by Raywat Deonandan
August 28, 2002
This column is a regular feature on 411wrestling.com. It is reproduced here with the author's permission.
Last year, I forked out the big bucks to watch several WWF pay-per-views, and even tried that silly webcast deal they were offering. Each time, I was really disappointed with the product. So this year, Iíve been more hesitant to part with my hard-earned PPV money. I passed on Wrestlemania, and really regretted it. This week, after much personal deliberation, I opted to not purchase Summerslam, too. And man am I kicking myself, since by all accounts it was a tremendous show. I know, I can still order the replay, but what fun is that?
In my defence, I argued (to myself) that itís only wrestling. I shouldnít be paying good money to watch television, for crapís sake, right? Tonight, to make up for missing Summerslam, Iím going to skip a salsa lesson to watch Raw live. In this town, one does not attend salsa lessons strictly for the salsa, if you know what Iím saying. Think about what this means: Iím passing up being with real flesh-and-blood women to watch sweaty men on TV. Is this a sexual identity crisis? Alyson Hannigan... I need you!
Hey, guess what? Absolutely no one --NO ONE-- wrote to me about my last column. Did it suck that bad? Has the readership tired of my pseudo-intellectual navel-gazing theatre critic approach? If so, letís try something new this week. Instead of an essay citing Frye and Homer, todayís column will feature some random thoughts about wrestling. No theme, no structure, just some brain vomit. Mmmmm.... brain vomit....
Rock Is Better as a Heel. Okay, maybe this is obvious to a lot of you, but I think thereís a large number of people out there who still like to cheer for Mrs. Johnsonís baby boy. Rock is filled with vim and rage, and likes to pick on people --announcers, ring crew, fellow wrestlers-- but his babyface status prevents him from turning his insults to the people who truly deserve it: the fans. It feels so unnatural that Rock, the champion of smarminess, cockiness and general assholishness, would censor himself so awkwardly when addressing the crowds.
Unleash the Old Heel Rock, already! The monicker, "The Peopleís Champ" was supposed to be sarcastic, remember? Well, the New York fans remember, as did the Toronto fans at Wrestlemania. Of course, itís Rockís movie star status that prevents a full heel turn. But weíre here to talk about whatís right for wrestling, not Hollywood.
Enough With The Smut. Despite my abandonment of this eveningís salsa festivities, I still enjoy the unmistakable form of a scantily clad woman as much as does any other pubescent boy locked in a middle-aged manís body. But, come on! In this age of VIP, Howard Stern, Internet porn, Wild On and Searís catalogues, who watches WWE programming for the sex appeal? Even the dimmest male knows where to find hardcore images if he really applies himself. And if he doesnít, Iím sure there are writers on this site who would be happy to share their porn-surfing techniques.
So will a mud wrestling match or a lingerie match or a look-at-us-weíre-whores match really increase ratings and PPV buyrates? Only the people who compute such things know for sure. But I really doubt that the smut factor has any appreciable impact on WWE business when, compared with what else is available in todayís mass media, itís really quite tame. In fact, WWE smut takes away valuable air time from segments which might actually improve business, like, I donít know, wrestling.
Cruiserweights Kind of Bore Me. Well, let me qualify that. Fast-paced multiple-spot cruiserweight matches are great. I love them. But the lucha libre mentality is more akin to that of a circus performer than it is to a wrestling dramatistís. By the latter, I mean a wrestler who plots out a match within the context of the overriding story arch and manages to tell a mini-story athletically in the ring.
So much of cruiserweight wrestling is a series of highspots, much of them featuring moves that really donít look like they would hurt. The shooting star press looks cool, but whatís it doing in a wrestling match? Is the move more deadly than a basic splash because the instigator must flip backwards? This disease isnít restricted to the cruiserweights, either. How about RVDís "rolling thunder"? I cringe whenever I see it. If your opponent is lying immobile and supine, pin him! At least Scotty 2 Hottyís "worm" is supposed to be a joke!
Now, before I get lots of hate mail (though, after last week, any mail would be nice), let me assert that I really enjoy cruiserweight matches put on by wrestlers, not circus acrobats. Get the difference?
If You Canít Act, Shut Up. Some people should never be given time on the microphone. They just look fake and scripted. Rob Van Dam, Iím looking at you. Lance Storm is okay when heís barking into the mic while marching toward the ring, but not in a real promo or interview.
The game of professional wrestling is the same as that of any theatre: suspension of disbelief. We fans willingly place ourselves in fantasy mode and accept that two guys are hitting each other, even though we see daylight between their blows. But when a wrester/actor canít even read a cue card in a semi-believable way, we are plucked from our reverie and shown how ridiculous the whole genre really is. Yes, yes, the emperorís clothes arenít really invisible. You know it, and I know it, now someone please tell the dolt whoís reading the cue cards.
None of the female performers seem to know what to do when the phallic device is placed in front of their mouths. (Sorry, I said no more smut, right?) Molly and Dawn Marie arenít quite as bad as the others, but they all uniformly suck. I have never understood this. With a couple of notable exceptions (Trish and Molly), the women in wrestling pretty much serve solely as eye candy who must take the occasional bump and deliver some basic lines. In a nation filled with tens of thousands of unemployed actresses, is it really so hard to find three or four who can do those few things well? WWEís human resources department just isnít trying hard enough.
Tune Down The Jingoism and the Redneckism. I know, pandering to a pervasive but transient theme is a powerful storyline generator, hence the resurgence of patriotic characters during times of national strife. But anything that inspires a chant of, "USA! USA!" is just lazy writing. (Yes, we Canadians collectively roll our eyes whenever Americans sing this particular chant, but itís partly because "Canada! Canada!" doesnít pack the same punch.)
The redneck factor is another aspect of wrestling I just donít get. From Steve Austin to Jamie Knoble and the entire NWA:TNA concept, wrestling seems irretrievable anchored to both carnies and trailer parks. I understand that in this country, the history of professional wrestling owes a lot to a certain trashy subculture, and perhaps much of its modern redneck characterization is a kind of homage to that legacy. But itís just so lame! It seems weíre not so far along since various hillbillies ruled wrestling.
You know, looking back at my "random thoughts," I see that Iíve touched upon the three major aspects of wrestling which really embarrass me when I try to introduce our faux-sport to my doubting unbelieving friends: the jingoism, the smut and the bad acting. Get rid of those three things, and pro wrestling might just be respectable to the doubters! Then again, it might not be so much fun anymore, either.
I dunno. Iím still pissed that I missed Summerslam. Until next time, Iím Ray Deonandan, and you can visit me at www.deonandan.com.