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wrestling / Columns

Hitting the Mark 11.16.10: The Twinge – The Rock n’ Wrestling Era

November 16, 2010 | Posted by Len Archibald

Good Tuesday to all! This has been the single, most hectic and stress-inducing week of my life. I will basically say that my entire life has been moving towards one momentous event to take my career to the next level: This may be it.

This may not seem like a big deal, but believe me – it is. If you are an independent filmmaker, we will begin accepting submissions January 1, 2011 through www.withoutabox.com. There will be more info as time goes on, so start shooting!!!

I need to give some attention to fellow 411 writer and all-around good buddy Shawn Lealos, who unfortunately lost his house in a fire recently. If you can and are able, please go to PayPal and make a donation to [email protected] Every little bit counts.

Did you know I write for the Movie Zone as well? Check out “Around the World in 24 Frames” every Friday! This past week’s column was dedicated to Akira Kurosawa’s 1990 late-blooming gem, Dreams!

If you want to check out a hard-hitting promotion that is a balanced mix of in-ring goodness and “sports entertainment” spectacle, come down(up) to Lima and take a look at W.A.R. (Wrestling And Respect) Wrestling. Their next show, “Cold War” will be held at The UAW Hall on Saturday, December 4th. The main event will be a Steel Cage Match to determine the WAR Heavyweight Champion as Dusty Dillinger takes on Kaden Assad. Also, my personal favorite WAR performer, “Poison” Appollo Starr collides with “Mr. EGO” Cody Hawk in an old-school Indian Strap Match – AND WAR presents its first ever TLC Match! The bell rings at 7:30pm, so stop by and take a chance on an indie show. Even if you live nowhere near the Northwest Ohio region, I feel it is beneficial to any wrestling fan to support their local independent wrestling promotion.

I would like to give a respectful “guy nod” to all who left comments last week. I was (and still am) extremely passionate about the issue of women in pro wrestling, and I am happy and proud that this article was able to not only stir up conversation, but respectful, thoughtful conversation. We may all not agree with every aspect of professional wrestling, but the one unanimous thing we can agree on is that we’re all fans and are all human beings with a soul and emotions. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be here.

Wow, AJ’s ass looks really weird in that 2nd pic.
Posted By: Guest#2943 (Guest) on November 09, 2010 at 12:36 AM

Of all the comments, THIS had to be the first one…I had a good, hearty chuckle at that.

DAMN! I may not agree with every point you’re making but I gotta admit the second half of that piece got me pumped up. I could def feel the pulse in your writing and I got to give you props for laying it all out there. RESPECT. There is no doubt the IWC can be a fickle mistress; since kayfabe has come crashing down, crapping on the product seems to have become half the fun for most. I generally try to stay positive and only try to level what I feel are legitimate critiques and concerns. But I slip. We all do. We can’t help it…because it is exactly, EXACTLY, like you said. We are looking for that moment – that moment that got us hooked and has kept us hooked all these years – and sometimes we get pissy, when in our minds, we slip further and further away from that moment. We take hit after hit, watch show after show, looking for that one glorious hit. And when we get it, we come back and repeat the cycle.

However, while I agree with many of your points, I will say it is and has to be a 2-way street. One cannot argue that Vince McMahon has consistently been a genius for 30 years. While the IWC tends to be harsh (almost all the time), Vince and Co., tend to be cyclical in terms of quality, listening to fans and extending themselves creatively often needing to be pushed. I don’t think blind following and cheering (not saying that you are proposing this) is a good thing for wrestling either. I marked out a bit for Tea Time w/ Santino. It was hilarious. But that doesn’t mean I can’t crap all over something (a segment, match or performer) who I feel isn’t giving full effort, is in bad taste or just misses the mark by a mile (Orlando Jordan).

One of the problems with wrestling as a whole is that it is either stationary (regional promotion or TNA in Orlando) or is a roving, traveling circus (WWE). It may only come to town once (or twice) a year. For WWE in particular, there is a detachment – a viewing from afar – and that lack of physical participation perhaps lends to a more critical, IWC-style mindset, especially in an era where our every moment is competed for by the internet, cable, film, etc…

So yes, I agree with your basic call-to-arms. I hope wrestling fans in general come together, become more positive on the whole and FIGHT for what they want and love. I doubt it will happen, but here’s hoping.

**Agree that the Blayze incident was def stinging for Vince, but disagree to an extent. If Bret Hart had left the Monday before SS07 and threw the WWF title in the trash on Nitro, would Vince have not continued w/WWF Champ and lessened the quality of men’s wrestling? Doubt it. Sunny + Sable proved hot women could get men’s attention whether wrestling or not. Sad but true…and women’s wrestling hasn’t been the same since.

P.S.: Kaitlyn is H-O-T
Posted By: JPW (Guest) on November 09, 2010 at 01:18 AM

I believe the dividing factor that separates a “casual” fan to a “devoted” one is the mindset that wrestling is a drug. I willfully admit to my addiction. Once someone finds that “moment” that hooks them, it hooks them for life and I think we as fans have such a laser-like focus on re-discovering that “moment” that we tend to overlook the basics that made us fans in the first place and instead pay attention to the mundane details that turn us away. There needs to be a balance.

You are correct, I do not believe that fans should just openly give a love-fest for everything given to us. What we need to learn to accomplish as proactive fans is adhering to a mindset that we have a lot more power to change the overall quality and enjoyment of a wrestling than we think we do. My suggestion is not to just vent online, but to ACT with your voice and your wallet. As you’ve said, and what most of us agree on – Vince McMahon LOVES money. If there’s a way to get more, he’ll find it. One of those ways is us letting him know – REALLY letting him know – who and what we support. A promoter’s job isn’t to adjust to what the fans DON’T like, but to give them more of what they DO like. Your point of a promotion being too static (TNA) or too worn thin (WWE) is something I never considered – but it is also a good indicator for why I absolutely implore fans to support their local independent promotions. No promotion – not even the WWE – just appeared out of thin air at the top. We as fans NEED to allow other promotions a chance to implement their ideas and talents. We have the choice to support or not support. I choose to support. It’s better for everyone.

Finally, on your last point about Bret Hart and the WWF Title; the one aspect of your point that I’m personally inclined to differ with you is that personally, I don’t think Bret Hart would EVER – EVER – EVEREVEREVER allow himself to deface and devalue the WWF Title by tossing it in the trash. Bret is a purist in the…purest sense. I almost wonder if he would have rather quit than do something that would essentially undermine everything he and his WRESTLING FAMILY worked to achieve. Yes, if he DID do that, Vince would have continued – of course, if Bret did that, he may have been assassinated on sight. (yes, as farfetched as that idea is, I truly believe that. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Canadians take wrestling VERY seriously – maybe too seriously for our own good.)

Yes, Kaitlyn is H-O-T.


Lawd, have mercy…

People have supported women’s wrestling recently. Even though the Knockouts have been booked poorly this year, they get the highest rated segments in TNA.

Prior to Bishoff & Hogan’s arrival, the Knockouts normally got two and sometimes more matches a show. When Scott D’Amore was booking them, some called the Knockouts title the most important women’s title in the US.

Unlike Vince, Bishoff has not shown a consistent sense of what makes money and has torn down the part of the roster that got ratings, but that is not the fault of the fans.
Posted By: Guest#2333 (Guest) on November 09, 2010 at 03:19 AM

TNA’s Knockouts Division is proof-positive that there are a contingent of fans out there that are willing to support serious women’s wrestling, even in the face of any (un)intentional self-sabotage. I agree with you that TNA’s situation is not a direct fault of the fans, but again, it is a two-way street. I would hope that Dixie Carter and Eric Bischoff like money as much as The McMahon family does, and if we as fans decided to raid the Impact Zone with signs and merchandise that reflected our desire to see the Knockouts more involved in the overall aspect of TNA’s wrestling output, I think the programming would reflect that. Personally, I hope the Tara/Mickie James feud catches on and again – that the fans give it a shot because there could be some magic there.

I hope you don’t mind, but I want to CnP the majority of this column over to my Facebook – linked back and full credit given, of course.

Will I get a chance to do half the stuff you mentioned – no, nothing beyond the grassroots. But I do support my favourite fed and workers by buying the merch and seeing them if they are near to me (being in Australia, and not in a major city, our choices are limited – but I still do what I can).
Posted By: Shane (Guest) on November 09, 2010 at 04:54 AM

I am flattered by the gesture, and even though I’m sure you’ve already done this – you certainly have my blessing…As long as I get full credit 🙂

Love that pic of the guy sitting at the computer.
Posted By: The Great Capt. Smooth (Guest) on November 09, 2010 at 06:16 AM

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t want to use that picture because it does hammer home the incorrect stereotype that orbits around the idea of wrestling fans. I ultimately decided to post it because I wanted to make a point that THIS is what most people think of when they consider the idea of someone who is passionate about pro wrestling. It was a direct, unflattering and not-so-subtle challenge to those who wish shed that image. I stand 5’6″ tall, am 155lbs soaking wet, and am a *sigh* man of color (ugh). I am also a proud Canadian living in the boonies of Northwest Ohio, who owns his own house, car, furniture, and ridiculously expensive film and television production equipment. I am also married to (in my mind) a seriously hot chick. I work a steady 9-to-5 job and am quite successful in it. I also am on the cusp of breaking into one of the hardest fields to get into, the film industry as a screenwriter and director. I don’t even HAVE a basement in my house (where would I go when the tornadoes hit?) I am nowhere even CLOSE to the man depicted in that picture, and I’m 100% certain that no one who is a frequent reader at 411 is either. Perception is everything in this life, and whatever we can do to destroy the image of the “basement dwelling virgin-nerd”, we should do.

1. On your IWC rant, nothing will change. You know it, and I know it. Appreciate the effort, but it was a waste of a rant.

2. I love hot diva pictures as much as the next guy. I was just wondering if you would be MORE proud of yourself writing an article like this one (nice job sir) or the usual 411 filler columns with lots of ‘tits n ass’?!?!
Posted By: Points (Guest) on November 09, 2010 at 02:38 AM

Hello, Points! 1) To be honest, I don’t know if nothing will change. Again, this is the self-fulfilling prophecy argument. One of the most depressing aspects of being a proactive wrestling fan is the observation that 95% of us treat our fandom with complete apathy. If WE don’t act, nothing is going to change. I don’t think my rant was a “waste” – all I want is to provide a catalyst and suggest that if we understood that it is the FANS and not the PROMOTERS who dictate what does and doesn’t work in professional wrestling, we could find more overall enjoyment of the product. If ONE person decides to become a proactive and not a reactive fan from last weeks column, then I will have done my job. 2) I am a writer – no – an artist first and foremost in my life. Anytime I can discover inspiration and surprise myself with my evolution as a writer and create something akin to what was written last week, of course I will find pride in that. In fact, I am proud that the piece I created two weeks ago (the one you shredded) sparked the direct inspiration that made last weeks article a reality. Live life with no regrets and you won’t regret the lives you touch.

There were some more comments, so check them out! I would also like to thank the ridiculous amount of emails I received over the past week regarding last weeks column. Some were deeply touching in their support. There were some though – along with some other comments that got me fired up.

No Top 10 this week. Today will be the debut (and hopefully, finale) of…

First of all, I want all to know that this isn’t a statement pointing out any one individual, but this is an overall blanket examination of all of us – myself included. Not even a week into my “challenge”, did I receive comments and emails with basically, variations of the same comment:

“It’s a nice idea, but….”

Yes, yes – I get it: you have no power. Everything is out of your control. We are all puppets dancing to the strings of the puppetmaster and his music of evil. No one deserving gets a chance. You have to sell your soul to make it to the top. Success isn’t about effort, but birthright and entitlement. If you were born it, you will die it, correct? The system is out to get you. The machine will chew you up and spit you out. You don’t have that long blond hair or the chiseled physique. You couldn’t afford to get into the school you wanted to get into and do what you feel you were compelled on this planet to do. No one understands you. Everyone is against you. He/She left you when you were the most vulnerable and you could never recover. Ever. Life is just a big cosmic joke, only existing for the sole purpose to make you as miserable as possible. The ultimate test is whether or not you can sustain sanity so you don’t commit suicide.

Bullshit. Bullocks. Complete and utter trash. I know no one wants to hear it, or even read these words. I know that the above statement may cost me a few(many) readers. That’s fine. Don’t expect me to apologize.

The single most devastating disease we suffer from in Western Culture today is a little thing called apathy. I’ve been accused of it myself – so much so that I have taken it upon myself to live the most ambitious life I possibly can. No regrets. No drawbacks. No conspiracy. I live and die on my sword and I really don’t want it any other way. The biggest lie that my generation has been fed (and digested) is that we don’t have a choice in how the world operates. The richest 1% dictates everything from politics to the nature of reality television. Depending on who you speak to, we are at the brink of complete socialist anarchy or total capitalist destruction. One false move can bring us to the brink of nuclear holocaust. We are in “The End-Times”. No one has any power over…anything, really. 9/11 was an inside job. President Obama is part of a super-secret Muslim terrorist cell that had forces manipulate his entire life from birth to take down the United States from the inside. The Illuminati purposely caused the economic crash we experienced in order to get more rich and more powerful. Courtney Love killed Kurt Cobain. Suge Knight or Sean “P. Diddy” Combs (or both?) orchestrated the deaths of 2Pac and Biggie. George Bush REALLY hates black people. And Vince McMahon doesn’t give a hot damn about professional wrestling, nor its fans – so, really, why do anything to prove otherwise?

This infection of apathy has bled through to the mindset of the current “hardcore” wrestling fan (notice the quotations.) It always starts the same: “Sure I COULD, but…” “It’s a good effort, but…” “It won’t mean anything in the end, but…” Has it ever occurred to anyone who reads these words that if we put the same amount of effort in our desire to be human observers than human BE-ings, that maybe…*maybe* things would be different? If a bunch of us get together and cheer wildly for a particular performer over an extended period of time – even if that person doesn’t work for that particular company, maybe that person can get “over” and find the success we think he/she deserves? Crazy concept, I know. I’m just dizzy thinking about it. Let me sit down.

Now that my ass is firmly planted on this chair and I have my wits about me again, let me reiterate that the only reason the IWC get’s shit on by the performers (trust me, I have firsthand knowledge that we do), the “marks”, the parents of the “marks”, the media, the Freemasons, the monolith(s), Jesus, Allah, Buddha, the 12 Gurus, Moses, Noah and each of the animals he brought with him on the Ark is because of one word: Laziness.

I’m a music-geek. A heavy-metal geek, a hip-hop freak and a Michael Jackson fanboy. I have a strange fascination with music and its affect on popular culture. Two particular incidents always stand out like a sore thumb to me: Dee Snyder basically tearing Tipper Gore a new asshole and NWA vs. the FBI (that sounds like a tag team match in itself.) Two moments that if the Powers-That-Be had their way, the only music that would exist for mass market consumption would be The Carpenters (not that there’s anything wrong with The Carpenters) and Christopher Cross…

(..…ugh.)

But those people didn’t get their way, did they? We got a “Parental Advisory” sticker placed on an album cover and instead of it being used as a detractor; we insane music fans bought MORE of those filthy little tidbits of “noise”. We were told “no, you can’t…” and we, as ridiculously inconsolable rabid connoisseurs of all things disturbing, dark, and words that begin with the letter “F” said, “not only we can, but we will have more than you could ever imagine~!”

Here’s the cut-and-dry of it; if you are a wrestling fan and you have a job, you CAN do something. If you are a wrestling fan and you have a car, you have more power than you think. If you are a wrestling fan and sound travels out from your diaphragm, up through your throat and out of your mouth, you can be a vehicle for change. The media scorns you and you do NOTHING to reply. A wrestler dies and you arrive on here with your half-hearted “R.I.P.” A performer you respect is met with deafening silence from the live audience and you blame Vince McMahon for “not giving him a chance” – conveniently forgetting that the fact that this performer is even WORKING for the WWE is the chance. So – how many of you own a Kaval (or Low-Ki) t-shirt? Can I see a show of hands of all those who made and brought signs to a live show for Beth Phoenix or Natalya? Or were you too busy mocking Mickie James for her “weight”? Were you too busy venting your anger because you were drowning in John Cena’s Chain-Gang of women and children? Let me guess: you REALLY needed that extra cash to buy that $300 replica World Heavyweight Championship, so Daniel Bryan will have to wait to get some money in his pocket from that “Tap or Snap” t-shirt. Perhaps next time the WWE is in town you’ll commit to buying it. Maybe. Possibly. If you feel like it and he’s not being BERRIED. Hmmm…a couple of extra cups of beer or that Straight-Edge t-shirt (HA)? Options, options…Oh well, CM Punk isn’t being used anyways; I’ll just drink the pain away. It doesn’t matter. Only “losers” wear wrestling-inspired apparel and you’re just too cool for school.

Venom that goes deeper than a Texas Rattlesnake or a St. Louis Viper. These words are coming out angry, but they come from a place of sadness. We are self-saboteurs. We drain so much energy proclaiming which promotion is better than which that we don’t realize we are all passionate about THE SAME THING. We waste so many words and so much breath over-analyzing and comparing storylines and booking that we are blind to the fact that we ALL CLICK ON THE SAME WEBSITE. We choke ourselves over so much anguish and apathy over the state of professional wrestling, the deaths, the stereotypes reflected upon us, the drugs, the scandals, the disappointments, anything that can be twisted under a guise of cynicism and negativity that no one bats an eye when a column or article receives 200+ comments.

This is for everyone who has ever hurled an insult at a “TNAsshole” or a “WWEtard”. Anyone who has decried fans of independent wrestling for supporting “vanilla midget spot monkeys who will never draw a dime”. Those who hate on Ryan Byers because he chooses to support Japanese wrestlers to American ones. Those quick to judge others who are/were fans of The Ultimate Warrior, Batista, Hulk Hogan, Goldberg and Kevin Nash because they couldn’t “work”. Anyone who considers someone who is a fan of The Miz or Chris Jericho obsolete because those two are “glorified mid-carders.” This is for those who decide they need to take a piss when the Divas or Knockouts come out to wrestle because “they don’t matter” or worse, because they’re “plastic whores who need to do porn” – and this is especially for those who have it already set in their minds that CHEERING FOR YOUR FAVORITE WRESTLER is “a nice idea, but will never work”: WE ARE ALL PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING FANS. We may have different tastes; we may cheer and boo and support different performers; we may have our preferences for “mat wrestling” over “sports entertainment” or vice versa – but the fact of the matter is at some point…At one glorious moment in our lives, we witnessed something that had to do with two or more people settling their differences in a ring and we were HOOKED.

Imagine a soldier halfway around the world put in harms way so we can enjoy the freedoms of a civilized, modern democratic society: when the WWE shows up, do you think they care that The Undertaker is too old and needs to “give the rub to a young, up and coming superstar”? Is the first thing that enters the mind of an impoverished child in India who witnesses The Great Khali for the first time is, “He’s a slow, lumbering half-wit who doesn’t know a wristlock from a wristwatch – every match of his will forever be at the most, *”? When John Cena visits a child for The Make-A-Wish Foundation, do you think the first question that child is going to ask will be “Mr. Cena, do you think you can expand your moveset?”

We in the IWC don’t even deserve the moniker. We aren’t a community. I’m not even sure we can call ourselves fans. We’re static observers. The kids who scream and go apeshit when John Cena walks down the ramp; the ones who decide to show their faith and support to Hulk Hogan by wearing a sea of red and yellow – even though he doesn’t wrestle anymore; the ones who simultaneously perform “The Pose” when Randy Orton does it at a live show; the ones who purchase and NOT stream pay-per-views – they’re the real fans. It doesn’t matter the promotion or performer, the size, the country or the demographic: they CARE. They PAY. They INVEST and are INVESTED.

…But we’re the “hardcore” fans, right? Maybe if we start acting like it, we can take that claim back. Right now, we as a collective don’t deserve it. If the idea of professional wrestling ever dies in my lifetime, I can at least look at myself in the mirror and say that I tried to keep it alive. What will you say?

“It was a nice idea, but…” It was a nice idea, wasn’t it?

You know what I’m talking about. The bumps. A shiver hits your spine so hard that it’s hard to deny. Some call it enlightenment or nirvana. All senses are heightened. Your innermost soul feels like its floating in zero-gravity. Time slows down and you can feel every hair on the back of your neck as they stand on end. In some cultures, it’s known as “Prajna”. If you’re like me and are a fan of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, you may know of it as “The Kick”. A wrestling fan calls it “Marking Out”. I call it The Twinge.

The Staredown

For most professional wrestling fans, WrestleMania III will always have a profound impact on how one views this particular form of entertainment. For me, it is the Holy Grail of professional wrestling events. This is the show that solidified my unconditional love affair with professional wrestling – not just by way of spectacle, but the competitive in-ring action as well. This show had something for everyone: grudge feuds, midgets, celebrity, an insane atmosphere, blood, a perfect match, some new twists and characters, and the triumph of a conquering hero.

There are certain events and moments in the lexicon of popular culture that are known through osmosis. Even if one was not born when these events transpired, they are processed and ingrained into our collective subconsciousness. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech; the image of Neil Armstrong on the moon; Michael Jackson busting out the moonwalk; The Beatles arriving on U.S. soil for the first time; Dorothy walking from a drab, black-and-white world into the colorful kaleidoscope that is Oz; Nixon throwing up the “deuces” en route to his resignation; the first time The Millennium Falcon went into Hyperspace – you may not have been there upon its initial moment, but the image is burned into your mind like you were.

I was eight years old – perhaps the most impressionable of all ages – when my father and his next door neighbor allowed myself and my friend (along with his super-hot older teenage sister) to watch WrestleMania III. I remember being awestruck by the pageantry of it all: Aretha Franklin singing “America The Beautiful”; the seemingly endless sea of people that surrounded the tiny ring area at the Pontiac Silverdome; the bittersweet “end” to the “career” of Rowdy Roddy Piper, the sweeter nexus (HA) of Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, the perfection that was Steamboat vs. Savage, and the ridiculous/awesome nature of the midget-mixed tag match.

I felt the twinge as I held Sonya’s hand (maybe it wasn’t The Twinge – it could have been something else) as Hogan and Andre met face-to-face. The flashbulbs of the cameras seemed brighter, the cheers and boos of the packed Silverdome crowd sounded louder, the stakes could never have been higher. Andre was the first pro wrestler I ever met in my young days – his tire-sized hand eclipsing my tiny head one year prior. He was once a famed hero, and now, he was a traitor. Hulkamania meant everything to me. It wasn’t just a catchphrase – it was a way of life. Those Three Demandments were just as revered as the Holy Tablets that Moses descended from Mount Sinai which had the Law that was scribbled and chiseled from the Hand of God. As Hogan stared upward at the seemingly impossible feat (“…What are they gonna think when The Giant hits the ground…!”) I, along with my friend, Chris, were hulking up right along with the WWF Champion. It was as if Hogan could feel and feed off our collective energy. If we cheer loud enough, if we believe deep enough and if we trust hard enough in man’s nature to do good in this universe, perhaps he could slay this evil Giant. The Staredown is still ground-zero in my personal fandom: the moment where I went from just a casual-onlooker-because-my-father-was to the rabid, neurotic and inconsolable fanboy that I am today. THIS – to me – embodied everything right and good and powerful about professional wrestling. Two larger than life behemoths share the same goal but whose opposing point of view stands in their way. No one budges. Time stands still…something’s gotta give.

The ULTIMATE Comeuppance

The Honky Tonk Man holds a special place in my heart as a wrestling fanatic. He is the first – and only – wrestler to bring me to tears. Ricky Steamboat was one of my ultimate (HA!) heroes in my infancy and his match with Randy Savage at WrestleMania III for the Intercontinental Title gave me a chill and thrill that at the time, no other match could compare to. His title victory looked like the start of bigger and brighter things to come for “The Dragon”. Perhaps a dream encounter with Hulk Hogan for the WWF Title? Maybe a rematch with Savage, on a larger (what could have been larger than WrestleMania III?) scale?

Then, in a moment that was the most crushing spiritual defeat I’ve ever had as a young fan – The Honky Tonk Man literally stole and cheated his way to beat Steamboat and win the IC Title. What? How? WHO? WHY?! I was in my bedroom on a Saturday morning in my small house in Toronto, watching what seemed to be another run-of-the-mill episode of WWF Superstars on WUTV Channel 29 – Buffalo (which would eventually emerge as the local Fox affiliate) on my tiny black and white television. I didn’t expect anything truly exciting to happen. Some squash matches, some storyline progression…Then Honky and Jimmy Hart’s in-your-face celebration hit me like a frying pan to the face of an eight year old. I was depressed. I was downtrodden. I was ANGRY. I shook and was inconsolable. Up until this day, only my mother was ever aware of my heartbreak. She took me into her arms and rocked me like the snot-nosed crybaby I was. In my mind, I was confident that Steamboat would return, get his revenge and take back his Intercontinental Championship.

A funny thing happened: Steamboat never returned. I never heard from him again on a large scale (at least in the WWF), and The Honky Tonk Man would reign supreme in his quest to hold onto the title he stole. What made me even more vexed was that he was the most amoral, cowardly and unworthy champion I ever saw. He NEVER “truly” won a match. Countouts, disqualifications and blatant cheating was the name of the game. I remember being so angry at Honky’s reign that I vowed to become a WWF referee with the sole purpose of reversing the many injustices displayed on my television. Yes, it was still real to me, dammit. I didn’t care. Even Randy Savage, in his most evil characterization, could still BEAT people. The Honky Tonk Man was making a mockery out of the WWF IC Title, and. It. NEVER. ENDED.

The first ever SummerSlam in 1988 rolled around. The Main Event pitted The Mega Powers – Hulk Hogan and the current WWF Champion, Randy Savage – against the Mega Bucks, The Million Dollar Man and Andre the Giant in a Tag Team match that could simply be described as modern day warfare. One of the undercard bouts was Honky putting up his IC Title against Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake. Even if one goes back in time and mock’s Beefcake’s “limits” in the ring, 1) it is impossible to deny how over he was with the crowd and 2) people, myself included wanted someone…ANYONE to beat the living daylights out of The Honky Tonk Man, kill him in the middle of the ring and take away that IC Title that he had defamed in the most terrible fashion.

I never got to watch the inaugural SummerSlam that year – but Superstars was there for me to check out the results. Elizabeth, in a rare display of involvement, showed off her assets to help The Mega Powers defeat DiBiase and The Giant (if I was madly in love with “The First Lady of Professional Wrestling”, then – that love manifested exponentially at that time.) That jackal, Jesse “The Body” Ventura attempted to impose his bias as the special guest referee in that match, but justice won out in the end. Then in an odd moment, I remember not being told of the result of the WWF Intercontinental Title match – but was told that the fans were “in for a treat.” I had no idea what that meant, because Superstars rarely showed any footage of a previous PPV event – the fans would usually be treated to still photography snapshots.

“Exclusive Highlights” of SummerSlam was shown, and with it, came footage of The Honky Tonk Man in the ring with his title and his manager, “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart and that DAMN megaphone at his side. Apparently, Brutus was not able to compete. Dammit. It seemed that he was going to extend his reign – which was at eighteen months – further into the future. He mockingly “challenged” anyone “in the back” to come out. At this point, I had hoped that anyone would step up to the plate, but frankly I was becoming desensitized to Honky’s reign of terror.

…then that guitar riff hit. The place exploded. THE ULTIMATE WARRIOR!!! In my haste, I had forgotten about the newcomer from “Parts Unknown” who was basically handing every WWF Superstar their asses on a platter. He SPRINTED to the ring so fast that The Honky Tonk Man remained frozen in time. The bell rang and within seconds The Warrior left Honky as a crippled, crumbled heap on the ring canvas.

The Twinge hit me like a bullet-sped train as I heard The Fink utter, “….AND. NEEEEEEW! INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPION…!” The Warrior beat The Honky Tonk Man! It happened so fast that I remember jumping up and down on my bed and missed The Warrior’s sudden exit. WHAT? HOW? WHO? WHY? YESSSSSSS~! The reign of terror ended! In that moment, I had forgotten about my crushing sadness a year and a half earlier. The Warrior was the single coolest and greatest wrestler I had ever seen! I immediately wanted to see him put to the test. I thought about every possible matchup he could have. Rick Rude. The Macho Man. Ted DiBiase. Andre The Giant…

…Hulk Hogan? No way. As much as I salivated at the possibility, I was 100% certain that would NEVER happen. Ever.

The Trilogy

As mentioned before, I used to be an avid tape and magazine trader. It was the only way that I was going to be able to see matches from names I know but that weren’t involved with the WWF since they were practically the only game in town in Toronto until The Monday Night Wars kicked off. Around the beginning of 1991, I was able to trade away my copy of WrestleMania VI to a cousin of mine who lived down south. This was what I received.

Before any other wrestler in my life – before Hogan, Andre, Savage, DiBiase, Hart, Duggan, The Midnight Express, The Road Warriors, Demolition, Tito Santana, The Fabulous Moolah, The Freebirds or Jake Roberts came into my life, there was Ric Flair. Flair has the honor of being involved in the first pro wrestling match I ever saw in my life – the Starrcade 1981 Cage Match between him and Harley Race. I’ve always had an attachment to him, to his flamboyant robe and lasers that surrounded him, his long, super blonde hair and that walk of his that we all know as “The Strut”. When he arrived to the WWF in late 1991 as “The REAL World’s Champion”, I went apeshit. Flair vs. Hogan?!?!? Sign me up (even though subconsciously, I would root for the dastardly heel Flair over my Real American Hero.)

So I knew that Flair could bring the goods to basically any match he was involved in. I also knew that Ricky Steamboat, based off his classic encounter with Randy Savage at WrestleMania III, could bring it just as hard. The tape didn’t say anything much – it was a Maxell video tape that had “CC (89)” etched onto the label. I just got a call from my cousin saying “you HAVE to see this…it’s…Perfect!” I don’t know if that was a play on words from Mr. Perfect or if he really felt that way. I played the tape and basically fast forwarded through everything else until I got to the match.

I felt the twinge during the portion of the match (see 5:22 of the above video) where Steamboat tossed Flair across the corner of the ring that resulted in the now infamous “Flair Flip” spot – as Flair quickly made his way towards the next turnbuckle on the ring apron, he was CRUSHED by a sweeping chop by Steamboat that stirred the live audience into a frenzy. It happened so fast that I needed to rewind the tape to watch it again – only to be absolutely floored by the timing and precision of the moment. Yes, at this stage in my life, in my childhood, I was aware that pro wrestling was scripted and pre-determined entertainment; but there was something different about this match. It felt real; it felt natural – it felt like this was an actual athletic competition between two men who just went out there to prove that they were the absolute best pro wrestlers on the planet. In my mind, I wouldn’t be surprised that even under the “planned” nature of the match – both Flair and Steamboat decided that they would try to top each other in regards to each spot. Each chop that was fired off like gunshots as the match progressed seemed deeper, more intense, more desperate. I always remember – before every knife-edge chop elicited a “WOOO!” from the modern audience, there would just be different tones of “oooh’s” and “ahhh’s” from the crowd. I remember one particular chop that Flair gave Steamboat that made me wince – and Steamboat followed my reaction by crumpling into a heap onto the ring. Flair approached him, and Steamboat simply shoved him away with the utmost look of agony on his face. There was no “valiant comeback” at the time, just a man in agonizing physical pain and his only defense was a simple, weak push. It was one of the most “realistic looking” moments I’d ever witnessed in a pro wrestling match. For nearly an hour, I was hypnotized by the athletic displays of these two men.

A year later, as Ric Flair won the WWF Title in the Royal Rumble in perhaps the single-greatest one-man wrestling performance in history – I received two more tapes from my cousin that contained the first match of this “Trilogy”: The 1989 Chi-Town Rumble with the second containing the finale between the two at WrestleWar VI. After watching all these matches, I was purely convinced that Ric Flair was the greatest professional wrestler in human history. The mere fact that both Flair and Steamboat has confessed on numerous occasions since then that they probably wrestled in a dozen or so more house show matches that were better than any of those three simply boggles my mind and makes me wish I lived in the JCW/NWA Territories during this time. It had to have been a magical time to be a wrestling fan down there.

The Embrace

If anyone asks me, I will be very blunt in my personal opinion that the single greatest storyline in wrestling history is the Macho Man/Elizabeth relationship that carried on from Savage naming Liz as his manager after being sought after by every other manager on the WWF roster up until the events of WrestleMania VIII and Savage’s confrontation with Ric Flair. Take note that no mainstream wrestling organization – I’m not sure if any wrestling organization period – has ever taken as much time and care into such a long angle. One may think that I’m grasping at straws, but take a look at the events at WrestleMania that involved Savage/Liz:

WrestleMania II: The debut; Savage is disgusted by George Steele’s animalistic infatuation with Elizabeth, but still uses her to trip up “The Animal”.

WrestleMania III: Steele’s infatuation with Liz enrages Savage so much that he snaps and becomes more violent; Ricky Steamboat’s throat is the first major casualty…Savage’s brutish nature (as well as Steele’s emotions) get the better of The Macho Man and he loses the IC Title. Despite this, Elizabeth STAYS by Savage’s side.

WrestleMania IV: In between, WM III and IV, Savage turns face by way of protecting Elizabeth from The Honky Tonk Man. Somewhere down the road, Savage realized that Elizabeth would never leave his side even at his lowest point professionally – It re-energizes him and carries him to his first WWF Heavyweight Title.

WrestleMania V: Hulk Hogan, the man who helped Savage win his first WWF Title, becomes the focal point of Savage’s rage. Elizabeth now manages both men, and even though Savage is the World Champion, feels he is playing second fiddle. Elizabeth’s non-committal stance between the two men eats at Savage to the point he believes Liz and Hogan are having an affair (in not so many words.) Savage’s self-ingrained jealously causes him to lose the WWF Title to Hulk Hogan.

WrestleMania VI: In the aftermath, Savage no longer wants anything to do with Elizabeth; he ditches her, but gains the services of Sensational Sherri – the two become King and Queen of the WWF. Their “royal” stature collides with Dusty Rhodes’ “common man” persona. Dusty gets under the skin of Savage as he reveals Elizabeth to be the “crown jewel” in Rhodes’ corner; Elizabeth takes a role of a more aggressive and vocal individual. She no longer wants to be considered a victim.

WrestleMania VII: Savage’s world comes crashing down; in his quest to become WWF Champion again, uses Sherri to ruse WWF Champion, The Ultimate Warrior into a potential Title shot – he refuses. Savage has not been at the top of the card since he left Liz and it eats at him. Savage costs The Warrior his title at the Royal Rumble, becoming the catalyst for the Career Match at WrestleMania. Savage puts up the fight of his life, but loses. Sherri loses as well…her meal ticket, actually. Elizabeth, now empowered, but moved at Savage’s “never give up” performance, rushes the ring as Sherri attacks Savage and saves him. Savage understands that no matter what happened between the two, Liz has always loved him and Savage always loved her. They reconcile – and marry.

WrestleMania VIII: Ric Flair enters the picture and makes a claim that he “WOOOO’d” Elizabeth long before Savage entered her life. She denies and Savage must now fight to defend his wife’s honor. He does so, using his rage at Flair to win his second WWF World Heavyweight Title.

That is SIX YEARS in the making, with every new year adding a new twist and dimension to each of the characters. Savage and Liz were perhaps the most fully fleshed, developed and realized wrestling personalities in history.

But enough of the backstory – let’s consider the WrestleMania match between Savage and Warrior. Understand that in storyline terms, Savage was every bit The Ultimate Warrior’s equal, kicking out of the most devastating maneuvers in The Warrior’s offensive arsenal. As cruel as The Macho Man may have been to the fans and the other face wrestlers, the one thing that no one could deny was that deep inside, professional wrestling and the thrill of competition was in his blood. Those are the defining traits of a face wrestler, and what usually separates a good face from a great one. It is – even if those in the IWC would try to deny it – the single greatest factor that has made John Cena and Triple H mainstays in this industry. Savage couldn’t afford to lose: there was nothing else for him. The one thing outside of wrestling that gave him any sympathy, he violently tossed out of his life. It was at this match that Randy Savage “became a man.”

There are very, very, very, VERY few matches I have experienced in my lifetime that I consider “perfect”. In fact, in all the thousands upon thousands of professional wrestling bouts I’ve witnessed with my own eyes, from the mainstream organizations, the independents and the foreign competitive bouts, I can say with the utmost conviction, there are only nine matches I’ve ever seen in my life that I consider to represent my idea of “professional wrestling nirvana”. These are the matches that I will constantly go back and re-live any time I have doubts about my fandom of pro wrestling. Randy Savage competed in two of them – and I feel that this match is so great, that it actually forced me to re-examine his performance in the earlier bout.

There are particular things that have always stimulated me that separates a “good” wrestling match from a “great” one and even a “great” one from “nirvana”. Sharply defined characters. Amazing chain wrestling that makes sense for these characters. A story that transcends the in-ring action, breaks through cultural barriers and allows the fans to become so emotionally invested that they forget what they are seeing is scripted and pre-determined. A payoff that is more an emotional release than a simple pin or submission – and that intangible that allows fans to recognize that one can find victory, even in defeat. It’s no ruse, nor coincidence that my personal favorite matches – the ones that for me define perfection and transcendence – are the ones that involve some major dramatic shift in character progression. A wrestler enters as the most hated man in the building and leaves as the most beloved. A man sells his soul to gain earthly possessions. A man understands that what is won is subjective and the most important element any human can gain is the love and respect not only from his peers, but from himself. A competitor comes to the realization that what he needed to be recognized as a champion isn’t a belt of leather and gold, but the love that he was blind to for years.

I consider myself somewhat of an emotional anomaly. I have had my moments where it hurts so much that I shed tears – but they are extremely few and far between. I come from a culture in my family where men are men and we cry inside but we don’t let those feelings show at particular times because our outward strength is needed to hold the family together. I did not shed a tear in public when I held my grandfather’s hand as he took his last breath in this world. I’ve been accused of apathy. I’ve been accused of being cold-blooded. I’ve been told that I act as if nothing phases me and I’ve been faulted for the fact that I am desensitized to the ills and tragedies of the world. The truth is that I am far from these accusations. When I am moved, I am moved unconditionally, and when I hurt, sometimes it is so deep it paralyzes my physical body.

I know it may sound asinine to those who are too young, or too “cool” or live their lives with a venomous, cynical outlook on the world and humanity; but I remember watching Randy Savage and Elizabeth embrace at WrestleMania VII – six years worth of emotional investment between these two characters who went through the wringer just like any human couple who are in love and either deny their vices or are too stubborn for their own good. Randy Savage (characteristically) just wanted to be the best in the world at what he did: he didn’t want the praise from the commentators, or the cheers of the fans – he just wanted what any sane human being wants in their lives: acceptance and recognition for his talent. He clawed to the top of the mountain, yet it seemed empty. He was always in the shadow of something bigger. It seemed as if he was Salieri and Hogan (or even Elizabeth) was Mozart. When he lost that Career Match against The Ultimate Warrior, he lost EVERYTHING at that moment. The fans cheered wildly as The Warrior planted one foot on his chest, arms outstretched in victory. His career was over. He could no longer apply his God-given talent for the world to see. At the very worst, the one person who supported him at this stage in his career literally kicked him when he was down. Savage was a tool, a ploy…used to simply enhance her own selfish career.

I’m not one to make bold suggestions to how anyone should choose to live their lives, nor attempt to follow in my footsteps because it is impossible – but I will make this one plea: if you ever – EVER doubt your fandom for this form of entertainment; if you ever feel that professional wrestling has become too juvenile, too base, too fake, too political, too cynical, too…anything that gives you a negative stigma in regards to how you envision your own sense of fandom towards professional wrestling – take the time to observe this match. Listen to the ridiculously hot crowd in Los Angeles, observe the smallest nuances that each performer brought with them (The Warrior walking to the ring), notice the foreshadowing and the actual realism used for Bobby Heenan making sure that a camera was placed on Elizabeth – listen to how the commentators eventually warm up to Savage as the match progresses as he digs deep in his determination to not only win the match, but save his only means and avenue of self-expression. Just allow the match to wash itself over you – don’t try to examine the in-ring action based on the tired ***** scale, don’t attempt to search out background information on this match, or “booking” possibilities. Just watch it, simply, as an impartial observer and attempt to understand the emotion of those who followed these performers over the years.

As Randy Savage stood there, battered, beaten and broken – confused, yet compelled to do something as the love of his life stood in front of him, it was the simplest idea that struck a chord with the live audience: “You lost the match, you lost your career – but you never lost ME. I’ve always been there. Even at your lowest point, even right now, when you don’t know what you’re going to do, I’m still here.” At that point, Savage didn’t even hesitate. He knew what he had to do…

…Then they embrace. Only nine times in my life as a fan of professional wrestling fan, had I ever felt whatever it is that one feels that convinces them that there is something more – a little deeper – to professional wrestling than just “oiled muscle-bound men who grapple in a pre-determined, scripted ‘sport'”. As cynical and smarky as we all can be around here, for as much as we may argue with others over which promotion is more superior, which performer deserves to be at the top of the mountain, the flaws in booking, the backstage drama and politics, the needless death and physical toll wrestling’s shadow hangs over these performers, the drug use, the self-destructive habits, the misogynist attitude of promotions AND fans and self-serving nature of the industry – there are – there HAS to be – moments in which we all understand and confirm to ourselves:

“THIS is why I love professional wrestling. This is why I’ve caught myself mimicking the poses and gestures of my favorite wrestlers. This is why I’ve ripped off the catchphrases and integrated them into my personal language. This is why I am deeply disturbed when a performer dies young or involves themselves in a deplorable action. This is why we argue with each other over storylines. This is why…Because somewhere, underneath all that filth and fury, this form of entertainment on its absolute best day, can give me a high that no drug or no drink can match.”

See you next week!

Questions or comments? Completely disagreed with any of my picks? Are you in love with me? Leave comments below or email me at [email protected]!!!

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Len Archibald
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