The Curious Case of Mark S. LoMonaco: Do YOU Know Who He Is?!
According to Aaron James, PhD, one of the quintessential questions/sayings of an “asshole” revolves around personal reassurance alongside spatial proximity. In short form: “Do you know who I am?” Consider that question for a moment and think about the sheer fuckery that is TNA. For one to come forth from the train wreck that is the creative division of the number two professional wrestling company in the country they HAVE to be an asshole. You have a tremendous pile of excrement, and you need departure points for that manure. Whether you happen to be a good exit wound or a bad one is cognizant of your status in Total Nonstop Action.
Understand: I have three cardinal rules when it comes to professional wrestling. Rule 1: women’s wrestling will not be appreciated by the mainstream until the women wrestling aren’t cute. That’s to say they can’t be sex symbols first and athletes second. They can be those simultaneously, but that’s another realm entirely.
Rule 2: no one really LIKES Total Nonstop Action. I should go to a pro-TNA site and post that as gospel; I’ll be sure to get stoned to death from the Dixie faithful. My point of view is that no one really likes it, but they hate another product so much that they put unjust praise towards the alternative. Example: is Starbucks really good coffee? No, in fact it’s likely the bastard spawn of Satan and an ancient Columbian gigolo, but it’s the alternative to making a cup of Folgers your damn self like a self-sufficient human being (if you think I don’t like TNA, wait until you hear my rant on Starbucks). But Starbucks gives you atmosphere, easy listening CDs and the illusion of fair trade coffee beans, so people love it. That’s the way of the world.
Rule 3 is unimportant, but the lesser known and completely unofficial fourth rule is that J.B. Smoove and Ghostface Killah would make perfect ringside commentators. When they can talk so eloquently and passionately about the ass and the Iron Man 3 trailer, respectively, you have to acknowledge how great they can be on commentary. As of late it just seems like black people do dangerously well on commentary.
Rules aside, I like Bully Ray. When it comes to TNA, I like a handful of wrestlers, and Bully Ray is at the top of that short list. He’s good in the ring, great on the mic, sticks to his gimmick as a bully and manages to exemplify the meaning of being an asshole (take THAT, Mr. Anderson (where has he been, anyway?)). However, in recent weeks and/or months, his character has gone through something of a metamorphosis whilst continuing to maintain his bully persona. It involves a confusing biker gang that has no bikes, a man who doesn’t know how to say goodbye to the sport he popularized (or questionable women in hotel rooms), a blonde haired woman who can’t sing (and has a thing for rappers (and by thing I mean lust (and by lust I mean… lust))), and, before all of this, a rivalry with a big version of Mankind and later an attorney that seems to know more than Claire Lynch’s (ooh, did I mention a forbidden storyline?!). But through all of that, Bully Ray was just that: Bully Ray.
Unlike my last Curious Case pieces, I’m going off of emotional appeal versus history. Looking at Bully Ray as a character speaks volumes that TNA (and to be fair many companies) haven’t matched since the Dudley Family was a household name. He’s not exactly shown to be in the best of shape, especially not that of a professional wrestler; his ring attire is EXTREMELY unorthodox. Nine times out of ten he commands respect and makes even the most random thing seem very entertaining. Tell me: did you find his live Twitter postings fun? Because I did. I found them to be rather hilarious. I found his original feud with Joseph “I’m a more unconvincing lawyer than Grace was” Parks delightful, even if I was against the notion in the beginning. To be perfectly honest, at this point I like Parks more than I do Abyss. Sue me.
But being that I’m not a fan of TNA (and as you have read above I don’t believe anyone truly IS) I didn’t follow the show on a weekly basis. I had better things to do, like purchase rechargeable batteries, or shamelessly try to flirt with Mya on Twitter, or watch paint dry. Sadly I accomplished all three of these things (with positive results!) but TNA called me to watch the show again. And I did. Reluctantly. Forgive me, but I just don’t think TNA has a soul any longer. I think they made a deal with the devil and got screwed. Hell, at least Roger Tiegs got a band and a fiercely loyal following. My examination of TNA’s Faustian bargain is saved for another post though.
See, I can’t talk about Bully Ray’s greatness without talking about how much greater he appears with the backdrop of a mediocre company. It’s like talking about D’Angelo’s masterpiece Voodoo 13 years later without talking about the impact it’s had, or talking about the best water
slaves Pokemon without mentioning Magikarp, which is impossible. So let’s talk about Immortal for a bit.
Now that that’s out of the way, a lot of people wondered if LoMonaco would prevail outside of the realm of tag team stardom. While I’m pleased that both he and Devon have, it was Bully that went down the path of heeldom. He was a part of Immortal. He had a problem with Anderson. I know it seems like I’m flying through this but let’s be honest: how good of a story was it, really? I recall a great – and fruitless – war between Immortal and Fortune, two groups I felt were both evil, over… who was more… evil? I recall Lockdown, where Bully, Abyss, Matt “Pro Wrestling’s Julia-Louis Dreyfus” Hardy and Ric “I’m Old… Wooo…?” Flair took on the Beer Money & the future World Tag Team Champions of the World (aka one of the few consistently entertaining things on that show). I honestly don’t remember why Bully Ray had a feud with Styles around this time, but I do remember him abusing Devon’s sons. Why? Because he was a bully. And that’s what bullies do.
It doesn’t take a lot to make an interesting character, people. Sometimes you just need someone who demands respect and messes with people as a result. Example: Mike Knox. ‘Nuff said. Anyway, after a while, Bully Ray began to have problems with stable mate Mr.
Kennedy Anderson Injury Prone Government Name. That led to Bully Ray’s inclusion into the still incomprehensible Bound for Glory series (if you can explain to me how RVD lost every match but those that counted I’ll give you applause and a puppy (must be logical!)) he made it to the top four, where he was then defeated by Roode. At Bound for Glory Ray beat up Government Name, again, and things were very, very, very touch-and-go until Bully Ray broke in and interrupted an X Division Championship match to begin a feud with Austin Aries.
As a fan of Austin Aries, I liked this. I approved of this. You have a big brawler type versus a smaller athletic type, and it was bound to be glorious, right? I suppose. It was pretty forgettable. Bully went back to his feud with Abyss right afterwards (don’t ask me what the transition was, I don’t recall) but this was the birth of the Bully Ray/Joseph Parks rivalry, and like I mentioned above, I LOVE that rivalry. It was fun. It was terrific. It made me smile because it was violent AND funny (but mostly violent).
But the violent fun, or fun violence, or “vih jeumahla” as the Al Bhed in Spira might say, had to fade away eventually. This led into the continued storyline of the Wild Bill Hickok Sodality, which is the latest invasion angle in TNA. The story is that a bike-less one percent biker gang has infiltrated TNA and maintained a constant method of getting into the building and, to paraphrase Colonel Stinkmeaner, “fuck shit up”. It’s no secret that I liked this angle at first, but good God, it fell off faster than Jeff Hardy at Victory Road. If I can be serious for a minute (without being interrupted!), the “invasion” concept is so overdone in TNA that you’d think Vince Russo was still behind the scenes Phantom of the Opera style. That this is going on following his tenure is disheartening… but it doesn’t make sense: it was pushed so heavy in the early goings and then it took too long for anything of significance to occur. Devon was revealed, which only adds to the confusion of it being a one percent biker gang (there ARE no black people in one percent biker gangs (look at Sons of Anarchy, The Lost and Damned and the history of Allen West’s lying ass) and so was Festus, aka Luke Gallows, aka that big bald dude whose name you never remembered, as the nameless D.O.C. What does D.O.C. stand for? I believe “Director of Chaos”. But again, wouldn’t that be best exemplified by the ENTIRE gang of violent one percent bikers?!
The greater issue was, however, that Bully Ray, around this time, was making a transition into face territory. Correct me if I’m wrong, and please excuse my squirrelly ignorance, but how can a “bully” be a face? That still boggles my mind. You know, like when you see Stephen Dorff in an acting role, and about two hours after you watch it you ask yourself, “How does this guy keep getting work…?” It’s like that. Bully Ray advanced through the ranks once more and managed to get to the finals of the new – and still incomprehensible – Bound for Glory series, and lost to a beat up Jeff Hardy. I know: logic being dead and all. Bully Ray got another chance at the number one contendership, and Jeff Hardy beat him, again. Bully Ray DID manage to beat the World Heavyweight Champ Austin Aries, but it was a non-title match. Hogan let Ray be Sting’s tag team partner when the John McCall Preservation Society agreed to a match regarding their continued presence in TNA (again: no logic). The masked guys won, they gained full access (the mantra is “I will not insert logic into a situation that lacks logic…”) and the accusation that Bully Ray maintains a leading role in the group (the mantra is “I will not…”) exists even today despite a… I will not insert logic into a situation that lacks logic. I will not insert logic into a situation that lacks logic. I will not…
As the feud between Bully and Devon was reborn, it increased into a brawl between the Old West Sockhop Society and the Paragons of Mediocrity. Then, because it wasn’t dull enough, Austin Aries, in all his opulent jerkiness, revealed a “secret relationship” between Bully and Brooke Hogan.
Aside from being the epitome of hypocritical (criticizing a certain company for soap opera stories and then throwing this into the fray…) it was terrible to go from junkie whore Claire “My lawyer is important enough to introduce herself with a first and last name” Lynch to Brooke “I put out… oh! I mean I put out two albums!” Hogan. And that’s not to say anything bad about Brooke Hogan (I have PLENTY bad to say about Claire Lynch though) so much as this storyline. Aries is apparently a voyeur who spies on exhibitionists Brooke and Bully, and Hulk can just shake his head and keep it moving as he added another one of his children to the “Maybe we shouldn’t have had that third glass of wine…” category.
Now you’re caught up, and I’ve lied to you and did the mini-timeline thing even after I said I wouldn’t. I’ll admit it: it wouldn’t be a Curious Case if I didn’t. So, who is Mark “Bully Ray” LoMonaco? He’s teflon. He’s living proof that despite being given a manure-worthy assignment, he can be, and is, entertaining. He’s humorous, he’s kick ass, he’s a brawler and he knows how to invoke the crowd. My previous Curious Case pieces were about Daniel Bryan and AJ Lee, and this one is different in that everything that can be said about him in spite of the role he’s in now. Daniel Bryan was in the midst of his own great run that continues today. AJ Lee is damn near running the company in terms of her role. Bully Ray is playing the role as something of a pillar right now. He’s holding the show up.
Along with the always entertaining Daniels and Kazarian, and the heel worthy but face accepted antics of James Storm (he superkicked Santa Claus!) I fail to see many in TNA that maintain a sense of consistency and, at the same time, high quality in everything they do. Christie Hemme does it big, sure, but good Lord, she’s a red-headed beauty who announces. I couldn’t ask for more from her (not without a possible restraining order at least (Oh!)). Samoa Joe is under utilized. AJ Styles is there, but for the next year I’m just sitting back looking at him and wondering what they have in store for him. Tara and her “big Hollywood boyfriend” (if she came to me saying that I’d accuse her of lying three times) are… there. I mean, I love Tara, but… no, nothing else: I love Tara. She’s fine. Or, to quote a friend of mine, “She faaaaaaaaaaaaahn.”
The Jersey Shore extras are there, for some reason, and Joseph Parks is out training, so Bully Ray has the role of pillar: he has to hold the ever falling ceiling of TNA and he does it rather well. As much as I miss his forever classic line, “Do you know who I am?”, I miss more the fact that he’s stuck doing a soap opera storyline in a company that makes the claim that wrestling matters. Like I said, I don’t see anything wrong with a soap opera storyline per se, but when you criticize them AND suck at doing them well, what’s the point?
Bully Ray’s greatness as a legendary professional wrestler was solidified long before he stepped into the hollow halls of Total Nonstop Action, and his tenure with this company is comparable to the history of French warfare: a constant display of endurance. He does the impossible: he never fails to entertain. I don’t know about you, but that speaks volumes to me when I’m rarely consistently amused. In regards to the curious case of Mark S. LoMonaco, there should be no question as to who he is.