The moss covered, three-handled family gredunza is the third of Chris Jericho’s 1004 moves, preceeded by an armdrag and armbar, and to be followed by an armbar and the Saskatchewan spinning nerve hold. It is a reference to the Cat in the Hat’s TV special.
I’m plugging Steve Murray in part because him to plug me in his long, long list of people who write in wrestling. Also, I like his house.
Just what the hell was going on in regards to these videos? One is a cheap ripoff of a short WWE produced two years ago, and the other is, what? An excuse to see Christopher Daniels dance around shirtless and Eric Young to get whipped by Christe Hemme? Colour me confused.
Brashear writes about the zenith of craptacularism that was WCW in 2000. It’s an important article and I’ll link it again later in the piece.
Agitation Propoganda and 1996
In one of my theatre courses in university, there were a few lectures about agit prop, and one of them focused on “wrestling.Ã¢â‚¬Â It was about pro wrestling, sure, but the moment I noticed the lack of the word “pro,Ã¢â‚¬Â I had a feeling I was getting into something incomplete. Still, I was excited. Here was my favorite past time being discussed in a classroom by a scholar. Years of inane message boards conversations and books by “expertsÃ¢â‚¬Â have somewhat diminished my belief that wrestling can be talked about in a way that isn’t elementary at best. The professor began by talking about agit prop in general, then “wrestlingÃ¢â‚¬Â in a very general sense (sort of the way George Bush talks about foreign policy), and then began listing off names of wrestlers that he considered worth mentioning. He spoke only of the WWE, and he kept his focus squarely on 1999. Other people in the class seemed fine by this incredibly boring and flat conversation, but all I could think was, “this guy doesn’t like wrestling, doesn’t get wrestling, and probably doesn’t even want to talk about wrestling.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Still, why was he talking about 1999? Why was he listing off “superstarsÃ¢â‚¬Â like Austin, Rock, and Hogan? Why did he refuse to go deeper, or, at least, to even connect pro wrestling and the idea of agit prop? My guess would be that he went with 1999 because that’s when wrestling was last considered acceptable to acknowledge by the mainstream (though there is a fervent argument to be made that it’s far more now than it was then), and that he only talked about the top brass wrestlers because that’s all he knew. As to why he didn’t bother making any kind of analytical connection to wrestling and anything of meaning? I would guess it’s because he didn’t see the connection. I would also guess that he didn’t see it because you need to watch a whole hell of a lot of wrestling to get anything decent out of it.
That’s not entirely true. There are two ways to gather enjoyment out of pro wrestling. There’s to watch it only when everyone else around you is doing so, because those times tend to be pretty enjoyable, and there’s to watch it as if it were an obsession. In other words, there’s to watch Wrestlemania in a bar, and there’s to order WWE 24/7 in order to watch weekly programs from 1996 again. I’m of the latter. While most wrestling fans, when pressed, will probably point to either 1998 or 2000 as their favorite periods in wrestling (1989 will come up if you ask the right people, too), I’m very much one to point to 1996. This was the time when agit prop became a weekly event in pro wrestling. Whereas every episode of wrestling that had come before had a rigid 4th wall in place, this period destroyed it entirely, dealing a swift blow to the prehistoric ideals of Kayfabe and trying out ideas that would become staple (and, as Brashear pointed out this week, in 1999/2000, ground to death with overuse) on the various programs.
1996 would treat wrestling fans with the first instances of pro wrestling agit prop. Well documented on the “Monday Night WarsÃ¢â‚¬Â dvd, WCW Monday Nitro stumbled fairly accidentally into agit prop by giving away the “resultsÃ¢â‚¬Â of WWE’s Monday Night Raw before it aired. They would up the ante by having Alundra Blayze, then WWE Women’s champion, come on Nitro and dump the belt into the trash. These two instances were related only on the idea of lowering the WWE’s status, not necessarily raising their own. That’s part of agit prop, and I have to give credit to the writers at WCW at the time for having a sharp focus. They would follow these historically minute points by destroying the 4th wall altogether.
When Scott Hall left the WWE and joined WCW and showed up by walking through the crowd in street clothes, it set a stone dog-ear on the history of pro wrestling. Hogan’s turn to villainy two months later would always be the most discussed action from this period, but it couldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for how Hall performed. If Hall hadn’t walked into WCW as if he still worked for WWEÃ¢â‚¬â€and when lots of people didn’t even know he was gone from WWEÃ¢â‚¬â€the exact way he didÃ¢â‚¬â€through the crowd, ie, walking through the 4th wallÃ¢â‚¬â€it’s difficult to say if the business would have changed as it did. Maybe that’s hyperbole, but it’s equally important not to understate this moment. The follow through, both involving the emergence of Kevin Nash and the turn of Hogan, and of the absolute perfectly referenced name for their faction, was proof that Hall’s entrance wasn’t a fluke. WCW was consciously going in an agit prop direction.
What’s interesting was the fact that Stone Cold Steve Austin was born during the exact same period. On one hand, you’ve got WCW’s New World Order. Taken as a term, it is so incredibly charged in world politics, stemming back to the publishing of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and somewhat engaged with the Nazis, the UN, and the United States government. (It’s also an interesting sidenote, if we’re going to talk about terminology, that 1996 was the last time we’d see a strong, entertaining, and dominating version of the Four Horsemen). On the WWE side, we’ve got Stone Cold Steve Austin, who cuts a victory interview in June of this year towards born-again Jake “The SnakeÃ¢â‚¬Â Roberts. We all know how that goes. We also know how many “Austin 3:16Ã¢â‚¬Â signs were present the next time WWE went on the air. Essentially, we’ve got one image of the greatest theoretical government conspiracy of the 20th century, and on the other we’ve a loosely referential and rather blasphemous allusion. Nobody in pro wrestling has since ever come close to enjoying the kind of importance that the NWO and Austin enjoyed, and not for one second can anyone say it wasn’t because of the agit prop involved.
While the NWO would, through the end of 1996, quickly grow into a unit capable of real power (with the executive director of WCW, Eric Bischoff, revealing his allegiances to the group in December), Austin found himself in arguably the biggest example of agit prop that wrestling has ever given us. On one of the last episodes of RAW in 1996, Austin threatened to visit the house of the injured Brian Pillman. The cameras followed him to the house. Inside were Pillman, his real-life wife, a camera crew and a WWE “reporter.Ã¢â‚¬Â When asked whether he was worried about Austin’s imminent arrival, Pillman revealed a pistol. This was the first time a registered lethal weapon had appeared on a wrestling program that didn’t feature Cactus Jack (and nobody can really count a flaming table covered in barbed wire, because, well, when does one of those ever appear outside of a wrestling match?). Austin broke into the back door with a tire iron and rushed into the room, to be greeting with a maniacal Pillman, grinning ear to ear, pistol locked and aimed. The feed cuts, and we’re left to wonder whether the gun went off or not. We would mostly never find out because the scene’s historical reference was stricken from WWE’s memory until the release of Pillman’s DVD. There were simply too many complaints of the company going too far.
Anytime you’ve got someone going “too far,Ã¢â‚¬Â you’ve got agit prop. I mean, if you’re not agitating people, it’s just not working, is it? Thing is, pro wrestling is where we should be able to go for our recommended dosage of it, because there’s no place that does it better. Last year, we had the introduction to the Latin American Exchange, a group seemingly born of agit prop. They had it all; a topical real world bit of relations, profound imagery, and a message that actually made a ton of sense. The best propaganda is the truth being screamed louder than the lies. I really don’t like how they’re lowering the status of the group, because I think it really had some teeth. They also had the opportunity to take a great idea like that and not shove it down our throats like they did with Austin and the NWO. Perhaps TNA is consciously not trying to dry the faction out, but I still think they could have done with another year of focused protest.
Don’t take this as me suggesting that they need to return to the “attitudeÃ¢â‚¬Â era of wrestling, because I’m not. 1998-2000 saw the demise of agit prop in pro wrestling, and it was a particularly sad time for me, even though nobody noticed it die because they were too busy chanting along with the Rock. It died with the influx of desperate writing into WCW (the 2000 period is a great example of how not to use agit prop) and the vanilla-ization of ECW on TNN. But the NWO, Austin 3:16, Pillman’s gun, and other excellent ideas all had one thing in common; yes, they were meant to stir the pot, but they all stirred with a charged purpose that resonates into popular culture, faith, fear, and human history. And one could say that pro wrestling could use more of that.