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.