CSB: The Hall

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It’s Wrestlemania week and I am looking forward as my favourite part of it slowly comes into focus. On the whole the professional wrestling industry has a reputation as a whole of being both unforgiving and selfish, the performers used up and left behind.  I don’t mean that as an indictment, I am pointing out that it functions like any other professional sport, if you can’t contribute to the team you don’t play. The lucky ones can coach, train, transition to a broadcast role, scout or if they were wise with their finances move in to an entirely new career. For every tale of successful transition there are tales of broken lives, crippled bodies, substance abuse, bad investments, uncontrolled spending or just the inability to adapt to a life outside the ring.  Sounds a lot like any professional sport doesn’t it? The light at the end of the tunnel though is the WWE Hall of Fame. . The part that really gets me about it is that it isn’t just a WWE Hall of Fame it has clearly become a professional wrestling Hall of Fame, not that they don’t exist in other forms but the level of production, glamour and the reach of the WWE truly elevates the spot light of the performers, promoters and even the celebrities that have contributed to the industry, not just the company.

It all began with Andre The Giant in 1993. The most fitting inaugural induction as The Giant was a massive crossover success and an unparalled draw in the business. The Hall of Fame was not a regular attraction to Wrestlemania until 2004. Since then it has grown from a small venue show to an arena filling attraction. Thousands of fans and industry professionals attend every year to pay homage to the legacy of the inducties. What gives it legitimacy is that legends who’s legacies were cemented outside of the WWE are honored, they were not WWE icons, Antonio Inoki and Tatsumi Fujinami along with 2016 inductee Stan Hansen made their names in Japan. Vern Gagne, Stu Hart and the Von Erichs were the athletes, owners and promoters of their own territories and competitors to WWE through out the 70’s and 80’s. Mil Mascaras is a Mexican wrestling legend on par with Hulk Hogan. Sting and Paul Ellering made their bones in WCW, it does not seem to matter to the governing body of this Hall of Fame and one has to assume that the final say does rest with Vince McMahon.

Looking over the Hall of Fame roster I, unlike the IWC at large, do not see any problems with the inductees from the business, the celebrity wing is a little ify but I digress because most of them do deserve a spot. The big arguement is on why some talent is in but others are not…yet. My favourite is The Bushwackers, as a WWE act they were comedy baby faces, the rest of their career they were mostly booked as hard core heels, the villians that would use anything or do anything, look at the scars on their foreheads. Apart from the rest of their career The Bushwackers earned their spot because they are MEMORABLE, period. Their music and distinct arm flailing march to the ring and the bizarre high energy promos stuck in the minds of fans, so back off the Kiwis haters. The same principles apply to Koko B. Ware, he stuck in our minds, he deserves his spot. There are more decorated talents and contributors sure but be patient, there are dozens of reasons why it wasn’t their year.

The Hall of Fame has been a tremendous factor in returning talent to the fold. Massive names like Bruno Sammartino and The Ultimate Warrior held grudges for years, even decades before returning to accept their place. Before you Canadians start screaming “What about Bret!” allow me to put forth that I never thought Bret would stay gone forever so his return, though exciting, was never in doubt in my mind. Ooohhh yeeeaaah, I know you are thinkin’ thinkin’ thinkin’ that “The Macho Man” Randy Savage returned too, but it was his brother “Leaping” Lanny Poffo that made it happen after Randy passed away, DIG IT! The only name I do not ever see being publicly inducted is that of a man who’s legacy is forever tainted by his last days. According to a few interviews with his friends that man would not have wanted the spectcal and controversy to ruin the honor, should he be inducted I suspect it will be a quiet erecting of a small display in a corner where the in ring accomplishments of Chris Benoit will be acknowledged, not soon, most likely not ever, but never say never in wrestling.

The sad part in all this though, to me at least, is that there is no physical Hall of Fame. I can not go on a trip and walk through displays and monuments to these legends. Rumours abound that there are plans but until the WWE announces it, which they have not as I type this, the Hall of Fame is digital and I hope a small part of it still travels in WWE Axxess, a fan festitval that accompanies Wrestlemania. I am sure there is enough memorobilia to fill a decent sized building but I don’t see it being a big enough attraction to function on it’s own, I think to add it to a larger attraction like a theme park or major tourist destination would be perfect, away from the WWE performance centre or headquarters so fans do not disrupt business at either would be ideal. In 2001 and 2002 I was able to see the small selection of displays at Axxess and for a wrestling fan it was incredible to see the vehicles, ring gear and statues. I will pay the admission to walk through halls and displays if such an opportunity arises.
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The WWE Hall of Fame class of 2016 will be arriving in Dallas this week, the day this is published is 7 days prior to the event, no matter what the IWC thinks or the outrage of the key board warriors in chatrooms every where this class is more than worthy. There is only one name that should be in the Hall of Fame before anyone else but I will say with the utmost certainty that he will not be inducted while he is alive. It’s not his lack of titles, he is a former WWE Champion, not his attitude, he had never been fired or suspended. He was in the ring with all time greats, is a legendary and memorable announcer, host and play by play man. No sir it is simply that he does not seem to want to cast any shadow of disrespect or taint this event, it may well be the most sacred thing the WWE produces after all. When the world watches his induction I do not think the crowd will chant “You still got it!” or “One more match!” there will be a moment of silence then thunderous applause because we may gave hated him, we may have loved him and respected him but we will thank Vincent Kennedy McMahon for what he gave us.

Oops. I messed up. I was premature with my creative juices this week. It happens to us all I am told, we get worked up and before we know it we are spent and done with before anyone is satisfied. So instead of some deep thought of mine bing explored I decided to share my obsession with you. 

A few years ago I noticed an app on my phone, I had never used it but I thought I would check it out and see what it was about, since then I have used it more than any other app I have.  Hours of my day go to Podcasts. Driving, working, mowing the lawn, showering, basically any time I could be listening to music I have a podcast running. 

If you are not yet familiar with what a podcast is let me define it for you: noun 1.a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or portable media player, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically. Get it? 

There is a podcast for everyone, thousands of subjects, themes and hosts just search out something you like and see. My first search revealed a few interesting results and I started with one from the world of professional wrestling and a host that was never a favourite in ring performer of mine to say the least.  

The Steve Austin Show & The Steve Austin Show Unleashed.  These two shows are divided because one is ‘family friendly’ and the other is, well, unleashed, meaning the language is toned down on Tuesdays and on Thursday Steve and guests unleash their vocabulary and the censor takes time off.  Mr. Austin has great guests from the business of pro-wrestling, his various TV and business ventures. My favourites though are his shows from his Texas ranch with his friend Ted Fowler, deer season, rats on PEDs, Al E. Gator and general life shenanigans. This is where I learned that creativity s as simple as just “spewing the bulkshit off my brain” Swig of coffee for the BSR

Mohr Stores. Comedian/actor/sports radio host/writer Jay Mohr (Jerry MacGuire, Gary Unmarried) this might have the widest array of guests insanely funny (John DiMaggio), music legends, sports figures, authors, actors, philosophers, agents and he can be hysterical, philosophical or deeply touching, sometimes all in the same hour. Brutally open about his own life this is a great introduction to podcasts, I put my name on it.

Nerdist. Chris Hardwick (Talking Dead) is part of the reason you are reading this.  His statement of “make a thing” rattled around my head for a while and is a key ingredient to my getting my shit together. This podcast has A-List stars of film, TV and music. Up and coming comedians and headlining acts. Hardwick created Nerdist to jump start his career by making his own ‘thing’ seems to have worked.

How Did This Get Made?  Have you ever watched a bad movie and wonder how it got made? Paul Scheer (Andre from The League), Jason Mantzoukas (Rafi from The League)and June Diane Raphael (Grace & Frankie) watch these movies and then pick them apart with hysterical. Start this one by picking out things you have seen. I don’t seek out the films every time to play along but once in a while I will and while the film may not be worth the time the entertainment value of HDTGM goes way up. 

There are several others I listen to, Colt Cabana’s Art of Wrestling that broke the Internet when his friend CM Punk aired his side of why he left WWE.  The informative Stuff you missed in History Class. I get great insights on relationships and empathy from Ask Women and Sex With Emily. WOOOOO! Nation, The Ross Report give me different slants on wrestling history and legends, as does Talk is Jericho where the music industry stops in to create a great balance.  If you have a commute, road trip, list of chores or just enjoy learning or listening to interviews get s podcast app and check out what is on the top of the charts or search out a subject of interest. You may find a new obsession too. 

It’s the MOST Wonderful Time of The Year 

It’s the MOST Wonderful Time of The Year 

So I’ve been at this for a while now and I have been asked s few times when am I going to really take a shot at my favourite subject. I touched on it once, I garnered more attention that thought it would have frankly. So I’m going to kick off a special edition of The Matt Harding Blog, this irregular feature will focus on a specific demographic and I would appreciate it if you readers would share this with others that share this fandom, tag them in a comment or just share this. Welcome to Cheap Seat Booking. Understand this, I have no sources, I have never been in a ring and the closet I’ve evergotten to anyone who has are a few handshakes or seats next to the entrance ramp. This is not intended to be a news source just a fan perspective.

Right now is my favorite time of the year to be a wrestling fan, this is our playoffs. This year our regular season ends Jan 23, 2016. Jan 24, 2016 is what WWE calls “The Road To Wrestlemania”, the biggest show of the year (Wrestle Kingdom not with standing)  WWE is the NFL of wrestling, it may not produce the best matches everytime and not every great athlete in the sport (let it go, I promise to get in to that down the road) plies their trade in the best marketed league in the sport (chill, that’s for later) but it IS the best marketed league in the sport (dude, I said chill). WWE is where the big money and notoriety come from and Wrestlemania has truely become a destination live event ranking with any major sports championship. 

With the Royal Rumble hours away here’s what I would like to see; Roman Reigns will get eliminated by Triple H. with the fan base treating Roman to a healthy chorus of boos Triple H will get a big time fan friendly reaction and the two will square off at Wrestlemania. They don’t need a belt involved since the goal is increasing Roman’s image not status. 

Nostalgic entrants, every year we get a few beloved returns, if only for a few minutes.  The lack of name power on the WWE roster means if they are thinking ahead we could see some name brand athletes show up to kick off the next 3 months;  The Rock, he’s publicly said he’ll be at Wrestlemania, he’s a legitimate star that would be embraced if he walked out with the WWE Title.  Rob! Van! Dam! (Get your thumbs up) I wouldn’t put him on my short list of potential winners but RVD would get a huge reaction and, if he stayed around, add a much needed veteran mind to the locker room. Shane McMahon, this long shot would add a variety of story possibilities to Reigns vs The Authority, Shane could pick either side and Roman could only benefit from it. 

Returns and debuts.  This is always a great way to introduce new talent, if that talent comes with a reputation and a story line is figured out to get them into the mix after the Rumble.  Daniel Bryan, not since Eddie Guerrero has the WWE fan base embraced an athlete so much, while rumours and reports abound on his status and health IF he enters the Rumble the fans will demand he win, which will create a great closing moment or cause the WWE fans to turn on another competitor, which might not be a bad thing.  AJ Styles, more reports and rumour put The Phenomenal One WWE bound, his music hits and the roof comes off the building.  Samoa Joe, his wheels have been spinning in NXT, not that he has been looking at the lights but I believe Joe is a case of learning the system WWE operates and biding time until a big moment can be made for his debut, if not today then I expect it won’t be until Monday Night Raw the day after Wrestlemania, for AJ and Joe to renew their incredible rivalry in the middle of the Rumble …wow. 

I’m getting a little long winded so I’ll end on a quick top three picks to walk out of the Rumble as WWE Champion. Undertaker, Jim Ross’ theory of on last run to Wrestlemania in Texas is poetic and I support it. Brock Lesnar, so legit he doesn’t need to be on TV to sell a story line.  Chris Jericho, he specializes in making chicken salad out of chicken shit. Give him the right opponent and he’ll give us a classic match and intelligent build to it. 

Remember these are just my personal thoughts, from my couch, completely devoid of any industry information. 

Play Nice! 

Play Nice! 

When we were small most of our parents would tell us to ‘play nice’ with our friends, usually it meant we were being dicks and needed to smarten up before we caused real trouble. As we grow up we are reminded less and less of this valuable life lesson. I find myself curious as to how much drama I could have avoided if I had been reminded of that lesson when I needed it. How different would my life be now? More importantly how different would others lives be?

Over the last several years I have found that one of my most commonly expounded pearls of wisdom has been ‘play nice’, it’s not to my children that I speak it most often, or to holiday shoppers but to friends that find themselves on the verge of a break up.  Break ups suck. The raw nerves and heightened emotions make simply playing nice damn near impossible, depending on the circumstances.  All scenarios aside if you look back at most break ups it is usually pretty clear that the most trying times could have been easier had either or both parties just played nice, no giant public spectacles, destruction of property  or cans of pepper spray.  Humans tend to lash out when they get hurt, when someone lashes out the person on the receiving end gets hurt back and the cycle begins. It wastes a tremendous amount of time and energy, energy probably better spent on healing and collecting the pieces of a shattered life and moving on. That cycle is where the collateral damage is done, friends and family get sucked in like a whirlpool and more than one relationship ends up on the line. For many the side they take is cut and dried, no question, for some maintaining the friendships of the former couple is difficult especially if a particularly disenchanting side of someone is brought to light. Personally I have been on all sides of that scenario and it is not fun in any role. 

So after all that you may be wondering how exactly are former couples supposed to play nice?  It’s simple; motivation. The reason to play nice must outweigh the hurt felt, your reputation, career, goals, dreams, kids. There it is, the best reason and the one most often used as a weapon or looked, kids. My worst break up was splitting from my children’s mother. We were not kind to each other but we did not go to war either. I’m not going to get in to details of it all suffice to say our disagreements never got to the point of using the kids as weapons and we never needed a formal court ordered custody agreement because no matter how heated our discussions got we both knew there was a point to just play nice, for the sake of the kids. We disputed all the normal things and once papers we’re served but in the end I backed down from that because I was being a dick and needed to play nice. Notice that? I admitted to being a dick, I’m not ashamed of it I just realized it was me that was causing the problem. My emotions and hurt feelings were causing me to not play nice. Before we start raising statues in my honour let my day that a year or so later the roles reversed and she agreed to back down in a situation where we were no longer living an easy car ride away from each other. She played nice. You see the other option we had lived through already, not everyone in our lives played nice in the four years we were together, we went through the wars and the casualties included our relationship as well as a few other things and people that could have been spared had everyone played nice, don’t get me wrong I wasn’t playing nice in that war either, I fired my share of shots too. 

Spare yourself, your friends, your family, above all spare your kids. You may take a loss on one exchange but you’ll win another.  It’s not worth destroying everything to gain anything, especially if it means the ones you are supposed to protect most are the ones hurt worst, teach them this lesson instead; Play nice, don’t be a dick. 

The Age/Old Paradox

The Age/Old Paradox

 I had a conversation once with a man just entering middle age. He looked tired, bone weary really. He confessed to me that he felt twice as old as he was. In turn I told him that I felt like I was stuck in my teens, perpetually waiting for direction or to be told to smarten up and stop goofing around.  I felt too young for my birthday, far too young and irresponsible to be an adult, let alone the head of a household.  He laughed, he said I was much too old to feel that damn young and he was much to young to feel this damn old. Before we could get deeper into our conversation there was a knock on the door and I had to wipe the last remains of the shaving creme off my face and give up the bathroom. 

Weird quasi-psychotic mirror conversations aside, at my age I feel I should have a better grasp on this adult thing. My parents had it figured out, they never seemed to be stumbling along or making it up as they went along, didn’t they?  Why do I feel so lost all the time, like any choice I make is ultimately a blind guess supported by hopes and good intentions?  I don’t blame anyone, it’s not the fault of parents, teachers or role models, it’s all me. I just feel like a deer in the head lights many days, damn near incapacitated and unprepared as life bears down on me.  I unwind with a video game, I own over 7,600 comic books and still follow 3 series.  Cool animated show on? I’m in.  I look at many of these things that I use as a diversion to unwind and wonder if I am somewhat malformed, most of them would be more in line with one of the children’s pastimes.  Who put me in charge of children if we have the same hobbies?

It has become hard to get out of bed some days, aches in my knees, soreness in my shoulder, some lower back pain (I don’t whine too much about that around the house). My diet has started to get restrictive, not for weight reasons but for comfort as certain foods no longer process properly.  The trends and habits of the younger crowd have not made sense in years.  What is the purpose of a selfie? Do they have to be taken in a bathroom or while driving? Films and albums that I waited to be released are having anniversaries in the multiple decades.  I sat in a theatre last month and said to my step-son “I have been waiting 32 years for this movie.” What. The. Fuck did I just say? My fiancé is 30! I had been anticipating a movie long before she was even an announcement in the family news letter. Athletes I remember in their hay day are retired, not just a few but a few generations. Actors that were little more than rebellious teens on screen are now in the roles being rebelled against. Father Time loses no battles.  

I often find myself searching for that middle ground, it seems like a precarious perch, I rarely feel my acctual age.  I have a lot of life left,    I may not feel as spry as I used to, it takes longer for me to recover from work outs, injuries and hangovers but I know I’m not as old a I feel. The flip side of that is having a sneaking suspicion that adulthood really is nothing more than Hail Mary pass in the general direction of the goal line and taking advantage of anything you can to put a smile on your face for a few minutes. So the odd paradox of transitioning from feeling too young and feeling too old may never go away but I would be shocked if I am the only one that feels this way. Now if I can just  figure out which prankster in my house is dying my hair and beard white strand by strand…

Two Thousand Sixteen

Two Thousand Sixteen

New Year! New Me! 2016 is going to be MY year! I got this, WOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Is that what I’m supposed to say? Seriously, I am asking because that is all I have seen or heard in the last week and I’m wondering if I am legally required to do the same.  I’m not being a hater I just don’t want to do time for violating social media law.  

December 31/January 1 has become a Pavlovian trigger to society, an annual kick in the pants to get our collective shit together, nothing wrong with that at all, we all need a kick in the ass from time to time, what I’m getting at here is that the pack mentality is more counter productive than it is results orientated. The collective fail point is the same, the instant the resolution comes to mind, not after a few days or sobering up. The reason I say this is that we, yes I am just as guilty as anyone, aren’t truly ready to change, the need hasn’t resonated with us at a point deep enough in our psyche to motivate us for long term change. This week our refrigerator contents look different, we know the feel of a kettle bell in hand or treadmill underfoot, our wallets are heavier with unused cigarette and liquor money.  This. Week. 

To be absolutely crystal clear here, I AM NOT TRYING TO BE NEGATIVE. I wish you all the best in your endeavours, much love and support. What I am getting at is only a small percentage of us are ready to keep the commitment to ourselves, not want to, ready to. Our health, our personal growth, our bank accounts and the professionals that assist us with them are all subjected to the ultimate controlling power of our negative self.  Those of you that know me or have been following this little rantfest know that my negative self has controlled me like a Muppet for years, so I am not judging anyone for it, far from. Following the tradition of New Years Resolutions and not being ready to really chase them down is okay, it shows we can identify a troubling aspect of our lives and 80’s kids know that knowing is half the battle. 

Our resolutions may be the best thing for us but why limit it to starting this week?  The best time to make a positive change is always yesterday, next best is today and tomorrow always seems to stay tomorrow.  I am not making a New Years resolution because I made mine in November.   I identified my trouble spot and got my kick in the ass. If I had said “I’ll wait until Jan 1st to start” I probably would have stalled until after I slept in or the hang over passed or after the busy weekend, then back to work would have delayed me, then…you get the point. 

The date of deciding to make a change doesn’t matter.  Slipping up and having to try again doesn’t matter. Change isn’t about tradition, a specific date or your age it is about being ready in your core to stick to that change.  We should not stop making these resolutions we should make them through out the year. Keep reminding ourselves of them until we are ready. Yearly reminders are nice and but if you are like me maybe more than once a year check in on them and have another run at them.  Our next year doesn’t start on Jauary 1st, it starts when we are ready for it to start.