VS. #8 – Raffi Shamir vs. GRUT

As long as there has been life on Earth (and before that Oa), the young have always been attempting to seize power for the generation before them. From the Greek gods of lore to the ECW Originals vs the New Breed, two stories of equally epic scope and consequence, the kids have always wanted nothing more than to beat their Dad in that game of H-O-R-S-E without them letting you win to signify the passage into manhood. Some of us are still waiting for that day

such as one of today’s VS combatants, Joshua “GRUT” Grutman! Besides being insecure enough to need a nickname in all CAPS, Josh is also one of the most talented writers to ever grace the IWC and in all honesty belongs on the writing staff of a major TV show or motion picture. Grut burst on the scene alongside yours truly and Flea as part of the short-lived “Disciples of Hyatte” group back in 2001 before we quickly imploded under the weight of our own egos and Flea’s meth problem. Striking out on his own, Grut made his name with the groundbreaking and highly entertaining semi-regular wrestling fiction column, A Wrestling Tale. These days, he mixes comedy and biting commentary with his Junk News updates.

However, no longer the edgy new kid on the block, Grut finds himself the elder statesmen in today’s match up as he takes on young (?) Raffi Shamir, who hooks it up over on Prime Time Pulse as a Serial Watcher. The only thing clearer than Raffi sharing my and Josh’s proud Jewish (or in my case half-Jewish) heritage is his burning desire to supplant us at the top of the heap.

Will the old man be able to put down the young lion? Let’s find out

1. So now that Rob Van Dam’s time on the active WWE roster can be counted by the days, what’s next for Rob Van Dam? The indys? Ring of Honor? TNA? Japan? Book him in TNA.

Raffi Shamir: I’m not sure that RVD even wants to go to TNA or the indys right now. I also don’t see him as a regular in ROH anytime soon. If I were him, I’d definitely want some time off after working a grueling WWE schedule. But since I have to book him in TNA, here’s what I’d do. RVD makes his debut and of course the crowd cheers him on and gives him the ultimate babyface treatment. Until he opens his mouth, that is. At first he’ll trash WWE (Any former WWE wrestler has to do it when they come to TNA) but then he’ll start trashing TNA and especially the X division. He’ll talk about how he was “X Division” before that name even existed and how everyone there are copycats.

That will bring out Jerry Lynn for a total mark out moment that will give Tenay the opportunity to recap all the history between Lynn and RVD. They exchange trash talk (Lynn will say RVD sold out, RVD will reply that Lynn simply had no buyers, etc.) and they’ll come to blows. RVD will have the upper hand until someone will come to Lynn’s rescue—AJ Styles. That will blow the roof off the Impact Zone. Styles will make a face turn at that moment and we’ll get a feud between the two, which will give us at least three excellent matches.

I’m not certain whether I’d have RVD pull out the Van Terminator on Lynn in this debut brawl or save it for his first match with Styles but he’d have to do it which will allow Tenay and West to mark out and lose their voices as they’re yelling that this is the original move and not a lame attempt to copy RVD (without mentioning the name of Shane, of course).

After Styles (and one nostalgia match with Lynn), in my “dream” TNA I would have pitted RVD against Elix Skipper, but that boat has sailed, so I’d have him feud with Christopher Daniels. These two feuds should cover the first six months of RVD in TNA, and then he’ll be ready to turn back face and perhaps go against Christian Cage.

GRUT: So even though I think that the better fit would be Ring of Honor to rebuild his street cred before going to slog out the remainder of his career fighting Abyss in thumbtack/table matches, my responsibility is to book him in TNA? Sure, but only if I can do it as Russo.

Kurt Angle wins the King of the Mountain match. He’s so happy he’s going to have a celebration on Impact. TNA’s ring decorating crew goes into full effect, meaning that we have red white and blue streamers in a couple of places and a bunch of balloons falling from the ceiling. Kurt’s talking about how great it is to have reached the pinnacle of wrestling and that no one can get higher than him. Generic yet somehow familiar music hits and out comes RVD!

Before he gets to the ring Christian’s music hits. He runs down and starts arguing with RVD on the ramp. We can’t make out most of the argument but RVD is heard to say he doesn’t know where Christians’ sister is. Abyss walks out holding a young woman. It is Christian’s sister (Shelly Martinez) and RVD’s girlfriend. Both implore Abyss to let her go, but Abyss sets her up for the black hole slam. He’s about to hit it when Christian’s sister is pulled out of the way by Samoa Joe! He trades blows with Abyss for a bit and Christian joins Joe to make it a two on one beat down. The lights go out and when they come back up Sting is standing in the middle of the ring next to Tomko who has Sting makeup on. They start attacking EVERYONE with the bats, laying out RVD last. They point their bats at one another as the show comes to an end.

Next week all anyone can talk about is what’s going on with Sting and Tomko? RVD comes out demanding answers and also a title shot and he wants revenge on Abyss for trying to beat up his girlfriend and he owes one to Samoa Joe. Jeff Jarret’s music hits. He demands to know what RVD is doing there. RVD informs Jarrett that he came to fight the best, and Jeff Jarrett is the best wrestler in the world. Before they can get to fighting the reunited AJ Styles and no longer Stingified Christopher Daniels run to the ring to set up the tag team main event for later that night. That match ends after interference from Bobby Roode, setting up a three month long feud between Bobby Roode and RVD.

After that feud ends the ‘cops’ pull over RVD and they find RVD has tons of pot in the car. It turns out he was set up by co-world champions Samoa Joe and Kurt Angle. Tomko, who has been turned into a vampire by a repackaged Raven, petitions Cornette to let RVD into the title match (all with the hidden agenda of sucking Rob’s blood in two months but it will be forgotten about before then) and Cornette agrees. Rob wins the match and is celebrating with the title when Jeff Jarrett smacks him in the head with a guitar. Then they get to have a couple of matches.

RUSSO!

That being said, it’s the easiest paycheck RVD will ever make for however much longer TNA decides to continue to hemorrhage money. And maybe I’m being too harsh, maybe he’ll get into the X-Division and immediately take the title and make it legit again. But TNA can’t book the awesome talent they have, what are they going to do with another star?

Judge Morse’s Verdict: Hoo boy tough one here, so I’ll have to approach each answer separately.

Raffi loses points in his set up by not answering “what’s next for RVD,” instead saying “If I were him ” You are NOT Rob Van Dam, Raffi! Moving on, the biggest problem I have with Raffi’s booking strategy is positioning RVD as a heel right off the bat. First off, I simply don’t think it will work. There’s a reason WWE never tried to turn RVD heel after his initial Alliance push and it’s because they recognize that the crowd WILL NOT boo him. The Impact Zone crowd, who take to WWE castoffs like Lindsay Lohan takes to booze (TOPICAL!) will never ever in a million years boo RVD. Don’t get me wrong, the guy was a great heel in ECW a decade ago, but that run quickly ended because fans starting cheering the character, a character he hasn’t switched up much in the 10 years since. So barring a drastic personality change, RVD ain’t getting booed, and said drastic personality change would essentially mean TNA wouldn’t get what they paid for.

Positioning Jerry Lynn as RVD’s initial foil doesn’t help matters as he has credibility with TNA fans, but not enough to supersede a debuting former WWE star. They stuck Samoa Joe, the most popular guy in TNA, in the ring with Kurt Angle his first night and Angle still got cheers. I’m also skeptical of how well remembered the Lynn-RVD feud of eight years ago will be, particularly among the Universal Studios crowd.

But then if you are going to play the RVD-Lynn card, you need to have that be RVD’s first big match, not a follow up to an A.J. Styles match fans will want to see much more—capitalize on RVD’s initial heat by putting him in there with the less over guy (Lynn) before moving him onto the guaranteed money match with Styles.

Then you’ve got Grut’s answer which made me laugh. It may have been cynical but it did feature Tomko as a vampire.

So do I reward the guy who showed up to play but had a ton of holes in his strategy or the guy who didn’t make the game but sent his dorky cousin so I could laugh at him instead?

Sorry, kid. Point to Grut, 1-0.

2. Aside from Owen Hart and Eddie Guerrero, what’s been the most impactful wrestling death in the last decade? What was your response the night Owen died?

Raffi Shamir: Will WCW’s “death” be an acceptable answer? Because I honestly think that the demise of that company has affected the wrestling scene stronger than the death of any wrestler.

But I guess you want the answer to be an actual wrestler, and in that case I’d have to go with Brian Pillman. Even with the drug trials of the mid 90’s, drug abuse (steroids, pain killers, whatever) in the wrestling industry has always been in the background, until Pillman’s death. When he died it all came out to the open for real. Not just recreational drugs which can be found in any business and community, but the dangers of prescription drugs and steroids.

Pillman’s death really exposed this problem, even though WWE had to wait until Eddie died in order to try and create some sort of control mechanism over this issue, whether for real or just for publicity sake.

GRUT: The Renegade. Wrestlers are like everyone else. Some are nice, some are jerks. When they die no one gives a crap besides us. There’s a mention in the obituaries sections of some national magazines if the wrestler was high enough on the card or an article if they die in spectacular fashion, but an impactful wrestling death? It doesn’t exist. Even with Eddie, when was the last time you heard about the wellness program besides when they used it as an excuse to fire stumbling pill popper Nitro? Seems to me that Gene Snitsky and Bobby Lashley are hitting the juice as hard as they ever did. Owen died and wrestlers are once again attempting insane stunts that have no place in a wrestling arena. Nothing changes, the workload gets heavier and injuries get worse and the need to look bigger and perform more sensational moves takes precedence over living.

The Renegade killed himself after being pushed to the moon and just as quickly kicked to the curb. His death should have taught the promoters a different lesson than most of the other deaths out there, but young men are still pushed to the moon and forgotten about. The only impacts in wrestling are caused by injuries. Austin hurts his neck, no more piledrivers. Triple H hurts his quad and everyone needs to slow down to match his style. Death doesn’t change shit.

I was watching the show on TV when Owen died. When JR announced he fell from the rafters I had a big laugh. I thought it was the most brilliant parody yet of the superhero character Owen was portraying. When I realized that there was a real injury I immediately felt guilty about laughing. When I found out he was dead, well, I’m not sure I’ve ever really completely let go of the guilt from that laugh. That night I said I’d never watch wrestling again. It didn’t take. Thanks for the fun question.

Judge Morse’s Verdict: Two articulate, eloquent and interesting answers. Neither went the “lots of people were upset” route for their definition of “impact,” which I commend—well done boys.

However, Grut defeats himself by saying in his answer that he is incorrect. He names The Renegade as the death that had the most impact but then admits it had no lasting affects. It may be among the more depressing deaths, but sadly, as Grut points out, no real lessons were learned, no real change occurred.

Raffi hits a homer straight out with his outside the box answer of WCW as no “death” has changed wrestling more. His “real” answer of Brian Pillman also has merit, particularly when we’ve established that Owen Hart and Eddie Guerrero are ineligible. While it may have taken over eight years for them to fully and appropriately act upon it, WWE felt the impact of Pillman’s death and did make an effort to help wrestlers with drug problems—and for every failure, you also have a William Regal or even an Eddie who did receive help, it just sadly came too late. Point to Raffi, tied 1-1.

3. Who will win King of the Mountain at Slammiversary? Who should?

Raffi Shamir: You can call me naive, you can call me innocent, you can call me stupid, you can all me Raffi, but I believe that Samoa Joe’s time has come. Yes, it already came six months ago (and before that) and then left, but I think they know that they have to put the title on him before it gets too late.

He was close to the championship a few times before but was always cut short just before reaching that point and TNA’s management realizes that there are only so many times you can pull the “bait and switch” with Joe’s road to the top before the audience will not only lose faith in Joe’s chances to ever become the top guy of the promotion and even more dangerous—turn against TNA itself.

From the start TNA reached to online wrestling fans and they became the promotion’s core audience. This is also where ROH’s audience arrives from and ROH fans are Joe fans. They’re already harboring resentment towards TNA for taking away some of ROH’s top stars (in the past and recently after the PPV deal was announced) and TNA knows it can’t piss them off much more, so they’ll finally do the right thing and give Joe the title. Besides, it will be symbolic to have Joe as the first official holder of the TNA title.

Bottom line, Joe should and will win.

GRUT: Kurt Angle will win. As the former WWE star who left to reinvigorate the company it’s his turn. Christian got it, Rhino got it, Raven got it, Ron Killings got it. Kurt Angle is the next in line, and he’ll more than likely drop the belt either Basham or Damaja.

Who should win? The one and only true homegrown star they have. Not Joe, he was a star before he got there. Abyss is close, but he’s not a star quite yet. I speak of the one and only James Storm, quite possibly the best heel in the business at the moment. His laid back and drunk yet evil persona is a stark contradiction to everything else in TNA, which prefers to scream every idea in your face. A championship run for someone like a James Storm would show the talent that has been with the company since the beginning that just because ex-WWE guys are there it does not mean the home grown talent won’t get a chance with the ball. More than anyone else on the roster James Storm represents what TNA has done right, going from an adrift stupid cowboy gimmick to being a part of the best tag team in the United States for close to a year to being pretty much the lone bright spot in the company at the moment.

Judge Morse’s Verdict: Again, Grut’s world-weariness is showing, but he’s not wrong. Angle will likely get the strap to give the new TNA title immediate credibility (or it will go back to Christian, the other WWExile). However, it’s his James Storm answer that really gets my motor running.

Would TNA be a huge success under James Storm as World champion? I’m not sure, but damn, it would be interesting to find out. Also, Grut is right in pointing out that Storm is one of the best pure heels in the business right now—whoever chases him is going to instantly get more over as a face. Kudos for wandering off the reservation and coming back with a winner on this one, Grut.

On the other hand, I’m on a completely separate page from Raffi—when Joe inevitably wins the title, it needs to be a clean one-on-one victory over Kurt Angle. Nothing else will do, least of all claiming a vacant title in a multi-person gimmick match. I think even TNA gets this and Grut gets another point to take a 2-1 lead.

4. What’s the best idea (post-WWE) that Vince Russo has ever had?

Raffi Shamir: I bet Grut would say his best idea was to leave the wrestling business and that he should have stuck with this idea. I think Russo had two good ideas in WCW. The first was the Millionaire’s Club vs. New Blood feud and the other was Bash at the Beach 2000.

The first show of the Millionaire’s Club vs. New Blood feud was really exciting and fresh. It felt and looked different than anything WCW presented in the almost two years that preceded it. It tried to put younger stars on the same level as the biggest stars of the promotion, even though the truly deserving rising stars (Benoit and Guerrero, alongside Saturn and Malenko) already left the promotion when Russo was first sent home. Russo’s idea to hit the reset button was right, but the problem was the execution. You can’t just put Kidman in the same ring as Hogan or pit Sean Stasiak against Lex Luger and expect the audience to buy it (that’s just two examples). You can’t assume that everyone who watches knows the backstage stories and real life rivalries between the wrestlers. Another mistake was making the New Blood heels—they were at a stage that WCW had to make them faces in order to get the audience to care about them, and they blew it.

As for BATB 2000 and kicking Hogan out of WCW (whether in for real or in storyline, I don’t care)—it was executed much better. Again, it may have been done only for the shock value but it was long overdue. After Benoit and Guerrero left there weren’t many midcarders ready for the big push, and Booker T was one of those very few. But when the summer came and the big promotion-wide feud died, they didn’t have time to build him up slowly and shake away the memories of GI Bro, so BATB was the perfect opportunity.

First he gave the historic speech about Hogan which still brings joy to my ears every time I hear, that did what he didn’t do three and four months earlier—he explained the background behind the storyline. Then came the main event and Booker’s victory over Jarrett. It was a clean victory that established Booker as a top guy – maybe not on Hogan’s level, but still a top guy. The victory celebration the following night on Nitro was the final touch for Booker’s ascension to the top. The only problem with this Russo move is that inspired Scherer to create the term “shork” to describe Russo’s promo, which is still one of the biggest jokes in IWC history. So, the choice is between a good idea that was executed badly and a good idea that created the term “shork” – I’d still go with BATB 2000.

GRUT: Wow. Um hmm. I don’t know. Let’s see. I liked the Filthy Animals. It was cool to see a gang of youngsters take the wheel for a bit. I liked um hmm. GOT IT! Tank Abbot as 3-Count’s biggest fan and bodyguard. Seeing him bobbing his head to the awful music with a giant smile on his face was one of the few pleasures derived from Vince Russo’s WCW. I also liked how Russo nope, that’s it. Was Lance Storm Russo? I don’t think Russo booked Storm. Just Tank Abbot, who otherwise was terrible.

Judge Morse’s Verdict: This question was horribly unfair to Grut. It was like asking him to put together a “Worst of Lance Storm” compilation—simply unjust.

That said, Raffi had two good answers and the insight to identify and recognize the flaws as well as strengths. I remember being incredibly excited for the New Blood/Millionaire’s Club feud, particularly after that first Nitro, and can only imagine how awesome it could have been if handled properly. I had more or less given up by the time Booker T became champ, but Raffi does a good job extolling the virtues of that move and thus ties it back up 2-2.

This is it for all the bragging rights, folks!!

5. What’s the future of the IWC? It’s certainly not dead, but where is it heading? Who’s the next big thing?

Raffi Shamir: The IWC isn’t dead, as the question stated, and I think it’s not even dying or in a bad state.

It’s only natural that as the wrestling boom of the nineties phased down, all the kids who stole a few lines of code and started their own “news” board (and I use the term loosely) would lose interest and the major, serious sites would remain as the main players. Same goes for the writers. If all you wrote about was wrestling and you were more busy picking infantile feuds with other writers (coughhyattecough) you had no future in the this field, but having a unique voice and actual knowledge and understanding of different fields (guys like Eric S., Keith, Flea, my opponent Grut and others) meant the ability to remain a leading writer for a long time, even if you only write once every few months.

I think Inside Pulse is a pretty good example of what the IWC should be heading to—wrestling as part of the overall popular culture. Not below movies, music, sports or TV but equal to them. This feature, VS. where writers from all sections of IP discuss wrestling, each with his own view and background exemplifies that perfectly: the writers are not just wrestling fans—they’re writers who also happen to be wrestling fans.

I can’t name someone who’s gonna be the next big thing—naturally my ego would compel me to name myself, but I’m not even a member of the IWC as I don’t write for Pulse Wrestling (yet?), so it can’t be me. I also don’t think we should look for one—there are good writers and if someone just happens to come along who’s also good, or may be better than the current crop of writers around the web—so be it.

GRUT: Hmm. Well, there’s this thing called youtube. Some webmaster out there is going to realize that people can read the same newsbits from pretty much any site on the net. Someone is finally going to give wrestling fans what they want when they get their hot girlfriend or sister (if you ask your sister to do this, really, shame on you) to sit in front of a computer in a bikini and read the news into a webcam. The IWC isn’t dead but we’re certainly falling behind technology wise. Widro’s hot sister in a bikini telling me that Santino is well liked backstage is the next big thing for the IWC.

I’ve been doing this around 5 or 6 years now and I can promise you it is hard to keep your heart in this. You make and lose friendships, you find yourself breaking promises but most of all you get bored with writing about the news of a fake sport. When you step back and realize that you’re commentating on a soap opera the whole thing seems kind of gay and useless. Luckily you come to a point when you accept that the star you think you are you’ll never be and the only reason to do this is for fun.

The IWC? The Internet Wrestling Community? Fuck that. There might’ve been a community once, maybe in secret there still is, but I don’t talk to anyone outside my site anymore.

Judge Morse’s Verdict: Two very different answers: one, Raffi’s, was a bit sentimental and maybe naïve, but not necessarily completely off the mark. The other, Grut’s, may not have been pretty but it was sincere and real.

Ultimately, I’ve got to support my fellow IWC veteran in general if not in specific. While I don’t think Widro has a sister, Grut is right in pointing out that media is an ever-changing medium that evolves primarily based on technological advancements and whether it’s girls in bikini on video or just the podcasts that have begun to proliferate, moving to new ways of presenting news and opinion is where the future lies.

Credit to Raffi for supporting the home team (discredit for not naming me alongside Eric, Grut and Flea), but while IP may be a great site, just adding zones with other aspects of pop culture is not enough to keep up unless you also keep your presentation fresh, thus rendering the answer incomplete and making Grut the winner by a narrow margin of 3-2.
GRUT (3) defeats Raffi Shamir (2).