Truth or Consequences: Reality Sucks

Welcome, one and all, to another edition of Truth or Consequences, where my streak of actually hitting my column deadlines has reaching a mighty 4-0. When will I start hearing the Kev-berg chants?

Anyway, I got a whole load of e-mails after last week’s dissection of the women’s division, so let’s have a quick rummage through the Inbox before we even get started.

Mike Miller pointed out an important omission from my list of female talent…

“Dude, when it comes to female indy talent, you can’t leave April Hunter off that list.

Thanks,

Mike Miller”

True enough, Mike – what can I say? Mea culpa…I completely forgot. April Hunter is a great piece of talent and she’s been absolutely everywhere – TNA, ROH, IWA-MS, 3PW, JAPW, NECW, Neo Ladies in Japan…the list goes on and on. For a Diva, she’s an absolute powerhouse, but not in the freakish Chyna/Shaniqua kind of way and, like many of those that I did remember last week, she could revolutionise the way the global wrestling audience views women’s wrestling, if she ever made it to the ‘E’. However, as I think we’ve established, WWE just doesn’t care.

Colin Pigeau had a comment or two about the more, shall we say cosmetic nature of the women’s division…

“Good article on the women. About time someone said it. Call me a pig though, because I don’t think I could truly take women’s wrestling as seriously as men’s. Maybe I have the same mindset that I think the hillbillies that make up most of the audience have: ‘Yeah, it’s alright, but still, it’s just a broad…’

And I always find it a little telling that the IWC goes mental about the T&A. The attitude that hot chicks in lingerie doing hot stuff RUINS their enjoyment of watching sweaty, greased up men roll around with each other in their tightie-whities…

Colin”

For the record, I’d just like to say that I don’t have any problem with T&A on wrestling shows and, as I said, I can totally understand Vince McMahon’s insistence on ‘eye-candy’ Divas from a business standpoint. By all means, let the girls dance and parade in their underwear and have bikini contests – if that’s what they’re good at, then more power to them.

My main gripe is when promoters take those same beautiful women and pretend that they are actually wrestlers when they clearly haven’t been trained. Make no mistake, I’ve bitched and moaned about putting guys in the ring before they are fully prepared and I stand by it – male or female. If the ladies can’t wrestle, then they shouldn’t wrestle. I’m twenty-six years old – if I want to see ladies catfighting, then I’ll just go out and buy some honest-to-goodness porn and be done with it.

That said, I also have an issue with events like the Diva Search, which detracts from the wrestling side of the proceedings. When I tune in to a wrestling show, I want to see wrestling, angle developments and decent promos, but if there’s a smidgen of T&A in there, then that’s fine. However, during the Diva Search, we are routinely ‘treated’ to fifteen or twenty minute segments that revolve around a bunch of girls who were too stupid or skanky to make it into America’s Next Top Model (come one – you know it’s true).

One of my mate’s from work, Graham Wise, said…

“Good column, but I still fail to understand how you can encourage people to look for women’s wrestling, whilst maintaining that there’s no point to tag teams! Teams rule!”

No…they don’t. Tag teams are pointless and anyone who thinks otherwise must be some sort of mental defective and possibly a danger to themselves and to others. Keep away from me and my family.

Adam Gallegos sparks some old school memories…

“Just a quick note to say that your women’s wrestling column was one of the best written pieces I’ve seen on InsidePulse in quite some time. I particularly admire the fact that you ran it through the spell checker and checked for grammar. The points you make about ladies wrestling are spot on, particularly with your comparison to the cruiserweights – something COULD be done, but no one wants to. I too am an old school fan, and back in the mid-1980s when my father and I would attend monthly AWA shows in Denver, I always looked forward to Sherri Martel’s defense of the AWA Women’s title because I knew it would be a good match. I also saw the Jumping Bomb Angels live, and they were phenomenal, too. I have tapes of Japanese women’s wrestling (one in particular is six hours of Manami Toyota, possibly the best female wrestler ever) that are full of four and five-star matches. It is too bad that talented female grapplers have had to take a back seat to airhead T&A fests that add nothing of value to the overall product.

I look forward to reading your future columns. Thanks.

Adam Gallegos”

Thanks for those comments, Adam. Sherri Martel was a great worker, before she became a valet and, whilst I wouldn’t question her judgment, considering the move made her more famous than she ever was for her wrestling, it’s still sort of sad. Toyota is another superb wrestler, who can break out awesome moves seemingly from nowhere. Her matches against Aja Kong and Dynamite Kansai were truly impressive and probably the closest that female wrestlers have ever got to that elusive ‘Flair-Steamboat’ comparison.

Chris Stewart sings the praises of one Mickie Knuckles…

“Just wanted to say something about Mickie Knuckles. She also wrestles at the IWA East coast shows here in West Virginia. She had a match with Ian Rotten a few shows ago and took one of the hardest chair shots I have ever seen. Her knees buckled but she kept going, she is tougher than most guys I’ve watched wrestle. Ian sure didn’t pull any punches either and she went toe to toe with him, but the whole thing was wasted when the match ended when someone ran in and hit Ian.”

Yeah, Mickie Knuckles is da bomb. I’d love to get a ‘Best of Mickie Knuckles’ tape, but I’ve never found a trader with one. She’s is an amazing wrestler, who truly knows how male-female matches should be worked. If the guy doesn’t want to hurt her because she’s a woman, then she takes full advantage and, if he has no problems with hitting her, then she takes one hell of a beating and returns it with interest. The only woman I’ve seen who comes close to that was Joanie ‘Chyna’ Laurer during her stint with New Japan.

Fellow InsidePulse scribe, Gordi Whitelaw sent in the following good words…

“Hi Kevin,

I wanted to tip my hat to you for spreading the Joshi love around. I’m kind of new to the style myself, as I’ve been kind of saving it for a rainy day, the only stuff I had in my collection prior to this year was the V*Top/Big Egg tourney, which I love dearly for the sheer awesomeness of Aja Kong among other reasons. Watching the women’s matches on the Best of Japan 90s set, though, is quickly making me into a huge Joshi mark. That in turn led me to wondering about the state of North American woman’s wrestling. Having heard tell of Nattie Neidhart, I was wondering about other very good or great female wrestlers on the indy circuit. Then, I read your column, and you had it all laid out for me.

Thanks,

Gordi Whitelaw”

No problem, Gordi, glad you enjoyed it. Aja Kong is a great wrestler and also a decent booker, as her ARSION promotion will testify. I can definitely recommend getting some of that, perhaps starting with the ARSION ‘ZION Tournaments from 1998 and 1999.

Brad Curran had some nice things to say, too…

“Kevin,

Interesting column about the women’s division. I’ve always been fond of the women’s division when it’s more than T&A (although I like that aspect just fine), at least more so than most “smarks”. I was sad to see people like Molly and Jazz go recently, although in the latter case I imagine her multiple injuries had as much to do with her sacking as the fact that she’s pretty scary, and in the former, I figure that Molly probably saw the writing on the wall when she was getting jobbed out to Stacey and Christy. I’ll look in to some of the stuff you mentioned on the Joshi side of things the next time I feel a hankering to buy some wrestling tapes.

Brad Curran”

Thanks Brad. I know what you mean about Molly. I mean, look at Trish…just back from injury with the most prestigious (albeit by default) women’s belt in the country and her first PPV appearance involves carrying two other women who can’t wrestle (albeit with the considerable help of Victoria). Why not have Ashley vs. Trish because being the Diva Search winner makes her the Number One contender (or something) and then Victoria comes in to make it a Triple Threat? At least that way the new kid has two veterans to carry her to a match and we get to see a women’s match that will be more than just roll-ups, corner chokes, hair pulls and sunset flips.

Thanks to every who sent in e-mails…keep ’em coming.

This week saw another one of WWE’s developmental wrestlers get released from a contract, but this wasn’t just any old worker – it was the winner of last year’s Tough Enough competition, Daniel Puder.

Sometimes I think that Vince McMahon, for all that he is considered to be a genius, doesn’t have the first clue about wrestling. The Creative Team seems to be obsessed with finding the next Rock or the next Steve Austin and yet they release competent talent that they already have signed. Would Puder have been the next Stone Cold? It’s hard to say, since I think Austin truly was one of a kind (and the same can be said of Foley, the Rock, Angle and Triple H, if it comes down to it). However, they could easily have pushed Puder to the upper midcard as a bad-ass shoot fighter, just like they did with Ken Shamrock.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – billing someone as the ‘Next Ken Shamrock’ is hardly in the same league as an Austin, a Lesnar, an Angle or a Rocky, but in this game you have to play to your strengths. Puder is an ex-MMA fighter who genuinely loves professional wrestling (at least, that’s the impression I get from his various comments on the subject both before and after his Tough Enough victory) and, despite his young age, is a guy that the WWE could reasonably bank a lot of money on. He has been tearing it up in OVW, wrestling shoot-style matches and absolutely owning his opponents through a series of painful submission holds.

Okay, so he hasn’t got great microphone skills, but then neither have Shelton Benjamin or Chris Benoit and, when it comes down to it, Puder is a lot better on the stick than someone like fellow TE alumnus, Maven. In any case, Puder needn’t be billed as an ultra charismatic superstar, a la John Cena or Chris Jericho, he just needs to go out and kick some serious ass. Draft him to Raw and have him be the one to beat the Masterlock Challenge. Now that established guys like Ric Flair, Rosey and Tajiri have fallen to the dreaded Full Nelson, there should be a pretty hefty pop for the guy who finally busts out of the hold and and to give that pop to Shawn Michaels or the Big Show or whomever they’re planning on (please not Hogan, please not Hogan) would seem a waste. Why not go one step further and not only have Puder break the hold, but slap on an MMA submission of his own, making Masters tap out like a little bitch?

This could then lead to a series of challenges where Puder promises to make someone tap out in under three minutes and, instead of $1,000, he offers half of his Tough Enough winnings.Whereas all Chris Masters could manage was the Masterlock itself, due to his in-ring limitations (which certainly have improved, by the way), Puder could possibly indulge in some chain wrestling and produce an exciting match.

What would be the ultimate end of this? Well, you’ve got some obvious and some not so obvious feuds that could take place out there. Eugene could take on Puder’s challenge under the premise that he beat the Angle Invitational and, considering Nick Dinsmore is a phenomenal worker under all the goofy retard gimmickry, that could produce some interesting results. The same could be said of Rob Conway, who seems to be getting something of a midcard push.

If you want his opponents to be either stretchers or shooters, then why not give Tajiri something to do, peppering Puder with those nasty kicks of his, to remind him of his MMA roots? Rob Van Dam has a reputation for hard hitting kicks and he might take offence at Puder for trying to make himself Mr. Monday Night. They seem to be trying to give Tyson Tomko a UFC style gimmick, by having him win some matches by knockout with a big knee to the head, so there’s another ready made feud right there. Would Carlito think that Shoot-fighting is cool? I don’t think so…which means a Cabana appearance and a subsequent angle an easy one to write. Of course, you’d have Big Show in the background, utilising the old wrestling adage that big bastards like him are somehow less susceptible to submission holds.

And then there’s the big match-up and the most obvious one to concoct…Kurt Angle. On the 4th November 2004, during a Tough Enough segment, Angle invited Puder to shoot against him, thinking that he, as a former Olympian, would have little trouble in pinning the young man from Cupertino, California. What transpired, then, must have come as something of a shock, as Puder locked Angle in a submission and nearly had him beat. Once Angle had Puder on his back, the referee issued a lightning-fast three count, to save Angle the embarrassment of being beaten by a rookie.

If that isn’t a ready made feud, then I don’t know what is and if the only thing stopping it from happening is ego, be it personal or corporate, then that’s a crying shame. After all, if anybody can help a guy improve in the ring, it’s Kurt Angle.

So that’s Raw out of the way. On SmackDown! you have other feuds in the offing for a shoot-fighting wrestler, since the roster seems packed with guys who can give as hard as they get. JBL, Hardcore Holly and Chris Benoit are all tough sons of bitches, who can see to it that Puder pays his dues as he works his way up the ranks. Unlike many other newbie wrestlers, Puder doesn’t have to worry about someone shooting on him in the ring, either, as he can probably hold his own.

Why not have him wrestle William Regal, as both men try to stretch the living crap out of one another? Perhaps you could have him square off against some of the Cruiserweights? At 230lbs, Puder isn’t technically in that weight class but, on the other hand, he’s not so big that a match against a Cruiser would be a forgone conclusion. Hell, if Jamie Noble comes back, why not have the two of them trade suplexes and submissions?

There again, Randy Orton is available. I’d say that turning Kurt Angle into your Tap Out Whore puts you well on the way to being a legend and, even though Undertaker has seriously damaged Orton’s ‘Legend Killer’ gimmick, a feud between those two guys wouldn’t be terrible.

These are all easy things to come up with, whichever roster you decide to put the guy on but, if you want to give some of the backstage guys and Legends something to do, why not bring Fit Finlay or Dean Malenko out to wrassle with the young ‘un? The guy thinks he’s a street fighter, a tough man? Well, we’ve got Vader in the back, ready for him. He thinks he can dish out pain – Mick Foley’s there, and he can take all that Puder can give.

This is not hard. If one of your wrestlers is a hardcase, then it’s the easiest thing in the world to book him as such. I’ve just drafted enough storylines to last a year on either brand and elevate the guy in that same length of time and it’s taken me maybe forty minutes. Given a week, I could probably come up with more complex angles and plot twists to justify his TV time every week, so why won’t the booking team do it?

Because they don’t like wrestling and they don’t like wrestling fans – it’s that simple. They don’t want to be working on SmackDown! or Raw…it’s just a job to them. They want to be back in the sunny world of sitcom writing, where there’s always the chance of an Emmy on the horizon, not shacked up in an environment where, at any moment, a third generation wrestler might take a dump in your bag, or a 16 time world champion might flash you his geriatric family jewels.

It beggars belief that a guy nearly humbles your greatest athlete, on National TV and you can’t think of an angle (pardon the pun) to go along with it. Oh, but we’ll give Gene Snitsky a foot fetish, because that’ll spike the ratings; while we’re at it, we’ll make third generation Latino superstar Chavo Guerrero portray a middle-class white guy, because…well…the comedy just writes itself; we’ll give Indy stunner Macaela Mercedes a hideous facial growth because it’s ironic, see? Hard as Nails shooter on a million dollar contract? Nope – sorry – there’s no storyline mileage there.

I mean, come on – why would the largest wrestling company in history even consider hiring people who don’t know what ‘getting heat’ is, or who think that wrestlers use fake blood. I don’t care how good they are at writing – I bet you any amount of money you like that you can find somebody just as good at scribbling, who actually cares about the product he or she is responsible for. Somebody who, for instance, would care enough to fill in all the little holes in the wrestling plots or avoid them completely; someone who understands the motivation of the workers’ characters on TV; Someone who understands – for instance – that there is no earthly kayfabe reason for Trish Stratus to return as a babyface and who would try their damndest to justify their decision to do so.

But no, we get hacks that aren’t good enough for mainstream media who are just looking for work to feed themselves and their families. Oh – and Dusty Rhodes, but that’s a whole different column in itself.

So what, then, does the future hold for young Mr. Puder?

My friend, Andrew, thinks that he should return to MMA and mix it up in the big leagues, now that he has a bit of a reputation, but I’m not too sure. I’m not saying that he wouldn’t do well or even thrive in such an environment, but I just don’t watch much MMA, so I’m not really in a position to comment. What I understand is professional wrestling and, from that perspective, Puder should keep on living the dream and wrestle as many shows as possible. He should learn those skills that he supposedly lacks, such as his microphone and promo techniques but, above all else, he should wrestle. Maybe he could earn a decent payday in Japan, where the worked-shoot style is quite popular. Certainly a man who can claim to have come within inches of making the greatest wrestler alive today nearly tap out is worth taking a risk on. Working with some Japanese legends and some of the greats on the Indy circuit in the USA will expose Puder to a greater style of wrestling and help him to become a better worker inside the ring, as well as exposing him to the sort of travel and cultural experience that most of us can only dream about. He’s only young, and has plenty of time to hone his skills and, who knows, maybe he’ll come back in a few years when there is a legitimate play for power going on between WWE and TNA and be the hottest free agent around.

Either way, I wish Daniel Puder every success and hope that, in the long run, he does indeed prove himself to be Tough Enough.

E-mail me and let me know what you think.

Until the next time…farewell.