9628 Days Later

9628 Days Later

November 22, 1990. I remember it well, it was the rarest of occasions when family friends had ordered WWE Survivor Series and we got to watch it live on Pay Per View, little did we know that we would get to see the televised debut of a legend. Dark and creepy The Undertaker strolled to the ring as ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper proclaimed “Look at the size of that Hamhock!” FIVE of the 8 men in the match now are in the WWE Hall of Fame and 26 years, 4 months, 1 week and 5 days later The Undertaker seems to have laid his career to rest.

Bar none The Undertaker persona is the most successful WWE creation ever. The man himself has reached a level of respect where only Andre The Giant resided before him. A much lauded locker room leader and the de facto enforcer of locker room etiquette. There really is no good reason for such a cartoonish persona to have lasted more than a year or two let alone 26 years, it is the man in the role that made it work. Mark Callaway did such a good job that fans forgot he was a living human being most of the time. That sounds odd doesn’t it, it is the truth though, he always seemed supernatural and the WWE spared no expense in assisting that perception, special effects and slight of hand started to become a staple in the mid 90’s. The company invested in the character as much as the man and by 2004 the entrance of The Undertaker was a show unto itself with many performers going on record as saying watching it from in the ring was legitimately intimidating.

In my opinion The Undertaker is not just a successful character but the greatest WWE performer of all time. Stop scoffing for a second, most of the elite level performers in WWE history excelled in a few areas, many eclipsed Taker in some aspect most notably the mic skills area, but The Undertaker was so well rounded that he made up for it in such a way that whole was more valuable than the sum of his parts. When one looks at the amount of time spent at the top of the card Undertaker was there for 25 years. While the two biggest stars of the 90’s Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock may have sold more merch or drew the eyes of more mainstream viewers they both had relatively short careers. Austin spent 7 active years in WWE (less a year off for neck surgery and another 8 months after a walk out) and The Rock was effectively a part timer after 7 (with several lengthy absences to film movies), essentially the two biggest stars of his time had careers less than a third of Taker. Hogan, you say, well he was out classed in everything except raw charisma and in three wrestling stints with WWE Hogan’s career tallies only 12 years. On the long term time line The Undertaker can not be touched in any facet, Andre himself only had 17 years with WWE.

The first few years was not the non-stop five star match parade some may wish to remember. There was a learning curve for the young Taker and the WWE as they got comfortable in character and learned to showcase things properly. Undertaker never a poor worker but there was always room for improvement and he did improve, no aspect was ever left to linger long and at no point did he stop improving, even when he had reached the top of the industry he kept adding to his performance. The character constantly evolved growing darker and more sinister through the late 90’s, then a complete departure to a biker look for about 3 years until coming full circle to an updated version of his original character but this time the evolution was less sinister and more awe inspiring.

Undertaker.png

I remember being at a Monday Night Raw in Seattle and after the TV feed was done the superstars gave the crowd a little extra. This particular night Booker T had challenged his partners to try his signature “Spin-a-roonie” break dance move. One by one, Goldust, The Rock and Booker did one. The Undertaker was shaking his head and you could see on the big screen he was unhappy with the shenanigans. The crowd chanted “Do it!” over and over until Vince McMahon strode down the ramp and made a speech before he too tried one, the “Mac-a-roonie” was born. Soon Triple H returned and his opponents from earlier allowed him to try his hand, the entire time Undertaker is vowing his revenge (according to interviews with the other participants) until the other three performers from the match ran down and a brawl ensued as they were once again chased off and everybody returned to the locker room.  This was a legendary moment in WWE because the top stars in the company and Vince McMahon could not crack the Undertaker or make him break character. There is the key to it all, every incarnation it remained the same, he never broke character, interviews are few and far between, he never appeared less than cool and collected, he has yet to wrote a book or do a podcast or put a rant on YouTube and his most in depth video release (Undertaker: This Is My Yard, 2001) shed very little light on the man outside the character. The public really doesn’t know Mark Callaway and the few things we’ve learned are a drop in the bucket.

The bottom line here is that an athlete is only going to remain at their peak for so long before they have to call it a career. April 1, 2017 seems to be the day The Undertaker chose to leave the ring once and for all. He had a hell of a match with one of the best full time performers in WWE and closed out one last Wrestlemania in front of 75,000 fans. The second most shocking Wrestlemania moment for Undertaker fans was not his second loss but when he piled his gloves, coat and hat in the ring and broke character on camera when he hugged his wife and kids on his way up the ramp. In all honesty The Undertaker gave us everything he had in his rare ring time over the last five years, but it was becoming clear that he was not the same performer,  his last truly great night was Wrestlemania 29 when he faced CM Punk. After that it was like those puzzles for kids where two nearly identical pictures are places together and you must find the differences, subtle or glaring and that is how I see the last few years. I do not mean that disrespectfully in any way but a man in his late forties and early fifties that put his body through the rigors he did can’t maintain peak performance anymore, he can put on the show better than ever but physically things were slipping.

This is a case of a top athlete leaving us and ending an era.  That is the echelon The Undertaker sits at as an athlete, the top 1% of the top 1% in his field. I believe we’ve seen the last of the Deadman, I fully expect him to be the marquee induction to the 2018 WWE Hall of Fame. Perhaps it is even possible he isn’t retired and there is one more match, I doubt that though. Sure we fans can say “It would have been better IF…” but this ending is the one to stick with, it is poetic and fitting for an old school man like Taker, the torch is passed and he went out on top, closing the biggest show of the year. I get that there are fans that are still throwing a temper tantrum over Roman Reigns but they all need to recognize one thing, The Undertaker had the stroke and the respect to veto anyone he did not want to be his last opponent, while it is not confirmed I suspect Roman was chosen for the task by Taker himself.  I have been a fan since that night in 1990 through all the twists and turns and all I can say as in the end is Thank You Taker.

Taker

The Dress Rehearsal: A CSB Story

The Dress Rehearsal: A CSB Story

Above: The main event Intercontinental Title match Dean Ambrose(C) vs AJ Styles vs The Miz w/Maryse 

Monday night I attended a dress rehearsal all in all I thought it went very well. It was not the best night to be out on the town of course, the snow was coming down heavy when we left and the traffic was light until a few blocks from the venue where is was damn near gridlocked. I was not the only one to attend this rehearsal you see, I figure about 4000 others showed up. Sorry, I may have neglected to specify, the dress rehearsal was for Tuesday night’s Smackdown in Seattle. Before any of you dislocate your eyes rolling them allow me to explain.

WWE does not often hit our area and it has been well over a decade since they brought their TV cameras, we get what used to be called ‘house shows’ meaning they were only for those ‘in the house’, I have stopped calling them that, I refer to them as ‘rehearsal shows’. It used to be that TV was the promotional tool to sell tickets to the house shows. Interviews were based on “We’re coming to your town and I’m going to win the match!” template. TV expanded and ways to make more money using televised content out did the gates at live events that were not televised. Had to happen right? Naturally. I used to LOVE house shows, not just because it was a chance to see the big names in action against each other rather than the weekly squash match compilation the Saturday TV programs produced they seemed to flow better and the few interviews done came across as looser and less scrutinized. If I were to sum up the difference quickly I would say that for a stretch of years the atmosphere was more playful at a show with no broadcast. The talent seemed to get away with pushing the boundaries a bit and enjoy their work a bit more. Oh and the top names showed up but I digress.

In 2004, almost 12 years to the day really, I was at a show and saw Brock Lesnar vs Eddie Guerrero, in a few days Eddie would win the WWE title from Brock on Pay Per View. The catch was the matches had a lot of the same sequences, not in the same order because Eddie was an artist and could make a new and enthralling match every night. It wasn’t new to see the same sequences repeated but in many cases over the following years it became more than a trademark sequence or spot. I got a text Tuesday night from the friend I went with “Smackdown is a glorified show from last night.” It didn’t surprise me, in fact I told him and his girlfriend that it would basically be a dress rehearsal for the live feed the next night, that disappointed me in a way. That was the first WWE show they had attended and to me it was like watching your team scrimmage, to them it may have stole a bit of the magic.

The bottom line here is that to me it does not matter because a live match is a wonderful treat for me, you never really know what you are going to see and for myself I have been watching so long there are very few talents I have not seen perform live at this point, every show I get to see a few more, Bray Wyatt, Carmella, Alexa Bliss, Mojo Rawley, Baron Corbin, Apollo Cruz, Dolph Ziggler and most special to me American Alpha (my current favourite tag team) were new to my live experience list this time. I was amazed at how smooth AJ Styles was in the ring, how quick Dolph Ziggler was, the way The Miz riled up the crowd and the entrancement of the masses as Bray Wyatt strolled to the ring.  There are no real tricks when you are sitting in the building just reaction to music and performance. Sure it is a bit of a drag to see the same match verbatim but that is a danger with wrestling period.

While I would like to see a return to a more loose structure the reality is two fold 1) camera phones have made it impossible to really have a non-broadcast event. Footage of house shows constantly ends up on line and in some cases goes viral with potent mixed results. Which means the risk of being subject to discipline are just as great as getting credit for boosting interest 2) there is really nothing wrong with seeing a dress rehearsal in this case because it gives fans a chance to see something live they may not be able to when the world watches and the performers a chance to really work out the kinks before a big match. I have seen matches live that were better than their broadcast, if you attended you saw two better than anything televised thus far, Dolph Ziggler vs Apollo Cruz and Baron Corbin vs Kalisto. There is your magic in rehearsal and better yet it was magic we all made it there in that snow.

Below: Me making sure we did not make The List of Jericho

The Dress Rehearsal: A CSB Story

The Dress Rehearsal: A CSB Story

Above: The main event Intercontinental Title match Dean Ambrose(C) vs AJ Styles vs The Miz w/Maryse 

Monday night I attended a dress rehearsal all in all I thought it went very well. It was not the best night to be out on the town of course, the snow was coming down heavy when we left and the traffic was light until a few blocks from the venue where is was damn near gridlocked. I was not the only one to attend this rehearsal you see, I figure about 4000 others showed up. Sorry, I may have neglected to specify, the dress rehearsal was for Tuesday night’s Smackdown in Seattle. Before any of you dislocate your eyes rolling them allow me to explain.

WWE does not often hit our area and it has been well over a decade since they brought their TV cameras, we get what used to be called ‘house shows’ meaning they were only for those ‘in the house’, I have stopped calling them that, I refer to them as ‘rehearsal shows’. It used to be that TV was the promotional tool to sell tickets to the house shows. Interviews were based on “We’re coming to your town and I’m going to win the match!” template. TV expanded and ways to make more money using televised content out did the gates at live events that were not televised. Had to happen right? Naturally. I used to LOVE house shows, not just because it was a chance to see the big names in action against each other rather than the weekly squash match compilation the Saturday TV programs produced they seemed to flow better and the few interviews done came across as looser and less scrutinized. If I were to sum up the difference quickly I would say that for a stretch of years the atmosphere was more playful at a show with no broadcast. The talent seemed to get away with pushing the boundaries a bit and enjoy their work a bit more. Oh and the top names showed up but I digress.

In 2004, almost 12 years to the day really, I was at a show and saw Brock Lesnar vs Eddie Guerrero, in a few days Eddie would win the WWE title from Brock on Pay Per View. The catch was the matches had a lot of the same sequences, not in the same order because Eddie was an artist and could make a new and enthralling match every night. It wasn’t new to see the same sequences repeated but in many cases over the following years it became more than a trademark sequence or spot. I got a text Tuesday night from the friend I went with “Smackdown is a glorified show from last night.” It didn’t surprise me, in fact I told him and his girlfriend that it would basically be a dress rehearsal for the live feed the next night, that disappointed me in a way. That was the first WWE show they had attended and to me it was like watching your team scrimmage, to them it may have stole a bit of the magic.

The bottom line here is that to me it does not matter because a live match is a wonderful treat for me, you never really know what you are going to see and for myself I have been watching so long there are very few talents I have not seen perform live at this point, every show I get to see a few more, Bray Wyatt, Carmella, Alexa Bliss, Mojo Rawley, Baron Corbin, Apollo Cruz, Dolph Ziggler and most special to me American Alpha (my current favourite tag team) were new to my live experience list this time. I was amazed at how smooth AJ Styles was in the ring, how quick Dolph Ziggler was, the way The Miz riled up the crowd and the entrancement of the masses as Bray Wyatt strolled to the ring.  There are no real tricks when you are sitting in the building just reaction to music and performance. Sure it is a bit of a drag to see the same match verbatim but that is a danger with wrestling period.

While I would like to see a return to a more loose structure the reality is two fold 1) camera phones have made it impossible to really have a non-broadcast event. Footage of house shows constantly ends up on line and in some cases goes viral with potent mixed results. Which means the risk of being subject to discipline are just as great as getting credit for boosting interest 2) there is really nothing wrong with seeing a dress rehearsal in this case because it gives fans a chance to see something live they may not be able to when the world watches and the performers a chance to really work out the kinks before a big match. I have seen matches live that were better than their broadcast, if you attended you saw two better than anything televised thus far, Dolph Ziggler vs Apollo Cruz and Baron Corbin vs Kalisto. There is your magic in rehearsal and better yet it was magic we all made it there in that snow.

Below: Me making sure we did not make The List of Jericho

CSB: My Rushmore


Writing is not easy. Until you far more athletic and dynamic have tried to write something to be published or posted you may not understand that. Stories and articles may take an unexpected turn and find itself a completely different or at least unintended creature. It has happened here a few times and the last few I have really put time into reworking things and taking more time with the subject. Well here we go again, so in lieu of my intended thought train here is a far less complex to piece together. Now then…

Every week I listen to podcasts and a common question in The Ross Report (and a few others at random) is “Who is on your Mount Rushmore of professional wrestling?” Doesn’t sound too hard to answer does it? For year I have debated my own as a 33 year fan. I have seen a lot of performers come and go, debuts to retirement and Hall of Fame Inductions in some cases. Regardless of how much you enjoy professional wrestling there is still a level of achievement involved as with any career, someone IS the best and there is an argument for each spot.

Andre The Giant, The first real mainstream cross over in professional wrestling. Andre drew fans every where he went, he was kept special by not staying too long in one area where the danger of losing the novelty of his size was real. In his early career Andre was far more athletic and dynamic than fans that discovered him when the WWF went nation wide with Hulkamania at the fore front. Andre was most know as a spectacle performer, his matches were more about the imposing Giant and his stature than the bell to bell performance, which were text book big man wrestling. In March 1987 Andre headlined Wrestlemania 3 with Hulk Hogan, Andre was the most hated man in the building yet in September he was one of the most beloved characters in cinema when The Princess Bride hit theatres. Andre was the ultimate larger than live performer in the wrestling world.

The Rock, No one and I mean NO ONE has come through the professional wrestling world and hit mainstream success like The Rock. A relatively short full time career that spans roughly six years The Rock slowly transitioned to Hollywood amid skepticism that he could survive on screen. Hulk Hogan, Jesse Ventura and Roddy Piper did OK, Andre The Giant died before he could transition further but the mainstream had never seen a wrestler make a lasting impact on the top tier of Hollywood. Wow were fans and critics blind sided. Dwayne Johnson showed his adaptability moving from football to professional wrestling in the mid nineties, then he adapted to the crowd and went from maligned hero to despised villain back to ultimate fan favourite, repeatedly. He left WWE for a few years entirely and came back to main event big shows and star in massive films even getting his own HBO series Ballers (I highly recommend it). The Rock  was a hybrid of in ring prowess and entertaining spectacle and took the spectacle to the top of the screen box office.

Triple H, The goal of any wrestler is to rise to the top of the business and no one did it like Triple H. His strait laced life style and desire to get better lead him to an elitist gimmick in WCW and a slightly different incarnation in WWF. For a while he seemed like a one trick pony. Behind the scenes he was befriended by some of the top stars in the company which put him in position to show his intelligence for the business. A few small pushes and a big punishment later Triple H hit 1997 with a vengeance and never looked back. From sidekick to leader then main event player and ultimately a performer at the top echelon of the business. an 8 month lay off due to injury saw him shift from the most reviled man on the show to the most anticipated return in years as a top hero character. He would go on to mentor many other stars including other top tier talents and his intelligence behind the scenes gained the respect of the show makers, which lead to a work place romance with his future wife and daughter of the company owner/chairman. Since stepping back from the active roster Triple H has nurtured the concept of NXT and the WWE performance center where the next generation of talent is cultivated and new hires learn to adapt to the WWE machine. All said and done Triple H as a well rounded in ring performer became a well rsavy and highly influential business mogul. Say what you want about his marriage but Triple H produced top quality work in every aspect and has been a driving force on both sides of the camera for years.

The Undertaker, 26 years and 2 months ago (ish) Survivor Series 1990 introduced us to The Undertaker. There is no argument The Undertaker is the greatest WWE talent to ever exist. He never left for another company, even when there were millions of dollars to be had for less work. The outlasted the careers of almost every one of his peers, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Kevin Nash, Steve Austin, Edge, Kurt Angle no one had the longevity of Undertaker. He rarely had a truly bad match, sure there were a few below par but in his late career he made the Pro-Wrestling Illustrated Match of the Year three times for his Wrestlemania matches in 2009, 2010 and 2012. Undertaker lives his role, all the pomp and circumstance that goes into his entrances and mystique  are backed up by his commitment to the character and work in all aspects. Rarely interviewed, no social media, low public profile is very much unheard of in this day and age in the wrestling world, he may as well really be dead and resurrected for his few appearances per year. As far as his few appearances go he is at the level where just the hint of his presence sends the crowd into a frenzy unsurpassed by anyone else.  Sure there is the argument that a few others sold more merchandise and products but every one of them had a far shorter run and Undertaker was never so far behind in that category that he hasn’t made up for it in career totals.

There you have it, my picks for the Mount Rushmore of Professional Wrestling. Sure names like Bruno Sammartino, Shawn Michaels, Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage can be argued and they all have their valid points too. For now I stand by these and tomorrow I will once again attack a topic that got the better of me. Hopefully by next week I’ve made it tap out.

 

CSB: I’m Not Blind

I try not to be negative on here or hate on people, this week though I decided to address a few things I have been asked about repeatedly lately. As a wrestling fan and predominantly WWE at that, it is assumed I just agree with what ever is on TV and don’t question the way things are. I very much do, I just understand two things, 1) I am not in any way shape or form capable of altering what is done and 2) some times we need to wait a bit longer for the plans to play out before we get too concerned. Bearing all this in mind here are some tings I am very much bothered by even as a super fan.

Mid match commercial breaks. Nothing ruins the suspension of disbelief quicker than a sudden 2 – 3 minute commercial break during a match. Add to that the bumpers for the sports network on either end and suddenly I have lost a huge chunk of a match I was getting attached to. I get that commercials are a part of television but this is not like the show isn’t planned out. I am sure that some where someone is capable of plotting out a better schedule for the breaks and matches so that fans can stay invested in the product.

3 hour Raw. Why? It’s just too much. The biggest problem is that it the traditional length of the monthly Pay Per Views is also 3 hours, so what is special about the PPV’s now? They still have commercial breaks for WWE content and they still interrupt  matches for them once in a whike(drives me bonkers). There is only a marginal difference in the story segments (all the not match stuff), matches are a bit longer but for the most part a good Raw can be better than a PPV and a bad PPV is no better than a mediocre Raw. Here issue though is cash, WWE gets paid for that hour and as a public company they do have shareholders to answer to. My opinion is drop the hour and make the paid content on WWE network more appealing by making it more special and meaningful.

Title design. There are four title belts that are identical except for the colours. The WWE World Heavyweight Championship (black), Universal Championship (red), Raw Women’s Championship (white/red) and the Smackdown Women’s Championship (white/blue)…are you kidding me? The last brand split contained too many titles much like the current split but at least they were all distinct in design. Seriously lacking in creativity not to mention that they couldn’t even come up with a better name separation for the two women’s titles, at least they didn’t call one something stupid like Universal, SMH. The two Tag Team Championships are no better, I like the design, I even like the copper on black belts currently on Raw but the silver on blue clones on Smackdown do nothing for me. I am not a fan of the amount of titles  but at least put in effort to make them seem distinct.

PG and gimmic matches. Look it’s 2016 and I am NOT advocating a bloodbath on every show, it’s unnecessary and dangerous, not just in bodily harm to the athletes but the sheer amount of blood born pathogens we currently have in our world. The flip side however is that if you put athletes in any environment where there is an elevated level of danger you can’t just expect fans to convince ourselves that something involved is no going to cause some quick and visible injury. It is no secret that the athletes have ways of portraying more serious wounds with out the cause being what is the focal point we see on screen. The result is usually a match where fans are asked to push disbelief too far or the danger level is hyped up but never really comes into play. We are already pushing our suspension disbelief pretty far. Either the amount of gimmic matches needs to be drastically cut back or the rating needs to change for certain shows. The stuff on the WWE network is the obvious choice to alter the rating, I don’t mean a hard R gore fest but bump it a level and let the performers deliver something more suitable for the story they are trying to tell. Not altering the rating and keeping the PG rating often comes across as Goodfellas with Ned Flanders writing the dialog.

Too many titles. I started to elaborate on thus buy it turned into a full article in itself so I will flesh that out another time. suffice to say the multiple belts in each division only cause confusion and detract from each other.The eventual unification matches will be less interesting the next time around.

Speaking of too many…Pay Per Views I think that’s the term we still use. Since the brand split it seems that there is one every two or three weeks. So far each brand is getting one a month each. Way too much, it is watering down the product and over saturating the market. There are other companies out there doing very well and the audience en masse has more choice in available product than ever before thanks to the internet and expansion of television to hundreds of channels. Too much WWE content is going to breed contempt and is going to hurt the interest of the audience because they are going to offer up way too much in a short span and over expose story lines and athletes and cause a need to rush stories that could draw not only money but interest if left to a longer build up. I think the first brand split had the right idea of using four PPV a year a co-brand then alternate the other eight for brand exclusive cards leaving a build period twice as long as it had been previously and allowing the chance to put mega-matches together on network TV that could be used to build more interest for the PPV.

See I am not jut a zombie yes fan. I don’t rail or whine on the internet about it but I certainly think a few bolts need to be tightened and can see the crash coming if not. My general philosophy is to highlight what is going well and not nit pick at the things that don’t work, here are enough people out there doing the negative, since I am just a couch fan and not a former athlete, share holder or production insider my opinion seems more akin to the rest of the online geniuses that seem to think they know better. The only difference is that I have my name on it, my real name and I am willing to defend my position to any one regardless of a cheap sea fan or Vince McMahon.

 

Whatcha Gonna Do? Stop

March 17, 2002. It’s cold, too cold on the streets of Toronto for this Vancouverite. I am with a good friend and we are roaming the streets near Sky Dome, people in costume and severely under-dressed for anyone but locals flood the streets chanting and raving. I would call them lunatics but life isn’t that black and white, today it was black and white or red and yellow depending on taste. You see that was the date of Wrestlemania XXVIII and the crowd in Toronto was firmly behind a well past his prime Hulk Hogan, for no apparent reason, at least to me. I was behind The Rock, younger, more athletic, better with the mic, better track record of entertaining matches simply put The Rock was just better in every category. Toronto didn’t care, they were still addicted to Hulkamania, I was, and am. a recovering Hulkamaniac. Whefirst discovered professional wrestling it was the beginning of Hulkamania, Wrestlemania, Hulk Hogan’s Rock & WRestling, A-Team, the WWE marketing team was learning their job and doing very well at it. Like the ornate figure head on the bow of  majestic ship Hulk Hogan was the forefront of professional wrestling in the 1980’s. Also like that figure head he was just decoration and the real parts were less glamorous and more functional.

My first indication that the Hulkster was not the entire show was the fights that happened in my living room. Back in the 1980’s LJN released a ling on solid rubber WWE action figures, I had a few, my friends had a few, and together we could out book a Wrestlemania, the fights began like this: Kid 1: “I get to be The Dynamite Kid”

Kid 2:” No, I want the Dynamite Kid!”

Kid 3:”We have two…”

Kids 1 & 2: “YOU CAN’T HAVE DYNAMITE VS DYNAMITE!”

Kid  2: “THEN I AM BRET HART!”

Kid 3: ” I already picked Bret when you two were arguing.”

Kid 2 the picks up King Kong Bundy figure and smacks Kid 3.

As you can see by the above pic Bundy was a mass of rubber that could split a skull. Now the idiocy of pre-teen boys aside the key there is we never and I mean ever fought over who got to be Hulk Hogan. Fights would also break out over ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper, ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage and  Ricky ‘ The Dragon’ Steamboat, when I looked at it years later as I rewatched Wrestlemania III it hit me that I would never talk about he Hogan match, it was always the undercard that got the talk. Fair is fair; Hogan slamming Andre was a spectacle but Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat was dissected. That is the remnants of the Hogan era, his matches contained spectacle moments, not to discredit him they were incredible feats and moments not matches. The big stars saw their names in lights out side buildings and work at the end of the night (when cameras were on) but the big talents got the fans respect and conversation. It was a slow decent out of Hulkamania for me, there was to one moment that did it, too often the WWE hype machine built up a match only to be disappointed in the end product, I think the last truly engrossing match Hogan had while I was still a Hulkamaniac was with Randy Savage at Wrestlemania V.  There were matches that over promised and under delivered near the top of the cards and then underneath there were the ones that under promised and over produced. By Wrestlemania VIII I was done, so much of the under card was performing above their promotional level and yet the show closing battle of the titans Hulk Hogan facing off with Sid Justice was probably the best outing either had in a while but still so vastly underwhelming that I just couldn’t handle it any more. I wanted to see Bret Hart, Mr Perfect, The Undertaker, Jake Roberts, these guys were delivering every time often well ahead of the hype they received. The Hulkster had lost his luster to me, I started to see a paint by numbers structure and a lack of gripping story in the ring.

Around that time Hogan began getting more film work, his wrestling time was limited and eventually he would transition to WCW as would many of the late big names of his era and the young talent that held our attention started closing the shows. Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels in particular, but credit to Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Jeff Jarrett, The Undertaker, Owen Hart and Davey Boy Smith. There was a catch though, a clear void in star power to draw eyes that the charisma of Hulk Hogan could not. The “gimmic” era of the WWE made it tough to get eyes on the in ring quality, wrestling clowns, garbage-men, tax collectors, hockey players (in full gear), plumbers, repo-men, even a star spangled hero didn’t cut it. Meanwhile Hogan had turned evil in WCW and ride another eave if popularity….or did he? sure he was top of the card but moat of the time he was working with the same few competitors. Even the WCW alternatives got so many repeat matches they felt like watching reruns of Fraser, fine the first time but lamer and lamer as they went on. WCW had the same formula, an amazing under card with a drizzled shit topping. Hogan was bad, Flair a shadow of his true self, Luger was over rated, The Giant was under developed, Sting needed a bigger challenge, Savage was over looked, DDP under valued and Bret was a shadow of himself after 97 and worse after 99. The under card contained Chris Jericho, Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Booker T and Raven. The supporting pillars under the high profile stars and again the marketing machine proclaimed that Hogan was the pinnacle, not that the WCW machine was any thing close to the WWF. There wasn’t much different when WCW collapsed and in early 2002 Hogan returned to the WWF in his black and white attire accompanied by Scott Hall and Kevin Nash as the nWo.

In 2002 the WWF was a far different creature than the company Hogan left years before. It was not a one man show with a revolving door of challengers that came and went. The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, The Undertaker, Kane, Kurt Angle, Chris Benoit all sat at the top of the pile while Edge, Rob Van Dam and Booker T were looking to break through to the top, not to mention that Spring would see the debuts of John Cena, Randy Orton, Dave Batista and Brock Lesnar. The talent pool was too deep for anyone to jump in with out being able to swim and in the ring Hogan couldn’t swim. I will give him his due, he is an icon, he could hype people into seats and n his younger days he could go but as his star grew he didn’t need to, his talents were in his mouth and in his ability to pull sympathy. Before I am misunderstood that ability to pull sympathy is a key component to in ring work but I like a more well rounded performer. I started this love of wrestling under the bright light of Hulkamania, along the lines I gave up that addiction and on a cold St. Patrick’s Day in Toronto I watched as it ran rampant. I sat with 68,236 others and was in a very small minority that had given up the addiction to the red and yellow and I never went back.  So when you see that wrestling meme or clip and think of me, leave The Hulkster out of it, I can’t discount his contribution but I don’t have to be a fan.

 

 

 

For Really Real

Authors note: This was orginally published under a different blog title on April 10, 2011. The only edits made are to remove defunct website links from former endeavours. These old blogs will be rerun as part of a Throwback Thursday to unify all my work in one place.  I hope you enjoy these. This is an early Cheap Seat Booking. Please note that this is the final piece I wrote for the old account and it was rescued from the purgatory of the drafts file and finished in March 10, 2016

Athletes hate to retire, period.  They are forced for what ever reason to walk away from the thing they love most for a variety of reasons with many many years left for them to live and thrive.  decades for striving for the professional level of the sport they love for free, more often than not paying to play long before anyone pays them anything.  Pro-wrestling is no different.  Now I will argue with anyone about the term sport when applied to Pro-wrestling but that is for later, it is coming to this blog soon, but that is not my point today. 

Monday April 11th 2011 Adam Copeland was forced not only to vacate his World Championship Title in the WWE but to retire.  Now to retire with the World Title around your waist is rare, more so when it is a rare legitimate retirement from Professional wrestling. The sport is based on drama and story telling so any retirement speech is suspect.  The ones that do stick for a while are usually Farve-itis where the retiree backslides and returns to the sport.  Sadly in the case of Adam ‘Edge’ Copeland the legitimacy is all too real. 

In 2003 Edge was forced to have neck fusion surgery just as his career was reaching the main event level.  For over a year he was on the disabled list.  He was able to return and reach the level of main event and WWE Champion.  He was the center of a very real controversy involving his friend and fellow wrestlers on and off camera girl friend and quickly became the most hated man in the industry.  Like any true professional wrestler he adapted and used that hatred to advance further.  The fans wanted to see him beat up, they hated to hear him speak and booed him mercilessly when he did, Edge became a Mega Heel on par with the likes of Andre The Giant, Roddy Piper and Randy Savage, a feat not even Stone Cold Steve Austin could accomplish.  Through it all Edge gave fans tremendous matches. 

Edge made programs (extended feuds with performers) tremendous with his work ethic and elevated himself and his opponents constantly.  He was at such a level in that aspect that he was able to elevate his supporting cast.  Vikki Guerrero was simply the widow of another performer starting out with the company and through Edge was elevated and tutored to a level where she is easily the largest heat (fan distaste) magnet in the WWE today, arguably ever.

As I read this unfinished piece from the archives of my last blog account I am compelled to finish it off and add it to the new account.

Edge was so masterful at being hated even I had cooled in my fandom for him.  It was hard to deny his match prowess and I won’t but his mic work succeed in its task to elicit the desired reaction from me.  I was more willing to see his ass kicked than pay to see him.  After he vanished from the squared circle there was a definite void, the shows lost something they could never get back, like leaving a spice out of a meal, you could substitute others but it would never truly be the same.

He has gone on to be inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame, well deserved, and begin an acting career with a regular role on Haven (love that show), even co-host in the WWE Network original Edge & Christians Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness.  Edge seems to have made the often difficult adjustment to a new career, I applaud him and look forward to more.  Thank you Mr Copeland for your sacrifices for our entertainment.