wrestling / Columns

Smart Marks 12.28.13: It’s the End of the Year as We Know It

December 28, 2013 | Posted by Dino Zucconi

Yo yo yo yo yo, let me speak on this!!!

Welcome back to another edition of the Wrestling Hangout, Smart Marks. I’m Dino, and I love wrestling. Not too much to talk about as far as last week’s column. Shockingly enough, it appears that the weekend before Christmas isn’t the best time to hit up wrestling sites and comment on articles. It’s all good, and the lack of feedback last week makes it easier to just jump into the marks for this week!

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The Match of the Year

Hopefully this doesn’t get me into too much trouble with the Bosses, but I wanted to talk about my personal selection for Match of the Year. We here at 411 will be breaking down our picks for “___ of the year” as 2013 winds down, and while I did participate in some of them, I stayed away from items like Best Match, Best Show, and their Worst equivalents.

My reason for doing so is simple: I basically only watched WWE and TNA programming this year, getting into CMLL at some point in October. I’ve watched very little Ring of Honor, no NXT, and nothing from Japan. It just seems a bit arrogant to list my choices for “Best Match” when I’m very clearly picking “Best WWE/TNA Match”. On top of that, coming up with 5 matches can be quite the daunting task. However, if I know anything, it’s that Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk was the best match that I personally viewed this year.

Let me make this clear – though I have an absurd man crush on Brock and consider myself a surprisingly big fan of CM Punk, I had very little hope for this match when it was announced. It felt like a really thrown together feud, only happening because CM Punk had a problem with Paul Heyman, and nothing else. The encounters on RAW leading up to SummerSlam were uncomfortable, with Punk holding his own against Brock at nearly every turn. I’ve said it in this space before, but I’m a big believer in what I’ve called the Eye Test– that being, where you look at two guys who are supposed to wrestle, and just by looking at both, you can have a pretty good idea of who “should” win. Now, sure, in today’s MMA era, we’re a little bit more sophisticated, and realize that a good little man is still fully capable of beating a good big man. Still, it’s hard to completely ignore the Eye Test, and that was especially true for me as I saw skinny CM Punk assaulting Brock Lesnar.

Heading into SummerSlam, I knew (in my head) that John Cena and Daniel Bryan were going to deliver a great match. I also knew that Daniel Bryan would win and that Randy Orton would immediately cash in. I’m not patting myself on the back, I’m just saying what I knew. I also knew (again, in my head) that CM Punk and Brock Lesnar would give us a “passable” match that wouldn’t be horrible, but probably wouldn’t be that good, either. I was terrified of having to watch Punk attempt to make his offense look good against Brock. I worried that Brock would have to show way too much ass to make Punk look good, and coming out of the feud with Triple H, that was the absolute last thing Lesnar needed to do. Honestly, I just hoped the match wouldn’t be atrocious, and that CM Punk would not win.

Instead, we got this:

It was intense. It was violent. It was well-worked. CM Punk looked legitimate. Brock Lesnar looked like an unstoppable monster. Paul Heyman proved to be the genius he claims to be by ultimately causing Punk’s downfall.

Your mileage may vary- and in a year with plenty of great choices, I can absolutely see others getting the pick- but for my money, this is your 2013 Match of the Year. Thank you to Brock Lesnar and CM Punk for shutting me up over the course of nearly a half an hour.

What did YOU consider to be your Match of the Year? Let me know down in the comments!

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The Bully

Bully Ray’s current dark disposition has got me intrigued. Even with the elevator music. Which is dumb, in the same way that the Undertaker floating is dumb. Not that they’re equally dumb- just that they’re both dumb. Both TNA and WWE do dumb things. Yeah? Yeah.

Okay, okay, back to the point. Sorry, sometimes I just can’t help myself having a little fun with TNA. Anyways, as I was saying, the current direction of Bully Ray is a bit unexpected, and actually interesting to watch. Sure, I can’t help but make Elevator Music jokes, but I’ll make those jokes anytime a segment gets the silly background music. A “live” show using mood music like that always strikes me as silly. In fact, it’s the same level of silly as when entrance music plays for wrestlers who are making a surprise save or attack. If it’s a surprise, why in the hell is their music cued up and playing?!

Sorry, sorry… to the point.

Since losing the TNA Title to AJ Styles and watching the dissolution of his beloved Aces and Eights, Bully Ray has simply been an angry nomad. He showed up to the mock funeral of Aces and Eights and delivered a warning. He then attacked Ken Anderson violently, and delivered a stern warning of more to come. This past Impact, it was Brooke Tessmacher who got the Musical Accompaniment Speech. A backstage segment showed Brooke attempting to talk to Bully, who remained in his depressed trance. When he wouldn’t answer her at all, she told him she was going to go to the ring instead, and air the dirty laundry. A simple “That wouldn’t be a good idea” from Bully Ray let us know that Brooke was definitely going to be making a huge mistake.

Brooke then hit the ring after a commercial break, and basically repeated what she had said to Bully backstage. Bully came out, standing quietly while Brooke tore him down. Finally, Brooke decided she had had enough of Bully’s nonsense, and said she was done. As she went to leave, however, Bully grabbed her arm. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but for an older fan like me, seeing this call back to the days where Bully Ray (then Bubba Ray Dudley) wouldn’t hesitate to assault a woman (Mae Young, Trish Stratus, etc) actually got me… nervous? I don’t want to say nervous, because then someone will take it super literally and think I was actually afraid for Brooke’s personal safety. It was more of a “Is TNA actually going to do this??” type of nervousness. Instead, Bully basically told Brooke that he wouldn’t hurt her, but because she knew just how evil, sick, and sadistic he is, that he wanted her to let everyone else know that there’s big trouble on the horizon.

Like I said, this has hooked me like they wanted it to.

As someone who has followed this man since his days in ECW, this is a side that I haven’t really seen from him before. He’s always been tough. He’s always been mean. He’s always been crass. He’s always been violent. But he’s also always been brash and loud about it. A braggart, unafraid to say what he thinks, because he believes in his ability to back it all up. This is true whether he was stuttering with D-Von by his side, going solo against Triple H, calling out the little guys in TNA, as Calfzilla, and most recently as the leader of the Aces and Eights faction.

Now, though? That’s all gone. Bully Ray is a broken man, and the only thing fueling him is his desire for revenge. Not redemption, not another championship; just revenge. The question for me in all of this is simple: When will he be satisfied? He took out Ken Anderson for the time being, and he’s the one that caused the demise of the group in the first place. Is he going to go after AJ Styles for taking his belt? Sting for reforming the Main Event Mafia and starting this downfall? Is nobody safe? Is anyone on his side?

I like it. I don’t think it’s been done perfectly, and there’s absolutely aspects I can laugh at, but I absolutely like the direction of Bully Ray. Where it ends, nobody knows. One thing, however, is certain: the music will be eerie when Bully Ray talks. Okay, two things – eerie music, and Bully Ray delivering on the mic, like he always has. Whoever is his final target better be afraid. Kudos to TNA for taking him in a different direction, and kudos to Bully Ray for showing, as usual, that he can basically do anything that’s asked of him. What an underrated talent he’s been for his career. I love to see it all rewarded as he presumably nears the end of it all.

Like the current direction of Bully Ray? Hate it? Have an idea of where it’s leading? Speak on it down in the comments!

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El Técnico Más Odiado

Unfortunately, my CMLL experience this week was a bit truncated. I have two programs per week that I watch, one running for an hour, and the other for two. Well, the two hour program ended up being a repeat of one I had already seen, and I only got about halfway through the one hour program before other things popped up. However, the match I was able to watch pitted Rush, Atlantis, and Diamante Azul against Ultimo Guerrero and my two favorites, Tamatonga and CMLL Heavyweight Champion, El Terrible. What caught my attention was something I had somewhat noticed, but never really pieced together. Rush was announced as “el técnico más odiado” (the most hated good guy wrestler, for my non-Spanish speakers). Now, I had noticed in previous altercations with Negro Casas that Rush definitely gets some boos from the fans. I also noticed that he’d been winning matches with some dirty tactics (holding ropes during a pin, low blow to a pin, faking that he was hit with a low blow to cause a DQ), which caused his face partners to more or less ask him what the hell he’s doing. I had simply assumed he was one of those guys that simply did what was needed, popular or not.

But having the announcer basically say “Here’s the most hated good guy!” was something that really caught me off guard. My (admittedly limited) understanding of the lucha libre rules were that técnicos and rudos were very clearly defined, and that there was very little room for any gray area, somewhat similar to a New Generation WWF. I had also assumed that Rush turned up the dickish intensity with Negro Casas simply because they were in a feud, and it had a bit of the “Young Lion overthrowing Old Lion” feel to it. In that sense, all the chicanery from Rush made perfect sense to me- he wasn’t cheating just to be a dick, he was cheating to teach an older cheater that his time had passed him by.

This announcement, however, completely turned all of that on its head. A little research (which is difficult – I just can’t seem to find a good place to find CMLL historical notes like one could for WWE/TNA. Any help?) and I learned that Rush has actually been going by this “Técnico más odiado” handle since around the summer time, and that it’s basically been a long-teased rudo turn. However, he never turns. He still hates the rudos. He still teams with the técnicos, and he doesn’t even act like an asshole to his partners. This isn’t like a Steve Austin or even a Bad News Brown, where he just looks out for himself. He has friends. They’re all técnicos. And he fights for the right side- for the good side. Yet the fans continue to boo, he continues to act like an arrogant ass, and he continues to cheat.

Here’s the match, for those interested:

Anyone else hip to CMLL that can give me a little more background on the direction of Rush? I’d really appreciate whatever information you can add. My main point for bringing this up is that I really like this idea. It reminds me of when Sting and Lex Luger were teaming in late ’95 and early ’96, with Luger being a huge asshole to basically everyone, and even joining the Dungeon of Doom, all while still being friendly with Sting. Still, these aren’t exact comparisons, because Luger was more or less a heel, he just happened to be nice to his one friend that happened to be a face. Rush, on the other hand, still identifies as a face. And he seems to love that the fans hate him. But he still won’t outright turn on the others that the fans love, and in fact continues to fight the people that the fans hate. Is CMLL just way behind on pulling the trigger and they just accidentally created this amazing scenario? Or is this all by design?

I really don’t know, but I am hoping that whenever Rush finally snaps and decides to go full rudo, I hope that I’m there to see it all go down in its glory. Man, when can WWE or TNA attempt another Lucha purge? I want Rush, El Terrible, and Tamatonga on my US programming!! Of course, they’d have to get Tamatonga to leave New Japan, but I’m sure his Dad could make it happen.

What do you guys think of Rush staying a técnico while acting like a heel most of the time? You know where to let me know! And if you’ve got any additional CMLL information for me, don’t hesitate to hook me up with the knowledge!

That should do it for this week, and for the year 2013 as well. It’s been a fun 7 months, and I look forward to what 2014 will bring! Until then, enjoy your WWE, your TNA, your Lucha, your Puro, and your Indies.

It’s All Wrestling. It’s All Stupid. We All Love It

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Dino Zucconi

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