Sunday, 29 June 2008

Benoit

Happy Anniversary!

This week is the one year anniversary of Chris Benoit becoming so furious at his demotion to ECW in last year's draft that he slammed the Crippler Crossface onto both his wife and son. Neither tapped out and the result was disastrous for the public image of professional wrestling. Because this is hardly a comedy goldmine, don't expect this post to be too heavy on humour.

Having not showed up to take part in his match at Vengeance the night before citing 'family problems', it was revealed the day after that Chris Benoit and his family had been found dead. On hearing the news on that Monday afternoon, it was decided that instead of the normal Raw broadcast for that night, they'd have a show in tribute to the recently deceased Benoit made up of his greatest matches.

However, as the details of the circumstances surrounding Benoit's death became more apparent and more grisly, WWE looked to distance themselves from the whole gruesome affair. The following day, WWE released a press statement condemning Benoit and countering the buzz in the press that Benoit had killed his family in a fit of 'roid rage' - a newly-coined term to describe the red mist that periodically descends over steroid users. In countering the claim that steroids had anything to do with the deaths, WWE painted Benoit as a cold-hearted killer by stating that the nature of the deaths pointed to a calculated and pre-meditated attack.

Rather hastily, all previous mention of Benoit on WWE's website was removed. The last thing WWE would want other than to be associated with a murderer would be to be associated with a murderer who was on steroids. WWE's treatment of the whole affair should be considered despicable. There was a huge frenzy and media circus surrounding the whole story, and rather than try and calm things down, WWE's panicky reaction just made them look suspicious.

It was a case of life imitating art. In the weeks prior to Benoit's death, WWE were running one of the biggest storylines of recent years where Vince McMahon died in a limo explosion and his offices were being searched by the FBI. The irony that Benoit's death triggered an investigation into the company by the US government became all too apparent. When 11 wrestlers on WWE's books were named as customers, oh sorry, 'patients' of Signature Pharmacy, they were suspended immediately by the WWE under their Wellness Policy guidelines. A policy that was brought in after the premature death of Eddie Guerrero but only apparently employed and taken seriously after the death of Benoit.

All kinds of media outlets were publishing lists of wrestlers who'd died young in recent memory. However it must be said that their digging up of these deaths to make pro wrestling look bad is morally bankrupt. Where were the huge stories and witch hunts after each of the wrestlers on their lists died young? Oh yes, that's right, they didn't kill anyone else so it isn't that tragic.

It's unbelievable that despite the incredible amount of bad press that's wrongly been directed at WWE for steroid use that people like Gene Snitsky don't get fired. I'm convinced the guy's beaten up 50 teenagers and stolen their acne just to cover his own back with.

In summary, WWE hasn't learnt its lesson from all of this. The heat's died down on the whole Benoit-steroids thing and gone more onto the diagnosis that he went mental because of all of the concussions he's suffered over his career. But WWE still push huge, muscular guys who must struggle to keep in shape naturally.

You'd think, or at least keep a distant hope that tragedies like Benoit's would change the world. His and his family's deaths seem to have been in vain.

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Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Draft Part 2

HOLY MOLY! Talk about your good TV! Last night's 3-hour RAW was incredible. Not only was there lots of wrestling, but what a cliffhanger! That's already three exclamation marks, I need to calm down.

So let's talk about the draft. ECW gaining a US champion smells a lot like their gain last year of a then recently uncrowned US Champ. If Matt Hardy had a wife, which he blatantly doesn't, she should be worried.

ECW's gaining of a belt that means something should hopefully elevate the C-show.

RAW gained a Mexican midget, two champions and every smark's favourite wrestler. Nothing of really huge note there at all really. Just a welcome change and an input of fresh talent to a show which only had viewers recently because they were being bribed.

If last night was a competition, Smackdown was definitely the night's winners.

I thought the addition of Foley to the announcers' table earlier this year was a masterstroke. Taking JR over to the blue brand is a stroke of even greater genius. JR's reportedly unhappy, and his own blog certainly backs that up with claims that he considered retiring because of it. Though to be honest, I have a feeling that JR, a wrestling traditionalist, is adding fuel to the flames of kayfabe. Joining Foley would be something I imagine both parties (that is Foley and JR), who share a mutual respect and have a genuine friendship with each other, were equally happy to do.

Jeff Hardy, Kennedy (...Kennedy), and most of all, Triple H joining Smackdown is incredible news. All three are superbly talented, and this kind of shake-up (especially Triple H's moving) are just what Smackdown needed. Raw needed it aswell to be honest. Triple H was holding people back from the main event on Raw, and he'd been doing it for years. At least on Smackdown there's nobody for him to hold back and he can reign somewhat convincingly.

The timing of all this re-shaping and moving of champions is all rather good aswell. What a coincidence that WWE's next PPV, Night of the Champions this Sunday, has all champions defending their titles. So if someone's taken their belt to a different brand, there's a chance for it all to be balanced out. If the bookers and writers feel that way, they can claim their belts back. The downside of this though is that the Main Event's result will be seen from a mile off. If Triple H beats John Cena, then Edge loses to Batista. The opposite is also true - that is that a Cena victory means an Edge win seeing as no brand can have both titles kicking about for too long while the other brand has nothing to boast of.

But what about the talking point of the evening? Vince McMahon's limo exploded! Oh wait, sorry, I mean he was injured by a sign. I apologise for that slip. But it was difficult not to do seeing as they're recycling storylines all of a sudden. Storylines from a year ago. Storylines that weren't seen through to the end. Storylines that they're going to see out to the bitter end whether it kills us or not. It must be a really good storyline seeing as they're so adamant for us to see it.

Also, today's the one year anniversary of Chris Benoit's work out rage attacks. I'll write about the implications of it later this week and reflect on how wrestling's changed.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to leave a comment with your thoughts on this year's draft.

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Saturday, 21 June 2008

The Draft

It seems inevitable that, as a pro wrestling writer, I have to make predictions for this monday's WWE Draft.

Lance Storm had some pretty good ideas on his blog earlier this week. Getting Triple H onto Smackdown would be a great way of shaking things up. But to be honest, his dislike of working on Tuesdays has been documented in the past and would certainly get in the way of making WWE TV interesting again. A feud between Triple H and Edge would be spectacular.

ECW's affiliation with Smackdown will be coming to a head next month when it jumps over to be the supporting cast for RAW. This is excellent news for CM Punk marks like myself. A call up to the Raw roster would be excellent for such a talented wrestler. Sticking about on ECW and using his Money in the Bank contract to win the third rate title would be a waste and would devalue the MITB match at Wrestlemania. Why would the wrestlers in the MITB match put everything on the line just to win the chance at the ECW title? They may as well just stick about and job to main eventers for ten years if they wanted that opportunity.

If last year's draft is anything to go by, then it should be about two weeks until the re-shaping of the roster causes an entire re-shaping of the industry and the removal of a human being from history. I would be worried if I was married to somebody who was drafted to ECW tomorrow.

Light on jokes this week perhaps, though my next entry will be looking at the death of Chris Benoit and how the entire wrestling industry has changed in the last year. So you know, more jokes are to be had in the next blog for sure!

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Sunday, 15 June 2008

TNA UK

I have a sore throat and I've lost my voice. As a fan of professional wrestling, that can only mean one thing - I went to see a wrestling show last night.

As I'm sure you're aware, TNA are in the UK for the first time in the company's history. There weren't too many huge names but the fact that TNA was in town was enough to draw a near enough sell out audience of around 2,000 people to Coventry's Skydome.

My friend Rossa and I got there early in the day for the Fanzone event. A great opportunity to meet the very wrestlers we'd see in action later that night.

Petey Williams seemed very miserable and as if he didn't want to be there at all. He must have been extremely tired from the day's workout. Because there's no way you look like him without working out loads.

Sonjay Dutt seemed just as miserable. Though it was probably because the queue for evil Earl Hebner was longer than his. I'm not sure why though. He came across as a weird, creepy uncle. In fact, it looks as if I'm sat on his knee in the picture I had taken of me with him.

Our seats from the fifth row were superb. The only downside was that I was squashed over onto Rossa's lap by the fat, Canadian mark sat next to me.

The atmosphere last night was incredible. I'm used to crowds being up for it who usually go nuts at the sound of the bell, calm down a bit, then pop for spots. But last night, there was noise from start to finish. It was absolutely electric. Because I'd gone with three other stand-up comedians, it was only natural that the highlights of the evening would be us dicking around.

Some mark sat near me started his own "You screwed Bret" chant at Earl Hebner when he came out. If he was older than 4 or 5 when the Screwjob happened, then whatever, he's just holding a grudge. But this kid was mark to the max. When he relented at chanting "You screwed Bret!" all on his own, I turned to the people I was with and very loudly began my own onanistic chanting.

"SUPER DRAGON!"

I'm so funny it's untrue sometimes.

The best bit may have been during a match between LAX and Petey Williams and Sonjay Dutt. Somebody sitting directly behind me yelled "MIDGET STEINER!".

I don't know who it was, but I'm ever so thankful. They gave me the ball, and I ran with it. "MIDGET STEINER! CLAP CLAP CLAP-CLAP CLAP..." I'm sure half the arena was chanting it at one point. Hernandez was laughing it up and even Sonjay was finding it hard not to laugh at his own tag partner.

For posterity's sake, I'll mention that Kurt Angle didn't wrestle. This isn't at all surprising considering how painfully he hobbled by at the Fanzone event earlier in the day. He came out to cut a promo and introduced Jeff Jarrett to the fans. A nice little surprise considering he's not even been on TV for about a year.

The main event happened shortly after Jeremy "Hollywood" Borash (the guy's a dick, seriously) announced that TNA would be back in the UK in January. HOORAY. The main event was essentially Samoa Joe beating the crap out of Booker T to the delight of the fans. Not a classic, but a definite crowd-pleaser.

If I remember correctly, the faces went over cleanly in almost every match. Exactly what you want if you want to please the fans as much as possible. All in all, TNA definitely have their spot in the UK market and, with the best promotion, could take on WWE here.

UPDATE: In fact, it looks as though TNA are taking on WWE here. The venues for their return tour in January are huge.

Full listings here.

You'll also notice on the latest edition of TNA Today that you can hear Rossa, Brooker, Jim and myself clearly and loudly chanting "WE SOLD OUT!". Click here to watch.

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Sunday, 8 June 2008

The Wrestling Boot Band

Before I start writing this, it seems that nobody clicks on the links I put in these posts. You really should, you know. Because if you click, you get rewarded with a joke. Anyway.

I returned home from work one day to find a package waiting for me. With my Welsh address untidily scribbled onto the package by a confused American, I knew it could only be one thing...



As I ripped the cellophane off the CD, I couldn't do anything to stop myself from drawing parallels to The Orange One ripping his own shirt off.

When you listen to this album, it's unbelievable to think that it was released in 1995. That's not to say it was decades ahead of it's time. It's clearly influenced by generic music from the 1980s.

The music was written by Jimmy Hart along with The Hulkster.

The lyrics are a thing of beauty.

"I was walking down the beach, looking for some action/Had my radio set on a rap rap station/Saw a girl in trouble, a sticky situation/She wanted me to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation"

Then, in a talking-over-the-solo type move √° la Shawn Michaels' "Hands off the merchandise", the Immortal Hulk Hogan utters the immortal line...

"Ooh, I found a new vein in my tricep"

This album, and the liner notes, completely epitomise why Hulk's heel turn was such a huge thing. The non-stop mention of Hulkamaniacs and the fact that Hulk is the most requested human being in the Make-a-wish foundation's history are why Hulk's association with the nWo made them the biggest heat magnets in wrestling for decades (and decades to come I'd imagine).

Maybe poor sales of this album are the reason WCW turned Hulk heel. Maybe Eric Bischoff thought that Hulk had made as much money as possible as a face and that the only way to milk the cash cow further was to turn him heel.

Interestingly, the liner notes give "Special Thanx" to Eric Bischoff and a convicted criminal.

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Tuesday, 3 June 2008

What is ugly to the power of ugly?

An interesting question no?

The answer can probably be answered by clicking here.

Anyone who's ever seen Trey Parker and Matt Stone's early masterpiece, Cannibal the Musical, will most certainly be thinking that a Union Army soldier did it to him in the big one ("YOU LOOKIN' AT MY EYE BOY?!").

Apparently he did it in some PPV that nobody watched. Randy Orton broke his shoulder though, which is good news for fans of anything that isn't a headlock, but not for creative as they have to give a number one contender push to somebody. I mean just who can they give that push to? Who has enough popularity to chase the gold?

In other news (and in a way to get more traffic here from Google), John Cena and Mickie James are apparently a couple. So I'm sure he's finding new ways of making members of the Raw roster STFU.


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