Posts Tagged ‘Pro-Wrestling’

Media Update 7/6/17

July 6, 2017


Wonder Woman (2017)

I had been wary about seeing this movie because of the horrible job that DC Comics has been doing with their movies as opposed to what Marvel is doing right now. I am not a fan of the darker, edgier tone combined with muted colors and muted acting. Believe it or not, Suicide Squad was actually a step in the right direction. So I hemmed and hawed but heard fantastic reviews not only from Rotten Tomatoes but from independent voices I follow on the Internet. So this past July 4th weekend, I stepped into a theater on a whim and sat down and caught an afternoon showing. I am very pleased that I did. Wonder Woman was never really a hero that I connected with. I connected more with Wonder Girl. Still, it was an iconic character who finally got a live-action movie beyond the pilot for the TV show. Gal Godot was great. I have only seen her in Fast and Furious movies but she poured everything into this role and really embodied a Wonder Woman I felt I could finally connect with. Chris Pine played Steve Trevor with just the right tone. There were laughs, sad moments and plenty of action. It also had a lot to say about gender roles, forgiveness and accepting the flaws in a person and hoping their strengths ultimately win out. I wholeheartedly recommend it but I will probably not be seeing Justice League (at least, that is what I say right now).


Glow

I think it has been well-documented how much I love pro-wrestling so predicting that I would watch this Netflix show would have been a no-brainer. Throw in that I already knew that the show starred Alison Brie and had cameos of some of my favorite wrestlers and I was eagerly awaiting the premiere date. The show is really great and it captures the feel of a fledgling pro-wrestling promotion trying to get off the ground. It also charts a whole lot of actresses who know nothing about the business, learning the art of pro-wrestling. This is great for the viewer who does not know this stuff because they learn along with the cast. For the pro-wrestling fans, there are great cameos from John Morrison, Joey Ryan, Lauren James, The Addiction and more. We watch these ladies train to put on a show while dealing with their personal issues in a very real way. There are also debates on the show between style and substance and also simple story and complex motivation which mirror several different periods in pro-wrestling. All in all this show pays tribute to the real ladies of the first seasons of GLOW and what it must have taken to get to where they could try and elevate women’s pro-wrestling to its place in the mainstream. I definitely recommend it and if you are not a pro-wrestling fan I think you can still get a lot out of it.


Blood Drive

I love a little bit of grindhouse and this show has grindhouse in spades. In post-apocalyptic 1999, oil prices have skyrocketed and resources are scarce due to a cataclysmic event. Society has become brutal as the cities struggle to remain civilized while psychopaths and mutants roam the countryside. Behind it all there is a bigger conspiracy to unravel. In the middle of it all, a determined woman is forced to pair with a cop on a deadly race across the country in a car fueled by blood instead of gas. The show is full of insane characters, brutal violence, and twisted humor. Each episode so far focuses on a new setting and the two main characters trying to escape danger and make it to the next finish line. If they reach the finish line last, they are dead so they must escape cannibals, monsters and the other racers to get there in time. I have only seen a few episodes but so far even the most horrific characters are really amusing. I definitely recommend this if you are a fan of gore and fun action.

Music of the Week:
Stereopony – Hitohira No Hanabira

The Front Bottoms – Funny You Should Ask

Kim Boekbinder – HBIC

Ween – Voodoo Lady

Selena Gomez – Bad Liar

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is “Women in Combat”
– I started watching Blue Bloods Season 7
– I continued Arrow Season 5
– I continued The Flash Season 3
– I continued Supergirl Season 2
– I continued Agents of Shield Season 3
– I started Little Witch Academia Season 1
– I watched some more Glitter Force

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Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: The Lingo

September 17, 2016

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Since I started this part of my blog, I have used a certain language that is unique to the sports entertainment world. It is cobbled together from the early days of pro-wrestling and incorporates a lot of carny slang designed to confuse the fans if they overhear it. Gradually, as the internet became a thing, this language was learned and deciphered by the fans. I figure I have been using it enough both here and on my twitter that I should explain it a little for the layperson. Today we will explore two dichotomies that exist in the sports entertainment world.


Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are probably the best current example of Face vs. Heel

Babyface vs. Heel


Bayley is definitely a big time babyface.

These are probably the two terms I used the most when talking about sports entertainment. A babyface or face basically boils down to ‘good guy’. Although, it can be a little more complicated than that. A babyface does not need to be a good person or a role model. A babyface usually fights for what is right. More importantly, a babyface fights for the fans and earns their respect one way or another. There is a general code that babyfaces go by. In general, they shake hands, they fight hard and they do not cheat unless their opponent cheats first. Of course, there always exceptions to even these loose guidelines.


Ricky Steamboat was definitely another example of a white meat babyface.

There used to be something called a white meat babyface. They were paragons of virtue and always did the right thing no matter what. Hulk Hogan is probably the most well known example of this phenomenon. He told everyone to say their prayers and take their vitamins before it stopped being cool. Eventually, the business realized that nobody, not even fictional characters can be perfect. Now, babyfaces and other characters in sports entertainment are done in shades of gray.


Brock Lesnar: Total Heel

Heels are bad guys and usually the villains of the story. You cannot have babyfaces without heels just like you cannot have light without dark. Generally, heels are not card-carrying villains. It is important that they have a reason for doing the bad things they do. It does not have to be a good reason or even a logical reason. All that is required is that they believe that they are doing the right thing. They will fight against the fans because the fans just do not understand or, in the heel’s mind, the fans are cheering for the wrong person. Heels spend most of their time doing everything in their power to make fans hate them. We may love to hate them but we still hate them. The psychology of a match depends on the actions and reactions between the hell and the face.

Work vs. Shoot

We all know that wrestling is ‘fake’. John Stossel told us ages ago and Vince McMahon admitted it when the World Wrestling Federation became World Wrestling Entertainment. While the athleticism and bodily risk is real, the storylines are written in a collaborative system. A lot of people have a hand in creating a performer’s character and guiding their storylines.


Thankfully the Higher Power storyline was a work or most of the WWE roster would have been sacrificed to Satan by now.

When we say something is a work, we are acknowledging that what is being shown is make believe. It is all part of the planned and written storyline. For example, a worked injury is when a performer either fakes an injury or fakes the severity of an injury. For instance, sometimes they will ‘break somebody’s arm’ to allow them to leave the tour and get some shoulder surgery. Most storylines are a work. When something is a work, you can better control the crowd’s emotions and the performers’ actions.


The shoot angle in my example below actually happened.

On the other hand, a shoot is when things get real. You see these performers might be playacting but they are also real people behind the costumes. They have real feelings and do real things. For example, say a performer sleeps with another’s girlfriend in real life. A shoot would be when that real life conflict is used in the storyline. Shoot can also refer to elements of a character that are also true of the real performer. Due to the nature of the business, it is hard to tell what is a work and what is a shoot for sure. However, a good indicator is the appearances of a storyline in actual news sources.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: AJ Styles

February 29, 2016

WILPW

I knew I wanted to write another one of these but I was suffering from too many ideas. I thought about doing a post on Daniel Bryan since it would be kind of timely. However, I am still a little too emotional to cover Daniel Bryan at the moment. I have a lot of other ideas but let’s go with a bright and shining star that is just now getting noticed by a lot of people but who I have known for quite some time now. Let’s talk about “The Phenomenal One” AJ Styles.

On January 24, 2016 the WWE held their annual Royal Rumble event. The Royal Rumble is a payperview where big event matches that often starts or furthers some of the biggest storylines of the year. The event is the official start to the Road to Wrestlemania as it starts a countdown to the biggest show of the year (in the WWE Universe). The crown jewel of this event is the Royal Rumble match itself which involved 30 performers competing in one match. This year the match stipulations were announced that the winner would immediately become the Heavyweight Champion of the WWE. Every year in the match there are surprise entrants but this year was the biggest surprise of them all. Entrant number three: AJ Styles.

Now let’s take it back a bit and explain just who AJ Styles is. At least, let me explain my experiences with him. Back in 2005 I was getting a little bored with WWE’s product, not knowing that business was about to pick up again. For the first time in my life I started to cast about for some other pro-wrestling product to watch. I knew that WCW was dead but was there something else out there? There was. Total Nonstop Action had started up and I found it on Spike TV pretty easily. Thankfully I had missed their darkest days but I was just in time for some of their best years. Part of the best part of those years was AJ Styles.

The X-Division of TNA Impact was amazing. It was full of high-flying, technically proficient and innovative performers who were all pretty young. Up until then I was used to the WWE style which had a lot of drama and tension but less flash or variation. AJ Stlyes knew the limitations of his body and seemed to somehow exceed them. The arms race within TNA forced him to innovate his style and moveset at an alarming pace to keep his spot. He was super over (popular) on TNA television and payperviews and was almost immediately one of their top stars.

Styles then worked with Total Nonstop Action through some great years and then some really bad years. Unfortunately, the company continued to hemorhage money, fans and good will. For whatever reason (and I refuse to speculate or spread rumors), Styles left what was now known as Impact Wrestling, ending a 12 year relationship. At that point he became one of the hottest free agents in pro-wrestling. The WWE would have been smart to snap him up right there and maybe they tried. Styles immediately hit the indy scene and kind of settled in at New Japan Pro Wrestling where he joined The Bullet Club, a hugely popular faction in Japan and among knowledgeable fans throughout the rest of the world.

He put on high quality matches with all sorts of people in Japan and he also came back and put on five star matches with organizations like Ring of Honor here in the United States. Unfortunately, to many fans he simply fell off the face of the Earth because it’s not exactly easy to watch Japanese matches at a whim. Also, if somebody disappears off of cable television wrestling shows they are just gone to most people. I saw a little bit but unfortunately he mostly disappeared for me. I saw him a bit on Ring of Honor television but that was it. Then the rumormills began saying that he and the Bullet Club were coming to the WWE. (Although one of them was already there)

So now he has signed a WWE contract and has already competed in a whole bunch of matches. In fact, he competed against “Y2J” Chris Jericho and beat him in two out of three high profile matches. Now he and Jericho (a WWE and WCW veteran) have formed a tag team and are competing on television in the lead up to Wrestlemania. Now here’s where I get real. While AJ Styles is a great performer in a tag team, his shining moments have come from being a singles wrestler. My hope now is that the WWE will trust his eighteen year career and let him show the world while he still can. Daniel Bryan just ended a sixteen year career because of injury and he barely got a chance to succeed. Don’t do the same with AJ.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Mick Foley

January 10, 2016

WILPW

 

As I sit here wearing my brand new Viking Hall t-shirt, I’ve been thinking about the world of Extreme. Speaking of Extreme, we just passed an anniversary that’s very special to me at least in the way of the world of sports entertainment. We’ll get to that very special date in a bit. First, I want to start at the beginning. I want to tell you about one of my personal heroes and a legend in sports entertainment and in life. I’m talking about Cactus Jack. I’m talking about Mankind. I’m also talking about Dude Love. But really, I’m talking about Mick Foley. He’s one of the big reasons I kept being a fan through the end of the previous century and why I keep giving the WWE in particular the benefit of the doubt. But I said that I would begin at the beginning but that means the beginning of my experience.

 

 
I first heard of Mick Foley when he was performing under his Mankind persona. More specifically, I mean his heel role as a deranged basement dweller. My best friend Farris, who introduced me to watching WWE, told me about this guy he had seen premiere. He was crazy, he wore a mask, he ripped his own hair out and he couldn’t feel pain. I was intrigued. When I finally saw him out there in the ring I was even more intrigued. Pretty much every other performer out there was muscle-bound or lithe and fast. Here was a guy who was very rough around the edges and strange. Little did I know that I was becoming intrigued with something that Foley himself put a lot of work into. He read psychology and somewhat based his character on Hannibal Lecter. He debuted and almost immediately went after the Undertaker.

 

 
As he continued to fight in the WWF, I was interested but to be honest I wasn’t that interested. I was way into Shawn Michaels and Undertaker and soon enough Steve Austin and although he was interesting, he was a bad guy and I was in a period of my life where that mattered. Then the atittude era hit and wrestling became way more fun. It was no longer an exciting Saturday Morning cartoon. It was still exaggerated but it felt a little more “real” somehow. That feeling really hit home when Mankind sat down for an interview with the legendary Jim Ross.

 

 
That interview weaved together elements of the Mankind character with elements from Mick Foley’s own life. Never before had I seen a character in sports entertainment with so much backstory and heart. I had no idea at the time that a huge amount of that backstory was real and that Mrs. Foley’s baby boy was a guy after my own heart. From that moment on I was a Mankind fan and I was glued to Raw to see what happened next with him. What came next was that he got to evolve. He became his childhood creation of Dude Love. Who among us wouldn’t be thrilled to bring a childhood dream to life? Really? It was so different from what everybody else was doing.

 

 
Then he became Cactus Jack again but I had never heard of Cactus Jack before because I hadn’t watched WCW back then and I had, at that point, never even heard of ECW. Watching Mankind, Dude Love and Cactus Jack made it clear to me that Mick Foley was the real deal and could put on a hell of a match. This was still a tape world and I had no access so I stuck with his WWF career like glue. Mankind returned but he had now merged all three characters and he was even more entertaining to watch. Then the moment that shocked the world happened.

 

 
I watched Mick Foley fall twenty feet and then get up and fall about fifteen and then keep going. On purpose. For a match. I loved Foley and I was a huge fan before but at that point I was a Foley fan for life. I followed his career even closer at that point and I loved every step of it. Finally he became a babyface, an odd term applied to a guy who was missing teeth. He became more of a comic character but he still fought with heart and I loved him more and more. He had one of my favorite feuds of all time with The Rock and it was the first real experience I had where I loved both the babyface and the heel. It is here that we reach the anniversary of Mick Foley winning his first Heavyweight Championship. It happened on my birthday (December 29, 1999) but it wasn’t broadcast until about a week later. I felt like it was the greatest birthday present in the world.

 

 
It was around this time that he published his first autobiography and I grabbed it up. It was here where Mick Foley became a personal hero. His life, in his own words was an inspiration and I still have my first copy which fell apart from re-reading it over and over. It was here that I learned who Mick Foley was and how I connected to him not just as a character on television but as a human being. It was also here that I learned about ECW and his days in WCW. I tried to get footage where I could but it was still hard to do in 1999. I have since watched a lot of it and enjoyed every minute of it. I enjoyed his run in TNA as he wasn’t just the same old Foley in a different pond, he adapted. It seems he’s more or less retired from the big spotlight now but he’ll never be forgotten.

 

 
I’m still a big Foley fan but I follow him these days more as a writer than a performer. His insight into the writing and performing part of the business is invaluable. He’s so good at adapting and evolving with the times that he knows just the way to use new and current talent. I would watch him perform again in a heartbeat but I have a feeling he knows he’s better applying his mind to the business and elsewhere.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Surprise!

December 15, 2015

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Storylines in fiction are interesting machines. They’re born of teams of writers who are utilizing performers and other assets to the best of their ability. They try to take what’s in their head and match it with the mission statement set out by the creator or showrunner while appealing to a wider audience. With sports entertainment the writers are joined by the performers who have some input as to what their characters are and where their characters are going. This creative input varies from performer to performer and creates a sort of politics as people jockey for screen time.

Not only that, but talent can suddenly become unavailable due to real life injuries and writers are sent scrambling to change storylines. As with any other form of fiction, it’s hard to shock the audience in a real and organic way because most people’s minds consider the possibilities of what’s coming next. They also risk alienating fans by jarring them out of their comfort zone. I happen love those moments when the writers and performers can surprise me and make me wonder what could happen next.

How about some examples?
Seth Rollins Defects from the Shield

Speaking of injuries, Seth Rollins was a breakout star this year but that might not have happened without his shocking moment over a year ago. In May 2014 the Shield was a dominant force in the WWE as a tight knit trio who stood together as brothers. The group consisted of the “Lunatic Fringe” Dean Ambrose, “The Juggernaut” Roman Reigns and “The Architect” Seth Rollins. On June 1 2014 the Shield was engaged in a war with their boss’ team Evolution. The Shield and Evolution had absolutely destroyed each other to the point that Batista had even walked out. It was easy to see that Evolution would need to add another member to their ranks and there were plenty of candidates. Then June 2, 2014 rolled around. Triple H came out to the ring with a smirk on his face and, like a sleeper agent suddenly coming to life, Seth suddenly wailed on his ‘brothers’ with a steel chair. I remember actually yelling “No!” at my television screen.

The moment ended up being great for everyone involved. The Shield had been a tight unit and, as with any good tag team, it was hard for each member to have singles success while part of a group. Seth Rollins became The Authority’s pet wrestler and eventually held the World Heavyweight title and United States title at the same time while the bosses pulled the strings for him. Dean Ambrose got even crazier and became a common man hero character whereas before he had been an antagonist with a screw loose. Roman Reigns became a bonafide superhero and fan favorite and even though he’s a big, musclebound guy he makes a lot of waves as an underdog. Growth comes from change and sometimes change is most effective as a sudden shock.
Brock Lesnar Ends the Streak

In my previous Why I Love Pro-Wrestling post I went on at great length about the legend of the Undertaker and how much I’ve loved his story. While I didn’t go into minute detail, one thing I left out was The Streak. Wrestlemania has long been described as WWE’s equivalent of the NFL’s Superbowl. It’s a yearly event where they try to put out their biggest matches, often ending or shifting storylines into a different gear. Wrestlemania is also partly responsible for the advent of the sports entertainment payperview event to complement a company’s television offerings. The Undertaker fought in his first Wrestlemania match against the legendary “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka and the Undertaker won. After that, the Undertaker went on to win every Wrestlemania outing and usually with supernatural flair. Every year the legend grew and every year they teased an end to The Streak. After twenty Wrestlemania victories it was beginning to look like he would retire before losing at Wrestlemania. Enter Wrestlemania 30 and “The Beast” Brock Lesnar.

Brock Lesnar is a monster speciment who first made his splash after a very, very short NFL career which ended up being a single preseason in 2004. With his build and demeanor it always seemed to me that he was more well-suited to fight than to play ball. He took the WWE by storm at a time when it desperately needed fresh blood. He became a crossover star when he fought for real in UFC and then returned to WWE to fight in even more scripted combat. At Wrestlemania 30 he returned and defeated the Undertaker. That wasn’t the shocking happening because, as I said, Lesnar was such a ferocious beast. What shocked me was that Lesnar beat Undertaker so badly. The supernatural powers that the Undertaker drew upon were nothing against the onslaught and it really helped Lesnar’s career.
Chris Jericho is Beaten by Dean Malenko

World Championship Wrestling was a titanic wrestling company and, like most titanic wrestling companies, it had more talent than it could deal with. They hired Chris Irvine aka Jericho to a fairly lucrative contract but they apparently hadn’t thought much beyond that. At that time, WCW was getting a lot of mileage out of its cruiserweight division. The formula was that they would use the admittedly aging big names to draw in crowds and keep them entertained with young, talented performers who were relatively unknown. The formula worked. Stars like Hogan and Savage were putting on less than stellar matches while upstarts like Jericho, Mysterio, Benoit and Dean Malenko were lighting up the place. Cruiserweights like Jericho pretty much did what he want because as far as the writers were concerned, their storylines didn’t matter.

Jericho was the ultimate blowhard and after he had won the Cruiserweight title from Dean Malenko he ridiculed Malenko constantly. Dean was on the injured list so Jericho didn’t fear any reprisal. Week after week and Jericho retained his title by hook or by crook and continued to belittle Malenko who was a great talent. Finally there was a battle royal to come up with a challenger for Jericho’s title. The battle royal was hard fought as Jericho stood by and mocked all of the competitors. Finally it came down to Cyclope and Juventud Guerrera and then Juvy jumped out of the ring and eliminated himself. What the !? Jericho entered the ring to face his opponent which is when Cyclope unmasked and it was Dean Malenko. Dean proceeded to beat the tar out of Jericho for every mocking statement and it elevated both stars if only for a moment.
The Montreal Screwjob

Hold on, don’t yell at me yet. I know this one wasn’t exactly planned and written with everyone’s best interests at heart. The Monday Night Wars were a brutal and cutthroat time in sports entertainment history and a lot of people did things they can’t ever take back. Both WWF and WCW were in heated battle and were constantly poaching talent from each other. All sorts of shenanigans were happening. Madusa jumped ship and showed up on WCW and dumped her WWF title belt in a trash can on live television. Rick Rude showed up on live television on WCW while still showing up on taped WWF programming. Both companies were looking for every chance they could find to screw each other over using the performers as pawns. In the middle of all this, the WWF was in dire financial straits and was starting to fear the reaper.

Brett “The Hitman” Hart was the World Heavyweight Champion and he was riding high. He was highly skilled and his family name was (and is) one of the most respected names in sports entertainment. The WWF had promised and signed Hart to a contract worth millions of dollars and they no longer had those millions of dollars. Vince McMahon allowed Brett to check in with WCW to see if they could offer him a comparable deal to let the WWF off the hook. WCW was definitely interested so it came down to those involved to decide when Brett would lose his title. Out of fear that Brett would be convinced to leave the company with the title, Vince changed the end of Hart’s match with Shawn Michaels. He had the ref ring the bell and screw Brett, letting him leave the company on a bad note.

Vince wanted to gloss over the event and move on but the fans wouldn’t let it go. Eventually, the WWF embraced the momentum and Vince transformed into an evil boss character. When that character went up against the anti-hero Steve Austin, every put upon employee saw their greatest fantasy being played out. The feud (and a few other stoy lines) brought the WWF out of its financial slump and eventually led to them winning the Monday Night Wars. All on that one shocking event.

Media Update 7/2/2015

July 2, 2015

I still haven’t really seen anything new and exciting. The summer is a bad time for me as I feel the heat and humidity take a lot out of me. I really do want to see Jurassic World and Inside Out and hopefully I will catch them during the long weekend. Strangely I’m also looking forward to Terminator Genisys a little because at least they’re trying something new. I also really like Ahnold and I want to see how he is returning to two different iconic roles from the Terminator franchise. It’s just that lately on the weekend I want to just lounge around and keep cool instead of venturing out and seeing movies. It’s also taken a toll on my writing though part of that is trying to birth a new Tabletop character for a new campaign.

Anyway, let’s talk some entertainment.

Rennaisance Rumble: Battle Stations

Wow, second week in a row talking about live performance. It’s also been a while since I talked about pro-wrestling so this really feels right. I went down to College Park last Sunday morning and, although I was a little sleepy from getting up early on a weekend, I met my brother Alex and his girlfriend in a dance studio. In the middle of the studio was a structure that always brings excitement to my core. It was a wrestling ring. Sure it was a crappy wrestling ring but it looked serviceable and it definitely did its job.

We were there to see a workshop performance for a pro-wrestling class taught by a friend of my brother’s. Right away I was totally into it as we were greeted by fun characters and a story line involving good guys taking on a small but evil empire. The whole thing couldn’t have been much longer than an hour but there was five or six short matches to showcase the trainees’ talents. We saw characters like Midnyte Karny, Meg Sam, The Man Who Feels No Pain, Simond “Mega Diamond” and “Paisan of Pain” Giuseppe… I’m sorry but I don’t remember all their names.

We cheered for babyfaces and booed heels and cringed at some very impressive bumps and some decent selling. Considering it was after twelve hours of training, I was very impressed. We also got to see some pre-taped promos which were amusing. Nobody was exactly setting the world on fire but with some more training there were definitely diamonds to might have been picked from the rough. The important thing is that everybody had heart, stayed safe and there was actually a lot of funny dialogue that kept the event moving. I look forward to seeing more from this company.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Real Wrestlers

January 12, 2015

WILPW

Real Wrestlers

I have touched upon this before but I have great respect for High School, Collegiate and Olympic wrestling.  I cringe every time that I see or hear it referred to as “amateur wrestling”.  There is nothing amateur about what can often be a high-speed, physical chess game with a crowd watching.  I wrestled in middle school and high school and it was probably the most physically demanding thing that I have ever done.  Training to wrestle competitively is an exercise in conditioning and adding to your physical memory.  When you’re out there facing an opponent, you must pull the correct series of moves out of a mental Rolodex in order to win.  You must learn about leverage and at least a little about human anatomy and how to dominate another human being.  That’s why I call it “real wrestling”.

I am especially proud of my little brother who went to several local and state championships and dominated because he combined fitness with intelligence.  My own career paled in comparison because he truly had a passion for the sport.

That being said, I wanted to pay tribute to just a handful of the real wrestlers who decided to become sports entertainers when they retired from the sport. There are more guys than are contained in this list but I don’t want to take that much of your time up. By and large, those who were wrestlers first have a larger list of moves their capable of doing, adapt easier and have the best conditioning.  This makes them the best performers in the ring and if they are blessed to have charisma, they usually excel in the business.

Even those who have just dabbled in amateur wrestling did better than their bodybuilder co-workers.  To name just a few dabblers: Ric Flair, Mick Foley, The Rock and Owen Hart.  All of them wrestled in high school and are some of the best at putting a solid match together.  Compare them to guys like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior and you can see where the benefits of being a real wrestler come in.


Dolph Ziggler

I have three words about Real Wrestling’s effect on Dolph Ziggler’s in-ring style: Conditioning, conditioning and conditioning.  It really seems to me like the man could wrestle forever.  His athleticism is unquestionable and he portrays a vicious tenacity.  He is currently one of the best at showing pain in his body language and facial expressions and I bet he got a lot of practice during his real wrestling career.   After all, he was an All-Mid-American Conference champion three times and is second all-time in victories at Kent State.


Shelton Benjamin

Look at the bottom of this post to see who Shelton Benjamin first teamed with when he hit the mainstream.  The WWE immediately embraced Benjamin’s real wrestling career and brought him in as a trained tactician who had speed and agility on his side as well.  Benjamin’s career shone bright as he used a combination of kicks, high-flying and mat skills to take on opponents.  Unfortunately, he left the bright lights of the WWE when they dropped the ball but he still continues in Japan and independent promotions in the US.  He won the South Carolina State High School Championship two times and had a win-loss record of 122-10.


Jack Swagger

There is no questioning that Swagger was involved in real wrestling.  His build and the way he moves are clear indicators and he obviously understands leverage a lot.  There have been some bumps in the road of Jack Swagger’s career because he lacks some of the necessary charisma but nobody has ever questioned his skill or athleticism.  He does his best work when paired up with a mouthpiece so that he can do all of his talking in the ring.  He was a two-sport athlete at The University of Oklahoma but once he quit football he was an All-American.


Brock Lesnar

A controversial success story like no other, Brock Lesnar keeps taking the time to stop by and dominate the world of sports entertainment.  Brock Lesnar is a physical specimen and it shows with how easily he picks up and manages a human being.  Even with the power game he has had since day one, he has tried to update his list of moves every so often.  Unfortunately, this resulted in him blowing a shooting star press and landing on his head but everybody has setbacks.  I wish Brock would either stick around or leave sports entertainment but I like his current run as champ.  He was a two-time NJCAA All-American, 1998 NJCAA Heavyweight Champion, two-time NCAA All-American, two-time Big Ten Conference Champion and the 2000 NCAA heavyweight champion with a record of 106–5 overall in four years of college.


Kurt Angle

I have been pretty impressed by Kurt Angle since day one.  He showed up in the WWE during the late nineties at the height of the attitude era.  He became a heel because he was a legit athlete and was not afraid to tell everybody in the building at home about it.  His gold medal was shoved down our throats so much that we hated him for it.  However, looking back his accomplishments are amazing and completely impressive.  He is from a pretty exclusive club of real Olympic athletes and there aren’t many of them in the business.  It’s a shame his later career was marred a bit by drug abuse but he seems to be mostly past that and still outperforms younger guys. He is one of only four people to complete a Grand Slam in amateur wrestling (junior nationals, NCAAs, World Championships and the Olympics).

Why I Love Pro Wrestling Episode: Horrible Gimmicks

December 30, 2014

WILPW

I’m now back on track with watching sports entertainment and I am really enjoying it.  I am especially enjoying watching Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins, Dolph Ziggler and the Dust Brothers but there’s quite a bit of good stuff happening.  I really liked Survivor Series as I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.  Anyway, onto this edition of Why I Like/Hate Pro Wrestling.

Horrible Gimmicks

There has been a long history of performers who had horrible gimmicks.  Now, I could gripe about them (and believe me I do) but that doesn’t get any of us anywhere.  Eventually a bad gimmick will disappear and it’s a lot of fun to look back and shake my head at how stupid they were to even think they had a good idea.  Here are just a fraction of the black holes of creativity that I’m glad are gone.

Willow The Wisp

I admit it.  I used to be a pretty big Hardy Boyz fan in the nineties.  Not the mystery solving duo but the two brothers who were billed from the wrong Carolina.  The guys who jumped off of ladders and moved with a rugged kind of grace that was probably born from the connection that brothers have.  Unfortunately, as time went by the Hardys split up and both went through some really tough times.  Jeff Hardy became a huge drug enthusiast and got sloppy and lost a lot of his appeal.  It was probably during one of these binges that he came  up with Willow the Wisp.  At some point Jeff Hardy became known as an Artist with a capital A.  It always came off as both really pretentious and kind of rednecky.  Willow the Wisp was an idea where Jeff was trying way too hard and it ended up as a really annoying gimmick.  Everything about it just seemed stupid.  The promos looked like they were filmed behind Jeff’s trailer in the woods and he carried around an umbrella because it was “quirky”.

Eugene

So imagine you’re a multi-billion dollar corporation who regularly puts on television programming and live shows and your product has carried a social stigma off and on since its inception.  You would think that company would refrain from upsetting any special interest groups, wouldn’t you?  Well, you would be right but the WWE would neglect that good advice and instead they would help create Eugene, a crime against everyone who watched WWE programming at the time.  The storyline was that Eric Bischoff had a nephew and was somehow forced to let him wrestle.  His “nephew” was played by Nick Dinsmore who was allowed to fake being somewhere on the autism spectrum.  He played the worst stereotype of somebody who is “retarded” even though Dinsmore was not.  The worst part was that this was played as an inspirational story.  It made me embarrassed to be a fan.

Akeem the African Dream

In the history of the WWE (at this point it was the WWF), there have been plenty of moments where the company capitalized on race relations.  The Gang Wars of the 90’s, the Nation of Domination, Rodney Mack and so many other regrettable moments.  At least those examples made some sort of sense even if they weren’t exactly sensative to our nation’s already tense history with racial issues.  Let’s see if you follow the logic on this one and maybe you can see where logic left the building.  In the eighties there was a wrestler who went by One Man Gang.  Tough name, right?  He was a tough guy who came in to the ring and beat the crap out good guys.  While this is not an automatic recipe for success, it was a solid gimmick.  Now, the One Man Gang was white.  I only mention this because at some point they decided to perform an “African ritual” to infuse him with the spirit of Africa (or something) and renamed him Akeem the African Dream.  So, basically he operated in blackface without the blackface make up.  Awesome idea.

The Black Scorpion

It’s long been a popular practice to combine two great things that go together.  Reese’s candies definitely showed this to be true.  So why wouldn’t it be a success to combine two things that a lot of people like in the world of sports entertainment?  WCW decided to combine mystery and stage magic to create a villain worthy of facing Sting, a guy who had become a huge draw and needed a legit opponent.  A mysterious black-clad man suddenly appeared and threatened Sting.  Usually when a new character is revealed, they prove that they are a threat by beating a string of opponents or at least beating a bunch of people up.  What did they have Black Scorpion do?  They had him speak through a really hokey voice distortion device and he also performed pretty lame magic tricks.  The other big problem they ended up with was that they never properly planned who was under the mask.  It was supposed to be somebody from Sting’s past but that literally could be anybody in the company.  They came up with at least three possibilities and none of them were surprising or exciting and the gimmick ended with Ric Flair unmasking.  Boring.

Lord Tensai

Matt Bloom had been with the WWE for years as the unfortunately named Prince Albert and then A-Train.  He was a pretty good wrestler but wasn’t really used very well for a big man who had a fair amount of skill in the ring.  He was eventually let go probably because the company didn’t really have anything for him to do because they had made him lose too many matches.  So Bloom went to Japan and became a huge success as a monster heel and won more belts than he had probably even glimpsed during his time with the WWE.  From all reports, the Japanese fans bought into Bloom who had renamed himself Giant Bernard, a name that probably made sense in Japan.  With all this success, you’d think that his former employers would sit up and take notice.  Well, they did but they decided to screw it up.  They brought Bloom back in as Lord Tensai, a Japanese lord with fake face tattoos.  Yet again they decided to take a white performer and have him pretend to be a different race.  They could have just brought him in and talk up how much he learned in Japan but instead they pretend that we can’t tell who he is anymore.  After a couple months he turned from a credible threat into a joke and they abandoned the gimmick.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: CM Punk

November 4, 2014

WILPW

I think enough time has passed and I’m finally ready to talk with calm emotions about a subject that rocked the world of sports entertainment and is still a sore spot with some people.  In some ways it actually turned out to be less of a big deal than it originally felt like.  Now it’s just a wave of what will become nostalgia for one of my favorite performers of all time.  Of course, I am talking about the departure of CM Punk from the WWE.  At the time, it was more of a blow but now I’m pretty chill about it.

In January 27, 2014 Phillip Brooks aka CM Punk walked out of the WWE, declining to perform as a sports entertainer from that point on.  The word was that he was tired and burned out and displeased with his position in the company.  There’s no real way to know the truth as CM Punk has remained mostly silent on the matter.  At first, I celebrated the move because who among us has not wanted to quit a job we were no longer happy with?  I always loved his character and of course I sided with him. I wanted a better position for him in the company.

As the days stretched into weeks and then months I started to think he was selfish for violating his contract and taking his ball and going home.  I wondered if he was ever coming back and then he finally announced that he had retired from the business.  I felt oddly good about it.  Sure, I was disappointed that his last match was the Royal Rumble.  However, finally getting some solid news provided closure.  Over time I realized that he didn’t owe anyone an explanation.  On top of that, he was able to retire on his own terms without a life-threatening or career-ending injury being the reason.  Months later he started to make appearances outside of the WWE and I found I was just as much a fan of Phil Brooks as I was CM Punk.  I still am.

That said, I will always love and respect CM Punk for the contributions he made to the WWE and the world of sports entertainment at large.  From life in Ring of Honor to Total Nonstop Action to the top of the heap of the WWE, CM Punk was larger than life.

You could read a rundown of his career all day from various sources so I’ll just talk about my personal fandom.  I first saw Punk when he showed up on the “ECW on SyFy” show and I was instantly curious about him.  He came out to ring to some of the coolest punk/metal music and was covered in tattoos.  Most prominent of those tattoos was the symbol for Cobra.  You know Cobra, they fought GI Joe all throughout the eighties and a bit in the nineties.  The other major tattoos were the Pepsi logo and his straightedge tattoos.

I have never indulged much in drugs.  The barely interested me and I always had other  things to do.  I have dabbled here and there with alcohol but I was always worried about its effect on me.  I was always worried that alcohol would help my anxiety too much but also I was worried how it would mix with my depression.  Eventually my reluctance left me with a very low resistance to alcohol and made me a “lightweight” or “cheap drunk”.  At one point, since I wasn’t really indulging much anyway I thought about just going straightedge like my hero CM Punk.  I decided against it but I still think about it from time to time.

Punk was always a great performer both in the ring and out.  He innovated both his character and his in-ring style depending on whether he was a good guy or a bad guy.  He was one of the few performers where I did not care if he was a good guy or a bad guy.  I was always happy to see him out and performing.  I was always glad to hear his <entrance music> which was instantly recognizable.   He became a welcome sight even when the rest of the show was mediocre.  He elevated everyone around him and seemed to be a wrestling luminary even at a young age.

He also was able to highlight a lot of the inequities in sports entertainment, an opportunity that management actually afforded him.  From the Straightedge Superstar to the Straightedge Savior to the Voice of the Voiceless to finally being Best in the World.  To me he really was The Best in the World with very little sarcasm.  I’m glad that I got to see his great career but I’m also glad that I got to see him retire while he was still relatively healthy.  At least we will always have our memories of his great career and, hell, he’s really funny outside of the business too.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling Episode: Comedy!

September 22, 2014

WILPW

I realized that I could really use a laugh after a long weekend after a somewhat uncertain week so that is today’s subject.  That realization made me realize the obvious fact that we could all use a laugh sometimes.  I will say right away that pro-wrestling is not my main source of comedy.  I have funny friends, funny family and funny co-workers to keep me laughing.  However, when I’m watching my wrestling shows, I like a little comedy there too.

The problem with comedy in pro-wrestling is that, according to the show’s internal fiction, these guys are at either at each others’ throats or allying with each other.  They are all fighting for the top spot so why would they stop and make jokes when their paycheck is on the line?  This is a valid point.  It definitely takes a light touch.  Just like any other comedy, the joke cannot be forced or clash with the fabric of the story around it.

The WWE (back when it was the WWF) ran into this problem with serious wrestlers like Bret Hart having to fight Doink the Clown.  Of course, much of the company had become pretty cartoony by that point.  This led to a backlash movement that quickly became the Attitude Movement where performers dropped the characters they were given and began to play characters closer to their own personalities.  Of course, the comedy continued and segments from Degeneration X, The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin were especially funny.

The WWE is definitely maturing in its comedy as the company ages.  Occasionally, the company will assume that poop and barf are comedy gold.  This is never ever true.  It was not funny when Betty White (yes, that Betty White) dosed Billy Gunn with laxatives.  It was not funny when Titus O’Neil barfed all over the announcers and ringside crew.  I know that little kids do watch their program and they do find barf, poop and pee funny.  Should we really cater to that?  Really?

There are plenty more examples of comedy that does not make me sigh or wish I was watching anything else.

Shawn Michaels returns to Degeneration X

Shawn Michaels and HHH have great comedic timing together and whenever they weren’t trying to kill each other they often teamed up as the leaders of Degeneration X.  This is the most polished of their work that comes to mind.  Sure they did a lot of funny stuff over the decades they’ve been together but for some reason this sticks out in my head more.

Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady

Enzo Amore continues to be the funniest person in mainstream wrestling today.  Everything he says makes me laugh and smile mainly because he just has great delivery.  He does some fun wordplay and purposefully pronounces names and words wrong.  With Big Cass by his side, his jokes will never be S-A-W-F-T.

Chikara Slo-Mo

I have mostly watched Chikara through Youtube which I feel a little bad about.  I should probably break down and purchase some DVDs to support the cause.  If there’s a funny pro-wrestling clip on the internet, it’s probably Chikara.  Since every wrestler in Chikara is a cartoon, they go to outrageous extremes in interrupting matches for comedy bits.  Everybody involved gets in on the act and it’s what fans pay to see so there’s no problem.

Chuck Taylor Scares Kids

This will never stop being funny to me.  The Kentucky Gentleman Chuck Taylor just loves scaring little kids in the crowd or sometimes he will just pick fights with them.  It’s not only funny but it goes a long way towards making him a funny heel.  He’s a villain in the way that Pete is a villain to Mickey Mouse.  He’s a villain because there has to be a villain but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a lot of fun.

Dance Off!

I discovered these a while back.  I have seen these dance offs between wrestlers mostly in Youtube clips from English promotions.  In the WWE they often do a dance off and the joke is that one person is great and the other one is obviously horrible.  Here, the match stops and the two (or more) performers bust out their moves and the fans decide.  Here we get to decide between Curry Man dance moves or AJ Styles’ nerdy dancing.

3MB Verbal Gaffe

Not much to say about this one.  The 3 Man Band was one of the best comedy heel teams of all time.  Thrown together on a whim, three young wrestlers made the most of it.  They really pushed their gimmick to the limit.  I didn’t even complain when they took the dwarf Hornswoggle on and (unofficially) renamed themselves 3.5MB.  Here we get a look at them being the goofballs we all knew and loved.


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