Posts Tagged ‘WWE’

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Monster Heels

August 21, 2017

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


Kane

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


Awesome Kong

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


Tomasso Ciampa

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


Mil Muertes

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


Vader

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

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Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Heels Pt. 1

July 3, 2017

Heels or “bad guys” are one essential half of any professional wrestling storyline. You cannot have the light without the dark. In the real world, perfectly morally acceptable athletes face each other all the time but in the fictional world, we want to see good go up against evil. The stakes are higher and things get a little more personal if you hate one of the characters in the fight. So, let us start to explore some of the types of heel in professional wrestling.

The Annoying Heel

This is the bad guy who will most likely get legitimate, blinding hate from the fans. He or she does everything they can to piss off the fans and their opponents. They ramp up their personality or a personality trait to make the fans salivate for them to be destroyed. Think of the annoying guy at the bar or at work who just will not shut up and everything out of their mouth is utter horribleness. That is what this heel usually is.

The first heel like this that caught on for me was actually a referee. In ECW in the nineties, rules were only used when they were convenient. Weapons were used liberally and referees whistled and looked the other way. It was a novel new direction for quasi-mainstream wrestling and bloodthirsty fans reveled in the violence and spectacle. Referee Bill Alfonso rejected that and had the audacity to do his job and enforce the rules, even citing them on the mic to rile the fans up. The combination of his stickler attitude with his grating voice drove people crazy.

Another great example is Vickie Guerrero. She was the wife of the dearly departed Eddie Guerrero who was a great heel in his own right. When Eddie died, she was given an opportunity to work for the company and she ran with it. Her voice was always a little high-pitched but she turned it up to eleven by yelling everything she said. She became an authority figure and used her power to stomp on babyfaces left and right while sunning herself in the spotlight. With an ear-splitting “EXCUSE ME!” and a truckload of smug smiles, she easily earned the hate of fans who wanted her evil plans wrecked at every opportunity.

Hands down, probably the best example I can think of off the top of my head is Michael Cole. Cole has been with the WWE for a long time now. He worked his way up the ranks until he became an announcer and a firmly entrenched voice of the product. Some liked him and some did not. I thought he was alright as a middle of the road, competent announcer more or less. Then he suddenly became the biggest heel in the WWE. He would not stop talking. Not only that but he became smug and taunted those who would oppose him. He always escaped bodily harm and every week I just wanted to see somebody obliterate him but laying a hand on an announcer was kind of a firing offense. Eventually, he became a good guy again due to backstage happenings but for a while there he was the biggest bad guy in the business and he did not even wrestle (much).

The Cool Heel

There will alway be that person who everybody likes but you cannot stand. Everybody knows he or she is trouble but you have to admit that they are so cool. Everything they do is just so well done and exactly what would make a good guy the most-loved person in the world. He says all the right things and does all the popular things but he still gets under your skin. You may even admit that you like them a bit.

The nineties gave rise to this but another big example that springs to mind is Edge when he became the Rated R Superstar. He was in great shape, said all the right things, wore cool trench coats and always seemed to be one step ahead of everybody he faced. More than that, he had stolen another man’s girlfriend and flaunted it every chance he got. He french kissed Lita every chance they got. How often do people get absolutely livid at a little PDA? Edge was good at being on top of the game, capitalizing on opportunities and just being a cool guy.

There are a lot more examples that I could pull out that everybody is familiar with but instead I will talk about Sasha Banks. In NXT, Banks was a talented performer who often came out on top. Not only that but she had poise and style and determination. She walked to the ring wearing sunglasses and not giving a crap if people loved her or hated her. There is a tremendous cool factor in that attitude, something a lot of us wish we could actually achieve. She eventually got rid of a lot of her allies as she decided that there was one and only one Legit Boss.

The ultimate example was probably Ric Flair. Starting near the beginning of his career, Ric was great at coming up with a gimmick that drove people crazy. He would drive around in limousines, wear tailored suits, hang out with beautiful women, party all night and then he would brag about it. He would brag about being the best and then he would cheat to win. He also had possibly the greatest silver tongue in the history of the business. He was often a champion and although fans wanted to see him lose, they had to admit that he had what a lot of people want. Money, fame, and talent.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Catchphrases NXT Edition

April 27, 2017

WILPW

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


#DIY – Nobody Will Do it For You

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


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

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


American Alpha – Ready, Willing, and Gable

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


Finn Balor – Summon the Demon

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

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Bayley

March 11, 2017


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

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


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


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


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

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Specialty Matches

January 28, 2017


Royal Rumble

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


Elimination Chamber

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


Money in the Bank

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


Iron Man/2 out of 3 Falls

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

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: John Cena

December 31, 2016

WILPW

John Cena has been in the WWE for fourteen years now. Before that, he wrestled for Ultimate Pro Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling. When he was starting out, he created a robot wrestler character called The Prototype. While I never saw this side of Cena, it makes sense. The man is a machine and has been since he debuted over a decade ago. He works harder than just about anybody in the company and it shows in his success.

When I first saw Cena, it was when he debuted against the now legendary Kurt Angle. Kurt was always an impressive physical specimen but suddenly this young punk came out of nowhere and challenged him. His battle cry was “Ruthless Aggression” and he certainly showed he had it. He was far from the wordsmith he would turn out to be but physically he was fast and everything he did looked good. It really was like the second coming of The Rock as he was pushed toward greatness from the moment he first appeared. Not only did he beat up Kurt, he was given kudos by a lot of veterans on camera and was even congratulated by The Undertaker. He had the charisma and he had the moves and he had the respect, he just needed a little more to truly get over.

Later that year he found that special something that would help boost him a little more into the spotlight. Taking a cue from his real life rapping skills and the popularity of hip-hop and white performers in the genre, he adopted the persona of John Cena, Doctor of Thuganomics. He leaned in hard to the gimmick and turned heel in the process. All of the kayfabe respect he had before, he threw back in the faces of those backstage as he feuded with the Undertaker, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit. He had rap battles with other superstars and proved that his gimmick was no lie. He was very good at getting people to boo him but I always loved to watch him. It was during this time that he developed the finisher that he uses today. It was called the FU to mock Brock Lesnar since it started like his F5.

In 2005, Cena won hist first heavyweight championship against John Bradshaw Layfield. It was a good choice because Cena was still technically a heel heading into the feud. Having him take down a heel faction that was a symbol of authority and politics was a good way to show that he was a good guy. I felt he also stepped up his game, broadening his character and showing that he could definitely play with the big boys. Not long after this, though, fans started to boo Cena probably because they felt he was being pushed too hard and too fast. It did not help that he was feuding with Chris Jericho who is so good that fans cheer him whether he is a babyface or a heel. The booing gained momentum and fans pretty much turned on him. I have to admit that I loved seeing Cena throw his shirt out into the audience and seeing the audience throw it back at him. I bought into the hate and booed right along with everybody else.

Cena won my respect, though. He did not let the booing faze him and instead worked harder. In one of the great modern storylines, he feuded with the Nexus. Cena often fought by himself against ten men and never gave up. Finally, this led into one of my favorite Cena feuds. He faced off against CM Punk. Cena was practically manufactured by the WWE as he never really wrestled anywhere else. Punk was an indy darling. Cena had a small move set while Punk had a huge arsenal to draw from. Cena and Punk burned the house down and had some of the most memorable matches of both Punk and Cena’s WWE careers. During this time he also feuded with the Miz in a feud that, over time, helped pull Miz into a whole new stratosphere. The two seemed to almost be made for each other at times.

Probably the biggest feud of his career was a two-year feud with The Rock. As I alluded to before, the two were very similar. Both were charismatic youngsters who joined the WWE with huge momentum already on their side. Both were immediately crowned as legends and given kudos by their colleagues just after their first match. Both were pushed too hard and too fast, forcing the crowd to hate them. However, The Rock turned heel in response and eventually got the crowd to love him while Cena just persevered and stayed the honest yet aggressive character he had always been. It was around this time that the company started to have Cena win no matter what. It led to the meme of LOL Cena Wins because his victory was almost always a forgone conclusion. It was similar to Hulk Hogan’s career in that respect.

Cena has now won 16 heavyweight belts throughout his career, tying his record with that of “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair. He continues to work hard, still performing despite multiple injuries and setbacks. Along the way, he won back my respect but I still resented that he always won. Last year he won the US Championship and he started to turn his image around. He issued open challenges and he barely won them. He got injured again. He came back and he actually started losing for once in his career and I was overjoyed. Not because I still hated him but because LOL Cena Wins was actually being used for a great new purpose. All these new stars were beating the unstoppable Cena and it did not make him look weaker but it made a lot of them look stronger. He went toe to toe with indy darling AJ Styles and Styles won and has continued to win. They will go at it again next year and I will be glued to the screen when they do. In the meantime, he is making new forays into Hollywood and crushing it as one of the most charitable celebrities. Period. I still expect good things from Cena. In my opinion, he just gets better and better.

 

(HAPPY NEW YEAR = LAST POST OF 2016)

Christmas Interview Questions

December 25, 2016

Since it is Christmas, I thought I would break my normal update schedule and post today. While it has been over a decade since I have attended church, I still celebrate Christmas with my family. My stepfather’s family actually gives and receives gifts tomorrow morning which extends our Christmas tradition a little more. Anyway, here are a few Christmas interview questions to celebrate this day of giving.


Do you prefer to give gifts or receive them?

When I was little, I was all about receiving things. However, as I got older and older, receiving became less and less important. I struggled to actually add things to my Christmas list because things became less important to me. Action figures just took up space so I started to float toward comic books, books, video games and movies which are all objects that give you an experience and serve a specific purpose. I still find it hard to ask for anything since I already have mostly everything I need and most of what I might want is boring and cheap. At the same time, giving gifts has become a more rewarding experience. I struggled to pick good gifts for the people I love. I was always desperate for a gift to give because it was required. Now, I have become better at reading people and drawing on my personal connections to them to pick a good gift. Nothing I give is boring or impersonal, it always carries memories of a bit of fiction we both liked or a memory we shared. Now I prefer giving gifts so I can see the reaction and the feeling that I really know that person.


What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

This is a huge running thing on the Internet and among my friends and family. The most popular answer that I have heard is Die Hard as it is loudly proclaimed by my brother. While I love Die Hard, I cannot pick it because it is not actually a Christmas movie. The same goes for my joke answer which is Batman Returns which involves Batman saving Christmas. One of my favorite movies, A Nightmare Before Christmas, has officially been labeled a Halloween movie so that does not count either. I feel the same should be said of Gremlins. I think I would actually go with White Christmas which I finally saw for the first time last year. It starts with singing Christmas songs to the troops in the middle of a really bad war zone. It ends with the main characters putting on a show to save a failing business. It stars Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye among others and has the old Christmas standard White Christmas (of course). It is a kind-hearted movie but it does not fall into the trap of getting too sappy, too sarcastic or too sugary sweet. It has a lot of humor but it also has a lot of touching moments and conflict which, to me, is what the holidays are all about.


What’s your favorite Christmas song?

Musically, I would have to go with the song I posted on Thursday, All I Want for Christmas is You by Vince Vance and the Valiants. Lisa Layne is one heck of a singer and I like the pleading nature of the song a lot along with some jazzy backup from the band. However, it is not a message that resonates with me. I have never had a special somebody during Christmas that I was missing and needed desperately to be with. It felt a little right that one Christmas I was working on A Christmas Carol and could not come home to my family for Christmas but that is not what I want from Christmas. I would have to go with Santa Baby simply because it embodies what I want from Christmas. I want playfulness, I want happiness, I want good music and good secular fun. Obviously, my heart goes out to the Eartha Kitt version because she was Catwoman and that ties into the whole Batman thing from earlier. She also really does well walking the line between playfulness, flirtatiousness and holiday cheer.

And how about a few gifts?

From the WWE for fans of Why I Love Pro-Wrestling:

A little Heavy Metal in honor of my new Dungeons and Dragons character:

And a look at why Home Alone may not be the best holiday film:

What I Love About Pro-Wrestling: Thanksgiving 2016

November 21, 2016

WILPW

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

Rich Swann and James Ellsworth

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

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

Aztec Warfare

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

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

NXT TakeOver Toronto

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

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

Survivor Series

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

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: The Lingo

September 17, 2016

WILPW

Since I started this part of my blog, I have used a certain language that is unique to the sports entertainment world. It is cobbled together from the early days of pro-wrestling and incorporates a lot of carny slang designed to confuse the fans if they overhear it. Gradually, as the internet became a thing, this language was learned and deciphered by the fans. I figure I have been using it enough both here and on my twitter that I should explain it a little for the layperson. Today we will explore two dichotomies that exist in the sports entertainment world.


Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens are probably the best current example of Face vs. Heel

Babyface vs. Heel


Bayley is definitely a big time babyface.

These are probably the two terms I used the most when talking about sports entertainment. A babyface or face basically boils down to ‘good guy’. Although, it can be a little more complicated than that. A babyface does not need to be a good person or a role model. A babyface usually fights for what is right. More importantly, a babyface fights for the fans and earns their respect one way or another. There is a general code that babyfaces go by. In general, they shake hands, they fight hard and they do not cheat unless their opponent cheats first. Of course, there always exceptions to even these loose guidelines.


Ricky Steamboat was definitely another example of a white meat babyface.

There used to be something called a white meat babyface. They were paragons of virtue and always did the right thing no matter what. Hulk Hogan is probably the most well known example of this phenomenon. He told everyone to say their prayers and take their vitamins before it stopped being cool. Eventually, the business realized that nobody, not even fictional characters can be perfect. Now, babyfaces and other characters in sports entertainment are done in shades of gray.


Brock Lesnar: Total Heel

Heels are bad guys and usually the villains of the story. You cannot have babyfaces without heels just like you cannot have light without dark. Generally, heels are not card-carrying villains. It is important that they have a reason for doing the bad things they do. It does not have to be a good reason or even a logical reason. All that is required is that they believe that they are doing the right thing. They will fight against the fans because the fans just do not understand or, in the heel’s mind, the fans are cheering for the wrong person. Heels spend most of their time doing everything in their power to make fans hate them. We may love to hate them but we still hate them. The psychology of a match depends on the actions and reactions between the hell and the face.

Work vs. Shoot

We all know that wrestling is ‘fake’. John Stossel told us ages ago and Vince McMahon admitted it when the World Wrestling Federation became World Wrestling Entertainment. While the athleticism and bodily risk is real, the storylines are written in a collaborative system. A lot of people have a hand in creating a performer’s character and guiding their storylines.


Thankfully the Higher Power storyline was a work or most of the WWE roster would have been sacrificed to Satan by now.

When we say something is a work, we are acknowledging that what is being shown is make believe. It is all part of the planned and written storyline. For example, a worked injury is when a performer either fakes an injury or fakes the severity of an injury. For instance, sometimes they will ‘break somebody’s arm’ to allow them to leave the tour and get some shoulder surgery. Most storylines are a work. When something is a work, you can better control the crowd’s emotions and the performers’ actions.


The shoot angle in my example below actually happened.

On the other hand, a shoot is when things get real. You see these performers might be playacting but they are also real people behind the costumes. They have real feelings and do real things. For example, say a performer sleeps with another’s girlfriend in real life. A shoot would be when that real life conflict is used in the storyline. Shoot can also refer to elements of a character that are also true of the real performer. Due to the nature of the business, it is hard to tell what is a work and what is a shoot for sure. However, a good indicator is the appearances of a storyline in actual news sources.

Why I Love Pro-Wrestling: Chris Jericho

August 20, 2016

WILPW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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