Posts Tagged ‘WILPW’

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.

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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: Authority Figures

December 2, 2017

WILPW

One way or another, all of us have a boss at some point in our life. We get up, we go to work and we do our job under their watchful eye. It is their job to troubleshoot problems, write the checks, and make sure we are doing our job right. Usually we only really have the hands-on approach from the big bosses when everything has gone to hell or there is a staff meeting of some sort. Even people whose first job was starting their own business has had to face authority somewhere in their life. Whether it is your parents, teachers, police, or judges, somebody laid down the law and made sure you knew that you just cannot do whatever you want. Whether the authority figure is evil or good, they help move the plot along and give characters a larger world to react to.

The Corporation/The Authority – World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment

Sorry WWE-haters but I could not get through this post without mentioning these two (technically one) groups. The Corporation was established during the Attitude Era when Vince McMahon, announcer, became Vince McMahon, the evil boss who screwed Brett Hart. As the owner of the company, Vince and his family could stack the deck in their favor. They blatantly screwed superstars who did not fall in line and handpicked loyal superstars to support by bending or even re-writing the rules. They feuded with Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Union, Degeneration X and many more. Often, instead of defeating some of their enemies, they just bought them and brought them into the fold. Vince fully embodied the overbearing, completely unfair boss while his kids portrayed the entitled rich kids that everybody hates.

In sort of a revival, Stephanie McMahon and Triple H dusted off the faction and re-dubbed it The Authority, further driving home that they were in charge. Wielding absolute power, they did everything in their power to bring those who opposed them under their heel. At times they feuded with CM Punk, John Cena, The Shield, Dolph Ziggler, and many more. Playing off their real-life positions in the hierarchy of the company, they blurred reality by becoming the focus of the fans’ hate. Their storyline was long and encompassed the whole family and the only way to fight back was to break the rules or find some way to make the rules work in the rebels’ favor.

Dario Cueto – Lucha Underground

Dario Cueto is a different animal entirely and “animal” might be an appropriate word. He showed up at AAA’s Triplemania and offered a briefcase of money to anybody who wanted to come compete for it. He seemed like any other shady promoter. No corporate backing, no board of directors. Cueto is the ultimate authority in his temple which seems to be a front for both a criminal organization and some sort of supernatural entity. The point is, whatever Cueto says goes and there is absolutely no wiggle room for anybody who opposes him. However, faces/tecnicos have been able to exploit his love of violence to get their way but Cueto seeks to screw them at every opportunity. He is heavily in support of anybody he can hold under his thumb, often pushing his own contract players over all challengers. There was a time when I thought that Cueto might actually be The Devil and I still am not completely convinced I am wrong. The El Rey Network made the interesting decision to grab an actor who was completely uninvolved in pro-wrestling and make him one of the faces of their organization. He is not an ex-promoter, a family member of the owner, or an ex-performer. They literally cast his part as if he was in a movie and it really paid off. While both methods of introducing a character like this can work, this proved that getting the best pure actor can pay huge dividends.

Jim Cornette – Ring of Honor

If you are trying to elevate your independent, you can do a lot worse than hiring Jim Cornette to be your onscreen authority figure. He has a distinctive voice and a high charisma partially due to the southern charm he exudes. He also has a big loud mouth and I am sure even he would agree with me on that point. In the real world, Cornette may be sometimes ridiculously out of touch with the product. He still has a great mind for the business and, if I had a wrestling company, I would want him on hand to lend at least some of his wisdom. In front of the camera, he was exactly the shot in the arm that Ring of Honor needed as they got their deal with Sinclair Broadcasting. Cornette was there to shout down the bullies and protect the babyfaces in a direct contrast with who he was as a manager. What really makes me think back with fondness on Corny’s time as the boss on Ring of Honor TV is his feud with Kevin Steen (who is now Kevin Owens). In real life, Cornette hates Kevin Steen and Kevin seems to hate him right back. That real-life hate really translated on screen and was eventually the catalyst for one of my favorite ROH storylines that I have seen (The SCUM storyline). Cornette was the babyface on screen but was kind of the bad guy backstage but it all worked out in the end.

William Regal – NXT

Regal is the on-air commissioner of NXT. On paper, NXT is the latest developmental territory but it has become so much more. It is a place where new blood mixes with seasoned professionals and stars are given freedom to create fun new characters. Because of all this new energy, I feel like they have always liked to infuse at least a touch of the old school to add to its mythology. The trainers down there are older independent, WWE, and WCW performers. Adding Regal was a no-brainer. The NXT can be a wild and lawless place sometimes. In kayfabe, Regal has a long history with the company since events in WCW and WWE are both canon. He has an air of gravitas as the old hand at the wheel, with the experience to talk to the stars of today. In addition, Regal was almost always a heel and was a well-known rule-breaker who was also legitimately tough. It makes sense to have a reformed bad guy as the boss in your organization. He sees everything and knows a lot of the ways heels will try to wiggle out of a fair fight. He really portrays seemingly genuine amusement when he is able to put one over a weaselly heel. He is also great at displaying shadowy, righteous anger when things get out of hand and he has to put his foot down. He is the old sheriff who used to be a bank robber, proud of his wicked past but determined to hold the line.

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: Supernatural

September 23, 2017

WILPW

It is currently Halloween season and I love traditional lore when it comes to things that were supposed to go bump in the night. Of course, these things have not been proven to exist in the real world but they are ‘alive’ and well in fiction. I thought I would compare the lore of the world of Sports Entertainment with the world of the supernatural and see what I can come up with. Keep in mind that I am playing fast and loose with many different sources and, as usual, this is all for entertainment purposes.


Mil Muertes – Wight

A wight is an undead creature that is created when a person dies but part of their soul remains in their body. A quick note: I am not talking about the ones in A Song of Ice and Fire, those are different. Wights are more than zombies but are definitely not still living humans. They are fundamentally changed and no longer side with humanity. Wights are also often known for the ability to suck the lifeforce from their victims. Their description in Dungeons and Dragons is as follows: “A wight is given a semblance of life through sheer violence and hatred.” and then goes on to describe their life stealing properties.

Mil Muertes is most certainly dead. He is the Man of a Thousand Deaths and, like Fenix, each time he is killed (or defeated) he merely comes back stronger than before. When the monster Matanza killed him during/after their Graver Consequences match, Mil only came back stronger. When he died long ago and ever since he has been resurrected by the dark magic of Catrina. Through it all, he definitely has the sheer violence and hatred part down as he is one of the most dominant forces in sports entertainment today. He has also demonstrated that he can take life by touch when he killed his own Disciples of Death when they repeatedly lost matches. When he died during the mysterious earthquake, Catrina must have returned part of his soul but not all of it. He was fundamentally changed into the unstoppable death machine that he has become.


Gangrel – Vampire

A vampire is an undead creature that was once human but was attacked by another vampire in life. They arise from death with a thirst for blood. There is a lot of debate in the lore what the origin of vampires actually is but my favorite legend is that vampirism is the mark of Cain. It makes each vampire a part of an epic chain of cursed individuals. Regardless, vampires are frozen in the condition they were in before death and are made immortal. Beyond preternatural strength and speed, they also are often gifted with flight and hypnosis powers. It is very hard to put a vampire down for good.

Gangrel showed up in the World Wrestling Federation in the late nineties and he claimed to be a vampire. He drank from a goblet of blood which he also playfully spit into the air during his entrance. He would also use this blood to blind his opponents. While he never showed preternatural strength, he was very successful for a time in the ring. Eventually, he formed a faction called The Brood by inducting Christian and Edge. I do not remember ever seeing Christian or Edge drinking blood and since then they do not act like vampires. I can only conclude that Gangrel used vampire hypnosis powers on them (and later the Hardy Boyz).


Bray Wyatt – Elder God

The elder gods are creatures we really do not know much about mostly because knowing too much would simply drive us insane. The elder gods were creatures of immense power who ruled the land long before the creation of more “modern” religions like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and so on. They were so powerful and terrifying that the mere presence of them or their offspring could drive humanity crazy. Most of them are depicted as having horrifying tentacles and other alien features but according to lore, those depictions are only approximations and the real thing would be way worse. It is said that the elder gods are sleeping and when they wake they will only be interested in death and destruction.

Bray Wyatt has captivated people since he first appeared. His spellbinding voice and charisma have sent chills down my back just as much as the visuals connected to him. When he first appeared, he led a backwoods cult called The Wyatt Family full of people who were obviously unhinged from reality. One could assume that witnessing the arrival of an elder god could have done that to them. At first, Wyatt came off as a cult leader but eventually, he claimed to actually be a god. His madness is infectious as audiences have seen his cult grow over time. He is very powerful, having the ability to teleport himself or others at will and he once stole the Undertaker’s lightning and Kane’s fire. Finally, he seems to mostly be only interested in inflicting mental and physical pain on his victims. He laughs when he loses and only seems interested in winning if it gains him power or the opportunity to spread his influence.

And all of the rest…

When I decided to do this entry, there were a lot of obvious choices. I chose instead to mostly try to pin down characters that were presented as vague supernatural characters. A lot of characters are marketed explicitly and specifically as supernatural creatures. In the WWE we have both Kane and Finn Balor, both of which are different kinds of demons. We have the Boogeyman who is a boogeyman. There is Drago in Lucha Underground who is a dragon who took human form. World Championship Wrestling’s The Yeti was basically a yeti who inexplicably dresses as a mummy. Maybe next time I’ll try to explain The Ultimate Warrior when he was in WCW and Mordecai from the WWE. Probably not. They both sucked.

Are there any I really missed? Do you have any suggestions of footage I need to watch?

 

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Monster Heels

August 21, 2017

As part of my ongoing series on heels, I would like to talk about a classic type of heel called the “Monster Heel”. This is a pretty straight forward idea. This type of heel is usually very large and very strong. Like the monsters in movies or fairy tales, they are big, scary, and violent. They attack with overwhelming force and, again like a horror movie, they are really hard to hurt and if they are hurt, it is not for long. The business has a long history of them.


Kane

The first monster heel that I experienced, was Kane. Kane was billed as the brother of the Undertaker, who was already a prominent supernatural figure in the WWF. In Undertaker’s backstory, Kane was thought to have died in a fire accidentally set by Undertaker as a young boy. That belief was a mistake as Kane had survived the fire and he showed up in the company to exact vengeance on his brother for the perceived attack and the death of their parents. He was unstoppable, regularly defeating whole crowds of wrestlers by himself. He destroyed everything he touched, even his brother (temporarily). On top of that, he was billed as (and is actually close to) being seven feet tall.


Awesome Kong

When I used to watch TNA Wrestling close to 2005, there was a lot to like. There was a lot of potential. One of those bits of potential was a woman who had made a name for herself in Japan and was booked as an absolute beast. She had no mercy for her opponents, partially because her character did not even speak English. She was strong and she was nothing like a lot of the female wrestlers on television at the time. Everybody else seemed to be a fitness model and there were more catfights than technical wrestling matches. Kong would flatten her opponents like she was a force of nature. She was strong and resilient and she frightened people. Best of all, one of her finishing moves was called the Implant Buster, a knock on the looks of her more lithe opponents.


Tomasso Ciampa

He might be the smallest person on this list but there is a good reason why Tomasso Ciampa is often labeled “Psycho Killer”. When he hit his stride in Ring of Honor, he was brutal and sadistic and he would stalk his victims just as well as Jason. While he did throw a lot of his opponents around, it was his devastating knee strikes that made an impression on me. His attacks looked like a wild beast, like an unhinged man. His character was a man who did not care about his opponent. I really believed sometimes that he may have knocked his opponent’s teeth and irreparably damaged the soft tissue. I am interested to see what he can do now in NXT that he has turned heel yet again.


Mil Muertes

Lucha Underground is definitely a very different wrestling program. The world of Lucha Underground is supernatural and nobody bats an eye at all sorts of crazy thing happening. So, the existence of Mil Muertes, the man of 1000 deaths, is not a surprise. Mil is a man who has died several times throughout his story but death is not the end. Each time he only comes back stronger. He is summoned back to life by his association with the deadly Catrina and black magic. In the ring, it takes so much for him to be stopped and his moves are beyond destructive. He finishes off opponents with the Flatliner and has in-storyline murdered several people and then used their skulls to adorn his throne.


Vader

Then, of course, there was Vader. I was not present for some of his best work. By the time that I first saw him, he was in the WWF and he was being used more for comedy than as the monster heel he could be. I have since watched the archival footage and read personal accounts from back in the WCW days and I see what people saw in him. Vader never had the most impressive physique but he was strong and he was relentless. He was the master of the powerbomb long before everybody was doing one. The powerbomb is a legitimately dangerous move if you do not complete it correctly and is still no fun if done perfectly. In a memorable moment, he powerbombed Cactus Jack on the concrete outside of the ring, potentially ending his career. He was mean and he made his attacks look real because a lot of them were.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Extreme Rules 2017

June 10, 2017

WILPW

I arrived at the Royal Farms Arena around 5 pm. I had never been to a WWE show before, this was the first one after over 20 years of being a fan. Because of my inexperience, I was unaware of when the doors would actually open. I drastically overestimated how early that would be. Still, a line had already formed when I arrived and I walked to the end and leaned against the wall. Pretty soon, I was engaged in conversation with the band of misfits behind me in line. We made our predictions, talked about the state of the business, the past, and played entrance music on our phones. It is extremely rare that I get to talk to people who are knowledgeable about wrestling in person. Usually, it is only through Twitter.

20170604_182643

I was one of the first hundred people inside since I had gotten there so early. I snapped the above picture of the setup and then settled in with Twitter while I waited for the show to start.


Apollo Crews vs. Kallisto

We started with the one pre-show match. I have to admit that I have been bored by these two performers in the past because neither has received good pushes in a while. This new Titus Brand storyline has actually drawn more personality out of Crews and given Kallisto more purpose. Also, Titus O’Neill is really fun to watch live because he is so expressive. The match itself was a lot of fun. Both guys are fast and technically proficient and they have good chemistry. These two (former?) friends put on a great show with Titus getting embarrassed as usual. The crowd woke the crowd up pretty well.


The Miz w/ Maryse vs. Dean Ambrose

Then the main show started and right off the bat, the pyro scared the hell out of me but I recovered. We started with Dean Ambrose vs. The Miz. I really appreciate Mike Mizanin as a performer but I love hating The Miz even more. He has evolved as a wrestler and once again it showed in this match. Dean Ambrose is a perfect opponent for him as well. Miz was being a weasel the entire match and Ambrose was responding in just the right ways. I audibly cried out “No!” when Maryse slapped Miz. I didn’t want the match to end yet and not that way. The two false finishes were a great way to hide the real finale which kind of came out of nowhere but it was great.


Rich Swann and Sasha Banks vs. Noam Dar and Alicia Fox

Next, we had a match with my hometown hero, Rich Swann partnering with “The Boss” Sasha Banks against the insane pairing of Noam Dara and Alicia Fox. The match was a lot of fun and there were a lot of great moves and good laughs. I am not a huge fan of mixed tag matches in WWE because the flow is weird because the genders cannot mix. (Talk to Joey Ryan about intergender matches, please). This match actually went really well as they used those weird rules to their advantage. Watching Sasha Banks hit the double knees on Noam Dar on the outside was great. One of the highlights of the night for me was watching Swann beat the hometown curse and danced with Sasha after a fantastic win. Watching a happy Rich Swann jut makes me smile.


Bailey vs. Alexa Bliss

Bailey deserved better. I was so excited to see her entrance live and I was not disappointed. I got that warm, fuzzy feeling I usually get seeing her entrance. Unfortunately, the disappointment was not far behind. Bailey got in a flurry of offense and then it felt like a squash match in favor of Alexa Bliss after that. I love Alexa Bliss but I thought they would give the match more than they did. It was criminally short. After Bailey talked in a pre-match interview about studying the progenitors of extreme, I thought she would get to swing the kendo stick at least once. I thought she would have a brutal battle with Alexa ending with Alexa getting the victory. What they did fell flat for me and was not fair to Bailey (or Alexa for that matter).


The Hardy Boyz vs. Sheamus and Cesaro

I had never seen a steel cage match in person so I was excited to watch the Hardy Boyz face off against Sheamus and Cesaro. Their entrances were even more awesome live (though it was kind of funny to see Cesaro miss his mark during the blackout). These are two of my favorite tag teams in the WWE. Cesaro and Sheamus did not really work for me at first but now I really enjoy the team up. Cesaro has a way of melding well with whoever he is thrown together with. The action was back and forth with plenty of great chemistry. I shouted “Delete!” and chanted “Brother Nero” loudly along with the crowd so I hope WWE and the Hardys work together to move away from the stale Hardy Boyz gimmick. I stood up when Jeff jumped from the top of the cage. I was happy to see Sheamus and Cesaro win because that felt like the more interesting option.


Neville vs. Austin Aries

I was excited to watch the next match but I seemed to be in the minority. All of the energy seemed to be sucked out of the building. Maybe it was how long they took switching the ropes out unnecessarily. I thought it was a great match. There were so many great false finishes and they continued the story of Neville protesting too much while Aries never backed down. I really thought that A Double would pull out a victory but the finish was brutal and interesting.


Bray Wyatt vs. Seth Rollins vs. Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor vs. Roman Reigns

Finally, we got to the main event. Once again, the entrances were so much more amazing live (even without some of the camera tricks). I held up my cell phone to be one of Bray Wyatt’s fireflies and I got chills. I held up my arms in time with Finn Balor’s music. I even got to boo Roman Reigns even though I appreciate him as a performer. I felt like the match lived up to its potential. I was intrigued by the continued team up of Samoa Joe and Bray Wyatt. I was also glad to see Bray shine as bright as he did after continued mistreatment of his character. In the end, I hoped to get my wish to see Finn win but I am not mad at Samoa Joe being the one to face Lesnar next.

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: Specialty Matches

January 28, 2017


Royal Rumble

This is the type of match that sparked this blog post. The 2017 Royal Rumble takes place tomorrow (1/29) and I am excited. The rules of the Rumble is that every 90 seconds a new superstar enters the ring and the last man who did not get thrown over the top rope wins. I have never watched a bad Royal Rumble match. Some have been better than others but most are full of some awesome moments and great surprises. The Royal Rumble is not really a great place for good technical wrestling but there are some fun high spots. Also, the match is tailor made to highlight a lot of the roster and it has moments for character spotlights. For example, the 1998 Royal Rumble saw Mick Foley enter three times under all three of his personas which made a clear statement that they were separate people. The 1999 Royal Rumble had Vince McMahon spending most of the match cowering or on commentary instead of competing which showed him as a cowardly authority figure. It is so much better than a normal Battle Royal. Lately, I have been loving Lucha Underground’s variation called Aztec Warfare where opponents either pin or submit rather than getting thrown over the top rope. Aztec Warfare feels a lot more kinetic than the Royal Rumble but also feels a little more chaotic.


Elimination Chamber

Invented in 2002, this match owes a lot of its origin to the Royal Rumble and the Hell in a Cell match types. In this type of match, a high enclosed cage surrounds the ring and four pods feed into the cage. Like the Rumble, two superstars start in the ring and at timed intervals, the pods are opened one by one which lets a new competitor into the match. Performers are eliminated by pinfall or submission until there is only one remaining. I would say ‘last man standing’ but they are rarely standing very well at the end of these matches. The pods are opened at random which makes each entrance a bit of a surprise. It also changes the makeup of the match as each performer gets to enter. This match is extremely brutal as the cage’s walls are made up of chains and the floor around the ring looks like subway grating. The plexiglass pods can also be used as weapons. Unlike a lot of match types with multiple people, the matches have been really good at putting a limit on rest spots and some of the best multi-person sequences I’ve seen have been in these matches. The only thing I have seen remotely like it elsewhere is the King of the Mountain match which involves competitors getting locked in a shark cage. It also has a lot of elements of the next match type…


Money in the Bank

This match was invented in 2005 by Chris Jericho who came with an awesome idea. At the turn of the century, ladder matches really picked up a lot of popularity in the tag team division. By the mid-2000s, they needed to come up with a new innovation. In the match, there are five to ten participants who all enter the ring at the same time. Hanging high above the ring is a contract for a championship match that can be cashed in at any time. There is a mad scramble up ladders to get at the briefcase hanging there and there is always a very brutal fight among the competitors to get at it. The match is probably career shortening so I am glad they do not do it more than once a year. Brutal attacks from ladders, with ladders or on ladders are what this match is about. Every single competitor gets to do their finisher and signature moves, often with the aid of a ladder. It has all the anticipation of a normal ladder match but it adds in a lot more chaos and there is a lot less time between high spots. The other aspect, the contract that can be used anytime, is incredibly intriguing and adds an air of anticipation to every event afterward. The only other place I have seen this match type was in the first episode of Wrestling Society X which had two contracts above the ring for their Heavyweight Championship.


Iron Man/2 out of 3 Falls

An Iron Man match is a match where two competitors face off against each other and try to accumulate the most victories in a set time period which is usually 30 or 60 minutes. A 2 out of 3 falls match is where the competitors must win two out of three matches that are immediately consecutive. Both match types allow for multiple finishes without ending the match which gives you the satisfaction of the ending of the match multiple times. The first Iron Man match I saw was Brett Hart vs. Shawn Michaels which saw no falls during a 60 minute period and had to go into overtime. A more normal version happened recently in an awesome match between Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair. It is a match that shows how much conditioning the wrestlers have and how much abuse they can take. It is kind of like watching a good hockey game as you watch the score go back and forth and wonder who will come out on top. The two out of falls match is similar but is definitely shorter. At NXT Takeover Toronto, we saw a 2 out of 3 falls match between my current favorite tag team #DIY and The Revival (who used to be my favorite at one point). The match was so good that I am voting for it as NXT Match of the Year for 2016 because it easily stole the show. Having to beat your opponent and then get up and beat them again is such an interesting concept that it leads to some awesome matches.


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