You know, it’s sometimes difficult to come up with something to lead into the column. There’s nothing major in the news. The space shuttle doesn’t lift off until Wednesday and the Open Championship doesn’t start until Thursday. Nothing new in my life personally, so I can’t bore you with that. I guess my only recourse is to get on with this column…
THE PIMP SECTION
Lucard gives you four reasons not to go to the beach.
Aulbrook uses lots of exclamation points.
Hevia goes quickie.
Basilo discusses TV shows that I don’t watch.
Campbell puts more hyperlinks in his column than I’ve ever seen.
You don’t want to be around Stevens when he’s annoyed.
Maillaro crosses sections this week, but it is entirely justified seeing as what’s #1 at the box office.
YET ANOTHER EARLY WRESTLING DEATH
According to every single hard wrestling news site out there, Shinya Hashimoto, one of the biggest stars in puroresu, passed away on Monday at the age of 40. The cause was said to be an aneurysm. It was very sudden. He collapsed and was taken to a hospital in Yokohama, where he couldn’t be revived. Hashimoto had had major shoulder surgery a number of months ago and was rehabbing for a ring comeback. He’s probably best known outside Japan for being the founder of ZERO-ONE, which shut down in 2004 due to acrimony between Hashimoto and his business partner Yoshiyuki Nakamura. In the US, his most noteworthy appearance was an indy feud with Steve Corino involving the NWA championship (prior to it being coopted by TNA).
He was a truly major player in Japan. Triple Crown winner, IWGP champion, top-card drawer for NJPW, and a guy who could really go. I wish I could have got more involved in puro, really, because I can’t do him justice with what little I know about him and what he did (just the fact that he was in a stable with Muta and Chono shows what level he performed at). Imagine if, oh, Guerrero died. That’d be the comparative impact, I believe. I just have to throw my hat in and give condolences to fans of puroresu everywhere, not to mention his family and many friends.
No, this isn’t something to be made fun of. He and I were the same damn age, and that hits close to home for me. He might have been on the downside of his career (although in Japan, careers last longer than those in the US), but he still had a lot to live for, and it’s said that he was chomping at the bit for his comeback to the ring. If there’s any positive to be gleaned from this, at least it wasn’t an overdose or something incredibly stupid (although one can’t help but think that it might have had something to do with the rehab, like an embolism traveling to the brain and causing a blood vessel to burst).
I HATE TO GO OVER THIS AGAIN, BUT…
But I need some filler, so here goes…
Fleabag noted this in great detail in his Saturday column, but I’d like to throw in my two cents on the matter as well. I have no idea why some people are still freaking out over the whole apres-match in re UT/Daivari on Smackdown. Let’s just go over the facts and maybe you can see why it was broadcast and why you shouldn’t get your panties twisted, or at least why they should be twisted in the right direction:
1) The events in London occurred the morning of the broadcast. WWE and UPN had talks that morning on what they could do about it. They came to the conclusion that it was too late to edit the show. This is a CORRECT conclusion. You are talking about excising five minutes from a network television show on the day of broadcast with nothing available to replace those minutes. I’m certain that they considered possibly putting in a match from Epilepsy, redubbed by Cole and Tazz, and maybe tack on a promo from somebody taped in Stamford to fill the remaining time if necessary. What would that have entailed?
a) Bringing in Cole and Tazz from home, wherever they live, on no notice whatsoever.
b) Bringing in a wrestler to do that promo on a day off, writing a promo for him, then taping it.
c) Reediting and assembling the master tape.
d) Getting the master tape to the UPN affiliates (via a special satellite broadcast, given the time elements) and telling them to replace their version with that one, which you know that someone, somewhere will screw up, thus flooding the idiot whiteboards with posters going “lol my upn station boradcast teh beatdwon”.
Logistically, it was impossible, and WWE and UPN knew it. So they came up with the agreement to do the crawl (and the frequency and timings of the crawl were sufficient). WWE put this decision out to the public in advance of the show, warning everyone that the content might be offensive and telling everyone about the crawl. This was the best they could do. It’s f*cking mind-boggling that even so-called “professional” TV commentators like Scott Williams of the Galveston Daily News could think that the editing/replacement could have been done. Nonsense.
1a) By the way, if they could have done something like a promo to substitute for the incident, bringing in Hassan and/or Daivari to cut a promo about London would have been ideal. They could have said that they didn’t agree with the actions of the bombers, that this wasn’t the way to do things, but they understood the frustrations and anger that would lead to something like that. It would have been a little tricky to decry terrorism while keeping Hassan’s heel heat, but he’s been doing that since he came in. This is a non-issue, though.
2) On the issue of content, the critics are on much firmer ground. In one stupid, ill-judged move, WWE completely undercut everything they’d firmly established about Muhammad Hassan over the past number of months. Hassan’s entire push has been based on this fact: he is an average American who has been discriminated against because he’s of Arabic descent. This line has been consistent and, for the most part, well-played and even sympathetic. Now, suddenly, with no foreshadowing, he decided to cross the line and become involved with an implied “terrorist” group (you can argue about the exact nature of the group, but that’s sure as hell what “creative” meant it to be).
Where the hell did this come from? Hyatte had a great discussion about the mechanics of a heel turn. That really applies to any modification of behavior, not just a heel turn. There was nothing to set up the development of Hassan in the direction they took him. There is a major, major difference between decrying discrimination and de facto jihad, and the distance between the two was simply skipped over in the name of sensationalism and “shock value”. If this was done, it should have been done over the period of a few months or more, slowly showing Hassan’s frustration with being “discriminated again” turning him more radical in his actions.
2a) This action also did something that caused root damage to the UT/Hassan feud. It took away the personal aspect of it. Hassan could have been channeled into a Randy Orton-style cause, namely taking on UT to “prove” that he had no fear of the Dead Man and that Arab-Americans were better and braver and whatever. This would have been a lot more in line with the Hassan character as it had been presented. UT would have squashed him anyway, of course, but it would have been a set-up that would have built on what Hassan’s already done rather than scrap it.
3) This bit of random idiocy, though, came from Smackdown “creative”, the same people who could only think of one reason for Kurt Angle’s antagonism toward Booker T: the fact that Angle was attracted to Booker’s “trampy” wife. “Creative” doesn’t have enough brain power to light up a ten-watt bulb. It’s actually no surprise that they’d come up with something this utterly moronic and tasteless. Given their history, it’s no small wonder that a good portion of the IWC has blown this off as yet another massive miscalculation in the area of characterization. We’ve seen this shit happen too many times. The synchronicity of it occuring with the London bombings just throws it into sharper focus. I think that if London didn’t happen, the criticism would have focused on this area.
4) WWE’s self-censorship mechanism was short-circuited on this one. It’s now quite apparent that Hassan either has no stroke backstage, or is insecure about his camera time and desperate for exposure, or is phenomenally stupid. I can’t see anyone with two functioning brain cells not objecting to this. Daivari is said to be very intelligent, so the third excuse doesn’t apply to him, but apparently any objections that he might have had were ignored or not presented. UT, on the other hand, is smart and does have the stroke backstage. But apparently because it didn’t affect him personally (or so he thought), he couldn’t give a shit. And, of course, Vince has final call on everything, but given his track record, we couldn’t expect any action from his end. The fact that someone with green-light powers said yes to this is proof, if any more were actually needed, that something’s very, very wrong with “creative”.
The anger toward this incident has been completely misdirected by the IWC. To summarize, for the benefit of the stupid among you:
1) Don’t be mad at UPN for broadcasting it or WWE for letting it be broadcast. They were put into a corner which they couldn’t get out of, and did the best they could.
2) Don’t be mad at Hassan and/or Daivari for participating in this. They either didn’t have the ability to stop it or were insecure enough about their position (remember, the boys had some advance warning that cuts would be happening as early as two weeks ago) that they didn’t risk making objections.
3) Don’t be mad at UT because we know that he doesn’t give two shits about it. It’s all the same to him: get someone to feed to him for a PPV, and he’s happy.
4) Definitely be mad at “creative” for coming up with something this tacky, London or not. As such, it’s just one more item in a litany of stupid moves made by them in regard to their talent, and that’s all it should be seen as.
One more thing: now, more than ever, it’s important to turn Daivari face, preferably at GAB. A positive Arab-American role-model on the show would help get the bad taste out of everyone’s mouth. They already have a good cross-show comparative to work with: Chavito is denying his Mexican heritage in some weird way to get rid of the stereotypes that he has, but the Mexicools are reveling in theirs. Setting Daivari off on a quest to become the first American of Arab descent to win the Cruiserweight strap would be a wonderful counterweight to Hassan’s bluster. Best of all, Daivari has the moves and the ability to carry off being a threat to the cruiser strap.
If “creative” has a clue in their vacant brains, they can shut the critics and reverse a very sad trend at the same time.
And speaking of sad trends, it’s time for Raw…
THE SHORT FORM
Chris Masters over Yoshihiro Tajiri (Submission, MasterLock): So what’s Japanese for “Lay down for Masters or you’ll end up like Akio?”
Shelton Benjamin over Carly Colon, Intercontinental Title Match (COR): See Benjy sell. Sell Benjy pull every offensive trick out of his arsenal. See Carly go along for the ride. See Eric get bored even before the bullshit ending designed to protect Carly so they can extend this feud.
KC Evers (no relation) has a better comment about this one:
Mention the Honky Tonk Man during an IC Title match and watch the Champ keep the Title in similar fashion. Raw’s funny like that.
Kurt Angle over Matt Stryker The Lying Teacher, Kurt Angle Invitational (Submission, AngleLock): For some reason, seeing the Lying Teacher in there makes me hanker for a Dean Douglas appearance. At least it’d be more credible and less tacky.
Kane over Edge (DQ, Snitsky-ference): In Angle Developments, I’ll be talking about what a complete waste the WWE title’s become. Now we can add two more to the list of matches that will overshadow the title match at SummerSlam. Wonderful.
A Battle Of Wits With Three Unarmed Men: Okay, the dueling Jericho/Carly segment was a good idea. Two talk shows, one obvious guest, who’d win, right? But then…look, if Florida wasn’t already devastated enough by Hurricane Dennis, more devastation occurred when Hurricane Fleabag erupted the moment Piper’s music hit. And I can’t blame that force of nature one bit. Jesus, Hogan last week, now Piper this week. Does Vince have no shame? And after the Hassan skit last week, why do I feel the need to ask that?
The Put Option: So, it’s going to be Cena/Jericho at SummerSlam, in what right now is scheduled to be a non-stip match. I don’t care where exactly you place Jericho, but we are not exactly tapping the upper echelon here for what’s supposed to be a co-main event at a major PPV. Michaels/Hogan and whatever match/matches feature Trip and Angle is/are going to overshadow it. Already, people aren’t taking the WWE title seriously because of their perception that Cena isn’t playing with the big boys, and those people are right. Just look at what Jericho did earlier on the show: f*cked around with Carly. The belt, therefore, will continue to be devalued until at least Survivor Series, at which time Angle or Trip will pick it back up and have to slog it back to a serious state in time for Wrestlemania. The saddest part is that “creative” thinks this is actually a push for Jericho. If he doesn’t get the strap and a push big enough to make Trip stand up and take notice, he’s going to wish he’d been cut too.
Memo To Shawn Michaels: If you’re trying to set yourself up as a heel, it might be a good idea to actually cut a heel promo. And, by the way, superkicking Piper doesn’t help; we WANT to see that.
Freedom Is Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose: Right now, I’m laughing my ass off at all the suckers on the whiteboards who bought Hardy’s entire act. What a nice little coincidence that this happened on “Freedom Day”, huh? Did Hardy actually go to Vince and say, “Pretend to release me, and I’ll work the marks for you?” The amount of sheer cynicism in this…you know, I said that if Hardy showed up at the wedding, I’d turn the damn show off and never watch again? Now I’m seriously tempted to do this. However, I have my own form of revenge…
You Fucked With The Wrong Popular Wrestling Columnist This Time, Bucko: I may have an enormous readership and loyal following, but that really means nothing to Vince. It doesn’t affect his bottom line. Well, now, I have a way to do that. You see, I was chosen to keep a Nielsen diary this week. And guess which show I’m not putting down in my diary as viewed? I get to f*ck with your ratings, Vince, and thus I get to f*ck with your bottom line. Too bad it’s a one-shot. But my voice will be heard, one way or another.
And that clears this one out of the blocks. Let’s hope there’s something to talk about tomorrow, huh?