Monday, April 22, 2013

Passing the Title Around

I saw this post on a comics message board about passing the title around, and I thought it was interesting because it essentially says that the way pro wrestling is distributed has changed booking styles:

The long, unbeaten title run was something that worked in the territory days but didn't do as well in the national days when the roster was more permanent.  WWF business of the 70's was simple: bring in a heel to feed to Bruno or Backland for three months, have the bad guy rough up the champ on TV, then do the blow-off matches that The Garden, usually ending with a cage match or death match.  After that the big heel either left the territory or moved down the card to do something else.  And, of course, since interest in wrestling was mostly regional, most fans didn't care what The Spoiler did in Dallas once he left the Northeast. 
Hogan had a lot to do with wrestling going from a monthly ritual in most cities to a quarterly or twice a year circus event.  He didn't draw in the 80's if he was in an area more than twice or three times, other than the long-time WWF strongholds, although, even then, Bruno and Backlund both had longer streaks of sell-outs at the WWF's home arena.
Now, very little of this was obvious detriment to the company as PPV revenue eclipsed the revenue a big monthly house show could generate.  But it did change the nature of booking and guys like Hogan and Flair never really caught on to how to keep heat for a long-term and heavily viewed feud.
I'm not a big fan of passing the title around, I guess I'm old enough to think moving it around too much devalues it but, at this point, when the company name is generally the real draw, more than any of the wrestlers or the promise of a big world title match, it does often make more sense.  And I don't agree that basically 50/50 booking everything into glorified 2 out of 3 falls matches draws either.  What draws is what has always drawn: building characters and stories that have an ending that people want to pay to see and then knowing when to deliver that conclusion.  People didn't want to see Steve Austin lose so him passing the title around wasn't a good drawing idea, people wanted to see him win the day when they paid to see his PPV events and the company was smart to rough him up on TV but give the paying PPV audience the stunner, pin and beer celebration far more often than not.  With someone like John Cena, you can probably better serve his character by booking him as an underdog and taking the title from him from time to time.
I think there's always a danger when you make wrestling too much into 'anyone can beat anyone.'  Yeah, it's more 'realistic' but, in the end, I don't think that's always what people watch wrestling for.  They watch it for the exaggeration and want characters to break away from the pack.  Like super hero comics, reality can be a bigger burden than boon.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ranking the Royal Rumbles

The 2012 Royal Rumble has come and gone, and it was pretty disappointing. They seemed to save the big entrants for the last five entries, and then they gave us a surprise winner for no reason other than to give us a surprise winner.

But where does it rank among the Royal Rumbles, all time? Well, I've decided to look at them all and rank them here. There are different criteria for judging the Rumbles, and they pretty much fall into three different eras. Before 1992, nothing was at stake for winning the Rumble, meaning that they could afford to be give the win to someone who wasn't going to go ahead and main event WrestleMania. 1992 was the one year in which they gave the winner the World Championship. From 1993 to 2002, the winner would go on to face the champion at WrestleMania, and then from 2003 onwards, the winner would get to pick which champion he would get to fight at WrestleMania.

As you can see, the 1993-2002 winners would all be more predictable than those of other eras, while the 2003-present Royal Rumbles would be slightly less so, since the winner doesn't actually have to go to the main event. Still, that's not all the Rumble is; how it goes depends on the booking and the order of entrants.

Without further ado, here are the Top 25 Royal Rumbles.

25. 1988
Winner: Hacksaw Jim Duggan
Why It's Number 25: Granted, the WWE was just getting the whole concept off the ground in this inaugural Rumble, but they treaded way too carefully in this one. Aside from one minor altercation, heels stuck to fighting faces and vice versa. The final two came down to One-Man Gang and Hacksaw Jim Duggan, and Vince actually says exactly how Hacksaw can eliminate Gang, and Hacksaw does it. Exactly. Horrible to watch, even from a historical perspective.

24. 1991
Winner: Hulk Hogan
Why It's Number 24: When you've got nothing at stake and Hulk Hogan and Earthquake are your final two combatants, you know it's a pretty horrible Rumble. This Rumble marked the first no-show: Macho King Randy Savage left the building after costing the Ultimate Warrior the title.
Hogan Alert: Hulk Hogan eliminates his "best friend" Tugboat Thomas and then claims ignorance afterward. This guy pretended to be a face.

23. 1989
Winner: Big John Studd
Why It's Number 23: This one gets some points for starting off strong: Demolition Ax vs. Demolition Smash, and it was actually pretty strong with people like Andre the Giant, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Randy Savage, and Tito Santana coming out. Eventually though, the Twin Towers (Akeem the African Dream and the Big Boss Man) eliminate Hulk Hogan, leaving themselves the only guys in the ring. That's then followed by the most uninspired collection of talent from that era as possible, plus Ted DiBiase. Who loses.
Hogan Alert: Hulk Hogan eliminates his friend Randy Savage at 12:26, directly in his line of sight, then professes ignorance afterward. And you wonder why I hated Hulk Hogan.

22. 2012
Winner: Sheamus
Why It's Number 22: Blech, blech, blech. After over a decade of really solid Rumbles, WWE manages to screw up 2012 by giving us no surprise entrants, no viable winners until #22, and a surprise winner just because the entire Internet was expecting Chris Jericho to win. And he should have. Give me back that hour of my life.

21. 1999
Winner: Vince McMahon
Why It's Number 21: This was the height of the Attitude Era, and it's possible the only thing you need to know about this is that Vince McMahon won it. But basically, it's worse: Austin and McMahon start off the match, then they leave the arena, then they come back to end the match, thereby making everything in the middle worthless.

20.  2000
Winner: The Rock
Why It's Number 20: This was a time when WWE was short of main eventers and it was pretty much a given that Rocky was winning. Aside from the Big Show, no one else was even in the running. A pretty weak roster, a predictable ending, and a swerve (that Rock didn't "really win") at the end that diluted the WrestleMania main event places this at number 20. (Incidentally though, the rest of the card was ace.)

19. 1998
Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin
Why It's Number 19: Still in the "lacking for main eventers" era, everyone knew Steve Austin would win this one going in. It is notable for one thing, though: The Rock coming in at number 4, lasting all the way to the very end, and even working a mini-match with Steve Austin to end the card. You knew that kid was going places.

18. 2011
Winner: Alberto Del Rio
Why It's Number 18: In retrospect, I guess we shouldn't have been surprised by 2012's surprise winner since WWE did the same thing the year before. But this Rumble was pretty good at least. We had two surprise entrants, Booker T and Diesel (!!!), and Santino Marella was one of the last two. Watch the tape and tell me the crowd didn't want him to win.

17. 1993
Winner: Yokozuna
Why It's Number 17: The first year with the "winner goes to WrestleMania" clause, and I think they went right by giving it to a giant, as it really put the Rumble itself over. They also were wise to start it off with the previous year's winner, Ric Flair, going off against Mr. Perfect. That's a kicker. Ultimately though, this Rumble gets knocked down by a couple of things. The first is Giant Gonzales's ridiculously long appearance to justify Undertaker's elimination. The second is Bob Backlund breaking the longevity record, because, frankly, who cares? And the third is the finish: Macho Man Randy Savage, long one of the smartest wrestlers in the universe, decides to follow up his diving elbow drop with a pinfall, at which point Yokozuna kicked out so hard that he threw Savage over the top rope. It was uncharacteristic for Macho, and it was stupid for a finish.

16. 1996
Winner: Shawn Michaels
Why It's Number 16: Here's one that any of four wrestlers at the time could have won: Shawn Michaels, Diesel, Owen Hart, and Vader. The rest of the roster is pretty weak though, with only Hunter Hearst-Helmsley showing some promise. It gets penalized for a couple of things. First, the finish came down to Shawn superkicking Diesel out of the ring as he turned around after eliminating Davey Boy Smith, robbing us of what could have been a great finish. Second, Vader showed up, got eliminated, then went on to go back in and eliminate everyone in the ring, including eventual winner Shawn Michaels. In every other Royal Rumble, those counted as eliminations; they made an exception for this one that took me out of the story.

15. 2005
Winner: Batista
Why It's Number 15: This one could have only had one of two winners, Batista and John Cena, and it did come down to the two of them, doing a double-elimination finish, prompting Vince McMahon to come down and reorder the match restarted (injuring himself in the process), and then (maybe) making an impromptu decision to have Batista go over. That was a time when Batista was pretty good and not lazy, and the sight of Vince sitting there in the ring is hilarious. But the rest of the Rumble was good too, with Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit starting the match and Edge and Rey Mysterio being part of the Final Four. You know it's a good Rumble when there isn't a single point in the match when at least one of those four guys isn't in the ring.

14.  2009
Winner: Randy Orton

Why It's Number 14: This was an excellent Rumble that had so many highlights. Rey Mysterio and John Morrison started this off with a bang, and we had three moments with giants (Khali, Taker, and Big Show)  coming to the ring and having all the wrestlers just stop and wait for them to get in, really putting their size over. (Kane wasn't one of them, for some reason.) And we had Rob Van Dam coming back, which was a really big markout moment. So why is this ranked so low? Because even with the incredible amount of talent that was in this Rumble, they completely tipped their hand from the beginning. The opening promo for the PPV centered around Randy Orton, Orton had segments throughout the PPV, and basically, everyone knew Randy Orton was going to win going in. Which is inexcusable, given the level of talent that was in here.

13.  1997
Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin
Why It's Number 13: This was a period of adjustment for WWE, having lost most of their main event talent to WCW and with a heel Steve Austin getting cheers and a face Bret Hart getting boos. Their roster was so thin that they had to bring in people like Cibernetico and Mil Mascaras (ugh). They made lemonade out of lemons though, bringing Steve Austin in early and having him go on an elimination rampage, and finally, at the #21 pick, with Steve Austin alone sitting on the top turnbuckle, Bret Hart comes in. Austin has a look of disbelief, and you could feel the roof coming off the place. A great moment. I penalize this Rumble for the controversial finish (Bret eliminated Austin, the refs didn't see, Austin came back in and eliminated Bret). I always prefer a clean finish, but it's enough to keep this at number 13.

12. 1994
Winners: Lex Luger and Bret Hart
Why It's Number 12: This was a particularly fascinating Rumble if you knew the backstory. Yokozuna had beaten Bret Hart for the title at the previous WrestleMania, and since he was the evil foreigner, Lex Luger, the American Hero, was being built up to be the one to take him down. At the Royal Rumble, Yokozuna beat the Undertaker in a casket match, while Bret Hart got injured in a tag match on the way to starting a feud with his brother Owen. So when Lex Luger came in at number 23, everyone cheered as he was already the favorite to take down Yokozuna — after all, he'd been built up that way all year. When number 25 no-showed, everyone assumed it was the injured Bret Hart. So when Bret came out at number 27, the roof blew off the place. Then Luger and Bret did a double-elimination finish (where Lex actually hit the ground first, which is why you never see a replay from the correct angle), and it was considered a draw, but not before they tested out the crowd by announcing each as the winner separately. The results: Lex Luger got a mixed reaction, while Bret Hart got overwhelming cheers. This whole Rumble is an object lesson in the importance of booking: in a vacuum, this Rumble was pretty bad with a dearth of talent, but given the booking all year and at the PPV itself, it jumps up to number 12.

11. 2006
Winner: Rey Mysterio
Why It's Number 11: This Rumble is still hard for me to watch, since it's such a cash-in on Eddie Guerrero's death. There were really only three guys who were gonna win it that year: Triple H, Rey Mysterio, and Randy Orton, who entered at numbers 1, 2, and 30, respectively. And they were also the last three people left. I'm not a fan of that kind of booking, where 1 and 2 make it all the way to the very end, since it makes the middle part of the Rumble seem inconsequential (and it was), not to mention that the number 1 entrant had just won the Rumble two years prior. They couldn't think of a better way to push Rey? (Rhetorical question. They couldn't.) Still, I suppose it gets a high ranking because Rey set the longevity record that still lasts to this day: 62 minutes and 12 seconds.

10. 2008
Winner: John Cena
Why It's Number 10: This was a really fun Rumble with lots of good moments. Everyone remembers John Cena returning from injury as a surprise entrant at number 30, being cheered overwhelmingly by the Madison Square Garden crowd before they remembered it was John Cena and started booing him because that was the cool thing to do. But there were a couple of other cool things in that match. The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels started the match off, a novel touch sine they ended the match the year prior. They lasted a half hour, providing us with good quality entertainment, and paving the way for two classic WrestleMania matches. Also, this was the year when an old, out-of-shape Jimmy Snuka came into the Rumble, followed by an old, out-of-shape Roddy Piper. They went at it for a while before getting eliminated, and it was a great surprise to longtime fans.

9. 2003
Winner: Brock Lesnar
Why It's Number 9: This marks the second time the Undertaker came in at number 30 (1997 was the first time), and the second time he lost at that number, falling to Brock Lesnar. But the real reason this Rumble was remarkable? Chris Jericho. They really pushed him here, entering at number 2, and lasting 40 minutes before a run-in by Shawn Michaels caused his elimination. I can't emphasize how great his performance here was enough. You have to see it.

8. 1995
Winner: Shawn Michaels
Why It's Number 8: As I've said before, I'm not a fan of the whole "Entrants 1 and 2 are the last two in the Rumble" booking strategy, but this was the first time it happened, with Shawn and The British Bulldog, so it was a historic Rumble. But why so low? Because it wasn't that impressive. That was the year that the period between entries was cut down to one minute instead of two, so the entire match was only 38 minutes and 41 seconds long. Furthermore, beyond Shawn and Davey Boy, the rest of the roster had no chance of winning. Owen Hart came in, got attacked by Bret, and eliminated by Davey Boy upon entering the ring. The combatants included an over-the-hill Rick Martel and a no-longer-pushed Lex Luger. And it had a bunch of tag team wrestlers — the Blu Brothers, the Headshrinkers, the Smoking Gunns. So basically, they used the "Number 1 will win the Rumble" booking strategy at a time when they had to, because the entire roster was so unimpressive. But it's a historic Rumble, hence, number 8.

7. 2010
Winner: Edge
Why It's Number 7: This Rumble is great because it had two really compelling stories driving it. The first was Shawn Michaels' clinical obsession to fight the Undertaker at WrestleMania, and since Taker was champion then, winning the Rumble would have propelled him to that position. Coming in at number 18, everyone thought that he'd team with Triple H to eliminate everyone, until he actually eliminated Triple H from out of nowhere. Then at number 29, Edge returned from an injury and went on to win the Rumble, last eliminating his old rival John Cena. (As history has shown us, a surprise appearance by Edge is a way to get a PPV going from watchable to great.) Fun stuff.

6. 2002
Winner: Triple H
Why It's Number 6: This was the Rumble after WWE had bought WCW, so the roster had been supplemented tremendously. Here we had the Undertaker coming in and eliminating the Hardy Boys, only to be eliminated by Maven right afterward. And then Steve Austin comes in and basically does a repeat of 1997, eliminating everyone until Triple H shows up. Kurt Angle comes in later and cleans house. Then Mr. Perfect — MISTER PERFECT — comes in, storms the ring, gets ganged up on, then spits out his gum and swats it away as he's getting ganged up on. Kane, the Big Show, RVD, and Booker T show up and get eliminated in short order afterward, but man, this was a packed Rumble.

5. 2001
Winner: Stone Cold Steve Austin
Why It's Number 5: For a very long time, I considered this to be the perfect Rumble. Matt and Jeff Hardy enter at numbers 1 and 3, and we get some brother-vs-brother fights going until they eliminate themselves. Kane comes in at number 6 and records 11 eliminations. The Undertaker comes in and teams up with Kane, making it scary for anyone to come in until Austin and the Rock both show up. Austin ends up winning, but really, it could have been either him or Rocky, but there's a moment in there where he and Rocky stare at each other from across the ring and go head to head. It's an intense moment, but it didn't go over as well as when they tried it back in 1990. Speaking of which...

4. 1990
Winner: Hulk Hogan
Why It's Number 4: There is one moment in the 1990 Royal Rumble when Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior go on an elimination rampage until they are the only two left in the middle of the ring. The atmosphere is electric. The entire crowd stood up. Right then and there, you had your WrestleMania main event. It was incredible, and is the type of moment that every PPV should have.
Hogan Alert: The Ultimate Warrior saves Hulk Hogan from elimination, then Hogan goes on ahead and helps eliminate Warrior. That's Hogan for ya.

3. 1992
Winner: Ric Flair
Why It's Number 3: It absolutely pains me to say this, because I can't stand the man, but Ric Flair was a god in this Rumble. This was the only Rumble where the title was on the line, and what a stacked roster it was: Randy Savage, Roddy Piper, The Undertaker, Hulk Hogan, Sid Justice, and Ric Flair were all in it. Flair came in at number 3, and then won it at the very end when Hogan helped him eliminate Sid. Flair's performance was unbelievable. It's too bad he wasn't as good any other time.
Hogan Alert: After three straight years of eliminating his friends and then feigning ignorance, Hogan is pissed when Sid pre-empts him and eliminates him. So he helps eliminate Sid, despite the fact that he's no longer in the match. And people cheered him for it. Horrible.

2. 2007
Winner: The Undertaker
Why It's Number 2: This was a Rumble when any of four guys could have won: Undertaker, Shawn Michael, Edge, and Randy Orton. And they all gave in good performances. Edge came in at number 6 and lasted till the final four. Orton came in a little later, and then Shawn came in, determined to win after his friend Triple H had gotten injured. Then the Great Khali came in at number 28, eliminated 7 people, and was on the way to eliminating Shawn and Edge and Orton as well, until the lights went out, and the Undertaker came in. It was a nick-of-time save, a goosebumps-inducing moment. The perfect time to book someone coming in at number 30 (marking the third time Taker came in at that number). It came down to Shawn and Taker, and they essentially worked a match. They blew the finish a bit, but not enough that anyone actually cared. Great, great finish.

1. 2004. 
Winner: Chris Benoit
Why It's Number 1: This was so perfectly booked that it was almost ridiculous. Chris Benoit entered at number 1 with Randy Orton at number 2. Benoit had that whole "You will never get a title shot" angle going, meaning he had to win the Rumble, but since he was Chris Benoit (i.e., unloved by the higher ups), you didn't think they would actually go through with it. Randy Orton was eliminating the giants until Mick Foley showed up and eliminated him (making this the only time the Rumble was won by a number 1 or 2 guy and not have the other guy make it all the way to the end), and the end was the most convincing finish to a battle royal I'd ever seen. RVD, John Cena, Chris Jericho, Benoit, and Kurt Angle all tried eliminating the Big Show, each of them hitting their signature moves. But Show wouldn't be denied, eliminating Cena and RVD and then setting his sights on Chris Jericho. He throws Jericho over the top rope three times, only to have Jericho save himself each time, finally getting Show to tap out to the Walls of Jericho. This, of course, doesn't eliminate Show, who manages to catch him in mid-air soon after and throw him out. Angle then did the same thing, getting Show to tap to the ankle lock, when Show used the ropes to leverage Angle out of there. With the odds against Benoit, the Wolverine managed to get Show to tap out to the Crossface, but again, this didn't eliminate the giant, who managed to gorilla press Benoit. Before he gets to eliminate him however, Benoit maneuvers himself into a guillotine position and slowly leverages Show out of the ring. It's the most convincing method of eliminating a giant I've ever seen, and if I could give any one year to someone and say "This is what the Royal Rumble is all about," it would be 2004.

And yes, I know what Benoit did. That doesn't change the fact that the 2004 Royal Rumble was the best one.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Legendary Comics Writer Alan Moore on Professional Wrestling

You all know I'm a fan of comic books, and you can visit my main site, The Comics Cube, in case you'd forgotten. My favorite comics writer is Alan Moore (WATCHMEN), and he had a webchat a couple of days ago, the full video of which you can see here.

Alan Moore chats with Harvey Pekar statue contributors (FULL) from Chris Thompson on Vimeo.

At the 2:10:32 mark, he is asked, "What medium that is currently despised (for example, video games, professional wrestling, and so forth) by many people would you say has the most artistic potential?"

Moore's answer: "Actually, I'm quite fond of the idea of professional wrestling as an artform with potential. I think I realized when I was a kid that, um, it's theater, isn't it? It's just like Greek theater, with that strong, pouring overhead light and the various wrestlers embodying obvious symbolic values. Yeah, this is the guy who is pretty but vain and evil, and this is the guy who is ugly but morally dependable. They're all acting out parts, so yes, I used to enjoy professional wrestling because I thought, 'Well, this is theater, nobody's getting hurt.' Then I actually found out the kind of physical shape that professional wrestlers do actually end up in, because even if you are faking it or when you are faking something that violent, yes, you are going to be getting incredibly hurt. So probably -- it's a nice idea, but I'd probably rule out professional wrestling."

I thought that was pretty cool, since I've been off pro wrestling for a while after having read Mick Foley's first book, Have a Nice Day, and finding out the actual extent that these wrestlers will go to to hurt themselves just to get a reaction. But more so, I just think it's incredibly cool that my favorite writer sees the concept, if not the actual product, as an artform with potential. At his next interview, someone should ask him who his favorite wrestlers are.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why You're Stuck With John Cena: Ending the Streak

The Undertaker is a true icon in the wrestling industry, perhaps the only true icon in the purest sense of the word. He is universally respected by the entire industry, and no one ever has a bad thing to say about him.

The Undertaker is 19-0 at WrestleMania. Every year, they do a storyline about who's going to beat him at the grandest stage of them all. And here I am, telling you what you probably don't want to hear: the only person who can do it is John Cena.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why You're Stuck with John Cena: The Main Event Picture

Much ado has been made about CM Punk's promo two weeks ago. Or, should I say, much ado was made, and now said ado has died down. Go, watch it again before we begin.

The promo was big because a lot of people thought he was shooting — that is, people thought he took the mic and just started saying whatever was on his mind, unscripted. This took me by surprise because I'd thought it rather obvious that he was working the angle. The reason it came off as such a good promo is twofold: CM Punk is, by nature, a great promo, and CM Punk was not working off a script; rather, he was working off of bullet points, just the way wrestlers used to work before Stephanie McMahon took over the creative aspect of the company and we went from "booking" (having a loose plan on which the wrestlers can work) to "writing" (being strict and and specific with what the sports entertainers will do, right down to the last word). But I'd thought it pretty obvious that it wasn't a shoot, because it didn't make any sense as a shoot.

For one thing, Punk calls the Rock a kiss-ass. How does he know this? He's seen the Rock a handful of times this year — not in the last six years of his duration with the company, just this year. From all indications, Rock has never politicked, never kissed ass, and never let his superstar status get to his head. Punk's accusation is baseless and should have been everyone's first tip-off.

Another tip-off is Punk's constant claim that he's the best, and that's why he should be in the main event. Punk's a pro, and as a pro, he knows that the bottom line of any promotion is to draw money. He would not complain about the Rock being in the main event of WrestleMania, because Rock would draw extra money, which would mean more money for everyone involved, including Punk if he chooses to work WrestleMania next year. (You can see a shoot interview with Punk and Samoa Joe where Punk criticizes Triple H for always making it so that he's in the main event even when it's not the right thing for the business.)

But even if it was clear to me and a few others (including someone I know who doesn't watch wrestling and doesn't really have attachments to the characters) that Punk was just working the angle with Cena, the promo worked in that it got people talking. A lot. I had friends texting me and asking me if it was legitomite legitimate, and after a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion that people thought Punk was shooting because they wanted him to be shooting, specifically about Cena, because people hate John Cena.

And that's what this article (and this admittedly long preamble) is about. I hate to break the news to you guys, but unless something huge happens, you are stuck with John Cena as the face of WWE. And here's why.

Meeting Bret Hart and Jim Neidhart, August 2006

When I was young, my favorite tag team was the Hart Foundation. Unlike teams like Demolition, comprised of two big power wrestlers, or the Rockers, comprised of two small aerial wrestlers, the Hart Foundation had one of each. And honestly, despite colorful costumes, including these awesome shades, the Hart Foundation wasn't flashy. They were straight up and to the point, and would do anything to win, and the fans respected that and cheered them, despite their sometimes underhanded methods.

When they split up, Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, the power guy, kind of faded into the background, while Bret "Hitman" Hart achieved a new level of fame. Week in and week out, month in and month out, Bret put out the best match on the card. WrestleMania X is my favorite event of all time, because it started off with Bret putting on a wrestling clinic with his late brother Owen, and ended with Bret winning the then WWF title from the 500 pound monster, Yokozuna. It felt like a clear transition from the era that was spearheaded by Hulk Hogan, which was great, because Hulk Hogan was, even to my 12 year old eyes, SO BORING, and Bret...

Well, Bret was my hero. He looked cool, he acted cool, he wrestled cool, he simply was cool. He was the best at what he did, day in and day out. (P.S. If you don't know how one can be "good" at a fake sport, I can't really help you. But just take my word for it.)

Bret and pretty much the then-entire crew of the WWF came to the Philippines in July of 1994, my long summer in between my switch from one elementary school to another high school. He was the defending champion both nights in the main event against his brother Owen. And on the night I went, the crowd was incredibly loud.

But during the main event, I noticed two things.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

RIP Macho Man Randy Savage

Earlier this year, we lost one of the true greats of the wrestling industry: Randy Poffo, better known as the brother of the Genius and Bonesaw McGraw in Spider-Man 1 The Macho Man, Randy Savage.

When I first started watching the WWE in 1989, back when it was still the WWF, Randy Savage was a heel called the Macho King. He was a cheater, had a scary woman named the Sensational Queen Sherri by his side, and talked really weirdly. However, I didn't know that the heel turn was recent. My brother, five years my senior, had seen him as a face, however, and was convinced (or maybe he was tripping me) that the heel Macho King was the face Macho Man's evil twin brother, because even back then we had a thing for evil twins. Whatever lingering doubts we actually had about it were ended at WrestleMania 7, when Savage turned face and reunited with his longtime love, Elizabeth.

Randy Savage pulled off some great matches at the time, which was already the downhill point of his career, but when I look at his really early matches, you can see the guy was so ahead of his time, so well-conditioned, and so athletic. He was really one of the first to start plotting out all his matches to the letter, and his match with Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania 3 is still discussed as one of the greatest of all time. And if you watch that match, you'll see that there are no restholds; it's pretty much nonstop action, with only a few pauses to keep the crowd into it.

Randy Savage was given the WWE title in 1989 at WrestleMania 4, and he dropped it to Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania 5. All throughout his career, Savage played second fiddle to Hogan, mainly because Vince McMahon had placed such a vested interest in the Hulkster. It reeks of unfairness, because Randy Savage, who even outsold and outdrew Hogan in some states, carried his own, carried his opponents, and was a game-changer in the sense of the wrestlers who were coming up. Bret Hart once said that he wishes he could have fought Randy Savage when they were both in their physical primes. It doesn't take much to see the influence Savage has on someone like Shawn Michaels. Hulk Hogan may have changed the rules of the game, but it was Savage who changed the players of the game. He was, quite frankly, a better wrestler, who was more athletic and had a better grasp of ring psychology than the one-trick pony that was Hogan ever did.

For my money, Randy "Macho Man" Savage was the best wrestler of the 1980s. He had the mentality, the conditioning, and the ability to outdo everyone on any wrestling roster. He was a wrestler whose one flaw was performing in the same era as Hulk Hogan. But this doesn't tarnish his legacy. Randy Savage was the man, and he definitely belongs in the WWE Hall of Fame.

Rest in peace, Randy Savage. Thank you.