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Archive for September, 2010

YouTube Finds: Jim Cornette does the WrestleRock Rumble–Get on!

September 24th, 2010 2 comments

Listening to this record once would leave any man wailin', "Mercy!"

Not to be outdone by Vince McMahon and his Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection, Verne Gagne presented his WrestleRock supercard at the Metrodome in Minneapolis in 1986, a loaded lineup that also included a performance by rocker country-and-western singer Waylon Jennings.

What better way to promote Jennings and a card called WrestleRock than with a rap song: “The WrestleRock Rumble,” an ingenious take-off on the Chicago Bears’ “Super Bowl.” (And people say Verne Gagne was out of touch in the mid-’80s? I don’t think so–clearly, he had his finger on the pulse of America’s youth. Eat your heart out, Cyndi Lauper.)

For those who are gluttons for punishment, I rewrote the “WrestleRock Rumble” using WWE’s stars of today back in 2007. Click here if you dare: “The WWE Hustle.” (Can’t believe my version didn’t make WrestleCrap.)

Below, Jim Cornette relieves the greatest promotional video for a wrestling card ever produced. I love the expression on Jimmy’s face when Greg Gagne threatens to grind up Bruiser Brody in a cage and closes with Ric Flair’s “Woooo!” (Special thanks to my buddy GShea from Nashville for posting this.)

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The woes of Jericho

September 21st, 2010 6 comments

World class: Jericho's new book will undoubtedly include the details of how he defeated the Rock and Steve Austin on the same night to become the first Undisputed World champion in WWE history--a feat he rarely discusses.


UPDATE 9/22/10: Chris Jericho is having a tirade directed at Internet marks on his Twitter page, defending the decision for him to remain on WWE TV despite declaring that he would retire if he didn’t win the title Sunday: “Hello Internet experts. Allow me to explain something to u kiddies. Winning and losing means nothing if you do it properly. I would be happy to lose to every single one of you and watch your faces as I walk out of the arena with more heat than before. Watch and learn children. Sit back and let the real experts work our magic as we make u behave like the puppets that you are. Cheers!” Earlier, he also tweeted “..Im a heel. Heels lie, therefore if I say something boastfully and reneg on it, it’s not an official stipulation. Smarten up!”

Listen, I’m all for Jericho staying, which is evident in the column I wrote yesterday. (Jericho is indeed leaving for a few months, as he’s got a European tour with his band, Fozzy, planned later this fall. But it looks like he’ll be on TV for one more week before his hiatus as he’s booked to wrestle Orton for the title on 9/27 to oppose the battle of the unbeaten Bears and Packers on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. After that, he’s gone, likely returning in time for WrestleMania.)

The problem is that stipulations have been made nearly as worthless as title belts in the fans’ eyes over the last 15 years because they’re forgotten and disregarded so casually, especially when a wrestler vows to retire. His comment about wins and losses, in my opinion, is a telling reflection of current WWE Creative: How can rendering wins and losses meaningless be good for business? That’s doing it properly? When I was a young fan, I lived and died with my babyface heroes. When they lost, I hurt. (Jericho has voiced these sentiments when recalling his days as a fan.) When a heel vowed to shave his head or leave town if they lost, the stipulation was (nearly) always honored.

Maybe it’s outdated, but I feel that wrestling works best when rivalries, belts, stips, wins and losses are booked to matter–I think it’s insulting to the fan base otherwise. (That’s just one reason why some folks say UFC orchestrates traditional pro-wrestling drama better than pro wrestling.) Yeah, yeah, even the densest of marks nowadays knows wrestling’s a work, but I wish Creative and the boys stop constantly reminding us of that. (According to Dave Meltzer, the stip was supposed to be downplayed and not mentioned on the PPV, but Michael Cole didn’t get the memo. Incidentally, Dave’s got an excellent look at Jericho’s  career in his current Hall of Fame issue If you haven’t subscribed to the Observer in a while, I highly recommend it.) I’m not sure who said what to Jericho for him to lash out with such a condescending tone, but no big deal, I suppose: He can always claim later he was merely in character…merely the latest work of a master puppeteer.

As far as current World Wrestling Entertainment story lines are concerned, Chris Jericho has supposedly “retired,” following his quick exit from the WWE heavyweight championship match at Sunday’s Night of Champions.  (That’s carny for he hasn’t signed his new contract yet.) Despite the retirement stip, he’s scheduled to appear on RAW next week; after that, he’s likely taking a sabbatical, including a European tour with his band, Fozzy, later this fall.

The MVP (no slight intended toward Montel Vontavious Porter) of World Wrestling Entertainment since his heel turn two years ago gave his character a new lease on life, Jericho has consistently excelled in the ring and on the mic, and has done his part along the way to help create new stars.

Most interesting is that Jericho has successfully revamped his character in the last 24 months, evolving from the loud, hyper, ponytail-wearing, catchphrase-spewing juvenile heavy metalist to a smug, calculating, well-groomed, well-dressed businessman from hell who is quite possibly the best at what he does–from Y2J to 401K, if you will.  His character has grown up with the man himself, avoiding the fading- heartthrob syndrome of the Tommy Richs and Ricky Mortons who have come before him. (The York Foundation’s Thomas Richardson and Richard Morton really should have at least gotten haircuts and cleaned up a little more to help get those characters over–perhaps suits from Michael’s of Kansas City would have helped.)

If there’s any doubt how far Jericho has come since his U.S. debut in Smoky Mountain Wrestling in 1994, check out this clip (clearly, the thrill-seeking Jericho and partner Lance Storm lived on the edge in those days):

During his initial sabbatical from WWE, I bumped into Jericho at a gym in Los Angeles in 2006, and struck up a conversation. At the time, he was testing the waters as an actor. (Speaking from experience, it’s a tough transition despite the obvious sleazy similarities between the two industries.) When I asked if he had plans of returning to the Former Fed, he suddenly had the look of a defeated man. He told me was tired, burned out, not only from the grind of the travel but also from the creative process or lack thereof in the company at the time. He said he didn’t like how he was being used and, above all, he wasn’t enjoying wrestling anymore. He told me that he honestly wasn’t sure if he’d ever go back. (He also stressed that TNA would never–ever–be an option.)

After his initial return in 2007 got off to a slow start (an average WWE title bout with Randy Orton on PPV followed by the forgettable feud with JBL), he turned heel, altered his look and promo style and was reborn. His work kept me watching WWE even when I felt like turning my back on an overall inferior product. For many wrestling fans, he truly did save us.

I can only speculate why Jericho hasn’t re-upped with the company, though during interviews the last few months he seemed to constantly bring up that he’s accomplished everything he set out to do in the business and felt that he was now prepared to do the right thing in putting over young stars to take his place as he gracefully exits, something he didn’t benefit from early his career in late-’90s WCW.  Once again, he sounded exhausted, spent.

To me, Jericho has endured because he had a childhood fascination with the business–he’s a wrestling fan who’s living the dream. He’s paid his dues and honed his craft, and the business is better for having him in it.

Dave Meltzer is reporting that WWE does in fact have a WrestleMania bout tentatively planned for Jericho, so obviously they’re confident he’ll eventually sign a new deal. The retirement angle wasn’t heavily promoted, so they could easily bring him back–it’s not like fans today take stipulations seriously anyway after years of being burned. His latest book is finished (Undisputed: How to Become the World Champion in 1,372 Easy Steps, available for pre-order below), so it wouldn’t surprise me to see his return coincide with the release date of his follow-up to the excellent A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex.

Heres’s hoping Jericho enjoys his break, rests and comes back reinvigorated for one last run.

Anatomy of Angle: The Jerry Lawler vs. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper Feud That Never Was in 1982

September 14th, 2010 5 comments

Skirting the issue: The Lawler vs. Piper feud on Atlanta's World Championship Wrestling was over before it started.

It could have been one of the most memorable feuds in wrestling history, with two of the best interviews in the business in 1982. But it was not to be.

Jerry Lawler, still riding high from the national publicity of his feud with Andy Kaufman earlier that year, made a few appearances on WTBS’s World Championship Wrestling in fall 1982, shortly after the show’s color commentator, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, turned babyface when he saved co-host Gordon Solie from an irate Magnificent Muraco.

Only weeks earlier, Lawler had come off well on the “Late Night with David Letterman Show” but received more jeers than cheers when he claimed that “Andy’s father wanted a boy and his mother wanted a girl–and they were both satisfied.” (What a great line to use on that skirt-wearing Piper.) Perhaps it was the appearance on Letterman that inspired booker Ole Anderson to bring in Lawler, who hadn’t appeared in the Peach State since Jerry Jarrett booked the territory during the Atlanta wrestling war of 1974, when he was briefly managed by the late Gary Hart. (In Hart’s excellent book, he wrote that he and booker Jim Barnett were impressed with Lawler, with the manager calling him an excellent bump-taker and “the best of that briar patch of hillbillies in Tennessee.”)

Although in the prime of his babyface run in Memphis in 1982, Lawler had returned to Atlanta as a heel, explaining that fans in his hometown had tired of hearing Piper run his mouth on the SuperStation and had asked the King to go to Atlanta to silence the Rowdy One. (Storyline-wise, this was a bit lame but at least plausible, as cable access was greatly expanding in Memphis in fall 1982.) In one of his Atlanta promos, it’s amusing to hear Lawler reference his “good friend David Letterman,” showing a brief clip of the two shaking hands as part of his memorable appearance on NBC, which ended with the King slapping the taste out of Kaufman’s mouth. (At one point, Lawler also refers to his would-be foe as “Roddy the Piper,” 26 years before Santino Marella uttered the same line.)

If Piper’s incredible heated reaction (at the close of Pt. II below) to Lawler’s comments is any indication, nationwide audiences would have been treated to months of wildly entertaining back-and-forth promos between the two masters. I think it could have been the hottest feud in wrestling, perhaps with Piper making appearances as a heel in Memphis. (Just imagine how amazing it would have been to have Hot Rod teaming with Kaufman in his ongoing feud with Lawler–the heat would have been off the charts in Memphis.)

Alas, the feud between the King and Hot Rod ended before it really got started. The first Piper vs. Lawler match was scheduled second from the top for Atlanta’s Omni on Nov. 7; however, Roddy was fired by Anderson that afternoon. The story goes that he and Tommy Rich had partying like rock stars for months and showing up late to towns around the territory. (Rich briefly reflected on those times with Piper when we reunited at the 2009 Charlotte Fanfest.) In fact, a week earlier on Oct. 30, Rich and Piper were three hours late to an afternoon show in Chattanooga, leaving the boys to stall under they arrived. Piper’s last match in the area was on Nov. 6 against Buzz Sawyer in Augusta; afterward, he made a phone call to Flair, who eventually got his old friend booked again in the Carolinas with Jim Crockett Promotions.

With Piper gone, Lawler wrestled Rich on the 7th and abruptly turned babyface in the aftermath, rescuing his fellow Tennessean from an attack at the hands of  Sawyer and Ivan Koloff. In that way, Lawler could save (baby)face in his hometown and close the brief chapter on his World Championship Wrestling stint.

Lawler and Piper would finally feud in the WWF in 1994–unfortunately, it was about 10 years too late, with both men past their primes. Oh, what could have been.

(Special Kentucky Fried thanks to my buddy John Keating for digging up these rare clips. Pizza from Tomato Pie is on me next time.)