First thing is first. I’m going to break my own rules and focus on a non-RAW show for this week’s readers’ pick. The reason for doing so is that the catch was so worthwhile and probably so overlooked due to the show that I feel obligated to point it out. Take it away, Jay DiPaolo.
Readers’ Picks: The Check is in the Mail
One little thing I noticed that was nice to see that (to quote Scott Keith,) “you never see anymore,” was during the Heat match with Hurricane and Big Stevie Cool. They were on the mat and I believe it was Hurricane that put Richards in a three-quarter nelson to turn him, and the referee checked Richard’s shoulder, looking for space in between it and the mat, to make sure it was touching before he started a count. The ref added a little legitimacy to a legit wrestling hold, and sadly, it probably went sight unseen
The sad thing is that he is right. Refs seem more focused with getting the flow and timing of the match correct than instilling any legitimacy in the sport itself. This is largely a function of live television and the sports entertainment era, of course, but it is good to see that some refs have not forgotten practices of the past. I am also not trying to diminish the role of refs in pointing this out either, because making sure the timing of a match goes off is critical sometimes. If you do not believe me, compare the fake ref’s actions in the Hogan/Rock match from last month with those of Nick Patrick in the Hogan/Sting big payoff match at Starrcade ’97. Whereas one ref had the steel chair ready to go when the lights came on, to this day I believe that Nick Patrick forgot to speed up his count in that match, thus leaving the entire flow of the match and emphasis of the payoff feeling deflated.
The Race Case
Since I have stated my support for the hints of racism in the current HHH/Booker program and since that angle has come under fire in several columns on various websites, I feel compelled to defend my views. Here are what I belive to be the main arguments of the detractors:
– Racial storylines are inappropriate for a professional wrestling program
– The employees (wrestlers) are uncomfortable performing the angle, thus management and especially writers who know nothing of the business should not force them into performing it.
– The storyline is not generating sufficient interest, ratings and most importantly is not getting Booker over as a babyface threat to HHH and his title.
The first argument is one I disregard readily. For some reason, some people think that wrestling programming is immune from dealing with issues or conflicts that may involve sensitive material. I once again point out that situation comedies, movies, stand-up comics, documentaries, and other forms of entertainment deal with this subject in various ways and there is no reason why wrestling can’t use the same issues to entertain its fans. I repeat also that as long as WWe addresses the issue in a subtle fashion, and not in the over-the-top Nation of Domination fashion, they actually stand a chance of creating some interesting drama. No one says WWe has a track record of doing this properly, but every angle should be judged on its own merits (which I’ll do shortly). I firmly belive they are not insulting their fans or the wrestlers in conducting this angle and since I have not heard any voices of disapproval from organized sources (NAACP, Rainbow/PUSH coalition, Congressional Black Caucus, politicians, etc.), wrestlers involved in the angle, or the fans themselves, I say let it go. Supplementally, I’ve received emails from African American readers that say they have no problem with the angle and are actually interested to see how it plays out.
The second argument is fair, but let’s be clear Ã¢â‚¬â€œ there is nothing tantamount to an uprising going on in the locker room. Discomfort, be it businessmen working on a project for a client, athletes running a play for a coach or actors performing a script, is commonly experienced in many professions. Furthermore, management did respond by toning down the content (except for the King who was having apparently more fun than normal with this angle) this past Monday so the oblivious management argument is less powerful.
The third argument is misplaced. The lightning rod for most of the criticism, of course, is HHH. All I can say is that I do not believe that HHH’s performance as a wrestler is to blame if indeed Booker is not as over as he needs to be (which is also debatable). He has done a lot of little things to paint himself as an arrogant heel who looks down upon a threat to his title while secretly fearing that threat and trying to avoid him. The booking itself, however, is more justly deserving of criticism. One little thing that I find wrong is that similar to the Steiner feud, the current one has allowed HHH to come into contact with the supposed threat to his title. This kills a lot of the anticipation going into the match. Also similar to the Steiner feud, Booker did not have a solid push going into the feud. Stiner won some skills competitions and Booker thew a distracted Rock over the top rope in a battle royal. This is not what one would call momentum.
So blame the booking before HHH. And since I don’t have any hard evidence to say he is in complete control of how this is being booked, I won’t blame HHH for that either. It is also ridiculous to place all of the blame or credit for that matter for any one rating on any one wrestler. It also useful to refer to one of the founding principles of this column Ã¢â‚¬â€œ since when did ratings affect your personal enjoyment of a television show? Does something need to be popularly accepted on a grand scale for you to enjoy it? In short, relax, there’s nothing that offensive on your television screen. It may even be interesting if you’d loosen up and enjoy yourself.
But I digress. Let’s take a look at the Little 5 for the 3.17.2003 edition of RAW:
1. Pardon the Interruption
Not everything the Rock does is gold in my book. Although this is more of a production thing, didn’t that cut away backstage to the Rock walking into the arena seem really out of place? I mean sure, it’s nice to remind people that he is in the building, but during the middle of a an actual match is hardly the place to make it known. Worse yet, the Rock didn’t do anything with this extra time. And they wonder why no one really cares about Rico or Maven.
2. All That Jazz
More props to the music team at WWe for Jazz’s theme music. A perfect touch of sinister rock and soulful jazz music for the most enthusiastic wrestler in the women’s division. Her “Bitch is BackÃ¢â‚¬Â catchphrase and antics like pulling the tag away from Trish are starting to grow on me as well. She has the makings of a legit badass, which is what the women’s division has been sorely lacking.
3. A Simple Flick of the Wrist
Jericho, in my eyes, has always done a lot of little things to make his character very entertaining. His latest twist is shooing the crowd with his hand as he makes his way to ringside during his entrance as if they were a bunch of commoners. Lifting a recent page out of The Rock’s playbook and mocking Scott Steiner with his own mannerisms is also a huge plus. He is so ready to go over Michaels at Wrestlemania.
4. Stutter Step
To all of the people who are criticizing the Goldust stuttering gimmick as a harsh parody of Tourette’s Syndrome: He acts like that because he got “electrocutedÃ¢â‚¬Â (I really wish they would stop using that term). The arm cast, the stuttering and sudden “joltsÃ¢â‚¬Â of pain are supposed to be little things that demonstrate the lingering effects of that incident.
Also, the angle is so funny that I honestly believe HHH and Flair were breaking kayfabe when they laughed at Dustin.
5. The People’s Section
I told you that guitar scale was going to get over. Easy Big Fella doesn’t exactly work for me, but the high-pitched “Gar-bageÃ¢â‚¬Â is definitely playground basketball fodder. Sipping the beer vs. drinking it was a nice touch to show contrast between him and Austin. The man is a genius.
Keep the comments, even the HHH hate-mail, coming and I’ll see you next week.