Look on the Bright Side

Greetings, all. Welcome to Look on the Bright Side, where we celebrate that which is good about the theater of the absurd that is pro wrestling. Do you like snarky, pessimistic, condescending commentary from the IWC? You can look… well, just about everywhere else. Around these parts, we focus on recent promising developments that just aren’t getting enough attention from other writers, who probably weren’t hugged enough as a kid.

Love the concept? Hate it? Think I missed something important from last week? See something this week that you think should be here? Email me by Sunday evening.

So last week, Iain Burnside, author of The Anti-Pulse, and I engaged in a spirited debate about the multitude of criticisms he had in a recent column. The rather wordy result was posted on Wednesday: we covered a lot of territory, and had two sets of email exchanges on most of the topics (there were 3 or 4 that we agreed on, but everything else was up for discussion). However, the feedback I’ve received since then has been… well, less than overwhelming, shall we say. Which is surprising to me, since my usual email load from my regular column here is pretty strong. So now, I’m curious less about your feelings about that column, than I am to know why there was so little response: was it just too long? Did you feel you didn’t have anything new to add? Did you stop reading after I jokingly used the phrase “whiny cunt” in the second paragraph? Email me and let me know.

Summer Reading

Honestly, I don’t know where the whole concept of “summer reading” came from: why the hell can’t people read books during the other three seasons? Wouldn’t you rather be out enjoying the weather when it’s actually warm and sunny? Eh, whatever: in any case, here’s a small list of books you should consider picking up, if you do that sort of thing. I’ve read all of these myself, so I’m not recommending them based upon a neat-looking book jacket or something.

For some light reading in essay format, pick up Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman. He’s being referred to as a “pop culture guru”, whatever the hell that’s supposed to be. All I know is: he’s funny, he’s insightful on a variety of topics that actually interest me, and despite the fact that I wildly disagreed with a decent portion of the book, I still greatly enjoyed reading it.

I respect nothing in another human being as much as innate intelligence, and (more importantly) the ability to use that intelligence to explain complex concepts to people that aren’t quite as smart as you. In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell does just that. He’s smarter than anyone you know, but the language he uses is so clear and concise, that you may not even realize you’re being educated until you’re halfway through the book.

In a more political vein, if you want to scare the living crap out of yourself, pick up Open Target: Where America is Vulnerable to Attack by Clark Kent Ervin. Ervin was the Inspector General for the Dept. of Homeland Security. In this book, he basically rips that entire department, and especially Tom Ridge (it’s original Director) a new a-hole. You’ll have to get through the Introduction, where he comes off as a whiny ex-employee with a monstrous grudge. But if you can do that, the rest of the book is fascinating.

And finally, my favorite book of all time: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Please, I beg you: if you haven’t already, BUY THIS BOOK. You will not regret it. Gaiman also has a very enjoyable set of short stories called Smoke and Mirrors that I also recommend. Short stories are fun, because you can read two or three of them on the subway ride into work, or just before you fall asleep at night, or anytime you have 30-60 minutes to kill.

Pimptastic

Eric was the first person I saw who correctly pointed out that the ending to the Angle/Rey match on SD was the only logical way to go.

Troy always does an excellent job getting his Smackdown report from Down Under up early, and never fails to make note of both the big developments and the little things that make the show entertaining.

Botter saves you money and informs you. What a man.

Daniels pontificates on ECW. I was especially happy to see that he included links to his worries about last year’s One Night Stand, and his follow-up “Thank You” column. It’s extremely rare that anyone in the IWC actually has the balls to say “Hey, I was wrong about that” – usually they just pretend it never happened.

Did Pulp Fiction make it into the 50 Club? (Do you really have to ask that? I mean, have you seen a movie in the past 15 years?)

Reverend Sick gives you full coverage on those “8-sided ring” guys. Man, I remember when nobody even knew who the Gracie family was.

So, what does a lesbian Batwoman look like? Click here to find out.

Alright, this isn’t on IP, but I can imagine many members of the staff enjoying this little snack.

And now, without further ado, let’s get to the Happy Fifteen (or so):

Monday Night Raw

1. The “old school” Kane music was fun (though I wish they had done something with that guy’s hair: I never remembered Kane as the lead singer for Poison back in the day). The total lack of commentary from Ross and Lawler was a bit strange, but it wasn’t needed anyway: my four-year-old son Donovan provided everything I needed during Kane’s exit: “Everything’s red. I think that’s a gorilla.”

2. Say what you want about Umaga, but realize this: on Raw, they put over a potential monster by beating up Viscera. On Smackdown, they use Paul Birchill.

3. A little thing that cracked me up: at the beginning of the Cena/Nitro match, Nitro was talking smack in the middle of the ring. Cena simply looked down at Nitro’s furry boots, and glanced back up. Nitro immediately became defensive: “What?” That killed me.

4. Every segment with Paul Heyman continues to deliver the goods. Mick Foley was, quite simply, on the top of his game. Let’s review what we got this week from the Mickster:

  • Mentioning Melina in his first line (shout-out to his own blog).
  • “If you’re looking for men of principle, taking stands – you’re in the wrong place.”
  • When Foley talked about joining with “a billionaire pimp like Vine McMahon”, he gave the “thumbs up” when he said Vince’s name.
  • Okay, the pot-smoking I knew about. But “porn addicted”? Where the hell did that come from?
  • “You don’t hate me because I sold out, because everyone left you eventually.”
  • “Either a drunk, a drug addict, a criminal, or a corpse.”

WOW. That was harsh: I find it amazing that Heyman was willing to let all this come out on national TV.

And quite simply: Kurt Angle joining ECW and showing up tonight? No one saw that coming. And honestly, it didn’t make any sense to me, until the opening match on Smackdown (much, much more on that below).

5. Kudos to the fan at ringside that annoyed Lita enough to get her to give him the finger on-camera.

6. The “Kenny sucks” chant was encouraging: the fans are already starting to see the members of the Spirit Squad as individuals, and the fact that they care enough to chant anything shows how well this is getting over.

TNA Impact

1. Okay, I will count myself among that growing number of people who are wondering, “Whoa, what the hell happened to Raven?” But I have to say: that red velvet colonial-style coat he wore in the opening segment was seriously cool.

2. Once again, everyone complains about the AMW/Naturals match because “we’ve seen it before”. Yet another bonus of coming to TNA late in the game: all new to me. Including Styles & Daniels in the ending, especially when them concentrating on Gail Kim, was smart. The storytelling with the Naturals is going well, but it does make them look a bit stupid to refuse to do whatever it takes to win.

3. For all of you people convinced that Nash’s storyline with the X-Division guys is going to end up hurting them: please notice that he ran from Chris Sabin. Those are not the actions of someone who’s paranoid about maintaining his own heat.

4. Samoa Joe: “Where were you, Sting when I was fighting up the ranks of TNA? Only to have your punk ass come in and then take all the spotlight.” “I can’t wait till you step up and want a piece of me! But Scotty, we all know that ain’t gonna happen. We all know you’re not gonna risk that. Hell, you spent an entire career building up your reputation. The last thing you want is for me to come in there, smack you, and take it from you.” Okay, so wait: so Joe can give a great intense promo too? Good lord, does this guy have any holes in his game? I find it mind-boggling that WWE wasn’t willing to pony up enough money to sign him.

5. “We gotta get that guy another line.” Classic.

(allegedly) Friday Night Smackdown

Hey, this was actually broadcast in my area on a Friday night for the first time in 2 months! Woo hoo!

1. Honestly, I could’ve done all five points about the Angle/Rey match, and the commentary during it. Let’s just look at Angle’s first four sets of moves: a double-leg takedown; an armdrag into an armbar; another double-leg followed up by a knee to the head; an ankle pick; and an inside trip (with his hand on Rey’s face). Kudos to Tazz for pointing out Angle’s new “style”, and calling each move by name – things like that show the difference between someone that grew up in amateur wrestling, and someone who simply learned the phrase “sidewalk slam”. I also loved the fact that he referred to Angle “popping his hips” when he threw the release german suplex that flipped Rey completely onto this stomach. I spent 8 years listening to wrestling coaches screaming about popping your hips on various moves. (And if you think 8 years is a long time – think again: in the more northern and western areas of Pennsylvania, they’d start at 5 years old.)

2. Heyman also did an amazing job pushing “the new vision of ECW”. He summed it up quite well with “ECW is always about innovation”. And he’s right: Paul is the most creative, original and inspired person they have on the WWE Creative staff, and he will not be satisfied simply to re-hash the glory years of the Bingo Hall all over again. I’m not sure who else they can pull in that can hang with Angle in this style, but I’m excited for it.

3. One question: did Kristal have those boobs last week? Or did it just take me that long to notice them? I’m telling you: between her, Jillian and Ashley, there was plenty to enjoy if you’re a boob man (or woman – hi Penny!). Michelle McCool did take the average cup size down a letter or two on her entrance, but she also increased the average inseam length by 3 inches. Also, I’d like to point out that the ending of the match itself (yes, there actually was a match – go figure) was the same as Bret/Owen at Wrestlemania X, which received five stars from Scott Keith. And yes, that’s about as far as I’m going with the comparison.

4. Okay, it’s time to face facts: this damn leprechaun is going to eventually get Finlay over as a face. The first truly smark crowd that starts chanting “LE-PRE-CHAUN” during one his matches will start an avalanche. Part of me hopes they find a way to get Finlay involved in One Night Stand: that crowd will eat it up.

5. I love the fact that Booker has changed his entire pre-match demeanor for the King Booker angle. The slow walk to the ring, the royal wave, the quiet nods, the fact that he takes the ring-steps one at a time: all awesome.

See you next week.