Archive for April, 2011

YouTube Finds: Yo! WWF Raps! PG-13 debuts on RAW

April 11th, 2011 2 comments

Parents are strongly cautioned–some of this material may be unsuitable for audiences under the age of 13.

Longtime Memphis tag-team (and thorns in my side) PG-13 make their Monday Night RAW debut in 1995, eventually becoming short-lived associates of the Nation of Domination. Watching J.C. Ice (Jamie Dundee) and Wolfie D in action on this night no doubt inspired a young fan in West Newbury, Massachusetts. (Seriously, Jamie. and Wolfie should be getting royalty checks from John Cena.)

“Stone Cold” Steve Austin dismisses contestant as not “Tough Enough”–and just plain clueless

April 7th, 2011 No comments

Tough as nails: Austin came from the school of hard knocks--namely, the Memphis wrestling territory.

Shortly after Steve Austin’s first bout at the Mid-South Coliseum, booker Dutch Mantell asked him backstage, “What the hell was that?! You call that a match?” Although blessed with natural charisma and athleticism, Austin was not exactly at the top of his game as a worker when he arrived in Memphis in 1990.

Mantell instructed the greenhorn to grab a chair and watch every single bout that night so he might learn a thing or two. A longtime fan, Austin quickly became a true student of the business and how it worked–and he was a quick study. Not only that, but he also picked Dutch’s brain constantly. The Dutchman even gave the rookie his ring name, “Steve Austin,” so he wouldn’t be confused with the “other” Steve Williams, whose “Dr. Death” character was established and known throughout the wrestling world.

Years later, as Austin’s lackluster Ringmaster gimmick was going nowhere in the WWF, he morphed into a “stone cold” outlaw interested only in titles and money; I immediately thought of Dutch’s “lone wolf” character in Memphis. I asked Dutch if perhaps he influenced a young Austin.

Recalled Dutch in an interview with Kentucky Fried Rasslin‘: “I saw how he [Austin] talked, and he’s just the type of guy that’s not gonna have a lot of close friends anyway. Hell, he would speak his mind in the dressing room, things like that. And I probably gave him, not necessarily the template for Stone Cold, because I think it was basically him anyway, but I think I fostered that belief that he could open up his options with that kind of character. Say you’re a straight-up babyface. And we’ve got 20 guys in the territory. With 20, then we probably have 10 good guys and 10 bad guys–funny how it always seemed to break down that way, ain’t it? So if you’re a good guy, you only had 10 guys you could work with.  But, if you were a ‘tweener, then you got 19 other guys to work with. If you were the only one there who was a ‘tweener, you were in a unique position to make money. Again, I may have put that idea in Austin’s head, but he took it and ran with it.”

With a combination of desire, good teaching, and numerous bouts with the Memphis territory’s ring veterans, Austin was having good matches with the likes of Jerry Lawler, Bill Dundee and Jeff Jarrett by spring 1991. Living off $40 payoffs and raw potatoes, Austin paid his dues in Memphis before eventually catching his big break in WCW, and later, in the WWF.

WWE All Stars Accessories

So it’s only fitting that Austin was tabbed as the instructor/judge on WWE’s reincarnation of “Tough Enough,” a reality (and I use that term loosely in this business) show that gives aspiring wrestlers (there I go again–sports entertainers) an opportunity to win a WWE contract. But first these hopefuls have to through not only Austin but also former WWE stars Trish Stratus and Booker T. The third instructor is Bill DeMott, a talented big man in WCW years back whose Hugh Morris ring name was unfortunately changed when Vince Russo took over. (No matter where Trish Stratus is, a Hugh E. Rection can’t be far behind. Russo is also the genius who temporarily changed Booker’s name to G.I. Bro.)

The first “Tough Enough” show of the season debuted after Monday’s RAW and was damn entertaining. The first casualty was a young woman who sealed her fate when Austin asked what her favorite match was while questioning her passion for the business.

Yes, the Alicia Fox vs. Melina showdown was certainly a modern-day Funk Jr. vs. Brisco, on par with Steamboat vs. Flair and the HBK vs. Hitman Iron Man match.

I’m surprised Austin didn’t deliver the Stunner on her sorry ass right then and there.

For more on the Rattlesnake’s Memphis days, when he worked under the name “Stunning” Steve Austin (and had a mop of blonde hair), click here.

WrestleRock rumble: John Cena vs. The Rock to headline WrestleMania 28 in Miami

April 6th, 2011 No comments

Verne Gagne's dream of a stadium-filled Rock 'n' Wrestling card will finally be realized in Miami at WrestleMania 28.

While the payoff to the recent series of promos between The Rock and John Cena rock bottomed in most fans’ eyes when the announcement was made on Monday’s RAW that two of the biggest stars of the last 20 years would  FINALLY meet at the 2012 WrestleMania in Miami–a year away–I couldn’t help but think it was a stroke of genius.

The consensus the last few months was that if Rock were indeed interested in working another match he’d have stepped into the ring this year for a rather star-starved WrestleMania main event. Truth is, perhaps even Dwayne Johnson didn’t envision such a scenario when he agreed to return to WWE to host the event and garner mainstream publicity–and perhaps give WWE champion Miz a bit of a superstar rub along with way to establish his credibility as a player, a concept plenty of fans still aren’t willing to buy into. (That, of course, didn’t happen anyway, as The Rock introduced The Miz to his role when he laid the smack down on his candy ass post-match in the Georgia Dome.)

From most accounts, after The Rock’s initial live promo on RAW, something changed. In the past, Johnson has often commented about missing the incredible adrenaline rush of having tens of thousands of fans in the palm of your hand. Clearly, the bug never left him. More and more over the last several weeks, he began opening up about his desire to get more physically involved heading into the biggest show on the biggest stage. Slowly, it became obvious this wasn’t a one-shot deal, despite his hectic Hollywood schedule in the coming year. The more he spoke to the mainstream media, and the more the promos between he and Cena became increasingly personal, The Rock had the look of the man who was dying to work one last match while still in fantastic shape and not a mere shell of his former self.

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I speculated that perhaps Cena would win the title Sunday, setting up the Champ vs. the People’s Champ at SummerSlam in Los Angeles. While it wouldn’t have the same magnitude of a ‘Mania match, the Hollywood press would be all over the event, and WWE would have months to put the finishing touches on the People’s Program. Turns out, in Vince McMahon’s world, I was thinking much too small. In one of the most ambitious moves he’s made for his biggest card of the year, McMahon booked the “dream” match-up 12 months ahead of time. While past WrestleMania main events back in the day were certainly planned 10 to 12 months in advance (Hulk Hogan vs. Randy Savage at ‘Mania V immediately comes to mind) and booked “backward,” this marks the first time in history the main bout has been announced to the public this far in advance. If you think about it, the fact that this is the first main event I can recall ever revealed to the fans this far ahead of time makes it all the more special. (Really, it became obvious early on that the Macho Man and the Hulkster were headed for a date with destiny following Savage’s WWF title win at ‘Mania IV–Hogan’s “lustful eyes” for Ms. Elizabeth were that apparent.)

You can see year.

One possible reason for the WM28 reveal is that perhaps the company is looking to a future when Cena’s remaining fans will be moving on to the next thing–like, y’know, puberty and girls. The longtime Champ will be another year older by then, looking all the more ridiculous in his gimmick, which to this day reminds me of the 1991 act of Jamie Dundee and Wolfie D, the rapping team in Memphis known as PG-13. (Much like The Rock, I also ran those two delinquents out of town as part of “Operation White Trash” initiative.)

With next year’s ‘Mania scheduled to be in The Rock’s town of Miami, Cena is sure to be booed out of Sun Life Stadium, scurrying from the taunts and debris with his head tucked between his jorts. While the company has been hesitant to turn Cena because of his incredible appeal to kids–and his even more impressive merchandise sales–truth is, the guy will be red hot when the inevitable heel turn happens. Booking the match a year out might be an ideal way to build to a turn to the dark side over the next year as Cena becomes more and more obnoxious (hard to fathom, I realize). We got a glimpse of this when he attacked Rock on RAW two weeks ago and mugged for the camera. This gradual turn as Cena becomes increasingly frustrated with his heel reaction could be money in the bank.

Either way, Vince & Co. have people talking–and this time, for the right reasons. Rock was on Leno last night already chatting up the match while promoting his new movie. Ticket sales will go through the roof. If handled correctly, and if Rocks’ schedule allows, WWE could potentially build this up as the biggest match in company history. It’s risky, no doubt, given potential injuries (Cena’s pectorals are always suspect) and Rock’s priorities changing once again between now and then–but the payoff could be huge. Supposedly, this was a last-second decision Monday to go ahead with the announcement of the match a year out, but it’s something that’s clearly been on McMahon’s mind as a way to top himself yet again.

When thinking of Vince’s approach since day one with WrestleMania, I’m reminded of the classic line uttered by “Las Vegas-born” Universal Heartthrob Austin Idol shortly after cutting Jerry Lawler’s hair in 1987, when he “risked” $50,000 of his own money to refund the price of admission to the fans in the event he didn’t win the match and cut the King’s royal locks: “I grew up spinning the roulette wheel, dah-ling! I’ve been a gambler since the day I was born, and I’ll be a gambler till the day I die!”

With the stakes never higher since the first WrestleMania, Cena vs. Rock on PPV could be the biggest jackpot yet…with a full house to boot.