Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Smackdown Workrate Report 3/28/2008

Better get this out of the way before Mania starts....


-Damn near everything. This was one of the better free TV wrestling shows you'll ever see. But I should probably be a bit more specific.

-Punk vs. Morrison was a nice pocket epic. For a match-up that was once deemed so horrible that Benoit had to be on life support to justify it happening, these two actually work really well with each other now. Punk still feels like he's struggling to find his groove in the WWE. He's getting better, but he gets booked as a "MOVES~!" wrestler, and that's not really what he does best. Well, he has a lot of moves, but he's performing many of them at half-speed. Ideally, he compensates for that by being really charismatic and being a great storyteller and character, but in a match like this that borders on wrestling in a vacuum, he's not gonna do that. Instead, he has Morrison - a much better "moves" wrestler - to compensate for him with his silky-smooth execution of pretty much everything, and both men are psychologically sound enough to hold this together. All in all, a fine hype match for Money in the Bank.

-List of great things so far about the Diva Contests:
1. Sets up awesome, old-school angle
2. Proper use of text message polls
3. Cherry's character development
4. The backstage segment this week where everyone was looking around baffled during the drumroll
Everything else goes below.

-That six-man was totally rockin'. Once again, we get to see Jesse develop into an awesome face-in-peril, and Miz, Cade, and Murdoch bring the assbeat accordingly. Festus totally mauls dudes in the great wild brawl at the end, and Kofi Kingston - who I had never seen before - is totally fine flying around at the end of the match. Also, his theme song is great, which always helps your case with me.

-My wrestling viewing this year has been pretty limited so far, but Jericho vs. MVP is pretty close to being my standing MOTY. This was Jericho's best match since the series with The Rock in '01. He looked totally fine here. His punches were kinda shitty, but he brought great fire to the match, and he had a really nice diving dropkick through the ropes. But really, this is MVP's match. There's a goodly chance 2008 is gonna end up being his year, and this match, along with the Batista matches, shows you why. He's finally struck the balance between "shitty guy who relies totally on luck, cheating, and politicking to get by" and "really talented guy who has serious pro wrestling matches", to become "really talented guy who could probably beat you clean, but is also a lazy, arrogant coward, and thus chooses to take the easy way out whenever possible". In other words, he has become precisely Terrell Owens, which was the whole point of the gimmick in the first place. And well, he's wrestling like a guy who now knows exactly what he's supposed to be doing. He's found a nice formula to fit that character, which he employs here: trying to out-wrestle Jericho (with a very neat mat segment), losing his cool, getting beat on because of that, then regaining his composure and picking his spots, allowing him to control the body of the match, until Jericho makes his comeback and MVP panics again, leading to the finish. It's a pretty standard heel formula, but it's become standard because it works. MVP's "picking his spot to take control" moment in this match is countering Jericho's springboard dropkick to the apron with a big boot, and it's about as nasty as it sounds. This being an MVP match, that boot comes back several times, and each one is great looking and sold like death by Jericho. One while Jericho is kneeling for a great nearfall. Another while Jericho is in the corner, and as MVP pulls his foot off of the ropes, it hooks Jericho's head and drags him down with it. That's another great nearfall, and you really believe this match is going to end with a clean win for MVP. It doesn't, as Jericho counters the Playmaker into the Walls of Jericho. MVP gets the ropes, panics and tries to attack him with the belt, leading to a DQ, but Jericho manages to Codebreak the belt into his face. Then he pulls out a ladder from under the ring, runs MVP over with it, and then then just drops it on him while he's down, and you want to see the Money in the Bank match AND every rematch these two have in singles competition. Awesome.


-I liked the Henry vs. Khali part of the mini-Battle Royal, and a face-turned Henry vs. Chavo could be fun, but I wasn't feeling the rest of this. Palumbo is awesome, but he was gone pretty quick. Kane who has been shockingly okay for the last year or so, seems to be devolving back into his old, shitty self. When you come off as too plodding in a match with Khali, you've done something wrong.

-Batista vs. Snitsky was what it was, which was...well...nothing, really. I guess I could complain about the heroic Batista attack the dude he already beat with a steel chair for no apparent reason, but that doesn't even crack the top 10 of reasons why Batista is a shitty babyface. At least it was short.

-Victoria makes me long for the restrained comedy stylings of Droppo from "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians". When you give the worst performance on a show that has Snitsky on it, you've done something wrong.

-So Edge is this "Ultimate Opportunist", this brilliant, canny tactician whose cunning plans have made him the most powerful force on Smackdown, and who has been able to outsmart The Undertaker at every turn so far, but he couldn't foresee that The Undertaker just might have been hiding in the casket? You know, like he's been doing pretty much every time a casket shows up on WWE programming for the last 18 years? If I've said it once (as I actually have already in this piece), I've said it a million times: just because something is predictable, doesn't mean it's bad. But when you've got a guy like Edge, who's been built up as a genre savvy schemer who's been able to subvert or avert many of his foes' usual tricks, it seems stupid that he wouldn't have seen this coming. Fuck, Jake Roberts figured it out in '92, and then, The Undertaker had only done it two or three times before. Now he's been doing it for 18 years. Stop sleeping, man!

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Smackdown Workrate Report 3/21/2008


-You know, I gotta say, the character development they've been giving Cherry during these Diva Contests is actually pretty charming. So that's a third positive to these: great old-school angle being built up, proper use of text message polls, and interesting character development for Cherry. Of course, everything else goes below.

-Hey, The Naturals! Awesome! Hey, they're bumping like freaks for The Big Show! Awesome! Hey, that other guy took a nasty spill to the outside, too! Awesome! Nothing about this angle makes sense or compels me in any significant way, but come on, The Naturals! Awesome!

-Edge and Funaki had a totally fine competitive squash. Not sure why I'm expected to buy Edge having a chance against the Undertaker when Funaki gives him some trouble, but the match was totally okay. But who the fuck told Edge that he could do serious mic work. Tonight, he's gonna go to a whole new level! A whole new level of awkward grimacing and hair-pulling swiped from Victoria's playbook of unconvincing psychopath pantomime techniques.

-Okay, I laughed at Jericho's acronym jokes. I'm not made of stone.

-Mark Henry World's Strongest Slamming Khali was pretty damn cool. Everything else about this segment and the match that preceded it was fine, although Kane was looking more listless than he has in a while.

-Morrison & Miz vs. Jesse & Festus was awesome, what with Morrison & Miz being probably the best tag team in the world right now, and Jesse & Festus being consistently entertaining. This was the rare Jesse & Festus match where the appeal lies in Jesse's face-in-peril work rather than Festus's work off of the hot tag, mainly because that section was truncated and they went to the finish really quick after that. But the body of the match was awesome, with Morrison & Miz heeling it up while beating Jesse down, and Jesse being a fine Ricky Morton. Festus needed more time to be Festus to take this to the next level, but still a ton of fun.

-Undertaker vs. Chavo was a totally okay match until Taker applied the shittiest gogoplata ever for the win. The build to most of the big Wrestlemania matches this year has been....problematic, and I kinda feel like the modern day Andre struggling to put a new submission hold that he's trying to get over on a cruiserweight might just be the perfect symbol for the whole mess. But otherwise the match was fine. Post-match stuff was good, too. Edge is at his best when you just sit back and let him do horrible things. Their attempts to make him into a clever, manipulative bastard fail because he sucks at being clever and manipulative. But he's great at being a bastard. Go with what you know.


-They had two handicap squashes on the same show? For two separate angles? Why? That's a total Russo move. Just careless booking. I mean, I guess it was an okay handicap squash. I like Deuce and Domino better than a lot of people do. But they're no Naturals.

-Once again, the stuff going on around the Diva Contest was interesting to me, while the Diva Contest itself was pretty dull. Good God, is there a less convincing actress in the WWE than Victoria? Do people still think she's good? Jesus, she'd get laughed off of the set of GLOW with acting like that. When you're too hammy for pro wrestling, you've fucked up bad.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Smackdown Workrate Report 3/15/2008

Eh, why not?


-Morrison vs. Miz was a pretty sharp little match. Really evenly worked, as you would expect from tag champs facing each other, and very energetic. Both of these guys got so good over the past year, hopefully they get even better this year. Only problem was that they didn't need to point to the WrestleMania sign 800 times during the match. Yes, we're aware of the stakes. We figured it out the first time you guys pointed to the sign. Now stop pointing and start fighting.

-Finlay's attempts to approximate Archie Gouldie's sadness over his fake son getting beaten up were not quite as good as Gouldie's, but they served their purpose in making me even more amped up for Finlay/JBL than I already am.

-Is Phil going to do a MOTY list this year? I'm inclined to think both this week's MVP/Batista match and last week's merit consideration. This probably would fall off by the end of the year, and I actually kinda preferred last week's match, but this was boss. I was an early adopter of MVP, on the basis that he was a guy who would die for my pleasure and make me interested in Kane matches for the first time since....well...ever. Kinda dug the meta-ness of his act, essentially working a heel version of Masao Inoue's "sucky guy who is in way over his head" gimmick. Then he started wrestling Chrazy Chris, and started getting booked as a legit talented wrestler. And while he was still good, it just wasn't the same. But in the last few months, he's kinda found a happy medium as a reasonably talented heel who still needs to cheat like a motherfucker to get by. Here, he initially tries to out-wrestle Batista, fails, and then promptly pulls out his gaudy necklace and uses it to deliver a nice KO shot to Batista. He then spends most of the rest of the match building towards a steel chair attack, which Batista manages to deftly avoid, only to fall prey to MVP's trickery, settting up the steel chair shot, etc. And it builds to a fever pitch, where you're just ready for that steel chair to get wrapped around someone's skull, but when it finally comes, all MVP can manage is a few tepid jabs to the ribs from an odd position outside the ring. Then Umaga runs in, and the match is over, and you want to see the rematch, but you know they could've done more here. Still, what a ride to that finish, even if said finish was anticlimactic.

-Kane/Noble vs. Khali/Palumbo was a fine little match. The Noble/McCool/Palumbo stuff has quietly become one of the best angles in wrestling, and these are both guys who can deliver the goods in the ring. Kane has become a totally serviceable wrestler out of nowhere, and Khali is about as good at what he does as he could possibly be expected to be. Noble is a really good fired up underdog, and takes a beating like nobody's business. It's been a million years since the Kane/X-Pac tag team, so I was a little surprised by Kane rushing the ring to save his little buddy at the end, but I liked it. Honestly wouldn't mind seeing this evolve into a tag feud.

-A lot to like about the main event. For one thing, Shawn Michaels was tied up for most of the match. For another, if there's one thing I've learned from all those Royal Rumbles and WarGames is that when you get a bunch of people in the ring at once, any really cool stuff they do will stand out, while the crap get buried in the background. For yet another thing, Flair was in the ring with Shawn Michaels, and seemed to decide "Fuck it. If they'll let one creepy aging lump of flesh beat the crap out of four guys at once, I don't see why I can't, too," and he proceeds to just lay into everyone with punches and chops in between getting bounced around by the heels. Edge's heelishness felt more in line with his great RAW work than his shitty Smackdown work here, which was good to see. Finish made no sense. Why would that be the time for Taker to run in? Why does Edge still win as the focus shifts to that feud and Flair and Michaels fall into the void? This is a show with two long matches that had great bodies and shitty endings.


-I really dig the Noble/McCool/Palumbo angle, and I really dig the older-than-old-school nature of the Diva Contests. Also, this is includes the rarely seen proper use of text message polls by a major wrestling company, which is nice. That said, outside of the angle it's building to, and the WWE's realization of how to use text message polls, not actually anything interesting about the contest itself. At least last week's segment had sex appeal. I mean, if you found the women sexy, anyway. This was just kinda dull.

-There was a lot to like about the main event, but not a whole lot to like about the angle around it. Flair is Michaels' mentor? He's his best friend? Since when? I've got no problem with promoters lying about history to advance an angle, but this seems baffling at pointless. It's not like the "Flair wants to be retired at WrestleMania by 'Mr. WrestleMania'" angle that set up the match didn't provide enough justification. Not like it didn't stroke Michaels' ego enough. Did they feel that alone wasn't getting enough interest in the match? Cause suddenly springing this on people won't help there. Do they think that a deeper storyline connection with Michaels will reflect Shawn's glory back upon him? Vice-versa? It's nitpicking, but this angle feels colder than
cold anyway.

-Speaking of cold WrestleMania angles, what's the deal with Show/Mayweather? They did the double turn on Raw, which I'd think would be the one thing they could do at this point to save it, but now here's Show squashing Yang and Moore in a handicap match while the announcers talk up what an underdog Mayweather is. They did a double turn, but nothing else about their roles have changed? Show is now a bullying, dominating babyface, and Mayweather is a gutsy underdog heel fighting the odds? Or did Meltzer and I just misinterpret the Raw segment? Good God, this is Invasion-level blown.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

The Quest for the Whitest Match in History: Day 7

Atsushi Aoki & Rocky Romero vs. Bryan Danielson & Davey Richards
NOAH - 6/1/2007
NTV Cup Match

This'll probably come as close as anything I can find to being "the whitest match ever". Richards is likely the whitest wrestler active today. Guy who made his debut in ROH working the gimmick of guy who's ultimate dream was being GHC Jr. champ. No one but the whitest of US indy dudes would say that. Danielson is white in a very literal sense, plus he's a guy who established his heel character through an interview where he talked about corporations taking advantage of working class folks in his hometown. Rocky Romero is Cuban, but is whiter than 95% of all white wrestlers ever. From Tom in an IGF review on this site:

"So I just got finished complimenting Ishikawa, a guy who uses a octopus as a signature spot, for not doing it in an dark match opener. And here comes Rocky Romero rolling out an octopus to no pop in the second dark match."

Kinda says it all about Romero, the ultimate wrestling poseur. Aoki is a scrappy Japanese guy, who doesn't strike me as being particularly white in any real way.

So this is a very white match, moreso in terms of the color than the race (although that kinda ties back into the race). It's technically fine, it's visually impressive to a certain extent, but it's also very and cold, antiseptic, and ultimately forgettable. I don't hate Davey Richards quite as much as some people do, but I kinda wish I did. Kinda wish there were more points in this match where he was being audaciously bad, rather than merely....well...white. At least that would be interesting. Instead, this was 20 minutes of clean, inoffensive, technically high end, and emotionally unremarkable wrestling. The fact that the finish - a stretch run between Richards and Romero that's as problematic as you'd guess it would be - was a highlight because it was actively bad should tell you something. You can watch it if you want, but I kinda want my 20 minutes back.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Quest for the Whitest Match in History: Day 6

Jack Evans vs. Matt Sydal
WSX - 2007

Wigger vs. guy doing an Abercrombie model gimmick for an MTV Hollywood promotion. Whiteness abounds.

Less of a match than a demonstration where people occasionally tried to pin each other. Still, if you're going to have a match-as-demo, these are two of the better guys you could do it with. Three-minute demonstration of big moves meant to pop the crowd and nothing else leading to valet interference is pretty much your default Hollywood wrestling match, but at least these guys can make it fun.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Quest for the Whitest Match in History: Day 5

The Sandman vs. Raven
ECW - 12/7/1996
Barbed Wire Match for the ECW Title

ECW was an odd mish-mash of archetypical white guys and white guy motivations. Indy promotion rallied around because they stuck it to the man, even as the man paid them to stay in business, and the boss stiffed the workers on their payments while aiming at urban, east coast, working class whites. The Sandman was the perfect embodiment of that audience, really the kind of guy you could imagine Bruce Springsteen or Jon Bon Jovi romanticizing in song. Raven represented another classic white guy archetype, the guy who reads a few things about Friedrich Neitzche and suddenly thinks they know shit about shit. It's played totally straight, and as a result, Raven's stuff probably ages the worst of all ECW stuff. Think of the ground that covers. I saw Raven in TNA and found myself wondering when he forgot how to cut a promo, and then I watched something he did with Richards and Meanie where he rambled on about "the forgotten playground of my tortured youth" or whatever, and I realized that he could never cut a promo that didn't devolve into "Eye of Argon"-esque bullshit. But as a worker, he could deliver every now and then. This is one such time.

As of late, I've been of the belief that the only ECW match that holds up today as a real, honest-to-God classic is the barbed wire match between Sabu and Terry Funk. This isn't quite as good as that, but it may only be a step below. On a certain level, it seems odd to me that the two ECW matches that hold up really well are barbed wire matches. I have a love/hate relationship with barbed wire matches. When you have a barbed wire match where dudes are unafraid to throw themselves full speed into the stuff, I'm down with that. When you have barbed wire matches where guys who are other unable to resist the force of an Irish whip into the ropes, turnbuckles, steel barricades, steel steps, other painful things to run into can now stop short before running into barbed wire, you violate wrestling physics on a level that just bugs the hell out of me. This happens once and only once near the top of the match, and afterwards, both men prove unafraid to eat hot, barbed wirey death. The Sandman was one of the hidden great workers of the 90's, and while his offense is limited (he's got an elbowdrop that he's not afraid to bust out A LOT in this match), he brings the crazy in spades. Not afraid to drop a table on Raven's head, or do a plancha through a table while wrapped in barbed wire. Raven hits a few nice fistdrops to Sandman's balls, but really, this is the Sandman show, and what a show it is.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Quest for the Whitest Match in History: Day 4

BJ Whitmer & Jimmy Jacobs vs. Roderick Strong & Jack Evans
ROH - 5/7/2005
ROH Tag Team Titles Match

I don't know if there's anyone in recent memory who's done a better job of parlaying their whiteness into great wrestling than Jimmy Jacobs. This is a guy who first got noticed in IWA Mid-South doing a series of 80's nostalgia-based gimmicks, went to ROH, where he eventually became an emo/screamo dude, and now finds himself the leader of a stable of WTO protester types who spouts off half-baked, Chuck Pahalunik-inspired philosophy like Curtis Iaukea used to holler about bathing in the River Ganges while analyzing chicken bones. That's a trio of really white gimmicks, and he made all of them work really well. This is from the first of those gimmicks, wherein the big joke is that he's a tiny dude who thinks he's John Nord. He's one-half of the tag champs with Whitmer, who selected him as his partner to replace alleged kid-toucher Dan Maff, resulting in your classic zany mis-matched tag partners situation. This is their first defense, with the basic story being the newly formed team that may have fluked their way into becoming champs are taking on the more well-established duo of Strong & Evans, who are presented as being maybe the best team in the world at this point.

On the other side of the ring, we have another team of a charismatic little white guy and a vanilla bruiser. Jack Evans' over-enthusiastic, Jamie Kennedy-esque wiggerdom makes me think he could have gotten over huge as a heel in another promotion. Then it occurs to me that no one with a wigger gimmick has ever been successfully booked long term as a heel. They either get turned face by the fans like Evans or Too Cool, or their street thug-antics get played straight like PG-13 or Public Enemy. Public Enemy might as well have been my two lumpiest male relatives, they really wouldn't have been any less credible as hip street toughs. What does this say about wrestling fandom that you can't book a wigger as a long-term heel without playing it straight? I mean, aside from the obvious. Wonder how Jack Evans would have fared in the Urban Wrestling Alliance?

Match was really, really good. This is from Manhattan Mayhem, which was one of the better wrestling shows of the last decade. Awesome Samoa Joe/Jay Lethal Pure Title match, really good Aries/Shelley ROH Title match, crazy CM Punk/Jimmy Rave dog collar match, an elusive good Rocky Romero singles match as Black Tiger against Jamie Noble, and this, probably my favorite ROH Tag Team Titles match ever. I really liked the Jacobs/Whitmer team. They had a really good, classic tag team dynamic, where Jacobs could carry the body of the match with his selling, and BJ could come in, get the hot tag, stiff somes dudes, drop them on their heads, and not have to over-extend his fairly limited skill set. Also, the stoicism that just comes off as boring on his own becomes charming when presented as a contrast to the oddball antics of Jacobs. There was an odd couple charm there, and I was always a little disappointed that that never factored into their later break-up and feud, although I can understand why. Whitmer really lacks the dramatic chops to pull off unemotional guy remorseful that his once easy-going pal has lost his light-hearted nature, so what can you do. Anyway, they made for a really interesting team, and since then, I haven't really been grabbed in the same way by Aries & Strong or the Briscoes. Jacobs plays Ricky Morton and gets to eat all sorts of crazy double teams from the challengers, including the truly insane assisted moonsault double stomp onto Jacobs while he's draped on the ropes and Strong lifting Evans into a vertical suplex that he releases and becomes an Evans 450 splash. Evans takes too long jawing with the ref to hit a Doomsday something, and Jacobs is able to escape and tag out. BJ stiffs dudes and drops them on their heads, leading up to the combo powerbomb/Contra Code for the win. Good stuff.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Black History Month Leap Year Supplemental B

Mark Henry v The Rock 98
Mark Henry v Goldberg 2003

“2003 and the only things worth watching on Raw were Rock, Goldberg and Mark Henry”

So I feel like I’ve kind of been copping out lately by writing about black wrestlers when presented by black promoters to black audiences. Those are really exceptions. Wrestling in the US is promoted by white people, starring white people to appeal to the prejudices of white people. Occasionally it’s promoted by white people using minorities to appeal to minority audiences. Often it is promoted by white people starring minorities to appeal to prejudices of white people.

So felt like I needed to write about black wrestler presented by a racist promoter to appeal to the prejudices of a white audience. So it’s Mark Henry time. Mark Henry was an Olympic powerlifter who the WWF signed to a ten year contract in 1996. Over that period he was given a string of racist degrading roles and developed into a really great smart wrestler. These two matches give you a sense of that development.

The first match is from a 1998. Henry is working the most successful and biggest drawing Black wrestler of all time the Rock. Henry at the time was working the gimmick of Black man who is presumptuous enough to believe that he can compose literature. He in fact is so presumptuous that he also believes that he should be allowed to attempt to woo a white woman (the hideous Chyna).

Henry is a powerlifter and like many powerlifters (possibly due to muscle memory from repeated squats) has a big vertical leap. The Rock match consists of Henry flying around for Rock’s offense during opening parts. Henry comes back with lots of high elevation offense (big elbow and leg drop) and then Henry puts Rock in a chinlock. Rock comes back and Henry goes back to bumping—shmoz finish. Really a nothing match.

Second match is from 2003. Henry has gone from being heel Black guy who thinks he’s a poet to being heel sullen Black guy who never says anything just grimaces.

Henry is no longer flying around the ring. He’s working lots and lots of immoveable wall spots and it makes the match feel like a big deal. Makes it feel like a “Big time Heavyweight” clash. How will Goldberg take down this wall? Crowd pops big for the first time Henry goes down. Henry continues to work as Wall. His big “ups” offense here consists of a nasty leap through the ropes on Goldberg’s back and neck and a jumping forearm shiver. Henry holds Goldberg in a keylock variation which Goldberg struggles in until countering out of it with a take down escape. And Henry goes back to fighting as a wall. Every time he does get taken down it means something, it makes Goldberg look strong and the crowd pops accordingly.

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The Quest for the Whitest Match in History: Day 3

Vince Hall vs. Rob Rogers
Matrats - 2001

This is from the same episode as the previous Matrats match. Phil reviewed the whole thing in a DVDVR back when it happened, and I don't want to just rehash his old material, but I can't rob you of this one.

Rob Rogers....I can't figure out if fake redneck is whiter than actual redneck. It's a question I find myself pondering as I go through this, and I try to figure out if your great Southern wrestlers over the years really fit the tone of this project. I mean, the south's most obvious claim to whiteness is racism. I suppose southern wrestlers who are overtly racist, on-screen or off, probably qualify, but otherwise, I'm not sure being Southern alone is enough. With the fake redneck - particularly the insulting stereotypical variety like Rob Rogers, who "goes to family reunions to meet girls" - the southern caricature makes the whiteness implicit. Rogers isn't portrayed as being racist. In fact, he really isn't portrayed as being anything. He wears a cowboy hat to the ring, wrestles in a flannel jacket, is nicknamed "Redneck", and had the above quote about him from the announcer. That's the extent of his southernness. He didn't even get an introductory promo. Without the nickname and the implied incest, I could just as easily think he was working a Canadian lumberjack gimmick, or a Mick Foley tribute gimmick. I mean, it is Canada, and he does take some big bumps, most notably a nasty back body drop onto the ramp. Implied redneck should be white enough to qualify for this, but does it qualify if it's totally through implication?

None of that really matters, though, because this match has Vince Hall. Earlier this same show, we had a guy working a bipolar college busker gimmick that might have been the whitest gimmick I had ever seen. Then we are introduced to Vince Hall, and with one sentence - "Snowboarding was the most important thing in my life until my father left me" - he out-whites Apocalypse by an order of magnitude. Hall has to be the whitest wrestler ever. He has to be. There's no way anyone could be any whiter without lapsing into self-parody. Guy is introduced as a snowboarder who wrestles to eventually get revenge on his absentee father, comes to the ring to "All the Small Things", wearing what appears to be a sweater wrapped around his neck that he tosses into the audience before the match. And it's all played totally straight.

The damnedest thing about it, though, is that it totally works. The audience is made up entirely of young girls who had just been expected to cheer for a scraggly, bipolar college busker and boo a hunky surfer dude, and it worked about as well as you would expect that to. Here, they're given your classic blowjob babyface, and they go nuts for him. Hall is an entirely competent babyface, and a pretty sharp worker, for that matter. Takes some wild bumps, all his offense looks good, really athletic. He charges the corner at one point, Rogers moves out of the way, Hall springs off of the turnbuckle, backflips, lands on his feet, backflips AGAIN, and lands in position to hit a flapjack gutbuster. It's the kind of fruity embellishment that I usually don't care for, but damned if this one didn't look cool. He eventually wins with a big splash while doing a snowboard-style toe grab (and while wearing Rogers' cowboy hat), and the crowd goes wild. The ambiguously gay referee beats up another wrestler (this time using the Famasser, appropriately enough), and the ending seems to position the ref and Hall as equals. But the ref just walks backstage uninterrupted, while Hall gets mobbed by girls in the audience. This was a good little match designed to showcase Hall, and they did a fine job of doing that. One gets the sense that in an ideal world, they would have been able to pull off building the promotion around him as a long-term babyface, feuding with the various hired goons his father sends to stop him, before he turns 21 and finally takes down the old man himself before retiring. Maybe that's how you get the bipolar college busker gimmick over in a fed aimed at young girls and gay men. Vince's dad (Buddy Rose, maybe? Or Scott Hall? Curt Hennig was still alive at this point, right? It's not like any of the girls in the audience would have known who they were.) marries Apocalypse's mom, and starts going on about how much prouder he is of his stepson than of Vince ("He's getting an education! He's learned a valuable skill! What have you done?!"), and Apocalypse basking in the praise like a total schmuck. Whatever happened to Hall, anyway? Seems like a dude who would be right at home in Ages of the Fall. Oh, well.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Memphis Stock Picks

So for the next round of the 80's project I am hip deep in Memphis wrestling, so I figured I would do another one of these. Will has sent me (I suspect passive aggressively) almost exclusively TV, so while Kris and Shoe are nominating arena match after arena match, I am watching Rough and Ready tag after Keith Eric singles.

Stock Going Up

Robert Fuller

Consistantly the most entertaining guy in the episodic Memphis TV format. Haven't seen a ton of arena Fuller matches, but some amazing angles. The race bating of Brickhouse Brown, the CWA power struggle, where he claims Jerry Jarrett stole the promotion from his grandfather, the family feud with Ron and Jimmy Golden. Every time Robert Fuller is on my TV set I smile.

Ronnie P. Gossett

Another great Memphis manager, just hillarious with his constant fake heart attacks, and self delusion. Nothing I love more the Ronnie P. Gossett calling a Freezer Thompson squash. "LOOK AT THAT GUY LANCE RUSSELL, I HATE A FAT SLOB"

Tommy Gilbert

An ultimate Memphis utility man, we might end up with Tommy Gilbert matches under four different personas. Ace of Spades, Mr. Wrestling, Tommy Gilbert and FREDDY! Tommy Gilbert as patriarch of the Gilbert family is so great, and after seeing him as an upstanding ref disgusted with Eddies antics in UWF, it is great to watch him one year later egging Eddie on in the burning of Randy Hales, or busting open Eddie Marlin with a cowboy boot. Then in 1989, you secondary babyface was Tommy Gilbert under a cheap Halloween Freddy Kruger mask no-selling all of the heels and doing scary dances.

Stock Going Down

Lance Russell

Still one of the greatest ever, but one thing you notice when watching a ton of Memphis, is that Lance doesn't really moderate his exasperation. He is really great at being exasperated, but he seems just as pissed off when Don Bass lipsinks a country song "Come on Don, give us a break here" as he is when Randy Savage tries to pry out Lawlers eye "Come on Randy, that is enough, let's get some help out here."

Blowjob babyface teams

Man for every Rock and Roll Express, there is a Tim Ashley and Steve Constant, for every Fabulous Ones we are stuck with Steve Casey and Tom Brandi. Faboulous Ones were really succesful, so you always had at least one fake Fabs in Memphis at all times, and some of them were terrible. Probably the height of ridicolous blowjob teams was the babyface run of a permed and mustacheod Ron and Don Harris.

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The Quest for the Whitest Match in History: Day 2

Izzy, Dixie, & Angel Dust vs. Austin Aries, Roderick Strong, & Jack Evans
ROH - 5/22/2004

This was the debut of the Generation Next gimmick, four guys who would go on to be guilty of extreme whiteness at various points in their careers - Aries co-opting stuff from tapes with no rhyme or reason, Jack Evans being a wigger, Roderick Strong being Paul Hamm, and Alex Shelley doing a tape-watching gimmick in TNA that evolved into a low-budget filmmaker gimmick somehow - but don't stand out as exceptionally white here. To pick up the slack, we have Special K, which, in fairness, was a pretty multi-ethnic group, but a stable of rich kid ravers is a pretty white concept. Also, let's not forget they have Dixie, who first gained notoriety as a white guy doing Southern chickenshit heel shtick against Puerto Ricans in northeast indies.

At this point, I felt that outside of Shelley, the GenNext guys kinda struggled in singles matches, but we were a lot of fun in multi-mans like this. They had enough cool spots and were competent enough heels that they could excel in this setting, but in singles matches, they tended to fall into their various bad habits. Special K were kinda similar in that regard, as aside from Dixie and Lethal, they were guys who really benefited from the team setting, as evidenced by the fact that they broke up, and now they're all gone from the company. Well, I guess we can't blame the team's break-up for Deranged stealing Teddy Hart's car, but you get the idea. Of course, this was a team that used the team gimmick to justify bad habits - which is still probably the most clever booking move Gabe Sapolsky ever pulled off - whereas GenNext used it to hide theirs. And this is a match where those bad habits become apparent - Angel Dust working the match with an injured neck, which he sells early, but forgets about while doing Manami Toyota's rolling pin thingy, which I imagine would be pretty traumatic for a dude with an injured neck, being the most glaring example - but GenNext have a lot of fun stuff to do to keep me interested. Jack Evans uncorks the reverse hurricanrana on a listless Izzy, Strong military presses Izzy back-first into the corner, and Aries spinning elbowdrop looks a lot better when he doesn't take an hour to set it up. They'd all do better stuff later, but this was a fine intro to the gimmick.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Black History Month Leap Year Supplemental A

Marcus and Orlando Jordan vs. Street Soldiers

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Street Soldier vs v Black Legion

So there turn out to be two UWA matches available on the interweb. Really shockingly little information about UWA on the internet. Really don’t want to become the Jonathan Barber of the Urban Wrestling Alliance but it deserves more than this.

Anyway two matches:

A fun little Donovan Morgan v Marcus Jordan match with a couple really blown spots. Really for a Pro Wrestling Iron guy vs. a highflyer it is a nice companion piece to Modest v Daniels from WCW.

And a Street Soldiers v Black Legion match.

Black Legion are Maryland mainstays Orlando and Marcus Jordan with Street Soldiers being Maryland mainstays the Ghetto Mafia: Too Dope and Sideswipe.

So the setup for this match is Luminous came to the ring on one episode to announce that he owned the tag belt that his father had won from the Brown Hornet (owner Alonzo Brown’s father) and that he would put that belt up against if Alonzo would create a tag title and give team Blitz (Bison Smith and Luminous Warrior) the championship. Brown wants to reclaim his father’s belt and so sends Baltimore’s Black Legion into match against Blitz. Black Legion win the belt only to have the Street soldiers run in steal the belt and kidnap Marcus Jordan’s girlfriend in exchange for a tag title shot. Brown will not negotiate with terrorists but runs a one day single elimination tag tourney that ends with Street Soldiers v Black Legion. Other teams in the tourney are the Blitz, the Diaz Brothers and Two D. The Diaz were supposedly Puerto Ricans from Philly who I don’t recognize. Two D were Donovan Morgan and Billy D, who I also don’t recognize. Billy D was working a Barry Horrowitz/Mike Boyete losing streak gimmick. Brown kept on threatening to fire him if he didn’t start scoring wins, but D was a third generation wrestler son of Lightning Jack, grandson of big Jake thunder who kept on reminding Brown that Browns father wouldn’t fire a legacy. Did I mention that this show was overwritten? I should point out that the team of Donovan Morgan and Billy D weren’t accompanied to the ring by a fake Vanessa Del Rio and were called Two D. Again being writer for the movie Honey makes you a little more sophisticated than a Friends or WWF Magazine writer.

The tourney set up and finale are here.

Amusingly bad Watanabe play by play combined with amusing Cross color commentary. Cross is doing neither face nor heel color but instead doing Ruff Ryder commentary and the Ruff Ryder world view/ideology doesn’t really sync up with wrestling face/heel structure.

I’d also point out that while the UWA had way too many valet’s my impression is that they were attractive C-list out of work actresses. Attractive women waiting for the next David E Talbert casting call.

As a result, by and large their back stage bits came off better than the models being asked to act in the WWF do. The acting by the valet in the kidnapping scene here is good enough to be in a direct to DVD release. Too dope and Sideswipe also do a nice job with their comedy bits and Marcus Jordan is a guy who currently has a recurring role on The Wire. It’s jarring how much better some of the UWA back stage acting is vis a vis WWE valet acting. Most WWE backstage "acting" would get you laughed off the set of Killa Season.

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The Quest for the Whitest Match in History: Day 1

Apocalypse vs. Orion
Matrats - 2001

Well, to me, it seems like the natural follow-up project to the Black History Month project, doesn't it? As a guy who hangs around Crush Kill Crush a lot, my first instinct was to attack ROH, and really, there are few things whiter than copying the Japanese, but then I was like, "oh yeah, Matrats", so that's the route I went.

Matrats was your basic Hollywood wrestling promotion, save for the fact that it was only ever aired online and it was filmed in Calgary. If nothing else, internet-based wrestling promotion founded by Canadian tech company must be the whitest origin for a wrestling promotion ever. Eric Bischoff was involved in some capacity, though it's not really clear to me what he actually did there. It was a "youth-based" promotion, which seems insane to me, since this is a promotion whose only exposure to the world was through their website, and your typical internet wrestling fan is either a dude who rejects youth culture or has been rejected by youth culture, so there's really no appeal there. Granted, they were trying to get on TV and PPV, but those plans didn't exactly work out in the long run. This is a promotion where the entire roster is attractive men under the age of 21 (at which point they get booted from the promotion, or would get booted if this had lasted long enough for any of them to turn 21 under their watch). Promotion of pretty boys under 21 of questionable talent aimed at young girls and gay men seems like the kind of niche product that could be successful, but you won't find that market this way. This is pre-YouTube. Hell, this is pre-actual wrestling fans watching wrestling on their computer with any kind of regularity. What kind of audience were they expecting to find? I'm sure they had most of their eggs in the TV basket, but they couldn't have expected that to be a sure thing, could they? They were trying to sell a wrestling show in the 21st century. Good luck with that.

So this is basically the anti-UWA, being basically the whitest possible Hollywood wrestling promotion. Tom already went over the problems inherent in Hollywood wrestling, and most of them are present here, save for the fact that it's Calgary, and so there is a history of white audiences attending wrestling shows. It's a style that I do think has it's strengths, though. Nobody ever talks about them, probably because no one has ever successfully utilized them, except for actual successful wrestling promotions. As really, there's a logic to approaching a wrestling show like any other TV show, and when you look at your more successful promotions' runs over the years, they tend tend to happen when they're doing this, consciously or otherwise, while keeping in mind that the show is in the wrestling genre. You have your show's big, popular "star" or handful of stars around whom everything revolves, compelling antagonists, a focus on traditional storytelling, a roster that the audience connects to as characters, and a general thematic connection between everything going on in the show. Hollywood wrestling promotions put a premium on all these things, and in theory, that should make them conducive to quality wrestling and/or money drawing wrestling. In practice, that never happens, because they're always run by people who don't know shit from shinola with regards to the wrestling genre, and they're usually not that talented to begin with, anyway. So would seem to be the case with Matrats.

We're introduced to the two competitors with a pair of quick promos where they give a rough outline of their characters. Orion is your cocky surfer dude who the ladies love, and he looks down on the other wrestlers who aren't as handsome as he is. He's ostensibly a heel, although he doesn't really do anything heelish, and "cocky pretty boy" is a stupid gimmick to give a heel in Matrats if you're not going to book them as actively heelish. Also, Orion delivers his promos with all the gusto of Ben Stein on NyQuil. I mean, he's a surfer, I can understand if he's going for mellow surf bum delivery, but he doesn't even get that. Apocalypse is introduced next, and it's kinda unclear if he's supposed to be homeless or if he's a college hipster who makes money on the side as a street performer. If it's the latter, that might be the whitest gimmick in the history of wrestling. When he makes his entrance, he gets on the top turnbuckle by the announcers and reaches out with a styrofoam cup looking for spare change, which would suggest "homeless", but somehow I'm still unclear. I'll give Hollywood wrestling this much, the gimmicks are usually pretty straightforward, so this seems particularly odd. I don't know what they were thinking here. Hearkening back to Tom's point about Hollywood wrestling having too many valets, this is a match where both men come to the ring with valets, both of whom are only briefly identified by name by the announcer before never being mentioned again, and were only really seen for about five seconds while walking to the ring before disappearing into the void. Seriously, there were two valets in this segment, and the only thing I remember about them five seconds after watching it is that I think the first one was blond and I want to say her name was "Muffy". Also, for a youth-based promotion in 2001, the wrestlers' theme songs were "Fight For Your Right to Party" and "Enter: Sandman". I suppose you could do a lot worse than that, but really, come on. And finally, before the match starts, they give the tale of the tape, which I wouldn't bother pointing out except they include little Dungeons & Dragons stats for strength and speed and whatnot ala Pee-Wee Moore's ridiculous plan.

Match itself wasn't too great. Orion - whose name is apparently "Evan G. Orion", as the announcer continuously calls him this - is actually not too bad in the ring. The ring had a ramp connecting to it like early-90's WCW or current CMLL at Arena Mexico, and he did a neat tope con hilo onto Apocalypse while he was on the ramp. Also had a pretty sweet super DDT. Apocalypse is a guy I've seen in other settings and liked, but his timing seemed to be off here. He looked as bored working this match as Orion did cutting his promo. Also, the ref has bike shorts, a loose-fitting sleeveless shirt, and a headband, making it look like a zebra-striped version of Billy & Chuck's old entrance gear. He's also booked as the toughest guy in the match, as Apocalypse, who was ostensibly a face here, suddenly starts pushing him around, and he easily drops him with a running clothesline. This is shortly before a bunch of other dudes run in for no obvious reason, and then a cop runs in and arrests Apocalypse. The announcer speculates that he was busking without a permit, which would seem to suggest "college hipster who makes money on the side as a street performer" was his gimmick. Who can be sure?

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Black History Month Day 29

Rock v Goldberg 4/27/03

Rocky “the Rock”Maivia is the most successful biggest drawing Black Pro-wrestler of all time. That's kind of understatement. He is amongst the most successful biggest drawing wrestlers of all time period.

One of the things that people who write about wrestling don’t write about enough is the “party” atmosphere of the live shows during WWFs peak period. Fun over midcard acts like the New Age Outlaws or Too Cool/Rikishi were an important part of WWF’s successful formula. For the live audience singing along with Roaddog or clapping for Rikishi and Too Cool as they put on their sunglasses and danced was fun. And you go to the WWF wrestling event to have fun.

In that environment the Rock was the ultimate party host. He was charming. He was always telling jokes. And he always appeared to be enjoying himself in the ring. He was having a good time and his joy was infectious.

I was planning on writing about the racial dynamics of the Booker v Rock feud. Rock was the light skinned articulate non-threatening Black guy who knew how to throw a party and was fun for white folks to be around. While Booker was the dark skin sullen Black guy who struggled with his words…he should be parking cars outside the party and not destroying the energy at the party. Rock knew how to be white peoples favorite party host: make sure there weren't any other blacks there.

But fuck I had forgotten how painful Heyman was on commentary and didn’t want to have to listen to him.

So instead I’m writing about Rock v Goldberg. 2003 and the only things worth watching on Raw were Rock, Goldberg and Mark Henry. This is from Rock’s super entertaining Hollywood heel period. Scorpion King was a huge success and he was just back from filming Helldorado. And Rock was a legit crossover star. It was pretty obvious that his movie stardom was going to be bigger than wrestling. And suddenly he was hosting a more exclusive party. A party that the wrestling fans were no longer part of.

In 2003 Raw had been anchored by heel HHH for a while already. He isn’t very smart or skillful at working heel. Which meant that whenever you got to watch Rock come in and work heel it was just a complete refreshing change.

As a face Rock was both stronger and cleverer than his opponents. As a heel he’s a clever guy who basks in his own ingenuity. He’s still having fun in the ring.. He beams after luring Goldberg into spearing the turnbuckle, after luring the ref away so he can punch Goldberg in the nuts, etc. And his joy at outsmarting his opponent is still infectious. But his joy is personal…he’s doing this for his own fun and not for yours. And the match is built on the Rock’s quick changes in expression from the moments where Rock is having fun in the ring basking in his own ingenuity to the moments where he is selling pain during “comeuppance spots”.

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