Just For One Day
Traditional notions of heroism have always bored the hell out of me. We’re too precious about the whole thing. That’s not to say that I’m unimpressed by firemen running into a burning building or Mother Teresa, it’s just that I couldn’t write about stuff like that without putting everyone to sleep. At best, a hero is someone that you are supposed to find inspiration and hope in and maybe even joy for life, if only for five minutes. But it gets harder and harder to find heroes, or maybe we were just being too damn picky in the first place. Most of my heroes tend to be artists, musicians, and filmmakers, but I write about “those” people all the time, and this magazine is just brimming with would-be-idols from the arts community. I want to create a brief alternative canon of heroism, completely subjective, where the only people eligible would be professional wrestlers, and the only criteria would be that they did something that made me get all kinds of emotional and freaked out and ecstatic just like the first time I heard Merzbow or Red House Painters or Carcass. Trust me, if you know where to look, there are so many moments of extreme beauty in professional wrestling. And that’s all I expect from my heroes, small treasured moments, it’s not like I want to be them or something. Scoff if you want, but this stuff gets me all starry-eyed. Some of the wrestlers in this list I would consider as much of an icon as, say, Sid Vicious or Keith Richards. Most heroic moments and figures in wrestling? Here’s ten in MY particular order:
1. Jeff Jarrett slaps the Figure-Four leg lock on Internet pin-up girl Cindy Margolis, WWF Smackdown , 1999: Lordy, lordy, this is sports entertainment!
Jeff Jarrett was nearing the end of his 1999 WWF run, playing the role of the misogynist sexist heel to the hilt, he had crowds fucking rabid. After a particularly “on” night (he’d already put the makeup woman in the Figure-Four) Jarrett mercifully ran in during Cindy’s snoozetastic interview segment on Smackdown (they’ve gotta hit the T&A in prime time), knocked her over and locked in the Figure-Four hold like a true champ. I think like five minutes later he smashed a guitar over the head of the Women’s Champion.
Jarrett, I salute you. Now he’s over in WCW, smashing guitars over opponents’ heads like a bleach-blonde Pete Townshend. He’s so rock and roll. And I mean that without a trace of irony.
2. Jushin “Thunder” Liger upstages the Great Muta, New Japan 1996: Two Japanese wrestlers, Great Muta looks like a painted-up zombie with a Beatles bowl-cut, and Liger, well, Power Ranger on crack, how’s that? Muta was working over Liger brutally, slowing the pace of the match down to a psychotic crawl, attacking fans, throwing chairs, hiding under the ring. Muta starts screaming and pulling at Liger’s mask and hair, trying to remove it! To understand the significance of this, you must understand that Liger has NEVER been seen without the mask! The crowd was in shock. The referee pulled Muta off, Liger sprang up, tore off the goddamn mask, revealing full Muta-style face paint. The resulting venom spray in Muta’s face was by that point academic, but it was still spectacular and visceral.
3. Headhunter One vs. Headhunter Two, IWA Glass Hell Death Match, 1995(??): Two four-hundred plus pound twin brothers in Arabian gear trying to destroy one another for ten plodding minutes in a ring surrounded with broken glass. Blood everywhere. There was no skill or athleticism demonstrated at all in this match, rather just a pure distillation of ALL of the ugliness and brutality that we secretly hope to see in a spectacle like professional wrestling.
4. Papi Chulo vs. TAKA Michinoku, ECW Cyberslam , 1999: Two WWF fugitives put on one of the more dramatic wrestling exhibitions seen this year. But let’s face it, Papi Chulo was the real star here. Fresh off a stint on WWF Superastros , Chulo was the total personification of Mexican glam-punk sleaze. He literally slithered into the ring with back-length dyed red hair, dark sunglasses, bandanna, and chopped-up Marilyn Manson shirt, simultaneously channeling Jim Morrison and Axl Rose. Every high spot was almost dripping with arrogance. He’s back in the WWF now, but not on TV. Bastards. They’re afraid of him like Ed Sullivan was afraid of showing Elvis’ hips on “family” television.
5. H vs. (Imposter) Hayabusa in an “Anal Explosion Match,” FMW, 1999: Of course, it was in Japan, the Japanese always do it better than the Americans. I’m cheating on this one because I’ve never seen it myself, I’ve only seen some pictures posted on dark corners of the Internet, but come on, how could this one not make it into my canon? The stipulation of the match is that whomever wins gets to shove a stick of lit dynamite up the loser’s arse. The scheming Hayabusa decided to jump the gun just a little bit and do the deed to H, causing him to projectile vomit all over the place and thousands of dollars worth of damage to camera equipment. They’re both okay. Makes Black Sabbath seem pretty pointless.
6. Shane Douglas shakes Pitbull One’s halo, ECW Barely Legal , 1997 (I think): This one requires context, but I don’t have time right now. In brief, evil Shane Douglas breaks Pitbull One’s neck during a fraught match at the ECW Arena. Shane just draws audience hatred to him like a magnet, and everyone was waiting to see him get his in the highly-anticipated match against Pitbull Two. However, things go horribly wrong when Pitbull One shows up in one of those neck-stabilizing halo braces and Shane Douglas goes straight for him, malice in his eyes, and viciously shakes the halo again and again. Upshot — the fans almost riot, trying to get a piece of Shane and his place in heel history is assured.
7. The Dudley Boys’ “Sold Out” Interview, ECW Hardcore TV : The news that ECW’s top heel stable, the Dudley Boys, had signed with the WWF nearly out of the blue rocked the wrestling world. Not least because two weeks until they were scheduled to head out to Titan-land, the Boys were still the undisputed Tag Team Champions. The Dudley Boys addressed the situation, in a classic interview held inside a dirty men’s restroom, with Sign Guy Dudley holding up a “We Hate The World” sign. Bubba Ray Dudley liberally kissed Vince McMahon’s ass, calling him the “greatest promoter ever,” and saying “how much of a privilege it was to sell our souls to him.” He follows it up by boasting that they were going to take the belts up to Connecticut, present them to McMahon at his altar, and sell out like nobody ever sold out before. Not only was this interview totally in character, but it was a complete “fuck you” to ECW’s more purist fans, matched only in their fanaticism by the editors of Maximum Rock and Roll . This neatly segued into another classic hero moment, Raven returning to ECW, punking out both Dudleys, and taking the belts in the process.
8. Sabu Vs. Chris Candido, ECW November to Remember , 1999: Candido was waging a comeback after momentarily banishing his own (non-ring-related) personal demons, but the real story here is Sabu. Reeling after JUST learning of a good friend’s untimely death, Sabu decides to go ahead and wrestle the match. The word “stricken” barely describes Sabu’s physical and emotional state. But this is Sabu we’re talking about here, a genius innovator of the American high-flying and hardcore styles. Sabu is wrestling’s equivalent of Iggy Pop. No, Sabu is better than Iggy Pop, because he never did a crap duet with that woman from the B-52’s. This match is amazing just because of the emotional raggedness and sadness that comes through in every maneuver, every table breaking, every moonsault. Joy Division is the perfect soundtrack to this match. Many of the purist bastards castigate Sabu for his sloppiness in this match, but if they don’t almost break down in tears seeing Sabu point to the sky before executing the Arabian Facebuster, well, they were just worthless fucks in the first place.
9. Chris Jericho riling up a crowd of rubes, WCW Road Wild , 1998: Let’s face it, the ONLY decent moment in the Road Wild pay-per-view was Chris Jericho’s pre-match interview. He wanders out looking dazed in a powder-blue kimono, with his hair pulled up at the top, looking snobby and Euro as hell. Jericho took the mic, sneered for an imperceptible Johnny Rotten-like second, and then, in front of a crowd of Harley-riding bikers at the Sturgis Biker Rally, screeches, “So I was rolling around Sturgis in my smoking HONDA…” The crowd, obviously, went mad, and you couldn’t hear another word he said.
10. So many fleeting beautiful moments: Shawn Michaels turns heel and superkicks the Rock while refereeing his title match; Brian Pillman pulls a gun on Steve Austin; Eight-Man Lucha Libre match in Panama City in front of a bunch of drunk frat-kids; Jake “The Snake” Roberts showing up at the Heroes of Wrestling pay-per-view tanked to the point of incoherence; Taz choking out Chris Candido in under two-minutes; Elliot Shear administering Last Rites to Raven; Lenny and Lodi; Steve Austin impersonating Hulk Hogan in ECW; Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, Eddie Guerrero, and Chris Benoit show up on Monday Night Raw ; Vampiro throws a chair at Konnan during their first match EVER after years of backbiting hate; Sandman returns to ECW; and Raven almost breaking into tears when he associates his opponent with an abusive father figure: “Mommy, why’d you let the drunk beat me up?”
Wrestling as performance art? Even fucking better.
Here ends the verse.