Posts Tagged ‘WWE’

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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Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: 30 Day Challenge Pt. 4

September 24, 2018

WILPW

12 – Favorite PPV or Event of All Time


Wrestlemania XXX

This pay per view happened as I was kind of getting back into WWE and pro-wrestling in general. I had watched the occasional Raw but I had never really bought any pay per views in the past. When I was little, I watched them at my friend’s house or I watched them on VHS later. This was the first pay per view after the dawn of the WWE Network The main centerpiece was the story that had drawn me back into the game. Daniel Bryan has always been one of my favorite performers. His in-ring skills are amazing and he has such heart and fire that it is difficult for anybody to deny him. And yet, WWE seemed to hold him down until the build-up of this pay per view where they could not hold him back anymore. In this event, he beat Triple H in a one on one bout that earned him a ticket to a triple threat for the heavyweight title against Batista and Randy Orton. Defying all odds, Bryan defeated everyone and I was buzzing about that story for months afterward. It also had a six-man tag featuring the Shield who turned face for the first time, allowing us to cheer them. The Undertaker’s legendary 21 – 0 Wrestlemania streak was finally broken by Brock Lesnar in a move that eventually helped both of their stories. Bray Wyatt and John Cena had a solid match with plenty of fun signature moments from both of them. Finally, AJ Lee won a Diva’s battle royal in what was probably the first death knell of the Diva’s division.


Survivor Series 2001

Alright hold on, this is a very underrated event in my opinion and it is my runner-up. This was the (merciful) end to the Invasion angle where the Alliance finally fell to the WWF. The pay per view settled or unified every title (except for the Hardcore title). While the story was kind of lame throughout the angle, I felt they were able to distill the best elements that were left to them in this pay per view. Also, it has some of the most solid actual wrestling of the era. The main match is Team WWF (Chris Jericho, Big Show, Kane, The Rock and The Undertaker) vs. The Alliance (Booker T, Kurt Angle, Rob Van Dam, Shane McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin). That match is chock full of great talent and they all worked so well with each other. Also, I love the drama of that match type. Two of the best tag teams in the game (The Dudley Boyz and The Hardy Boyz) had a great match in a steel cage. At the time, I thought that Trish Stratus was the pinnacle of women’s wrestling. Two old friends, Edge and Test, faced off. William Regal is so underrated and he had a great match against Tajiri. It was also past the criminally short matches of the Attitude era.

13 – Favorite Finisher


Yes! Lock (Daniel Bryan)

In the past, it felt like submission holds were often used to ratchet up the tension in a match instead of ending the match. With the rising popularity of MMA and the concept of ‘tapping out’, submissions became more of a thing. Nobody makes submissions as exciting as Daniel Bryan. The move has caused competitors of all sizes to submit and has won him the WWE Heavyweight title. It was previously called the LeBell Lock named after Gene LeBell and it is a legitimately painful submission. Eventually, it was renamed a couple of times to reflect the leader of Yes! movement. Bryan looks vicious while he has an opponent locked up and his transitions into are beautiful. It is much better than his previous submission Cattle Mutilation which was harder to get into. The best and most exciting finishers can be hit at any time, causing a surprise in the match that leads to a satisfying conclusion. On top of that, you get the imagery of the opponent in anguish as Bryan vigorously nods his head as if telling them to go ahead and tap.


Sweet Chin Music (Shawn Michaels)

My runner-up comes from back before a time when half of the WWE roster started to use a superkick as a signature move. Shawn Michaels had two variations of the move. The most famous is that Shawn would knock the opponent down and then he would stomp the mat as he ‘tuned up the band’ and, as his opponent got to their feet, he would kick them in the face. The other version was the ‘outta nowhere’ version where he would just kick his opponent in the face. The move worked whether Shawn was a face or a heel and it never failed to get me excited. As a heel, Shawn would use the move as a vicious knockout blow while his opponents were already defeated. As a face, it was a move that he would struggle to hit that would win the match at the last moment against a tougher opponent. The unpredictable nature of the move made it great for creating dramatic moments either on purpose or by mistake. One of the most notable uses is his famous “I Love You” moment with Ric Flair which made him look like an executioner.

Also, off the top of my head, I love the Helluva Kick, The Stomp, Kinshasa, The Rock Bottom, The Stone Cold Stunner, and Bed of Roses.

Media Update 9/13/18

September 13, 2018


Countdown

On a whim, I decided to watch this movie over Labor Day Weekend because it was the weekend of All-In and Dolph Ziggler is big on Raw again. For those who don’t know, “Dolph Ziggler” is the stage name of Nick Nemeth. He has been part of the World Wrestling Entertainment machine for at least a decade now. I knew that he had done some stand up comedy on the side so I wanted to see what his acting was like away from the ring. Turns out it is actually pretty good. The movie is about a rogue cop (Nemeth) who is about to be fired for being a loose cannon cop when he is drawn into an extortion plot involving a kid strapped with explosives. So this time it’s personal. Literally. He is in a race to find the boy and save him from the explosives all the while being opposed by his fellow cops and Russian criminals. Along the way, there is an action sequence and chase sequence in the backstage of a WWE show so we get great cameos from stars like The New Day, The Usos, Brock Lesnar, and Rusev. Also, the police captain is played by new Mayor of Knox County Glenn Jacobs (aka Kane) who is imposing but not the greatest actor. Oh well. Ziggler is joined by Katharine Isabelle, a tough internal affairs cop who is forced to tag along in order to save the kid. The movie is actually pretty tense and, although it is cheesy, it was a lot of fun to watch. Give it a shot and just relax and watch it.


Brick Mansions

I have previously expressed how much I like Luc Besson movies both as a writer and a director. Even his worst movies are more entertaining than most movies and he is really good at building strange and exciting worlds. This one is based on one of his earliest movies (which I have not seen) but it really captured my imagination. It has probably the most likely and believable future world that I have ever seen. The setting is called Brick Mansions, an area of Detroit that was built for newly rich citizens. However, a financial collapse happened and the area was abandoned and taken over by squatters and criminals. Eventually, Detroit just walled that neighborhood in and no longer provided it with law enforcement or emergency services. The movie is basically just a buddy cop film between Paul Walker and David Belle and an excuse to watch them engage in gunplay and parkour. In fact, David Belle’s parkour is both a plot point and a running joke. They are up against a gangster played by the RZA at his most charming. What I liked most is that everybody’s motivations in the movie make sense and they all make believable choices. It is a fun throwaway action film with a pleasant plot and I definitely recommend it.


Hitman

I never played any of the Hitman games so I am not really aware of how much plot they contain. In the movie, Timothy Oliphant plays a member of an elite group of assassins who are raised from childhood to be the best at combat. I have a few issues with the aesthetics of these “master assassins” who are all bald and have barcodes tattooed onto the back of their heads but I guess I need to take that up with the video game franchise. They did the best they could with this movie and it shows. I was prepared to just enjoy the action and hate everything else but I was wrong. One of the best decisions is how they modeled the movie on the style of Luc Besson. I definitely got some Leon vibes from the movie in the best ways. Also, casting Timothy Oliphant was a great choice as he has natural charisma that shows even when he is trying to be emotionless. Olga Kurylenko is a relative innocent whose lively demeanor draws more emotion out of Oliphant. Dougray Scott plays an Interpol agent who has been pursuing Oliphant for years and is a fun plot element. Robert Knepper plays a villainous agent who is also chasing Oliphant. It is a fun romp that is basically just an excuse for awesome gunfights and martial arts combat. I also recommend it.

Weekly Music:

Jay Rock – Win

Slipknot – Sulfur

Bebe Rexha – I’m A Mess

Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin – I Like It

Air – La Femme D’Argent

 

Weekly Updates:
– This week’s theme is “Deadly Pairs”
– I started watching Once Upon a Time Season 7
– I kept watching The Good Place Season 2
– I watched more Glitter Force Doki Doki Season 2
– I watched more Disenchantment Season 1
– I went back and watched some Charmed episodes I had missed
– I watched more Voltron: Legendary Defender Season 1

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 3

September 1, 2018

WILPW

9 – Favorite Entrance

It might be cheesy and it might sound a little like a cop out but I have to choose the entrance for “Dashing” Cody Rhodes from years ago. Until he was Dashing, Cody had not shown much of the spark he would show later (and currently). He was like a Create A Wrestler in one of WWE’s video games but everything set on “default”. As he evolved, he started to develop more character and sure the character has been done before and since. He was the arrogant pretty boy who went berzerk when somebody so much as brushed up against his face. It eventually led to one of his best gimmicks in the WWE. First, the song “Smoke and Mirrors” was about how he was the real deal and his opponents were nothing but an illusion. The song is catchy as heck but it also kind of annoyed me at the time because it was just infused with his as yet undeserved arrogance. However, the reason why this entrance leaped to mind as my favorite entrance is that it used the screens at the top of the ramp in ways that few other performers have been able to do. He pauses next to one of the lower panels and a mirror appears and his face is projected live to the crowd as he admires himself. The crowd hated him for it (but a lot of us secretly loved it). There have been so many opportunities to use those lower panels to greater effect but they constantly pass it up. I would love to have that explained to me.

Runner-up: It has to be The Undertaker. Granted, this is only probably the runner-up only because I have been exposed to him for so long and the edge has worn off a bit. However, when that gong hits and he walks out slow and methodical, I still get chills. His music has always been a perfect reflection of his character. He also consistently had the best special effects for his entrances because he is a legend. It is hard to pick just which entrance of his is my favorite. I have a special place in my heart for his entrance at the 1998 King of the Ring. (Which, I could not find on YouTube unfortunately but the one above is from the same time period.)

10 – Favorite Entrance Music

Again, as a matter of personal preference, I am going to pick probably an unpopular choice. I pick Dolph Ziggler’s “Here to Show the World” entrance music. I was recently watching a pay per view from eight years ago and Dolph had not settled on his current music. However, eventually, he picked the current song by Downstait (the same band that did the Miz’ theme). The music is so high energy and, whether he is a babyface or a heel, it always fits his particular brand of arrogance. I have been listening to it lately to fire myself up for the gym and tabletop sessions and I have absolutely fallen in love with the lyrics. “If you ever doubted me, you don’t have a clue.” “Go check the scores again, I come out a perfect 10” And then there is the messy breakdown two-thirds in. It may sound ridiculous but I never seem to get tired of this song. It does not hurt that I have often been on the Dolph Ziggler bandwagon as he is a great worker and a great character. Currently, the WWE is adding a record scratch sound to the beginning of it and each time I hear it I cannot decide if I love it or hate it but it definitely is getting a reaction from me.

Runner-up: I have to go with Shawn Michaels theme “Sexy Boy”. This was a song that at one point I listened to on loop but with headphones on. I did not want anybody at school or my family to know how much I liked a song called “Sexy Boy”. However, now that I have grown and evolved a bit, I will freely admit that I still love this song. While the lyrics are not all that clever, they tell the exact story that the Heartbreak Kid always wanted to tell since he first became a singles star. It was absolutely an excellent choice to have Shawn himself sing the song. It is definitely touched off by an awesome beat and dynamite cheesy guitar riffs (and screaming girl sounds). Unfortunately, it was things like these that drove the homophobic crowds of 1996 – 1998 crazy.

11 – Favorite Match of All Time

Shawn Michaels vs. Triple H vs. Chris Jericho vs. Rob Van Dam vs. Booker T vs. Kane
Ellimination Chamber match at Survivor Series 2002.

I am a big fan of elimination-style matches mostly because it allows performers to get plenty of finishers in without ending the match right away. The tension of a match is seeing the drama and the damage unfold while waiting to see what the finish is going to be. In the Elimination Chamber match, there are five finishes so it’s a bit like Christmas for me. For those that do not know, the rules of the match are this: Two people start in the ring, surrounded by a metal cage. Built into that cage are four pods into which four other competitors go in. Periodically, those pods are opened and a new person enters the match. If somebody gets pinned or submits, they are eliminated from the match. This keeps going until there is only one person left. Anyway, this match blew my mind when it happened. The match just flows so well. The match has both Shawn Michaels and Triple H who had such great chemistry whether they were teaming up or fighting each other. Jericho always made anybody look good. Kane may have never been the greatest wrestler but he definitely always knew how to tell a story. This is probably my favorite Booker T match of all time. Finally, Rob Van Dam provides the crazy, extreme moments which are just great seasoning on an already great meal. There are so many false finishes and fun story elements that I was on the edge of my seat until the end.

Runner-up:

Mankind vs. the Rock
Raw – January 4, 1999

I have posted about this match before as it was filmed on my birthday the year before and it is a very famous match. As I have written about on multiple occasions, I am a big Mick Foley fan. At this point in his career, the character of Mankind had kind of morphed into a tough but lovable muppet. Meanwhile, the Rock was at the height of his powers as an arrogant but entertaining heel. The story of the match was that The Rock and the McMahon family had screwed Mankind out of winning his first heavyweight title. So Mankind forced The Rock into an impromptu title match in the main event of Monday Night Raw. The match was no technical masterpiece but it was definitely enjoyable to watch. First, the chemistry between Foley and The Rock was always hard to beat. Second, at ringside was D-Generation X 2.0 and The Corporation, two of the most fun factions of that time period. Also, there’s probably the biggest cheer that Steve Austin ever got in his career. It has a feel of something that should not have happened but it does and it felt so good.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Day Challenge Pt. 2

August 13, 2018

WILPW

5 – Favorite Current Tag Team

I would definitely have to go with The New Day who are currently 4-time tag team champions and the longest reigning tag team champions in WWE history (a record that had previously been held for 28 years). The team is made up of Kofi Kingston, Big E Langston, and Xavier Woods. The group is a great example of turning lemons into lemonade. The three of them were thrown together and as a new faction by the brass. Langston and Woods had come up from NXT and Kingston had been around for quite a while. When they were first put together, it looked like they were going to be a second coming of The Nation of Domination, a stand-in faction for The Nation of Islam (sort of). The idea seemed a little dated but thankfully they did not do that. Instead, they went with a sort of evangelical Christian vibe. Eventually, the three were able to interject their own ideas and they created a zany and nerdy fusion of outlandish ideas that has always been interesting. They started talking about unicorns, pushed the envelope of the PG era, dressed up like anime characters. The three of them are clearly really good friends with each other and they seem to really have a lot of fun doing what they do. They are also all three very talented wrestlers and the chemistry between them has only grown. Now the three of them are pursuing tag titles and potentially singles titles as well, but still together.

Runner-up: I also really like the Usos. Jimmy and Jey Uso are brothers who are the sons of Rikishi. They appeared on the scene and they were really good together but eventually, they got a little stale. More recently, they reinvented themselves and got way better on the mic and their in-ring style evolved too. I could listen to them cut promos with The New Day all day long.

6 – Favorite Tag Team from the Past

I would have to go with Edge and Christian who were a tag team a long time during the Attitude Era. Adam Copeland and Jason Reso were best friends growing up and they entered the business at about the same time up in Canada. When Copeland joined the WWE as Edge, he put in a good word for Reso and Reso earned his way into the company. When they were thrown together as a tag team, they were both thrilled. They started as The Brood, servants of a vampire named Gangrel. At the time, I loved the gimmick because I was a little bit goth myself back then. Eventually, they struck out on their own and that is when they really evolved. They worked hard at being the biggest jerks they knew how to be and they did it through comedy. They insulted the fans, they acted like cowards, they acted like they were God’s gift to the world, and they cheated to win every chance they could. Every match on television would be preceded by a “5-minute pose” so that the crowd could take pictures except that pose would usually insult the town they were in or their opponents. They were goofy assholes but they backed it up with skills in the ring. They were in some of the most memorable tag team matches in WWE history together.

Runner-up: This might be a surprise but I actually think of Miz and Morrison because of their incredible chemistry together. Miz and Morrison were two young guys put together in the WWE’s version of ECW and they were easily two of the brightest parts of it. Eventually, they moved to the main roster together. They had a brilliant comedy web show called The Dirt Sheet where they made up fake inside information, mocking other performers. In the ring, they pushed each other to higher heights and now both of them have been heavyweight champions.

 

7 – Favorite Current Faction

There are not a lot of official factions currently. I already talked about The New Day so I will talk about the main roster’s newest faction, Sanity. Eric Young has reinvented himself dozens of times in the business and has been a big name but all outside the WWE. So when he showed up in NXT, he went with a crazy cult leader. Sanity is a group of wild men (and one woman) who do not seem to care about wins or losses. They thrash their opponents and often draw disqualifications. Eventually, Young recruited Killian Dain from Ireland, Alexander Wolfe from Germany, and Nikki Cross from Scotland. It feels like it has been a while since there was a faction with both males and females and the female is not strictly arm candy. In fact, Cross is often tougher than the guys. The faction (minus Cross) is being allowed to get some traction on the main roster lately. Time will tell if they get treated right but they look dominant so far. I would love to see them tear things up like they did on NXT.

8 – Favorite Past Faction

I would go with D-Generation-X. When I was a kid, I was already a huge fan of Shawn Michaels so when he started his own faction with Triple H, Rick Rude, and Chyna, I was all in. I was just the right age to be amused by their sophomoric antics. When they added The New Age Outlaws and X-Pac, they had a little bit more talent to fill out their squad. The group constantly just seemed to have fun putting on skits and doing as many crazy things as they could. They were also really talented together in their various formations. They were always compelling and their history has been bound to the history of the WWF and the WWE. They will always be fondly remembered. Of course, the group eventually fell apart mostly because everybody hated X-Pac for real, not just as a heel. Before the group broke up they inducted Kane and I was very fond of the tag team of Kane and X-Pac at the time. Also, they were one of the first (if not the first) factions to have a woman who actually wrestled.

Runner-up: Pretty much any faction that CM Punk ever ran but namely the Straight Edge Society. CM Punk leveraged his real-life straight edge lifestyle to berate the fans and other wrestlers who drank or did drugs. He recruited two members to his society, Doc Gallows and Serena. The group ran roughshod over several other teams and did Punk’s dirty work allowing him to be smug and unbearable. It was great.

Why I Like Pro-Wrestling: WWE 30 Days Challenge Pt. 1

July 30, 2018

WILPW

 

1 – Favorite Current Wrestler

Overall, my favorite wrestler in the WWE right now is Seth Rollins. He continues to step it up every single time he is out there. He was great in the indies as Tyler Black but he has subsequently adapted his in-ring and promo style to the WWE style. Not only that but he is able to adapt to any opponent he gets thrown against. His recent iron man match against Dolph Ziggler (another great talent) was amazing to watch. His recent series against Finn Balor was just as entertaining. His moveset has evolved and expanded over time. His superplex into falcon arrow signature, in particular, is absolutely mind-blowing every time. I think that denying him the Curb Stomp finisher was actually a good thing as it allowed him to add several other finishers to his arsenal. I also don’t buy the “Seth Rollins is Dangerous” rumor that Brett Hart started a while ago. He is a good worker and, if anything, he needs to be a little kinder to his own body which I think he has recently done better at. His versatility as both face and heel makes me excited to see what becomes of him next.

Runner-up: The Miz who has some of the best promos in the company and he is consistently hilarious and great in the ring. He is probably one of the best homegrown WWE performers of all-time. I cannot wait to see him face Daniel Bryan again at last. Honestly, it was hard to choose between him and Seth.

 

2 – Favorite Current Female Wrestler

My favorite woman on the main roster right now is Asuka. I love the Japanese style when it comes to women’s wrestling especially since it has been cited by many great current female wrestlers as an early influence. The introduction of Asuka stepped up NXT and her main roster introduction was appropriately grand. She performs in the strong style and everything looks like it may have killed her opponent but reportedly it does not feel too bad at all. She comes off as a badass but I love everything about her aesthetic. She grins as she kicks her opponent’s ass and it was established early on that when she smiles she is to be feared. She is also notoriously hard to pin down. She wears a spooky mask to the ring but also wears bright colors and dances during her entrance. I love the contradictions. Her in-ring style is also both brutal and wild so she looks like a tornado going to town. She is just the right combination of striker, technician, and flier to have a good match with anybody. Some may criticize it, but I actually really like her broken English promos. The words come out more slowly which makes her sound more menacing and her words are more memorable. Afterall, nobody is ready for Asuka!

Runner-up: I absolutely love Bayley. She is a solid in-ring competitor who only gets better with time. More than that, she makes me smile. I cannot help but smile as she makes her entrance and gets excited about every little thing. Especially knowing that she is living her dream.

 

3 – Favorite Wrestler from the Past

When I was a kid, I would have said Shawn Michaels but now I will pick Mick Foley every time. I remember when my best friend excitedly told me about Mankind when he first appeared in the WWF. “There is this new dude named Mankind who is insane and he rips his own hair out and he can’t feel pain!” When I saw him for myself, I was definitely interested. He was different from a lot of the rest of the roster and, like the Undertaker, he had a psychological element as well. When the character of Mankind merged more with the real-life story of Mick, he added both reality and comedy to the formula. He resurrected both his original character Cactus Jack and also brought to life a version of his childhood character Dude Love. The Three Faces of Foley were an absolute joy to watch and just about every segment was improved by Foley’s presence. His promo abilities are legendary as he used a brilliant mind for ring psychology and great charisma to create some awesome moments. He also sacrificed his body in some of the most memorable moments in the WWF years. As his body started to break down, he started to use those promo skills in other ways. He became an on-screen authority figure where he shifted to a more comedic character and he was great at that too. To this day, when he visits I get a big smile on my face.

Runner-up: CM Punk will always hold a special place in my heart especially now that I understand more fully his departure and where he was back then and where he is now. He just had so much charisma and fire. I cannot decide whether I liked him better as a smirky heel or a die-hard, smirky babyface.

 

4 – Favorite Female Wrestler from the Past

I was a huge fan of AJ Lee. She was such a fast learner and she never bought into the “Diva” stuff around her. She evolved over time and was able to easily fit into whatever role she was given. I loved the work she did with Daniel Bryan, as their segments taught both of them how to do better promo and character work. Their breakup was the start of the start of her “unstable” gimmick where she slowly lost her mind over time. Eventually, she moved from being “just a valet” to getting to wrestle again on the main roster. She proved that she was willing to work hard to learn more moves and better in-ring psychology. She made her major wrestling re-debut when she started to trash Total Divas which I loved her for because I hate Total Divas. They could have played her as a cowardly heel but she backed up her words and repeatedly wrecked her opponents. When she developed the Black Widow submission finisher, she instantly cemented her spot as my favorite female character at the time. Her crazy gimmick (a reflection of her real-life bi-polar disorder) always kept me guessing as to where she was going next. She had a short career in the WWE but, in her own words, she accomplished all of her goals.

Runner-up: Kharma was an interesting character for the few months she was part of the WWE. She debuted at a time when I had been watching a lot of TNA Wrestling so I was familiar with the performer. She was the proto-Nia Jax but with a crazy gimmick similar to AJ Lee. She did not say much of anything but she laughed as she pancaked every woman on the roster. Best of all, she got to beat the crap out of the Bellas. I am loving seeing her on GLOW on Netflix now.

Kevin Owens

April 12, 2018

WILPW

On a sweltering June 22 in 2013, I drove down to the Canton area of Baltimore, an area I never hang out in even though it is close to Fells Point (an area I used to hang in). I got out of my car and headed into the DuBurns Arena which was an indoor soccer venue but is now a roller derby spot. I was happy to get in out of the heat but I was super excited to see my very first in-person pro-wrestling show. I had been a fan of World Wrestling Entertainment for over a decade but I was there for a tiny company called Ring of Honor. At the time, I had branched out to watch ROH’s television show because they had recently made a deal with Sinclair Broadcasting. (Yes, sinister right-wing organizations seem to back sports entertainment for some reason) The new product reinvigorated my love for sports entertainment and one of the reasons I was there was SCUM.

The company’s big storyline at the time was that the core of the company was being attacked from within by a group called SCUM (Suffering, Chaos, Ugliness, and Mayhem). For the start of that storyline, the leader of the group was a guy named Kevin Steen. That day, I had the joy of seeing him live as he went up against not yet broken Matt Hardy. I had already become a fairly big fan of Steen at the time. I knew he was relatively new on the scene but he had already been through a lot of rough matches. At the time, the independent scene of pro-wrestling was way into over the top hardcore matches and Steen was able to do that as well as have actual technical matches. He had also mastered being the bad guy who has a point. His main gripe with ROH at the time was that they did not like him and were gunning for him instead of honoring him as a champion.

The real bread and butter to Steen’s career with independent companies were his experiences with a performer by the name of El Generico. El Generico was a masked wrestler played by Syrian-Canadian Rami Sebei. The two formed a tag team at some point and competed in both Ring of Honor and Pro-Wrestling Guerilla (and other places). The classic image of a skinny guy and a husky guy teaming up and their obvious skill and chemistry made them a memorable team. They won championships together before Steen betrayed Generico which led to a number of brutal matches against each other. They had matches where I could have sworn they killed each other. Steen and Generico, who were still friends in real life, were able to be absolutely brutal to each other and Steen carried that brutality forward into his career.

Flash forward to 2014 and I was overjoyed to find out that Steen was joining the WWE’s “farm team” NXT. While many performers are repackaged (get new characters) when they enter the WWE system, all they really did for Steen was to change his last name to Owens. At first they wanted him to ditch the t-shirts and shorts look and wear a singlet or tights but they quickly changed their minds when he forced the issue. They allowed him to wear black shorts with a black shirt and, at the last minute, he wrote out his initials on his shirt with athletic tape. And thus, his new persona of KO was born. When his old friend Generico (now renamed and unmasked as Sami Zayn) became champion, they picked up where they left off but for a new audience. When Owens forced his way onto the main roster by obliterating the uber-popular John Cena, I was super excited all over again.

Within the confines of the story, I always hated Steen but strictly from a fan perspective, I immediately liked him. He has a build that is very different from traditional pro-wrestlers. He is a pretty husky dude but it just makes his strength and speed all the more amazing. Plus I can only watch so many oiled-up, musclebound guys in tights. The more things in pop culture that are opened up for different body types, the better. Kevin is the first person to admit that he is not your typical pro-wrestler but I see that as a strength. In a world where everybody else looks the same, your best bet is to stand out. For a while it seemed like there were only three types in mainstream WWE. That was Big Guy, Little Guy, and Woman but now all of that is changing.

Owens is also a really good when it comes to getting on the microphone. This is somewhat surprising considering that Owens comes from Quebec in Canada where English was his second language. As a young, French-speaking kid he actually learned to speak English by watching WWE broadcasts. He fell in love with sports entertainment and that passion as a fan encouraged him to learn a whole language in order to connect to it. Now, you would never know that English was not his first language. He is at once arrogant, cowardly, rude, and more importantly, he can be funny when he needs to be. He is really good at being a jerk while also being enormously entertaining. He is also very manipulative as he has now twice created a strategic alliance for his own selfish gains.

It has been a week since Wrestlemania, the biggest show that WWE has to offer. Leading up to the event, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn brutally attacked their boss, Shane McMahon, who also happens to be the son of the owner of the company they work for. After getting fired for that, they beat up their other boss, Daniel Bryan.  It has been a week since Wrestlemania, the biggest show that WWE has to offer. Leading up to the event, Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn brutally attacked their boss, Shane McMahon, who also happens to be the son of the owner of the company they work for. After getting fired from Smackdown for that, they beat up their other boss, Daniel Bryan. They failed to win their jobs back at Wrestlemania last week and then the two of them were forced to face each other for a job on Monday Night Raw. (The two brands Raw and Smackdown are separate brands). After killing each other in that match, neither of them got a job. Who knows where Owens’ story will go next as he is now still fired (in storyline). I’m looking forward to where he ends up next because he has never disappointed.

Fandom: Passion vs. Toxicity

March 12, 2018

Being part of a fandom is a great thing. Fandom used to be a more solitary thing. If you loved a television show, for example, there was a limited group of people you could share that with. If the other people at the dinner table or the water cooler did not also enjoy the thing you loved, you would just get polite nods or eye-rolls. You became an island unto yourself at least when it came to that one subject. Sure, there were conventions and fan club newsletters but mainly you just loved content quietly. That is, until the dawn of the Internet. The Internet connected people on an unprecedented scale and suddenly it allowed people of similar interests to find each other over humongous distances. This was the point where fandoms really took off as communities. These fandoms can be a powerful force for good and for bad. The difference is the line between passion and toxicity.

I was a big fan of a show called Community although I only discovered it well into the fourth season. When the creator, Dan Harmon, teamed up with an old friend, Justin Roiland, to produce a new cartoon show, I was ready to get in on the ground floor. The show they created was Rick and Morty. Rick and Morty started life as a parody of Back to the Future but evolved into a clever dark comedy science fiction adventure that still includes fart jokes. It juxtaposes insightful, reflective moments with parody and absolute silliness. I love the show because it is intelligent but it also does not take itself too seriously. The show has seen a very positive response from fans who definitely get the show. However, there is a section of the fanbase that even the creators disavow. These are the same people who hated the third season because it felt more progressive and they blamed that on the creators being forced to hire female writers. These are the same kind of people who use “SJW” as an insult. These are also the same people who threw fits when they could not obtain Schezuan sauce from a McDonalds Rick and Morty promotion. It makes me so embarrassed to have these people as part of the fandom and when that news story broke, I quickly explained to friends that I was not part of that.

Readers will know that I am a big fan of professional wrestling. This is really a loaded fandom when it comes to public perception. I will just set aside the whole problem I have with the alt-right connections the WWE leadership has. The fanbase for sports entertainment is incredibly passionate. Everybody has their favorite performers and everybody is quick to praise or criticize storylines as they are happening. I have seen plenty of positive discussions online about certain performers and their merits or flaws. I have disagreed with some of it but I can definitely respect when somebody has an opinion. For example, I love Finn Balor but if other people just are not feeling his energy then so be it. However, I have read comments on websites that are so negative. It is apparently a big thing in the fandom to hate performers because everybody else hates them. This phenomenon is still so weird to me. I have read plenty of comments from people who want fewer matches with women because they just seem to hate all the female performers which is kind of a red flag. I have read so many comments that seem to spew so much hate against the performers and not the characters they play. I just wish the WWE fandom, in particular, could be more positive about things.

I don’t talk about it much but I watched a lot of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. As a guy who once wanted to be an animator when I grow up, I retain a big interest in animation and I watch a ton of it. When the show started to gain a huge fandom, I wanted to check it out. When I did, I genuinely liked the show for being witty and creating interesting characters and a deeper plot than I see on most shows intended for children. It enjoyed a lot of deserved popularity as everyone had fun with it. Then I found about the “bronies”. Hoo boy. Bronies (a portmanteau of bro and pony) are grown men some of which seem to obsess over this show in a very creepy manner. I am all for fighting gender stereotypes as I have loved plenty of stuff with a mostly female demographic. Erasing gender stereotypes and going against toxic masculinity is a great thing. However, when you start to crowd the original intended audience out of their own events and fandom, you need to self-examine. This one is not completely negative but I was glad when bronies got their own convention and seemed to start to divide themselves from the main fandom.

It’s not all negative, though. The vast majority of fans that I have met are positive and passionate about things they like and apathetic about stuff they don’t like. I would hope that most people do not have time to sit around talking about how much and why they hate something in pop culture. Those people are out there but I do not really wish to know them. I made a decision more than a year ago to try and be more positive about things in general and I have been trying to follow through with that. I hope that anybody who reads this really thinks about how they approach fandoms and try not to be too negative. Also, don’t hate women. Reminder: Don’t crap on something too hard because somebody out there might like it and it hurts when somebody craps on your thing.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Raw 25

January 27, 2018

WILPW

As I have said repeatedly, I have been a fan of Pro-Wrestling/Sports Entertainment for about 22 years or so since I first watched WWF’s Mania, a Saturday morning recap show at my friend Farris’ house. The first match I can remember is Shawn Michaels vs. Salvatore Sincere (does anybody remember him?) for the World Heavyweight Title. Shawn made his opponent look like a sincere threat and showcased his legendary resilience in the ring. I remember the moment that I became a fan was when Shawn hit Sincere with his elbow off the top. When I saw Sweet Chin Music, I was already hooked. Not long after that, I was able to put an old television in my room so I could watch Monday Night Raw undisturbed. So, I basically started to watch right as the Attitude Era fully launched.

So, it was a no-brainer that I was going to watch the entirety of the 25th-anniversary episode of WWE’s Monday Night Raw. Raw has a rich history and one that I have been mostly present for. When I heard there was a pre-show on the network, I figured I would watch that too. I fired up the network for the second time that day (after catching up on NXT and the first Mixed Match Challenge episode). I usually skip pre-shows because it is a lot of talking with few actual promos and maybe one match. There was Renee Young, David Otunga, and Joe Rosenberg (Who?). Otunga and Young shared a lot of their favorite Raw memories while Rosenberg fanboyed. It was kind of pleasant to watch a lot of the memories that I remembered. There were also short bits from Eric Bischoff, Bayley/Trish Stratus, and a few other brief moments.

After the preliminaries, Raw actually began and it started with Stephanie and Shane McMahon coming out together, apparently putting aside their feud temporarily. These two were a big part of Raw when I watched in my teen years. They acted gracious and thankful for all of the support of the fans. They were interrupted by Vince McMahon. His kids offered him a plaque funded by Gofundme (aren’t they millionaires in their own right?) and Vince cut an awesome heel promo on his kids and the fans. It was the classic villainous Vince. Which, of course, summoned his greatest foe Stone Cold Steve Austin who looked really in shape (although his jeans were a bit too tight). At this point, Stephanie McMahon knew what was up and seemed to evaporate between camera shots which made me laugh. Vince claimed to be a senior citizen now so Austin had to lay off. Instead, he offered up Shane as a sacrifice and then tried to appease Austin with beer (although it wasn’t Broken Skull IPA so he screwed up there). After a very surreal hug, Austin stunnered Vince and then gave a second one to Shane who really should have rolled out of the ring and retreated.

The pre-show had set up the return of the Acolyte Protection Agency card game this time with the APA, Rhyno, Heath Slater, and Ted Dibiase (who kept giving loans to Heath). As the night wore on, the game got bigger and bigger (which thankfully meant that JBL got fewer and fewer lines). MVP, Titus Worldwide, Natalya, Jeff Hardy, The Usos, and the New Day all joined the party eventually which made for some great trash talking. The joke here was that every time they cut to the game, Heath Slater was laying out crappy hands only to get beat and lose more money. This led to the so dumb it was funny line from Dana Brooke: “I crunched the numbers and you have lost a lot of money.” It’s nice to see Dana embrace the weird character she was given, I just wish she would wrestle in the spotlight again. She was on the cusp of winning the Raw Women’s title at one point. Finally, Heath won a hand by cheating which led to a match with Titus Worldwide and a 3D from the Dudley Boys. Rhyno also totally pushed Heath into the ring to sacrifice him to the Dudleys, probably as part of Rhyno’s ongoing mission to toughen up Heath. Come on, Rhyno, the guy’s got kids.

The matches were pretty good. We only got one women’s match with Alicia Fox and Nia Jax strangely teaming with Absolution against Asuka, Bayley, Sasha, and Mickie. It would have been nice to have at least two women’s matches during the course of the night since the division has become a big draw lately. Also, this is the go home show for their first Royal Rumble. There was the aforementioned Slayer/Rhyno vs. Titus/Apollo match which was really short but fun. Woken Matt Hardy faced off against Bray Wyatt and, although I love both characters, the match barely made an impression except that Bray finally won a match. There was a match between The Revival and Gallows and Anderson with DX and Finn Balor watching. The best match of the night was an Intercontinental title match between Roman Reigns and The Miz. Of course, The Miztourage was also at ringside. All four guys know each other pretty well by now and the match flowed really well. The Miz cheated every chance he got and won his 8th Intercontinental title.

What was basically the end of the show was a Degeneration X reunion with some funny bits between Shawn Michaels and Triple H who always had great comic timing. They brought out X-Pac and the New Age Outlaws and paid tribute to the fallen Rick Rude and Chyna. Then, for some reason, Scott Hall came out as Razor Ramon which was probably the most awkward thing of the night. Then Finn Balor came out with Gallows and Anderson and the former Kliq did the “too suite” gesture with them. It was kind of an approval of that splinter faction of The Bullet Club using the gesture that the Kliq first came up with. It was a weird moment but it sort of made sense. Then the Revival came out and got beat by Gallows and Anderson before getting finishing moves from most of DX. WWE needs to give the top guys a break and let them stretch their legs now that they are uninjured.

There was also a brief confrontation between Brock Lesnar, Kane, and Braun Strowman which was far too rushed. That was kind of a theme of the night. Anything having to do with the current roster felt rushed and too short. This was the go-home Raw for the Royal Rumble, one of the biggest shows of the year. It was also a celebration of the last 25 years. They absolutely nailed the showcasing of legends and characters from the last 25 years with skits and promos. It should have been the other way around. They should have used the opportunity to showcase the best of their roster while they probably had additional eyes. They should have sprinkled little bits of nostalgia in between longer matches. There was a missed opportunity when they did not have a match with Goldust in it, a character that was born 22 years ago. They could have shifted a lot of the skits and promos to the pre-show instead of basically making it a cross between The Chris Farley Show and a clip show. Only one champion wrestled throughout the night and that is a bit weird.

Overall, it was an enjoyable night. It was nice to see a lot of the performers of the past alive and well. It would have been nice if they had done more with the women of the past but the night already felt cramped. The show was just about exactly what I thought it would be. I knew it was going to be a nostalgic love letter mostly to the Attitude Era. It was also a reminder of why I am glad we eventually left the Attitude Era and why I am glad we are not going back. The night awakened memories of sitting on my floor and watching Raw is War which made me tired at school the next day. The Royal Rumble is shaping up to be really fun and will be a return to the WWE’s present and it will hopefully shake up the landscape a bit.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Authority Figures

December 2, 2017

WILPW

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

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

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

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

Dario Cueto – Lucha Underground

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

Jim Cornette – Ring of Honor

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

William Regal – NXT

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


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