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Posts tagged “Undertaker

The Curse of the Attitude Era

"Hello, Ladies!" | WWE Alumni Val Venis; Photo © 2014 WWE.com. All Rights Reserved.

“Hello, Ladies!” | WWE Alumni Val Venis and X-Pac; Photo © 2014 WWE.com. All Rights Reserved.

A very salient and time appropriate point was recently made by L.E.W.D.’s resident truth telling aficionado Corbin Macklin:

You can make an argument that my generation grew up spoiled by seeing The Rock, Stone Cold, HHH, Mick Foley, Kurt Angle, Undertaker, Kane, Big Show, Shawn Michaels, Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho etc every week…

One would be hard-pressed to argue with the fact that thousands, if not millions, of today’s most vocal pro wrestling fans today were indeed spoiled by the capers and athleticism of the aforementioned stars from more than seventeen years ago.  These men, along with a bevy of women as well, left an indelible mark on this business we call pro wrestling during the highly acclaimed “Attitude Era,” that legendary and almost mythical time period where it was cool and acceptable to watch and indulge in all things pro wrestling.  This era was defined by brash attitudes and vulgar language, rampant soft core pornography, controversial storylines, and in-ring actual that seemingly always ended with someone profusely bleeding.  The risqué, “too raunchy for prime time” rated-R product of the late nineties provided countless hours of entertainment for viewers; from the middle-finger flipping, boss beating, beer swilling shenanigans of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to the crotch chopping, anti-establishment antics of Degeneration X, the spirit and ethic of the Attitude Era spat in the face of polite society and took no prisoners as it steamrolled over all things pleasing, polished, and polite.

These things alone did not make the Attitude Era what it was; in hindsight along with Brother Corbin’s point, we can see that the Attitude Era was made possible and popular by a unique cast of characters, scores of wrestlers, writers, bookers, producers and owners from three different organizations (WWF/E, WCW and ECW) who were in the right place and right time as the stars aligned to create a legacy that has yet to be duplicated in any form or fashion.  The Attitude Era was truly defined by the brilliance, work ethic, and passion of the men and women who gave their all plus some every time they stepped inside the ring or represented their respective promotion.  The Attitude Era, with it’s politics and the unregulated obsession with blood, boobs, butts and four-letter words, was successful because there existed a communal desire among all vested parties to be the best in the pro wrestling world and within one’s own promotion.  This is to say that any given wrestler during that period of time not only wanted to be the best in their promotion, but was intentionally committed to doing whatever was necessary to make sure their promotion was the best in the world.

The raunchiness, crassness and politically incorrectness was only a tool of the Attitude Era, which ultimately served as a tool used by the WWE during the Monday Night War period against WCW.  Behind those tools, however, was the rich and deep talent pool filled with solid athletes and creative minds.  Speaking specifically of the WWE, not only were the main event stars mentioned earlier (Stone Cold, The Rock, Mankind, Eddie Guerrero, Undertaker, etc.) battling one another for ring supremacy, but lower tiered talent such as Val Venis, Mark Henry and D’Lo Brown, Savio Vega, Luna Vachon, Goldust, Droz, The Big Bossman , Crush, Taka Michinoku, Chyna, Sable and Mark Mero, Ken Shamrock and The Godfather also held their own in the ring, providing just as much entertainment and excitement as those superstars heavily featured in the promotion.  Everybody fired on all four cylinders and did so for their own good, each other, and to keep the competition from stomping them into oblivion.

The Attitude Era effectively died when that desire no longer existed, ushering in subsequent periods where all vested parties became increasingly interested in their own personal goals and desires.  With a communal desire to succeed no longer permeating through the actions of wrestlers or the intentions of the bookers, writers, producers and owners, pro wrestling slowly morphed into the static, spiritless state it is today, where individuals from the bottom to the top appear more concerned with their own varying ambitions and aspirations than anything else.  Today’s product is defined by incessant complaining of individual stars being held back, “buried,” mistreated or disrespected by the system, coupled with the constant criticism against the system’s alleged refusal to kowtow to the desires of “the fans.”  Communal desire has been replaced with persistent protesting, and that  along with a lack of true competition makes a divided roster and hierarchical structure even more uninspired, insipid and lackluster.

WWE Superstar Dolph Ziggler | Photo: Prowrestlingpowerhouse.com

WWE Superstar Dolph Ziggler | Photo: Prowrestlingpowerhouse.com

There are some fans whose persistent protesting contains the wish to return to the days of the Attitude Era, explicitly seeking to satiate a craving for a more “adult” themed product from days past.  There exists the notion than the current product has been watered down too much by the politically correct, family-friendly PG politics of the day, rendering the WWE’s content a shell of the ratings juggernaut it once was.  What’s not understood by those clinging to this notion is that the Attitude Era was an anomaly, an aberration of what once was the standard in the world of pro wrestling that coincided perfectly with the culture and circumstances of the time.  A product today saturated with swearing, scantily clad women, and socially unacceptable storylines would not and could not float with today’s generation of pro wrestling consumers.

What fans want, however, is the same level of passion and dedication that was expressed by the populace and the promotion several years ago.  The magic of the Attitude Era cannot be recreated; the type of change that’s needed cannot be found in the endless cycle of recreating what worked seventeen years ago using today’s generation of wrestlers and wrestling minds for a minority within fans that can’t reconcile with the past long enough to truly appreciate the superstars wrestling today.

There within lies the curse of the Attitude Era; the hype and the euphoria found in reminiscing on those violent, angst-filled nights casts quite the looming shadow over today’s pro wrestling landscape.  We want so badly to hear dirty words and to see blood in every match masked as “real wrestling,” all while pretending as if the rosters, creative teams and executives today could carry those principles as a promotion or unit and not as loosely associated entities seeking singular fame and glory.  The Attitude Era had writers with their ears tuned keenly on the pulse of society at the time; it had executives who were hell bent on staying in business and thoroughly crushing their competition in skirmishes that determined whether or not revenue and publicity would flow easily into their own promotion.  The Attitude Era had endless lists of wrestlers who all wanted their own promotion to succeed and, at the time, did their best to lift up their fellow wrestlers as they attempted to climb the ladder of success.  The Attitude Era had fans who were just as passionate about the business as the men and women working in it, and no matter what, would support a promotion and its wrestlers no matter what…especially through their financial support.

Today’s fair weather fans can’t even be bothered to support the WWE Network and feel less inclined to spend their money on anything related to the product no matter whether it’s good or bad.  Only a handful of wrestlers stand out among fans as those who are worthy of a main event push, and those wrestlers change as often as a newborn infant needs a new diaper.  Some of those stars phone in their in ring performances or tend to “play it safe” as a means to avoid rocking the boat or causing too much trouble for themselves.  The writers work with dated material and executives are preoccupied with accounting irregularities and pet projects to truly be focused squarely on the state of the product.  A ridiculously violent and vulgar product under or against these circumstances would barely make a dent in the problem that exists today.

It is without question that the Attitude Era changed the business dramatically and had a profound effect on how we view pro wrestling today.  But to insist that a promotion returns to that era without considering what truly made it spectacular would be a categorical waste of time and energy.  Promotions filled with individuals, from the bottom up, who are willing to work together for the good of the promotion and the passion to succeed as a promotion is what’s needed.  A solid roster of talent giving one hundred percent or more at all times is what’s needed.  Fans who’ll pay for the pay per views and merchandise and who won’t fall off the radar when an episode of RAW doesn’t feature Titus O’Neil in the main event is what’s needed.

Those things are way harder to come by, but there aren’t enough tables, razorblades, swear words and bare boobies in the world to recreate the magic of what happened almost two decades ago.


A brief word on “The Streak” ending…

Like the majority of the wrestling world, I was stunned, bitter and angry about the end of the Undertaker’s Streak. I should clarify, I wasn’t bothered by the Streak ending – it was created to be ended. That’s my entire problem with the ending – the Streak was literally MEANT to be broken, and when it came to be ended, it felt so clumsy, rushed, mishandled.

I spent the whole day thinking through the possible reasoning WWE could have had for ending the Streak. Was it called on the fly, in the ring by Undertaker? Was it known ahead of time? If so, why do you not put it on last knowing the impact it would have on the crowd? If it was going to end – why not play safer than sorry and let Triple H or Punk end it last year?

Fast forward to RAW tonight – when Brock’s music hit it all suddenly made sense to me. There weren’t boo’s, there weren’t cheers, there wasn’t celebration – there was just nothing. THIS is why Brock Lesnar was CHOSEN to end the Streak.

The Streak was built to be broken in order to put over whoever breaks it. To establish them as a powerhouse. The problem is, unless the audience WANTS that person to win, they will forever be doomed to insignificance. They won’t be hated, they won’t be a heel, they will simply be insignificant. They will be deemed as unworthy of having broken the Streak and what more legitimizing act can one do than end the longest running, most heralded Streak in any sport, entertainment otherwise? You will always be the second most significant part of THAT match, much less any other match in your future.

The argument was brought up that a “part timer” ended the Streak, and this just isn’t acceptable. You’re right. It sucks. But doesn’t it ultimately make the most sense? It was clear that the Streak needed to be ended. Whether it was the concussion, neck injury, or just plain old age on his wheels – Taker was a noticeably lesser performer last night than in recent years. It was time for the Streak to end.

WWE was in a lose/lose situation and had to turn it into a win/win…because that’s how you make money and save face in pro wrestling. WWE had no one in line, with Punk out of the picture, that could get the babyface rub of ending the Streak gracefully and earning Taker’s respect. At this point – you need to cut your losses. If you can rule someone basically insignificant (albeit with Paul Heyman, that’s never entirely the case) and end the Streak, send the offending party off for 6 or 8 months before they come back and the wound has healed – why not do it? Enter Brock Lesnar.

GRANTED, in my fantasy booking world – I don’t see why you don’t let Heyman get involved in the finish. If you’re clearly not worried about the sanctity of the Streak and it’s legacy, why do you not at least establish a MEGA HEEL, by building the story around Heyman’s unquenchable thirst for revenge and have him cheat to go over ‘Taker at ‘Mania. Lesnar is safe, the Streak is ended, and you have a long term MEGA HEEL manager. Makes more sense to me.

All being said – I see why WWE did what they did. I don’t like it. I think there were other options if the decision had been made earlier… but if the Streak HAD to be ended this year, you arguably couldn’t have had the curse of ending it fall it any better of a persons lap than Brock Lesnar w/ Paul Heyman at his side. That’s what ending the Streak means, with the rare exception of maybe 3 Superstars…. It’s a curse. A burden you will never be able to shake. A weight you will never come out from under.

EDIT: For what it’s worth, if WWE has any marketing brainpower left… there would be “Brock Lesnar – The One” t-shirts being made hand over fist… at least you gave the man a legit tagline.


The Streak is Over! (And It KINDA Works…)

Let’s get this out of the way first: this guy is GOLD…

ImageGive this man a contract. I don’t care what he does: just give him a WWE contract and get the rights to THAT face. Because it sums up virtually every feeling that went through the completely hushed crowd of 75,000 plus fans. For ten seconds I was even somewhat with them, but more so because I was shocked at how silent it was. The three count went down, and it was so quiet that I wasn’t even sure that the match was over. My first words were:

Followed by:

Safe to say that few people saw the Undertaker’s infamous Streak coming to an end last night, but what’s done is done.  There will be eternal (hyperbole) debates between people over how it happened and who ended it, and many people have already “sworn off” the WWE because they feel like they lost their childhood or something, but the Streak is over, and frankly… it kind of works.

My opinion isn’t going to be the popular opinion, and I’m okay with that.  This won’t even be a very long post, because despite how okay I am with the result I still have plenty of gripes.  At the end of the day though:

The Streak itself, barring any outside story or logic, was finite.  I came to terms with this a few years back, seeing how wobbly Calloway was following a match with Triple H.  Was it kayfabe?  Probably, but the mythos we were given was always that the Undertaker was infallible.  He was defeatable, but not by anyone short of another god, and when they came to HIS turf, he was the closest thing we humans could see to true, dark divinity.  All the same, he’s human.  I say all this now because one of the early complaints was that “UnderTAKer cant looose!!  Hes the Undertakaer and this is Wrestemaina!”  Yes, it is, and after twenty plus Mania’s he has lost, somewhat poetically to the man he originally wanted to end the Streak years back.

So from a nostalgic point of view, I dig it.  I like how it played out, honest.  Brock Lesnar is one of the few people in history that I can realistically have seen defeat the Streak and actually take up that very spot left unoccupied by the new vortex.  That isn’t story so much as conclusion, however.  While not undefeated at Mania himself, Brock Lesnar is a monster of a human being (or a human being of a monster, I forget which) and he represents another version of the frightening mystique that the Undertaker brought to his role as the protector of the Holy Grail, so to speak.  The Undertaker’s undefeated reign mattered because he’s a boogeyman.  He comes across as nearly impossible to topple, and COMPLETELY impossible – but more likely for years now – to unhinge at home.  The WWE has never been shy of creating real monster characters, but even they stepped to the Phenom and fell at his feet.  Think about it: Giant Gonzalez, King Kong Bundy, Diesel, Kane, Triple H, Big Show, A-Train, Mark Henry, Batista, they all have a big, intimidating presence that was ultimately left humbled by a man whose very character embodies death.

There are few reasons Lesnar’s win makes sense though, the biggest of which being his status in the company.  He’s a part-timer, no matter how his contract plays out.  Plenty of people are saying he should be around full-time now, as some kind of solace to those who are literally threatening self-harm after how things played out (it’s still real to us, yes, but it’s TOO real to y’all… dammit) but that would imply that the Undertaker was going out there every PPV or taking on somebody more than once a year, if that.  It’s easy to forget that the Undertaker was in several Wrestlemanias, not ALL of them.  He’s an old(er) man, he can’t keep this up, and retiring would have come a long time ago if the Streak was meant to be maintained.

Undertaker might very well be signed full-time to the company, but his appearances are far from that.  Enter Lesnar, who is part-time, maintains a very impressive physique, and to date, even in his losses, he’s managed to SEVERELY beat his opponents senseless.  Let’s not forget the applause worthy ass whupping he put on John Cena during Extreme Rules following Wrestlemania 28.  And how he destroyed Triple H.  And how the World’s Strongest Man proved to be one of the world’s most bull-headed when he went to challenge Brock Lesnar THRICE and got murdered each time Solomon Grundy style.  It’s very easy to put Lesnar into the role of the resident undefeatable monster like the dog from The Sandlot.  Even when he loses he scares (read: beats) you crapless, and that realization puts him in a position where a Three 6 Mafia theme song, or an impromptu theme by Pharoahe Monch and Buckshot, works more wonders for him than anyone else.

And at this point, where the goal in the WWE might be to put the younger talent to carry the banner, having one monster be the man who took the Streak and flipped it into a Curse that needs to be broken (thank Ashley Morris for that one), the new big dog (or Cerberus if you want to be fancy) could be the once-a-year Lesnar.

Of course, we also have to remember that a few years back Undertaker expressed how he wanted Lesnar to end the Streak then.  It would have been good then, and there’s an argument that can be made that he would have been that had it taken place then, Lesnar WOULD be the Undertaker right now.  Not in terms of persona but in terms of prestige.

But at the end of the day, there’s the concept of story.  Nic Johnson, L.E.W.D. brother, pro wrestling aficionado and bon vivant, expressed distaste at the way the story played out.  I throw my hands up here, he has a point, the story going into last night’s storied match lacked… story.  What could have been a compelling quest for vengeance from Paul Heyman played out as a rushed fight between a man with no reason to wrestle and Brock Lesnar.  The way I saw it, the set-up could have been perfect IF the match was about Heyman’s pain in the form of a six foot monster who votes Republican.  It could have been perfect if the match was about Heyman again lamenting his “fallen son” CM Punk (sidenote: if you were wondering on his whereabouts last night, he was actually at a Blackhawks game) and how the WWE universe chased him away, and how the Undertaker embodied the pinnacle of that universe.

But no.  No, it was about… I don’t know.  Much like last year with CM Punk’s duel with Taker, the set-up was a question of chance – and fortunate (story wise) – circumstance, but they played it well last year.  Had CM Punk defeated the Undertaker last year, in a match that I’m led to believe he didn’t even want, the story would have been this: the Undertaker could not avenge the memory of Paul Bearer or honor his memory in combat.  The set-up was perfect for an Undertaker victory WITH the promise of an awesome showing by Punk; it was set to show us that it could have gone “either way” but in fact it was set in stone.

Besides that, Punk wouldn’t have been a viable person to inherit the Streak.  What many fail to accept is that whoever ends the Streak inherits the Streak, and they make it their own.  Lesnar now has the Streak, and it’s more valuable than any title.  Heyman will be on fire tonight, Lesnar will be smug, and frankly it makes more sense than a lot of people want to admit.  So please, stop being butthurt over it, and if you MUST be butthurt, at LEAST be as amusing at homeboy in the opening picture.

If anything, this is my greatest gripe with the match (aside from having little emotional content):

The crowd DIED after it, and it was a shame that the Divas match had to follow it.  They didn’t even get an intro, at a PAY PER VIEW I might add, and it was all so the crowd could recover:

And that’s to say nothing about the WWE World Heavyweight Championship match.  The crowd was slow to get into it.  Thank God they did though, because despite the sorrow 99% of people felt at the end of the Dead Man’s Streak, there was nothing but triumph with the moment of seeing Chris Benoit Daniel Bryan standing victorious after winning the title after a hard fought battle.  If you want to really be suspicious, tell me why it isn’t the top story on WWE.com.  Or rather, why it isn’t even a STORY up there.


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