I got an interesting mail message last week. One of my readers asked me if watching wrestling was really as painful to me as I let on in this column. I sensed a bit of sarcasm in the tone of the letter but it is a damned good question nonetheless. I decided to take the time to answer it here because I am willing to bet at least a couple of other people are wondering the same thing.
Let me start by saying (as I have in the past) that I am a wrestling fan. I have been watching it for close to 25 years and have been attending live shows for 20 years.
I am a wrestling fan. I saw Jessie "The Body" Ventura take on Hulk Hogan at the Providence Civic Center, I was almost run over by Ricky Steamboat crossing a parking lot on the way into a show, and I was on hand when the Dingo Warrior made one of his first house show appearances for the WWF before he became ultimate.
I am a wrestling fan. I remember tuning in on Saturday morning to watch guys like Dino Bravo, Ivan Putski, Chief Jay Strongbow, Special Delivery Jones, the Wild Samoans, and God love him, Angelo Mosca.
I am a wrestling fan. I've cheered champions like Bruno Sammartino, Tito Santana, Pedro Morales, Bob Backlund, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, the Killer Bees, and Roddy Piper.
I am a wrestling fan. I cried when they played the video for the song "Heaven Needed a Champion" (which honored the late David Von Erich), I wiped a tear when Andre passed away, and I got filled up when Randy Savage and Elizabeth reunited in the ring.
I am a wrestling fan. I hated the Honkey Tonk Man, the Iron Sheik, and King King Bundy...and still do.
I am a wrestling fan. I sit down and I enjoy watching these men and women tell their stories in the ring. I like getting so involved in a match that I have to stand up and pace as I watch each nail biting moment, each near fall, each scary looking move.
I am a wrestling fan...and I am beginning to hate the WWF.
Why? The answer can be given in two words, "Sports Entertainment."
It seems the owners, bookers, and even some of the wrestlers have forgotten what it means to be part of a wrestling company. It's flash over substance now. We are given just enough ring time to see the boys give us their signature moves before there's a run-in or vignette to gum up the works. There's barely time for anyone to break a sweat, unless you count the fat ass concession guys selling giant foam middle fingers and overpriced t-shirts.
The lines have been blurred so much that before long, we will be at a point where nothing at all needs to happen in the ring. Wrestlers...er...Sports Entertainers will do everything on camera backstage while the crowd in the arena simply chants "What?" at the appropriate time.
Is there anyone in the world who is actually entertained by Stephanie McMahon's screeching backstage vignettes? In spite of her possessing anything even remotely close to acting talent, she appears again and again, injecting herself into any situation that will get her more camera time.
The WWF should just let the World Wildlife Fund have the anachronism "WWF" because, as a wrestling fan, I can tell you that what the World Wrestling Federation is producing is 1/10th wrestling at best and at worst, it's utter shit.
You can call it evolution if you want to. Hide behind the veil of progress if you will. It's a stunt show with a whole lot of bad acting and T&A linking high spots together.
Watching wrestling isn't painful to me, but watching Sports Entertainment most certainly is.
I am a wrestling fan and I really miss watching wrestling.
Have a nice day.
The Good, Bad, and Ugly for WWF RAW, Televised on March 11, 2002
GOOD: They are finally putting Hogan and Nash in the ring for a match. I am quite curious to see if these two guys really are in "the best shape of their lives."
BAD: I have an itchy feeling about the way that match is going to go down.
BAD: So RVD has fallen back down the card to the opening match. I guess it's better than following a "whipped cream bikini" match at 9:40 pm.
WORSE: They are teaming him with the Hardies. Now, normally, I'd be excited about this, since their offensive styles are quite similar, but the Hardies have grown so stale, that poor Rob is likely to get contact lameness by spending time in the ring with them.
BAD: Regal as the IC champion. His style is incompatible with every other wrestler on the active roster and he does his best work as a mouthpiece, so having him hold the second most prestigious singles title is kind of a waste of a lot of people's talents.
GOOD: I am thinking RVD will win the title at Wrestlemania.
UGLY: Jeff screwing up the spot where I suspect he was either supposed to land nuts first on the rope or go over top cleanly. He bounced off there and it looked like it hurt.
INTERESTING: A "We want tables." chant. I think they need to turn the Duds face again sometime soon.
UM: What was that little "running in place" thing that Jeff did before the Poetry in Motion? Is he channeling the spirit of The Godfather or something?
GOOD: A little clustery ending but it was well paced and the crowd got into seeing all the finishing moves performed.
BAD: Since Regal took the clean pinfall, that may not bode well for RVD at the PPV.
GOOD: It was a clean win. That's always cause for celebration.
GOOD: Regal's expression on his way back to the locker room. He is showing both hatred and selling his injury in one scrunched up face.
QUESTION: If this board meeting took place earlier, why do we get bits and pieces of it instead of the highlights all at once? And why does Vince keep saying "tonight" if it was filmed earlier today?
BAD: Vince blames the state of the company on Flair's presence. Do any of the board members WATCH the show? Didn't they see Vince a month ago when he was crazed saying that he was going to inject poison into his company to kill it? Where the fuck is the continuity here? This is absurd!
GOOD: It seems that the "What?" chants are a little weaker during Kurt's interview, at least at the start. Either the crowd is giving it up or the sound guys are trying to filter it out a little.
BAD: As the interview progresses, the chant gets louder. Sigh.
GOOD: Kurt whips out a new nickname for himself, "the big red, white, and blue machine." You gotta love Angle.
BAD: Angle versus Kane at Wrestlemania. How the mighty have fallen. Don't worry Kurt, the nWo's presence won't affect your spot in the company. Oh, and wrestling's real too.
EH? Booker turning face? Nah. That's too damn easy. This is obviously not for real.
YEP: He turns right back on the crowd. Perhaps they are trying a face turn on him to see how the fans react to it. He got a fairly decent pop. I really think that the fans really do want to cheer Booker...but that's just me.
WHAT A SHOCK: Edge comes out to set up a match at Wrestlemania. They're feuding, you know...over a Japanese shampoo commercial...yeap.
GOOD: They use "The Weakest Link" clips of Booker getting his questions wrong to help push the feud along. Admittedly, I find this obvious cross promotion fairly amusing. He was pretty stupid on that show, wasn't he?
GOOD: Angle's line, "Crisp and clean with no caffeine, bro." Angle is da bomb, yo.
FUNNY: Angle's pathetic attempt at a Spinaroonie.
FUNNIER: Booker's response to it.
HEH: Dorkaroonie? I would have called it the Sphincteroonie, myself, but eh.
BAD: As entertaining as this skit is, it's running a little long.
UGH: Stephanie acting to a bulldog. I have to go now, I think I hear the seas burning.
BAD: She appears to be squeezing that poor animal's face pretty hard there. Oh, wait, that's just acting.
BAD: HHH gets all kissy with the dog and tosses some baby talk at it. I think I just became diabetic and nauseous at the same time.
OH PLEASE: Court orders don't have the word "Court Order" written across the top of them. You'd think that, considering the fact that they wreck ambulances and cut corvettes in half, they'd spend the cash to do a little research please instead of having some asshole with a printer make props for a million dollar show.
BAD: A judge would probably fine Stephanie for wasting his time by bothering him with absurd and unfounded accusations about a fucking dog! There's no way she would ever obtain anything remotely resembling such a court order. GAH.
BAD: Poor Test. Relegated to being the secondary in a feud between two other wrestlers. If there was any justice, he'd be going after the IC title at Wrestlemania.
GOOD: Nice side kick by Rikishi there.
BAD: That was the weakest run-in I have ever seen in my life. I expect better from Hennig.
GOOD: Test's big boot on Rikishi looked damned good from that angle.
BAD: Another, yes ANOTHER, vignette with Stephanie before the commercial and this time she acts to a pile of dog shit! Her TV time in this segment exceeds the actual wrestling match that shares it. You wonder why my reports have had so many "BAD" remarks? This is a prime example of everything I talked about in the opening.
BAD: Ew, the WWF uses Netscape!
HOLY NARRATION BATMAN: Jericho taking the dog outside for a walk and giving us a recap of the last segment. How thoughtful of him.
GOOD: Christian's smile...it's both funny and creepy all at the same time.
HEH: I knew that Billy Gunn's "Assman" gimmick would come back to haunt him especially since he's all gay now.
PREDICTION: Word is that DDP and Christian will be facing each other for the European Title at Wrestlemania, so I am betting that Christian will be turning on Page sometime tonight.
UGH: More absurdity from the board room. We get the footage of Flair accidentally clocking a "fan" but where's the footage of Vince talking about how he is going to kill his own company or the highlights from the "Kiss My Ass Club"? Christ.
INTERESTING TOUCH: All of Goldust's "weapons" are spray painted gold.
BAD: If Goldust hits the Shattered Dreams, it is a devastating move that incapacitates his opponent. If he misses, he nearly breaks his foot. Does anyone want to explain to me why this is so, even though his foot kicks the same spot in either case?
REMEMBER...When Al Snow was chasing the Hardcore title like crazy a few years back and had those awesome matches with the Road Dog? He wins this one pretty unceremoniously.
BAD: Why do I get the feeling that the phantom "24-7 Rule" will come into play at some time tonight.
UGH: It's bad enough that they are making an angle about a dog getting run over by a car, but they give us the worst dubbing job I have ever heard on top of it.
OH GOD: How the hell did the dog get under the tire like that?
FOR THE LOVE OF...Why don't they just CUT THE LEASH!??! What the hell is a doctor going to be able to do that a pair of scissors can't do right now?
GOOD: The Angle/Booker versus Show/Edge match. There were some nice spots (Edge off Show's shoulders was nice) and Angle getting Show to tap after nailing him with a Angle slam was damned impressive.
BAD: More of Stephanie's "acting." No feud deserves this much play, I'm sorry.
YEGADS: The Divas at WWF New York. Jackie is worn, Terri is tired, and Torrie has no rhythm whatsoever. Breast implants do not a hottie make, folks.
GOOD: Page is pretty good on the stick there at the announce table. Maybe he should retire to commentary. I think he'd be pretty damned good. I say, put him and Arn on Sunday Night Heat for a while and see what's what.
NICE: DDP hits a nice Diamond Cutter on Billy there.
FUNNY: Christian goes into a happy tantrum when he wins the match.
THERE WE GO: There's Christian turn. Just in time!
QUESTION: As long as I have to watch this boardroom drivel, let me ask this: How much "earlier tonight" was this shit filmed? It's pretty dark there already so it had to be at least as late as 7 pm. How long is this meeting? Is it still going on and they are sending us pieces as soon as it happens? If that's the case, why isn't is just shot live? Ow. I think I have a headache.
BAD: The fact that this whole Rick Flair thing is in question at all boggles my mind. It seems to be a no brainer to me, because if the members of the board don't know anything besides what Vince is telling them because they don't watch the shows, they are the worst heads of an entertainment company I have ever seen.
GOOD: Trish's improvement has really been showing a lot lately. I am kind of glad they included her in the Wrestlemania match for the Women's title.
GOOD: Stacy Kiebler spends precious little time in the ring for this match.
GOOD: Not a bad little match here. The crowd seems to like it and the ladies are hitting their spots fairly well. No complaints.
BAD: As if we haven't seen enough of Stephanie tonight, she gets MORE TV time, this time she screeches into a microphone in the ring.
HA! I see London, I see France, I see Stephanie's ASS! No WONDER she has no visible panty line in those tight pants, she has an unfurnished basement there.
COOL: Jericho puts a nasty hurting on HHH with a sledgehammer. The irony is delicious!
BAD: JR's treatment of this "damn pathetic" act. Doesn't he remember when HHH broke his arm? Oh yeah, we discussed this already...the whole "selective amnesia" thing.
COOL: Nice chop block by Jericho on Hunter during the break.
GOOD: HHH selling the injury...he even goes as far as to say "It feels like it did when it tore!"
COULD BE BAD: You have to wonder how they write their way out of this one.
OKAAAAY: So the board (confusingly) grants Vince their vote of confidence but reserve the right to review their decision in a week? So is that a real decision? Essentially they wasted their own time and they wasted our time by showing this tripe.
GOOD: Flair's final speech. In spite of the absurdity around him, he manages to pump out a great interview to wrap this all up although, it's about the Undertaker, not Vince.
GOOD: They save the nWo until the end of the show. Sparingly...that's the way we need to see these guys.
UGH: Hogan found his old feather boa. Yuk.
GOOD: At this rate, Hall will actually make it to Wrestlemania without getting fired! Go Scott!
GOOD: Pretty good match so far. Hall looks good. Let's see how Nash does now.
EH: Same old moveset. Knee to the stomach, side slam, snake eyes, tag. I guess I will give him the benefit of ring rust.
UGLY: Nash gingerly taking that Lou Theiz press. What's the matter, Kevin? You scared to take a real bump?
NICE: Hall can still land that fallaway slam like a pro.
BAD: Austin seems to be blowing up about three minutes in...and did he hurt his hand there?
UGLY: Hogan has pectoral wrinkles. Ew.
OWCH: Hall nails a STIFF looking clothesline on Austin!
GOOD: Nice back and forth match here. Faces get a shot, heels get a shot. It's pretty compelling.
WOW: Hogan gets a clean pin on the Rock! That's pretty fucking cool.
GOOD: A slight beatdown here at the end, nothing over the top. I guess it's pretty OK.
OVERALL: Aside from the main event, this show was average to really really fucking awful. The Stephanie sequences were unnecessary excuses for her to get her own face on television, the pretaped "board room" scenes were idiotic, and most of the wrestling was subpar at best. This is the first year that I can remember that I am actually not sure whether I am going to order Wrestlemania. The card really doesn't interest me all that much and the shows leading up to it just haven't compelled me to want to pay $40 for it. For more information, just re-read my opening.
Catch you all next week for the post-Wrestlemania RAW.
Questions, comments, steaming pile of Sports Entertainment? Write me at Michaelangelo70@hotmail.com. All letters will be answered or flushed.
I am Michaelangelo and will be for a while.
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