Posts Tagged ‘WILPW’

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.

What I Love About Pro-Wrestling: Thanksgiving 2016

November 21, 2016

WILPW

I spent much of this weekend catching up on watching some WWE and Lucha Underground so I thought this week was a good time to focus on a few things I am thankful for. Even if things are not perfect, it is important to focus on what you are thankful for. Much like the New Day, I like to spread the power of positivity and I have been holding onto that power hard in the last year. We are going to need the power of positivity going forward so let us work on igniting the sparks that make us feel jazzed. So let us dip a little into what got me jazzed lately in the world of sports entertainment.

Rich Swann and James Ellsworth

I am from Baltimore and when I see anybody representing Baltimore in a positive way, I feel happy. A little light goes off in my brain and I get excited. When I was watching the Cruiserweight Classic on the WWE Network, I spotted Rich Swann and I thought he was awesome. I love his high energy, party guy quality. I love it even more since his character focuses up as soon as the bell rings. When he first showed up on Raw, he teamed briefly with Cedric Alexander. The pairing was a little questionable as it looked a little racially motivated but I was sad to see that short-lived team break up. Lately, he has been teaming with No Way Jose on NXT which makes a bit more sense as they are both fun-loving, party guys.

James Ellsworth just got officially signed to Smackdown Live and I am happy about it. Ellsworth became a viral sensation when he got stomped by Braun Strowman but went into that match with determination. Before then his main claim to fame was being in a local tag team called Pretty Ugly and he was not the Ugly one. He has since gotten two wins over the WWE Heavyweight Champion in two very funny matches. I am very interested to see where his character goes next. Will he remain a jobber or will he start to build to something else?  After listening to his interview on Talk is Jericho, I want to see more from this humble yet confident man.

Aztec Warfare

I love battle royales. I have been a big fan of the Royal Rumble since its inception and Aztec Warfare is actually an improvement on that concept. I like that only pins or submissions can cause eliminations which gets rid of a lot of the awkward jockeying for position and clinging to ropes. Lucha has been really good for me this season. I love the way Lucha weaves all of their storylines together and makes them collide in this one match. Everybody was gunning for Matanza but it always felt like the Cueto brothers were always ten steps ahead of the roster. That is why it was so shocking when Matanza lost the title and maybe even turned on Dario. Sexy Star leveraged the allies she made and her own fighting spirit to win the top prize in the company. I thought that Joey Ryan would at least be safe from Matanza this year but unfortunately, he ran afoul of Mil Muertes instead.

It is still shocking to me that Prince Puma and Ivelisse were not actually in the match but it just makes their stories more of a surprise going forward. As far as I know, only Mil Muertes is the only person on the roster to come back from the dead but maybe Prince Puma will be the second. A lot of people have (kayfabe) died on the show including Konnan, the Disciples of Death, Mr. Cisco and also Big Ryck. Hell, Big Ryck’s skull was part of Mil Muertes’ throne in Season 2. I love the unpredictability of Lucha Underground and how storyline threads hide for a long time before popping up again. I mean, we got a bona fide appearance of the Black Lotus Triad during Aztec Warfare. So much happened and so much can happen in the future. I’m excited.

NXT TakeOver Toronto

While I do not keep up with NXT as much as I should, I really enjoy the energy of the show and seeing both fresh faces and familiar faces from the indies and other companies. I watched a few episodes leading up to checking out the latest Takeover and I loved what I saw. The Dusty Classic Tag Team Tournament was absolute awesomeness. Every team that I saw was awesome and had good energy and good ring psychology. The final match between TM 61 and the Authors of Pain was awesome, even with the somewhat silly stipulation of Ellering dangling over the ring. It was excellent but it was overshadowed by the two out of three falls match between DIY and The Revival which pretty much stole the show.

Asuka vs. Mickey James was great. As great as it was to see Mickey back in a WWE ring, they kind of treated her like she had just been sitting on the couch the whole time. She was very over in TNA and, among other places, has been killing it in Maryland Championship Wrestling lately. Of course, Asuka has been an amazing addition since she first debuted and remains undefeated. I absolutely loved “Glorious” Bobby Roode (and his amazing entrance) going up against “Ther Perfect 10” Tye Dillinger. I remember Roode from back when I watched TNA and Tye has worked hard for this new push. Finally, Shinsuke Nakamura is a force of nature and his entrance blew Roode’s out of the water. The match between a “Kodiak bear” and a “rabid dog” was a great story and both Samoa Joe and Shinsuke would have deserved that championship.

Survivor Series

I have loved the build to this year’s Survivor Series. I know a lot of people have said that it does not make sense to see rivals having to be on the same team but I like it. Lucha Underground is the king of strange bedfellows tag teams making kidnapping victims tag with their kidnappers and other crazy teams. People have remarked how weird it was to see people who hated each other, working together. Why would they do that? Because their boss told them to. Besides, all of those rivalries paid off and became either strengths or weaknesses. AJ Styles accidentally got Dean Ambrose eliminated. There was a callback to Ellsworth’s short lived rivalry with Braun Strowman. Sasha and Charlotte could not work together and Charlotte blasted Bailey after their win. The women’s division match was great and possibly opened up at least one new storyline. The men’s division match was great and there were a lot of surprises. Most importantly, we might have seen the end of LOL Roman Wins and a reemergence of the Wyatt Family as a credible threat. Even so, my favorite match was actually the tag team match because I have never seen such a fluid 20-man tag team match. I really liked the pay per view and I am excited to see the fallout from it and the now unpaused storylines.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Other Media

October 29, 2016

I was wondering what to do with this last Saturday before Halloween. I know I wanted to do a WILPW segment because I have not done one in a while. I was wondering what would be a good topic so I sat and had myself a think. I mean, I have already written a post about the Undertaker and another one about spooky performers or gimmicks. I thought about doing a segment on vampire wrestlers to match up with Monday’s theme but there are really only four or five of them. Maybe I will let that one simmer a bit longer and come back to it next year. Instead, let’s talk about Beyond The Mat and representation of sports entertainment in other media. By Beyond the Mat, I mean the episode of Supernatural and not the well-known documentary that led to a career resurgence for Mick Foley. This is going to be more spoiler-y than most of my reviews because I feel like it.


Shawn Harley vs. “The Hangman” Larry Lee

We start off immediately with a shot of Mike “The Miz” Mizanin before his most recent white hot Intercontinental title run. Of course, Miz was not playing himself or his WWE character. He played “Lightning” Shawn Harley, a rookie in the Top Notch Wrestling promotion. His character struck me as kind of Dolph Ziggler mixed with pre-sober Shawn Michaels. He is a young, promising talent who is a bit of an asshole backstage. The Miz has been on fire this year and this episode definitely has a bit of that Miz magic. I can think of few other performers suited to be ambassadors on the level that he has been. Plus, every single opportunity he gets in Hollywood just feeds his gimmick. The bigger his gimmick’s ego gets, the more of a treat he is for fans.


The Hangman’s unprofessional attitude pisses off Harley.

Anyway, the Winchester brothers are pulled into investigating Top Notch Wrestling when bodies start turning at each stop of their tour. At first, we are led to believe that it is Miz who is killing people. However, we know that he would just get Maryse to do it. The Miz faces an unprofessional oldtimer named The Hangman who gets hanged after their match. The brothers decide to attend the funeral to honor their dad. It turns out the Winchesters are huge marks for Top Notch Wrestling. Their father, John, used to bring them to shows when the three of them were not otherwise busy killing monsters. It really is a shame that none of this was mentioned in the previous ten and a half seasons. Even a shot or two of Dean watching an old wrestling tape in the Bunker would have been cool. Still, it’s cool that the brothers enjoyed sports entertainment.


Gunner Lawless makes his way to the ring.

The two have not really kept up with the product but Dean’s hero is an oldtimer named Gunner Lawless. Gunner is kind of a mix between Kevin Nash and The Undertaker and is played by a good stunt man. Anyway, the bodies that have been found have a symbol carved into them that indicate the soul has been stolen. Soul stealing was kind of a running theme in Season 11 so the boys are wary but think it is a demon. It has to be connected with one of the wrestlers on tour. Though if this was ECW, I would suspect Sign Guy. Cane Dewey? That monster!

The original Cane Dewey promo for those who are uninformed.

At one point, Shawn Harley spots Gunner meeting backstage with a suspicious man and overhears this man reminding Gunner what he owes him before giving him a packet of some kind. It looks like a steroid drug deal so Harley calls him out on it in front of the rest of the roster in the dressing room. Steroids used to be a rampant problem in the industry and, if you pay attention to headlines, they are still a problem. It was nice to see it addressed even if it was a little clumsy.


The crossroads demon himself.

However, we find out that Gunner has not been using steroids. He has gotten his longevity in the business from a deal with a crossroads demon. Crossroad demons have been part of the show since the first season. IT was nice to revisit the whole “deal with a devil” bit from way back when. When Harley (The Miz) gets too close to figuring out the truth, the demon urges Gunner to kill him. We get a great scene where Miz is begging for his life while tied to a chair. Gunner kills him anyway and we will never know if “Lightning” Shawn Harley would have won the belt. Dean and Sam burst onto the scene and are almost taken out by the Crossroads demon. At the last moment, Gunner pulls a face turn and takes the demon out. As the Hell hounds close in, looking for Gunner, he decides to take his punishment and turns down Dean’s offer of assistance.


The Winchester Brothers taking in a live show.

I really liked the plot of this episode. Finding out about normal things that John Winchester did with his boys is always great. Those kids had a hard childhood and knowing they had fake heroes similar to the ones I had is a great thing. In fact, at one point Dean gets a chance to play around in a ring. He takes a moment to strut and Wooo! like the Nature Boy and does a quick Macho Man impression as well. I do not know if Jensen Ackles is or was a wrestling fan but it was believable. In addition, Dean’s FBI alias for the episode is Agent Roussimoff which was Andre the Giant’s real last name. These details were really appreciated.

Woooooooo!

It is also neat to see the southern mythology of the crossroads demon mixed with a form of entertainment that draws a lot of its roots from the American south as well. It was also interesting to see the juxtaposition of the world of pro-wrestling and what the Winchesters do on a daily basis. Sports Entertainment, as we have discussed, has kayfabe which is the “fakeness” of the business. At the same time, Sam and Dean fight and kill things that everybody knows are fake but are actually real. I felt the whole mix of “fake” and real stuff very interesting.

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: Chris Jericho

August 20, 2016

WILPW

Consuming everything in the world of Sports Entertainment is hard and one of the ways I keep abreast of everything going on and learn more about my hobby is through podcasts. While I feel obligated to throw a shout out to the #OG538 and Rough House Podcast, I learn also learn a lot from listening to Talk is Jericho. Chris Jericho is an old hand in the business now but was just reaching fame when I started really watching. While I was not there for his emergence into the mainstream, I have been a fan for a long time. I have also read two out of three of his books and I am a regular listener to his podcast. So let us take a little look at Chris Jericho (Drink it in, maaan).

I was a latecomer to being a Chris Jericho fan. I was a huge fan of the WWF during the Attitude Era. It hit just when I was old enough to really get into it. I had first become a fan during the cartooniest era of the WWE and while I liked it, it was hard to admit that I liked it in public. When the Attitude Era hit, like a lot of people, I became the biggest fan of The Rock, Mick Foley, Degeneration X, The Brothers of Destruction and Stone Cold Steve Austin. Like I have said before, I did not watch a lot of World Championship Wrestling at the time. So my first look at Jericho was on WWF programming. The new millennium was on its way but mysteriously, a clock started to show up during every WWF show for weeks and it was counting down. The problem was, it would reach zero before New Year’s Eve. So, the mystery was what the clock was counting down to. This was during  a time before the Internet knew everything before it happened and I was genuinely clueless.

So, several weeks later on Monday Night Raw it was time for the clock to hit zero. However. I forgot about exactly when it was supposed to hit zero even though it had hours and minutes on it. The Rock hit the ring and was delivering one of his patented awesome promos that I loved. The Rock was the ultimate ingredient in sports entertainment. Whatever you added him to was automatically better and I was always pumped to see him talk and fight. So I was absolutely shocked when the clock appeared right in the middle of his promo and a siren loudly blared as the clock was dangerously close to hitting zero. The Rock paced the ring like an angry tiger and, even behind his sunglasses, you could sense that he was glaring at the stage. The clock hit zero and some of the most awesome entrance themes I had ever heard blasted over the speakers. Then a weird guy with blond hair and a big mouth strutted around the stage. He went word for word with the Rock and later I saw that he was dynamite in the ring.

As the weeks went on, I started to get more and more sold on Chris Jericho. He feuded with Chyna at a time when a lot of guys refused to do so. He went toe to toe with Kurt Angle and it was clear that this Y2Jericho guy was talented and fun to watch. Kurt was (is?) a legend and the two were both on fire as they definitely showed me that my old favorites were not the only game in town. He feuded with his good friend Chris Benoit after that. I know Chris Benoit is a sore spot in the business but he was a legend in the ring and that can never be denied. Anyway, facing Benoit and Angle gave Jericho a chance to show off all of the aspects of his style. He was a high flier, a technical expert, a brawler and pretty much whatever else you needed him to be. Jericho trained in the Mexican Lucha style, worked in Germany, learned the Japanese style in WAR and even worked for Jim Cornette for a little before joining WCW. Of course he was going to be good!

Jericho was consistently staying at the top of the heap and was facing the biggest names in the company. Finally, it was time for Jericho to get a serious shot at the Heavyweight title. The thing was, at the time there was two of them. Jericho became one of the biggest talkers and combatants in the infamous Invasion angle which I really should talk about at some point. He fought hard against his old foe The Rock while spending a lot of time verbally jousting with Stephanie McMahon. He was hilarious and a serious bright spot for the business in those years. He was a force to be reckoned with and it was obvious that the fans were behind him a hundred percent. Finally, he won both heavyweight titles in one night and became the first ever Undisputed Champion (the WWE likes this storyline a lot). Finally, he was honored with what was technically the first heavyweight belt of his career. He had gotten the Cruiserweight title in the WCW and the European, Tag and Intercontinental belts in the WWF but it just isn’t the same.

He stuck around as champ for a while. He formed a tag team with Christian. He entered into a feud with Shawn Michaels where he claimed he could do anything that Shawn Michaels had done in his career. He went about proving it and he entered the Royal Rumble to replicate Shawn’s beginning to end Royal Rumble victory. They ended up screwing each other over and eliminating each other. Jericho kept his eye on Michaels and vice versa even as they fought other people. Finally, Jericho fought Shawn Michaels in an awesome Wrestlemania match that got intensely personal and left room for a feud down the line. Jericho set his sights on the championship again and competed in the third Elimination Chamber match of his career (and the third one ever). Not satisfied with that, he invented the Money in the Bank ladder match even though he lost the very first one and has yet to win one. After feuding with John Cena he was kayfabe fired.

Eventually, he left the company to tour with his band Fozzy and explore new opportunities. I have come to love Fozzy and I really love Jericho’s vocals. Jericho is not a bad actor but he never really got a breakout role like The Rock got and his charisma in the ring never fully translated. So it was not a huge surprise when Jericho returned. He had left a heel but he came back a babyface and it was very refreshing. However, a pivotal moment in Jericho’s career came a little later. Jericho had taken acting classes and rubbed elbows with professional actors in his absence and now he had a lot of new ideas. He started to berate the audience and spoke in overly verbose promos where he removed a lot of what had made people love him before. In those days, he evolved from great performer and pretty good heel into an awesome heel. He wore suits and acted like the biggest jerk in the world. It was great.

Now? Well, Chris Jericho tried to be a babyface again but it is clear that he was just born to be an awesome heel. At his age, he was too goofy and hokey as a good guy. He came off less as a threat in the ring and more like that uncle you had who was in a band. He was dubbed Cool Dad by the fandom and, although he was still great, it was clear that he was just not clicking as much in that position. Finally, we got the heel turn we needed him to have. He embraced the darkness and went heel again by feuding with the “Phenomenal One” AJ Styles. Now, he is still one of my favorite parts of WWE Raw. He has embraced the role of the silly heel. He still kicks the crap out of babyfaces but he also throws fits, lies horribly and hurls childish insults at his opponents. While I know I take him for granted somewhat, he puts a smile on my face with his antics all the time. Lately, he has teamed with Kevin Owens and I can’t wait to see how that goes.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: The Final Deletion

August 6, 2016

WILPW

So, I kind of want to talk about this when it actually happened but I hesitated. I wanted to think about it before I actually posted something because doing otherwise leads to horrible posts. I have ragged on Total Nonstop Action’s Wrestling product a lot in this blog. I have especially been hard on it lately because the product got really, really terrible. People might talk about how the WWE gets bad sometimes but it has never quite reached the level of WCW’s darkest days or the depths TNA goes to. Whatever I say in this post, know that I stand by that. I have watched some TNA lately and while there are a few bright spots, it is still mostly bad. It is falling apart despite the talent’s best efforts because the team behind them is crap and has pretty much always been crap.

So, let us hit up a quick history because none of this makes sense unless you know the history of the Hardy brothers. Actually, none of this makes sense no matter what so do not worry if you get lost. The two men behind this angle have a history of heavy drug use.

Matt and Jeff Hardy are brothers in real life who come from the wrong Carolina and decided to get into the world of sports entertainment. They eventually started their own company called OMEGA which got them noticed by what was then the World Wrestling Federation. They debuted in a feud against Edge and Christian, another hot young tag team. The Hardys started out by pretending to be vampires just after Edge and Christian had been mysteriously cured of their own vampirism but that angle was mercifully short-lived. Being the “new” anything is usually a death knell to your career and the New Brood would probably have been the same deal. Instead, the two teams went on to have a series of tag team bouts which included the first ever tag team ladder match (don’t get anal about the research there).

Matt and Jeff were innovators of the sport and while they were not the greatest on the mic, they had a lot of physical charisma. Kind of like Roman Reigns. They eventually split and started to have a lot of singles success. Hell, Jeff pretty much started his singles career by taking on the Undertaker in a barn burner of a hardcore match. Matt alternated between being a die hard babyface and an arrogant heel. The Mattitude era was actually pretty fun and it helped provide their friend Shannon Moore with a job. The problem was that both brothers had a lot of issues. Whether it was success or they would have succumbed anyway, both brothers fell into heavy drama and drug problems. Jeff especially had a lot of drug issues and was eventually shown the door from the WWE and Matt followed not long after.

TNA is adept at picking up from WWE’s discard pile so both of them ended up in TNA. Both of them actually gained new life and fame in TNA but also fell to their demons over and over again because TNA does not really care. I watched them only in bits and pieces from then on because I mostly stopped watching TNA in disgust after Jeff Hardy showed up drunk and high to a pay per view match and it still went on anyway.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. Jeff and Matt have been doing a sibling rivalry angle (again) and this time the story is that Matt has been broken by the whole thing. Instead of “The Man Who Cannot Die”, Matt Hardy has become “Broken” Matt Hardy. This means that he acts really weird and speaks in twenty different accents in each promo he does. It is kind of funny in a stoner humor kind of way but it gets old really fast for me. If I wanted to watch somebody speak in funny voices and not entertain me, I would watch Adam Sandler movies. So they have a series of matches and then comes the event in question. They are going to have the Final Deletion where it will finally be decided which Hardy will stay and who will go.

No recap will do this video justice but a quick one will wet your whistle. The video begins with a few short vignettes that make increasingly less sense. We see Matt with his son and his wife Reby Sky who has wrestled locally here in Maryland quite a lot. We see Jeff at home playing guitar and mowing his lawn. We see Matt set up a ring in his backyard and send a fleet of drones against Jeff, inviting him to the battle. The two show up at the ring along with a truly confused referee who I don’t think was acting. They then start to have a truly bad pre-taped match sort of shot with Hollywood film angles. After a lot of shenanigans and weirdness, Matt finally pins Jeff and Jeff Hardy is declared “deleted”.

I have a couple of notes here. Actually, this is kind of the whole reason I wrote this whole post. I laughed pretty much continuously while watching this whole feature. Whether all of it was intentional or not, the Broken Matt thing is actually a lot funnier away from the TNA arena in a setting where it makes a smidgen more sense. Jeff’s part negligible and he botched most of the maneuvers he attempted including a horrible ladder spot. The thing really works as a funny internet sketch because both guys are either stoned out of their minds or really threw everything they had into this or both. I have heard some comparisons between the first parts of this and the well=produced but bonkers backstage segments of Lucha Underground. I can see where they are coming from but Lucha is so much more polished and planned. I mean they wrestle for twenty minutes at night and at the end you can see the sun coming up.

What I am concerned most with is precedent. As I am studying the law, it is something very much on my mind. In the world of sports entertainment, precedent is important. The first time you do something, that opens the door for somebody else to do it down the line. I mean, look at the very tag team ladder matches that Matt and Jeff helped create. Specialty ladder matches are all over the place now and the Money in the Bank match is one of the highlights of every year in the WWE. My problem is that the match was pre-taped and heavily edited. I fear that there is some executive out there who decides that this is how all the matches should be done. They look at the media attention this got and they decide that sports entertainment should become even more fake. I don’t know if I am ready for that. While it would save on injuries, it would also cut down on the athleticism and spontaneity of what matches are now. I hope this is a one and done thing.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Johnny Mundo

July 23, 2016

WILPW

I know that the WWE Draft is currently rocking the headlines of the world of Sports Entertainment. I watched the draft on Tuesday night but when I watched it, it was a little less than live since I could not get to the television until after ten o’clock. I really enjoyed Raw and Smackdown this week. The draft was intriguing and in my heart of hearts I definitely correctly picked the first two drafts. I cannot wait to see how they utilize their separated talent pools. In addition, there are plenty of other recent headlines in the business or adjacent to the business. UFC 200 happened and Brock Lesnar was victorious. As much as I like Brock Lesnar, I could care less because I don’t care for UFC. Ah well. The Final Deletion exploded the internet making millions of wrestling fans sit up and say “Wait, TNA still exists?” The Final Deletion was hilarious but maybe for all the wrong reasons. Only time will tell.

All of that aside, I want to pay tribute to the other big news for the past three weeks. We are officially nearing the end of Season 2 of Lucha Underground. At the end of each season, the twisted temple holds an event called Ultima Lucha. This is an eight-hour event that is aired on El Rey network over three weeks. It is amazing and entertaining and pretty brutal. So let’s take a look at the leader of Worldwide Underground, one of the hottest new factions in Lucha Underground. Let’s take a look at Johhny Mundo.

John Hennigan was given a chance on WWE’s annoying reality show Tough Enough 2. Tough Enough was a show where people trained to be pro-wrestlers and competed for a WWE contract. It was a little annoying because, like other shows of its kind, it encroached on the mainstream product and threatened kayfabe. Kind of the same reason I hated the Diva Search, early NXT and Total Divas. Anyway, Hennigan stood out enough to earn a spot in Ohio Valley Wrestling which was a development territory that fed the WWE at the time. He was good enough to appear on WWE programming while working with Matt Cappotelli at OVW. He was trained by Jim Cornette and “Nightmare” Danny Davis at OVW. He obviously benefited from the training as it was not long before he debuted on WWE Heat and then WWE Monday Night Raw.

Hennigan debuted on Raw as Johnny Blaze and then he changed his name to Johnny Spade and then finally he became Jonny Nitro, assistant to Eric Bischoff on Raw. Thankfully this did not last long but it gave Johnny some more time to work on his promos and develop his streak of arrogance that has lasted through his career so far. He ended up debuting during a great time period. It set him up in the lower mid card at just the right time. It also allowed him to walk around the WWE while people like John Cena and Randy Orton were getting their first big pushes. Still, he was nothing special quite yet but few people get their big push overnight. I mean, neither John Cena or Cody Rhodes were too exciting early on either.

Finally, they found something real for Hennigan to do. They let him keep the Johnny Nitro name even though it was designed as a rib on Eric Bischoff and WCW. Now he was joined by Melina and Joey Mercury. Melina played Johnny’s girlfriend and was a great performer in her own right. Mercury was great too but ended up being more successful as an NXT trainer now. Together they formed MNM, a new stable fresh from Hollywood who were rich, successful and complete assholes. A tag team is a great way for new talent to break into the public consciousness. The trio started winning titles. Most importantly for Hennigan, they started to win tag team titles over and over. MNM went the distance and, in my opinion, remains a very memorable and fun tag team in a field of more bland or weird tag teams. I mean, Heidenreich teamed with Animal around that time. Come on.

Johnny Nitro and Melina jumped back to Monday Night Raw where Hennigan stepped up and started a singles career. He battled some of the greats and held his own and looked even more impressive than he had before. He won the Intercontinental championship from a triple threat with Shelton Benjamin and Carlito Colon. These guys are two extremely talented wrestlers who were both in an early point in their careers. He went on to feud with Jeff Hardy during one of his more lucid periods which ended up being great. Then he feuded with John Cena which says a lot about his skills and the confidence the company had in him. He lost Melina but briefly regained Joey Mercury in a brutal feud with the Hardys. He proved he could be tough and innovative as well as technically proficient and charismatic.

In 2006, tragedy struck and Chris Benoit murdered his family and then committed suicide. In the midst of trying to repair the damage, Nitro won his first heavyweight title when he picked up the ECW World Championship. He then changed his ring name (this is ring name number five, by the way) to John Morrison and added inspiration from Jim Morrison of The Doors to his character. This launched him up to a higher level in the company as this new character took off. He teamed with former reality star The Miz in some of the best chemistry I have seen in the business. In addition, he started to add a lot more to his moveset and became a lot more memorable. I was glued to the Miz and Morrison Dirt Sheet segments and I wanted to see what he would say next. At the time, I blatantly stole his tagline of “Be Jealous”. He definitely shone brightly in his new tag team role.

Of course, he had to break out as a singles wrestler again eventually. This began when Miz and Morrison were drafted to separate shows. I knew we would get back around to the draft eventually! After an attack by the Miz and a feud with heel Chris Jericho, Hennigan became a babyface for the first time since… well maybe the first time ever. He added to his moveset even more, finally adding his current finisher which is a split-legged corkscrew moonsault. He started to add more high flying and parkour elements to his style and got to show off just how athletic he is. It seemed to me that John Morrison was becoming bigger and bigger and should have been a heavyweight champion in the WWE at some point. He had all three of the things it takes to be truly successful in the business: Good mic skills, technical prowess/athleticism and the it factor. Instead, he left the WWE and disappeared into the independents.

Then he finally resurfaced in the Asistencia Asesoría y Administración down in Mexico. Now I never really watched any of that because I found it hard to access at the time. However, then I found out about Lucha Underground which is basically a US spinoff from the AAA. The Lucha style suits John well who adopted name change number six and became Johnny Mundo. He ditched a lot of the Jim Morrison stuff but kept a lot of the cocky heel humor and oozes arrogance. He is doing great things for Lucha Underground as he has excelled in every single spot they have put them. He has had great feuds with Prince Puma, Alberto Patron and Cage along with pissing off everybody along the way. He is arguably the leader of a new faction called Worldwide Underground. Mundo, Jack Evans and PJ Black are cocky heels who do not give a fuck about your rules. Blatant nut shots, blatant cheating, cowardly behavior and class clowning makes them the heels I love to hate. There are great things in John Hennigan’s future.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: The Independents

July 9, 2016

WILPW

The volume of sports entertainment out there is daunting these days. In my last post, I spoke of a time where there were two choices. If you did not like vanilla than there was always chocolate and if you did not like chocolate then screw you. However, there were always companies “independent” of the big two that you could watch. These independents are generally where the big two get their talent. Now we are down to the “Big One” but it feels like there are at least three levels now in our country. There is the WWE/NXT which is generally regarded as the top of the heap. Under that, there are companies like Lucha Underground, Ring of Honor and TNA. They are well-funded and have television but they still feed talent to the WWE. Below that are all the smaller companies that are largely regional and often feed NXT, LU, TNA and ROH. Of course, then there’s the AAA and NJPW and any other foreign markets which are kind of in a class of their own.

So anyway, it has been a long while since I enjoyed some independent action. I made time over the last two weeks to surf YouTube and check out some great matches. However, instead of praising companies, I thought I would take the opportunity to praise some of the performers. At present, these people do not have exclusive contracts anywhere. In lieu of clips, I decided to put up whole matches to show these people in action.


“King of Dong Style” Joey Ryan

Anybody who follows my twitter would know how much a fan I am of Joey Ryan. Joey is currently working on television for Lucha Underground but that is just one of his gigs. I have known of Joey Ryan since first seeing him in Wrestling Society X when he was one half of That 70’s Team with The Disco Machine. He got a try out on TNA Impact but they do not deserve him. His mission statement (according to various announcers) is to bring sleazy back to pro-wrestling. He has certainly accomplished this as he portrays a character you would not want to touch with a ten-foot pole and mostly because he might like that. His character thinks highly of himself but there is a good reason for that as he is a competent fighter in all of his incarnations. He is also the King of Dong Style which parodies Nakamura being the King of Strong Style. Sometimes, King of Dong Style means that Joey is immune to low blows and in Japan it means he literally fights people with his privates. As a guy who regularly takes part in intergender matches, he is the master of the Boobplex and the YouPorn Plex. Currently, he is touring with his long time tag partner Candace LeRae as The World’s Cutest Tag Team. He seems to thrive best in situations where he is not held back from being his pervy self but he has fit in anywhere I have seen him.


The Young Bucks

Matt and Nick Jackson are real life brothers who have been high up in the business for quite a while now. With all the talk lately about The Bullet Club and its partial absorption by the WWE, it’s cool to look at these guys too. These guys have become synonymous with the word independent in the past few years. They have thrived on the independent scene and worked for what seems like every small company in the country. They briefly worked in TNA as Generation Me but wisely got out while the getting was good. They are also regular special guests with ROH and New Japan Pro Wrestling but neither are lucky enough to make it exclusive. As I insinuated earlier, these two are still members of the Bullet Club which had to expand to make up for the loss of AJ Styles, Prince Devitt, Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson. Before AJ left, he used to do trios matches alongside the Bucks and it is clear they were on his level. Their work is incredibly smooth and they transition from move to move very quickly and they do the right moves at the right time. A lot of tag teams that engage in a lot of high spots pause a lot and look like they are just going down a list of moves they want to do. The Bucks are great about building the excitement of the match and playing to the crowd. They are like a faster, better version of the Hardys who did not go insane.


“The Aerial Assassin” Will Ospreay

The world of pro-wrestling recently exploded due to the online release of a New Japan Pro Wrestling match between Ricochet and Will Ospreay. I have not gotten to see that match as of the time of this writing but I have seen highlights. Some say it is amazing and others say it is destroying the business but it looked like a professional Lucha/Indy/Japanese hybrid match that had a lot of heart and athleticism. I decided to look into Will Ospreay because I already knew Ricochet as Prince Puma in Lucha Underground. After watching a few matches, I can tell that Ospreay deserves all of the hype and praise that he’s getting. He is definitely an amazing high flyer but I can see that he also has a technical side to him as well and I bet he can brawl if he wanted to. He is extremely athletic and is able to adapt to different styles. If you watch Ospreay/Richochet they are working a very light Lucha-esque style but if you watch the video above there is more weight to everything. England has a more hard hitting style with a history of both technical skill and causing pain. He (and many in the new generation) have been accused of just being spot monkeys but I can see good selling and plenty of psychology. His matches build and come to an explosive end and bring you on the emotional journey that they are supposed to. I can see where the criticism comes from but I do not agree with it. Ospreay is a hard worker and knows what he is doing and can only get better as his career continues.

So that’s it for this time around. I will have more next time when I have time to do this again. I enjoy watching stuff I am unfamiliar with to get an idea of what is out there. Sometimes the independent wrestlers get hired by the bigger companies and it is great to “know them when”. Time for me to go watch Ultima Lucha Dos!

But wait! BONUS MATCH!!! Because it includes two out of three entries here and I loved the match.

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.


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