Posts Tagged ‘Sports Entertainment’

#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.

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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.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: The Death of Kayfabe

November 18, 2017

WILPW


Al Snow gives his opinion.

In an earlier post, I described the magic of Kayfabe. For those who forgot and do not want to click back: Kayfabe is the old carny term which basically means the story or false reality that sports entertainment companies weave around their product. Of course, the term was created when everybody was using the term “wrestling” instead of “sports entertainment”. This is the agreed upon device which creates babyfaces and heels (good guys and bad guys) so that there is enough friction to continue fighting. It is also the thing that turns an American named Nelson Simpson into “The Russian Nightmare” Nikita Koloff. It is a necessary part of the business and it has been a big part of how most businesses do things.


They fought over a shampoo commercial.

I was driving around with my brother recently and I was saying something about the business of pro-wrestling. He turned to me and asked me why the performers compete against each other. He understood, as most people do, that there are a championship belt and a contender for that title. He was wondering why people lower on the card would fight each other. The short answer is that they are paid to do so both in real life and in kayfabe. However, that is not exactly what he meant because that simple motivation is something everybody can understand. There are a lot of reasons for these people to fight for. The main reason people compete so hard is that they feud. A feud can start as simply as one performer states that they are the best and another performer tries to prove them wrong. It can be as complicated as one man stalks another man’s girlfriend. It can be something obscure like two men fighting over who gets to be in a shampoo commercial or who has the right to use the letter T in their name. Whatever it is, as long as it is a compelling story or it is told in an entertaining way, the crowd will buy it.


Jim Cornette gives some excellent analysis on Cactus Jack.

The reason why I started writing this post is actually good ol’ Jim Cornette, a man who I respect a lot. You see, Cornette has been involved in the business for a long time. Most notably, he has been the booker (writer) or booking committee for several prominent companies including TNA, WCW, WWF, ROH, and various NWA territories. He has also been an onscreen manager mostly of tag teams in the NWA, WCW, and WWF. He founded Smoky Mountain Wrestling in the nineties and he was the main driving force behind the rise of Ohio Valley Wrestling as the first official talent development territory for the WWE. He has had huge success in the business. So, going forward, please remember that I have enormous respect for both Jim Cornette and the old school side of wrestling that he represents. I have only seen a little of pre-nineties wrestling because I was not exposed to it when I was younger and I only have so much time in the day now. Still, I respect the old-timers for what they contributed, most of which survives in some form in the present day.


He really, really hates Joey Ryan… who isn’t a dick from all other accounts.

Jim Cornette and the old school contingent have claimed that kayfabe is a device that is dying a horrible death. The most recent example of the supposed ‘death of kayfabe’ is the rise in popularity of Joey Ryan. This is really where I sat up and take notice as I am a pretty big fan of Joey Ryan both in and out of the ring. Joey Ryan was simply a great independent wrestler who got brief stays on television in both Wrestling Society X and TNA. His gimmick was as a sleazy wrestler who was sponsored by the YouPorn website and chose The Pina Colada Song (a song about cheating on your spouse) as his entrance music. The old school’s problem is that Joey Ryan is a comedy wrestler. In Cornette’s words, “Funny Don’t Earn Money” because people want to see something they believe is a real fight. He really lost his mind when Ryan adopted a move called the YouPorn Plex (also known as the Dick Flip). In this move (as shown below), Ryan literally uses only his penis to flip his opponent. Cornette screamed that this pushed the limits of suspension of disbelief and that it effectively killed kayfabe (yet again).


Now that’s sleazy.

Obviously, I disagree. Back in the day, promoters and performers somehow convinced audiences that professional wrestling was real. Babyfaces and heels never talked or hung out in public so that fans would believe that they really hated each other. Dusty Rhodes ‘broke’ his leg in a match against Ric Flair and then wore an actual cast in public. He even wore that cast around his house where only his two young sons could see him. The point is that they went to enormous lengths to keep up the illusion that it was all real as part of a grand tradition. Unfortunately, as technology improved and the Internet was born, us fans all started to talk to each other. We started to figure things out and we peeked behind the curtain and now the cat is out of the bag. We know it’s all a show. There is no way we can go back to where we were and I am not sure many people actually want to go back. I definitely do not want to go back there. I love the way things are now.


Joe Hendry proves that funny can equal money.

This is the new kayfabe. Back in the day, we got a bunch of tough guy characters to boo or look up to. Now, kayfabe is so much more varied. One of the things I love about pro-wrestling is the three-ring circus element of it. If you do not like the clowns (like Joey Ryan, Colt Cabana, Enzo Amore, Joe Hendry) in ring one, you can look over at ring two and see the strongman (Samoa Joe, Braun Strowman, Brian Cage). If you do not like that you can look over at ring three and see the acrobats (Ricochet, Ospreay, Neville). However, the business has really grown and we all now have access to hundreds of rings. If you do not like something, there is a good chance that if you turn your head, you will see something you love.


If I can believe the storylines in Lucha Underground, I can believe anything.

Besides, the new kayfabe is not all that different from the kayfabe we have gotten for decades. As long as the internal rules are mostly consistent, I think kayfabe remains intact. Every wrestler responds to Joey Ryan’s genitals in exactly the same way which makes their legendary powers a canon fact. We were told back in the day that Undertaker was dead and we believed it because we wanted to believe it and the announcers and other wrestlers never contradicted it. I choose to believe what they tell me to believe because it is way more fun to play make-believe than pick at it because it does not make sense. We all know that the Upside Down is not real but we choose to believe it when we see that dryer lint floating around. My rule is that if something is fun and nobody is getting hurt, then I support it. Joey Ryan and guys and gals like him is a lot of fun to watch and I am all about having fun. Of course, Cornette is very welcome to earn advertising dollars nitpicking the hell out of it.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Catchphrases NXT Edition

April 27, 2017

WILPW

The W slot was always going to be an edition of Why I Love Pro-Wrestling which is a regular feature here on the Wolf of Words. I have been thinking lately of how I connect to the business of sports entertainment and how it can inspire me. Most inspiring to me lately is World Wrestling Entertainment’s NXT show. It has always had a fresh and refreshing energy to it and the performers have gimmicks that are really fun to watch. So I started thinking about slogans (most of them on t-shirts) and I applied them to my own life.


#DIY – Nobody Will Do it For You

Setting aside the funny notion of having a tag team named “Do It Yourself”, I really like the energy of this team. Lately, in my life I have really started doing things for myself because they do not lie, nobody can make your life better than you can. I have a new job and I am about to graduate from my second stint in college. Obviously, DIY does not just mean actually going it alone. It is an energy where you initiate and act in a proactive manner. Also, I feel a little bit of myself reflected in the team composition of DIY. Tomasso Ciampa is known as the “Psycho Killer” while I have had a history of anger problems that I have largely gotten a handle on. Johnny Gargano is a talented, happy go lucky guy which I think is a big part of the other side of my personality.


“The Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger – The Numbers Don’t Lie

A little while back, Tye Dillinger started calling himself “The Perfect 10” and the crowd ate it up. He is also correct about the numbers not lying. Lately, when I start to doubt myself while I am applying to jobs, I start to think about my numbers. I have a 4.0 grade average in Legal Studies. The numbers don’t lie. I am good this. My self-doubt has to take a back seat to the reality that I have worked my tail off showing how suited I am to my new profession. Beyond the slogan, Tye Dillinger is a guy who has been around the company for years, always trying to catch a break. Recently, he finally made it to the main roster. That is inspiring. To watch somebody work and work and finally succeed gives me hope that eventually, I will get where I want to be.


American Alpha – Ready, Willing, and Gable

Goofy pun on Chad Gable’s name aside, I really like this simple slogan. That is what we all want to be, prepared for what lies ahead with the energy to do what needs to be done. Lately, I have been hitting the challenges in my way hard and it is paying off. I feel proud in knowing that while I am not the best, I am a hard worker who does right in the end. It is one of the most positive slogans in the WWE right now and it works because they are a really positive team. I always hope I can work with people as well as Jason Jordan and Chad Gable seem to. I try and sometimes I succeed.


Finn Balor – Summon the Demon

The anger problem I mentioned came from what felt like a deep well of rage that I could feel deep inside of me. You never really get rid of that. That is where “summoning the demon” comes in. As Finn Balor explains, the demon inside of you can have good uses. When I am doing a physical chore and I feel like I am at the end of the rope, focusing the anger in a constructive way really helps. Letting that anger lance through my brain when I am out of it and tired makes for better concentration as long as I keep it reined in. There are positive ways you can focus your anger if you only try.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Bayley

March 11, 2017


It is National Women’s History month and last Wednesday was International Women’s Day. I think it makes sense to pay tribute to the women of professional wrestling. Lately, the division has seen a more mainstream resurgence. Based on the female wrestling in Japan, the core of the WWE’s women’s division is taking things more seriously. For the most part, storylines are based on tests of skill rather than catty slap fights over a male or some other superficial reason for fighting. Today’s reason for Why I Love Pro-Wrestling is part of that core who are called The Four Horsewomen. That’s right! It’s Bayley! Arguably, my favorite member of the Four Horsewomen.

I have been a fan of sports entertainment and professional wrestling in particular for a long time. I love all the twists and turns of the various television shows and pay per view events. While the genre has enjoyed periods of popularity, it feels like it is in another period where it has drifted from the mainstream. It is not a popular topic of conversation among my friends and it is not something I mention that I like in public. I respect it a lot but I know that I am in the minority. I keep my commentary on the WWE and Lucha Underground mostly to this blog and Twitter. However, I still remember that first lightning bolt of excitement when I became a fan.


Bayley embodies that feeling. She is a fan of the business. While most pro-wrestlers were fans of the business before they got their own start, almost none of them talk about it anywhere near the ring. They mention it in podcast interviews but they are in character when they are performing. Bayley openly talks about how much she enjoys the business around her. When she debuted on NXT, she was practically asking for the autographs of the performers she was fighting and fighting alongside. When she recently teamed with The New Day for the first time, she eagerly declared how much she was a fan of theirs and how happy she was to work with them. She is that fan in each of us who just loves the product for what it is.


Eventually, she moved beyond being the doe-eyed fangirl she started out as. She was winning matches so, at some point, the fan rises to a new level. Having her be an ascended fan is such a good idea. For one, she has never forgotten what it means to be a fan. She formed a special bond with a real little girl who attended pretty much every one of her NXT matches. She handed barrettes out to the crowd and became known as the queen of hugs. She is just as thrilled at her own entrance as her die-hard fans are. She has the biggest smile on her face as she makes her entrance and it tends to reappear a lot even during her matches. Like she is still waiting for somebody to pinch her to make sure it is all real.


On top of that, Bayley resonates so well with a demographic that has eluded the Pro-Wrestling world in the past: little girls. Bayley is girly without being weak. While most male and female performers perform from a place of anger or seriousness, Bayley is a ball of joy. She obviously taps into the same energy that The New Day, Santino Marella and Dude Love found. I could not help but root for her in NXT when she was getting bullied by the meaner kids. I was overjoyed when she won the NXT title and started to come into her own. When she appeared on Raw, I got a warm and fuzzy feeling because I knew that it was her dream and her friends were already there. When she recently won the Raw title, I knew how much it meant to her because I know how much it would mean to me. That is why I will always be a big supporter of the Doctor of Huganomics, Bayley.

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: January 4 1999

June 25, 2016

WILPW

I want to talk about two events that are so important to me as part of the sports entertainment world. They have been talked about elsewhere but I wanted to put them on the record here because I am fascinated by them and one of them is burned into my memory forever. On January 4, 1999, the Monday Night Wars were going strong between the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling. The WWF was now deep into the Attitude Era while WCW was in the middle of their New World Order Era. As I’ve stated before, I was a huge fan of the WWF and rarely watched WCW even if either was preempted. It was the days of brand loyalty before the existence of DVR or internet streaming. Still, I was kind of aware of what was going on over there.

The Attitude Era of the World Wrestling Federation was when I became a big fan of professional wrestling. I had been a fairly big fan during the mid-nineties but I mainly remember watching over at a friend’s house on Saturday mornings. When Raw premiered my interest heightened but I was still a bit young at age eleven to stay up and watch the show. When I got to middle school and high school, sports entertainment had become
extremely popular and fewer people sneered at it. It was during this period that I would stay up on Monday to make sure I watched Raw all the way through. It was worth it to be a little sleepier on Tuesday mornings in order to watch the twists and turns every Monday night.

Mick Foley had been one of my favorites since he popped up on my radar when he debuted on Raw. I heard about Mankind second hand but as I watched his career, I definitely got more and more interested. I was unaware of his earlier career but I knew how devoted he was when he was thrown twice off of the Hell in a Cell structure. Later that year, his character started to become more comedic and I loved him even more. Somehow it was easier to see the amount of thought he put into the character and I loved his feud with The Rock and the McMahons. In a lot of ways it complemented the story they were telling with Stone Cold and told it in a more humorous way.

Prior to the night in question, Mick Foley (as Mankind) had fought hard to face The Rock for the title and had knocked his opponent out. The title was not awarded to him because The Rock had never submitted and had simply passed out. On the January 4, Mankind used a real wrestling move to incapacitate Shane McMahon and ransomed the younger McMahon so that Vince would let Mankind have a rematch. They had their impromptu rematch and all Hell broke loose. While Rock and Mankind clashed in the ring, Degeneration X and The Corporation fought outside of it. The match was back and forth with The Rock doing everything in his power to keep his title belt and Foley refusing to give up. Finally, with an assist from Stone Cold, Mick Foley covered The Rock for the win. I had been laying on my belly as I watched by I jumped to my feet in quiet celebration since everybody else was asleep.

Meanwhile, things on WCW Nitro were busy failing completely as the company did its best impression of the RMS Titanic. I have since read about and watched some of the footage from this era so I am more aware of what was going on. The New World Order was initially a fresh idea but it had become diluted and WCW was having trouble getting anything to catch fire. Hogan, Nash and their cronies put out progressively worse main events and killed off any promising talent as fast as it could be generated. While the ship sank, the cruiserweight division were the musicians playing on the deck and kept their ratings from becoming a mass exodus. One of their remaining draws was Bill Goldberg who was a decent performer who the crowd loved because he looked unstoppable and had a huge win streak. Of course, WCW’s job near the end was to make chicken shit out of chicken salad.

Hulk Hogan had seen the writing on the wall which said “Fans Are Sick of You” and left active duty. Eventually, he went on live television and, with a straight face, announced that he was running for President of the United States. This was a much more laughable prospect than it is today but Hogan had to get his spotlight from somewhere. Meanwhile, Kevin Nash (formerly Diesel) held the heavyweight title and destroyed all challengers by hook or by crook. Enter Goldberg who showed up as a legitimate and believable threat to Nash’s title reign. The match was set for January 4 and I am sure that a buzz went through the WCW fandom that perhaps a new era was on its way.

On January 4, Goldberg made it to the arena but there was a problem. A ring valet by the name of Miss Elizabeth made an accusation against Goldberg. She said that Goldberg had made inappropriate advances toward her and Goldberg was arrested for “aggravated stalking”. Keep in mind that this was the nineties so having Goldberg get fake arrested by fake cops on a fake almost rape charge was not viewed as politically incorrect. It did not stop it from being a bad storyline even back then. So would Goldberg be able to beat the charges and make it back in time for his title match? Well, Elizabeth changed her story and then eventually admitted she made the whole thing up. Somehow, Goldberg still did not make it back to the arena in time. I mean, an establishing shot showed that the police station was across the street but whatever.

Hulk Hogan, who had come to Nitro to talk about his totally for serious campaign, came out to the ring and accused Nash of orchestrating the whole thing. Nash came out and refuted the claim with extreme indignance. Hogan pushed the issue and somehow Nash agreed to a match for the title to settle the issue and prove something or other. The match began and after a moment, Hogan poked Nash in the chest and Nash sold it like he had been shot with a cannon. Hogan pinned Nash easily and then the two of them got up and celebrated together revealing that they had pulled the wool over our eyes the whole time. Hogan was back and was once again king of the mountain, solving nothing from a business or creative standpoint.

These two events aired the same night and they are like night and day to me. Foley winning his first Heavyweight Championship was an award for his long service in the business and his loyalty to the WWF and the fans. It was an extremely positive moment and not only because a babyface won a championship. Hogan winning his umpteenth title belt was more of the same stuff we had seen before. It was a negative moment because fans had been cheated out of a good, bad or mediocre title match in favor for stupid shenanigans. For better or worse, both companies have the word “Wrestling” in their name and that should be the first order of business. I have not even mentioned that the Raw that night was pre-recorded and WCW announcer Tony Schiavone spoiled the Foley moment for WCW viewers. He sarcastically said that it “should put butts in seats” and it ended up causing a huge amount of viewers to switch over to Raw to watch Foley win.

Why is this night personal to me? Well, I mentioned that Monday Night Raw was pre-recorded. It actually took place on my birthday December 29th. The memory of a guy who would become my hero achieving his dream on my birthday is a strong and positive thing for me. Not only that but there were a lot of great performers attached to that moment who worked together to make everything work. It was chaotic, it was messy but it ended up beautiful. On the other side of things, WCW was taking shots at their former employee (Foley) while putting out some of the worst written and performed non-wrestling in the history of the business. The juxtaposition of the events has burned them both into my brain and yet it is the Finger Poke of Doom that has become industry shorthand. Hell, I am wearing a Finger Poke of Doom t-shirt right now. It just shows how interesting Pro-Wrestling is and why I love it.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Mick Foley

January 10, 2016

WILPW

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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


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