by Raywat Deonandan
September 20, 2002
This column is a regular feature on 411wrestling.com. It is reproduced here with the author's permission.
Have you checked out www.brocklesnar.com? Brock never looked so good.
As I promised, this week is the reader feedback edition of No Gimmick Required. But before I get to that, there are a few things I must mention. First (shameless plug alert) Iím selling some of my Handspring Visor accessories at Ebay, so when you visit my website look for the appropriate links on my "bulletin" page.
Second, in response to several readers (and Joshua Grutman), I DO appreciate Jamie Knoble, however he spells his name these days. My criticism of rednecks in wrestling had more to do with a lazy association with a previous root demographic, and less with trailer-park personas whose trashy origins are actually pertinent to their characters. In Knobleís case, the schtick works because it gives his character a strong motivation for seeking the championship. Plus, the whole swinger routine with Nidia is original and thought-provoking in all the right naughty ways.
Third, a few readers asked me to comment on the gay wedding angle. I said I would wait to see where they went with it. Well, they went nowhere, so I guess now I have to comment. Hereís my take: if you want Lenny & Lodi, go out and hire Lenny & Lodi and fire their poor imitators, Chuck & Billy. On the other hand, if Vince just wants mainstream media attention like the kind he got with the Today Show and GLAAD, he should just show up on Todayís live set one day and sucker punch Matt Lauer in the kidneys. Same result.
Fourth, why is there a World Champion on Raw? And how is it a World Championship if half of the wrestlers in the WWE (i.e., the Smackdown bunch) canít compete for it? Why isnít Brock Lesnar screaming bloody murder over losing his very hard won "undisputed" status? Silly me, expecting logic from a wrestling show. You see, this is the sort of thing that pisses off wrestlingís more vocal defenders, myself among them. We shout its praises as a vehicle for extemporaneous and sublime storytelling, and make up excuses for its asinine sexism, racism and homophobia. Then Vince McMahon goes and justifies the ill opinions of his detractors by presenting a product not only of questionable taste, but one with unforgivably lazy narrative. When the latter occurs, there are very few remaining defensible and redeeming qualities to the programming.
And now the mail...
My apologies to all those I wonít mention here. Sorry. We begin with Jane E., who is now my favourite person in the whole wide world:
"You are an Internet writing god."
Thanks, Jane, but youíre confusing me with Hyatte. Our names may spell similarly, but I wouldnít be caught dead in Rhode Island. (Kidding! Iím kidding! Last thing I want is to piss off Hyatte. Pissing off the state of Rhode Island, I can deal with, though.)
Now, a LOT of people took exception to my criticism of cruiserweights. Hereís a sample:
"I agree with pretty much everything you said, except the bit about the cruiserweights. I agree that spot-fests get old fast, and that light-weight wrestlers who put on fast-paced matches and still tell a story are far better. I think, however, that high spots and moves such as the Shooting Star Press/Rolling thunder make good punctuation for more technical matches. Your comments about these moves could apply to lots of wrestling. The People's Elbow for one..." -Joe
Very good point, Joe. Yes, much of wrestling is fantastical, so why pick on the cruiserweights? Well, I guess it's a question of extremes. Irish whips and spine busters are unrealistic, but only marginally so. And they DO look like they'll hurt. The People's Elbow looks stupid, but it was supposed to be a joke, remember? Somehow, it got made into a legit move.
But that's not the point, really. Cruiser matches that tell a story are rare. If more of them did so, I wouldn't have as much of a problem. I could put up with all the flipping around. Annoying big-men moves, like the People's Elbow, only show up once or twice in a match, while the athletic theatre is front and centre. In cruiser matches, the flip-flopping is the entire purpose a lot of the time. And that's what really riles me.
I suppose what I'd like is to be able to watch a cruiser match and care more about who wins or loses than about whether the guy is going to break his neck on live TV.
Then there was my complaint about too much smut on WWE programming...
"I just got done reading your column and I agree with what you are saying. The WWF (no E here) does seem to spend way too much camera time on the "divas" and not enough on the actual wrestling. Any male knows how to get some porn and would much rather look at porn then a lingerie match." -Keith K.
You know, it's odd how many people have written to me to say the same thing as Keith: they don't watch the smut. In fact, many of us change the channel. When will the WWE realize this? Are they writing their programmes for the viewing audience, or just for a couple of guys in the back?
"WWE puts [smut] in its programming that makes it difficult to show to our friends. I refuse to watch wrestling with any female friends, for fear that I'd be suddenly forced to justify a spontaneous bra and panties match." -The Fuzzy Elf
See, thatís an interesting point. The goal should be to expand viewership, especially in these times of dwindling ratings. I think itís a given that the kind of people who will watch because of the lame G-rated smut are going to watch no matter what the WWE offers. So why not take the opportunity to attract a wider audience? It seems that when ratings go down, Vince returns to stuff he used to impress his friends with when he was twelve.
Okay, back to the Cruiserweight issue...
"I only have one thing to say. It's in regards to you cruiserweight comments........ It's entertainment!!!!!!!! The moves they do (such as RVD's rolling thunder and the Shooting Star) are not supposed to hurt the opponent. They are, however, supposed to look good and make the audience do the Ďooh's and ahh'sí. To me, that's what the cruiserweight matches are all about." -Russ
That's also what street jugglers and Chinese acrobats are all about. To me, that's not professional wrestling. If the "wow" factor is all we care about, why bother pretending to have a match at all? Why not just send some guys out there to show off their flipping and flopping for 10 minutes? Oh wait... thatís what we DO get.
On to my complaint about there being too much jingoism in wrestling. I include the following letter because the senderís name is so cool. He assures me itís his real name:
"The U S A chants need to stop and soon hopefully. I love my country don't get me wrong, but if People are going to chant U S A, why not have Canadians chant Can-a-da, or Japanese chant Ja-pan." -Timber Wulff
Iíd rather that everyone take to chanting, "Insert Country Name Here! Insert Country Name Here!"
I got some excellent feedback about my short article on whether wrestling is art. Readers like Jeff O. agreed that the artistic nature of wrestling is what endears the "sport" to us on an emotional level, as in our fond memories of certain important matches. Paul M. pointed out that, "Anything done well can be an art," which I guess artistically validates a truly superb bowel movement I had recently.
Reader Heath R. had written his own essay on the art of professional wrestling, and itís worth reading if you enjoy this topic. You can read it here.
John-Peter wondered whether football is also an art. My response to him:
I don't know if football is an art. The bottom line, of course, is that it doesn't matter. How does the universe change depending upon whether we wish to attach this meaningless word to an activity?
A more appropriate question is to ask it in Eastern style: is it tao (do in Japanese, as in judo or aikido), i.e. a path. When dealing with physical disciplines, I think that's a wiser method of categorization. If the practice of football transcends the playing of the game to assist a practitioner in the living of life, then it can probably be considered tao. Is professional wrestling tao? Maybe for those who practice it seriously. But, for those of us who watch it twice weekly and whine about it online.... no, itís not.
I tend to lean toward the Tolstoy way of thinking, which is that art is a means of conveying an impression. Sport is a means of self development; the game exists and is self-justified regardless of whether an audience is present. Art depends upon the existence of an intended audience, whereas sport does not.
Now, I know that there a lot of martial arts geeks out there sharpening their pencils to tell me all about how wrestling or football can or canít be tao or do. Let me stop you there. After 15 years of training (ineptly) in a number of martial arts, I really donít want to waste any more brain cells thinking about a truly pointless topic.
I'm babbling and my head hurts. So I'll stop. Thanks for writing, all of you (even the martial arts geeks). I really do appreciate it.
Next week Iíll talk about something mentioned by reader Ana M. : exploitation in wrestling. Itís not about what you might think!