Wrestling Notepad

A few random thoughts as I catch up on some shows I’m behind on. I’m trying to get back into the habit of leaving a Notepad file open and writing down whatever pops into my head in it the way I’d gotten sucked into doing on Twitter and then putting it up here when it feels like I’ve said enough. It’s been pretty enjoyable treating Twitter as if it hardly exists, by the way. I encourage you all to give it a go if you find yourself annoyed by the people on and/or the companies that run social media.

I don’t have much to say about the so-called WWE shakeup yet. My gut reaction is that going back to the same well you’ve been drinking from for two decades and putting more McMahons on TV isn’t the answer, but I’m willing to wait and see. If things get more exciting, more logical and start feeling fresher, it doesn’t really matter to me how we get there. And that’s going to be hard to judge until we get back to live shows, start building towards the Rumble and Mania and then see what happens beyond that point when things traditionally start slowing down some. For now the shows have been largely enjoyable, so I’ll take it.

Speaking of getting back to live shows, watching Christmas Eve and Christmas Day is reminding me how much I appreciate them. The fake crowd noise on everything WWE tapes in advance is fucking egregious. Impact has been guilty of this lately too, especially during some of the backstage interview segments. The noise of the crowd for any segment should not sound three times larger than the crowd that’s actually in your building. Everyone please stop. You’re not fooling anyone.

New Daniel Bryan is the best, but if he’s a completely new man and the old Daniel Bryan is dead, why is he still using the same music?

Nice that they put the US title on Rusev, but why they didn’t do something with him months and months ago when he was up there with the most popular acts in the company by crowd response I don’t know. I hope they’re not too late to truly capitalize on it.

Unless end of year awards mean a lot to you or you enjoy watching recaps, you only need to bother with about the last 12 minutes of January 2nd’s two hour NXT. Seriously, if it’s a best of show, just say so. If this were the old days and I was forced to stick around that long for one original thing I’d be pissed. At least Matt Riddle Vs. Kassius Ohno was an enjoyable original thing, and one that has me intrigued since it looks based on the post match stuff like the feud will continue. Not sure how that’s exactly going to work come match time since Ohno was knocked out in six seconds in the first one and tapped out in the second, but NXT generally has a plan so I’ll go with it.

I know a lot of people really don’t like Josh Mathews, but he’s not that bad. Give him a decent partner and a good product to call and he’s perfectly fine. He’s no Jim Ross, but who is?

On the subject of things people really don’t seem to like, this undead realm storyline with Allie and Su Yung. Is it kind of silly? Yes. Does it make wrestling look like a cartoon? Yes. But you can say the same things about the Undertaker, and he’s only one of the most successful and beloved wrestling characters of all time. This stuff isn’t always my cup of tea either, but everyone involved is playing their parts well, it gets Jim Mitchell back on TV (how that guy hasn’t been steadily employed in wrestling is a mystery to me), and you can’t fault Impact or really anyone else for trying something different. That’s the beauty of wrestling. It can be just about anything you want it to be. On the creative end you can experiment, and on the fan end if you don’t like one thing, there’s always a next thing. And before anyone says anything, there’s a big difference between not liking a logical story because it’s just not your jam and tearing apart an illogical one because it’s nonsensical.

Matt Sydal is one of my favourite wrestlers to watch. He’s maybe not as complete an all around package as a Daniel Bryan or an A.J. Styles, but his name on a card pretty well guarantees at least a good match no matter whose it’s next to. Impact is lucky to have him, especially now with such a range of proven stars and guys nobody really knows coming in and out. You could do a lot worse than having a guy around who can work with pretty well anybody.

At first I thought Braun Strowman was a dumb sounding name for a pro wrestler, but I think I’m mostly ok with it now. Dolph Ziggler, on the other hand, still sounds goofy as hell after all these years.

Credit where it’s due to WWE. Their matches are often so patterned that when Drew McIntyre was spending what seemed like four to six months beating on and jawing at Dolph during the cage match, I was sure Dolph was winning because Drew would slip on a banana peel or get distracted by songs. Nope. Poor Dolph. Always such a geek. Speaking of which, I’m sure the idea was that we’d be impressed when Dolph wouldn’t stay down after the match, but because of how we’ve been taught to view him, he came off like a dumbshit that didn’t know when to leave well enough alone and got his ass kicked twice more for it.

I didn’t expect Apollo Crews to win the IC title, but I hope that the last few weeks of featuring him more aren’t a blip and that they do decide to do something with him. I don’t know what his ceiling is, but it’s definitely higher than random punching bag that does a few cool moves.

Ember Moon. Cool name, cool gimmick, cool music. But Shenom? What is that? I get the wordplay, but seriously, what is that? Rhetorical question, obviously. Clearly it’s yet another WWE attempt at branding gone awry.

I’m not up on my WWE merch, but are the New Day actually selling these fucking pancakes or are they just annoying me with them for no reason? I have not understood one second of this.

How is it fair that Samoa Joe and Jeff Hardy have to wrestle a match to get into a 5-way later on in the same night but none of the other guys in it have matches beforehand? It’s especially weird since Joe won the match, so now the heel is the one trying to overcome the odds.

Who’d have thought that after all these years somebody would finally get the better of John Cena in a promo battle and that that person would be Becky Lynch? That was great.

Not sure why after that they ended up being partners in a mixed tag, but hey, it was fun enough for a phoned in New Year’s show, I suppose.

For the record, Joe did not overcome the odds. Styles won, which means we’re getting him and Bryan for the belt again. That’ll work.

A Miserable Day For Childhood Steve

2019 seems to be getting off to a rather 2016-like start on the celebrity death front.

Mean Gene Okerlund and Super Dave Osborne both died today. Both were 76 and awesome in their own ways.

Mean Gene is the best wrestling interviewer I’ve ever seen. He had a way of making bad promos decent and good ones better that we could really use in wrestling today. Even in the era of big personalities that he worked in, he always seemed to know how to react and stand out just right and just enough to be useful and memorable. He could also be pretty subtly funny for a guy whose job it was to be a straight man. I feel bad for all the kids today cutting promos to themselves and their friends. They don’t have an easy starting point like “Well ya know somethin’ Mean Gene!” to fall back on the way we did.

Also, have this video of him interviewing The Crusher, because it’s hilarious. Wrestling today needs more Crushers and more Mean Genes.

Speaking of hilarious, even though it was kind of a one note joke, I can’t think of too many times when Super Dave Osborne didn’t make me laugh. Everything from “Saskatchewan seal skin bindings” to him cursing out Mike Walden and the assistants after he’d been maimed always brings back happy family memories for me.

That last one isn’t great quality, but I’m glad I found it because it used to be my sister’s favourite when she was little. I’m pretty sure somewhere my mom still has an old VHS tape of her dancing along to it on TV.

Some Of The Best And Worst Of Wrestling In 2018

There was a lot of good in wrestling this year. Impact has gotten much better, to the point that I actually look forward to it most weeks. 205 Live isn’t dirt useless anymore. NXT is still busy being NXT, which you’ll never hear me complaining about. There’s a British NXT now which looks pretty good, although I haven’t yet figured out how to cram even more wrestling into my life so I haven’t been watching it consistently. Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega had one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. New Japan in General has been impossibly great, and so many of the shows now have English commentary that a huge barrier to entry for a lot of people basically no longer exists. Ronda Rousey has no right to be as good at wrestling as she is so quickly. WWE did an all women’s show and didn’t mess it up. Becky Lynch is awesome and I hope they don’t mess her up. Daniel Bryan is back. All In happened and could end up changing the landscape of the entire business in ways we don’t fully understand yet. I could go on, but that’s not why we’re here.

Why are we here? To be negative!

WrestleCrap’s annual Look Back In Horror is out, counting down 50 of the worst things about wrestling in 2018. On the surface it seems like finding 50 bad things about current wrestling should be pretty easy, a task you could take on without a whole lot of research. But as I sit here reading this thing over it strikes me again just how much product there is now and how little of it stays in my memory. So good on Justin Henry here, who says that the hardest part was narrowing it down because so much came immediately to mind.

Anyway, let’s look at a couple of these.

46. Dolph Ziggler just shows up in the Rumble
The last year-plus of Ziggler’s WWE run has been bizarre, to say the least. First, he spends an inordinate amount of time ripping off the entrances of legendary figures. Then he vacates the US Title before walking out of SmackDown in late in 2017, saying the fans didn’t deserve him. Then…he just shows up as #30 in the Rumble match, no explanation. Okie doke.

And did he win the Rumble? Of course not. He was a complete non-factor, meaning we wasted months or at least what felt like months on this story that could have possibly been interesting. Like what if he kept winning belts and then laying them down to make his point that he’s the best around but isn’t appreciated? I’m sure you could do something with that. but instead he went back to just being a guy. They changed him up later in the year when he went on that run with Drew McIntyre, but I just can’t care about the poor guy anymore.

45. Survivor Series presents: the new math
Apparently, Raw was supposed to squash “inferior” SmackDown on Survivor Series night, recording a clean sweep in their head-to-head match-ups. Guess nobody clued in the agent and/or participants of the pre-show 20-man fracas, as SmackDown won there to ostensibly go up 1-0, only for that result to be strangely ignored. The angle that was to come of it (Shane turning heel) was also dropped.

Fuck this. Fuck this to hell. This stupidity should have made the top 10 easy. Smackdown wins, then later when Cole on commentary tries to say after a Raw win that they’re shutting out the Smackdown side and Graves corrects him, it’s explained that it was on the Kickoff show so it doesn’t count. What the shit? Way to make sure that nobody ever bothers with a Kickoff show again, guys. Those things are already enough of a chore to get through if you’re not like me who watches after the fact so I have the benefit of fast forward, and now you’re telling us there’s no reason to? I know they won’t do it, but I’m dying for them to book a title change on a preshow only for the former champ to come out and protest that he’s still the rightful title holder because of the Survivor Series preshow tag match precedent. And by the way, if you’re inclined to argue that I’m wrong when I say that the writing process is unnecessarily difficult, things like these are why I’m right. You don’t screw up something this obvious without their either being too many people involved or spending too much time on unimportant things like making sure all of the robot interviewers are programmed to say “please welcome my guest at this time” with just the right degree of woodenness.

42. The ending to Reigns vs. Strowman, Hell in a Cell
Braun’s Money in the Bank cash-in concluded in a way that was unsatisfactory for all, as Brock Lesnar stormed the Galoob WCW steel cage, broke in, and annihilated both Braun and Reigns with F5’s. Doing a non-finish in a match that’s supposed to be a theoretical fight to the death didn’t exactly sit well with the San Antonio crowd.

Another one that should have been higher. They’ve been slowly killing one of their best stipulations for years, forcing feuds into the cell just because it’s October and there happens to be a PPV named after it coming up, but this was it for me. I don’t care if I never see another HIAC match as long as I live after that garbage. And it didn’t help that the two most unstoppable forces in the entire company just laid around doing nothing for what felt like half an hour while all the silliness was going on outside.

30. The Manhattan Center portion of Raw 25
It was cool that WWE decided to run The Manhattan Center, birthplace of Raw, for the show’s 25th anniversary special (complete with ICOPRO banner!). What was less cool was the galling lack of activity in the building, which fans in attendance (some of whom dropped three figures on tickets) loudly noted. When Jim Ross has to fend off claims that he fell asleep, that tells you a lot.

I feel awful for those people, but that entire show was no good. I remember literally one good segment and it was Stone Cold and the McMahons right at the start. Everything else was just some matches we’d see anyway, a lot of talking that we’d see anyway and a bunch of segments where it was just like oh hey, look at these old guys for a second.

13. Lio Rush – mic’ed up version
It pains me to put a gifted CZW alum this high on the list, but to paraphrase Snitsky, it’s not his fault. When Rush was paired with Bobby Lashley as his pesky, chattery mouthpiece, it added something to the overall presentation, because Rush makes for an effective and confident loudmouth. But when his mic’ed-up verbiage was actively detracting from Lashley’s matches, it about sunk the gravy boat early in the voyage. Less is more.

Everything they’ve done with Lashley since he’s come back is complete nonsense. Why not let him throw dudes around, be strong and have good matches? He can do all of those things. He can even talk for himself. He doesn’t need the annoying mouthpiece, and he sure as hell didn’t need whatever that stuff was with his sisters.

Yes, they made the list too.

He’s been used so badly since his return it kind of feels like they’re still mad at him for something from the old days.

Braun Strowman became one of WWE’s absolute premier acts – a remorseless monster with punishing offense, tremendous presence, and an obvious sense of humor. Through strong booking, fans grew to love Strowman and his visually-pleasing mayhem, appreciating him far more than they did Roman Reigns, whose sustained push staggered onward. When Reigns regained the Universal belt, Strowman was hastily turned heel to feud with him, an arrangement that (surprise) didn’t take.

It didn’t help that it didn’t feel like a heel turn so much as a response to babyface Roman having his Shield buddies back to help him beat up anyone who posed a threat to the belt. If three guys kept kicking the shit out of you and making it damn near impossible for you to advance in your career, what would you do? Braun finding a couple of guys to back him up isn’t evil, it’s smart.

4. Drake Maverick: Author of Piss
When WWE strikes gold with some sort of moment or gag, they’re very quick to repeat it over the ensuing weeks, milking it into oblivion. They even do the same thing for bits that fall flat, like when Drake Maverick peed himself in Big Show’s clutches at Survivor Series. In a staggeringly-dumb bit, Maverick stole Bobby Roode’s robe, stuffed it into the commode, then peed on it, while Roode suffered from astonishment paralysis.

This one I’d just be able to write off as WWE doing WWE things if Drake Maverick wasn’t who he was. Yes, let’s take the no nonsense general manager of 205 Live, a brand that needs all the help and credibility it can get, and make him into a cowardly, pants pissing heel. Better yet, we’ll make him a part-time cowardly, pants pissing heel. How are you supposed to take a guy seriously on Tuesday when you saw him be anything but with your own eyes 24 hours earlier?

I’m sure there’ll be another list next year, but here’s hoping for more good than bad in 2019.

Nothing In Your Life Should Be As Complicated As WWE’s Writing Process

I remember once saying to somebody during a wrestling conversation that part of the problem with WWE is that they seem to overthink so much that they end up underthinking. So much effort is put into making sure that everyone talks and acts the same and that everything sticks to the same patterns visually and sequentially that not enough thought is given to important details like does the final product actually make any damn sense if our audience has a memory longer than about an hour. I’ve stood by that opinion for years, and I think my belief in it may have just been strengthened after reading these quotes from an interview with Jimmy Jacobs about his time writing there.

One of the things you learn is that the devil is in the details. You are tasked with coming up with things that are detailed, you’re doing everything month-by-month, episode-by-episode, hour-by-hour, segment-by-segment, all the way down to word-by-word. There’s no, “How about we do something like that?” You can’t do that. You have to come up with answers while you’re there.”

On the size of WWE’s writing team: “It’s roughly about 25 people. My first day in the job, I was in the room for about an hour until I realized that, hey man, these people are really smart. They’re very talented in their own ways. The way it’s split up, there are two teams. There is the home team, which stays in Stamford, Connecticut, and work in the office all week, and the road team that goes to RAW, SmackDown, and produces the TV on the road. The road team is also in the office a day or two during the week.”
On his specific role: “By the end I was a senior writer, not a lead writer. That meant I was tasked with some of the higher level stories, writing and producing them on the show. When I left, the last stories I was doing was the John Cena and Roman Reigns stuff on RAW, and on SmackDown it was the Kevin Owens and Shane McMahon stuff. Dave manages the team, then RAW has a home lead writer and a road lead writer. Then SmackDown has a home lead writer and a road lead writer. They are tasked with putting the pieces together and what the show is going to be. Underneath, you’re tasked with coming up with what those pieces are. I would produce the TV.”
On the writing process during the show: “So, let’s say it was a Roman Reigns-John Cena promo, now somebody will have written (be it me or someone else) a version of what that could be like, and then I take that promo and based off any notes that Vince would have, I’d go to the talent. John knows what he wants, and he has a lot of freedom since Vince trusts him. I ask them what they want to do, and maybe they want something completely different…but we would sit down and crack something out. We’d come up with a new version of the promo, I’d take it to Vince, and he would either give the okay or give us a few changes. Then I go back to talent, and then make sure the guys know what production they need.”

On writers’ weekly schedule: “It’s a seven day a week job. So, while the road team is at RAW, the home team is back at Stamford, and they’re helping out with rewrites on Monday & Tuesday, but by Wednesday the home team will have an idea of what they want to pitch to Vince. They’ll have a meeting with Vince and then he’ll give us feedback. Sometimes he’ll want to change a lot, sometimes it’s a little. Then on Thursday, the lead writers are putting together the pieces of what RAW is going to look at. Then Friday to Saturday we are putting pen to paper, and writing the promos. By Saturday evening, all the writers will send in the promos, and then by Sunday the lead writers will put it all together into a proper script. They’ll send that to Vince, and then by Monday then there’s the production meeting for RAW by 1pm. We go through the plan, and then all the writers and agents will give their feedback. Based off those suggestions, Vince will make changes, and then as a writer on the road, I’ll implement those changes. We compile those changes and put it in a new version of the script. Then I tell talent what they’re doing.”
On writing for Vince McMahon: “The Vince factor is a huge part of writing RAW and SmackDown. Even if you took Vince out of the equation, it’s an extremely difficult task to come up with new ideas, concepts and new matches for 3 hours each week. But yeah, it’s difficult writing for Vince. The prevailing goal is ‘Is Vince going to like this?’ So, [you’re writing things going] ‘Will Vince gonna yell about this?’ It’s hard to know what he wants because things will change, and he’ll want changes. He’s certainly a unique character and some people like to blame Vince for all the bad stuff, I don’t know if that’s true or not. Certainly, I’ll give the devil his due: if you blame him for the bad stuff then you have to blame him for the good stuff. ”

On the difference between two and three hour shows: “I work on IMPACT now and just finished up a creative meeting an hour ago, and it’s difficult to write a two hour show. However, a three hour show is significantly harder. When you ask yourself, ‘Why did they do this?’ The reason is that we have to do something, we have three hours to fill. So, you wind up giving some matches away. It’s a lot. You are given a blank sheet of paper, you have a roster, and you’re tasked with coming up with 16 segments. So, you’re thinking ‘What matches haven’t been done? What stories haven’t been told?’ Over the past 20 years, nearly everything has been done. When I was growing up there would be one hour of Superstars. It was all job matches, and then the main event would be Koko B. Ware versus Rick ‘The Model’ Martel, and that had enough value to be a main event. But in the world of supply and demand, a three hour show is too much supply and not enough demand. There’s no scarcity of marquee matches. They just had their lowest ratings of all time with a TLC match starring their biggest babyface in Seth Rollins, the Intercontinental Champion, against one of the mainly featured heels. And nobody watched it! So, it makes you wonder, what can you do? Even if you pulled out all the stops, what ammo do you have left in your gun that you haven’t done already. It’s difficult.”

On whether there are too many writers in WWE: “No, absolutely not. 25 writers is not too many. Do you feel like sometimes there are too many cooks in the kitchen the day of RAW when you’re making changes at the eleventh hour? Sure, you’ll feel like ‘Why didn’t you say something about this three days ago?’ But there’s so much detail…and it’s way heavier to produce. Doing one segment there is a very time consuming thing, and you’re responsible for everything during that segment. If something goes wrong it is on your head. The writers aren’t the shot callers, they’re the idea givers. There aren’t too many guys up top with the final say.”

Far be it for me to disagree with a guy who worked there, but yes, 25 writers is too many writers for a wrestling show. I know things are different now, but historically, a lot of the most memorable things in the history of wrestling were thought up by small groups of people. If the process wasn’t so bogged down with making sure “WWE universe” appears an exact number of times in each segment, there would be no need for home teams and road teams and rewrites and revisions and drafts and all of this other nonsense. Can you go back to nothing but squash matches up and down the shows every week? Probably not. But you can trust your talent to tell your stories in their own ways without scripting their every word and movement. If you can’t, you’re either hiring the wrong people, teaching the right ones incorrectly or there’s something the matter with you and you need to take a good long look at the way the micromanaging part of your brain operates. If you spend less time on the things that don’t matter, it frees you up to focus on the things that do, like making sure the thing I just saw doesn’t directly contradict the thing I saw right before it.

None of this is to say that creating and producing as much content as WWE does each week isn’t hard. It is. But you won’t ever convince me that the way they’re going about it isn’t needlessly complex. This is wrestling. It’s pretty simple when you strip it down to the basics. And the basics, for the most part anyway, are all most people want. Give a wrestling fan a few nice, easy stories to follow and some good action to match and he’s going to be pretty happy.

TLC Randomness

I’m going to resist the urge to tweet about this show and use this here text file instead. Let’s see what I end up with.

Why was the Cruiserweight title match on the preshow instead of the Mixed Match Challenge finals? I know the MMC match technically has Royal Rumble implications, but let’s be serious. No disrespect intended, but none of these geeks has to worry about winning anything. I am looking forward to watching Truth and Carmella’s vacation to WWE headquarters though, because Truth is usually amusing.

Speaking of the preshow, I like Elias and I like Lashley, but if I’ve seen a more boring ladder match in my life I’ve forgotten it.

Pleasantly surprised to see the Bar keep the tag titles. I had the Usos taking it. At least we didn’t go down the New Day road again. New Day is great and all, but we’ve been there and done that. There’s still some mileage left in the Bar, all they need are some fresh teams to work with.

Maybe it’s just me getting old, but why does the Braun Strowman character have Twitter? His job is to destroy dudes and smash things. I want my monsters to be monsters, not dorks on a phone.

Credit to WWE for making something logical out of the TLC match. All those guys getting revenge on Corbin makes sense, and it was nice to see babyfaces outsmarting heels and getting the upper hand for once. I’m still a little worried though. I didn’t hear a bell ring to start the match, only one to end it. I fear this might be the time WWE actually pays attention to small details so the result doesn’t stand. God, please don’t do that.

Now that Corbin is out of the General Manager job, what happens to it? They say Vince McMahon is coming to Raw to “shake things up,” so I’m sure that’s where it gets figured out. This would be a perfect time to move on from the whole concept of GMs and commissioners and presidents since we’ve been doing the same thing with that story for a good 20 years, but I doubt that’s going to happen.

Really not feeling the Ruby/Nattie/dead Jim the Anvil storyline. Not because it’s offensive, but because I just can’t emotionally invest in it. It doesn’t feel real, much like the Samoa Joe harassing A.J. Styles’ family thing didn’t feel real. At least that one gave us Joe’s bedtime story so it wasn’t a total loss, but this one, while the death part is as real as it gets, just…meh.

Watching the match I was worried a couple of times that Nattie was going through the table, but thankfully Ruby Riott isn’t Triple H, so I guess there wasn’t the need to bury someone for an entire feud and then have that person lose in the end.

Can we please stop having chairs matches? They’re dumb. I get a ladder match. You’re fighting to climb up and retrieve something important. I get a tables match. You win by putting someone through a table. I even get a TLC match. It’s either a ladder match with more stuff or a no DQ match with the potential for more default carnage. But what is a chairs match? It’s like every other show where somebody gets hit with a chair, there are just more of them. Whoopty shit. But if just once somebody gets disqualified for using a ladder or a table, I would at least have a reason to remember one for something positive.

Randy Orton is incredible. It’s not just anyone who can have a boring match with Rey Mysterio. I’d blame the chairs, but he’s got a long history of having boring ass matches. He’s like the Ric Flair of carrying guys to boring ass matches. He falls into the category of good wrestlers that I usually don’t enjoy watching.

And then there’s Ronda Rousey. She’s something else. People go entire careers without getting as good as she’s gotten in a year or less. She has a presence that makes you pay attention because if you look away for too long, shit’s going to go down and you’re going to miss it.

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but A.J. Styles and Daniel Bryan had a very enjoyable wrestling match.

By the way, Daniel Bryan has to be in a pretty good spot on the list of best ever. He was one of the best pure wrestlers in the world years before he got to WWE. When he finally got there, everybody was concerned about how he would adjust to the way WWE does things, particularly all the damn talking. But he became arguably the best in the company at that too. He’s not perfect because nobody can be perfect when forced to recite some of that god awful WWE dialogue, but he’s one of the few who has usually been able to seem more honest than not. If you want to argue for someone else that’s fine, but Bryan is so good that in spite of being so beloved and in spite of his real life struggle to get back in the ring when nobody thought he ever would, he’s actually gotten people to boo him again. And what’s more, it only took him a couple of weeks.

Who put this Rollins Ambrose match together, Randy Orton? Holy hell. Whoever it was, has he ever seen what two people who are angry at each other looks like?

Lol, the fans seem to agree with me. I just heard a “this is boring” chant. No small feat considering how into both these guys the fans usually are.

Seriously, is one of them hurt? Why else would they purposely be having a match this dull?

Well, at least we got a clean finish. When they went outside near the end I was waiting for a double count out. That would have been such a WWE thing to do.

The right man won, even if it means we get to sit through a rematch. Hopefully everyone has learned a lesson and the next one will be better.

I’m starting to wonder if maybe David Otunga might be a slightly better third wheel announcer than Byron Saxton. Low bar, I know. Maybe it’s just that he’s been spending most of his time staying out of the way.

Enjoyed the hell out of the main event, interference and all. I had Becky pegged to win since she’s been so mega popular and twice as awesome the last few months plus I’m not a fan of frequent title changes, but looking back it should have been obvious that wouldn’t happen. The direction is clearly something involving Ronda, Charlotte and Becky, and that story doesn’t need belts to work. Asuka is the one who can benefit most from a run right now, so hopefully she gets to go on a good one.

So Long To The Dynamite Kid

John Pollock of PostWrestling.com has done a very good story about the life of the Dynamite Kid. It’s hard to write about a life and career like his since Tom Billington was equal parts one of the most influential wrestlers of all time and complete fucking prick, but I think this is about as good a summary as a person could do without straying too far in one direction and downplaying the other.

The life of Tom Billington has ended. With 60 years to unpack, his story was one that was as punishing and brutal as the style he performed that left audiences in amazement while simultaneously accelerating his deterioration.
When the crowd disappeared, the money dried up, and the bill arrived for the price he put his body through, Billington was a broken down man, confined to a wheelchair before his 40th birthday. He found his passion and calling in professional wrestling, carving out a legacy that is both complex and disputed depending on the person you speak with.
Bret Hart once compared Billington to baseball legend Ty Cobb, a miserable and reprehensible human being who was also one of the great baseball players of all-time.
In his 1999 “Pure Dynamite” biography that he worked on with journalist Alison Coleman, Billington presented a dark and disturbing tale of his life with no stone left unturned and a refusal to sanitize the path he left behind. It was brutally honest. What set the book apart was its ability to force its readers into a state of discomfort, forcing them to sort out Billington’s legacy and complicated story.

For every classic match and death-defying maneuver Billington put forward, there were equal stories of torturous ribbing, bullying, maniacal pranks designed to cause harm over laughter, and constant tales of drug abuse and domestic violence.

There are also quite a few match and highlight videos throughout, in case you’ve never seen his work or would still like to relive it. The Life and Death of Tom “Dynamite Kid” Billington, dead at age 60

The Sound Of Music

Why does nothing ever happen when somebody’s music starts playing in the middle of a wrestling match? I know they’ve been doing it forever especially in WWE, but it’s never made any sense. Shouldn’t it result in the opponent of the person being distracted getting disqualified? Why hasn’t the production guy who keeps doing it been fired? Or if he has, why have none of his replacements learned from his mistake? How big of a geek do you have to be to still be getting distracted by music, anyway? This has been going on for like 20 years and it happens at least once or twice on every show. I’m sure if you were in the ring the first, second or hell, even tenth or fifteenth time it happened it would have been a little unnerving, but at this point if you have no idea it’s coming, that’s your problem and you deserve to get rolled up and pinned while you stand there staring at the ramp as if you’re watching a completely unique situation unfold before your eyes, you incompetent buffoon. Seriously, have you never watched a show? Pay the fuck attention, dude! And since nobody can seem to come down to the ring unless their music plays, does that explain why none of the babyfaces ever run out to save their friends from a beating? Or do none of the babyfaces like each other anymore? Actually never mind, that’s probably it. The babyfaces in WWE do tend to act like bigger dicks than most of the heels, who seem to generally be a pretty friendly bunch. That part is at least logical, it’s just backwards. But this music thing, can we stop it now? It was kind of cool once in a while when Stone Cold would do it, but A: the key words there are once in a while, B: nobody in the present day is going to be mistaken for Stone Cold Steve Austin and C: I’m pretty sure the last time Stone Cold wrestled an actual match we were still a few months away from having a blog.

New! Day’s Wrong! New! Day’s Wrong!

Xavier Woods had a few unkind things to say about wrestling fans in a recent interview.

“When people talk about the difference between the organizations – not even organizations – between like NXT and the main roster. So when they say like, ‘Oh man, TakeOver killed it. SummerSlam, this is gonna suck.’” Woods said, “It’s on the same company. What is there to complain about?”
Xavier Woods talked about fans having TakeOver, a major WWE pay-per-view, RAW and SmackDown within the span of a few days and complaints are still made. Woods added that people who make those complaints come off as annoying because in reality the in-ring performers are going out and putting their bodies on the line for everyone’s entertainment.
“You just got an awesome wrestling show on Saturday night, you just had an awesome wrestling show on Sunday, then you’re gonna watch RAW on Monday, and SmackDown on Tuesday, then NXT,” said the New Day member. “What are you complaining about? And then like, you can watch New Japan. You can watch AAA. You can watch so much wrestling from all corners of the world, and it’s all awesome and it’s all good. It’s all different guys and girls portraying their form of art that they love – that they wanna give to you. So anytime anyone complains about wrestling it’s so annoying to me because people come off as these entitled infants,” Woods mentioned. “Because in reality, wrestling hurts so bad, and then we’re hurting ourselves to entertain the masses, and sometimes the masses wanna tell us how much it sucks,” he ended.

Right off the top, let me say that I’m sure that at least some of this is him being a good company man. It has to be, because surely a guy with a legit PHD is smarter than this. He’s towing the company line to a degree, but I’m still going to call it out because the company line is kind of silly.

I can’t speak for everyone, but when most reasonable fans complain about wrestling, we’re not arguing that it doesn’t hurt or that almost to a person everyone isn’t trying to give the best they have. Maybe we don’t like every match as much as we like every other match, but everything in life is like that. It takes a lot of work to act in a movie, but not every movie is as good as every other movie and it’s perfectly acceptable to say that.

The complaints, usually anyhow, are more about what the wrestlers are given to work with and not the workers themselves. Nobody goes into a show wanting it to suck, but sometimes it does suck, because sometimes the writing and presentation are terrible. As a recent example, I give you whatever the hell this is.

Suddenly and without explanation, one team is allowed to ignore every rule of tag team wrestling, up to and including the one about there only being two people on each team in each match. They’re effectively giving themselves a three on two advantage, making things up as they go along so that they can cheat at will and not possibly lose. And they’re supposed to be the good guys. Meanwhile, the referee, neutral enforcer of rules, as well as the commissioner and general manager of Raw, both bad people, seemingly have no problem with this. What? Who isn’t going to complain about that? It’s absolute nonsense! You’re expecting me to sit through a three hour show, see something like that and then say nothing? Um, no. That segment is garbage. It’s not garbage because any of the three members of Lucha House Party are garbage. Each one is immensely talented and I enjoy them all. But you know who might not be immensely talented? Whoever came up with it and decided to put it on air. And don’t tell me that it was explained later in a YouTube video or on social media. That doesn’t count. The first day you’re allowed to argue that it counts is the first day that all of your programming is first and foremost online instead of on television. But even then I’m still arguing that it doesn’t count, because I shouldn’t have to go to Google to sort out the finer points of your stupid ass storyline.

Were this an isolated incident, maybe people would overlook it the way they tend to overlook the rare misstep in NXT, but that’s not what this is. Things like this happen on Raw, Smackdown and the pay-per-views so routinely that it sometimes feels like we (the fans) are the ones being disrespected.

NXT, although it is technically WWE, is different. You need only watch a show or two to figure that out. The reason people like NXT is because it’s easy to watch. It’s never too long and it usually does its best not to insult the intelligence of the viewer. As a result, it’s built up enough good will that we trust it. If something doesn’t make sense now, it probably will eventually. We’re rewarded for paying attention, as opposed to WWE proper where we’re mocked and called “infants” if we dare do the same. It’s a lot easier to just shut up and enjoy something when that thing is actually, you know, enjoyable.

And that’s the main thing. Wrestling, generally speaking, is enjoyable to us. That’s why we watch it. We’ve seen it at its best, which is why we keep coming back even when it’s at its worst. And when it’s at it’s worst, we get frustrated and angry because we love it and we want it to be at its best again. I’m sure it gets hard sometimes to go online and read all about how bad something you were a part of was, and for sure there are going to be people saying all sorts of horrible, over the line things about what you suck and how much of it. But there’s a big difference between that and constructive criticism, and it’s not fair to paint it all with the same brush.

Welcome To Seppa-tebby-tebby

I’m not sure why I just opened this file and started writing. I don’t really have much to say, I don’t think. Mostly this is just an excuse to get the word Seppa-tebby-tebby up here somewhere. Seppa-tebby-tebby is September, at least according to my 2-year-old nephew who said it a couple months ago while I was visiting with my sister. I love the way it sounds and I’ve been saying it ever since to people who would understand it, so much so that it’s becoming hard not to use it in conversations with people who won’t. So yes, happy Seppa-tebby-tebby, assuming that Seppa-tebby-tebby is something for you to be happy about.

For me, it’s always been a bit of a bummer. Not a depressing, soul crushing type of bummer like some of the winter months, but a bit of a downer because it signals that the best time of the year is coming to an end. Summer has it’s faults (I’m looking squarely at you, humidex of death), but for my money it’s our best season. It’s hard to beat taking some time to slow down and relax, sit in the sun, swim, enjoy a pleasant evening, catch a baseball or football game or any of a million other fun things. If it could be 25 and sunny all year, I’d be fine with that. So this being the last long weekend of the happy season always makes me…well…slightly unhappy.

Speaking of which, am I the only one who, even though I’ve been out of school for the better part of two decades at this point, still feels a little twinge of sadness for all the poor kids that have to go back when Labour Day comes around? I don’t expect parents to answer that in the affirmative. I’m sure they’re thrilled. But for people like me who don’t have kids of their own, is that weird?

I’m not sure what we’re doing with our long weekend. There could potentially be some family stuff. There will almost certainly be laundry and a wee bit of housework, because there always is. And there will absolutely be us, outside, enjoying some ice cream and corn on the cob. Whatever we get up to, hopefully we’ll make the most of it. And hopefully you do too.

And since I haven’t plugged it in a while, maybe go give me a follow on Twitter if you do that sort of thing. Lately I’ve been making an effort to use it more, for some reason. It can be a truly awful place, but it’s also kinda fun. It’s also a good way to get in touch if you ever feel the need. It might take a bit longer to get an answer now that they’ve gone and broke their shit, but you will eventually get one. So why not come hang out with me? Come hang out with Carin too, while you’re at it. You might even get to be around for one of those historic moments when she actually says something.

Nope, didn’t have a whole lot to say here. I thought maybe I’d be able to get into the Jays shipping Donaldson and Granderson out for basically nothing yesterday, but meh. I’m disappointed to see both of them go, but yeah, meh. Granderson was never going to be around long-term but was having a reasonable year, and while one of the best players in the game like Donaldson should normally net you an absolutely enormous return, that’s not the guy we’re dealing with now. He’s hardly played this season due to injury and last year wasn’t so hot either, so it’s understandable that there might not be a lot coming back in a move. Both are worthwhile risks to take for a contending team, but as a Jays fan watching what looks like another fucking rebuild, I must say I’m underwhelmed.

Am I done now? I think so. I’ll talk to you all soon. Enjoy All In if you’re watching it. I plan on checking it out after the fact. I don’t know what it’s going to mean over the long haul, but it and Ring of Honor selling out Madison Square Garden are pretty big deals for non-WWE wrestling in North America. I’m excited and intrigued to see where this goes in a way that I haven’t been about much in wrestling for a very long time. WWE is still so far above anyone else in the world in terms of exposure and finances that it would be foolish to expect anyone to be playing WCW to them any time soon, but some competition on a fairly major level would damn sure be better than what we’ve had for the last 17 years.

Alright, now I’m really done. Enjoy your long weekend and I’ll talk to you in the soon times.

Some Little Kid Memories Of Nikolai Volkoff

There haven’t been as many So Long posts lately as there used to be, and that’s intentional. To be quite honest, I don’t particularly enjoy writing them. Some folks, even when you appreciate whatever it was they did, just don’t inspire a whole lot of words or draw out much in the way of specific memories or good stories. And judging from the statistics many of you seem to enjoy the reading end of them almost as much, so making the decision to cut back on them has been a pretty easy one. But there’s no way I’m not making an exception for Nikolai Volkoff.

I was not a Nikolai Volkoff fan back in the day, because I was a little kid, it was the 1980s and Russians were bad. The more things change, right? But you would never have known I wasn’t a Nikolai Volkoff fan given that one of my 6-year-old self’s favourite pastimes was sitting on the swings in my back yard, belting out the Russian national anthem Nikolai style at the top of my lungs.

Sadly, that video is not of me. As far as I know, unless Joe McCarthy has it, no video or audio exists of me doing this. But to this day my mom still jokes that it’s a wonder we’re still allowed in the country whenever somebody brings it up.

As much fun as I had with it though, that damn anthem almost scared me out of my first live wrestling experience. I can’t remember the date, but it was at the old London Gardens somewhere around late 1986 or early 1987. I was super excited about going, but in the back of my mind, there was a problem. What if Nikolai Volkoff was on the show, and what if he wanted us to please rise and respect his singing of the Russian national anthem? I knew from sports and school that you were always supposed to stand for an anthem as a sign of respect, but I also knew from the news and wrestling and just about everywhere else that Russians were bad. What if I stood up and the people near me got mad? Or even worse, what if I didn’t stand up and Nikolai caught me? Either way I was in trouble, and the last thing I wanted was to get in trouble. As the days went bye and the show got closer, more than once I thought about asking somebody what I should do or even faking an illness because although I’d miss out on something I was hugely looking forward to, it would be better than death by angry Sheik and Volkoff. But somehow I managed to keep my mouth shut and my fear in check, deciding that I’d do whatever everyone else did and if Nikolai didn’t like it, dad and our neighbour would protect me. Thankfully I didn’t have to test that theory, because Nikolai almost certainly would have destroyed both of them had he been on the show, which he wasn’t.

Man did I ever love that Wrestling Album. The way most kids are about watching the same movie over and over again, that was me with the Wrestling Album. Pretty sure I wore out a record and a tape listening to it alone, subjecting my family to it, wrestling with my friends while it was on in the background, using it for theme music while I played with my figures…that reminds me of one more story, actually.

I don’t remember what the occasion was, but somebody gave me Nikolai Volkoff and Iron Sheik thumb wrestlers as a gift one time.

I was pretty happy, but I couldn’t help but wonder out loud who they were supposed to wrestle. Somebody in the room gave what she thought would be the obvious answer, “each other.” So I had no choice but to explain to this obviously uneducated person that this wouldn’t be possible. There’s no way Sheik and Nikolai would wrestle each other, because they’re tag team partners. Luckily I got a Junkyard Dog one either that same day or not long after, so I was able to book handicap matches in living rooms and bedrooms all over the province. So if you’ve ever seen me go off about some stupid, illogical wrestling thing and wondered is this guy ok? The answer is yes. This attention to detail stuff is not new.

I don’t have a favourite Nikolai Volkoff match, but aside from Big John Studd lifting me way up in the air when I met him in a parking lot, he’s in a lot of my favourite earliest wrestling memories and I’m pretty sad that he’s gone.

Rest in peace, Nikolai. I promise I’ll stand for the anthem next time, even if Russians are bad.