|Our 3rd Anniversary||
RAVE ON, BROTHER (I'M WITH YOU)
Rave on, cats, he cried....
With all due acknowledgment to George Thorogood, he of the Delaware Destroyers, I feel this an apropos way to best emphasize the sort of connection that readers tend to feel with writers, particularly ones they either have empathy with, or, in other words, the ones who are writing their story. In regards to the wrestling world, and I don't think I am speaking too far out of turn here, Chris is writing all of our stories.....
Anniversaries are a time for remembrance - a remembrance, a celebration for the birth of something. I remember when I first contacted the world of wrestling, back in the later part of the 70s. The AWA was a stronghold in the area I was in at the time and -- like most of us who consider ourselves fans foremost -- watched that shit religiously, despite rather constant admonishments from my parents who felt otherwise about wrestling's redeeming viewing qualities. Fuck that. I wanted to see Baron Von Raschke and the Claw, as well as my then-favorite wrestler, Paul Diamond. It was camp, but oh Lord, was it cool.
Fast forward to 1992, shortly after Flair joined the WWF and put on one of the most memorable performances by a wrestler ever, in the Royal Rumble. Just when it looked as if victory for the WWF, who was now on the precipice of the greatest turn upward in recorded history, the writing tanked and fell in the toilet. Vince refused to let the old warhorse, Hulk Hogan, either pin Flair cleanly or be pinned cleanly in turn. So, house show after house show an endless string of Dqs followed those two around the country. I saw the act in Minneapolis, an event myself and a few other cats put an entire week + into, including dressing up as the Horsemen. (I was Flair, for those of you interested.) The Raiders also were eliminated from playoff contention that same weekend, so to say I was disappointed, after driving some 600 miles plus for that finish is a bit of an understatement.
Sitting high atop our mountain of historical perspective, for those of us calloused, long-time observers, the parallels between 1992 and 2002 are stunning. Vince in 1992 had one of the most loaded rosters ever seen before with great wrestlers (Bret Hart, Ric Flair, et. al.) and huge icons (Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan, et. al.), yet he managed to send the entire business into the tank. Screw that steroid trial excuse shit, Vince has to be either desperate or hungry to be successful. Vince is a survivor and knows how to do little else, thus, if he is not in a position where he is forced to survive, he creates that condition so that he may go back to doing what he does best. Those traits are formed in childhood and are very difficult to overcome.
Back to 1992, Vince was king. Nobody was anywhere near the WWF in terms of sheer size or fan interest and no one was making that kind of money. Vince, in his own mind at least, was untouchable. However, fans such as myself, who had been watching the AWA, NWA/WCW, WWF, even Global daily, sometimes more, began to turn away. Why? Because the characters sucked. The WWF stopped giving the fans any reasons to care one way or the other who won what or who was pissed at who and why. I dropped out shortly after that fabled Royal Rumble under a cloud of disillusionment with wrestling in general and the WWF in particular, a self-imposed banishment that would last 6 years.
What does all this have to do with CRZ and his anniversary , I hear you ask/screaming. Patience, gentle reader. Anniversaries are also time for long-winded stories and this, I must inform you, is one of them. Sometimes the long-winded stories are the best, sometimes not, sometimes the story just needs that long to be told. In the end, it will either be all worth it or not. The proof is in the proverbial puddle of pudding that some nubile young females are about to fling themselves into, to allegedly "wrestle"....so stay tuned just a little bit longer and bear with me.
In 1998, after being on the internet for a while and doing/getting bored with all the usual shit (chat rooms, music sites, etc. etc.), it dawned on me that with all the pages out there devoted to exhaustive research of celebrities and music stars, there surely would be something there about wrestling. You see, I had the bug again, about 20 years since I had first gotten it. The wrestling bug bites hard and the cut runs deep, kids, don't ever fool yourselves. I know why Terry Funk can't stay away and why Flair won't. I know. It got me so strong that I watched Summerslam of that year over the internet, on a 28800 connection and it was still a great show.
I started perusing various wrestling sites in May of 1998. I knew the history of the News Of Dayton before I ever read one word from Rick Scaia. The ones I went to most were probably Wrestlemaniacs and Scoopswrestling. 1wrestling, as I recall, was still attempting the pay site aspect at that time. It was on Wrestlemaniacs that I first ran across CRZ, who appeared intent on trying to cram everything that happened in the course of a two hour show into his report and on Scoops was Hyatte, who was trying on the mantle of irreverence for size. I liked both of their styles, even though CRZ's was a times a bit too exhaustive in it's encyclopedic approach for easy reading and Hyatte was a bit too crass and infantile at times. Basically, the way I saw it was if I wanted to know what happened, I read CRZ's. If I wanted to be somewhat entertained, I read Hyatte's. I still try to keep up with both of them to this day.
At the time, I remember thinking that it couldn't be too hard to recap a fucking wrestling show and started writing for Scoops as an alternate approach to Hyatte's RAW Mop-Ups. Of course, several legal pads and 14 broken tapes later from all the rewinding and fast-forwarding, I was forced to conclude that I may have been a bit hasty in my earlier opinion, but I did not let that stop me, I just adjusted and filtered. I did write to ask Chris how in the fuck he managed that level of detail for 5 hours of tv on Mondays and his reply was succinct and genius. I will replay it here for you, verbatim. "I just fucking do it." He just fucking does it. I think we could all learn a lesson there. No matter the hardships, the loss of a car or end of a playoff run, no matter how much we all may be or are hurting, we just have to go on and do it, goddammit. Thank you, CRZ.
Anywa, I especially liked the writing of Brian French, then Heat recapper for Wrestlemaniacs and if I copied anyone, it was probably him, though if I did copy, it was poorly. In fact, the job I wanted for Scoops was to write the Heat column. I even had cribbed a great title from a college textbook: "The Fundamentals Of Heat". When I got the RAW gig, I tried to persuade French to use the title, but he was not so moved. Alas.... So, I started writing the alternate RAW recap, cleverly titled RAWvelations. I would like to say everybody loved it, which translated into millions of dollars and international success, but in a world of lies, one can only be stretched so far before it snaps and rebounds into your face. Hyatte loved the idea of the column itself so much he declared war on me. I got a few interesting emails accusing me of ripping him off, completely disregarding our conflicting styles. Hyatte was also attempting to engage CRZ into a pissing match with him, at times annoyed beyond belief that Chris couldn't be bothered to even dignify this so-called feud and instead treated it will all merit due a joke. However, CRZ's fans apparently read both columns and also started bombing me with less than flattering emails, the gist of them was to insist I was copying both styles, then crucifying me for not being either of them. (I once pointed this observation out to CRZ who thought it was so funny that he didn't return another email from me after that for 3 years....that Chris, so catty.)
Since I was heavily involved in the internet wrestling scene at the time, I remember the shock when Wrestlemaniacs went corporate and shucked off most of their stellar talent in their effort to go corporate with Wrestleline. Let's be honest, Wrestlemaniacs was awesome and Wrestleline blew ass. Not only did it mark the departure of Brian French, easily the greatest online wrestling writer of all time, but it also introduced censoring to all the writers. All the fucks, shits, goddamns (for a while), cocksuckers, motherfuckers, motherfucking bastards were gone. CRZ, in protest, provided an unsanitized version of his work elsewhere.
I had my own battles with Scoops and their rather ridiculous and pathetic attempts to protect their franchise in Hyatte. Their method of editorial surgery was akin to removing an ingrown hair with a chainsaw, so they deleted entire sentences, sometimes blocks of paragraphs, to remove an offending phrase, rendering the report either entirely worthless or hopelessly out of context. They did this, of course, so that there would be no identity confusion with Hyatte, who both Al and Remy likely hated at the end, but who also both realized was where most of their draw was. Shortly after Wrestleline went live, CRZ created [slash] wrestling, one of the greatest ideas for a site ever. CRZ kept his approach utilitarian, no bells and whistles, no horses, no dogs or ponys, no editing and no bullshit. Just a fast-loading, straightforward collection of internet wrestling (unless you're Brady Porche, when the writing may or may not involve wrestling) writing.
I went there on it's first day and have been going there daily since. At first, I went just to see Chris use the naughty fuck words that he couldn't use on Wrestleline, but after finding the reports to be not a whole lot different, understood that Chris objected to the principle more largely. I agreed then and agree now. Of course, since that historic launch events have unfolded at a rather large and ridiculous rate. Nearly every large wrestling website that once was prominent has folded, including Wrestleline (shortly after CRZ left it for good). Gone also were Hell In A Cell, the Shooters, Emzee, the nWWWo and Scoops. I myself moved from Scoops to 1wrestling an event so huge and dramatic that it threatened to shake the very foundation of the planet itself from it's mooring, an occurrence so colossal, so biblical in proportion, that it prompted Chris to put it up in his I Get Letters column and add the burning question: "does anyone really care about this?" in reply. A master salesman, CRZ is. I believe he also offered several thousand dollars to anyone who could reply in the affirmative with a straight face, but that may be only my years deceiving me.
And now we come around full circle. Hyatte is floundering so much to do anything worthwhile that he is posting sections of a website called "The A List" in his column (though his style, by nature, is very difficult to maintain with any quality for any length of time). I retired from 1wrestling some time ago with a timeless quote from CRZ himself, "who the fuck cares and why are you bothering me with this prattle?" Always could get right to the heart of the matter, Chris could. Scaia has made the Online Onslaught online a reality, but seems to have lost his heart for things. Herb Kunze keeps on keeping on and CRZ keeps posting him out of sheer love, loyalty and devotion, but Herb also seems to be having a harder and harder time maintaining interest. Even in the face of sheer overwhelming and daunting odds, CRZ just keeps right on going, cataloguing and defying both the odds and burnout.
We come full circle to 2002. I dropped out from watching wrestling shortly after the WWF/WCW fiasco. Vince again had the powerhouse stack, this time a built in angle, the greatest wrestling angle ever, an insanely loaded talent roster and he fucking flubbed it from the word go. I saw the writing on the wall when I quit internet writing well before that and my interest has been passing at it's strongest. I have refused to watch wrestling until Austin returns, but that is another story, though it ties in here. In 2002, I broke my retirement from internet wrestling to defend Austin against a very narrow-minded and short-sighted view. I had been trying to get posted on [slash] at various points over the years when I had a column, because the site epitomized everything I was looking for in a place to put my writings, but CRZ did not always see fit to respond, not even to decline. Shit, Ma, I finally made it.
As a reader, I still drop in on CRZ from time to time, but he seems to be right on the edge of going over, particularly in light of this whole Austin thing. That brings up what has always been the best part, my favorite part of what he does, when Chris adds comments. Those are very few and far between, however. Chris often comes across as aloof and unreachable, so when the veil of neutrality gets dropped and we get a brief glimpse at the guy behind writing all this detail, it makes it all the more valuable. CRZ is either a very busy guy or he keeps all the personal shit in his Weiner forum. Either way, he allows very little idle chatter and patter to pollute the reports.
I understand now. Those reports are sacred, sacred because Wrestling needs a historian and Chris has been doing the job admirably for quite some time now. Wrestling needs a guy like Chris, who keeps chugging on and on, never offering opinion (outside of the Sacramento Kings), never hurling invective (outside of the Sacramento Kings), just recording events and describing events.. I hope he never stops. So Chris, rave on brother, I'm with you.
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