Posts Tagged ‘Smark’

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling Episode: Cody Rhodes

February 13, 2015

WILPW

Being a young talent in the world of sports entertainment can be really difficult.  Pro-wrestling promoters are always hesitant to rely on young talent over established stars.  More often than not those same established stars are afraid to give an inch to these new guys in fear of losing their spot and their paycheck  Also, we fans are usually critical of new talent, almost immediately judging whether they have a future or not based on first impressions.  All of this can easily crush the dreams of a new performer before he or she can establish a proper fan base.  On a larger scale, this can lead to the product growing stale and revenue dropping off for everyone involved.

Now, being crushed by the system isn’t always the fate of the new guy.  In an earlier episode I talked about CM Punk who defied the odds and the backstage politics and became a white hot superstar.  Today, I’d like to talk about somebody different who defied the odds and became a future hall-of-famer (yeah I’m calling it).  Cody Rhodes showed up in July 2007 and,  although he was athletic and well-trained, he was less than impressive.  He was the son of Dusty Rhodes and the brother of Goldust but that didn’t win him any points.  If he wasn’t going to wow us then he could be the lovechild of Ric Flair and Jake Roberts for all I cared. Instead, when he first showed up he looked and acted like a default Create-A-Wrestler in a video game.  No charisma, pretty boy appearance and very athletic without an interesting list of moves.

Of course, Cody Rhodes was a Real Wrestler and he had the ability to adapt and change, he just had to work on his charisma problem.  That would apparently have to wait as his character decided that he would rather be successful than loved.  He turned on the fans who, like me, probably didn’t feel all that betrayed.  He teamed with a fellow second generation up and comer, Ted Dibiase and they started to run roughshod over opponents.  People started to care about Cody Rhodes but they hated him for what he was.  He was the son of a legend and he was in front of a camera, expecting everyone to love him with no accomplishments under his belt.  People started to hate him because people hate entitlement.

So they gathered up all of the second generation stars and formed a team known as the Legacy.  But what’s better than being an entitled asshole?  Being an entitled asshole who betrays his friends.  Teaming up with Randy Orton was a shot in the arm for Cody’s career.  He was part of a faction now and under the leadership of a ruthless man and it started to rub off on Cody.  He started to develop more of a personal style and added to his move set which included taking at least one move from his mentor or partner.  Orton, Rhodes and DiBiase were dominant for two years where all three of them were able to hone their craft more.  Randy became a little less boring, Cody became more interesting and Ted was OK.  Finally, it came time for Cody to leave the nest.

They decided to make Cody into a singles wrestler and take him in a somewhat new direction.  He became “Dashing” Cody Rhodes and he finally got to talk more.  Really, a wrestler who can’t talk is mostly doomed to lingering just short of the top of heap.  Thankfully, Cody could talk and Cody could piss people off and create rivalries between himself and his opponent.  He loved the way he looked and was not afraid to tell the world that he was better looking than anybody else.  So we now had a pretty boy who was arrogant, entitled and backstabbing.  I do believe that’s considered a hat trick.  He started to evolve even more and grow in the new space he was allowed.

By a stroke of luck, Cody had an unlucky incident.  He got his nose broken legitimately by Rey Mysterio Jr.  and had to take a little time off to get it fixed.  He returned with a darker character, devastated and psychologically twisted by the loss of his good looks.  He looked just the same as ever but the character believed he was hideous now.  He became a dark figure who wanted to scar the world and grind it under his boot.  He became “Un-Dashing”.  In the process, he became an even better performer.

Eventually they teamed such an annoying pretty boy with the self-proclaimed smartest guy in the company, Damien Sandow. Team Rhodes Scholars was great for Cody and Sandow.  It allowed both of them to work more on their mic skills and develop their characters a little more.  They also seemed to learn a lot from each other’s in ring styles.

After a while, the two big egos eventually feuded with Cody finally becoming a good guy again after all this time.  His bright lights shined until he hit a brick wall named Randy Orton and the Authority.  At which point, his character was fired.  He returned alongside his brother Goldust and the two worked together even though they had not encountered each other much in their careers.  They worked together well and Cody was able to reconnect with his family and become a bit of a fan favorite.

Eventually the two brothers ran into some trouble and it looked like we were finally going to see the two sons of Dusty Rhodes go at it one on one.  Alas it was not to be but what we got was even weirder.  Cody reforged himself as a counterpart to the Goldust character.  He was now known as Stardust and he became manic and just as unconventional as his brother.  The two of them continue to fight side by side to this day.  Every so often they tease the feud that I would enjoy so much.

So that’s a little retrospective on Cody Rhodes career.  It can only go up from here and I predict that, unless something goes wrong, he’ll be in the Hall of Fame.  He might even win the Heavyweight Championship.  Only time and the stars will tell….

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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: DVR-less

October 15, 2014

WILPW

State of the Programming Address

Since I only have access to my DVR on the weekends, I fell behind on watching the WWE product.  Since their programming is more or less live, it really must be watched weekly to keep up with it.  I guess I could binge watch the programs but watching the main roster is about 5 hours a week and that takes up a lot of viewing time.  Besides, I had gotten a lot of pleasure out of live tweeting Monday Night Raw and loved experiencing events along with everybody else.  I have to avoid spoilers like crazy which I have done pretty unsuccessfully.  This also puts me behind on listening to my favorite pro-wrestling podcast: The Rough House (NSFW use headphones)

At the height of my Sports Entertainment watching habits I watched nine hours per week.  On Monday I watched WWE Raw (3 hours).  On Thursday I watched both NXT (1 hour)  and TNA Impact (2 hours).  On Friday I watched WWE Smackdown (2 hours).  On Saturday I watched ROH Television (1 hour).  If I ever wanted to watch anything but wrestling then I was going to have to cut back.  I sadly cut ROH and Smackdown out which brings me down to 5 hours with fast forwarding through commercials which is more manageable.  Tack on the monthly Pay Per View event and you have 23 hours a month.

I have kept up with TNA Impact and some of you in the know might be wondering why.  The show has been on Spike TV and no matter what they do, they have never risen above a 1.0 rating.  At certain points they have had Hulk Hogan, Sting, Ric Flair and ton of old legends and young talents involved.  Unfortunately they hire people like Vince Russo and allow people like Dixie Carter to have creative imput.  Spike TV has finally had enough and will be pulling the plug at the end of the year (Merry Christmas!).  The product is alternately horrible and great and lately it has picked up quality not unlike Angel Season 5.  World Championship Wrestling lost their TV time on TNT and died out in 2001.  WWF lost their deal with USA in the nineties and ended up thriving.  Either way, I’m intensely interested to see how it shakes down.

Being behind can definitely feel daunting and I feel disconnected from something I really love to experience.  In the meantime I have been scratching the sports entertainment itch by discovering Insane Championship Wrestling on Youtube.  ICW is hardcore Scottish wrestling promotion operating out of Glasgow.  As such, there is a huge amount of Scottish wrestlers with a smattering of English, Irish and Welsh performers too.  The promotion feels rebellious and fun and is definitely worth a watch.  Two little warnings:  Some people have trouble with foreign accents but I happen to love the Scottish accent and I have experience deciphering it.  Also, here is quite a bit of blood and violence and one of the commentators tends to be pretty intense i.e. “I hate him!  Give me a coat hanger and a time machine!”

As stated in a previous post, I want to branch out and occasionally try to watch other promotions.  I want to get my hands on some CZW footage as I hear rave reviews of Dean Ambrose’s time there.  I want to check out AAA and EMLL as they are pretty well known as the top Mexican promotions.  I have tried a little bit of Japanese promotions but the language barrier has been tough.  I really wish there was either an English dub or subtitles.  There probably is and I just have not found it.   I want to watch more MCW and support Maryland performers and shows.  I want to watch promotions that I’m not even aware of yet.

Most of all, I want to relax on my couch and binge watch Monday Night Raw and NXT but I guess I’ll have to wait for the weekend.

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.

Why I Hate Pro-Wrestling

August 24, 2014

Just kidding, I love it but there are some things I hate about it.  Let’s talk about them from time to time. Shall we?

WILPW

Dangerous Behavior

Last episode I talked about sports entertainers purposefully putting themselves in potentially career-ending or life-ending situations.  This can be exciting and, in the right arena, it can mean a higher box office or ratings.  (I exclude pay-per-view buyrates because under the current system they barely still exist.)  I worry about the performers when they do this but I know that they plan these things out and should be alright as long as a mistake isn’t made.

The problem is that an accident isn’t the only way somebody can get hurt in or out of the ring.  When a performer gets injured the industry suffers, the performer suffers and we all suffer.  When Dolph Ziggler suffered a concussion he spent months recovering and all that time the company was down one talented performer.  The same thing happened with Daniel Bryan’s ongoing neck surgeries.  His momentum was killed and we’re left wondering when he’ll be back.  That is if he returns at all.

Edge (Adam Copeland) had so many neck surgeries he had to retire in his late thirties but at least he was still walking.  Darren Drozdov was injured and left in a wheelchair for life.  Owen Hart fell several stories to his death in the middle of the ring because of a stunt gone wrong.   The lists of performers goes on and on those are all just from accidents.

Performers can hurt each other or themselves for a multitude of reasons and none of them are good.  I like my Pro-Wrestling more fake than real so that the performers that I enjoy get to have long, fruitful careers.  Here are some of the horrible reasons that wrestlers get hurt besides accidents.

1: The performers are angry at each other in real life

Most performers seem to be alright with keeping their emotions in check while they are in the ring.  Most of the time when performers hate each other, this sort of combat is done outside of the ring.  The only way we hear about it is through rumors or years later when they do documentaries on it.  It probably happens a lot more in the independent promotions where conditions are worse.   Since it’s easier to get fired this way, most people seem to decide against scrapping backstage or just don’t report it.  Besides, it’s embarassing for people to find out you lost a real fight.

Bret fought Shawn for real backstage and even ripped some of his hair out.   

Jacques Rougeau punched Dynamite Kid’s Teeth out.

Blue Meanie was given a hellish blackeye by JBL.

2: Trying to prove their worth

Trying to hold onto your spot seems to be one of the hardest things to do in wrestling.  The only thing harder is trying to get to a higher spot on the card.  This causes young performers to try their hardest to nearly kill themselves for a shot at the big time.  If they don’t get too injured it sometimes works…. unfortunately.  When these tactics work, it encourages the next young guy or girl to nearly kill themself for their big break.  It worked for the examples below but it probably did not for countless others you will never hear about.

Mick Foley took the Nestea plunge onto concrete

Chris Jericho wrestles with a broken arm

JT Smith intentionaly screwed up moves for attention (No video)

3: People working stiff

Some performers are known for “working stiff” which means that their strikes and maneuvers are done as real as possible.  When they work this way means that they are actually laying into their opponent pretty much as hard as they can.   Most of them do it because it looks better or because they want to test their opponent.  This has a tendency to make the other person work stiff to keep from being steamrolled.  This turns a fake fight into a real one really quickly.  The business tends to give these guys a pass because they legitimize the product but it’s still dangerous.

Vader and Misawa being Stiff as Hell

Mick Foley getting a ligament torn in his jaw

Ultimate Warrior also worked stiff

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: I Love it in Spite of Myself

June 19, 2014

WILPW

Stuff I Loved In Spite of Myself

No company in the history of man has ever done everything right all the time.   Sports entertainment companies are no different and I’ll definitely be posting on the truly terrible mistakes in a future episode.  Sometimes though, a company comes up with an idea so weird that I can only shake my head and go “Alright, let’s see where this goes.”  Sometimes I’m disappointed and sometimes I’m rewarded for my patience but these moments never fail to entertain.

Doink the Clown

Yes. You read that right.  Doink is a wrestling clown.  Doink was originally portrayed by Matt Osborne in 1992 but was also played by eight other men.  When Doink debuted I was definitely intrigued and I have continued to be interested in the following 22 years that “he” has appeared.  Even though one of Doink’s strength’s are his facial expressions, his make up allowed for pretty much anybody to play him.   I preferred Osborne’s Doink who was a villainous clown when he first showed up.  He was dressed so festive but looked so unhappy and would often play cruel pranks on babyfaces (good guys).  Later he even briefly added a “twin” and did the mirror gag that Lucille Ball and the Marx Brothers made famous.  He lost some of his shine when he became a good guy, largely due to Osborne getting fired.

The Spirit Squad

So in 2006, five young wrestlers were brought up from Ohio Valley Wrestling which at the time acted as the WWE’s developmental promotion.  All five guys were pretty much novices in the business but thrown together, they could possibly cover each other’s weaknesses.  What gimmick were they given?  They were a male cheerleader squad.  You would think they would give this gimmick to a group of female wrestlers but no.  I rolled my eyes but they kind of grew on me.  They were committed to their gimmick and they were all pretty athletic.  For some reason, the evil Vince McMahon decided to use them to enforce his despotic ways.   He would pit all five of them against one of his enemies.  The five to one advantage would pretty much always win out until they faced the reformed DX.  After that, it was fun to watch them get their asses kicked.  The only one left with the company is Nicky who became Dolph Ziggler.

Santina Marella

I realize that this choice might be controversial.  Now, I have been a fan of Santino Marella for some time ever since he changed from a generic hero to the people to a comical immigrant character that reminds me of Chico Marx.  He is definitely a performer who quickly embraced his role as the company’s comic relief.  He kind of went off the deep end when he decided he wanted to compete against women a la Andy Kauffman.  When that didn’t work, he cross-dressed and spoke in a comically high-pitched voice and claimed to be his twin sister Santina.  The wrestling was admittedly not very good but the backstage comedy bits could be priceless.  He wore revealing dresses and did not bother to cover up his distinctive tattoos or shave body hair.  You never saw Santino and Santina in the same place at the same time although he did pretape an interview with himself.  It was all ended by Donald Trump of all people and everybody shrugged and carried on.

Damien Sandow: Master of Magnetism

Damien Sandow has been a bright spot ever since I became aware of him.  He is a pretty good physical performer but his skills on the mic are great.  I consider myself to be pretty smart and well read.  Sandow’s character takes that several steps farther and names himself the intellectual savior of the masses (his actual words) and combines that with a brutal offensive style.  When Hugh Jackman showed up on WWE programming the first time I was wary but he pulled it off nicely.  Prior to his recent appearance I heard that he was a really big fan of the product so when he appeared again, I looked forward to it.  Damien Sandow stepped out in a certain costume that looked handmade and pathetic while being simultaneously pretty accurate.  I urge you to watch the above video.  It ended up being just perfect.

Brodus Clay: Funkasaurus

Brodus Clay originally debuted as a monster.  He was a wall of a man who stood in the way when Edge was facing the villainous Alberto Del Rio.  He brutalized Edge’s “brother” Christian over and over just by being difficult to knock down.  He went away for a while after that feud was over and when he came back things were really, really different.  Suddenly he had back up dancers and lights and catchy, poppy music.   It was a huge change and I was very confused especially since Clay could never actually dance well.  He was supposed to be chock full of funk but could only do the T-Rex arms bit from Thriller, the electric slide and the Gangnam Style dance.  He later added other lame moves.  Still, he kind of grew on me.  It didn’t hurt that he continued to tear his opponents apart.

The StarDust Debut

There is not much to say on this one yet as the character just debuted on Monday.  Cody Rhodes might just warrant a whole episode of his own in the future.  Cody is the real life  younger brother of Dustin Runnels aka Goldust.  In order to continue their tag team, Cody has now adopted his brother’s bizarre gimmick.  Time will tell on this one but I’m willing to ride it out.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Strong Women

June 9, 2014

WILPW

Throughout the history of sports entertainment, there have been a lot of good perfomers and a lot of bad performers.  Of course, being a good performer has nothing to do with what your sex is.  I’ve seen female performers who can wrestle circles around their male co-workers and I’ve seen women who don’t know a wristlock from a wrist watch.

Unfortunately, for a while, the WWE has trotted out a lot of female performers who don’t actually wrestle.  They might wrestle once a year at Wrestlemania and then the rest of the year they appear in a trashy reality show and pose for photo shoots. (I’m looking at you Eva Marie)

Variety is the spice of life but wrestling companies definitely go through periods where they trot out bland performers who run together.  They have no character, no skill and no charisma and are mostly just fitness models who look pretty in their costumes.  They might as well be clones of each other.    The Eva Maries, Bella Twins, Camerons, Rosa Mendes, etcetera of the business are a plague.  What follows are a handful of woman who always had me on the edge of my seat.  Once again, omissions are not a statement, I just grabbed a few examples that I thought were examples of my experience.

Gail Kim

Gail Kim has unfortunately been underrated in years past.  The WWE did not know what to do with her.  They didn’t realize what a good thing they had going with her on their roster.  She is the inaugural women’s champion for TNA where she continues to kick ass.  She is one of the most athletic woman in the business today.  Also, her logo on the screen during her entrance looks like artwork done by Jamie Hewlett  of Gorillaz and Tank Girl fame.

Kharma/Awesome Kong

If I saw Awesome Kong coming my way then I would run and I would hide.  I would do anything to get out of her way.  She is one of the most unique female performers that I’ve ever seen.  She flattened plenty of people with her Implant Buster in TNA and then moved over to WWE to decimate their roster as well.  She was let go by the WWE due to a pregnancy that she did not carry to term but it would be a crime if she doesn’t make it back into the big time.

Victoria/Tara

Another performer who has worked on top in WWE and in TNA.  She immediately impressed me with how vicious she could be at a time where everybody else seemed to be blonde and happy.  Her Widow’s Peak finisher is more believable as a painful maneuver than a lot of moves I could name.  Later, in TNA, she became legitimately scary through acting and carrying around a spider.  She always looked like she worked stiff and looked tougher than a lot of people I know in real life.

Lita

The first lady of Team Extreme spent a lot of time pissing off fans of the WWE. All of that aside,  she was one the first really talented female wrestler that I knew of.  She was also the first female high flyer that I knew of.  She wrestled about as well as Matt and Jeff Hardy who she hung out with.  Later, she proved to be better than either of those broken down messes.  A lot of people trumpeted Trish Stratus as the best of the best but I was always a Lita fan.  I liked her music, her moves, her style and her attitude the best.

Beth Phoenix

The Glamorous Amazon or Glamazon has beastly strength for somebody of her stature.  Proof positive that you an bench press a ton of weight and look good doing it, Beth Phoenix was always impressive.  Her Glam slam is impressive at how she can consistently lift people of both sexes and slam them down face first with such ease.  She was put into a lot of silly and demeaning storylines but her talent always shone through regardless of what the WWE did to her.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Catchphrases

June 2, 2014

WILPW

One of the things that can get a performer over (aka popular) quicker is the use of a catchphrase.  The performer really has to sell the catchphrase.  Therefore, a good catchphrase needs to be shorter, repeatable by the fans and must come naturally from the character.  The catchphrase doesn’t even have to be cool.  It just has to resonate with the fans.   A catchphrase can help get a performer a foot in the door but then talent and charisma gets them the rest of the way into our hearts.

That’s not to say that a catchphrase is even necessary.  Some of the best talkers in the business did not rely on catchphrases.  I’m talking about Mick Foley, Jake the Snake, Brian Pillman, Kevin Sullivan, William Regal, Rick Rude, Terry Funk, etc.   However, I love a good catchphrase because it resonates in my head long after the interview is over and the crowd enjoys delivering it along with the performer.

“Yes!” – Daniel Bryan

I have personally shouted this one at the top of my lungs at a wrestling show.  It was a wrestling show where Daniel Bryan did not even appear.  It was a wrestling show for a completely different company.  That is the power of the Yes Movement.  It is amazing to see a crowd of thousands chanting ‘Yes!’ and raising their hands in the air in unison.

“Are you ready?” – Degeneration X

Alright, I could have included how they always used to yell “Suck it!” but I never really liked that catchphrase.  The one that got me fired up was Triple H growling ‘Are you Ready?’  which I think was more recent.  Still, you can hear the crowd chanting along with him so it was undeniably popular.

“Believe in the Shield.” – The Shield

This catchphrase never fails to get me excited, especially since they stopped having Roman Reigns scream it at the screen.  Now one of the members of the Shield delivers the line with a seething growl.

“Rest. In. Peace.” – Undertaker

I am a grown man now and seeing the Undertaker slowly growl out this line while rolling his eyes back makes me shiver.  It always made me believe that his opponent was about to succumb to the Tombstone Piledriver.

“Woo Woo Woo!  You Know it!” – Zack Ryder

Alright, I included this one on the list because it makes me laugh.  It is a truly goofy and ridiculous catchphrase but Zack Ryder definitely sold the hell out of it.

“Because I’m the Miz and I’m Awesome!” – The Miz

A simple catchphrase for a cocky performer but it totally fits.  I have to admit that I completely ripped off this catchphrase several years ago.   It really helped a third rate reality star boost himself into being a top level performer.

“I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news.” – Bad News Barrett

This one was actually really annoying at first but it really has grown on me.  This one started as Wade Barrett appearing and actually delivering some bad news.  He repeated it over and over and over until I liked it.  Part of that is he obviously gets a lot of pleasure out of delivering the catchphrase.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Creepiness

May 22, 2014

WILPW

I have very fond memories of watching wrestling on Monday nights (and eventually Thursday nights) and being creeped the hell out by some of the more spooky denizens of sports entertainment.   I would have been on the edge of my seat if I had not been sitting on the floor.  Sure I thought wrestling was real for a bit when I first got into it but I quickly smartened up.  Still, like all the horror movies I loved, I could get sucked in and my heart would start pounding and I would lean in.  It was alright, because I knew the babyface (good guy) was always going to win.

I am only making a statement about the performers and clips I chose.  The performers are the ones that stuck out in my mind and the clips are frankly subject to what is on youtube.  I briefly worried that my lists so far are mostly comprised of WWE talent.  There is a reason for that.  WWE is what I grew up with so there’s something to be said about brand loyalty.  I watch ROH and TNA but the first’s production values aren’t good enough to allow for creepiness and TNA is mostly too cartoony to be anything but laughable.

I read a lot about creepy/scary WCW performers but I did not watch much WCW back in the day since the DVR had not been invented yet.  When I watch WCW now, I find myself so removed from it because I have read so many stories about the old days.  For instance, I hear that Vampiro was scary but I just don’t see it, especially after reading Chris Jericho’s first book.  I hear Kevin Sullivan was creepy but everything I read just sounds silly.  Anyway,  here are some examples of stuff that creeped or weirded me out.

Undertaker
Entrance Music from the Ministry Days

Hands down, when I was scared while watching Monday Night Raw, it was probably the Undertaker who was the culprit.  I mean, it’s enough that he can do that trick where you roll your eyes back and leave just the whites of your eyes showing.   Add onto that his habit of taking horrible punishment and then just sitting up like a vampire in a coffin and you start getting nervous.  He has come back from the dead on at least two occasions and slowly became a legendary, elemental force rather than a man.  He was especially creepy during the period where he took on satanic overtones and became more ruthless.  He gained the power to convert people into members of his “Ministry” and mind control is one of the things in fiction that scares me most.   Sure his mistique has faded heavily as he has aged but still, when the gong hits and the lights go out for his entrance, I get a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach.

The Boogeyman

I fully admit to being creeped out and weirded out by The Boogeyman when he first showed up on Smackdown to terrorize people.  The way he would show up suddenly and stare and sing innocent songs in a very creepy way was actually legitimately creepy.  He looked and sounded unbalanced and seemed to have access to anywhere in the arenas that WWE visited.  He also ate worms and moved his body like a crazy person.   The only problem with the Boogeyman is that the spent a lot of money and time on promoting him and giving him a huge crazy entrance.  They did not actually train him to be that good in the ring.  Maybe his gimmick prevented him from really showing his stuff but he kind of went over like a fart in church.  Still, while it lasted, it was fun to see him preying on the heels on the roster and he was definitely memorable.

Bray Wyatt

Now, I am currently 31 years old and this guy still scares me a bit even almost a year after his debut.   See, Bray Wyatt is the leader of the Wyatt Family which is a backwoods cult with vaguely Cthulu leanings.  I mean, the guy calls himself “Bray Wyatt, Eater of Worlds” and claims to be more monster than man.  He speaks cryptically about changing the world but in order to change the world, he must first watch it burn.   He has two “sons” in Luke Harper and Eric Rowan who are both just as crazy as he is.  Luke Harper speaks the Wyatt gospel whenever he can with a glossy-eyed, adoring look on his face.  Eric Rowan wears a sheep mask and so far has only spoken one word: “Run.”.  They are beholden to a mysterious “Sister Abigail” and much of their story is still shrouded in mystery.   I find myself curious but also I don’t think I really want to know.

Samuel Shaw

Hey, a TNA guy.  The rest of the guys on this short list are all supernatural, spooky bad guys but that is not what Samuel Shaw is all about.  He is that guy you might have met who is a little too focused and maybe the words come out of his mouth at a different rythym.  The gimmick here seems to have a healthy dose of Dexter and then you throw in every crazy ex-boyfriend who was ever served a restraining order.  He is obsessed with Christy Hemme and stalked her for months.  He was not able to take no for an answer and pummeled anybody who so much as looked at her.   Who knows what he would have done had he caught her.   My mom always used to say that horror films like Cujo scared the crap out of her as a little girl because they were plausible.  Maybe that’s why Samuel Shaw is so creepy.


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