What could have been....
#94: Bret “The Hitman” Hart vs. The 1-2-3 Kid – WWF Championship Match, Monday Night Raw, July 11, 1994
(AUTHOR’S NOTE: I apologize with utmost sincerity for the huge gap between installments. Life intervened on a series of levels that I couldn’t help. I plan to hustle and make up for lost time with a few new inductions this week, however.
By the by, don't forget to check Austin Buckner's Pro Wrestling Wake Up - http://prowrestlingwakeup.blogspot.com)
The best wrestlers in the business become invaluable assets if in no other way, then in that they elevate every individual who stands across the ring from them. Not coincidentally, it is also the hallmark of a creative wrestling genius when a mid-level talent can be made to look like a perfectly legitimate main event-level performer and credible championship threat.
Various ROH and NWA champions have historically excelled in this. In both respective promotions and eras, elevating nearly every talent on the roster accomplished some really special things: the champ could carry off an intriguing main event against any given wrestler on any given night that guaranteed a butt ever 18 inches, no matter the dance partner; the main event scene practically never came with an expiration date – with so many wrestlers looking like credible contenders, nothing got stale; and most importantly, it made it incredibly difficult to ever “see the finish coming.”
Bret Hart hit an absolute hot streak in 1994 during his first run with the WWF title (I’m no revisionist; it was the WWF then, so it’s the WWF here) and shortly thereafter into 1995. He had matches that made superb talents look phenomenal and afterthought performers seem on the cusp of entering a new echelon. For mid-card performers such as Virgil, being there across the ring from Hart marked the only time they came close to perceptions of main-event acceptance.
Now ponder this: on this particular night, Hart stood across the ring from a longtime independent prodigy only beginning to make waves and win over fans: Sean Waltman. The former 1-2-3 Kid/X-Pac/Syxx was a smooth as buttermilk, crisp as a fresh-baked baguette’s crust and sold like ice in Hell.
Watching this match should make a wrestling fan angry. Really bitter. Anyone who appreciates the art in professional wrestling will at feel compelled to never look away. This was a honed master and a prodigy only beginning to show his polish. The ones who know the epilogue to these two careers knows Waltman became a walking attitude problem, degraded his gift with his drug problems and poor taste in friends and became a shell of himself that inspired the term “X-Pac heat”.
That should make someone angry, because in this match that had no build-up, no promos, no back-story, Waltman looked like a WWF Champion in the making.
Oh yes, it’s getting redundant, but no one announcer – save perhaps Joey Styles – could do this match justice as Jim Ross did. He treats this as sporting competition, not storytelling. He analyzes, breaks down and still colors the action. It even overcomes the hysterical-yet-borderline-irritating babbling of Randy Savage next to him. Ross was still in his NWA/WCW-style prime here, before he fell into the barbeque sauce stupor in which he remains to this day. This is the Gordon Solie School of Announcing proudly displayed in a promotion fronted by a man Sollie never liked at all, Vince McMahon.
Hart worked a physical, sometimes stiff style, and Waltman earns those first points of admiration by matching him hold-for-hold. It always made for interesting storytelling when anyone worked against his usual style by working the mat style with Hart. Yet, this always worked so well because Hart knew so very, very well how to make anyone look like an outstanding wrestler when in that element.
Once Hart takes control, Waltman displays a gift every great face needs to possess: complete comprehension of How To Take A Kicking 101. Taking a grind-it-out beating like that reminds everyone that, as good as Waltman may be, Hart is the champion for a reason. He’s just that good. Waltman returns Hart’s favor by coming across as struggling to barely survive until that next opportunity comes up.
For the record, consider this: so often, stories take weeks to develop and culminate in a big blow-off match or two. These two are getting across all the narrative one could handle in a space of about 17 minutes and change.
We now pause for character development: Hart gets a three-count, but saw Waltman’s foot on the ropes. Does he take the win? No, not the “fighting champion.” Instead, he insists on a re-start – and here, kicks the storytelling into a new gear. Almost right away, Waltman gets a long two-count of his own. So, we now have sportsmanship backfiring on the fighting champion and Waltman seizing the day.
So now, we arrive at Act Two. Suddenly, we have a fight on our hands. Suddenly, Waltman is making a big comeback. He manages near-fall after near-fall and catches Hart off-guard again and again. Waltman, the plucky underdog, achieved something with Hart on which Hart had always prided himself: the match felt real, competitive and unpredictable. By the end, people actually believed Waltman might win the WWF Championship. Again and again, Hart barely kicked out. How many kick-outs could he possibly have left?
The finish? The finish makes a mockery of anyone who claims Hart could never concoct an original way to resolve a match. Waltman – much like Pillman did in the previously-inducted match with Lex Luger – missed one move too many, Hart applied the Sharpshooter and Waltman submitted. But nothing could be further from the truth than to say that losing cleanly to Hart hurt Waltman. In fact, he gained immeasurably from this fast-paced, exciting match.
He gained so much, it makes me hate him when I leap from remembering that career performance, to his unmotivated laziness in the last five years or so.
To this day, ROH achieves something incredible in their main events – or, at least, they did. A talent such as Jay Briscoe or Kevin Steen could finagle a ROH World Title match on any given night against a Nigel McGuinness or a Bryan Danielson. No one would honestly believe a title switch would take place, and rightfully so. But the true gift, is when men such as those two or Chris Hero El Generico could actually have the most rabid, smark-infested crowd in the palms of their hands and believing they would really witness an improbable title change.
That’s the stuff from which the excitement of pro wrestling comes. Any Hulk Hogan main event hinged inevitably on Hogan’s appointment looking like a perfectly legitimate threat, whether it was Earthquake or Paul Orndorff or Andre The Giant. Look at Wrestlemania VI! The whole main event with Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior lived or died on its sheer unpredictability. That made the atmosphere legendary.
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Thursday, February 26, 2009
What could have been....
Posted by Sean Comer at 3:11 AM
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Scott Steiner was right...
#96: Lex Luger © versus Brian Pillman, NWA U.S. Title Match – Halloween Havoc, October 28, 1989
Art imitates life, and vice versa. Yeah, next, I should tell you all something you don’t know.
Whether anybody buys it or not, wrestling embodies the characteristics of theatrical art. Characters major and minor must all make their marks to craft an engaging story. How many matches have featured great individual performers who didn’t possess the chemistry to make a winning combination?
Hence why I hate the overused term, “carry.”
Come on, wrestling fans, we toss it around constantly.
“Such-and-such ‘carried’ John Cena to a great match.”
“Ric Flair could ‘carry’ anyone to a great match.”
Look, Scott Steiner doesn’t get many things right. But when he reminded Triple H that “It takes two people to have a good match and two people to have a shitty match,” he nailed it right on the head. I mean, just dead-on.
When people see a good Lex Luger match – and even I’ll admit, you have to really know where to look – they often overlook Luger’s share of the credit.
Luger and Brian Pillman pulled together a match I could watch dozens of times over at Halloween Havoc in 1989. Pulling that off really didn’t take much. Both men knew their roles in the play, and knew how they needed to mesh to pull off something of quality. Luger had “the look” and pulled off a fine combination of narcissistic – do I REALLY need to explain my word-choice here when it comes to Luger, or do we all get the reference? – and cowardly heel, with just a touch of skill of his own. Pillman looked like nothing short of a higher-flying Ricky Steamboat here with an innate knack for psychology and selling that made Luger look like a million bucks and bought Pillman the crowd’s “underdog” vote.
The timing, the pacing – it all showed why the U.S. Title, held here by Luger, was on a level with the WWF’s Intercontinental Title: it was held by some of the best wrestlers having some of the most sound matches on the entire card. Putting Pillman in contention for the belt launched him far enough.
But this match made a statement for another reason: it sold Pillman as someone who could beat someone of Luger’s caliber. Keep in mind, at this point, Luger wasn’t far away from a big world title reign after Ric Flair left the company in 1991. So really, Pillman was in there once again showing he could go with the big main-event stars.
Pillman got the better of enough of the opening sequences to start making just that point. However, Luger got the better of Pillman enough times to keep him looking strong, instead of overwhelmed. Give credit once again where it’s due to Jim Ross for making both men look like a million bucks on commentary. He doesn’t skimp on getting over Luger’s raw talent and potential, or Pillman’s heart. The end sequence saw Pillman miss a splash, Luger drop Pillman’s throat across the top rope, then slide over for a clean pin. Immediately, Luger makes Pillman look fantastic by vacating the ring immediately looking thankful to still have his title.
“Whew! That was too close,” you can almost hear Luger thinking.
Give Pillman this, as well: he knew pacing. He knew when to bust out his high spots as much as he knew when to chain wrestle. He knew how to keep the crowd involved. He knew how to make each spot mean something.
For telling a David-versus-Goliath story, these two made great dance partners. Few people come to mind when I think of people who can get that kind of story over as entertainingly as Pillman could in his prime. Rey Mysterio is the very first name that pops into my head.
But of course, it takes two to tango. More importantly in this case, it takes two people to have a good match and – well, I won’t repeat it. Scott Steiner deserves his moment.
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Posted by Sean Comer at 6:06 AM
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Simple....but not easy
First and foremost, all apologies for taking so long to post another match. Life intervened at every turn. That's all you need to know.
Second, if you get a moment, check out my good friend Austin "KhanX" Buckner's very own Pro Wrestling Wake Up. Search for it right here on Blogger, it's very good stuff.
#97: "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes vs. "Superstar" Billy Graham, Texas Bullrope Match, Madison Square Garden, August 28, 1978
There aren't many performers one could take from this era of professional wrestling, drop into another completely different era and watch display the tools to truly stay at the top.
Jake Roberts once said if wrestling were strictly about legitimate toughness, there would be nobody left but "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan and Haku. In his own inimitable way, Jake was stating the obvious: there's more to creating a great match than who can beat one another up the most. As Ole Anderson said once, "The finish has to make sense."
Yet another legend - I forget just now who it was - once said the only individuals he could see absolutely holding their own in any era in professional wrestling's history were Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero and Kurt Angle.
There's something to both theories. Jake reminded everyone that actual toughness isn't a necessity at all. If one possesses the right gifts, the illusion of true grit can be manufactured. But the ability to tell a story is a must to create something even remotely watchable.
The second theory holds some weight, too. Chris Benoit would be a quintessential "shooter" - someone with very legitimate wrestling ability - in any given promotion in any given era. Guerrero and Angle would possess the charisma, presence and storytelling gifts to captivate audiences across every territory.
Which brings me around to this match: not everyone can pull off what Dusty Rhodes and Billy Graham could separately.
There's no point adding a stipulation if it doesn't make things more interesting. Right off the bat, these two make the bullrope a schizophrenic character all its own. It's that "up-the-ante" factor that gimmick matches need to have. Vince Russo, someway, somehow, has never learned this.
Rhodes taunts Graham with the rope right off the bat, and witness the flayboyant Graham display all the charms of a great cowardly heel. He begs off, tries to run and Dusty, like a cat with a mouse, just toys with him by yanking him back into the ring. If one is going to play a character, he might as well turn up the volume and rip that knob off.
But once Graham takes over, he reminds everyone there's two sides to any story. He takes the rope and makes it HIS ally. He punishes Dusty over and over with it. Watching this single seven-minute match is like watching some great architecht of the past, present and future of the wrestling business toying with the early blueprints for the character works of art called Scott Steiner, "Hollywood" Hulk Hogan and Triple H. Vanity and arrogance crossed with strength and brutality.
What the Hell, just because I almost quoted him directly, toss a generous helping of "Ravishing" Rick Rude in there, as well.
Both men execute every single moment with an over-the-top aplomb that not many today bother with. If what these two men could do was easy, we'd see more of it today. Nobody would complain about Mark and Jay Briscoe doing so little to sell their opponents' offense. Truthfully, of everybody in the business today, C.M. Punk, Randy Orton, Edge and Chris Jericho spring immediately to mind first on the list of wrestlers who could do what Rhodes and Graham do here.
Let me put it another way: this match may be one of the only satisfying COUNTOUT FINISHES I've ever watched. These two worked the crowd the hard way: with selling, timing and telling a logical story. They used the bullrope to the fullest advantage to enhance what they both already did so well.
This match in itself is a lesson so many wrestlers today either never bothered learning, or forgot as quickly as they'd learned it.
I think it's time for some wrestlers to go back to school.
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Posted by Sean Comer at 1:30 AM
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
The birth of the "ROH style"?
#98: Brian Pillman vs. Jushin "Thunder" Liger, WCW Light Heavyweight Championship - Superbrawl II, February 29, 1992
The previous two matches extolled the values found in a good, rowdy brawl. They also prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that keeping a match compelling doesn't take 450-splashes off of ladders through flaming tables propped up over tanks filled with bloodthirsty sharks, eels and Democrats.
This match proves that aiming high with style points doesn't necessarily hurt, as long as it adds to the story.
And this match's story might be my favorite kind: that of competition for 10 pounds of gold. That is "competition" (OK, we all know it's scripted, right? right, moving on....) just to be the best. It wasn't for custody of a child. No one's wife got slapped, nor anyone's significant-other stolen. It didn't even need animosity. It just needed one championship, and two guys who wanted it.
"Flyin'" Brian Pillman almost defies mere words at this point. Without the high-flying, high-risk offense that he introduced to mainstream American wrestling, A.J. Styles, Sonjay Dutt, Jeff Hardy and others would spend whole careers languishing in dark matches. Meanwhile, Jushin "Thunder" Liger was absolutely in his prime, which included classic matches with the likes of two young men named Chris Benoit and Eddie Guerrero.
Pillman had lost his WCW light heavyweight championship to Liger, and wanted it back. Again, I must stress this: there was no bitter animosity or even much antagonism. Pillman wanted his title back, plain and simple.
The two carried off this match at a very, very brisk pace. Both men scarcely sought a moment to rest, stringing together a superb match combining some flawless technical chain-wrestling and each man's trademark aerial artistry. And it cannot be understated: both these men were, in every sense of the word, ARTISTS in what they did.
Both men swapped the momentum enough times to keep every single fan on edge wondering who would come out on top. That might be the most consistently effective way to tell a story in the ring. The last third of the match, each man would reverse something the other did into a high-impact move that I guarantee every fan thought meant the end of the match . . . except when it didn't. I cannot stress this enough, this was not Hogan-Warrior formulaic, face-takes-a-beating-then-dominates-the-last-segment-of-the-match-to-pull-off-the-improbable-win booking. You couldn't read the pacing and have the slightest idea who goes over.
That's the kind of match that is a joy to watch, even when you know the outcome. It sucks you right back in again like the first time you watched it.
Pillman hit his springboard clothesline, but couldn't put Liger away. Liger hit a Liger-bomb, but that couldn't put Pillman away. Pillman nailed a top-rope splash, but couldn't get the three. Liger missed a diving headbutt . . . and then Pillman executed a sneaky sort of rolling clutch you just didn't see on American TV that often and picked up an out-of-the-blue three-count.
And THEREIN lies the perfection. After all the false finishes that threw the crowd off, it was a move absolutely outside of Pillman's signature offense - in fact, something that most would've guessed to be a transitional sort of near-fall move - that finally ended it.
It saddens me to hear "Internet fans" sometimes lament the rampant use of complicated, unorthodox offense in American wrestling, especially in independent federations. And to be perfectly honest, they're not always wrong. What gets me, is that these fans will even lay on the cynicism when high-spots and acrobatic, unorthodox move sets DO help tell the story. The aerial offense both these men employed brought the audience to its feet and added something special.
Remember, it was a MISSED diving headbutt that set up the finish. Pillman's springboard clothesline, often a finisher, couldn't get the three-count, and that put over just how tough Liger really had to be to withstand everything Pillman could throw at him. A dive by Pillman at one point ended with him eating guardrail and the audience probably believing that Liger then had the match in hand . . . which, of course, set up more near-falls, proving that Pillman could take whatever Liger could throw at him. The high-spots need to either mark a transition or assist in getting something else about the story over. As it stands now, they've been significantly cheapened.
Speaking of little things driving the story, give ample credit to Jim Ross for calling this match solo and putting over the immense athleticism that both these men possessed. Ross was the Al Michaels/Bob Costas of professional wrestling at this point, who had an incredible gift for getting across crucial intangible aspects of a match to make it make sense to any average first-time viewer. This night, Ross was in rare form.
Pillman brought colossal heart, talent and athletic gifts to the table, as Ross pointed out. Liger equaled him in nearly every way, except for being in his own right a former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. How I WISH I could hear Ross name-drop promotions like New Japan and great performers such as Antonio Inoki on TV again. This is an example of the night-and-day difference between how Vince McMahon likes things done, and what's best for the product. They are not always the same thing, trust me.
It's not the sort of thing anyone notices off the bat, but good logic inconspicuously made this match superb. Every time someone made a wrong move, the other capitalized; that way, it got across these two were so equal in terms of ability, one mistake by either could mean the match. The focus of the match never deviated from the title; that way, in the eyes of the fan, the title truly meant something significant. Finally, the match showed that both men were masters of the one word on the marquee that should ever be made to matter by the promoters:
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Posted by Sean Comer at 1:06 PM
Monday, January 19, 2009
#99: STORYTELLING MADE SIMPLE
#99: Raven vs. C.M. Punk (Dog-Collar Match)
I could almost count on one hand the heels more fun to watch than ROH-era C.M. Punk. I would barely need two to count the wrestlers, heel or face, I enjoy watching more than Raven.
You surely see why this match holds a special place in my heart.
This feud exemplified Punk’s gift for adapting his straight-edge gimmick to whatever direction the wind may blow him. It makes an ideal tool for getting under anyone’s skin as an elitist, moralistic, high-and-mighty blowhard. The same gimmick – which, for the uninitiated, he lived before he ever set foot in a wrestling ring – can make him an ideal white-meat babyface that couldn’t be easier to market, with a colorful look, charisma to spare and a positive code of living.
Then there’s Raven.
What Punk is to clean-living, Raven is to the fabled excesses and debauchery behind wrestling’s curtain. However, like so many, he also eventually showed himself to be an underestimated genius of creating a character and telling an engaging story in and out of the ring. He was on par, unfortunately in many ways, with Jake “The Snake” Roberts and Rowdy Roddy Piper. Those clashing, polarized personalities set the stage for a feud that wrote itself before audiences’ very eyes. And as workers, these two men nailed the psychology, the story-telling, so well that you forgot you were watching something scripted.
From the time Raven came into ROH, Punk obsessed over running him out. This was HIS house, he believed. Not only did ROH not need Raven’s hardcore circus and debaucherous background – Punk’s personal code and Raven’s rules could not coexist. They had wars. They chased one another up and down ROH’s home turf.
Then came this match. This is how to let a gimmick or stipulation enhance the storytelling. The two eschewed ROH’s signature high-flying, innovative, strong-style offense and took wrestling back to Greg Valentine-Roddy Piper, Dusty Rhodes-Billy Graham territory.
Two men chained together. Can’t run, can’t hide. The length of chain between them, practically all they could ever need to do unholy degrees of damage to one another. It was the science of simplicity.
Punk came out on top after a sequence that saw ECW alum Danny Doring rush the ring after Punk cut yet ANOTHER scathing pre-match promo, this time calling out Doring, who was “in attendance” (see: plant). In the midst of the fray, in came Punk’s fellow Second City Saint, Colt Cabana, to DDT Raven.
There’s the injury. Here comes the insult.
Punk then tied Raven in the ropes and desecrated Raven’s new-found sobriety by pouring a beer down his throat. One man emerged to aid Raven. Of ALL people, Raven’s oldest and most storied rival . . . . TOMMY DREAMER. Dreamer took down Punk with a DDT of his own, untied Raven, stared him down . . . . and hugged the man like a brother.
Here was the icing on the cake, though. Punk so loved this feud, he allowed Dreamer and Raven to tie him in the ropes and pour a beer down his straight-edge gullet, followed by Dreamer and Raven celebrated to “Man In The Box.” Truly, it was a moment.
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Posted by Sean Comer at 11:19 AM
Friday, January 16, 2009
Smarks might want to step away.....
I spent some time pondering my writing’s direction. I reached one conclusion: I seek out direction a little too diligently sometimes.
Wait, back up and let me explain.
I enjoy writing. I truly, truly love it. But I need something more sometimes. I need a mission. I need a message.
I sometimes neglect sitting down, shutting up and just writing.
So I want to take this back to something I love doing when I sit with my friends and talk wrestling: pick out my favorite matches (as they pick theirs) and discuss why I love them. I’m trying to convey something about fandom that should’ve never been lost and has ended up forgotten: forget the backstage news, forget being a smark, forget being a consummate critic and just enjoy the things you love.
So I won’t apologize for one single match in this list. These are truly my 100 unapologetic favorite matches, including a tidbit here and there explaining the qualities of great wrestling that I feel they exemplify. Most come from my personal DVD library. A few I can’t find anywhere, so I will recall them as best I can from memory. Sometimes, that means I must rely on an unreliable memory and won’t give much in terms of play-by-play.
These will be in order in the most basic sense. I did not rank this meticulously. I will not quibble over precise placement. I don’t care how any of you interpret these matches’ exact respective placements. I will give away one hint: yes, #1 IS, in fact, my favorite match of all time, and probably always will be.
Oh, one last thing: since this is an effort to help me write with more of a nod to thrift, I have imposed upon myself a 450-word limit. That should also encourage getting to the damn point.
So sit back, relax and enjoy a short ride. Here’s number 100.
Chris Benoit vs. Meng (Death Match)
WCW The Great American Bash 1997
Look no further for proof that entertaining wrestling doesn’t need to be one-tenth as difficult as fans sometimes want it to be, or as bookers tend to sometimes book it.
This was a straight-up battle of “Who can take more of a beating?” Benoit was being built as one of the toughest, most vicious, cold-hearted men to ever lace a pair of boots.
Meng….well, Meng was Meng. For the uninitiated, he is most likely honored to be considered one of the few men as legitimately tough as the in-ring savage he portrayed. Watching him was watching a clinic of how to no-sell and make it WORK. The man took endless punishment, seemed to feel no pain whatsoever, and kept the in-ring action brutal and stiff, but convincing.
You didn’t need to suspend any disbelief to believe what either of these guys did to the guy across the ring hurt. Chances are, it probably hurt even worse than it looked.
These two had the kind of feud you could book in any promotion, in the midst of any era in the wrestling business’s history, and it would fit right in. ECW, Mid-Atlantic Wrestling, Mid-South, WCCW, Mexico, Japan – it would play ANYWHERE at ANYTIME.
So you have two guys well-known for dishing it out doubly as well as they could take it. What could be more fun than turning ‘em loose on one another to see, once and for all, who is left standing at the end? The finish was absolutely perfect: Meng, the unstoppable monster savage, passed out in the crossface. It comes back to why Meng no-selling worked: it further established Benoit’s credibility by not just beating Meng, but making the man pass out. The same finish made the last-man-standing match between John Cena and Umaga at the 2007 Royal Rumble easily the most enjoyable match of their entire program.
It was a wild, violent brawl. And for WCW, it was a rare instance when everything felt completely satisfying from start to finish. If, like me, you loved this match, check out the Cena/Umaga match, anything between the Undertaker and Mankind or take your pick of any of dozens of matches between Mike Awesome and Masato Tanaka in either FMW or the original ECW.
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Posted by Sean Comer at 9:18 PM
Friday, October 10, 2008
Monday, October 06, 2008
This stuff annoys the piss out of me.
Since this fight took place, every news site, every fighting forum, every article I've read, it's been nothing but cutting up Kimbo Slice because of his poor showing.
"The fight was fixed"
"Kimbo's a joke"
"Kimbo's a flash in the pan"
I want to know how many people making these statements have ever been in the ring! Have they ever traded punches for pay? Have they ever even been hit with a punch? I doubt that the majority of these writers have even strapped on gloves before. They download a few videos on the internet, buy a few pay-per-views and watch a season of the Ultimate Fighter and all of a sudden they're a fight critic.
I'll give my opinion on a few of these statements I have seen.
"The fight was fixed"
I highly doubt it. I don't think Kimbo was faking his post-fight daze. If you watch that video again, as Petruzelli is running around the cage in amazement, Kimbo starts hooking up on the referee. The dude was out of it. Whatever shot he took initially was followed by a series of short strikes that took him out of reality.
"Kimbo's a joke, a flash in the pan"
Maybe but only if the promoters just decide to drop him. Fighting and succeeding at this level is dependent on many factors. No one but Kimbo and his squad knows how Kimbo was feeling that night. Was he 100%? Was he worn out? Was he sick? Did he have a headache? Was he nervous? There are so many factors that could have contributed to Kimbo being off his game. To say he's a joke after one poor fight isn't even fair. In baseball, you're expected to fail 7 out of ten times. Batters go without a hit for several games. Pitchers go winless for entire months, but we don't give up on them. These critics are ready to cart Kimbo off into the desert and dump him there. And what sucks is, the promoters will probably figuratively do just that. The sport of MMA seems to be one of the most cut throat there is. Promoters love the fighters while they're on top, but they suffer a hard loss, and the promoters are out looking for a new piece of meat to throw in there. Again, the people behind the scenes, running these menageries probably never stepped into a ring in their life. And people say Vince McMahon is a cut throat prick.
Kimbo got paid big time, (reportedly $500,000) and good for him. He brought in the ratings. He headlined the card. He gets the big paycheck. That's the way it should be. MMA is entertainment now. It's about creating pay-per-view buys, internet traffic, television ratings, and merchandise sales. It is not about paying the best athletes the biggest purses - it's about dropping the pile of dough on the guy who puts the asses every 18 inches. That was Kimbo Slice last Saturday.
And ya know what? If the Office decides to kick Kimbo to the curb, they'll find another headliner to push. And if that headliner stumbles one day, you can bet the critics will turn on him too.
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Posted by Jedd Johnson, CSCS at 10:11 PM
Sunday, October 05, 2008
EASY? No. POSSIBLE? Absolutely.
The most worthwhile things we do never come easily.
Can creating new wrestling fans really be called worthwhile? Maybe, maybe not. We wrestling fans do not have it easy. Public perception usually works against us. Popular culture's judges long ago and far away deemed our chosen entertainment form a sideshow attraction, a comical, low-brow farce.
I can't say I disagree. After all, if you know your history, wrestling began as a sideshow attraction.
I blame Vincent Kennedy McMahon for the ridicule and raised-eyebrows forcing me to defend wrestling's identity. His success mainstream America his over-the-top sideshow in two different phenomenal boom eras wins him my thanks. You see my conundrum.
I can't exactly call that fence comfortable. I can defend the semi-improvisational drama woven by such masters as "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, Harley Race, Ricky Steamboat, Bret Hart, "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig and others until my face turns blue as Owen Hart's alter-ego. It takes exactly one "Katie Vick" or "David Arquette, WCW Champion" to instantly make me a jabbering mental patient with an IQ of 40.
It never fails: people see the worst, turn to share a laugh with the other naysayers, and miss the redeeming things.
Most people consider wrestling fans to be the shallow dim-witted ones, to my amazement. I challenge you to find people more judgmental fans with limited capacity to make valid arguments in their defense than wrestling's naysayers. You could find someone who willingly sits with you "objectively" watching Chris Benoit battle Kurt Angle or Sting battle Ric Flair.
Their response, paraphrased only slightly:
"Steroids steroids FAKE steroids steroids GAY DUDES ROLLING AROUND WITH EACH steroids FAKE steroids I SAW TRIPLE H HUMP A CORPSE ONCE, THAT WAS GAY AND FAKE steroids BENOIT steroids."
That, or . . .
"So does Hulk Hogan still wrestle?"
I can't honestly decide which response I prefer hearing. I really can't.
So many people won't try something before knocking it, that we the fans have one hope, and one hope only: if someone comes across even passably interested in watching wrestling, show them the good stuff. Sell them the business's merits. Make it clear we hate the same things about the business they find stupid, inane, and credulity straining.
How do we do that, though? Throwing someone who didn't waste a moment watching wrestling once either Hogan left the WWF, or Steve Austin and The Rock moved on, right into Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat wouldn't necessarily work. Coax the sheep gently.
I hope I can demonstrate the path to that for you. I've done it a few times, but none more notably than making my wonderful fiancee, Alexis. But I want to save that for next time....
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Posted by Sean Comer at 3:39 PM