Posts Tagged ‘WWE’

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Internet Presence

September 16, 2019

WILPW

Obviously, the world of professional wrestling preceded the Internet and existed without it for a long time. In fact, the way pro-wrestling used to work was because there was no Internet and the communication within the community was really slow. Promotions could run the same exact matches in every town without worrying about spoilers. Everybody was shrouded in mystery because it was hard to trade notes on rumors and scraps of information that people could get. Everything was divided into territories and you had to constantly reintroduce characters from across the country to people. With the advent of the Internet, the business had to change and evolve. They struggled with it at first with particularly embarrassing segments seen in old WCW and WWF pay per views.

Nowadays, things have advanced to a whole new level. Companies like WWE use services like YouTube to put out extra content that occurs during commercials or after events are over to further storylines or highlight characters. However, what I am interested in here is how individual performers can use the Internet to further their own presence and improve their careers. The first example of it happening that I can think of is Zack Ryder who created his own online show called Long Island Iced Z where he produced his own content and was allowed to be goofy. It forced WWE to briefly accept his Internet popularity and use him more on the actual television shows. Stars like The New Day (through Austin Creed) have used YouTube to get their brand out better when they felt ignored by the WWE.

However, what really sparked this post is that I recently started binging the YouTube show Being the Elite. BTE was created by Matt and Nick Jackson who are collectively known in the business as The Young Bucks. The two brothers had joined a group called The Bullet Club (thankfully they have abandoned this name) and created a subgroup along with Kenny Omega called The Elite. They created their show on YouTube at first as a travelogue as they traveled back and forth from Japan and across the United States. It allowed fans to see a filtered version of who they were in real life and it often included their friends as well. They started showing segments of them goofing off in their hotel rooms, backstage, or going out on the town. They also used the show to get their catchphrases and character quirks out into the world better.

 

At one point, the Bucks had gathered together a group of good friends that included Kenny Omega, Adam Page, Cody Rhodes, Marty Scurll, and Adam Cole. This is the point where they first started to further major storylines in the show. The Bucks and their friends were working across several separate promotions between New Japan Pro Wrestling, Ring of Honor, and others. They used their YouTube show to knit together and flesh out their storylines between their various appearances. Their first major storyline was the infighting between Adam Cole and Kenny Omega who was the leader of the Bullet Club. It ended with them murdering Adam Cole which gave an in-universe explanation for his disappearance since Cole had signed with the WWE in real life. At that point, the show really took off as a travelogue, a sketch comedy show, and a platform for the furthering of storylines.

As time went by, new regular castmembers joined the show as they would regularly send footage to the Bucks to edit into the show. They added Brandi Rhodes, Scorpio Sky, Frankie Kazarian, Christopher Daniels, actor Stephen Amell, Joey Ryan, and Flip Gordon. At some point, they even made a celebrity out of their translator/gopher in Japan who is named Masa. Flip Gordon, in particular, benefited from the show as he was new to the business and it allowed him to get his brand out there better. The show evolved further and they were able to solidify a lot of regular bits and running gags. I think my all-time favorite regular bit involves the members of So Cal Uncensored (Scorpio Sky, Frankie Kazarian, and Christopher Daniels) who regularly talk about every town they visit is the worst town they’ve ever been to and how much they want to get back to Southern California.

More recently, the show was used to launch the largest independent wrestling show in history called All In which included a lot of storylines started on Being the Elite. They rode that momentum and left Ring of Honor and New Japan to start their own promotion called All Elite Wrestling. Backed by billionaire Tony Khan and TNT, they are poised to create a huge splash in the business. Sadly, this meant that they had to leave behind their friends Marty and Flip who are still signed to Ring of Honor and Joey Ryan who decided to stick with independent wrestling. The prevailing thought is that Marty and Flip will join them once their contracts are up. In the meantime, Being the Elite has been flooded with the future stars of AEW like Sammy Guevara, MJF, Britt Baker, The Librarians, Chris Jericho, and so many more. Television for AEW stars up on TNT in October and the Bucks still don’t know whether or not they will continue BTE. They and their friends are executives in the new company along with their on-screen performer duties so the show might have to end out of necessity.

Until then, it is exciting to see where the show goes and I continue to binge past episodes. I also need to watch some of the spin-off show The Nightmare Family (starring Cody and Brandi). If the show continues to stick around, it will continue to innovate and entertain. It has done wonders for the careers of its cast and introduced future stars to people who may have never heard their names. It is a positive movement on a medium that can be very negative.

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Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 8

May 18, 2019

29 – Favorite NXT Entrance


Velveteen Dream

I have to choose Velveteen Dream here mostly because his entrance is pretty much different every time he enters anywhere. When he first showed up on the NXT scene, he was just a scrappy young guy who seemed to really like Prince but it was clear that his personality was ten times bigger than he was. Over time, his power seemed to accumulate and grow. He seemed to gain power over any arena’s lighting and sound by sheer force of charisma. He has used this to accentuate his appearances in ingenious ways. He has also used it to the detriment of his opponents. He was able to turn off a spotlight on Matt Riddle and move it to himself during a promo. During a series of taped promos for a five-way match, he countered Aleister Black’s fading the screen to black by snapping his fingers and making it bright purple instead. He is constantly thinking of controversial costumes to wear to the ring in order to draw deserved attention. He has dressed as performers from the past and has also worn clothes specifically to mock his opponents. He currently often has big muscled men carry him out on a couch to the stage, a couch which is also draped with beautiful women. You can watch his big, patriotic entrance from TakeOver: New York above for probably his biggest and best entrance yet.


Aleister Black

Kind of a cheat seeing as how Aleister Black is now on the main roster but I could not resist. The Halloween fan in me loves Black because of his inscrutable occult atmosphere and the martial arts and anime fan in me loves the way he moves. Black’s entrance is similar to the Undertaker’s entrance without going over the top with it. When I first saw the epic vampire sit up move, I lost my mind for a bit. It is easy to see how the trick is done but it still looks really badass. He also often has dozens of lit candles surrounding the stage for big matches which gives a really cool ambiance. Throw in some dry ice and you have a spooky entrance that also rocks because of his epic theme music. Also, at some point when they show his name up on the big screen, it is at first written in a font that reminds me of Enochian before it morphs into English. As the metal music pounds through the arena, he keeps his cool and stares with intensity at his opponent and readies himself for absolute carnage.

30 – Favorite NXT Entrance Music


Keith Lee – “Limitless”

I am a big fan of wrestlers who perform their own ring themes whether they are good or bad. Keith Lee made a name for himself by being nerdy, big, and quick. The rapping here is great along with the chorus of singers exhorting us to “Bask In His Glory”. It immediately tells you what Keith Lee is about. He thinks highly of himself but he definitely deserves to. He also shows how fun he is through wordplay and vocabulary. I have this song on rotation as one of my alarms to wake up to because it is just so fun. It is also a lot of fun to sing along to and the production value makes me have hope for how much they are going to invest in this obvious superstar.  He has been away for some time but I cannot wait to hear this theme ring out on NXT television again.


The Undisputed Era – “Undisputed”

When Adam Cole burst on the scene and recruited Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly to form the Undisputed Era, they needed a kickass theme to show they meant business. It starts with their initial mission statement which was their desire to “Shock the System” and take the place over. The slow grind of the guitar really sells the swaggering arrogance of the team and their usual smug and slow entrance. They take their time coming to the ring and this song is great for that without being boring. The guitars also allow Kyle O’Reilly to air guitar using his title belt (when he has one). A lot of people were not sold on the weird vocals throughout the song but the team really sold them by adding gestures in their entrance to accentuate them and give the song and themselves more character. Adam Cole’s smug smile as he points to himself on the “Boom” just immediately says so much about his character. They are fun assholes and this song definitely helps show that.

Media Update 5/8/2019

May 9, 2019


Fighting With My Family

I am a huge fan of the WWE (through good times and bad) but WWE Films has been fairly hit and miss. This is the kind of movie that was absolutely in their wheelhouse. It is a docudrama on the WWE career of Paige (real name Saraya-Jade Bevis) who was part of the Knight pro-wrestling family in England. The company had access to Paige herself and a lot of the players involved in her career because most of them are employees and ex-employees. Paige helped change the way women are viewed in wrestling by becoming the Anti-Diva and this is more or less her real-life story. The story is absolutely great, filled with humor and heart. Florence Pugh is perfect as Paige, capturing her passion and sense of humor. Nick Frost plays her father and is funny as usual but he also plays a good man with rough edges. Lena Heady plays Paige’s mother, a professional wrestler who is proud of her daughter’s meteoric rise. Jack Lowden plays Zak, Paige’s goofy brother who also tried out for the WWE but did not make it in but was always supportive of his little sister. The Rock plays himself, offering some of the best advice in or out of wrestling “Don’t be the next me, be the first you.” I knew a bit of her story but it was really interesting to see it played out dramatically. Part of that is that it was written and directed by Stephen Merchant, the creator of the Office. It is probably the best pro-wrestling movie made so far. I definitely recommend it, even to non-wrestling fans.


Shazam!

The DC Comics movies lately have been so bad that they had to basically rethink everything. They seem to have finally given up on attempting a shared universe like the MCU which is a relief. They are going back to the drawing board to make better standalone movies. I felt like this was the best DC film in a long time (maybe 11 years). Shazam was the perfect property to start this shift with as it has always been very cartoony and goofy, to begin with. The movie starts a little grim but eventually (like Wizard of Oz) suddenly there is color and humor and fun. First, Mark Strong is a great choice to play Sivana, an obsessed villain who gets to play the straight man to a lot of the zaniness. Zachary Levi and Asher Angel play the title character. I found it really fun that Angel played a world-weary teenager while Levi got to act more like a kid. The supporting cast of Jack Dylan Grazer, Grace Fulton, Faithe Herman, Ian Chen, and Jovan Armand gave the movie more heart and grounded the hero in ways that we have not really seen with DC yet. The movie also surprised me a lot but in the best ways. DC needs more movies like this and Wonder Woman, stories that make sense and grow organically from character. The effects were also great and the cinematography was clear and not as muddy as past films. I definitely recommend it.


Stargate: Atlantis

I was a big fan of Stargate since the movie came out. When I found out about the television series, I was intrigued but it took me a while to check it out. When I did, I found that I really loved it. It had a lot of heart, great characters, and good stories. It scratched the same itches that my favorite Star Trek series touched. When it finally ended after so many but still too few seasons, I was sad. I watched (and loved) Sanctuary because of Amanda Tapping’s involvement. Stargate Atlantis had already come and gone when I finished Stargate SG-1 and I had no way to catch up with it. So I was hit by Stargate Universe instead and that was disappointing. Recently, Amazon Prime had Atlantis so I decided to check it out. The series takes an all-new cast (some of which were regular guest stars from SG-1). The show felt like an extension of the SG-1 series but with room to grow away from that main series and explore a few different but similar concepts. The cast is really good at what they do which is episodic science fiction. Unfortunately, I only got a few episodes into the first season before Amazon Prime yanked the show for some reason. I definitely recommend it if you can find it and if you can, let me know.

Music of the Week:
Stitched Up Heart – Lost

G-Eazy – I Mean It

Courtney Barnett – Everybody Here Hates You

Lizzo – Tempo

The Claypool Lennon Delirium – Blood And Rockets: Movement I

Weekly Update:
– This week’s update is “Into a New World”
– I finished Lucifer Season 3
– I watched more Santa Clarita Diet Season 3
– I watched more Losers
– I watched more Star Trek: Voyager Season 2
– I started Supernatural Season 14 (and I’m halfway through already)
– I started Ash vs. The Evil Dead Season 3

What I Love About Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 7

May 4, 2019

27 – Favorite NXT Match


Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream
TakeOver: WarGames 2017

This was at a time when both Aleister Black and Velveteen Dream were new to the NXT scene and therefore were relatively unknown by the WWE Universe. In a short time, Aleister Black had earned a reputation as a brutal striker. With his Black Mass kick, he instantly obliterated his opponent and made them “fade to black”. He was clearly on the warpath toward the NXT Heavyweight Title and it was only a matter of time before he got his opportunity. At the same time, Velveteen Dream was extremely new and people did not quite know what to think of him. He was doing anything and everything to get a rise out of the crowd by being flamboyant and an instigator. He decided to confront Black to make a name for himself but Black’s indifference drove him insane until he was basically stalking Aleister Black. When their big match happened, it was less about winning for Dream but he just wanted acknowledgment from Aleister Black. He wanted acknowledgment from the NXT audience as well. Aleister just wanted to shut this man up and get him out of his face. The two went back and forth and Dream shocked the world by going toe to toe with a dominant performer. Finally, Black knocked out Dream and finished him off but before he left, he leaned down and spoke Dream’s name into a microphone. He gave the devil his due and so it ended up being a victory for both of them.


Matt Riddle vs. Velveteen Dream vs. Adam Cole vs. Aleister Black vs. Ricochet
NXT Television – March 20, 2019

With a week left to go until Wrestlemania weekend, the show opened with the bad news that Tomasso Ciampa was going in for neck surgery and his spot in the big TakeOver match was now open. That was the bad news. To make up for the sudden stop in a storyline years in the making, they decided to give the gift of a match for the honor of being in the main event. Getting to see all five of these guys in one episode was definitely special but having all of them in the same match was great. Their good conditioning made it so that all of them could keep going without as much of the usual rest periods during that match type. Riddle had not really gotten much of a chance to show his stuff and shined as an absolute beast. Dream got to mess with three of his past opponents and one future one. Aleister Black and Ricochet got their television farewell match as singles stars. Adam Cole got to show why he should be feared as a tough competitor and a fantastic opportunist. This was a great showcase for some great talent and made Cole a credible threat for his match with Gargano.

28 – Favorite NXT Takeover

TakeOver: New York (2019)

Proof that each TakeOver event is better than the last. While we were cheated out of the conclusion of the epic rivalry between Jonny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, there was still plenty more to love here. It started with an awesome tag match between the team of Aleister Black and Ricochet and the War Raiders. This was Ricochet and Aleister’s big sendoff as they would be off to the main roster the next night. Often when two giants face off against two smaller guys, the smaller guys get crushed. However, it was cool to see a highly competitive match between four potential hall of famers. Again, we got a similar story between Walter and Pete Dunne for the UK Championship. Walter is like a Terminator robot but Pete Dunne is a sadistic torturer and it went back and forth. Shayna Bayzler showed while she is still the champ by beating three women at once but Belair, Shirai, and Sane all got time to shine. Johnny Gargano vs. Adam Cole was a roller coaster that could have gone either way and made me happy. Velvet Dream vs. Matt Riddle stole the show as a great bout between two different personalities and two very different fighting styles. Riddle’s technical mastery and rage strength was no match for the sheer force of Dream’s will and resilience. Every match had me on the edge of my seat.


TakeOver: Toronto (2016)

First, we got Tye Dillinger during my favorite part of his career so far against Bobby Roode and both also got great entrances. This really felt like “The Great Entrances Takeover”. The Authors of Pain faced off against TM-61. It was a classic battle of two never say die high fliers throwing themselves at the big brutes to try and win but falling short. It was a shame that this was kind of the beginning of the end of TM-61 as a team. Mickie James made her return to the WWE after being a champ in TNA to face off against the undefeated Asuka. Asuka was a whirling buzzsaw of death but Mickey still gave the Empress of Tomorrow her first bit of trouble in a while. Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura was a brutal affair with Joe basically being Godzilla and Nakamura attempting to still win the day. Finally, DIY vs. The Revival stole the show. This was back when Gargano and Ciampa were on the same page and they truly had all of the heart in the world. At the same time, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder of The Revival were built to be a tag team together. On top of that, this was a tag match with three falls which saw both teams try to steal each other’s best moves and gut it out for the win.

Musical Gimmicks

April 15, 2019

WILPW

Obviously, music has been tied to professional wrestling for a long time. It started in the 1950s but really hit its stride in the seventies and eighties with the marriage of rock and wrestling. This basically amounted to music playing as performers entered the ring and when they won a match. Also, music was obviously used in promos and advertisements. Later, I heard stories about music videos that were produced for Smoky Mountain Wrestling to introduce new members of the roster. Music is a powerful force that can provide a lot of information through tone and lyrics in a short amount of time and minimal effort. Also, a performer’s entrance music fires the crowd up and lets them know who is showing up so they can cheer or boo appropriately. However, what I want to talk about today are professional wrestlers who are actually musical.

Though, I actually want to start with those gimmicks that were music adjacent but actually rarely showed much musical skill. As usual on these overviews, I will probably expose some gaps in my knowledge but enjoy the ride and educate me in the comments if you must. First in this group is the Honky Tonk Man. Honky was a master at making people hate him but he was also a guitar-wielding, Elvis-inspired performer. He hit more people with his guitar more than he ever played it. Speaking of hitting people with a guitar, there was also Jeff Jarrett. He was supposed to be a country music musician who wanted to use pro-wrestling as a platform to become a star as improbable as that sounds. He never sang a word and he broke hundreds of guitars throughout his career. Funny enough, his entrance song was sung by another wrestler Jesse James but the WWF never went anywhere with that. I also think of people like Jillian Hall who did a tone-deaf pop singer gimmick, squealing into a microphone to the delight of nobody.

But no, I am here to talk about those with actual skill. The first that I want to talk about is John Cena. Those who only know him as a meme or as a Hollywood personality might not know his past in the early 2000s. Back then, he changed from being a fairly normal guy into a white rapper gimmick. I am sure there are many who would be surprised to know that he was a very competent rapper. It started with him recording his entrance theme “Basic Thuganomics” and doing 8 Mile-esque rap battles on Smackdown. He was dubbed the Doctor of Thuganomics and then he recorded his album which included a lot of great tracks including the aforementioned “Word Life” and “Bad, Bad Man”. His rap career started to fade away as his gimmick evolved but he did record his now iconic theme song of “My Time is Now” which a lot of people might recognize from the popular John Cena meme. Every so often, he breaks out the rap and stretches those muscles. Just recently at Wrestlemania 35, he got back in his Doctor of Thuganomics gear and laid a rap down on Elias.

Who is Elias? Well, he is what happens if you take Jeff Jarrett’s gimmick and you actually give it to a talented musician. Elias started down in NXT as The Drifter Elias Samson. He was a drifting musician who played the guitar down to the ring and was booed for slowing down the action for an impromptu concert. Eventually, the songs he sang did their best to insult the crowd. He eventually moved up to the Raw roster where he continued to “drift” around, playing his guitar. Eventually, he proved himself to be a really talented pro-wrestler and a very talented musician. He sang a lot of impromptu songs to insult the audience and his opponents. Like Cena, he actually released an album Walk With Elias (which he claims is what WWE stands for). He continues to impress with his music but lately every time he tries to play he gets interrupted. He is getting more chances to show off his in-ring skill which is great.

Probably the most successful is Chris Jericho. He earned a reputation as an artist in the squared circle. He has constantly reinvented himself over and over to change with the times. However, all during his career, he was always a huge fan of heavy metal. He idolized all of the greats but his dream of professional wrestling came first. However, in a weird real-life twist on the Jeff Jarrett gimmick, his fame from being a WWE superstar started to get him attention from a lot of his idols in professional music. He started to make friends with a lot of these guys and they saw that he was as passionate about music as he was about pro-wrestling. He was not just some wannabe singer who might assemble a band as a vanity project. He wanted to be an actual heavy metal singer. He was able to put together a band named Fozzy which is still touring today. They have put out numerous albums and they play huge concerts and festivals all of the time. Now, he has been able to extend his pro-wrestling career by balancing it with his music career which will probably allow him to do both for as long as he wants.

There are plenty of people who sang their own entrance themes. Shawn Michaels re-recorded his theme song (“Sexy Boy”) with his vocals. R Truth raps his way down to the ring live, showing without a doubt that he has some skills. There was famously the West Texas Rednecks (a group in WCW) who sang a song called “Rap is Crap” which actually charted and was played on the radio. Tyler Breeze recorded a theme song which is an ode to his gimmick as a supermodel and an actual banging electronica song. Meanwhile, Mickie James has recorded two Country albums and is working on a third which is why she has been away from the ring for a while. I am sure this list will continue to expand as the years go by and the stars of pro-wrestling get better at diversifying their talents. We already have plenty of pro-wrestlers in Hollywood, why not some who get a Grammy eventually?

(Written on 4/10/19)

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 7

March 30, 2019

20 – Favorite Current NXT Wrestler


Johnny Gargano

Gargano first appeared on WWE programming as part of the awesome Cruiser Weight Classic tournament. The tournament was a showcase for a lot of former indy darlings to show their stuff to a wider audience. Gargano failed to win the tournament but he formed a tag team with Tommaso Ciampa called DIY. He quickly established himself as the ultimate underdog. He also earned the nickname that crowds still chant at him: Johnny Wrestling. He embodies pro-wrestling, a scrappy fighter who could never quit because it is just not who he is. When he and Tommaso had their falling out, it turned into a bloody war that took both performers to another level. Gargano eventually took on a dark streak, a quirk in his personality which allowed the character to become more versatile. “Never say die” was merged with “Win at all cost” and Johnny Wrestling finally became Johnny Champion. He is one of the most well-rounded wrestlers on the roster. He can counter just about any move, he can fly high, he can twist his opponents into pretzels, he strikes like a man possessed, and he is incredibly charismatic. He is currently on the verge of possibly being brought up to the main roster but I hope he stays down in NXT. His feud with Ciampa was put on hold for at least a year due to Ciampa’s neck injury and I am excited to see where they go next. Also, I want to see what he gets up to next. Coming up, he is going to have a hell of a match with Adam Cole during Wrestlemania weekend and then the sky is the limit.


Velveteen Dream

The man who would become Velveteen Dream started his career in Maryland Championship Wrestling (local to me) and showed a lot of talent and promise. When he was first introduced to the WWE Universe, he went by his given name of Patrick Clark. He disappeared for a while and then reappeared on NXT television as the Velveteen Dream. I was immediately skeptical. He has a strange gimmick that was hard to grab onto immediately. At first, I thought it was just a Prince ripoff (one of his signature moves is called “The Purple Rainmaker”) but it is so much more than that. He uses the eccentricity of Prince as a jumping off point and then he adds in elements of Deion Sanders, The Rock, Ric Flair, and his own brand of meta-storytelling that blends into an interesting and entertaining character. He continues to captivate me and he just seems to get better and better as his career continues. The more outlandish Dream gets, the more entertaining he gets. I cannot wait to see what he does next because he will make sure that nobody ever forgets him.

21 – Favorite Current NXT Female Wrestler


Bianca Belair

I was skeptical of Bianca at first, thinking she was just loud and her personality was a little grating at first. However, she really grew on me. I first spotted her in the first Mae Young Classic tournament. She was brash and I thought there was not much more to her than the gimmick of using her ponytail to whip opponents. The first thing I noticed once she actually started appearing on NXT television was that she was immensely strong for somebody who was not very tall. When she turned babyface, her brashness was not as annoying but it was endearing. It was kind of like The Rock’s first heel turn. All it took was a change of alignment and the proper opponents for me to start to get into her. She is a homegrown talent for WWE and they obviously see a lot in her as they keep pushing her to the forefront. She labeled herself “The EST of NXT” (meaning that she is the fastEST, strongEST, and greatEST). For a long time she was undefeated but thankfully, they ended that streak because those streaks just get boring after a while. Now that it is only her mindset that is “Un-De-Fea-Ted” she has become a much more interesting character. Her recent turn to the dark side, stemming from frustration and ambition, has been interesting to watch and I cannot wait until she gets to beat the holy hell out of somebody again.


Kairi Sane

Kairi was the winner of the first Mae Young Classic, beating out actual MMA fighter and friend of Ronda Rousey, Shayna Baszler. She was trained in Japan as part of a company that specialized in joshi puroresu style which landed her in a dominant trio where she learned her current style. What drew me to Kairi at first was her enthusiasm for pro-wrestling and her character. She came on the scene with a pirate gimmick which she leaned into so hard that it was impossible for me not to get into it. To this day she continues to bring a ship’s wheel or a spyglass to the ring. It just looks like she is having fun playing pirate and that fun is contagious. However, when the bell rings, playtime is over and she is just as hard-hitting as any other performer. As a high-flyer, it feels like she has a higher vertical leap than most. She puts everything into every movement and every mannerism. Now she has been joined by her old teammate Io Shirai and the two have formed the Sky Pirates, a new version of their old team. She and Io are just so cute and I get a lot of joy out of watching cute people kicking the crap out of their opponents.

23 – Favorite Current NXT Tag Team


Danny Burch and Oney Lorcan

Oney Lorcan was one of those guys who looked fairly nondescript and he did not seem to have a lot of personality. Over time, he was used as a guy who had a reputation of being super tough and they often put him against somebody debuting to showcase the newcomer’s toughness. It felt like Oney was never going to go beyond a cult following, slowly building that reputation as a hard worker and a tough guy. However, he then got into a feud with British wrestler Danny Burch. Danny Burch was like the English equivalent of Oney, two tough guys straight out of a Guy Ritchie movie. After fighting, the two seemed to form a genuine appreciation of each other and then a real friendship. Playing off Oney’s name, they started saluting the crowd as number one and number two. They also started to dress like they were palette swaps in a video game with one wearing red trunks and the other wearing blue trunks. For two guys primarily known as being tough, they can really move and are able to accomplish some great technical feats as well. They are able to get the crowd fired up without getting much time on the microphone which is a heck of a feat in today’s WWE.


Moustache Mountain (Tyler Bate and Trent Seven)

Back in the day, Trent Seven actually trained Tyler Bate during a pro-wrestling resurgence in England. Bate and Seven joined up with Pete Dunne to form a stable known as British Strong Style. The trio created a hybrid style between Japanese Strong Style and traditional British wrestling. While Dunne is a more vicious wrestler, Seven and Bate have been able to create their own separate but similar style. I really like a good tag team that can kick butt but also entertains at the same time. Bate especially excels at physical comedy but both of them are always ready to crack a joke either on the microphone or by playing pranks in the ring. They are called Moustache Mountain because both of them sport curled English mustaches. However, their other nickname is “Big Strong Boys” which is what crowds like to chant. Both names go with their playfulness and willingness to play to the crowd. The two of them are currently competing in both NXT and NXT UK as they have great crossover appeal.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 6

March 11, 2019

WILPW

17 – Favorite Debut/Return


Chris Jericho

One of the craziest debuts in the history of the WWE and it is unlikely that it will ever be topped. It was 1999 and everywhere you looked, you could see a clock counting down to the year 2000. Many believed that we were under the threat of a Y2K bug in electronics and there was an anticipation in the air about what was going to happen. One man happened to look at one of those clocks as he was getting ready to debut in the then WWF. He proposed that they start a countdown clock for months before his debut. They would occasionally cut to it during broadcasts with everyone wondering what it was. The time left on the clock did not line up with New Year’s Eve. On an episode of Raw, the Rock hit the ring and he was talking to the fans when all of a sudden the clock showed up again and it hit zero right in the middle of a Rock promo. The lights went out, fireworks went off, and then Chris Jericho appeared to the sounds of rock music. The crowd went ballistic as some were fans of his zany antics in World Championship Wrestling, some knew him from Extreme Championship Wrestling, and some were just caught up in the moment. Right away he traded words with the Rock and his career was off to a new start. It turned out to be a bumpy start but he eventually became even more of a legend from his runs in the WWE.


Paige

I had just started watching NXT when Paige first showed up. It was a dark time for women’s wrestling on Monday Night Raw. The place was rife with “Divas” who were better at posing than talking or wrestling. Paige dubbed herself the Anti-Diva, a wrestler who had a pale goth appearance and tons of actual athletic talent. She had just recently won the NXT Women’s Championship when she had a surprise debut on Monday Night Raw and she beat champion AJ Lee in what had to be the best women’s match on Monday Night Raw in a long time. Her star burned bright but unfortunately, she did not last as long as other performers and she is now retired by injury. She will definitely always be fondly remembered.

18 – Favorite Commentator


Mauro Ranallo

I was not so sure about Mauro Ranallo when he first showed up as an announcer. He was a commentator for other sports first and sometimes that just does not work out. Professional wrestling is a unique beast and sometimes the skills do not translate from actual sports. Mauro’s references sounded a little forced at first. He makes a lot of geeky references and a lot of references to other sports. I usually get the geeky references but I do not always get the sports references. However, he eventually won me over. His enthusiasm is impossible to ignore and it has obviously caught on with the WWE Universe. Part of what really got me on Team Ranallo was his admission that he is bipolar and his advocacy for mental health initiatives. He moved from the main roster back to NXT and he became part of the fabric of the place. Fans chant his now famous “Mamma Mia!” catchphrase when amazing things happen during matches. His enthusiasm helps build rivalries and sells the story. Villains become more villainous, heroes become more valiant, and every move pops just a little bit more as he adds his two cents in. I know that he still has other gigs and that his mental health is important to him but I hope that he finds a healthy balance so he can stick with the WWE family for a good long while.


Renee Young

She started as a backstage interviewer and stuck with the company long enough for them to really realize her potential. She filled in at the commentator table a few times and it was clear that she was more than ready for the big time. When she finally got her chance, she had been known to fans of the WWE for years. I had been hoping for a female commentator for a long while. First, because they kept bringing back the same tired male commentators who were only getting worse (Lawler, JBL, Booker T). Second, they were finally pushing women in professional wrestling and it only made sense for a female to lend her voice to this new movement. Third, if women were going to be given a more equal spot on the card, they should get a more equal spot at the commentator table as well. Renee is outspoken and knowledgeable about pro-wrestling and adds a badly needed different perspective on the product. I am glad to have the fresh blood behind the table.

19 – Favorite Underrated Wrestler


Cesaro

I first became aware of Cesaro when he was known by his real name of Claudio Castagnoli in Ring of Honor. He was part of the Kings of Wrestling with Chris Hero (Kassius Ohno) and Sara Del Ray. All three of them now work for the WWE which was a brilliant decision. Pound for pound, Cesaro just might be the strongest guy on the roster. He can accomplish amazing feats of lifting and athletics with seemingly no effort. When he needs to, he can be a high-flyer, a brawler, and a technician. He has been a part of a lot of amazing moments in NXT and WWE history. Yet, he has never really gotten the fair shake that has always been due to him. He should have gotten a major title match a long time ago. When I watch him, I see a workhorse who always does what is demanded of him. He has proved himself in feuds with Sheamus and Sami Zayn. He has done well in tag teams with Jack Swagger, Tyson Kidd, and Sheamus. He has suffered from weak feuds that were not his fault. I really believe that he could be a great heavyweight champion if given the chance. Right now he is doing great in his tag team with Sheamus but I feel like his singles career is now a fading memory. He just needs one good feud to ignite the run of a lifetime.


The IIconics

Like most people, I first became aware of Billie Kay and Peyton Royce when they first showed up on NXT. They appeared as The Iconic Duo which was immediately interesting. There had been female groups before but there had always been a clear pecking order and most of the teams eventually fell apart. Billie and Peyton are true friends and each other’s biggest cheerleaders. They work together to gain opportunities for whichever of them has the best chance at the moment. They are actually real life friends who went to high school together in Australia and it shows. They have so much chemistry together and they seem to genuinely enjoy each other’s performances. They are really funny and a lot of the time they come off like a sketch comedy team instead of wrestlers sometimes. However, when they get in the ring they can definitely get the job done either together or separately. There is plenty of time for one or both of them to get a run with a women’s championship but I feel like soon they might get a good feud for the women’s tag titles. I really hope that people see their shine through all of the chaos and give them a real shot.

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

February 18, 2019

WILPW

14 – Favorite Promo


Cactus Jack is Going Away for a While – Mick Foley

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


No More Divas – AJ Lee

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

15 – Favorite Feud/Rivalry


Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart

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


Becky vs. Charlotte

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

16 – Favorite Manager


Paul Heyman

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


Vickie Guerrero

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

Interview Questions 13

January 21, 2019


Who is the most famous person you have ever met?

I would have to say George Takei who has since become even more famous. There used to be an amusement park near where I live called Paramount Kings Dominion which was affiliated with the film studio. I only remember going to the park once and it was with one of my best friends. Back in the day, my friends and I absolutely adored Star Trek. We religiously watched The Next Generation and soaked up what we could of the original series in a pre-Netflix world. We even studied the blueprints of the ships and talked endlessly about the world of the shows. So, it was no surprise that we attended a 25th Anniversary event at Kings Dominion. We stood in line to meet Mr. Takei and he was so nice when we got to the head of the line. He was very gracious when faced with two Trek nerds nervously gushing over the series. We noticed that he had a cast on his leg and he explained that he had had an accident but that he was doing alright. I don’t remember but he probably apologized for not taking pictures with people. That was fine, I got to meet Sulu in person and take a picture on the original series transporter pads. On a different wavelength, I would also make a mention of meeting Barbara Mikulski who was a US Congresswoman for forty years in both the House and the Senate. We met when I got to have lunch with her due to an auction my parents had won for charity. On the way to lunch, we also ran into Governor Donald Schaefer. Both of these people were voted in by hundreds of thousands of people so I would say they were also pretty famous.


What scene from a non-horror movie scared you as a child?

My first impulse is to say Ghost which I saw pretty young with my folks. There is a scene near the end where Patrick Swayze (the titular ghost) is fighting the villain (a non-ghost). The villain is halfway through a window when it breaks and a piece of the glass falls and he is impaled. That is pretty gruesome for a kid but then shadowy figures appear and drag Carl’s spirit off presumably to Hell. Those shadow monsters scared the heck out of me as a kid and increased my fear of death. It was also such a departure from the rest of the movie which was more of a comedic supernatural crime/romance film. However, I contend that that moment was supposed to be a horror scene. So I would also put forward the bee scene from My Girl. In the movie, a little girl is befriended by a nerdy little boy and over the course of a summer, they kind of fall in love. Long story short, the boy goes into the woods to retrieve a piece of jewelry the girl dropped and he is swarmed by bees and dies from an allergic reaction. This came so far out of left field that it shocked me. One time when I was a young kid, I was also swarmed by bees and it left an impression on me (but thankfully I was not allergic). The sudden death of a kid who was not unlike me (I was also sickly as a child) shook me.


If you could be on the cover of any magazine which one would you choose?

I think I would most like to be on the cover of Dragon Magazine which is the magazine put out by the offices of Dungeons and Dragons. It should be pretty obvious by now that I am a big fan of D&D and being on the cover of the magazine means that I would be responsible or connected to some of the content inside the magazine. It would be a dream come true to write for Dungeons and Dragons and join the likes of Mike Mearls and Chris Perkins as part of the creative team. Either that or I am being interviewed in the magazine because I did something of interest to the readers and fans of Dungeons and Dragons. I would join names such as Wil Wheaton, Matt Mercer, Holly Conrad, and even Joe Manganiello. In the same vein, I would not mind being on the cover of WWE magazine or any other Pro-Wrestling magazine. At this stage in my life I know I am never going to be a pro-wrestler but in an alternate future, I could stumble into being a manager. Being a part of something I have loved for over 20 years would be so amazing (which is why I once considered applying to be a part of their ring crew). Both are unlikely but never say never, I guess.

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

December 1, 2018

14 – Favorite Promo


Cactus Jack is Going Away for a While – Mick Foley

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


No More Divas – AJ Lee

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

15 – Favorite Feud/Rivalry


Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Bret Hart

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


Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair

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


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