The Anti-Pulse

Huh.

If you haven’t read the last Anti-Pulse yet then you should probably go and do just that. Do it by clicking this conveniently placed link. It more or less sets the tone for the future of this column, which may or may not be around for much longer in some sort of recognisible form. We’re definitely in ‘endgame’ territory now, but nobody ever said such a place was only open for tourists.

Trust me, it’ll be worth your time. The one and only Mister Ross Williams told his wife “if you read one wrestling column this year, read this one”.

The typo-fuelled accuracy of the enigma known mainly as WeirdSWM says “best coloumn u have ever written and very well-stated, well thought-out and logical reasoning against TNA ( which i agree with, it is on a downward slope and has been ever since about a year ago ) and WWE ( no end in sight for insulting the audience but most WWE fans are just gonna sit there and take it, because there is no mainstream alternative and, for the more stereotypical of them, they are just too damn dumb to think for themselves ) As for ROH, well, i don’t know about their dvd’s or anything but i tend to watch it on the Wrestling Channel in the UK and download the matches from Kazaa-Lite. Don’t ya find it funny that TNA steal everyone from ROH that gets a good following and then ROH just builds up someone new into the position every time? There is a smart company.”

The discourse from the dissenters displaying disappointing disconnection would appear to come from Fitos Yialouros, who helpfully chimes in with “hey man GET A LIFE !!!!

I MEAN GET A REAL LIFE

YOU IDIOT!!!!!!”

Mmm, convincing.

Putting on an altogether more sensible case for the opposition is our very own Mr Bright Side, Steve Murray. If you would follow this particular conveniently placed link then you can check out his latest article and get a taster of things to come. Steve suggested doing a special edition of his column in which we could go over some of the points I raised in the last edition of mine (links! convenience!). I agreed, and the results were recently posted for the world to view in this one-off Look On The Anti-Bright Side special. Check it out and decide whose side you belong on.

Yes, it’s civil war here on Inside Pulse. Thankfully, the emphasis is on the c-word. No, not that other c-word. That one is reserved for me to use on all the many people that disagree with me and are too futile to express it in a well-reasoned way. Steve was civil enough to give some very good reasons, becoming the Xavier to my Magneto.

I’m not sure if something can be unrelated when there’s a segue involved but, anyway, I’ll just segue onto this unrelated note and let you all know that you don’t need to worry. X-Men 3 is a good movie. However, in keeping with the theme of life, opinions are varied and in no short supply, particularly here at Inside Pulse.

John Cavanagh was disappointed but nonplussed, and right in singling out Juggernaut’s cringeworthy dialogue.

Scott Sawitz was disgruntled with the lack of character exploration but rightly impressed with the action scenes.

Matt Morrison was disconnected along with Bryan Singer’s subtle touches but right on the money with McKellen’s and Stewart’s marvellous performances.

The average score from those three reviews works out at 5.1 out of 10. Personally, I’d give it a solid 7. No, it is not as good as the second one. However, there is plenty here to enjoy, including the most spectacular actions scenes and special effects out of all the recent spate of comic book movies. It should be taken as a flipside to the first movie, which could at times be too slow for its own good. The sheer number of characters involved, most of them never before seen in the trilogy, means that those looking for a grand exploration of their motives and psyches are watching the wrong movie (and should really have figured that out before buying the damn ticket). The good news is that, despite certain ones being shortchanged, none of the characters are mistreated or wrongly depicted in their scenes. Angel could have used at least one more scene with his father to justify his inclusion, but that fanboy favourite Kitty Pryde is concisely and precisely written, as is Beast (just try not to think about him standing on a bunch of rakes). All in all, there is plenty in this movie that you can enjoy if you let yourself do it. I think that’s probably what Steve’s main argument about the current wrestling scene will be, but that doesn’t change the fact that Johnny Laurinaitis is the Brett Ratner to Brett Ratner’s Bryan Singer.

Oh, and just one more thing. Aaron Stanford – a.k.a. that bloke that played Pyro – deserves far more credit than he has currently received. Most attention given to the actors goes to Jackman, Berry, Stewart and McKellen, which is fair enough, but Stanford was again impressive here and should be given at least some plaudits for his performance. According to IMDB his next movie also stars Zooey Deschanel, which means much prettyness, and is directed by the bloke that did Wonderfalls, which means much laughyness. Or something. It’s called Flakes, so somebody remind me when it comes out as I’ll probably forget about it.

Talking about forgetting, I just realised that I haven’t the faintest idea what happened on Raw or Smackdown this week. Time to go read some reports…

Damn, there’s a lot of reports around this place. Tom Pandlich, Carlos Zanur and The Rabble for Raw. Troy Hepple and Michael Fitzgerald. They would usually be joined by Eric S, but he is currently busy preparing to make a small portion of the United States Army know what it is meant to be doing. Oh, and there’s even something called the Rabblecast available for consumption now. Very generous, each and every one of them.

Okay, so Raw seemed to consist mainly of further delaying the announcement of the next Raw General Manager, recycling the Fake Undertaker gimmick for his brother, adding Melina to the roster, officially announcing the permanent return of ECW, officially announcing that Kurt Angle will be there permanently, officially announcing Edge as the #1 contender to the WWE Championship, and continuing to take one small step for storylines and one giant leap for inanity along the road to the DX reunion.

Meanwhile, Smackdown was focused chiefly on brainwashing everybody with the King Booker moniker, officially adding Mysterio/Sabu, Angle/somebody and probably Tazz/Lawler to One Night Stand, turning Vito into a transvestite, adding Ashley to the roster, introducing Michelle McCool, stupidly trying to push Mark Henry, unfathomably trying to push Khali, inexplicably trying to push a leprechaun, and letting Mizanin ramble on more frequently than is strictly necessary.

All of which begs the important question of “will any of this lead some place I would want to go to?”

For the most part the answer is as unsurprising as it is emphatic – no.

The lack of a Raw General Manager just continues to have the knock-on effect of making the office of the General Manager seem even more worthless than it already has been – particularly on Smackdown, which is so insignificant that neither Vince nor Shane McMahon can be bothered to turn up there. Then again, the continuing need to rely on that old crutch of an on-air authority figure just so the writers don’t have to try so hard to, you know, write storylines in which conflict between characters comes solely from the characters themselves. Don’t strain yourself, you might catch that nasty creativity virus that has long been rumoured to exist. Give me yearly appearances from Jack Tunney and his magnificently prolonged ability to mispronounce the names of whatever wrestler Hogan was fighting.

The appearance of FaKane suggests that the writers might have tried to generate the creativity virus via some sort of elaborate chemical experiment. I know that I needed to imbibe as many chemicals of dubious legality in order to survive the Underfaker months back in ’94, otherwise I had to choose between turning the TV off and kicking the shit out of it. Fifty-fifty chances can be rather expensive at times. Anyway, the news mill suggests that Vince wasn’t too impressed with FaKane/wasn’t high enough to enjoy it on that level, so the whole thing might quietly be dropped. Perhaps he should file that one under “What The Fuck Did You Expect, Asshole?”. Besides, if you’re still holding out hope that See No Evil might somehow nab a few new viewers then how can you expect them to possibly give a shit about what Kane looked like nine years ago? Actually, I wouldn’t mind FaKane if they just started playing it for laughs. Roll on Adam West Kane, who can dance with Snitsky. Bring forth Tim Burton Kane, who can be accompanied by a range of exploding penguins. Learn to tolerate Joel Schumacher Kane and his Big Red Nipples. Culminate in American Psycho Kane, who has to return some video tapes. Hire Leslie Nielsen to find the real Kane. Begone, sense! Begone!

Employing Johnny Nitro doesn’t mean a sodding thing, regardless of what brand he happens to be on. The only interest any reasonable person took in MNM was Melina. However, no reasonable person could be reasonably expected to work in WWE, where they cling to the unreasonable idea of a move to Raw being a promotion… and given Melina’s attitude problems, why is promoting her the reasonable thing to do? (Secret answer: when you can’t trade Batista’s dick to Raw)

Vengeance continues to slowly take shape, with Edge getting another crack at the title. His opponent will be Cena and the title will be the WWE Championship and don’t even dare to think differently. They’re listening… Not that Edge will win the belt anyway. The pleasure of taking the title away from Cena must surely lie solely with Triple H and it must surely take place at Unforgiven after he teams with Shawn Michaels to beat the Spirit Squad at Vengeance and the McMahons at SummerSlam. We keep hearing reports of how WWE is booking purely on a week-by-week basis until ECW is firmly re-formed but this surely cannot happen any other way. Not without common sense imploding. Not that common sense has ever been especially common. Not that any of this tickles my fancy, nor do any realistic alternatives. Not that this matters. My fancy is better spent elsewhere. We’re getting there…

Booker T has been consistently enjoyable ever since his aborted United States Title run late last year. However, one of the important things about that was the lack of attention anybody in WWE seemed to pay to him and Sharmell. Now that they have him getting lavish Kingly attention and lengthy, hyperbolic introductions from William Regal, it seems to be but a matter of time before he takes a run-up to his throne and jumps that shark Sabu-style. With a bit of luck he could work this into his act first.

Speaking of Sabu, his match with Rey Mysterio does nothing for me. Perhaps they could turn it into an Appointment Card For Knee Surgery On A Pole Match instead. Might raise a few chuckles.

Tazz/Lawler? Seriously? SummerSlam 2000 called, it said that six years in the future the world should have been in a better state.

Transvestite Vito is okay but Bisexual Orlando Jordan is too much? Exactly how do the WWE producers decide on what gimmicks are okay to air?

Ashley! Michelle McCool! I should not know these women’s names! I certainly don’t know their faces. Seriously, I just skip over whatever segments they are involved in and am more than capable of finding decent porn to look at online, so I could quite easily walk by them on the street and not notice either one of ’em. Fuck it, if they want to be on TV so damn badly then don’t start getting wishy-washy after demanding the mini-skirts, thongs and fake boobs. Stick a gun in their ear and a dick in their mouth and have at it. Or the other way around. Whatever. Standards & Practises vs. Repressed & Deluded! Next week on WWE.com!

Triple H, Goldust, Shawn Michaels, Kane, Viscera, JBL, Bob Holly and The Undertaker. Not only is these an ideal cast for Police Academy 8, they are the only people to have been on WWE’s paybooks for longer than Mark Henry. Now that is rather depressing.

Khali’s push apparently comes from Vince regretting that he didn’t give The Big Show a properly Andre-style push back when he first came to the promotion. Of course, WCW gave Show the full-on Andre treatment even before that point, when he could even do moonsaults, and yet they didn’t do much better. Even earlier than then Vince tried the same thing with a certain fellow called Giant Gonzalez and it bombed spectacularly. Vince has clearly learned nothing. Those of you paying attention should deduce that merely being big is not enough any more, that talent and/or personality is what makes the difference, and that Khali has neither of these. All I can suggest that you people do is stop watching the show and start something more constructive. Needlework, anyone?

The leprechaun? Ye gods, the leprechaun. I knew a leprechaun once. He was dating a friend of mine and drove us to a U2 concert. On the drive back home my flatmate and I sat in the backseat and fell asleep listening to Alice In Wonderland. He wasn’t Irish though, he was a Cockney. I can’t remember his name, but his story of fleshy adventures in the communal baths of his all-boys boarding school sure left an impression. Whatever, Finlay will probably continue to grow in popularity regardless of the midget. It defies all logic, but that’s what Finlay has been doing all year and there is no reason to stop now. He’d smash a pint glass over logic’s head and roast its dog for dinner. He’ll be fine. Let’s just hope they stop short of recycling Cheatum the Evil Midget and his home video specials as they needlessly retread the worst of ’90s wrestling angles.

Mike Mizanin? Simple – GO AWAY, DICKFACE.

Sorted.

Now, onto the good part. As is so often the case, it involves Kurt “Silver Lining” Angle. This time he has suddenly raised a hell of a lot of collective interest in ECW2 from people who, like me, previously could not be bothered to even give a shit about it. He has turned our constipation into diarrhoea folks; a smelly but impressive feat of biblical proportions. Screw the Kool-Aid, give me the milk and the cookies and the Olympic Transubstantion Special. Give me three I’s and ten You Sucks and forgive me my tap-outs as I forgive those who tap-out against me. Life is better with Kurt, as ECW will finally learn.

I suppose that my enthusiastic response to the arrival of Extreme Angle might seem a little baffling to some of you. After all, I’ve never been much of an ECW fan. Sure, there were some tremendous matches to have happened there, but it was by and large the most vastly overrated promotion going, the last noteworthy storyline was the Lawler/Dreamer feud in late ’97, and the fans are so horrendously obnoxious and clique-minded as to be off-putting for all but the most determined/deluded viewers. I picked up the Rise & Fall DVD because it was on sale for under a tenner. I still have my VHS copy of Barely Legal around here somewhere, since that was admittedly a very enjoyable event (and if there was ever a sentence that could be taken the wrong way by a non-wrestling fan, it would be this one). After that, I don’t particularly care.

The way that ECW has been portrayed onscreen since its demise has not helped my interest any. Actually, it just served to make the notion of a revival feel completely redundant. The neutered 2001 version of the group that was vomited into being by the Invasion did little else but make everybody involved that was not Rob Van Dam seem rather boring. The persistent Ezeedub chants by the aforementioned fan’s fans and those sheep that felt compelled to posthumously join them boiled down the essence of the promotion into nothing more than senseless and wasteful cartoon violence. One Night Stand was a solid money-making enterprise, which somehow survived WWE’s bizarre ploy of having most of the Raw and Smackdown stars pointing out all of ECW’s shortcomings and telling the fans they were stupid for wanting to waste their time with it.

Meanwhile, the surviving and contracted ECW alumni continued to age, their bodies continued to fall apart, their vices continued to tighten their grips, and they began to believe the hype that there was nothing more to their performances than chair shots, table bumps and varied weapons of random destruction. The fans wanted them to forget whether or not there was ever anything more to it, spurred on by selective memories of some constructed myth even as the lines between what was and what was not now acceptable behaviour for WWE became more and more blurred. When Shane McMahon takes higher bumps than New Jack and Mick Foley gets more recognition for jumping off the cell than for playing with Terry Funk’s fire, you must surely begin to wonder what the point of ECW2 could be.

With a bit of luck, you might then get one step ahead of the WWE crowd by realising that the point of ECW2 is not to simply regurgitate ECW. Paul Heyman certainly realises this. No matter what you may think about his personality or his lack of financial savvy, it is clear to see that he is an intelligent man. In fact, he is probably the most intelligent person working on the creative side of professional wrestling today – hampered only by his unfortunate dual status as one of the most obnoxious and confrontational too. In short, he is not dumb enough to expect to, or to want to, try to recapture the glory days of ECW by retreading old ground. He’ll throw out a few bones to the long-term fans and the peculiar ideology constructed by WWE’s history books but, by and large, there will be something different about ECW2 – something more substantially different than simply the date or the name of the owner.

You see, this project is not really about ECW. The name will be used because it allows for instant recognition, legitimacy and marketability – and a profitability that out-lived WCW, something that nobody could have predicted ten years ago. The real story is that WWE is launching an intermediate developmental league. One of the company’s biggest problems in the post-Invasion years is that most of their new stars are pushed before they have learned to pull themselves. They go from the closed-off world of OVW or DSW to performing in front of international audiences of millions on Raw or Smackdown, sometimes overnight. Their flaws are exposed and eagerly highlighted by the ever-critical audience, which further damages their confidence, which further damages their performance. This has been pointed out in numerous interviews with older stars such as JBL, Harley Race and Jim Cornette in recent years. Not everybody is Kurt Angle. Not everybody can adapt instantly. Others that can, such as Brock Lesnar, simply get jaded because they have nowhere left to go but down and have not paid enough dues to accumulate enough interest to maintain them when that happens. They haven’t been stuck in Backwater, Nowhere in the middle of a vicious snowstorm, working through a bout of pneumonia because they so badly need the money in order to get some food on the way to the show the next night, trying desperately to keep-up with their veteran opponent so that the dozen fans in attendance can leave satisfied. The ones that do come from further afield, or even from TNA or ROH, simply have an additional obstacle to overcome – that being the need to adapt their unique, individual, self-made style to a pre-approved WWE method under the WWE umbrella. This can be a lot more problematic and demoralising than you might otherwise think (just ask Chicago Mafia Punk about it).

Now, with ECW2, there is a buffer zone between the farm leagues and the big time, a place where all the learned fundamentals can be fine-tuned and polished with the intangible supplements necessary to turn a cult favourite into a superstar. Hogan had the AWA. Austin had WCW and ECW. Cena had… a music video. Right. It won’t be perfect, it won’t be truly independent, and it will still be tailored towards producing suitably repetitive competitors for Raw and Smackdown, but it is still going to be an improvement on the current situation. How could it not be when the next Ken Doane will be able to learn from Heyman and Angle in a less pressured environment than indulging the whims of the McMahons on several backhanded Raw main events?

Of course, some people might think that I’m being quite the dirty little hypocrite in condoning Angle’s use in ECW2 when I made such a fuss in the last Anti-Pulse and in the crossover with Murray about how WWE continues to employ him as a full-time active wrestler when they are meant to be focusing on Wellness. That is missing the point somewhat. Angle’s personal dedication to his craft against all odds and medical sense, not to mention WWE’s willingness to exploit it for their own benefit, is a separate issue. As long as he continues to wrestle then they can at least find a more constructive outlet for him than Smackdown or Raw. His inclusion adds name-value and instant respectability to the brand, far beyond that of the ECW name alone, while the benefits to the younger talents involved are fairly self-evident. He is also the best choice of the current main event stars to send to ECW. John Cena and Rey Mysterio are too profitable in their current roles to be tampered with. Triple H and Shawn Michaels would simply continue to let the personal cloud the professional and are involved in a major ongoing (and self-involved) storyline anyway. The Undertaker and Booker T have no given connection to ECW. Angle at least has the 1996 visit to build from.

Also, it is rather premature to criticise Extreme Angle for not making any sense. Let’s at least wait until the ECW2 shows begin and see if they make mention of his rather well-known stance on ECW. I would not be at all surprised if Angle turned heel at One Night Stand and cost RVD his match with Cena, leading to a quasi-shoot promo about how he was sent to ECW2 against his will, how he hates the lack of moral fibre involved in all things Extreme, how he feels cheated to have been demoted to this level, and how he did not want his beloved WWE Championship to be similarly tainted by being held by Rob Van Dam. He can then embark on a very heated feud with RVD, adding a couple of proteges to a new Team Angle, taking it upon himself to save them from themselves and elevate them above their ECW contemporaries, embarking on a crusade to save the brand from self-destructing again by adhering to the three I’s. Throw in Rhino and the little matter of the ECW Championship and you’ve got yourself a tasty December PPV, my friends. Not only that but you get to further delude Kurt into happiness by making him the only wrestler in history able to lay claim to being a former ECW, WCW and WWE World Champion. Stick around for the big show next decade when Kurt is wheeled to the ring and turfed out his chair onto an unconscious Jeff Jarrett to win the NWA title too.

Still, there is plenty of potential here that could sweeten the bitterness. After all, the last time we had Kurt Angle as the figurehead of the brand and Paul Heyman calling the shots behind the scenes was the last time that WWE had a must-see TV show. I am of course referring to the delightful, if short-lived, days of the Smackdown Six. Back then Heyman was mainly concerned with promoting the quality wrestling that could be found on the show rather than relying on surprisingly unshocking Crash TV or tawdry T&A or cheap violence. Given that he was recently planning on starting an MMA project of some description before news of the ECW return broke, I remain quietly confident that ECW2 will continue to reflect where Heyman’s current interests lie. Let’s face it, if ECW was mainly focused on creating an alternative to WWE’s product, this is their best shot of doing that in the current environment; creating an ECW that even Kurt Angle can enjoy.

In short – in Kurt we trust. Bring on the officially sanctioned revolution, just as long as it is entertaining… in the decent way.

And that seems like a good cue to wrap things up for the week, especially since I have a shitload of other stuff to get busy typing. Who expected my life to be so busy? Certainly not me. That hasn’t stopped me from volunteering to handle the ECW and TNA rankings for Inside Pulse however, so look for them to be launched next month. In the meantime, go and check out our current Raw and Smackdown rankings here. Matthew Michaels, defender of the faith and all-round hair icon, has also updated our WWE Transaction History with the events of last week. He faces an uphill struggle trying to keep track of all this through the ECW2 launch but don’t worry, there’s nothing in this life that can keep that moustache away from a smile for too long.

Oh, and be sure to check out Steve Murray’s latest solo column

And Jeremy Lambert’s latest effort, complete with classic Nash in video format! Alex Shelley would be proud…

And Vinny Truncellito’s examination of Finlay’s leprechaun (another sentence that looks dirtier than it should). By the way, the leprechaun is Johnny Ace’s fault. He was pissed at Finlay and wanted to one-up him and somehow this led him to think of small Irish stereotypes. Yeah…

That’s enough conveniently located links for now. There’s plenty coming from me in the Comics Nexus in the coming week, including the Anti-Nexus reviews, an interview with Ed Piskor of American Splendor fame about his new graphic novel with Harvey Pekar, and the return of The Roundtable. Yes, that one.

Hope you enjoyed yourselves. Take it easy, one and all.

TOP 5 WORLD CUP TEAMS:

1. Brazil
2. Germany
3. Italy
4. Argentina
5. England