Posts Tagged ‘Pro-Wrestling’

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 5

February 18, 2019

WILPW

14 – Favorite Promo


Cactus Jack is Going Away for a While – Mick Foley

Mick Foley will always be one of my favorites. He has proven himself to be a very thoughtful and intellectual performer, one of the best thinkers in the business. His autobiographies show a wealth of knowledge and an aptitude for ring psychology. In 1998, Foley was in the midst of The Three Faces of Foley. He was cycling between three personas Mankind, Dude Love, and Cactus Jack. He had just had a run as Cactus Jack, battling for, winning, and losing the tag titles with Terry Funk. This promo was about how he felt betrayed by the fans. Cactus Jack was Foley’s most resilient persona, capable of taking the most physical abuse. However, the point of the promo was that the fans had turned their back on Cactus by ignoring the effort he and Funk had put in, in favor of flashier stars like Steve Austin and Degeneration X. It was part of Foley’s turn toward darkness and his eventual alliance with Vince McMahon. Foley delivered his promos with the gravitas he had learned from studying greats like Jake the Snake, Robert Fuller, and so many others. Foley had a natural ability to embody the character he was playing, practically believing that it was real. This is the style of acting taught at the college I went to, first popularized by Sanford Meisner. “To live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances.” The promo was delivered with appropriate gravitas and mentioned a lot of the roster which opened up a lot of possibilities going forward. It also blurred that line between reality and fantasy as Mick dropped a lot of his real life once again into one of his promos. It was sad and furious at the same time and it showed that the character meant business while others were just playing around. It hit hard and told a great story.


No More Divas – AJ Lee

Recently, Women’s wrestling in the WWE has been getting better and better thanks to an influx of new talent and a general change in philosophy. Stars like Moolah and other women put the brakes on talent in the division in exchange for flash and comedy. That was carried into the 2000s where the women’s division became the “Diva” division, further shifting away from athleticism and skill. Meanwhile, in Japan and in the independents, women were wrestling the same style as the guys and people loved it. Something had to be done. AJ Lee was a breath of fresh air. She had grown up as a huge fan of the business and she knew in her heart that she could do everything the guys did. When she finally got her chance, she was not that great but she worked at it and she got better and better until she was awesome. While others were fine with stagnation and mediocrity, AJ called for equality. The current WWE women’s division is called the “Women’s Revolution” then this promo was the equivalent of the Boston Massacre. This was the first event on the main roster that made people sit up and realize that they deserved better. It made people realize that women’s division matches did not have to be bathroom breaks where plastic little princesses pulled each other’s hair and slapped each other’s faces. The reaction to this promo would eventually be a call to arms for the NXT superstars who would revitalize the division and raise the bar.

15 – Favorite Feud/Rivalry


Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart

A lot of WWE fans of my generation fall into one of two camps: Bret Hart fans and Shawn Michaels fans. I was part of the latter group as I liked the younger, flashier star who was small like I was and he was funny too. When Stone Cold Steve Austin came onto the scene, everybody sat up and took notice. He was a cold-blooded sociopath who spoke his mind and stood up to everybody and anything in his way. He was billed as a good guy but he was plowing through people I had no passion for. At the same time, Bret was whining about being screwed by Austin at the 1997 Royal Rumble. Austin had been eliminated from the match but the referees had not seen it so Austin took advantage and won the match. Bret had a point, he had been screwed but instead of doing something about it, he just whined and threatened to walk out. This eventually set up the perfect feud between the two. On one side was Stone Cold Steve Austin who was a sociopath but he was proactive and always did exactly what he promised. He was vicious but America was ready to get behind that aggression. On the other side was Bret “The Hitman” Hart, who was good but had failed to back up his boasting for too long at the time. He was finally ready to actually do something about his complaints and vent his frustration in a big Wrestlemania match against Austin. The two were set for a submission match which was Bret’s specialty but Austin had that never-say-die spirit. In the end, Austin did not give up and passed out from pain and blood loss, allowing for Bret Hart to become a villain and Austin to become a hero of the people.


Becky vs. Charlotte

As I mentioned above, the women’s division has been great lately, delivering more good content than bad. As I type this, Becky Lynch has become one of the hottest and brightest stars in the WWE. She has even eclipsed many in the men’s division which has led to her labeling herself “The Man”. Leading up to Summerslam 2018, she had decided that enough was enough. She was through being nice and letting people pass her by. She had been the first Smackdown Women’s champion and she vowed to win it back by any means necessary. This led to a confrontation with her former best friend Charlotte Flair. Charlotte is a second generation pro-wrestler and therefore is wrestling royalty. She had previously lorded this over the division, letting her success and fame darken her soul as she held onto her belt. She seemingly left that all behind and turned over a new leaf but everybody knew that it was still inside of her. Becky had enough of the facade and obliterated her so-called best friend, choosing the championship over friendship. Becky stood victorious, finally beating her friend and earning her place in the sun. Then Becky was briefly injured, putting her career on hold for a little bit. In the meantime, Ronda Rousey had a match with Charlotte and finally beat the facade away, revealing the old Charlotte once again. Now, Becky and Charlotte are set to face each other once again, both of them have embraced their dark side in order to be at the top of their game. The crowd is behind Becky but Charlotte has a great big match record. It will be really fun to see what happens next.

16 – Favorite Manager


Paul Heyman

Paul Heyman has been in the professional wrestling bit for a long time. He first snuck into the nightclub business in New York City, becoming a publicity photographer. He then got into the wrestling business by once again leveraging his photography skills. But more than that, he always had the gift of gab. He has apparently always had great skill in running his mouth both inside and outside of the business. In World Championship Wrestling he turned himself into an obnoxious “Hollywood agent”-type manager who formed The Dangerous Alliance. He then helped created Extreme Championship Wrestling and became basically a cult leader of this underground company, a sort of CBGB for pro-wrestling. In these latter days, he has often acted as a mouthpiece or stand-in for his clients in the WWE. Instead of calling himself a “manager” he calls himself an “advocate”. He finds loopholes and argues for clients like CM Punk, Cesaro, The Shield, and Brock Lesnar. He gives spellbinding promos which are especially good to have when other people in a feud are not as good at talking. Brock Lesnar has especially benefitted as he has never been the greatest on the microphone. Also, Heyman has some of the best skills at getting fans to want to punch his face while still cheering his appearances.


Vickie Guerrero

Vickie was the wife of Eddie Guerrero, a guy that delighted fans for decades. When Eddie died at a fairly young age, Vickie showed up once again on television and she gained a bit of a following. It is a testament to her skills as an actress that she was able to get fans to hate her. If somebody had told me that fans would boo the widow of one of professional wrestling’s greatest, I would have questioned it. She made herself into a vain and shrill character who basically did everything wrong. She threw tantrums, she ogled younger men, she interrupted everyone’s good time, she disrespected the legacy of her own husband and cheated liberally. When the spotlight was not on her, she used sheer personality to put it back on her. The only mistake they made with her was that they had good guys start bullying her based on her appearance instead of her personality but there was a lot of that going on during that time period. Even today, fans recognize her catchphrase of “Excuse Me!” and it still puts a shiver in my spine. I am so glad that she could help to carry on the Guerrero legacy.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 5

December 1, 2018

14 – Favorite Promo


Cactus Jack is Going Away for a While – Mick Foley

Mick Foley will always be one of my favorites. He has proven himself to be a very thoughtful and intellectual performer, one of the best thinkers in the business. His autobiographies show a wealth of knowledge and an aptitude for ring psychology. In 1998, Foley was in the midst of The Three Faces of Foley. He was cycling between three personas Mankind, Dude Love, and Cactus Jack. He had just had a run as Cactus Jack, battling for, winning, and losing the tag titles with Terry Funk. This promo was about how he felt betrayed by the fans. Cactus Jack was Foley’s most resilient persona, capable of taking the most physical abuse. However, the point of the promo was that the fans had turned their back on Cactus by ignoring the effort he and Funk had put in, in favor of flashier stars like Steve Austin and Degeneration X. It was part of Foley’s turn toward darkness and his eventual alliance with Vince McMahon. Foley delivered his promos with the gravitas he had learned from studying greats like Jake the Snake, Robert Fuller, and so many others. Foley had a natural ability to embody the character he was playing, practically believing that it was real. This is the style of acting taught at the college I went to, first popularized by Sanford Meisner. “To live truthfully under given imaginary circumstances.” The promo was delivered with appropriate gravitas and mentioned a lot of the roster which opened up a lot of possibilities going forward. It also blurred that line between reality and fantasy as Mick dropped a lot of his real life once again into one of his promos. It was sad and furious at the same time and it showed that the character meant business while others were just playing around. It hit hard and told a great story.


No More Divas – AJ Lee

Recently, Women’s wrestling in the WWE has been getting better and better thanks to an influx of new talent and a general change in philosophy. Stars like Moolah and other women put the brakes on talent in the division in exchange for flash and comedy. That was carried into the 2000s where the women’s division became the “Diva” division, further shifting away from athleticism and skill. Meanwhile, in Japan and in the independents, women were wrestling the same style as the guys and people loved it. Something had to be done. AJ Lee was a breath of fresh air. She had grown up as a huge fan of the business and she knew in her heart that she could do everything the guys did. When she finally got her chance, she was not that great but she worked at it and she got better and better until she was awesome. While others were fine with stagnation and mediocrity, AJ called for equality. The current WWE women’s division is called the “Women’s Revolution” then this promo was the equivalent of the Boston Massacre. This was the first event on the main roster that made people sit up and realize that they deserved better. It made people realize that women’s division matches did not have to be bathroom breaks where plastic little princesses pulled each other’s hair and slapped each other’s faces. The reaction to this promo would eventually be a call to arms for the NXT superstars who would revitalize the division and raise the bar.

15 – Favorite Feud/Rivalry


Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart

A lot of WWE fans of my generation fall into one of two camps: Bret Hart fans and Shawn Michaels fans. I was part of the latter group as I liked the younger, flashier star who was small like I was and he was funny too. When Stone Cold Steve Austin came onto the scene, everybody sat up and took notice. He was a cold-blooded sociopath who spoke his mind and stood up to everybody and anything in his way. He was billed as a good guy but he was plowing through people I had no passion for. At the same time, Bret was whining about being screwed by Austin at the 1997 Royal Rumble. Austin had been eliminated from the match but the referees had not seen it so Austin took advantage and won the match. Bret had a point, he had been screwed but instead of doing something about it, he just whined and threatened to walk out. This eventually set up the perfect feud between the two. On one side was Stone Cold Steve Austin who was a sociopath but he was proactive and always did exactly what he promised. He was vicious but America was ready to get behind that aggression. On the other side was Bret “The Hitman” Hart, who was good but had failed to back up his boasting for too long at the time. He was finally ready to actually do something about his complaints and vent his frustration in a big Wrestlemania match against Austin. The two were set for a submission match which was Bret’s specialty but Austin had that never-say-die spirit. In the end, Austin did not give up and passed out from pain and blood loss, allowing for Bret Hart to become a villain and Austin to become a hero of the people.


Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair

As I mentioned above, the women’s division has been great lately, delivering more good content than bad. As I type this, Becky Lynch has become one of the hottest and brightest stars in the WWE. She has even eclipsed many in the men’s division which has led to her labeling herself “The Man”. Leading up to Summerslam 2018, she had decided that enough was enough. She was through being nice and letting people pass her by. She had been the first Smackdown Women’s champion and she vowed to win it back by any means necessary. This led to a confrontation with her former best friend Charlotte Flair. Charlotte is a second generation pro-wrestler and therefore is wrestling royalty. She had previously lorded this over the division, letting her success and fame darken her soul as she held onto her belt. She seemingly left that all behind and turned over a new leaf but everybody knew that it was still inside of her. Becky had enough of the facade and obliterated her so-called best friend, choosing the championship over friendship. Becky stood victorious, finally beating her friend and earning her place in the sun. Then Becky was briefly injured, putting her career on hold for a little bit. In the meantime, Ronda Rousey had a match with Charlotte and finally beat the facade away, revealing the old Charlotte once again. Now, Becky and Charlotte are set to face each other once again.  Both of them have embraced their dark side in order to be at the top of their game. The crowd is behind Becky but Charlotte has a great big match record. It will be really fun to see what happens next.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 4

September 24, 2018

WILPW

12 – Favorite PPV or Event of All Time


Wrestlemania XXX

This pay per view happened as I was kind of getting back into WWE and pro-wrestling in general. I had watched the occasional Raw but I had never really bought any pay per views in the past. When I was little, I watched them at my friend’s house or I watched them on VHS later. This was the first pay per view after the dawn of the WWE Network The main centerpiece was the story that had drawn me back into the game. Daniel Bryan has always been one of my favorite performers. His in-ring skills are amazing and he has such heart and fire that it is difficult for anybody to deny him. And yet, WWE seemed to hold him down until the build-up of this pay per view where they could not hold him back anymore. In this event, he beat Triple H in a one on one bout that earned him a ticket to a triple threat for the heavyweight title against Batista and Randy Orton. Defying all odds, Bryan defeated everyone and I was buzzing about that story for months afterward. It also had a six-man tag featuring the Shield who turned face for the first time, allowing us to cheer them. The Undertaker’s legendary 21 – 0 Wrestlemania streak was finally broken by Brock Lesnar in a move that eventually helped both of their stories. Bray Wyatt and John Cena had a solid match with plenty of fun signature moments from both of them. Finally, AJ Lee won a Diva’s battle royal in what was probably the first death knell of the Diva’s division.


Survivor Series 2001

Alright hold on, this is a very underrated event in my opinion and it is my runner-up. This was the (merciful) end to the Invasion angle where the Alliance finally fell to the WWF. The pay per view settled or unified every title (except for the Hardcore title). While the story was kind of lame throughout the angle, I felt they were able to distill the best elements that were left to them in this pay per view. Also, it has some of the most solid actual wrestling of the era. The main match is Team WWF (Chris Jericho, Big Show, Kane, The Rock and The Undertaker) vs. The Alliance (Booker T, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Shane McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin). That match is chock full of great talent and they all worked so well with each other. Also, I love the drama of that match type. Two of the best tag teams in the game (The Dudley Boyz and The Hardy Boyz) had a great match in a steel cage. At the time, I thought that Trish Stratus was the pinnacle of women’s wrestling. Two old friends, Edge and Test, faced off. William Regal is so underrated and he had a great match against Tajiri. It was also past the criminally short matches of the Attitude era.

13 – Favorite Finisher


Yes! Lock (Daniel Bryan)

In the past, it felt like submission holds were often used to ratchet up the tension in a match instead of ending the match. With the rising popularity of MMA and the concept of ‘tapping out’, submissions became more of a thing. Nobody makes submissions as exciting as Daniel Bryan. The move has caused competitors of all sizes to submit and has won him the WWE Heavyweight title. It was previously called the LeBell Lock named after Gene LeBell and it is a legitimately painful submission. Eventually, it was renamed a couple of times to reflect the leader of Yes! movement. Bryan looks vicious while he has an opponent locked up and his transitions into are beautiful. It is much better than his previous submission Cattle Mutilation which was harder to get into. The best and most exciting finishers can be hit at any time, causing a surprise in the match that leads to a satisfying conclusion. On top of that, you get the imagery of the opponent in anguish as Bryan vigorously nods his head as if telling them to go ahead and tap.


Sweet Chin Music (Shawn Michaels)

My runner-up comes from back before a time when half of the WWE roster started to use a superkick as a signature move. Shawn Michaels had two variations of the move. The most famous is that Shawn would knock the opponent down and then he would stomp the mat as he ‘tuned up the band’ and, as his opponent got to their feet, he would kick them in the face. The other version was the ‘outta nowhere’ version where he would just kick his opponent in the face. The move worked whether Shawn was a face or a heel and it never failed to get me excited. As a heel, Shawn would use the move as a vicious knockout blow while his opponents were already defeated. As a face, it was a move that he would struggle to hit that would win the match at the last moment against a tougher opponent. The unpredictable nature of the move made it great for creating dramatic moments either on purpose or by mistake. One of the most notable uses is his famous “I Love You” moment with Ric Flair which made him look like an executioner.

Also, off the top of my head, I love the Helluva Kick, The Stomp, Kinshasa, The Rock Bottom, The Stone Cold Stunner, and Bed of Roses.

#AndNew Pt. 1

September 8, 2018

(Non-Pro-Graps fans might need this handy glossary)

Gabriel climbed out of the cab and walked past the crowds entering the arena wearing merch from the show and saw how clearly excited they were. He paused for a moment and looked over his shoulder at the crowd and imagined they were wearing one of his shirts. He had been a pro-wrestler for five years but imagining that stardom never got old. He stepped into an alleyway so he could get around the back of the arena which is where he ran into a security guard at the door. The guy had a clipboard and a stern expression but Gabe watched as several performers he recognized got checked in and the stern face briefly gave way to a smile each time. He adjusted the duffle bag on his shoulder and headed for the door.

“Can I help you?” The guard asked.

“I’m here to, uh, perform,” Gabe said. “I’m on the card tonight.”

“Your name?” The guard asked. He looked skeptical.

“Jason Knight,” Gabe said.

The guard scanned the clipboard and then looked back at Gabe. “I meant your shoot name.”

“Oh,” Gabe said. “It’s Gabriel Thompson.”

The guard checked off something on his clipboard and nodded. “Go on in, sir. Just some friendly advice: there is a dress code.”

Gabe looked embarrassed and nodded. “Thanks for the tip,” he said. “I forgot about that. I’m new.”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll hear all about it inside,” the guard said. “Just get into your gear as soon as you can.”

“Thank you,” Gabe said and he stepped inside and started to walk in search for where he was supposed to go. Finally, he saw a guy standing next to a board with papers on it. A few people were starting to crowd around the board. Before he could get a look at the board, the guy waved a hand in his face.

“Hey,” the guy said. “You’re a fresh face. Are you Jason Knight?”

“Yeah,” Gabe said. “Reporting for duty.”

“The name’s Brett Cooley,” the guy said. “I’m in charge of the talent back here.”

Gabe suddenly recognized the guy. “Holy shit, yeah, I recognize you. You’re ‘Diamond’ Rick Cameron. I used to imitate the Diamond Kick in my living room when I was a kid.”

Brett smirked. “Yeah, kid,” he said. “Now everybody’s doing it like it’s a normal move. Are you here to mark out are you here to work?”

“I’m here to work,” Gabe said, pulling himself back together. “Who have I got tonight?”

Brett took a deep breath. “They told you that you were coming in as a single?”

Gabe nodded. “Yeah, they said I was keeping my gimmick.”

“Well, there’s something you need to learn quick up here in the big leagues,” Brett said. “Things change. Shit happens. You’re tagging instead.”

“Oh,” Gabe said and he took a beat to manage his expectations and bounce back. “Who am I tagging with?”

Brett pointed at the board at a sheet of paper which was obviously the booking sheet for the night. It read like a schedule and Gabe scanned the page for his name and unexpectedly found it at the very top. He had thought he would be somewhere in the middle. Then he saw the word Dark next to that match which meant that he was not even going to be on television. Again, he managed his expectations. This was made easier when he saw the name Seth Powers. He had worked in the indies once or twice with Seth and he liked him. They were going up against The Nightmares, Jimmy Cable and Freddy Lang, and that was a good thing too.

“Good luck, kid,” Brett said. “Go get dressed, you’re on first.”

“Thanks,” Gabe said and stuck out his hand for a handshake and Brett smiled and nodded as they shook hands and then Gabe was following the signs to the dressing room.

Things had been moving fast for him. He had enlisted in a wrestling school a little over five years ago. He had broken into the indies a little later and he had performed in high school gyms and indoor soccer arenas. He had paid his dues and eventually he made his way up to bigger crowds until he got invited to a tryout for the big time. The tryout had apparently gone well and here he was making his big debut. Sure, he was in a dark tag match instead of debuting on television but he was ready to continue to pay his dues and get over with the crowd. He shook off the bad vibes of the little bit of a rude awakening and mentally prepared himself to be professional.

He walked into the dressing room and set his bag down and walked around the room and shook everybody’s hand. It was just something you had to do and, in professional wrestling tradition was important. He shook hands with guys he did not recognize, people he was a fan of, and people who he had grown up idolizing. He did it all in a respectful way and tried not to mark out too much. Finally, he came upon The Nightmares and Seth huddled together with legend Ron Castle. Gabe shook their hands and then sat down.

“Good to see you, kid,” Castle said. “We were just talking about the match. What’s your finish?”

“It’s a sitout lifting double underhook facebuster,” Gabe said.

“What a mouthful,” Castle said. The Nightmares chuckled at that and Seth even grinned.

“I’ve been calling it the Knight Driver if that helps,” Gabe said with a smile. He glanced at Seth and then looked back at Castle. “Are we going over?”

“No,” Freddy said. “But I’ll sell that move like a champ. Make you look real good.”

“Thank you,” Gabe said.

“I’ll make the save,” Jimmy said. “Then we’ll move on to you getting ol’ Seth tagged in. I’ll drag you off the apron and put you in the leg slicer on the floor so you can’t get in and make the save for Freddy putting Seth in the crossface.”

“The rest of the match will be called in the ring,” Castle said. “You alright with that?”

“I can handle that,” Gabe said.

Why I Like Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Days Challenge Pt. 1

July 30, 2018

WILPW

 

1 – Favorite Current Wrestler

Overall, my favorite wrestler in the WWE right now is Seth Rollins. He continues to step it up every single time he is out there. He was great in the indies as Tyler Black but he has subsequently adapted his in-ring and promo style to the WWE style. Not only that but he is able to adapt to any opponent he gets thrown against. His recent iron man match against Dolph Ziggler (another great talent) was amazing to watch. His recent series against Finn Balor was just as entertaining. His moveset has evolved and expanded over time. His superplex into falcon arrow signature, in particular, is absolutely mind-blowing every time. I think that denying him the Curb Stomp finisher was actually a good thing as it allowed him to add several other finishers to his arsenal. I also don’t buy the “Seth Rollins is Dangerous” rumor that Brett Hart started a while ago. He is a good worker and, if anything, he needs to be a little kinder to his own body which I think he has recently done better at. His versatility as both face and heel makes me excited to see what becomes of him next.

Runner-up: The Miz who has some of the best promos in the company and he is consistently hilarious and great in the ring. He is probably one of the best homegrown WWE performers of all-time. I cannot wait to see him face Daniel Bryan again at last. Honestly, it was hard to choose between him and Seth.

 

2 – Favorite Current Female Wrestler

My favorite woman on the main roster right now is Asuka. I love the Japanese style when it comes to women’s wrestling especially since it has been cited by many great current female wrestlers as an early influence. The introduction of Asuka stepped up NXT and her main roster introduction was appropriately grand. She performs in the strong style and everything looks like it may have killed her opponent but reportedly it does not feel too bad at all. She comes off as a badass but I love everything about her aesthetic. She grins as she kicks her opponent’s ass and it was established early on that when she smiles she is to be feared. She is also notoriously hard to pin down. She wears a spooky mask to the ring but also wears bright colors and dances during her entrance. I love the contradictions. Her in-ring style is also both brutal and wild so she looks like a tornado going to town. She is just the right combination of striker, technician, and flier to have a good match with anybody. Some may criticize it, but I actually really like her broken English promos. The words come out more slowly which makes her sound more menacing and her words are more memorable. Afterall, nobody is ready for Asuka!

Runner-up: I absolutely love Bayley. She is a solid in-ring competitor who only gets better with time. More than that, she makes me smile. I cannot help but smile as she makes her entrance and gets excited about every little thing. Especially knowing that she is living her dream.

 

3 – Favorite Wrestler from the Past

When I was a kid, I would have said Shawn Michaels but now I will pick Mick Foley every time. I remember when my best friend excitedly told me about Mankind when he first appeared in the WWF. “There is this new dude named Mankind who is insane and he rips his own hair out and he can’t feel pain!” When I saw him for myself, I was definitely interested. He was different from a lot of the rest of the roster and, like the Undertaker, he had a psychological element as well. When the character of Mankind merged more with the real-life story of Mick, he added both reality and comedy to the formula. He resurrected both his original character Cactus Jack and also brought to life a version of his childhood character Dude Love. The Three Faces of Foley were an absolute joy to watch and just about every segment was improved by Foley’s presence. His promo abilities are legendary as he used a brilliant mind for ring psychology and great charisma to create some awesome moments. He also sacrificed his body in some of the most memorable moments in the WWF years. As his body started to break down, he started to use those promo skills in other ways. He became an on-screen authority figure where he shifted to a more comedic character and he was great at that too. To this day, when he visits I get a big smile on my face.

Runner-up: CM Punk will always hold a special place in my heart especially now that I understand more fully his departure and where he was back then and where he is now. He just had so much charisma and fire. I cannot decide whether I liked him better as a smirky heel or a die-hard, smirky babyface.

 

4 – Favorite Female Wrestler from the Past

I was a huge fan of AJ Lee. She was such a fast learner and she never bought into the “Diva” stuff around her. She evolved over time and was able to easily fit into whatever role she was given. I loved the work she did with Daniel Bryan, as their segments taught both of them how to do better promo and character work. Their breakup was the start of the start of her “unstable” gimmick where she slowly lost her mind over time. Eventually, she moved from being “just a valet” to getting to wrestle again on the main roster. She proved that she was willing to work hard to learn more moves and better in-ring psychology. She made her major wrestling re-debut when she started to trash Total Divas which I loved her for because I hate Total Divas. They could have played her as a cowardly heel but she backed up her words and repeatedly wrecked her opponents. When she developed the Black Widow submission finisher, she instantly cemented her spot as my favorite female character at the time. Her crazy gimmick (a reflection of her real-life bi-polar disorder) always kept me guessing as to where she was going next. She had a short career in the WWE but, in her own words, she accomplished all of her goals.

Runner-up: Kharma was an interesting character for the few months she was part of the WWE. She debuted at a time when I had been watching a lot of TNA Wrestling so I was familiar with the performer. She was the proto-Nia Jax but with a crazy gimmick similar to AJ Lee. She did not say much of anything but she laughed as she pancaked every woman on the roster. Best of all, she got to beat the crap out of the Bellas. I am loving seeing her on GLOW on Netflix now.

Kevin Owens

April 12, 2018

WILPW

On a sweltering June 22 in 2013, I drove down to the Canton area of Baltimore, an area I never hang out in even though it is close to Fells Point (an area I used to hang in). I got out of my car and headed into the DuBurns Arena which was an indoor soccer venue but is now a roller derby spot. I was happy to get in out of the heat but I was super excited to see my very first in-person pro-wrestling show. I had been a fan of World Wrestling Entertainment for over a decade but I was there for a tiny company called Ring of Honor. At the time, I had branched out to watch ROH’s television show because they had recently made a deal with Sinclair Broadcasting. (Yes, sinister right-wing organizations seem to back sports entertainment for some reason) The new product reinvigorated my love for sports entertainment and one of the reasons I was there was SCUM.

The company’s big storyline at the time was that the core of the company was being attacked from within by a group called SCUM (Suffering, Chaos, Ugliness, and Mayhem). For the start of that storyline, the leader of the group was a guy named Kevin Steen. That day, I had the joy of seeing him live as he went up against not yet broken Matt Hardy. I had already become a fairly big fan of Steen at the time. I knew he was relatively new on the scene but he had already been through a lot of rough matches. At the time, the independent scene of pro-wrestling was way into over the top hardcore matches and Steen was able to do that as well as have actual technical matches. He had also mastered being the bad guy who has a point. His main gripe with ROH at the time was that they did not like him and were gunning for him instead of honoring him as a champion.

The real bread and butter to Steen’s career with independent companies were his experiences with a performer by the name of El Generico. El Generico was a masked wrestler played by Syrian-Canadian Rami Sebei. The two formed a tag team at some point and competed in both Ring of Honor and Pro-Wrestling Guerilla (and other places). The classic image of a skinny guy and a husky guy teaming up and their obvious skill and chemistry made them a memorable team. They won championships together before Steen betrayed Generico which led to a number of brutal matches against each other. They had matches where I could have sworn they killed each other. Steen and Generico, who were still friends in real life, were able to be absolutely brutal to each other and Steen carried that brutality forward into his career.

Flash forward to 2014 and I was overjoyed to find out that Steen was joining the WWE’s “farm team” NXT. While many performers are repackaged (get new characters) when they enter the WWE system, all they really did for Steen was to change his last name to Owens. At first they wanted him to ditch the t-shirts and shorts look and wear a singlet or tights but they quickly changed their minds when he forced the issue. They allowed him to wear black shorts with a black shirt and, at the last minute, he wrote out his initials on his shirt with athletic tape. And thus, his new persona of KO was born. When his old friend Generico (now renamed and unmasked as Sami Zayn) became champion, they picked up where they left off but for a new audience. When Owens forced his way onto the main roster by obliterating the uber-popular John Cena, I was super excited all over again.

Within the confines of the story, I always hated Steen but strictly from a fan perspective, I immediately liked him. He has a build that is very different from traditional pro-wrestlers. He is a pretty husky dude but it just makes his strength and speed all the more amazing. Plus I can only watch so many oiled-up, musclebound guys in tights. The more things in pop culture that are opened up for different body types, the better. Kevin is the first person to admit that he is not your typical pro-wrestler but I see that as a strength. In a world where everybody else looks the same, your best bet is to stand out. For a while it seemed like there were only three types in mainstream WWE. That was Big Guy, Little Guy, and Woman but now all of that is changing.

Owens is also a really good when it comes to getting on the microphone. This is somewhat surprising considering that Owens comes from Quebec in Canada where English was his second language. As a young, French-speaking kid he actually learned to speak English by watching WWE broadcasts. He fell in love with sports entertainment and that passion as a fan encouraged him to learn a whole language in order to connect to it. Now, you would never know that English was not his first language. He is at once arrogant, cowardly, rude, and more importantly, he can be funny when he needs to be. He is really good at being a jerk while also being enormously entertaining. He is also very manipulative as he has now twice created a strategic alliance for his own selfish gains.

It has been a week since Wrestlemania, the biggest show that WWE has to offer. Leading up to the event, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn brutally attacked their boss, Shane McMahon, who also happens to be the son of the owner of the company they work for. After getting fired for that, they beat up their other boss, Daniel Bryan.  It has been a week since Wrestlemania, the biggest show that WWE has to offer. Leading up to the event, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn brutally attacked their boss, Shane McMahon, who also happens to be the son of the owner of the company they work for. After getting fired from Smackdown for that, they beat up their other boss, Daniel Bryan. They failed to win their jobs back at Wrestlemania last week and then the two of them were forced to face each other for a job on Monday Night Raw. (The two brands Raw and Smackdown are separate brands). After killing each other in that match, neither of them got a job. Who knows where Owens’ story will go next as he is now still fired (in storyline). I’m looking forward to where he ends up next because he has never disappointed.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Raw 25

January 27, 2018

WILPW

As I have said repeatedly, I have been a fan of Pro-Wrestling/Sports Entertainment for about 22 years or so since I first watched WWF’s Mania, a Saturday morning recap show at my friend Farris’ house. The first match I can remember is Shawn Michaels vs. Salvatore Sincere (does anybody remember him?) for the World Heavyweight Title. Shawn made his opponent look like a sincere threat and showcased his legendary resilience in the ring. I remember the moment that I became a fan was when Shawn hit Sincere with his elbow off the top. When I saw Sweet Chin Music, I was already hooked. Not long after that, I was able to put an old television in my room so I could watch Monday Night Raw undisturbed. So, I basically started to watch right as the Attitude Era fully launched.

So, it was a no-brainer that I was going to watch the entirety of the 25th-anniversary episode of WWE’s Monday Night Raw. Raw has a rich history and one that I have been mostly present for. When I heard there was a pre-show on the network, I figured I would watch that too. I fired up the network for the second time that day (after catching up on NXT and the first Mixed Match Challenge episode). I usually skip pre-shows because it is a lot of talking with few actual promos and maybe one match. There was Renee Young, David Otunga, and Joe Rosenberg (Who?). Otunga and Young shared a lot of their favorite Raw memories while Rosenberg fanboyed. It was kind of pleasant to watch a lot of the memories that I remembered. There were also short bits from Eric Bischoff, Bayley/Trish Stratus, and a few other brief moments.

After the preliminaries, Raw actually began and it started with Stephanie and Shane McMahon coming out together, apparently putting aside their feud temporarily. These two were a big part of Raw when I watched in my teen years. They acted gracious and thankful for all of the support of the fans. They were interrupted by Vince McMahon. His kids offered him a plaque funded by Gofundme (aren’t they millionaires in their own right?) and Vince cut an awesome heel promo on his kids and the fans. It was the classic villainous Vince. Which, of course, summoned his greatest foe Stone Cold Steve Austin who looked really in shape (although his jeans were a bit too tight). At this point, Stephanie McMahon knew what was up and seemed to evaporate between camera shots which made me laugh. Vince claimed to be a senior citizen now so Austin had to lay off. Instead, he offered up Shane as a sacrifice and then tried to appease Austin with beer (although it wasn’t Broken Skull IPA so he screwed up there). After a very surreal hug, Austin stunnered Vince and then gave a second one to Shane who really should have rolled out of the ring and retreated.

The pre-show had set up the return of the Acolyte Protection Agency card game this time with the APA, Rhyno, Heath Slater, and Ted Dibiase (who kept giving loans to Heath). As the night wore on, the game got bigger and bigger (which thankfully meant that JBL got fewer and fewer lines). MVP, Titus Worldwide, Natalya, Jeff Hardy, The Usos, and the New Day all joined the party eventually which made for some great trash talking. The joke here was that every time they cut to the game, Heath Slater was laying out crappy hands only to get beat and lose more money. This led to the so dumb it was funny line from Dana Brooke: “I crunched the numbers and you have lost a lot of money.” It’s nice to see Dana embrace the weird character she was given, I just wish she would wrestle in the spotlight again. She was on the cusp of winning the Raw Women’s title at one point. Finally, Heath won a hand by cheating which led to a match with Titus Worldwide and a 3D from the Dudley Boys. Rhyno also totally pushed Heath into the ring to sacrifice him to the Dudleys, probably as part of Rhyno’s ongoing mission to toughen up Heath. Come on, Rhyno, the guy’s got kids.

The matches were pretty good. We only got one women’s match with Alicia Fox and Nia Jax strangely teaming with Absolution against Asuka, Bayley, Sasha, and Mickie. It would have been nice to have at least two women’s matches during the course of the night since the division has become a big draw lately. Also, this is the go home show for their first Royal Rumble. There was the aforementioned Slayer/Rhyno vs. Titus/Apollo match which was really short but fun. Woken Matt Hardy faced off against Bray Wyatt and, although I love both characters, the match barely made an impression except that Bray finally won a match. There was a match between The Revival and Gallows and Anderson with DX and Finn Balor watching. The best match of the night was an Intercontinental title match between Roman Reigns and The Miz. Of course, The Miztourage was also at ringside. All four guys know each other pretty well by now and the match flowed really well. The Miz cheated every chance he got and won his 8th Intercontinental title.

What was basically the end of the show was a Degeneration X reunion with some funny bits between Shawn Michaels and Triple H who always had great comic timing. They brought out X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws and paid tribute to the fallen Rick Rude and Chyna. Then, for some reason, Scott Hall came out as Razor Ramon which was probably the most awkward thing of the night. Then Finn Balor came out with Gallows and Anderson and the former Kliq did the “too suite” gesture with them. It was kind of an approval of that splinter faction of The Bullet Club using the gesture that the Kliq first came up with. It was a weird moment but it sort of made sense. Then the Revival came out and got beat by Gallows and Anderson before getting finishing moves from most of DX. WWE needs to give the top guys a break and let them stretch their legs now that they are uninjured.

There was also a brief confrontation between Brock Lesnar, Kane, and Braun Strowman which was far too rushed. That was kind of a theme of the night. Anything having to do with the current roster felt rushed and too short. This was the go-home Raw for the Royal Rumble, one of the biggest shows of the year. It was also a celebration of the last 25 years. They absolutely nailed the showcasing of legends and characters from the last 25 years with skits and promos. It should have been the other way around. They should have used the opportunity to showcase the best of their roster while they probably had additional eyes. They should have sprinkled little bits of nostalgia in between longer matches. There was a missed opportunity when they did not have a match with Goldust in it, a character that was born 22 years ago. They could have shifted a lot of the skits and promos to the pre-show instead of basically making it a cross between The Chris Farley Show and a clip show. Only one champion wrestled throughout the night and that is a bit weird.

Overall, it was an enjoyable night. It was nice to see a lot of the performers of the past alive and well. It would have been nice if they had done more with the women of the past but the night already felt cramped. The show was just about exactly what I thought it would be. I knew it was going to be a nostalgic love letter mostly to the Attitude Era. It was also a reminder of why I am glad we eventually left the Attitude Era and why I am glad we are not going back. The night awakened memories of sitting on my floor and watching Raw is War which made me tired at school the next day. The Royal Rumble is shaping up to be really fun and will be a return to the WWE’s present and it will hopefully shake up the landscape a bit.

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

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: The Lingo

September 17, 2016

WILPW

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.


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