival

In 1918, Harry Houdini walked out onto the stage in the New York Hippodrome. He brought out a large round cabinet, and then introduced an enormous elephant. Before the audience’s eyes, he then had a handler take the elephant into the cabinet. The cabinet was then covered. The cover was swiftly removed, and the elephant had disappeared. This trick, unlike most tricks, baffled audiences and magicians alike for decades. Nobody could figure out how the trick was done. They had their ideas, but none of them actually worked. It has been referred to by other magicians as the greatest magic trick ever performed.

The term ‘mark’ was originally coined in the carnival. As with any profession where oral history is the only real history that there is, it’s difficult to work out exactly where the term originated, however, there are some good educated guesses out there. The most likely one is that it refers to the practice where, once somebody was realised to be particularly gullible, the person running the stall (or an accomplice) would pat the guy on the back, either as a good luck motion, or in commiseration. Their hand would have chalk on it (or something similar), thus marking the victim out for the rest of the carnies, ensuring that his run of bad luck would continue. The word ‘Kayfabe’ has even more indistinct origins. The most likely explanation is that it’s a form of pig latin for ‘fake’. A warning uttered if an outsider was around. It does seem, however, that it’s likely that it was also coined in the carnival.

The Carnival seems to be something that has died in modern America. Outdone, outglamourised, and outsold by amusement parks, they’ve been neutered by political correctness, and outdone by people’s newfound ability to travel easily from state to state. With so much less of a sense of community in the twenty first century, we no longer have to gather, and wait for the amusements to come to us. Whether virtually, or actually, we now travel to the amusements easier, and when you have the ability to talk to somebody anywhere on the globe easily, who needs to be part of a community? The world has changed, and with it America – and with that, our entertainment has changed, along with our attitudes towards that entertainment. Oh, some Carnivals still exist, but most of them don’t travel anymore. An age old part of Americana has died.

But its spirit lives on, through its bastard child of Professional Wrestling. It doesn’t exactly take a huge leap of logic to see the link. Professional wrestling was partially borne out of the ‘strong man’ act, challenging the audience. Meanwhile, a number of the early Professional Wrestling Promoters were Carnival men. And as that lifestyle evolved, a lot of its language changed. The word ‘Mark’ changed from being a gullible victim, to being a term for those that were taken in by the illusion that Professional Wrestling creates. Those that were in on the secret were ‘smartened up’, which easily became ‘smarts’.

Over the decades, of course, things begin to change even more. The secret of a good illusion is usually misdirection. By convincing the audience to either look away from the illusion’s flaws, or by convincing them to accept them as something other than what they are, the illusion is carried through by the artistry of the magician. But these age old illusions weren’t made for television cameras. They were made for a prolonged single view, at a distance, no less. In the nineteen twenties, there was no such thing as a recordable zoom lens, and that’s where the illusions begin to fall apart. We spot the tell tale signs. That there is a reflection where there shouldn’t be. That the magician is standing in front of one single point on the stage throughout the trick. That the cabinet is far larger than it should be. That they’re stamping their foot on the canvas when they’re hitting someone. That they always seem to touch their own forehead just before they start bleeding profusely. These things just don’t stand up to television.

Of course, with magicians, many of them were able to adapt, and change their illusions to accomodate television, and as a result, use that to make their tricks that bit more spectacular. Professional Wrestling, meanwhile…didn’t. At least, not in the way that we think. Instead, it changed by slowly changing it’s approach. It no longer went out of its way to convince people that what they were watching was real – instead, it came clean about its roots, and became Sports Entertainment. Instead of being a fake sport, it became a new entertainment medium in, and of, itself. Embracing what it had been, it became a sort of soap opera, where the storylines weren’t something to make sure people came back – they were the focus point of most organisations. Professional Wrestling stopped being a Carnival, and became a Product.

‘Marks’ were now just ideal customers. Those who watch the shows, and that’s about as far as they go. They’ll buy tickets, they’ll buy merchandise, and they’ll support The Product, but they didn’t delve any further into what they were watching. ‘Smarts’, however, were now everywhere, because what was fake and what was real was no longer important. If you knew that it wasn’t real, then compared to a Mark in the ‘forties, you were Smart. But now that The Product had changed, we had an audience that could change between being Marks, and being Smarts. They could watch The Product, and they began to realise that the spirit of The Carnival still existed. It was what went on backstage. The enjoyment of one didn’t necessarily have to influence the enjoyment of the other. A Smart could go back to being a Mark. A Smart Mark. A Smark.

The Mascot Moth was, in its time, the most amazing trick anybody had ever seen. This was in the latter part of the nineteenth century, when most magic shows were made up of little theatrical stories. As David Devant was on the stage in London, a beautiful woman floated on the stage, her dress made into the rough shape of a moth. As she covered her face, Devant, clutching a candle, walked towards her. The candle touched the dress, the woman screamed, and quickly shrivelled up and vanished in a split second. It was a marvel of the age.

The Smark has recently become the most despised part of the audience, although it hasn’t always been this way. When the world of Professional Wrestling was at its height, Smarks were actually treated pretty well. The Product brought out subsections specifically to appeal to them. Columns, websites, magazines and even their own show. At its height, being a Smark was seen as a fairly cool thing to be. Book deals were made. Subscriptions to websites bought.

But then the fall in popularity started, and being a Smark began to be seen as a worse and worse thing. After all, when The Product stops being popular, it makes an awful lot of sense that it?s the fans that don’t care as much about The Product that must be the ones causing the damage. If the cool fans are the ones criticising The Product, it makes a lot of sense that the casual fans will realise that The Product is no longer a cool thing, and be turned off by the Smarks criticisms.

And like the Carnival before it, they’ll move on. They’ll find different entertainments, and different amusements. Now, this leaves Professional Wrestling in a difficult situation. There are an awful lot of Smarks out there, but if you appeal solely to the Smarks, you make The Product into something niche. If you limit yourself like that, it?s obviously a bad thing. So, in order to try and quieten the Smarks, the columns, magazines and shows are either cancelled or re-orientated in order to be more Kayfabe. Unfortunately, by this time, the Smarks are a major part of the fanbase.

The thing of it is, is that the Smarks have been misunderstood on a base level. They have been taken as people who are so desperate to be Smart that they’ll criticise for the sake of it. And since the criticisms are so patently obvious, it becomes very easy to paint all the Smarks with the same brush, and accuse them all of saying, and wanting, the same things. And once you have these broad strokes, it becomes very easy to ignore them.

?Why don’t you just be a real fan. Stop criticising, and enjoy what you’re watching.?

It?s been said a thousand times. And often the Smarks, confused because they’re being accused of not being real fans, respond by saying how much they’re trying to improve The Product, and why can’t people see that?

And that?s where the misunderstanding is.

Smarks aren’t Smarks because they are trying to improve The Product. They’re Smarks for another reason entirely.

If I was to explain that Houdini?s trick was all done with mirrors and perspectives, does it take away from the majesty of the trick? And if I was to explain that the Moth was on a platform behind a curtain, and while the actress went one way, the dress went the other, creating the illusion?.would that destroy the artistry of the performer? It may damage the illusion, but then the illusion of The Product has already been irreparably damaged.

Smarks don’t purely go for The Product, and they’re not going to settle for The Product, because they?ve seen the spirit of the Carnival that survives backstage. They are fascinated by the characters of the performers who play the wrestlers, and they’re equally fascinated in the direction that the characters of the wrestlers take. Levels upon levels of suspension of disbelief, all suspending something that is utterly unique. It combines drama with politics, with economics, with marketing, and all at surprisingly sophisticated levels. And that?s without even going into the skill of the performance.

In any other industry, Smarks would not be seen as a negative, because, at the end of the day, they want The Product to improve, because it hugely enhances their enjoyment of it. You don’t go to a magic show to see tricks done badly, after all. Because we Smarks aren’t critics for no reason. We’re enthusiasts, plain and simple, and we don’t want our Carnival to become a thing of the past. We want it to grow, and we want to continue learning, and we want that spirit to take the part of America?s soul that The Carnival once possessed.

Without a base understanding of how the illusion works, you do not truly appreciate the artistry and skill of the magician. It is only once you break the barrier of the illusion that you begin to learn about it. And as you delve deeper and deeper into it, you become more and more impressed by a well done illusion, and you begin to understand the difference between good performers and bad performers.

In order to understand why Houdini making an Elephant disappear is such a great feat, you have to appreciate just how difficult it was to do it in the first place.

With some information and ideas taken from ‘Hiding The Elephant’ by Jim Steinmeyer.

MSN:christopherbrosnahan

AIM: chrisbrosnahan

Sites I write for:

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oratory.rajah.com

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Standing At The Edge: Infectious

There have been two major stories in recent weeks that have drawn my attention. Chances are that you’ve heard at least one of the stories – one has been verified completely; the other hasn’t. However, both stories contain very similar elements.

This is the first story.

Samoa Joe has had to pull out a few Ring of Honor shows, due to a severe staph infection. He doesn’t want to pass it on to other wrestlers, plus, of course, it’s going to be very uncomfortable for him to wrestle with it.

A Staph infection can be serious, however it doesn’t sound like Joe’s infection is overly so, thankfully. A Staph Infection is what happens when staphylococcus aureus bacteria (a generally common bacteria) gets underneath the skin (via either a cut, or a break in the skin), and infects that area. They are generally red and irritating at first, but if they do not get treated early, they can spread, and become far more dangerous (especially if it gets near your heart, where it can cause clotting); not to mention the fact that the bacteria becomes ripe ground for other, more dangerous, infections and illnesses. The most common result from staph infections are large, pus-filled abcesses (Joe’s is about the size of a large marble, which is enough to be classed as ‘severe’).

This is the second story.

Cowboy Bob Orton Jr. recently informed John Laurinaitis that he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C as a teenager. Laurinaitis didn’t take it overly seriously, and told Orton not to worry about it. Orton promptly accompanied his son to the ring in a Hell in a Cell match against The Undertaker. During the match, ‘Taker bled copiously, Randy bled copiously, and Bob Orton bled copiously – all over the other two at one point. Undertaker is now absolutely furious, hence why we haven’t seen him on television since. (This, incidentally, is the unverified story).

Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis virus – now, if the hepatitis virus actually infects the liver, that’s it – you’ve got it the virus for life. It’s not usually life threatening, however it can be, and it is also a cause of other serious issues, not least of which would be a weakened liver,screwed up blood clotting, and a high chance of catching other infections. Between fifity five and eighty five percent of people who get Hepatitis C do so chronically. Chronic Hepatitis C leads to Chronic Liver Disease seventy percent of the time, and of that seventy percent, it can be fatal up to five percent of the time.

Now, I’m not interested in debating the validity of the second story (since the first story comes directly from Ring of Honor, and Samoa Joe’s livejournal, I’m going to take the risk and class that one as being true.). It may be true, it may not be. However, whether it is true or not, it is what led to me thinking down a certain path, that – when I heard about Joe’s condition the following week – led me to think about the situation quite seriously.

Professional Wrestling needs to be safer.

It’s that simple.

Let’s go back to the Staph Infection story for a moment. That bacteria is very common – it doesn’t take much for it to infect an open wound. While it isn’t debilitating (I believe that Steve Austin had a severe Staph Infection when he had his First Blood Match against Kane, hence the huge padding and bandage on his arm, both to protect him, and to protect the other wrestlers), it is easily communicable. You don’t even need an open cut – a graze will do it. All it takes is for that bacteria to get into an opening in your skin.

You’re wearing trunks, boots, and a smile. You’re rolling around on a mat, while you’re sweating heavily, with another guy, who is also sweating heavily. Throughout the same night, chances are that about thirty other guys are going to be doing exactly the same thing, and there’s a good chance that a couple of those guys are also going to be bleeding. That sweat-soaked, bloody canvas is then rolled up, and used again at the next show.

Is your reaction the same as mine there? Just spell WWE backwards. Eww.

It doesn’t take much for a ring to be disinfected – it would just slow down the shows a little. Diluted bleach and a cloth would do the job. A spray-bottle disinfectant, and a dry clean mop would do the job. It doesn’t have to leave the ring slippy. Joe himself has called for this in his livejournal. I’ve been at live shows – I’ve seen the guy drying down the ropes with a towel getting a cheer. People understand that everything needs to be safe, and if they don’t? Then they don’t deserve to be called ‘fans’. Ideally, it should be done after every match, however, I’d see it as a great compromise if it was done after every couple of short matches, or after every long match. Certainly after a bloody match. But the bacteria alone that each of us carries on our bodies is something that gets left behind on the canvas. If it isn’t – at the very least – cleaned between shows, then, to my mind, that promoter is being horiffically negligent.

In a roundabout way, that brings me to another point. Let’s assume that you, the person reading this, is in some way sexually active (no jokes about wrestling fans from the back row, please). If you’re sexually active, and not with the same long term partner, and you’re being sensible, what do you use? Correct, you use a condom – and if you don’t, you should. Why? Simple. Because both semen and (to a leser extent) vaginal fluids are things that are capable of carrying, and transmitting, a number of STI’s, STD’s, and in the case of the former, there’s the chance of pregnancy. Now, they aren’t the only way of transmitting infections, diseases, and viruses – definitely not. You see, when we’re talking about these things, we’re missing out the big one.

Blood. By far and away, blood is the easiest way to communicate infection. This came to my mind recently, when I watched Louis Theroux’s documentary on wrestling (as part of his Weird Weekends Series. It’s available on DVD), in which he goes to visit WCW and a smaller group (AIWF). AIWF is a small group based in North Carolina. They’re a typical small time group, except they do a large amount of blood based wrestling ? barbed wire tables, barbed wire chairs, etcetera. In the clip shown in the documentary, more than a few wrestlers are covered in blood, as is the ring, and a large area outside the ring. How the hell that isn’t insanely dangerous, I have no idea.

Contrary to what some people believe, most viruses do NOT evaporate once blood makes contact with air. It lives on for a short amount of time, and even once that?s gone, it remains fertile breeding ground for all other types of nasty bacteria ? staph infections, for example. And, of course, the Hepatitis C Virus stays active in blood once it leaves the body for (ready for this?) at least sixteen hours. So, let?s say it?s on the mat, then you have a graze, or an open cut, and you end up rolling onto a small wet patch of blood. See where I’m going with this?

Blood to blood transmittal is the most dangerous kind of transmittal there is. You know why the HIV Virus spread amongst gay men so much? Because, to put it simply, the anus isn’t built for sex. It?s possible, but it?s not what it?s intended for ? as a result, until people?s bodies get used to it (and sometimes afterwards) some mild tearing usually occurs. Nothing major usually, just small mild cuts, but enough for the chance of transmittal to heighten to an enormous degree ? and that?s not necessarily from the other partners blood entering it. You bleed over somebody else, and they have an open wound (or mouth, or eyes ? blood getting in the eyes is incredibly dangerous), then you’re begging for something to go wrong.

So let?s look back at that second story, shall we? Cowboy Bob Orton Jr. informs Laurinaitis that he has Hepatitis C. Johnny Ace decides it?s not a big deal, and decides not to bother telling anybody about it (which, if he wasn’t aware that Hepatitis C can be chronic is entirely plausible. If you’re told somebody had it as a teenager, would you know that they probably remain infected?). Bob then goes to the HIAC match, blades to an insane degree, and his blood gets mingled with Takers?, and his own son?s. Now, as if that wasn’t bad enough?.if he?s had it since he was a teenager, then every time he?s bladed in a match with somebody, that person is at risk, as is any person that ends up on a part of the mat he?s bled on. (For the benefit of any WWE lawyers reading this, I’m talking about the rumour, and I am absolutely not stating this as fact. I’m using the rumour as an example to talk about a bigger issue. Thanks for your time).

Now, let?s look at another case. Let?s say Ric Flair. He?s been on the road for decades, and he?s famously been a womaniser. Now, chances are that he?s been checked ? but hypothetically, let?s say he hasn’t. At this point, let?s remember that TLC match the other week, where he bled everywhere. Over Edge, over Lita, over the ring, over the tables?see where I’m going with this? How many ring rats over the years? How many matches with other people that are bleeding?

Anybody remember Jerry Lynn?s match with Steve Corino, where he used Steve?s blood to write ?DIE? across his own chest? A few years ago, I read an interview with Jerry Lynn in Powerslam (in the interests of fairness, I must point out here that this next quote could have been Lance Storm, I?ve lost some issues. While I remember the quote, I’m a little hazy on which of the two said it), that there were certain people in the ECW locker room that he would not get involved in blading with, due to some of their lifestyle habits.

There are a couple of conclusions I want to draw from this line of thought.

First and foremost is this. If regular blood testing is not already mandatory, then it should be. Take a tip from the porn industry. The more reputable porn companies regularly check their employees (sorry?independent contracters) for STD?s. I believe it works out at every two weeks. So every two weeks, that person has to show that they’re still clean. If they don’t have it? They don’t work. About a year ago, a well known performer was found to have a major STD, and the porn industry basically closed down for a week while EVERYBODY got re-tested. That?s a more responsible take on things.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that every wrestler should do this, but I am suggesting that those wrestlers who blade on a regular basis should. If you’re going to blade on a semi-regular basis, you should have a clean bill of health before you do. (I’ll pointout that WWE may already do this, and that I simply don’t know). Since they’re supposedly bringing in a full and independent regular drug testing policy soon, I see no reason why this couldn’t be extended.

Secondly. Blading is overdone. Completely and totally overdone. No other business does something as stupid as allowing people to bleed over each other. It?s irresponsible, it?s idiotic ? and it?s usually unnecessary. Look, I like a good, hard brawl as much as the next wrestling fan. I get the dramatic increase that occurs when somebody is wearing ?The Crimson Mask??but can you remember the last PPV that didn’t have somebody blading, off the top of your head? How about the regular TV show?

A lot of the time, it?s a crutch. It?s a shortcut used to increase interest in what is going on. You think it?s a coincidence that as soon as John Cena started losing popularity, he started blading regularly? In the right place, at the right time, it works great. But it?s being used so much these days that even the impact has vanished. Hell, not long ago, Ric Flair bled all over himself during a promo ? and compare the impact of that with the impact of the small trickle of blood Foley got when he hit himself in the face to intimidate Randy Orton? You don’t need to put yourself in need of a transfusion in order to look hard anymore. And besides, with the regularity of it, you don’t need to do it at all.

Thirdly, the two minutes it would take to disinfect pools of blood, and the five minutes it would take to disinfect the ring canvas are not minutes that the audience would walk out in. I was at a recent show where they were having ring problems ? and so there were delays between the matches. What did they do? They improvised. They had the announcers do skits. They filled a couple of minutes. You know what? It?s not difficult. At the very, very least, do it in the interval, and between shows.

Finally ? small companies. If you can’t afford to do any testing on your wrestlers and you can’t afford the people/time to clean up your rings? Don’t concentrate on blood sports. It?s downright irresponsible. Oh, and first aiders would be a really, really good thing. You don’t necessarily have to pay them ? find a volunteer first aid group, and find out who likes wrestling, then offer them free passes. In the meantime, you need your own first aid kit, and not a crappy basic one either ? you need a FULL First Aid kit, with plenty of gloves, and antiseptic wipes.

If you can’t provide First Aid and if you can’t clean your ring between shows? Don’t promote any more. You’re not responsible enough to do it.

So, the four conclusions again. Testing for those who can afford it, cutting down on blading, disinfecting pools of blood, and keeping your ring clean. Do these four things, and we won’t have rumours flying around about Hepatitis, and we won’t lose wrestlers for a short time to Staph Infections.

The wrestling business is a crazy one. We all know this, and we all love it for it. It doesn’t mean that it can’t be more responsible. If we’re behind the porn industry with health and hygiene, then something is seriously wrong.

————————————————————————

With thanks to Cash Melville for his extensive personal knowledge of STD’s. Hope it clears up soon, mate.

MSN:christopherbrosnahan

AIM: chrisbrosnahan

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Standing At The Edge: The Old Bastards Wrestling Manifesto

Once again, with apologies to Warren Ellis, author of the original – and, let’s face it, far better – ‘Old Bastards Manifesto’. This is intended as tribute rather than theft.

It was my birthday this last weekend. What is, for most people, a celebration is, for me, a reason to just contemplate my moving one year closer to death by old age. Sometimes, you realise that you don’t have time to waste. Carpe Diem, and all that.

So, I?ve decided that enough is enough. It?s time for a few things to be set straight. A set of items, some reinforcing, some common sense, and some that are plans for the future. A few things need to change in wrestling, and others need to be reinforced. And there are some things that you are just plain wrong about.

I reserve the right to be hypocritical. I reserve the right to be part of the problem. I reserve the right to shake my walking stick at you, and scream for you to get off my lawn.

ITEM ONE

DOWNLOADING AND DVD

Fans:If you download more independent wrestling than you buy, you are not helping the industry. If you buy from tape traders only, because they’re cheaper, you are not helping the wrestling industry. You are only helping the tape trading industry. Dig into your pockets. Go buy a DVD every now and then. I accept that downloading and tape trading is a great way to sample products – but eventually, you are avoiding paying. Go buy a DVD every now and then. This goes doubly if you’re following independent wrestling.

Promoters: Make sure your DVD’s are available. Don’t overprice them – if you’re an independent, you can’t compete with WWE in terms of scale and presentation. Your product price should reflect this. Don’t underprice yourself, but by the same token, don’t overprice yourself, just because you can.

Oh, and did I mention making sure your product is available? If somebody looks on your website, and they can’t find what they’re looking for, they’re unlikely to check again any time soon. They’ll go elsewhere. And whatever you do, don’t delete back catalogue just because you’ve changed direction (TNA, I’m looking in your direction with ‘Best of Bloodiest Brawls’. I swear, the decision to delete that from your back catalogue when you decided to go down the family route just made me want to hit my head against the wall until I died. Unspeakably stupid). If it’s a good show, and the presentation isn’t awful, then there is an audience out there. Make it cheap enough for the risk to be worth it, and you may have a repeat customer. Oh, and put match listings on there, both on the DVD itself on the back, and on the website. Make a good match easy to find. Even if your card is subpar, people will buy a DVD for one good/intriguing looking match on there.

As a side note to the above, tape trading is not the be-all and end-all of evil. A lot of the time, it allows people to be exposed to wrestling they would not otherwise be exposed to – or it allows them to get their hands on wrestling unavailable elsewhere. Oh, and WWE – drop the lawsuits against fansites, and small time tape traders. Sueing your fans isn’t a good way to keep them. The majority of your fans pay an awful lot of money supporting you, so turn a blind eye if they occasionally choose to look elsewhere. Piracy is bad, but as long as the people buying it do it occasionally, and buy official products as well, then don’t complain.

Final note – if it’s anything produced by Rob Feinstein, ignore what I’ve said. Pirate to your hearts content.

ITEM TWO

WRESTLING

Fans: Okay, selling. Stop nitpicking. Suspend your disbelief. As long as it’s not blatantly noticeable (*cough*johncena*cough*), then it isn’t a big deal. Sure, it’s nice when it’s done properly, but it’s not the end of the world when it isn’t.

Wrestlers: If your videogame character sells better than you do, you need to give it some thought.

Fans: Technical wrestling is not the holy grail. Stop acting like it is. I’m not going to mark for well done transitions, and most fans aren’t even going to notice them. Some will appreciate them, and I’m certainly not saying that the style is unnecessary. What I’m saying is to constantly criticise every match on the technicalities is to sometimes miss the point.

Wrestlers: Shape up. Put some thought into your matches. It’s not rocket science.

Fans: I like continuity. I don’t care that much about it. As long as it?s not totally going in the face of the recent past, I don’t care that Rey Mysterio and Matt Hardy are now buddies. I get that things change, and that sometimes stories are going to be dropped. We aren’t going to get Goldust turning up to tell us that he remembers that Edge and Christian are brothers, who once spoke on the phone to someone who was driving a hummer, while also asking the guy who held up the briefcase to hold on the other line. I mean, I’d mark out if we did, personally?.but we aren’t going to get that.

Promoters: I like continuity. If things don’t go according to plan, think of a fun way to plug the holes. You might be surprised how well the improvisation works.

ITEM THREE

WWE

There is an important fact that not enough people realise. There are other promotions out there. You may prefer others. If you aren’t enjoying the programming, stop whining, and try something else for a while. Put a tiny bit of work in, order a DVD, and see how you enjoy it, rather than just buying the latest PPV out of habit. Shop around.

Take a risk. I don’t care if it?s full of funny sounding names, and you can’t understand the commentators. Try out some Japanese stuff. Do you have any idea just how big pro-wrestling is over there? There?s a reason for that. It?s good. Try out some Mexican stuff. Try out some old-school stuff. Try out some independent stuff. There?s a reason people rave about Kenta Kobashi. There?s a reason people rave about Austin Aries. Open your mind, squeegee that third eye, and try something new. You might hate it. But you might not.

There is also another important fact that not enough people realise. WWE has some of the best wrestlers, and wrestling, going. If you have decided to be totally anti-WWE, then you are missing out on some great stuff. There?s room for both.

ITEM FOUR

As a fanbase, we need to change our image. Here’s how.

A

Wrestling is fake. Deal with it. If somebody brings it up with you (‘You do know it’s fake, right?’), please, don’t argue the point. ‘Predetermined’ and ‘Fake’ are the same thing. Point out that it’s entertainment, not a competitive sport. Point out that it’s incredibly physically demanding, and takes a huge amount of work. Even point out that it’s a unique art form of physical story telling. But don’t get confused, and start thinking that because it’s tough, and it’s difficult, and it can hurt, that it somehow becomes less fake. If you argue this point, you will look stupid to the other person (no matter how stupid you think they are), and as a fanbase, we don’t need to look as stupid as the popular consensus has us down as.

B

It is possible to talk intelligently about wrestling. Talk about company wars. Talk about characters, and gimmicks, and storylines, and drama. Talk about the history of the business. Talk about the evolution of the business. Talk about independent wrestling. Talk about ECW, WCW being amalgated into WWE. Talk about why the WWF became WWE. Talk about the old territories. Talk about backstage stories. Talk about kayfabe, and the great stories that exist. Talk about what happened to the household names. Talk about the live experience. Don’t just say someone sucks, and someone else is soooooo much better. Look at comic book fans. They’re slowly (ever so slowly) begining to get a modicum of respect in the entertainment business. It is better to be seen as geeks than as idiots.

C

Don’t try this at home. Backyard wrestling is stupid. Every time we see a news story, a documentary, or a video release featuring Jackass style idiots hurting themselves, I want to projectile vomit my own intestines all over the screen. If you want to wrestle, go join a wrestling school.

D

This one goes to the promoters. Start making better merchandise. Most of us don’t want to wear bad would-be death metal t-shirts. Good would-be death metal t-shirts are iffy, but we can deal. Use some imagination. Design something that we wouldn’t be embarassed to wear. Remember that brown Chris Benoit t-shirt, with the crippler design? More of that. Remember that black Chris Benoit t-shirt with ‘4 Real’? Less of that. If we’re going to change our image, we need to start with our image.

ITEM FIVE

MERCHANDISE

Promoters: Make your merchandise look good. Have your DVD covers look good. It’s easy to give something a professional look. It just requires thought, time, and effort. Alternatively, it involves finding somebody to do it for you. Not everybody you are selling to is a long time fan, and if everybody you are selling to is a long time fan, then you need to expand your customer base.

Make it sound good. Get half-decent commentators in. Make the shows look good. If you’re selling t-shirts, put some thought into it. If you’re making toys, show a bit of imagination. Don’t be afraid to try something new and different. And come up with a logo, or something sellable featuring the company name, if you’re an independent. Brand awareness is a huge asset to have. Simple looks good, when it comes to logos. Keyrings. Mousepads. Cheap, simple stuff, that can look good, nonetheless. Sell them for just above cost. It?s free advertising.

Fans: You like a wrestler? You like a character? Buy their t-shirt. Or their photo. Or their DVD. Or something. That money goes to them. It supports them, and it lets the promoters know that they’re over. Spend the money, even if it?s a birthday present, or a one-off treat. Make sure you do it once. There are enough bad wrestler and characters out there that the good ones should be celebrated.

ITEM SIX

THE CARD

This one?s for the promoters, first and foremost. If you bear with me, I’m just going to take a glass of water, and a deep breath before screaming this one at you.

Every show is somebody?s first time.

Okay, I can’t shout very loud. I’m old, okay? And I’m watching you on my lawn. But my point stands. Every show is somebody?s first live show. You have to hook them in straight off. Put on a good opener. It?s the third most important match of the night.

The second most important match of the night is the match just before the interval. You’re about to have people leaving the room the wrestling is in. You want them to go out and talk about the great match they just saw. Save the shitty match that involves the venue owners nephew for immediately after the interval ? because people will be late coming back. They always are. Blame your bar staff.

The most important match of the night? The main event. That?s hugely important, but then ? that?s obvious. But cover those three, and you have the basics down. Those three are the important ones, because they’re the ones people will talk about.

Oh, and cover your wrestlers weak spots. Make virtues of any damn thing you can make a virtue of. It?s been said over, and over, but it?s what ECW did. Pushed the good, covered the bad.

Talking of things ECW did. Pay your wrestlers. If you are relying on a sell out in order to pay your wrestlers and crew, then you shouldn’t be promoting the show. If you have wrestlers/trainees on who you aren’t paying, then you’re an asshole who shouldn’t be promoting the show. I don’t care if it?s a token amount. They’re working on your show. Pay them. I don’t care if it?s just five bucks. Pay them. I don’t care if you’re having to stretch to fly over Jushin Liger, or Stone Cold Steve Austin for the main event. Pay the kid that?s in the battle royale. If you don’t, it will come back and bite you on the ass.

ITEM SEVEN

TASTE

FansOccasionally, things are not going to be to your taste. Some of you are going to prefer intricate matwork, and you’re going to roll your eyes if Necro Butcher is on a screen near you. Wrestling is not always booked for you. There are going to be things you don’t want to see, especially in the larger companies (Jeff Jarrett being champion, John Cena?s mic skills being reduced to ?poopy gayness?), but there isn’t always something you can do about it, other than not tune in the following week ? which is, incidentally, the point when reactions to something become apparent. If the ratings fall dramatically, they can be pretty sure they?ve done something wrong.

A corollary to the above: Except for a short amount of time every two years or so, give up on womens wrestling, and cruiserweight wrestling in WWE. They aren’t going to be given significant time. If, however, they are ? tune in next week. If you want to see more of something, tune in the following week.

Occasionally, things are just going to be offensive. Muhammad Hassan. Segments where women get beaten up for a cheap pop (Steve Austin stunning Stacy Kiebler a couple of years back comes to mind). Dr Heiney. Katie Vick. Eugene. Eddy Guerrero?s car being blown up to kill somebody during a tribute match.

Promoters: Show a bit of fucking class. It isn’t difficult. Convincing people that I’m not an idiot because I like your product is difficult enough at times. The last thing I need is to turn on my television with other people around, and be confronted by a racist/sexist/stupid segment. The Hassan stuff was condemned as horrible taste by at least two networks (Spike TV and Sky Sports, via OFCOM). The stuff with Eddy Guerrero?s car has left a bad taste in a lot of people?s mouths. Oh, and gay jokes by John Cena?.well, they’re okay. After all, jokes about people being gay are still done in sitcoms like?.oh, wait, they’re not. Gay characters? Sure. Funny gay characters? Sure. But not people just suggesting people they don’t like are gay. But hey, it?s okay, as long as you put a disclaimer in of ?it?s the 21st century. I’m not judging you or anything??. Of course it is. Morons.

On a smaller, less WWE level ? show a bit of sense when it comes to hardcore matches. A belt, chair, chain, or bamboo stick? Fine. Light-tubes, barbed wire, and pizza cutters? You’re a backyard fed pretending. If you weren’t, you’d realise that families bring in money, and you want to attract families. I don’t care if you put on a cruiserweight match every now and then.

ITEM EIGHT

LOCAL WRESTLING

Fans:Go support it. Go to a live show. So it doesn’t have Shawn Michaels on the card. So there won’t be fireworks. So you’ll have to sit somewhere near the sweaty fat guy in the death metal t-shirt who just won’t shut up about how good Jack Evans is. Go. Try it. Trust me, if you haven’t gone to see a local show in the local fleapit, you really are missing out. If it?s halfway decent, you’re in for a fun, cheap, entertaining night out.

Also ? be loyal. If your company isn’t actively pissing you off, don’t abandon it, just because there?s a flashier promotion around, just a few miles away. If the show becomes worse, fine ? but as long as it?s cheap, and it?s nearby, keep going! If you keep hopping from company to company, yes, you’ll get the best for you personally ? but the companies will die off one by one, and your area won’t be seen as a draw. I’m not saying don’t go to the better show ? but if you can afford to go see the better show, then spend the twenty bucks it’ll cost you for a ticket and refreshments, go to both.

Promoters: Advertise. Let the local area know that you’re there. And put on a product that can be enjoyed by all, and have ? at the least ? semi-decent wrestlers, and production values. By semi-decent, I mean trained to a certain standard. By production values, I mean seats, a basic audio system with someone keeping an eye on it, a mic that works, a ring bell (you’d be surprised?), and finally, hanging some curtains over that fire exit you’re using as a door can work wonders.

ITEM NINE

IMAGINATION AND AMBITION

Wargames. Elimination Chamber. Last Man Standing. Cage Matches. Scramble Cage Matches. Hell in a Cell. Iron Man Matches. Pure Honor.

Go check out the latest Smackdown vs Raw videogame. See that huge list of match options? I’m not saying that all your matches should be gimmicked? but imagine if you came up with a unique variation on a gimmick match, or even a new gimmick match (light-tube/glass sheet/flaming table deathmatches don’t count). Don’t make it too complex?but give it scope. Give it a catchy name. You know what? If it doesn’t work, people will appreciate you trying. If it does work? It?s a draw for the next show you do. Don’t overdo it?.but it?s worth trying.

Keep in touch with your fanbase. I don’t mean long, personal emails (‘this week, we have mostly been colouring in our posters. Hope to see you on the 29th!?), but news updates are good. Fan forums are good. Start off small?stick to a venue for a while. Put on regular shows. Maybe even build up a bit of a buzz about the venue, and the product. Don’t give in to the temptation to tour too much just yet. Keep building the buzz. You can put on shows all over the country, but if you’re not putting on a show on a regular basis, you’re not keeping the buzz. Other areas can buy DVD?s for now, because you read my earlier points, and you have cheap, attractive looking DVD?s easily available. Build up the regularity of the shows. Start hyping the next show during this show. Start building up your publicity. Have some good merchandise out there, and start building your brand name up. When you’re making actual profit on your DVD?s, and you’re making a nice profit overall ? then start expanding. But for now? use your imagination on your cards. Don’t start chasing daydreams just yet ? build on solid ground. Then?.THEN?.start chasing your dreams of expansion. ECW started small. Ring of Honor started small. Philly isn’t the only territory out there worth a damn. Don’t go out to them. Bring them to you, either by getting them to travel, or by getting them to buy your cheap, available, attractive looking DVDs, that they can buy from your well maintained website, along with the great merchandise, which they can wear along with a nicely made t-shirt, while watching a decent show in a decent looking venue with decent commentators, with a family friendly show….then you can start expanding. You’re ready for it then.

ITEM TEN

It begins.

MSN:christopherbrosnahan

AIM: chrisbrosnahan

Sites I write for:

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oratory.rajah.com

www.earth-2.net

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Standing At The Edge: Torture By Wrestling

Exactly what sent me on this foolhardy path, I do not know. I do know, however, that it certainly can’t be healthy. It’s probably some latently masochistic desires, and blatant repressed self-hate. Maybe I should have gone and done something healthier, like drinking myself to death, or carving the word ‘spatula’ into my arm. But no. I chose this.

Torture by wrestling.

The idea is quite simple. I have sought out some of the worst wrestling, some of the worst ideas, some of the worst booking that I can find – and then I forced myself to watch them. I’ve had this idea for some time, and I’ve spent a fair amount of money picking up tapes. But, I mean, there really has to be something wrong with me, doesn’t there? I mean, normal people don’t walk into charity shops, and breathlessly give thanks because they found a tape with ‘Sycho Sid vs Diesel in a Lumberjack match’, do they?

Anyway. I forced myself to watch them, and then decided to give you, my faithful readers, my demented rants and raves that were inspired by these. They’re not really going to be a review, and they’re not really going to be a journal. There’s no format for this – primarily because, having watched some of these matches, I am now incapable of doing anything as coherent as a format.

The first part of my journey was actually pretty simple, and gave me a great introduction to my torture. You see, I went down to my local comic shop a while ago. As a quick aside, just over four years ago, I met my fiancee in a comic book shop, so I have a history with them, and with making good decisions. But really, nothing could have beaten this, and in my deranged mission, this easily beat my fiancee*. A WCW PPV Collection, specifically five Pay Per View’s from 1999. Yes, I started with the downfall of WCW. But, it gets even better…you see the five PPV’s that were meant to be in this boxset were : Spring Stampede 1999, Uncensored 1999, Bash at the Beach 1999, Starrcade 1999 and Souled Out 2000. However, whoever had owned this boxset had obviously lost some, and replaced them with others. So, strike out Uncensored, and Starrcade, and replace them with a generic ‘best of Starrcade and Slamboree’ video (unwatched, since ‘best of’ anything has no place in this column), and….the big one.

Slamboree 2000. If the mention of that PPV doesn’t send shivers down your spine, you don’t know what I’m talking about. Don’t worry. You will.

Now, before I get too into this, I’ll point out that WCW PPV’s were an unknown quantity to me, especially this late. I kept up with WCW, but I didn’t have cable, and it was difficult to get to watch WCW – whereas I could watch WWF quite easily. I’ve watched a lot of Nitro in my time, but up until now, I had only read reviews of WCW PPV’s. (I have, however, seen a lot of single matches from PPV’s).

The first tape I slipped into the VCR was chronologically the earliest of the group that I had. Spring Stampede 1999. This proved to be a terrible, terrible mistake. You see…it wasn’t bad at all. Totally against my rules. In fact, overall, it was a decent PPV. There was little overwhelmingly good….but there was plenty of good. There was bad, but nothing overwhelmingly, either. Sure, Scotty Riggs absolutely sucked, and Hak/Bigelow was below average…but they weren’t torture. And a fourway, involving Sting/Flair/Hogan/DDP with Savage refereeing was….totally entertaining. And a tables match with Raven/Saturn and Benoit/Malenko was great fun. I came away from this one with a good feeling.

At this point, I was beginning to worry about my mission. The first tape I’d watched was good. It was the worst possible start. And really, I was upset. I mean, how could I have gone wrong? I mean, if I go into the streets, and scream out ‘1999/2000 WCW’, the majority of people would look at me weirdly. But eventually, I’d find someone willing to cry ‘Sucked!’. It wasn’t like I hadn’t done my research. Hell, I was reading ‘Death of WCW’ at the time. You’d have thought five WCW PPV’s from the time would have been like a visual accompaniment. But no, here I was with good wrestling. Stupid WCW. But it was okay….my faith was rewarded with the next tape I put in.

Bash at the Beach 1999.

When a pay-per-view opens with helicopter shots of a junkyard, you know you’re probably not looking at PPV of the year. When it opens with Earnest ?The Cat? Miller vs. Disco Inferno, you’re definitely not. I mean Disco Inferno dancing was bad enough, but The Cat as well? In a dance-off before their match? Well, somebody spank me, I must be dreaming. This was originally going to have the stipulation that whoever lost wouldn’t be able to dance again (which, as stipulations go, was up there with Three-count?s Record Contract on a ladder), but, as the match was about to begin, the commentators explained that the stipulation had been dropped! Yes, the first thing you got in a PPV was a bait-and-switch, since it had been built up as that. They could have at least gone through with usual WCW style and aplomb, and actually had the match, and then weaselled out of it later. After all, weaselling out of things is what separates us from the animals. Except the weasel. (? Homer Simpson). Still, while this was bad, it wasn’t truly, brain hurtingly, stupid. Nor, astonishingly, was Van Hammer vs. Rick Steiner. Yeah, it was crap, but it wasn’t that crap. West Texas Rednecks vs. No Limit Soldiers? Stupid, stupid angle, but not that awful?.no, what I was after was a combination of stupid and awful.

Something like, for example, taking a hardcore battle royale, sticking it in a junkyard, and filming it through a layer of grime, from a helicopter, while having half your talent get legit injured. If only I could get something like?.WAIT A MOMENT! By Jove! My prayers have been answered!

This match may sound cool ? after all, a real junkyard, full of weapons, and loads of wrestlers hurting each other. It was supposedly created by Hak (formerly The Sandman? I don’t know, maybe Neil Gaiman complained), and the rules were?well not clearly defined. Basically, the first person to get over the fence, and leave, won the match. Simplistic, you may have thought, but unfortunately, nobody appeared to have told any of the wrestlers beforehand, because friggin? nobody tried to win the match. Instead, we just got people wandering from spot to spot, most of them dangerous. It’d have been a good idea, as well, if they’d actually filmed it in such a way that it was watchable. But they didn’t. First of all, with that much space to wander around, and without people knowing exactly where the cameraman is, it pretty much destroys Kayfabe. You can see people calling spots, not knowing what to do, wandering around, no-selling the wrong stuff, so on and so forth. Well, I say you can ?see??you actually can’t. It?s too dark to properly tell what?s going on for most of it. Jimmy Hart turns up at one point, and it takes ages to tell where he is. Although you can still hear that annoying voice. I spent most of this match going ?Regal? Nasty Boys? Does anyone know how to win?? Oh, and the rest of it going ?why are they showing so many shots by helicopter? Didn’t anyone realise that visibility is going to be practically nil??

Eventually, Hak gets put in a car trunk, and the car gets crushed, and then explodes ? or it may have been someone else, I don’t know?.and eventually Fit Finlay saunters slowly to the fence, and climbs over it. Nobody knows what?s going on, so nobody tries to stop him. Yeah, this was awful. I can see how it may have seemed good on paper, but it was just stupid. The only redeeming thing was a great line from Bobby Heenan to Tony Schiavone ? ?Hey Tony, you?ve been to junkyards before, haven’t you?? ?Yes I have, Bobby, have you?? ?No. What the hell were you doing in a junkyard??

Now, in any regular pay-per-view, this would be bad. But, and you have to understand me here, Bash At The Beach 1999 was no regular PPV. Oh, no. You see, there was more to come, but I’m going to go in reverse chronological order on the next two, because?well, while the third one is stupid, it?s not as stupid as the second one, and I don’t want to build you up, then deliver a damp squib (that would be the people who book WCW PPV?s).

The main event that night was a lesson for all of us in how to take a simple match, and overbook the hell out of it with an extra sprinkling of stupidity. You see, the main event was Kevin Nash (yikes!) tagging with Sting (yay!), taking on Sid (double yikes!) and a random homeless old man accompanied by hookers (Hookers, yay! Oh, and the random homeless man could possibly have been Macho Man Randy Savage). Now, while it?s not the kind of main event that immediately cries ?Money! Money now!?, at least it makes some vague amount of sense?well, about as much sense as a main event involving Kevin Nash and Sid can have. But no, an extra stipulation was added to this match. You see, Kevin Nash was the defending World Champion in this match, so if either Sid or Savage pinned him, they could become the new champion. Now, that?s bad, but it still makes sense, right? Yes, that?s right. However, to take things one step further, if Kevin Nash were to be pinned by his tag-team partner Sting, Sting could become Champion as well.

Whu? Eh? What? Yes, you read that right, in a tag team match, Nash could be pinned by his partner, and his partner would become World Champion. I’m not making this up, Michaels Buffer announces it, and the announce team talks about the stipulation ? although in their minor defence, they couldn’t exactly work out how such a thing could happen. No, nobody?s confused either, it?s not actually a four corners match ? it?s a tag team match. It makes NO sense, does it? Seriously, if anybody can make sense of this stupidity, please email me and explain it. While this is going on, I should also point out that Gorgeous George, Savage?s valet, has a black eye, and is hanging out with Kevin Nash. Because Kevin Nash is obviously a gentleman ? just the kind of gentleman to hang around someone that?s been beaten up by their boyfriend, and then prey on them while they’re vulnerable. The match is slightly worse than it sounds, which is impressive when you consider that Nash and Sid are in it?and it ends when Gorgeous George low blows Nash (very?.very?slowly?.and carefully?and tenderly?and slowly. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear she was giving him a handjob. Now, obviously, that I’m suggesting Gorgeous George knows ANYTHING about that kind of thing?), thus proving that George was wise to Nash?s really sick attempt to get her on the rebound, handing Savage the title. Sid doesn’t bother breaking up the count, and the announcers suggest that they’re teaming up. Personally, I prefer to imagine that he was trying to compose a limerick containing the words ?Squirrel? and ?Squeegee?.

?There once was a wrestler named Sid,

Who Pillman thought ran away and hid,

But ?Sycho? returned,

With a Squeegee, he turned,

Squirrel squirrel squirrel squirrel?

Yeah, this sucked, but there was worse. Oh lord, there was worse.

You see, WCW decided to capitalise on the runaway success of ?Judge Mills Lane?. On the (admittedly tiny) off chance that you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, Judge Mills Lane was a boxing referee/personality, primarily famous for being the referee who disqualified Tyson for biting Holyfields ear, and who later got his own Television show. Now, as far as I’m concerned that does not make this guy a household name, but then, I’m not a boxing fan. However, he was also the referee in ?Celebrity Death Match?, which always makes him welcome on my television. Unless, that is, he?s refereeing a ?sports entertainment? boxing match between Buff Bagwell and Roddy Piper. Oh God.

Mills gets both guys into the middle of the ring, and spouts off some incoherent catchphrases ‘ledsgiddidawn?. For about a minute, there?s some regular boxing, or if not actually boxing, something like it, just shittier. Then, at the end of the first round, Ric Flair (Piper?s Second) sprays some kind of illegal substance onto Piper?s gloves. So, during the second round, when Piper hits Bagwell, Bagwell?s eyes bother him! The referee checks Bagwell, while Flair cleans Piper?s gloves! How this didn’t make it into Flair?s autobiography, I don’t know. He could have skipped all the sour grapes, and done a riveting play-by-play of his devious shenanigans in this match instead. Piper uses this as an advantage to hit his now-blinded opponent, and he knocks Bagwell down for the end of round two. Now, as famous a heel as Piper is, I can’t believe what he did next?he attacked Bagwell before the bell! Oh, the Humanity! Luckily, there was a hero.

The legend.

The myth.

The Man. (probably).

Judy Bagwell! Yes, Our Judy saw what was happening, and decided enough was enough. She, bravely, and without a thought for her own safety, leapt into action, and BIT PIPER?S EAR!!! Do you see? Do you? It?s like what Tyson did with Holyfield, since it?s the same ref, and?.do you see? And then?she put a bucket over his head! Yes, because that?s not a tired, played out spot in comedy hardcore matches. The referee, of course, obeying the rules of boxing?.allows this. Flair runs in to try and save it, but gets fought off by Judy Bagwell.

I’ll repeat that. Flair runs in to try and save, but gets fought off by Judy Bagwell. This, incidentally, followed the pre-match bit, in which Flair made clear that while he respected Buff?s mom, he didn’t respect Buff. Meanwhile, Bagwell hits Piper with the Block-Buster, and covers for the pin. In a boxing match. With a legitimate boxing referee. Who counts the pinfall. While Judy Bagwell chases Ric Flair off.

I feel stupider for having recapped that, but not as stupid as I felt while watching it. And I watched it twice, people. I rewound, just to make sure that I hadn’t suffered from temporary insanity, and imagined what I’d seen.

Having seen this, I have only one question. How the fuck did WCW stay in business as long as it did? Hmm, let?s put on ?Souled Out 2000? and find out.

Oh, wait, they stayed in business by having great, bold ideas. Such as?.Booker T and Stevie Ray feuding! The inevitable! And yes, with Big T, the former Ahmed Johnson thrown in for good measure (because he?s?.black. That genuinely seems to have been the thinking). Now, that alone might not have been awful, but the segments building up to them were. You see, Stevie Ray went back to ‘the streets?. He was doing this to get back in touch with his roots, and to show that he?s ?keeping it real?. If you haven’t seen this, imagine someone doing a comedy version of Shelton Benjamin?s promo?s from this time last year. In other words, Stevie Ray in ‘the ghetto?, with a line up of homeless people waiting to shake his hand, and commiserate about how ?Booker don’t come to visit no more, Stevie? ?I know, lifelong friend, he?s forgotten where he?s from?. It?s awesome, because Stevie Ray comes across as being about as ‘thug? as John Cena.

And then?.Oh Gods. And then?.Oklahoma vs Madusa. Now, some people won’t know what this means. If you don’t know, please, for your own sanity, skip the next two paragraphs. You see, while Vince Russo was running WCW, he came up with a plan to make fun of WWE. Instead of targeting, say, Vince McMahon, or HHH, or Stephanie, even?.Our Vinny decided he was going to target Jim Ross. Yes, the overweight announcer with the drawl. Yes, the overweight announcer with a drawl and a cowboy hat. Yes, the overweight announcer with the drawl, a cowboy hat and Bells Palsy. Thankfully, this was after Ed Ferrera (for it was he) had stopped pretending to have Bells Palsy, because it was pointed out how inappropriate it was to make fun of somebody who was working through a disability?.and boy, I wonder if JR ever feels hypocritical supporting Eugene?

Now, having Oklahoma be an announcer/character wasn’t enough. No, he had to get in the ring. For the Cruiserweight title, no less. Against Madusa (formerly Alundra Blayze, for non-WCW fans). Now, I’m going to let you take a wild guess how bad this match is, and no matter what you guessed, you lost ? because it was still worse. It ends up with a couple of other Diva?s (or WCW equivalents) coming down and pouring Barbeque sauce all over ?Oklahoma?. So, yeah, we got some stupid slapstick coming out of a stupid match, coming out of a stupid angle, that was offensive to begin with. Oh, and anyone that wants to bitch about Paul London losing the cruiserweight title to Nunzio? This was worse. This was even worse than Jacqueline beating Chavo. This was the absolute pits.

Great stuff, eh? Other than this, this wasn’t a terrible PPV, although it is notable for a brilliantly stupid decision ? this is the PPV in which they gave Benoit the title, the day he handed his resignation in. They thought the title would bribe him into staying, but he wouldn’t. WCW decided that keeping Kevin Sullivan was more important. Weird, eh? The PPV does have one very bizarre match though, in Dean Malenko?s last match for the company. He was in a Catch-as-catch-can match (first person to touch the floor outside the ring loses), and, in the first two minutes, instinctively rolled out to the floor to regroup. Oops. Poor guy ? they should have continued the match, but they ended it there. By all accounts it was a genuine accident on Malenko?s part as well ? difficult not to feel sorry for him when it happened.

But?now, we get to the highlight of the boxset. SlamBoree 2000. This has something so terrible on it that the cover of the box lies about it. I’ll explain shortly.

But first, I managed to get an extra bonus helping of pain. You see, this PPV was built around the New Blood versus the Millionaires Club, for the most part, with one very notable exception. I was expecting bad, but this was joyously awful. I had no idea it was on here either, because it?s covered on the box as being one of the ?And MUCH MUCH MORE? matches. No, it?s not Shane Douglas vs Ric Flair, as bad a proposition as that sounds (WATCH! Shane Douglas prostitute his values! SEE! Jiggling man-boobs, as Ric Flair has to wrestle in street clothes!), or even Kidman vs Hogan (WATCH! Hulk Hogan trying to be a new Stone Cold! GASP! At the ?FUNB? catchphrase! WONDER! How many years taking a hurracanrana took off him!). No, this is far worse.

The Hardcore Title Division was based around ?Screamin? Norman Smiley, who would have matches while wearing football padding. You see, he screamed if he was going to get hurt?.yeah, anyway. He wasn’t a totally untalented wrestler, but the gimmick was sheer comedy. He was, at this point, feuding with Mad Old Terry Funk, and the match was your typical backstage brawl, more or less. Lots of pointless weapon shots, and entertaining enough. But that?s not what brought the crap. No, what brought the crap was Norman Smiley?s mystery backup, who was helping him beat up Mad Old Terry Funk. Well, I say helping ? I actually mean standing vaguely around, looking lost, wearing full football gear, including helmet. And he’d occasionally throw something useless at Funk, and Funk would return the favour. (If you ever want to see Terry Funk sell shots from cardboard boxes, here is your chance). And then, he eventually gets unmasked?.yes, ladies and Gentlemen, IT?S RALPHUS!!! My mental state was at the point where I was pointing and clapping as soon as I realised. And it gets better, because Ralphus then becomes the focus point of the match! Funk becomes enraged at the virile young Ralphus (well, compared to Funk?..hey, I’m just saying), and, while exchanging pathetic weapon shots with Smiley and Ralphus’rips the majority of Ralphus? clothing off! Yes, not only do we have Ralphus, we have MOSTLY NAKED RALPHUS!! Man, I was geared up for awful, but I was really beginning to think I’d gone too far. Man, I still had the main event to go.

Now, I mentioned how the box cover lied about this main event. The cover has Diamond Dallas Page, and Jeff Jarrett, and, in the background, some large metallic structure. The tagline says:

THREE CAGES. TWO WARRIORS. ONE BELT. Spot the deliberate mistake?

If you have, you already feel my pain. If you don’t ? you will feel it shortly. You see, this wasn’t a one-on-one match, like it sounds. This was a triple threat match, in a triple cage.

FEATURING DEFENDING WCW CHAMPION, DAVID ARQUETTE!

Yes, David Arquette. In a moment of sheer madness, Vince Russo decided to make David Arquette the champion in order to catapult from the guaranteed huge success of the movie ?Ready to Rumble? (HA!). Vince Russo, by the way, still defends this as a move of utter genius, that people just didn’t understand. You see, it got mainstream news coverage ? problem being, whenever you utter the words ?David Arquette?, the mainstream starts mocking. The moment you start talking about wrestling, generally speaking, the mainstream starts mocking. By combining the two, the mocking doesn’t double ? it squares. But Vince Russo still defends it. Probably because it meant that Courtney Cox turned up on Nitro once in a backstage segment (?but you’re not a wrestler, David, you?ve got to retire!?). But I don’t care. Frankly, I want to find out what drugs Vince Russo has been taking, and I want some.

The Triple Cage isn’t, to be honest, the best structure. If you haven’t seen it, imagine a Hell in a cell, with a smaller cell above it, and then a smaller cell above that. The rules are simple. Well, actually they’re not. First, you have to exit the lower cell, using a ladder, in order to go through a cell filled with weapons ? once you exit there, you have to go up, and, for no particular reason, into another cell, filled with guitars. And then, if you get there, you have to stand on top of the top cage, and grab the belt, which is hanging from the ceiling. In other words, it?s a Hell In A Cell On A Clockwork Orange House of Fun On A Pole Ladder Match. Not convoluted at all. Defending Champion, David Arquette spends most of the match hiding from Jeff Jarrett, and immediately scurrying (I like that word) up to the top of the cage. Jeff and Page, on the other hand, have a rather fun brawl up ? I won’t take away from them on this, they busted their asses to try and get this over. Meanwhile, Defending Champion, David Arquette run past them, in order to hold the top safe for Page, while part of the cell (one of the side walls of the middle section) collapses, which I’m pretty sure was meant to happen. There are no huge bumps ? not even the obvious falling from one cell to the next ? but it?s a fun brawl, and it?s a unique visual. Defending Champion, David Arquette stands under the belt, in easy reach, for about five minutes, leading to heart palpitations while people realise that he could easily retain. Russo probably argued for that.

Eventually, Page and Jarrett make their way to the top, and Defending Champion, David Arquette shockingly, shockingly, turns heel on Page, smashing him ineffectively with a guitar. Jarrett then shows him how it?s done with a much better guitar shot, and takes the championship. The commentators hype up what a terrible thing Former Champion, David Arquette has done, as if he was an integral part of the match. Hey, at least he didn’t, like, get pinned or anything. Former Champion David Arquette?s reign remains untainted. Mike Awesome also pulls interference at one point, but it?s not hugely effective. What is cool is that Awesome turns up out of nowhere on the middle cell – but that?s not as important as what happens next.

Kanyon comes in for the save, and attacks Awesome, and Awesome throws him off the second cage, through the entrance ramp, in a HUGE bump. It was kind of lost on the first showing, because the commentators were busy talking about Former Champion David Arquette?s heel turn, but they soon took the solemn tones, as they talked about the huge bump Kanyon took. This was a seriously stupid, and offensive, move. Huge fall, hushed tones, and a worked major injury as a result of a fall. This show took place in the Kemper Arena, the site of Owen Hart?s death just under a year previously. Chances are that quite a few of the audience members were at Over The Edge ?99 as well, so I’m sure they appreciated having old wounds reopened. Personally, I’d have thought that an incident like that would have been traumatic enough, without pulling a stupid stunt like that in the same building.

Oh, the WCW championship changed hands, but that wasn’t discussed by the commentators. Obviously it wasn’t deemed important during this huge relaunch. Man, WCW was dumb at times. I mean, come on. David Arquette?**

But, WCW wasn’t the only company capable of being dumb. WWE had more than its fair share of moments, especially during some of the early/mid ?In Your House? shows. I managed to get a bunch of these from a local charity shop, which I’m beginning to think has mystical powers. I recently moved to York, and one day, in order to keep researching his column, I decide that I’ll have a search through charity shops, and see if anyone has donated any old WWF videos, since they’re difficult to find. First one I go in has three IYH?s. Awesome. I go back in a week later, it has one more ? and the same thing two weeks later. I?ve got quite the little collection now.

Now, I could go through a play by play of Sycho Sid vs Diesel in a lumberjack match. I have the tape, after all. But there?s no point ? it?s as bad as you think, especially since the main point seemed to be building Mabel as a threat, but depressingly, Mabel in 1995 is preferable to Viscera in 2005, in the ring at least. I could point out that the solitary high point comes from watching Shawn Michaels doing a great dive onto the opposing Lumberjacks. But I won’t. It was more dull than genuinely upsettingly bad,

I could riff about Dok Hendrix?s ‘reporting? backstage after Jeff Jarrett and The Roadie seemed to split up ?ANDTHENTHEYCAMEBACKHEREANDJARRETTSHOVEDROADIEANDTHENROADIESHOVEDJEFFAND?..ahuh ahuh ahuh?ANDTHENTHEYWENTINTOTHATROOMBACKTOYOUVINCE?, but it came off the back of that rarest of beasts ? a great Jeff Jarrett match against HBK. And also, the whole concert gimmick actually worked (Jeff Jarrett was supposedly a great country singer, and so lip-synched, pretty well, Road Dogg singing). I will point out that the commentator on the bonus matches (Stan Lane, I believe) manages to destroy the story, by pointing out that there?s a rumour JJ was lip-synching, which was meant to be kept secret. But while that segment was silly, the match itself was fun.

But then, much like Robert Langdon, I found the Holy Grail. I was looking for it, and I knew I’d find it. I thought it was going to be Hunter Hearst Helmsley vs Duke ?The Dumpster? Droese, but that was surprisingly awesome. I thought it was going to be returning Jake ?The Snake? Roberts, but it wasn’t that terrible. Yokozuna and Owen Hart vs British Bulldog and Lex Luger was very sad, realising that three of the four guys are dead, and the other ?.well, let?s not get into the whole Elizabeth situation?but I was never expecting it to be a terrible match, and it was okay. Owen Hart vs HBK was a surprising let down, incidentally ? Owen was there to firmly put Michaels over, so there wasn’t much competition. I thought The Godwinns would be bound to be the holy grail of crap, but no.

And then, I found my saviour. One man, standing tall, willing to complete my mission of finding ultimate crap. The ultimate segment in terrible booking/wrestling/acting, whatever.

I found The Ultimate Warrior, and I was saved. My quest was at an end. It really doesn’t get any worse than this. Hassan/Undertaker? I’ll take it. Dusty Rhodes/Ric Flair in a Kiss My Ass match? I’ll eat it down and say yummy. JBL as champ for another year? Can I have another, please sir?

Because I?ve seen Ultimate Warrior vs Goldust at In Your House: Good Friends, Better Enemies. Because I have done this, I can do anything. Please bear in mind that what you’re about to read is true. Totally. And not only was it true, it was a heavily hyped match on a Pay Per View. People paid money, and they got this. And it was for the prestigious Intercontinental Championship.

The story opens on the Free for All, where Warrior is backstage, making a speech to the camera. I could have sworn he said ?where?s your Turban? and ?Queering don’t make the world work?, but I could easily have been wrong. While he?s giving this speech, Marlena turns up, and blows smoke in Warrior?s face. Warrior is thrown by this, and is about to shout at her, when Goldust turns up, and blows glitter in Warrior?s face. Warrior reacts, by looking intensely at the camera, and making the noise: Blearghearrrrrgggghhhheararghahrheeaardjghgfh!!!!?. Basically, imagine someone doing an impersonation of Taz (the cartoon, not the wrestler), but they, like, really meant it. This noise scares off Goldust enough that he runs away, and, clumsily, manages to slip and hurt his leg.

Yes, this was the story, explaining Goldust having injured his knee. Later on, we come to the match itself. We cut to widescreen, and we get the typical Goldust entrance, as we see him accompanied by Marlena, and some bodyguard that we’d never seen before or since, and we see that, yes, Goldusts knee is bandaged up. Then we cut to Loony-vision, and Warrior himself comes out. Goldust bails. Warrior follows, and Marlena drops her cigar. Warrior picks up the cigar, and starts smoking it, strolling back to ringside. He then takes Marlena?s chair, and sets it up in the middle of the ring, puffing on the cigar. Goldust hovers, not sure whether to get in the ring, and fight, or just wait for Warrior to get lung cancer from the cigar. Warrior decides to add to all of this, and puts Goldusts robe and wig on the chair as well ? then sits down and continues smoking. Match time so far, about five minutes.

Warrior taunts him. Goldust bails again. Warrior does the only thing a good, positive role model can do. He starts a chant of ?Faggot?, or at least, if he doesn’t start it, he heartily sings along (after all, queering don’t make the world work, right, Warrior?). Goldust begins to leave, but then changes his mind, and gets on the microphone, and explains that ?if you don’t shut up?I’m going to come up there and KISS each and every single one of you?. The mere suggestion of man on man tongue-kissing brings out the homophobic rage in Warrior, but he hatches a more subtle plan. Goldust slowly gets back in the ring, but is all flustered, and is hiding behind Marlena.

Match time so far, about eight minutes.

Warrior decides to show Goldust that, actually, he?s his friend. He hands Marlena her cigar back, and holds out Goldusts coat for him to put on. Goldust isn’t totally sure he can trust Warrior, and with good cause! You see, whenever Warrior holds his robe up over his head, so Goldust can’t see his face, he starts making faces at Goldust. Yes, I’m serious. He pulls faces. Either that, or he was breathing, it?s difficult to tell with Warrior. After a couple of minutes, Goldust puts the robe on, and sits in the chair.

We’re now at over ten minutes. Marlena starts primping and preening Goldust, while Warrior smokes the cigar again, pretending to be Goldusts friend. Goldust (who, don’t forget, has been portrayed as a master of mind games up til this point) falls for it completely, and puts out his hand for Warrior to subserviently kiss.

But no fool Warrior! Warrior was only pretending, and instead, he puts out his cigar on Goldusts hand! And then, he clotheslines him out of the ring?..where he gets counted out, at about fifteen minutes. Then, Goldust leaves, and Warrior beats up the random bodyguard for about twenty seconds, stealing his hat. Then, Warrior puts on the hat, and Goldusts wig, and poses on the turnbuckles. Oh, Warrior is still wearing his own manly robe, which he never neded to take off.

That was, in total, about twenty minutes. Twenty minutes of, essentially, Warrior and Goldust doing a silent comedy, and doing it badly. And this was on Pay Per View, for the Intercontinental Championship, and it was a heavily hyped match. I don’t care if Goldust got injured for real earlier that day, THAT was the best B-plan they came up with. Man, I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for that booking meeting.

?Guys, Dustin?s injured, what are we going to do??

?Tell the truth, and have Warrior face someone else??

?No, wait?.I?ve got a better idea. How about mime??

?Brilliant! You’re a genius!?

After that, and, as I said, every word was true?.nothing else really compares. That was me. I was done. After this, I visited a doctor, and I found out that I had done serious damage to my liver, my heart, my arteries, and my sex drive as a result of my binging on bad wrestling.*** As a result, I have been forbidden to ever try this kind of exposure to awful wrestling again.****

Please, kids. Don’t try this at home.

*Not True.

** In the interests of fairness, I actually really like David Arquette. The guy?s obviously a huge fan, and he still turns up to Raw events and PPV?s, unacknowledged in the front row on a semi-regular basis, one time with a sign that said ?former WCW champion?. Also, he argued against being made champion, but agreed to do it when the bookers made clear what a good idea they thought it was, so he actually did it against his own judgement. And, finally, he did get a fairly handsome fee for doing all of this ? one that was split between Darren Drozdov, and the families of Owen Hart and Brian Pillman. So, while I?ve been making fun, I actually like the guy.

***Actually, that was Supersize Me.

**** Unless I get more tapes.

MSN:christopherbrosnahan

AIM: chrisbrosnahan

Sites I write for:

www.thewrestlingchannel.tv

oratory.rajah.com

www.earth-2.net

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Standing At The Edge: Hogan Always Knows Best

**I will note before I go any further into this topic, that I am aware how much I sound like Shane Douglas.**

You’re cheering him?

Seriously, you’re cheering him?

At Wrestlemania XXI, the fans did possibly the most self-destructive thing they could have done. They cheered, loudly, an angle that was made in order to give them one more nostalgic pop. And it really, really, is a bad idea.

We came back to Ringside, as the music hit, and Eugene (and I hope you know my feelings about him?here?s a clue, they haven’t changed since my ?open letter?) walked to the ring, waving at the crowd, and talking about how great it was to be at Wrestlemania. Cue Mohammad Hussan coming down to the ring, with Davari. On some level, incidentally, I vaguely wish that they revealed that Hussan and Davari were gay, just so they could have had three people actually totally rounding out the most offensive segment in history. Just imagine it. In one fell swoop, WWE could have been offensive to the disabled, racist, and homophobic, all at once. Anyway, Hussan went back to promo-ing, about how he should have been allowed to be at Wrestlemania, and so on and so on. And then, presumably having been in his ring gear, and waiting for just such an opportunity to occur, HE came down to the ringside. Hollywood Hulk Hogan.

And oh, how you all cheered.

Now, you may very well be wondering what?s wrong with that. And it?s a justifiable question. After all, Hogan has been hugely popular in his time, and hey, if you’re going to use Mohammad Hussan like they’re using him, you may as well get the comedic patriotic cheap pop out of the way. Plus, of course, Hogan was being inducted in the Hall of Fame that weekend, and, after all, it could have been a whole lot worse.

Unfortunately, when it comes to Hulk Hogan, I start to feel more and more like Kevin McCarthy, running down a highway, screaming at all the oncoming cars that ?you’re next, you’re next?. When it comes to Hulk Hogan, I watch a segment, or a match, or anything, and yeah, I think ?it could have been a whole lot worse?. Because it really, really could. When Hogan is in the mood to, he can destroy wrestlers, and help to destroy companies. And it dawns on me that there are people watching wrestling now, who weren’t around when he did. And so, McCarthy style, here?s your warning.

There have been politicians in wrestling from the very beginning of television. More recently, there have been allegations levelled towards Ric Flair, HHH, Steve Austin, HHH, Shawn Michaels, HHH, Jeff Jarrett, and even some allegations of politics levelled towards HHH. However, as bad as they were, at the end of the day, they usually did what was good for business. (Shawn jobbed to Austin on his way out, HHH rediscovered a joy of jobbing clean occasionally, Ric Flair often killed himself to put people over, and even Jarrett makes a habit of selling, even if he does have an allergic reaction to staying on his back). Hogan, however?..he?s just on another level.

In the eighties, it didn’t really matter. Not really. Hogan was so huge, and so over, that he really was carrying the WWF on his huge shoulders. Yes, Ted Dibiase, Randy Savage, and Jake Roberts were certainly carrying their fair share?.but Hogan was the man. Hogan was selling out everywhere he went, and Hogan was who the fans wanted to see. If he hadn’t been there, the WWF would still have been successful?but it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as big. As great as Savage/Steamboat at Wrestlemania III was, they weren’t the reason the fans were there. The fans were there to see Hogan take on Andre the Giant, and they had an enormous gate and an enormous buy-rate as a result. Hogan made money. Everybody made money. However, with any main eventer, there is a shelf life, and eventually, you have to put someone else in the position, otherwise everything will go horribly stale. (For a textbook example, look at the history of British Wrestling, and Big Daddy). So, eventually, you have to pass the torch, and that?s where Hogan?s problems begin.

Let’s look back at Hogan’s most opportune moment to pass the torch, Wrestlemania VI. The main event was a rarity at the time, a face vs. face match (actually, come to think about it, it’s a rarity now as well), between the WWF Champion, Hulk Hogan, and the Intercontinental Champion at the time, The Ultimate Warrior. This was at the time when the Intercontinental Champion was the number one contender for the World title, rather than the ‘most typical mid-carder’ which it became later.

Hogan not only got pinned in this match, but he got pinned clean. This was the biggest shock of the time – even more of a shock than the fact that Hogan and Warrior had a good match. After Hogan missed a leg-drop, Warrior hit the splash, and pinned him clean in the centre of the ring. Now, as charitable an act as that was, Hogan didn’t want to lose the spotlight, and instead, pulled out two small tricks, in order to keep the limelight on him. The first was that he kicked out at four. Rather than being pinned strongly, the idea was that if the referee had been just – one – second later, Hogan would have kicked out. Secondly, Hogan then went and took the belt from the timekeeper, and – after the appropriate teasing that he would waffle Warrior with it, and turn heel – presented the belt to Warrior, shaking his hand. It was a deliberate attempt to shift the spotlight back to him, and it worked perfectly. The cameras were on Hogan leaving the ring, rather than Warrior celebrating inside it.

Hogan admitted in his ‘auto’biography that this was a deliberate action, with the intent of taking the limelight from Warrior. Now, it can obviously be debated as to whether or not Warrior was the person to carry the company into the new era – let’s face it, his nut-job like ways nowadays don’t exactly encourage people to don rose-tinted spectacles – this was undoubtedly an action by Hogan that benefited himself, as opposed to the company. Bear in mind, this wasn’t what he was booked to do. As he did so many times, he went into business for himself.

After this, he went into self imposed exile for a while (something of a habit of Hogan’s – I’ll go into this a little more in a bit), for two reasons. The first was to see if Warrior could handle the load of being WWF champion (he couldn’t), and the second was so that when the ratings took their usual post-Wrestlemania dip, he could return when they were going back up, and claim to be the reason behind it. Also, he went off to film ‘Suburban Commando’, which is just another reason to hate him.

Now, after this, he came back to another feud, one which was remarkably similar to his current feud. The idea was pitched to Vince McMahon to turn super-patriot Sergeant Slaughter heel on the United States, joining forces with Saddam Hussein in order to destroy Hulkamania. Literally. Yes, I’m serious; the thrust of this feud was that Saddam Hussein wanted Hulkamania dead. And this was the main event at Wrestlemania that year, so no complaining about Batista’s ability to carry main event feuds, okay? The feud was as bad, if not worse than it sounds, incidentally.

Now, during these times, people were certainly held down by Hogan – Hi’s go out to Ted Dibiase, Curt Hennig, and Randy Savage, especially – but that was as much by McMahon’s design, and by business sense at the time. Let’s face it, Steve Austin wasn’t exactly putting over all and sundry in 1998. Hogan was the business at the time, so it made sense for him to be centre of feuds and storylines at the time.

It didn’t make sense a year later. The landscape of wrestling was beginning to change, with the steroid scandal taking place, and with The Nature Boy, Ric Flair debuting on WWF Television, and winning the world title, in a tour de force at the Royal Rumble that year. Instead of feuding with Hulk Hogan at Wrestlemania that year, he was defending the title against the Macho Man Randy Savage. Meanwhile, Hulk Hogan was feuding with Sid Justice (nee Vicious, Psycho, and Fragile Crazy Squeegee Squirrel Man), because Sid Justice had done the unthinkable. At the Royal Rumble, where every man is for himself, he dared to eliminate Hulk Hogan, rather than help Hulk Hogan win. Yep, that was the reason for the heel turn. In fact, after he’d been eliminated by the turncoat, Hogan managed to redeem the morals of America by attacking Sid, and helping Ric Flair eliminate him. However, I’m getting sidetracked by the bizarre alignment of heel and face in the kick off for that feud. To get fleetingly back to the point, Hogan made a huge deal over the fact that he was retiring. This was, at the time, due to the pressing steroid scandal, and also due to the fact that, riding the back of Schwarzaneggar’s popularity, and the surprise success of the movie ‘Twins’. Hogan was moving into the realm of comedy films, and was going to take over Hollywood with Mr.Nanny. As a result, the scheduled main event of Ric Flair vs. Randy Savage got shunted back, and Hogan, once again, took the limelight, taking his curtain call at Wrestlemania VIII, in one half of the first ever Double Main Event (and boy, was it pushed hard at the time that it was a Double Main Event), rather than letting Flair and Savage (who had a great match) have the limelight.

Hogan then retired forever.

Of course, in the build up for Wrestlemania IX, when the ratings traditionally went up, Hogan came out of retirement in order to team with his old friend Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake, in the midcard of the show. Meanwhile, Bret ‘The Hitman’ Hart, the defending champion took on Yokozuna in the main event. So, for the first time, Hogan wasn’t in the main event of a show of this size, while he was on the roster (he’d sat out Summerslam 92). What happened next, looking back, beggars belief.

Hart dropped the title to Yokozuna, following as good a match as the late bohemoth ever really had, and also following a handful of salt in the eyes (while Macho Man – on commentary – made various mutterings about Pearl Harbour). While Yokozuna and his manager, Mr Fuji celebrated in the ring, down came Hulk Hogan. He didn’t come down to challenge the new champion, oh no. He came down to check on the fallen Hart, because the two of them had been revealed to be life long friends recently. Actually, no they hadn’t. They’d had no relation to each other whatsoever in the storylines previously. It would have made as much sense had The Undertaker come out (chlorofolm rag intact) to check on Hart. In other words, none. Meanwhile, Mr Fuji, drunk on either Sake, or power, proceeded to challenge Hogan to a match there and then. Hogan, reluctantly (HA!), and with Hart’s blessing (‘go for it, brother’ probably said through the most gritted teeth since Galileo said ‘yeah, sure, the earth’s flat, now can you please stop torturing me?’), accepted the impromptu match, and beat Yokozuna in twenty three seconds.

Following this, and on his way out of the company again (and this time for good), Hogan was asked to put Hart over, in order to pass the torch. Hogan point blank refused. Hart, you see, wasn’t big enough, or credible enough, despite having been the world champion since just before Survivor Series the year previous. Yokozuna, however – the guy he’d just squashed in twenty three seconds flat, and who wasn’t able to beat Hart cleanly ? was credible enough. Of course, it couldn’t be clean. Instead, Hogan was set up to beat Yokozuna (who had kicked out of Hogan?s Legdrop, but was spending his time lying on his back, waving his limbs on the air, kind of like if you turned a tortoise upside down), when a photographer leaped to the apron, and his camera exploded in Hogan?s face. Unlike they made out in the magazine (which is where I got my results from, because I didn’t have the means to watch it at the time ? I watched it about two months later), and on the weekly shows, it wasn’t a case of it happening accidentally. It was, of course, a Japanese photographer, joining forces with Yoko, in order to destroy Hulkamania once and for all. I can’t remember if Savage went on about Pearl Harbour or not, but he probably did. I do seem to remember him relishing saying that Hulkamania was dead. Hogan then, finally, left. Hart didn’t get back in the main event until the following Wrestlemania.

So, what was Hogan?s reason for doing all this? ?Boy, I just stole me a couple more big paydays?. Yeah, he bragged about it in his autobiography. He could, and, at the time, should have put Bret Hart over, but instead, he damaged the main event scene, and the following year was generally horrible. Vince was so desperate to keep Yokozuna?s ‘rub? from Hogan going, that he turned Yoko into a monster champion.

Hogan, on the other hand, went over to WCW, where he continued his politics. He made huge, HUGE, money. This was due to WCW bosses (Turner and Bischoff in particular), who were convinced that Hogan was the Holy Grail, and, true to form, Hogan drew at first, and drew big. Admittedly, Ric Flair, and Randy Savage were getting screwed over at every turn?..but Hogan was drawing. That was all that was important. Yes, Hogan was pulling his usual ?get out during ratings dips, and miraculously return, say, just after football season, and claim he brought the crowds with him? trick. And then, just when he’d got so stale he couldn’t justify being in the main event again, he turned heel, and rejuvenated his career.

And fair play to him for it.

I mean the n.W.o was legitimately a huge success. And, it built up to the biggest match, with the most hype going into it since Hogan took on Andre. Because while the n.W.o had been huge, it had been systematically destroying all the babyfaces. Luger, Savage, Flair, everybody.

Except Sting.

Sting, who ? for the previous year ? had spent his time in the rafters, watching silently, except to occasionally abseil down, and destroy everyone in his path with a baseball bat. Sting, who had changed from colourful babyface to dark avenger. Sting, who was the last hope of WCW, and the only person who could possibly beat Hogan, and reclaim the WCW title for the company. If ever there was a time for Hogan to pass the torch?.if ever there was a time for Hogan to do what was right for business?.this was it. And did he? Of course he didn’t.

See, shortly beforehand, Bret Hart had left the WWF under somewhat acrimonious circumstances. At Survivor Series 97, he had been screwed by Vince McMahon, and although at the time we didn’t know the details of what happened backstage, we knew that Bret had been in the sharpshooter and, at Mr McMahon?s order, the referee said that he quit. Bret had, in the meantime, signed a contract with WCW, and turned up there shortly afterwards. So, WCW had to write this in somewhere, whether just as a dig at Vince, or because it seemed like a good way to turn Hart face. The idea was this: The referee, Nick Patrick, would deliver a fast count on Sting. Bret, who had been a referee earlier in the night, would come out, and restart the match, claiming that ‘this bullshit wouldn’t happen twice?. Sting then, full of righteous anger, would make Hogan submit, and all would once again be right with the world. A little more convoluted than what was needed (Sting to?well?kick Hogan?s ass around the arena from start to finish), but certainly wouldn’t disappoint the fans.

Unfortunately, Hogan had other ideas. He spoke with Patrick beforehand, and, after the usual amount of heel offence, went for the ?fast? pin. The ?fast? pin was?well?slow. It was a regular three count, in fact, if anything, verging on slow. The fans watched the returning face’the last black and white hope?fail. Miserably. He went in, and he got jobbed out. Sure, Bret came out and restarted the match?..but what did it matter? Hogan beat him. Everyone saw him. Sting never got that big again, and that was the beginning of the end for WCW.

Eventually, Hogan?s politicking backfired on him, when he offered to put Goldberg over clean in a non-televised, non-title match. Raw had been winning the ratings war, so the decision was made to make it televised, and for the title. In a damn good moment, Goldberg lifted the WCW title, and, to everybody?s shock, Hogan then left for a while. He had his own reasons for leaving ? primarily that Jesse Ventura had made a successful bid for Governor of Minnesota. As a long-time rival of Hogan?s, that had to be eating him up. So, Hogan went on the tonight show, and revealed he was running for President. And, terrifyingly, he was serious ? although not for long. He gave up pretty quickly, after being unable to answer harsh questions like ?So, are you republican, or democrat? (?err?.I’m somewhere inbetween?). However, with Hulk back in the news, the nostalgia beat was coming back pretty strong. Goldberg was going strong back in WCW, chasing Kevin Nash, who had scored a cheap win over him. What could possibly go wrong?

How about a storyline where Goldberg was arrested and Kevin Nash threw the match, with Hogan beating him with the ?Fingerpoke of Doom?, thus destroying any credibility the title had? Yeah, that’d do it. Oh, and re-forming the New World Order, just for good measure. Long, long after anyone had continued caring. Yeah, that’d do it. Hogan was so in Bischoff?s (and Nash?s) ear, that he managed to convince somebody, somewhere, that this was a good idea.

WCW, by this point, was in free fall. Nobody was able to crack the main event, and even though the company was dying, Hogan kept getting pushes. Kept getting the main event shots. Now, the blame obviously falls onto Bischoff for allowing it, but it has to fall on Hogan as well. At any time, he could have done the smart thing for business. Or at least, for anyone else?s business.

Eventually, Vince Russo came in, and re-launched the company. And then, when it sucked, he re-launched it again (Never one to stick by his idea?s, our Vince). Now, during one of these re-launches, he finally stumbled on the idea that fans had been screaming for, for quite some time. Take advantage of the younger guys, the young blood, and pit them against the good ole boys. Pit the new against the old, the young against the veterans, and make it all about the future of the company. Use real rivalries, and build it up big. And, obviously, make it clear that the New Blood were the faces.

It was all going so well until that last point. Of course, the veterans complained about it, and nobody more than Hogan. Hogan, who ? by this point ? had complete creative control. He was due to feud with Billy Kidman (who was, once upon a time, really, really over. Honest! He had fans, and everything), and Hogan hated it. He went on interview after interview, before, and after, drumming into anybody that would listen that Billy Kidman was too small, and couldn’t draw in a fleamarket. Then, just to rub it in, he beat the living crap out of him in every one of their matches. Even the ones where Kidman could have won cheaply. Hogan didn’t give him a thing.

And it doesn’t stop there. After that, Hogan was asked to job to Jeff Jarrett, in one of the last ditch attempts to make the title look good. Of course, that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, Hogan proposed that he beat Jarrett clean, walk out with the title, and, once they held a tournament to crown a new champion, Hogan could come back and beat them clean as well, to restore the title to its former glory. Seriously. Russo, in a rare showing of intelligence at this time, decided there was no way this was happening. Instead, at Bash at the Beach, after Hogan took the belt and walked off, Russo came out, and very publicly fired Hogan. Now, how much of this was shoot or work, or started as shoot or work will probably be debated until we can get both sides of the story, and have them vaguely agree. But, lawsuits later, we still don’t know. All we know is that Hogan was gone. And WCW, months later, was dead. Hogan had destroyed the credibility of the belt, and the challengers for the belt, once too often.

Eventually, Hogan, along with Hall, and Nash, returned to WWE, and, at first appeared to be changed men, Hogan especially. Maybe Russo had humbled him somewhat? When it came to Wrestlemania, we found out. Had he hell. Hogan was back playing the heel again, and was up against the mega-face Rock. Admittedly, The Rock was beginning to get a bit stale by this point, and the crowd was itching to cheer for Hogan?.but the lines were clearly laid out. This was Icon vs. Icon, and it was Hogan passing the torch to The Rock. That was the whole point of the match. Afterwards, the plan was to turn Hogan face. So, all Hogan had to do was play the heel for the match itself. Which, of course, he couldn’t do.

Instead, from the beginning of his entrance, Hogan was playing the nostalgia card full force. And, for anyone who says it was accidental, I’ll point you to his barbed wire cage match with Ric Flair, where both of them deliberately played up the nostalgia angle. They both knew what they were doing, and at Wrestlemania, Hogan knew exactly what he was doing. During that entire match, he played the face, leaving Rock no option but to play the heel. Yes, the crowd wanted to cheer Hogan anyway?.but Hogan encouraged it from the second he went out. And at the end of the night, people weren’t talking about Rock beating Hogan. They were talking about Hogan. Again. It was like Wrestlemania VII all over again.

Of course, Hogan STILL wasn’t done with his games. After a nostalgia based title run, he famously put over Brock Lesnar, jobbing clean, having been busted open, and passing out in a bearhug. Hogan, however, saw it as just the first part of the story ? the second part being Hogan returning, and kicking Brock?s ass. When it became clear this wasn’t happening, he went on another sabbatical, this time returning as Mr. America, and helping destroy the build-up of Sean O?Haire?s character in an interminable feud, where ? once again ? the heels were made to look like they couldn’t hang. Whether your thoughts on Sean O?Haire were good or bad, it cannot be denied that, before his debut, he was hugely over. His character was unique, and his look was great. But they hotshotted him into a feud with Hogan, and his character was just killed off. And this time? Hogan wasn’t even trying.

Let?s not forget, also, his brief foray to TNA and Japan ? all done in order to get McMahon to book him for Wrestlemania XX. He was never going to go through with TNA dates ? what did he have to gain? Nothing, he just wanted to make himself look like a hot commodity, and, at the time, it succeeded. And, when it came time for him to pay TNA back, and do just ONE match with Jeff Jarrett?..Hogan suddenly came down with a knee injury. What fortunate timing.

This is what Hogan does. This is what Hogan has been doing now for fifteen years. Fifteen years ago, he screwed over Warrior at WMVI. And now, at Backlash, he?s back in the ring AGAIN. And you’re all cheering. He?s not only back in the ring, he?s back in the ring against an ethnic minority who wants to destroy Hulkamania. Meanwhile, there is the possibility that Shawn Michaels could turn heel on Hogan (perhaps for leaving Shawn hanging over the ropes by a headscarf, while posing in the aisle, rather than…you know…fucking RUNNING IN AND HELPING), leading to a short program between them. Hell, I’m not going to deny it could be interesting. Hogan, in small doses, can be effective. He certainly knows how to play people?s emotions, and he certainly understands the effectiveness of nostalgia.

But then, maybe I’m being overly critical. I mean, it?s perfectly possible that Hogan was genuinely touched by the response at the Hall of Fame ceremony, and, in an attempt to work with someone he hasn’t worked with before, he could do some interesting stuff with Shawn Michaels, and, of course, help the storyline with Hussain and Daivari get over, and who knows, maybe even put them over. It could all be that this is all genuine, and it?s actually all very emotional, and it?s actually Hogan giving back to the wrestling fans.

Or, it could all be Hogan getting publicity for ?Hulkster Knows Best?, a new reality TV show, starting on VH1 this summer. It could all be Hogan manipulating the nostalgia run YET again. It could be Hogan manipulating the fans. Again. Because at the end of the day, Hogan is, and has always been in business for one person. Hollywood Hulk Hogan.

Which do you think my money?s on?

————————————————————————

MSN:christopherbrosnahan

AIM: chrisbrosnahan

Sites I write for:

www.thewrestlingchannel.tv

oratory.rajah.com

www.earth-2.net (Honestly, I do have stuff coming up for it….)

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Standing At The Edge: Breaking (into) Kayfabe

When you’ve been watching wrestling for fifteen years, you learn a lot about it. There’s no way you can’t. From that first point where you spot that Bret Hart stomped his foot on the mat when he punched somebody, you began to realise that there were tricks at play. You find out some of these tricks from magazines, such as PowerSlam, or Pro Wrestling Illustrated. You may find out some of them from more eagle eyed friends, who have spotted that wrestlers usually bring up their hands to their face before they bleed, which would suggest they cut themselves. You believe that people know how to fall, perhaps. You discover the internet, and that there are more websites out there than wwe.com. You discover forums and column sites, and you learn more than you ever thought you would be able to. You learn about kayfabe, and you learn about politics, and what some wrestlers are actually like. However, you are aware that there is still an awful lot you don’t know. You are aware that you don’t actually know what it’s like to be part of it.

What would it be like if you did? What would it be like to be backstage during a show? What would it be like to suddenly go from being an e-journalist who writes about wrestling, and tries to unearth what lies behind Kayfabe, to being part of the show, and learning what it’s actually like to be part of Kayfabe? What would it be like to become part of the magic act when you’ve spent so long being the guy who tries to break down and analyse the tricks?

It’s different than you might imagine. You see, I’ve found out what it’s like. I’ve gone behind the curtain, I’ve ordered the cards, I’ve stitched the handkerchiefs into the sleeves, and I’ve put the rabbits in the hats.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s go back a bit, and I’ll explain.

Star Search

About two months ago, I was one of the people who applied to FWA Star Search. For those new to anything outside of WWE, the Frontier Wrestling Alliance is the largest wrestling company in the UK. Star Search is essentially their non-wrestling auditions. Referees, commentators, ring-announcers, scriptwriters, managers, tea-boys….that kind of thing. The auditions were a strange day. Not for the auditions themselves ? I?ve done auditions before, and I have a rough idea what to do, how to carry myself, and so on. It was strange for another reason.

I haven’t been in a roomful of people who love wrestling before. Well, I?ve been in crowds for a show before, but I?ve never been in a roomful of people who are waiting around for a couple of hours, having a drink, and talking about wrestling. It?s a very strange experience. It?s a strange experience saying ?You know Ring of Honour?? and hearing the answer ?Yes? when you’re talking to a complete stranger. Usually, it?s more along the lines of ?You know Ring of Honor?? ?Know what?? ?Ring of Honor, it?s a wrestling company.? ?You watch wrestling?? ?Yes.? ?You know it?s fake, right?? It?s an even stranger experience talking to people about Steve Corino?s forehead, the reasons that Jerry Lawler was better seven years ago, the fact that Paul Heyman is a genius, and that Sean O?Haire was criminally underrated. I may have been on my own on the last one.

Going into the audition itself was strange as well. I?ve met wrestlers before?well, no I haven’t. I?ve seen wrestlers before, and I may have even gotten stuff signed. At the most, I may have managed to tell Mick Foley how much I was enjoying the fifty pages of ?Tietam Brown? that I had managed to read while standing in a queue that stretched round the block. I haven’t managed to actually get something of a two way conversation going with someone who is actually a real person behind the character you see, so that was a new experience. I had a brief chat with the FWA management (about whom I won’t name names, but I will say that I recognised them. If you want to find out who runs the show, it?s not rocket science. You’ll find out.), and we worked out a few things for me to try out for later. I went out, prepared, chatted some more to people, and went back inside.

I tried out as a commentator, a ring announcer, and a scriptwriter. This meant I got a while to commentate along with one of the regular commentators. It?s not really something you can prepare for, I have to admit. It?s hard work, and it?s something you have to have a natural talent for. I certainly gained a new respect for that aspect of the business, even during just a short try out ? on the level of just describing what?s going on, and talking about it, it?s easy. Being coherent and even vaguely interesting is a lot more difficult. It?s even more difficult trying not to turn into Joey Styles. You really do want to say ?OH MY GOD!!!? for every big move. Announcing I found a little easier, primarily because I?ve had some voice training in my time. Scriptwriting was fun ? I was asked to pitch some ideas, which meant I essentially did some fantasy booking, and got some professional feedback on it. It?s a lot of fun.

Some quick advice about auditions, especially for this kind of thing:

A ? You’re going to feel stupid. No two ways about it. They’re relaxed, you’re not. It?s human nature. Ignore it. Just go straight ahead. You’re never going to sound worse than Gene Snitsky, after all.

B ? Do some preparation. Not total preparation, because you want to sound natural. But at the same time, know what you’re doing when you walk in the door.

C ? It really helps if you?ve previously said very nice things about one of the people in the room in an earlier column, and they happen to have remembered it.

That last one was a complete coincidence. It was something I wrote well before finding out about the audition, but it turned out that the person in question just happened to have read it recently. So there you go, kids. Write nice things about people whenever you get the chance, because it might just prove to be a good ice-breaker during an audition. That said, let?s just hope I never run into Gene Snitsky within three days of him reading this column. He?s a big guy.

It turned out that I made a good enough impression that I was asked to come to the following nights show (Goldrush), and do some running backstage, to my surprise. Was I free to do it? Well, of course I was.

Running at GoldRush

What exactly is running, you may ask? Good question. If you’re a runner, you’re essentially invisible to the audience. You don’t detract from what?s going on in the ring, and you are basically a ?gopher? backstage (as in ?go for this, go for that?). You help out, you take tickets at the door, you keep the area clear if a segment is being filmed, you make sure that people are aware of what they’re needed to do. You pass on messages to the ring announcer, and vice versa (those poor people spend the majority of the show in one place, remember. If you’re in the audience, you’re able to go to the toilet, or the bar. If you’re the ring announcer, or timekeeper? You can’t, and nor can you wander backstage). And if you’re lucky, you may even get to help a ?just taken a chairshot to the head? wrestler backstage. You help things go smoothly, basically.

When you look at a show like WWE, it?s obvious that there?s an awful lot of backstage work goes on ? just the sheer amount of equipment shows that. I?ve worked backstage at concert venues, and when you see that much equipment, you know it?s taken a long time to sort out. For smaller companies, there?s still an awful lot of work goes on. Even just putting up a ring and lighting rig involves a lot of work. And when it?s your first time being around everything, everything is fascinating. It?s also slightly surreal. After fifteen years watching wrestling, and constantly being an audience member, suddenly being on the other side of the curtain is odd in itself. The first time you Kayfabe somebody is strange. Holding two wrestlers apart. And all of a sudden, you’re part of it. You’re not analysing it, you’re not looking for the holes, you’re not being critical. You’re part of it. All of a sudden, you’re the guy fooling the audience. Except you’re not. Here?s a little tip ? when you see someone looking like they’re struggling to hold somebody back? They actually are. You have to put effort in. Simple as that. But my point remains the same. You’re part of it.

I’m not going to go into any details of what happened during the show, or any details of my thoughts of people. Put simply, it’s not my place to do that. I’m hoping to be working with these people for a long time to come, so I will only say this: The people I was working with and for that night were all professional, and it was a fun, if hardworking night, with some very good wrestling – it was a very hot show. I could tell stories about things that happened backstage, but out of respect for the wrestlers, I’m not going to do that. The only thing I will tell is more of a surreal moment that I had.

I’d gotten to the arena early(ish), and as I was making my way backstage, I walked into Doug Williams. Very nearly literally as well. Now, any indy fan on the net will tell you, this guy is an awesome wrestler, and is developing one hell of a reputation for himself worldwide. So I may have been (understandably) a little bit nervous. He asks me if he can help me at all? ‘Erm…yeah, I’m looking for..erm…(insert contacts name here)…I’m kinda helping out backstage tonight…’ Now, normally I pride myself on being, you know…charming, witty, and able to cope socially in all circumstances. However, it then dawned on me that I looked, for all the world, like somebody trying to blag their way backstage. And sounded like one as well. Doug, for his part, was being very helpful, polite and friendly. However, by this point, I?ve convinced myself that he thinks I’m a blagger, so I’m babbling even worse. Luckily, my contact then turned up, saving me from continuing to dig my own grave. Until the event started properly, I didn’t see Doug again, except while I was outside, talking to some of the people running the stall, when Doug walks past, glances my way, glances my way and walks on – while I continue to convince myself he thought I was a blagger. Probably not my best moment. But the rest of the night was good, and was a lot of fun, and was very educational.

And just like that, I’d gone from poacher to groundskeeper. It had been made clear that I was wanted back, on some level or another, and that this wasn’t a one off. Now, I thought that it would be months before I got a chance at anything more than just learning the metaphorical ropes, and helping out here and there, and to be honest, I would have enjoyed that a lot. But I figured that, for at least six months, that would be it.

Boy, was I wrong.

‘This next match….is for ONE FALL

I got an email about two weeks after GoldRush, asking me if I would be interested in travelling up to Stockport (North West of England) in order to have a go at ring announcing. It would be for a small show done by the Manchester training academy (Futureshock Wrestling), and as a result, there wouldn’t be any pressure.

Was I up for it? Do you even have to ask? Hey, if it went badly, it went badly, at least I’d have tried, and it’d only be in front of a small crowd, who wouldn’t remember afterwards. If it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. That was the way I figured it. So, with my fianc?e by my side, I made my way to Stockport the evening of the show. Finding the place wasn’t difficult, primarily because I spent part of my childhood in the Stockport area ? not that far away from the venue, actually, which just added another level of surrealism to the whole thing.

I was at the venue a good while before the start of the show, and got talking to some of the wrestlers before the show. There were, naturally, a lot of nerves in the room, but that?s to be expected. Hell, some of them were provided by me. I got talking to one of the female wrestlers, who was nervous for a different reason. Her work had arranged (as a mild PR piece) for the local paper to take a couple of pictures, and have a small story about her?.you know the kind of thing. Mild mannered saleswoman by day, wrestler by evening. Now, she did this, and was expecting a small piece somewhere near the back ? however, the piece that came out was a feature story on page three, and was quite a large piece. She was nervous in case the trainers and managers thought she was trying to get above her station, and she didn’t want to give that impression. Personally, I didn’t think she gave that impression, and also I thought she acquitted herself admirably throughout the night.

I was given the microphone in order to do some sound-tests, which is something I generally don’t enjoy doing. I never know what to say. For some reason, I hate saying ?One-two, One-two? any more than?well, once. I just feel like I’m being unoriginal after that, so I usually just end up rambling about the fact that I can’t ad-lib. I did get to do the full on ?Ladies and Gentlemen?.Welcome?To FUTURESHOCK WRESTLING?. Cue feedback. And some more feedback, and so on, and so forth, until it was sorted out.

We went though the order of the matches, and people?s hometowns, and nicknames, and such like, and it was explained to me what I was doing throughout the night, and I was warned that I might have a raffle to deal with at some point (this becomes important later). And then?.I was on. I went out through the curtain, for the first time, in front of a crowd. No, I didn’t slap anybody?s hands?.I may learn to do that in future. I took the microphone, and began.

I think I did pretty well, and I enjoyed doing it. The wrestling was good, and I had the best seat in the house (I was also the timekeeper for the show). In all honesty, the wrestling was better than I was expecting. I was surprised, because it was a damn good night. I’m aware that sounds kind of insulting, saying I was surprised that it was good, but that was because I had no idea what to expect. I knew it was a training academy show, mixed in with some UK veterans (Alex Shane, Paul Travell, Spud, etc), but I had no idea what standard the new guys would be at, and if I’m honest, I wasn’t expecting much, but actually, I was blown away. It ended up being a good show, and one that I really enjoyed ? and would have enjoyed had I been in the crowd.

At the end of the first part of the show, I even became a part of the story, in a minor way. Greg ?The Truth? Lambert (a heel manager) came out with his team for a ten man tag, and cut a promo. Now, the important thing to note about Greg at this show is that for the previous shows in that venue, Greg was the ring announcer. So, while he?s promo?ing about Paul Travell, primarily (who he?s been feuding with in FWA), there are some insults thrown in my direction as well. ?Poxy Ring Announcer? was mentioned, prompting the crowd to chant ?You Got Fired? at him. So when he had a rant about Mr Pointy (Paul?s pet barbed wire baseball bat), and followed that with ?Beat that, four-eyes?, while handing the microphone back to me?.I saw my chance for a little payback. So, while announcing the face team, I may have put on an extra bit of relish to the announcing. And I may have announced Paul Travell as being accompanied by Mr Pointy, which may have gotten Greg screaming in my face, until the faces came out. I’m not going to pretend I was a big part of it, but the crowd were into it, and I like to think it helped the atmosphere. Either way, it was a hell of a lot of fun to be part of, not to mention unexpected.

During the interval, I checked, and made sure that there wasn’t a raffle, and I confirmed the rest of the details for the second half. Eventually, we came up to the main event of the evening, which ? for me ? ended up being a little bit weird. I got to do one of the lines I?ve always wanted to do (?Ladies and gentlemen’this match?is the MAIN EVENT of the evening?)?only to get booed. Yes, I announced the main event, and it got booed. Nothing to do with the quality of the main event. Everything to do with the raffle that nobody had told me about. Yeah, that raffle. Now, at this point, I’m still oblivious, as are the people running the show itself ? the raffle was done separately to the show, and there’d been a breakdown in communication. This meant when I said there was no raffle (because I didn’t realise people had tickets), I got booed. Then, during the main event, I was finally clued in. This meant that I ended up having to do the raffle after the main event, which meant that I didn’t end the night on the high I would have liked to. Especially as, by that point, having gone hell for leather on the main event?.I’d begun to get a bit croaky.

So, yeah, the first show I ever announced ended up having a croaky raffle as the main event, and the announcement of the actual main event got booed. The first main event was a cracking brawl between Alex Shane and Declan O?Connor, which involved me having to move fast before I was demolished along with the announcing table?.and at that point; I was beginning to think maybe it wasn’t the best seat in the house. However, I must have done better than I’m making out, because when I went backstage, it turned out that my try-out was successful, and I was offered the full time role as the new ring announcer for the FWA.

This means that, at New Frontiers (February 26th, at Broxbourne Civic Hall), I’ll be making my proper debut, and, by the looks of things, it?s going to be a damn good card. Where I’ll go from there, I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

Breaking into Kayfabe

Actually, that?s not wholly true. I do know one thing about the future, and it?s something that I?ve given a lot of thought to. This column is a one off, and it?s not going to be repeated. Learning some of what Kayfabe actually means has led me to the decision that I’m not going to be giving gossip from backstage, and I’m not going to be disclosing any secrets. I have no intention of breaking confidences with people for a couple of reasons, the primary amongst them being that I don’t want to deal with people who think I have an agenda in talking to them.

As a result, don’t expect me to be talking about the FWA much in future columns. If I was to do so, I would either be breaking confidences with people, or I would be talking in complete Kayfabe. If I was to change my column style to start writing pure Kayfabe, I’d be undermining my own integrity, and I have no intention of purely being a shill. Now, don’t get me wrong? that doesn’t mean I’m not going to have the occasional plug for the product ? I actively like, and want to promote it, after all ? but it?s not going to be woven cunningly into any articles either. What you can expect is what you see at the bottom of this article, a separate and brief plug of the show. What you can’t expect is for me to mislead you. I have more respect for you, and myself to do that.

I’m also not retiring as an e-journalist. I’m going to continue writing about wrestling, but it?s primarily going to be companies other than the one I work for, and I’m going to remain realistic, and generally positive about the whole thing, because I’m a fan first and foremost.

Kayfabe is a very strange thing, but it?s also unique. I?ve been on stage before, and it?s very different to it. There?s a conceptual difference between The Willing Suspension of Disbelief (in which the audience is aware that the performers are telling them a story), and Kayfabe (in which the wool is actively pulled over the audiences eyes, by mixing reality with that story). By saying that, I’m not pretending that the audience is saying ?Wow, this is all totally real?, because the audience is never going to stop looking for the foot stomping the mat. But what I am saying is that the little things?.the small details’that make up the show, and make it up to a far larger degree than I had realised, are important. It?s like a magic act ? it?s the things you’re not looking for which are the mechanics ? but it?s also a heightened version of something real. That?s Kayfabe, or it is for me, anyway. And that?s what I?ve broken into.

———————————————————————-

FWA New Frontiers. Broxbourne Civic Hall. Febuary 26th.

Alex Shane vs Jonny Storm.

Zebra Kid vs Chris Hero

Hade Vansen vs Spud.

Plus a lot more. Hope to see some of you there?.and be gentle. It?s my first time.

MSN:christopherbrosnahan

AIM: chrisbrosnahan

Sites I write for:

www.thewrestlingchannel.tv

oratory.rajah.com

www.earth-2.net

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Standing At The Edge: A Very British Viewing Habit

Note to American readers: This article is looking at British broadcasting and censorship, so anything you don’t understand, please let me know. I?ve put in some notes explaining stuff you may not get.

Note to British readers: This article has some irritating notes to American readers which may annoy you.

Note to anyone not British or American: It?s not that I don’t care enough about you to give explanatory notes, it?s just that America and Britain are the main fans I know of. Just pretend you’re American.

An interesting issue cropped up with The Wrestling Channel recently. Well, I say issue, but what I actually mean is that someone brought up a complaint on the channels forums. Now, maybe a channel’s public forum isn’t the best place to bring up a complaint (it just smacks of rudeness to me. Kind of like going into someone’s party, and making a complaint about the punch, rather than emailing the people in charge, and metaphorically taking them aside and having a quiet word in their ear.), but it did spark an interesting debate.

Here is the gist of the complaint. TWC shows ‘World of Sport’ repeats, featuring All-Star Wrestling – it’s the company I’ve talked about in past columns, and the high point of British Wrestling up until recently…you know, Big Daddy, Kendo Nagasaki, and all that. A mixture of the surprisingly good, and the God-Awful – on a regular basis. Now, a lot of this is from the seventies. Now, don’t jump ahead of yourself – the complaint was not about bad jumpers and moustaches, hairstyles, flowery dresses, or really ugly glasses being worn by people in the audience. Although, let’s be honest here, I would completely understand that complaint. No, instead, the complaint was about the audiences behaviour. During one of the matches shown recently, there were racist remarks clearly heard from the audience.

Now, this raises an interesting dilemma. If we are showing the history of British wrestling, and showing things from the time period they were in, how accurate do we want this experience? Do we want it realistically, warts and all, or do we want to go back and sanitise the past? Similarly with American wrestling ? do we want to show it realistically, warts and all, or are there benefits to be found from some censorship?

There are, as always, arguments on both sides. A lot of people are in favour of silencing, or bleeping out the offensive remarks ? like they do with swear words??You _______ up! You ______ up!?, Or, at least, doing this before the watershed. The logic in this is obvious ? you wouldn’t want to have swearing when kids can be watching on their own, and in a similar vein, you wouldn’t want kids to be subjected to racist taunts that early either. Now, that?s not me subscribing to the nanny state ? Hell, I?ve got a DVD player, and frankly, if I want to watch hardcore pornography at any point of the day, I can do so ? but I do agree that racist taunts are every bit as offensive as any other swearing (if not actually more so). If you’re going to censor one for the daytime broadcast, censor the other. It?s just common sense.

After the watershed though ? since all kids in the country go to bed at 9PM, obviously ? personally, I don’t think it should be censored. The fact is, it?s part of the time, and part of the reason I watch World of Sport is because it?s a product of the time ? and the times were more racist. It?s not that I want to enjoy the fact that it was racist ? but I do want to know that what I’m watching is?.well, honest, if that makes sense. It?s like watching mid-seventies sitcoms. They may be nasty, and they may be racist, but there is no point whatsoever in pretending that it doesn’t exist ? and if I’m going to watch it, I want to actually watch it, not some sanitized version of it, which pretends that the show is something it wasn’t.

It?s strange, but the UK in the sixties and seventies was astonishingly racist ? but in a different way then now (in the majority). It was generally through ignorance rather than through malice and hatred. An assumption that somebody different is inferior purely because they are different is, in some way, less malicious than being actually hating somebody because of it. It?s like an experience I had recently with a family friend of retired age. We were talking about clothes (or rather they were talking with my girlfriend about clothes, while I was there, in a clotheshop), and in the middle of the conversation, this woman ? who is in favour of immigration, gay marriages, etcetera, and generally unprejudiced ? mentioned about a skirt ?It?s a nice shade of brown?.I’ll have a look again though, I saw a nice one in nigger-brown?. As she went off to get it, me and Zoe were just there with our jaws dropped, with no idea what to say. It?s like trying to point out to somebody that not only is their fly open, but their penis is hanging out?.you can’t immediately think of a way to bring it up. ?Erm?.are you aware that what you just said is horribly racist???because she actually wasn’t aware. To her, it actually was just a colour, not a derogatory term.

Perhaps a good compromise would be a brief warning at the start of the show that it was from a different time, and may contain some racist language as a result, if it?s being broadcast uncensored. That would probably be best, and would allow it to remain true to itself, while letting people know in advance that it may contain racist terms.

Interestingly, the week after this happened, during a football (Soccer for American readers) game between England and Spain, the Spanish fans made racist chants (including monkey noises) when some of the black players got the ball. This has led to uproar here in the UK ? possibly because it means that the Spanish crowd are trying to move in on our reputation as the worst behaved fans in football history, but probably because we actually have progressed somewhat. It did, however, lead to the most hypocritical front pages I?ve seen in a while from the tabloids, being essentially condensed to ?Spanish Scum fans are racist?.

But, hey, we’re taking the moral upperhand, and that probably means that we should start at home, and perhaps daytime TV should remain slur-free. And censorship is sometimes a necessary evil ? even I’ll admit that. I can see the reason why excessively bloody matches are censored from daytime television ? as is cursing. It just makes sense. If something would be 15-Rated (read R for America readers), you don’t show it when kids can be watching unsupervised. And if parents don’t supervise them later in the day, they’re idiots. I’m for a mixture between discretion from the channel, and parental responsibility.

This said, sometimes Sky One, which broadcasts SmackDown! (as opposed to Sky Sports, which broadcasts Raw, as a quick explanation to US readers), absolutely baffles me with it?s approach to censorship. It shows SmackDown! at 10AM, and as a result, it means that the show is often censored. From the top of my head, here is a quick run down of some of the things that have been censored from SmackDown!. It gets?well, a little strange. Anything visual, imagine a cut to the crowd.

– Blood. If it?s anything more than a slightly bloody nose, it?s shown in longshot, or in black and white.

– Chairshots.

– Table spots.

– Chain shots.

– Weapon shots ? with the bizarre exception of Belt shots, which are apparently okay.

– Any male on female violence. Which rendered the A-Train/Stephanie McMahon match totally unwatchable for reasons other than just the inherent unwatchableness of the match.

– Any of the more risqu? elements. If you were to turn on a lingerie match, on Sky One, the way it?s presented is purely the ?competition? bit. You’d be forgiven for not realizing it?s all cheesecake, because of the crowd shots they use.

– Apple spitting. I’m not really sure why, but it?s now being censored.

– He?s gone now?but my delight when I realized that they’d started censoring The Stinkface remains. Yes, we actually got spared the close-ups of Rikishi?s ass.

– Talking of ass, the word ass is sometimes censored, sometimes not. It all seems to be in the context. ?I’m going to kick your ___? is censored, then, during the adverts, we have the song ?Shaking that ass? playing uncensored.

– At one point, they attempted to censor any moves that landed on the head, but somehow, common sense prevailed, and we regained our DDT?s.

It?s a list in which some things make sense?but some things don’t. I mean, come on, APPLE SPITTING? Is that really so offensive?

Okay, so it?s only during the daytime broadcasts. I can deal with that, especially now I have Sky Sports, and can watch the late night uncensored repeats. So, hey, it?s all good. Right?

Well, not quite. Even the late night stuff is sometimes censored. Let?s go back, quickly, and explain a situation from a couple of years ago ? it is relevant, and not just because the past is always relevant.

Channel 4 (one of our terrestrial channels) bought up a portion of WWE?s output during its absolute peak. They got four of the PPV?s, and Sunday Night heat. Unfortunately, nobody had actually made Channel 4 aware that WWE had discovered ?attitude?, and the first PPV they showed live was The Royal Rumble from 2000. Yeah, the one with the astonishingly violent streetfight, and Mae Young getting her baps out. They got complaints, primarily from parents who were astonished that what they had left recording during the night was unsuitable for their idiot children. (When PPV?s are shown live in the UK, they are on between 1AM and 4AM). So Channel 4 panicked. Heat got buried in the scheduling, and never really got a chance, which was primarily so they could justify not renewing their contract a couple of years later. Yes, during the peak of interest in WWE, Channel 4 managed to not make it into a ratings success.

However, when they panicked, they responded by butchering the next PPV. It was shown on a fifteen minute delay, which meant that any male/female violence was censored (including Tori being put through a table by The Dudleyz?in a match which was built towards Tori being put through a table. So the focus point of the match was censored), and when X-Pac (if I remember correctly) was busted open, the blood was digitized. The show was butchered, and this time around, they got double the amount of complaints, since a lot of fans complained. In fact, I was one of them. Hell, if I’m watching a show between one and four in the morning, I’m going to be annoyed if it?s censored, because I’m in my twenties. Eventually they sorted themselves out, and eventually, and I suspect gratefully, offloaded the PPV?s back to SKY (which is a premium pay service, for those unware). Unfortunately, because of the extra money involved in buying it back, they got put onto proper PPV, and we now pay the equivalent of the American amount for a show that is on at a silly time in the morning, while we pay quite a lot of money just to watch the weekly show. (And yes, I pay extra purely to get Sky Sports, and I do it only to watch WWE. It?s sad, perhaps, but I’m an adult with my own income, and it?s how I choose to spend it.) ? this has led to WWE being in a good position to financially rape the UK fans. But I’m off on a tangent here. What I’m pointing out is that the shows being censored was not a good thing, and they got complaints about it.

Now, Raw is shown on a Thursday night, usually at about 10PM, so it?s generally uncensored. We get our blood, our cheesecake, and our violence. The show, however, is sometimes censored nonetheless, at Sky?s discretion. Two examples of things that we never saw are:

– Vince McMahon making Trish Stratus strip, and bark like a dog. This was seen as highly offensive, and was removed from the programming. And, I suppose they have a point, although it was a pivotal storyline point for Trish turning face ? it was her reaction to that at WMX-Seven that led to her turning.

– Eugene?s debut had the ?Window-licker? reference removed. So that whole segment with William Regal complaining was cut completely. It was due to complaints from disabled interest groups before the show aired. It is probably coincidence that this happened days after I sent my open letter condemning the Eugene character to disabled interest groups, as well as to WWE.

More recently there?s been something else. Now, I admit that I could be wrong about this?because it?s a segment that I could have missed while I made myself a coffee. For the last three weeks. As did five other people I?ve spoken to, none of which can recall seeing Mohammed Hassan?s promo?s being on Raw over the last three weeks.

Now, ignoring the hilarity of someone being censored off Raw, and nobody noticing, I have to question why this has been censored. The obvious answer is that it?s seen as being stereotypical, and, knowing the way WWE has handled racial storylines in the past, Sky doesn’t have the confidence in WWE not to offend a large portion of its viewers. Before you all jump in, saying ?give them a chance?, I have two words for you. Well, two hyphenated words. One of them mis-spelt.

Lo-Down.

You remember them in turbans? You remember how they originally came in, complaining at how ethnic wrestlers were never given a chance? You remember how they complained about how they knew they were going to be heels, because they were in an arab gimmick? You remember how Bradshaw got a cheap pop by calling them Taxi-Drivers? You remember how it all turned into a cheap ?Go-USA!? storyline?

Yeah. That?s probably why Sky doesn’t have a huge amount of confidence in WWE. Now, I’m going to admit, it?s entirely possible that everyone I?ve talked to has missed it ? and it?s entirely possible that I?ve not seen anyone talking about it in UK forums, just because he sucks. But it?s strange nonetheless. (Incidentally, he was on the live Heat before Survivor Series, but then, that?s not on a time delay).

Censorship is something that I do have problems with, but at the same time, occasionally, censorship sends out a message to somebody that what they are doing is inappropriate. After the first ?window-licker? reference, any detrimental references to Eugene were dropped ? and nobody made any disabled insults to him. I can’t help but wonder if that was the intention all along, or if it was a response to the segment being cut in the UK, and it being made clear that the segments would continue to be cut if they were in that vein. Maybe something similar will happen with Mohammed Hussan. Hell, they changed their Hirohito stuff ? which may have been cut from the UK broadcast as well.

Part of this is down to the fact that anything shown on British Television has to conform to the British Board of Film Classification (formerly the British Board of Censorship) ? hence anything that supports racism, and so on is immediately cut. Hence the fact that someone underage isn’t allowed to buy DVD?s or videos of WWE PPV?s, since they are rated 15 or 18, if there is blood, swearing or excessive violence. However, in order to sell video?s, they have to be submitted for censorship, which is where the FWA has recently come under a little criticism.

In their ?Best of Alex Shane? video, any scenes with blood are shown in black and white, which made the Shane/Corino bloodfest strange viewing, and also, they have to cut swearing as well ? and basically make the video acceptable for a ?U? (universal), or ?E? (exempt, as most sporting videos are). This is so they don’t have to submit it for rating, because, in order to submit it to the British Board of Film Classification, they have to pay something in the region of one and a half thousand pounds. And they usually have to be submitted, cuts made, and then resubmitted ? for another thousand pounds or so. So, in order to release it uncut, as a general release, it would cost the FWA a few grand ? for, lets face it, a release that won’t make much profit in the first place. It will sell to fans, but the company just isn’t big enough to warrant such an expense yet?

And so, what do we, the fans get? We get censored versions. I’m not saying it?s the FWA?s fault ? it?s not. The amount they would have to pay is ludicrous. I’m saying it?s the BBFC?s fault for charging such a ludicrous amount, because it denies the FWA?s ability to grow. And, as you may have noticed over my last few columns, I’m something of an FWA fan, and want to see it grow. Censorship just doesn’t help.

Wrestling as a sport is something that wouldn’t have to be rated?.but the fact is, part of the show is always going to be sex and violence, and so it needs to be rated. I understand that. And when something is shown that is genuinely offensive, I agree that it has no place on television. So is there a compromise?

Yes, there is. The compromise is simple. The compromise is common sense. If WWE didn’t show angles that were degrading to women, or offensive to disabled people, or people of different ethnicities, they would have more trust going into new situations. If The Wrestling Channel ran a disclaimer before showing programmes which have racist language from the crowd, they wouldn’t get any complaints about it, especially if it was censored from the daytime broadcast. (I’m not condemning TWC here, incidentally ? it?s something that I wouldn’t be looking out for, and I can understand that they would have missed it).

We don’t show stuff that is inappropriate for daytime viewing, and in return, we get our lovely, distasteful, depraved quota of violence once the watershed has passed, and we can all live happily. What do people say? A fair compromise? I think so, anyway.

EDIT: I have been informed that I was, in fact, wrong about the Mohammad Hassan bit, and that he actually was on Raw in the UK – somehow, I – and everybody I talked to managed to miss his segments for the last few weeks. I can only assume that WWE has been planting subliminal messages in the preceding segments, saying things to the effect of ‘Go and make a cup of coffee’, or ‘Go and Pee’.

I’m not going to go back and re-edit the article, partially because I’m fine owning up to my mistakes, and partly because I think the Lo-Down comparisons were apt, even if it wasn’t censored. I know I was right about the Eugene bit though, so the essence of what I was saying remains the same – although I’ll own up to the example being wrong. My thanks to Ian Morrissey.

MSN:christopherbrosnahan

AIM: chrisbrosnahan

Sites I write for:

www.thewrestlingchannel.tv

oratory.rajah.com

www.earth-2.net

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Standing At The Edge: FWA HotWired 2004

So, on a gorgeous sunday afternoon, I found myself in Central London, wandering around with friends, so me and Zoe could kill time, before going into the deepest darkest depths of…Hertfordshire. (US readers may not understand this, but trust me, it will fill any UK reader with absolute dread). Why were we making this dangerous pilgrimage? Simple. FWA. They were performing their latest ‘Big Event’, called HotWired in Broxbourne Civic Hall.

This meant that I got more absolute terror, as it meant that my girlfriend and I walked through Broxbourne. Now, Broxbourne itself is a lovely place, it has to be said. And this was said. By my girlfriend. Repeatedly. As every second house we passed was deemed to be lovely. As was the area. As was the park. Are you getting the idea what the walk to the Civic Hall was like? There were mild hints that she wants to move there, because she wants to live somewhere nicer than where we live. I swear, get engaged, and they think they have some kind of say in the rest of your life. Women, eh?

Also, we got to see quite a lot of Broxbourne, as we walked all the way through it into Hoddesdon, which is where Broxbourne Civic Hall is located. Presumably, this is just some practical joke they play on thick northerners like us. Anyway, we got there, and walked down into the hall, where there was a fairly large queue outside, being entertained by Jonny Storm.

Jonny Storm has had a story whereby he lost a career match, and is out of the FWA. Being the attention seeking sore loser he is, Jonny is desperate to return to the FWA, and has been canvassing the world (via video vignettes, in which we see him in exotic locations, all of which are shot so we can’t see anything in the background, but Jonny assures are ‘Thailand’ or ‘Spain’) and getting people to sign a petition for him to be allowed back. It’s giving him a chance to do comedy, which he can do very well.

From there, we went into the building, ignoring the crowds outside, in order to pick up our tickets. The idea of joining the queue until the dark match (for gold/silver ticket holders only) was over didn’t really appeal, so instead, I sweet talked our way into being let into the bar. Well, I say sweet talked…it was actually more like:

‘Can we wait in the bar until the match is over?’

‘Sorry, it’s gold/silver tickets only.’

‘But the bar isn’t gold/silver only, is it?’

‘No, but you can’t go into the match’

‘That’s okay, I’ll just wait in the bar’

I may have looked like an alcoholic, but at least I was able to sit comfortably with a pint while everyone else queued up outside. While I was doing this, I stuck to my word, and didn’t go through the doors next to me for the dark match. I could hear it, but not see it, but let’s face it, it was only going to be two academy guys anyway, nothing to get excited about, right?

??now coming to the ring, the FWA champion, Doug Williams!?

Aw, bollocks.

??and the challenger?.Joe E Legend!?

Double bollocks.

Oh well. At least my pint was nice and cold, and my programme was readable, and the merchandise was fun looking. And my girlfriend was out admiring the garden, talking about how we should have our wedding here, it’d be really nice. Before too long, the match I couldn’t see was over (Legend won by DQ), and it sounded like the seven people who had got into the hall enjoyed it immensely.

And so, finally, we got into the venue properly. We got pretty good seats, I have to say, with only one drawback. They were on the stage. If you think about a large room, with a stage at one side, raised seating on the other, and seats in the middle, it?s like that, but with a ring in the middle, and raised seating on the stage as well. It meant we got a great view, since we were above the people ahead of us, and at the front of the stage. The problem was that with the height we were at, Zoe had to sit with her legs crossed tight the entire evening, because most of the hall would have been able to see straight up her skirt if she hadn’t. She was already regretting wearing a turquoise top with a black short skirt since our housemate had already made the Lara Croft gags?and this didn’t help. On the other hand?hey, we had great seats, and I wasn’t wearing a skirt, so I didn’t care!

After a short while, in which we chatted to the people around us, the music started properly, and the show began. ?Hardcore? John Atkins came out (an announcer/commentator for the FWA, who is, for reasons unknown to man, referred to as ?Hardcore?, presumably in the same vein of humour as calling a student friend ?Psycho? because he once drank four pints of lager in one evening), and asked us not to swear, starting a half hearted ?Please don’t swear? chant, primarily because Atkins tried to get the chant started, and dammnit, we’re contrary. He also introduced us to a special guest in the front row ? Heavyweight Boxer Danny Williams, a UK hero since he KO’d Tyson.

The first match was a six man tag, featuring Stixx (big bald bastard), Hade Vansen (Flash Townie Scum) and some other guy, against Ross Jordan (generic babyface), Aviv Mayaan (generic babyface) and Jack Xavier (day-glo generic babyface). This was a fast, and well performed opener. Most of the guys are over (Vansen particularly so), and they all worked hard.

I?ve had minor issues with most of these guy?s singles matches. Most of them are recent graduates of the FWA training academy, which has led to them doing that typical new face thing of showing every move they can do in each match. As a result, you usually have the bigger heel pulling out all kind of match finishing maneuvers, followed by the face making an unrealistic comeback involving match finishing maneuvers. However, this was the best match I?ve seen most of these guys in. Match finishing maneuvers that don’t finish the match are far more acceptable in a tag match, where your opponents can save you, or where you can rest on the outside. You expect a bit more carnage in it, so it works well. Jack Xavier won this one, which was kind of the obvious result, since he is feuding with Hade Vansen, who was ? thankfully ? a little less penis-y than the last time we saw him.

Main chant of note? Directed towards Vansen ? ?Your mum sha-aged Roo-ney?. (For US readers, Wayne Rooney, a football star, was recently found to have visited a somewhat seedy brothel, and made regular visits to a somewhat dog-ugly prostitute.) A close contender was ?Knock him out, Danny, Knock him out!? when Vansen wandered a little close to Danny Williams, who couldn’t have knocked him out anyway, because he was too busy laughing at the chant.

The next segment involved Alex Shane, which marked me holding up the first of my signs, specifically ?The Alex Shane Bandwagon Starts Here?. Yes, I’m a sad guy who likes to take signs to events when nobody else does?what can you do, eh? Well, you can look witheringly at me, like Zoe decided to do. Anyway, Shane comes out, and gets heat immediately. He really is very over, and it?s not just cheap heat. I’m a massive mark for this guy. He?s solid in the ring, but he has a great character, and he?s a damn good talker.

And talking was what he was doing at the moment, focusing on Danny Williams, and berating him for not taking part in an angle that they’d offered him ? the reason given being that Williams was training for a title match to become the heavyweight champion of boxing. Boxing, I will repeat there, not wrestling, like Alex Shane said to a huge chorus of ?You fucked up?. He responded to the heckling, then started really verbally laying into Williams, Pointing out that:

A ? Williams had knocked out a past-it Tyson, and so hadn’t achieved much.

B ? As a boxer, Williams has a much lighter schedule than any wrestlers, so was a wuss.

C ? Williams was a gayboy.

Danny took exception to this, and was calmly walking away, when Shane spat water over him, which led to a pull apart scuffle from the two of them, with Williams leaving in anger.

This was a great segment, and an awful lot of fun. Was it a shoot? Of course not, it was a work, but it was a well done one ? and one which the FWA has capitalized on, by posting a public apology to Williams, and asking fans not to distribute the footage, which has, of course, led to them doing that. It also got them into a couple of papers, so job accomplished. Williams did his part well, and Shane was fantastic on the mic. It wasn’t up to Tyson/Austin standards, but it was still good.

You’d have to feel sorry for whoever followed that, and true enough, the actual match was a let-down, but the audience saved it. Mark Sloan (he of the ‘monkey? chants) took on Simmons (very over butler). This led to my second sign of the night ?The Butler Did It?, when Simmons blindsided Sloane. In all honesty, this wasn’t the smartest idea, since Simmons has a great entrance, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers. The match ended when Stevie Knight entered to Simmon?s music, distracting him, and letting Sloane get the win. Another not great idea, because of the number of people who had no idea who Knight was. This means that Sloane and Knight get a tag title shot against Simmons and his partner ?The Duke of Danger?. Frankly, I’d rather see these titles get contested between the guys in the opening match, since they all work together well, and it’d be more competitive.

Now, what saved this match was the crowd. Simmons gets chanted at ?goldberglike? anyway with ?Simmons, Simmons?, and Sloane normally gets ?he?s a monkey?. It would be kind of difficult to top, you’d think. But no. Sloane?s costume, you see, is kind of like a dayglo version of Owen Hart?s ?warning costume? with the yellow and black lines up the side in a ?warning? kind of fashion. This led to one guy screaming out ?He?s a SPEEDBUMP!?, which immediately became ?Sloane?s a Speedbump? chant. You could actually see Sloane thinking ?Oh no’this one isn’t going to stop?, and it didn’t. It kept going, and going, and going, primarily due to the one guy who just kept screaming ?Speedbump?. There was an attempt to get one half chanting ?Speedbump? and the other chanting ?Monkey? but it proved too complicated. Simmons got in on the act at the end, taking out one of Sloane?s helpers, draping his top over his head, and starting a final speedbump chant. So, not a great match, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Next, Colt Cabana came out, and started doing some innuendo based stuff with a large inflatable banana (brought by someone to taunt Mark Sloan with). Now, at this point, he was getting huge cheers ? but there were more cheers when it was announced his opponent wasn’t there. Not because Mark Belton isn’t popular, but because EVERYBODY guessed who the replacement was. Out came?..JONNY STORM, which immediately caused chants of ?You Got Over-Shadowed!? directed at Cabana, who took it sportingly.

Storm took his time getting to the ring, because he was making sure he got people at ringside to sign his petition. This gave people time to start chanting ?He still takes it up the arse!?. You see, Storm?s character isn’t gay or anything, he?s just camp. Well, very camp. He?s also hilarious, and has gained the unofficial nickname of the ?Harlow Rent Boy?. He finally got in the ring, but stopped the match in order to get the referee to sign his petition.

Finally, this was done, and they went to lock up. However, Colt then stopped the match so he could go out, and sign the petition. Then, rather than wrestle, they played ?slaps? for a while. You remember slaps? You put your hands out in a praying position, but horizontal, and then try to dodge the other person slapping you. Except Cabana did that finger interlocking thing, which means when you look through, you see something that looks a little bit rude. Not that I ever did that in the playground, or pub last week.

Finally, they started to actually wrestle. They locked up and?.waltzed. Following which, Storm decided he wanted to wrestle Olympic style, so got down on all fours, and shouted for Colt to ?hurry up and get behind him?.

This was funny as hell, and when they actually started wrestling, the wrestling itself was good. The wrestling would have been better had they skipped some of the comedy, but the comedy was funny enough that it didn’t really matter. Usually, I have major issues with anything that I would see as homophobic, and wrestlers that do the gay gimmick wind me up no end. Storm and Cabana, on the other hand, don’t really do gay gimmicks, it?s more that they both do camp gimmicks. It’s difficult to explain, but I don’t find it offensive in the least.

Storm ended up winning the match with his feet on the ropes, which was the popular decision, and then kept trying to get more people to sign his petition. Following which, an interval was called. The bar was as crowded as it could possibly be, but luckily, I?ve managed to convince Zoe that an attractive woman will stand a higher chance of being served than a guy. It works every time, so I never have to queue. Now, as long as she doesn’t read this, then my cunning plan will continue to work, and I will never have to queue again.

We made our way back into the hall a little before the interval was over, and sat chatting to some of the fans, while everyone filed back in. The next match was a world of sport guest match (explanation for Americans ? WOS was the old british wrestling TV show, which was hugely popular, but was cancelled in the late eighties. Different rules to normal matches ? the matches are three falls, there are rounds, and the KO rule is in application, like in boxing. Any time you get taken down, you have to answer the ten count. It makes for a very different viewing experience of watching wrestling, but a fun one.), and they brought out Blake Norton as the special guest ring announcer (Blake is the presenter of The Bagpipe Report), who had the type of heat most heels would die for. I was surprised how much he was boo’d. Then the referee came out. Now, the referee is a character in himself. He?s bald, and between the rounds, usually acts more winded than the wrestlers, often using a towel to wipe his head. He?s active as anything, and when he counts, he does so loudly, and finishes each word off with ?aaaa?. So it?s ?Oneaaaa, Twoaaaa, Threeaaaa?. Kind of like HHH on helium. He?s more over than half the roster, or as one guy shouted out ?best ref evaaaaa?.

The wrestlers were Johnny Kidd and Steve Gray. The match was slower paced than most, but it was certainly enjoyable. It?s just very different to wrestling as it is now. Certainly enjoyable, but an acquired taste. Zoe doesn’t have that taste, however, she thought the referee was great. Which he was. Hell, after the show, he had two cute girls flirting with him. He rocks. Gray won in the fifth round, by the way. The match was good, if not stunning, and the two guys involved were in great shape.

This was followed by an angle featuring ?The Family?. The family have been a long running stable (kind of a cult thing). The best thing to come out of this angle is Paul Travell, who is a talented young wrestler, with an endearing desire to maim himself horribly in the ring, who has left the stable and turned face. The manager of the stable, Greg Lambert is a decent manager as well, and essentially, a professionally annoying git. For me, the only downside comes with the heel of the stable, Drew MacDonald. I just find him boring, if I’m honest, which meant that I didn’t get a lot out of this part of the show. Basically, the family was dissolved, they debuted a guy called Thunder, who looked like The Warlord, only spikier, and Paul Travell got beaten up. For me, it just didn’t work, and I don’t think I’m being unfair in saying that I wasn’t alone. I get the idea Drew is a very nice guy, and I haven’t seen enough of his work to make a judgement on his wrestling?.it?s just that, well?.I don’t want to. Damn, I feel bad saying that. I try really hard not to be negative. As a manager, I wouldn’t mind seeing Drew around. I just don’t want to see him wrestle.

Anyway, onwards.

Jane Childes came out next. Now, Jane was, up til recently, the ring announcer. She turned heel, by putting a bounty on Nikita (babyface), and having Nikita taken out. So, she came out, and cut a promo against Nikita (to a chorus of ?she?s a crack-whore?, which made me feel all nostalgic for the ECW crowds). Now the weird thing was the fact that, as most of the crowd noticed?.Nikita was sitting in the audience. Blatantly. And there was no reference made to it. It seemed that Nikita was there out of character (she?s attached to Alex Shane behind the scenes, I believe). If this was the case, then frontierwrestling.com pulled a blinder explaining this one. Simple enough ? Jane didn’t know that Nikita was there, and nobody knows why she was there. They acknowledged it, and used it to build on the story. Well, I was impressed.

Finally, we got back to some wrestling, after this. James Tighe turned heel not long ago (against AJ Styles, by cheating to win a match), and it?s freshened up his character. Primarily by giving him one. He was taking on a recent training graduate called ?Spud?. Yes, Spud. Spud is small, skinny, red haired, and?well, as one child in the audience said ?when did they start letting children wrestle?? However, he is very, very over.

The story of the match was simple. Tighe beat the living crap out of Spud, who took more punishment than Tighe expected. Tighe is technically sound, and is capable of working stiff, I feel. Spud, on the other hand, is a cruiserweight, through and through. Lots of impressive top rope moves, and so on, each one greeted with a chant of ?Holy Spud! Holy Spud!? I swear, the FWA fans could get anybody over they decided to.

At the end of the match, Tighe lost his temper, and just pounded Spud?s leg, before re-applying a Texas Cloverleaf for the tapout win. Overall, this was a decent match, but didn’t really feel special. Tighe really needs to do a little more character stuff in order to be a more effective heel. At the moment he?s essentially ‘tough, nasty, bastard?, which is all well and good, but I just think he could add a little extra element.

And next was our main event of the evening. Alex Shane vs Steve Corino in a streetfight. Shane came out to even more jeers, after the altercation earlier. After a few minutes of the usual ?No, Alex, you can’t have your mates around, they have to go backstage? stuff, Corino came out to huge cheers ? and he nicely pointed to my last sign, which was a picture of the teacher from ?The Bash St Kids? with OLD SCHOOL written next to it.

This match was great fun. It was mainly a brawl through the crowd, for most of it, with Corino literally taking through every bit of the audience, and the entire audience was up for it. They started chanting ?E-C-Dub?, but this quickly became ?FWA?. Shane got introduced to the wall, and then, they battled to the other side of the arena. In fact, they came up onto the stage (which had been converted into seating area), and started battling over a piledriver, with Shane trying to piledrive Corino, and Corino trying to reverse. In the end, Corino took it, and bladed.

That?s right, he bladed. A Classic Corino bladejob. Right. In front of our feet. Literally, we had to pull our feet back, so they didn’t go into them. Corino started bleeding, and leaving small pools of blood, while they battled their way slowly back to the ring.

Now, I’d like to point out here that I am a kind, and gentle man, and obviously, as you’d expect, my thoughts would be along the lines of ?Ooh, nasty, poor Corino?I hope he?s okay, and I hope nobody slips on that pool of blood?. Unfortunately, what I actually did was more along the lines of screaming ?Yes! Blood! Blood! We want more blood! This isn’t enough blood! Make Shane bleed too! Look, there?s a fan nearby, get the blade out, and make HIM bleed! AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!!?. At one point, I composed myself, remembering I was next to my girlfriend, but luckily she didn’t notice, because she was too busy going ?Yes! Blood! Blood! ARRRGGHHHH!? Really, it does strange things to you, seeing blood.

Corino then started doing some more audience participation, including when someone held up a soft covered chair ? Corino picked up a steel one, and held it up, to see which got more cheers, and then took the padded chair, and hit Shane with it. And then, someone offered him a pizza box. Which he hit him with.

As you may have gathered, the FWA fans bringing their own weapons turned out a little differently to the old ?knives, stop signs, etc? stuff that ECW fans brought. We went for the silly laugh every time. Trust me, seeing Alex Shane sell a blow to the face from a cardboard pizza box was priceless. At some point during this, a fan next to us dipped his ticket into one of the pools of blood, and started shaking it to dry it off. Which is how Steve Corino?s blood ended up on Zoe?s foot.

Eventually, Doug Williams came out, and helped Corino win the match. After seeing the villainous Shane off, Williams and Corino stood side by side, as Corino gave a speech, thanking the fans, and sort of apologizing for the missed plane which meant he missed the previous match. He also then asked if we knew Hustle?

?Yeah, it sucks!? screamed one fan.

?Yes it does, but it pays really well?..and we can edit that out, right?? said Steve.

Apparantly, he had a bet with Masato Tanaka, so we all ended up doing the ?Hustle Hustle? dance, which consisted of a pelvic thrust, while chanting ?hustle hustle?. This apparently meant that Steve Corino was going to be bought dinner by Masato Tanaka. Hey, anything to help, Steve.

And that was pretty much it. We got the tube back, froze our arses off, and eventually got home.

SPECIAL UPDATEY BIT!

Yes, I?ve been a lazy sod, so it?s been a few weeks since the show. So, what happened next? Just imagine these turning up on the screen during the closing credits.

SPEEDBUMP GUY probably cried backstage over his humiliating nickname, which, let?s face it, we’ll be trying to get everyone to follow him round with in his daily life.

JONNY STORM got in the FWA?s good books by taking on Colt Cabana, and will probably make his way back to the company full time soon.

STEVE CORINO was apparently delighted with the match with Shane, and with good reason. It was one of his best in a while.

DOUG WILLIAMS has continued to fight in ROH as well as FWA, and will soon be taking on ALEX SHANE for the FWA title.

ALEX SHANE was fired from the Managing Director position because of his actions at Hotwired, however, he has bounced back by challenging Williams for the title at BRITISH UPRISING III

DANNY WILLIAMS will get to beat the crap out of Alex Shane if Shane fails to beat Doug Williams. CHRIS BROSNAHAN did his bit to help out, by passing the story about the altercation to a couple of wrestling newsboards. Hey, any bit I can do to help guys.

THE FWA will be doing a HUGE show at Coventry Skydome, on November 11th. British Uprising III. It should be good, and I’ll be there. Seriously, it looks worth the journey if you’re in the UK. It’s also a huge risk for the FWA, as it seats about seven times their normal crowds. If this works out, the FWA will be one of the bigger independent shows overnight.

JAMES TIGHE will be taking on AJ STYLES in a 30 minute Iron Man Match at BU3.

STEVE CORINO got cloned from the blood on the floor.*

*May not be true

HADE VANSEN needs to wear less tight trunks. Seriously. Dude, you don’t need to show it off all the time, get me?

FWA TV has gotten better, very quickly. If you want to see, head over to the frontier wrestling website, and download some. They also have Alex Shane?s music, which I love. Or, if you live in the UK, check it out on The Wrestling Channel.

ZOE GOULD finally forgave CHRIS BROSNAHAN for getting Steve Corino?s blood all over her foot, but would like to point out that it was a very nice area, and that the park was lovely, and you know how we’re looking for somewhere to move next year and?Chris, are you listening?

Gotta go, folks. I’m off to try and convince her that she really does want to come to the next show, and she probably won’t get bled on this time. Note the use of the word ?probably?.

——————————————————————-

MSN: christopherbrosnahan

AIM: chrisbrosnahan

EMAIL: christopherbrosnahan@gmail.com

Sites I write for: www.Earth-2.net // www.thewrestlingchannel.tv // The Oratory

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Standing At The Edge: The Greatest Gimmick Ever?

Throughout professional wrestling history, storylines have tended to revolve around the ‘blow-off’. It’s simple storytelling, and it’s nearly always effective. Back when the territories were still in full effect, and when fans weren’t as ‘smart’ to the business as they are today, the blow-off was where the money was made.

It’s simple. Wrestler A is attacked by wrestler B. Wrestler B is slightly more cowardly, and keeps ducking a fair fight, or there are a number of outside factors, and wrestler A cannot get a fair break. Eventually, it’s agreed to lock the pair of them in a steel cage. No escape. No interference. Wrestler A triumphs, and sends Wrestler B off to another territory to redo the same storyline again.

The concept of the Steel Cage is a fantastic one. It’s guaranteed to make the match brutal, and, by its design, the match is usually final. There’s no disqualification, and the cage can be used as a weapon. There is also the suggestion that the cage is to contain them, and to stop the audience from getting hurt as the war within. Basically, it’s a license to print money, or at the very least, to sell tickets.

The WWF, in its infinite wisdom, decided in the nineteen eighties to tinker with this idea. The object was no longer to brutalise your opponent. Instead, as popularised by Hulk Hogan and Bret Harts famous matches, the object was to escape. The matches were still often good – Bret?s match with Owen springs to mind – but the big blue bars damaged a lot of the credibility that cage matches had in the WWF. It was no longer seen as a feud settler, especially by the late nineteen nineties, when ECW was in vogue. By this time, a lot of us had heard of ECW matches, but not seen many of them. But we’d heard rumours, and seen pictures of Barbed Wire matches, of Japanese Death matches, and the bizarre and brutal sounding ‘Taipei Death Match’, involving broken glass taped to fists. Compared to these, two wrestlers trying to run away from each other in a big blue box seemed somewhat less intimidating.

‘Ain’t nobody crazy enough to do this gig, except for the Heartbreak Kid.’

Shawn Michaels.

1997 may be the best year to have been a wrestling fan, in my opinion, or at least the best year to be a fan of the World Wrestling Federation. The federation had finally turned the corner creatively, and the storylines were the most controversial they would ever get. In the space of one year, the following happened: Bret Hart turned heel, and Steve Austin turned face in one of the greatest matches ever. Brian Pillman brandished a gun, and told Steve Austin to ‘fuck off’ in what remained the most controversial moment in federation history up until Katie Vick. The ropes went from being red, white and blue, to being all red, making the whole thing feel more serious. Red, after all, means danger. A gang mentality was developed, Bret Hart got screwed over, Brian Pillman died in a hotel room, and on the same night, we had one of my all time favourite matches. 1997 was the year when Vince McMahon said ‘Anything could happen’, and you believed him. It was also the year we saw the first ever Hell in a Cell match.

HBK had recently turned heel, and had hit Taker with a couple of the most vicious chair shots ever seen in wrestling. Forming D-Generation X with HHH meant that Michaels had an unfair advantage over Undertaker, who otherwise would obviously destroy Michaels. As a quick aside, in a fantastic piece of writing, Taker explained why he had never fought Michaels previously. Apparently, when he had destroyed everyone in the WWF, he wanted to leave one survivor to tell his tale. That one survivor was meant to be HBK up until he pissed Taker off too much. They’d had a match the previous month at ‘Ground Zero’, which turned into an arena wide brawl, but it wasn’t settled, and only served to show Michaels as the human bump machine he was at this point in his career, and to showcase Undertakers stunning no-hands plancha over the top rope. The feud needed to be settled, and Undi’ promised to introduce us to his ‘own personal hell….and Oh, what sights I have to show you.’

We didn’t know what it was going to involve. We knew nothing other than that it was a kind of cage match, and that it had a roof. All we knew was that Shawn Michaels was going to be fucking killed. We watched vignettes of the cell being built, but we were never allowed to see the entire thing. When we finally saw the structure at Badd Blood, it was stunning. A lot larger than any cage we’d seen before, and extending a couple of feet beyond the ring. It looked dangerous, and as soon as we saw it, we knew the match was going to be brutal. And it was.

Michaels wasn’t known for blading at the time – how times change – so when he was bust open, and proceeded to rip his forehead to shreds in the sickest blade job seen in the WWF in years. Michaels literally left puddles of blood in the ring, crawling out of one in order to pin Taker after something…..I can’t quite remember what….happened (I remember something to do with Kane, but at the same time, my conscious mind tells me that the WWF couldn’t have been so stupid as to add a tacky gimmicked debut onto the end of one of the greatest matches of all time, although sometimes I have nightmares involving an announcer screaming ‘that’s gotta be Kane’….), and destroyed him. But enough about the ending. The two most important things about the match were the blood that HBK shed, and that fall off the side of the cage through a table. Jerry Lawler screaming ‘incoming!’, and the bloody Michaels falling through the table like a slab of meat.

It was the first experiment the WWF had tried in a long time. And it worked. Hell in the Cell instantly became legendary, and we all wanted to see more.

The next year, we got it. Three times, actually, in quick succession.

If you weren’t paying attention, you would have missed the ‘Forgotten Cell Matches’, of which there were two. Everybody remembers that Mick has been in two HIAC matches, but he’s actually been in FOUR. His first one and actually the second HIAC match ever, was a tag match on Raw, featuring Kane and Mankind vs. Austin and Taker, setting up the two matches for King of the Ring – the HIAC match with Taker/Mick, and Austin/Kane in a First Blood match. As a result, this was a basic brawl, and entertaining. Not exactly much of a match, but a violent affair, certainly. Two points of note – the first being that Kane had the ‘bloodbath’ before The Brood did, and secondly that Paul Bearer could bleed worse than HHH on his best day. Seriously, Bearer pulled a sick blade job.

But onto the PPV.

‘This has been, perhaps, the most ungodly match that I think we will ever see’

Jim Ross

Mankind and Taker had feuded on and off for quite some time by this point, but they didn’t really have an issue leading up to this match. Truth be told, it felt like it was added on, and the only reason it was added was in order to get people to watch an otherwise uninspiring PPV. The match itself was one of the most incredible spectacles that any wrestling company has shown. How many of us thought Mick was dead? How many of us had our jaws drop open during that second fall? How many of us just watched in shock as the thumbtacks came out? Don’t forget that at this point, we’d never seen anything like this before.

We all know what happened, and we all know all the details, if we’ve read Foley’s first book. The thumbtacks in the back, the being knocked unconscious, and Taker’s broken ankle (just watch him drop down from the cage, and wince). It’s best summed up by Undertakers reaction when Foley asked him what his thoughts were, looking down through the broken cage.

‘I thought you were dead’.

So did we all at one point. This just effectively strengthened the legend that Hell in a Cell was quickly attaining. Not bad going for a hastily thrown together feud. The match became legendary, and also the main selling point for the video, which sold very well indeed. The cover was the poster they used – back when Sable was hot – but with an image from the match pasted over it, with ‘The most brutal match in federation history!’ written over it.

This match caused long term problems for WWE – in that it raised the bar, and people weren’t as impressed with smaller spots any more. It took them years to move past that. But it also did them a lot of good. Everybody was talking about this match, and I’ve even heard non-wrestling fans talking about this match before now. It became the match you had to see, as well as an eternal argument winner when you’re faced with someone who says ‘it’s all fake though’….

The next match was another one of the forgotten matches. It was on Raw, and featured Kane vs Mankind. This was actually during Foley’s slow face turn, and the match itself wasn’t hugely memorable. It certainly wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t one of the greats either. There was the memorable moment of us getting more thumbtacks, but to be honest, my abiding memory of this match is actually the promo before it, featuring some GREAT camerawork. Mick sat in the ring, slowly rocking back and forth, talking about how he had failed recently, and how he needed to find salvation…….

….and salvation…was above his head. As he looked up, and the Cell was there. Awesome moment, and one of my favourite moments involving Foley in a promo ever. Great visual.

The Undertaker stepped into the cell again next, But this time, it was a lot worse. You can see the thinking behind it. The thinking was ‘The Big Bossman deserves a match at WrestleMania, even if he’s jobbing. We’ll put him up against Taker, and to get some interest, we’ll make it a Hell in a Cell match.’ The idea of having, you know, somebody bumping their ASS off, which is the whole point of HIAC was missed. Instead, we got Taker slowly wandering around, while Bossman did the same thing, they both bladed, the audience went to sleep, and then The Brood came down and lynched Big Bossman.

No, I didn’t see that one coming either. But you heard right. The Brood all slowly descended from the roof onto the top of the cell, stuck a rope through, Undertaker quite blatantly attached it to an apparatus connected to Bossmans outfit, and they slowly and safely lifted Bossman up, while he went a bit red. There’s a reason Wrestlemania XV isn’t talked about in glowing terms, you realise. In fairness, the match is amusing, if only for Taker?s terrible costume and stupid chin beard. He looked like an overgrown gnome at this point in time. Luckily, that’s the lowest that it could go for Hell in the Cell. I mean, isn’t it? I mean how could they possible sink any lower?

How about Dogs humping live on PPV? Will that go over the edge a little? The next match was a Kennel from Hell match, between Bossman and Al Snow. This one came right out of wrestlecrap, folks. They were feuding because – get this – Big Bossman had cooked Al Snows dog. Yep, that’s the reason for the feud. And this was Bossman coming off a main event push. You know, all of a sudden, Bradshaw don’t look so fucking bad now, does he? They exhausted all the ‘hot dog’ and ‘pepper’ jokes within the first week of the feud, and then built up to this match, where they stuck a cage in the cell….and then ‘vicious, dangerous’ dogs on the outside. Unfortunately, the dogs were somewhat less than vicious, and two of them tried to start humping. Now, I’m not one to criticise Vince Russo’s booking, but someone on the booking team looked at HIAC, and decided to not only keep Big Bossman in the cell, but to add humping dogs. Sheer genius, I swear.

I’ll get you Al….and your little dog too!

I wish I could say more about this, but I really can’t. All I can do is recommend the Mick Foley ‘Cheap Pops’ DVD, where he does a special commentary for it,to help embarrass Al Snow. Poor Al. You got to feel for him, really…..

‘Everyone remembers how great I did in the first Cell match, right? WRONG! I got my ass kicked in that match!’

Mick Foley.

So, now we’ve glossed over that, we get back to the good stuff. And not just the good stuff…..this is the great stuff. This was Mick Foley making his triumphant return to Hell in a Cell, and coming off the best feud of his career while doing so. This was his last match (Well….kind of. You see….Hey, what’s that over there? *runs away*) And this was Foley and HHH coming off the best match either man had, their Street Fight the month before. The build-up to this was big, and it was – for me – the most anticipated match of the year by a long way. The build-up had its faults – a cheesy bit with Foley being locked in a cage, and supposedly driven to the venue leaps to mind – but it also had one of my favourite promos by Mick. You may remember it.

He talked about how he’d gotten hurt in the first cell match he was in. And how it took something as serious as his need to beat HHH to make him take another one. And how he was putting his career on the line against the title. And – infamously – how he wasn’t going to prostitute himself, and pull a fake retirement (Around the same time, Kevin Nash and Hogan had a loser retires match in WCW, which had been completely ridiculed). Foley gave everyone his word that if he lost, he was gone, and gone forever. Well…it didn’t quite work out like that, but he meant to keep his word, so I don’t hold it against him. He certainly didn’t do the six week retirement – ignoring Wrestlemania, of course – so, personally? I’m fine with it.

The Street Fight the month before worked wonders for the promotion of this one, because the sheer brutality it had involved left us with no doubts that they would pull out all the stops they were capable of. And considering the beating HHH took beforehand, and the amount that Foley had been willing to do to himself, we knew we would be in for a barnstormer.

In the end, it turned out to be, in my opinion, the second best Cell match there’s been. I preferred the HBK-Taker one, but only just. The match was, as expected, bloody and brutal, but it was also spectacular. Certain parts of the match were so vivid that they have just scarred themselves into my brain. Those steps being thrown at Foley’s head….the blood pouring down Mick’s arm…the 2X4, and then it being set on fire on top of the cage…Jerry Lawler’s calling of the flaming 2×4…the fall, and the raising of the hand….and the look on HHH’s face…followed by the look in Foley’s face as he left.

It had it’s faults, namely some things that I noticed, which showed how planned the spots were. There just happened to be a rag up there for HHH to put the 2×4 out with, while everyone was looking at Foley. And the cameraman rather unsubtly pulled back, to make sure there was space for the fall, which made it blindingly obvious what was going to happen next. Also the fact that the way the ring collapsed looked…well, just like somebody had removed the supporting from underneath it while the wrestlers were out of the ring (which is what happened) But that’s nitpicking. It was, overall, a better match than Foley’s previous time in the Cell on PPV, and it nearly matched it for sheer spectacle. Also, it had a better story going in, and a better opponent in HHH, so it’s not just one of my favourite cell matches, it’s one of my favourite matches full stop.

Wisely, it was a while until the next time they used the Cell, waiting off until the very end of that year. This match was what the WWF at the time did best, which was brawling from start to finish. Kurt Angle was the cowardly champion, and he was defending against (deep breath) Undertaker, Rikishi, The Rock, Steve Austin and HHH. This was a match which was a fun brawl, and certainly entertaining, but it never really clicked with me. I found it disappointing, personally, although I’m aware that a lot of people like it. Angle pulled out the win, continuing his streak of lucky wins, but that wasn’t really the story here. The story here was that the WWF was beginning to really struggle with Cell matches.

I think the match is actually more memorable for Rock’s promo before it, and for Undertaker’s catchphrase of ‘I’ll make you famous’ than for the actual match, and they were certainly two positive things to come out of the match. Rock’s promo, in particular, is one of his funniest, as he made fun and impersonated every other wrestler in the match. Very funny stuff, but not as funny as watching a ‘shoot’ promo with Taker, where he talked about how he had both been disgusted with himself for the brutality he had performed in previous cell matches, and also loving every second of it. What made it funny was watching ‘Taker desperately trying to improvise his way through this, as he obviously couldn’t remember the order of any of the matches, or the order of the bumps. ‘So then I threw Mick…err….through the cage, and then I dragged him back off and…err…threw him off….err…that is right, isn’t it?….or was that with Shawn?…erm….I loved it!’

The match itself reached the absolute pinnacle of overbooking spots, which had become a problem with the cell. Everyone watching the matches expected a spectacular moment, and this was no different. Before the match, it was just a case of working out who was going to take the bump, and it was difficult. The way they got around this was bad. Really bad. You see, Mick Foley had booked the match, to please the fans. Vince McMahon, on the other hand, didn’t want any of the wrestlers to get hurt, so halfway through the match, McMahon ordered somebody to drive a truck full of sawdust to the ring, so that the cell could be demolished. Foley stopped this happening, and Rikishi ended up taking a bump (courtesy of a badly performed chokeslam) off the side of the cell onto the very forgiving sawdust and padding underneath. So, we watched the match, and we ticked off the sentence on the checklist that said ‘overly contrived spot that’s actually very safe’. We also had a very contrived spot with Austin making sure a camera was working before swinging it softly towards HHH. We did get the grinding of a bloody face against the Cell wall….again, and again, and again, and over and over again. It was just….uninspired. And the most cartoonish main event they had around this time, in my opinion.

At this point, there is no way that WWE can’t have realised that they’d exhausted the formula of the way they’d been doing it. The formula needed reworking, because it was getting too contrived. Every match had to have a big spot, but those spots were getting more difficult to work in. The first time, Michaels accidentally knocked out the cameraman, and while the cameraman was being carted out, Michaels took the opportunity to escape. The second time, Foley kept being determined to go back up to the top. The third time, Foley kept being determined to go up to the top, but this time he was more cautious. The fourth time, they didn’t have Foley any more (in case you’re wondering, I’m sticking to the big ones here, not the small matches in between), so they drove a truck to ringside with padding in. They needed to change track, and they knew it.

And, over a year later, change track they did. This time, HHH was playing the face, and Chris Jericho was playing the heel. It’s not the most memorable match, but it certainly wasn’t bad. There were two problems with it though. The first was that everybody knew who was going to win. This was during the period where HHH was beginning to really run out of excuses with the fans, and beginning to lose a lot of them. Also, Chris Jericho had been treated like a jobber before this, not even appearing on the PPV before it, so it didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out who was winning this one. The second problem was that while WWE had decided that it was going to change track, nobody else knew, so most people, quite fairly, expected what we had been given in the past. Another brawl with a big bump towards the end. Now, what with HHH having his recently repaired leg, it was blindingly obvious that Jericho would probably take the bump, especially when they ended up fighting on the top of the cage. So when they didn’t, it felt like a let down, despite being a good match.

It was a shame for the two wrestlers, because they were going out and trying to show us how they were trying to change the concept of a cage match, and this was something that took a couple more matches until we were comfortable with it. As a result, I think there was a lot of undeserved disappointment with this match.

‘Mark, you bastard’

Tracy.

Not so with the next match. The next match featured Undertaker (again) taking on Brock Lesnar. While the feud itself had been terminally bad, featuring Brock using a porn actress to pretend to have had an affair with Undertaker, the match itself was a revelation. ‘Taker’s best match in years, at that point, and Brock’s best up till then too. What worked well about it is that it felt like the first match. The cell felt like a big deal for the first time in years, because of the fact that they USED it.

They didn’t use it in a spectacular way, but they used it from the inside. We had both Taker and Brock utilising the roof a couple of times, and using the space between the ring and the walls more than any other Cell match. That space, incidentally, is something that makes those matches unique to me. And this match used it a lot – mainly for the shortcut of having Paul Heyman outside, trying to interfere. Hell, if he couldn’t reach, what was the point in him being there? Plus, they never even hinted at leaving the cell. For me, this was great, because in the hype for the original Cell match, they never talked about the possibility of going to the top. The concept was being locked IN a cell with your opponent. And that was what this match was all about. The build during the event centred around Taker taking a bunch of pain killers, purely so he could compete in the match. On one level, it was corny. On another, it was perfect for the match, because it promised brutality.

Without the previous match, this would have been too much of a change. Everyone would have been looking for the big spot, but because there hadn’t been one previously, the audience wasn’t expecting it as much. As a result, they watched for it to be brutal. And it delivered. Taker bled to a stupid degree, and Brock bladed as well – hell, so did Paul Heyman, marking the first bladejob from someone who didn’t even get inside the cell. Brock proceeded to demolish Taker, and then no-sold everything Taker had done to him, and in the process led to a great visual, which was immediately stolen by Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain. He climbed up the cage, and posed on top of it, with the fallen Taker underneath.

Still a great visual.

‘We apologise for this’

Jim Ross referring to HHH using a screwdriver as a weapon.

For the next voyage inside the steel, WWE pulled its trump card. Mick Foley. Unfortunately, he wasn’t wrestling, but rather serving as the referee for the match between HHH and Kevin Nash. This was a shame, because it meant that people watched this match, and immediately wished they were watching one of Foley’s matches. Which is a shame, because this was (whisper it) actually a decent match, and not a bad Cell match by any means. It wasn’t stunning, but what it did do was concentrate less on spectacle, and more on brutality. It was more a garbage weapons match than anything else, and didn’t really use the cell to it’s benefit, but as far as garbage matches go, it was pretty good. This was during HHH’s ‘off’ phase though, and it ended up that the most impressive man in the ring was….Mick Foley.

Sigh.

Mick gave everyone cause for excitement when he showed he could still bump, and blade, better than most. Admittedly, he was out of shape, slower than previously, and not a full time wrestler any more, but then neither was Kevin Nash, and he was booked in the match. Admittedly, the match is only decent because of the sheer amount of shortcuts they took, but taking that into account, it worked.

‘Ladies and Gentlemen…..this is the end.’

Jim Ross.

Since then, they left the cage alone for a while, sensibly, until they had a match that could justify being placed into it. And the finale of the feud between Shawn Michaels and HHH was the perfect match to have in there. Had the feud been dragged out too long? Possibly, yes, but as far as I’m concerned, I could never get enough of this feud anyway. It’s one that I never thought I’d see, what with HBK being retired for so long. At that point in time, the HIAC match was my favourite gimmick, HHH was my favourite current wrestler, and HBK was my favourite of all time. If you had my all time dream match, that would probably be it, back in 2000.

By 2004 it wasn’t any more. Shawn was back, but I didn’t like his character quite as much – luckily, his wrestling ability kept him as my favourite guy on the planet. HHH wasn’t the man he was in 2000, although he was getting there. It’s just one of those things – when you get your dream, you realise that in some ways, it’s just another match.

Luckily, it wasn’t just another match. It was long, brutal, and stayed in the cage. There was space for innovation and even space for a ladder….but what made the match was the way they sold it. They both sold it like they were dying, and that’s why it worked. Michaels, in particular, scared every fan he had with his selling of the back. I know for a fact I wasn’t the only one thinking he’d re-injured himself. My guess is that he extensively studied his own match with Steve Austin when his back was at its worst.

The important thing about this match? It was probably the best match inside the cage so far. Clean, brutal, technical and involving two of the best in the world, both on good form. They didn’t do anything different, but they did prove something. They proved that the Cell match has legs. And, as a feud ender, they did it as a straight Cell match. They’d moved away from the coolness factor of jumping off high things, and moved past the complete brutality level. It’s now seen as a hard match, but a good one.

It doesn’t have to be overly spectacular. It doesn’t have to be a case of being suicidal to do it. What it’s become is what it should be. A feud ender. It’s become the ultimate feud ender, because as a gimmick, it can’t be topped. Where do you go after a Hell in a Cell match? You can’t really get cheap endings in it, when it’s one on one. And with the invention of the Elimination Chamber, it is now exclusively One on One. And once again, it?s the blow-off. As it should be.

Strangely, despite a mixture of average and awful matches, peppered with superb ones, the Cell has managed to retain its sheen. We still see it as a great gimmick, and it does still work. It’s difficult to think of another gimmick match that has been so overused, but can still get a huge cheer just for being mentioned. It’s just a gimmick that worked. The first time we saw the cell, we all went ‘wow’. It’s simple, and it’s brutal. It’s not convoluted, like the chamber, and it’s not overly complicated for non-fans, or overly reliant on technical wrestling. It’s simple. Two men go in. One comes out. And in between?

Hell.

——————————————————————-

MSN: christopherbrosnahan

AIM: chrisbrosnahan

Sites I write for: www.Earth-2.net // www.thewrestlingchannel.tv // The Oratory

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Standing At The Edge: Wrestling as Soap Opera.

Wrestling has been referred to as a ‘male soap opera’ so many times, it has become a clich?. However, as with many other clich?s, it has become a clich? by virtue of being true, more often than not.

It’s simple, if you think about it. Each company has its own ready made story. It’s a large corporation, filled with talented people, all with their own character and personality that sets them apart from all the others, however, they have been pitched against each other in combat, but, unlike Battle Royale, they will always be able to lick their wounds and return. Meanwhile, with this as the main story, there’s the subplot of how far people will go to get ahead in life. Will they sell out, and go corporate, or will they stay true to their own spirit? Will they band together to form a stable, or will they forge their own path? Will they be held down by the owners of the corporation, or will they be able to work their way into the inside?

And in the middle of all of this, there are the stock characters that we will find in any good soap opera. The honest, hard working Joe, the ruthless businessman, the sleazy corporate guy, the flashy, flamboyant one, the womanizer, the drunkard, the slut, the girl next door, the virginal daughter, and the ungrateful son. These are all archetypal characters, and they’re all present and correct.

And on another level as well, we break Staninslavsky?s fourth wall ? the invisible one between performer and audience, and we remain as fascinated by the real life stories behind wrestling – who gets pushed, and who doesn’t, who wants to leave, and so on and so forth. This is the kind of thing that fuels websites, or sells magazines. It?s what people are interested in ? why one actor is leaving a soap, or if it?s all taking a new direction. If one storyline is as popular with everyone else or not. It?s the kind of thing that people find interesting about any industry that they follow.

And that’s just one corporation. On another level again, there’s actually lots of corporations, and they’re all in competition with each other, and trying not to get gobbled up by the big shark in the pond. It?s almost like film companies, except film companies are a lot more anonymous. We may know there?s rivalry between Fox, Columbia etc, but really ‘they’re all making so much money, that it isn’t really possible to feel the rivalry as vividly as we do between, say, ROH and TNA.

Stories within stories within stories. Is it any wonder we’re fascinated? We follow our own soap opera, from the personal level of each character, through to the big, complex crossover story of the fish in the pond. And each time, the formula stays the same – do you side with the shark, or the minnows? Tune in next week, kids, and see what happens next.

Of course, sometimes, we get huge blockbuster stories that keep us glued to our screens and monitors. Steve Austin getting arrested or Rob Feinstein being exposed. Scandal, gossip, and heartache, and even better, involving people that we know better than the mainstream does. When these kind of things happen, it?s not so much specialist magazines as it is front page news for us.

Whether it be Days of our Lives, or Coronation Street, let’s face it, for us, wrestling fulfils the same purpose, but with an infinite possibility of stories, in a huge number of countries. Lots of little soap operas, combined within one big one. Less Coronation Street, and more Marvel Universe, with all these continuities tied together. And so many people tune into their favorite soap, some people actually organizing their lives around them.

And I’ve been a fan of one particular soap opera for a while now. The Frontier Wrestling Alliance. It’s not Days of Our Lives, and it’s not Coronation Street. At the moment, on the scale of things, it’s probably Hollyoaks, in terms of size and awareness, or even Family Affairs ? for any non-English people, think of some soap that nobody is really aware of yet.. But personally, I’ve goten addicted. Thursday nights, nine o’clock, there’s me, turning into the couch potato that I try very hard not to be usually. I’ve even developed a habit of what I drink and eat. Thursday nights have turned into Beer and Pizza night. Seriously, I’m watching this show more religiously than I watch any other show. Not just more than, say, Raw or Smackdown, but more religiously than any other show on TV at the moment. In fairness, I don’t watch much TV anyway ? well, other than this years Big Brother – but it’s still something.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I get fascinated by a new show, I like to talk about it. And most Soaps, you can talk about at work. Hell, Big Brother, I talk about at work all the time. But wrestling? More difficult. One or two of my colleagues know a little about WWE, but not many know about anything else. And trying to explain what I like about a smaller company is surprisingly difficult. Well, surprisingly probably wasn’t the right word there. Mind numbingly predictable is probably better, what with the way wrestling is viewed among my colleagues. But what I mean is I find it difficult to explain why I like the FWA so much.

Especially when I’m not so sure myself.

So what is it I like about it? Is it the big time feel? Well, no. I’ll be honest with you – it doesn’t have a big time feel. It’s usually filmed in town halls, in front of a few hundred people. It tours, so some look better than others. There’s one in Wales that looks like a school gym, and they can’t even put the audience around the ring properly, giving it a strange theatre kind of feel. Hell, for their big shows, they perform in Brent Town Hall. It?s a great venue as a fan, but?well?it?s the place which is in the shadow of Wembley Arena. Literally. Now, the company deserves better already, and it will grow with time. I don’t doubt it. But, at the moment?.they’re not doing big shows. So no, it’s not the big time feel. Although, if it has a feel, it’s a real underground kind of feel – shimmering with potential, like a diamond under coal. But I certainly don’t feel like I’m watching a big spectacle with it. But then, if I want that, I can switch on WWE.

Is it the stunning wrestling? Again, no. Ring of Honor is better, to be honest. Not that the English federation is hopelessly outclassed, you understand. They’re not, there are some fantastic wrestlers on the roster – Doug Williams, and Jonny Storm for example ? that could stand up against any other wrestler in the world, and not look bad. However, not all of the roster are up to that level. This said, are any of them actually bad? No, not at all. There?s an enthusiasm about the roster which means that they are all working hard, and in all the time I?ve been watching so far, I can honestly say I haven’t seen a bad match yet. There have been some uninspired ones, and there?s been some average ones ? but not a single ?Billy Gunn vs. Mordecai? bad match. And over a variety of styles (technical, high flying, brawling, or even more WWE style), that?s impressive enough in itself. They generally let the matches go long, and allow the talent to learn while they’re working. And the talent is learning. It?s already a lot better than it was a year ago, and it?s only going to keep improving. Longer matches work, it?s that simple. It gives you time to become familiar with the talent, and it gives you a reason to care about them, longer term.

So is it the over the top, or highly realistic characters? We’re beginning to get there, but, well?no. FWA seems to be following an unintentional pattern at the moment, which works well. Essentially, any of the faces are kind of like older World of Sport wrestlers. They’re relatively plain, and don’t usually get much mic time. However, the heels are generally a little more American style. More flash, better characters, more mic time, more storylines?.you get the idea. With them feuding, there?s kind of a feel of British Wrestling vs. American Wrestling, and if you realize that, all of a sudden, the feuds work on a different level. It?s both its biggest asset, and its worst flaw. It?s a great asset, because it?s an angle with which you could draw the general public in. The general public remembers WOS, and it’d be interested in seeing wrestling as it was then. Hell, back then, it was a hit. Generally, people liked it, and generally, it?s the same people that look at WWE, and don’t like it. WOS was working class, and it was smaller scale. Now, take something which is, essentially, similar ? FWA ? and inject in a bunch of charismatic heels, who all act more American style than the faces do, and you?ve got a storyline that, really, could only really be done once. It?s more than just old school versus new school ? it?s about two different cultural takes on the same thing.

It?s its biggest flaw, because of a major criticism I have of the FWA ? It needs to work on its faces. If they’re not deliberately going for what I?ve been talking about ? and to be honest, I don’t really think that they have been ? then it has a problem with it?s faces. They need better reasons to be faces, because otherwise, they’re boring, which is going to be a problem for them. To put it simply, I enjoy booing Alex Shane more than I enjoy cheering Jack Xavier. And it?s not Jacks fault ? it just needs work. Look, guys, you bring in enough American wrestlers ? look at what they do. They’re faces, and they’re over. All we need is a reason to cheer you.

There?s still something weird about hearing English accents doing promo?s. I don’t know why, I just find it weird. After fifteen years of only really hearing American accents promo-ing, or exaggerated English accents?.oh yeah, note to Americans: Blackpool isn’t posh. But I understand the confusion, what with William Regal and everything? after fifteen years, I find it strange readjusting to English accents. Sorry, but when I hear ?I’m going to kick your arse?, it sounds funny. I know it?s just reconditioning, and I’m not saying they don’t have good promo?s?.they do. But again, it will improve.

One thing that they have already improved on is the value of their production. Recently, the FWA gained a new production house, via an agreement with a Manchester firm, and the improvement is huge. I kid you not, the values of production that they have are now third in the western industry, in my opinion, behind TNA and WWE. They’re better than any other Indy out there in this. Plus, they’re experimenting, and being able try different things with their promo?s, which basically become small video packages. It?s nice to see, and it gives them something different, which no other independent company really does as well. There?s still room for improvement, but the fact is, they’re doing a good job already.

They’re in need of star power as well, that has to be said. Doug Williams is spending more and more time in ROH, and Jonny Storm is out for a while as well, and this is damaging the company quite a bit. It?s a shame, but it?s nothing that won’t be worked out. It links to what I was saying earlier about charisma, but there?s a few wrestlers who are shining already. Burchill is the obvious one. I haven’t seen him promo much yet, but his appeal is simple ? he?s big, he?s muscular, and he could kick your arse. And you believe it. He?s got the appeal that Mike Awesome had when he was in ECW ? but only when he was in ECW. If WWE aren’t already scouting this guy, I’ll be surprised, but if FWA can hang on to him, he?s a guy they can do a lot with. Simmons, on the other hand, is a complete gimmick wrestler?.but what a gimmick. Every fiber of me says that I should hate this character (he?s a butler. That?s it. He?s a butler, with a shirt and bow-tie, and a French maid companion), but I don’t. And I don’t because he?s entertaining, simple as that. He?s downright hilarious n the ring, and he?s talented as well. The crowd love him, and deservedly so. It?s a simple gimmick, and he plays it perfectly ? especially since he seems terrified half the time. Plus the fact that he gets Goldberg like chants everywhere he goes doesn’t harm him in the least. And ? let?s be honest here ? his companion, buttercup, parades around in stockings and a French maids outfit. I’m sold. The final guy is Alex Shane, and frankly, I love this guy. He is a superb heel, and an above average worker. He also works hard, and constantly strives to improve. He even does his best to put other workers over, to the point where my main criticism for him at the moment is that he over-sells for smaller workers. Hardly a major issue. He?s not put himself in the main event properly yet, but he?s their best bet as someone to build the company around. By far and away. If I was WWE, I’d be chomping at the bit to sign this guy, because he has everything they look for. And with it, he?s good. So that?s definitely something in its plus corner. For some reason, I think I’m alone in the Alex Shane love, but he?s definitely set to become a major player over the next few years, and if one man is going to lead the FWA to the Promised Land, it?s him. If you haven’t guessed yet, I’m impressed by him, and I’m not that easily impressed. I get the feeling that a feud between him and Burchill is in the long term plans, and that?s one they can build on to become big.

The commentating isn’t bad, which sounds like I’m dampening it with faint praise. The team is certainly competent, and one of them is very good, but they need to stop saying each others names every two sentences. It?s a small thing, but it really irritates me. Other than that, they’re actually very good announcers, and they put everything over that they need to put over. With a weekly show, again, they’re improving all the time, and that?s important, because you need to have that consistency. If I were them, I’d give a little more of the front man stuff to Nick London, rather than John Atkins (they currently have that reversed) since he?s the more charismatic of the two, but again, it?s a minor point. Weirdly, while I find it strange having English accents promo, having them commentate seemed completely natural.

So why do I watch? It?s partly because it feels like I’m watching a company grow, and mature. The FWA is becoming a serious contender, and it?s going to make huge strides in every department, because they have the basics in place. They?ve got a weekly show, and I’m hooked on it already. They?ve also got one important thing down, which is consistency in their booking and storylines. If someone turns heel, they turn heel for a reason, and likewise for face turns. Plus, they?ve got everyone doing something, from the title scene, down to the family in the midcard, down to the feuding graduates from their training school. Everything has a reason to be happening, and that gives it a huge advantage over a lot of other companies.

And you know what happens when you’re watching a show, and everything happens for a reason? You have a reason to tune in next week. And the week after, until quickly, you’re addicted to the show, and you want to see what happens next. The show isn’t available in the US yet ? hopefully that will change in time ? but it?s my favourite show on The Wrestling Channel at present, and I hope that it gains popularity as it continues to improve. Partly because, while it?s fun to watch Soap Opera?s, you feel more attached to them the earlier you start watching. Now, it has its flaws, but in the end, there?s a reason I like it, and it?s very simple. I like it because the FWA is pretty damn good at what it does. And where it isn’t already good, it?s working hard to become good. And it?s consistent as well, which is more important than I can say.

At the moment, FWA is small, but mark my words, this is a company that you’re going to hear more of. I’d go so far to say that it has the most potential out of any company that isn’t WWE or ROH, and with the history of British Wrestling behind it, it has an ace card that it can use at any time, because it?s something that is unique, and something that is fascinating. In the same way as watching a new Soap Opera that hasn’t yet begun to get the media interest or the ratings that it deserves, the FWA is building itself on solid foundations. And solid foundations last, and they can weather a storm. I get the feeling that the FWA will get those storms, but I also get the feeling that it?s going to be around for a long time. And when that?s the case with any Soap, I feel safe in putting away time to watch it, and looking forward to its future.

So, next week, at nine in the evening, on Thursday?.anybody want to guess where I’ll be?

——————————————————————-

As a postscript, I’d like to apologise for my absence from the main page for the past while. It’s been due to personal reasons, including moving house, illness, and – on a happier note – the fact that I got engaged recently. Sorry, and I hope to be more regular from here on in.

MSN: christopherbrosnahan

AIM: chrisbrosnahan

Sites I write for: Earth-2 // The Wrestling Channel // The Oratory

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Standing At The Edge: Five Years On.

If you’ve read any of my previous columns then you’ll know that I’m a huge wrestling fan. Yes, I know that that much is obvious, before you feel the need to point out that I write wrestling columns in my free time. But I mean that I go out of my way to watch wrestling whenever I can. I don’t know how you spent last night and this morning, but I spent it watching the Mick Foley DVD, which I bought yesterday. When I went into town, I wore the Mick Foley beanie hat that I got with the DVD (for three pounds cheaper than the DVD on its own, which probably tells you just how – ahem – cool the beanie is.) I also bought the paperback version of ‘Have a Nice Day’ by Mick Foley (are you noticing a pattern yet?). The rest of my week, I’ve spent trying to sort out a camcorder in order to apply for the wrestling channels presenter job, checking up on the e-fed I’m in, and so on and so forth. So when I say I’m a huge wrestling fan, I mean it.

So, as such, I remember what I was doing five years ago today fairly vividly. If you were watching wrestling then, chances are that you remember as well. For my father’s generation, they remember where they were when Kennedy was shot. I never had anything like that, that worldwide, until a day in September in 2001. But before that, I had 24th May 1999. I remember where I was when I found out Owen Hart had died.

I was at university at the time, up in Yorkshire, studying a theatre acting course, and I would have been finishing my second year. I’d only discovered the internet a couple of years before, and I’d only discovered news sites, as opposed to the official WWF site, a year previously. I’d also, for the first time, discovered other people who were wrestling fans, and who owned wrestling events I hadn’t seen. So, at the age of nineteen, I’d become more of a wrestling fan than I ever had been. And all this, despite not having access to watching the weekly shows or the monthly pay per views.

It was the desire to read the results of the weekly shows and PPVs that led to me going into the computer room on campus, and logging on in order to check the results of the previous nights PPV. It was about 11am, and I was booting up the computer – this was not the most advanced computer lab in the world, and dial up was probably even slower than I remember – when a friend of mine, a guy called Kris, came over to me, looking kind of panicky, and really wide-eyed.

‘Did you hear about Owen?’

Now, my first thought was that there’d been some huge swerve in the storylines, and he’d somehow barged his way into the main event. It seemed good timing, since the week before, we’d watched the ‘D-Generation X’ PPV, which was where Owen Hart returned and attacked HBK. He’d been written out of the main event then – apparently because HBK didn’t want to work a program with him – and put in a feud with HHH, which I found rather boring. It just never felt like it got off the ground.

While it felt good timing to me, because I was in the mood to see more of Owen, I was trying to work out how the hell he’d managed to get into the Main Event. Maybe he’d attacked Austin? It would be unexpected, but could be very cool. It never even crossed my mind that something could be wrong. I mistook my friends panic for excitement.

‘He’s dead.’

I didn’t believe it at first.

‘Bullshit. You’re lying.’

That’s not the kind of thing I say. I don’t swear at people often, and I never accuse people of lying to me. But at this point, one of two things was possible. The first was that Owen had really died last night. The other was that my friend was winding me up for some reason. At this point, I was clinging to the latter, desperately.

‘No way, you’re lying.’

Then I noticed that he was crying.

‘Shit…..how? What happened?’

He explained what he knew. That Owen had fallen from the top of the arena, and cracked his head off one of the turnbuckles.

The pub had just opened, and so we spent the next few hours in there, just taking in the information. Talking about wrestling, and how it was going to be affected, and talking about Bret, and how he was going to be affected, and talking about Owen, and remembering his career.

He was never my favourite wrestler – other people were ahead of him for that. But he was always in my top ten, and usually threatening to break my top five. Not just because of his undoubted talent, but also because he was so quick to laugh at himself. To allow jokes to be made about him. He was also a wrestler who my father liked – and my father was never a huge wrestling fan. It was Owens build that got to him. Those enormous shoulders – which my Dad felt the need to point out every time he saw him. ‘Look at his shoulders…they’re enormous. I know it’s fake, but those wrestlers are in damn good shape.’

The next couple of days, I spent morbidly trying to find out more about what had happened, and tried to decide if I wanted to look for footage of what had happened. Yes, I know it’s morbid, but it still didn’t feel real. I became angry when I saw the way the story was treated in the British Newspapers – those that bothered to report it. It wasn’t seen as a tragedy, it was seen as a freak death of a big dumb wrestler, and they dug up a picture of Owen grimacing while weightlifting, in order to fit him to the stereotype. A shame, because he was a good looking guy in his own way, and the story would have been better with a picture of Owen outside of the ring.

When Princess Diana died, I was the guy taking the attitude of ‘who cares?? Not in order to be cool, but just because I didn’t understand why people were affected by someone they’d only seen on the television, who never really had anything to do with their lives. With Owen’s death, I understood better. Watching Owen, you just got the feeling he was a nice guy, and the stories that came out after his death backed this up. If there had been a hearse going near where I was, I would have been out there to pay my respects, in the same way all the Diana mourners did, and I daresay it would have been on a similar level, emotionally, for me.

I’ve experienced the deaths of people close to me before. I’ve had family members die, and I lost one of my best friends this year. They affected me in a different way, obviously. They were losses of people who were actually close to me, and who had a direct influence on my life. So, on one level, making an emotional connection with a celebrity seems stupid. But on another level, he entertained me, and he entertained me consistently. He was someone who I had watched since the end of 1991, from his career as ‘The Rocket’. He was a regular on ‘Superstars’, and I enjoyed Owen straight away – at the age of eleven, it had as much to do with his music as anything else. Anyone else remember his ‘Rocket’ music? It was over the top, but fun. This said, I hated his ‘High Energy’ tandem with Koko B. Ware. Couldn’t stand it. His involvement in Bret?s feud with Jerry Lawler was better. Lawler basically kicked the crap out of him, but going into the match, I genuinely believed Owen would win. It didn’t matter that he lost – the passion he showed before the match proved that he should never be overlooked. And he remained decent, but not great. He entertained me, and I always watched when he was on, but I was watching for other guys. I was watching for HBK and Bret Hart, and even Diesel.

He got my attention when he turned heel on his brother. All of a sudden, his entire character just clicked into place. He was whiny, bitchy, angry and immature. And, if you knew what to look for – he was downright hilarious. He excelled at doing funny little things that most people missed. For example, when he had a match against the Undertaker some time during a Raw episode, the date of which I have long forgotten. The Undertaker made his big long entrance, and the camera occasionally would concentrate on the look of fear on his opponents face. Owen overplayed the whole thing, gulping, wiping imaginary sweat from his face, and blatantly sizing up the steel post outside the ring to see if he could hide behind it. It was great, because he wasn’t afraid to play the coward. Plus, any emotion that he conveyed, he completely committed to, as if it was the only thing that it was possible for him to feel at that time. If he was scared, he’d look like he was sitting at judgement day, and about to be cast down. If he was angry, he’d scream and shout at the top of his voice. And if he was laughing, like, for example, when he conned his mother into throwing Bret?s towel in, he’d practically skip around like a child. And that childlike quality was what made him so watchable. I couldn’t tell you many memorable moments from anyone like Lex Luger, or Kevin Nash. In terms of entertainment, Owen was one of the best.

Technically, he was up there. He wasn’t part of the upper echelon – people like Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, Kurt Angle and his brother Bret…but he was only a couple of notches below. That talent was there from the start, judging from a very early Owen appearance from the British World of Sport, which I caught on The Wrestling Channel. Seeing one from Bret at about the same age, Owen was more of a natural to wrestling then Bret was, it appeared to me. Maybe, by now, Owen would have been remembered in that upper echelon. His matches with Bret, Bulldog, HHH and others suggests that he had a knack for bringing out the best in people. Perhaps one of the reasons he never was as big as he could have been was his generosity. He was certainly one of the most giving wrestlers I ever saw, usually selling for anyone and everyone. This said though,a number of people refused to work programs with him. Michaels, for one, and Austin for another. Both had their own reasons – Austins being that Owen had nearly crippled him ? and, I suppose that?s fair enough. It?s unfortunate, but then, these things happen. Still, I would have loved to have seen these programs.

It was sad watching the Hart family after that, as they seemed to disintegrate. There was a lot of infighting, name calling, a lot of hurt, and a lot of anger. And a lot of death. Both Owen’s parents are gone now, as is his brother in law, Davey Boy Smith, and Bret was forced into retirement after his stroke. Watching Canadian Stampede, and realising that the only member left alive and healthy of that team is Jim Neidhart makes for a sobering experience. When you also remember that we are missing Mr Perfect, Rick Rude, Brian Pillman, Crash Holly, Hawk and many others, it’s even more sobering. So much talent, and so much entertainment, and it’s all gone. But still, the one I miss the most is Owen Hart.

And so, yesterday, I found myself doing something unusual, and impulsive. I was on eBay, and decided to see what wrestling stuff I could find, and see if I could find any bargains. While I’m looking, I see an item, which is a recording of ‘Over the Edge ’99’, and the Raw the night afterwards. I bought it, and am waiting for it to be delivered as I write. I would have bought it just for the Raw, which I’ve always wanted to see. Admittedly, it may not be as memorable as Austin driving a beer truck to the ring – stupid Raw X ? but it?s pretty damn memorable, by all accounts. I also get the event with it. I honestly don’t know if I can watch it. I honestly don’t know whether I would find it voyeuristic, or cathartic. On one level, I’m aware that I want to watch it because I’m a writer, and, like any writer, find myself watching something unique, and taking note of my emotions as I do. Trust me when I say we do that all the time. When something important or emotional happens, there’s a part of us that’s taking notes all the way through. And I’m aware that there is this part of me that wants to watch the video of Over the Edge for that exact reason. And on another level, I’m similarly fascinated to see people performing afterwards. In the end, part of me wants to watch just to see what it was like. But then, another part of me wonders if it’s disrespectful, and voyeuristic, the same way I decided not to watch that video of the kid being decapitated on the net. But then, does curiosity always win out in the end? I wouldn’t have bought the PPV on its own, but I’ve got it because I wanted to see the Raw tribute. I don’t yet know what I’ll do, but I’ll do whichever feels right. It?s pretty much a guarantee that either way, my girlfriend will walk in on me in tears watching one or the other.

I know that a lot of people get annoyed with this kind of thing. They get annoyed with people eulogising Owen Hart,, and they feel that he got a better reputation than he deserved, by virtue of the career move of dying. But the fact is, Owen was a damn good wrestler, and he was, for a lot of people, one of their favourites. He certainly was for me. Apparently he was intending to retire and become a teacher, and if he had achieved that, that would have been a damn good career to look back on. As it is, he never had the chance to look back on it.

But that’s it, isn’t it? It’s a fascinating, tragic story, the life and death of Owen Hart. And all these things just got me thinking about it, and got me writing this column. It got me thinking about how, even though I don’t think anyone should profit from Owen’s death, I’d really love to see them bring out an Owen Hart DVD, consisting of the Owen Tribute Raw, and a collection of his best matches. Hell, I’d be first in line for it.

Five years today since I found out. It’s a long time, and my thoughts are with Owens? family today.

MSN: christopherbrosnahan

AIM: chrisbrosnahan

Sites I write for: Earth-2 // The Wrestling Channel // The Oratory

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Standing At The Edge: The Pay-Off

The Pay-Off.

What I’m about to tell you, I?ve never told anyone. Not even my wife.

I was raised catholic, right? By that, I mean I was raised right. Knew good from bad, right from wrong. I knew all about turning the other cheek and all that. Hell, I believed all of it. I touched myself down there? Straight to hell. One way trip. They pounded all of this into me and I believed all of it.

I also believed in being the best I could be, which is why I got into boxing. Started training when I wasn’t much more than a kid and kept going. Got pretty good as well, but never really went anywhere with it. Sure I had a few shows and all, but certainly not enough to make a living out of. But I enjoyed it, you know? I mean, I didn’t enjoy getting hit, that?s obvious. But I enjoyed going out and proving myself. I could move as well. I was always fast, and I used that in boxing. Getting inside an opponents defences was the key to beating him. Sadly, I found out quickly that I had something of a glass jaw. Just like that kids film, you know the one? Bugsy Malone. A fight went wrong, and for weeks afterwards I was eating through a straw. I decided then and there that it wasn’t worth it. So I stopped fighting.

I liked the training though, and while I got work on the sites, I kept the training up in my spare time. I got in good shape fast, with the building work during the day and the gym in the evening. I liked being in good shape, and the girls liked me being in good shape, I can tell you that. I was twenty two at this point, and I was a good looking kid. This was in the fifties, so we were all dressed up in suits in the nightclubs?none of these chains all over us, or wearing tracksuits. We kept our tracksuits for the gym, and when we hit the clubs, we did it in style. Obviously, at this point, I’d stopped believing I was going straight to hell.

I’d watched the wrestling as a kid, and I enjoyed it, but I’d never thought about doing it. It just never crossed my mind. You know how you look back and you see that the glaringly obvious was right there all along? It was staring you in the face, and you never noticed it? Yeah. It was like that. I was there one day, working out, and this guy comes up to me, and tells me I?ve got a good look. Now, I’m ready to hit him, ?cause I’m not about to be propositioned by some fruit?.sorry. I can’t say that anymore, can I? You know what I mean. It wasn’t normal then. Anyway, he caught on to his mistake, and explained what he meant, that I had a good look for a professional wrestler, and did I want to be introduced to some guys who could help? I wasn’t sure how it would work out, but I figured it wouldn’t do any harm to check it out? Hell, it could be fun, and I might even earn a little more money.

I started training?no, training?s the wrong word for it. What actually happened was that I got the crap kicked out of me for a couple of months. These were guys that knew how to stretch you. You’d be down on the match, and your shoulder would be bending in a way it shouldn’t be, you’d be screaming. Hell, I’m not ashamed to admit that, you’d be screaming, and saying whatever they told you to say. I screamed that I was a coward, that I was a cocksucker, and that I had intentions towards my mother. You’d say anything just to stop hurting. I know you watch movies where people get tortured, and there?s part of you thinking you’d be able to hold out?.but trust me, when one of your limbs feels like it?s genuinely going to be ripped out of its sockets, you’ll say anything. Anything at all. And these guys, they knew that. Some of them were cool guys, but some of them were sadists. And none more than more so than Jack Slade.

Jack had a gimmick, which was that he was kind of a cowboy, which was pretty accurate, being as how he was Texan, and had the same name as some cowboy back in the eighteenth century. But he was no dumb redneck. This guy was as smart as they come. He was in the business to make serious money during a time when nobody got into this business to make serious money. And I hated getting into the ring to train with him, because he had no interest in making you better. He only had interest in hurting you for his own amusement. He wasn’t the only one, but he was the worst. He was with this kid one time, and I swear to God, he broke the kids wrist. Why? Because he wanted to teach him to respect the business. It was a bunch of crap, because the kid already respected the business, but that?s the way Jack was. He wanted to make sure that the kid remembered him, and he wanted to feel good about himself for a few minutes or something.

You know, it?s weird, and you might not believe this, but kids like you these days? Hell, you know more about the business today than I knew a year into it. I was out having matches by this point, and I was still shooting, and getting my ass kicked day in and day out. We didn’t have the Internet; we didn’t have people writing books about the business, we certainly didn’t have ?Tough Enough?. So, even a kid knows more about it than I did back then. And that?s scary in itself.

It?s not just scary, it?s also strange. I mean, we were always deadly serious about keeping Kayfabe around strangers, and, to an extent, even to each other. You’d have guys that spoke in what I always called ?carny??.it?s kind of a made up language. It?s easy to learn, but it?s nearly impossible to work out. And no, before you ask, I’m not going to explain it to you. But, if anyone came in that wasn’t one of us, we’d start talking in carny, and they wouldn’t be able to understand a thing about what we were talking about.

It was such a big deal then. Seems so stupid now. Now, it seems kind of like an actor walking off stage, and pretending he?s still playing the part he?s been while he was onstage, and expecting to get more respect because of it. I remember when I was first let in to how the business actually is. Hell, I knew it, by that point, but I wasn’t stupid enough to go running my mouth off about it. Last thing I wanted was for Slade to give me some kind of injury. I’d experienced not being able to eat solids before, and I wasn’t in a rush to do it again.

By the way, I don’t want you to think that I was some kind of wimp or something, when I kept getting my ass kicked. I’d get my ass kicked, but it was by men who knew what they were doing, and knew what they were doing in an environment that worked to their advantage. Think about it for a second?you’re in a fight with someone, and they?ve got an edge over you. What do you do? You even things up, whatever it takes. Get a friend in, get a weapon, or just smash them in the balls. In a wrestling ring? You’re not allowed to do any of that. Well, you weren’t back then, anyway. It?s just you against a guy who knows what he?s doing. And they’d take advantage. But anyway, some older guy took me aside before our match, and went through what we were going to do, and that was it. I was on the inside.

It was also about this point that I started winning matches, but also started learning more about stretching your opponent. Of course, when I started winning matches, I started getting more money, because the more matches you won, the higher up the card you were perceived to be, and so the more money you were seen as drawing.

And I drew money. Not much, but I had my fans out there, and they came to see me. I was still a good looking guy, and the women usually came to see me wrestle. And afterwards, I was usually able to pick one of them to come back to the hotel room, and further make sure that I was on my way to hell. The nuns would have been shocked. Now, I’m not saying I was one of the main draws, but I was certainly a useful person to have on the card, because of the women. Now, some of the boys? Some of the boys took exception to this, and they’d get their licks in during the match, and make sure to leave me with a couple of bruises on my face, or a split lip. You see this ear? That was a match with Jack Slade again. He’d had his eye on this girl, cause he’d seen her queuing up. He looks out during the show, and what does he see? This girl, front row centre. Now, Jack was playing babyface?I still can’t get used to the fact that people outside the business use that term now?and I was playing the heel. Jack goes out, fully expecting to get the girl after the show, but Jack was an ugly son of a bitch, just that unfortunately for him, he wasn’t aware of it. Jack walks out, and makes sure to walk past this girl, doing his best to suck his stomach in, puff his chest out?.and what does she do? She boos him. Well, now, Jack wasn’t happy about this, but there?s nothing he can do. I come out, and just for kicks, I walk past this girl as well, and all of a sudden, she?s cheering like anything. I turned round, blew her a kiss, and she smiled at me. I get in the ring, and Jack?s just glaring at me. Looking angry as hell. I knew right then that I was going to be beat up during this match. And sure enough, Jack beat the crap out of me from the first bell to the last bell. Oh, he sold my moves, but he didn’t pull his punches either. And most of those punches were based around this ear. This is why it?s still all swelled up like a cauliflower. You see, it ruptures the veins inside it, and your ear floods with blood under the skin. It?s got no way to drain, so it solidifies. Hurts like hell, I’ll tell you that. Once it?s happened, unless you get your ears drained before the blood hardens, it never heals, because you’re always in headlocks and so on. So anytime I look in the mirror, I’m reminded of Jack Slade kicking the absolute shit out of me, because he was angry that this girl liked me. I don’t really mind though. You know why? That girl is now my wife. So I won that one.

But it was the small, stupid things. The small arguments. Something like that?Jack saw a girl he liked, but he didn’t get her. And that was enough to sour Jack Slade on you for the rest of your career. The problem being, Jack Slade was higher on the card than me. A feud with him, that meant money, so I was in the ring with him on a regular basis, and I took my licks. I dished a fair few of them out, but I definitely came off the worse of the two of us.

During all of this, I was learning. I got to know the boys, and I got to learn about hooking and stretching people. Hell, within a few years, I was the one in the ring training the new guys, and making sure they learnt to respect the business. Didn’t matter if they were bigger than me, I could make them submit, and I did, because that?s the way the business goes.

Was I making money? Yes. Was I making much money? Not really. I was making enough money to live on as a single man, but now I had a wife, not to mention, my first kid on the way. By this point, I’d quit my job full time, but I was supplementing my income by other means. Sometimes, it’d be working as a bouncer, sometimes, it’d be working as a heavy, or a debt collector. By this point, I’d learnt how to cause pain, and I’d also learnt that causing pain, for the right people, could be very profitable. Am I proud of this? No. I wasn’t proud at the time, either. But hell, I needed the money, so I did it. I may not be proud of it, but I don’t regret it either. Did what I had to do.

What I’m going to tell you about though?.that, I regret. Yeah. I regret that.

You see, through some of the guys leaving and retiring, there were spaces at the top of the card. The promoters may have been cheap pieced of shit, but they paid their main eventers well. They had to, because of the way the territories were. You could just walk away and go to one of the other promoters if you didn’t get paid well. So there were spaces, but there weren’t huge amounts of them. I’d gotten good, by this point, and I’d been upgraded from being an asset to the card to being something of a draw in my own right. Unfortunately, Jack Slade was seen as more of a draw. So he got the last main event slot. Over me.

This pissed me off. Jack Slade was old, by this point; he was worthless in the ring. He got the spot because he’d been loyal, not because he earned it. I had earned it. I was a bigger draw realistically, but Jack was good behind the scenes, and he made out he was. And the promoter believed him. It should have been mine. I was the better investment, I was the better wrestler, hell, I was the bigger star. It should have been me. So a few months later, I did something about it.

I didn’t plan it beforehand, I swear. It?s not like I sat in the dressing room, figuring out how I was going to do it. No. Instead, it was more like?well, I was standing in the ring, because he came out last. I stood there as he got in, and as he looked at me, and shot me this cocky look. This look that just said ?I’m where you should be, son.? And I knew then and there that he wasn’t walking out of this one.

You see, Jack was good, and all, at beating your ass when he was in control, when he had the upper hand?but what about when he didn’t? What about during a move where all the trust is placed on the person carrying the move? What about, say, a powerslam off the ropes? What about when I had him, and all his trust had to be in me carrying the move off right?

I knew I could do it. I’d shoot him off into the ropes, he’d come back, and take a straight somersault bump, with me helping him round. It?s up to him to get the height and the distance, and it?s up to me to make sure he lands safely. We’d done it a hundred times before. All I had to do was to make sure he landed wrong, and landed badly enough to take him out, and that main event spot was mine. I even knew how to do it so that it looked more like it was his fault than mine. All I needed to do was to slow his momentum, and make sure that he landed on his head and neck, instead of his shoulders and back, and then make sure I landed hard on top, instead of protecting him. The combination of those was bound to put him out for at least six months, and probably finish his career.

He’d got his licks in during the match, but he came off those ropes, and before he leapt into the move, I was thinking ?Am I going to go through with this. If I pussy out now, I’ll never do it?.and I’ll have to put up with his smug grin every night. His attitude, the way he thinks he?s so much better. Am I going to do it? Can I do it? Do I have it in me to do it??

And I did it.

He came off the ropes, he leapt in, but instead of carrying him through the move, I slowed him down, just enough so that he landed wrong. He landed on his head, and I followed down, so that he had his weight and my weight suddenly compacted onto his neck. Kind of like hitting a nail with a hammer.

I didn’t?.I didn’t mean to do as much damage as I did. I didn’t mean for him to have that fit, and I didn’t mean for him to spend the rest of his life in a coma. I meant to hurt him, but not take his life. Like I said, I was raised right. But my chance came, and I took advantage of it.

The promoters believed me when I told them what happened, and everyone in the back believed me. I honestly believe that if you took film footage of what happened, it would look like Jack screwed up, not me. I became even more of a heel, and I became the biggest draw in the territory. I was known as the ?Killer?. Jack wasn’t dead, obviously, he hung on for years. But I was still known as the ?Killer?. Did it bother me? Hell, yes. But I thought of my wife, and I thought of my kid, and all of a sudden, it didn’t bother me as bad. Didn’t bother me when he didn’t wake up either.

So, seven years later?I’m in a cage match, against this up and coming babyface. We’d been feuding for ages, and this was the blow off in this town, before we went elsewhere and did it all again. I’m climbing up the cage, and I?ve got blood in my eyes, and this kid is down on the mat, and I look down on him. And I give him this cocky grin. I don’t know why I did it, but I did. It wasn’t the kind of thing I did, but I did it that time. Then, as we arranged, the kid jumped up, ran over, and pulled me off the cage by the back of my trunks, and I fell backwards.

I don’t think the kid pulled me too hard. I don’t think that was it. It might have been, but I don’t think it was. I?ve replayed that moment in my head a thousand times, and I still don’t think it was the kid. But somehow, falling backwards, my foot got caught in the cage. Just as my entire weight was trying to hurl itself off it. I dislocated my kneecap, I broke my ankle, my leg in four places, and I tore just about every muscle in that damn leg. It caught in the cage, it twisted, and then I landed on it wrong when I came down, and when I landed, I also damaged my pelvis in multiple places. That was the end of my career.

You know what they do to a horse that breaks its leg? They shoot it. I didn’t get that. Instead, I got sent home. I got some money off my insurance, and I spent most of the next decade in a wheelchair, and most of the decade after that on crutches. These days, I can walk, but only with a cane, and when it?s cold, it hurts like a bitch, and I have to lie down. My wife started working, and she did well enough to support both of us, in a manner. Not well, but enough, until she died fifteen years ago. I still miss her, my sweet Katherine.

Do I believe that it was Jack Slade somehow? No, I don’t. But I do believe that if I hadn’t done what I did to him, I would have come off better. It?s Karma, or it?s God, or it?s whatever it is. But I did that to him knowingly, and that?s what happened to me.

So that?s my story. And that?s what I?ve never told another person before now. And I don’t know about you, but I certainly think I?ve earned the drink you?ve bought me, and more besides. So, if it?s all the same to you, I’ll have another, young man, and I’ll tell you another story, if you want. Just buy me another drink before you do.

MSN: christopherbrosnahan

AIM: chrisbrosnahan

Sites I write for: www.Earth-2.net // www.thewrestlingchannel.tv // The Oratory

Thanks to Dave Spinose for the banner. Normal service and columns will resume shortly.

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Standing At The Edge: Listen, You Pencil Neck Geeks

‘The library. It’s where the books live!’

Willow Rosenburg.

‘Listen, You Pencil Neck Geeks’ by ‘Classy’ Freddie Blassie.

I saw this in a bookshop in Stockport. I hadn’t even been aware it was out in the UK. I happened to have some spare cash on me, and was planning on buying ‘Watchmen’, when I spotted that they had a decent wrestling section. I wandered over, and saw this, agonised over which to buy for a while, before giving up and buying both.

Sometimes the easiest compromises are the best.

Judging a book by its cover.

The cover is done in the style of an old wrestling poster. Faded brown, stars on either sides of the names…you get the idea. It’s not hugely eyecatching, but neither is it horrible. It’s a big improvement on the ‘big closeup of grinning wrestler’ that they seem to have favoured recently, with Jerry Lawler, Hulk Hogan, and Steve Austin. Blassie is pictured wearing the title on the cover, grimacing. It looks like something out of the fifties, and that’s the effect they’re going for.

Why was I interested?

I don’t know much about Freddie Blassie. In fact, I knew nearly nothing about his career whatsoever. My knowledge of American wrestling pretty much stops at Bob Backlund, and my knowledge of wrestling prior to that is confined to British wrestling. Usually, with wrestling books, I’m reading about an era I already know, so to learn about an era that I knew nothing about seemed like an attractive prospect. Plus, I know that Blassie is regarded as a kind of deity amongst American wrestling fans, and I vaguely knew about him being known as ‘Vampire’, thanks to the Apter mags. Basically, I bought this for educational wrestling reasons. It seemed different to most autobiographies.

Plus, according to the cover, there is a ‘special’ introduction – not just any introduction, mind you! A ‘Special’ introduction! – by Vince McMahon. It reminded me that Blassie and Vinny were very close – and that’s a reason in itself to read it. How many books and autobiographies are written by people that consider Vince a friend? Not a good employer, not a relation, not a wrestling genius…but as one of their closest friends? Vince does acknowledge in the opening that it’s partly a story of his family as well, and it’s not the typical McMahon ego talking when he says that.

So How Was The Book?

Well, to answer the first question, it was ghostwritten (by Keith Elliot Greenberg….and what a fantastic surname). It seems pretty obvious that it was written by sitting down on a regular basis with Freddie, and just letting him reminisce – then editing down, and adding in some background, dates and details. A lot of people get put off by the idea of ghostwritten autobiographies,but I’m not. Yes, if the person involved is a good writer then I prefer the book to be written by them, but I think for some celebrities, it’s best not. Otherwise David Beckhams autobiography would have been written in blue crayon, and read (in its entirety) ‘I played football very good, and my wife has nice boobies. I like football and boobies’. I doubt that Blassie was a good writer, but I don’t doubt that he was a good story-teller, and that’s the reason behind a ghostwriter. Perfectly good decision in my mind, and it certainly helps the book. Greenberg isn’t a terrible writer, so it all flows pretty nicely.

I’ll point out here that my review style isn’t to give a ‘play-by-play’ style review, since if I did that, I’d basically save you the trouble of reading the book, and I don’t want to do that. What I want to do is to give you the highlights, and my opinions on the book, instead. If I don’t recommend the book, then I don’t suggest you buy it – if I do, then I don’t want to spoil the book for you. If you feel I did spoil it anyway, then apologies.

The first part of the book is – as would be expected – devoted to Blassie and his family. He speaks with unreserved venom about his wife-abusing father, who he obviously hates, and with a lot of tenderness and love about his mother, and his step-father. It’s always interesting to see and hear where somebody came from, but it’s always boring if it is dwelt upon. Luckily, the book doesn’t fall into this trap, pretty much hitting the balance right. It then moves onto his early wrestling experiences, and army experiences.

The most interesting parts of these sections of the book are him talking about choosing between a regular job, or wrestling, at a time when it was still more of a carnival than anything else, and also the parts where he talks about his early experiences as a jobber. Blassie wasn’t stupid (although dropped out of high school – a fact he lied about until now, which he was obviously shamed by. He knows there were reasons for it, but you get the feeling he would have loved to have gotten better educated), and he knew that it wasn’t totally for real, however it took a long time until he was allowed to be part of the inside world, and not kayfabed. This meant that a lot of his earlier fights incorporated a lot of shooting, and it wasn’t until one of the wrestlers trusted him enough to sit him down and tell him that he was accepted into the group. Smartly, he chose not to push for it, reasoning that he would be told when he was ready. That?s such a huge difference from now, that it?s difficult to imagine a time when kayfabe was so hugely protected.

Eventually, he began to get a push – because the promoter saw that he had ‘conceit’, and he was friends with a lot of the wrestlers. He quickly became a heel, and from there into one of the longest running headliners wrestling has seen. He feuded with Sammartino, with Pedro Morales…he feuded with every big name of the time. I’m not going to go into detail, because I would actually recommend reading this. I will talk about some other interesting points raised in the book though.

Blassie states outright that the wrestlers these days are tougher than in his day. As he puts it – you don’t get tougher than an olympic medallist. Whether this is because he genuinely believes it (and there’s certainly a convincing argument), or because this is, after all, a WWE book, and it wouldn’t do to say that todays wrestlers are a bunch of pansies, is up to the reader, really. He also points out another difference, which is that a lot of wrestlers today have got a decent education, and a lot have the potential to get white collar jobs if the wrestling thing fell through, whereas in his day, the only other option was mining, or heavy lifting work. It’s an interesting social difference, more than anything else.

This said, the abuse that wrestlers were expected to deal with was horrific compared to today. Blassie not only got stabbed multiple times, but he also got doused with acid once (Seriously!). Also, the fans often came close to rioting, and he once had to hide out in Sammartino?s dressing room in order not to be lynched. He points out that security personnel in those days were worthless ? they didn’t get paid enough to interfere. Especially not, for example, if they were Italian, and Blassie was facing Sammartino?.

Blassie is also obsessed with his penis. He goes on for nearly a page extolling the virtues of some kind of an erection cream he found as a youngster, and talks about it in detail – and also introduced his son to it. Blassie was a ladies man, definitely, and he took full advantage, which ended up destroying his first marriage, and as a result of this two of his kids don’t speak to him anymore. This leads into one of the more fascinating parts of Blassies character, which is that he certainly began to confuse himself with his character…not being sure where he ended, and where his character began. This obviously hasn’t completely gone, because he often comes across as pigheaded and arrogant – traits which he obviously had, but were exaggerated by his character. In an early point, he expresses surprise that he hasn’t been asked to write an autobiography before, since he’s obviously more interesting than most people. I don’t think he was joking either.

Blassie has very strong beliefs though. You’re either with him or against him. He doesn’t like drinkers or drug abusers either. This dates back (once again) to his father. There is one extremely funny bit of juxtaposition, when Blassie extensively badmouths a promoter, followed by a quote from the promoter in question, who talks about how close friends he and Blassie are. A slightly cruel gag by the co-writer, but it?s extremely funny.

Also funny are Blassie?s memories of Andre the Giant. Now, Andre was as much a practical joker as any of the boys, and had a particular fondness for getting into enclosed areas with other people?and then farting. Now, let yourself remember the size of Andre. Now, imagine just how much he ate. You get where I’m going with this? And he wouldn’t do this softly, and quietly, snigger, he’d do it loudly and then laugh at everyone else. I’m not usually a fan of fart gags, but it?s funny because it?s Andre.

Now, there are criticisms for the book as well. You may remember in the paperback edition of ?Foley is Good?, Foley said that he was advised not to use his book to ?set the record straight?, and badmouth his enemies. Either Freddie was never given that advice, or he decided that if they were dead, it didn’t matter. This comes across as making him seem extremely bitter. Now, that said, he came across as a quite bitter man, so at least it?s accurate, but at the same time, it?s disconcerting to realise, about halfway through the book that you don’t actually like the subject. As a wrestler, yes?as an entertainer, yes?as a storyteller, yes. But from what he says, as a person? It?s difficult. Yes, he sometimes does likeable things, and the story of how he met his third wife is charming, but the four lines he dedicates to his second wife offset it. There?s a lot of venom in Freddie Blassie, and he knows it.

So, the question becomes ?why read an autobiography of someone who is so dislikeable?? The answer is simple. Freddie Blassie loves wrestling. He?s dedicated his entire life to it, and gone from the lows of having guys beat the crap out of him, and call it ‘teaching him the ropes?, and he?s managed Muhammad Ali, and launched Regis Philbin?s career. He?s been a monster and a hero, and even an inspiration. But overall, it?s the story of someone that loves wrestling, and that?s reason enough to recommend it. He put wrestling before everything in his life, sacrificing his health, his first marriage, and even his kids to wrestling. Now that?s love. And that?s why it?s fascinating, because any time someone who has genuine passion for what he does tells his story, it?s always fascinating.

It?s also fascinating as a history lesson. If you don’t know anything about wrestling pre-Hogan, then I whole-heartedly recommend picking this book up. It?s a fascinating time, full of brutality and viciousness, and the story essentially ends when Vinny Macs story begins, and it?s an era that doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.

Finally, it?s interesting for another reason. It really is the story of the McMahon family. Blassie first made worked with Jess McMahon, then his son Vince, then his Grandson Vincent Kennedy. And out of all three, the one he got on best with was Vince Jr. He defends Vince passionately ? and in doing so finally gives a point of view about Vince?s destruction of the territories, which is often overlooked in favour of the Vince=Evil bandwagon, and points out that Vince was willing to pay the talent what they deserved, and didn’t join with a bunch of other promoters to blackball anyone who pissed off one promoter. Reading this book leaves me coming away feeling like I understand Vince McMahon a little better ? and since Vince McMahon remains the biggest enigma in wrestling, that?s a reason in itself to read it.

As a separate point, I’ll mention that the day I finished reading this book, I watched Backlash. The first match was Ric Flair vs Shelton Benjamin. This book put me in such a nostalgic mood that I just watched that match with a big sloppy grin over my face, because Ric loves the business in the same way Freddie did. That?s the love that keeps me watching, and that love is what kept me enjoying this book, from the beginning, through to the story of Gorgeous George and his death, through to the afterword where Freddie?s death is talked about.

Overall, it?s not a great book, but it certainly is a fascinating one. As such, I would unhesitatingly recommend it to anyone that wants to learn more about the wrestling business, and its history. If you know about the history, you’ll probably know a bit about Blassie anyway, so you’ll still probably want to pick it up. So I’ve kind of wasted my time really, reviewing it, since I could have just written ‘Book good, go buy’. Sigh. As far as the obligatory scale goes, it’s better than the Hardy Boyz book, and more interesting than the Jerry Lawler book, but still not as good as Foleys. It’s very different though, and those three books would make a hell of a start to a collection. Go buy, go enjoy, and go feel nostalgic.

(Thanks to John C and co for the hiring, and Dr Lindermans for the banner, incidentally)

MSN:christopherbrosnahan

AIM: chrisbrosnahan

Sites I write for:

www.thewrestlingchannel.tv

oratory.rajah.com

www.earth-2.net

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Standing At The Edge: An Open Letter to Vince McMahon

Retarded: Definition: [adj’> relatively slow in mental or emotional or physical development; “providing a secure and sometimes happy life for the retarded”

Synonyms: backward, cretinous, delayed, dim-witted, feebleminded, half-witted, simple, simple-minded

Antonyms: precocious

See Also: stupid, unintelligent

An Open Letter To Vince McMahon.

Vince,

I hate this, you know that? I really hate this. I hate feeling like I’m Mr. Politically Correct. I hate feeling like I can’t lighten up, and enjoy a bit of a guilty laugh. I hate feeling like an over-protective nanny. I’ve been watching wrestling now for fifteen years, and the wrestling that I started watching was WWF. The wrestling that I primarily watched was WWF. I watched during your boom years, when Austin hit the mainstream, and I watched during your lean years, when you were pushing Doink the Clown, and had Mabel in the main event. I watch other wrestling as well, but I have always gone out of my way to watch the WWF/E. I’ve lost track of how many videos, DVDs, magazines, books, posters, figures and other merchandise I’ve bought. I am, basically, what could be referred to as a valued customer and loyal fan.

And even I’m offended, Vince.

Now, I’ve been writing columns on various sites for about a year now. And I have publicly defended some of WWE’s decisions that were seen as ‘on the borderline’. I’ve talked, at length, about how wrestling isn’t afforded the respect it is deserved, and I’ve talked, at length, about how wrestling should be considered an art form. I try to explain to people who wouldn’t otherwise watch what it is about wrestling that makes me love it. And when this happens, I usually point them towards WWE. I know for a fact that I have converted a number of people into wrestling fans, and that I’ve managed to convince people to stick around when they would otherwise leave. I feel so strongly about this that I have chosen to make this as public as I can, rather than just quietly emailing it in to the feedback address at wwe.com. How could I respect myself as a writer if I ignore when the very product that I have defended, and promoted, offends me, and offends people that I know?

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I’m referring to the gimmick that you have given to Nick Dinsmore, that of Eugene. Now, I’m sure that at this point, the thought is going through your head ‘another complaint. Stop reading, and delete’, but I ask you to reconsider. I know you have a ludicrously high salary, however, I figure that having been a fan for fifteen years, and having bought a serious amount of merchandise will roughly equate to about ten minutes or so of your overall earnings, so I’m asking for those ten minutes back, right here, and right now. Just keep reading, okay? Okay.

The thing is, Vince, I just don’t understand the reasoning behind this. I really don’t. Think about how much work you’ve done for various charities for the ill and disabled – the ‘Make a wish’ foundation, for one. Your superstars have got to have come in regular contact with the mentally disabled, so why have you suddenly chosen to mock them?

Now, there is, of course, the possibility that you’re not intending to mock them, but that this is, instead, intended to be a touching and deep portrayal of the challenges that exist each day for the mentally challenged. A carer that doesn’t understand Eugene, people who make fun of him, etcetera etcetera. I mean, after all, it is a respected tradition in films to have actors playing characters with mental disabilities. Unfortunately, and I mean no disrespect to him with this, Nick Dinsmore is no Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks, or Daniel Day Lewis. Also, your writing team (and I am aware that this includes your daughter, but please don’t take this as a personal attack) are not a group of William Goldman’s, let’s be honest here. Let’s also not lose focus – your writing team undoubtedly had a hand in Mick Foley’s promo on Raw as well, and that was excellently written.

Talking of Foley, there is a world of difference between Mankind, George Steele, etc and Eugene. The former were generally portrayed as being mentally unstable, or mentally ill. These are conditions that can actually be cured, with medication and treatment. There’s so much scope for exploration of insanity, that characters like that are no more offensive than, say, The Joker from Batman. They’re not portrayed as mentally challenged. There’s a difference, Vince.

This angle and character, if anything seems reminiscent of the character ‘Doofus’ from Scary Movie. Now, I enjoyed some guilty laughs at that character, but not because he was a ‘funny retard’, but rather because it was such a good take off of David Arquette’s character ‘Dewie’ in Scream. (If you need a point of reference, by the way, David Arquette used to hold that title that your son-in-law seems to have such an obsession over). I’ve also been told that there are similarities with a character from ‘There’s Something About Mary’, but I’ve not seen the film, so I won’t comment. Either way, your show isn’t up to the same level as the movie business.

I have worked with people with mental disabilities in the past, and I’ve always been around them, because both of my parents have worked with disabled youths for the majority of their careers. Now, this brings me to another point.

Vince, you are aware that there’s a difference between mental disabilities, learning disabilities, and between different types of physical disabilities, right? There’s no way you can ‘cure’ Eugene. Mental disability doesn’t go away, all you can do is learn to cope. With the level of the disability you’re portraying, a few weeks of William Regal teaching him how to be a gentleman isn’t going to work as a link between gimmicks. The only way in which it could work would be for Nick Dinsmore to publicly disown the gimmick, kind of like the ‘Beaver Cleavage’ gimmick a few years back, or the ‘Goldust’ gimmick, but you’ve written yourself into a corner here, because to do that would be to break kayfabe big time, what with Eric Bischoff declaring him to be his nephew. The only way for you to write this out of a corner is for Dinsmore to be secretly in league with Bischoff.

On a more positive note, allow me to applaud you for the signing of Eric Bischoff. He really has been a high point of Raw for me, and his slight protectiveness towards his nephew has been the single redeeming point of this angle, since it has shown a more three dimensional character in Bischoff.. If it wasn’t for this angle, I’d have been delighted to see both William Regal and Nick Dinsmore as well.

Now, I have already been told by a number of people ‘lighten up’, and ‘it’s only wrestling’, however, your company is often pushed as being above and beyond ‘rassling’, and the fact that you hire professional TV writers, and a professional production department means that you must be judged on the same level as television drama’s. You can’t have it both ways, Vince. You can’t strive for artistic integrity with one foot, and stamp down allegations of bad writing with the defence of ‘it’s only wrestling’ with the other. You have to take responsibility for these decisions, and you have to bear in mind who watches your show. You’re in charge of the company, which is why I am directing this towards you.

Vince, I’m actually concerned. You’ve done this before, hugely misjudging your audience. Remember the gay wedding? You gained a huge mainstream audience for it, and then promptly alienated them, by insulting the gay audience. Yes, it was memorable, and yes, in its own way it worked in context, but the fact is, you caused a lot of offence. You lost viewers, you didn’t gain them. Remember the Katie Vick saga? It seemed that it had caused you to realise that going for the shock effect wasn’t working. Recently, you’ve been striving for a more realistic show, with wrestlers using their real names, and more technical wrestling, and it appears that this is actually working for you – ratings have been increasing, I understand. This is a step back in philosophy, Vince, and it’s not going to work. You had a POINT FIVE drop during this episode. Point five. From a fantastic show last week. That’s not down to Shelton Benjamin, Vince, that’s down to people switching off during this angle.

I actually defended the two angles above, Vince. I said they worked in their own context, since one was about wrestlers faking something for publicity, and the other was in the context of mind games. I stand by those takes, but I can’t defend this, nor do I want to. If you have a look at this website’>Link, and read some of the comments, you’ll notice two things. First of all, you’ll notice the terrible grammar of the people defending this angle. Coincidence? I think not. This is appealing to the lowest common denominator, and also to people with bizarre senses of humour. You’ll also notice the fact that a lot of parents and family members of mentally challenged children have posted. There’s one story in there that stuck with me. It’s from the brother of a challenged child who gets bullied at school, being laughed at because of his condition. He’s a huge wrestling fan, and was watching on Monday. His brother walked in to find him in tears, explaining that WWE was ‘laughing at him’. He then went, turned off your show, and went to bed, devastated. This is not a single example, either. There are multiple examples of this.

Is this the reaction you were looking for, Vince? Either you’ve badly bungled this angle, or this was indeed the reaction you were looking for. Let me remind you of something – being mentally challenged isn’t always genetic, it can be caused by a number of factors. Your first grandchild, Declan, has just been born. There’s nothing to say he couldn’t have had a condition like this. Would you have continued with this angle then? If you would, fair enough, but I suspect that you wouldn’t.

Another thing disturbs me. Do you remember how offensive your company and your right hand man found it when WCW did the ‘Oklahoma’ angle, and made fun of Jim Ross’s Bells Palsy? Didn’t that hurt his feelings? Also, your lack of research is stunning. If you’re going with the ‘wrestling genius’ angle, then you are badly messing up autism, which appears to be what you are striving for. Autistic people tend to be quiet and shy. If not, then you haven’t bothered doing any research, and that is offensive in itself.

Vince, you are doing so many things right in your show at the moment that you can’t afford to do this. You really can’t. You will destroy Nicks career doing this, and you are damaging your company. And for what? ‘Window-licker’ jokes. You have even gone so far as to include two elements to make people feel less guilty for laughing. William Regal, who is able to make nearly anything funny, and enough old-school wrestling references that your viewers feel ‘smart’, or at least nostalgic, for getting the joke. This doesn’t make what you are doing anything more than a cheap laugh, and a nasty one at that. And attempting to push the ‘why shouldn’t we let him wrestle’ angle will be only more offensive. If that is really an issue, why not train someone with Down’s Syndrome?

I’m all up for humour, and I’m all up for you challenging boundaries, but quite frankly, I’d much rather you allow John Cena to make his raps a little less inoffensive than continue with this storyline. I’d rather see you bleep out bad language than see this sick joke on my screen.

Incidentally, I am 24 years old, in a full time job, living with a partner. I am your target audience, and I am

talking to you. I am also pointing out to you that there are other options for me to get my wrestling fix. There’s TNA and ROH, not to mention international companies. My money can go elsewhere, and so can anyone elses who was offended by the angle.

I know a lot of people are going to tell me that I’m making something out of nothing, but I really don’t think that I am. My partner has a mild learning disability, and is training to teach special needs students, and she was offended by this angle. And that’s a mild reaction. I know a lot of people will tell me that it’s only been a single episode, and to wait and see where it will go, but quite frankly, I’m not willing to. You have already caused the offence, and waiting to see will only allow you to continue doing so, oblivious to the reactions. Which is why a copy of this letter (along with an explanation and description of the angle) is winging it’s way towards both Disabled People’s International, and to the British Council of Disabled People (since the angle has yet to air in the UK), in order that I can find out how they will find your representation of Mental Disability. Of course, if they, as some fans do, think that it’s just really swell of you to include disabled people in wrestling, then I will gladly eat the egg which will be all over my face. If they do not, I daresay they will be in touch with you, your station, and your sponsors in short time. If you choose not to listen to me, perhaps you will listen to them.

Love to the family,

Yours,

Christopher Brosnahan.

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Standing At The Edge: The First Frontier

I haven’t felt this bad since the day after my eighteenth birthday. My head is pounding. I’ve been wearing my contacts since 8am, and it’s now the early hours of the morning. My throat feels inflamed, and sore. My muscles are tired, and I’m exhausted. And this despite barely drinking, and having given up smoking. And I wasn’t even in the ring.

I went to see New Frontiers last night. This column is being written immediately after the show, and the morning after, when I’ve looked back over what I wrote, and made a personal vow never to write at 3am again. This isn’t going to be a straight review of the show, but it is going to contain review elements, while being more journal like. Yes, I’m giving you prior warning. It’s a journal piece.

New Frontiers 2004.

Setting: Brent Town Hall.

Time period: Present day.

List of Characters:

Chris – 24, male, dark hair, is under the illusion he’s still a teenager, and does tragically pathetic attempts to be a goth.

Zoe – 20, Female, long hair, Chris’s girlfriend, having been brought to the wrestling under sufference. No matter how many times Chris asks her if she’s sure she wants to come, she insists that yes, she is.

Joe – 22, Male, with more ginger in his hair than he would care to admit. Is a friend of Chris and Zoe’s, a friend of one of the bodyguards/wrestlers, and is usefully stupidly big, and thus useful for holding signs up.

PLUS: Assorted wrestlers, fans, security and locals.

I had no idea what the night was going to be like. It was my first time seeing a live show. I’d wanted to see the FWA before, but not had the chance. Now I lived in London, I decided to go along with my girlfriend, and a mate of mine whose ticket was bought by us as a birthday present. We had to make our way to Brent Town Hall in Wembley, which wasn’t a major problem, as we don’t live too far away. Beforehand, we decided to head to the pub, in order to eat, drink, meet some people off one of the message boards I post on, and…erm…make our signs.

I wasn’t sure, going into the event, whether people would take signs or not. I decided that I would rather have them in advance, feel embarassed, and not use them, then wish at the end of the night that we’d taken them. This said, there was some minor embarassment involved in sitting in what was basically an ‘old mans’ pub, and doing some colouring in. We got some strange looks. We got asked what we were doing by a man with an incomprehensible Irish accent (and I’m Irish…that’s how incomprehensible it was.), but then he answered his own question by assuming that we were doing an Arsenal sign (we were doing the ‘A’ sign, to make three, the others being ‘F’ and…well, you can guess.) And I got the asked the following by my girlfriend.

‘What are you doing?’

‘Colouring in the ‘F”.

‘You’ll use up all the ink in the pen, just do the outline.’

‘Shit! You’re right…erm…I’ll just finish the ‘F’ then…’

‘Then it’ll look stupid, with just the ‘F’ filled in, and the others not.’

‘…..do you want to do it?’

‘I think I’d better.’

‘….okay.’

I can’t draw an ‘F’ properly. Sigh. We also had another, larger sign, but I’ll reveal what that one was later, in a vague attempt to draw out some intrigue. The whole signs thing is, incidentally, rather fun to do. Not many people had them, but as a result, ours looked pretty good. If the event you’re going to is being filmed, taking a sign along is a fun reason to watch the video intently,and it also makes you feel like you went to a little more effort than just turning up. Yes, we felt a bit silly when we walked in, and saw…well…nobody else with signs, but we decided ‘what the hell?’ and went for it.

The crowd wasn’t packed, but it was busy, and fairly lively. We had seats on the opposite corner from the stage, second row from the ring, right at the end. A decent view, which we were happy for. I was somewhat relieved to see that the teenagers next to me had brought signs, delighted to see that ours was better, and ecstatic to realise the person in front was older than me. I was feeling an age complex for a while there.

Talking of the person in front of me, he was irritating as hell for the first minute, by shouting mild heckles and chants, however, we clicked into his sense of humour very quickly, and I thought he was hilarious. He was there with his girlfriend, and she looked nearly as embarassed by him as my girlfriend did by me.

Jane Childs (The FWA Announcer) came out, and announced the rules. She asked us not to record the show, and to watch our language, as the show was being filmed. This lead immediately to a chant of ‘Please Don’t Swear’, which was rather funny. This was the first chant I’ve ever been involved in, and it really is addictive. I even managed to start my own chants a couple of time, and feeling it pick up, catch on, and have the entire place chanting it really is an awesome feeling. I also started a couple of chants which involved me shouting something, waiting the appropriate length of time, shouting it again, realise that nobody else is going to pick it up, and get hit by Zoe. Jane, incidentally, is far more attractive in the flesh than she is in pictures I’ve seen of her. Even if she was getting ‘Shave your back’ chants.

The first match involved James Tighe vs ‘Five Star’ Mark Belton. This wasn’t bad at all. Well, it might have been, but I was adjusting to watching a match from a single viewpoint. Normally, wrestling is filmed from multiple angles, in order to get the best view for any move, keeping the illusion in a similar way to stage combat. Now, this is difficult to do when the audience are around you, three hundred and sixty degrees. The multiple angles are something that you don’t notice consciously when you’re watching, and you become accustomed to them. Tighe is good, as is Belton, and the two of them put on a good opener. Watching a German Suplex live for the first time, the natural reaction really is to go ‘Oh Christ, that must have hurt’. Belton won the match, with a nice reversal. It was a good opener, and it got the crowd into the event.

The next match was Mark Sloan vs Aviv Maayan. Sloan’s not a small guy, weightwise, and watching him move the way he moved was pretty damn impressive. Maayan was good as well, and this was shaping up to be another good match. At this point my mood was essentially ‘This is fun. Not stunning, but definitely fun’…when suddenly somebody strode towards the ring, climbing over the barrier, from the crowd. If someone looks out of place going somewhere, you notice, like if someone from the crowd tried to do it. With this guy, he just strode in, in a shirt and trousers, dressed smartly, looking like he was heading for the back, and taking the most direct route. As bizarre as it sounds, because he looked like he was meant to be there, or at least, looked like he knew where he was going, it took me a second to notice his long bleached hair, and the fact that he looked a bit like Steve Cori….FUCK ME! IT’S STEVE CORINO! Now this was an awesome moment. All of a sudden, the single view point didn’t matter. Steve Corino is a wrestler I’ve always liked. I immediately explained to Joe and Zoe who Steve Corino was, since neither of them keep up with anything other than WWE, really, and immediately got hit by Zoe, who pointed out that she ‘knows who Steve Corino is, you always play him on that stupid video game’.

Corino cut an awesome promo, publicly dumping Ring of Honour (according to his website, one of his main bones of contention is the fact that ROH cut the Christopher Street Connection, thus giving out the suggestion that all gay people are kiddy fiddlers), and declaring that he was proud to be representing FWA. Now, whether he meant that he was hanging around for the weekend (NF was the first of three events), or he’s sticking around for the long haul, and to join FWA’s weekly TV show is unclear. He suggested strongly that it was the latter, and if it is, it’s a HUGE signing for the FWA. If not, then it’s still a good sign. The storyline, anyway, is that Corino and Alex Shane (Heel/Owner) have an argument dating back to Frontiers of Honour, where one’s supposed to have turned up, and the other isn’t…you get the idea. It was hugely entertaining though, and Shane and Corino worked well together. Doug Williams then came out, and blew off a storyline they’ve been building up recently online (the gist of which is that Shane was falsely advertising that Williams would defend his title against a guest opponent, except nobody told Williams about the situation). He pointed out that since he had advertised the title match, all the fans would be entitled to refunds if one didn’t take place…which led immediately to a chant of ‘We want refunds’. Now, that’s a chant that Alex Shane would have cause to regret later… however, it’s unique, and it could really take off. The match was signed for Corino / Williams, and all of a sudden, the value I’d gotten for my ticket went right up.

The next match was the best match of the night. Jonny Storm (the XPW european champion…he was the titleholder when XPW went bust, and he nicked the title) vs X-Dream. This was a high flying cruiserweight affair, and was absolutely riveting. Now, in the past, Storm has been criticised for being somewhat inconsistent in the ring, and I haven’t been overly impressed with what I’ve seen before. Impressed, but not overly so. This changed tonight. A very smooth, very competitive match-up which has renewed my love for wrestling in a way. During my first live event, I saw an excellent match. It’s all I needed. Not a good match, not a decent one (there were enough of both of those), but an excellent one. I don’t know how Storm has improved this much, but if he keeps this form up, he is going to be a major star. Mark it well. The crowd was hugely hot for this as well. X-Dream got ‘Peter Andre’ chanted at him immediately, since he did bear something of a resemblance. There was a little typical german-baiting stuff, but nothing that would have ruined it. The highlight of the match wasn’t any of the over the top moves, or the nicely done psychology, it was rather Storms insistence on headlocks. Every chance he got to do a big move, he’d do a headlock. At one point, he crotched X-Dream on the top, ran up the ropes, Kurt Angle style, grabbed Dream, braced himself and….put on a headlock, screaming ‘Headlock’ in the same way another wrestler would scream ‘Brainbuster’. The crowd fell over laughing, they cheered, they groaned, they booed, and they chanted ‘Jonny loves Head’. Storm went over, but both men came out of this looking well. I’m delighted I got to see such a good match live. Zoe loved Jonny Storm as well, because she thought he was a ‘funny little man with red leggings.’ Apparantly she likes those. Unfortunately red leggings don’t suit me.

I got to meet Jonny Storm during the interval, and he impressed me further. He stopped for a photo with one of my mates, and I shook his hand and congratulated him as he left. Nothing remarkable in this, other than the fact he was carrying two bags, and seven coathangers in the hand he was shaking with. And he still went out of his way. Top man. I’m a fan now.

This was followed by a tag match featuring Stevie Knight and George Costanza vs Burchill (a monster) and Simmons (a Butler). I missed the opening of this, needing to get more water from the bar. I came back, and Zoe said:

‘Check the maid’

‘Oh wow! She’s gorgeous! Is she wearing stockings with that outfit?’

‘Yes she is. Don’t worry, I got you a photo of her from behind already’.

And who says romance is dead?

Now, the match itself was good, a comedy match, so not stunning, but perfectly acceptable entertainment, and a huge improvement over your typical Dudley Boyz match. What made this match was the chanting. There were two strange, but very cool things happening. The first was the wonderfully simple ‘Fuck him up, Burchill, Fuck him up!’, and the second was a ‘Goldberg’ style ‘Sim-mons’ chant. That’s right, the comedy butler is ludicrously over. He played the face in peril, followed by Burchill coming in and – surprise – fucking them up. (Did you see that one coming?)

Then we got what we expected to be the main event. CM Punk vs Raven. This was, as I explained previously, the reason I came. I’ve always wanted to see Raven, and I’ve heard and seen very good things from Punk. The crowd was manic for this one. Punk came out first, looking furious…especially when he spotted the big sign we were holding up by the guard rail. ‘(Pepsi logo) ONLY WORKS WITH JD!’. Seriously, he glared at us like anything. I was fully expecting him to take it and rip it to shreds. Then Raven came out, and the place went predictably insane. Me included.

Punk ran from Raven to start, and they went round the ring a couple of times. This immediately led to a very loud chant of ‘CM Pussy!’, conplete with airhorn. Unfortunately, some morons behind me changed this to ‘CM C*NT’, which crossed the line, I thought. There’s lighthearted abuse, and there’s sheer offensiveness. Also offensive was the supposedly smart fans who started shouting insults out to both the wrestlers. Surprisingly enough, the same ones who started the chant as well. While the majority of the crowd was respectful, generally, I’m genuinely concerned that these arseholes may have put the American stars off coming back. Luckily, it got drowned out by a Jack Daniels chant. Punk went to walk off, but Raven got the ‘Na-na-Good-Bye’ song going, using the microphone to punctuate every verse with ‘bitch’. Punk got on the mic shortly afterwards, and cut a very intense promo, slagging off Raven, and telling all of us that he hoped we kept drinking, kept doing drugs, and kept smoking until we all got cancer and died. Which was actually fantastic…I’ve never been part of a crowd spoken to with so much venom before. Unfortunately, he chose to use the word ‘Motherfucker’ at one point, which meant he got deluged with a ‘Please don’t swear’ chant, which I was rather proud of starting.

The match was built around the drop-toehold to the chair spot, and was finished with a shining wizard from Punk for the pin. It wasn’t the best match they’ve had, but the fans (not the arsehole ones) more than made up for it. It was an awesome atmosphere. Raven Evenflowed him after the match, and it felt like a personal gesture just for us fans, to show us how much he cared about our support. Or I could just be reading a little much into it.

The next match I didn’t get into as much. It’s one of those matches that will look so much better on television than it came across live, primarily because of the injury angle they ran during it. Alex Shane vs Jack Xavier could have been more fun for the live crowd. The injury angle dragged after Xavier was hiptossed off the stage to be honest, even if the wrestling was decent. It was saved by an awesome spot to finish – a top rope tornado DDT to the outside through a table. Full marks to both guys for insanity, and Shane’s heel run is working well…as I said, it’ll work so much better on TV, with a bit of editing. Especially since the crowd decided to bring back the ‘We want refunds’ chant. Alex really could grow to regret this one….

Also that damn stationary viewpoint meant that I didn’t see either of the big spots. Damn my inability to run around the arena and get the best view at all times. Alex won with his feet on the ropes, being the dastardly heel that he is. He really is a good heel, if you’ve never seen his work before, or only seen his face stuff.

This was followed by an ultra stiff outing between Hade Vansen and the Zebra Kid. I may hate Zebra Kids outfit, but I respect his wrestling ability. They both seemed to have a slightly off night, but they worked well together, and it was a decent match. There was a horrible spot involving a guard-rail, and Zebra Kids knees, which I think got botched slightly, but led to me jumping out of my seat in empathy. It ended in a double DQ, and then the referee got beaten up. Nothing stunning, but definitely fun. Unfortunately, this match will be memorable for something else… On the off chance that Vansen is reading this, please, please, I beg you, change your trunks. They’re too tight. Far too tight. We could…that is, we could see…well…Zoe pointed out that you…well…how do I put this? Well, let’s just say the match wasn’t the only thing that was stiff, shall we? God, I hope they stay away from crotch-shots on the video.

We then got an angle that has been building up for a while. At the last major event, Paul Travell of The Family (evil satanist type clan) got put through a burning table in a spot that got rather nastily out of hand, and ended up burning most of the skin off his back. Now, making a story out of this,Travell was turned face, and he’s been set to feud with the family. The Family have inverted crosses as their symbols, and a manager who, while effective, could really do with a change of wardrobe. They had a standoff, with the family on one side, and Paul Travell and a barbed-wire baseball bat on the other. Unfortunately, the bat didn’t get used, since they brought out the new leader of the family, Drew McDonald who talked him into staying, and threw out two other members (Ian Disciple and Ash) instead, following a swift beating. This was a well enough acted angle, and Paul Travell is a very good actor specifically. I’ll be watching more of this guy. Amusingly, the crowd heat was entirely focused on the fact that McDonald had chosen to wear a Bum-Bag (Fanny-pack for any Americans) for some reason. A bum-bag chant started almost immediately. And went on. And on. And on. The guy in front of me was apoplectic with rage. His eyes nearly bulging out of his sockets, and pretty much out of his seat, he was delivering a loud commentary on ‘How could I respect you as a leader? You’re wearing a bum-bag, for God’s sake? Leader’s don’t wear Bum-Bags’, which was hysterical. As was one of The Family (I don’t know which one, I’m sorry) who picked up on it, and started to stage a mock-stand off with him, both of them going ‘Come on!’ for a while, before he backed down. And then made the wanker sign at him. Back with the angle, Travell re-joined the family, and walked off with them.

This led into the main event, with Corino vs Williams. Both these guys are good mat wrestlers, so this was never going to be a let down. Williams is going to be a huge star, huge. He’s a fantastic wrestler, he can do spectacular stuff when he wants to, and he’s good on the mic. I wasn’t sure if he’d get a match at the start of the night, and I had no idea Corino was turning up, so this was a great surprise.

A nice touch was that Williams responded to being chopped by uppercutting him with the forearm, a very British move. The crowd was a bit confused on who to side with…the Home Boy, or The Popular American. We were also confused when Corino locked on the Chicken Wing five minutes in, and made Doug tap. Jane had unfortunately announced the match as being one fall. Still, once they kept going, we figured it was three falls – apparantly FWA main events always are – so we settled down. There was no real stand out moments here, because it was mat wrestling, so it was more of a ‘sit back and enjoy…and hope it doesn’t go TOO long, because we all have trains to catch’ match. We all got confused again when they both went outside, and the ref counted to ten….the ‘Bullshit’ chant was starting again…and then he counted to eleven. We didn’t realise that FWA countouts are up to twenty. Dougy got the second fall with a tornado DDT, which Corino sold for America. Then, the ref got bumped, Williams got thrown to the outside, and Alex Shane came in and waffled Corino with a chair, giving Doug the match. Corino and Williams had a staredown for a while, before shaking hands and hugging. Overall, a slower match, but a fascinating one. They clicked well, and it was good old fashioned wrestling. I got a handslap from Corino on the way out, and it has to be said, touching wrestlers after a match is a very sweaty experience.

After that, it was merchandise-mania. Unfortunately, I’d just paid my rent, as had Zoe, and Joe was broke, so we couldn’t buy anything. So I settled for briefly speaking to Steve Corino – ‘Steve, you sticking around?’ ‘Yeah!’ ‘Cool, thanks’ – and getting my photo taken with Raven, and trying to feel not too bad for not having any money to buy the nice wrestlers merchandise. This was where Joe came in handy…not content with knowing one of the Bodyguard/wrestlers (He’s in the FWA Academy, and goes by the name of Stixx. Hell of a nice guy, and bloody enormous), and chatting to him for a bit, he was also able to barge his way through the crowds and get out ‘Pepsi only works with Jack Daniels’ poster signed by both Raven and CM Punk, showing Punk has a sense of humour. Which was a relief after he told us to die, and glared at our sign earlier.

I gained a lot of respect for something I saw Punk do, actually. Some arsehole teenager decided it would be funny to get CM Punk to sign a rizla, since it was supposedly the only thing he had. Bear in mind that CM Punk is straight edge for real and for life. He doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, and finds the ideas offensive. For him to be on a merchandise stand, out of character, and having someone insult his beliefs like this, it was obviously offensive. He responded by saying ‘sure’ and reaching for the Rizla…then crumpling it up and throwing it back at the guy. Full respect goes to the man for sticking by his beliefs. All this without verbally acknowledging it, but instead forming a comedy duo with Steve Corino, and entertaining everyone else. I was impressed by this, I have to admit. It was a small moment, but a revealing one.

Overall, I got to experience even more than I expected. A legitimate four star match, and a load of damn good ones…meeting Raven, CM Punk and Steve Corino…watching all three of them in action, and also getting seriously into FWA…getting my Pepsi sign both on camera (it was right behind Punk, no way it got missed), and also signed..and finally watching a live wrestling event.

Live wrestling is a fantastic experience. If you haven’t been before, see what you can do about going. Being part of the crowd is a lot of fun, and in a smaller venue like this, it all felt a lot more personal than wrestling as I’m used to it. I laughed a lot more than I expected, and I gained a lot of respect for the wrestlers. All three of us had a good time, and even Zoe enjoyed it more than she thought she would, for someone who had already set up an escape plan if she got bored.

Would I go again?

Damn right.

Did I get dumped as a result of taking my girlfriend to wrestling?

Thankfully not, she enjoyed it. Especially Jonny Storm for some reason. Damn the man for looking better in red tights than I do. Although she really would like Hade Vansen to wear slightly looser trunks next time please. No offense, Hade, but she just couldn’t stop giggling through your match.

Thanks for reading.

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Standing At The Edge: Back Suplex, Forward Slash

‘Rumours are running rampant that Lesnar is contmplating trying out for the NFL, and thus leaving WWE….this rumour has done the rounds.’

Jim Ross, Wrestlemania XX.

At Wrestlemania XX we were treated to what was simultaneously one of the worst matches I’ve ever seen, and one of the most fascinating things in wrestling since Montreal. Brock Lesnar vs Goldberg. Now, the match itself was slightly more bearable than irritable bowel syndrome, but only just. The crowd, however, made this worth watching. As you are undoubtedly aware, they booed him over and beyond his heel status. They chanted ‘Na na naaa na, Good Bye’ at him. It blatantly threw Lesnar, and it blatantly bothered him. Goldberg was booed as well, but not to the same degree.

As far as the weekly tv shows are concerned, this wasn’t happening. Lesnar hadn’t resigned, and Goldberg wasn’t leaving. It hadn’t been acknowledged, and yet, the crowd knew. And, as we saw, not only did a few of the crowd know – they all did. And they weren’t happy about it. It changed the pace of the match, and it forced Jim Ross to admit, live, that there were rumours about Lesnar leaving. Now, there’s rumours, and there’s rumours. There’s whispering among friends, and there’s news items running rampant over the internet wrestline community. WWE was forced to admit something it was trying to keep quiet, as a result of the internet.

This is the same internet that Vince McMahon desperately tries to stop gaining information on a regular basis. It’s the same internet that Triple H dismisses as being full of twelve year old ‘internerds’ (in a WWE.com interview, no less). It’s the same internet that has caused Ring of Honour to change hands, by revealing some of the less savoury past-times of it’s former owner. It’s the same internet that made Ring of Honour in the first place. It’s the same internet that has made The Wrestling Channel such hot news.

I’m not going to make out that just because someone is a favourite on the internet, that they are immediately going to be hugely popular with the live crowds – if they did, then why would Lance Storm still not particularly be over? – but rather that the majority of the live crowds read the internet on a regular basis. According to Dave Spinosa (the owner of the oratory website – oratory.rajah.com) who attended WrestleMania XX, ‘being there live..I would say 80% of the crowd knew, and the rest played along’. That’s a fairly large amount of their audience. Hell, that’s the VAST majority of their live audience. Marks and Smarks, Smarks and Marks altogether. A lot of that audience evidently keep a semi-regular eye on a couple of websites. Dave also estimates that about 10,000 people regularly read the oratory – and the oratory is a column site, not a news site. News sites typically get even more traffic.

That’s not ‘a couple of twelve year olds at their computers’, that is tens of thousands of people checking website, and once we take in all the different websites, we’re talking hundreds of thousands of people. Now, the question is,is this a passive audience, or is this an active audience? By passive, I mean is this an audience that is willing to be content with official websites, and official announcements, or is this an audience that is going to actively look for information? How much influence does the internet have on professional wrestling?

My mind is already made up. It’s hugely influential. It was made up about five years ago. At this time, there occured an event which established, in my mind and in many others, that the internet was going to be a hugely powerful force for wrestling.

In 1999, the Monday Night War was in full flow, and occasionally wrestlers were seen to jump from promotion to promotion. Up until now, more wrestlers jumped from the WWF to WCW than vice versa. In fact, the only major jump TO the WWF at this point had been Sean Waltman (in the days before he sucked…really! He didn’t suck once!). And now, a mid-card comedy heel who hadn’t been on television in months.

A few weeks beforehand, the WWF website announced that they had signed ‘LionHeart’ Chris Jericho, and they treated it as a pretty major event. It wasn’t acknowledged on television. They had an article about it in their magazine – after the debut. While the debut was hyped, courtesy of a millenium clock that had been shown counting down (which someone quickly pointed out was due to hit zero about six months early), the person who was debuting wasn’t being hyped. Jericho’s name wasn’t mentioned before his debut. This is an important point.

Jericho had gotten himself over in WCW. He hadn’t headlined, and he’d been stuck in the cruiserweight division. He turned heel, by turning into a whining paranoid comedian, and got more over than most of the roster. Online, he was a huge favourite. He was about as popular as he is now (in no small part down to his website, which was extremely good for it’s time). He was sick of WCW though, primarily because of the big guys on top holding everybody down – Please don’t beat me to the HHH jokes – and because he knew the company had no faith in him, so he didn’t re-sign his contract early. This was a prerequisite for being pushed at this point in WCW, since it meant you were staying around. Jericho refused to do so, but made clear that whoever made the better offer would obtain his services. Even without explicitly saying he would go to the WWF (in fact, in interviews he denied having made a choice, or even a clear favourite), he was buried in WCW. And when I say buried, I mean buried. He was taken off television pretty much completely. He got one PPV appearance, and that was at the specific request of Perry Saturn, although he didn’t get any opportunity to help hype the match. People that took Jericho signs to Nitro had them removed. If Jericho was going to sign with the WWF, WCW was going to make sure that nobody remembered him.

However, Jericho was hugely popular online. He was (rightfully) seen as the most underutilised member of WCW, and the speculation was huge that The Lionheart might sign with the WWF. It appeared that the WWF would actually use Jericho correctly, and that Vince McMahon would see the potential that he had. This was in the days before the XFL, when Vince was still regarded as something of a genius, and people swallowed that bit about creating seven new stars before breakfast. Cynicism aside, the WWF had more of a track record at this point of building on potential, and the net was huge with speculation about Jericho.

3..

2..

1…

The countdown hit zero, and as we became accustomed to seeing, the lights went out, the explosion hit, and Jericho’s new entrance video started. Jericho came out to a huge ovation. The crowd popped big. But – more interestingly – the first huge pop wasn’t when Jericho came out. It was when the titantron showed his name at the start of his video. The pop was eardrum-destroying. The crowd not only knew who he was, but they were rabid for him.

Why? Because of the internet. This was the proof that was needed that the internet was important to wrestling. If Jericho had come out and the crowd hadn’t known who he was, or if they hadn’t reacted as hugely as the internet confidently predicted they would, then things would be different. The internet wouldn’t be a huge thing for wrestling. However, the name came up, the crowd went insane, and the internet was looked at in a different way by wrestling companies.

A number of wrestlers have been intelligent about this, and developed an online presence, or at least an awareness of it. Lance Storm, Chris Jericho, Bill Goldberg, Kevin Nash, Rob Van Dam, Raven, Doug Williams, CM Punk, Steve Corino, Samoa Joe, Jonny Storm, and countless others all have their own websites, which they are personally involved in, at least to some extent. Of all of them, probably the most fascinating one belongs to Lance Storm, which – coincidentally – happens to be the most regularly updated. You can find information on his work out and diet schedules, a regularly updated column, and even a book club. In return, I have the feeling that Lance Storm will always have the loyalty of a lot of people online. Using this medium to connect with your fans is, of course, A smart thing to do. The important things to do if you are planning on doing this, is to keep it regularly updated, and to make yourself accessible. If you do, then you’re likely to be in closer contact with your fans, which is probably something you want to do. Not all wrestlers do, though.

As I mentioned earlier, Triple H has ranted about the internet wrestling community multiple times – surprisingly enough, this happened roughly around the time when the fans began to seriously turn against him, and he stopped appearing on ‘worlds best wrestlers’ lists. Now, this is interesting for one reason. Another columnist – Right Here’>Link – has pointed out that this could be part of the ongoing evolution of kayfabe. Triple H has managed to become a particularly despised heel, and part of it has been his ability to get under the IWC’s collective skins. Perhaps this is the new way to use the internet? Actually use it as a tool to further storylines?

Of course, the use of the internet can go too far. I need only direct you towards Vince Russo’s tenure in WCW. (I’ll quickly point out before I do, that Russo has improved enormously in NWA:TNA. I’m actually a fan, but there’s a point to be made here) Russo understood the amount of influence that the online world has, but he overdid it. He tried hard, and unsuccessfully, to make his storylines ‘smart’. The triple threat match with Goldberg, Steiner and Nash that was meant to be a shoot is an obvious example. Nobody believed that the match was going to be a shoot, and nobody believed that Goldberg was breaking the script. Also, by promoting the match in this way, it caused problems for the rest of the show, as this idea basically said ‘even though the rest of what we show is fake, this is real’. Compare this to Bret Hart flying off the handle back in 1996, when he went on a public rant about how he was being ‘screwed’ and that the whole thing was ‘bullshit’. That caught people’s imaginations. That got people intrigued. That’s the way to push things to the net fans. Of course, the other famous incident that occured during the Russo era was the Bash at the Beach incident. Russo broke kayfabe and fired Hogan publicly, with Jarret helping. He then gave the push to the perennial internet favourite, Booker T. Now, this idea worked better, because all that Russo tried to do was to push this angle as being a shoot, and not the matches. Of course, it was helped by the fact that the angle WAS a shoot, but then, in a viewing context it doesn’t matter. It was controversial, and interesting. Shades of Montreal, the ultimate in shoot storylines, and in working up the net fans.

Throw the fans a bone, and if it takes, then it can be built upon. This appears to be happening once again recently, in the independent circuits, by a relation of the Montreal victim. Ring of Honour had an event a while ago where Teddy Hart got knocked silly, and proceeded to act unprofessionally, to a degree that many of the locker room and the owners of ROH were angry with him. Now, while Hart’s gimmick has always been that of a very arrogant and talented wrestler, he’s hyped it up since then. Well, he might have….I’ll explain. Teddy Hart has started acting like even more of a prima-donna backstage then he ever had before. His website is the only one run by a wrestler to have a pay section, as far as I know (except the Honky-Tonk-Man, but he doesn’t count). He has picked arguments and fights with CM Punk and Steve Corino. He’s started behaving worse and worse, and more and more arrogant, and everybody online has the same question. ‘Is this guy for real?’ Personally, I don’t think he is. I personally think it’s a very elaborate gimmick he’s running, similar to Brian Pillman’s ‘Loose Cannon’ gimmick years ago. The fans are confused, but they’re undoubtedly intrigued. The fact that he’s stunning in the ring really does help his case as well. Now, he might actually be this much of an arse in real life, but then, he may just be playing a character. I don’t know, and that’s why I’m intrigued, and that’s why I’m interested, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m following his career. Now, since there isn’t that much available about his recent behaviour available on video, or on television, this story has become major because of the internet. And it’s made him one of the most highly desirable independent talents because of the huge amount of online interest in him. Now there’s an example for you of how to work the internet fans. Throw us something to keep us second guessing, and we will want to find out more. And if we have to order your PPV, or watch your show to do it, then that’s what we’ll end up doing. It’s simple.

Ring of Honour has used the internet to great effect, building up good relations with it’s fans via their website and their message boards, and I guarantee you that this is part of the reason for their success. NWA:TNA has done the same, and are now offering their older shows via their website, and if they’re not making money from that, I’ll be stunned. Even people who download matches via file sharing programs end up spending money eventually, or at least the more honest ones do. If it’s the only way to get a match you want to see, you’ll do it, but when the video or DVD comes out, you’ll buy that as well, because it’s better quality. In the meantime, it makes you aware of these wrestlers, of these promotions. And that can only be a good thing.

Look at The Wrestling Channel. I understand that in it’s first week, it’s done very good business for a new channel, especially for one in a niche market. But how did we first hear about it? Online. Via message boards, and news-sites. The owner of the site answers questions on the forums, and as a result, it’s built up a highly loyal audience already. If it hadn’t been for the net, you wouldn’t have heard about it. It hasn’t needed to be featured in the Radio Times in order to gain an audience, it’s just had to spread the word, and we’ve done the rest of the work.

As a final thing to show you how useful the internet can be to the industry, I’ll use an example unrelated to wrestling, but rather from the comic book world. The authors Warren Ellis and Neil Gaiman will need little introduction to comic book fans, however, to non-fans, they are two of the biggest names going. Think Eric Bischoff and Paul Heyman. A small-press, but very good comic company called Top Shelf was going out of business, through no fault of their own. They were owed money by too many people, and they were about to go bankrupt. They needed twenty thousand dollars in order to stay in business, otherwise they were gone. Dead in the water. They sent out an e-mail distress call to various online names, appealing for 4-500 comic book fans to buy around $50 dollars of books from the website in order to keep them in business. Ellis and Gaiman published this in their websites, forums and newsletters, and my midday the following day, they had received more than 1000 orders (850 of which were online) that made them operational again, and put several thousand copies of their graphic novels into circulation. This couldn’t have been done any other way. Without the internet, that is a talented company that would be out of business.

We are here, we are watching, and we can help. We buy your merchandise, and we watch your shows, and we order your Pay-per-views. We discuss what you do, and we are your fans. We’ve all discovered this community in different ways, and we all bring different things to it. All we ask is that you acknowledge us, and that you let us support you.

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Standing At The Edge: The Vicious Cabaret

They say that there?s a broken light for every heart on Broadway

They say that life?s a game and then they take the board away.

They give you masks and costumes and an outline of the story. . .

Then leave you all to improvise their vicious cabaret.

Alan Moore, Vicious Cabaret, from V for Vendetta.

‘So what are you doing this weekend?’

‘Heh, I’m getting a few mates around, and we’re watching WrestleMania.’

‘You watch wrestling?’

‘Yep. Have done since I was ten.’

‘You know it’s all fake, right?’

Sigh.

That’s every conversation I’ve had about wrestling since university. Every single job I’ve had, every single bar conversation I’ve had…and my answer is usually to become very obstinant about it being real, purely to mess with their heads. I’m more stubborn than they are, you see, and it amuses me to watch people justify wrestling being fake.

‘But look at that guy. He just hit him with a chair, a tyre iron, and ran him over. If it was real, he’d be arrested for assault!’

‘Don’t be daft, he’s enormous. Would you arrest him?’

It amuses me for a short amount of time, before I continue to drink, head down and muttering darkly to myself, and then down another whisky. (I’ve got to stop doing that at work).

Now, of course I know that wrestling is fake. I’m under no illusions about it being fake. In exactly the same way that when I watch a movie, that’s fake as well. When I watch theatre, that’s fake as well. It’s a performance. It’s a soap opera crossed with grand guignol, with a healthy dose of self awareness. It’s physical theatre, to the highest degree. It’s…well, it’s wrestling.

No matter what kind of wrestling you’re watching, what it is, when it all comes down to it, is an interaction between two people and an audience. Now, there’s a huge amount of skill involved in amateur wrestling. It’s an athletic endeavour, and it’s one of the true arts. Boxing, likewise, involves a lot of skill – and if you don’t think so, watch someone who has no technique in a match sometime. However, as much skill as these things take, it takes more skill to be able to perform convincingly in a live situation in front of an audience. To be able to convince people that what they are watching is real. That takes real skill, and when I see it done well….when I suspend disbelief, and I believe that Raven and CM Punk, or Randy Orton and Mick Foley or Ric Flair and Terry Funk REALLY hate each other…well, then I remember why I watch and love wrestling so much.

However, all the way through the fifteen years that I’ve been watching wrestling, there’s been one thing that I’ve missed. And it’s always bugged me.

I’ve never seen wrestling live.

There’s a number of reasons for this. Distance being one – I grew up in Ireland, in the middle of County Offaly. For those that don’t know it, it’s not particularly close to anywhere that does wrestling. In fact, it’s not that close to anywhere. Wrestling wise, it was just awful – although considering that IWW is based in Meath (I believe), that’s changed now – but not in the nineties. When I moved to England, I was in Yorkshire, as a student, and I didn’t really have the finances to go to see live wrestling. As an active member of the online wrestling community, it’s kind of embarassing to realise that I may be the last wrestling fan going to see it live. It looks like a huge amount of fun.

So, what does watching live wrestling offer over and above watching it on television? I honestly don’t know yet. I can offer some educated guesses. And some uneducated ones, unfortunately.

I’m still not one hundred percent sure whether or not the announcers for events actually get what they’re saying broadcasted over speakers or not. Logically, I know they don’t, but it’s going to be weird watching wrestling without commentators. Not necessarily bad. Just weird. It’s also going to be weird watching it from one angle, and not getting the best view all the time. It’s going to be weird, but exhilirating, being in the middle of a crowd watching. Jeering, heckling, or cheering the performers in the ring.

A wrestling event offers something for every kind of fan. There’s going to be the intense matches, for the bloodthirsty kind, there’s going to be the technical matches, or the high flying matches, for the fans of specific styles of wrestling, and there’s probably going to be at least one more lighthearted match, since it’s always good to help the crowd relax, catch their breath, hopefully laugh, and build up to the next major point.

There’s music, lights and action. There’s spectacular entrances, and slowly paced emotional moments. It’s a cabaret, my friends, and that’s the attraction. Forget watching a band playing live, they don’t get to improvise like wrestlers do, and, when they’re good, build from what the crowd is doing, the crowd and the wrestlers feeding each other, although there are similarities to watching a band, in that the crowd is encouraged to be vocal. Forget watching a play…have you ever heard a crowd cheer and boo their way through Shakespeare? Forget stand-up comedy…while it has some of the elements, it’s not the same until I see a standup comedian leap off the stage and through a table in front of me. It lacks the potential ‘Wow’ factor.

You may be wondering why I’m talking about live wrestling, considering I’ve never been to a live wrestling event. It’s quite simple. It’s got something to do with the two tickets to the FWA’s New Frontiers event on the 26th of March.

For those of you who don’t have much knowledge of the FWA, it’s Britains main wrestling federation. It’s light years removed from the ‘World of Sport’ (which isn’t as bad as you remember…well, except for Shirley Crabtree. He actually was.). The Frontier Wrestling Alliance is the closest thing England has ever had to something like ECW. There’s a mixture of technical wrestling (Doug Williams is Englands answer to Kurt Angle. Seriously. If you haven’t seen his match with Eddy Guerrero, go directly to frontierwrestling.com, and buy it) high flying action (Jody Fleisch, for example…a supremely annoying heel, but bloody talented in the ring, if occasionally a bit of a high spot machine) and straightforward brawling (The family has had some fantastically innovative matches. Or maybe I’m just a mark for people getting hit in the crotch with toilet seats….I should rephrase that…). The storylines are simple, but effective. It’s not WWE, and it’s not trying to be. Oh, and their trump card for this event?

Raven vs CM Punk.

OMG!! This is going to be grate!!! Raven is my altimefavoritwrestler! Hesgrate,hesgrate,OMG!!!

Ahem.

Sorry. I have a tendency to mark out when it comes to Raven. If you’ve started watching wrestling in the last couple of years, and you’ve not yet seen his indy stuff, or TNA stuff, then you haven’t seen Raven. If you’ve only seen his WWE tenure, then you haven’t seen Raven. He was originally Johnny Polo in the WWF, a ‘rich kid’ gimmick, and was as irritating as he sounds. Unfortunately for Raven (Scott Levy), he wasn’t allowed to participate in matches properly, since he was a manager, so he eventually quit. For a brief time he reverted back to his original gimmick in the indys, that of ‘Scotty The Body Flamingo’. We cut forward to ECW now, and Stevie Richards was promising to bring Johnny Polo back. Instead, he brought in Raven. Raven went immediately into a feud with Tommy Dreamer, which later incorporated Sandman, and Mick Foley along with others. Raven was an enigmatic character, who had an obsession with the crucifixion, and a love for grunge, both the style and the music, which was only equalled by his love for mindgames. I was 15 at the time, and just about ready to quit watching wrestling. The WWF had just gotten awful in recent times, and Raven kept me watching at all. I read about him, and the fact that I had no way of watching ECW at the time made this character even more mysterious. All I knew was that this guy waas sadistic, depressed, eloquent and violent. That was enough to keep me watching. The more I found out about this guy, the more I liked. I also like the fact that he’s one of the few wrestlers who, if they read this article, would look up at the banner, and get what it is…the only other two would probably be The Hurricane, and Nova.

Now, we skip forward about ten years, and Raven is the veteran, fighting the rookie CM Punk. Now, while I’m not as enthused about Punks character as I am Ravens, the two of them are perfect for a feud. Raven is a reformed drug addict and alcoholic. CM Punk is ‘Straight Edge 4 Life’ (Straight edge being a philosophy born out of nineteen eighties punk, the jist of it being ‘don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t fuck’), which is the reason behind the Pepsi tattoo, if you were wondering. The two different lifestyles are so opposed that a feud is natural. What makes the feud so intriguing is the fact that the two – to an extent – live their gimmicks. Raven actually is a former alcoholic and drug user (as he’s admitted and talked about at length in interviews), and CM Punk really is Straight Edge. The thing they have in common is their love for wrestling. They mesh together perfectly. And they’ve pulled out the stops for this feud. In ROH, CM PUnk tied Raven up in the ropes, and poured beer down his throat. Later, Raven returned the favour.

Let me repeat that, to make the point of how major that is. A reformed alcoholic and a straight-edger both willingly drank beer to further a feud. Now, take that concept, and compare it to ‘Redneck takes advantage of blind girlfriend’. This is real drama, and real performance. Raven hasn’t been able to get a win over Punk yet, meaning that he’s on the opposite side to his Tommy Dreamer feud, where he constantly won.

The match is likely to be violent, intense, and entertaining. The night will be a mixed bag, with the best of FWA fighting as well – there’s going to be a mixture of comedy, drama, music and violence. It’s the FWA’s first show in about six months, and with the launch of The Wrestling Channel, they’re going to pull out all the stops, as they step up, and try to become a major player worldwide.

I can’t really explain how much I’m looking forward to this. I’m going to have decent seats, along with my girlfriend, and my best friend. I’m going to cheer, jeer, shout, heckle and sing my little black heart out. I’m going to remind myself why I endure all those conversations I explained at the start of the article, why I love wrestling so much, and I’m going to get to see another side of wrestling by seeing it live. I’m going to be able to see my favourite wrestler, which, to me, puts it on a par with meeting someone like Jimi Hendrix. I’m going to relax and enjoy the Vicious Cabaret.

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Standing At The Edge: Times A-Changing Feb19

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Standing At The Edge: Times A-Changing

Two samoans, two Afro-Caribbeans, an Iranian and a mexican walk into a wrestling company, right?

No, wait…there’s two samoans, two black guys,a mexican and an Iranian and they’re all on a plane….

No.

What do two samoans, two black guys, a mexican and an Iranian have in common?

The answer?

They’re the only minorities to have held a world title in either major promotion in the last twenty years. Before that, you have to go all the way back to Pedro Morales in 1971. That’s seven minority champions out of fifty seven different titleholders. Adding ECW and TNA you can, at best, add a couple more, but you have to go back years with ECW.

The latest minority to be added to the count is the new world champion, specifically Eddy Guerrero, who, as we are all aware, won the title at No Way Out. Before him, you have to go back to Booker T in 2000. Before him, The Rock in 1998. Before him, Yokozuna in 1993, and before him, you have to back to Ron Simmons in 1992. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 1983 to the Iron Sheik. That’s a long time, and even longer considering the Sheik was the first non-white champion in twelve years. That’s an awfully long time, especially when most of the title changes took place within the last ten years. Even worse, three out of the six won the title while playing the part of a gimmick which could be classified as stereotypical. The others have all played, at some point, a character about whom the most important thing is their ethnicity.

The Iron Shiek played an Iranian Heel. Ron Simmons led the Nation of Domination – a thinly veiled rip-off of the Nation of Islam. The Rock was part of that group. Yokozuna was a Japanese Sumo Wrestling heel, played by a Samoan (just to get more confusing). Booker T has been portrayed both as a reformed thug, and previously, at one point, as a slave. Eddy Guerrero has been, of course, a lying, cheating and stealing mexican.

This is not to say that there’s not been minority wrestlers higher on the cards. While not having held the title in WWE, Booker T is a high midcard wrestler, and has been a title contender a couple of times in the past. The Junkyard Dog was a higher midcard wrestler in the mid eighties. D-Von Dudley has been one half of the most decorated tag team in history. Rey Mysterio is one of the few cruiserweights who is capable of headlining shows. And Tazz is an Oompa Loompa who announces, and manages to withold the urge to jump up during ladder matches, dash up them and sing ‘I’ve got the golden ticket!’. But, generally speaking, there’s not been many minority headliners.

In order to determine the reasoning behind this, we should look at the bookers.The WCW bookers at the time were ‘Cowboy’ Bill Watts and ‘Vince Russo’. Both actually showed a fair amount of judgement, because both wrestlers at the time were pushed as faces. Ron Simmons was put in the part of ‘All-American’, essentially, and Booker T became a rip off of The Rock. Although both were failures moneywise, they didn’t portray ethnicities as the only facet of their character. This hasn’t been the case with WWE, with the exception of The Rock. Vince McMahon has had the final word for the WWE/F title holders, and major storylines, so perhaps part of this is down to prejudice?

Not necessarily. Vince may be prejudiced, he may not be – without knowing him personally, it’s impossible to say. He is, though, motivated by the almighty dollar, and he is certainly influenced by his father’s booking wrestling beliefs. And his father believed in making sure you had somebody for each minority, because that way they had somebody to root for. Now, in 2000, Alan Sharp, a WCW spokesman said that 87 percent of the leagues fans were white. Now, taking that rationale. it only makes sense. You keep your belt on the white wrestlers, but if you have somebody for each minority to back, then you have somebody to use as a selling point to those minorities, and it gives the chance for you to make more money. As an example of this, let’s use one of the biggest successes in wrestling, who started out, improbably enough, in the WWF as an Irish Villain. Ladies and Gentlemen, Hulk Hogan.

WOW MAGAZINE

The Hogan part of the name came from my first run with Vince McMahon Sr, who once had a Puerto Rican star in Pedro Morales, an Italian star in Bruno Sammartino, and I was to be the Irish star, Hulk Hogan. That ethnic thing went on in the New York territory back then.

? Bill Apter

Now, obviously, this wasn’t the gimmick that Hogan used for long, and he soon based his gimmick on The Hulk from Marvel comics. Now, the thing is, that’s a good thing, which we can all agree on, business wise. However, how limited would that gimmick have been for Hogan? How far can you push an ethnic stereotype? Let’s look at this, using WWE history, and the present situation, shall we?

The simple answer is not far. The Iron Shiek had a short title reign, in a time when long title reigns were the norm, taking the title from Bob Backlund, and dropping it straight to Hulk Hogan. The only times he’s shown up since then were when there’s an Iraq storyline in the works – although he did turn up once to help Mick Foley train for a match. The gimmick was okay for it’s time, I suppose. It’s difficult not to put todays values onto yesterdays federations. At the time, he was there as a monster heel, and for no other reason. In the grand scheme of things, he existed purely to drop the title to Hulk Hogan, and make him a star.

Yokozuna was a different kettle of fish. He didn’t get a short title reign, in fact, he got the longest reign for the following ten years. The stories that he was involved in revolved around two things. A – he was Japanese, and B – he was fat. His story was that he was champion, and it was that simple. He came in, nobody could beat him, he won the belt, and he kept it. Of course, if he was on the verge of losing, his sneaky heel manager – Mr Fuji – would throw salt into the eyes of his opponent, while Macho Man Randy Savage would cry something about Pearl Harbour on a regular basis. Never mind the fact that Japan and the USA hadn’t been at war for fifty years, the references were still made on a pretty much weekly basis. Once Yokozuna lost the title, that was it – he floundered in the midcard for a while, and got written out of the storyline when his team turned on him. They even tried to turn him face, with predictably awful results. He existed purely for the crowd to chant ‘USA..USA..USA’ at, which appears to me to be a hopelessly outdated idea, and was even in the early to mid nineties.

The Rock was a change, and a breath of fresh air. Once he dropped the Nation – which he had commandeered from Farooq, and changed totally by making it just a gang of thugs which included a white member – he made it clear that he was never in it for reasons to do with his race, but was just in it to get ahead in the company. By the time he won the championship, he was sided with Vince McMahon, and his race was never referred to. ‘The most electrifying man in sports entertainment’ was huge. Up there with Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin and Ric Flair, he was undoubtedly one of the most important wrestlers to have entered the squared circle. He played a heel, but there was no element made of his ethnicity (he’s half samoan, half african/american).The only time they tried to bring his ethnicity into his gimmick was during the Rikishi ‘I did it…for the people’ storyline, and that was quickly dropped. Interestingly, the head booker at the point when Rocky became a major star was Vince Russo, who was also responsible for the Booker T title run, which was essentially a copycat act. Just stop and think for a second – if Rocky had been stuck in the Nation gimmick, and never allowed to evolve further into ‘The Rock’, how much damage would it have done to his career? The Nation, at the time, had signs of being an organisation intended to be around for a long time. How different would things be now if that had happened?

This brings us to Eddy Guerrero. Since entering WWE, Eddy has been saddled with an over the top accent (which isn’t his real accent), and his gimmicking has solely been based around his ethnicity. First of all, he was Lateeeno heeat, a womanising, lying cheat, who had bad cheap cars, with big dice in the windscreen. He’d constantly befriend people purely to cheat them later on. Following this, he was put on the backburner for a long time, storyline wise, but his gimmick didn’t change. When he returned from his hiatus (due to painkiller addiction),shortly afterwards, his gimmick was changed. It was ramped up. It was amplified to a huge degree. He was paired with Chavo, and the two of them went through a series of skits about them ‘lying, cheating and stealing’. It generally involved them stealing from victims, including a young mother. The skits were amusing, but completely degrading – and Eddy apparantly HATED doing them. It’s no surprise that the ‘Eddy mows my lawn’ signs started popping up so quickly. The fact that he threw himself into the character so much ended up changing booking plans, because Eddy somehow managed to make himself into a three-dimensional character. Instead of being a cheating mexican, he became a proud mexican, who happened to cheat in matches, regardless of whether he was a face or a heel. His strong family connections were turned into a slow burn storyline with Chavo, and he finished the character off with a huge dose of real life in his admission to his addictions. Giving the crowd this final element – his motivation and desire to win being what made him disregard fair play – was the last thing they needed in order to want to see him take the title home. The point I’m making, though, is that Eddy could have gotten there faster if he wasn’t lumbered with the ethnic gimmick, especially when it went so far, and became so degrading. Would he have got this far if he wasn’t such a fantastically gifted wrestler?

And yet, WWE continues to go for the ethnic stereotype. La Resistance, and Sylvan Grenier in specific…well, how far can they really go? Yes, there’s the possibility of them taking some time away, coming back six months or so later with a different gimmick, and being able to get over seperately, but somehow, I don’t see Sylvan EVER not portraying an overly fey Frenchman. Nor do I see Booker T ever getting away from being portrayed as a not particularly bright black criminal. Is he those things? Well, yes. However, Steve Austin is a not particularly bright white criminal. Is it something that is constantly brought up with him? No. Why is this? And also, why did Yoshihiro Tajiri have to step in in order to stop the writers naming his faction The Yakuza? I suppose we should just be thankful that Michael Cole doesn’t scream ‘Pearl Harbour’ at every opportunity.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m making out that the situation is terrible. It’s not. Yes, it could certainly be better – I’d love to see Booker T’s past forgotten, and I’d love for Eddy to get some new music – but the situation could also be a lot worse. It wasn’t until 1941 that black wrestlers were allowed to wrestle white wrestlers, and we have also lost the ‘black guys headbutt harder than white guys’, although for some reason the same tradition is kept for Samoans. We no longer have ‘Negro leagues’, and, the ascension of Eddy Guerrero cannot be overstated. He joins The Rock as the only two men in wrestling who have outgrown a stereotypically ethnic gimmick, and managed to push forward and become genuine main eventers. With some luck, this will only push Vince to push all wrestlers harder, whether black, Latino, European, Chinese, Japanese or bright green with purple hair. Perhaps we’ll see WWE actually take note of the first word that comprises the name of the company. Perhaps not, but you never know. At Wrestlemania, an All-American will be playing the heel against a face Mexican WWE champion, and it looks like a half black/half white tag team will be competing for both sets of tag team championships, while two latinos fight over the cruiserweight championship, and all of them have either outgrown or never had a stereotypically ethnic gimmick.

There?s improvements to be made, but that’s a hell of a step up over fifty years ago, twenty years ago, or ten years ago.

Contact me at: christopherbrosnahan@hotmail.com, or Catch me at chrisbrosnahan on AIM. I’m off to rewatch Eddy winning the title..

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Standing At The Edge: Relatively Dangerous Liaisons Jan03

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Standing At The Edge: Relatively Dangerous Liaisons

“I shan’t have a moments peace until its over. I love her, I hate her. My life is a misery.” ? Valmont (John Malkovich) in Dangerous Liaisons.

A pair who have been working together for a long time, and who have a huge amount in common, amuse themselves by destroying people, using sex as a weapon. They make a bet regarding whether or not one of them has the ability to seduce a very chaste woman. Not only seduce her, but also make her fall hopelessly in love with him. While he is in the process of this, he falls in love with her. This leads to bad feelings between the pair, who declare war on each other ? leading to each of their downfall.

Describing this storyline reminds me just how good the storyline between Chris Jericho, Christian, Trish and Lita actually is. As badly conceived as the ?bet? idea appeared to be, given time, Jericho appearing to have fallen for Trish is a concept which really does work. However, that?s not the story that I was actually describing. The story I was describing is that of a French novel published in Seventeen-eighty-two. The story is ?Les Liaisons Dangereuses? by Choderlos De Laclos. It has given rise to a stage version by Christopher Hampton, and three films so far (The Glenn Close / John Malkovich version, Dangerous Liaisons, the Colin Firth / Annette Benning Valmont and the surprisingly enjoyable teen update, Cruel Intentions). It was, in it?s time, the most scandalous book of the century, and is still shocking in places. This is a novel in which a woman takes advantage of the trust of a teenage girl to arrange for her to be raped. It?s dark, it?s sexy, it?s funny, and it?s one of the best books ever written. It?s good enough that I am actually confident in saying that, and feeling that it would be unlikely for me to be contradicted. While I do not necessarily have the confidence in the Raw writers to have a good knowledge of the book or play, chances are that they have at least seen Cruel Intentions, since the story line is so far extremely similar. (Since it has recently turned out that Jericho and Trish are writing the storyline themselves, it becomes slightly more likely, to be fair.)

I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast the stories so far. You may be surprised at how much similarity there is ? assuming of course that we take Liasions? couple as being a tag team. Just stretch your imagination that far. Work with me here.

DANGEROUS LIAISONS:

Le Vicomte de Valmont, a charismatic man on the outside, and a monster on the inside, and la Marqueise de Mertueil, a pillar of society on the outside, and ?well?an evil slut on the inside are good friends, and former lovers, but keep their motives secret. When Mertueil is embarrassed by a former lover, she plots revenge. Since he likes virgins, he has taken a fancy to a young girl, who is the daughter of a friend of Merteuils. She enlists Valmonts help. Unexpectedly Valmont turns her down.

The reason is that he has recently come into contact with Madame de Tourvel ? a beautiful woman, whose husband is away. She is also famously chaste and correct. He wants her to give herself to him, to betray everything she believes in, to fall in love with him. As a result, the younger girl is too easy a target. He wants more of a challenge. They agree on a bet ? specifically that if Valmont succeeds, Mertueil will sleep with him. Everything proceeds well, despite Tourvel knowing of Valmonts character already, and slowly she begins to fall for him. The unexpected side effect is that during all this, he falls in love with her.

Eventually, due to his ego being poked at by Merteuil, he cruelly dumps Tourvel, but cannot live with what he has done, and declares war with Merteuil. Valmont ends up being killed, but manages to obtain forgiveness from Tourvel, who dies when she learns of Valmonts death. Valmont dies, but redeems himself.

THE CANADIAN CONNECTION

Chris Jericho, a charismatic man, but a bitter and twisted individual on the inside, and Christian, a creepy little bastard are good friends, and former tag team partners. Although we don’t know who instigated it, they embark on a bet ? involving a girl who has had dealings with Christian before, and who has good reason to dislike. Between them, they agree on a bet ? for one Canadian dollar. The winner is whoever gets to sleep with either Lita (Christian) or Trish (Jericho) first.

Everything proceeds well, and despite Trish knowing of Jericho?s character already, she slowly begins to fall for him. The unexpected side effect is that during all this, he falls in love with her. Eventually, due to her finding out about the bet, he (inadvertently) cruelly dumps Trish, but doesn’t appear able to live with what he has done, and is pleading for forgiveness. It appears that war has been declared by Christian and Jericho. Whose destruction this will end in remains to be seen, but will Jericho be able to gain Trish?s forgiveness, and will this end in him redeeming himself?

DISCOVERING THE SOFTER SIDE OF VIOLENCE?

This appears to be the latest attempt by World Wrestling Entertainment to try and cater towards the female market ? a market which it doesn’t tend to aim its product towards. According to WWE’s website’>Link, their target demographic is the 12-34 age range, however, let?s be honest here. Its 12-34 year old males. Hell, their flagship show, RAW, is shown on Spike TV (The American TV Network for Men, according to their publicity). While there are female fans, they tend to be in a minority. Just look at the oratory?s forums, for example ? it?s primarily male, with some very pretty exceptions to the rule. (I’m saying that so they won’t hurt me for calling them ?exceptions?).

The financial benefits of targeting the female demographic are obvious. As Jack Lemmon remarked in ?Some Like It Hot? ? ?It?s a whole different sex!? By catering for the female demographic (or ?The Chicks?, as Vince McMahon no doubt refers to them), they have the potential to realise nearly a one hundred percent increase in viewing figures, and presumably merchandise and Pay Per View buys as well. There is the potential here for them to double their revenue, which is an obvious incentive for them to do this. It?s not the first time they?ve done this. By doing extensive research ? asking my girlfriend when she got into it ? I’m going to look at their past attempts.

LADY AND THE MACHO MAN

The first angle in my memory that has involved romance was used for years, and at the time was hugely successful. I’m talking about the Macho Man Randy Savage and Miss Elizabeth. They debuted together playing a couple (they were married in real life), Randy playing a heel, and Elizabeth playing his submissive face girlfriend. It was a useful heat generator for Savage, causing the fans to hate him for his possessive and jealous attitude towards Elizabeth, but love Elizabeth for her loyalty towards Savage. She would lead him to the ring, hold the ropes open for him, and then pace around outside looking concerned. If he won, she would perch on his shoulder, trophy-like. Eventually, Savage turned face, taking the title in the process. He formed a tag team for a while with Hulk Hogan (the Mega-Powers), and the two of them were managed by Miss Elizabeth. All was well.

Savage and Elizabeth in Happier Times.

Until Randy?s possessiveness started playing up again. Unable to convince himself that he was worthy of Elizabeth, he was sure that she and Hogan were having a torrid affair behind his back. This lead to the Mega-Powers exploding, Hogan and Savage warring, and Elizabeth leaving Savage. Savage became the ?Macho King? and got together with ?Sensational Sherri? ? a trollop who was with him purely for the glory. The ?Macho King? lost a retirement match to the Ultimate Warrior, jobbing big time in the process. Sherri was berating him post match ? which led to Elizabeth running to the ring, chasing Sherri away, and reuniting tearfully with Savage. He had lost his career, but gained back his woman. They got ‘married? that SummerSlam.

But it wasn’t over yet. Jake ?The Snake? Roberts started harassing, stalking and attacking Elizabeth, leading to Savage returning, as a matter of pride. This storyline was shocking for the time, including moments like Jake punching Elizabeth, which ? occasional Dusty Rhodes style spankings aside ? was the first time male on female violence was shown in wrestling, and the infamous time Roberts got his cobra to bite Savage while he was tied in the ropes. Following this, the Savage?s luck didn’t get any better. They were targeted by Ric Flair, who claimed to have had a relationship with Elizabeth before Randy ever did, and that she was ‘damaged goods?. Once again, Savage fought for his Wife?s honour, defeating Flair and gaining the championship. Elizabeth came down to ringside during the match, and in the aftermath, slapped Flair.

Unfortunately, the pair divorced shortly afterwards, which caused Elizabeth to leave the Federation, leading to a relationship with Lex Luger, and ultimately, her death.

Elizabeth was a weak character, and ? I feel ? more loved by men than women. She was submissive, tolerated abuse, took everything that was aimed at her, and took it all in order to keep her ‘dignity?. A couple of well done moments aside ? The reunion, the marriage ? I doubt this brought many female viewers to the fed. It was a long time before they tried anything similar.

There were some half hearted attempts. Sherri?s relationship with Shawn Michaels ? during which the only highlight was a comedy match between HBK and The Model Rick Martel, with the stipulation of no closed fists ? in which she was dumped for a mirror being a long lasting example. Also, the Shawn Michaels / British Bulldog storyline where Shawn was accused of sexually harassing Bulldogs wife. This period of time was not the high point of the feds success, critically or ratings wise. I also doubt that Phineas I. Godwinn getting over his feelings for Sunny, and throwing a bucket of slop over her brought in hordes of female fans.

THE MCMAHON – HELMSLEY OP-ERA

However, in nineteen ninety-nine, they appeared to start looking towards gaining those fans again. And who else to do it, but Vince?s own daughter! Now, before you all groan, roll your eyes, and go to the kitchen to make yourself a cup of tea, you may want to remember that this was before Steph was all over the product. I know a number of girls who started watching regularly because of Steph. The horrible acting aside, the storyline was pure Soap Opera.

Don’t you know Test is just thinking ‘This is the life. This push will never end. How can it go wrong?

The Big Bad Undertaker kidnaps Stephanie, and forces her into a black marriage. She is saved, but finds out that the higher power that she was to be sacrificed to was her own father. She deals with it, and begins to slowly move away from her father, starting a relationship with Test, who was an enemy of her fathers. Despite the anger of her family, the relationship flourishes, culminating in a ?Love her or Leave her? Match between Test and Stephanie?s brother, Shane. Test wins, and slowly begins to win over the McMahons, to the point where they accept their engagement. Unfortunately, as they are preparing for their marriage, Stephanie gets hit by fate (more accurately, a trashcan thrown by the British Bulldog), giving her amnesia. She eventually gets through this, and the marriage is set.

Pure soap opera. And as much as Mick Foley may have voiced the masculine whine of displeasure, women were watching. This was what got my girlfriend into wrestling, and she and her schoolfriends were talking about it like you would any other soap opera. Then it got better.

Of course, it’s just a storyline. They’d never act like that in real life…

The marriage is interrupted by HHH, who explains that he dragged a drunken (and possibly drugged) Stephanie away the previous night, and married her in a drive-through by nefarious means! Cue Steph in tears, Test furious, the McMahons livid, and Jim Ross giving what is still my favourite line in wrestling ? ?I don’t believe it! HHH has MARRIED Stephanie McMahon!? Vince goes to fight HHH in order to nullify the marriage, but ? shock ? Stephanie turns on him, and reveals that she has actually been with HHH all along! And the reason she did it? Revenge for her father setting her up with the Undertaker.

Not only soap opera, but soap opera with continuity. And it went on in that line for a long while. Having chased her daddy off, HHH and Steph ran the World Wrestling Federation, even going into a feud with the loveable Mick Foley ? which, as violent as it was, still didn’t turn off too many female fans. The Rock didn’t turn off too many female fans either? Altogether, this was the kind of programming that women were looking for, and astonishingly enough, it worked. The ratings were growing. And they continued to grow when they added in that last element.

The New Stud-Muffin in Steph’s life.

Farce. Or more specifically, Kurt Angle. As over the top as the storyline was up to this point, it went even more so with Steph?s crush on the dorky Kurt. What happened at this point was clever ? HHH became jealous, but not overly so at first. Unlike Savage, HHH knew he deserved Steph, and so didn’t believe that it would happen. Anyway, he had problems of his own ? like his unfortunate habit of being caught in compromising positions with Trish Stratus. Throw in Mick Foley and The Rock deliberately stirring the situation whenever they could, and you reached what was a consistent ratings high point. It worked on so many levels. Fans sympathised with HHH, because most of us guys have felt the way he felt, and we were waiting for him to turn babyface. A lot of the women sympathised with Steph, because she had to make a choice, and there was a lot of grey area. And we all fucking hated Kurt Angle, because it was obvious that under that geeky and clumsy nature, he was just luring Steph into a trap, so he could turn out to be the bastard we all knew he was. At SummerSlam, Steph got knocked out by HHH accidentally, and a concussed Kurt took her back to his hotel to ?ahem’recuperate. And with all the ?Carry On? style comedy it was using, it worked.

It worked for the same reason there has been a surge in comic book sales recently. Women are getting into them, but they’re not getting into X-Men and Spidey ? they’re getting into either the dark fluffy stuff like Lenore’>Link, or they’re getting into the Raunchy Teen Comedy Manga stuff like Ranma 1/2’>Link. Mix these two genres ? a violent raunchy comedy ? and that?s what the WWF had. And they threw it away on a HHH swerve. The plotline imploded, as HHH was kept heel, and revealed to be a scheming mastermind. He beat Kurt Angle decisively, and ? with his mouth bleeding quite heavily ? sealed the deal with Steph with a bloody kiss. The most messed up storyline they have ever done ? to my mind, even more damaging than the Invasion. Because with the Invasion, all they lost was the WCW viewers, a lot of whom watched WWE anyway. With the love triangle storyline, they lost the female market. Austin came back and feuded with HHH. They didn’t care. HHH got crushed in a car. They didn’t care. HHH feuded with the Undertaker, while they tried to make the fans care about Debra, Austin and The Rock. You think it?s a coincidence that ratings started to die off a while later?

Recently, they?ve come back to the female market again. Steph has been reborn as ?All Grown Up Now?, an empowered woman, and lets face it, we’ll see her back again soon. It?s only her third ?Loser gets fired? match she?s lost, and if I can put the cynical part of me to the side?she?s reasonably effective in that role. Like it or hate it, she?s over. Maybe they are positioning her well as a role model. Also, the amount of ?Lingerie? style matches has decreased notably, especially on Raw, where the Womens division is the most exciting thing to happen in wrestling in a long while. This can only be a good thing if you’re trying to get women to watch ? they don’t want to watch smut.

My girlfriend got into wrestling with the Stephanie ? Test storyline, and stopped watching about the time they messed up the Steph ? HHH ? Kurt storyline, and I very much doubt she was the only one. She’ll watch the occasional bit, but she misses The Rock and Mankind. She puts up with me babbling on consistently about wrestling, as long as I let her watch ?Midsummer Murders? without talking through it. She thinks Matt Hardy is cute, and that Jericho should shave off the dumb beard, and keep it shaved. She knows her stuff as well ? probably through osmosis, with the amount I lecture her about wrestling ? and up until recently she wasn’t watching. That?s the target demographic that WWE should be aiming at. And you know what? She?s watching again. She?s watching again for a simple reason. Jericho and Trish and Lita and Christian. It?s like a soap opera, and she doesn’t know what?s happening next. And that?s a good thing. Because if she?s watching ? she?s not the only girl out there doing so, I guarantee you that.

Contact me at: christopherbrosnahan@hotmail.com, or Catch me at chrisbrosnahan on AIM. I’m off to watch Cruel Intentions.

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Standing At The Edge: Wrestling as an Art Form Oct01

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Standing At The Edge: Wrestling as an Art Form

[color=purple’>[SIZE=14’>Wrestling as an art form.[/SIZE’>[/color’>

By Christopher Brosnahan

The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.

William Faulkner

Art (n.) Pronunciation Key (‘rt)

1. Modes of expression that use skill or imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others. (www.dictionary.com)

2. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature. (www.dictionary.com)

3. The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium. (www.britanica.com)

I’m a fan of art in all of its forms. I have stood for a length of time in front of Picasso?s Guernica, my favourite piece of art in history. I have read and reread The Lord of the Rings, my favourite novel. I will get into a conversation for hours about the use of shadow in ?Nosferatu?, and I will dissect ?Chasing Amy? and ?Casablanca?, and use the same reverent tone for each. I will thrust a copy of ?From Hell? at anyone that dares to say that Comic Books are not a unique form of art that can be as touching and as moving as any other. I have enjoyed and studied dance, and have watched some ballet that I have adored. I’m trained in theatre acting, and have been shocked and stunned at the quality onstage when I went to see Ian McKellen in ?Present Laughter?. And I held a breath when I watched Kurt Angle desperately try to force Brock Lesnar to submit during the final moments of their Iron Man Match.

Art is, of course, a subjective thing. What moves and prompts me to think can and will be unspeakably ugly to another person. My argument here is not to propose what I think are the defining moments of any specific art form, for that is nothing more than grandstanding over my own opinions, purely because I took the time to write them down, and press submit. No, I’ll save that grandstanding for future times. My argument is quite simple, although one that not many of us take the time to actually consider. It?s an argument that is often disputed by those that do not take the time to understand it. Professional wrestling is an art form.

It seems a simple argument to make, and yet, how often do people deride wrestling fans? How many art forms are there, where the enthusiasts of that art form are made out to be drunkards and hicks that are duped into believing the play-acting in front of them? How many art forms are there where an enthusiast is made to feel socially awkward for trying to start a conversation on their chosen art? My intention for this column is to justify wrestling as the art form that I believe that it is, and to explore some various aspects of that art form.

An artist, under pain of oblivion, must have confidence in himself, and listen only to his real master: Nature

August Renoir

The glitzy costumes, the firework laden entrances, the hyped up storylines, the soap opera elements, the choreography of the action, the playing to the crowd, the athleticism and the action. Are these elements of wrestling what make it an art form? No. These are what make it a spectacle. Don’t get me wrong, there?s nothing wrong with a spectacle. A spectacle is something that gets your attention and forces you to look. A spectacle is a big explosion in an action movie, or a comic book cover proclaiming ?This issue! No joke! No dream! No alternative reality! X fights V and somebody DIES!? It is also the part that most detractors tend to concentrate on when they criticise an art form. They criticise the spectacle, and with good reason. If something is nothing but spectacle, then it is not art. This said, art can include spectacle, and has done since the days of the auditoriums and even beforehand. The WrestleMania XII Iron Man match between Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels was added to by Michaels? glitzy and showy entrance. It grabbed your attention, and focused it to where the art was about to take place.

Art is that which speaks to your soul. Art is that which captivates. It can be in many forms, and in many degrees. It can be the feeling of relief that erupts in your being when the showers start spraying water in Schindlers List, or it can be that rush of intensity and emotion when you first saw the Kurt Angle ?Clocks? video. Art can be subtle and elaborate, like Salvador Dali?s paintings or Bret Hart?s ability to sell a leg, or it can be rough and brutal like Pollocks displays or Mick Foley going down a flight of stairs. Art can be done well, or be done badly. I’ll leave it to you to draw your own examples of these.

Stephen King once made a remark about talent in which he drew an analogy to a knife. ?Everyone is handed a knife at birth. Some of them choose to sharpen and hone these knives, and some of them choose to let them grow blunt. Those that sharpen, and hone those knives become artists. Of course, some people are handed a larger knife than others.? King has got an extremely good point, in that you will rarely find an artist that has not studied and trained in order to refine their art. It?s also rare that you get untrained wrestlers who are capable of pulling off a twenty minute five star match. Some wrestlers are more defined in one particular aspect of their art ? Chris Benoit?s technical ability for example, or The Rocks ability on a microphone. Others are able to excel in multiple fields ? Stephen Fry is an excellent writer, journalist, actor, and if the advance word on Bright Young Things is true, then an excellent director as well. Likewise, Kurt Angle and Shawn Michaels can do it all in wrestling ? be it brawling, technical ability, or the ability to work a crowd. Again though, I find myself coming back to one question. What makes it an art form? Lets go back to that definition.

1. Modes of expression that use skill or imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others. (www.dictionary.com)

Even just using the straightforward physicality of a well told technical match, wrestling easily fulfils this criteria. In the ring, sports-entertainment is a form of physical theatre, telling us a story. That story is usually basic, but as in any art form, it is in the telling that it becomes art. In the Shawn Michaels DVD, he makes reference to his match with Kevin Nash as an example of basic storytelling ? the smaller guy against the bigger guy. David vs. Goliath. That is a basic version of that storytelling, and the kind that is most often used ? good guy vs. bad guy. However, when a match is well performed, every single move, every single reversal tells part of a story. Look at Bret Hart vs. Owen Hart. The plot for the story was simple ?Older Brother vs. Jealous Younger Brother, but in that match, the art is in the way that the two wrestlers are able to tell the story in their moves. Owen escapes a headlock early on, and pitefully laughs at his brother. Bret later throws Owen out of the ring, but does so with no venom. The story told is deepened ? Bret wishes only to wrestle his younger brother, whereas Owen wishes to hurt his brother and beat him. When Owen pulls out the win, the look of resignation and frustration on his face suggest that his competitive nature will seek retribution for this loss. For me, this is on a level with any physical theatre, be it Greek theatre, or La Commedia dell’Arte (Italian comedy theatre with masks). If we can accept physical theatre, then wrestling is easily on a level of art, and can sometimes reach more than respectable results.

2. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature. (www.dictionary.com)

Taking ?nature? in this case to mean ?human nature? then wrestling shows (even at its most base level) various aspects of human nature, specifically those of violence and competition. It is in our nature to be violent, and aggressive. It is also in our nature to be competitive. Those that are able to control the aggression and challenge it are able to be more successful in competition. There?s not many typical babyfaces that are out and out violent ? Bret Hart, Kurt Angle, Shawn Michaels, etc as faces can take a fair loss, and aim to beat them next time. Any of the three as heels can’t stand losses, and thus are aggressive rather than competitive. It?s an interesting definition to make between heels and babyfaces, although I am aware that there are exceptions (Stone Cold Steve Austin for example). As an example of the same thing in story telling, look no further than the story told in the recent Iron Man match between Kurt Angle and Brock Lesnar. Lesnar cheated all the way through the match, and nobody would have blamed Kurt for going back to his cheating ways to play Brock at his own game. However, Kurt has a reformed character to go with his reformed spine, and refuses to debase himself like that. He wants to win, but to win cleanly. He loses the belt, but regains the integrity that he had lost beforehand.

Also, human nature is imitated in the storylines that professional wrestling uses, both in and out of the ring. An intriguing aspect of the Booker T / HHH feud was the racist angle that was brought into it. At the start, it was quite artfully done, although the ending to the story was a shambles. However it makes a lot of sense for Helmsley?s heel character to have some racist beliefs, especially since the evolution character is evolved more from the blueblood character than from the game. His belief that he, and those like him, are superior is what brings in the arrogance that racism is born from. Booker, angered by this, sets out to prove that he is just as worthy of respect. Yes, they messed up the ending, but the setup was justified in its use of racism. It is part of human nature ? an ugly part, and a part that most of us want nothing to do with, but it exists nonetheless. Plato said that Art holds a ?mirror up to nature?, and sometimes it shows us its ugly side. It was especially shocking in this instance, because it is not something that we are used to seeing addressed in art in today?s society. There are not many racist characters in movies or TV shows today. Art should push boundaries, and this storyline had the potential to do so, since Helmsley was being a particularly obnoxious heel. Challenging and disturbing, yet fully part of human nature. Like it or hate it, this was art.

3. The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty.

(www.britanica.com)

There was a recent column’>Linkby Lauren C. which pointed out the similarity of wrestling to dance, and certainly, when done gracefully, it is a beautiful thing to behold. Shawn Michaels, Eddy Guererro, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit, Bret Hart, The Dynamite Kid, Ric Flair, Taka Michonoku?.these wrestlers, and many more, were as graceful as dancers in the ring. Yes, they were doing a very brutal kind of dance, but they carried themselves with a grace nonetheless. Also, the setup of the ring, the arena, and the wrestlers? costumes all add to the aesthetic qualities of wrestling. Yes, I’m going back to the point of spectacle, but when you combine the spectacle with the grace?you have a piece of art in front of you.

Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his nature into his pictures.

Henry Ward Beecher

Finally we come to my own definition of art, since each person has their yardstick. For me, something is truly a work of art if it talks to your soul. Many movies are made, but are they works of art? Not all of them, no. Not even most of them. But, as the wise man once said, with all this horse-shit around, there?s got to be a pony somewhere. Same with wrestling. I suffer through the Godfathers and the Mark Henrys in order to get to the part that speaks to my soul. Few things accomplish this, but wrestling has done it on occasion. Most notably with Shawn Michaels turning heel after SummerSlam ?97, with Raven and Tommy Dreamer, and most of all with Mick Foley. The moment that stuck with me, more than any other was the match against The Rock. It was more than just Heel vs. Face. It was more than just Vain Upstart goes to take back what he sees as his from the Local Mad Peasant who isn’t sure if he deserves it anyway. For me, it was about something very basic, very true to nature, and very much something that couldn’t have been told the same way in any other medium. It was about one man?s indominatable will. One man?s refusal to give in. One man being tied helpless, and choosing death over submission. ?You’ll have to kill me?. It sent shivers down my spine, and crushed me when he appeared to give in. Yes, I could understand everything he had been through, I could understand that he had no choice. But still?He so nearly had his final stand. And then, in the moments when I realised that it had been a tape playing over the PA, and that Mick had been unconscious, my heart soared as I realised that he had never quit. He had won a pyrrhic victory. That indominatable will. The ability to take it rather than give in. The limits of human endurance. I?ve never seen it demonstrated so brutally, so graphically, so completely, so beautifully or with such art. It took me to the highs and the lows, and made me feel every second of it.

And that?s what it?s all about, after all. That?s what keeps us watching. It?s because we all have a moment that touched us like this. I’m not talking about marking out. I’m talking about the moments that you feel enriched for having seen. I’m talking about the elements of this unique art that keep us loving it so, whichever federation you watch, whichever kind of style you like. It may not be the most respectable form of art, but you know, and I know that It should be. Me? I’m proud to be a fan, and I’m proud to be an enthusiast to the point where I was willing and ready to explore that art form.

As always, My names Christopher Brosnahan. Any feedback can be sent to me at christopherbrosnahan@hotmail.com or chat to me my yahoo name – darque_edge, or chrisbrosnahan as my AIM handle. I’m off to watch that Owen/Bret match again.

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Standing At The Edge: Greetings, Grapple Fans! Sep18

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Standing At The Edge: Greetings, Grapple Fans!

Last week, I went out with some friends into central London, in order to catch the Limp Bizkit concert in Finsbury Park. The gig was good, and afterwards, we went into a bar in Soho (The ‘colourful’ district of London. By colourful, I mean the red light district. And the gay district. And the theatre district. And the rock district. Soho is a bit of a weird place), called Gossips. Gossips is a Rock Bar, and a rather good one, if a little hidden away and claustrophobic. So we meet my friend Joe there, and after a couple of hours, he taps me and another friend on the shoulder.

‘You guys like wrestling, right?’

We nod.

‘Do you want to meet a wrestler? I went to school with him. He’s a really nice guy.’

‘Sure’.

So thats how I got to meet some of the guys from FWA.

FWA (Frontier Wrestling Alliance) is beginning to make a name for itself. It’s the home of some genuinely talented wrestlers, some of whom have gone on to make a name for themselves in the US and Japan. These names include Jody Fleisch, Johnny Storm, and Doug Williams. FWA has a handshake agreement with Ring Of Honour, and has co produced some cards here in the UK, which have ranged from good to excellent. It’s not very well known over here though (except of course, among knowledgeable wrestling fans) for a simple reason. It doesn’t have any TV exposure. It looks like this will soon be changing, since FWA will be included among the shows on the new wrestling channel due to launch next year. This will be the first time that UK wrestling will be largely available to people in the UK for the last fifteen years. Previous to that, it had been on weekly for decades. This was back in the days of ‘The World of Sport’ and household names such as ‘Kendo Nagasaki’, ‘Giant Haystacks’ and, of course, ‘Big Daddy’.

World of Wrestling Logo. Watch the opening credits here’>Link and look for big Daddy about 45 seconds in.

When you mention wrestling to people who grew up in the UK before the early nineties, this is the first thing they will think of. ‘World of Sport’ was shown on ITV, which was the second channel to be launched in the UK, as a rival to the popular BBC show ‘Grandstand‘. Wrestling was shown at 4pm on a saturday, and was produced by ‘Joint Productions’. It started being shown regularly on television in 1964 and was shown pretty much consistently between then and it’s demise in 1988.

It was, of course, presented as a real, and legitimate athletic competition. The commentator, Kent Walton, was a quiet and respected man, who passed away last month. When he started he was taken to a nearby gym, and taught some of the basic rules of wrestling – as in what constituted a pinfall or submission – and started the next day. As a commentator, he would nowadays be seen as unremarkable, but he would actually get a little emotionally involved, (‘And it’s a dropkick! Bang! One, two, three’) which was unique at the time. Because the viewers were able to buy that he was getting into the product, they were more likely to get involved in the match themselves. Meanwhile, he sounded sincere enough that people took it seriously. His catchphrases were ‘Greetings, Grapple Fans’, and ‘have a good week…until next week’.

There wasn’t much in the way of storylines, although there were heels and faces. In ring interviews were rare, as were promos – although there would occasionally be a quick word with a wrestler before going to the adverts, similar to Boxing. No, wrestling in England was all about the wrestling. Normally, there would be two, or three matches spread over forty five minutes. The matches were normally slower than the matches we are used to today, since they would generally be based around holds, and counter holds. The matches rarely went outside of the ring (this was forbidden), and there was nothing in the way of trash talking, or weapons. A serious infraction of the rules would be something along the lines of choking, or punching with an closed fist. If you’ve seen that ‘documentary’ called ‘Secrets of Pro Wrestling: EXPOSED!‘, then you get the idea of the kind of heels that I’m talking about. And in the sixties, there was no heel bigger than Mick McManus.

Mick McManus, probably doing somethiing unspeakable like slapping an opponent.

Mick McManus had a straightforward ‘Bad Lad’ gimmick. He wrestled from the sixties until the eighties, and was one of the original ‘Men you loved to hate’. He’d be quite aggressive in the ring, and would often act arrogantly, going so far as to climb over his rivals. He’s retired these days, however has shown up for FWA once or twice, in a commisioner type role. He is, by all accounts, an extremely nice guy, who has kept up to date with wrestling in the UK these days, and while he thinks that the WWF/E is slightly over glamorous, he still enjoys it. The most famous feud he was involved in was with another heel, believe it or not, called Jackie Pollo.

Jackie Pallo – He outdrew the cup final, you know.

Jackie Pallo is possibly the most hated man, legitimately, in British wrestling. Partly because of his extravagant personality – he once rolled out of the ring and kissed McManus’ wife, to the shock of the general public – but also because of his autobiography, entitled ‘You grunt, I’ll groan’, which is an account of his wrestling career which dealt with it honestly. And by honestly, I mean breaking kayfabe. In fairness to him, one of the main points he made was that while it was predetermined, it was also bloody hard, and dangerous. However, this didn’t endear him to his colleagues, and nor did his constant self-publicity. Any interview you find with the guy, he will bring up the fact that a match he had against Mick McManus gained more viewers then the FA cup final, which it was on opposite. This is somewhat unlikely – and I have also heard somewhere that it took place partly during the half-time break. Pallo also turned up as a stuntman regularly in ‘The Avengers’.

Adrian Street with his father, down t’mines. Used for an album cover by Black Box Recorder.

Now we come to someone who is more likely to be known by people outside of the UK. Adrian Street – the inspiration behind the ‘flamboyantly gay’ gimmick, even more so than Gorgeous George. This guy took it to the next level, and managed to make it work. He’d be effeminate, made up and flouncing, but in the ring he would be aggressive and dangerous. It’s basically what they’re trying to do now with Rico, which shows both how inventive this gimmick was, and how uninventive the WWE writers are getting these days. Street eventually went over to the states, and feuded with a number of famous wrestlers, including Randy Savage. A talented wrestler, and a hugely over heel, Adrian Street became one of the first bona fide phenomonas of wrestling. I’ve gone over Streets career before, during my column on homophobia, which you can find here.’>Link Yes, I’m shilling.

The Wrestler of the Millenium.

Not to be confused with the Japanese wrestler of the same name, the original Kendo Nagasaki is still well regarded in the UK. Wrestling under the mask since 1964 until 1977 (when he voluntarily umasked himself), he was Churchills ‘Mystery wrapped in a riddle, wrapped in an enigma’. Again, a heel which again meant occasionally using the knee during matches, Nagasaki was incredibly popular. His unmasking, revealing a bald head with a samurai symbol tattooed on it and a pigtail, only served to deepen the mystery. Nagasaki’s voice has NEVER been heard on television, and interviews with him are normally conducted by his manager, even to this day. Part of the reason for this was that it helped cultivate the mystique, and that it keeps people from finding out too much about him. Another part was the fact that he has a thick yorkshire accent, which very rarely suggests mystique. You can find more about Nagasaki at his website’>Link, which is well worth a visit. He was recently voted ‘Wrestler of the Millenium’ in the UK.

Successful star of screen and ring.

‘Big’ Pat Roach, on the other hand, would never win any awards for his ability within the ring, but was beloved across the country. He still wrestles to this day, in small events, and is still usually booked as the headliner. He was the generic ‘working man babyface’, but his main popularity came from the hugely successful TV series ‘Auf Wiedersein Pet’ about a group of English builders in Germany. He played a large, simple giant called ‘Bomber‘, and was perfect for the part. The series had a belated sequel last year, which was similarly well received. I can’t really begin to state just how beloved this makes him in the UK. He’s not a megastar, but he’s just incredibly likeable. You can also spot him in ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ (as the leader of the Celts) and in ‘Indiana Jones and the Raiders Of The Lost Ark’ as the guy that fights Harrison Ford underneath the plane. You know the bit I mean…

Wrestling went through a bit of a bumpy patch in the late seventies to early eighties, due partly to Jackie Pallo attempting to start up his own promotion, and some splintering of groups. It remained on television, however, and when the other groups faltered, they headhunted a booker named Max Crabtree, who was recognised as a particularly good booker. This is important for one reason above all others. Max immediately pushed a wrestler named Big Daddy, who’s real name was Shirley Crabtree. Yes, you’ve guessed it. They were brothers. And if you think Vince has a tendency to push hosses and relatives, just thank any God you believe in that he’s not got any hosses in the family yet.

Big Daddy, having presumably just eaten all the pies.

Big Daddy was incredibly popular with kids and grandmothers. He went around hospitals on a regular basis, and would visit sick kids. This was, basically, his gimmick, and he played that part of it very well. He made the sport go supernova, and was one of the premier celebrities in the country for about a decade. His matches tended to be squashes, primarily because he didn’t have the conditioning to do anything else. Eventually, even this ability left him, and he spent most of his last years in tag matches, where his partner of the week (including a very young and skinny British Bulldog Davey Boy Smith, a young Dynamite Kid, and an incredibly young Darren Matthews (William Regal)) would be pounded relentlessly by the evildoers. His partner would eventually get the hot tag, and Big Daddy would come in, and..well…bop them with his belly. Then he would do his finishing move. A splash. As a young child at the time, I remember this being quite exciting for some reason. Big Daddy’s cool was tarnished majorly after an incident in the ring with a wrestler named Mal ‘King Kong’ Kirk, who suffered a heart attack after being splashed by Big Daddy, and died in the hospital. While privately extremely upset, Big Daddy made the mistake of publicly making out that it was part and parcel of being in a competitive wrestling match. It made it all seem rather morbid. His last real gasp was his rivalry with Giant Haystacks, which….well, the picture really does explain it all.

Now you see why wrestling is seen in the UK as a bunch of fat men pretending to fight.

There was also the problem that having squashed all of the heels in the country, there were none left. With no heels left, there was no reason for the faces to exist. He became a joke, as did wrestling. Eventually, the production of the show became more than was worth putting on, especially since the new fangled WWF was available at a far cheaper price (since they were buying recordings, and not funding the venues or paying the performers). With the competition of the undeniably glitzier ‘Fed, and the fact that ITV had started showing WCW occasionally, it was the final nail in the coffin. Greg Dyke, the head of ITV cancelled wrestling in 1988. The last words spoken were, of course, ‘Good bye, grapple fans’.

There were several attempts in the late nineties, following the huge surge in popularity of the WWF and WCW, to get british wrestling back on TV, on cable channels. These failed either because of lack of budget, or because in one case the company wouldn’t book small events to get people to see them because they feared they would look like small fry.

But now, it’s all changing. Now, Frontier Wrestling Alliance is a respectable company, with a pretty damn good roster. If they are similar to any company, they are similar to Ring of Honour, and have a comparable level of ability. I’m getting tickets for their next major event, and I may even be able to swing getting a couple of interviews with the wrestlers. This is a company that I’m excited about, and that you should be as well. They’re not trying to be WWE, and they’re not trying to go higher than they can reach. They’re putting on good wrestling, with a lack of gimmicks, but with some good storylines. Check out their website here.’>Link You can buy videos from there as well.

In 2004, the Wrestling Channel launches in the UK, and we’ll have access to more wrestling then we’ve ever had in this country. We’ll also have access to more British Wrestling within the first month than has been shown here for the last fifteen years. I’m excited. You should be as well.

In order to write this column, I’ve done a lot of research, and a book I can fully recommend is ‘The Wrestling’ by Simon Garfield. You can find it on Amazon, and it’s one of the best books on wrestling I’ve ever read. Well worth a look for anybody – and if it makes it a bit easier to read for younger fans, there’s a look at Davey Boy Smith, and some comments from HHH and Shawn Michaels in it as well.

As always, My names Christopher Brosnahan. Any feedback can be sent to me at christopherbrosnahan@hotmail.com or chat to me my yahoo name – darque_edge, or chrisbrosnahan as my AIM handle. I’m off to laugh at that World of Sport opening again with Big Daddy hitting people with his belly.

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Standing At The Edge: All the Rings a Stage

When asked to compare wrestling with acting, Austin gave a surprising

answer.”This [acting’> is definitely harder. When I’m ‘Stone Cold,’

that’s basically just me with the volume turned up louder. But I’m

trying to

play a character in this so it’s harder.” Courtesy of CBS.com (1999)

I have spent years in the acting business. It’s a desire that started when I was seven years old, and has stayed a part of me to the point where the need to work towards it becomes as necessary as eating, sleeping and breathing. Part of the way this manifests itself in my personality is in my analytical nature, especially towards films, plays, television shows, and wrestling. Wrestling has fascinated me since I was a child, and I’ve always enjoyed the entertainment side of the show as much, if not even more so, than the wrestling side.

There?s been talk recently of HHH job hunting around Hollywood, and being surprised that he?s not considered more of a bankable commodity then he actually is. Relevance of news reports amazing ability to find out what LeVesque is actually thinking aside, it?s something that?s been sticking in my head. All good wrestlers have to be accomplished actors in one shape or form. Hollywood is actually missing out on some very talented people, and if not Hollywood, then Broadway.

When people think of wrestlers and acting ability they have a tendency to put this side by side with promo ability. It?s an understandable thing to do, since there are obvious correlations between this and the ability to act out a speech. There is also a tendency to relate it to a certain wrestlers ability to perform backstage skits. Once again, it?s a perfectly valid comparison to TV scenes to make. But its far from all, and also, it?s inaccurate.

It?s inaccurate with promos because, assuming that we are talking about naturalistic acting (as opposed to more stylistic acting – think television as opposed to interperetive dance), how many times have you seen characters in a movie or play stand in the middle of a crowd, while acknowledging them, and make a speech about how they will kick someones ass? It?s inaccurate with the backstage skits because most skits in wrestling would struggle to get financial backing in most TV series, let alone in a movie. Plus which, both of these involve far less advance planning and direction then most local amateur plays. This isn’t to say that they’re not entertaining. Generally speaking, they are. However, we aren’t talking about ?American Beauty? level of quality either. Hell, we’re barely talking ?American Pie?.

In an average movie or play, you will have no more than five main characters, and about the same number of minor characters. In some you’ll have less, in some you’ll have more, of course, but I am generalising here. The main characters will have a journey to make through the story. The minor characters may have a journey, but more usually are there as catalysts for the stories of the main characters. The challenge of the actor is to successfully portray the character, and then to portray the changes the character goes through during the story as a result of certain events. When this is done well, we follow the character through it, and empathise with them. In a wrestling promo this doesn’t apply. In a wrestling promo, we have the character only at the start of his journey and the character doesn’t really go anywhere. All he has to do is deliver a message. In a backstage skit, you can have anything up to twenty or thirty characters (for example, back in the alliance days), most of which will be background while a sketch takes place. The challenge for the actors/wrestlers then can actually be contradictory, and not in a way that is beneficial to the character. As an example, Diamond Dallas Page took quite a lot of stick during the latter days of the invasion storyline, for keeping the goofy smile that he was doing as his character when it didn’t fit in with the storyline. Was this bad acting? Debatable, but either way, it was the right choice because it stayed through to his character. DDP was meant to be the eternal optimist at this point, and we hadn’t been allowed to see his character develop any more so that he could be legitimately badass at times. As a result, DDP stuck with what his character would do ? take in any and all information with a big smile. The problems with this occur because the scenes lack direction. As do the characters themselves. For the scenes to work the way they were meant to ? as a warming up of troops going into battle after months of televised struggle ? we should have known more about each characters motivation, and personal challenges. As a result, while they were fun skits and sketches, they were hardly the stuff of detailed storytelling. The only place where promos are actually relevant acting-wise would be in pantomime, or in a scene where the character in question is an orator, whether Julius Caesar, Lenny Bruce or Wolfie Smith. Characters who are orators have a tendency to be political characters, army sergeants, or stand up comedians. While these are usually interesting parts, it’s a rather limited reportoire.

My rather laboured point at this stage is that it is a fallacy to base somebodies acting ability on short sketches and promos. So what can we base a wrestlers acting ability on?

Their speaking ability. By this, I don’t mean promo ability. I mean clarity of speech, and the ability to pace it over time. This is partly down to breath control – taking enough breath into your lungs in order to complete what you are about to say, taking breaths at the correct times during sentences in order that you don’t sound like you’re wheezing, or trailing off at the end of a speech if you should be getting louder. Jeff Hardy, for example, has a terrible speaking voice, as does The Hurricane. In order to be a successful actor, you have to have a relatively clear voice, and be able to hold it. Goldberg has difficulty keeping his voice steady for more than a single sentence. However, possibly the worst control of voice I have ever seen belongs to Stephanie McMahon, who has no ability to pace herself whatsoever ? plus, I have no idea what she?s done to her throat.. The Rock has shown that he has got fantastic control over his voice. He?s got better at it over time as well ? compare how slowly he talked back in the late Nation days, to how quickly he talks today, and how confident in his abilities he is. Jericho has a fantastic vocal range as well ? it?s no surprise he?s a decent singer as well. He?s got great breath control. It?s actually something that Trips has going for him as well, like him or not. Look back at that taped segment he did a couple of years back, when he explained why he was the mastermind behind the Austin attack. He did a fantastic taped speech, that I have no doubt he had to work at time and time again, in which he had complete control over his voice, and himself. That was the one that convinced me that he could actually do some pretty good stuff on the big screen.

Their ability to convey emotion. If you’re out of hearing distance of anybody else, try and laugh convincingly. Not a maniacal evil laugh, I mean the kind of laugh you give when you hear something funny. Difficult, isn’t it? Conveying emotion and showing emotion are two different things. A lot of bad actors congratulate themselves on being able to cry on cue, completely forgetting that it?s far more effective to actually look like you’re trying to stop yourself from crying in most cases. To convincingly convey an emotion, you have to commit properly. Not many can do it. Well, everyone can do ?Angry? ? it?s the simplest emotion to fake ? but how many can convincingly go from ?not angry? to ?angry? during a single speech? The best I?ve ever seen at it is Shawn Michaels (during his heel turning speech after SummerSlam ?97). Going to the other side of the scale, he manages to be convincingly choking back tears when giving back his world title, because he lost his smile. It?s an easy one to mock at, but the man can go through the range. Personally, I do believe he could make the transition to dramatic roles quite easily. Same with Chris Jericho ? remember when he responded to The Rock? Screaming ?I am not a joke?, the emotion was just pouring out of him. Rock hasn’t shown much of a range of emotions thus far, however he has stated in interviews in the past that he wants to move onto dramatic roles eventually, so lets give him time. For an example of somebody who can emenate emotion effectively in the movies, look at Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty, The World Is Not Enough, Trainspotting). Showing emotion effectively projects it outwards, either because of or in spite of your body language or your facial expression. Otherwise, all you are doing is a rather shallow impersonation of the emotion.

Their physicality. It?s the most obviously theatrical part about wrestling. Growtoski was the first theatre practitioner to talk about using the body as a language, and it?s not practised anywhere quite as much as it is in professional wrestling. This can be anything from the way a wrestler walks down to a ring, to selling a powerbomb. It?s about showing your character through your body. Shane McMahon is very good at doing just this. Billy Gunn on the other hand, is terrible at it. Test was bad, however, has worked at improving it, and is now rather good at it. As much as I loath him, the best at using their body as a theatrical tool is probably Vince McMahon. His walk, his facial expressions, and the way he?s in control of everything he?s doing, and every single bit is emanating his character. And he does it in such a theatrical way, it?s hilarious. Hogan, when he?s hulking up, is doing some stylistically over the top body language, and it?s what makes him look strong. Undertaker, of course, used his body as a tool in order to scare, when he was the Dead Man. And it worked. Any time anybody watched wrestling with me back then, even if they were slagging it off, they’d stop and watch ‘taker. His body language gave him a charisma, that he just doesn’t have anymore.

Charisma is a difficult thing to define. Instead, lets term it as stage presence. The ability of an actor to walk onstage, and make the audience watch him, even if their attention is meant to be elsewhere. The best actors are all charismatic, and it?s what allows them to control a crowd. However, this isn’t always important as an actor, but it is as a star. Rocky has got HHH buried in terms of charisma, however HHH became respected for his work ethic. It?s like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Lee, the more charismatic of the pair, and Cushing, the more talented workhorse. One character in WWE that has shedloads of charisma is Eric Bischoff. He?s able to go out there, and turn a crowd instantly. He plays the ultimate salesman, and charms the crowd using his voice and his charisma. Acting ability doesn’t have to include charisma, since the character you are playing doesn’t need to be charismatic. Conversely with enough charisma, you can cover a lot of flaws in the ability. However, add the two together, and you’ve got a star.

A good actor is able to not just get into character, delivering a shallow impersonation of a character, but is able to find those parts of him which correlate, and bring those parts to the forefront, giving a deeper immersion in the character. An obvious example of this is Mick Foley ? using what is commonly referred to as ?The Method? form of acting. The Method is basically feeling the same emotions as your character feels, so that the acting will appear to be more naturalistic. It?s about finding something to base the emotions on so that they can be played stronger, or, if taking it to extremes, living in your characters shoes for a certain amount of time (Robert De Niro getting a license as a taxi driver before playing the part of a taxi driver in a film called Taxi Driver, for example). On a smaller scale, this was what Foley did all the time – get emotionally involved, because, as he said, ‘It looks better when it’s real’. Foley would always get involved so much with his characters that they became vocalised versions of different parts of him, with the amp turned up. Steve Austin did a similar thing, as does John Cena now.

When we watch wrestling, it is certainly a performance, and it certainly is acting. Foley has said in ?Have a Nice Day? he used to hate being called an actor, but now finds it a compliment. Bret Hart said in ?Wrestling with Shadows? that he wished people would compliment his acting abilities more often. The problem is that the way they act during wrestling is different to what we watch in movies or on stage. If it?s closer to anything, it?s closer to the old style of Grand Guignol. Grand Guignol was the original ‘Shock Theatre’, and very much the theatre of excess (before eventually becoming more camp), and inspired the Hammer Horror approach. It was excess in every way though, and was frequently over the top and grotesque. However, if we look closer, we can see that there are some fantastically talented actors within the roster. Yes, HHH is one of them because he uses a quiet intensity, and is able to talk quietly, thus forcing the audience to listen more.I still think Sean Bean based his version of Boromir on the HHH character. Even if you ignore the fact that Boromir looks very like trips (with the long wet dark hair, and the brooding unshaven look), look at Sean Beans physicality during the film. Everything is done with the shoulders, and the neck, keeping the head relatively stable – the message is that this character is both a force to be reckoned with, and is in control. He used the same threatening body language, and the invasion of personal space. Hell, when he’s dying with the arrows sticking out of him, and he’s on his knees – he even sells the same way. Rocky is already a star, but is he a good actor yet? Theatrically, in some styles, yes, however, he will be interesting to watch developing. Jericho is pretty much there already, as is Shawn Michaels ? who I would love to see doing some Tarantino stuff. Steve Austin has a lot of ability as well, and proven track records, thanks to his TV work. The talents that most wrestlers have are the same skills that are needed in order to be a successful actor. They need some fine tuning, admittedly, but the raw essentials are there. And they will be used well for those that choose to go the Hollywood route.

Lets take a closer look at some of the current roster, shall we? A quick rundown of the roster, and their acting abilities, and a suggestion of the kind of stuff I’d like to see them doing.

Brock Lesnar. The prognosis isn’t great. Physically, he tends to look awkward, and vocally, he’s rarely good. He can be quite good on the stick, and he has a unique look physically. He’s also got a good knowledge of where the camera is – remember him climbing the cage after the Cell match with ‘Taker? Would have been a good ‘Bane’ in Batman and Robin – in other words, could be decent in bad movies. Stick him in a decent movie with good actors, and I feel that he would flounder.

HHH. This guy has got some good prospects. He has good knowledge over both the small inflections and gestures, and over larger scale characteristics. I could see him doing some good stuff as a ‘Heavy’ for a while in gangster movies, or in something like that, before branching out into larger and more dramatic roles. The less he goes for roles where he has to dumb down, the more he will be taken seriously.

Undertaker. ‘You’re a lying bitch’. Oh dear. He’s not very good at establishing emotion, and he’s not much of an actor, to be fair. He’s not bad, either though. What he has going for him more than anything else though, is his charisma. He’s got the kind of face that the camera would love. Imagine him in a film noir, as the villain, or something like that. His lack of expression could actually work for him. Even better – imagine him as ‘The Saint of Killers’ from the comic series ‘Preacher’.

Shawn Michaels. Whether I’m blinded by being a fan or not, I think this man could genuinely be a star. He’s got good presence, good speaking ability, his physique isn’t too over the top. I’d actually love to see him cut the hair off, and play a corrupt CIA agent or something. Let him play the complete bastard, and he’d be incredible.

Ric Flair. A difficult one. The question you have to ask at this stage is ‘If he’d be that good at acting, at his age, why hasn’t he done it by now?’. He’s got some of the basic tools, the primary one being his charsima. He’s also good at the little things, and he can handle silence, and slowed down scenes. I’m not sure why, but I could see him being great in TV, and some limited movie roles.

Kurt Angle. Kurt Angle is great at being Kurt Angle. He seems so comfortable in a wrestling ring, that it’s impossible to imagine him out of one. Yes, his backstage stuff is fantastic, and yes, he’s hilarious….but I don’t know about his acting abilities. His entertainment abilities, definitely, but his acting abilities? He’d be great for Kids movies, and I’d pay to see him in a remake of Suburban Commando, believe it or not. Seriously, what they tried to do with Hogan and Schwarzeneggar in comedy would actually work with Angle.

Rob Van Dam. Given a smaller role, he could certainly be good, and I could definitely see him going further with his martial arts movies. Not to my taste, but definitely fun. He’s a limited action movie star, and he’ll probably continue with that when he retires from wrestling.

Christian. Similar problem to Kurt Angle, really. I find him highly entertaining, and he seems to enjoy doing that more than actual acting. Plus, he has the Steve Buscemi problem – he’s ‘Kind’a funny looking’. This could go against him – once again, I’d suggest childrens films. His over the top style could work very well there.

Chris Jericho. As I’ve said before, he’s up there with Shawn Michaels, if not more so. He’s still young, he’s got a fantastic speaking voice, he looks good on camera, he’s not too big or small, he’s charismatic, he could play multiple styles, and he’s got the kind of look which could adapt easily. The total package. He could start slowly, go into dramatic stuff, and finish out as a star.

John Cena. He’s not bad at all. He’s got a short movie that a friend did in which he has a main role floating around somewhere out there on the net. If you can track it down, let me know, please. He’s got an urban look, and I could see him doing something with that. As long as he steers clear of something like ‘Saved by the Bell’. He hasn’t displayed much of a range, so he could well be limited, but he also has a lot of qualities – charisma, a good look, and physicality.

Eric Bischoff. If I was an acting agent, I’d have signed this man up already. How many times have you heard people say ‘He’s one of the best reasons to watch Raw’? He’s the ultimate sleazy bad guy, but he could also play respectable good guy as well – remember when he was a face in the ‘New Blood’ days in WCW? If not, I’d get my ten percent as an agent by getting him to be a gameshow host.

Vince McMahon. He’s a disgraceful old ham, really, isn’t he? Everything is over the top, entertaining, and very hammy. He’s fantastic at it – so was Vincent Price – but it’s about all he can do. Stick him in Horror Movies, or Spoof Gangster Movies, and let him ham them up as much as he wants. Let him be the comedy bad guy.

Steve Austin. He’s not bad. He was good in Nash Bridges, and he’d be good doing that kind of thing. Basically, he’d be good playing Stone Cold Steve Austin – A bit like Sean Connery consistently playing Sean Connery. He’d hit a major PR problem though with that whole ‘wife beating’ episode. That’d be dragged straight back up, and thats not good for an acting career.

Eddy Guererro. He really is comedy gold. People have been holding up ‘Eddy deserves an Oscar’ signs, and while I wouldn’t quite go that far, I’d certainly watch him. He’s funny, he’s willing to make fun of himself, and he’s very expressive. Let him do the comedy stuff, and he’d eventually broaden out to do straight acting roles. He’d be difficult to take seriously at first, but I reckon he could do it. Just as long as he stops playing the stereotype eventually.

Chuck Palumbo. I think he is very underrated, not as a wrestler, but as an actor. He’s been one of the few guys who has impressed me during backstage skits – remember the one where the FBI were trying to frame Nathan Jones, and Chuck was talking about his laptop having been stolen? I thought he showed a lot of potential there, and I also thought he made the most out of the Billy and Chuck storyline. I actually think he’s gone down the wrong career path, since I don’t rate him as a wrestler, or as an entertainer. He’s also quite intelligent, I believe. I don’t think he’s a star, but I think he could make a nice living for himself as an actor, either in TV or film.

Wrestling contains a lot of acting in it. It contains a lot of good acting, and a lot of bad acting. It contains a lot of different styles, from Mick Foley’s emotional heartfelt farewell, through to Vince McMahon’s Hammy Devil. Wrestling could benefit from taking its backstage skits and its characters more seriously, in my opinion – in other words, it could do with a director that knows something about acting. Good directing can cover a lot of flaws, and perhaps the terrible writing we’re being subjected to these days wouldn’t seem so bad. If the bottom fell out of the wrestling business altogether over the next few years though, leaving the roster completely out of work, there are a number of wrestlers who could benefit from taking their abilities to a place where they could showcase them, and learn more about something that would cause them a lot less damage then wrestling could. And some wrestlers could really hit the big time. Probably the easiest way to imagine the wrestlers who could make it is to imagine the posters for the films. Imagine them in different roles, and in different costumes. Could they pull it off? Could they play something more than a hightened version of themselves? I believe quite a few of them could, and that they could do it very well. There’s a number of them who could be regular TV actors, or character actors. There’s a few of them who could headline a TV series, or be a regular film actor, and a few of them who could be stars and talented dramatic actors.

Almost enough to make you forget ?Mr Nanny? really. Although perhaps not Universal Soldier: The Return….

Well, thats it for now. The evening draws to a close. My names Christopher Brosnahan. Any feedback can be sent to me at christopherbrosnahan@hotmail.com or chat to me my yahoo name – darque_edge, or chrisbrosnahan as my aim. I’m off to watch Shawn lose his smile again.

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Standing At The Edge: Wrestling with Homophobia Jul11

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Standing At The Edge: Wrestling with Homophobia

‘What does it matter if I call the Whalers a bunch of faggots in my own home, far away from the sensitive ears of the rest of the world?’ Banky – Chasing Amy by Kevin Smith

When I was a teenager, I was at an all boys Irish Catholic school, a Christian Brothers school. I was two years younger than most of my classmates, being as how I was lucky enough to be skipped ahead a couple of years. I was also blessed with an english accent, being as how we had moved from Manchester, and a love of drama, music and dancing. My fellow schoolmates jumped to the obvious conclusion. That I was gay, and I loved being beaten up. They were wrong on both counts, but hey, nobody’s perfect. As a result, I am in that rare instance of being a straight man who has experienced homophobia over a long period of time.

In fairness to my classmates, the fact that I had a love for half naked sweaty men grappling with each other probably didn’t help my case. I’m a wrestling fan. Have been since I was 11 years old. It was an inspiration to me, on two levels. Firstly, the Hulk Hogan ‘fight for what you believe in’ mentality, and secondly the Shawn Michaels ‘Flamboyant yet masculine’ attitude.

Growing up in the midlands of Ireland – a lovely, yet somewhat small minded place -meant that it wasn’t until I went to university (to study acting, despite the taunts) that I met an openly gay man for the first time. It was my first day, and I was confronted with a six foot four slim man, dressed from neck to ankle in PVC and fake leather, with bright pink hair, and pink fluffy slippers. About as stereotypically over the top as you can get. He put his hand out to me and said ‘Hi, I’m Thom. That’s Thom with a ‘H’. The ‘H’ stands for homosexual’. I realised that I had two options. The first was to join the people that had bullied me, and run screaming from this freak, or to do what I did, which was to shake his hand and say ‘Hi, I’m Chris. Pleased to meet you’. Since then, a lot of my friends are either gay or bisexual, and I’m the richer for having known them. Which is why I have difficulty reconciling this with what appears to be the prevelant attitude towards Homosexuality in wrestling.

‘Goldust’s here. He may be queer. But get used to it, because he’s here to stay, and he might be your next intercontinental champion’ – Jerry Lawler on Goldusts debut

Possibly the most famous gay character in wrestling, especially recently would be Goldust. Certainly, he fulfills all the obvious criteria for being gay. The face paint, the wigs, the stockings and basque underwear, the camp voice, the tourettes syndrome, the wife and the daughter. If we’re getting technical, then Goldust was actually a transvestite, which is merely a man who enjoys wearing womens clothes. It’s not really a huge difference, in all honesty, as far as this subject pertains (although it is a huge difference in real life), since it was obvious that the writers saw them as the same thing.

Goldust started off as a heel, drawing on the negativity which the crowd threw at him. It was, along with Mankind at the time, the dawning of a new attitude for the WWF, in which the characters were more mature then they had been in a long time. His promos consisted of liberal helpings of movie quotes, and making physical innuendoes with his mouth when saying his name. He was booked into a feud with Razor Ramon (Scott Hall), which was booked around Goldusts apparent affection for Razor, ogling over pictures with him, getting a fake tattoo on his chest, which he rubbed provocatively, while licking his lips, and other such declarations. Ramon reacted with disgust (both onstage and off – he hated the angle, and lobbied against doing it), and with the crowd backing him all the way, embarked on an ultra-heated and violent feud with him. Goldust came away with the title, and the announcers begrudgingly applauded his psychological tactics.

At this point, it’s interesting to look back at the character. What he appeared to be doing was using his targets homophobia as a weapon against him. In the world of wrestling, that appears to be a fair thing to do, and in all honesty, the angle was entertaining and intriguing at the time. The idea of a gay heel wrestler, who was dangerous in the ring and in fights, and used bigotry as a tool to get over was not a bad idea, in its own context. The crowd jeered and heckled him, they cheered his opponent, and he came out on top, more hated than ever because the audience realised that he was just using homophobia as a psychological tactic. And also, there is a legitimate heel action here, which is fairly close to what is happening with Test. Basically Goldust was told that his object of desire wasn’t interested, and continued to harass them. What happened next is what started the damage.

Wrestlemania XII. The Roddy Piper Hollywood Backlot brawl. Goldust was beaten, for daring to show attraction to Roddy. Now, while the issue of Goldust being temporarily blind was never again addressed, the issue of Pipers reaction was. Once again, the crowd sided with the righteous straight man, who proceeded to beat Goldust around Hollywood, take part in a very bad skit based around the OJ Simpson carchase, and after having – whisper it – been kissed, assaulted Goldusts testicles, stripped him down to his lingerie – which has got to be awkward to wrestle in, comfort factor aside – and then shared a touching moment with his son, on the battlegrounds of his victory / fag bashing. The damage continued with what could have been a positive move.

Goldust was turned face. Now, if they had stuck to what the character was, then maybe, just maybe, it might have been marginally less offensive, because let’s be honest, not all gay people are lovely. In fact, some of them are offensive self righteous fools. But then, it’s at roughly the same ratio to that of straight people. But of course, they didn’t do that. They turned him straight. They revealed him to have a family, and a daughter. This is the point at which my patience wears thin. Why is it okay to have a gay wrestler as a heel, and a good heel at that, but not as a face? Why is it, that the only way the writers could be able to think of a way to turn him face was to turn him straight? Considering the cheer from the crowds when it happened, the obvious answer is that it was what the public wanted. And throughout the following directions that Goldust took, including the BDSM character, they never again seriously played up the gay elements, for fear that they wouldn’t later be able to turn him face. The obvious attitude was ‘Better a freak then a fag’.

‘MMmmmm. A Smorgasboard’. – Adrian Street, backstage walking into the dressing room in order to rib the other wrestlers.

Goldust was hardly a new idea. Adrian Street had done the same gimmick, first in England, and then in the States, for years. He started his career in 1957, and adopted a transvestite gimmick about a decade later. His take on it at the time, was that it was in order to shock the audience, and bearing in mind that the attitudes towards homosexuality were markedly different to today, he became quickly the most famous wrestler in the UK, and one of the most famous in the world. You can find out about his career at his website in his own words. His take on his days in the gimmick is quite humerous, as, since he still writes in kayfabe, the take on his heelishness was with the audiences lack of appreciation for his new look.

THERE WAS NO WAY THAT I WAS GOING TO LET ALL THOSE FANS SEE HOW DISAPPOINTED I WAS, WITH THEIR RESPONSE TO MY NEW IMAGE, SO INSTEAD OF BECOMING INDIGNANT, OR APPEARING CRESTFALLEN, I BEGAN TO BLOW KISSES AT THE MOST OFFENSIVE OF MY CRITICS [MUCH TO THEIR EMBARRASSMENT’> AND MY STRIDE EVOLVED INTO A GRACEFUL SKIP AS I CONTINUED INTO AND AROUND THE RING. RIGHT, YOU BASTARDS, I THOUGHT, IF THAT?S WHAT YOU WANT, THAT?S WHAT YOU?LL GET. I GRABBED THE REF AND GAVE HIM A GREAT SMACKING KISS, FOLLOWED BY A GENTLE PAT ON THE ASS TO HELP HIM ON HIS WAY. THE CROWD EXPLODED! GOOD! I THOUGHT AS I CHECKED MY FINGERNAILS AND FUSSED WITH MY HAIR, NOW YOU LOT KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE SHOCKED AND HORRIFIED. MY OPPONENTS FACIAL EXPRESSION WASN?T LOST ON ME EITHER, AS I POUTED MY LIPS SEDUCTIVELY IN HIS DIRECTION. HE LOOKED LIKE HE WOULD HAVE BEEN HAPPIER IN A THIRD RATE HOTEL IN ARKANSAS WITH A TOOTHACHE.

Adrian Street is an interesting example, since his character certainly capitalised on homophobia, and was intensely hated at the time, and remained a headliner for decades, including a feud with Randy Savage – who asked his permission to use George’s famous touches, like the over the top robes, and the female valet, when he joined the WWF. Bearing in mind that Streets heyday was during a time when black wrestlers competed for ‘Negro’ titles, his character was actually fairly forward thinking – he showed that in some way, a gay(ish) character could be confident, assertive and above all very entertaining. But even he didn’t invent this gimmick. We can trace these (dyed) roots even further back.

‘He actually was a wrestler, people think he was just a showman’ – Lou Thesz

The start of the whole ‘flamboyant effeminate wrestler’ started with Gorgeous George, in the fifties who not only started that persona, but also was pretty much the precursor for sports entertainers in general. He was one of the first wrestlers with a gimmick.

He would come out with a butler, and arrange for his opponents corner to be sprayed with disinfectant and perfume. He grew his hair long and got it plaited in curls. This was in the early days of television, and it is probably safe to say that people had NEVER seen anything like this before. He was also one of the primary reasons that wrestling became popular at the time. Which leads me to my next point, about this whole ‘effeminate gay style wrestler’.

Well, quite. Going into detail with Rico is kind of pointless, since it’s once again, essentially the same gimmick as the previous three wrestlers I’ve mentioned, but with sideburns. I’m not saying he doesn’t have potential – I think he does, and I would love to be surprised with the gimmick. I just don’t think I will be.

What is going on with the wrestling world when it fails to evolve it’s ideas along with the rest of the world? It’s been fifty years since Gorgeous George first flounced on our screens. It’s been over 30 since Adrian Street. It’s been nearly ten since Goldust. I’m not even going to mention KeeWee. Fifty years, and it’s the same gimmick! And they’re all heels! It’s evolved less than crocodiles! And all of them are based around the same idea. That gay men are freaks, made to be jeered at, all of them mincing every step they make, and all of them to be beaten by their opponents while the crowd cheers. Is it just me that despairs at the sheer backwards thinking of not changing this?

‘This right here looks like a homosexual dance party’ – Balls Mahoney.

The West Hollywood Blondes. Lenny and Lodi started tagging regularly in the late nineties, amid a huge amount of innuendo, which was far more akin to a sixties carry on film than the soap opera style storyline it may even have been intending to be. On the plus side, the innuendo was actually quite amusing. Personally, I’m no more going to be offended by it then I am by watching Frankie Howard. For the scene where they were found literally in a closet onwards, I found it funny. The GLAAD, however, didn’t.

The problem was that the team was blatantly booked as a comic idea, and once again, in order to play on the audiences homophobia. It played up to all the stereotypes so much that the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation condemned it as gaybashing. The storyline fizzled out, when it was revealed that Lenny and Lodi were actually brothers, which is why they were so close. Convincing, eh?

Billy and Chuck. We all know the details. They got more innuendo, they got a stylist, they got a push, they got engaged, they got straight, they got face, one got injured and one went macho and joined a gang.

The wedding was a farce, and once again, the GLAAD failed to see the funny side when Billy and Chucky revealed how gay they weren’t and that it was all a publicity stunt. Here’s the issue. Was the wedding amusing? Depends on your point of view. Was it offensive? You might think so, you might not. Certainly the chants of ‘faggots’ in the crowd were offensive, and the cheer when they came out as straight was. Here’s my take.

Both the tag teams were set up as comic characters. Physical jokes, innuendo-laden scenes, the works. While it’s a different take than the robe wearing ones, it’s still problematic. Why are they all comic? The idea is that gay people are a joke? The reason the GLAAD consistently condemns the WWE is because they have NEVER given a serious face push to a gay character. And when they promised they would with the wedding, they reneged on that. It’s always either over the top and threatening, or nudge nudge and wink bloody wink. It doesn’t have to be like that. I’m also surprised it is, with Pat Patterson as such an infuential figure backstage – possibly the only effeminate gay character I’ve seen booked as a face. Unfortunately, it was during the Hardcore Evening Gown Match, so it doesn’t count.

This has been by no means exhaustive…I haven’t mentioned the subtle hints of HHH and HBKs bisexuality which they played up in the early DX days (Grinding, and one of my favourite lines ever – ‘you’re bilingual?’ ‘I’m bi a lot of things….did I just say that?’), and of course, Bret (Canadian Hero and Family Man) Harts insults to DX (‘I just figured out what the ‘H’ in HBK stands for…You’re nothing but a homo’)…but there’s no need. You get the idea.

Forgive me my fantasy booking, but here’s a simple and obvious plot where you could use a gay character, and put him over as a face.

You have a tag team. They’re tagging for some time. Think….the rockers back in the day, perhaps. One of them, after a while, comes out of the closet, after hearing a homophobic remark made. He explains that he’s gay,and he didn’t think it was enough of a big deal to warrant mentioning. His tag team partner, disgusted, walks out. He attempts to reconcile, and talk about it, and receives nothing but bigoted filth in response, followed by a brutal attack. Voila. Feud. The character doesn’t change, he just gets a little deeper. And we get a monster heel. There is a minor risk that the audience would cheer this, but I am willing to give them a little more credit than that. Anyone reading it, take it. WWE, the idea is yours. Please, use it.

With any of my gay or bi friends the fact that they are gay or bi is no more of an important part of their personality than is the fact that they’re from one part of the country or another, or hair colour, or so on. If you’re going to have a gay character, have one who is a regular character who happens to be gay, rather than a gay character who happens to be a wrestler.

As usual, any feedback, send to me at christopherbrosnahan@hotmail.com, post here on the forums, or catch me on msn messenger on the above address, or yahoo under the darque_edge handle. I’m off to think of a way to bring about world peace. Unless I get sidetracked by watching wrestling….

Damn.

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Standing At The Edge: Tietam Brown Jul09

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Standing At The Edge: Tietam Brown

BACKGROUND

Having noticed in my local comic book store (Forbidden Planet in Oxford Street for those keeping note) that Mick Foley was appearing for a book signing, I decided to head over, meet the man himself, and pick up a copy for one of my best friends who was getting married the next day – we got his bride a card or something – as well as one for myself. I decided that it would be sensible to turn up about an hour before the signing was due to start.

Unfortunately, the queue was round the block by that point. We’re a bit starved of wrestlers in the UK, so fans had turned out in force. My girlfriend kept my place in the queue, the only reason she was there to be honest, while I nipped into the shop and picked up two copies of the book, and some comics to read during the forthcoming wait. All three hours of it. During this time, I got to see my girlfriends short attention span in minute detail. Starting with ‘This is so cool, I can’t wait to meet him, it’s Mick Foley, do you think he’ll have Mr Socko?’ it slowly changed to ‘I hate wrestling, why am I waiting, I’m bored, I don’t care about Mick Foley, and can’t you just skip it, we’ll be waiting ages’, and then after the first twenty minutes, she got really bored. In order to drown out the constant badgering in my ear, I opened up my copy of Tietam Brown, and started to read.

Judging a book by its cover

There are few times that I relish living in the UK as opposed to the US. The UK cover to the book is one of them. Unlike the multicoloured piece of crap you guys get in the states, the UK cover is refined, eye catching in an unusual way, and rather nicely put together. Done in the olde style ‘Main Event Tonight’ way, it captures parts of the book very well. The picture of Mick on the back is also seriously done. Basically, this doesn’t look like a kids book.

The inside blurb

Destined to be one of the most talked about books of 2003: a brilliant first novel by the world’s most famous wrestler In the world of WWF wrestling, Mick Foley is a legend. The author of two best-selling autobiographies, he has now written his first novel, a book of such brilliance that it will astonish the critics while delighting his millions of fans. Antietam (Andy) Brown – named for the great-great-grandfather who died on that Civil War battleground – was an overgrown ten-year-old when he killed his abusive foster father and the teenager who tried to rape him. Now, after seven years in reform school, he is presumably free to make a new start as a student at Conestoga High School. But he is immediately thrust into the violent and debased life of his real father (known as Tietam) – an oddly charismatic man who seems addicted to bodybuilding, beer-swilling and ‘bareback riding’, his words for his serial womanizing. Swimming through a morass of crudity and violence (he’s made an enemy of the football coach and his pack of steroid-pumped teens), Andy is stunned to find himself pursued by the high school homecoming queen – a born-again Christian – and to discover that his father has a hidden cache of books on serious, even esoteric, subjects and a hidden past. Obsessed with the idea of offering his girlfriend a pure love and driven to find out whether he’s descended from a monster or a hero, Andy searches for the truth in the dangerous currents of his father’s past and present – in a novel that is a zany and deeply moving celebration of the human spirit.

The novel itself

Foley has surprised me. The last sentence of the blurb describes the book as zany. It isn’t. I was expecting a far more lighthearted story than what I actually read. Early on, there is a car crash, which is portrayed in very graphic, and imaginative detail. The main character is missing an ear, and if you thought that the description of that act in Foleys autobiography was rather relishing in the detail…well, it just doesn’t compare. From there, it moves onto violence, bullying, abuse of sexual, physical and mental kinds, and quite a lot of graphic sex. A lot of people are going to be very shocked reading this novel, and it is a method which will either encourage people to put the book down, or to be gripped and continue reading.

The main character, Andy, is well portrayed enough to capture the readers sympathy, and even through acts which you probably will not agree with, continues to keep that sympathy. Personally, I found this a little irritating at times. Foley appears to be loath to risk alienating his readers, and so Andy is nearly always reactive to events which happen to him. He has a terrible temper, and lashes out in violence if provoked. The difficulty I found with this was that he was always unfairly provoked, without exception. It made him a little too much of a nice lad, when if Foley had delved further into the character, at the expense of us liking him, it would have made for a more three dimensional character. This said, the character is certainly not badly written. He is funny, smart, and rather charming. The author does seem to have based this character on himself quite a lot, and being as how the character shares a lot of Foley’s qualities, this is no bad thing.

The other main character, Andys father Tietam, is more of an enigma. Manipulative, crass, mysogynistic, not particularly bright, a drunkard and yet somehow quite charming are probably the first adjectives that spring to mind when we first meet him. Andys quest to find out more about him and Tietams growing love for his son show us more of a three dimensional character as the novel progresses. The road this continuing discovery takes is far more twisting and turning then it first appears. This character alone is a major reason to go out and buy this book.

The rest of the characters are somewhat flatter. The born again christian girlfriend, the steroid pumped history teacher, the multitude of lonely, single women. They’re all far more two dimensional. The girlfriend is, at least, given enough to be interesting, and she’s such a nice character that she serves her function perfectly. The rest, however are bordering on the cliched, to such a point that it is difficult to imagine them as human beings. This said, one of the reasons for this is the fact that the story is written through the eyes of a teenager, and so it is possible to forgive it.

The shortness of the novel, however, is not as easily forgiveable. It’s more of a longer novella rather than a full novel, and after Foley’s previous books, it was a disappointment not to be struggling to fit it in my suitcase. If it had been longer, he could have done more with the characters that could have done with filling out. On the plus side of the length, it means that the novel moves at an extremely fast pace – I found myself backtracking occasionally, because it was moving a little too fast. To be honest, I simply wanted more Foley for my bucks.

The prose style is excellent. Foley is capable of turning a nice phrase, and it was another reason I wanted to read more. The book is easy to read, and hangs together well. If it reminded me of any other author, it would probably be a young Stephen king when he was on form. The energy is there, the raw ability is there, and the novel is pretty damn good. In fact, it’s bloody impressive.

Two other things to address, and coincidentally, two of my favourite topics. Sex and wrestling. Both of these are addressed in the book, and both in a lot of detail. It is to Foleys credit, and enormously so, that the sex in the book does not come across as being written in order to turn the author on – always a difficulty, especially since the main character is, like most teenagers, obsessed with it. The sex does border on the pornographic at times – I never expected a book written by the man who used Mr Socko to involve rimming. This said, it is written in context, and as such it is not out of place. Admittedly, it means that some parts of the novel are realistically unfilmable, but these things happen. The abuse parts of the book are treated graphically, sometimes even humerously – ‘She’s doing more than tucking me in’ – and with the weight that such a subject deserves.

The wrestling element of it comes in later in the book, when we meet a former pro-wrestler. To say much more than this would give away a huge plot development, but suffice to say, Foley has done his research, and it shows. It is fascinating stuff.

Overall, I would say this is possibly the most impressive debut novel I have read in the last ten years. Taking away that debut qualifier, it is still impressive. By opening the book, be warned, you are entering the dark world of Mick Foley. I fully look forward to the authors next novel.

Back to the background

I walked up to Mick, and got to chat for about ninety seconds – more than most people got. I asked him to write something personal for my friend, which he did, and told me to pass on his best wishes. I told him I’d read the first fifty pages in the queue and was impressed. He thanked me, and said ‘Here’s a hint. After December twentyfifth, nothing good happens’. He was right.

As always, any feedback can be directed to christopherbrosnahan@hotmail.com, or you can catch me on MSN on the same address, or Yahoo messenger under the name of darque_edge. Until next time, I’m off to think up ways to sort out world peace, the solutions to most peoples problems, and a way to sort out the environment. Unless, of course, I get sidetracked by watching wrestling.

Damn.

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Standing At The Edge: A Chhharitable Vew

January 7th 2002

Returning to the WWE after 8 months out with a Quad tear, HHH waits to go to the ring. His music hits, and he walks onto the stage, then makes his way to the ring. There is a standing ovation and a crown response so deafening and persistent, they have to play his music 3 times. Asked how it felt afterwards, HHH replied ‘Overwhelming’. He is on top of the world, the fans have waited to see him come back, and he can do no wrong.

As an entertainer myself, in the realm of theatre work and stand-up comedy, I have experienced standing in front of a crowd and receiving a favourable response. I have also experienced silence, but that’s beside the point. I have not experienced anything remotely near the response HHH got from a crowd that large. Realistically, only rock stars get that kind of response on a regular basis, and that’s only when they’re gigging. Only a handful of people in the wrestling business have received a response like that. I can think of Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Steve Austin and The Rock. I honestly can’t think of another time anybody has been THAT over.

Overwhelming is the right word for it. He’d gone to the bench as a hated heel and come back as a hero. I remember waiting for his return, and talking about it with my friends. This was shortly after the Invasion had finished, and it seemed a huge shame that HHH missed that storyline, since it had been cut off short at Survivor Series. It would have put HHH in an interesting situation, since he would have been a heel, but one who was WWE through and through. I’m not going to say that his being there would have saved the storyline, but I am saying that he would have been able to have brought a lot to it. The reason for this would have been the difference between the attitudes of the two main eventers out at the start of the Invasion – The Rock and HHH. The Rock, on his return, acted vaguely amused by the Invasion, and did no small part in helping to bury it. However, the line everyone remembers from his return was the first use of the ‘Who in the blue hell are you?’, directed at Lance Storm. The reason we wanted Trips to return during the invasion was the fact that he would have come back furious. Not ‘Who in the Blue Hell’, but rather ‘What the **** has been going on here?’. He would have been a fan favourite due to his sheer rage against the Invasion. Fantasy booking? Undoubtedly, however the reason I bring this up is to illustrate a point about HHH and what he brought to the table, and what the Invasion was missing, the one thing that they tried so hard to put in, and the only person who came close at the time was Paul Heyman with the Shoot style promo against Vince, and I know I’m rambling but I’m trying to give the pacing equivalent to a drum roll for that quality, because it’s what made him so good back in the day: Intensity.

Intensity. In my mind, this is without a doubt the best quality in any drama, be it a novel, a film, a comic or professional wrestling. Without conflict there can be no drama. Without intensity we are given no reason to care. Cast your mind back to the Trips – Foley feud. To the Trips – Rock feud. To the Trips – Angle feud. To the Austin – McMahon feud. Michaels – Hart. Michaels – Austin. Taker – Foley. USA – Canada. Savage – Steamboat. Flair – Funk. Hulk – Andre. Think back to any of your favourite feuds, and the thing that made them interesting was their intensity. HHH had it in bucket loads. You’ll notice I am talking in the past tense when I talk about HHHs intensity. That’s because I can’t remember a time I saw him use it in recent memory. The last time I saw it was in a promo against Hogan, in the build up to the match between two famed politicians. This is primarily because he’s changed his character, to a laid back, sleazy, suit wearing, limo riding, jet flying son of….*cough*. Sorry, got carried away there. My point is that his matches seem of a similar quality, although he is still holding back slightly since his injuries. (As a quick tangent by the way, between ‘Ooh, me back’ jet flying but plane crashing Ric Flair, Cripple H, the Incredible Breakable Man Randy Orton and Batista – who I can’t be bothered to devote the time or energy necessary for inventing a nickname – can anyone think of a Stable with a larger history of injuries than Evolution? The Clique doesn’t count). They don’t necessarily lack the moves and technical proficiency he had previously – The Cactus Jack Streetfight, which I consider his best match had about the same number of actual moves as his match with Nash -, or the story telling necessary in a match, but they certainly lack the intensity. He no longer looks at his opponents as if he feels they’re a motorbike in the way of his 18 wheeler truck. He looks…well…human.

That’s a lie, actually, isn’t it? He doesn’t look human. He looks like a set of muscles balanced on a frame. A bunch of balloons inflated up to breaking point. Or, Clive Anderson called Schwarzanegger ‘A condom filled with Walnuts’. In fact, if you look at HHH since he started in the WWF/E, he’s put on so much muscle, he just HAS to be a steroided up freak, right? Well….look at this link. If only for the pictures. Since the rest of it is in czech or something. This link’>Link

When he was young HHH was 285 pounds. A big guy. A power lifter in fact, who listed body building as his hobby. This is based on rumour, however, one story I have heard is that Hunter was asked to slim down when he joined, and underwent liposuction, since it was so close to the time of the steroid scandal, and Vince didn’t want to push anyone too muscly. HHH claims that he works out for a minimum of three hours a day. The size he is is actually conceivable with that taken to light.

Of course, the other argument is that HHH simply went off the steroids for a while. I’m being charitable, not naive.

The latest accusation levelled at Trips is the level of politics he has, in order to ‘keep his spot’, via his upcoming marriage to Stephanie McMahon. Recently, he’s made some comments about us internet writers, claiming we don’t know what we’re talking about. You never know, he may actually have a point. A wrong one for some of the things levelled at him, but not necessarily all.

He wants to keep his spot! He’ll hold anyone down!

After the return I referenced at the start of this article, he probably believes that he’s helping rather than hindering. Everybody everywhere is screaming for his blood a year and a half later. Remember when he first turned heel as a main eventer? He had no credibility at all. He won the belt from a back-from-injury mankind, and WWE were flooded with fanmail saying how unconvincing a champion he was, and how much he sucked. In an old issue of Raw Magazine (I can’t remember which one, sorry) Trips was laughing about it, saying that ‘They nearly took the belt off me. I asked them to wait, because couldn’t all this mail saying I sucked mean that I was actually very over as a heel? So they took a gamble, and it paid off’ – horribly misquoted, but that was the gist of it. Might he not believe that he is still very over as a heel? And whats more, the first heel to kayfabe the smarts….

He shows up wrestlers weaknesses. Look at Scott Steiner. HHH deliberately showed him up so that he wouldn’t be a threat to his position.

HHH used to wrestle the best guys in the business (Rock, Foley, Taka Michonoku in a particularly memorable Raw, Steve Austin, Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho) to regular fantastic matches, and when he does nowadays (Michaels, Flair), the matches are still very good to excellent. We just don’t like the results. The fact is the people I mentioned above have been able to carry just about anyone. When HHH wrestled someone of that league, he made them look even better, and they made him look incredible. Compare that league to Hogan, Nash, Steiner, and so on. So he can’t carry them to five star matches? The only person I’ve seen have a good match with Steiner was Jericho, and that was still well below Jerichos normal level of match. In my opinion, Scott Steiner showed up his own weaknesses, while Triple H tried hard to carry him to a good match, taking time at it, in the hope that ScottyBoy would get into his groove. The only other option is that HHH planned the match so that Scottyboy would deliberately use Back Suplex after Back Suplex, and not be able to stand without the ropes six minutes in.

Ah, BUT! In that case, why does he influence who his opponents are? Why does he choose these lumps of effluent waste products?

Possibly because Steiner was (correctly) seen as having one, and maybe two matches as a draw on PPV before being seen for the mediocre talent he has become in the last ten years. Same with Nash. Or, possibly because Steiner was DAMN over before WCW folded, and Nash back in the NWO days was hugely over as well and they could be the trigger for something good. And the Hogan nostalgia trip? It was what the fans wanted. Mix the lack of top level opponents with the lack of intensity due to his new character (the Smug Git), and the matches aren’t going to be as good.

Nobody gets to kick out of the Pedigree! 3 finishing moves in just about every other match at Wrestlemania, and Booker had to lie there while Trips crawled over and pinned him after just one!

You ever seen Wrestlemania 12? The Ultimate Warrior squash? The no-sell to the pedigree? Hell, after that, I wouldn’t ever want anyone to kick out of it ever again, either. The pedigree, in fairness, looks a lot more lethal than a leg drop, or a rock bottom.

But talking of Booker, defend his burial at Wrestlemania, especially after the Racist comments.

A difficult one, but I’ve set the challenge for myself. Booker has made clear his intentions to retire within two years. This after being in the WWE for less than two years. Does this make a good case for Booker being the bearer of a torch that Trips obviously believes sacred? With Goldberg coming in, who would seem a far better bet to the WWE? With Goldy coming in, keep the belt on trips, make him into even MORE of a hated heel and then set up a feud between the two of them, and watch the money flow in. Hey, I never said it was the right decision….

But he’s only elevating his friends. He treats HBK like he’s God.

HBK is God. Accept him into your life. And more seriously, his friends are some of the biggest names in the business, who he likely believes have a lot to offer, but not much time left in order to do it. Elevate them now, and then move on. Because hey, his friends who have nothing to offer certainly don’t have anyone interested in the HBK – Flair match coming up, do they?

But his matches are boring…..and….Look, he just SUCKS! I HATE HIM, I HATE HIM, I HATEHIMIHATEHIMIHATEHIM AND I WANT HIM TO LOSE THE BELT AND JOB TO EVERYONE ON THE ROSTER AND THEN GO TO OHIO VALLEY WRESTLING AND JOB TO EVERYONE THERE AND I WANT HIM TO GET PINNED BY SHARKBOY AND HE JUST SUUUUUUUUCKKKKS.

And you wonder why he thinks he’s over as a heel? I don’t think he sucks, but I do think that he has gotten stale, and the character change was a mistake because he’s lost the intensity. He’s concentrating so much on being hated that he’s forgetting to be interesting. Let’s see him drop the title to Goldberg (although I wish it would be RVD or Lance Storm, or anyone else), move on, reinvent himself again, and work on getting the intensity back. Better yet, let’s see him move over to Smackdown in protest to losing to Goldy and have some matches with some of the better wrestlers on the roster, and see them put each other over. Let’s see him admit that he can’t carry the WWE at this point in time, and pull back, and get some different priorities. Let’s see him lose the huge amount of pressure he must feel under. Let’s see him go on his honeymoon, relax, and come back fresh. If he manages to do it, we might yet see him get that standing ovation again at some point in future.

Anyway, My name is Chris, darque_edge@yahoo.com, and I’m tapping out.

Well, it’s my first column, and I hope you enjoyed. Please don’t tear it to shreds too much guys – Xavier, I’m talking to you here – but constructive criticism would be appreciated. I’ve had writers block lately and it’s been nice to get something done. The bizarre thing is, HHH doesn’t even appear in my top five favourites, although he used to. Anyhoo…any feedback, post here, or email to me. Thanks.

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