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JWR 2.15 - Ooh, Camel Clutch
So, there are two things that interest me. Actually there are a multitude of things that interest me. Some more than others, of course. Finding that damned G-spot, for one. Building the better mouse trap. (Actually this has been done, ad nauseum.) Literature. Flicks. The mall. More specifically, the chicks in the mall.
But two things that interest me that make me a nerd are Star Trek and wrestling. Now, Iíve been a Star Trek fan for a long time. Iíve seen every episode and every movie ever produced (except for the animated series). I have a vast deposit of knowledge about Star Trek lore contained within my head. I know characters and ships and technobabble and planets. I know less than I used to, actually, but Iíve retained a lot. Hell, a few years ago I bought the Star Trek Encyclopedia and read it straight through. Liken it to reading a dictionary or an Encyclopedia Britannica or Song of Myself. These are things not mean to be read like a book. I felt like Rainman for a while there. Yeah, LeMatya. Yeah, Andromeda. Vulcans and Tholians and Qís, oh my. I am a geek to the Xtreme. But I can fuck you up.
Which brings me to wrestling. A while back I mentioned wrestling and was less than flattering about it. Later I spoke of it a bit more affectionately. Now, I come to you as a true fan. See, with Star Trek Iím more interested in the mythology of the actual show itself. I donít really want to hear the behind-the-scenes stuff about how Spock and Kirk hated each other. I did read George Takeiís (Sulu) and Jimmy Doohanís (Scotty) autobiographies. Scottyís was good. Suluís was crappy but kinda interesting. (Incidentally, are you aware that the words ďBeam me up, ScottyĒ were never said on film or TV in a Star Trek story?)
Wrestling is a little different. The oft-used phrase of soap-opera-for-guys is true. Weíve got the story lines that intrigue and anger and please us, then we have the fights. And guys like the fights. And it is predetermined and choreographed for the most part, but there should be no doubt that it is dangerous and difficult work. Many do not like or appreciate wrestling much as many do not like or appreciate Rosie O'Donnell, but maybe there should be a respect for these modern-day traveling circus performers.
Aside from the televised acts, there is a behind-the-scenes to wrestling that is not necessarily hidden, but itís just not exposed. See, for a long time wrestling was more or less the same: you had your core good guys and your core bad guys who would feud for years. The way it worked in the WWF was on their weekly televised shows there would be the names fighting no-names and winning week after week after week. There would be a main even consisting of two better known wrestlers facing off, often for no rhyme or reason other than they were known and there needed to be a main event. And the champ would seldom compete. Heís cut an interview where he would talk the wresting shit and hype up the crowd for the main event some time in the future.
I watched wrestling all the time when I was a kid. In '88 I even started watching a lot of the pay-per-view events. Back then there were five PPV events per year. And these were the big ones where all the big guys fought against each other. Names like Hulk Hogan and Lex Luger and Brett Hart and Sid Viscous and Jake the Snake Roberts and Ricky the Dragon Steamboat.
I remember my favorite match of all time was between Jimmy ďSuperflyĒ Snuka who was this shorter Samoan who had just come back to the WWF and he was ripped beyond belief and The Undertaker who had just started in the WWF and this was back when he didnít talk, but he was as big a guy height-wise as anyone had seen since Andre the Giant. He was 6í10Ē and he was lean, but by no means skinny. (Today, Undertakerís gotten fatter and has lost his evil look.) But there it was at the Ď90 or Ď91 Survivor Series, a David and Goliath-like match up. And Jimmy took it right to ĎTaker. Snuka was a high flyer who jumped off the top ropes before anyone else. And ĎTaker had this move where heís get his opponent in an arm wrench and then walk up the turnbuckle to the top and walk the ropes to the center and then jump off crashing his free arm onto his opponent's back. Of course, he still does it, but because heís chubby now, the top rope sags down to the second rope and itís just not the same. I donít recall who won, but just the dichotomy of the two stars and the way they faced off was so memorable to me.
Later a bunch of the WWF stars, the biggest names, left for WCW after some steroid fiasco. This was bad at the time because, it would be like Ray Romano leaving Everybody Loves Raymond. At the time, Hogan was the WWF. But Hogan was getting old and his 24-inch pythons were getting flabby. So, Brett Hart took the championship and was it for a long time. See, Hart was a smaller guy. But he had been around for such a long time, he truly deserved it. Plus, you gotta admire a guy that can wear pink tights and look like a macho motherfucker at the same time.
After a time, my interest teetered off and I stopped watching it for nearly ten years.
Then my friend Dan would come home for a week from school and heíd ask me if I wanted to hang out and watch some wrestling. I said, ďYeah,Ē because Iíve watched golf and tennis at friendsí houses and thatís not my thing. WWF. Back in the day there was actually an animated series for a short time that I watched. Hogan, Brutus the Barber Beefcake, Junk Yard Dog, Sergeant Slaughter, and The Iron Sheik were the names on that piece of shit. (Hey, now they got motherfuckers named Grand Master Sexay and Scotty Too Hotty, so Beefcake ainít that bad.)
I only knew that there was a rivalry between WWF and WCW and I vaguely recalled the names ďStone Cold Steve AustinĒ from WWF and ďStingĒ from WCW. These were THE guys in each at the time. So, from time to time me and Dan would check it out and I thought it was pretty gay. Turn off the volume and you can see they seldom hit each other with any force. But, at the same time, a lot of it was entertaining. The promos featuring guys like The Rock and Y2J were hella funny. Little by little I became more interested in it. Soon I started watching it on my own. Hell, Iíve become so hooked that Iíve shunned NBCís Must-SEE TV of Friends and ER for Smackdown. Mondays are perfect because after a crap day at work, I can watch wrestling and chill. Thursdayís Smackdowns get me ready for Friday.
See, the competition between WWF and WCW was good because of the competition. With no one to challenge you, you become weak and stagnant. Now, there was a long period of time where WCW beat WWF in the ratings war--almost two years. WCW went to a monthly PPV broadcast so WWF had to do the same. Also, this made the WWF change the format from good wrestlers facing crappy nobodies, to good wrestlers facing good wrestlers in every match on their flagship shows. In the old days rivalries would last years--see Hogan vs. Andre the Giant. Today, rivalries can build twice a week each week before they collide at a PPV event. So, you have rematches far more often, but then it is the job of the writers to make it interesting. Which, they more often do than not from my perspective.
So, WWF began winning the ratings wars again. Then, about three months ago, not too long after ECW (Extreme Championship Wrestling), who was WWF and WCWís other main competition, folded, out of the blue, you heard it announced that WWF had bought WCW. WCW then disappeared but will be re-launched within a month.
Now, one day I was flipping around the channels with my roommate Jon and we came upon a wrestling match. It was a tape of the Starcade main event from a couple years ago. Starcade was the WCWís biggest PPV, comparable, and I use that term loosely, to Wrestlemania in the WWF. It was a match between Hulk Hogan and Sting. It was the biggest pile of boring-ass shit I have ever seen. It was laughable, man. Ha-ha! I was a Hulkamaniac back in the day, but how he ever sucks now. It was painful to watch the gayest moves since Bob Fosseís choreography.
Vince McMahon is the WWF owner. He used to be the play-by-play announcer when I watched it back in the day. Then about three years or a little more ago, he adopted a more hands-on approach to guiding the WWF whereby he becomes a bad guy. He puts the good guy in matches that are lopsided and unfair and the people love seeing the good guy give his all even when he loses. Itís human nature to root for the underdog and more so when heís likable. So, McMahon is more or less hated by everyone. Not me, though. Me and Vince been through a lot. And truth be told, I respect a guy who has the balls to do all the things Vince has done. Itís not easy running a business that is now worth three major league New York sports teams combined. More difficult than that would have to be being hated while doing it. But it is fun being the bad guy. You can tell by watching Stone Cold Steve Austin these days that heís enjoying himself.
Now, let me say a little something kind of non sequiter here: on Mondayís broadcast, there was a tag team championship match between Austin & Triple H and Chris Jericho & Chris Benoit. During the match HHH tore a quadriceps muscle in his left leg that required surgery the following day. I was able to catch a replay on another WWF show and saw when it happened. Now, nobody likes HHH. I actually do. Heís a big bad ass who can actually back up a lot of the shit he talks. Heís just not very charismatic like the Rock or Y2J. So, I see the point where the muscle tears and then I see heís limping around and continues the match. He gets put in the Walls of Jericho a submission move that stretches the back and legs! and he even was slammed in his legs during the remainder of the match. I was wincing because I could see the pain and after the bell sounded, HHH lay on the outside of the rind cradling his leg with his face buried to the ground. Heís out four to six months.
Every so often you see someone take a funny fall or slip or awkwardly step and hyperextend something. I mean, you donít want to see anyone hurt with the exception of the entire X-Factor. But wrestling has lost some great performers prematurely: Andre the Giant, Yokozuna, the Texas Tornado, both Ultimate Warriors, I think. Brett hart retired after his brother Owen fell to his death from the rafters.
There is this documentary called Beyond the Mat that takes you behind the scenes with three main stories.
1) Terry Funk. This over the hill legendary wrestler. You actually see him wrestle Brett Hart. Screw Funk. Heís boring.
2) Mick Foley. Iím actually reading his new autobiography. Mick is an intelligent chap. You may not think so, a man who lost a large part of his ear during a Japanese wrestling match where a cable was strung across the ring, sustained about a dozen injuries ranging from pretty bad to very bad in a single match, had a tooth lodged up his nose after a fall from the top of a steel cage onto the announcersí table (yes, his own tooth), but he is. In the documentary, you see his kids sit ringside during a match where the Rock rocks him with a good dozen chair shots to the head. The kids did not appreciate it, a fact made clear by their tears.
3) Jake the Snake Roberts. Jake was a hero of mine is the old days. He was never big. He was pretty average. But his hook was heís bring a snake with him into the ring and after heíd DDT his opponent and pin him, the snake would come out and slither over the unconscious defeated foe. More often than not, the snake would slither to the edge of the ring, but Jake would bring it back and put it on the other guy. Jake was probably one of the most charismatic showmen in the business. Well, at some point Jake left the WWF and I hadnít heard about him since. Well, he still wrestles in little, tiny venues for associations that do not even have names. Heís got a big beer gut nowadays whereas in the past he was always lean. He still has the snake and he now has a crack cocaine problem. Have you ever seen that movie Kids? Well, Kids disturbed and pissed me off. Seeing Jake Roberts put a crack pipe to his lips through a crappy motelís curtains did the same. I have more than Jake Roberts. To me thatís very saddening.
There was always a group of people who maintained that wrestling was real. Along the way, we perhaps came to learn that the reality of it was true in part. A chair shot hurts. But there is a way to do it so that it hurts not so bad. There is a proper side to use and there is a place on the head to hit, specifically, not in the face. When someone gets a chop to the chest and you can hear it in your seat in the upper deck of the arena, you can bet that it hurt to receive. But itís like being slapped. Itís more dramatic than anything. But, yes, it hurts. Itís more about the way itís sold. Me and Jon have used empty cheeseball containers and Styrofoam on each other. Itís all about give. Cheeseball containers flex and they make a horrible noise when they hit. But it doesnít hurt. But it can be sold to make it look like it hurts. Same with Styrofoam. So itís about performing. Theyíre actors with a specific role. And they more or less are friendly to each other.
Now, then there is Essa Rios. The average wrestler weighs around two hundred thirty or forty pounds. Rios weighs just under two hundred. Iíve seen only about half a dozen of his matches. Heís not on the main shows. You gotta catch him on Jakked or Superstars, but itís worth it because his moves are like art. Heís the highest flyer with more original moves than anyone. He is on my video game, though. I really wish he was more of a draw because heís so fun to watch. But you canít have everything.
My favorite wrestler is Chris Jericho. The Rock is right up there, too. You just canít help but like the Rock. He was the only good part in The Mummy Returns--aside from Arnold V.
So, there it is. If you would just shut you mouth and know your role, you can hear them chanting the Great Oneís name...
Catrman, Cartman, Cartman...
Copyright © 2001 John Lemut