Thank you for choosing to read The GRUT Report. You will not be disappointed.
This week, we will be discussing the most entertaining wrestler in the world at the moment, Samoa Joe.. We will discuss the most recent move by TNA, hiring Sting. Like everyone else on the planet, I will then comment on Ric Flair’s recent woes. We will conclude with part 1 of Bret and Shawn in Their Seventies, an original play in at least 5 parts.
SAMOA JOE IS A FUTURE HOUSEHOLD NAME.
Looking into the future is not an easy thing. Many of us pegged Taz as Steve Austin’s heir apparent. Many of us believed that CM Punk would take the WWE by storm. How many people predicted that Rhyno would go from champion to jobber and back to champion? When we were creaming our pants over Shelton Benjamin and Charlie Haas, who would have picked the Deacon Batista and jobber John Cena as the leaders of the next generation of wrestlers?
There is no such thing as a sure thing in the wrestling business, or really in any business. For every correctly predicted future trend like the I-Pod, there is an invention that will revolutionize cities like the Segway Scooter, now a national joke. So how can I say with a good deal certainty, especially after I spent the better part of a year bashing TNA, that TNA will rise to prominence thanks to a somewhat short wrestler who has his foreign sounding nationality in his name?
Well, Samoa Joe makes it easy. First of all, he is a proven commodity. Say whatever you will about CM Punk, it was Samoa Joe who made Ring of Honor a viable company. It was Samoa Joe who brought it from a typical indie fed with an interesting hook to the third brand in wrestling. His reign as champion turned the somewhat interested wrestling fans who happened to live in the area and saw an advertisement into hardcore Ring of Honor devotees. His style of making even the most basic of rest holds look like they hurt (most probably because they really do) and his intimidating size (thanks to fighting with smaller wrestlers) coupled with an incredible arsenal of moves (including some aerial moves he should not be able to do) made him the most exciting showman not on television, and people took notice.
Secondly, he works as both a face and a heel. Last month, just a short while into his contract with TNA, he was one of the most popular faces on the program. He looked to be working his way into a program with Christopher Daniels, one of the most reviled heels. One beat down later and he’s getting booed out of the building and feuding with the most popular face in the roster. He went from pumping up the crowd with dancing to standing at the ring entrance, a bloody towel and an evil glare on his face and he is completely convincing in both roles. Ask Ric Flair. Ask Bret Hart. Ask Shawn Michaels. Ask Hulk Hogan. Ask Jerry Lawler. Ask Kurt Angle. Ask Steve Austin. Ask the Rock. The best are always able to be the most popular or the most hated man on the roster. That’s why Jeff Jarrett will never see his name up on this list. Same goes for Triple H. Same for Bill Goldberg.
Thirdly, he is young. I know there are a lot of Batista haters out there, but I happen to love the guy. He looks dominant, he can wrestle a decent match and I absolutely LOVE his promos. He’s laid back without acting like a stoner, just a calm conversationalist who can rip your spine out and eat your brain. He’d be the perfect template for the next generation of wrestling stars, but he’s old. He’s old and now he’s injured. If you’ve ever seen a Samoa Joe promo, you know that he’s a calm talker with bolts of intensity. He can wrestle an amazing match, and as I’ll cover in the fourth point he looks dominant. He has all the qualities Batista has and more and he’s still so young. He can lead the company for the next decade.
Finally, he made the right decision in going to TNA. Samoa Joe went to a company where his bulky size will make him look intimidating regardless of his height. He’s big enough to physically intimidate Christian Cage and Jeff Jarrett, and small enough to look like the underdog against Monty Brown and Abyss. In WWE he’d look like a midget every single night. Hulk Hogan’s appeal was not only in being the dominant American monster against the Macho Man and Roddy Piper, but also in looking like a mouse against Andre and The Undertaker and Yokozuna. Samoa Joe is the perfect size to have this Hogan effect in TNA.
The right size, the right age, the ability to credibly play both a heel and a face and already a proven commodity. Samoa Joe has every single tool he needs to elevate TNA to the next level. The only potential negative is his name. Buffy The Vampire Slayer was an outstanding show, but the title sounded silly to most people. They prejudged it before they even saw it. Same thing goes for Samoa Joe. I’m sure he is very proud of his heritage, but couldn’t he give himself a famous Samoan last name? It is preconception that is all that stands between Joe and national recognition. It would be a tragedy for a part of his life that he is so proud of to be the reason his success is limited.
THE OLD MAN THEY CALL STING
Focusing on Sting will ruin it. If he is a centerpiece, he will destroy any chance TNA has to make it to the mainstream. Whatever the initial nostalgia appeal is, it will wear away just as Hogan’s did, just as Macho Man’s did. It will stall the pushes of Monty Brown, Christian Cage, and Raven. It will siphon funds that could be used to bring in Brian Danielson, Christy Hemme, Charlie Haas, ect. TNA might land a few more names, but money will be an issue from this point out. WWE casts off Eugene, maybe he doesn’t want to make less money than Sting. The Rock definitely won’t.
Bringing in Sting and paying him that much money can’t be good for anyone. How much of a rub can you get off of a mid-40’s year old who hasn’t been in the spotlight in years and years? Who has been clamoring for the epic Jeff Jarrett vs. Sting feud? Raven vs. Sting? Wait, they’ll both be faces, so even if we wanted it, forget about it. They already fed Monty to Christian, so they’ll probably feed Abyss to Sting. Wait, Abyss lost to Sabu. Hmm. I guess Monty has to lose to Sting first, so that’s it for Monty. Then after Jeff devalues Christian by beating him, which has to happen now that it’s all about Sting vs. Jeff, Sting can then beat Jeff and defend against Abyss (after Abyss defeats Monty Brown or Christian, probably both at the same time). Then, to really justify that kind of money, he has to go over Samoa Joe. The entire roster crushed by a man who doesn’t particularly inspire me to change the channel.
Let’s say I’m being paranoid. It’s a fair if untrue point. Let’s say none of that happens, that nobody has to look that bad for Sting to get over. The investment is still not worth it. Sting is not the wrestler he once was. I’m sure he can still go, but he’s older and jaded to the business. TNA should be about a new product with traces of familiarity. It was Steve Austin, Mike Tyson and the Rock who brought back the WWE, not Bret Hart and Shawn Michaels. One major celebrity, two breakout stars and a killer storyline. Well, TNA already has Christian Cage and Samoa Joe. The $500,000 could have been used to lure in a Terrell Owens. for a special referee spot. That means actual media, it means ESPN calling you a disgraceful joke and everyone tuning in to see it.
I understand the need for a name. Names bring in money. However, there is a reason that celebrities are hired to open up malls. William Shatner opens a mall, and all the Trekkies who came to see him find themselves shopping in the mall. Tell me, what would happen if they had hired the most famous cashier in the mall to be the guy cutting the ribbon? The only people who would show up are those who already knew he existed, and they’re probably going to be there anyway because they’re mall fans. I mean, they know who the most famous cashier in the mall is! They gotta love the mall.
Sting isn’t even the most famous cashier in the mall. He’s got his picture up on the Employee of the Month wall, but it has gathered dust. Our memories have faded. When we look up at the wall, we smile when we see Ric Flair. When we see his picture, we remember our ridiculous Bret Hart sunglasses. We mutter, “OOOH YEAH” when we see the Macho Man. We feel like a kid again when we see Hulk Hogan. We can still hear the sound of glass when we see Stone Cold, remember the catch phrases of Rocky, and now we feel an incredible sense of pride when we see Eddie. But Sting… Sting belongs up there with them, but he doesn’t deserve the same reaction. He never did. We react to him as we did to the Lugers, the Benoits, the Lesnars, the Goldbergs, the Big Shows. The ones who were so good, so much fun to watch, so impressive, yet they can never be considered among the best of all time.
To pay an old man this much money, to stake your future on an also ran, it is a decision TNA will regret making. I say this as a wrestling fan, I say this as a TNA fan, and most of all, I say this as a Sting fan. I wish he went to the McMahon’s and had a nice six month run with Triple H. No pressure, just a nice little nostalgia tour before going home. No pressure. A few bat points, a couple of splashes, a backstage run in with Flair, fun stuff. Now he has the weight of a company on his back and the resentment of those who couldn’t wait to carry it. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, “Good luck with all THAT.”
RIC FLAIR HAS PROBLEMS
And they’ve all caught up to him at once. He must have known it would eventually happen, and so I have one thing to say to him:
Congrats, Ric. It’s over.
That wasn’t an insult! I wasn’t talking about your career or your legion of fans deserting you, the former might happen sooner than later but the latter never will. It’s the worrying, the fretting, the sorta sleepless nights where you just knew in the pit of your stomach that everyone would find out about this eventually. You’d be revealed as a joke, as a fraud, as not only not “the man” but as less than a man. Tax cheat, wife beater, road rager, philanderer, the list probably goes on. Things you’ve done and regretted and you just knew would one day come back to bite you on the ass. Hey buddy, we’ve all been there. We’re all there now.
You’re the lucky one.
You’re free, Ric. All of the things we were never supposed to know about you, we now know. Not only have your friends and family found out, but your fans have too. There’s no reason to pretend anymore, to hide it, to feel like a phony. All those things you wished you could say about what you’ve done, who you are, now you can. All you have to worry about now is how others view you.
You don’t need my forgiveness, you’ve done nothing to me, but I forgive you anyway. I forgive you on behalf of everyone who found out about this news. It’s possible the government won’t be so forgiving, nor your wife, nor the guy you road raged on. But these things that you’ve done, as much as it’s none of my business, I now know all about them. And I forgive you for them.
I’m sorry, you just can’t screw up Ric. You can’t make us hate you. I’m sure a terrorist act or something major might do it, but no personal life issues are going to make us turn against you. Love might be a strong word, but we love you for how you’ve entertained us, how you never stopped trying to impress us, how you left it all out there every night for so many years. You need money, you let us know. You need anything, you let us know. We do not forget our heroes, and you are our hero. No amount of unpaid taxes will ever change that.
Good luck Mr. Flair, and enjoy your freedom.
Bret and Shawn in Their Seventies, Part 1
There is a large, 70 year old man with long grey hair sitting at a bar. The young bartender is cleaning a glass with a rag, obviously bored with the low turnout. The clock on the wall suggests that it is 2:00 AM. The door opens, and a shorter old man with long white hair walks into the bar. He is talking on his cell phone. The man sitting at the bar doesn’t react to the shorter man.
Old Man 2: Don’t worry about me, I’m fine. Honey, no, come on! Trust me, even if I wanted to I wouldn’t be able to handle a rat. You’re paranoid. I’m at the bar down the street from the hotel, McGuinties or something like that. McGuinties, right?
Old Man 2: Yeah, McGuinties. I’m just going to have a few drinks, see if anyone else turns up. Just get a good night’s sleep and have a good flight, okay baby? Okay. You can trust me. Honey, I’m not that man anymore. I’m not. There’s only one other guy in here, and unless I’m screwing the bartender or… (Old Man 2 takes a good look at Old Man 1 and realizes who it is.) Honey, I need to go. I’ll see you tomorrow, okay? I love you very much. No, it’s nothing. Just something long overdue. Goodnight.
Old Man 2 hangs up the cell phone. He sits down at the bar, a few stools from Old Man 1. Old Man 2 signals for the bartender and takes out his wallet.
Old Man 2: Hey, kid, what’s your name?
Bartender: Name’s Jim, sir. What can I get for you?
Old Man 2: I’m fine with O’Douls, any non-alcoholic beer would be great. But hey, here’s two hundred dollars, and I’d like you to take care of my friend over there for the rest of the night, okay?
Bartender: Yeah, wow, um, I think we have some O’Douls in the basement.
Old Man 1: You pocket that tip. I can pay for my own drinks.
Old Man 2: Come on, I insist.
Old Man 1: You serve me one drop of alcohol that he paid for and I swear to God I’ll break your neck kid. I will snap it like a twig if you put one drop of alcohol on his tab in front of me.
Old Man 2: Fine, no alcohol. You want a soda? Some seltzer and lemon? What are you drinking these days, Bret?
Old Man 1: Whiskey. Whiskey you had nothing to do with.
Bartender: So, um, okay. You want the money back?
Old Man 2: Keep it. You gonna get me my beer or what?
Bartender: O’Doul’s. Right. Okay.
The bartender goes around the corner. The sound of a man going down the stairs is heard. Old Man 2 smirks at the man we now know to be named Bret.
Old Man 2: You know what? You want to harbor a grudge, be that way. You didn’t have to threaten the kid.
Bret: You care about people other than yourself all of a sudden?
Old Man 2: It’s not all of a sudden, but I wouldn’t expect you to know that. I’m not the man I once was.
Bret: Really? I might have been surprised if you hadn’t been screaming it to the high f*cking heavens for the past 30 years.
Old Man 2: I’m sorry if my trying to better others by explaining to them…
Bret: You’re not better, Shawn. You’re just more self righteous. I despised evangelicals before you became one, and that just fueled the fire.
Shawn: Well, now you’re just being a jerk.
Bret: You’d know.
Shawn: Yes. Yes I would.
Bartender: Offstage One second! They’re in one of these crates!
Shawn: Take your time! Kid is opening up crates for me and you’re going to break his neck if he serves you a free drink.
Bret: Nothing is free with you.
Shawn: What am I going to do, Bret? Am I going to buy you some free drinks and lull you into a false sense of security so I can pin you when you’re not expecting it?
Bret: Knowing you, you’ll run up a huge tab and then pretend to go to the bathroom and instead go to your hotel, screwing me again.
Shawn: Knees are shot. Back is finished. I’m a little too old to be climbing out bathroom windows.
Bret: Oh, I have faith you’ll find some way to completely screw me over.
Shawn: Paranoid old bastard. Hey, how are your kids?
Shawn: Dallas must be making you so proud. I’m proud of him and he’s my “arch enemy’s” son.
Bret: He and Cameron work very well together.
Shawn: Yeah. There’s nothing like seeing your son out do his old man, you know?
Bret: Dallas can make anyone look like a million bucks.
Shawn: That’s a bit of a cheap shot.
Bret: I’m just stating facts.
Shawn: I come here, I offer to buy you some drinks, I compliment your son and you piss on mine?
Bret: You gonna do something about it?
Shawn: You’d love that.
Bret: I’ve been waiting since Montreal.
Shawn: Montreal. You’re something, Bret.
Bret: I’m right here. You can even have the first swing.
Shawn: I’m not going to attack you.
Bret: Still a pussy.
Shawn: That’s right, because I’ve always been a pussy, right?
Bret: That’s right.
Shawn: You’ve got so much nerve.
Bret: So do something about it!
Shawn starts to stand up, but then the bartender come back upstairs with two six packs of O’Douls. He places one in front of Shawn.
Bartender: Here you go, one O’Douls and we’ve got plenty stocked.
Shawn: It’s warm. Do me a favor and put it on ice for a while, okay?
Bartender: I have a chilled glass.
Shawn: Let the beer cool, kid.
Bartender: Of course, no problem.
Bret and Shawn stare angrily at one another. Shawn smirks.
Bartender: Is there going to be a problem here?
Shawn: No, no problem. I’m amazed kid.
Shawn: You have no idea who you’re serving right now, do you?
Bartender: Are you guys wrestlers? I know that convention is this weekend.
Shawn: Wrestlers? Kid, you are in the presence of artists. We were the finest of our generation. Others made more money, others sold more tickets, but no one performed the craft at a higher level than the Excellence of Execution, Bret “the Hitman” Hart and the Showstopper, the Heart Break Kid, Shawn Michaels.
Bartender: Oh! Which one are you?
Shawn: I’m not Bret. I’m pretty damn far from Bret.
Bret: Kid, you wanna hear a story?
Shawn: Oh, I think I should tell it. He’s pretty biased.
Bret: I’m telling the story. Kid, I was the most popular wrestler in the world.
Shawn: Canada is hardly the world.
Bret: Shut up.
Shawn: Hey, just keeping things fair and balanced.
Bret: I had a choice between the company I had been with all my life and the competition that was trying to destroy that company. The competition was offering me more money than any professional wrestler is worth, more money than I knew what to do with. On the other hand, my company was offering me a much lower figure, but they were also offering me what was pretty much a life time contract and creative control. Creative control means that I decide what happens to my character, I decide how I win and lose. Meanwhile, I had just lost the title in the biggest event of the year to that prick sitting right there…
Shawn: Of course, he didn’t job cleanly. He needed to set it up that if he had thirty more seconds in regulation, he would have beaten me. We both came out looking strong.
Bret: I’m telling the story. So I lose to this son of a bitch I hate more than any person on the planet, someone who couldn’t care less about the company, someone who’d rather feign injury than lay down…
Bartender: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Shawn: Too much wrestling terminology. Don’t worry, this is more for me than you.
Bret: And you know what I do? I take the lifetime contract. But this business, it’s not about good guys and bad guys all of a sudden. Shades of grey, right Shawn? So I form a little faction with my family, and we’re standing up for morality and decency…
Shawn: And Canada.
Bret: And we’re fighting against his little faction which stood for pornography and racism…
Shawn: It was just that one sketch. Kid, we didn’t stand for racism.
Bret: And guess who was booked, guess who was made to look like the bad guy?
Shawn: We were both bad guys. Stone Cold and Undertaker were the only real faces back then.
Bret: So, I speak up. I tell Vince, our boss, guy I looked at like he was a second father to me, that I want to exercise my creative control and be a good guy again. Stop working with this asshole. Vince tells me the company is going through financial trouble and he needs to release me from my contract.
Bartender: I thought it was a life time contract?
Bret: It was.
Bartender: That’s cold.
Bret: It gets worse. So I call up the competition and they offer me a very large amount of money. I take it, I’m out.
Bartender: Good. Hey, look, if you were unhappy and the competition was offering you more money, it worked out well for you. Right?
Shawn: HAH! Sorry, but no. No it did not.
Bret: You laugh one more time, I’ll shove your smile up your ass.
Shawn: I wasn’t laughing at you, it was the kid’s reaction.
Bret: The problem is that I’m currently the champion, and I have to lose the title. You think they ask me to drop it to Stone Cold? I mean, that would make sense. Top heel loses to the top face.
Shawn: Heel means bad guy, face good guy. He wasn’t the top heel though. That was me.
Bret: In your goddamned dreams. No, they want me to lose it in Canada to that piece of crap who wipes his ass with the Canadian flag.
Shawn: So, Bret reluctantly agreed to do so because as much as he hated me, he respected the business that much more. I pinned him, the next night on tv our company gave him a beautiful send off with a very tasteful and emotional video package. The same night, the competition announced Bret Hart was coming over. Riding this wave of good will from both companies, Bret Hart quickly became WCW champion and led them into a golden era of sports entertainment. The end.
End of Part 1. Part 2 coming next month.
Thank you for reading the report. I hope you enjoyed it. See you next month.