An Open Letter to Triple H
To: Hunter Hearst Helmsley
Dear Triple H:
So how is life treating you Triple H? It must suck being sidelined during one of the biggest angles in wrestling history. Lousy timing injuring yourself punching Y2J in the head. (It IS your own fault you know, you should have known the dumb Canuck's head would be that hard after all the times he's bumped his head up against the... Umm... never mind.) So, I was rewatching my DVD of Mick Foley: Hard Knocks and Cheap Pops and I was struck by this quote from yours truly, "I go to a movie. I'm watching a movie. I'm thinking how can I turn that into an angle." So I have to ask, since you were injured have you been watching more movies? Even rehabbing eight days a week, you must have more free time on your hands, especially since you are not traveling from city to city and from show to show, but are staying put in Atlanta. What films have inspired you to cook up new angles? What videos will inspire you to new heights? Well, if I can make a modest suggestion, you might want to check out a great new wrestling film from South Korea called The Foul King (www.foul.co.kr) presented recently in Montreal during the Fantasia Film Festival (www. fantasiafest.com).
Foul King is the second feature film by Korean director Kim Ji-Woon. His first feature The Quiet Family was a brilliant dark comedy about a family run mountain inn which becomes a tourist destination for would-be suicides. He also directed the longish short film Coming Out which can be downloaded on the internet (http://www.cine4m.com/comingout/main.htm).
Song Kang-Ho, who played the gangly doltish son in The Quiet Family, plays Dae-Ho in The Foul King. Dae-Ho has a few problems: his dad wonders what Gods he pissed off to give him such a loser for a son; the subways going to work are so crowded that he can never get off at the right stop; on the way home from work he is mugged by a gang of kids; his performance review at the bank he works at is so bad that he is reduced to begging school friends to open accounts to save his job; the prettiest girl at work doesn't know he's alive; his best friend Du-Shik's job at the bank is in jeopardy because Du-Shik won't approve a loan to a known gangster; worst of all, his manager keeps sneaking up to humiliate him by putting him in an unbreakable head lock. The head lock he ought to at least be able to do something about, after all, one of his pals from school is a Tae-Kwan-Do instructor. Sadly his buddy's two suggestions are not to get trapped in the head lock in the first place and if you are trapped, kick your opponent in the face over your own shoulder! When Dae-Ho complains that this is a somewhat advanced technique, his so-called-friend snarls, "What do you think this is: wrestling?"
When Dae-Ho passes by a decrepit gym advertising wrestling lessons, he decides to take a shot. Wrestling coach Jang has his own problems however: he's a drunk; his gym is falling apart; his two trained wrestlers have a worse work-rate than the WWF Woman's division (no offence to Stephanie meant); his best trainer is his daughter Min-Young; the only decent prospect he's seen in months (Dae-Ho) is a drooling fan boy with an unhealthy obsession with Ultra Tiger Mask, the most vicious cheating heel in Korean wrestling history.
Coach Jang's luck turns for the better, when the top promoter in Korea asks him to train a wrestler to warm up the Korean champ before his tour of Japan. The only problem: the wrestler he trains must be a cheater just like Coach Jang was when he wrestled, just like... Ultra Tiger Mask. Jang's solution is to train Dae-Ho as the masked wrestler, The Foul King. Dae-Ho begins his training, which in addition to wrestling moves, will include training on eye-pokes, blowing powder, how to use his super-cool chest protector with a secret compartment, and, of course, the proper etiquette to follow when using a fork in the ring. For a wrestling fan, one of the more interesting moments is the reverential way that Abdullah the Butcher's name is dropped when the forks are unveiled for the first time. You will also get a kick out of actually hearing the "Uhwahhh" reaction from the Korean fans as described by Mick in his first book.
It's not terribly impressive to say that this is the best fictional wrestling movie ever made. After all, the real competition in this category is the Wrestlecrap award for worst wrestling movie ever made: Ready to Rumble, No Holds Barred, Paradise Alley. So let me say that it IS the best fictional wrestling movie ever made, AND it is very good, if not perfect. In the interest of compressing the story, the training sessions seem a little abbreviated. If you have trouble with the Tough Enough contestants getting a shot at the WWF after only thirteen weeks, you will probably blow a gasket when Dae-Ho, the Foul King, gets a shot at the Korean champ in only his second ever match. (It is a tag-team match, but still.) The film also gives us a coach Jang filled with resentment but never quite explains why. Is he irritated at being asked to train a heel jobber or the implication that because he wrestled as a heel that he can only train heels? Is he upset at the short notice? Is he offended by the tightly scripted match that his wrestler must follow? It is possible that the lack of explanation is due to poor subtitles or cultural confusion on my part. Finally, there are a number of plot threads left dangling by this movie. On the other hand, of how many fictional wrestling movies can you say that you left the theatre wanting to know what happens next?
Ultimately, the director Kim Ji-Woon uses wresting as a metaphor. (That's a good thing, by the way.) What does it say of us as viewers that we cheer for a guy who cheats? What does it say of Korean society (or North American society, for that matter) that its most admirable member are the rule-breakers? How come the only people with a work-ethic, a sense of honour, and a respect for the past are the heels? And the most important question asked by the film: When the cocky pill-popping champ decides to humiliate the rookie heel by trying to rip his mask off, what happens? Well, you know what has to happen... that's right... you'll have to see the movie.
So, Triple H, if you see this film what insights am I hoping that you take away with you? Well, for me there are two: Kane's mask and your future as a heel.
It's odd that Kane is by far the most famous and successful masked wrestler in U.S. wrestling history. The ironic part is that his mask is essentially meaningless. It is not used to hide his identity, it is used to hide his burn scars. In other words, Kane wears a mask because he's ugly! What a wuss! He might as well be wearing a paper bag over his head! As fans, we have no reason to care whether Kane's mask is removed. In fact, if the only reason that he wears is to protect us from his hideous deformity, most wrestling fans, ghouls that we are, would just as rather be revolted by the scars as be protected from them. (Or is that just me?)
It doesn't have to be that way. The WWF is filled with wrestlers who could explain to Kane the historical importance of the mask to wrestling. Essa Rios, Eddy Guerrero, Chavo Guerrero, even Val Venis could educate Kane and the audience on why masks are important. Kane could cut a promo explaining why he wears a mask. Off the top of my head, if he told us that he started wearing a mask because of his burns, but that he continues to wear it to honour his dead family, it would give us a much better reason to care about his mask. (Of course his dad is still alive and cutting that promo while Taker is a face would be tricky, but it could still be done.) By linking the mask with his dead mother, Kane could warn opponents that messing with the mask was messing with his family, and we all know how bent out of shape the Takers get when someone messes with their family.
In short, Triple H, I propose a four part plan for Kane's mask:
Not that I pay a great deal of attention to Jim (I see a big future for the light heavyweight division) Ross' predictions for the future, but lately he's been saying that you are coming back as a fan favourite. Say it ain't so, Trip! You have always been my fan favourite, but I am not like other fans. I like my wrestlers mean, vicious and nasty. I like wrestlers who cheat not because they need to cheat but because they like cheating. I like wrestlers who will beat you up over a nickel, stab you in the back over a ham sandwich and send you to the hospital for any damn reason that they feel like! For years, Triple H, you were that guy. I know that it is difficult staying a heel. The path of the heel is a long and lonely road that only a virtuous man can take. Just ask Arn Anderson. No-one knows better than he does how difficult it is to be a heel and stay a heel. (Have you noticed, by the way, since Double A showed up backstage that the beatings have improved in quality, intensity and frequency? And if I know the Enforcer, and I think I do, the beatings will continue whether morale improves or not.) Anyway, Arn once said, "I've been out here yakking for the last ten years about what it meant to be a Horseman: work ethic, respect for the business, respect for each other, respect for the people that came before us." Make no mistake, the Four Horseman were all about work-ethic, respect and tradition, and if their only tradition was to take Dusty Rhodes to the woodshed every Saturday and beat him till the fat jiggled, it was still a Four Horseman tradition and they by god continued it! Now, if you are a student of wrestling history, and I know you are, you might have recognized that quote as coming from the one night on the WCW Bataan death march where it looked like they could pull it together and so something right, a night when the Four Horseman were being cheered like they never had before, September 14th, 1998, Greenville, South Carolina. But at that very moment that the Four Horseman could do no wrong, here's Arn again (courtesy of CRZ's Nitro recap), "But I feel it fair to tell ya, I'm not gonna be responsible for what happens next. 'Cause we don't wear white hats, we're not nice guys, and I can tell you this: heads are gonna roll!" You have got to love Arn! Sure the fans were cheering for him, but does he suck up to them and tell them what they want to hear? Hell, No! Arn told them the truth, Four Horseman style: trust me and I'll betray you; turn your back on me and I'll put a knife in it; drop your guard and I'll put you in the hospital. Now that is a creed that you just have to respect!
So JR is saying that you are coming back as fan favourite. Well, you have been cheered before. Remember that summer that D/X became cool? You were still the cocky bastard that you had always been, but now they were cheering you. And then, the fans turned on you. You were doing what you have always done, getting ahead by staying ahead, playing the game, and all of a sudden you are an asshole! Like those losers in the stands don't do favours for their boss to get ahead. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong in getting cheered, but there is definitely something wrong, something tawdry, something cheap about changing who you are to get those cheers.
And JR is saying that are coming back as a fan favourite. That is not the Triple H that I know. The Triple H I know is the Triple H who would steal a man's bride; take a man's title; end a man's career. The Triple H I know is a player of the Game; a Cerebral Assassin; a no-good, two-faced, double-crossing, vicious, sociopathic son of a bitch. The Triple H I know is the Triple H of the steel chair; the Triple H of the sledgehammer; the Triple H of the pedigree on a bed of thumb-tacks. THAT is the Triple H that I know; THAT is the Triple H that I cheer for; THAT is the Triple H that I, dare I say it, that I love. So let me warn you, Triple H, if you show back up on my TV as some catch-phrase spewing, People's Knee Dropping, ass-kissing, goody-two-shoes fan favourite, God Trip, I don't even want to know you.
Your Fan (& Friend),