Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Alberto del Rio Is Only Telling You Things You Already Knew

Baaaaaht... chu already knew that
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Hey, did any of those backstage segments with Alberto del Rio look familiar to you last night? Y'know, the ones where he was going up to Christian and Wade Barrett and Dolph Ziggler and trying to get them to do his dirty work against John Cena? If they didn't, let me introduce you to Sean O'Haire...

In case you missed it for that short time back in the early Aughts, O'Haire was telling people what they already knew, much like del Rio did last night. He was an Internet favorite who really didn't get the juice that other guys at the time were getting, and his character (and eventually job) was scrapped. Shame, because it could have been something. Then again, was he doomed to fail from start? He was saying things that would have made him very popular with crowds, but what was his endgame? He really wasn't programmed with anyone to start, and no one had a real reason to like or dislike him other than the stuff he was saying. Having interesting things to say is good in wrestling, but I think emotional attachment is needed, and in wrestling, conflict equals attachment.

That's where I thought WWE succeeded with del Rio. If you remember back to his debut vignettes, they had somewhat of a similar vibe to them. However, when he debuted, instead of just talking to people without really getting any kind of conflict going, bam, he attacked Rey Mysterio. Simple, to the point and right there, the crowds started to attach themselves to del Rio as someone they hated rather than some guy who was persuasive with no real conflict attached. Furthermore, when del Rio was going around playing the devil's advocate to Christian, Barrett and Ziggler, it wasn't just for jollies like when he convinced Dawn Marie to flash or Brian Kendrick to streak. It was to further his own agenda, to have minions of sorts to soften up John Cena for Night of Champions.

To that end, WWE finally got that character archetype right. While Sean O'Haire was telling people things that they already knew for no apparent reason other than hey, he found it amusing, del Rio is using that manipulation to further his rep as an evil genius. Conflict is key, and storyline progression, even if it's entertaining, is only going to be effective if there's an endgame. While it may have screwed over O'Haire back in 2003, at least another intriguing character type has now been proven effective and can provide some sort of variety to the cast of characters in a company that needs to have it to reach its full potential.

Mission Accomplished!: How Zack Ryder Became a DIY Huge Star

Zack Ryder, searching for this week's Broski of the Week?
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Zack Ryder finally arrived last night.

After months and months of rallying the WWE fans to put pressure on the company to give the man more of a platform to shine, Ryder got his ultimate reward in a video package, a spotlight position in a tag match as Jerry Lawler's partner against the Newish Nexus, badgering from Michael Cole and the pinfall victory with his finisher. Unlike other darlings of the Internet, Ryder did all this to massive applause. Those cheers have been there since the Long Island RAW where Ryder wasn't to be seen anywhere but on Superstars, and finally the attention from the front office has caught up to the fan reaction.

The biggest thing that this proves is that maybe, just maybe, WWE is wising up to the fact that it's not just "their" vision that creates stars. Ryder was unhappy with the amount of time on TV he had and the lack of merchandise that was being made for him, so he made a Youtube show and built a grassroots rapport with fans who already were supporting him from having watched him on ECW. Those fans spread the word, and Ryder himself found his coworkers who already liked him and what he was doing becoming more and more vocal about him needing more time to shine. Suddenly, Ryder had a groundswell of emotional investment that manifested itself through Dolph Ziggler after he did not appear on the main RAW telecast in his hometown. The "boys" and the fans have been two groups of people whose opinions really only seemed to matter when they fell in line with what WWE wanted to present recently. While there seems to be a sea change in that kind of thinking that has manifested itself through CM Punk, the Divas of Doom, Christian and even Mark Henry, Ryder still stands out as the starkest example of how DIY can work in WWE.

Don't make any mistakes either judging his rise, because it was as do-it-yourself as you could get in the corporate machine of WWE nowadays. I think that's what makes his rise the most satisfying out of anyone's right now. He saw an opportunity to innovate how one builds character in WWE, seized it, and now, his hard work is paying off. Because of my own biases, my two favorite moments in WWE this year were both at Money in the Bank, when Daniel Bryan won his briefcase and CM Punk kissed Vince McMahon goodbye, but I think a solid third for me was last night, when Ryder got the pin with the Rough Ryder, got the crowd to explode and then got to stand with Lawler as victorious. It's a testament to how well Ryder has done for himself. He proved that the party line passed down by Steve Austin on Tough Enough and repeated by Warrior in his Randy Savage tribute as what used to be "back in the day" still works, no matter how much evidence there is right now to the contrary. If you make your own way, you will be rewarded.

For WWE to survive, I think that credo needs to be adopted by more than just Long Island Ice Z. Churning out mass-produced, dime-a-dozen bland bodybuilders isn't going to create new stars for fans to latch onto. Having guys show their creativity and get people to support them? Yeah, that's going to work. Granted, not everyone can be Ryder, but you won't know who the Ryders of the world are going to be until you give guys the platform to shine independent of the writing staff. Maybe this might mean that a guy like Johnny Curtis will be able to improv a bit instead of doing those lame visual pun segments. Maybe it means Dolph Ziggler will be able to express himself more than just through deferring to Vickie Guerrero. Maybe it means Colt Cabana gets a second chance with the company to right the wrong of his first run as Scotty Goldman. Who knows at this point.

But what I do know is that last night, Ryder finally was made and finally at least earned his spot with the company for as long as they'll have him. WWE could do something stupid like not feature him ever again, but at this point, why would they? The guy can be a huge star for them, and I think the treatment he got last night was indicative of the fact that they know he can be huge for them.

And that makes his run last night the most satisfying thing to happen on the entire telecast. I think it's safe to say that Zack Ryder has finally made it, and I couldn't be happier.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Instant Feedback: Bearded Giraffes

I didn't expect anything major to happen tonight, being that holiday RAWs rarely ever do anything. I was somewhat wrong, at least towards the beginning of the show, although the end reinforced the notion that nothing ever happens except for standard "faces win out" on these kinds of shows. I guess that's why I could palate John Cena standing tall over both Jack SWAGGAH and Alberto del Rio here. There would be plenty of time next week when more people presumably are watching to give del Rio some shine. Plus, the context surrounding the Swagger counter and tap was pretty good. In the main event, they managed to further one of my favorite stories, Dolph Ziggler and SWAGGAH's rivalry for the affections of Vickie Guerrero. del Rio, who was the other star of the show through his Sean O'Haire-esque backstage segments trying to rally troops to do his bidding for him, played into that as well, planting seeds into Ziggler's head about what Swagger's true intentions for Vickie were. Lost in the trailers for shitty movies and the Triple H/Kevin Nash/CM Punk top storyline spinning wheels, there's a really good midcard angle going on here.

That being said, when one top storyline is glossed over and the other gets the standard SuperCena Über Alles ending, it might seem like a terrible RAW. Let's look at the former now. The show started off with a lacking start, even though Punk did his best to save it. I thought he was much better actually wrestling, which people seem to discount because of the whole PIPEBOMB shtick. We know he's great on the mic, but when he gets people to care about a match with R-Truth that doesn't have a whole lot of context around it other than "Hey, he wrestled his tag partner last week", then that's mastery. I do like Punk's paranoia here concerning Trips' intentions towards Nash, but I think a lot of the peripheral stuff has come off pretty badly. One, the narrative still has Punk coming off as, well, a punk to some of the audience. Two, Trips putting his COO position on the line so soon into the narrative? Maybe I can dig it, but it feels too soon for me, even if I feel like the match itself isn't too soon. Third, if Nash is really gone (and with him getting in Funkhauser's limo in the second segment means he's not, more than likely), then it's been spinning wheels since his reintroduction at SummerSlam. Four, there is no four, only Zuul. Finally, the payoff that Nash was the one who sent the text was lame. Like, beyond lame. It pretty much insisted that he's a main player when he's not, and really, no one watching the show for the last three months buys that Trips, if he's a fair arbiter (and to their credit, he has been portrayed as such), is going to choose a guy who showed up, waltzed in and gave an ultimatum over the guy who has sold out a shit-ton of t-shirts and gotten Trips a lot of positive press, if we can blur the lines between kayfabe and "real" for a moment.

Also, I couldn't help but smile at the video package for Zack Ryder, and letting him get the win to a deafening pop was proof enough for me that the guy has arrived and that the fans do have a voice. When Michael Cole is ripping on a guy, you know they've arrived. Ryder's exuberance with Cena afterwards was really cool too, almost like it was as real as it was supposed to be part of the narrative. I really like a good success story. That being said, the pretense behind the match, that Lawler doesn't like David Otunga and Michael McGillicutty because they have "no charisma", is starting to grate on me. I think I see what all these people who think that "personality" is a funny thing to kayfabe feud over.

Also, the sooner they get Eve out of an active wrestler role, the better. Beth Phoenix may have flubbed the Glama-Slam, but she at least looks like a pro wrestler in there. Eve does not. I do find it funny though that they're using that Katie Raymond article as a talking point on TV. Again, K. Sawyer Paul is a guru at this kind of thing. Speaking of people who shouldn't be on camera? Jinder Mahal and Great Khali suck out loud in the ring. Not even Evan Bourne's masterful bumping could make them look good. Also, when Heath Slater and Randy Orton is a RAW match? Well, let's backtrack on that. It was a decent match. And I get the reasoning for it. However, it's something that might have been better suited for Superstars. Then again, what match would replace it? A Mark Henry squash? No better. Eh, I guess I can't complain, especially since Orton, I feel, has started becoming more comfortable wrestling as a good guy. I really like that he's actually setting up spots, especially his stump DDT, rather than, oops, guy's on the apron, let's drag him in and DDT him. Forcing the setup just looks cool.

But if we're going back to the wrestling, the main event tag match was as good a wrestling match as you'll get on a RAW main event. Just excellent pacing and storytelling all around. I liked the interplay between Ziggler and Swagger, the fact that Swagger got to attain beast mode early on, Sheamus taking out centuries of Irish frustration on the proxy for English oppression, Wade Barrett, and especially the spot where Christian's slap enraged Sheamus so much that it got both of them counted out. Really solid action for a show that was actually better than the impression I gave off on Twitter tonight. It was very much a holiday RAW, but it was a somewhat well-executed holiday RAW. It had its flaws, but I enjoyed it for the most part.

Impact Wrestling: A Haven for Drunks and Junkies in Wrestling

Poster child for Impact's laxity on drug use
Photo Credit: ImpactWrestling.com
There are a lot of exciting things happening in Impact Wrestling. Despite lack of direction, they have young guys who work exciting matches, and usually, shows can have as much good as they have bad. The bad can be really bad. However, as bad as they do in character, out of character, what they do, or should I be more specific, what they don't do is what is so infuriating. Two weeks ago, Matt Hardy was released from Impact ostensibly after getting into a single vehicle car accident, slamming into a tree. We all thought that maybe Impact was on the right track with their treatment of recidivist substance abusers, but then last night, Kurt Angle had his third drunk driving incident in the last five years. What was done? Nothing. Given the swiftness with which they handled Hardy, you'd think they'd have acted swiftly with Angle, right? ESPECIALLY since he was nailed earlier this year for something similar.

They didn't.

Granted, they could, but look back to the North Dakota incident this year. They didn't do anything to Angle at all. Look back at Victory Road too. They acted WAY too late when Jeff Hardy showed up to the arena (again, mind you) "in no condition to perform". Impact's long-term history when it comes to substance abuse is laughable enough that they deserve absolutely no leeway in judgment. So, what message do they send? It's loud and clear. Impact Wrestling is a haven for drug addicts and drunks. The only way you get fired is if creative has nothing for you, or you irritate Dixie Carter or someone above her in the pecking order. Obviously, that's why Angle and Jeff Hardy still have jobs. That's why Matt Hardy doesn't. It's clear as day.

So, why would anyone who toes the line even want to work there? I mean, all you have to do is get on someone's good side and anything you do is alright. What does that do to morale? What does that do to the people who don't do drugs or who don't run afoul of the law, ESPECIALLY when the people who do are the ones who get pushed to the moon? I mean, I hate going on conjectural reports about locker room morale, but when shit like this happens, and Angle isn't IMMEDIATELY reprimanded, then that smoke automatically says to me that there's fire. Absolutely.

The people who suffer aren't just the Austin Arieses and AJ Styleses of the world. It's everyone. For wrestling fans, all the work that CM Punk is doing to try and make this cool again will be undone because Impact will further the stereotype that carnies, junkies and white trash populate the ring, so of course the fans are the same. WWE suffers because no matter how stringent they make their Wellness Policy and no matter how much PR work they do with legitimate entertainment outlets (although Alex Riley and others have shown us this year that WWE has a LOT of work to do re: drunk driving), that they'll be lumped in with the old stereotypes because their biggest competition. Maybe David D. of The Smoking Section had it right with his idea that Vince McMahon needed to buy the company out for his own survival.

I'm beginning to sound like a broken record here, but c'mon son, how many more times are people going to be allowed to give Impact a black eye just because the brass likes them. They need to crack down, yadda yadda yadda. I can't even type it anymore. Hey, if Dixie and her bosses are happy running a fucking opium den, then it's their company. However, someone is going to die in their ring, and the fact that the government hasn't audited them is embarrassing. The wrestlers need to be shown consequence for their actions or else they won't learn. If Impact won't do it, Florida, Tennessee or Uncle Sam should.

Weekend Wrap-Up: Happy Labor Day!

Mugshot via TMZ
- Happy Labor Day! Hope you guys enjoy your day off (if you do indeed have off) with barbecue, beer and other fun things. Also, RAW tonight!

- CLASH Wrestling presented All-Out War Saturday, which featured the recently-fired Wreckingball getting the win in a 20-man (and woman) battle royale over such wrestlers as Mena Libra, Jimmy Jacobs and Tommy Treznik. Wreckingball will get a title shot at "GQ" Gavin Quinn at a later date, the latter defending his CLASH Championship successfully over former WWE wrestler and one-legged superstar Zach Gowen. Also on the card, "Caveman" Tyler Elkins defeated Cameron Skyy in a cage match via escape.

- Another Impact Wrestling superstar got popped for DWI last night. This time, it was the Champion. Kurt Angle got arrested for the fourth time in four years, third time for something alcohol related (and second time this year!) for DWI on I-66 in Virginia. Yeah, if there's one place you don't want to try any funny business on the road - drunk or sober - it's Virginia. Predictably, Angle wasn't fired within hours of the arrest, because he's not some annoying Internet maven like Matt Hardy, but with three legit arrests for alcohol (the fourth one was for "stalking" Trenesha "Rhaka Khan" Biggers, something that was overblown because it was she who was found out to be the stalker-type), he should probably at least be sent to rehab forcibly. Somehow? I doubt that'll happen.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Earl Hebner Don't Take No Crap from No One

Photo via Stephen Stone via /woo/

Triple H is having his way with Mankind in the corner, ignoring the count from Earl Hebner. Hebner takes matters into his own hands. The results are awesome.

Self-Aware WWE: Dot Com Article about the Divas of Doom

WWE.com is taking notice
Photo Credit: WWE.com
WWE.com by Katie Raymond

The self-awareness of WWE is reaching the website. Katie Raymond, known most for her work on WWE live blogs, wrote about the Divas of Doom and how their cause may just be legit. The quality of the article is a bit sketchy, but that's probably by design, because WWE.com is never going to be known for hard-hitting journalism. That being said, the fact that this topic is being broached speaks to the paradigm shift within the company. I figure if you're going to go in a direction, you might as well go all the way. Blur the lines not only on screen, but on the site too. Then again, that definitely speaks to K. Sawyer Paul's point that the website is now the driving force in the narrative of the company.

Future Endeavors 9/1 Power Poll: The Game Is King

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
Green Ant and Tadasuke tangling from King of Trios '10. They tangled again last week and both got rankings.

Welcome to yet another edition of the Future Endeavors Power Poll, a poll ranking wrestlers on a weekly basis based on how awesomely they performed or were portrayed on a Tuesday-to-Monday cycle. It is voted by a who's-who of wrestling bloggers, including my blogging Sergei Bo-Bro-vsky PizzaBodySlam. I will list the top ten, and then post and comment on my ballot. Here goes:

1. Triple H (Last Week: NR)
2. CM Punk (4)
3. Randy Orton (3)
4. John Cena (5)
5. Mark Henry (2)
6. Shemus (NR)
7. The Ghan-Am Connection (Kofi Kingston/Evan Bourne) (6)
8. Kevin Nash (9)
9. Sin Cara (NR)
10. The Awesome Truth (The Miz/R-Truth) (10)

NOTE: I refuse to use the name Air Boom. Brandon Stroud (who got the name actually from Dave Shoemaker and someone named @sweatingmullets... don't ask) had it right the first time.

And now, my ballot:

1. Tadasuke - For winning the Young Lions Cup and continuing to piss off the small, lonely people who have nothing better to do than populate Internet message boards and complain about wrestling in all its forms.

2. Mark Henry - Mark Henry, splitter of wigs, destroyer of worlds. My dream WrestleMania match is now Mark Henry vs. Galactus, which I'm sure Henry would win via World's Strongest Slam and the Death from Above Splash. BECAUSE HE'S FUCKING AWESOME THAT'S WHY SHUT UP.

3. CM Punk - Okay, so he did his best work of the week AFTER the ballot deadline. BFD. He should get ranked in perpetuity.

4. The Miz - Why just Miz and not Miz and R-Truth? Well, to be fair, Truth only came out to get mollywopped by CM Punk post-match.

5. Green Ant - Four wins in five matches, plus he got himself an article written about him by me. What do you mean circular logic?

6. Icarus - How could I vote for Icarus over Randy Orton? Because I can.

7. Sheamus - Fella.

8. John Cena - Y'know what I'd like to see? Cena vs. Icarus. Why? Fuck you, that's why.

9. Daniel Bryan - Stock Daniel Bryan ranking.

10. Drew McIntyre - Yeah, he lost his Superstars match against Bryan, but it was good. Plus, I feel bad for poor Drew. His improvement is inversely proportional to his push.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein - Please visit his site to view the plentiful amounts of pictures he's taken for DGUSA, ROH and other indie feds: Get Lost Photography

Friday, September 2, 2011

Follow Friday: Bryan Douglass

This week's Follow Friday spotlights Bryan Douglass, found @bpdouglass. Who is he? Well, he's a pretty interesting fellow there, fella. He used to be an editor at Gunaxin, a quite prominent sports/entertainment/culture site, but now he's involved in something new, a site called "Wayin". Right now, it's a sort of hybrid between Tumblr, Formspring and the Facebook question feature. You post pictures, associate a multiple choice question with it, and people answer. It's still very much in its early stages, so there's alot of room for evolution. That being said, he's got a lot of enthusiasm for where it might go.

When not involved with Wayin, Bryan is busy retweeting a lot of interesting articles (including TWB!). If your Google Reader content isn't enough, follow Bryan and you'll get some articles to read to keep busy. He also has the revolutionary idea to take Josh Freeman in the first round of fantasy football this year. I dunno, he might be onto something...

From the A1 Message Boards: What I'd Do with Unlimited Money and Wrestling Desires

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
My top guy
Newish A1 user Rick Rude (great tribute handle, by the way), posted a thread asking what you'd do with unlimited funds re: building a wrestling promotion. Here's his original post:
Imagine a scenario where you have acquired a stupendous amount of money. You are set for life, as well as your children and grandchildren if you have any. You have so much money, in fact, that it's basically impossible for you to ever not have money again, even if you wasted ludicrous amounts on bad investments. I don't care if you won three state lotteries, or were discovered to be a long lost Walton love child, the money is yours to do what you want.

You decide that you might as well be a money mark since you love wrestling so much.

The WWE, as a public company, is out of bounds. Everything else is in play. What would you buy, or would you start up something new? Who would you hire for creative and for on-air talent? What would be your marketing plan? Where would you perform? What about a TV deal? Would you look to take down the WWE empire, or would you prefer to remain low key and simply recoup expenses?
And here is my reply:
I'd head up the booking team, because it's my fed, my vision. My booking team would probably consist of any combination of Brandon Stroud of With Leather, the Fair to Flair crew, Bill Dempsey, David Shoemaker (the Masked Man), jerseyboy (commenter) and/or Linus (Ingoldsby, A1 poster and TWB reader - because I'd have to consider European sensibilities if I wanted to have a following across the pond). Why people I know/writers? Again, something different. It's my money, I'll succeed or fail with the people I want to succeed and fail with.

My vision would be to combine old-school ideas and concepts with modern sport sensibility, bound together with a healthy sense of humor. Like Jamey "FATSEXY" Litton, no one from "the office" would make an appearance in storyline unless it's to introduce a new commissioner (no GMs, commissioners, because again, I'm old school) or some shit like that. In ring, I'd promote a safer style based on mat wrestling and storytelling. Big finishers are meant to be taken once every couple of months, not once every couple of spots in a match. I'd draw people in with strong characters and emphasis on unscripted but "guided" promos.

At first, I'd probably run February through November with a two month offseason that'd coincide with the holiday season/football playoffs. Give people some time to catch up with what they might have missed in DVDs during the two months we'd be off.

As for talent, again, since I'd want for guys to draw people in on a basis of a combination of character and sound fundamentals rather than ZOMG WERKRATE, I pick up guys who can cut promos or act out as great characters. So guys like Davey Richards who just like to kill and get killed in the ring to have the awesomest match ever? Get lost. But a guy like Colt Cabana, who has killer personality and a sound grasp on how to work a mat-based style? Welcome aboard. In fact, he's probably my top face. Austin Aries would be my top heel. He has a rep of being a ZOMG WERKRATE guy too, but he also is a great character and has worked a "sports entertainment" style in some matches to great effect. From there, I build outwards and pick up some established guys (AJ Styles, Beer Money - provided they don't balks at the idea to leave Impact - Jay Lethal, Mike Knox, Chris Masters, Kazarian, El Generico, Kevin Steen) and some under the radar guys (Kenn Doane, Lucky Cannon, Eddie Kingston, the RockNES Monsters, RD Evans, Brodie Lee). Throw in a choice veteran, say, Steve Corino or Tommy Dreamer, and then start developing stories.

I'd start slow, 10-15 shows a year, and then try to grow with television and such. Don't go all in early, don't expect to succeed and build on stories, three acts of varying development. Always have something really good happening at a given show. That's what I'd do.
Furthermore, I'd also put on an honest-to-God joshi division, really push tag teams as serious business and probably have an appearance by a WrestleCrap hall of famer every year or so, just to remind myself not to take myself too seriously.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein - Please visit his site to view the plentiful amounts of pictures he's taken for DGUSA, ROH and other indie feds: Get Lost Photography

Friday Five: Managers

For the mouthpieces and heat magnets of the world.

1. What wrestler right now needs a manager?

2. Buy or sell: Babyface wrestlers should never have a manager.

3. Buy or sell 2: Shane McMahon was the last great manager.

4. Do some fantasy booking, or at least HR. Pick one manager through history and give him/her a dream stable.

5. Who is your favorite manager of all-time?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Wrestling Podcast, Episode 18: Michael Tunison/Christmas Ape

Photo Credit: KSK Spreadshirt shop
Episode 18: The Unforgettable Fire Ant

This week's podcast is your NFL preview podcast, and who better to run down the upcoming season than Michael Tunison (aka Christmas Ape) of Kissing Suzy Kolber? We run down each division, talk about the Steelers, Peyton Manning, both races in the AFC East, the big three in the NFC, whether Cam Newton is the new Brett Favre and who the Super Bowl teams might be come February. We also talk about CM Punk, the Attitude Era, our favorite wrestlers, WrestleMania each year and of course, KSK.

Direct link for your downloading pleasure

TWIOT: Adventures in Grilling

Me and the finished product
Photo Credit: Amanda Holzerman
In lieu of writing about college football - plenty of other bloggers are doing that well enough right now - I figure I'll mark the end of the summer with grilling, one of the best things to do during the summer. Then again, some people leave the grills active year long. I can dig that. Anyway, today, I will take you through a journey of grilling a piece of meat for dinner tonight. Hope you enjoy the grill porn!

Here's the piece of meat in question, in its raw state. It is a piece of London broil. Not the "finest" cut of meat, but definitely a quality cut in a pinch.

Photo Credit: ME!
Gotta put fork marks in it so the marinade takes.

Photo Credit: ME!
What is this marinade I'm speaking of? Well, pictured here in its deconstructed form from the left to right, cumin, olive oil, sriracha sauce, soy sauce, Fish Eye cabernet sauvignon, paprika and onion powder. Red wine is quite handy as a beef marinade component. Only makes sense, because it usually pairs with dead cow.

Photo Credit: ME!
In the bag for a couple of hours!

Photo Credit: ME!
There she is, my grill. She's served me well this summer.

Photo Credit: ME!
Just putting it on the grill.

Photo Credit: ME!
Look at the grill marks beginning to form!

Photo Credit: ME!
Here it is. Yes, it looks a bit well-done (it was medium-well), BUT I have a good excuse. My wife is pregnant and medium-well is about as rare as she can have it. Thus it's about as mooing as much as it can safely be.

Photo Credit: ME!
Yes, beef pairs well with red wine, but you know what I paired it with? Iron Hill Quadrupel. Iron Hill is a local Philly brewery that brews all kinds of craft beers, including Zoo with Roy's So Cuttered Hoppy Wheat. Again, ZWR is living the dream, friends.

Photo Credit: ME!
This is a beer faux pas, I know, but I wanted to use my German stein, dammit!

Photo Credit: Amanda Holzerman
So, there's my photo blog detailing dinner. If it makes you hungry, then I've done my job!

Your Favorite Wrestlers Ever: Vince Morales

Now that my own favorites list is out of the way, I posed the question to some of my colleagues in the fan/writer community. Who are your favorite five wrestlers?

Today's entry comes to us from Vince Morales, writer of the Milwaukee Brewers' blog Miller Park Drunk. You may remember Vince on here from an excellent guest blog he submitted after the Money in the Bank PPV, one he was in attendance for. It's funny, aside from the Phillies, the most followers on Twitter/TWB superfans I have from a single fanbase belong to the Brewers. I must be in a weird pocket on the Internet, or maybe I'm just huge in Wisconsin. Anyway, here's his list:

Two best friends, two top spots on Vince's list
Photo Credit: Pro Rasslin.com
When people say that wrestling is cyclical they usually mean that it goes in cycles of “good” and “bad”, but what they actually mean to say is that it goes in cycles of “popular” and “unpopular”. Wrestling is always good and it is always bad. It always has been and it always will be. To me wrestling is very cyclical in that my favorite wrestlers, the people that keep me tuned in, always change.

When I first discovered wrestling my favorite wrestler was Razor Ramon. He had the best finisher and he exuded coolness. As I grew older his ring work would decline and as I would learn from the internet he was a drug person. As my favorite wrestler he failed me, both in and out of character, and I soon began to wonder why I ever thought he was the best. The same thing happened with the 1-2-3 Kid.

Another early favorite of mine was Hunter Hearst Helmsley. (Seriously.) When he was the Connecticut Blue Blood you could definitely tell that he had “it” and it was fun to watch him grow. When he joined D-X I loved every minute of it. People forget now that it’s been done to death, but when he first came out with HBK because they were “really” friends it meant something. When he ascended to leader and brought in another one of his “real” friends, my old favorite X-Pac, it was great. Now? I cringe when I see him. The young guy trying to get over turned into a legend with extremely low self esteem and I wanted nothing to do with him. Again, a favorite of mine failed me in and out of the ring.

(Quick Triple H tangent: How does he not have more moves? The Undertaker can finish you with a chokeslam, Hells Gate, Last Ride or Tombstone. John Cena has the Attitude Adjustment and the STFU. CM Punk has the Anaconda Vise and the GTS. Even Randy “chinlock” Orton has the punt, RKO and second rope DDT. Triple H has the Pedigree. That’s it. With his ego how did he never say “You know what? I’m going to get the claw over as my new finisher” and just roll with it. I’m convinced this is why his match with Undertaker sucked.)

It never fails me that I find a wrestler to call my favorite and he fails me. Scott Hall let drugs and alcohol run his life. Triple H became the coolest, toughest and smartest. Chris Benoit murdered his family. I realized Raven wasn’t that good. John Cena won too much. Kurt Angle took himself too seriously. Samoa Joe went to TNA. On and on it went and my favorites quickly became people I didn’t want to see. Wrestlers are cyclical.

So when TH asked me who my favorite wrestlers are I didn’t know how to answer it because my favorite wrestlers today probably won’t be my favorite wrestlers tomorrow and one day I’ll probably regret ever calling these guys my favorite. With that being said, here’s my list.

5b. Stone Cold Steve Austin - Steve Austin is the greatest example of the cyclical nature of this list. In his heyday there is no way he’d be left off this list. He was the best wrestler, the best character and the best promo. I loved his heel turn and I loved it even more when the Invasion was over and he just came out as a babyface like nothing ever happened. Then he seemed to stop caring. There was that thing where he hit his wife. I don’t like to comment on things like that so I won’t, but it does make a person seem a lot less heroic. There was also that thing when he refused to job to Brock Lesnar and just went home. He eventually came back, but he was just stale. Drink beer, stun someone, rinse and repeat. Maybe it was the writing, maybe it was a lack of motivation, but Stone Cold just wasn’t Stone Cold anymore and I could live without him. Then Tough Enough happened. During that show I remembered the Stone Cold I loved and why he was one of the best talents I’d ever seen. Stone Cold ripping on reality show punks should win awards. The show seemed to give him his mojo back and made a potential program CM Punk sound like the greatest thing ever.

5a. Randy Savage - I never, ever got sick of the Macho Man and I never will.

4. Bret Hart - In 1997, I had an email newsletter called The Pedigree. It was the dumbest thing ever. I was 15 and I didn’t even know who Dave Meltzer was, but somehow I sent out a twice weekly pro-wrestling “newsletter”. I also had a hotline. When the whole Montreal thing was going down I refused to believe it. I left an angry message on my hotline how there was “no way” Bret Hart would ever leave the WWF and Dave Meltzer doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. (Which, in retrospect, is true most of the time.) I loved Bret Hart and I couldn’t imagine a WWF without him. When it all went down and what happened ended up happening it was the end of my innocence as a fan and the end of my newsletter. I knew that things were pre-determined before, but Montreal showed me just how real and fake the whole thing is.

My feelings on the situation always change (From How could Vince do that? to How could Bret be such a mark for himself? and back), but I always loved Bret Hart. He’s apart of a ton of my favorite matches and he’s the one guy I’ve ever really wanted one more match from.

Montreal question that’s always bothered me: If Bret refused to lose in Montreal because of his legacy (or whatever) then why did he allow them to turn him 200 times in WCW? He said in Wrestling With Shadows that he couldn’t be a heel in Canada, but then he was never that character again. Had he given up? Was WCW only about the money for him? Never made sense to me how he was so worried about his portrayal towards the end of his WWF run and then completely stopped caring about it in WCW.

3. Chris Jericho - I loved Chris Jericho from the moment I saw him as a crappy babyface that turned his back to the crowd in WCW. He was a nerd, but he was one of my favorites based strictly on his ring work. He was also one of the first guys I traded tapes for. As the mic skills came my fandom grew and grew. He was a channel changer in WCW and when he went to WWF that was game over for the Nitro set for me. His handling in WWE dropped him off my radar for awhile like so many wrestlers before him, but he came back strong and his second run in WWE solidified his spot as one of the all-time greats.

He also wrote two excellent books that solidified Chris Jericho as both a guy who gets it and a guy who I would love to hang out with.

2. CM Punk - I don’t know how he ended up here. I was never a CM Punk guy. I liked Samoa Joe. He was the bad ass. He was the one with the Kobashi match. He was the one the people warned in chant about their imminent death. CM Punk was good, but he was never my guy. When he went to WWE I was like “Yeah, cool,” but he was never a guy that I used as a reason the WWE was messed up. He got a good push and he was on TV enough that I appreciated him, but that was it.

Then Straight Edge Society happened and he said “Bring me Jared from Subway.” Then the feud with Randy Orton (the best built match at Wrestlemania imo) happened where he actually made Randy Orton seem somewhat interesting. Then Money in the Bank happened and I don’t know how he could be anywhere else. Money in the Bank was the first PPV I attended live since Over the Edge in 1998, it was my first live WWE show in five years and it was the greatest show I’ve ever been to. Since that show my interest in wrestling has waned quite a bit. Not because I don’t like it anymore, but because in some strange way I feel like I’ve reached the apex of my enjoyment of wrestling at that event and I’m not sure I can ever get that back.

1. Colt Cabana - I just started actively following Colt Cabana about four months ago so his placing on this list might seem a bit suspect to you, but Colt Cabana absolutely belongs here. Colt Cabana is professional wrestling. I’ve watched wrestling for a very long time and I can’t remember a single wrestler who put a smile on my face every single time he stepped into the ring. Jericho and others can make you laugh with their promos, but nobody’s in-ring work is responsible for more smiles and laughs than Colt Cabana.

Cabana’s outside projects help too. The Art of Wrestling is pretty much the greatest thing ever, Wrestling Road Diaries is a great documentary and Creative Has Nothing For You is always good for a laugh. If the Colt Cabana stamp of approval is on something than you can pretty much guarantee quality.

None of this is why he’s here though. Colt Cabana is here because he’s an inspiration. Not to get too inside baseball, but I’ve had a pretty crappy year. Like real crappy. Fired from my job, breaking up with my girlfriend, moving back home for a couple months, it’s been the year of not-Vince. I got depressed and dwelled on that for awhile, but Colt Cabana was always positive and on the Art of Wrestling he talked about that positivity and it really spoke to me. On one episode he spoke about an old story that inspired him about Lanny Poffo where Lanny said there were two buses, the happy bus and the sad bus, and that he was on the happy bus. That story spoke to Colt and Colt telling that story spoke to me. Life is too short. Get off the sad bus and get on the happy bus. It’s much more fun over here.

Who Said Lucha Is Unrealistic?

Photo found via Brendan Meehan

Some schoolyard wrestling to kick off your September, and shit, it's not a LARIATOOOOOOOOOOOO~! or some other strike. That's some grade-A, well-executed lucha libre right there. I'm impressed.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wrestling Six Packs: Folks Who Should Be Managers

Grating as an announcer, but great as a manager?
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Delayed from last night because I was trying to concentrate on Smackdown. Anyway, WWE seems to be trying to bring back some old tropes. Tag teams are one thing, and managers are looking to be another one. Vickie Guerrero is courting Jack Swagger, and although it will come at the expense of her business relationship with Dolph Ziggler. Dreams of having a stable of wrestlers dashed, but at least WWE is acknowledging that the managerial itch is one that needs scratching. Here are six people who are ideal for being managers in WWE.

1. Michael Cole

This is the easiest thing to do in the whole company right now. Cole has the annoying bombast down, but it's not getting anyone over from the broadcast booth. The only thing he's doing is making people tune out. A change in role would do a world of change for Cole. As an announcer calling Daniel Bryan a NERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRDDDDDDDDD, he's only reinforcing the narrative that Bryan is a nerd and really isn't worth anything. By calling him that as a manager for, say, Tyson Kidd? He's giving Bryan extra incentive to kick Kidd's ass and possibly get his hands on Cole as well. Simple things.

2. Matt Striker

He's another guy who was a misfit. As an announcer, all he did was bluster and pump out his pomposity. He never developed chemistry with any of his broadcast partners, and whether that manifested itself in snarky replies or dead air, it was bad. However, as a manager, it's that kind of bluster that can generate heat for his charges. Plus, as a former wrestler, he can take a bump and deliver a resolution in that regard.

3. Bob Backlund

I know what you're thinking. Backlund really wasn't known for his mic work as much as he was known for his acumen in the ring and his crazy, emotive action outside of it after he turned on Bret Hart in 1994. However, I think there's value in having him as a good guy manager in the vein of Jose Lothario for Shawn Michaels. Lothario didn't say anything, and really didn't need to. He was there to add gravitas to Michaels as a legitimate wrestler. Backlund, with his success in two different eras as a wrestler, could provide that kind of equity for someone who's clawing up the card and needs to "improve" in the ring.

4. Sunny

Cougar war! Sunny used to be a manager, and she has kept her looks over the years. Bringing her back as a counterweight to Vickie Guerrero would provide a great idea for an intermediary feud. Imagine the two in an arms race. Team Vickie vs. Team Sunny at Survivor Series. Competitions over which stable can accrue more gold. It virtually writes itself.

5. JBL

A Million Dollar Man for a new generation. They teased him being a financial manager with his Shawn Michaels-owes-him-money angle, but they ended it with the end of the angle. Again, he's a guy who can bump, and he has a LETHAL weapon in the Clothesline from Hell.

6. Mike Sanders

This one seems out of left field. Sanders? Where has he been? Didn't he leave WWE under dubious circumstances before? Well, none of that matters because when I see Sanders, I see a guy who could fit the Shane McMahon managerial archetype without bringing back Shane-O-Mac in an active role, the spry, bouncy manager who was always moving, always looking to cheat for his charges. Plus, he has the mic skills, which is a huge plus for a manager.

Christian Vs. Orton: The Weirdest Feud Ever

A feud that shouldn't have worked, but strangely has
Photo Credit: WWE.com
As we were reminded last night, Christian and Randy Orton have wrestled six times. Twice they went at it on Smackdown, four times on PPV. All six times, they produced critically acclaimed singles bouts. I was able to view four of those, and yeah, they were all the goods. If you looked at the feud in the context of just the match results, you'd wonder why it continued. Orton kept winning and doing so in relatively definitive fashion, excepting Money in the Bank. If you looked at it through the out-of-ring stuff, it started out great when they were both babyfaces and then deteriorated as Christian was continually degraded as a chickenshit heel rather than someone who deserved Orton's respect. However, just watching each match, it was clear why both of these guys were slotted against each other.

Even last night, when it was obvious that Orton was going to win, they both played off the match so tensely and so perfectly that there were spots where I really thought Christian might have won. They made me forget about the overarching storyline, of Mark Henry lookin' to split him the wig of a Viper and the past history of the two where Orton always won and that was that. I think that's the mark of a good feud, that the two guys get along in the ring and make it look like it could go either way.

That's the thing, this feud isn't a good feud. It's a WWE-classic, warmed over, babyface-almost-always-wins (and when he doesn't, it's due to an EXTRAORDINARY circumstance), milquetoast feud where it's clear that it's just a placeholder until someone else, whether it's Cody Rhodes or Wade Barrett or whomever else is ready. (even then, the way that Barrett was treated last night doesn't really bode well for him) By any other sane metric, Christian/Orton has gone on too long and is pretty much a failure. But for the reason that the matches are so damn good, it becomes less and less infuriating that the two are announced together as opponents.

It is weird, but I think it's worked overall. Christian really hasn't been enhanced other than being moved into a token main event heel spot. I mean, you could argue he's at least getting shine and promo time, and that's good, but it really hasn't been as entertaining as a lot of people, myself included, would want it to be. But every time he's in there with Orton, at least I forget about everything else.

I guess it's what good wrestling can do for a tepid at best feud. It can spark legitimate interest. That's why I feel that the Christian/Orton feud in the long run wasn't as bad a failure as it may seem even in the light of context. It's weird, but then again, this whole year has been weird in WWE so far. It's just par for the course.

The Best Part of Smackdown Last Night

Screen Grab/Gif credit: Brandon Stroud

Brandon Stroud did a Best and Worst of Super Smackdown. He also did some mighty fine work .gif-izing the best part of Smackdown last night, Christian deking out Randy Orton on a RKO attempt. Christian is such a master worker, and no matter what, he's going to give you a good match. Here's hoping for an extended program with Daniel Bryan coming up.

Punk Vs. Waltman - Is It Viable?

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
He's still got the chops, but is he worth the risk?
Kevin Nash's figuring so prominently in WWE television the last couple of weeks has caused a rift in the WWE fanbase. Some like it, others hate it for varying reasons, one of which being that Nash can't work a match. In fact, he's not medically cleared to wrestle, forcing the company's hand and putting Triple H in the ring with Punk. The logic behind the move makes sense - bring back someone with ties to the new COO to provide either a henchman for his use when he reveals himself as evil or a great misdirection by the person really behind the texts. From the standpoint of getting someone to spar with Punk on the mic, Nash was probably the best choice. What about from an in-ring standpoint though? Assuming that Shawn Michaels would stay retired for the time being, who'd be the best option to wrestle Punk in an actual match? There's only one answer to that question:

Sean Waltman

Waltman has cleaned his act up over the years, and at King of Trios earlier this year, he proved he could still go, gradually building up to an epic Rey de Voladores final where he lost to El Generico in what is many people's match of the year to date. You'd think it'd be a no-brainer to bring him in as a foil for Punk, especially since the match quality would ostensibly be on par with the affairs the Straight Edge Savior had with John Cena. However, there'd be two stumbling blocks. One is his hepatitis. There's no guarantee that with his condition he'd be cleared medically to wrestle in WWE. Two is that even if he was cleared? Punk might balk at wrestling him out of the odd chance that Waltman did get busted open hardway and put him at risk for contacting the disease.

The upside to this would be that WWE has scaled back its style over the years so that stuff like blading has forcibly become antiquated. Guys bleeding in matches has become somewhat of a rare occurrence anymore, and thus transmission of bloodborne pathogens is reduced to the point where maybe a guy like Waltman would be alright to compete in a one-off match.

However, for a company that is trying so hard to forge a public image of safety and accountability, how risky is too risky? Even something that's relatively "safe" might not be worth it if the end result could be taking out one of the building blocks of its future before he even had a chance to give all he could give. All it would take is one tooth knocked out of Waltman's mouth, one errant punch to bust him open (and even the most careful wrestlers make mistakes) or one botched elbow to the face causing a bloody nose that would create a severely hazardous working environment.

So while I myself was excited for the prospect of what would be, even today, a PHENOMENAL match between one of the best wrestlers in the company and a solid worker who can still go, I'm not sure this is ever going to happen. I'm also not sure I'd blame Punk or WWE for nixing it from the get go. While I think there'd be nothing to worry about, I also don't want to be wrong and have Punk end up with a disease that would put him on the shelf and endanger his life. So yeah, this is a match that'd be best left up to video games and fantasy booking, because I don't think it's happening for good reason.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein - Please visit his site to view the plentiful amounts of pictures he's taken for DGUSA, ROH and other indie feds: Get Lost Photography

Your Midweek Links: Oops, I Think Ric Flair Just Sued Us Again

Flair, lawsuit happy as ever!
Photo Credit: WWE.com
It's hump day, so here are some links to get you through the rest of the week!


- Me, Butch Rosser and Ken Borsuk get silly and fantasy cast a WWE Films remake of Blazing Saddles, among other things, on the podcast this week. [Episode 17: Mellow Goldust]

- Why do we care about ratings? My latest Fair to Flair piece [Why Do We Care About Ratings?]

- Calling Impact to the carpet for their lack of action concerning a true drug policy. Latest Camel Clutch Blog piece. [TNA Impact Needs to Do More than Just Fire Matt Hardy]

Wrestling Links:

- Shane Ryan writes a long history of the decline of Ric Flair. In response to this, Flair is attempting to file a lawsuit. America! [Grantland]

- We Watch Wrestling on why they watch wrestling. [We Watch Wrestling]

- Razor's Super Smackdown running blog [Kick-Out!! Wrestling]

- And hey, his running RAW blog too! [Kick-Out!! Wrestling]

- Best and Worst of RAW for this week, including the best description of a dirtsheet ever. [With Leather]

- Jeff Peck argues it's time to end brand extension permanently [Camel Clutch Blog]

- A return of the New World Order? Editorial note: Jeez, I really fucking hope not. Let it die. [Cageside Seats]

- A treatise on the nWo music. [International Object BONUS PODCAST: Int'l Object, Ep. 30 w/ David Shoemaker]

- Jason Mann discusses his quest to discover the essential WWE matches from 2011 thus far. [Wrestlespective]

- Lioness Asuka, in her own words. [Dirty Dirty Sheets]

- Speaking of fantasy casting movies with wrestlers... [Unreality Mag]

- Tara talks about a bunch of stuff. [Diva Dirt]

- Becky Bayless talks about her departure from Impact [I Want Wrestling]

- Speaking of Impact, why Vince McMahon NEEDS to buy the company. It's not for the reason you might assume someone would urge the man to buy his "competition". [The Smoking Section]

- The newest Sin Cara? [Tom Watches Wrestling]

- Thoughts on the lucha candidates for the WON Hall of Fame [Luchablog]

- Your obligatory Hulk Hogan parody porn post [Kentucky Fried Rasslin]

- Flashing back to 1981 AWA, Nick Bockwinkel being awarded the World Title [South Atlanta Wrestling]

- Wrestling memories of the Hart Foundation [Wrestle Guy Blog]

- ROH Tag Team Turmoil DVD review [The Harrison Analysis]

Jamie Dobson Interviews:

- Kekoa the Flying Hawaiian

Non-Wrestling Links:

- Don Cheadle is CAPTAIN PLANET in this Funny or Die video. It's way better than the crappy cartoon was. [Funny or Die]

- The Phillies produce an "It Gets Better" video. I like that MLB is getting in on this. Diffuse the bullying by setting an example for the stereotypical bullies. [The Fightins]

- What the Phillies and Rays learned about BABIP. Hint, it's a statistic, not a delicious Asian treat served in stone pots. [Crashburn Alley]

- Why do the Angels keep winning? [Grantland BONUS PODCAST: Grantland Network Ep. 1]

- Castro and Plichter eat at the best pizza joint in Philly, Tacconnelli's. I co-sign their review 100000000 percent. It's that good. [Doughboys]

- The annoying things your co-workers do while eating lunch. [Bites]

- The candy of the literary world. Someone alert KSP! [McSweeney's]

- A nice recipe for chicken spring rolls, with pictures! [Cogyddes]

- That new Pioneer Woman show in Food Network is just as awful as it sounds. [Food Network Humor]

- How you can tell the weather from the forecast. Sounds about right. [The Oatmeal]

- Matt Ufford is going to dress up as Tobias Fünke and do a hellish workout for charity. Donate! Donate! And donate some more! [Kissing Suzy Kolber]

- An ode to the most thankless job in fantasy football - commissioner. [The Go Route]

- Like the Dugout? Wish they did one for the NFL? Well, wish granted. Presenting Football Guys. [SB Nation]

- Does it matter if Michael Vick is white or black? [Wide Left]

- Stuck on whom you should root for? Justin Henry's got a primer just for you. [Camel Clutch Blog]

- It's never too early for a mock draft, is it? [Huge Upside]

- The 10 most useless women in video game history. [Ranker]

- In this link, a girl who cosplays as the far-from-useless characters from the Zelda series. [Unreality Mag]

- The Department of Defense actually spends money on something called a "spiritual fitness" test? No, but let's not cut spending anywhere, ever. [Huffington Post]

- It's official, Texas A&M is gone from the Big 12. [Dr. Saturday]

- Some STONE COLD LOCKS for the upcoming college football season. [Your Best 11]

- Hey, football is starting up again. That means SHOVE IT about conference realignment. [Campus Union]

- Having the dog that wouldn't leave the side of the casket of his former owner who was killed in action in Iraq leading the football team onto the field? Someone tell U of Iowa that this needs to happen, like now. [With Leather]

- Hurricane Irene? Stop this college football game? I SAY THEE NAY. [Every Day Should Be Saturday]

- Drew Magary did a live Funbag yesterday. TWB superfan TheRick711 got a question answered for it too! [Deadspin]

- Mad Libs for pro football [Sports Pickle]

- Bruce Dickinson flying people out of NYC stranded by Irene? As if the Iron Maiden frontman couldn't get any cooler... [UPROXX]

- 10 bands who overcame questionable debuts. Sort of the opposite of bands like Creed (fuck you, My Own Prison was pretty good). [Flavor Wire]

- Tupac's entourage smoked his ashes... or did they? BECAUSE TUPAC'S NOT DEAD [NME]

- "Space Oddity" as a children's book... beautifully depressing. [Badass Digest]

- Monta Ellis, the poster child for the misunderstood "scorer" [Court Vision]

- Angels and demons beloved by nerds. Not listed? The Dan Brown novel. [Topless Robot]

- 4 accidental sequels to 80s movies [Badass Digest]">Cracked]

- Lil' Wayne, absurd lyrics? Nah, can't be. [The Smoking Section]

- This week in movie posters. [Film Drunk]

- Perspective: u has none [Buzz Feed]

- Two chatbots arguing with each other. Are both their arguments invalid, or just yours? [Gamma Squad]

- Science... ruining supervillainy since 1543 [Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal]

- The very definition of "butterface" [Skull Swap]

- Will the NHL ever relocate into Kansas City? [Puck Daddy]

- I told you the dog was going to take over your room [Imgur Gallery]

- Nancy Grace on Dancing with the Stars. So's Ron Artest. Can we take up a collection for Artest's bail so he can elbow the shit out of the shrill young white girl murder exploitation expert? [Warming Glow]

The Best Moves Ever: QuackenDriver III

I appreciate all wrestling moves and holds that look good. Submission wrestling is awesome, so awesome I created a tag and a failed social media movement for it. High-flying moves are spectacular to look at. However, as much as I love all those moves, my wheelhouse is, and always has been, head dropping moves. Granted, you don't see them as often anymore with concussion safety coming more and more into the minds of folks everywhere. I'm fine with that. Just leave the head drops in my video games and bust them out in key, sparing spots, and I'll still love 'em to death. For all his lucha libre wizardry, Mike Quackenbush's four finishing moves that bear his name, the Quackendriver suite, are all sublime head drops. I tried looking for IV, which was the closest one to my primary e-fed finisher, the Russian neck drop from WWF No Mercy, but I couldn't find an iso. Instead, here's Quackendriver III, an off-leg spinning fisherman's driver. It's still freaking awesome.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Instant Feedback: Okay but Still Not Super

Smackdown was promised to be super tonight. It was live, it was co-branded, it had a loaded lineup. Other than two parts of the show, it was anything but super. That being said, at least the two parts that were really good were the two most important parts of the show. First, there was the contract signing between Triple H and CM Punk. IT was really, really good. Punk had his A-game back after being off the last two editions of RAW. Last night, he came off as a smarmy asshole who begged to get his comeuppance. Tonight, he acquitted himself better as the folk hero he needs to be to be a fan favorite. He was pitch perfect and with his speech about loving WWE and wanting drastic change, he totally rehabbed the damage on his cred when he went out and imitated Chris Jericho, circa 2000. Triple H was really good here too, a perfect counterbalance to Punk. He was sympathetic in his own right, and he had his own narrative. The more I think about it, the more I think the logical move here is going to an alliance between Punk and Trips, but since that is obvious, it's probably not happening.

The other really good part to tonight's show was the main event. It started off slowly, and it was looking like it wouldn't be the best work between Christian and Randy Orton. However, in the last segment of the match, things really picked up. Christian's avoidance of Orton's signature moves was amazing. The best play came when he hopped on the second turnbuckle to go for his diving European uppercut. It looked like Orton would hit him with the RKO, but Christian stopped short and dodged it. That was fucking cool. This was clearly the least best of the matches between the two I've seen, and the narrative from the announcers about it being a scintillating rivalry was just annoying because it was anything but in retrospect. However, it was still good enough to put a positive spin on the show. Well the match plus Mark Henry splitting wigs afterwards. Dude is rough 'n tumble. I really hope they strap him, let him run to WrestleMania and have the story be the smallest but most skilled man on the roster, Daniel Bryan, be Smackdown's last hope. That won't happen, but hey, it's nice to dream.

Speaking of which, while the Bryan/Sin Cara match was one of Bryan's weakest of the year, it bears noting that with the kick to Bryan in the post match? I really think we're going to see a dueling Sin Cara feud. Could be good.

Other than that, there really was nothing to write home about. John Cena reared his ugly head tonight, not only trying to crack wise, but coming off as utterly unlikable. He suckerpunched Ricardo Rodriguez, and then when Wade Barrett called him on it, he claimed he still owed him payback. Really John? You don't call dropping a million chairs on the man payback enough? The writers and/or Cena really must not think all that highly of the fans for us to forget what happened at the end of the TLC PPV in December. Ugh. The match was a turd too. Too short and too one-sided. I'm not saying this as a pedantic smark who thinks that Wade Barrett should be booked to look STRONG ZOMG. I'm saying this from a standpoint that when I see a match billed as a "MAIN EVENT", I want to see more than just token resistance and squash-like results. Compare to the real main event. No one thought Christian was going over. No one except maybe the most deluded Christian fanboys. Okay, but I think they did a really good job of selling the fact that Christian might just win. Barrett and Cena? It was like the people who laid the match out knew that the crowd knew who was going to win and told them to phone it in because they had to get more plugs, recaps and trailers in.

Yep, when you have a co-branded show, you definitely need more trailers and plugs, right? I mean, it's not like there were guys like Cody Rhodes, the Awesome Truth, Justin Gabriel, Ezekiel Jackson and Vickie Guerrero's traveling dysfunctional circus who could have been there instead of the trailer for Trips' next shitty movie or a recap for the most one-sided main event feud in WWE history... oh wait, there was.

Smackdown was better than RAW was last night, but it still felt very warmed over, not befitting the Super Smackdown label. I felt like I was bored for half the show, but thankfully, the other half of it that was worth watching was at least good. All I have to say though is that the magic WWE had over the summer is disappearing rapidly. Hopefully, this is just a hiccup and when RAW rolls around Monday, we get back to the awesomeness that we've been treated to in July and most of August.

Chikara Photos! Fun Times! Bryce Remsburg!

US Ant! US Ant! View this picture and more!
Photo Credit: Zia Hiltey

Do you like independent wrestling, Chikara in specific? Do you appreciate good photography? Do you want to hang out with luminaries such as Bryce Remsburg, Ophidian and possibly myself? Then you're in luck! My shutterbug pal and fellow Chikaraphile Zia Hiltey will be putting her photography on display at Benna's Cafe in South Philly starting September 9th at 7:30 PM in DARK MATCH: An Espectactular Wrestling Themed Photo Show. It'll run through October 13th.

I posted a sampling of Zia's work, and I've actually used her photos on the blog before. Please go out and support her work, because she's cool beans. Plus, who knows whom you might see. Check it out if you're in Philly.

Live Smackdown Tonight: Why I Hope It's Permanent

Smackdown goes live tonight in what the WWE is promising to be a historic event. If RAW last night is any indicator, the only way it makes history is if it's historically bad. Then again, WWE has a tendency to be schizoid in how they produce shows. One week, they can be knockout great, and another, ehh, not so much. Maybe they have all their A-material planned for tonight. Who knows.

Either way, I hope tonight is a great success. As you might have noticed in the last month or so, I've been sporadic in my DVR watching. It isn't because I don't WANT to watch the wrestling I can't watch live. Except maybe Impact, because some weeks, it's a fucking chore to get through that slop. But no, I really want to watch Smackdown. Sometimes though, I get too busy. I'm a married man, and I do like spending time with my wife. We do stuff on the weekends, and sometimes, it precludes me from being able to watch the contents of my DVR. It's life.

That being said, I rarely have anything going on Tuesday nights. I CAN watch wrestling live at that point. I think most people can too. It's why networks put their best shows on nights like Tuesday (or Monday or Wednesday or even Thursday). Friday is a social night. People go out, eat dinner, have drinks, dance, bowl, watch movies. By and large, they don't watch wrestling or much TV at all, even. Sure, there are people who do watch Smackdown live who have otherwise fine social lives and make Friday nights appointment viewing, but at the same time, there's a reason why four million people watch RAW each week and maybe two million watch Brand Blue. Odds are, two million people are like me. They'd like to see the travails of folks like Christian, Cody Rhodes, Daniel Bryan and Randy Orton Wade Barrett live, but they'd rather not give up one of their free nights.

That's why I want this to be a huge success. I want to be able to watch wrestling that matters on a night that's convenient for me. I'm not alone in this either. Plus, it keeps up a really good momentum for our wrestling fandom, especially on a PPV weekend. Three straight days of wrestling with another five to chew on what happened seems to be a good thing for me at least. With Smackdown moving to live viewing, I'll probably be more apt to shift into the other room on Thursdays to watch Impact live too, and then maybe watching NWA Hollywood, Superstars and when it begins to be streamed on the web, ROH at my convenience as well.

But that's only if tonight does well. So yeah, I know I really don't care about the ratings as much anymore, but for the love of all that's good, let tonight break SyFy's ratings records and force them to put Smackdown live. It would be better for everyone involved.

It's Time to Start Paying Attention to Wrestling Revolution

A member of the Revolution
Photo Credit: WWE.com
If you haven't been paying attention before, and trust me, while I've been gung ho about this project since my colleague Razor of House Kick-Out!! interviewed Jeff Katz for his podcast, I can understand why, Wrestling Revolution is a new concept in pro wrestling, looking to combine the artform we all love with episodic, three-act storytelling. Okay, all the podcasts in the world and all the hype from one guy who you may or (more likely) may not even know won't mean a thing without the talent involved. Well, over the last week, they've started to reveal the actual cast. So far, it looks pretty impressive:
  • Colt Cabana

  • MVP

  • Kenny Omega

  • Kenn "Kenny Dykstra" Doane

  • Sami Callihan

  • Alex Reynolds

  • Dr. Luther

I'm not familiar with the last two names, but the first five have a decent at least pedigree. The fact that Cabana and MVP are involved really excites me. The thing to remember though is that you're not going to see anyone of the above in their known characters. They'll be coming in with new personae, which is something that Katz was adamant about in describing the project. That being said, the pedigree of talent behind those new characters is undeniable.

The concept is good, the players so far are good, and the guy behind the screen is a dyed-in-the-wool wrestling fan who wants something better. If I wasn't fully on board with this before, I'm totally on board with it now.

Idiotic if True: How an Impact Burnout May Have Screwed over the Young Bucks

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug
Were these guys wronged by the competition?
Cageside Seats has a pretty good summary of the scuttlebutt surrounding the Sin Cara hood and the two men who play it, especially the original. It's a good read, but in describing one of the reasons why Mistico has become persona non grata in WWE right now, they brought up this nugget on a recent controversy involving two decidedly non-Sin Cara related wrestlers:
The Young Bucks shouldn't have bothered turning up for their recent WWE tryout, their chances were shot as soon as Rob Van Dam gave them the rep of dodging veteran's handshakes. In a predictable development, RVD's good friends Booker T and Goldust made sure to concur with his assessment via Twitter that they were a couple of disrespectful young punks and thus the Bucks could kiss their WWE chances goodbye.
First, a disclaimer, I don't assume that this is 100% truth here. Dave Meltzer (the source for the Cageside article) may have an element of truth to that slant on how things happened. He may be talking cynically. I don't know.

That being said, if there is any element of truth to this... what the fuck, WWE? Really? Really? I purported not even to want to judge how the WWE backstage culture was, and if the Bucks did "wrong" Booker T, then it's one thing. It's a personal beef, and they handled it the way that they handle those kinds of things backstage. However, if what Meltzer is insinuating is true here, then it's a clear case of a guy who works for another company influencing policy. Regardless of who the guy is, that seems pretty fucked up to me. The guy basically is using his influence to make sure that two guys who might have a future in the industry can't get ahead. Isn't that kind of blackballing considered unethical at the very least?

Furthermore, let's look into the guy who's starting this bullshit. Rob Van Dam. Apparently, if the insinuation is true, he cares about respect and petty bullshit, which is fine and dandy if you're into having your ego stroked, but let's look at some of the things he doesn't care about. He doesn't care about showing respect, since he mouths off about Impact in the media if he's unhappy (and regardless of whether you agree with him or not, you take care of that shit in house). He doesn't care about following drug policy obviously. He also doesn't care about co-worker safety, since his well-documented sloppiness hasn't abated over the years. In fact, I'd say it's gotten worse since his most egregious offense against protecting his fellow workers happened within the last six months, i.e. his amateur dentistry on Abyss with his foot. So now, WWE HR policy is going to be directly impacted by a burnout working for the struggling competition? That is hilarious.

That also isn't to say that RVD and his cronies Booker and Goldust would be totally at fault here. If WWE really is going to not sign the Bucks due to that backstage fracas without further investigation, then what does that say about them? It's one thing to have a guy in the doghouse in Mistico because of behavior that's widely observed, but wouldn't you think it funny that the Bucks, who apparently shook hands with everyone else, had a problem with only two guys, guys who were friends of a habitual drug user with a massive ego? If the reports are true, then doesn't this make WWE look fucking stupid for siding with a guy who ultimately is part of the organization that's most competing with them, whether they know it or not?

But that's the kicker. I keep going back to the disclaimer. There's no way to gauge whether any of these reports that are based on non-primary sources and conjecture are 100% factual. While I have my reasons to believe Meltzer over anyone, including his colleague Bryan Alvarez, wouldn't have an axe to grind, it's entirely possible that he has a journalistic bias against the WWE. It's not that big a negative. It's human nature. There's entirely a chance that this whole post is bluster, and within six months, the Young Bucks will be in WWE, and who knows, maybe Mistico will be Sin Cara once more. That being said, there's too much smoke in the form of wrestler chatter about this kind of thing for there not to be fire. If it was just something internal, then yeah, maybe I wouldn't have wasted any more words on it than I did back when I reacted to it first. But the fact that someone working for Impact may have something to do with the Bucks not signing WWE contracts seems stupid at least, unethical at the midpoint and illegal tampering/collusion at the very worst. It's so mind-bogglingly awful that even the very specter of it doesn't pass the smell test.

Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein - Please visit his site to view the plentiful amounts of pictures he's taken for DGUSA, ROH and other indie feds: Get Lost Photography