Wrestling News, Opinions, Etc. 07.30.02

There’s someone in my head, and he’s not me – Roger Waters, “Brain Damage”

And welcome to 411 for your twice-weekly broadcast from the Dark Side of the Moon, or at least the Dark Side of something. It’s a realm where negativity, nihilism, and unrelenting, crushing cynicism stretch beyond the black horizon. It’s my world, and welcome to it. Fortunately, this segues right into our first topic…

SUCK THE PRICK

What is that high-pitched petulant whining I hear? Ah, I recognize it. It’s the very rare mating call of the Gooney Bird, who normally spends its time simply squaking “Thumbs In The Middle” over at its opulently feathered nest. Apparently, it’s taking a break from pretending it’s still relevant and has come out to prove to everyone how irrelevant he truly is.

It’s truly a shame that Rick Scaia’s turned into a complete f*cknozzle. Of course, I’ve always maintained (as I noted in a column on him in the late, unlamented Emzee) that when Wrestlemaniacs were forcibly fused into the Borg Collective of Wrestleline, Mister Scaia was replaced by a Pod Person, with a mission to make sure that no wrestling company was offended so that CBS could get “exclusive interviews” and other such booshwah from various feds. Unfortunately, when the Whine self-destructed, the Pod Person stayed. Now the Gooney Pod Person-Bird has graciously allowed himself to let the world hear his views on wrestling writing.

(Now, I normally don’t go to OO; my hold on sanity is tenuous enough as it is, and, frankly, I’ve heard what some of their little remoras have written about Yrs Truly. However, when a half-dozen people write me over the weekend and ask me, “Eric, is he talking about you?”, I have to take the risk. The things I do for you people.)

The gist of his meaning is simple: If you can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all. People who write about wrestling on the Net are not journalists unless they’re digging for info. Some writers are hiding behind gimmicks when they make themselves out to be mean-spirited and negative (that’s the one that prompted the above question, I guess). All in all, his column is a farrago of FUD, existing simply in an attempt to justify his continued existence.

I ain’t buying it, and neither should you.

Let’s let the sucker condemn himself, shall we? Of course, his quotes are in italics, my riposte in plaintext…

The one other thing that has really molded whatever “style” I have is this: I think “wrestling journalist” is a ridiculous thing to call oneself.

Yes, it is, because one would have to be a journalist in the first place in order to call one’s self that (my journalism background is now almost two decades old, but it informed my writing style and ability, and I know how to be “journalistic” if I wanted to). Please note, again, that I wanted to call this column “Opinions, Etc.”, but Widro threw in the “Wrestling News” part just to acknowledge that I’d touch upon the wrestling stories of the day in some form. Well, on occasion, that is.

Talking about something you saw on TV isn’t investigative reporting; and even when there are backstage, news-y type things to report on, these “wrestling journalists” are not backstage, conducting the interviews, doing the footwork to truly get facts. They are talking on the phone, getting stuff second hand. By the time it gets to readers, it’s been spun every which way, and filtered through lord knows how many different personal biases.

Of course, the only type of “journalist” that the Gooney Bird knows about is an investigative or reporting journalist. There’s this thing called op-ed, Scaia. Look it up sometime. That’s what I do. In fact, that’s what most of the people who do columns on various websites do, and they acknowledge it. It’s no damn big secret we all get our news from the same sources: the Torch, the Observer, 1bullshit. We let the experienced guys handle the heavy lifting, while we attempt to present our particular spin to the world in an entertaining fashion.

The implication in this statement is that investigative journalists are objective in the wrestling world. This, of course, is complete bullshit. Bob Ryder and Dave Scherer have always had a huge anti-WWE bias and would have gone to the moon with negative stories on them had Vince not had the place sealed up tighter than a sub at a hundred fathoms. They also put heavy-duty spin jobs on anti-WCW and (especially) anti-ECW stories. Another great example is my pal Zach Arnold. Puroresu Power is the best damn site out there for breaking news from the Land of the Rising Yen. Zach has some great first-hand insider sources over there who call him with the latest goings-on. He reports the news diligently and thoroughly, and busts his ass. I admire him for his ability in that. However, Zach has a bias against certain people in Japan that he readily admits to (Misawa for one; he gave me a tongue-lashing on The Edge one night when I mentioned Misawa favorably). However the second, Zach tries not to let those biases in the way of presenting a story objectively. It takes a lot of stones to do that on the Net. Zach’s my hero.

As for me becoming an objective, diligent journalist…hell, this is a hobby. I love doing this for people. I think I have an interesting view, and I have the ability to express it in a creative, entertaining way. If being an objective, diligent journalist was my job, it’d be a different story. I’m certain that the other writers here and elsewhere feel the same way.

If I was paid $500 to spew out bland pablum three or four times a week as my hobby, I might actually consider doing it. However, I hope that whoever’s paying me would realize how counter-productive that was. People read me to find out what my opinion is on something (and to see if I’ll say anything outrageous). Of course, there are some people out there who don’t realize that fact and who take the money anyway. Right, Rick?

It seemed to me that with “wrestling journalism” came an inability to enjoy wrestling. Maybe that makes perfect sense… like the baseball beat writer whose job it is to uncover all things newsworthy about their team, no matter how unflattering. But as outlined above, this ain’t journalism, and you ain’t in the trenches with the team getting the dirt.

And the fact that, since 1998, we’ve been force-fed a ration of crap from WCW and then WWE has nothing to do with the ability to enjoy wrestling. We’re somehow denied the right to express our views that the product being foisted on us is substandard because we aren’t in the Gorilla Seat?

At best, this species could be called a “wrestling critic.” But I bet they wouldn’t like that.

I would. I am a wrestling critic. I’m very critical of how wrestling is presented these days.

Because food critics are people who like food, but can’t cook. Film critics are people who lacked the ability to get a job in the industry after graduating film school. TV critics fail to warn the populace when utter crap like “Baby Bob” is presented in prime time, because they’re too busy doing fluff pieces on why “Ally McBeal” shouldn’t have been cancelled. So surely the description of a wrestling critic would probably be less than flattering.

Oh, please. TV critics have created TV shows, movie critics have written produced scripts (most notably Roger Ebert), and food critics have to be decent-to-good chefs in their own right because you have to be familiar with methods of preparation and ingredient selection in addition to having a trained palate and critical eye. Inventing specious justifications in order to prove a point is very unprofessional, Rick. Naughty naughty.

But in the wrestling world, writers would rather hide behind the “journalist” label. If you’re a commentator or a critical observer or something like that, you limit your audience to people who are interested in your opinion. If you’re a journalist, however, EVERYBODY is your audience, and EVERYBODY has to see things your way, and EVERYBODY has to think you’re King Shit. Because journalists tell it like it is, and cannot be argued with.

Toot Toot! The Clue Train’s pulling out of the station, and Mister Scaia’s in the station men’s room taking a leak. The fact is that there is only so much hard news to go around, and that of a minimal amount over the last year plus since the Merger. If all websites presented were Samuda-style News McNuggets, no one would want to read a wrestling website. They’d be too bored to continue. People come for the opinions. Columnists build loyal, large audiences in the way those opinions are expressed. Sometimes readers become loyal by agreeing with what’s said; sometimes they become loyal by disagreeing what’s said yet come back because something in them has been sparked enough to piss them off and make them feel like their opinions about wrestling are relevant to their own lives. It’s not because someone calls himself or herself a “journalist”. It’s because a writer’s been able to touch a nerve in someone else that causes a reaction. Writing about wrestling on the Net has nothing to do with journalistic response but everything to do with galvanic response.

At the other end of the spectrum from the wrestling journalist is the Columnist with a Gimmick. I guess the thinking is that “wrestling fans like gimmicks, so I better act as ridiculously as possible so I stand out with them.” Or something like that. Even if it’s not a “gimmick” in the same way that “The Hurricane” is a gimmick, you can’t deny that there is a class of online writer who puts himself and his style above the actual pro wrestling product…And you know what the most common “gimmick” is? It’s the “Asshole who hates and makes fun of everything.” No concern for if a criticism is on target and valid… just a concern for how effectively we can demean a person and his/her efforts. In this way, the gimmick columnist shares something with the wrestling journalist: an apparent inability to simply sit back and enjoy wrestling.

This is the stuff that led people to ask, “Is he talking about you, Eric?”. I dunno. If he is talking about me, well, he’s in for a shock. In real life, I’m the same asshole who writes this column twice a week. I’m mean, spiteful, negative, pessimistic, egotistical, and all that. I have this urgent desire to be the wittiest guy in any room I’m in, and I’m smart enough with a good enough sense of the structure of humor to pull that off. I’m blunt, honest, and don’t care about other people’s feelings, or other people at all, for that matter. I don’t hold back my opinions, and don’t care about alienating other people. Yet I’m also helpful, willing to impart information of interest to someone (even if it’s not about wrestling; some of the greatest responses I’ve had have been about my software piracy and “best meat” mentions), and know how to get and hold an audience. All I did was bring myself into the written form (with slight exaggeration, as all writers do). Gimmick? Only if I’m living one, and I know I’m not.

You’ll find that most writers on the Net are that way. If he’s not talking about me, he’s almost certainly talking about his other gadfly Hyatte, who does exaggerate his natural personality a bit more than I do. The thing is, it doesn’t matter one bit about how much of someone is real and how much of someone is gimmick. The only criterion should be, “Is that person entertaining? Do I want to read him or her again?”

…there is (or was) a perception that at some point around the time of joining up with WrestleLine that I “lost my edge.” In reality, I started developing a philosophy based on the types of observations I outlined above a bit before WrestleLine. And even now, after WL, here I am, still the same kind of non-edgy guy.

The Pod Person. The truth is, Mister Scaia, you did lose your edge. It was forcibly taken away from you by the Collective. The reason you haven’t gone back is that you’ve built up an audience who are totally unfamiliar with the way you used to be and only know the Pod Person, and if you revealed your true self again, you’d risk alienating them, and without your readers, you regard yourself as nothing. You dare not risk that, so it’s straight vanilla for you. Your columns are the moral equivalent of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup: relatively flavorless, easy to digest, yet inexplicably popular.

It wasn’t “watering down for a larger audience.” It was me growing up. I realized just who was reading what I was writing. I realized that being unnecessarily harsh on a person was not necessary to critique the product. To synthesize: I realized that I liked the idea of the subjects of my criticisms not wanting to punch me in the face for being such a clueless prick.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Constructive criticism is never unnecessarily harsh. Sometimes it has to be presented in a harsh way in order to get attention to the criticism, though. Good writers, which he is not (not anymore), know this. If a good writer is being provocative, there’s a method behind their madness. It’s less difficult to blow off an opinion if presented with provocation. However, you run the risk of people concentrating on the provocation rather than the opinion. It’s a difficult balancing act. I have enough confidence in the intelligence of my audience that they’re able to do that. Well, most of the time. There was that incident in which I was attempting to make a point about the hypocrisy and partisanship of a certain Solicitor General of the United States and used a rather politically incorrect, rather incautious, and extremely provocative statement about the late wife of said person to attract attention. That kinda backfired a bit.

As for being punched in the face by one of the subjects of my criticism, I’d regard it as a badge of honor, because I’m confident enough in my literary skills and my presentation of my opinion (burnished with sufficient evidence to justify it) that a punch in the face was a signal that I’d touched a nerve with that person, exposed some truth that they’d try to hide. That being said, if Steph wanted to punch me in the face, I’d ask if I could be Bronskied instead.

…And I have to believe it’s because of the belief of the writers that they must be either Wrestling Journalists or Columnists with a Gimmick. Because if they are fans and these are their HONEST opinions, then they are biggest losers in the world.

Think about it: what kind of mentally deficient chair-moistener would dedicate four hours of his week to watching something that he hates? And then more hours to write about it? Maybe they’re just masochists?

Maybe it’s because those “mentally deficient chair-moisteners” remember how things used to be, and hope that it could be again? Remember the Wrestling Philosophy: no matter how far you’re down, you’re always one hot angle away from being up again. How many people felt that the masochism of watching the WWF between, say, 1993 and December 1997 was justified when they turned themselves around?

Given those alternate hypotheses, I suspect that what we’ve got is a bunch of online personalities who are just being negative because they think it’s their job. And I think that’s a shame. As a reader, I’d feel robbed because the writer is not being honest with me. As a fellow columnist, I’d feel ashamed that this person is being lumped in a category with me. But mostly, as a fan of the industry, I’d feel sorry that any chance to cull a constructive criticism out of a long-time and observant fan has been lost because he decided it’d be better to lob senseless attacks in every direction.

It’d be better if the people who presented wrestling news and opinion to online fans did a better job of isolating the real problems and presenting their ideas for real solutions. But that’d be a perfect world, and we don’t live in one of those. Nope, we live in a place where everyone feels like they deserve 15 minutes of fame, and they’ll take potshots at anyone in an attempt to get them.

And those of us who do attempt to present substantive, constructive solutions to problems are condemned in some areas as “fantasy bookers”. Or are condemned for daring to have ideas different than those of the creative team. For instance, take this letter from Bobster Jr., which wasn’t incoherent enough to win You’re A Moron:

There are two types of “smark” fans in this world … Those who have some knowledge of the business and actually have the capability of getting their head out of their ass to occasionally enjoy the product they’re watching without critiquing every little part of it like a wannabe movie critic … and those that have nothing better to do in their geek-filled lives and who take their whiny little opinions so damn seriously that they’ve forgotten how to have some fun watching an INSIGNIFICANT GODDAMN WRESTLING SHOW!!!

Judging by your columns, you, and the majority of your readers, fall into the latter category.

But there’s hope yet for the WWE!!! If you’ve read some of the notes from your own website, they’re looking to hire some new writers. Maybe it’s time you put your hat in the ring and have the “testicular fortitude” to apply for the job. I mean, seriously, with the combined genius of you and your little bitch, Scott Keith, their ratings would absolutely increase by at least 2.0 points!!! All by the end of August!!! Hell, you could save the WWE all by yourself!!! Right?

Those who can’t do, teach. Those that can do neither, criticize. Get over yourself.

Hmmm, seeing that, I can’t help think he was influenced by a certain nameless Gooney Bird…

If my generally optimistic view on wrestling makes me a joke to some other online pundits, so be it. If my laid back way of making the criticisms I do have makes me soft in their eyes, fine. If my lengthy dissertation about what I think about their kind pisses them off, big f*cking deal.

Good for you, Scaia. Of course, you already made yourself into a joke courtesy of Ask the Rick, which gained a lot of readership simply clicking to see what mistakes of fact you’d commit that week.

The fact is, Rick, you are a joke. You’ve been a joke for a long time. I don’t know why I’m wasting this much column space on you except for the fact that some less-savvy readers still regard you as some kind of authority, and I’ve always been one to burst that bubble.

I’ll gladly stand out as the guy who doesn’t ever deliver a “Thumbs Down” and tries to convince reader that a show had not even a single redeeming moment. I’ll be the last safe haven for the half-dozen or so fans who don’t think that Triple H is an evil backstage genius. I’ll try to focus on the fact that Eric Bischoff has been really good as a performer since his WWE debut, instead of worrying about his weight or non-existent backstage power. In short: I’ll be a wrestling fan.

Which means, in clearer terms, that a fan, in Scaia’s eyes, is uncritical and accepting of everything, pleading for more of the same like a collective Oliver Twist in front of the McBumbles. Oh, how dare the fact that some of us point out that Sports Entertainment isn’t as entertaining as it was! The cheek! The sheer gall! We must not be fans if we don’t bow down and worship in front of the McAltar! Drive out the heretics and infidels! You know, it’s that same type of mindset that leads to al-Qaeda-ville.

I think that Philip Cadden, in his letter to me about this column, put it best: Isn’t it sad that little Ricky, when he finally decides to have an opinion about something for the

first time in about 3 years, decides to drink the McMahon family Kool-Aid?

And if I ever go a year-and-a-half without seeing a single damn thing that I like, I’ll actually have the brains to quit watching and walk away.

Ah, now that knock’s about me. Nonsense, of course. When I like something, I admit it. However, there hasn’t been much for me to like given my particular perspective on entertainment, something I’ve discussed ad nauseam over the past two years on various sites. Hey, someone out there has to tell the Emperor he has no clothes. And Truth, as ugly as it may seem, likes to go naked.

Jesus Christ, twenty K of raw text on the Gooney Bird. And people think Hyatte’s obsessed with him…

Oh, hell, on to Raw. I couldn’t get to sleep, so I’m going live tonight. As usual, Scott and PK can keep you going with the details…

THE SHORT FORM

Match Results:

Booker T over Eddy Guerrero (Pinfall, scissors kick): Not a memorable match, but quite comparative to the great openers that Nitro used to…oh, shit, he really IS turning Raw into Nitro. Well, let’s hope it’s the early pre-NWO Nitro. Those shows used to kick ass.

Trish Stratus and Buh Buh Ray Dudley over Molly Holly and The Big Show, Sorta-Kinda-Intergender-Tag Rematch (Pinfall, Trish pins Molly, top-rope clothesline): Too bad they didn’t go for the Three-Double Ds at the end, but oh, well. Next time, hardcore rules, please. And there will be a next time. This particular combo gets some pretty damn good crowd pops for being such a mediocre match.

Jeff Hardy over Bradshaw, Hardcore Title Match (Pinfall, Swanton off ladder, New Hardcore Champion); Johnny the Bull over Jeff Hardy, Hardcore Title Match (Pinfall, power slam, New Hardcore Champion); Tommy Dreamer over Johnny the Bull, Hardcore Title Match (Pinfall, Bradshaw Clothesline From Hell, New Hardcore Champion): You know, now that the Tag belts are on Raw, why not transition the Hardcore belt to Smackdown? Over there, you have the one guy in WWE who can actually book these things in his sleep, Paul Heyman (of course, most of his pet wrestlers, who can pull these matches off in their sleep, are on Raw). Well, at least Dreamer has the belt that will help us erase memories of his criminal misuse and get him back to the Innovator of Violence full-time. Of course, we can’t forget the fact that his back has also been criminally misused. Who gets the Hardcore Title next for a good run? God only knows.

Our Lord and Savior Chris Benoit over Rob Van Dam, Intercontinental Title Match (Pinfall, rollup with feet on ropes, New Intercontinental Champion): Normally, I hate rollup endings. However, when it involves Our Lord and Savior, everything is beautiful. It wasn’t a great match (they’re a bit of a misfit, although definitely not as jarring as Van Dam/Regal), but it was damn sweet to watch. This is what I appreciate about wrestling: a match that may not live up to expectations, but can be entertaining nonetheless.

The Undertweener over Chris Harvard, You Won’t Catch A University of Chicago Grad Doing Shit Like Jobbing To Trailer Trash Match (Pinfall, Last Ride): Okay, Undertweener actually sold some of Harvard’s offense, which means that Mistah Calloway thinks he must be a bit okay, even though he’s Tough Enough product. You know, who thought that after Maven got that huge push coming out of TE that it’d be Harvard and Nidia who’d be a lot more over at this point? Very weird. And thank God for that Flex promo, otherwise I’d have no time to do this little paragraph. I’m not used to doing this live anymore. Videotape certainly is more convenient sometimes.

Flex over Ric Flair, Those Fucking Sons Of Bitches Who Call Themselves Bookers Must Die Non-Title Match (Pinfall, uranage): Keith won’t dare say this, given his love affair for Flex and despite his Flair markdom, so I will: How dare he do the Strut in the same ring with Flair!? How dare he no-sell for Flair!? How dare he get to the ropes while in a Flair Figure-Four!? How dare he try to put Flair in the Shitshooter (especially when we all know that Flair knows every way to break that hold, having a lot of practice with Sting)!? How dare he try to do all this in Flair Country!?!? To those of you who say my credibility is stained by my vehement hatred for Flex, listen closely: Fuck. You. Besides, I had no credibility to start with, since I’m not a journalist.

Angle Developments/Attention-Getting Defections

Alllllll Right…They Are The Un-Americans: Well, it’s been a while since I’ve seen them, considering I’ve been on a non-Smackdown diet (consider that a compromise, Gooney Bird?). Christian’s no longer a whiny bitch, Test has a semblance of personality, and Lance is…well, great as ever. Beautiful promo, except they have to get a little more up-to-date on American icons. No one cares about Elvis or Marilyn anymore (even though they’re the foundation of American pop culture). How about…oh, Kurt Cobain: druggie who put shotgun shells through his head. Bill Gates: megalomaniac with a hygeine problem. Lance Armstrong: likes to ride bikes in France. Stuff like that.

Hey, Beating Up Old Women IS Entertaining…: Remember, in addition to Moolah’s book coming out next week, Bruce Springsteen is back together with the E Street Band, and their new one, The Rising, comes out today. Buy both. The Dow kicked up 400+ yesterday, so you can afford it. Well, I can, anyway.

Trip’s T-Shirt: I think it’d be better if it read “Screw The Booker, Play The Game”. It’d certainly be more appropriate.

Aw, Now We’ll Never Find Out What Flair Wanted To Say: Well, if you read the spoilers, it wasn’t that big a surprise, but the curveball was thrown quite well with the Un-Americans, and it was a very effective reintroduction. Welcome back, Mister Irvine. Let’s just hope that Bisch has got some stroke over the storylines with Gewirtz, because he never made you look like anyone’s bitch, unlike some other feds we could mention.

AND IN OTHER WRESTLING NEWS…

Nothing noteworthy that Ashish can’t keep you up on, as usual.

That taps me out for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more opinions, specifically some stuff about TV Guide’s list of the 50 Greatest Cartoon Characters Of All Time (and you can pretty much damn well bet that even though my Role Model and True Savior is at #1, I’m pissed about the rest of the forty-nine). Strictly opinions, of course. I don’t want to make myself appear to be a journalist, after all.