Thursday, March 7, 2013

Long Live the Funeral Parlor!



Welcome back to Spoon-Fed Wrestling. 

To anyone who’s noticed, this is the first column in over five months. Yes, that’s right five, five, five, five, five months. It wasn’t by design. It just happened. Why? Because as I wrote in my last couple of columns, I was having a difficult time being a wrestling, all wrestling. I could spend the rest of this column cussing and discussing the particulars, but something vastly more important has caused my return to Spoon-Fed Wrestling—The untimely passing of William “Paul Bearer” Moody.


My heart is heavy as I reminisce on the life and work of William Moody, aka Percival Pringle III and Paul Bearer. He brought a level of entertainment to wrestling that few others ever managed to achieve. My condolences and prayers go out to the family and friends of William Moody.

As I’ve chronicled countless times, The Undertaker has been my all time favorite wrestler for as long as I can remember. If you want the details of my fandom check out the link to a column I wrote about The Undertaker.




I do have to admit that I made a massive mistake and an unforgivable oversight in the writing of that article. I failed to even mention Paul Bearer or how much of an impact Mr. Moody had on not only the career of The Undertaker, but wrestling as a whole.

I am not the first to say this, and I guarantee I will not be the last. The Undertaker would not have had nearly the success and longevity he’s had without the groundbreaking work of his manager Paul Bearer. It was a perfect match to have these two gentlemen work together. They meshed in a way that few if any other manager/wrestler duos ever have. And I dare say we will never see a combo as fully realized as these two.

Mark Calaway had the tools, the size, and the in-ring presence to be a big star. William Moody had already proven himself as a masterful heel manager in USWA and WCCW as Percy Pringle. I remember seeing the bleach blonde Percy on Saturday mornings as he managed such notables as Rick Rude, The Dingo Warrior, aka The Ultimate Warrior, and yes, Mark Calaway in his first professional match as Texas Red against Bruiser Brody at the Sportatorium in Dallas. Together these two would re-write the manager/wrestler gimmick.  

The stories over the past week have been told countless times about how William Moody was originally hired by Vince McMahon as a photographer for the WWF, but upon hearing that Mr. Moody was a licensed Mortician, he knew he’d found the manager for The Undertaker who was needing a boost to the next level. This story will go down as legendary as any about how fate stepped in and put someone in the right place at the right time. Had this not occurred, I fear we would not only not have such fond memories of William Moody’s work, but The Undertaker may not have risen to the legendary status as one of the best ever in the business.

The many returns of Paul Bearer to the WWF/WWE were always highpoints in my fandom. The whole buildup and reveal of Kane was one of the best series of promos I’ve ever witnessed. The feud between Kane and Taker would never have had nearly the success it did without the stellar work of Moody.  Based on that era alone I believe Paul Bearer should be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. But here is where I’m going to differ from most people. I would not put him in this year.

Why? Because of his far-reaching affect on the business he deserves a prominent placement on the induction stage as one of the headliners. With the current stacked list of inductees, I feel this massively talented man would not get the spotlight I would like him to receive. That said, I will not complain if they make a place for William Moody this year. But if they do, they MUST have Mark Calaway induct him. He is the ONLY person who makes sense. He should also go in as both Paul Bearer and Percival Pringle III.

Well that’s all I have for this week. I think I’ll go watch some more videos of Paul Bearer and reminisce all the great fun I had watching him work me as a fan. I’ll miss you, Paul. OH YEEEEEEESSSSS!

Huhnjo


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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Greasy Kids Stuff



Welcome back to Spoon-Fed Wrestling. 

To anyone who’s noticed, this is the first column in over a month. Yes, that’s right a month. It wasn’t by design. It just happened. Why? Because as I wrote in the column before the last one, I’ve been having a hard time with wrestling of late, primarily with the WWE.

The fact that my current favorite performer is the Champion has been the only thing keeping me tuned in to RAW. That has now been officially ended. If you’re at a loss as to what I’m referring to, just check out the archive of WNL from 9/25/12. An email from yours truly was read where I explain why I’m taking a hiatus from actively watching anything WWE.

I will continue to follow the product, via the SNS Radio Network and Facebook group, but unless I hear or read a review that peaks my interest, I will no longer be trying to wade through a 3 hour show live.

It isn’t just the length of the show, although that has become a mitigating factor. What has broken my attention is the direction and pattern of the product for the WWE. It’s not just that it’s kid-friendly, it’s lost any semblance of sophistication. It’s gone way beyond simply focusing on the lowest common denominator, e.g. goofy, slapstick comedy. Even in the 80’s when over-the-top gimmicks ruled, they managed to maintain a level of writing to engage adults.

I’m not saying there isn’t any of that occurring in the WWE. CM Punk-Heyman storyline comes to mind, but it’s the exception and not the rule. This is the lone remaining aspect of RAW that has me marginally engaged, but that said, I’m not going to set aside an entire evening to catch the few scraps of worthwhile entertainment, at least to me. I doubt I’ll be missing much.

There has been a lot of speculation and talk regarding the direction of WWE and RAW for several months. I’ve heard it said by countless people in the IWC that the era we are currently suffering through is a result of Linda McMahon’s Senatorial Campaign.  I hate to break it to everyone, but that has little, to no affect on the so-called PG stance of the WWE.

Think lowest common denominator. What does the world revolve around? Money.

Every business venture can be boiled down to one thing, money. No exceptions.

So what is the target marketing audience for the WWE? Kids, and not just kids, but kids under 10.

There is a very compelling case as to why the WWE is where they are as it relates to marketing. The fact that the company has broken into the top ten in sales for kids merchandise speaks to that case. This is no coincidence in my opinion. The fact that WWE is now in the top ranks as it relates to sales to kids, means what we’re seeing what we’re going to keep seeing.

The talking of people hoping the WWE will return to the attitude era when or if Linda McMahon’s campaign fails are set up for disappointment. Just like a John Cena heel turn, a return to attitude era type gimmicks are not happening soon, if ever. The only way the company will return to that style of booking their product is if they see the target market growing older and they chase the demographic, much like the company did in the attitude era.

Sadly, as has been the case over the last few years, the demographic is more static than has been given credit. While a portion of the demographic mature and grow out of the market grouping, new “prospects” fill the void. This market audience is one of the most stable and easiest to target a marketing campaign toward. There is very little variability in that market segment from year to year. Thus, we are facing a long-term prospect of this style of WWE continuing for the foreseeable future.

Not a rosy picture I’ve painted there to say the least, but there is hope. TNA and ROH. These are two companies that know they cannot compete with WWE in any market segment, but especially the 5-10 age group. Thus both companies are written with more PG-17 style of booking which is very similar to the attitude era in content.

So why not do as I’ve decided, make TNA the focal product and sprinkle in a little WWE when something is reported to be worthy of a look? No doubt TNA has its warts, but I’d rather have to deal with a few warts and not a face full of pimples from greasy kids stuff.


That’s it for this week. Catch you all on the archives, facebook and the internets.
Huhnjo


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Friday, August 24, 2012

Best in The World...well, better than 499 others...


Welcome back to Spoon-Fed Wrestling. 

It's that time of the year, The ProWrestling Illustrated 500. As the cliché states, the worst kept secret in the world is that CM Punk has been awarded the #1 spot. Anyone who's even a casual fan of pro wrestling knows, CM Punk was as about a full lock as there could be. In fact, I think the news is hardly news at all. If the reports from years past as to how the top 500 is selected are true, Punk probably led most of not all categories. Those categories are only spoken about in hushed tones and vague generalities by those who are said to be involved. Amongst some of the obvious categories rumored as factors have been title reigns, length of title reigns, status within the company, status with the fans, and a host of others.

To be perfectly honest, I think this was long overdue and certainly will not be the last time I expect to see Punk in the top spot. It's no secret that I've been a Punk mark since long before the June Pipebomb Incident of 2011. I was a mark during the run of the Straight Edge Society. I was a mark during the first summer of Punk in 2005 in ROH. I officially became a mark when I saw the youtube video of Punk pretending to hold a microphone at an indy show and managed to get a female fan so fired up that she yelled into his "mic" only to tell her he didn't have a microphone. Brilliant.

I, like many others, believe that Punk is a wrestler of the future. He's not the prototypical juiced-up genetic freak that held sway in pro wrestling for the previous 20+ years. He has ring skills that many of the previous 500 winners never had. John Cena comes to mind.

The selection of Punk at the top of the list is a harbinger of things to come. I see this as ushering in a new era of wrestlers who wrestle and not body builders who can't talk on the mic let alone work a technical match in the ring. Just look at the rest of the top ten:
Bobby Roode
John Cena
Daniel Bryan
Sheamus
Akiyama
Davey Richards
Kurt Angle
Mark Henry
Alberto Del Rio

With the obvious exception of John Cena, most of the top ten are proven in-ring workers who also have mic skills. Take Roode and Bryan for example. Both are poised to join Punk at the top of this list in future years and have years left in their careers.

In addition, Sheamus has made major strides in his ring work. He's not as stiff looking, and has shown flashes of brilliance on the mic when he was the monster heel he should be, but the fact that he's saddled with the role of a glad-handing face and still managed to make the top ten is a testimony to his potential.

Then there's ADR. If the rumors of him being in the doghouse are true, I doubt we'll see him in the top ten next year, but as we all know the list is a work.

That's right. The PWI 500 is a work because no matter how good they are in the ring and how amazing their mic work is, if they aren't getting runs at the top of the card, they won't sniff the top ten. Even though I know the list as predetermined as who holds the belts, those who make the top ten are often poised for great runs in the future, Mike Mizanin notwithstanding.

If Punk hadn't had the last 12 months, Bobby Roode would have been a lock for the top spot. I think the difference was sadly that WWE is the 800 lb gorilla in the room and it's a major uphill battle for anyone from a different company garner the top spot, no matter how long of a tile run they had or how the IWC views them.

Therein lies my biggest issue with this list. It's skewed too heavily toward U.S. and more definite the WWE. To make my point, in the last ten years only one non-WWE wrestler was voted #1, AJ Styles. Even more startling is the fact that in the 21 years of the PWI 500, only three times has a wrestler from a company other than WWF-E been chosen as the number one wrestler. AJ Styles in 2010, as I previously mentioned, Dean Malenko from WCW in 1997, and Sting from WCW in 1992.

As you guessed it, only Malenko from 1997 was selected as number one during the Monday Night Wars. That selection has been widely criticized for years. In my opinion, Malenko was chosen as a slight to the real main players in WCW. The fact that Goldberg, Hogan, or  DDP wasn't chosen as number one in 1997 or 1998 during the period when WCW was winning the Monday Night Wars speaks volumes to the lack of legitimacy of the lists.

Because the bias against every other organization not named WWF-E is so heavy-handed that I seldom give the list more than a cursory read.

So why did I spend so much time at the start of this article hyping CM Punk's selection as the number one wrestler? Well, it wasn't just so I could undercut the significance of the top ten in this year's list. It was because unlike the previous four years, there are a host of names in the top ten that have never been in this spot. Bobby Roode (#2), Daniel Bryan (#4), Sheamus (#5), and Davey Richards (#6) are all first time top ten members. Sure, we have the boring obvious repeat choice of Cena, who is there because he has to be there because we haven't had enough yet.

That all said, for the first time in a very long while have I felt like most of the top ten are deserving and the future bodes well for those of us who long for the days of wrestling that's entertaining and not entertainment that throws in a bit of wrestling to keep the fans on the hook.

That’s it for this week. Catch you all on the archives, facebook and the internets.

Huhnjo

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Why the Rush?


Welcome back to Spoon-Fed Wrestling. 

Lately, I've been making note of how many fans of wrestling are reacting to a couple of storylines that are currently running in TNA and WWE. One is the AJ Styles-Christopher Daniels-Claire Lynch-baby-daddy saga in TNA; the other is the HHH-Heyman-Lesnar story in WWE. In this edition of SpoonFed Wrestling, I am going to detail one major similarity these two stories have in common and how this polarity compares to the storylines from the recent past.

Now before anyone jumps the shark as it were and think I've lost my marbles, let me state at the beginning that the one major thing these two storylines have in common is the fact that both are lengthy programs by today's standards. I qualified this in that manner because these two storylines are not that long when compared to the storylines of the past. For example, as recently as the Attitude Era programs often took 6 or more months to play out, now we're lucky if a program takes up the amount of time that two Pay Per View events come and go.

I will admit that I'm growing weary of the baby-daddy story in TNA. For me, it's because the start of it took much longer to get underway than I think it should have, but I'm not writing the story and it's easy for me to sit back and armchair book scenarios. Much of the same can be said of the HHH-Lesnar feud. It's been on a slow burn for weeks, often with a week going by with little to nothing progressing within the story. Whereas I am critical of the pacing of the TNA story due to the slow early start, I have to say for me the pacing of the story in WWE is about perfect. That said, both are taking much more time to reach a conclusion than just about any other program in the last few years. One notable exception is the Cena vs Rock from Wrestlemania XXVIII. That notwithstanding, the two storylines in question are far outdistancing any other story currently being promoted in either of the two largest promotions.

What I'm finding most puzzling and endlessly entertaining about these two stories, is the way in which some in the IWC are responding to each story. Not only in response to the stories themselves, but more so the pacing and length of each. I've seen and heard countless members of the IWC complain that both feuds are taking too long and that we've already seen each primary combatant wrestle each other. Okay, few people use combatant, I'm blaming the Thesaurus on that, but I digress.

I've seen this same argument made not only with these two feuds, but with any number of other feuds that have had more than one PPV match between the two who are feuding. Most recently, there have been much speculation as to where CM Punk is going now that the Rock has announced he's challenging for the WWE title at the Royal Rumble. One of the speculations has been that the Punk vs Bryan feud will get a reboot. The comment I found highly entertaining was, and I paraphrase, "Punk v Bryan? We've seen that a million times..."

Once I stopped laughing, I began to think about the larger picture behind the statement. What does this comment really mean?

To be fair, that comment has merit. In the past we not only had longer builds of feuds, but they kept the warring parties separated. Thus, when the payoff did happen, we hadn't seen them in the ring countless times in as many combinations of tag matches, run-ins, and segments.

That said a thought comes to mind that we as fans have become conditioned to the hot-shot storylines that have the beginning, middle, and end in the buildup and payoff at the next pay per view. As a fanbase, we've been seeing shorter and shorter feuds and quicker resolutions. In my opinion, I believe that has caused us to have a shortened attention span. So when we see a program that is progressing slower than the vast majority of the stories in either promotion, we notice, often not in a positive way.

I have to wonder, how would the IWC respond to a feud the likes of Taker vs. Mankind from 1996-98? This feud was on and off for nearly two years and was the impetus of several classic matches that people talk about to this day. But if that type of feud were to begin today, in the current climate of rushing to an end, what would the IWC have to say about it? Would it be given a chance by the FED to progress as organically as the Taker-Mankind feud?

I have to say not likely, and the reason would probably be the outcry of the fans who chant "this is boring" all too quickly. I'm afraid we are partially to blame for this rushing of storylines. We have lost the patience to enjoy a story regardless of its length. That said, I would not surprised if the two feuds I started that article talking about suddenly rushes to an endgame in short order and thus shortcutting the real potential of a dramatic ending.

That’s it for this week. Catch you all on the archives, facebook and the internets.

Huhnjo

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

1000...Now What?


Welcome back to Spoon-Fed Wrestling. 

Like most in the IWC, I watched Monday's 1000th episode of Raw. It was everything it was billed to be, and I could go on and on about what was and wasn't on the show. But since there seem to be as many blogs and facebook posts about the milestone Raw as there have been of episodes, I'm going to yet again go off the beaten path and speak about a few of the things I saw on the show that may or may not be discussed as frequently as others .

I wrote a column back in December of last year where I made the not so bold statement that John Cena would never turn heel. Not to say that I'm gloating here, but I told you so. Not only has he not turned heel, he's now set himself up to be alone in the top face spot on the roster. All it took was for him to be the first to cash in the Money in The Bank Briefcase and not win, but also to do that against CM Punk who turned heel in the ring at the very same time. In a way this was a double turn.

How do I say that when only Punk turned? Well, we all know Cena has gotten at best a 50-50 split of the crowd for years. With Punk pinning a beaten Cena, this forces the hand that Cena is the top face, like it or not. We're going to be force-fed the face Cena until he retires. With Punk now poised to become the top heel in the Fed, him holding the title until the Rumble is as near a lock as Taker winning at Wrestlemania. And as anyone who's watched wrestling for more than a few years know, a heel champion being chased is money. More than a face champion has, or will ever be. This means Cena will begin chasing the title, thus Cena will never turn heel.

Despite the main result of the 1000th Raw being universally accepted as the Punk heel turn, and I have to admit I marked out like a kid when he gave the Rock the GTS, for me the prospect of a Heyman Family angle has me excited to see where they take this.

That said, I was most energized by the return of the Undertaker. As  many of my regular readers know, I'm a massive mark for the Taker. When the lights went out and the bell tolled, I marked out.  Yes, it wasn't a huge shock, but I didn't care. My all time fave was back, even if it was for one night.

I will admit that he wasn't in Wrestlemania shape, but that doesn't and shouldn't matter. He's 47 years old. Who among us looks as good as he does regardless of our age? Granted I'm only just over two months younger and not paid to look like a monster. I will make this statement, by Wrestlemania time he will be in ring shape, he always has and this will be no different.

There is some speculation that Taker was called back in early because of the inability of Steve Austin to attend the show, whether it's from a injury or the movie shoot he's doing. I suspect that may have played some factor into the Undertaker getting into the ring. I think if the rumors are true, he was only planning to make an appearance but not see any action. We may never know. for sure.

Another moment of the night was the Lesnar-HHH segment. The tussle in the ring looked more shoot than work, but that could be the fact that HHH is able to make a worked angle look shoot. His old school mentality and ring style lend itself to working with someone like Lesnar, whose known for being stiff. I think it's no accident that none of the younger guys on the roster have been in the ring with Lesnar. First, I think few of the young guys want anything to do with a monster like Lesnar, and secondly, most wouldn't be able to command the respect that someone like HHH has.

Another reason HH is a good fit is he's believable. Orton's style and body type is not suited to working a program with Lesnar. I just simply wouldn't believe Orton would have a chance, and if he were to go over, I'd not buy it for a second. I can't suspend my disbelief that much. I don't even think someone like Sheamus who's prone to being stiff at times would be a good fit with Lesnar.

What Lesnar needs are opponents who are or could be monsters themselves and who have a more measured and slower paced worker, or at least someone who's well equipped to work that style of match. This brings me to where I see Lesnar at Wrestlemania--facing the Undertaker.

To get there I think we must look at one rumor that I've heard only sparingly. That rumor is how the Undertaker's return and the CM Punk heel turn could be tied together. How this would possible is if the story is true about the Heyman Family stable were to come to pass. With the talk being about the stable having Lesnar, Big Show, and Punk as the members and that after SummerSlam, Lesnar faces off with Taker and in an angle puts him out of action.

This has a lot of possibilities for angles. I won't speculate on them as I'm not a booker and my opinion/fantasy booking seldom comes to pass. I just think that by that time Lesnar will have gone through all the obvious opponents and all that will be left is for Taker to return to take out the head of the snake of the Heyman family and put up his streak verses Lasnar's WWE contract. Either way, I have something to look forward to on Raw for a change. I just hope they don't rush things as is their typical mantra of late.

That’s it for this week. Catch you all on the archives, facebook and the internets.

Huhnjo

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