Kayfabe Comedy

A professional wrestling blog that wants to believe. Formerly of lolwresslin.blogspot.com

Whose wrestling is it anyway?

October 1st, 2012

There’s no doubt that we love wrestling.  We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t, and neither would you.  Just as is the case with the people you love, you also want the best for wrestling – you want the best storylines, the best characters, the best matches.  We go online and foam at the mouth when things don’t go how we want them to go, and we TYPE IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE THAT GETS OUR POINT ACROSS BETTER.  We question the ability of the superstars; we question the judgment of the bookers; we question the direction of the promotion.

The one thing we rarely question is ourselves.

Kayfabe Comedy has always said wrestling fans are the worst.  That seems a little harsh, but if you’ve spent any time reading the site, you know what we mean.  It’s not that wrestling fans are bad people or enjoying wrestling makes you an undesirable person.  It’s rather that we tend to suck the fun out of whatever we’re watching.  We’re the kings (and occasional queens) of missing the forest and seeing the trees.  While each individual tree may have a flaw or two, they make up a rather good looking forest.

It’s the issue with enthusiasts.  This is the thing we’ve chosen to love, and because of that, we’re more familiar with it than the average person.  It’s not enough for us to simply turn off our brains and enjoy what we’re seeing.  We must critique.  We must inspect.  We must judge.  We must compare to the past.  We must project to the future.

You need only look at the word “enthusiast” to understand our position among wrestling fans.  En theos.  We are inspired by the divine.  We are not among the rest of the population; rather, we’ve been touched by a god.  The God of Wrestling.  As such, it’s our job – our job alone – to be better than the rest and demand better than what we’re given.

Are we the ones that should be making the demands, though?

Let’s look at another word: brony.  In case this term has passed you by, I’m referring to the segment of fans of the TV show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic that consists of males or females in their teens or older.  I’m in no mood to pass judgment on these individuals (my friends and I watched Pokémon well beyond the age where it was acceptable) but they make me consider the nature of their fanship.  Would we scoff at a group of bronies at the mall if we overheard them complaining about a current storyline or the current direction of a character?  Would we say to them, “What are you grumbling about?  You’re watching a kid’s show.”  You may have heard these same words said to you…

It’s hard to admit, but perhaps today’s wrestling just isn’t for us, at least as far as the WWE is concerned.  Wrestling has gone through many phases – it was a sideshow act, then a regional entertainment show, then a brightly colored showcase, followed by a gritty redesign, and now today.  It’s not hard to see the cycle.  We grew up with the big characters of the 80’s.  We were dazzled by their reds and yellows, by their face paint and bicycle streamers, by their sequins and their big hats.  As we grew older and came to understand more of the world, we learned it wasn’t as simple as good vs. bad or American vs. Russian.  Wrestling was there for us, though.  They spoke to our independent spirit, our high school rebellion, our college freedom.  Our heroes didn’t tell us to drink milk.  They told us to drink beer.  The women weren’t meant to be cared for and protected.  They were meant to be lusted after and chased.

Which brings us to today.  We’re older still, and we may have a family.  Our kids might show an interest in this thing called wrestling that mom and dad talk about and watch several nights a week.  Does it make sense for wrestling to speak to us or should it instead speak to the younger generation?  We see a lot of complaints about John Cena being one-dimensional and “for kids.”  What’s wrong with that?  Why shouldn’t he be?

My dad was never into wrestling, but he loves car racing.  I can remember when we’d watch races on Sunday; he’d have his driver and I’d have mine.  We would talk trash and cheer and make bets on how our guy would do.  When I see a match between John Cena and C.M. Punk, I’m reminding of those Sunday afternoons on the couch.  Cena speaks to the kid, Punk speaks to the adult.  It’s a battle of family member avatars.

It’s easy to look at the TV-PG movement and say it’s all because Linda McMahon wants to be in the Senate for whatever reason.  That’s probably the most reductive and cynical way to look at it.  But ultimately, WWE is speaking again to a market that wasn’t the focus during the Attitude Era.  They’re speaking to the ones that have the direct line to their parent’s purse or wallet.  The same parent that was likely a wrestling fan themselves and knows the importance of getting a special wrestling shirt or mask or wristband.

I’m not saying it’s not ok to want certain things out of wrestling, or to disagree with a certain direction a promotion has chosen to take.  We should, however, have a little perspective on what this program is trying to do.  Before we take to the computer and bang out another harshly worded rant about how ridiculous it is John Cena continues to get a push, we should consider if this is really our show anymore, or are we just squatting?  Are we wrestling bronies?

TNA Revisited

July 17th, 2012

Recently, I wrote an article about why I didn’t really feel like TNA was the wrestling promotion for me.  I admitted that I have not given TNA a viewing in quite some time, and that the prejudices listed were gained either through hearsay, personal preference or limited online exposure.  I decided I should probably at least give it a chance again.

July 12 was the day that happened.

Let’s talk about what I liked first.  I won’t go over the show from top to bottom; this is just a rough list I took while watching.  I’ll get this one out of the way at the beginning – Christy Hemme.  She didn’t have a particularly large amount of TV time, but she’s always been one of my favorite “divas,” and that hasn’t changed.  Keep doing what you do.

By which I mean “wearing bandanas as t-shirts”

Joseph Park seemed cool.  The match was lame (if you’re going to do a fake tacks spot, just don’t bother), but I like the bit about some sort of duel personality thing going on.  I feel like that’s a well-trodden road – done already by a guy that wears a mask – but there’s something compelling here.

RVD and Samoa Joe was a fun match.  I’ve never been a huge fan of RVD, but he seems to fit in a little better at TNA than some of the other former WWE guys, and Samoa Joe is always interesting.

The Knockouts were a bit of a surprise.  I knew there were some genuinely good female wrestlers over there, but I’m glad they’re allowed to actually have matches and do a good job of it.  I don’t think women’s wrestling will ever be viewed as on par with men’s wrestling, but it can be something more than a distraction.  TNA appears to be doing their part in pushing that part of the business forward.

That’s about all I have for the good.  Sorry.

I knew that searching “sad party” wouldn’t fail me

My biggest issue with TNA is the production of the show itself.  I know it’s not all their fault, necessarily.  There’s only so much money going around, so you do what you can.  But the arena feels so small that it’s difficult not to get the sense that you’re watching an indie show in a high school gym somewhere.  The video production is simply uninspired.  Consumer grade video editing software can do a lot, so I don’t give them a pass on that.  When I watch the WWE and their video packages, I feel that even if I had all that equipment and the knowledge on how to use it at my fingertips, I still wouldn’t come up with the things they come up with.  There’s a certain amount of craft and creativity at work there that just doesn’t appear in the TNA stuff.  It all leads to a general sense that what you’re watching is “less-than.”

Bully Ray gets a restraining order against Abyss?  Really?  Everyone in the locker room is trying to kill everyone else.  Why don’t we all just get restraining orders and call it a night, ok?

I mentioned the fake tacks.  At least if you’re going to do it, don’t show me a clear shot of Bully Ray’s back afterward.

AJ Styles still can’t cut a promo.

But Austin Aries can.  At least, I think he can.  I would know for sure if it weren’t for the handful of dirtbags that thought it was cool to yell the entire time.  This is another problem with small arenas – a few fans can legitimately hijack any promo they wish just by being loud and obnoxious.  Also, let’s think about giving your NEW CHAMP more than a couple minutes of screen time, part of which was spent getting called a fluke by the old champ, who was given more time to call him a fluke in Hogan’s office later in the show.

Honest question: what is Kurt Angle still doing here?

I don’t like the short cuts back to the action in the middle of the commercial break.  Take your break and get back 20 seconds early.  I don’t care to see one hold and then back to spots.

Finally, I think it’s a problem when your show ends with Sting and Hogan getting laid out.  They do nothing but jaw about going “old school” for the entire two hours and then we go off the air watching them get jumped.  I guess that’s old school.  I don’t see why I’m supposed to care, though.

So thems my thoughts on TNA.  I’m sure you were dying to know how the grand experiment went.  I’m not turned completely off, and it certainly offered more than I thought it would, but I won’t be visiting the TNA ShopZone anytime soon, either.  Do I sound like a seasoned Impact fan yet?

COOL! Mainstream Media Attention!

July 6th, 2012

Hey guys!  Looks like our favorite Twitter Trend is finally getting the attention from the masses we so rightfully crave so that we can validate our smelly old hobby!  CNN, subsidiary of former WCW owners, wrote a glowing piece about Monday Night Raw’s march to 1,000 episodes today. Finally, some recognition, right guys?

The author of the article writes a weekly slice of life piece about trending topics on Twitter.  This week he tackled Doink the Clown’s return to Raw:

When you’re sitting on your couch on a quiet Monday night searching the Web for a decent trending topic and the almighty Twitter gods give you Doink the Clown, you take it. And if you happen to have a goat, it’s polite to offer them a sacrifice. I was fresh out of goats, so I murdered a Klondike Bar.

And the Twitter gods were pleased.

“Yaaaawwwnnn…just a boring old Monday before the holiday.  I guess I should check in with Twitter, being how that’s my job and all.  Hmm..nothing good.  Same old “John Cena” and “Santino” stuff that trends every Monday.  Hoe?  What’s this?  A Doink the Clown?  This requires more investigation.”

…..

“Oh, thank God this is  a wrestling thing!  I’ll be able to write up a snarky article about people who enjoy things!”

Truth be told, I had no idea who Doink the Clown was. But it sounded like a good topic, just so long as he wasn’t making headlines for cruising the suburbs in a windowless van.

Clowns and vans. Not good.

Child murder is hilarious, you guys.

So, why the trend? Well, it turns out Doink the Clown is an old-school WWE wrestler who had just made a blast-from-the-past appearance on “Monday Night Raw.” I guess this was kind of a big deal. I don’t know — I’m not really into wrestling.

In fact, the closest I ever came to a real match was when two of my college friends battled each other inside an old Dodge Daytona to see who could be first out the sunroof.

We lost a lot of good brain cells that day.

“Just to be clear- I’m a respected journalist who blogs at CNN.com.  I do not, repeat, DO NOT watching wrestling.  You guys need to know that because it adds so much to this post.”

“To further prove my point, I feel that you, noble readers, need to now that I went to college and had friends and we engaged in hijincks!  What a bunch of rascals we were, so much so that I can wistfully remember how ‘dumb’ we were back then!”

Anyway, according to the WWE website, the evil Doink was known for scaring children and making them cry. Basic clown stuff. But Doink would also bludgeon his opponents with a prosthetic limb. That leads to years of serious therapy.

“So, tell me how Doink made you feel.”

“You mean before or after I went home and cut off my genitals?”

This totally happens because all the stupid people who watch and work in the wrestling business doesn’t know it’s a show.  And then they continue the pattern of animal sacrifice/child murder/genital mutilation that having even a faint interest in professional wrestling causes.

Of course, the really good wrestlers have their signature moves, and Doink was also known for utilizing something called the “Whoopie Cushion.” Apparently he would butt-slam his opponent’s head while viciously breaking wind.

Doink was a classy clown.

And a classy writer uses another one sentence paragraph.

I actually found one good example of this on YouTube, which shows Doink dropping the Whoopie Cushion move on some guy named Barry Horowitz. Yes. Barry Horowitz.

Guys, guys, guys, guys, guys.  There’s an “athlete” with an ethnic name.  We gotta fact check this one.

I’m not saying my people are bad wrestlers or poor athletes. After all, we did have Goldberg. But if tomorrow I had to get in the ring and you gave me a list of 10,000 wrestlers to choose from, I’m absolutely, positively picking the guy named Barry Horowitz.

Unless there’s a Shlomo Rothstein. In which case, I choose him.

Cool story.  Any other reason then your rampant xenophobia and/or accepted prejudice?  Also, are you implying that Barry Horowitz is a “bad wrestler(s) or poor athlete(s)”, because due to the beauty of language, I’m able to infer that the opening of this paragraph is a qualifier.  You’re trying to say that you have no proof that Jewish people are bad athletes, but commonly held stereotypes would dictate they are.  Hence, you wouldn’t select Barry Horowitz on name alone- at least not without more info on him.  I’m confused because you open up with that qualifier, but then say you would take him in a heartbeat based on that name.  In fact, you would only take someone not named take Barry Horowitz if- and only if- his name were more traditionally Jewish.  Is this right?  I’m a bit confused by you’re writing.

Now, as I remember it — and this was a long time ago — unless it was a pay-per-view mega-event, the big name superstar wrestlers always just faced some random mullet-man in a pair of briefs. And won. Because, let’s be honest, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcakedoesn’t get pinned by the night manager at Denny’s.

According to Linda Hogan, you’d be surprised who and what pins Brutus Beefcake.

Apparently, there’s an actual term for these no-name wrestlers. They’re called “jobbers.” Their job is to lose the match. Barry Horowitz, it turns out, made a nice career out of getting his brains beat in. Though I’m sure Mr. and Mrs. Horowitz were never pleased with their son’s life choice.

“You’re such a smart boy, Barry. You could’ve been a doctor!”

Cool Jewish stereotypes, again.

By the mid-’90s it seemed as though WWE (then, WWF) started using fewer of these jobbers in favor of marquee fights to increase their TV ratings. Especially on Mondays.

Oh, thank God he told me that in the mid-90′s WWE was called WWF.  Clearly any sane person would be confused by the acronym change.  It’s not like it’s been called WWE for about ten years and is a prominent television show on the #1 cable network in the US or anything.  Real hard to put two and two together on that one.

It was 1993 when Raw first appeared on television. Almost 20 years later, they’ve done it 997 times. So, there’s a big milestone coming up. To celebrate the upcoming 1,000th episode, WWE has been sending Heath “The One-Man Band” Slater into the ring each week to compete against past WWE legends. This week, they brought back Doink the Clown.

Twitter went crazy. And here we are.

I really like the way that the 21st paragraph tells me the same thing the 5th paragraph told me.  THAT’S GOOD FACT CHECKIN’!

Doink lost the match within minutes, and most people online seemed to think it was a rather lackluster performance. Alas, on this warm summer night, an old, sad clown was just doing his “job.”

You mean, people can romanticize things?  Like, they remember Doink being one way as a child, and then the reality of adulthood can be a little disappointing?  Surely this TV show or it’s viewers cannot be capable of such, depth?

Nah, I’m kidding.  He’s probably right on that one.  “Old, sad clown.”  Cool topic to write about.

And perhaps somewhere a Denny’s was missing its night manager.

Oh, is this why you missed your shift on Monday?

BOOM!

ROASTED!

YA BURNT!

Why I’m Not a TNA Fan

July 5th, 2012

Laugh Twin Matt here. I’m writing this for both myself and the people who might read it. Ok, mostly for myself, because I’ll be the one reading it, but perhaps it can spur a little discussion.

After recording our podcasts, I always find myself wondering why I dismiss TNA so outright. I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t watch it. In fact, I’ll spend more time writing this article than I have spent watching TNA in the past two years. It seems odd that I would have so much disdain for something that I have so little experience with. (However, I am on the internet, so maybe it’s not that odd.)  I even had the opportunity to watch Slammiversary in person for the low, low price of $10 and I didn’t take it. I thought it would be helpful to try and work out just what I don’t like about Total Nonstop Action.

My first issue is simply time. There’s just not enough of it. It’s a hollow reason to be sure, because I spend a great deal of my time just sitting and doing nothing in particular. I barely get around to watching WWE programming for the week and faced with the possibility of watching TNA or reading more of A Game of Thrones or playing Minecraft, I’ll choose either of the latter.  I’m not totally devoid of TNA; I read about what happens and people tell me from time to time.  Never has it impressed upon me the need to supplant something else I’d rather do and give it more of a shot.

My biggest issue with TNA is that I feel it’s constantly chasing after WWE, be it storylines or talent.  A few years ago, when we would tweet along with the show, I didn’t have that feeling.  I didn’t feel like I was watching the free version of WWE and that I would have to micro-transact my way to the full product.  They employed some leftovers, but it felt like those wrestlers were getting a better shot to show off their talent, rather than just saying “Hey, you remember this guy, don’t you?”  I didn’t feel like they were rehashing bits from WWE, or even WCW.  When I hear about it now, I can’t help but feel that way.

As a corollary to that, I can’t stand Hulk Hogan anymore.  This is by no means a radical viewpoint on the internet, but it plays a great deal into what turns me off about the brand.  The last few years that Hogan was involved in the WWE, it was clear that he was more or less dead weight.  The problem is when you take that dead weight and move it to a company with less momentum, it becomes a significant negative influence rather than something that’s just not a positive.  I have no doubt that Hogan has a great wrestling mind.  It seems that mind is dragged down by his own significant legacy, though.  Perhaps like Ric Flair, it’s also dragged down by a very real need to keep working.

The old argument was always “WWE is for fans of melodrama, TNA is where the real wrestling happens.”  I’ll be honest – I never saw that.  I feel like that was born more from a need for people to justify why they’re watching something with less emphasis on production.  That’s not to say there wasn’t great wrestling going on, but the argument presupposes that there’s not great wrestling in WWE, which just wasn’t true.  Both companies made great cakes; WWE just had more icing, and I’m an unashamed fan of icing.

Lately, TNA has been putting a little more icing on their cake.  From what I can tell, that icing sucks.  (It’s like that whipped stuff they try to sneak onto some birthday cakes.  If it’s not buttercream, get out of my face.  I WILL fight about this.)  I’ve always felt that a promotion should know what it does well and what it doesn’t do well.  One thing I admire about CHIKARA is that it seems to understand it’s not going to be the place that people go for tightly crafted dramatic storylines, and it chooses to rather make most of their stuff crazy.  It’s not my cup of tea, but they do it well and I can appreciate that.  They’ll never be a giant success by doing that, but I get the sense that they aren’t interested in that.

On the other hand, TNA seems determined to beat WWE at their own game.  WCW did that for a while, but ultimately collapsed under its own weight.  Sadly, it looks as if those same minds are at work here and are up to their old tricks.  I’m not suggesting that TNA give up on trying to craft more story into their product.  I just wish they would focus on being an alternative to WWE rather than another WWE.

Finally, I don’t see a whole lot of fun.  In many ways, the things I see coming out of TNA feel needlessly cynical.  It’s one thing to have a character occasionally air out some dirty laundry in the ring and shoot for a bit.  I’ve never been a fan, though, of segments designed to flaunt the business in the fans’ faces.  CM Punk’s “real talk” angle last year greatly overstayed its welcome for me.  The same goes for segments that pull back the curtain on TNA.  Those things are fun every now and then, but when done on a regular basis, they start to feel a little hostile toward the fans and masturbatory.

Again, these are all things I’ve felt while keeping TNA at arm’s length for the last couple years.  Am I off-base?  Or can I feel comfortable knowing that I’m not missing much?  Convince me to watch, or tell me I can happily go back to my video games.

Wrestling within the lines

May 29th, 2012

This video has nothing to do with this post, but who cares.

The question that seems to be floating around wrestling over the past several years is “When is ‘too much’ too much?”  Just how bad should our heels be and just what should they be allowed to get away with?  What should be considered “just an act” and what is going too far?

WWE has taken some noticeable steps to draw that line recently: pushing hard on the TVPG rating, pulling Daniel Bryan over an unfortunate incident involving a tie (thank you MegaUndertakerFan100), and now they’ve suspended Chris Jericho for being Chris Jericho in another country.  If you somehow haven’t heard or are too lazy to simply click a link provided for you (let’s be honest, you just held your cursor over it to read the URL, didn’t you?), the long and short of it is that Jericho was in Brazil, crumpled up a Brazilian flag and kicked it out to the crowd.  This is a crime in Brazil and the local authorities, deciding that mom’s way works best, grabbed Jericho by the ear and said, “Apologize or go to jail.”  Y2J took the chump’s way out and expressed regret over his previous actions.

Still, even though he totally said he was sorry and meant it, the WWE felt it necessary to slap a 30 day vacation on him and call it a suspension.  General sentiment is that this is much ado about nothing.  Take this article from the Baltimore Sun, which says exactly that.  Arda Ocal, named as if they were an anagram from a Dan Brown novel, says the WWE simply reacted to the Brazilian police’s reaction and did not suspend Jericho because they disagree with his action in itself.  This might as well be considered a non-statement, because of course that’s what happened.  The WWE is a company that has had no problem incorporating other nation’s flags in less than respectful ways in their matches.

So is it simply a case of some overly sensitive foreigners pushing around the professional wrestling company?  Or did WWE perhaps do the right thing, not only protecting their image (not insignificant) but also sending a message to the locker room?

We’re a long way away from the days when it was an awesome road story to have broken bottles thrown at you in other countries and having to leave the arena in secret for fear of getting shanked in the parking lot.  This is a company that brings in millions upon millions of dollars a year and also answers to shareholders.  Like it or not, the WWE is a global company and caters to a much larger audience than Americans and some Canadians.  We’d be in a much different situation if one of your top stars had kept up the heel routine and been dragged off to a Brazilian jail all in service of kayfabe.  A 30 day suspension is nothing.

And that’s saying nothing about common decency or creativity.  Anyone remember this little incident?  The comments section on that video is rife with people cheering JBL because what a great way it was to “get heat.”  What about this one?  You don’t even have to look past the top comments to find someone saying how this should have been a great angle.

Make an angle of it.  Get heat.

So what?

So what if you can go out and get heat by showing a bunch of terrorists beating up an “American Bad Ass”?  So what if you can get heat by Nazi saluting your way through Germany?  So what if you can get heat by kicking around a Brazilian flag?

Is that really all it takes to make a good angle?  A good heel?

Any one of us could make a good heel by simply going out and saying the worst thing we could imagine, using that logic.  Is that how we want wrestling to be?  Can we not ask for better?

None of this is to suggest that what happened with Jericho was anything but a wrestler doing something ridiculous in the heat of an event, and it just happened to be in the wrong place.  However, to say that it shouldn’t warrant a suspension and that it should have made for a good storyline is to ignore both the current state of wrestling and your own desire for it to be something more than the most basic displays of “good guys” and “bad guys.”

Cheap pops and cheap heat should not be considered good because it’s a reaction; they should be seen for what they are – cheap.

Kayfabe Comedy

A professional wrestling blog that wants to believe. Formerly of lolwresslin.blogspot.com

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