The Hot Seat: Eric Szulczewski

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Eric Szulczewski joined me in October 2001 after Chris Hyatte’s first death and 411 ushered in the era of daily news reports seen on both 411 and Inside Pulse to this day. Eric, Flea and Grut did 2 days each, and Eric has been the most reliable and consistent writer in the entire IWC in the 2000s.

Due to external circumstances, Eric has never actually sat on the Hot Seat, and finally on this fateful Friday in May 2007, the time has come. Will his acerbic wit be enough to vex the Hot Seat or will the judges make Eric look like a YAM? Let’s check it out…

1) We always start with geometry – If the lengths of two axes of an ellipsoid are the same, what is the general term for the figure?

Eric S: You do remember that I taught high school geometry for a year and a half, right? Actually, you probably do. You never give solid geometry questions to anyone else. If two axes are the same, it’s an oblate spheroid. A good example of one is the planet Earth.

Hot Seat Judges: Correct, but judging by the general % of those who get geometry questions correct, the questions are generally not too hard. 1 out of 1

2) The Hot Seat always likes to challenge its guests by combining various interests into one brain-tangling conundrum – Book these prominent 2008 presidential candidates in a fictional wrestling storyline culminating in one being president aka champion: 1) Hillary Clinton 2) Barack Obama 3) John Edwards 4) Dennis Kucinich 5) John McCain 6) Mitt Romney 7) Rudy Guiliani 8) Ron Paul

Eric S: With eight competitors, the obvious model to take is King of the Ring. So, set up an eight-man tournament (we’ll accept Hitlary as a man in this case; think Chyna) with a little extracurricular stuff on the side.

In the first round, Hitlary takes out Kucinich in a complete squash. McCain has an easy victory over Paul, getting the three-count with the POW Pounce. In a hard-fought contest, Romney wins in a big surprise over Rudy, using a briefcase full of cash on Rudy’s head before applying the Abortion Flip-Flop to him for the submission. The most interesting first-round match, though, is Obama versus Edwards. Both are accompanied to the ring by their wives, of course. Severe controversy erupts when Elizabeth Edwards attempts to gain audience sympathy by bringing up her cancer, and Michelle Obama gives her an I’m A Lawyer So I Have No Sympathy For You Bitch-Slap. This distracts Edwards and allows Obama to get the roll-up, and gives him a little reflected heel heat to boot. It makes him even more interesting to the audience.

The week between the first and second rounds, Hitlary and Obama are forced to tag-team against McCain and Romney. The two Republicans seem to be on the same page as both attempt to solidify their credentials to the Religious Reichers. Hitlary and Obama, though, are bickering like crazy. They just can’t seem to get it together. Romney eventually gets the pinfall on Hitlary with a Mormons Really Are Christians Frog Splash.

That leads to the next round. Does Romney really have the sheer guts to go after McCain? He tries, but McCain is able to distract him by going for the cheap shot right to his balls by stating that he’s the only real Christian left in the tournament. The Republican audience actually gives him a face pop for this. Not all of Romney’s money and business credentials can help him, poor guy. McCain goes on to the finals, and Republicans are excited to have a war hero who has broad appeal.

The Democratic semi-finals are tense, to say the least. Hitlary and Obama are going at it tooth and nail. Bad blood is evident. It’s constant, extended action, running through two commercial breaks. Obama is just about ready to put Hitlary into the I Supported The War Less Than You Did Cloverleaf when “Hail To The Chief” begins playing on the loudspeaker, and out comes Bill to ringside. He immediately grabs Michelle’s ass and says that he’d like to try some Brown Sugar for a change. Obama’s enraged and goes after the former prexy. Unfortunately, the ref’s counting, and as he reaches ten, Hitlary gets her hand raised. It’ll be her and McCain for the whole schmeer.

The finals is a match whose anticipation is off the scale. McCain draws a great deal of heel heat from the audience for attacking a woman, even though she’s in the same ring with him. That throws him off his game a bit. It’s obvious that Bill’s given his wife some advice on how to beat someone with war hero credentials. Hitlary’s fast moves keep McCain off balance for a good portion of the match. However, as time goes by, McCain’s strength begins to tell. He starts using moves that directly attack her, like the Commie Health Care Plan. Hitlary is visibly weakening as McCain’s attacks begin to take their toll. But just as McCain’s about to finish her off with the still-effective Liberal Accusation, Obama appears on the ramp. He heads down to the ring and grabs a steel chair. McCain, steeped in bloodlust and flashbacks to the Hanoi Hilton, gestures to him to give Hitlary the knockout blow. Obama winds up, and nails McCain right across the head, opening him up to .8 Muta. He then grabs Hitlary and gently puts her arm over the supine McCain. The ref counts…one…two…three. Hitlary is your new president, with help from Obama, of all people. Obama raises her arm and gives her a smile, which she returns. It’s obvious they planned this from the start. All the bad blood was a fake-out to put the Republicans in a false sense of security. The Chicago Connection is born, and the country goes into an eight-year Golden Age.

Hot Seat Judges: Thorough and comprehensive, an excellent answer 2 out of 2

3) With both RVD and Sabu having worked their last WWE match for the foreseeable future, is the spirit of ECW finally dead, or can the remaining originals (Sandman, Dreamer, Guido, Balls, Stevie) somehow carry the torch. Discuss in 50 words or less.

Eric S: Yeah, as if I can do something in fifty words or less. I’ve been writing for you for almost six years now, Jonathan. You should know better. My fifty words start…now:

The torch was fully extinguished when Vince won the title. Sabu’s release was just the coda. Dreamer is fully WWE, Stevie ditto. Sandman’s a nostalgia act, and the rest are ignored. The only argument right now is how to dress up the corpse, nothing else.

Hmmm, forty-five words…

Hot Seat Judges: Fit the word limit certainly, but something was missing, and the answer came off as cliche. Can’t give you the duke on this one 2 out of 3

4) Boomerang has become a favorite destination for cartoon fans, yet the network doesn’t air commercials or even promotions for DVDs or products related to the cartoons they air. How do they make money?

Eric S: They really don’t need to do tie-ins per se. Remember, Boomerang is owned by Time-Warner, who outright owns the largest cartoon library on Earth. All of Boomerang is essentially Time-Warner-owned properties (the Hanna-Barbera library, the MGM library bought from Ted Turner, and, of course, the Warner Brothers library) that were paid for a long time ago. They’re front-loaded with characters that sold themselves to the public decades ago. DVD releases of those classic characters sell themselves. They don’t need to be marketed or promoted. The rest of their properties on Cartoon Network are harder sells, and do need that kind of marketing.

Boomerang is marketed as the perfect channel for parents of youngsters who want to live vicariously through their kids, introducing them to cartoons they watched when they were young, and to discerning cartoon fans, who love having those libraries on one convenient channel (remember the situation with the Warners library before 2000). Boomerang’s selling point is nostalgia, unlike, say, Nick, whose selling point is kid-friendliness.

To get back to the point of making money, again, they don’t need to on the surface, through obvious ways. Time-Warner regards Boomerang as a loss-leader providing reasonably cheap exposure to those characters and cartoons for DVD sales, promoted or not; they’re making money off of those characters one way or another. The money they do make is from their owned-and-operated cable systems, which tend to carry Boomerang on a premium tier. Besides, we were both around for the last five years of WCW, Jon. We know that Time-Warner will tolerate something that loses a little money now and then.

Hot Seat Judges: Shockingly, we were indeed looking for the answer that Boomerang can’t possibly make money and acts as a loss leader for various cartoons and Time Warner properties. Kudos. 3 out of 4

5) And finally, is the IWC actually dead?

Eric S: The IWC isn’t dead. It’s become far more exclusive. Steph’s six-plus years of crap booking have caused a loss of the casual audience, which has translated into a loss of our casual audience. The IWC has contracted to core wrestling fans. This has had multiple effects.

First of all, the crap wrestling sites have pretty much disappeared. This has improved the overall quality of the writing about wrestling. The days of the Whiteboard Retards are over. Sites that have stuck with it have refined their staffs to only the most dedicated, who usually are the better-quality writers.

Second, the IWC tends to be more on top of developing trends than before. ECW’s so-called “Internet popularity” was done in an era of less omnipresence, and was pretty much electronic word of mouth. We picked up on and proselytized TNA and ROH much earlier in their lifespans than we would have had WWE been at a creative peak. I think we played key roles in the current popularity of A. J. Styles and Samoa Joe, among others. And now we’re playing a key role in getting out the word about ROH.

Third, the “hard news” sites and dirt sheets have been exposed for their biases to everyone, not just to those of us paying attention. That’s opened up the field of commentary. We’ve learned how to divest the news from the bias and provide our own interpretation. Note that I’m talking in general terms here, not specifically about me. The fact that I’m older than most wrestling writers has benefited me in this regard from the start. The younger writers, though, have picked up on it, and are going to town. You’re seeing a lot of great op-ed these days, a great deal more so than in 2000, when I started writing for websites. Back then, “news” was pretty much Samuda McNuggets and nothing else.

Fourth, and this is very important, there is now a distinct separation between reader and writer due to the fact that you have to be dedicated to wrestling these days to write about it. The writers these days are a great deal less afraid to go against the IWC Groupmind and present dissenting opinions. Because the quality of writing’s gone up, the opinions are generally well-presented and well-reasoned, and that has an influence over the readership. It shows them that there’s an alternative to simply accepting what’s given to us on screen. Unpopular opinions become popular, accepted ones at a much faster rate these days. Look at the difference between how many people agree with me about Flex and how many people agree with me about Cena.

The IWC has become leaner, meaner, louder, and more fearless. We’re not dying. We’re genetically engineering ourselves to become the Best Of Breed.

Hot Seat Judges: Can’t argue with this analysis, and can’t argue with Eric being one of the Kings of the IWC. 4 out of 5

Even with a chip on their shoulders, the Judges couldn’t do much to shoot holes in Eric’s answers, and he has come away with a 2007 high 4 out of 5 and stands atop the Hot Seat leaderboard. Check out Eric all week in Pulse Wrestling as well as appearances in Moodspins and elsewhere around the Pulse.

Next week we have Mike Eagle if we can track him down, or else a MYSTERY GUEST. Be here in 7.

2007 Hot Seat Results
Friday May 18 – Eric S – 4 out of 5
Friday May 11 – Steve Murray – 2 out of 5
Friday May 4 – Danny Cox – 2 out of 5
Friday March 2 – Kevin Wong – 0 out of 5
Friday February 23 – Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz – 3 out of 5
Friday February 16 – Gordi Whitelaw – 3 out of 5
Friday February 2 – Shawn M Smith – 1 out of 5

Jonathan Widro is the owner and founder of Inside Pulse. Over a decade ago he burst onto the scene with a pro-WCW reporting style that earned him the nickname WCWidro. Check him out on Twitter for mostly inane non sequiturs