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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Cole’

Bringing Sexay back: Brian Christopher Lawler returns to WWE RAW to address ‘daddy’ issues

March 15th, 2011 4 comments

Bleached heir to the throne?: After last night's RAW, Jerry and Brian probably won't be invited to WWE's annual father/son picnic.

By most accounts, Vince McMahon is living vicariously through Michael Cole via the angle with the longtime WWE geeky announcer’s gradual slide to the dark side and feud with Jerry  Lawler, with the WrestleMania match sealed between the two former broadcaster partners.

With each passing week, it’s clear that an increasingly number of lines (more than usual) are being fed to Cole, whom McMahon must see as himself 15 years ago.

After all, much like Cole, McMahon for years played the role of the carnival-barking, somewhat awkward, white-bread announcer who happened to a decent voice and, more important, knew how to help tell the story the wrestlers were striving to convey in the ring.

While plenty of fans in the late ’70s and early ’80s knew “Vinnie” was the son of WWWF founding father Vince McMahon Sr., it wasn’t until the Attitude Era of 1997 when the worst-kept secret in wrestling (besides the fact that Brian Christopher was “Jerry’s kid”) was revealed, and the “real” (and I use that term loosely) Vince Jr. came to the forefront and acknowledged on the air that he did in fact own the promotion and was calling the shots with the immortal words, “Bret screwed Bret.”

For some, it was a shocking departure from the seemingly corporate geek who often didn’t bother to learn the ever-ever-evolving skill set of his performers; instead, a perplexed Vinnie often bellowed, “What a maneuver!”

For others, it was must-see TV, something we’d always waited for since we learned years ago that Vinnie had pestered his father about being a wrestler after hanging out with the infamous Dr. Jerry Graham–a hell-raising legend, even for the business.


Sons of Anarchy gear at the Fox Shop

McMahon the announcer patterned himself after NFL broadcaster Howard Cossell, right down to the garish yellow blazer and methodical mannerisms–Vinnie wasn’t nearly as bad as some fans claim, more so because he knew how to effectively tell a story (granted, one he’d often conceived himself in the early to mid-’80s). Count me among those who thought Vinnie was a damn good old-school announcer.

For better (short term, ’98–2000) or for worse (Vince’s continued heelish condescending attitude toward his fan base ever since), Mr. McMahon developed into one of the hottest heels of all time, especially with the emerging contrast of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin as his blue-collar antithesis. The Chairman of the Board and Stone Cold went on to produce some of the best TV of the ’90s and merchandise sales of anything Rattlesnake- or 3:16-related in the late ’90s and into 2000.

Beer's to ya!: The Rattlesnake gives Cole a Bud bath.

So it only made sense that Austin slithered his way back onto WWE TV on the March 7 RAW, inserting himself into the special referee role and dispatching the returning JBL (who cut a great promo) with two Stunners and dousing Cole with a couple of “Steveweisers.” While McMahon backstage no doubt enjoyed this beer bash down memory lane, it sort of felt like the blow-off with Cole getting humiliated so strongly by Austin nearly a month before the actual match with Lawler. (I had to laugh when a very visible “King 3:16” sign popped up on TV last night not far from ringside.)

Cole had to get his heat back last night, so he did the unthinkable: he brought sexy back; rather, WWE Creative booked “Grand Master Sexay” Brian Christopher Lawler to return to cut a shorter, less-blistering version of the promo he cut in TNA years ago. (I believe Jerry Jarrett had a hand in scripting that TNA promo, which reportedly upset the King legitimately–even worse than Jimmy Hart’s “shoot racehorses” comments in 1980. )

Basically, in his return promo last night, Christopher told the truth about his dad’s absenteeism growing up, failing to mention Lawler’s other son, poor Kevin, who must really feel neglected at this point. (I say that jokingly as Kevin talks to his dad at least weekly.) Still, Lawler’s been forthright about that he while he’s never been a traditional, ideal father, he has tried his best to at least be a good friend to his boys. Let’s face it: When you’re a traveling star in the rasslin’ business, life is never going to be Ward, Wally and the Beaver.

At the height of his career, Brian briefly ascended to the WWE mid-cards as part of the World tag champions (at a time when those straps still meant something) with Scotty Too Hotty as part of Too Cool with Rikishi. The threesome was one of the most entertaining acts in the promotion for months during the red-hot Attitude era of the late ’90s. As I documented here, Brian couldn’t handle the success, fell into the wrong dressing-room crowd and spiraled out of control, landing on the indie circuit–seemingly for good. After all, WWE  nowadays is only in the market for rookies in their early 20s who are at least 6’3″. Damn shame, too, as I’ve always said Brian was a natural for the business.

But Vince & Co. love a good personal angle, so Brian was brought in fresh off the death of Jerry’s mom, dancing as if his own life depended on it down the TitanTron ramp to address his dad. (Hard to believe that the sons of wrestling legends Vince McMahon and Jerry Lawler both believe the best to enter the ringside area is with the most ridiculous white-boy dancing imaginable.) Only problem was, after years of working small arenas, Brian appeared to have overestimated his dancing endurance down the aisle as he was blown up by the time he fist-bumped with Cole mid-ring and turned his attention to “daddy.” (Jerry had that hurt look of, “Boy, I’m gonna give you the piledriver I should have given you a long time ago.”) Still, Brian is enough of a naturally charismatic heel that he was OK here, despite his heavy breathing. (Brian was reportedly seen dancing the length of the Memphis International Airport in preparation–he may have peaked too soon.) If anything, Brian came off better than his last national TV appearance, with CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

However, Jerry’s facial expressions again were key, as he solemnly addressed his own disappointment with his son and the fact that he doesn’t shame the Lawler name by using his surname as part of his ring moniker. (Reportedly, Charlie Sheen was irate that the King compared his son to the troubled actor, and he is considering launching “missiles of truth” in the form of a lawsuit.)

The crowd then popped for the arrival of Jim Ross, who actually looked better than Sexay, thanks to his new personal-training program and slightly modified diet. (Cutting out BBQ ribs at breakfast was a start.) Ross was putting Cole in his place, while the “new voice of the WWE” responded with lines that were no doubt directly scripted for him by McMahon. (I must say, though, Cole is excelling in the role–I’m not selling him short in the least. It’s just that I can almost hear Vince’s voice at times when Cole gets on a roll.)

Ross responded with what will most likely become Cole’s new “Weasel”-like nickname (much like Bobby Heenan before him): “Rat Bastard.” As it appeared the two announcers would resort to fisticuffs, with both men removing their suit jackets, Cole’s own personal trainer, Jack Swagger, attacked Jerry from behind and then entered the ring for a stare-down with his fellow Oklahoman. (I half expected Danny Hodge to hit the ring at this point to make the save.) Swagger put Ross in the ankle lock, with Cole taunting him. The King made a comeback but Cole jumped on his back, which seemed oddly familiar to me.

As Swagger turned his attention to Jerry, applying the ankle lock, Cole applied his own version of the maneuver (apparently, he’s a quick study) on Ross. While legendary promoter Sam Muchnick probably wouldn’t have approved, the St. Louis crowd responded with old-school chorus of boos. Very effective, riveting TV.

At this rate, with Austin and Ross in the mix, the Lawler vs. Cole showdown could potentially be one of the highlights of WrestleMania. The execution of the program has been far, far better than say, last year’s much anticipated McMahon vs. Bret Hart ‘Mania match buildup.

Business, as Ross says, is about to pick up.

Personally speaking: Jerry Lawler heading for WWE WrestleMania showdown with Michael Cole

February 23rd, 2011 4 comments

Dem's fightin' words: Don't make the King angry. You wouldn't like the King when he's angry.

I know some fans may have found Jerry Lawler’s WWE Monday Night RAW confrontation with Michael Cole distasteful, given the fact that the recently deceased Hazel Lawler was mentioned to serve as the catalyst for the King snapping and issuing his WrestleMania challenge.

Personally, having grown up watching Memphis Wrestling over the years–a promotion built around the mantra that “Personal Issues Draw Money” (actual sign that hung in Jerry Jarrett’s office)–the heated exchange didn’t bother me.

What I found interesting is that, to this day, Lawler says more in a few seconds with his facial expressions than a lot of the current stars do in a cliche, catchphrase-filled 10-minute promo.  And when the King finally reaches his boiling point and explodes, grabbing Cole, the emotion feels all too real.

I’m thinking perhaps Lawler and Cole will be added to the respective corners of John Cena and Miz, with the King getting five minutes with his former announce partner should the champion lose. And if Cena loses, the King hangs up his boots. Or maybe Lawler vs. Alex Riley, with similar stipulations. They have to come up with a scenario that’s somewhat creative to explain why Cole would agree to a match–and his blind faith in the Miz sounds as good as any and adds to the intrigue of the bout as Cena will be wrestling for more than the title, which at this point isn’t that big of a draw.

At some point a decision needs to be made on Cole, who has the potential to be a hot character right now if WWE Creative will just go with it and remove him from the announce booth in favor of a heel role. Trouble is, it may be difficult going back after making such a move. Short term, Cole could be an effective heel manager or GM (which has been done to death), but it could hurt him in the long run in his WWE career.