You are here
Guest Columns

Llakor

Main

BLAH

WHEN WE WERE MARKS

I hate to White Rabbit a column like this, but the Countdown to Wrestlemania is on and time is short. In fact, I am taking the VIA train from downtown Montreal to downtown Toronto in less than 24 hours! (Long-time readers of ME will know that I am, in fact, a complete wuss, but I'm not taking the train because I'm afraid of flying, it's just cheaper and faster to take the train. Really, honest! Would I lie to you?) Now the fact that I have absolutely nothing to wear to Wrestlemania is hardly a concern, it's not like I'm going to be competing in the sartorial department with the most fashion conscious group of people, unless you consider "WWF lemming" to be a fashion choice. (Come to think about it, a lemming fur coat or a lemming hide leather jacket would be absolutely, horribly Perfect fashion statement.) The real problem with my time crunch is that I just got off the phone with my Mother, and Meaghan is incredibly excited about my visit, which can only mean ONE thing...

She thinks I'm bringing her stuff. Now disappointing a woman is one thing, disappointing a girl is another thing, but disappointing a Princess, especially one who's FOUR (!) (She's FOUR!) is a world of trouble. Slather me with butter, boys, I'm toast! If I show up in Toronto without something for Princess Meaghan (She's FOUR!), I'm DEAD. And if I get something for her, than I have to get something for her two-year old daredevil brother Ryan. (More for his Mom, my sister, than anything else, heck I could give Ryan an empty box and he'd be happy.) I don't know if twenty-four hours is going to be enough time. So, sadly, tragically, there won't be a column this week...









Although, come to think of it, I have this stopped Pocket Watch that allows me to stop time by starting it. Problem is, I'm sworn never to use it for personal gain, and each second that I take off the Watch brings the end of the universe one second closer. But I guess using it to bang out a column for you guys would be OK, Right! Right? So let me just pull the fob on this watch so that I can... Once Again, take you back to a Time when Men were Men and a wrist watch was an expensive luxury; a Time when guruzim was still grasshopper zed; a Time when the greatest enemy of a baby-face was not his opponent but the clock; A Time in short: When We Were Marks.

WHEN WE WERE MARKS
Time, Time, Time, See What's Become of Me...

Time is fleeting. There are some arguments that I just don't have time for. Like this argument that I got into with a wrestling fan/friend of mine, let's call him "Smark" The conversation went something like this:

Smark: So did you see the Lance Storm/RVD matches on Heat & Raw?
Llakor: Yeah, great matches!
Smark: Nice to see RVD selling an injury for a change...
Llakor: That's for sure. And I [heart] the psychology in the second match where Lance was trying to take out RVD's wheels to keep the match on the mat where Lance is stronger.
Smark: It would be nice to give them twenty minutes to go at a PPV.
Llakor: Why?
Smark: What? I thought you would be all over twenty minutes of RVD & Storm.
Llakor: Not really. It's been clearly established that RVD can beat Lance. If you give them twenty minutes he'll just pin Lance three times. Smark: What in the blue hell are you talking about?
Llakor: RVD has beaten Storm twice, both times in under six minutes. Twenty divided by six gives you three if you toss out the remainder.
Smark: No, no, if you give them twenty minutes, they'll go twenty minutes...
Llakor: And then RVD will pin Strom AGAIN?
Smark: (laughing) Exactly.
Llakor: So has Storm been dogging it on Heat and Raw or is RVD going to choke at the PPV to allow Lance to last twenty minutes against him?
Smark: I think this is where I'm supposed to remind you that wrestling is FAKE.

At which point, I was forced to hit him with an international object, and it all ended in tears.

My point is that RVD has clearly demonstrated that he can beat Lance Storm. There is no longer any need to go to the PPV for clarification on the issue. More importantly, isn't it internally inconsistent for RVD to be able to beat Lance Storm before the commercial break on RAW but have to take three times as long on a PPV? Purely from a story-telling perspective, anything that reminds you that what you are watching is FAKE is a bad thing, including these types of logical inconsistencies. The worst of it is that it is so totally unnecessary. If you wanted to establish that this was a feud that had to be resolved at a PPV, have Lance win one of the two matches, making the PPV match the rubber match. If you don't want to job RVD, you can have Lance win a match by count-out or DQ, both of which would be easy to arrange with an opponent like RVD. OR if you wanted to build Lance as a worthy opponent to RVD; an equal to RVD; a threat to RVD, you could go back to that old faithful wrestling finish: the time-limit draw.

Yes, I can hear the groans from the back, "The time-limit draw is like kissing your sister!" (Allow me just to observe in passing, that as a group, wrestling fans seem to be as familiar with the benefits and drawbacks of kissing your sister as any hillbilly clan confined to the Annapolis Valley or the Appalachian Mountains. {And what is it with hillbillies and place-names that start with 'A' anyway? Annapolis, Appalachia, Allegheny, Alabama, Alberta, Arkansas, Arizona... [Well, I suppose Arizona is less an enclave for hillbillies and more a salt-preserve for retirees with leather skin. <How many brackets do I have on the go here anyway?>]})

I know the accepted wisdom is that one of the benefits of the Monday Night Wars was that we moved away from the jobber squash matches of the past, and started having real matches between superstars ending in clean finishes. Been enjoying all those main event matches with clean finishes on Raw lately? I would suggest that the benefits that the Monday Night Wars have brought us have included better production values, live Raws and the occasional sweeps-stacked free show that approaches the quality of a PPV, but we still get jobber squash matches. The only difference is that we now have a much better standard of jobbers. Where we used to have Iron Mike Sharpe and the Brooklyn Brawler, we now have Lance Storm and Funaki. The only problem with this is that the guys being used as jobbers could do so much more, and their ability to do that is hampered by the fact that we have seen them lose so often (and so quickly) on Raw and Smackdown. In fact I would argue that the difficulty that the WWF has in elevating wrestler's up the card is directly related to this. Losing to Triple H in a thirty minute match that pushes Triple H to the limit doesn't rob you of any heat, if anything it elevates you. Jobbing to Kane or Rikishi or the Big Show in under two minutes on the other hand... Now, I would agree that PPV's should get mostly clean finishes, but there's nothing wrong and a lot of things right with using different kinds of finishes on TV. Try to think of the other finishes as tools in the heel utility belt, and God knows our heels need all the help that they can get.

To start with, each unclean finish reveals a little something about the heel using it and helps us to better understand his personality. The run-in is the domain of bullies and wrestlers who travel in groups. The count-out loss is the favourite retreat of cowardly heel champions trying to save their belt. The count-out victory is used by the devious heel, smart enough to lure the baby-face out of the ring and tricky enough to ambush the baby-face without getting disqualified. The DQ loss is a favourite of the obnoxious heel who provokes the baby-face into grabbing the nearest heavy object to commit mayhem with. The DQ victory is the tool of the monster heel who cares less about winning matches and more with leaving the baby-face a bloody heap in the middle of the ring. AND the time limit draw is the specialty of the technical heel. Of course it can also be used in face vs. face matches if you want to establish that both wrestlers are virtuous sportsmen, like say the match between Bruno Sammartino and WWF champion Pedro Morales at Shea Stadium, September 30, 1972, a match that went to a 75 minute (!) draw. In the process, Pedro Morales demonstrated that he was worthy of carrying on Bruno's legacy as champion by standing toe-to-toe with the former champion, and fans of neither man were upset by seeing their hero lose. Draws, by their very nature, establish that two wrestlers have comparable abilities. Count-out victories serve a similar purpose. When Terry Funk was brought into the WWF in the Eighties to feud with Hulk Hogan, Terry immediately established his credentials by beating the Hulkster by count-out, at a time when Hogan hadn't lost a match for any reason in a couple of years. Terry was immediately seen as a credible threat to Hogan's belt, if for no other reason, than that he was smarter and more devious than Hulk Hogan.

Used properly, time limit draws also build anticipation. If after seeing a match end in a draw, you feel cheated, you are left wanting more, good! that's the whole point of the exercise. There's nothing wrong with teasing the audience with a possible match-up and not giving them the ending for free. The problem is that it seems like the WWF's only way of doing that these days is by showcasing the match-up in a random tag-team match or giving us the match and then using a run-in to take it away. I have no problem with either method, but I would suggest that other methods are equally valid. If nothing else, using other methods to finish a match than the standard pin or run-in format now being used allows you to build in some unpredictability into Raw or Smackdown, and, I would argue, unpredictable TV is interesting TV.

Time limit draws also allow you to test possible match-ups. Say for example, that Matt & Jeff Hardy had kick-started their feud with a ten minute draw on RAW. The fed could have gauged the reaction to the Hardyz match and either made adjustments before the PPV or shit-canned the idea all together. By starting the feud in this way, you also allow for a slower build of the hatred. By the same token, an inconclusive match between two wrestlers that aren't presently feuding allows you to start something later on without forcing one wrestler to job to the other, conserving the heat of both.

Reintroducing the time-limit draw also expands your story-telling possibilities. To begin with, there is the Heel Time-Keeper, a close relative to the Heel Referee. By ringing the bell too early or too late, a time-keeper can have a decisive influence on the match. And woe-be-tide the baby-face dumb enough to confront a time-keeper about this, after all unlike the referee, the time-keeper can defend himself, for his symbols of office, the hammer and the ring-bell, are actual weapons! In addition, the ticking clock can be the biggest enemy of the baby-face. The cowardly heel champion doesn't have to beat the baby-face in a time-limit match, all he has to do is out-last him. Imagine, if you will, that on July 6, 1998, Hogan had made the stipulation that for Goldberg to get his title shot, he not only had to beat Scott Hall, he had to do it inside of ten minutes. Of course, that would imply that Goldberg could wrestle for ten minutes, (as it happens, he beat Hall in 5:55.) On the other hand, if Scott had had the clock on his side, he could have stalled the match to bring the time-limit into play. The ticking clock adds to the drama, and drags us into the match the same way that it does in an Iron Man match or during the Royal Rumble when we are counting down to a new wrestler.

Another advantage of time limits is the way that it organically solves certain technical wrestling problems. Instead of being caught giving the two minutes signal like some stage director furtively whispering a line, a referee can openly declare that there are only two minutes left in the match, because there ARE only two minutes left in the match. A wrestler who relies on stalling and rest-holds, especially if he's a champion, can use those holds and stalls outside to draw heat away from his wrestling performance and onto his wrestling personality. In much the same way that the team of IRS and Ted DiBiase used the fans hatred of non-finishes to gather more heel heat by grabbing their titles and walking out, so a heel champion could get heel heat by using rest-holds and stalls if he can get it across that he's doing it so as to eat up the time on the clock.

As a rule, I avoid Fantasy Booking, but if I had the book for the RVD vs. Lance Storm feud, and I wanted to reestablish the time limit draw, her's what I would do:

Match#1 (Five minute time limit): Let RVD and Lance wrestle to a five minute draw. On hearing the bell, RVD holds his hand out to shake, and Lance grabs his arm for an arm-drag take down and rolls him into the Maple Leaf, only letting go after he is pried off RVD by several referees. After the match, Lance insists that he never heard the bell and didn't let go of the hold because RVD wasn't tapping.

Match#2 (Ten minute time limit): While JR mutters darkly about Storm's hearing and lack of sportsmanship, RVD and Lance wrestle a ten minute match. Lawler defends Lance saying that in a wrestling ring you have to be ready to wrestle at all times. Lance spends the match attacking RVD's legs to slow him down. With time winding down, RVD kicks Lance silly and goes up top. Stopping at the top to pose and point to himself, wasting valuable time in the process, RVD finally nails the Five Star Frog Splash. The referee counts One... Two... and the time-keeper rings the bell to mark the end of the match. RVD drops Lance's leg in disbelief, at which point Lance finally gets his shoulder up and meeting no resistance from RVD, rolls him up and applies the Maple Leaf again! "I suppose he didn't hear the bell again, King!" "He may not have JR, but it's RVD's own fault, if he hadn't stopped to pose on the top rope, RVD would have won this match, and if he tapped out now, Lance would relinquish the hold." "RVD is proud, RVD is a competitor." "Damn showoff is what he is." Again, Lance insists that he never heard the bell ring.

Match#3 (Fifteen minute time limit): Lance continues to attack RVD's legs. At the ten minute mark, RVD clocks Lance again with a kick and limps up to the top rope, but this time Lance gets his knees up to block the Five Star Frog Splash. Lance takes control, but RVD keeps kicking out of near-falls until, with time winding down, Lance Irish Whips RVD into the turn buckle and puts him into a Sleeper. "Fans of the WWF may know this as the Million Dollar Dream, but if you grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada like Lance Storm, the man who used this hold was Leo Burke, the trainer of Test, the trainer of Edge, the trainer of Christian, and the man who taught Lance Storm the hold that is choking the life out of RVD at this very moment." "Yes, JR, but does Lance Storm have enough time? The Sleeper cuts off the circulation to the brain, it will knock you out cold, but it's not quick." "That's a good point King, and RVD is struggling, fighting for breath, swimming for every mouthful of precious air. Jack Doan is checking RVD, but RVD waves him off, and struggles..." "Lance has that Sleeper locked in JR, and RVD is out on his feet!" "Jack Doan is holding up RVD's hand and down it falls. He holds RVD's hand up a second time, and it falls again. If RVD's hand drops a third time, he will have lost this match to Lance Storm. Jack Doan's letting go of RVD's arm, but that's the bell! The time-keeper is signalling that the match is over. Once again, RVD and Lance Storm have battled to a draw!" "Did you watch RVD's hand? It fell like a rock!" "Jack Doan is pulling Storm off RVD." "Ha-Ha! RVD just did a face-plant!" "That's right King, RVD is out cold in the middle of the ring and Lance Storm is not happy! Jack Doan is beating a quick retreat, and Storm is making his way over to our location. You know King, this is a young man that says he believes in sportsmanship and the rules of wrestling, he say's that he's born to wrestle and bred to win, but from where I sit, Lance Storm is a sore loser!" "Well, he hasn't actually lost anything yet JR, that match was a tie, but right now he's found something: the time-keeper's chair and the time-keeper's bell!" "He's laying RVD's ankle on the ring bell and hammering the chair into the ankle! Where in the rules of wrestling does it say that that's legal?" "It's legal if you can get away with it JR!" "RVD's out cold, RVD's defenceless, and Lance Storm is taking advantage like a rabid animal, like a wild dog!"

On the following Raw or Smackdown, Lance Storm is summouned to speak to Ric Flair. "Lance, when you first came to the WWF, I didn't think much of you. I didn't want to hire you, but you forced your way onto the WWF roster. Now since you've been on the roster, since you've proved that you're a true WWF superstar, I've seen things about you, things that remind me a little bit about... me." "Well, thank you, Mr. Flair that's quite an honour." "You know Lance, they used to call me, they still call me The Dirtiest Player in the Game', but right now Lance, right now, the biggest, dirtiest, no-good, double-crossing, back-stabbing, cheating, snake in the grass, son of a gun in the WWF right now is... YOU. Now I've seen those matches you had with RVD, and I've decided that you're going to face each other this Sunday (at Backlash), but this time there will be no time limits, no count-outs and no disqualifications! What do YOU think about that?" "No disqualification? What kind of a stupid..." "I wasn't talking to YOU! I was talking to HIM! I was talking to R! V! D!" "You know that it's always cool when you're RVD, but this Sunday, no time limit, no disqualification? Oh yeah, that's very cool."

Now would that be a PPV match that would make you buy the PPV? For those who are salivating at the prospect of such a confrontation, consider that the scenario I just built up contained not a single clean finish.

The best reason to bring back the time limit draw, though, is that it would force the WWF to have five minute or ten minute or fifteen minute matches. (Or at least matches that they could claim were five, ten or fifteen minutes long, the same way that they claim that Kane is seven feet tall.) I ask you: Would you rather have two minute matches with pin-fall finishes OR five minute matches with inconclusive finishes?

But if you'll excuse me, my fifteen minutes are up, and I am out of TIME. Accckkk!! Is that the time? Gahhh!! I have to shop for a Princess! (She's FOUR!) I'm Late! I'm Late!

Llakor
[slash] wrestling

Mail the Author

Comment about this article in Wienerville

BLAH

Main

Design copyright © 1999-2002 Christopher Robin Zimmerman & KZiM Communications
Guest column text copyright © 2002 by the individual author and used with permission