Look on the Bright Side

Howdy, all. Welcome to your new early Wednesday column – Look on the Bright Side. The gimmick is pretty simple: I watch a crapload of wrestling, and then point out the good stuff that happened, which may have been washed over by the flood of negativity that is the IWC. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.

But first, my weekly diversion. And this week – it’s actually about wrestling! Holy crap, how did that happen? ANYway…

So on Raw Monday Night, I’m watching Ric Flair walk to the ring, and I remember something that Botter wrote a few weeks ago: “For my part, I already think Kurt [Angle] is the best pro wrestler of all time and needs to protect himself more than worry about his legacy”.

And all I can think to myself is: really? Better than Flair? Better than the 16-time World Champion, who flourished in the pre-weekly-TV era? Ehhhh… I’m not sure I can get behind that.

Now, the thing that kills me here is: I freaking *HEART* Kurt Angle. I’m a former amateur wrestler myself (spent about 10 years in it) from Pennsylvania – and this is a State is hard-core enough about their amateur wrestling that they actually hold an annual event, where the PA All-Stars take on a team combined from the rest of the country: the Dapper Dan classic. As a bonus, that web page shows a full match from an extremely young Kurt Angle’s high school career (from Mt. Lebanon High) during Classic XIII.

But it got me thinking: who are the top wrestlers of our time? What would the Top 5 List look like?

Now, this list is limited to North American wrestlers from 1980 to the present – basically, covering the time span during which I’ve been watching wrestling, and the organizations I’m familiar with. I’m sure Misawa and Co. are all great – but I haven’t seen them, so they don’t qualify; and Frank Gotch may have been unbeatable in his day, but I wasn’t alive back then. And I am not talking about purely technical wrestling ability here – I am speaking of the total package, which (most importantly) includes the ability to draw the crowd into what you are doing. This is not a simple “Most Popular” list, since effective heels are necessary – but getting good pops counts more than knowing 1,003 holds.

So, this would be a measure of who was the best at doing all aspects of their job, no matter what was asked of them? (Being able to play a face or heel as needed weighed into the criteria also.) So, in the spirit of sabermetrics, I came up with my own personal ranking system: 50% to crowd reaction, and 10% each to face/heel flexibility, technical wrestling, brawling ability, backstage politics, and innovation.

So, without further ado, my own personal list, based upon my own totally subjective criteria (I apologize for the huge gap here, we’re working on it):

Crowd Reaction

Technical Wrestling
Innovation Total
1 Stone Cold Steve Austin 9 8 7 9 7 9 8.17
3 Ric Flair 8 10 7 6 7 7 7.5
5 Shawn Michaels 7 9 8 6 9 5 7.33
2 Hulk Hogan 10 8 2 2 10 7 6.5
4 The Rock 9 6 4 6 6 5 6.0

One note: the rankings are not on a scale covering all wrestlers in the entire industry. Rather, it’s a ranking amongst the elite of the industry, in order to differentiate the cream of the crop. There are tons of full-time professional wrestlers with somewhat significant careers that wouldn’t get more than a 1 or 2 in several of these categories, going by my ranking system.

My toughest omissions were Triple H and Kurt Angle. I highly encourage discussion and debate. Email me, or discuss it in our forums.

The You Tube Video of the Week

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Ultimate Zidane Heatbutt Video.

The People’s Front

Stephen W. McMichael visits once more:
“3. Bitch all you want, but please realize this – 2 guys came out to the ring in full riot gear (including the helmet), and neither of them turned out to be RVD, or Sabu, or Cena, or.. whoever. That was almost refreshing.”

Ten bucks says that is how RVD will eventually return.

Dammit. You’re probably right. Okay, there’s only one way to stop it – I need Eric S. to write that up as a possibility in his column sometime during the next month. We all know that WWE will never run any storyline concept that he proposes.

Craig McNicoll has a further disagreement with Botter’s list of No Heat Guys:
I’d also disagree with the statement that nobody cares about Christian Cage. Even when he was being jobbed out in the WWE he was getting huge reactions, that’s why he left the WWE because he was still being jobbed out despite those reactions. Even on TNA he’s still getting a pretty solid reaction. Fans just love this guy.

I loved Christian back in his WWE days, but I always felt his standing amongst the IWC was much, much stronger than the reaction he got from the marks in the audience. And from the couple months of TNA I watched, I just didn’t see him getting the kind of pops you expected from a face World Champion: the Smackdown crowd is much, much louder for Rey (and yes, I know – the SD crowd is many times larger; I’m talking proportional reactions here). I disagree with the statement that no one cares about him – but I would argue that his perceived popularity doesn’t match the actual

Graham Wise checks in from across the pond:
One small SNAFU this week – Empire was released in 1990, so that would also include Silent Lucidity.

Argh – I was positive that came out in 1989. Well, they say the memory is the second to go. (I can’t remember the first. Ba-DUM-bum.)

Eric Jorgensen gives us some old-school love:
The thing I enjoyed about ECW’s Hardcore TV back in the day was the kick ass promos through out the show. We usually had two (maybe three) matches on the card (in it’s heyday of 95-97) and the rest was filled with promos and interviews. I don’t however miss the endless schilling of ECW videos.

I have several episodes of Hardcore TV on tape that I picked up in the late 90’s (I had already moved to DC by then), and I agree – the promo ability, and the willingness of the organization to let everyone cut loose, was just nuts.

And finally, “Johnny Sorrow” tries to call me out:
Anyone that claims that Redskins fans overreact to each win and loss has clearly never actually been to Philly.

Sorry, pal – born there, raised there, attended multiple sporting events there (including game 5 of the World Series in 1993, a complete game shutout by Schilling). But you have a point – there is a bit of “pot/kettle/black” in that kind of statement: I was literally in a funk for 5 days after the Eagles lost the NFC Championship Game to Carolina a couple of years ago. However, it probably helps that I haven’t been in that area in over 10 years, so I’m not exposed to it on a day-to-day basis. But I do take umbrage with half of your statement: Philadelphia fans tend to only overreact to losses, because of the overbearing level of pessimism in that area. People there constantly expect the worst, at all times: there isn’t a current fan who isn’t 100% POSITIVE that we’re going to get screwed in both the Abreu and Iverson trades. And I guarantee you that the expectations for the Eagles this season are lower amongst the local fanbase than they are outside the tri-state area.

Just to prove my point, here’s one of the true lowlights of my hometown:

The 1999 NFL Draft

And just to balance that out (and to continue pissing off fans of other teams, in this case the Cheeseheads):

4th and 26

Yee-freaking-hah. Fred Ex’s greatest moment.

Around the Pulse

Well, I guess I offended Iain when I said I thought he was getting ever-so-slightly more optimistic. I’m telling you, those Scots are damn proud of their prickly reputations. Oh, wait.. nevermind

In any case, here’s my rebuttals to his pesimistrabots (you’ll have to read his column, which also references my last column, to keep up; go ahead, click on the link – I’ll still be here when you catch up):

1. No surprise at all on Shelton’s skills, but I was admittedly impressed with the amount of selling from Cena. As I’ve said multiple times before – I, personally, don’t have a problem with Cena, and believe that he’s probably an actual nice guy — so, the selling on his part was no great shock. But, I think it’s obvious that he’s the seen as the single brightest part of Raw by Vince and Creative. So, the fact that Shelton was booked to get in that much offense surprised me. However, your Foley quote does (potentially) explain a lot.

2. I was for a while, then stepped off, then got back on. Nowadays, I’m somewhat neutral on the subject — I hate her bangs, but love the “split open to the naval” shirts that she wears every so often.

3. Doing my part.

4. Guinness? Brilliant.

5. However, you would if you were in an American hotel on a Monday evening. And just the fact that he thought to ask that of the desk clerk – that was just awesome.

6. Eh – it’s fun, and it has potential. Yes, it plays into a stereotype – but it’s about 4,000 degrees less offensive than UUUUUUUU-MAGAAAA!

7. Thank you.

8. Yeah, even I will admit that I might have had one too many drams of Balvenie when I wrote that one.

9. Not excessively positive, no – but amusing (at least, to me). Hey, it’s my column – I can break my own rules when I feel like it.

And as a final note, based on the rest of that article: Iain, whatever you’ve been smoking recently – I’d like some.

And then, Hevia comes back at me. (So, should I not be arguing with my own Zone’s editors? No? Eh, f*ck you too.) Oh of course I have a response for him:

It doesn’t matter that people pop like crazy for Matt Hardy.

Geez, I’m not sure I have to go any farther than this. Let me please quote Botter’s original criteria:

These are the guys that draw no heat. No face pops, no heel heat, nothing

Mm-hmm. So, it’s a list of guys who get no heat, but his “crazy” face pops don’t matter. Oookay, then.

Has he done anything lately involving a title? Is he even in the midcard? If there was still a Velocity, would he be main eventing? No…no…and yes! Sorry, but the last I heard Matt wasn’t doing a whole ton of anything.

He was the last guy to be eliminated in a Number 1 Contenders Battle Royal, and he just ended the unbeaten streak of Mr. Kennedy, who everyone thought was going to get pushed to the moon. And that’s just in the last week-and-a-half. So, yeah – I’d say that qualifies as “anything”.

Matt Hardy did indeed create the angle. Did Edge nail Lita? Yup! But none of us needed to know about it. How did we find out about it? MATT! He let everyone know about it, got fired for it, bitched about it, started a revolution, got rehired, jobbed for most of the feud and got shipped to Smackdown while Edge rode momentum that he gained and became a main eventer. Matt created that angle by opening his mouth.

Ah ha – well, that’s not a bad point. But, I’d counter that the angle was actually born when the crowd reacted so strongly after Matt’s music was played during Edge and Lita’s wedding. And, since those two decided to play the music, then they actually created the angle.

If you think that Matt is higher on the card now then he has been in his entire career, you’re insane. He was higher up the card with his brother; he was higher up the card during V1.

I believe he’s about to start a run for the U.S. Title, right after Lashley gets elevated to the World title picture (which should be any week now). And I’d counter than the U.S. Title is definitely “higher on the card” than the tag titles, and is infinitely higher than V1 (although I did enjoy that character).

Boo yah. Mess with the bull, you get the horns, son.

And now, we bring you your regular scheduled Carousel-O-Pimps to take you around the site:

Make sure you vote in Round 3 of the Funniest Movie of Our Generation thread over in the forums.

Gloomchen gives you a small glimpse into her mind. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Staying in the Music zone, Mathan recalls a time three years ago when he was quite angry at fellow members of the staff. (And quite justifiably, I might add: although I don’t believe the phrase “f*cking savages” was in and of itself racial in nature.) However, reading this brought up one question for me: I’ve seen multiple people, including writers on this site, call John Cena a “wigger”. Given the whole “N-word” nonsense that’s become prevalent since the OJ trial – how is that not overwhelmingly offensive? I mean – as a white guy, I’m supposedly not allow to use “nigger” in any fashion, even in an objective sense (i.e. “Calling someone a nigger is very, very wrong”). Hell, people have been fired and/or reprimanded just for using the word “niggardly” in conversation. But yet, “wigger” doesn’t even raise an eyebrow? How’s that work?

I mean, maybe I’m not the guy to be making decisions on racial sensitivity issues – after all, this is as close as I usually get to hip-hop. But it just strikes me as… I don’t know – at the very least, inconsistent.

Hatton marks for the Highlanders, and has the same reaction to the Cena/Umaga match that I did. (Unfortunately for me, he also mentioned 50% of what I was planning on listing in this column for the Raw segment. Dammit.) Plus, Penny came back – and she only made Hatton spend 2 days in The Gimp outfit. That was nice of her.

Daniels tells Red Sox Nation to chill the eff out.

The Happy Fifteen (or so)

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.

Friday Night Smackdown

1. Normally, I hate roll-up pins out of nowhere, but this one made total sense for both characters: Matt was just being resilient, and Kennedy was done in by his arrogance, and his assumption that Hardy was totally beaten. Plus, the fact that Matt Hardy was the one to stop Kennedy’s unbeaten streak puts a small dent in the “he gets no heat” theory, eh? (Oh, and JBL’s reaction was priceless – but it’s just getting redundant for me to keep mentioning JBL here.)

2. If they’re going to let the Divas shoot on each other (i.e. Kristal making fun of Ashley’s “devil horns”), then I may actually start paying attention to a female other than Trinity, Trish and Micki. (Oh, and Beth, simply out of respect: she finished a match with a broken jaw? Do you have any idea how much that hurts?) Especially if they end up rolling around in foodstuff every week.

3. Lashley picks up the shillelagh and tosses it up onto the top of the entrance ramp. Well, all I can say is: it’s about time. I only suggested (nearly) this exact tactic two freaking months ago. (Judgment Day, item #2.)

4. Yeah, yeah – everybody hates the Divas oh-so-much. How incredibly unique of each and every single person in the IWC to share the exact same opinion. You’re all rebels. (For the records, I think Layla should win, because she seems to have a decent personality, has shown some good physical skills, and seems the most into it, but she has no chance; it’ll probaby go to either Rebecca or Erica, based purely on looks.)

5. Big thumbs up for the post-match beatdown by Rey, for two reasons: 1) he’s finally getting the best of an opponent before the PPV, and 2) I’m about 99% sure this means Booker will be winning the title.

Saturday Night’s Main Event

Contrary to… well, practically everything else I read on the Net, I thoroughly enjoyed this show. Let’s go through the reasons why, eh?

1. The Hulk/Brooke/Orton opening promo was handled nearly perfectly all around. (Yes, yes – given my druthers, I wouldn’t put Brooke Hogan on a wrestling show either. But she’s going to be out here, so the least you can do is recognize when she’s playing her part well.) The interaction between Brooke and young Randall was especially well executed: she steals a glance at him while her father’s back is turned, and he gives her a wink right on camera, where we can see her little schoolgirl reaction on the Titantron.

2. Y’know, for all the talk of how much smaller Batista was going to be when he came back, I certainly didn’t notice a huge change. Yeah, okay – I guess he’s somewhat smaller. But he’s certainly still not anywhere near “small”. (And I had almost forgotten how much I mark out for the first few notes of his entrance music.)

3. There’s a reason the phrase “Oldie but goodie” came about. Case in point: the blind tag to Batista that the ref didn’t see, which caused Nick Patrick to physically force Batista back out of the ring. The crowd sounded ready to absolutely riot at that point: even through the television, you could feel how much they wanted to see him in there.

4. Clipping and editing the Diva Bull-riding contest might have been the smartest thing they did all night. Just let us see everyone in their outfits, and don’t waste our time with everything else. And did anyone else think the music they were playing sounded somewhat like the theme from Firefly?

5. Nicky took the scariest-looking pedigree I’ve ever seen. Seriously – I thought he broke his neck.

6. I wasn’t looking forward to yet another Great Khali segment – but the arrival of The Big Show was certainly a (welcome) swerve. And I just love hearing the phrase “I’m here to put you over” on a WWE show.

7. Paul Heyman appears to be having quite a bit of fun with his “evil genius” heel character. He’s probably quite bitter over the whiplash-like change in ECW fans from worshipping him like a god while ECW was out of business, to the never-ending snarkiness since the re-launch. I can’t blame him for being frustrated about the fact that, despite his repeated attempts to warn everyone, in no uncertain terms, that “This won’t be the old ECW”, the main complaint amongst the IWC has been: “This isn’t the old ECW”.

8. Sabu and Stevie recovered pretty well from the broken table they had to deal with. (I’m sure Sabu would have preferred to get a new table, but time is scheduled pretty tight on a network show.) And anyone who feels like complaining about Sabu’s “blown spots”, please try and remember – this isn’t a one of you that could pull off an Atomic Arabian Face Buster without causing yourself permanent damage.

9. Word can simply not describe how much I enjoy the dichotomy of the “Yay! Boo!” cheers while Cena is exchanging punches with his opponent. (And no, this wasn’t the first time it’s happened recently – I mentioned it in last week’s Raw section.) And that FU off the steps onto the table was an impressive visual.

Monday Night Raw

1. I’ve probably mentioned something like this before, but it bears repeating: Shane McMahon’s facial expressions have become the best in the business. The look he gave Vince after the announcement of his upcoming match was simply priceless: understated, subtle, and completely effective.

2. My first thought upon hearing about the Cena/Umaga match was: “Well, I guess they decided to end all unbeaten streaks in the WWE this week.” My second thought was: “Wait, why doesn’t Vince use Umaga to bring the eventual necessary D/X beatdown?” If he was used in combination with the Spirit Squad, attacking HBK and/or Trip from behind, I believe it would cover all of the bases listed by Eric in his recent Short Form.

3. The ending of the Shelton/Carlito match was truly excellent. The move/counter-move/counter-counter-move sequences are always fun (and should be mandatory when two guys have faced each other this much). And I really don’t believe I’ve ever see that “heel can’t reach the ropes/face rolls through and reaches them” ending before. Dat… was cool.

4. So, Lawler mentions how Raw is now the longest running weekly show in TV history. JR: “We’ve been here longer than Matt Dillon.” 75% of the Audience: “What does Johnny Drama have to do with this?”

5. Okay, this isn’t really positive, but it needs to be mentioned: Randy Orton walks out, and my mother-in-law, who happened to be downstairs at the time, mentioned to my wife how nice his “body” and “face” were. It was possibly the most uncomfortable moment of my life.

6. So they’re going to use Foley’s blog obsession with Melina as a way to get him to agree to a match with Flair? Well, that’s neat – honestly, I applaud any effort to cross-promote the better sections of the web site with the TV shows.

7. Shawn Michaels is going to turn 41 on Saturday. On Monday night, he went over the top rope, skinned the cat back in (I’ve loved that move ever since I first saw Ricky Steamboat do it back in the 80’s), and then pulled off an Asai moonsault. Forty-one. Four. One. Asai moonsault. Enjoy him while he’s still around, folks.

ECW on Sci Fi

Hmm. Slim pickings this week.

1. Tazz’s continued inability to pronounce “exhibitionist” correctly continues to amuse. He’s like Fonzie trying to say “I was wrong”.

2. I think the Heyman/Dreamer sequence is going to cause a bit of an uproar amongst the IWC, for all the wrong reasons. I almost guarantee people concentrate on the “big kiss”, and homophobic tendencies come flying out of the closet (pun intended). Joey did a decent job afterwards, but I don’t think the point was blatant enough for your typical wrestling fan: Paul (okay, his character at least) considers himself a “cult leader” now. (Please note the use of “My children” during his promo.) This is the kind of thing cult leaders do to their followers when they don’t want to explain themselves – distract them, act a bit wacky, and punish the non-believers. It’s unorthodox, but it could end up working in the long run. (Admit it, at the very least, it made you wonder: “What the FUCK is up with Paul, anyway?”

3. So, the Undertaker is 6’10 1/2″. Wait… ten-and-a-half? A half inch? When you’re almost 7 feet tall? Who the hell uses “and a half” after you get above 5’6″? For some reason, that just cracked me up.

4. Fingers should be happy that we got the “Hi, I’m Balls Mahoney” promo that he asked for after the very first ECW show.

5. I was happy to see that someone decided to stick it to the IWC’s attitude of “Sabu always wrestles the same match”.

6. Say what you want, but at least The Big Show is trying. His reactions after hearing the first *BONG* of Undertaker’s entrance was awesome. You could just read everything in face: “Oh, shit. Ah, goddammit – stop doing that. I’m NOT scared of him!” Good job, Mr. Wright.

And that’s it for this week. See you next Wednesday.

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