THE WRESTLING WRAPUP
Yo, I'm new, and since I hate people who take an entire column to introduce themselves, all I'm going to say is that I'm fat (although not as fat as Bob Ryder), bitter (although not as bitter as Scott Keith), and depend too much on gimmicks (although not as much as Vince Russo). I've been writing my own column on my site at ShotgunReviews.com for two years (what (1) you're seeing here is a bit condensed), so I thought it was about time to either jump to the big time or toil away in the underground. Read away:
This Week on TV
Kinko's Guy: Mr. Austin, how many pages is your fax?
I can see Stone Cold in one of those blue aprons with some slogan printed on it about being helpful, friendly, or a copying expert. Actually, I think when Troy mentioned Kamala, what (9) he meant to say was Rick Steiner. Hey, maybe when they decide to start sending in faxes from Stone Cold next time, they ought to write them in the manner that he speaks. When Stone Cold starts sending emails or hiring skywriters, I'm leaving.
Then again, I could shake myself and realize that it all still SUCKS. Why the hell would she up and join Hurricane like that with absolutely no buildup? Spike and Molly were SO over a couple of months ago, yet they let it die. Remember when Stone Cold was going after Spike and Molly? People went APESHIT for that. By the way, she seems to be following the Stephanie McMamm school of logic that wavy hair means she's EVIL. What (11) the hell does Mike Awesome have to do with any of this besides being the Otis of the trio? Shouldn't he be helping Tommy Dreamer do something inconsequential? Christ...
The Rasslin' Ring Mailbag
This is probably the most high-profile piece of hate mail that I've gotten, and even moreso than that of Bob Ryder, because Ryder only showed up on TV once during somebody's hardcore match. This guy, at least, has appeared in front of a camera and not caused it to break. This goes back to the two reviews of Tokyopop DVDs I've done on their FMW series.
Yes, friends, I got this from John Watanabe who, along with Eric Geller, I called one of the worst commentary teams I had ever seen. I guess he's going for the method of "you can catch more flies with honey" whereas I prefer the method of "beat them with the bee hive", but I thought I was pretty fair with the guy. Fortunately, he made some constructive points amidst his Sunday morning sermon (literally). Because his email was long, I inserted my commentary.
From: "Russell Ray" (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Some of these items I'll take point-by-point, as you've posed some very interesting things:
From: "John Watanabe" (jhiptoss@===.com)
Greetings, Russ Ray,
I've been informed about your comments regarding me and those "original Hollywood scriptwriters' FMW DVDs/videos" from Tokyopop...the ones in which my former partner Eric Geller & I were directed to read off of scripts (BTW, on a personal note, Eric is really a good and funny guy). I am not marking out, but I'm not here to condemn you, either....Luke 6:37--"Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven".
First of all, I love it when somebody quotes Bible scripture to me. How do you know I'm not Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim (okay, maybe the last two are a stretch with a name like Russ Ray), but still... I respect your beliefs, just don't preach to me.
Eric probably is a good and funny guy. I know you know your history, based upon my viewing of your work and things you quote later on in this letter. I don't dispute the fact that you belong working in the business. However, upon picking up these particular titles, based upon watching them, I can honestly say that I derived no enjoyment from watching the both of you and listening to the calling of those matches. I'm sorry, it just didn't work for me.
For one, not only are you entitled to your own views, but I admire anyone who has a true passion for pro rasslin'. Russ, don't let anyone condemn you for doing wrestling-related stuff "after school" and working for a very small indy promotion in Indiana.
Right there, you've just solidified everything I've ever believed about most people in the business. If you want to call what (14) I'm doing "after school", that's your business, but I haven't set foot in a school building since I graduated college five years ago. You've obviously lumped me into a group of people whom you and Meltzer and Ryder etc. believe don't have a right to their opinions and don't have a right to use the Internet to express those opinions. The funny thing is that wrestling marks seem to have the same mind about things, so who's to say that what (15) I happen to think isn't thought about by about a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand other wrestling fans.
By the way, it's pronounced "wrestling" and not "rasslin". Maybe you don't get the alliterative aspects of that section of our web site...
Not only is there a need for more alternatives and breeding grounds in today's wrestling environment, but being from the Midwest, I was a big fan of the WWA based out of your state >of Indiana, featuring favorites of mine like Ox Baker, Wilbur Snyder, Yukon Moose Cholak, Handsome Johnny Starr, Chuck "The Monster" O'Connor (later known as Big John Studd), "Pretty Boy" Bobby Heenan, "Golden Boy" Paul Christy, and of course, Dick The Bruiser.
I realize that you "rant and rave" in all of your reviews to get over as a true heel writer, and since I can tell that's your gimmick, that's fine. Hopefully, you'll reach the ranks of Dan Shocket, Eddie Ellner, Vic Venom and Mark Madden. I will say, though, that it just isn't my style...Luke 6:41--"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"...and I just hope that some of your malicious remarks won't get you in trouble with some higher powers in the wrestling industry, resulting in legal matters (shades of Mark Madden) or burning bridges/closed doors when it comes to wrestling talent opportunities for you on a more national level.
First of all, I don't have a gimmick. I don't rant and rave unless it's something I feel is important to be ranted and raved about. I don't think I'm a heel writer, and I think to lump me in with the likes of Vince Russo and Mark Madden is disrespectful to me, because both of those guys were more interested in putting themselves over instead of putting workers over. Whereas, if you would happen to read anything I've written in the past 2 years, you would know that I happen to believe that solid in-ring work is the best way to put a guy over and that promos, interviews and 15 Minutes of Crap at the beginning of a show should be secondary elements to a wrestling show. Russo held the WCW Championship at one time and holds a victory over Ric Flair (which I think for any writer/booker to do is almost blasphemous). I can respect Madden for being involved in other sports, such as hockey and the Pittsburgh Penguins, but as a wrestling announcer, all he could do was yell and scream and talk about himself more than the people he was being paid to put over. Part of that was also the problem of the people he worked with, who also chose to focus on him an awful lot.
I will say that I am very proud of the "new and improved" FMW/Tokyopop releases, in which Dan "The Mouth" Levranski and I do straight commentary with no reading word-per-word off of Hollywood screenwriters' scripts. In fact, I really like the good review of YOKOHAMA DEATHMATCH that Buck Woodward wrote on 1wrestling.com (under his "Columns", 8/31/01), as well as nice comments from Dave Meltzer, who I believe is the premier wrestling journalist; Dave is not easily swerved and he certainly isn't naive enough to think that Geller and I actually said some of that old FMW stuff off of the tops of our heads!
For you to say that you like a favorable review is a moot point. Who in their right mind would NOT like a favorable review? I've watched Yokohama Deathmatch, and although the commentary work has improved, the other big problem I have with this series wasn't addressed--the MAJOR editing of some of these matches. You guys went through the first five matches or so on that card in about 10 minutes. Were they that bad that they had to be cut down like that? Why even mention the undercard in the first place if they're barely given an afterthought? Maybe you can shed some light on this.
I'm not anti-FMW either. In fact, I enjoy Japanese wrestling because of the fact that so much of it is no-frills action. I'm particularly fond of New Japan Pro Wrestling, and I hope someday they'll be able to work something out with a U.S. promoter to do talent exchanges like they did a few years ago in WCW. I also like the fact that women are given the same opportunity as men in that organization to perform hardcore and straight wrestling. If only the U.S. promoters could stop thinking below the belt when it came to promoting women's matches.
Maybe this is the way to put things in the right frame of reference for you on where I'm coming from, and it's a good addendum to the "after school" remark. It's expensive, both in time and finances to be a wrestling fan these days. To stay on top of a major promotion (well, let's be honest, nowadays it's usually the WWF)... to stay on top of what's going on, you have to watch about 4 or 5 hours of TV a week. Not only that, but if you're a fan of somebody, and you buy a T-shirt of theirs or something, it's usually going to run you $20-$30. Add on a monthly pay-per-view, that's another $30. Maybe you go out and buy videos and that's another $30-$50 a month or more.
The point I'm trying to make is this: Tokyopop sent me free copies of these FMW titles to review. What (16) if I had actually gone out and purchased these? They usually run $15 to $20 a pop for the eight titles that are out so far. I would be incensed if I had paid money for something that didn't deliver. The average wrestling fan isn't going to care if you had to read a script or whatever... they're going to be mad that they're out $20. Maybe Dave Meltzer realized that you guys were reading off scripts and had the contacts to get hold of people to ask them if that's the case. Joe Wrestling Fan doesn't know the difference and probably can't call somebody up in their Rolodex that would know either.
You look at me like a critic, but I'm a wrestling fan just like millions of other wrestling fans across the country with situations like I just described. I just happen to have a public forum to make my opinions known. Unlike other sites that have either gone commercial or sold out, I'm not in this for money. I'm not in it for fame--I'm used to being in front of wrestling houses of as few as 10 people, and I try to keep my indy wrestling side separate from my writing side. I'm not looking to make enemies, but if I've written something about someone that keeps me from moving up, well, maybe it's better that I don't move up. I do this because I like it and I'm passionate enough to write about wrestling to sustain myself.
Just to keep you updated, Russ...two new (and yes, "Hollywood-free") FMW/Tokyopop DVDs/videos will be released on October 23rd, entitled INTERNATIONAL SLAUGHTERHOUSE (featuring FMW wrestlers vs. ECW wrestlers, circa 1997 & '98) and JUDGMENT DAY--VERDICT BY SHAWN MICHAELS (FMW's 10th anniversary show from the Yokohama Arena).
Since I have nothing to hide, Russ, you may print this letter on your site for you, your staff and your readers...Luke 14:35--"He who has ears to hear, let him hear".
Take care, Russ, and especially during this world crisis when wrestling and entertainment in general seem so trivial by comparison, I sincerely wish you well.
Stay "straight up" and true to yourself, "Straight Up" John Watanabe FMW/Tokyopop and Urban Wrestling Alliance
Thanks for letting me know how you feel. Honestly, I don't think I'm a bad guy like you seem to perceive, and I don't have a gimmick where I just bash everything left and right just for the sake of bashing people as you might believe. I really just wanted to send this to let you know that I'm not a bad guy, I just might have a bad opinion. I also appreciate the fact that you chose to let me know what (17) you think in a reasoned fashion without resorting to name-calling (such as an unflattering comparison to Michael Cole :) )
And, honestly, yes I am going to print your letter, but it's not out of publicity or anything. One of my biggest fears when I write anything is misperception. You got the wrong idea about one thing I wrote. And, like I said before, if you have, then there could be a hundred or maybe even a thousand (doubtfully) more people out there reading this that are just like you that might think the same thing about me. Even for writing this for two years, I think there are some aspects of where I stand in the business that aren't fully fleshed out or that I haven't covered enough. And, occasionally, I get one or two new readers that don't get what (18) I'm about and don't get how I think that it's always nice to hit the Reset button and square things up from scratch.
I look forward to your next releases (and maybe you can put in a good word for me to the editing crew that they need to ease up a little). I'll keep giving you guys a chance as long as you keep producing videos.
To be honest, after reading that again, I probably won't give them a chance anymore, and I probably will finish the stuff I have from Tokyopop and say to hell with them after this. Honestly, I have LOTS of other things I can work on without reviewing their stuff. I don't even blame the folks at Tokyopop for this, although if they agree with his "after-school" crack, that would be a shame. We've given them lots of positive and free publicity over the past year or so.
Anyway, there's a little shoot for you folks. Expect another one to come soon about somebody else I've dealt with recently.
A Non-Wrestling Take
My desk here at work (where I'm writing this and not working) is right across from a big conference room. As several people were filing in for a meeting this morning, some idiot said, "Check your box cutters and knives at the door."
Now, granted, I live in the center of hick country far removed from the East Coast where it's affected people a lot more, and I've taken some humorous shots at the terrorists, but this is neither funny nor appropriate. You can make fun of the terrorists, you can make fun of the countries that sponsor the terrorists, and you can make fun of what (19) we're going doing to these people when we finally figure out how we're blowing them to kingdom come. You DO NOT make fun of planes getting hijacked, innocent people being stabbed and burned alive, or buildings collapsing.
I know it's been three weeks, and the collective memory of the average American isn't that long, but that was uncalled for. You wouldn't walk into a room and ask, "Hey, this reminds me of when the Nazis made Jews walk into ovens," or, "Check your Confederate flags and lynch mobs at the door." Those events are ancient history compared to the World Trade Center tragedy, but the actual events are still something that should never be used as a punch line. I guess I brought this up just to make sure some of you people out there weren't doing this either.