The Midnight Mystery Starring Haley

Haley’s Comment

What an interesting time for me to step in as the third man in our 4-man rotation of wrestling fun here at the Pulse. I follow up Flea’s effort and the untimely death of Eddie Guerrero. FLEA doesn’t even know it, but he is my favorite writer of all-time in terms of getting good debate going about something as seemingly trivial as wrestling. So, let’s take a quick check of the pulse and go off topic first, get into some wrestling issues, and follow it up with a Little Things tribute to Latino Heat.

Let’s do this.

T-O’ed

He also doesn’t realize it, but I’m having a lot of fun reading Patrick Nguyen’sOn the Offense articles over in the Sports Zone. His pictures and captions are pretty funny and he has that readability factor going for him. This is that hard-to-define mixture of font, layout, and writing style that makes it easy to sit down, plow through and enjoy what the writer is talking about. If you want another example, check out this week’s installment of the Bootleg. Hyatte’s column is also very good about this, in that it is very easy to find what you want to read and skip what doesn’t interest you.

Anyhow, I really like his thoughts on TO for two very important reasons – one, I agree with them and two, they made me think about the Owens saga in a different way than has been presented in the eternally banal sports media landscape.

You have to look at the Eagles as an organization that failed from a management standpoint. They tried to bring in a known volatile quantity in TO and change him, but ended up getting just one good season out of him and a divided team that isn’t making the playoffs this year. It can be argued that a stronger coach, say Bill Parcells, might have been able to get the star wideout to play by the rules and produce on the field. It also could be argued that the front office failed to create an environment and a contract that made their player happy and productive. I don’t believe, however, that one of the problems was coaching and management not being on the same page. This is one the things that brought down the Laker dynasty of the late 90’s. Phil Jackson was good enough to manage the egos of Kobe and Shaq to three world championships, but ultimately the General Manager’s favorable treatment of Kobe (among other factors, admittedly) helped to divide the team and organization. Kobe stayed, Phil retired, Shaq was traded to Miami, and both have not been back to the Finals since. Results are pending on Kobe and Phil’s second attempt at NBA glory, but the assignment now is more of a challenge for Jackson to rebuild a squad than to manage egos as he has done successfully in the past.

No, management and Coach Reid were both very adamant that TO follow team rules and honor his contract. Unfortunately, that hard line is ultimately what took the team apart in my opinion. With the Eagles unwilling to give an inch on a new contract, TO resorted to the same media-friendly antics that earned him a one-way pass out of San Francisco. And I have to believe that not only does TO enjoy the attention, but the attention is purposefully generated (by him or his agent or both) to achieve whatever result he desires.

The question that has to be asked, and is not being asked enough, is: was that line reasonable? Every sports columnist I’ve read has not addressed this issue directly, but implied that yes, TO should have honored the contract he signed and acted like a professional on the field. No questions asked. The sporting world would fall apart and contracts would be meaningless if all players followed the example of TO and his agent. Stuff like that.

What really happened is that TO signed a contract under a different agent that was a steal for the Eagles. He didn’t really know that he was being signed at less than market because, well, let’s face it, TO is not a finance major. His agent was supposed to handle that, but did not and was subsequently fired. Drew Rosenhaus was brought in to correct this matter, but could not get this done through a variety of avenues I’m sure he tried to pursue with the organization. Since nothing else worked, Philly fans were treated to an array of sit-ups in the driveway, shots at the team quarterback, fights with coaches and so on, which were all designed to get the attention of the team back to the negotiating table. Since the Eagles felt like a contract is a contract, they balked every time until the antics got out of hand and required a suspension.

It’s very easy for a columnist or anyone else with a computer and Internet access to cry foul. However, most of us will never see the type of money TO deals with and we don’t know what it’s like to have agents, friends, teammates, etc. all creating pressure on you to get the right salary. And the pressure is there because it’s big bucks and often fleeting big bucks at that. One injury and your chance to cash in is gone and even if you stay healthy, your spot on the roster is constantly being challenged by younger players.

I know most people get jealous when they find out that someone dumber than them is making more money at the same type of job. Think of how you would feel if you are TO and you find out that Mushin Muhammed signed a better deal with the Bears a year after you signed your contract. You obviously feel like a dumbhead, but what do you do about it? Grin and bear it? Try to change it? Tough to say. You and I are not TO.

Remember, the window of opportunity for these deals is often very slim as I described above. TO just happens to be very competitive about it and very energetic as well. The Eagles knew all of this when they brought him in, but decided to be hardliners with him.

So then the question becomes, is that how you handle this if you are the Philadelphia Eagles? You have a superstar player who helped your team finally reach the promised land last year. And let’s make that point even clearer – TO is the best player in the NFL at his position. It’s not even close. Not Steve Smith, Marvin Harrison or Chad Johnson. No way. He is also under a contract that is clearly below market. He has a volatile temperament and he wants it renegotiated.

I mean, honestly, did you ever think you had a chance, Philly? It may set a bad precedent to give into players who complain, but there are ways to manage it so that it doesn’t become common practice. You didn’t need hindsight to figure that the chaotic situation that has unfolded was a major risk when you decided to draw a line in the sand and make TO play out his contract. Live and learn, I suppose. And start trying to figure out which college wide receiver in next year’s draft can take his place in maybe 2 or 3 years. Judging from that drop on the 20 yard line against Dallas in the 4th quarter on Monday, it won’t be Reggie Brown.

Other Reading

I also enjoy the bile of this guy this guy and the politics of this girl over in the Culture Zone.

Give that Culture Zone some love, people.

At The Movies (and Music Store)

I don’t have time to get into everything in too much detail, but I hold the following opinions about the following pieces of pop culture:

Cam reviewed The Minstrel Showalready, but I wanted to chip in and voice my favorable opinion of that disc. I am very sure that it’s a better buy than Late Registration – everything from the production to the skits are superior – but, I’m not quite ready to say it is better than College Dropout. I think on its own, LR is a good disc, but compared to what Kanye is capable of, it was a letdown to me.

Plus, I never got the memo that told me I was supposed to be impressed by a guy named John Brion handling some of the production on LR. He did some work with Fiona Apple you say? Really? Swell. To me, that sounds like a move made to impress award show judges and not fans of true hip-hop. And we all know how slighted he felt by Gretchen Wilson. Just saying.

All I needed to know on this subject was explained to me a long time ago by A Tribe Called Quest – I never let a statue tell me how nice I am is how it went, I believe.

I made it out to the theater to see Saw II. If you think watching wrestling requires some suspension of disbelief, just try not to click your brain into the ON position while you watch this flick. It’s great if you don’t let the brain interfere (and ruin the experience for those watching next to you). I’d love to read Mr. Kennedy’s take on this film over in the Movie Zone.

Radio Head

Let’s talk wrestling, shall we?

A big stink popped up during the week over a talk radio host’s idiotic comments on the death of Eddie Guerrero. Apparently, Mr. Colin Cowherd felt like his death was not newsworthy and probably the result of steroids, drugs and who knows what else.

The second I heard about this and saw the post from Hevia, I groaned. I groaned because I figured this guy’s ploy to get attention would work and sure enough there was soon a call to send emails and threaten him with boycotts and such.

Look, that’s what the purpose was in the first place. My best guess is that this guy probably doesn’t even hold an opinion about wrestling and has no real knowledge of who Eddie Guerrero is. He’s just yammering to get attention and in the sports radio world, any publicity is good publicity. Even if it’s ignorant. Jim Rome does it all the time with professional bowling.

That apology ESPN issued on his behalf was completely empty and it doesn’t change a thing. The only way to truly combat people like Cowherd is to ignore him or file a complaint with someone who has the authority to make him change his practices. Otherwise, you’re just doing what he wants you to do.

If you need proof, ask yourself if you had even heard of Colin Cowherd before this incident happened. Shoot, I’ve probably done too much just by writing this article.

And I feel very bad about it. Hopefully, some of this will help for the future though.

FLEA equals FUN

I love reading FLEA’s column, even though I tend to disagree with about 100% of everything he says. That is ok though, because I thrive on good debate and he is one of the best about putting his opinions out there for everyone to see. I’m happy I get to follow him in the Monday rotation because that means I’ll always have something to talk about.

One of the rare agreements is now in place since he decided to dump his WWE stock. He has argued for it as a reliable stock in the past, but now confirms that it’s simply a dog with little upside at the moment.

The reason is simple demographics. WWE actually runs a pretty clean organization and enjoys some luxuries that other companies would kill for (and I’ll get to this in a minute). They do a pretty good job of exploiting good business opportunities (DVDs and the current European tour jump to mind, which FLEA has mentioned) and boasts an extremely loyal core fanbase.

So what’s the problem? The deal is, this wrestling business only prospers when the elusive casual fan starts watching and bumps up attendance, ratings, sales and so on. But in this short-attention span society, finding ways to lure these people in are hard to come by. WWE has tried nostalgia (Hogan, Foley), outrageous acts (Katie Vick), bringing in new guys (pick a rookie) and catering to the core fanbase (Benoit and Eddie title reigns) over the past 4 years to no avail.

This casual fan isn’t coming back until they feel like it and that is going to be a long time. It’s all pretty cyclical. Right now, we are in a Doink period where there was major success, but the casual fan has moved on to…who knows what. Gameshows, reality TV, sports, trying a new drug, playing the pass out game, shooting at things, shooting at each other. There’s a lot to do out there. Meanwhile, the company is cycling through an array of ideas to get them back.

They’ll come back, but more than likely it will be during a period years from now where they are flipping through the channels, see some wrestling going on, and the thought hits – gee, I remember how I watched this when I was younger. They’ll get into it and get their friends back into it and it will be fun again. Until it gets old and they move on to something else.

That’s how it worked for me anyway. I’ve chosen to stick around since then, but it’s not as fun when it was outrageously popular and I could talk about it openly without fear of moronic remarks. But I’ll be there when it gets back and if I’m smart, maybe I’ll own some stock this time around (and sell it as soon as it starts getting old again).

See, he makes one stock move and I got a good page going out of just that. Let’s shoot for two.

Johnny Unite-Us

Couple his Wrestling Dead Pool with this stinging rant from Test on Eddie’s death and you have the ingredients for a good wrestling debate.

FLEA’s dead pool is not an attack on the behavior of professional wrestlers. It took me a long time to figure that one out, because it’s so easy to miss the real point as wrestlers drop dead left and right and the jokes almost write themselves. It’s really a cynical swipe at wrestlers and their inability to stand up for themselves and do something constructive about it. This is much more in line with FLEA’s personality as I have come to understand it from years of reading his stuff – nobody is going to give you anything in this world, you have to grow some balls, go out and make it happen yourself.

Wrestlers like Test are correct to point out that the industry fosters a completely unhealthy and overly demanding working environment for its employees. The risk of injury is high, the hours on the road are many, and the number of years you can expect to do this kind of thing is low. They understand the injuries because, like Test, they have experienced them and their ramifications. Namely, loss of job.

So why does it continue to exist? The industry is chewing up wrestlers and not providing any means for a healthy life after work. Well, part of the reason is just as FLEA sees it – they haven’t talked about it and had a chance to organize and do something about it.

My cynicism and understanding stops right there though. I understand that the reason they won’t talk is because they can’t. One of those luxuries I mentioned above is that WWE operates as a monopoly and can therefore control what is said and done by its workforce. If you don’t like it, you can work for TNA or sell insurance. And most of these guys have invested a lot of their lives to make it to WWE. The fed exercises similar control over insider information, which was more troublesome when WCW was around. Notice how all the juicy gossip has seemed to go away since the merger?

A subreason to why they can’t talk is because WWE has wisely chosen to placate some of the more potentially subversive voices on the matter. Do you think they’d have a hard time ignoring HHH if he wanted workers to unionize? Well, he is on the company payroll at the corporate level now. How about the Undertaker? That guy could get the locker room to eat his feces if he wanted. But there is no way he is going to give up the contract and schedule WWE has afforded him. Ditto Hulk. Austin is probably the most realistic threat I can think of, but he definitely marches to the beat of his own drummer more often than not. Not a unifying voice at all, really. I don’t see it out of Foley, HBK or any of the others that jump to mind either.

So, I appreciate and agree with what Test said, but I am not sure anything will get done. I think the timing could have been right though because Eddie was a well-liked wrestler and a movement could have been generated in his name to make conditions better for these workers. A lot of voices like Test’s are needed, but in the end someone very influential and from inside the company has to speak up before anything happens. This is the reason why I am not a fan of Tiger Woods, by the way. Tiger right now has the leverage to change A TON of things that are screwed up about the game of golf. Lack of minorities, all-male country clubs, you name it. But instead of doing anything about it, he happily collects his checks and even worse, dodges the issues. I firmly believe he came up with that “cabalinasian” or whatever that joke term for his ethnicity he made up was to help himself sidestep the issue of race in the sport. After all, why should he do something about black people in golf if he isn’t black himself? Then again, why take on the risk if you don’t have to and other golfers are literally throwing hot women your way to make things easier on you? Dude didn’t even show up at the wedding. He was out playing golf. Imagine that.

I think a real opportunity is being missed here and all it would take is a little gumption by a select few individuals to start a dialogue about it. It’s not easy, but when you want to create change, it rarely ever is.

I remain in the camp that wants to see a union happen however it may because I’m a fan of guys like Guererro. I don’t like seeing bright stars burn out before they have to. I’d like to believe that his death left behind even more than just great memories.

The Little Things

Speaking of memories and Eddie, he gets his own Little Things section and I think most of you would agree that this is the most fitting way for me to pay my respects. These are the moments and little things I remember most as a fan. RIP, sir.

1. Give ’em The Boot

One of the best Eddie moments I can recall was his ingenious escape from the Angle Lock at Wrestlemania XX. The move, which involved Eddie loosening the laces on his boot so he could slide out when Angle cinched in the hold, was that rare mix of cunning and hilarity typical of Eddie’s personality.

2. Addicted To The Heat

The tribute show on Monday got this one, but I’ll always remember the Eddie turn on Chyna for the same reasons as above. Pretending to help his Mamacita after a shot from Angle, Eddie “accidentally” won the Intercontinental Title from her in the process. The apologetic hug backstage was especially memorable as he grinned at the camera.

Do you remember how this turn ended up causing him to do a run-in at her Playboy photo shoot? And how his increasingly possessive behavior became mixed with apologies and nice gestures? Until it all fell apart when he got caught showering the Godfather’s Hos? This was the unique formula he was working with Rey and Batista over on SmackDown and it was just as enjoyable now as it was then.

3. Crowd Favorite

The Great American Bash was held in Norfolk, VA in 2004. I had the opportunity to attend that event live, which turned out to be the last time Eddie would hold the belt.

I remember coming away very amazed at how firmly the crowd was behind Eddie. I suppose I wasn’t following SmackDown all that closely, but they were firmly behind him in his match with JBL. I will admit freely that I was pulling for JBL because I liked his character (and still do), but that reaction will stick with me for a long time given how things turned out.

I remember the match very clearly as well with the red and green lights confusing everyone, the blood, and Eddie putting a nice cowbell shot to JBL’s nuts during the match.

4. Edge of Sanity

I remember Eddie all the way back to his WCW days. In particular, his saga with Chavo where he taught him the wholesome life lesson that is “Cheat to Win”. The matches where Chavo had to wear the “Eddie Guerrero is my favorite wrestler” t-shirt as well as cheating to win. Eddie would hilariously turn his back on matches where Chavo would hesitate to cheat. Ultimately, the conflict ended up driving Chavo insane and the two became combatants.

Bash at the Beach ’98 saw Chavo facing off with Stevie Ray before Eddie wrestled him in a hair versus hair match. Chavo, with his inner goofball rapidly emerging, solved this problem by submitting to a handshake before the match.

In the ensuing match against Eddie, the two hammed it up. Chavo bit into Eddie’s butt to start the match and the finish saw him finally snap by shaving his own head. Eddie crept away from the ring in fear over what he had created as Chavo enthusiastically plowed through his hair. This is what turned Eddie heel for a majority of the WCW audience and gave us Chavo and Pepe.

The chemistry between the two was undeniable and Chavo’s heartfelt promo on Monday’s tribute show was a testament to that bond.

5. Who’s Your Papi?

The last time I saw Eddie wrestle live was SummerSlam 2005. The match was the culmination of his feud with Rey Mysterio over the custody of his son Dominic. A pretty dumb angle, but Eddie kept it entertaining with his wrestling and promos. The cell phone capture below should show Eddie dangling from the spot where the custody papers hung from the ceiling. It was the match of the night, featuring a couple of stiff spots with the ladders.

These little things are how I will remember Eddie. A wrestler with a unique personality, excellent wrestling skills, and a certain knack for keeping the audience entertained no matter what the circumstances.

That’s it for me.

Haley