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Bastard Obligatory Year-End List Mania Now

Bastard Obligatory Year-End List Mania Now

It’s a prevailing trend in journalism and pop-culture criticism, as a new year beckons ominously, to try and compress the Year That Was into an easily digestible nutshell list. This list should be funny, pithy, and thought-provoking all at once, and perhaps even make the readers feel that they didn’t completely waste their lives for yet another 365-day cycle. I don’t give much truck to this trend, I think it’s sloppy journalism, over-generalizing and way too subjective to provide any new and useful information. But hey, isn’t that what this column has been like since Day Fucking One? Let’s begin.

Some Things That Didn’t Make Me Change The Channel This Year:

1. The Great Muta Returns To WCW.

For one shining moment all was right with the world. The Jacksonville, Florida crowd was treated to the comeback of Japanese sensation the Great Muta, when he helped the Jung Dragons defeat Three Count and Tank Abbott. Dragon-screw legwhips, erratic kicks, green mist spray and chewing on the ring ropes, and the fans ate it up a spoon. How could WCW mess this one up. How about a one-night Title Reign, tons o’ jobbing to just about everyone, saddling him with the Insane Fucking Clown Fucking Disphit Posse (of all things), and having him get squashed by Sting in ten-seonds NUMEROUS times. Even with Yoshihiro Tajiri showing him up on ECW tv at least once a week, its not hard at all to get the Great Muta over, just let him wrestle and spit green mist at people. Sadly, WCW couldn’t even get that right. Fuck Sting. Fuck WCW. Fuck Insane Clown Posse. Fuck Vince Russo. Fuck Muta’s crrrrrrrrrreaky knees for deteriorating.

2. Triple H’s loooooong-ass WWF title reign.

Goddamn, consistency never seemed so cool before. And Triple H was a fighting champ in every sense of the word. Amazing matches with the newly-defected Chris Benoit, Tazz (as ECW champ), Cactus Jack, and in an incredible moment of surreality, TAKA (snotty cool ass punk) Michinoku. Triple H even became the first heel/villain to retain the belt during a Wrestlemania main event, which made the whole fucking night for me. He was willing to sell smaller guys’ offense to make them look like credible opponents (remember that 2.999999995 count that almost clinched TAKA the title?) and in the end, almost everyone looked good in a Triple H match.

3. Radicalz show up on Monday Night Raw.

Cool, cool yeah. Everyone else already covered this in good’nuff detail. I’m a lemming baby (so why don’t you kill me).

4. Chris Benoit as Homicidal Maniac.

To get to the crux of the matter, Chris Benoit looked like a glorified pussy during his WCW stint. He was EVERYONE’S bitch. The WWF fine-tuned his character to devastating effect. “Crippler” became more than mere hyperbole. First, they made him take out the caps in his teeth, giving him a gap-toothed snarl that was equal parts malevolent “Deliverance” hillbilly and, yes, “rabid Wolverine.” Second, they make him an arrogant, vicious dick who is completely aware of his reputation as the “best technical wrestler in the world” and revelling in it. Third, they make his finishing move (Crippler Crossface), y’know hurt people. Fourth, those loving final touches, like headbutting Stephanie McMahon, slamming a door on Lita’s head, and all sorts of other subtle nuances.

5. Kurt Angle

Whattaguy. Whattapal.

6. Lance Storm as WCW Triple-Crown Champion.

Lance Storm’s winning streak was truly the feel-good hit of the Summer. Makes me kind of sad to see him desperately try to breathe life into truly shitty and worthless opponents nowadays like Doctor Kevorkian in reverse.

7. Juventud Guerrera’s Ecstacy Freakout!

Lucha Libre innovator discovers the positive healing power of rave ten years too late! Freaks out, strips naked, fights with cops, injures cops, gets fired from WCW in process! There is continued speculation as to whether glowsticks were involved in this heinous affair. Juventud fucking rules, baby! E’s Are Good! E’s Are Good! I couldn’t stop laughing. Go to RFVideo and buy the shoot interview NOW NOW NOW. I feel love. (Disclaimer: Juventud’s great. I love him to death. This just gives him a much needed mad-eyed edge.)

8. Raven FINALLY shows up in WWF.

He looked a lot like Jim Morrison circa “American Prayer” in Eyeliner. It was truly and without a doubt, all good. Plus, if a plus was even necessary, he had his working boots on, and showed himself to be a bump machine of oft heroic proportions. Hey, he’s got a belt now, so shut the fuck up.

9. Yoshihiro Tajiri vs. Steve Corino, ECW PPV.

I’ve written about this extensively about this match before, so I’ll just lazily pull out a quote. Howzabout: “The blading that Corino pulled off at ECW Hardcore Heaven just plain oozed crazed testosterone
insanity. It certainly wasn’t plasma, my friend. The ring was covered in blood, Corino was covered in blood, his long platinum white hair even turned a sickly cotton-candy pink. At one point in the match, Corino was hanging upside down from the ropes as Tajiri was sizing him up for a dropkick to the face, and the blood was pouring out in thick
sticky puddles, not the weak little trickles we usually get from wrestlers on pay-per-view. Did I mention that at several points in the match, blood splashed on the camera? Coppola would have killed for that…”

10. Atsushi Onita just being Atsushi Onita.

My brother may sarcastically call him “The Fonz”, and he may be nearing the end of an incredible career, but Onita had tons of extracurricular moments of wonder. He threatened to show up on WWF television, had that excellent DDT match, got squashed by Ricki Chioshu and acted like a total drama queen about the whole thing (tears, blood, ambulances), dressed up like KISS, kept his own wrestling organization going, dyed his hair blonde, kind of wrestled for American indie XPW, hung out with American porn honchos amidst whispers of XPWJapan, kissed and made up with All Japan (for like four seconds), showed Sandman how a cigarette and leather jacket should be properly utilized, and basically acted like an icon should.

11. Akira Hokuto’s low-key GAEA comeback.

A comeback is a comeback any way you look at it. Think about maybe Bob Dylan at the Woody Guthrie Tribute show. Akira! I love you! Self-indulgence!

12. The Birth of WOW (Women Of Wrestling)

Women-only indie federation masterminded by the fella who brought you the feminist watermark known as GLOW (Glamorous Ladies of Wrestling, natch). WOW not only knocked out the ECW syndicated show on my local cable outlets (now THAT’S hardcore), it also has the distinction of being the most surreal viewing experience you’re going to get in North American wrestling. A basketball player, a cowgirl, an ice queen, some convicts, lifeguards, an ice queen, spoiled actresses, a cheerleader, some butch Biker women, a jungle girl, ummm the gimmicks keep rolling out. Are you sure the guy who created the Village People is really dead? Here’s the kicker: it’s rather watchable.

Honorable Mention: Sandman’s Pensacola StripTease

And just what the fuck was that all about anyway? Disturbing, grotesque, and Dada in all the worst ways. This merits a mention because it was too goddamn weird to be left out (and I don’t feel much would be accomplished with a “Worst” list).

***

Neat and pre-packaged enuff for ya? That Was The Year That Was… The Year that Wrestling’s mainstream appeal began to die a slow and painful death. What ever shall I do?

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Bladejob

What We Talk About (When We Don’t Talk About Wrestling)

What We Talk About (When We Don’t Talk About Wrestling)

I’ve been told it goes a little something like this…

Someone: (cue slight smirk, perhaps a faintly arched eyebrow) So you, uh, like “wrestling”? You don’t look like someone who would like wrestling.

Me: (immediate defensive posture, eye you warily, as I would an accuser or a particularly pushy uncle.) Um, yeah?

Someone: (sort of aggressive, nearly but not quite mocking tone) Oh, so you like (twang) “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and the Rock. People’s Eyebrow? I see it flipping through the channels on a Monday night. The Rock is soooo funny. (softly) I always think of you when I see it.

Me: (too much defense mode) No, I fucking hate the fucking Rock. And Stone Cold and all of that Pavlovian crowd-response shit. People’s elbow, too retarded… Monday Night Wrestling makes me want to smoke crack… (which is probably why I keep tuning in week after week after week after week after week)

Someone: (very confused, cuz this IS Vince McMahon’s world and we’re all just happy to be here) Well WHAT do you LIKE about it then? From, the way you dress, I bet you like the Undertaker, right?

Me: Hmmm… That’s funny that you ask about the Undertaker. About two years ago, the last time I went to a WWF show with some friends, this total redneck guy approaches me and says, “Who did you come here to see? I bet I can guess.” And I say, “We like Triple H…” And he says, “Naw man, it’s alright, we (nods at his family) came to see the Undertaker too.” But no, I don’t care for the Undertaker, besides he chews dip on camera all the time now. Too gross.

Someone: (confused, can’t tell if I’m being a dick and making shit up or simply answering the question or both) Didn’t he used to be a zombie?

Me: Don’t worry about it, times change, characters get more… something. (Upon reflection, any time an opportuny arises to actually try and TALK – as in converse- with a non-wrestling fan about wrestling, I become an moody, autistic jerk. I’ll never tell.)

Someone: I guess… Wrestling seems so popular now, that one girl Chyna was in Playboy-

Me: That photo shoot was an abortion. Christ, I was embarrassed to be a wrestling fan. Playboy… It’s all just bastard Hef, skulking around like a skeleton in silk pajamas, ogling anything in high heels. Dirty old man.

Someone: I don’t get it, everyone tells me you like wrestling, I hear you talk about it sometimes, but all you’re saying is how you hate this and you hate that- What’s the deal?

Me: Look, I mean, there’s always a very large part of me that loves to be negative about EVERYTHING. But I gotta tell you, besides about five musicians at the moment, wrestling is the only thing I can derive a pure, geeky fan-worship-joy from anymore. It ain’t mere kitsch or cheap kicks for me, baby. When I see something like Muta spray his green mist in the air (even though all his hair is fallin’ out right in front of me), or Triple H do that weird “demon-unbound” pose, or Steve Corino bleeding heroically, or even Kurt Angle suplexing the Undertaker around like a big redneck rag doll, all objectivity flies right straight out the window for me. It’s Iggy Pop rolling around in broken glass, it’s Atsushi Onita hitting the exact SAME proto-punk-airs when he rolls around in barbed wire. This is the stuff of legends. (look of panic, said too damn much)

Long Goddamn Pause

Me: Um, I dunno, do you want me to bring in a picture of Onita sometime in full-on Brando glory, maybe a visual aid would help?

Pause Pause Pause

Someone: So do you wanna be a wrestler or something?

Me: No way, it would break my skinny ass down into atoms. Plus, its weird, I like to keep my distance from wrestlers, they’re pretty much the new rock and roll stars. There’s some strange sleazy behavior behind dark corners going down. I knew this girl once who wanted to be a manager in WCW, and she’d hang around those TV tapings waiting to give someone in charge her sort of audition tape. And I went with her one day (mostly cuz the tapings were free and I knew I’d get to see Psicosis and La Parka wrestle like six times, good deal), and she gave her tape to the correct parties, I think it was Jimmy Hart, and later this wrestler guy and announcer guy were talking to her about what she needed to do to break into the biz. And they were just secreting sleaze from every pore and they were totally all about how she’d have to do whatever she was told, and how she’d have to lose a few pounds and especially, ESPECIALLY she’d have to suck loads of cock to get anywhere. I don’t think they were dealing in metaphors either. Pretty disturbing.

Someone: That’s a horrible story. And you still like wrestling?

Me: Always, its just….. The best way I can explain it is to relay it back to musicians again, do you want a rock star to be someone who you can sit down and have tea with, or do you want a rock star to be a wall of manic nihilism? Though I’m not defending sleazoids, let’s face it, wrestlers don’t have the patent on sexist behavior.

Someone: Do you even know what you’re talking about?

Or Maybe It Was This—

Someone: Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaay, I’ll let you get back to watching your “Wres-tling”…

Me: Yeah, heaven forbid I be interested in something other than…

Someone: Heaven forbid you be interested in someONE.

Me: It’s not like that… (but I’m probably not sure)

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Bladejob

Vampire Weekend Warriors

Vampire Weekend Warriors

Do vampires really exist?

Well, if you go into a Denny’s on any given night, yes they do. That is, if your definition of “vampire” is an acne-riddled 15-year old with a faded Marilyn Manson shirt, a dubious black cape, a deck of Vampire: The Masquerade cards, and a serious sense of self-delusion.

No, really. You know, vampires. Vampires. Lurking in the darkest corners of your imagination….

Probably not.

In the wrestling world, however, vampires are alive and well.

So-called “serious” wrestling purists, devotees of the Japanese style epitomized by Misawa and Kobashi, long-time WWF fans, lucha fanatics, have co-opted the word “vampire” and use it to derisively refer to a darker side of the wrestling fanbase.

“Vampires” – they live to see blood. They crave it. For a vampire, it’s not a wrestling match until there’s blood. And I’m not talking the restrained bleeding we see on Monday Night wrestling. No, the ring has to be awash in blood. Rivers of red. The crimson mask, as it is called when a wrestler’s face is completely covered in deep red, is the ultimate moment to be relished.

The vampire fan has several icons: Terry Funk, Sabu, Cactus Jack, Atsushi Onita, Dusty Rhodes, and several lesser known Japanese lunatics (I mean that in the nicest possible sense). The ultimate vampire match, as recognized by the mainstream American public, was the “Born To Be Wired” barbed wire match between Terry Funk and Sabu in ECW. It goes beyond spectacle to near-snuff. At the end of the match, after Sabu has wrapped himself in barbed wire and splashed Funk off the ropes, it takes paramedics with bolt cutters at least fifteen minutes to separate the two men from one another and their web-womb of barbed wire.

Grisly stuff.

The Cactus Jack tapes and IWA King of the Deatmatch tournament always do a brisk business whenever I visit the video merchants at an ECW event.

Its not only the fans, but the wrestlers who become seduced by the mythic allure of the vampires. Backyard wrestlers, and smaller indie leagues boast of gore that would make ECW look like a sewing circle. The boldest display of this vampire-fetish came when MSNBC did a piece on “extreme wrestling” that focused on New Jersey-based indie Combat Zone Wrestling. A wrestler named Lowlife Louie Ramos was interviewed and came off full of his own hype, bragging nonstop about the risks he takes and the blood he loses, not knowing how pitiful his wrestling skills were actually looking. Anyway, blah blah, he’s hardcore, I’m hardcore, and all of the sudden Ramos takes out a staple gun and staples his arm like six times just for the benefit of the folks at home.

Hey asshole, thanks for making all wrestling fans look like twats.

For the most part, I side against vampires. I don’t NEED to see a wrestler bleed for me. I don’t NEED to see a wrestler jump off a twenty-foot scaffold for me. Most of the time, I don’t even WANT to see it.

But goddamnit, there is no such thing as an absolute in wrestling.

Case in point: ECW Heatwave, July 16.

Boring show, didn’t do anything for me. With one exception.

Steve Corino, for the second pay-per-view in a row, turned bleeding into an art.

I don’t know how the fuck I can be so contradictory. But its just that when Steve Corino, clad in red tights and white cowboy boots, is awash in his own blood, and staggering around the ring, punchdrunk like Iggy Pop during his best Stooges days… It’s more than just wrestling at that point, it’s performance art, it’s Kabuki theatre, it’s a homage to Nature Boy Ric Flair, a mess of platinum blonde and blood. Corino plays his part perfectly, he immerses himself in it.

Here’s the crucial difference with Corino- this kid has it all. He’s in his mid-twenties, he’s complete gold on the microphone, and he can wrestle like hell. I’m a total mark for his cowby-boot augmented superkicks. A Steve Corino-bloodfest is not him desperately trying to distract and dazzle the casual fan with gore, in hopes of concealing his limitations in the ring (like certain horror movies). Not a chance.

Steve Corino bleeds because he’s giving his utmost. Steve Corino bleeds because he feels like it. Steve Corino bleeds because it’s part of his act. Steve Corino bleeds because he punishes his body in the ring. Steve Corino bleeds because he’s the king of old school. Steve Corino bleeds because he does it so fucking well.

Enough with the garlic already.