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Friday Night Fandom: “WRESTLING Matters!”

This one's pretty self-explanatory. | Photo: www.TheHistoricInterwebs.com

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. | Photo: http://www.TheHistoricInterwebs.com

With WWE SmackDown literally beginning as I type, I must admit that the majority of my day was spent gleefully staring at the LED backlit display of my laptop.  My initial internet query early this morning sent me on a somewhat rigorous search for matches featuring Jessicka Havok, TNA’s newest soon-to-debut Knockout.  After watching two or three of her matches in the Women’s Extreme Wrestling promotion, I stumbled upon the 2007 King of Europe Cup … and needless to say I was set for the rest of the day.

We wrestling fans often stand high and mighty on our knowledge of “real wrestling,” all the while managing to avoid teetering precariously on the precipice of having to explain what “real wrestling” is.  Most diehard fans will readily admit that “real wrestling” tends to reside in organizations that focus more on the in-ring action than it does the promos and backstage vignettes/interviews that explain why said matches are taking place.  In that same spirit, “real wrestling” has simple storylines that aren’t necessarily campy don’t cater specifically and strictly to a young audience or demographic.  “Real wrestling” highlights the athleticism of the wrestlers, where “styles” aren’t relegated to a specific region or a particular promotion’s standards, and the wrestlers are characters that are controlled by the athletes portraying them and not by a boardroom of writers and executives.

For those fans who revel in “real wrestling,” Japanese wrestling, women-only wrestling promotions, and Mexico’s Lucha Libre wrestling tends to be the most appealing and sought after product.  In terms of the world’s two largest promotions, TNA is favored for their “wrestling” far more than WWE.  Ironically enough, ROH and their decidedly pure wrestling focused product is rarely mentioned among the internet’s “real wrestling” aficionados.

What strikes me personally as odd is the fact that we tend to relegate pro wrestling and “real wrestling” as being expressed only in the world’s more prominent organizations.  We can talk about AAA in Mexico; we can talk about Wrestle-1 and NJPW in Japan.  We can even rattle off the names of some of the more notable women’s wrestlers (while haphazardly mentioning the organizations they belong to).  We mention how TNA is light years ahead of WWE in terms of the wrestling product, and after that our load is pretty much blown.  Our conversation about “real wrestling” is exhausted and we smirk while awaiting the best smarky response that gives us a good enough reason to go off.

We pro wrestling fans must expand our palate beyond what’s easily accessible and reliably pleasing to our “real wrestling” sensibilities if we’re going to be true to this “real wrestling” perspective.  With so many promotions operating around the world, it’s honestly asinine to keep “real wrestling” in a nifty and convenient little box that excludes the various styles and athletes globetrotting our planet with nothing more than word of mouth as their main source of promotion.

Having said that I now offer for your viewing pleasure the 2007 King of Europe Cup, four and a half solid hours of “real wrestling” goodness.

kingofeuropeI’ll admit to having been in the dark about this series, not coming across it until well into my Jessicka Havok search.  The words “Europe Cup” immediately stood out to me, as I assumed (correctly) that the show hailed from the UK and would feature in some form the catch-as-catch-can style that I’m very fond of.  I wasn’t let down at all, and was pleasantly surprised to see so many familiar faces wrestling on behalf of several promotions from around the world.  The really cool part was seeing these familiar faces presented in a “before-they-were-superstars” fashion wrestling as youngsters not encumbered by the politics and restrictions of wrestling in U.S. promotions for the U.S. market.  Wrestlers like Davey Richards and Rhino (current TNA Wrestlers), Chris Hero (former ROH Wrestler and WWE NXT Wrestler Kassius Ohno), Claudio Castagnoli (current WWE Superstar Cesaro), Matt Sydal (former WWE Superstar Evan Bourne), Doug Williams (former TNA Wrestler), Go Shiozaki, Nigel McGuinness (former TNA Wrestler Desmond Wolfe and current ROH authority figure), and PAC (current WWE Superstar and NXT Champion Adrian Neville) are all featured in the King of Europe Cup doing what they do best … wrestling.

The beautiful thing of it all is that each of the aforementioned wrestlers, along with the other athletes appearing in the tournament, were able to mix and blend their different styles of wrestling in lengthy matches that told stories different than that offered by what we know and choose to watch regularly.  Chris Hero and Claudio Castagnoli face each other early in a clinic of technical wrestling featuring two wrestlers who were tag team partners and are very familiar with each other’s styles.  PAC wrestles a high-flying style that leads to an injury that has him admitted to a local hospital, only to be brutalized by the begrudgingly vicious lariats of Nigel McGuinness.  Go Shiozaki gave Davey Richards one hell of a row with his strong style wrestling, and Doug Williams showcased the brilliance of the catch-as-catch-can style throughout his stay in the tournament.

All of this glowing praise is to say that “real wrestling” isn’t just about being able to watch one ridiculously crazy move after another one or indulging in a product that is subtly different than a product we dislike; “real wrestling” is about being entertained by the story that’s told in the ring through the actions, mannerisms, and facial expression of the athletes that’s supplemented with the commentary from announcers and the stories precluding the matches themselves.  There are tons of promotions and archived videos that present the product in this fashion, and we’d be selling ourselves and the business short if we didn’t saturate ourselves with the product that exists outside of our comfort zones.

As such, for your viewing pleasure and what will ultimately be a shameless plug of British wrestling, catch this epic match between British wrestling legend Johnny Saint and David “Fit” Finlay:

After you’re done with that, check out this match featuring Uhaa Nation from the UK’s Pro Wrestling Kingdom promotion:

And after that, before biting your thumb at Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling promotion as some others have taken a cotton to doing, check out some footage from a few of their international partners: World Wrestling Professionals in South Africa (which, as it turns out, is touted as being the “biggest federation in the Southern Hemisphere), Westside Xtreme Wrestling out of Germany (mentioned also in the King of Europe Cup video from above), and Riot City Wrestling from Australia.

Have fun, and remember: wrestling matters.

Batman vs Superman… The Wrasslin Version

Talk to anyone who has watched a movie and swears they understand the intricacies of comic book heroes… anyone who has actually read a few of the comics… anyone at all really… EVERYONE knows Superman is essentially an omnipotent alien who stands for everything that is good, and Batman is a regular dude with rich, dead parents who fights crime at night with no superpowers because of a sense of altruistic duty. These two characters are pretty much about the same things but in different ways. Sort of like wrasslers.

Batman and Superman are polarizing. If you are smart, like me, you prefer Superman to Batman because as far as heroes go, he has a great track record of doing the right thing for the right reasons. He is almost invincible. Only magic, red sunlight and pieces of his homeworld can hurt him or even weaken him. Batman stans be like “Well Batman is smarter somehow than the alien whose toys were more advanced than anything on Earth and you know he keeps kryptonite on him at all times, just in case.” I think all those delusional people KNOW in a head up fist fight with no heat vision or freeze breath and no kryptonite, Kal-El pwns Bruce worse than Brock did Cena.

When I think about Cena, he really is Superman, but doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being that great. Because people want Batman. We want our heroes to be regular dudes and not super. We want to see Cena as human. Beatable. Welp… we have another rare opportunity to see just that, because Brock is gonna kill him again. What’s really interesting about this is… will Cena come back from having his ass handed to him again like he’s Superman exposed to kryptonite, or will he emerge with a veritable utility belt full of new toys in his arsenal like Batman? Will he rise from his beatdown immersed in darkness like a regular guy exposed to tragedy, or will he fly towards the sun to recharge in yellow sun rays and return to being bland as fuck? More on this story after Night of Champions, same itsstillrealtomedammit.com realness from the same real nigga writing real shit.

Post Raw, I felt like it was somewhat of a let down that Cena was on there trying to one up Lesnar by beating up the Wyatts. Not because he buried them. Because WWE refuses to let Cena lose and BE a loser. Wallow in his loss a little bit. I didn’t buy “Oh Cena is on the worst losing streak of his life” after he lost to The Rock BECAUSE HE BEAT BROCK LESNAR AT THE VERY NEXT PAY PER VIEW! You could tell the “oh he’s vulnerable now” story after he’s lost two high profile matches back to back. NOT when he comes back like nothing happened. So, yeah, it looks like WWE is determined to keep Cena as Clark Kent.

I just got done listening to The Steve Austin Show Unleashed featuring Paul Heyman. That dude is nothing if not a brilliant wrasslin mind and promoter. At the end of the podcast, Heyman talked about how Cena could finally evolve and either become a Paul Heyman guy or just someone who eschews his values to use heel tactics. And once he has gone down that road, can he ever go back? What if he likes the dark side? To that I say… Hollywood Hulk Hogan put the red and yellow back on. And won the Undisputed WWE title. I’m not gonna be a mark and say “Yes FINALLY… the John Cena heel turn!” But again… the potential is THERE for Cena to turn in his red and blue for the grey and black. Still be a hero, but a different KIND of hero.

I have grown out of seeing life in absolutes. Black and white are not the colors of life. Everything is shades of grey. Stone Cold Steve Austin was the epitome of a tweener. We cheered him flipping the bird, cussin, being an alcoholic, getting arrested and abusing any and all authority figures. Before the Monday Night Wars changed the rules, those are all things you would expect heels to do. Steve Austin was the wrasslin embodiment of Batman. Everyone loves him for being one of us. Relatable. John Cena has spent the better part of a decade espousing unassailable ideals of persistence in the face of half the paying customers hating him. And we hate Superman for never flipping us the bird and flying off quaffing beer.

The way I see it… “Hustle Loyalty Respect” John Cena could be replaced by “Win At All Costs” John Cena. Batman once ‘defeated’ Superman by threatening to kill people with a bomb if he didn’t stand down. That’s the kind of ‘hero’ he is. He will do whatever to get his mission accomplished, although I do not get for the LIFE of me how it makes sense that he won’t kill The Joker. Nigga killed his sidekick. I guess depending on the situation he has morals and in others, notsomuch. I’m here for this.

Heat Check: Crowd Killer

The audience was dead as fuck for Raw last night. Let me say, first and foremost… when you have a THREE hour show… why in the ENTIRE fuck are you LEADING with Shawn Michaels, Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair? Whose bright idea was it to have that go on first? If you wanted to have the main event be Wyatt and Cena, you still should have had this lead the third hour… which, interestingly enough, is the weakest hour ratings wise. Oh, there’s more. And it won’t cost you $9.99.

I hate when smarks write things like “All the monentum from SummerSlam and last week’s Raw is gone” because as a whole, some shows are going to be better or worse than the others… I feel like the characters of this era don’t have the substance to keep our interest for five hours of TV and have tv feuds and ppv feuds where we’re wondering what’s going to happen next. Many have been crying Bray Wyatt was buried in his 1-2 feud with the face of the company, unburied by going 1-1 with a part timer who puts over young talent, then reburied by being squashed by post-mortem Super Cena. Why? Because, in the era we’re living in, HHH could NEVER have his finisher no sold by Ultimate Warrior and lose moments later and still be relevant. Yeah. There was never any short guy who only has two syllables he got over who we were constantly reminded he lost in 18 seconds to Sheamus at WrassleMania. Fans have no loyalty. At one point we liked John Cena.

Maybe this is the same in other genres of music, but I notice, oftentimes a rapper comes out with a fire mixtape, then gets famous and comes out with a multiplatinum debut album. Everyone loved him when no one knew who he was. Then once he became successful everyone hates him. Hi Aubrey ‘Drake’ Graham! ‘We’ did that to John Cena, and we’re going to do it to Roman Reigns. We still don’t know who the fuck he is. I DIDN’T KNOW HE IS SON TO A HALL OF FAMER AND COUSIN OF THE TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS… I recently posted thoughts on my own blog I won’t link or plug here… those thoughts were “Roman Reigns should form a faction with The Usos called The Crazy Samoans” NOT KNOWING HIS FATHER WAS IN THE WILD SAMOANS AND THE USOS ARE HIS COUSINS. WWE crams down our throats certain guys are second or third generation stars… but they’re withholding this information about a guy they’re poised to force on us as being good enough to beat the guy who ended The Streak, and demolish the current top guy. Which means they want to make him a lineal champion. While hiding his lineage. Stuuuuuuuupid.

John Cena is a cyborg. That’s not a compliment. He’s a wrestling robot spouting catchphrases and trying to sell us shit without ever seeming human. He is often compared to Hulk Hogan, mostly because his character has been on top and remained static for seemingly forever. That comparison falls short when you think about his two most memorable feuds, Macho Man and Andre the Giant. Macho Man was his friend who turned on him, in something of a worked shoot, because he was jealous and thought he was trying to take his bitch. Hogan helped him win the title and they feuded less over the belt and more because, Savage forgot that Hogan was his partner. In the case of Andre, he turned heel by joining forces with Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, who had a seemingly career long hatred for Hogan. Heenan put it in his head that Hogan was a fake friend who never gave him a title shot when he was undefeated for his entire career. To me, this whole feud is summed up in the look on Hogan’s face when Andre ripped his shirt off and walked off. With Cena… you have never felt he had relationships with the boys, and therefore his feuds never really made you FEEL.

Edge went in Cena’s dad’s house and slapped him to the ground. Orton kicked his dad’s head off and struck him last year leading up to their match at the Rumble. You never really felt that shit was personal. You don’t get the feeling that Cena gives a fuck about anyone. While, again… you really FELT that Hogan was stabbed in the back by Savage and Andre. Likewise, WWE is setting Reigns up for failure in that, you don’t really feel like when he came out to fight Rollins during his eulogy of Ambrose… that he gives two shits about Dean Ambrose. Dean Ambrose is arguably the best babyface in the motherfucking company. And for my thoughts that he hadn’t shown why he merited the hype that preceded his WWE debut, at this moment, I CARE about him more than Reigns. Rollins’ betrayal really seems personal for him. It seems like business for Reigns. Just like Cena.

My fear is, if in fact, Reigns takes up Ambrose’s cause against Rollins… that it’s more like that time Cena fought John Laurinaitis when that was CM Punk’s personal issue because Punk was busy defending the world title in the midcard that night, than it is ‘you hurt my friend and I’m gonna get you sucka!’ At this moment, I think it’s more Reigns has issues with The Authority in general than Rollins hurting his friend. And that’s a problem.

Another problem is how do you book it? Reigns needs to be protected as future top guy… and Rollins needs to get big wins to justify being Reigns’ first feud after he beats Lesnar at Extreme Rules and Rollins cashes in on him. Also, Rollins needs to get big wins without too much help from The Authority. Orton isn’t done with Reigns… please mother of god no handicap matches or anything goofy like that.

I think that something interesting that needs to happen… is Orton getting an IC title run. They don’t care about Ziggler or Miz anyway. Then he and Sheamus in a unification match would be BAWSE. Having main event, top flight stars battle over the midcard title(s) can only make that title mean more. As opposed to slapping the belt on some returning star or up and comer, who will then randomly drop it to enhancement talent or other up and comers.

Most of the WWE roster are up and comers and/or enhancement talent for the same exact reason WWE is shamelessly BEGGING us to buy the damn network… we’re given no damn reason to care about these characters and the moment we start caring about people they don’t WANT us caring about, they pour water and dirt on that fire before it spreads. In cases like Daniel Bryan, the fire spreads despite all efforts to extinguish it. That is an exception and not the rule. Hi, Cesaro, Ziggler and Zack Ryder!

I listened to Ryder’s appearance on Talk is Jericho yesterday, cuz shit, I can’t keep up with everything these guys do! To sum that podcast up: Ryder came up with his character all by himself, then got it over by himself. Then WWE slapped the US title on him and made him a simp and a wimp by having him have a crush on a girl who threw herself at his friend who didn’t want her (This friend who would help bury him is John Cena, btw) then he still wanted her after she repeatedly proved she wasn’t shit, and she cost him a match he was poised to win at WrassleMania. He kept getting beat up by Kane who was feuding with his friend who never saved him or spared him any pain. (See? Cena is an unfeeling automaton!) Booking dictates that some babyface Diva pity him and feud with that bitch who did him wrong, and that he ultimately go over on Kane for trying to bully him. And he form a tag team with his friend, cuz broskis over hoeskis… but that’s assuming WWE wanted us to actually like and care about these people who try to get us to buy shit.

I’m tired of going on about how they’re wasting Ziggler and Cesaro also. In the past, crowd reaction dictated who was face or heel, who got the push and who got merch. Those days are dead. Now guys like Jack Swagger just have to bolieve it will be better one day.

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