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Thread: Archive - CSI '12: Elite Eight Columns

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    Archive - CSI '12: Elite Eight Columns

    Originally posted as my entry for the quarter finals of CSI '12, 7th October 2012. Having re-read it, how it beat anything is beyond me.


    I think it was Sun Tzu who said that all war was deception; which is funny, when you think about the Monday Night War, because thinking back to it, the guy at the helm of the company who actually ended up coming out on top when hostilities were over was pretty useless when it came to the arts of deception.

    This wasn’t always the case. If you were to go back ten years before it started, you’d see a very different picture. The Vince McMahon who expanded the territories, who devised long-standing PPV traditions purely as a form of industrial sabotage, was an incredibly devious figure. He was, not to put too fine a point on it, a right fucking twat. However, that was the eighties. The thing is, by the time you reached 1995, with his wrestling enemies reduced to tiny specks in his rear view mirror, McMahon was pretty complacent. More often than not, he was far more aware of his adversaries from outside the sphere of wrestling – the people trying to indict him on criminal charges, just to name one example – and generally wound up ignoring the old enemy, lying in wait in Georgia.

    The WWE, or WWF if you prefer, won their second great wrestling war (because I don’t think it is too much of a stretch to refer to the expansion as a war) not because of their devious tactics, but in spite of their best attempts at playing dirty. Efforts to mock, to belittle the opposition into the ground, starting with the Billionaire Ted skits, failed miserably; in fact, they probably helped WCW far more than they hindered them. While plenty of people describe Vince’s proclamation that ‘ Bret screwed Bret’, the infamous lead-in to his (some might say) war-winning heel turn, as an act of genius, most of the people close to Vince at the time that have broken ranks and spoken out suggest that this wasn’t a well thought through cunning plan, one designed to make him the most hated man in professional wrestling, but was instead a genuine reaction of an irascible old man, who saw one of his most talented workers leaving to join a company that was kicking his ass, mere weeks after he had turned him into the biggest babyface in the world of pro-wrestling with a laughably transparent, poorly executed double-cross. Truth is, for all people want to back Vince, for all they want to be in on it, if you look at it all closely it makes much more sense. Very little about the way that thing develops, certainly through the rest of 1997, suggests that Vince was really in control of what he was doing.

    Another thing that really helps this idea of McMahon as reacting more than acting is that a lot of the things that really helped the WWF win the war was just them rolling with the punches. Inherit Steve Austin and have no better idea what to do with him than WCW did, before letting him turn himself into the biggest megastar in wrestling? Check. Successfully turn the most hated man in wrestling into the kind of villain that people love to hate? Check. Find out that putting real life friendship, real personalities, out on screen can actually lead to successful stables that, in turn, drive fucking weaponry into the heart of the opposition? Check.

    In none of these instances was the WWF, or Vince as an individual, particularly devious. Everything is, if anything, far more confrontational than underhanded, dealing with the opposition head-on. Certainly, the success that stems from these examples can be seen more as making the best of bad situations. Austin was there, and no one knew what to do with him. The Kliq had run rampant, alienating half of the locker room backstage in the process – why not let them do it in front of camera, where it might actually do some good? In hindsight, these decisions aren’t rocket science, but it doesn’t seem as if Vince was necessarily in control for long periods in the war. It certainly feels like he didn’t have it together enough to fight an underhanded war.

    Not like his opponent, ‘Easy E’ Eric Bischoff, who always seemed to have a plan of one form or another. I’ve always had very mixed feelings about Bisch. I’ve never been able to make up my mind whether I love the guy or hate him; whether he is the man most responsible for bringing about a lot of the great wrestling of my youth, or whether he was little more than a bit part player who was better at promoting himself than anything else. The truth is probably somewhere in between. I remember the WCW midcard of my youth being a real hotbed of incredible fresh talent, the matches themselves often infinitely more important than the storylines. I’ve always given some credit to Eric for bringing them in, for placing some of these belletristic spectacles in the middle of his show. Should I hold him to a higher standard and wonder why they often weren’t used in better programmes? Could it be that the talent of these men was obvious; had Bischoff not been there, someone else would have had the foresight to give them their spot on the card, that one way or another we’d have still gotten to see Rey Mysterio, or Chris Jericho, to name just a couple. These are the kinds of questions that I’ve never been able to answer effectively. Nor, when push comes to shove, am I entirely sure that they matter all that much. Perhaps the cruiserweights, the foreign imports, could have been better used, but then, for much of its spell Nitro was an entertaining show. Maybe other executives or companies would also have picked them up, but the fact remains that Eric was the man there at the moment, he was the one that actually took the risk, so whether or not it was obvious to others strikes me as a bit irrelevant.

    One place where I’m not so comfortable with Eric’s legacy is his use of underhanded tactics to fight the war. For one thing, it really was this deviousness that turned the whole thing into a full-blooded conflict to begin with. There are plenty of ratings battles between other shows that don’t break down into the kind of nonsense that we saw between the two companies from 1995-2001; the principal factor in that breakdown, I have no doubt, is Bischoff.

    In saying all this, I must admit that I don’t feel sorry for Vince. As I’ve already said, he’s no angel himself. Though he was far better behaved than Bisch by the time the war came around, he’s got a charge sheet full of equally unnecessary crimes. When I think of McMahon or of words to describe him, I don’t think of ‘genius’ or ‘visionary’. The first words that pop into my head are along the lines of ‘manipulative’, ‘cynical’, or ‘arrogant’. Perhaps the most damning that always manages to find its way in is ‘liar’. One thing I often encounter in my job is people trying to rehabilitate artists or writers that they like, to minimalize or even whitewash their faults. That’s something I gave up doing years ago with McMahon – or with wrestling more generally. It’s not like it is even something I need to do, because Vince has gotten better at the duplicitous arts in the past decade. All they really need to do is put out a DVD with Vince’s propaganda on it, knowing that so desperate are some people to parrot the words of ‘the Socrates of sports entertainment’ that the company line will spread like wild fire. In this way, like a Machiavellian Tom Sawyer, he gets us to do his whitewashing for him.

    As a group, I’ve got plenty of sympathy for the fans. I’m also inclined to feel sorry for a lot of the wrestlers that were no doubt affected by the hostility between the two companies. Some obviously did well out of the situation, leveraging one against the other to great advantage. Others tried this approach and failed. Still others were manipulated, and ill-used, by one side and so were always tainted in the eyes of the other. I don’t think it is a coincidence that Luger or Madusa were ever invited back into the WWF fold during their active wrestling careers.

    There is one offence above all others that has always stuck out for me, probably for a lot of others too, and that is Eric (then later, his employees) giving away results for the competition on a regular basis. The first time this happened was none other than the first time the shows were head to head, when a taped Intercontinental championship match, Sid vs. Shawn Michaels, was spoiled. It was probably one of the only things worth watching on the nights show. This became something of a routine, with Bischoff mocking WWF talent as well as announcing the results of pre-taped shows. In 1996, an episode of Raw was built around the ‘Raw bowl’ – Bischoff promptly renamed it the ‘toilet bowl’, before revealing to the world that there was absolutely no need to watch the competition because The Smoking Gunns were going to win.

    For all the good things you might want to say about Bischoff plus the things he did with Monday Nitro, there’s something pusillanimous about this approach. I can’t be the only one who would much rather see Eric stand tall, to back the quality of his programming against the opposition rather than resorting to dirty tricks. In fact, as time went on, he would do just that. It was very rare through the second half of 1996 that Eric would ever even mention the WWF by name. There was no need to. They were just no longer on his radar. However, it’s easy to rise above the fray when you are already so far above it. What really determines the worth of a man is the character he can show when he is in a fight. Bischoff had the opportunity to display those convictions, yet didn’t take it.

    One of the more famous examples has to be Tony Schiavone giving away the first WWF title win for Mankind with the now-infamous comment ‘huh, that’ll put a lot of butts in seats’. At first glance you’d call it poetic justice, because this famously backfired as plenty of people stopped watching Nitro to see someone that they genuinely respected have his moment in the sun. If you take it as a standalone moment, it’s easy to see this as no-harm no-foul, just one in the eye for Eric; something of a happy ending, if you will.

    My problem is that I see this as a bit more complicated. First of all, there are the fans who turned over when they heard Schiavone’s ill-advised comment. I’m guessing that most of them enjoyed the show anyway, but there is no telling how much more they might have enjoyed it had they not had the result spoiled. Genuine surprise often thrills people; this could well be so much more the case when it is a very pleasant surprise relating to someone that you hold in genuine esteem. There is no doubt, whatever his reputation is today, that Foley was a well-loved figure in 1998. People wouldn’t have turned over to see him win the title en masse if he didn’t have sort of connection, that rapport, with the fans. So, while their conniving tactics colour the personalities of people that I would otherwise probably look up to, it’s not just about Vince and Bisch. If it were, I don’t think it would be making a fuss about. It’s the people who just want to be entertained, wrestling’s collateral damage.

    The wrestlers themselves are also victims of this. Using the Foley example again, we can maybe think about this in terms of the butterfly effect. We all know how the Monday night wars ended, but go back to the tail end of 1998, change that one event, and you can start to imagine a very different trajectory. Imagine, for example, that everyone that did turn over carried on watching Nitro. They’d have seen (if you are interested in the details) Konnan, Scott Steiner, Bam Bam Bigelow, DDP, and Wrath. Not the biggest hitters in wrestling, you might be thinking, but we don’t know how much bigger they might have become. Suppose that 75% of the people still watching had liked enough of what they saw before they got to the Fingerpoke that they decided to carry on giving Nitro a chance – In that circumstance, Nitro might have kept their audience through 1999, to the point where there is no need to hire Vince Russo. In this scenario Vinny Ru probably stays up in New York, meaning the whole ball game throughout 1999-2000 is different. Alternatively, maybe some of the guys mentioned, having kept the audience, would have been trusted with more high profile roles, and might have wound up being a bigger deal in later years. The point is that there is no way of telling what might have happened.


    I’m not really sure what the point of all this is. I guess when you’ve got a tournament to write for, sometimes you just have to sit down and do it all in one hit. If there was one thing I’d say, it’s that wrestling might teach us that being devious doesn’t always work out for you. Sometimes it does, but in others, you’ve got no control of the consequences. Since it is actually really tough to write a column with a moral, I think I'll stick with that.

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    Archive - CSI '12: Elite Eight

    Spurred on by Prime's delve into the Wayback Machine, I've found a few columns that were available from the 2012 CSI Elite Eight. Given that the competition is active again some six years later, it seems relevant to add as many of the columns as I can here. Reminder - Prime himself has posted the thread with the stipulations for this round in here.

    The Man With The Dragon Tattoo (One Day Son, You'll Understand) by JoeyShibobi (originally posted October 11th, 2012)


    There was a muffled, nagging buzzing in the room. The kind you start off ignoring in the hope it will go away, even though you know it won’t. Joe rolled over, his fingertips scrabbling over the nightstand, searching for his phone. Bleary-eyed, he squinted at the screen. The name seemed woolly; fuzzy, even. He just about made out ‘Payne’.


    “Fuck…”


    He reluctantly pushed the green button on the screen, before raising the phone to his ear.


    “Payne…what do you want?”


    “Joey, Joey, listen to me. I got an opportunity you just cannot miss!”


    Oh, man, thought Joe. Another one of these opportunities that, frankly, I could have happily missed every time. I could do without this at this time of day...


    “Hit me. What have you got this time?”


    “You gotta get down to the ol’ CF, next Tuesday! I’m running a new CSI tournament, it’s freakin’ revolutionary! You’re an ex-champion, you qualify automatically for the knockout stages! Do you know what the best bit is?”


    “Tell me, Pay-“, Joe started, before being interrupted by an excited Payne.


    “The best bit is, if you win, you get the chance to face a certain Man with a Plan!!!”


    The Plan-Shinobi rivalry went back a long way. Back to the inaugural CSI; they were forced to team up against Mario and Degenerate in a special gimmick match, where they spectacularly self-destructed – after an argument, they received a double Maz-Line to be unceremoniously dumped out of the competition. The following week, they faced each other in a grudge match to get back into the tournament, as Shinobi picked up a narrow win. Despite Plan’s protestations of a fix and referee bias, the result stood. Relations between the two had been strained ever since, never more so than when Plan was left out of the team being ‘captained’ by Joe in a UK vs US tournament, despite being a major MPW superstar at the time. The justification was memorable for Shinobi’s use of “It’s nothing personal…it’s just business” – one of Plan’s catchphrases of the day. Ever since, every town they crossed paths, Shinobi would poke fun at Plan’s tendency to use belletristic monologues in his promos rather than say anything of real substance; Plan would retort by highlighting a perceived pusillanimous trait in Shinobi’s character – hence his infrequent appearances.


    Joe shifted slightly – his interest was certainly piqued, but not to the levels Payne was anticipating.


    “Okay. You’ve come up with a thousand of these ideas, and none of them have ever made me want to stick around for more than a couple of weeks. What’s different about this? I need a hook, Payne. I need…something more.”


    Payne paused. Joe could almost hear his evil brain whirring.


    “Then we’ll raise the stakes. No-one has to know it’s you.”


    Joe sat up straight, eyes wide, his brain suddenly working. I don’t know how we’ll pull this one off…but fuck, it’ll be fun trying to work it out.


    “I’m in.”

    _____________



    “So, I just put Freeman’s suit and mask on, come out to his music, walk like him, try to learn all of his moves without him being here, beat The Golden Wonder, not talk to anyone all night and everyone’s going to believe that nothing fishy is going on? That’s your plan?”


    Payne nodded, as if this all made perfect sense to him. “Exactly. Easy as sheep.”


    He always said that. Joe never really understood what it meant. He wore a slightly dubious look on his face.


    “Really, Payne? You can’t see this going horrendously wrong?”


    “Nope. What happens is you hide for the first half of the show. You have your match. As soon as you’ve showered back at the hotel, you come back as yourself, meeting all the guys backstage, talk about how you’ve not got time to do this stuff at the moment, that maybe you’ll be back some day. They won’t suspect anything.”


    Joe mulled it over, his unimpressed expression suddenly changing as the idea engraved itself on his mind. That could actually work. Fucker.


    “Here. I’ve got two videos of Freeman’s matches for the MPW. You’ve got a couple of hours – why don’t you watch them on here, get yourself dressed - I’ll see you later. Good luck!”


    “Wait, wait…Payne, why is this in French?”


    Payne turned to look at Joe holding up the poster.


    “Why is what in French?” Payne furrowed his brow.


    “This irrascible crap.” Joe pointed to a word on the page, used to describe the main event of the evening.


    “It’s an English word, you fool. It means to be prone to outbursts of temper. As in, your incomprehension of simple English is making me irrascible.”


    “Well, you’ve spelt it wrong then.”


    “What?!?”


    “You’ve spelt it wrong. It’s only got one ‘r’ in English. I-R-A-S-C-I-B-L-E. Thought you’d have known that, given your tendency to mark people down for even the tiniest spelling mistake.”


    Payne looked decidedly sheepish.


    “…shut up.” He snatched the poster out of Joe’s hand, screwing it up, before slamming the door behind him as he walked out.

    __________



    “The following contest is scheduled for one fallll! Introducing first, from Northern Ireland, weighing in at two hundred seven pounds, he’s worth his weight in goooold…The Goldennnnnn Wonderrrrrr!”


    The crowd hissed and booed as Golden strutted down the ramp, resplendent in gold tights. “Gold” by Spandau Ballet rang through the crackly speakers. Behind the curtain, Joe peered through his mask. Christ, this thing is hot. As beads of sweat gathered uncomfortably on the fabric lining of the mask, he did a few final stretches, running through his head the entrance sequence Freeman always used. Right of stage, left of stage, inappropriate gesture towards an ugly woman, leg it down the ramp…


    The speakers went quiet; the atmosphere grew. What would Freeman do? Joe asked himself. He pulled down his sleeve, making sure his trademark dragon tattoo was concealed fully.


    He went out and won, in the weirdest way he could think of.


    _____________


    “Great job, everyone! Thanks for coming – your checks are in the mail. I’ll be sure to get the results up in the next couple of days on the website - we’ll hold the next round next weekend!”


    An audible, knowing groan went around the room. Joe had heard that promise before on every single one of Payne’s schemes over the years, and he sat in the corner with a wry smile on his face. He caught the eye of Mario, an old rival he’d grown to respect over the years. He’d been booked to win it the year that Joe took part in two epic matches in one night; the same night his four-year feud with Plan had started; Joe screwing Plan out of victory in the cheekiest way possible. As Payne addressed the rest of the locker room, Mario caught a glimpse of Joe’s smirk. On the way out, Mario pulled him to one side.


    “Alright, what’s going on?”


    Joe smirked again. “Can’t say.”


    Mario raised an eyebrow. “You’re up to something.”


    Joe looked around, before looking Mario in the eye. “Can you keep a secret?”


    “I’ve been keeping one for years. I mean…yes, of course I can.”


    There was a pause for a second. A thought crystallised in Joe’s mind that he managed to instantly dismiss, but not before a shiver shot down his back as he thought back to a night in Vegas that seemed to involve much more baby oil and tropical fruit than was really necessary.


    “Err…right. Well…I’m Freeman.”


    “Are you coming out to me? It’s okay man, I’m glad you finally feel free.”


    “No, you dick. I’m Freeman. I wrestled Golden earlier. Payne’s drafted me in.”


    “I don’t understand. Freeman is Freeman. I saw him wrest- …waaaaait a minute…I thought he looked chubbier than usual…”


    “Hey! I have slow metabolism. Well, you know how the brackets are…he promised me Plan if I got through. Just another opportunity to screw him over at another tournament. It wouldn’t be a tournament if I didn’t.”


    “That’s insane. Genius, but insane. You – sorry, Freeman – looked rusty as hell against Golden, now I know why. How the hell are you going to pull it out the bag against Plan? He’s as good as he’s ever been.”


    “Haven’t got that far, but I’ve impersonated the best of them and people don’t notice. I bet you didn’t know I once stood in for Unc, when no-one noticed? I do a mean Bobby Jones, too - you know all about that one.”


    Mario stood there, nodding. He couldn’t deny it. He’d had a hand in the Bobby Jones escapade, a secret that was still safe and sound from the CF masses. That was probably for the best – yet another secret that couldn’t get out.


    “Anyway – great to see you. I’ll see you next year when Payne finally gets around to organising the next round.”

    _____________



    Seven long months later, Joe’s phoned beeped. It was a text message from Payne, simply saying ‘Elite Eights; next Tuesday. Be there, or…something. You’ll lose your match, probably.” Joe rolled his eyes. It had been a crazy couple of weeks with his new job, and Tuesday was the last day of it. There was no way he’d be able to get back to the CF in time to compete. Typical Payne. Keep everyone waiting for months on end, and then he organises an event on literally the least convenient date imaginable. Joe decided to try to finish his project early so he could catch the next plane, with the intention of taking his place at the Elite Eights. He could show up as himself this time; Plan had inexplicably gotten himself eliminated after completely underestimating his opponent, Fenixx. That did take some of the fun out of it, granted; but Joe hated to renege on a commitment.


    As the week wore on, it became obvious that it wasn’t going to happen. He sent Payne an apologetic message, explaining that he couldn’t attend due to his work commitments; that he hoped it didn’t mess up his plans too much. There was no answer, so Joe assumed that he wouldn’t be hearing from Payne for some time. But less than a week later, his phone rang.


    “Hello, Payne.”


    “Joey, Joey…I’ve got a plan!”


    “What, you’ve kidnapped him? I know you two disagree about things a lot, but that’s surely a bit drastic…”


    “No! I mean, I’ve got A plan! Fenixx didn’t show up last week either, so we’ve only got three semi-finalists! I need you to come take part in a match…the best bit is…you can scupper Plan again!”


    It’s a bit childish how motivated that gets me, to be honest.


    “Colour me intrigued…”

    _____________



    “The following contest is a trrrrriple thrrrreat match, and is for the opportunity to go into the Fearsssssommmme Fourrrrsommmme of the CSI Finals! Introducing first, frrrrrom Sheffield, England, The Pre-determined Course of Action…Plan!”


    The arena was awash with pink magenta, as the speakers boomed out a theme tune sounding suspiciously like an early Bret Hart theme. Plan walked down the ramp in a shocking pink magenta singlet with long trunks, forcing members of the crowd to shake hands with him on his way to the ring. He eventually got to the ring to wait for his two opponents.


    The speakers cut Plan’s music, to be replaced by the sound of ‘Forever Blowin’ Bubbles’. “His opponent…from London, England…Oliverrrrrrr!!!”


    Oliver danced down the ramp, dressed in claret and blue. He was cheered down the gangway, stopping to pose with young fans before climbing up into the ring. He went face to face with Plan, who stared right back at Oliver. They were interrupted by the sound of a didgeridoo.


    “Their opponent…from some armpit of the earth, Australia…Fenixx!”


    The Aussie stood on the stage, boos ringing around the arena for the foreigner. Making a V shape above his head with his arms, he stood on the stage smirking at the negative reaction thrown his way, as if to invite it upon himself. He strode confidently down the aisle, watching his opponents. He got into the ring, and as he removed his Hawaiian shirt, Plan and Oliver began to circle around him. The referee in the corner was about to ring the bell, when suddenly, the dulcet tones of a ukulele burst through the speakers to the sound of ‘Delilah’ by Tom Jones.


    Payne appeared at the top of the ramp in a sheepskin jacket. Visibly sweating, he held a microphone to his lips.


    “Whoa, whoa, whoa…hold it there, sir. This match will be a Fatal Four-Way match…the other man to qualify for the Elite Eights is here tonight! Bring him out!”


    Everyone in the arena waited with baited breath for Freeman to show up. They would be waiting a long time. Suddenly, a guitar riff ripped through the arena, throwing everyone.


    “You wanna be a superstar? Better check out the stars…”


    On the stage, with his back turned to the crowd, was the Man With The Dragon Tattoo.


    As the crowd worked out what was going on, Joey Shinobi turned slowly to face his opponents, an almost sickly grin on his face. His gaze flitted between Oliver and Fenixx, before finally focusing on Plan - the shock, confusion, then finally dazed comprehension contorted all across his face.


    We’ve come full circle, my friend. I haven't forgotten the first thing you said to me, even if you have.


    Nothing personal…it’s just business.

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    Senior Member Oliver's Avatar
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    The Subtlest Man In The Business by mizfan (originally posted October 8th, 2012)

    Wrestling is all about subtlety. It might not be obvious from the exaggerated maneuvers, the larger than life storylines, the characters practically drawn in crayon, but rest assured there’s a lot of vital action that goes on unnoticed beneath the surface. I’m not speaking of backstage machinations or the latest change in management, but instead of what goes on in front of the very eyes of the spectators, in full view yet still undetected. Impossible, you say? Fear not, mizfan fans, for I shall elaborate.

    Every great wrestler, big or small, has become great because they understand the subtly of the business. When Shawn Michaels takes the time sell his exhaustion at the end of a hard fought match, very few would exclaim “that’s the best selling I have ever seen!”, yet without those little touches HBK would not be the legend he is today. When the Big Show takes that extra second to really wind up his next punch or chop, you can believe he is actually ready to knock somebody’s block off. When William Regal appears to have an injured arm after enduring a lengthy arm submission the audience gains a greater respect for his endurance as he continues to work through the supposed injury. All small things, things that don’t necessarily jump out as the stuff of legends, but they make all the difference and are essential when building a career that can truly be called legendary.

    None of this is surprising to us, the initiated. These little tricks may be a subconscious mystery to your average humanoid taking up space in the audience, but we of the so-called Internet Wrestling Community thrive on noticing all the small things that make up a match. We know all the right terms like psychology and work rate, bumping and selling, botching and sandbagging… the list goes on. Apparently there is no end to our collective knowledge. Thanks to online reports, very few secrets or surprises remain for us. We are champions, or at least devotees, of all that is subtle and overlooked in the wrestling business. After all, Curt Hawkins has a fan club. I kid you not, he really does! It doesn’t get more obscure than that.

    Or does it?

    Dear readers, I think I can do you one better than the least recognizable man in wrestling. There’s at least one man in the WWE who not only works much harder, but receives far less thanks for the amazing job he does. One man who excels above all others at what he does, and he does it so well that most people never even notice.

    No, I am not talking about JTG. Fuck that guy.

    I’m talking about none other than Charles “Little Naitch” Robinson, the greatest WWE referee of all time.

    Surprised? I doubt you’ve spared a thought for “the blond referee” in the past year at least, probably a lot longer than that in fact, but all that means is that he’s doing his job perfectly. You may think, dear readers, that the reason you haven’t noticed him, or in fact any referee (expect black ref of course… because he’s black), is because they don’t actually do very much. But how wrong you would be!

    The job of any wrestling referee is a difficult one. They don’t face the same pressures as the performers in terms of having to exude charismatic or entice the live crowd to the appropriate reaction. They aren’t up against the same physical challenges of lifting grotesquely swollen men over their heads or leaping twenty two feet through a table. All the same, the challenges of a referee are not to be underestimated. Frequently working several matches a night, invariably working the full round of house shows as well as televised events, they often end up on the road far more than most of the actual wrestlers, with more time per night spent in the ring to boot. It’s not like the referee can just sit at ringside, like a commentator or a time keeper. No, the referee has to be in the thick of the action. They take risks, they bump, they need to constantly be in position and most of all they can never, ever draw attention to themselves or distract from the action. A referee must have a strong sense of flow, good instincts, and an intuitive connection with a wide variety of wrestlers.

    It’s not easy. Referees have been hurt, sometimes badly. Less serious but more frequent, a bad referee can sour a good match. It doesn’t happen particularly often at the level of the WWE, but still poor officiating can leave an almost undetectable yet still undeniable unpleasant aftertaste in the mouths of the viewers.

    But what puts Robinson above all the rest of the shlobs bouncing around the ring in zebra patterns? What would make me choose Ric Flair’s biggest fanboy over the Hebners or Nick Patrick or Tim White? Oh wait, Tim White was balls as a referee. But yeah, why better than the others?

    Well, the most obvious reason is that he has totally awesome hair. If you’re not willing to admit that you’re impressed and possibly sexually attracted to his luxurious blond mane then you’re probably some sort of homophobe, unable to explain your boner whenever he’s onscreen and desperate to appear ignorant of his glorious man beauty in the hopes that no one will discover your terrible, boner-esque secret. They say the first thing people notice is someone’s hair (or at least a shitty commercial for Axe hairspray or something told me so), so by that logic Robinson is by far the most powerful man in the WWE and probably all of wrestling (maybe the world?).

    But while that’s the most obvious reason, it’s also probably the least important. What’s more, it only scratches the surface of the awesomeness that is Little Naitch. One could even argue that his bangin’ hairdo is a detriment to his ability to facilitate a match, because how could a man with such luxuriant locks be as subtle as a referee needs to be in order to do their job well? Well, for starters being subtle is not the same as being invisible. People are going to see the referee sometimes, especially if they have something interesting going on like beautiful hair (or being black… you can say you’re color blind all you want, but you know it draws the eye!). Hell, sometimes people are even supposed to be looking at the referee. It’s hardly an unusual sight to see the referee handed some extra job to do in the WWE. So it’s not a bad thing to have some distinguishing characteristic, in fact most of them do have something distinct, unless you’re Scott Armstrong in which case your only defining feature is that some hardcore fans might remember you from that one episode of WCW Thunder where you were squashed by Konnan.

    Armstrong’s extreme dullness aside, one of the many things that Charles does that sets him apart from the rest of the flock is the way he acts when the attention is on him. Leaving aside for now the surprisingly excellent work he did with Flair in WCW, Robinson always appears to be deeply invested in what’s going in the match, so anyone distracted momentarily by his bobbing blond glory will quickly be directed back to the action. You’ll never catch the man standing lackadaisically in a corner or engaged on anything other than the action. You might see some other referees slyly try to pass off their disinterest as equanimity, but with Li’l Naitch there’s never a need. He’s a master of not drawing attention when inappropriate, but if your eyes are magnetically drawn to the man he is always on point to get things going back in the right direction. He’s enthusiastic with all his admonishments, and he never misses a beat when a wrestler has some comeback or threatening motion for him.

    Speaking of being threatened, did you know 9 out 10 wrestling referees suffer from a crippling condition known as “reftardation”? It’s a terrible disease with symptoms including temporary blindness, absent mindedness, poor judgment, among others. It can even occasionally causes a complete departure from all logical thought. Examples of this tragic ailment can be found all over WWE programming. Referees will often be oblivious to all manner of illegal behavior in a match, some of it quite disruptive, due to being very slightly distracted by someone outside the ring or standing on the apron. It causes them to count pinfalls when there is a clear rope break, to disqualify the wrong wrestler based on nothing but assumptions… it even occasionally puts them in harm’s way as they stand blissfully ignorant directly in the path of an oncoming wrestler three times their size.

    My darling Charles (if you will forgive my obsequiousness) is not immune to this heartrending condition, but he does mercifully display a very light case. One rarely catches Robinson in a position in which he is forced to make a call for storyline purposes that makes little sense in real life. Unlike other referees, even when confronted with an improbable situation he works hard so that the audience’s credulity will not be too severely stretched. I recall a match involving Dolph Ziggler with Vicke Guerrero at ringside. One sequence called for Jack Swagger to get involved to put a little extra hurt on his opponent. As Vickie sometimes does she jumped up on the apron to distract the referee, but rather than the vaguely stern finger wagging a normal ref might have done Robinson made a point to get into a heated debate with the screaming banshee, even to the point where he would indicate his ears were ringing, thus fully selling that he might believably be missing the gross interference going on behind him. It’s those little touches that make Little Naitch so incontestably epic, which you’d never know if you didn’t take that little extra time to look.

    If you really want to see epic from Robinson, then look no further than Wrestlemania XXIV. At some point during the main event the original referee was disposed of, and Undertaker was left with no one to count the pin after a devastating Tombstone. As the crowd cheered, Robinson embarked on what was perhaps his finest moment as a referee, sprinting as fast as humanly possible down the ridiculously long entrance ramp. Upon arriving at the ring he did not just slide but instead he dove in headfirst, literally bouncing off the mat for the very dramatic near fall. When Edge kicks out Robinson sells it beautifully with a look of genuine shock, slowly raising his hands with two fingers up in disbelief. Edge may not have come out the victor that night, but moments like that helped cement his enduring legacy. More importantly, that’s the kind of energy that Robinson always brings to the table. He doesn’t always sprint half a football field, but even on a throwaway episode of Raw (especially whenever called on to run from the back), Robinson always takes everything on with seemingly boundless energy. Can you picture Nick Patrick hauling his chubby ass down the ramp like that? Or Hebner dragging his old bones at anything like that speed? There’s no way, my friends.

    Finally, as alluded to but never fully explored, when Robinson takes part in something outside the normal job of refereeing he does a simply fantastic job. WWE likes having referees take part in the occasional match or storyline, and there’s simply no one better for the job than Robinson. His work with Ric Flair, as mentioned before, is actually quite excellent. Siding with Flair as his personal referee, he even fully adopted the “Little Naitch” persona, complete with a flashy robe. He even had a few matches using the full Ric Flair moveset. Robinson made it obvious right then that he really gets it. He understands his role perfectly, playing it for maximum effect. Less well remembered but still excellent are his run ins with occasional general manager. I remember when Kurt Angle forced him to fight Luther Reigns during his short tenure. Even back then as a relative wrestling noob I was impressed by the way Robinson grimly removed his shirt, resolving to do his damndest not to be killed. Of course he was flattened anyway, leaving me feeling angry at Angle for the injustice… which was the point in the first place, of course.

    So we know the man can perform at a top level, but since most of the time he’s not in the spotlight his true strength remains the powerful subtlety of his abilities while wearing that ol’ zebra shirt. People often credit wrestlers like Benoit or Regal for making their opponent look good whilst still looking strong at the same time, but Robinson is much more selfless than that. He’s a man who will likely never get any accolades or credit for the extremely high quality work he puts so much effort into every night. There’s no Hall of Fame waiting for him, no standing ovation for his retirement speech… in fact, very little recognition at all.

    And that’s just fine, because that means he did his job just right.

    But, if I may do so without spoiling the theme, I invite you to give Charles a second look the next time he’s refereeing a main event match or is given some random job to do by the WWE. See if he doesn’t surreptitiously put that little bit of extra excellence into his work. Then maybe, just for a moment, we can all give a little recognition to the subtlest man in the business.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Oliver's Avatar
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    It's The Little Things They Do... by Oliver (originally posted October 10th, 2012)

    Subtlety.

    It's eight letters long and has three syllables. Yet it’s everything that matters in wrestling. Everything. You can run around flipping off walls, bouncing off ropes, or lifting three hundred pound men, and I mean, sure, it’s impressive. But without subtlety, you won’t get anywhere. It’s great that you can run around with a weight on your back, or do twists like a barley sugar through the air, but if you want to reach the top, do things surreptitiously. See, to get a reaction, the good act out – they project flamboyant, enlarged copies of personalities to try to get the crowd to respond to them. But they needn’t do this, because the art of crowd reaction is in sleight of hand, which means that the little things matter. The great know this, so they can use it to their advantage – the great know the art of subtlety.

    Let’s take, if I may, two of the top people in the WWE now – John Cena and CM Punk – who we can put up against each other to look at this closer. It’s an openly accepted point that these two represent the chalk and cheese of the WWE; one is WWE’s own, seemingly designed in a basement in Stamford, Connecticut with the specific aim of crafting somebody to head up this business for ten or more years, whilst the other battled around the independent scene for ages. He is a man who, in his own words, wasn’t even supposed to make it to the top of the WWE. But he did, because he has mastered an art that he can use to get the fans behind him or against him, depending on how he chooses to deploy it.

    Cena will come out all guns blazing night in, night out – he’s a big person with an even bigger personality, and this won people over at first. Yet he’s so in your face, so aggressive in his begging to be loved by the crowd, that as the years have gone on we have seen the crowd, especially those old enough to pick up on this, slowly turning on him, to the point where he now gets mixed or negative reactions almost everywhere. No more prevalent was this than in the opening segment on Raw this week when Cena hit the ring alone, whereupon he proceeded to make two minutes of jokes that fell flat, varying from poking fun at the nipples on Antonio Cesaro to picking up a joke somebody else made weeks ago about Daniel Bryan’s Bovidaen features. For pretty much all of them you could have heard a grasshopper rubbing their legs together in the arena – watching it back, you see the crowd looks completely bored throughout the duration of Cena trying to get them to laugh. I almost expected Cena to tap the microphone before asking the crowd if it was on. If you have ever seen a stand-up comedian struggle on stage, you will know the feeling. How on Earth Cena managed to maintain his equanimity throughout the segment is beyond me; I would have crumbled into a weeping pool of tears before the end of it had it been me.

    It feels like this can only come down to one simple thing, which is purely the fact that Cena is too much – he’s trying too hard to achieve what he wants to get, which leads, quite simply, to people tuning him out, which in turn does not give him what he wants; the adulation of a full crowd. He mustn’t beg for people to laugh at what he does, or react to what he does – he needs to do what he does, allow for a natural crowd reaction, but never attempt to force that crowd into the box he creates. If, for example, he had come out all guns blazing but firing on Punk, not odd targets miles off the beaten track for what his promo is about, he could drop a couple of jokes into the mix delicately, without aiming for a reaction but instead just making a small quip mid-sentence that raises a smile amongst the crowd, yet doesn’t detract from his key message. A subtle dig at Punk having run for the hills at the sight of Ryback, or Paul Heyman’s obsequiousness, could have made the crowd laugh yet kept the promo on track and given more heat to the situation. A simple build given to his rival, rather than a minor burial of some of the fresher talent, would have helped no end.

    Now, you could argue that Cena is not designed to be subtle – he wears an array of brightly coloured t-shirts, has more merchandise than the average drug pusher on his person, and has built his entire persona on being in your face, whether he was exhibiting ruthless aggression, performing terrible white rap, or serving up his current message of hustle, loyalty and respect. He’s not supposed to have delicacy in his character, as he is a balls to the wall kind of guy. Which is fine, maybe he can be like that as a character, but he needn’t be like that in everything he does within wrestling, least of all in the ring, where he is, at least ninety percent of the time, a battering ram coming up against a moth. If he could be more subtle with his actions, if not his words, we may well see a crowd that sides with Cena more in the future. I’m not saying that he needs to be subtle with the Attitude Adjustment, because it’s not a subtle move, but where we need to see some subtlety is in the way John Cena sells offence.

    In fact, we have a great opportunity to see this happen now, with Cena’s arm injury healing but provisionally not set to be ready for Hell in a Cell (should he, indeed, be cleared to wrestle by then). What we need to see from Cena is the subtle art of selling an arm injury throughout a twenty five minute match, during which I’m sure we’ll see CM Punk work on that injury to limit the range of function in the right arm. This needs realism from Cena coupled with subtlety in the way he sells an ever decreasing ability to use his arm, to get the crowd on his side. I’ve written previously about how having sympathy for a person is a key ingredient for getting a crowd to support a face – to get that sympathy, we’re going to need some subtle selling from our imperilled Cena. We might have seen the start of this on Monday night, when Cena ran to the ring during the closing segment – clearly still struggling with his right arm, Cena could only use his left arm to hit Punk before feeding him to Ryback in the ring, again using his left arm to force Punk through the ropes. A subtle point, but one that worked to clearly demonstrate, at least to me, that Cena is struggling with one of his arms.

    It’s not just Cena that will need to be subtle, though, as CM Punk will also need to use all his subtlety to continue the offence on Cena’s right arm, specifically. It will take certain offense adjustments from Punk to allow him to assault the arm of Cena rather than the head – for example, he needs to lower his roundhouse kick so he connects with the arm, or he will need to adjust the angle he comes at the Anaconda Vice so that, instead of bending his opponents left arm, he bends Cena’s right arm, thus inflicting further damage on the already injured limb. It’s something that I’m sure Punk can achieve, and will lead to a realistic match where we have Punk, the gobshite heel, lording it over Cena, the broken face, and the fans baying for Punk’s blood to be spilled.

    Now, as I said earlier, I’d hoped that we could draw a side by side comparison between John Cena and CM Punk in this piece, which perhaps we will get a real life look at come the time of Hell in a Cell, but for now all we have to base this on is theory and past actions. It can’t be argued that Punk is a much more subtle performer than Cena, especially when he’s playing the heel. The most recent sign of something obvious yet subtle came at Night of Champions, where Punk wore Yankees stripes on his trunks – an idea that was apparently the work of Paul Heyman, yet clearly went down well with Punk. This sort of subtle move is something that Punk’s done for his whole career, right from his days in Ring of Honor where he took on the rampaging bull that was Samoa Joe by wearing him out with the rope-a-dope technique, managing to expose errors in the Samoan submission machines previously flawless armour, which he almost then capitalised on. Punk has then carried these sort of subtle moves through his career; whether he was able to use his size advantage against a smaller Rey Mysterio or his fleet of foot against the lumbering Big Show, he’s always subtly exposed his opponent, then managed to use those exposed points to his advantage.

    What I think is most subtle in Punk’s current run is less that he is using his subtlety to expose weaknesses, however, but that he is using his subtlety to appear beatable. It’s happened through his title run that Punk has not necessarily got the clean victories to finally put feuds away until they were called for. You could argue this is down to booking and creative, but look back as early as February of this year, when we had a series of matches between CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. Through it all, five or six matches in total, Punk never got a clean win until he finally managed to put Bryan away at Money in the Bank in July. Through all of this we, the audience, felt that Bryan might just have a chance of overcoming him and winning the WWE Championship. CM Punk used the subtle ways that he sells offense to craft a storyline that everyone could buy in to and believe that the champion could be overcome, which then meant that the match could be sold to fans as a money draw.

    It’s not just in the way he carries himself within the ring though, as the subtlety Punk exhibits stretches further, into his promos and his general demeanour as a character. Some of these points aren’t necessarily strictly exclusive to Punk, in fact some of them are universal, but Punk is the example I’ve chosen to due to his contrast with John Cena. If you watch CM Punk, you’ll see that he can sell any action or event without using his body, but instead using his face. To once again fall back to Raw on this Monday, in the main event you saw his facial expression shift from that of glee to that of fear in an instant the moment Ryback’s music hit when he had McMahon on his shoulders ready for the GTS. Little things like that help not only Punk’s character, as he demonstrates that he, as a chicken shit heel, is scared of anybody previously shown to be dominant and a potential threat to his title reign, but also Ryback’s character, as it shows that he has the top talent running scared. With a potential match up down the line to sell, you need to already show that Punk is afraid of Ryback as a potential opponent, allowing the fans to already imagine that Ryback is going to be a big roadblock to the lengthy title reign Punk has had somewhere down the road. It’s been said that you should put your opponent over, rather than bury them, before a match – for Punk to do that with a simple facial expression is quite something.

    Perhaps, though, we can go full circle in this column and come back to humour being expressed through promos, You see, where Cena is an in your face comedian praying that his comedy works, Punk will crack subtler, more nuanced jokes or references at his opponents expense, and nine times out of ten they’ll work. It’s little things that make you mark out inside because he’s the guy you like and he’s saying things about things you like – not everyone will have this specifically, but the other week when he quoted Omar from The Wire (‘you come at the king, you’d best not miss’), I actually squealed like a teenage girl at a One Direction concert. Similarly, when he was dropping references to Colt Cabana last summer, the general audience may not have got it straight away, but the people who frequent places like internet forums all let out a little sex wee of joy and started skipping about. Subtle things like that work for the audience CM Punk is targeting, for you and I, the people who like to see our favourite people like the things we do. If people can connect with a person on any level, regardless if it’s the so called voiceless that Punk represents or the larger audience as a whole, that will immediately give the person in question a fan base, whether it’s big or small. Once one person is turned on to someone, in many cases others follow suit.

    So, there you have it, really. The key thing in wrestling, in getting yourself over, in getting your opponent over, in selling offence, in getting the crowd on your side or to turn against you. It’s eight letters long and has three syllables.

    Subtlety.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Oliver's Avatar
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    Chair Shots: The Devil And Daniel Bryan by TripleR (originally posted October 7th, 2012)

    “The monster in the closet when the lights turned on, is just a jacket on a hanger and the fear is gone.”- EVE 6

    “Less than 500 people Tyler! I’ve been busting my ass for ten years now yet I’m still wrestling for less than 500 people. I don’t know how much more of this I can take. I mean I love what I do or else I wouldn’t be doing it, but when are we going to get a break.”

    “I know what you mean Bryan. You’ve been doing this a long time; so has Austin. You’d think at some point people would take notice. The internet geeks love you, but you know how much stroke they have.”

    “I just don’t know what else to do. How much more do I have to give to get noticed?”

    Without warning, the locker room door bursts open.

    “So this is Ring of Honor? It’s nothing more than a cheap gymnasium with stale popcorn and beer stained bleachers. You have to ask why you haven’t gotten noticed.”

    “Mr. McMahon, what are you doing here?”

    “Well Bryan, I have an offer for you, but only you. Can you please ask your homeless friend over there to give us some privacy?”

    “Tyler it’s cool. I’ll catch up to you guys later.”

    “Now Bryan, I’m here to offer you a job with World Wrestling Entertainment, but it doesn’t come without……obligations. You want to wrestle for me, that means I own you lock, stock and barrel. Everything about you is mine; your name, you image, your life, your soul. I don’t make stars out of the kindness of my heart. I make them so I can make money. I’m an irascible old man, so don’t ever once think that you have a thought in your head that matters to me. “

    The kindly demeanor that walked through the doors had been replaced by that of a raving lunatic, but a lunatic offering the world on a string.

    “Now Bryan, do you accept the terms of my offer?”

    Bryan Danielson had worked his whole life for this moment, but how much was it worth?

    “Yes Mr. McMahon. I gladly accept your offer.”

    “Good, but don’t ever forget that you belong to me now. You do what I say, we’ll be just fine.”

    **************

    “Wow this place is amazing.”

    “Mr. Danielson, Rome wasn’t built in a day, that I can attest to firsthand. I’ve worked my entire life to build World Wrestling Entertainment into what it is today. I’ve fought countless battles to be at the top. The government, Ted Turner, Eric Bischoff, Paul Heyman at that worthless ECW- they all thought that they could take this away from me. In the end, I owned them all.”

    “Well, not the government sir.”

    “No, of course not Mr. Danielson. I would never think that I could own the government. They’re completely without reproach. Now take a seat- we have much to talk about. The stupid fucks on the internet wrestling sites are all cumming in their pants at you signing with the WWE. You know how much I care about that? I care more about how big my shit is in the morning than I do what those morons have to say, but that doesn’t mean I won’t take advantage of it. If it’s one thing that I’ve learned is that if you want to get people talking, piss them off. So from here on out you’re no longer Bryan Danielson; you’re Daniel Bryan. That ought to really get their panties in a bunch. “

    “But Mr. McMahon, people already know who I am. Why wouldn’t you use my name for publicity?”

    “BECAUSE I OWN YOU MR….BRYAN! I thought we already had this conversation. I own everything about you. I could make you dress up like the goddam Easter Bunny if I wanted to. I brought you in here you pusillanimous little shit. So if I want to call you Daniel Fucking Bryan, that’s what I’m going to call you. Do…I….make…myself…clear?”

    He continued to ask himself, was it worth it? The answer was all too obvious. He nodded his head in acceptance. Everything that he had built in the last ten years was now stripped away. Bryan Danielson was no more, replaced by a man he knew nothing about.

    “Now that we’re all on the same page Mr. Bryan we can get started. We have a new show debuting called NxT. Reality shows are all the rage now. Not surprising considering how dumbed down the television audience has become. We live in an age where the Kardashians and Jersey Shore are regarded as better viewing than Meryl Streep and Keanu Reeves.”

    “Keanu Reeves sir?”

    “Yes goddam it- I like Keanu Reeves. Shows today are very belletristic, so we’re going to cater to today’s audience. Think of it as our version of Survivor. You’ll be paired off with a pro, then each week you earn points to see who becomes the winner of a contract. Simple as that!”

    “Mr. McMahon, I thought I already had a contract.”

    “You have what I say you have Mr. Bryan. Tomorrow you will meet your pro as well as the other rookies. Get a good night sleep. Welcome to the WWE!”

    ***************

    What should have been an exciting time for the once Bryan Danielson was turning into a living nightmare. His sleep was not peaceful. Dreams filled with hatred and servitude filled his subconscious. Bryan Danielson was fading from existence. Everything that he had worked for was fading as well. He sold out. There was no going back.

    NxT was a joke. Bryan was paired off with a former reality star from the Real World- The Miz. He practically begged to be eliminated from it, then in week two he got his wish. Both he and Michael Tarver were sent packing, but as usual things weren’t quite that simple.

    “Mr. Bryan, would you care to explain to me what that little stunt was you pulled during NxT, asking to be eliminated?”

    “Mr. McMahon, I’m sorry. This wasn’t what I signed up for. I came here to wrestle. So far I’ve barely had any ring time. I’m one of the best at what I do sir, please let me do it.”

    “Don’t you understand yet how this works Mr. Bryan? This is the WWE- wrestling doesn’t matter. We’re in the business of entertainment, mainly my entertainment. If I want to see you run an obstacle course or get feces dumped on you, that’s what happens. However, you’re already becoming quite popular with the fans, so I have a job for you. One of your fellow co-workers needs a bit of punishment. He’s been…..uncooperative let’s just say. Now that NxT is completed, you as well as the other rookies are going to stage a coup. In reality, I just needed some basis for what you’re going to have to do. I could give a crap what happens after that. You’re going to join the group, then during the attack I want you to choke Justin Roberts within an inch of his life. Am I clear?”

    “What? You want me to physically assault Justin? No way! That’s insane!”

    “Mr. Bryan, since you seem to think that you still have a thought that belongs to you, I’m going to fire you the very next day. Consider it your punishment for your incessant backtalk.”

    ***************

    The fans watched as Nexus took over the WWE. It was as brutal and vicious as any attack that fans remembered seeing. The ring was destroyed. Cameramen were brutalized. Announcers were assaulted. Daniel Bryan only knew of his function in the attack, but McMahon owned all the NxT rookies. Hell, McMahon owned them all. And Mr. McMahon was not a happy man. He was losing control of his organization. A statement was being made this evening.

    As Mr. McMahon watched Daniel Bryan reluctantly choke Justin Roberts with his own tie, a grin appeared on his face- a grin that nightmares are made of. He’d been around too long; seen too much to have it all taken away. These insolent bastards were getting a lesson. No one crosses Mr. McMahon- NO ONE!

    ***************

    In the two months he was gone from the WWE, the internet exploded with support for his return. The problem was that if he returned, he would be once again McMahon’s puppet. Something had to change; Bryan Danielson was nobody’s puppet. It was time to take a stand, but that was not easy. It was bad enough he made people kiss his ass on national television. The fans didn’t have a clue what went on backstage. The degradation and humiliation was horrific. Working for the WWE had become Hell on earth.

    Despite being made to look like a fool at every turn, despite losing more matches in a year than he had in his entire career, Daniel Bryan’s popularity continued to rise. Vince McMahon’s hold over Daniel Bryan was slipping. He was forced to make his World Champion. It was time for McMahon to take back control.

    “Mr. Bryan, are you looking forward to your match at Wrestlemania against Sheamus?”

    “Very much so Vince.”

    The little prick had called him Vince.

    “Good, because you’re going to lose. You’re going to in under 30 seconds. I’ve had just about enough of this insubordination. You seem to forget how this works Mr. Bryan. You do what I say, without question.”

    “Vince….”

    He did it again!

    “What you seem to forget is that I HAVE done everything you've asked, completely. You seem to think that what the fans want doesn't matter, but that’s where you’re wrong. It’s because of those fans that I’m wearing this World Championship belt now. It will be because of the fans that no matter what you do to me, I’ll continue to thrive in the WWE. You think that because you built this that you can treat people like slaves. I’m telling you you’re wrong.”

    Mr. McMahon’s blood was boiling. He’d seen emperors fall. He’d seen Rome burn. How was it that this “indy star” was challenging him? He grabbed Daniel Bryan by the throat, lifting him off the ground. As he struggled for breath, Bryan knew he had made his last play.

    ***************

    The 18-second loss did just what Daniel Bryan had hoped; it had sky-rocketed his popularity beyond belief. Vince thought he was slick. He thought he was pulling all the strings. But Bryan was pulling the strings now which pissed Vince off. Vince knew he only had one play left.

    Kane had been doing Vince’s dirty work for over a decade. He owed Vince McMahon his life, literally. He doesn't remember much before the accident, just that he woke up in the morgue with Mr. McMahon standing over him, holding his heart in his hands. He knew from that moment on that Vince had given his back his breath, and he could just as easily take it away. His job was easy- destroy Daniel Bryan. He didn't ask why. That wasn't his place. All he knew was that Mr. McMahon wanted him destroyed, so that’s just what he was going to do. Kane found Bryan as he was leaving the arena. This shouldn't take too long.

    “Hey man, want to go grab some food with me? I know a great little vegan place around the corner.”

    Kane continued to walk towards Bryan, knowing what had to be done.

    “Um…Kane, bud, what’s the deal?”

    Kane grabbed Daniel Bryan by the throat to throw him into the wall. Bryan struggled to his feet, only to be met with a right hand to his face. Blood poured from his nose, surely broken.

    “What the hell are you doing man?”

    “What needs to be done. You should understand that right? There are rules to follow. You’re not following them. Vince saved my life. He made yours what you wanted it to be. You made a deal. We all made deals. We belong to him now.”

    Kane grabbed Daniel by the throat, slamming him hard into the ground.

    “It doesn't have to be like that. Nobody owns you. All you have to do is stand up to him, like I did. He doesn't like to be challenged. It’s driving him over the edge. If we band together, we can break him. No one will ever have to go through this again. No one will have to sell their souls to Mr. Vince McMahon. Kane, trust me. We can break this cycle.”

    “It doesn't work that way Daniel, and Kane knows that.”

    Kane should have finished the ignorant little shit, but it was taking too long. Kane was starting to think, something that he detested.

    “Kane knows who’s in charge here. If it weren't for me he’d be worm food six feet underground. He’s a moron, just like you. You will all do as you are told. It’s not like he was all that bright to begin with anyway.”

    Kane turned towards McMahon as he called him an idiot. He then turned towards Daniel Bryan, who was pleading with him to take a stand. Kane stepped towards Daniel, grabbed him by the arm to hug him.

    “This ends now.”

    McMahon could not believe what was happening. He had everything. He built up then destroyed cities at will. This was not how it was going to end, but it was ending. Vince McMahon would never own anybody again. In fact, he wouldn't be doing anything, ever again. Daniel Bryan and Kane looked down at what was left of this devious, evil man, nodding in approval. They had freed the WWE.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Oliver's Avatar
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    The Flying V: Whispers As Loud As Shouts by fenixx (originally posted October 10th, 2012)

    I remember watching CM Punk turn heel in 2009. It’s strange saying that because there wasn’t really one moment that really made his turn obvious. Some will go back to the episode of Smackdown! where he blasted Jeff Hardy for his questionable life decisions (arguably one of the first ever ‘pipe bombs’). Others will go further back to the point where he feined an eye-injury to deliver a ‘blinded’ roundhouse kick to the referee. The beauty of this heel turn was that there was no one moment where Punk changed from being a complete face to being a complete heel. The subtlety of this turn was what made the Blue Brand such a refreshing change to the WWE landscape as it was in direct comparison to the in-your-face style of a RAW dominated by John Cena and Randy Orton.


    The ‘will he, won’t he?’ aspect of this brilliant turn was what made this change of character so remarkable. The little things were altered in CM Punk’s character during this transition phase. He would jump onto the middle turnbuckle, remove his top before just staring at the screaming fans. Punk would consider their outstretched hands before simply dropping his top to the arena floor and turning his back on them. The equanimity of this act gave it a cold edge to make you believe that CM Punk was not following a script. The subtleties brought his character to life to make you think that Punk had a conscience. There was no two-dimensional morality to be seen as we had a face who was capable or misdeeds. Or maybe he was a heel capable of charitable acts.


    I tend to think of these aspects of wrestling in terms of real life. After all, wrestling personalities seem to be marketed in a manner where they are real to us, excluding the obvious exceptions like The Undertaker. If I had a good friend of mine suddenly become a dick, it would be incredibly difficult to forget the good guy he was the day before. It would be even harder to visualise the reverse of this situation as we tend to be more cautious of the people who we knew for certain to be ‘bad’. The switches in personality that accompanies these changes makes this change in alignment appear to be fake or not wholehearted.


    Take for instance the stark differences in personality that Big Show portrays as he switches back and forth. He goes from displaying a jovial and almost careless attitude as a face to combining equanimity with explosive force when he turns heel. Yet because there are no subtle changes that he makes as he switches between these incredibly different personas, it’s difficult to take him seriously as either character. It’s not to say that he isn’t a good actor when he is playing either role, it is more because of the contrasting roles as well as the rate at which he changes which makes us doubt his conviction. We doubt his both roles equally, which affects how much we become invested in his character.


    The Creative Team is usually where the blame is focused for these issues. Normally I would make an argument to back-up what this team has done. I am a valiant supporter of all things WWE, but this is one of few aspects of the WWE which I do not like. The lack of subtlety or reliance on shock-based actions in the WWE is not only lazy booking, but it is detrimental to the development of characters and feuds in the WWE. There is an emphasis on creating ‘OMG’ moments rather than ‘OMG’ characters. This is reflected in the deliberate stress placed on achieving trending topics rather than observing gradually increasing ratings or merchandise movement. A reliance on repetitively being talked about has made the WWE into a social media whore that as a company will do anything to receive positive attention.


    The WWE does not surreptitiously try to conceal any evidence of this. It is blatantly obvious that when you watch any product that the WWE produces, their ‘in the moment’ booking is designed to grab your attention in order to suspend you in the moment. To me, this harms the product as there is so much emphasis placed on the present that the future must then be booked on the fly. There are countless examples of this as recent as the Summer of Punk going lukewarm, the flop of the Nexus and even going as far back as the WCW/ECW invasion angle going pear-shaped. While this has created moments that are etched in our memory, there are not many periods of WWE booking, especially in the last few years, that have been must-see television.


    If poor shows are blamed on the Creative Team, poor trends in wrestling are most often blamed on the precedents set during the Attitude Era. I am not going to pretend like I am an expert on the topic, but the heavy emphasis on grabbing the attention of fans in one swift movement seemed to be the trend during that period. The shocking moments upon moments resulted in the WWE playing a game of one-upmanship once WCW faded from its radar and the game has gone on far too long. Don’t get me wrong, there have been stretches where this has faded, but the moment that ratings begin to dip, this in-your-face booking begins again. Who can forget the McMahon Million Dollar Mania? Or the Special Guest Hosts we had to sit through each week as they plugged their latest C-grade venture? This constant need for short term results has not led to long-term results despite having the talent to pull off long-term growth and prosperity.


    These ventures or, to put it bluntly, distractions from the overall product that the WWE is trying to market has stalled the progress of the product as a whole. Over the past five years, the WWE has failed to create a Superstar who is at the same level as their top dog, John Cena. The only two wrestlers who can be mentioned in the same breath as Cena either have behavioural and drug issues or have issues with acting in a manner befitting of a champion. After the recent assault of a fan at a WWE event, I have my doubts if Punk will even remain champion for much longer. While Randy Orton was groomed for success alongside Cena and Batista, Punk broke out on his own, somewhat accidentally. Sure, there was some method to his madness, but no one really predicted the rate at which is stock would rise within the WWE.


    The WWE seemingly jumped at an opportunity when they realised the amount of buzz that CM Punk generated on his own. Yet when the WWE tried to capitalise on a product that formed itself, they tripped over their own feet in an attempt to do so. The charisma killer, Kevin Nash, along with his crony Triple H snuffed out the wildfire that seemed set to take the WWE by storm. A few months later, a Zack Ryder despite a heavy cult following suffered the same fate as the WWE tried to take the reins of a fan-base that was not their creation. Although the WWE hasn’t destroyed these two careers, it is clear that both Superstars took a hit when the WWE decided to move on with Zack Ryder as well as not making CM Punk the focus of a show that he was the champion of.


    The biggest shame for me out of all of this was how Santino Marella’s heroic efforts in the Elimination Chamber against Daniel Bryan were suddenly swept under the rug. As the third Superstar to have his push quelled in a period of six months, Marella made believers out of all us after eliminating Wade Barrett and Cody Rhodes in quick succession. The buzz around him at the time was incredible. It wasn’t as if we were expecting him to rise to the main event to face Daniel Bryan at the upcoming Wrestlemania, but when you examine how much buzz there was around him at the time compared to how much he has now, it’s feels as if he has fallen off a lot. Relegated to being in a thrown together tag-team for the sake of a tournament seems like a step backwards for the wrestler who made us all suspend our disbelief when he hit the Cobra on Daniel Bryan.


    Although I guess it’s the same with many wrestlers these days. Excluding the top stars, it’s hard to spot many stars who have risen while continuing to rise when you examine the WWE’s progress over the past six months. If anything, more Superstars are falling off rather than rising up. While the wrestling as a whole has only gotten better, the status of each wrestler seems to be in limbo. The lack of buzz for any of the mid-card championships has made the wrestlers holding them irrelevant. The addition of an extra hour to RAW as well as the dilution of brands has made each show seem incredibly top heavy, making it a struggle for many Superstars to be noticed. Superstars like Tensai, Brodus Clay and the few tag-teams that exist, obviously excluding Team Hell No, are in the thick of this situation, giving them no way to go but down in the WWE’s pecking order.


    A more subtle approach to building up Superstars won’t cure this problem, but subtlety breeds intrigue, both in a character as well as on the show that the character is on. Maybe I’m being idealistic, but subtlety can easily be injected into wrestling with the side serving of entertainment that accompanies. Instead of the stress being on the one-liner, the stress should be placed on the expressions, the body language and the feelings that each character possesses. How can we be shocked if the wrestler isn’t also shocked? How can we be ecstatic if the wrestler isn’t also ecstatic? How can we empathise if the wrestler doesn’t show enough emotion?


    I said that it’s something that is easily injected because subtlety can be present with or without a script. Many are quick to say that wrestling was better without scripts altogether do not recognise why not having a script produced such great results. When lines are memorized or rehearsed, there is more thought put into delivering the exact words rather than unconsciously delivering what the character believes at the time. It leads to noticeable slip-ups, monotonous promos making it feel that a script is present. Do we then blame the script-writers or the performers for not playing their roles properly?


    A script writer can’t make the wrestler show emotion, that’s up to the wrestler. If The Miz had the best script ever written, he would still make an idiotic expression while delivering it that would nullify the explosiveness of his words. Pure emotion has to come from within the wrestler to provide that subtle edge that propels them from being good to great. So much stress is placed on delivering a picture-perfect suplex or delivering the right words in a line that you don’t see wrestlers get lost in their moment. So much emphasis is placed on perfection or at least delivering a match to please the fans that it just doesn’t seem natural. We know that wrestling is scripted, but that doesn’t mean that we should be reminded of it through the wrestler’s performance throughout the show.


    We should see nuances in characters. Facial expressions. Body language. Characters showing character. There have only been a few occasions where I have lost myself in wrestling. In those moments, the subtle touches to the wrestler’s craft had me completely immersed in what I was watching. Those are the moments that we cherish as wrestling fans. It’s not as clear cut as simply believing that what is happening is real, but more like the fact that we’ve invested a portion of ourselves in the wrestler that we want to win and damn it we’d give anything to see them win just for that split second.


    It’s the feeling I got when I watched John Morrison try his heart out against Sheamus in the King of the Ring finals. The desperation that Morrison exhibited had the crowd on the edge of their seats. When the disappointment of his loss hit me, it was mixed with surprise at the fact that it felt like I lost in that match too.


    It’s the feeling I got when I watched Santino Marella getting up every damn time despite the stiff kicks he was receiving. That look of sheer determination on his face made a believer out of me. When the Cobra struck, I thought that he had somehow become the World Heavyweight Champion. So did an arena full of screaming fans.


    It’s the feeling I got when Alberto Del Rio won the Royal Rumble. That look of pure glee on his face was infectious. It was only compounded by the repetitive shrieks of Ricardo Rodriguez. It was his night. He made it. That smile on my face that always gets brought back when I even remember this moment.

    It’s these subtleties that turn a mere moment into temporary forever. While the WWE’s style of presentation tries to force us into this moment, the subtleties that the wrestlers perform with lure us into a state where nothing else matters but the match. The WWE needs less flashing lights, less distractions from the characters that are in the ring at that time. The obsequiousness or the apparent fear of these wrestlers of straying slightly from the script is hurting rather than helping. You can’t manufacture a feeling, nor can you attempt to replicate a feeling that sticks with a viewer forever.


    So stop trying.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Oliver's Avatar
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    Cynical Fallacies by Mavsman (originally posted October 7th, 2012)

    I’ve had enough.

    I’ve had enough of the incessant complaining, whining, and bullshitting going on around here. I’ve had enough of the Debbie Downers. I’ve had enough of the egotistical snobbery. It’s time for me to flat out say it;

    I’m a WWE guy, period.

    It’s a rare statement to make around these parts. Oh sure, the WWE has its loyal devotees, but quite a few of those guys will also go watch TNA, ROH, or whatever the hell else passes as “respectable wrestling.” Other WWE guys only achieve that classification out of laziness. “It’s hard to keep up with too many federations, so I may as well stick with what I know best,” they say to themselves in a spout of justification. Me on the other hand? I’m loyal to the WWE because they’ve earned my loyalty. Furthermore, I will continue being loyal until they do something so despicable that they no longer deserve my devotion.

    Perhaps I should back up a little bit to explain my position further. Recently in the IWC, I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the WWE. Now, this is nothing new. The bigger the company, the bigger the target, and the WWE is certainly the biggest wrestling company in the world. I understand that. I get it - criticism comes with the territory. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, something about this recent spate of criticism made me so irate that I could no longer stand idly by watching something I loved so dearly take a brutal beating. I’m not here to name-call and flame the fires any more than I have to. But I do want to analyze these critiques point by point, offering my own insight in an effort to paint a more accurate picture of the WWE.

    “The WWE is close-minded!”


    This particular complaint has a long legacy, stretching back at least to the 80’s, where the main event was closed off to only the strongest, most awe-inspiring wrestlers. Hulk Hogan dominated the era, while Andre the Giant provided a menacing presence. In the down time between the Hogan era and the Austin era, the WWE was led by Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. Whether it was fair or not, Vince McMahon noticed a correlation between the low ratings seen with guys who didn’t have “the right look” and the high ratings seen with guys who “fit the part.” He’s continued his obsession with muscle-men in recent years through a decade-long dalliance with John Cena.

    Along a similar vein, the WWE style is often assailed for being too restrictive. “It’s the same basic match structure repeated 1 million times!” The face starts off strong, the heel gains the advantage, the face comes back, proceed to finish, etc. This pattern is especially egregious on weekly television, where transitioning spots in the match often occur during commercial break, to be shown on replay when the viewers have returned. Any longtime WWE viewer can predict a commercial break is coming simply by when a wrestler gets hurled to the outside.

    So on the surface, it seems like the WWE might be close-minded. It’s the same old wrestlers wrestling the same old style. I can see how critics might view the WWE main event as a cordoned-off VIP room, reserved only for those massive behemoths who tickle Vince’s fancy. Similarly, I can understand critics lampooning the WWE for being unwilling to experiment outside of the basic match structure that they’ve established. However, I would argue that these two fundamental aspects of the WWE help more than they harm. When it comes to the bottom line, the WWE is in the business of making heroes. Hulk Hogan was the prototype. Stone Cold was the anti-hero. Now, John Cena is the anti-hero’s anti-hero, achieving this status by being all too Hogan in an age that craves Austin.

    The WWE knows what sells tickets. The majority of fans come to see larger than life action. So what if it’s unrealistic or overly simplistic? One of the core tenants of being a wrestling fan is suspending disbelief. It’s not real… only the most naïve among us would believe that it is. But it’s no fun to remind yourself of that constantly. The WWE doesn’t want you to see the pattern, because they know it will hamper your enjoyment. The question then becomes… are you willing to play along? If not, I think you’ve lost sight of what the WWE is supposed to be about. It’s a shared experience among audience members. We jump out of our seats together, we boo together, and we pass judgment silently together. Ignoring the fact that this so-called “WWE Universe” exists by signaling out the viewing experience to your own unique tastes is selfish beyond belief. How on earth can you justify a request for the WWE to change its foundation to appeal solely to you?

    “It never changes!”


    I know what’s coming next, of course. “Mavsman, I see things that really are problems! If I’m not supposed to bitch about them, how can I open the eyes of the non-seeing masses?!?!” This is a fair point. Squashing opposition leads to authoritarian states where only the interests of those wielding power are served. I would argue, though, that the method of the protesting matters just as much as the context. People don’t like listening to overly aggressive protests. I can’t count how many times online I’ve seen a rational, interesting argument ruined by an escalation in personal attacks due to a perceived slight. I think people resort to this tactic when they sense they are losing, hoping to surreptitiously change the topic from objective to personal in order to distract from their failing argument. Whereas I might have agreed with you before, the second you become highly emotional, I’m inclined to immediately disengage from the argument. Disposition matters.

    I would also ask those seeking change to be the change for which they seek. Admittedly, this is hard to do when you are a fan. Not all of us can go wrestle the match we’d like to see. In the absence of personal action, I think solid evidence is important. I have no reason to believe your opinion over another’s if you can’t back up your claims. Telling me that the way ROH structures their matches is ten times better than WWE doesn’t cut it. Show me an example. Analyze it. Explain to me why the WWE would be better suited if they made this switch, and argue why you believe the switch is feasible.

    I think here is where most arguments for changing the WWE fall down. In actuality, they would be difficult to implement. Even if they weren’t, the risks of failing versus succeeding need to be weighed. Is the WWE, a multi-million dollar company with dozens of wrestlers, really in a position to make a substantial change to their core product? Obviously, the WWE needs to ensure that they keep their position at the top of the market. Failing to adapt leaves room for a competitor to sweep in. But I don’t see this as much of a concern for the WWE. What company is going to emerge in the American marketplace to become the number one wrestling federation? TNA? ROH? A Japanese promotion? No, WWE is safe for the time being. This implies that there is not a strong incentive to risk changing the core product. Sure, it could go well, causing an increase in business. But what if it doesn’t? What if it alienates more viewers than it gains? This is the option the WWE executives are worried about. Until a strong reason to change presents itself, the status quo is still lucrative, while also providing the safety of the familiar.

    “If the status quo is maintained, nothing new and exciting can be created! It’s just going to be the same matches met with the same lukewarm response!”



    I’m not trying to let my obsequiousness with the WWE crowd my judgment. I recognize that, loving the WWE as much as I do, it’s hard to be impartial. There is nothing quite as boring as the mundane. Nothing risks becoming mundane more than the status quo. It’s somewhat disconcerting for me, then, to be passionately advocating for the status quo, is it not?

    I suppose my justification is I don’t think the status quo of the WWE is terrible. Of course, there are some duds of matches. But there are also some excellent matches that are able to work within the confines of the system. The confines of the system can also directly lead to intriguing matches when they are subverted. Everyone knows John Cena does a spinning side slam before following up with the Five Knuckle Shuffle. As an audience, we expect it on a nightly basis. So when CM Punk is able to counter the five knuckle shuffle with a kick to the head, it adds excitement. Those wishing to change the WWE argue that this excitement is exactly the reason an alteration is needed. “See what happens when you deviate from the status quo?” I would counter-argue that subversion is only possible if there is a status quo to subvert.

    The dirty little secret about the status quo is that it enables potential stars rather than disabling them. Anybody can have a five star match if given enough creative freedom. But when you impose limits on match structure or match time, it allows for the wheat to be more easily separated from the chaff. You only have a five minute match. Your opponent is The Great Khali. Are you going to rise to the challenge, or succumb under pressure?

    Recently, stars like Damien Sandow have been able to rise to the challenge. Wrestlers like Tensai have not. The status quo enables these kinds of snap judgments to be made. They may not be 100% accurate over the long run, but in a wrestling world that’s predominantly “What have you done for me lately?” they serve their purpose.

    Indeed, Sandow offers a great case study in what it takes to succeed in the WWE. Wrestling isn’t everything; character matters just as much, if not more so. All the greats over the years have had that “it” factor, the charismatic idiosyncrasies that made fans love them all the more. For Hogan, it was vitamins and prayers. Austin offered a “Fuck you” approach with which fans ultimately identified. The Rock electrified with fast-talking catch phrases.

    In all three of the above cases, wrestling took a back seat to character. Sure, all three men were passable in the ring. But I will never think of Austin, Hogan, or Rock as one of the greatest technicians of all time. Here, the phrase “sports entertainment” is indeed apt. Taking into account only the first word, these men are average. But when you combine the two words, they all become immortal. Sandow may not end up being remembered as one of the greatest of all time. In fact, the odds are against him. But by developing an interesting character within the rules of the system, he’s given himself a shot.

    For most people, wrestling is a skill that can be honed over the years. Charisma is harder to teach. This is the beauty of the WWE system. You can go elsewhere to watch great, technical wrestling. The WWE is in the business of building larger than life moments, which ultimately requires larger than life characters.

    If my equanimity has not won you over yet, perhaps I never will. Maybe I’m not going to be able to convince you that the WWE way of doing things is ideal. However, I strongly feel that while there may be room for improvement, a system overhaul is not needed. But perhaps you don’t share the same view. It’s okay, you’re entitled to your opinion. I just wish you’d respect my right to have mine.

    In the end, I think that’s what bugs me the most about the WWE criticisms. I hate the attitude that develops around people’s self-righteous opinions. It’s as if my opinion becomes moot the second I disagree with you. It’s childish. We as evolved humans should have the capability of having civil discourse about inflammatory content without resorting to absolutism. As a proponent of free speech, I may disagree 100% with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. I ask that you would do the same for me.

    Ultimately, I think the debates around the WWE come from a place of love. We all know that, when it’s on the top of its game, the WWE can be special. Criticisms come because an individual sees the WWE slipping from its lofty pedestal, and they wish to restore it to what they know it can be. Hopefully, I’ve shown in this column that there’s a productive way to do that and a destructive way to do it. Criticisms resulting from personal avarice can be a bear to overcome, but I know it’s possible. If I haven’t made it clear enough, I do want to state here at the end that I am willing to listen to criticisms of the WWE. I will jump on any bandwagon that I believe can better something I love and a place in which I spend so much time. We’re a community here, united by a common love. Of course there are going to be disagreements from time to time. But the WWE is still the best damn place in the world to view quality wrestling and interact with other loving fans.

    And maybe even write a column from time to time…

  8. #8
    Senior Member Oliver's Avatar
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    Maz Debating Special: Shoot with The Cerebral Assassin by Mazza (originally posted October 8th, 2012)

    Maz: ‘Sup CF & welcome to a very special episode of the show you thought had finally been erased from the seedy part of your memory bank, Maz Debating. It has been over nine years since this show laced the Columns Forum with terrible jokes & celebrity impersonations but I am finally back... and this time shit is real, son. Back in the day I may have been a hack, drinking excessively to numb the pain of blowing Pat Patterson & his Rent Boy du Jour to get some face time with a jobber or two but not now. The year as well as my sight is 2020 & I am about to become the most respected investigative reporter in the industry. Why? Because I am about to bring you the scoop of the motherfucking decade, bitches.

    Nobody has heard from Triple H in the last six months since the wrestling world was turned on its head. We have all heard the rumours about the power struggle his father-in-law before his death. We all saw the fight with Shane on the Vince tribute edition of Raw. We have all heard the rumoured details of his divorce. With no information coming out of Stamford & Hunter going totally off the grid however, all we can do is speculate over the future of the WWE, The Game & wrestling in general. Today however we will finally get some answers to the huge questions floating around the industry as I conduct the most sought after interview in entertainment today.



    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Maz: Welcome to Mazlining, Hunter. Can I call you Hunter?

    Triple H: Call me Paul. HHH is gone. I became him for a long time but I am no longer that character. No more Game, no more Cerebral Assassin, no more Hunter Hearst Helmsley. I just want to be Paul Levesque again now.

    Maz: It’s interesting that you say that. The IWC has this notion that the most successful characters are extensions of their real selves.

    Paul: I’d say that there is some truth in that. Was there some of me in Triple H? Definitely. Not so much the Connecticut Blueblood but there was probably some of me in the Degeneration X Hunter & definitely when I got to the main event.

    Maz: How so?

    Paul: I had a juvenile sense of humour for sure. I guess most guys do though. That’s why DX blew up the way it did. Even guys into their 30s & 40s love the dick jokes. Main Event Hunter had my drive. My determination. That was actually the biggest trait we shared & it was throughout the entire life of the character.

    Maz: Tell me a little bit about how that determination was prevalent in your early years in the business.

    Paul: You know, people class me as a bodybuilder turned wrestler. That was never the case. Bodybuilding was always a means to an end for me. I wanted to be like Ric but I knew that to be the biggest star I had to look like Hogan. There are times in life where you need to be belletristic. Going back to what we were just talking about, I guess you could say I had a touch of the “Cerebral Assassin” about me too. I always seemed to have a mind for what it would take to succeed. Often to the point where I was arrogant about it.

    Maz: Did you have that arrogance during your brief WCW run in 1994?

    Paul: I may have when I started there but I quickly got an education about the business. If you go back to that Starrcade, Wright & I put on a strong match, probably the best on the card but it didn’t count for anything. The main event that night was Hogan versus Beefcake in one his guises & that’s when I realised it’s not what you know but who you know. They then stuck me with Regal. He taught me some important stuff. He also told me to lay low & keep my nose clean & I’d have a job for life in the industry. That was never going to be enough for me though. When I saw they weren’t doing much for me I knew I had to start over again. I also knew I had one shot to start out right with the WWF.

    Maz: The Kliq?

    Paul: Yeah!

    Maz: How did you become a member?

    Paul: The moment I walked into that locker room for the first time it was clear to me where the future was. I’d seen Shawn steal the show with Scott and Kev at back-to-back WrestleManias. When I realised that they all ran together it was a no-brainer. There is no way I could be pusillanimous. I just had to be ballsy & make contact. I would ask for their advice as much as possible in my first couple of weeks & said yes to anything they asked. It was never very forced though because to be honest, I fit in well.

    Maz: You must have had some crazy times together?

    Paul: On the road with those guys was madness at times. I mean we all had a lot of fun, but it was me, Kev & Waltman who were forever having to get Scott & Shawn out of scrapes.

    Maz: Tell me a bit about the Curtain Call incident at MSG?

    Paul: Hahaha! I can still remember that like it was yesterday. Kev & Scott were going & we wanted to say goodbye in the ring. There was no ulterior motive or anything behind that. We had got to the stage where we thought we had carte blanche. It turned out that you did if you were leaving or the champ.

    Maz: Did it annoy you that you were the only one to take the fall there?

    Paul: For a minute maybe but like I said, I understood the business & I knew it made sense. I also knew it was time to play it the way Regal said for a while. Obviously we weren’t very popular at the time & we were a lot weaker numbers wise. Shawn & I still very much believed in our ability though & it just became a waiting game.

    Maz: It must have been quite frustrating for you during that time?

    Paul: Extremely. Kev & Scott blew up with the whole NWO thing & Shawn was still top guy in WWF whilst I was jobbing. It got harder seeing guys pass me by too. First Austin & then Dwayne. I was glad they accepted to put me with Shawn in late-97 but it still felt like my push was never coming.

    Maz: You mention late-97. You know I have to ask, right?

    Paul: Montreal?

    Maz: Montreal.

    Paul: We had a lot of influence over Vince at the time. He had to trust us & Shawn was determined to have the last laugh as Bret left. Anyway, when he told us he wasn’t comfortable with Bret handing over the title the day after Survivor Series, we fed his paranoia. The plan was all me. It was simple stuff.

    Maz: Do you regret it?

    Paul: I always convinced myself it was the right thing to do, you know, for the business. Now I see just how messed up it was. Bret was a model-pro. Sure, he liked things on his terms but he would never have screwed Vince over. The WWF owed him his final moment in Canada.

    Maz: I imagine Shawn’s retirement really put a spanner in the works of your plan.

    Paul: Actually, Shawn’s retirement was my plan. Everyone could see that Austin was poised to take over. I convinced Shawn to jump before he was pushed. We knew a casket match was the perfect place to fake an injury. DX raised my stock but I was never going to break out unless I was the leader.

    Maz: Did Shawn know what you were doing?

    Paul: I didn’t think so. I recently came clean with him. He said he guessed that was the case but that he believed he needed a break. He also said he knew I made up for it in 2002. I guess I did but that was all subconsciously. Besides, when you are at the top it changes your way of thinking slightly. I knew he wasn’t a threat to me long-term.

    Maz: Unlike?

    Paul: I know where you started your journalistic career. I know you can recite the list of guys I buried. Booker, Van Dam, Steiner, Glenn, Jericho, Goldberg... and that’s just the ones that got near me. Even when I hit the top I still played second fiddle to Austin & Rocky, when I was on my own I wasn’t going to share the spotlight. I liked some of those guys & respected their talents but that was my time.

    Maz: What changed in 2004?

    Paul: Nothing. Well not early 2004 anyway. I think Benoit was probably my buried guilt over Bret. But I knew he was never going to get over so it was a safe move. Orton was always going to be short term just to get rid of Lesnar’s “youngest champion” tag. By the end of the year though I realised that my competition was in the boardroom, not the ring. We had to make stars & it was clear to me that Dave was the man. It took me awhile but I was soon sold on John too. I didn’t want to see it at first because there were a lot of parallels to myself.

    Maz: How so?

    Paul: He has the ruthlessness, that deviousness, that will to succeed at any cost. He played the game just as well as I did.

    Maz: So from 2005 you were focussed on becoming the owner of the company, but we missed out a very important part of your rise to the top. Stephanie.

    Paul: Steph was my target from very early on. We would joke about it in the Kliq but I knew we’d be together. She had a big crush on Shawn back in the day & as a result she’d always chat to us. We were always telling her that she should be on TV. When those guys had gone is when we really begun flirting. We wouldn’t start dating until after we were put together on TV but she always had her dad’s ear.

    Maz: So it was purely a business decision to start dating her?

    Paul: Yes & no. I mean look at her back then, it certainly wasn’t a chore. At the same time, I wouldn’t have spent so much time if there weren’t certain perks. It was all or nothing though. I had a lot to lose if it went wrong. By the time we married it was all real though. We were happy for a long time.

    Maz: What caused it to end?

    Paul: The girls. The moment Vince wanted to use the girls on TV it dawned on me. Despite all the bad things I had done to progress in my career, the McMahons were 100 times worse. Steph was right behind her dad on the subject. It was a real wake up call. They would literally do anything to push his product. We were soon fighting over everything. When Vince died the situation came to a head. It was the day I always saw as the moment where I’d have won but I realised that it wasn’t really what I wanted any more. When Shane heard that I was leaving his sister the day after their father’s death, he just went for me. It was bad timing that I happened to be on screen at that moment. Shane was always the grounded one in the family but even he has that irrascible McMahon trait. I can understand why he snapped but I knew I was done with the company & the family for good right there and then.

    Maz: We are really running short on time here but I want to try & get through these last couple of questions. The divorce seemed to go through really quickly. What happened there?

    Paul: I just wanted out. I wasn’t playing hardball. I just wanted lot’s of time with my daughters, the bit of cash I came in with & a little something to represent the work I put into the company.

    Maz: How many millions are we talking here?

    Paul: Not money. The rights to WCW.

    Maz: Stop the press. You now own WCW?

    Paul: That’s right. I may have modelled myself on the WWF style but I grew up loving Jim Crockett. All the talent that was squeezed out of the WWE in the last couple of years are going to be with me. Bryan. Ambrose. Rollins. The new WCW will be going back to its roots & will launch March 26th next year. I am going back to doing what I love but this time it will be for the right reasons.

    Maz: Wow. Unfortunately we are out of time but Paul, I’d love for you to come back again so we can talk about your vision for your new project.

    Paul:
    It would be a pleasure.


    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------



    Maz: So, there you have it ladies & gentlemen. Paul Levesque is a new man today & will be relaunching World Championship Wrestling 20 years after they were bought out by his former in-laws. I just can’t help but wonder if that wasn’t his plan all along. How it will all work out for Levesque is unknown right now but we need to focus on the fact that MAZZA IS BACK BABY! This special is bound to see Maz Debating picked up for a new season & I will finally become the number one sports entertainment journalist on the planet. I will leave you today however with the immortal words “I am a fish I am a fish I am a fish I am a fish”.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Oliver's Avatar
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    That's all I can pull off - note that in addition to Prime's which is posted elsewhere there are two missing entries here: Sittin Pretty - How To Succeed At Wrestling Without Really Talking by eldandy and Subtlety In Pro Wrestling: An Exploration by 'Plan.

  10. #10
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    It's a hell of an effort though. Given that 'Plan got to the finals it'd be great if he still had his lying around but still, there's a real slice of CF history in here now.

    Oh, and I've moved mine in here too to keep the place a bit neater.

  11. #11
    Samuel Plan
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    I should still have most of mine lying about. Will take a look tonight!

  12. #12
    The Brain
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    Oh shit! Haha, very fun. Nice looking up, forgot all about some of these, including my own.

  13. #13
    Samuel Plan
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    Here's mine from the same round. Subtlety in Pro Wrestling: An Exploration.

    Subtlety.
    Noun.
    1. The quality or state of being subtle.
    2. A subtle distinction, feature, or argument.

    It strikes me that professional wrestling has its own word for subtlety; psychology.

    Psychology is many things to many people, but to me it is quite simply the means by which any given match reaches the next level, finding an extra something and becoming more than the sum of its parts. It is the process through which a wrestling match becomes a piece of art.

    Unfortunately, it appears to be a methodology fading gradually into obscurity. We now seem to get increasingly fewer matches that tell an original story, while increasingly fewer wrestlers seem interested in varying the stories that they are able to tell, sticking instead to the safety of the familiar. We live in a world of wrestling within the WWE that threatens to become increasingly stale, spiralling downward in a cycle of repetition. And as wrestlers seemingly concern themselves less with the subtle psychological touches that turn wrestling into art, I fear so too will future generations of fans.

    Such a thing would be a crime of irreprehensible proportions. I can’t stand the fact that, if it happened, wrestling would lose something special. It would lose its x-factor, that part of this bizarre industry that sets it apart from what the critics and disbelievers discount it as.

    You see, it is through the virtues not extolled, through those subtle unnoticed psychological touches, that we can define the greatest from the great, the best from the rest. Thankfully, even as complex psychology fades away, there stands a monolithic testament to how much such a tool can achieve.

    Over the last four years it was through such subtlety, such psychology, that the greatest match series in WWE history became just that. I am talking of the company’s recent foray into on-going story telling through the medium of marquee Wrestlemania matches, a kind of story telling truly Shakespearian in its approach – the Undertaker’s Tetralogy, if you will, starting with a bout against Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 25 before ending with a Hell in a Cell bout against Triple H earlier this year.

    Those four matches have been name dropped many times already in my Must See series for good reason. Their impact will now be far reaching, their place in history, undeniable in its importance, perhaps forever unchallenged. It is easy to become lost in rhetoric but that series was special. Not just because each episode of it stands alone as an amazing match of fantastic quality, but because the psychology of the series as a whole becomes so complex that it is a perfect, perhaps even the single best example of wrestling as art. It is their subtle touches, their psychological nuances that provide the agency for that transition to take place.

    The most noticeable aspect when watching this series back to back is just how effectively the escalation of events is portrayed. Each of the four instalments, I have found, can be summed up quite effectively in a single word representative of the overall tone.

    For the first, Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania 25, aspiration would be that word. Based solely on Shawn’s desire to end the fabled Streak, it is a match founded on the very basic principle of the aspiration to win. One would think all four of these matches would be, but as you will see as this analysis progresses it is thankfully far from being that simple.

    I have made my feelings about this series opener very clear in the past. I never have been one for agreeing with the general mass opinion that the first can only ever be the best; such obsequiousness is something I would sooner distance myself from through objective criticism. That said, while there is little nuance in the spamming of finishing moves that constitutes the bout’s final fifteen minutes, the fact it is that the aspirational psychology here lays out an important foundation on which its sequels build their own character. After all, how can we measure superlatively with no base-line?

    Having said that, internally this first match is not without psychological merit. It has its own subtle moments that help make it more psychologically complex, thus by extension superior, to most other bouts similar in their set up. Given the comparatively simplistic foundation of simply wanting to win, understandably the discourse follows a simple traditional line, at least in the first half, of the challenger targeting a limb and focussing on it. Unfortunately this does eventually trail off following a botched swan dive, but it is said botched swan dive that presents us with the real genius moment here; Shawn looking for a count out win. It is incredibly out of character for such a white meat babyface to want to win on such a grand stage by count out, especially for one such as Mr Wrestlemania, but, regardless of whether it’s an intelligent attempt to buy Undertaker time to recover from his botched swan dive, the fact Shawn’s expression reads so eagerly as such a count out takes place makes his overwhelming desire to win extremely vivid. That in itself is an important factor when considering how our story unfolds.

    Said story escalates as it progresses to act two, based itself entirely upon conviction. Here, the pre-match promo emphasises how the Streak, or rather Shawn’s quest to end it, had now become all consuming, an addiction almost, itself explaining away the reason for Shawn’s career being put on the line; there’s that escalation, itself a facet emphasised through various other means such as Undertaker’s executioner style get up and Shawn’s more muted colours. Such little touches, barely noticeable until you analyse proceedings, all add up to a sense of foreboding, all of them making the match work on a subconscious level too.

    There are a number of moments here that portray the extra conviction and offensive disposition Shawn lacked the previous year, such as mocking Undertaker’s signature taunt in the opening, blocking his opponent’s moves on first attempts, looking to strike with finishers very early on, never flinching. We even get the repetition of last year’s simplistic psychology of Shawn going after the knee – coincidence? Perhaps. But in back-to-back viewings it feels more like consistency; if it is then, given this is a year later, it’s another brilliant touch, this time maintained even to the end, notably with the moonsault table spot. However it comes from both sides as Undertaker has his own moments showing his own conviction, such as throwing aside a medic following the Tombstone on the outside; the viewer, as a result, is led to believe that despite a possible injury, Undertaker is as intent on ending Shawn’s career as Shawn is ending the Streak – equals have become nemeses.

    The much more direct discourse further cements the psychology of conviction on both sides. It’s also a very logical stylistic progression as now they’re familiar with each other, now there’s more riding on it, now Shawn’s more confident thus meaning, by extension, Undertaker is much more on the defensive. It is a psychology maintained even to the closing moments as, in the face of certain defeat, certain retirement even, Shawn remains defiant, ignoring pleas to stay down, once again mocking the Deadman’s taunt before slapping him in the face. Such moments are what turn these matches from wrestling matches to acts in a play.

    It is a moment given further credence by the real diamond in the series, Wrestlemania 27, being labelled a battle of the Last Outlaws, giving this whole series a much more important context in the wider company and its history. By this point, we really are in the realm of art.

    Where its immediate predecessor was direct in its conviction, the subtle psychology here is perhaps best describe as perverse in its aggression, both mentally and physically, beginning with the entrances; Undertaker here isn’t the only one with a blackout and a gong. Triple H offers us a perverse mirror image of ‘Taker’s famous entrance, perhaps even outdoing it, a form of mental intimidation that, to my memory, no other opponent has ever attempted, castrating Undertaker of his usual menace before the match can even begin. Added to Undertaker coming out to, “Ain’t No Grave”, a title in itself seemingly resigning ‘Taker to the fact he’s going to get put in a grave regardless, and suddenly Undertaker is the underdog.

    That idea permeates the match, continuing through spots such as when Triple H spears ‘Taker through the Cole Mine before backing off, telling him to bring on some more. Undertaker’s advantages are brief, taking as much out of him as they do Triple H. Even when on the offensive, he is very much fighting an upward battle, further escalating the previous outing where he was simply on an even-footed defensive. Even the simplicity of content, so often a detriment to a match, seems to become a subtle psychological touch when viewing it in this wider context, as it comes off as if Undertaker is estimating Trips under the same criteria he did Shawn Michaels, failing to acknowledge the heightened aggression of the former; this is very much Bane breaking Batman’s back.

    But it is the second half where the psychology becomes really complex. We have foreshadowing of the following year as Trips batters ‘Taker with a chair, shadows of the previous year when Trips yells at ‘Taker to stay down. We have Trips pausing after a chair shot to the head, showing uncharacteristic remorse, Undertaker unable to sit up, and finally there’s the perverse reverse-imagery. Undertaker gets Tombstoned, from which Trips effectively puts over Undertaker’s otherworldly nature, as well as the similar nature of The Streak by launching backwards wide eyed upon the kick out. ‘Taker is seen on his knees at the mercy of Trips as HBK was to him, plus, after a perfectly judged finish, the celebration of the now overly familiar ‘Taker win is perverse in its absence. It sends a shudder down the spine, emphasised by Trips, a man possessed usually with malicious equanimity, showing concern as Undertaker is unable to walk from the building.

    By the time of the final act, we sit amidst a world of outright malice. The Cell here provides a hell of emotion as opposed to physicality, more malicious in its intent than it ever has been, much like its occupants. Everything about this final bout oozes overt hostility, the aggression evidenced being genuinely uncomfortable to watch on various occasions. It is an exhausting crescendo to a highly emotive masterpiece. Everything is exacerbated here; Shawn’s emotional investment, Undertaker’s jeopardy, Triple H’s objective - such aspects perfectly highlight the real value of this final instalment, being its brilliance in synthesising everything that came before.

    The interaction between Shawn and Undertaker continues to highlight their on-going resentment. The dangerous relationship between DX is emphasised by their double team, their differences highlighted as Shawn shows sympathy, directly conflicting with Triple H’s calculated dissemination of his opponent. The danger of that sympathy from the referee to the Streak is made a point when the Deadman chokes out said referee; no ref, no ref stoppage.

    Yet after all of it, the best comes at the last, when we get the final disturbing reverse image of the previous episode, with a Deadman who had been beaten to a pulp standing victorious in the face of the only man that prevented him from leaving on his own power, ending Triple H’s challenge in exactly the same way he ended Shawn’s.

    It is vengeance.

    It is poetic justice.

    It is psychology.

    That psychology puts it in no doubt this is the endgame, the final act of a four act story, the final escalation of an increasingly hostile war. By this point the Streak is an afterthought; now it’s simply a fight to the end between the story’s cast of characters. The only question is whose end? Well, the answer, perhaps, is all of theirs. The final scene sees a respect shared among three men who went to war, at first over the Streak, but by the end simply over deeds done.

    These four matches are a Shakespearian achievement in professional wrestling story-telling, achieved through the little things. You see these four matches maintain at their core a simple principle of professional wrestling – psychology. If you take the time to watch them, I mean properly watch them, you will be rewarded with levels of psychology that seem to have no end.

    Now I realise that my opening may perhaps have sounded rather melodramatic. I can understand that some may feel my fears are unfounded. It is simply that when I watch wrestling nowadays I can no longer pick out the best psychologist, because psychological methodologies seem to revolve around the same principle; pick half a dozen moves, throw them together in one order or another, add on a false finish as epilogue, rinse and repeat. The problem with bad habits is eventually they become standard practice.

    As a result, I felt a need to write what I guess is something of a tribute, not to one of the greatest stories ever told, but rather to the means by which it was achieved, a means which we as wrestling fans, and wrestling as an industry, simply cannot afford to lose.

    It’s just too good for that.

    I said at the outset that in wrestling subtlety is another word for psychology, the ever-fading method through which wrestling surreptitiously becomes art. If this series of matches can’t extol the virtues of such a thing, I don’t know what can. At the very least, we can be safe in the knowledge that future generations have been given, to my mind, one of the greatest stories ever told, in any medium.
    101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die: The Book is now available to buy on Amazon UK, Amazon US and Amazon Europe! Just search for "101 WWE Matches" and it'll pop up!

    ~ Samuel Plan

  14. #14
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    Let's complete the set. Digging this up took far more work than I thought it would...

    Sittin Pretty - How To Succeed At Wrestling Without Really Talking

    “Paul Heyman saw something in me that nobody else wanted to admit. That’s right, I’m a Paul Heyman guy…”
    CM Punk - Monday Night Raw - 6/27/2011

    It all seems to come back to this. The epic promo that CM Punk cut some sixteen months ago, launching his career into the stratosphere, has been dissected so many ways by now that the words almost seem to blend together. It’s interesting to note that at the time of the promo, many people wondered what kind of lasting impact it would have on Punk’s career, if not the wrestling industry as a whole. While some proclaimed it to be this generation’s Austin 3:16 promo, others cast it aside as being another hot-shot, Nexus style summer stunt. I would submit that both theories were correct.

    While there is little denying the fact that the initial plan for the promo was to create some sort of intrigue as Punk’s contract was supposed to expire, the fallout and lasting impact of the words said by CM Punk still resonate today. It’s been nearly sixteen months since lines like “Hey Colt Cabana, how you doin’?” or “the fact that Dwayne is in the main event at Wrestlemania and I’m not makes me sick” were said, yet we still hear rumours of Colt Cabana being offered a WWE contract in the near future, while a Punk/Rock match should be headlining a major pay-per-view in the near future.

    If one were to really give the WWE booking team a lot of credit, they could certainly surmise that the promo that Punk cut that night was going to be a template for their booking over the next number of years, with subtle hint after subtle hint surreptitiously being dropped by the company‘s best microphone worker, like Easter Eggs for hardcore fans to pick up and fawn over; but that would be giving them far too much credit.

    The truth of the matter is that most of these lines were either coincidental or simply throwaway lines by a man that was given the most rare and precious gift that the WWE could possibly offer: an open mic.

    Despite that fact, the WWE have made the decision to follow a lot of the points that Punk brought up in his promo, resulting in some of the most compelling (yet at the same time incredibly frustrating) booking we’ve seen from professional wrestling in a long time. The best of these little pickups has to be the re-entry of Paul Heyman into the fray after a nearly ten year absence.

    It seemed like an inevitability that Heyman would be back at some point to stand in Punk’s corner once his name was uttered. I would actually like to think that the return of Paul Heyman probably would have come much sooner had it not been for the fact that the WWE saw the need to turn Punk baby face after cutting one of the greatest heel promos that company had ever witnessed, but that is a topic for a different column. Sufficed to say, fans have been salivating at he prospect of having Heyman team up with Punk for a very long time.

    The irony of this dream pairing is that the one man that you would expect to be over the top in his mannerisms and delivery has actually displayed an unparalleled amount of equanimity since emerging as Punk’s advisor. Traditionally a brash, egotistical loudmouth with a penchant for hyperbole, Heyman has been so utterly silent in his support of Punk that one has to wonder what his role actually is in all of this. He isn’t hired muscle nor is he playing the part of mouthpiece (why would he have to…), so what the hell is he doing here?

    Simply put; as great as CM Punk is at playing the heel, it would be almost impossible for him to turn the fans that he’d piled up over the last year on himself by cutting the same types of promos that brought them onto his side in the first place. That’s where Heyman comes in.

    Heyman’s ability to draw heat from the crowd is something that the WWE has been lacking for a very long time. Don’t get me wrong; the likes of Vickie Guerrero, Michael Cole or most recently Abraham Washington (B.K. - Before Kobe) have the great ability to get the ire of the crowd. To Guerrero’s credit, she is probably the best heel manager in terms of drawing heat from the crowd since the great Bobby Heenan back in the 80’s, however the tactics used by the aforementioned managers were purely based on their work on the mic. All three have the ability to draw instant heat simply based on the fact that they’re speaking. Catchphrases like “Excuse me!” or “May I have your attention please…” get the crowd going almost instantly, echoing choruses of boos that few others in the company can replicate.

    In that same vein, Heyman has the exact same ability to get under the crowd’s skin by using the exact same tactics. One need look no further than his backing of Brock Lesnar during the summer to see a man that can be the perfect mouthpiece for the top heel in the company. Heyman has both the reputation as well as the clout to manage top level talent. Add to that his history with Punk which was alluded to last June and it just made perfect sense. Many people believed that the two would scorch the earth with the hot fire they would spit from the microphone on a weekly bases, bouncing off of each other as they tore down all challengers.

    Yet as the two men began to work together, the dynamic duo have had virtually no verbal interaction with each other. No twenty minute promo filled with obsequiousness as Heyman figuratively blew Punk in the middle of the ring, fawning over how great they both were. Nor has there really been any brow beating on the part of Heyman stating how great Punk is. Sure, he’s had promo time to illustrate the fact that HE respects CM Punk, but at no time have they both double teamed John Cena, Jerry Lawler, or anyone else for that matter. We haven’t seen the type of multi-voiced tirade one would typically expect from two great mic workers. No Flair/Heenan 1992 Royal Rumble prediction style promo where both men would go all out, becoming red in the face putting each other over. In fact, for the first time in over twenty years, Paul Heyman has remained largely silent.

    Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen some of Punk’s best mic work in a long time as he comes out and demands respect from various WWE legends. Whether it be Bret Hart or Jim Ross, Mick Foley or Jerry Lawler, Punk has pulled the load on his own when it comes to the talking, all the while having Paul Heyman sitting back, holding the WWE Title over his head with a smug air of confidence reserved for little cartoon dogs that hang out with the bigger, scarier dog named Spike. Yet in spite of this template that many of us remember since childhood, rather than dancing around Punk spouting bullshit like “This is my friend Punk! You’re the best in the world, right Punk?!”, Heyman lets his client do the talking while he holds all the proof he needs above his head, a smug look of arrogance that screams “You know he’s right” on his face.

    It’s this kind of subtlety that makes Heyman’s genius shine through. If you look at Heyman’s breadth of work; from the late eighties NWA to his most recent run with Brock Lesnar, he’s always been the mouthpiece that doesn’t know when to quit. A manager cut from the same mould as personal favourites like Bobby Heenan or Jim Cornette. Even during his time as the creative mastermind behind ECW, Heyman was always the focal point of the organization. Stars would be created, angles would be shot, but Heyman always remained at the centre of it all, directing traffic while putting his own personal touch into every single aspect of that organization.

    A perfect example of this kind of over the top arrogance would be Heyman’s speech to the network following ECW’s horrible treatment at the hands of The Nashville Network during their only (albeit brief) run on a national network. Heyman’s refusal to conform to TNN standards and practices garnered him a lot of heat (along with a few lawsuits) from television executives, but Paul E. refused to compromise. In a ballsy promo, Heyman dared TNN to cancel ECW’s contract or he would continue to break every single rule they would put in place.

    That kind of bravado only furthered Heyman’s reputation as a fiery talker that wasn’t afraid to take risks while putting his talent over. This reputation was furthered when Heyman took over commentary duties when Jerry Lawler left the Raw commentary desk in 2001. From there, he put both McMahon offspring to shame on the mic during the infamous Invasion angle. Whether he was putting over his former wrestling promotion or he was ushering the Next Big Thing into professional wrestling, Heyman was always a class above the rest.

    Despite all of this experience in getting people over, equanimity was never Heyman’s strong suit. While his role within any given company was always changing, Heyman himself always managed to play his part the same: loud mouthed know-it-all that couldn’t take a punch when he went too far. Thus, when he emerged as Punk’s manager a month ago, many thought that he would simply work his magic with somebody that didn’t necessarily need it, but would certainly benefit from it.

    That’s what has made this entire run so special. Perhaps it’s the fact that Heyman isn’t doing what everybody expected him to do, or maybe it’s just that people have grown tired or Punk continually browbeating while getting the best of John Cena, but ever since Heyman showed up, not saying a thing, the pieces have fallen into place.

    Personally, I believe that it has everything to do with Heyman going against the grain, doing the complete opposite of what we would expect him to do in a situation like this. Rather than being the ultimate mouthpiece for the WWE Champion, Heyman seems more like a professional pariah that wants to hitch his cart to the top horse how that it’s reached full stride. Instead of getting red in the face with fiery promos in the interest of further putting over a guy that already was over, he sits back with a sinister smile, not unlike a cat beaming with pride as it shows its master the mouse that it caught in the garage.

    Most important in all of this is that without these subtle nuances that Heyman has brought to Punk’s heel turn, I’m not sure that he would have gotten over. Don’t get me wrong here; I have little doubt that Punk has all of the tools needed to get over as a heel. Hell, I’ve been saying that Punk is the best heel in the business for the last year and a half (even when he was a face…). At the same time however, the promos that Punk was cutting weren’t doing the job. Punk can scowl all he wants, but that doesn’t make him a bad guy. It didn’t matter that he was bullying Jerry Lawler on a weekly basis because what he was confronting him about made perfect sense. Punk was coming out every week and echoing the sentiments we’ve read week after week in this very forum about not being given the respect he deserves as WWE Champion. So, if we all agree with him, why the hell should we boo him?

    The simple reason is that we fans hold CM Punk to higher standard than we do other wrestler. Not only is Punk a talented wrestler, he’s also smarter than your average wrestler. It is perhaps in spite of this fact that we see someone like Heyman riding his coattails, leaving us to wonder how a smart guy like Punk could get duped into this situation. Perhaps it was a simple matter of Heyman telling Punk what he wanted to hear, or that Punk infallible nature was swayed in a moment of weakness, but sufficed to say, a lot of fans are feeling betrayed now. At the same time though, it is Punk rather than Heyman that is getting heat from the crowd. Therein lies the brilliance of this whole program.

    In an industry where everything revolves around making a spectacle of ones self to get noticed, Paul Heyman has succeeded in accomplishing what many would have thought to have been impossible a few short months ago. While Punk wasn’t necessarily the biggest star in the company, he had certainly build his following to rival that of John Cena in popularity with his star continuing to rise. Rather than have Heyman come in and do the heavy lifting so that Punk didn’t have to, Heyman has sat on the sidelines, inserting subtle gestures and facial expressions which have made all the difference. This is a fine art that few people in the business have mastered these days. For that alone, Paul Heyman deserves an award. For all of the problems that the WWE has had with ratings lately, Paul Heyman’s minimalist performance has made me tune in week after week. One would hope that people are learning something from Paul Heyman’s subtle performance. And nothing more needs to be said about that.

  15. #15
    Senior Member JacobWrestledGod's Avatar
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    The damn stipulation is hilarious
    And Jacob wrestled with God.






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