VS. #9 – Matthew Michaels vs. FLEA

Welcome to VS. where the most talented writing staff on the ‘net battles it out to see who is the supreme debater using wrestling as the great equalizer.

Today we have Wrestling Pulse editor Matthew Michaels, the man that posts most of the news that you can use as well as those Missing Links that I know you all love. You’ll also find him just about everywhere else on the site, and is also responsible for Moodspins, so blame him for hiring that Tony Granola guy back in the day!

He’s facing off against the originator of “The IWC 100” and “The Wrestling Dead Pool”, FLEA. Much like Madonna, Price, the other Flea, Sting or Umaga, he has no last name. His archives on our site alone go back a few years before the site even opened for business. If you don’t know FLEA, I suggest you get yourself a history lesson in the archive.

Me? I’m Rob Blatt. I’m mostly known as the the guy with the angry podcast and, weekly, I write Blatt vs. ECW. I write VS. almost every week and come up with the questions along with Pulse Glazer. Check out Aaron’s “A Modest Response” on a weekly basis. He’s a school teacher and I’m an audio engineer, so expect his columns to have lots of less typos than mine.

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?.

FLEA: You have to remember – you can’t spell “overrated” without “RVD”. As wrestling is dead in Japan, and on the Indy scene, I can’t see him making 5 grand a shot, which is what he would need to charge to make it worth his while. Who is going to pay that (more than once, anyway)? Especially since he can’t draw – Van Dam drew maybe 1,000 to his own hometown. ROH would be a good fit – if only because it would be funny to watch the smarter than you crowd overlook that fact he can’t wrestle and cheer him nonetheless. SMAAART MAAAAARRRKS. Oh sorry – I forgot badmouthing ROH is off limits now. But they wouldn’t / shouldn’t pay him either. TNA? Sure, they could use another cast-off to make no impact; if RVD wants to be an “artist”, definitely go to TNA – they’ll allow him to paint himself right into a mid-card corner AND pay him well. Does RVD * not * need the money? Good for him. Maybe he should just retire and run his Comic Book store. He’s off the radar once he leaves WWE. The shoot interview should be good – poor guy never got a chance, did he? At least not how RVD is going to tell it.

Was I supposed to book him having “dream matches” with anyone and everyone? I can’t think of anyone I would care to see him wrestle.

Matthew Michaels: Do I play to Aaron’s weakness and just book him in Ring of Honor? Do I flip the script and predict RVD ends up re-signing with WWE after a few months off? Nah… Let’s have some fun.

Actually, it’s quite simple. Rob Van Dam will join the TNA roster in September, with his first match at Bound For Glory… for the X Division Championship. Oh and he’ll win it.

Judge Blatt: Well, well, well. Looks like Matthew Michaels didn’t know who was gonna judge this set of questions. FLEA makes an interesting point about RVD not making enough money doing the indies, but I think that you can take that out of the equation because I don’t think RVD needs to go looking for money. I’m not saying that he’s making money hand over fist at the comic shop, but I think that he’s got screw you money in the bank and doesn’t need to worry about his wallet as much as his reputation. Point to FLEA, despite his hatred for RVD. See? I can be a fair judge.

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 Eddie died?

FLEA: Personal feelings aside – how did Owen Hart’s death impact the wrestling business? Nothing changed. It wasn’t long after that Sting was coming down from the rafters again. Don’t forget Kanyon taking the suicide dive off the top of a cage – in the same arena Owen fell to his death. I guess you could make a case for Eddie, if you want to count the creation and implementation of the “more harm than good” Wellness program and the final proof that Vince and Company are brutal, heartless and exploitive. No wrestler “literally” dying has any impact, because no one takes wrestling seriously. Vince’s death will have an impact, but that’s business.

So I guess I’ll go with a “figurative” death. WCW, obviously. But that was more of a mercy killing. The death that sticks out in my mind was the cold-blooded murder of Stone Cold Steve Austin at WM 17. Biggest show ever, with the biggest money draw ever (Austin) vs. his biggest and best rival (Rock). In Austin’s hometown. And they turn him HEEL. It was all downhill from there, until Cena came along. That one match set in motion a horrible 5 years for wrestling, which featured money pissed away at every chance, a reversion to the “cartoon” brand of wrestling, complete with nostalgia that Austin’s rise to the top had supposedly buried and the disappearance of about 7 million fans. Blind luck has brought them a workhorse like Cena, who has managed to cultivate a new generation of young fans that will create the next wrestling “boom” in about 3-5 years – something that has already started. But I can’t believe they did that with Austin. In hindsight, it still makes no sense.

My response when Eddie died? “Goddamn, a bunch of people had him in the Wrestling Dead Pool.” VIVA LA SAVINGS!, my ass.

Matthew Michaels: Well, that’s a tough one. Eddie’s obviously number 1, since his death happened in his prime, as he was about to win the World Championship, and caused WWE to institute what can be considered it’s most comprehensive “wellness policy” to date. Owen’s death was an accident, and had a great impact due to it being on a live PPV, but I wouldn’t classify his death higher than Eddie’s in terms of impact. (Have you noticed I’m stalling?) There really isn’t anything close, although I just realized you didn’t ask “why” just “what” — so I’ll answer that the most impactful wrestling death in the last decade was… the death of WCW. If you had asked what “would be” the most impactful wrestling death, I’d say — short of a main eventer dying IN THE RING — it would be Vince McMahon, since the power struggle that would ensue would change the wrestling business as we know it. And as for my response the night Eddie died, I simply didn’t believe it. I had JUST WATCHED what turned out to be his final match (vs. Kennedy on Smackdown) on tape before I went online and read the news, and again, it was total and utter shock. I posted the news on the Pulse, then started IMing friends about it. I saw TNA Genesis that night and remember asking GRUT what he thought of Eddie’s death, and he hadn’t heard yet; he didn’t believe me and then had the same reaction as I: “wait, what, he really died?”

Judge Blatt: What the hell? Both guys say that the death of WCW was the most impactful death in wrestling? Do I award both a point or no points? I’ll go with no points awarded. I loved WCW, but I saw no other way to get Mike Sanders off of my television except that company meeting its death.

Who will win king of the mountain? Who should? Name 1 Long shot winner and argue for them.

FLEA: Just put the belt on Angle and have Samoan Joe chase him for a year. That’s what should have been done from the beginning. I know it’s really complicated not to have ref-bumps, false finishes and gimmick matches with disputed endings, but the pending move to a two hour show gives Russo, Mantel and Nash an hour and a half to f*ck around with non-main event nonsense. Leave the last 30 minutes to 1) Joe killing someone and 2) Angle having matches with everyone on the card, with clean finishes, to build 1) new main event talent and 2) build the title into something worth caring about.

I would say give it to Joe here – but what’s the point with no chase? Joe’s lost his luster, but is still believable enough to be built back into a monster and eventually someone that can carry a promotion. Everyone else involved is a chump. Except Styles – he’s just been made to look like a chump. Angle should win – as described above.

Matthew Michaels: If Samoa Joe doesn’t win King of the Mountain, I’m pretty much done with TNA. It’s his anniversary show as far as his debut with TNA, his only high-profile losses have been to Kurt Angle (thus setting up a great program that can lead into at least Bound For Glory), and he can carry that promotion on his back if need be. Oh… I should probably mention that NEED BE. So I say he will win, and he should win. TNA’s not crazy enough to put the belt on, say, a Chris Harris or Robert Roode.

A longshot? Ken Shamrock. There’ be a sense of history (he was the first TNA champ), a crossover appeal to MMA fans (with UFC being super-hot right now), and he plays the part well. Kurt Angle vs. Ken Shamrock in a battle of the anklelocks? Shamrock vs. Joe? Yeah, that’d be rad.

Judge Blatt: I loved Shamrock as a pro wrestler. Way to appeal to my teenage years. Anyway, we’ve got Samoa Joe vs. Angle. I’m going with Joe, because I think that Angle is a much better contender then he is a champion. Matthew Michaels for the block.

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

FLEA: Probably the “Ultimate Insiders” shoot interview he did with Wade Keller. Russo and that idiot Ferrara had carte blanche to re-sell their side of the story to people who don’t know any better, with Keller as willing accomplice. Russo is totally full of shit and delusional about his contributions and legacy in the business – but, without a filter or someone calling him out on his version of history, it sounds like he invented the moon. He was out of the business, but managed to parlay his salesmanship job in the “shoot” DVD into his current job with TNA – and despite his history of failing miserably, Russo still has defenders and supporters. I’ll go out on a limb and say that Russo will convince his buddy Double J to somehow incorporate the recent death of his wife into storyline. Because reality SELLS. To bad Russo doesn’t know reality, even when formal introductions are made.

Matthew Michaels: Obviously the Dupp Cupp. Actually, I read that was Ed Ferrara’s idea. Uh… how do we REALLY know what ideas were his and what weren’t? I’d have to say, based on dirtsheets anyway, his best idea post-WWE was pushing AJ Styles as a superstar in TNA. AJ’s won the X, Heavyweight and Tag titles, has been pushed as the top heel and top babyface of the promotion, and was TNA’s first true breakout star. Good for Russo.

Judge Blatt: Have you ever seen that shoot video? Go get a copy of it, don’t you dare actually pay someone to buy it. As a matter of fact, how do shoot videos do so well? How many times do you watch those friggin things, and how relevant can they stay when “never say never” isn’t just the motto of the wrestling industry, it’s the first commandment. FLEA takes the point for a score of 2-1.

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

FLEA: No clue. It’s really not even an “Internet Wrestling Community” anymore – the idea behind that was a certain hierarchy and trying to break into that hierarchy, so you could be “recognized” and move up the food chain to where your opinions were taken seriously, or at the very least, with a grain or two of salt. Widro has asked “how do we get readers? How can we get, etc” my response has been “quality over quantity”. Or at least the perception of quality. When you have sites with 20 writers – and they are all writing basically the same thing – commentary tends to get homogenized and no one stands out from the pack.

Besides, it’s much larger online universe now and EVERYONE has an opinion. There is no delineation between “writer” and “reader”. The quality of what is online hit rock bottom a couple of years ago, because most “readers” who became “writers” aren’t very good, or creative enough to think outside the box, which, as it turns out hardly seems to matter anymore – it’s almost a “just be alive” principle as far as who is able to get their “insightful commentary” online. Even at the top sites.

I imagine most of the readers here at IP have no idea who I am – most probably think I’m Widro’s drunk uncle that gets pulled out of the gutter every few months, for reasons unknown. But at one time I was the “judge and jury” of the IWC. Really. “The IWC 100”. That was my creation, along with The “Wrestling Dead Pool” and positive outlooks. I didn’t necessarily create the “positive outlook” type of column, but for about 4 years, I was the only one (or one of a few) doing it. Almost everything I’ve written about the business side of WWE has come true / been accurate – you have to understand, several years ago (2002ish) the common thought was “WWE will be out of business in 5 years, wrestling is dead”. No one could put two and two together and realize that Vince’s consolidation of everything that’s wrestling and the global approach to his business would make the WWE bullet-proof money-wise, and literally a cash cow for future generations. You want wrestling? Go see Vince.

That sounds like general knowledge these days, but believe me – NO ONE was writing anything like that back then, not even people who should know better. Doom and Gloom, that’s all you got. I was lucky to be able to practically shoot fish in a barrel with those columns just staying positive, using common sense and laughing at people who would try to counter-point, on any level, about business and futures. The good old days.

What I consider the best period of my time online was when the headline columns were Me, Hyatte, Eric S and GRUT. Back to Back – every week that was f*cking strong – by far the best of what was written in those days, because each of us had an entirely different viewpoint, and knew how to write columns that would 1) draw an audience and 2) keep an audience. Not many writers do that well these days, which not to badmouth anyone, but I think it would help if anyone writing a column would take the time to figure out who their audience is and cater to them – on your own terms – and make the reader WANT to come back and read your next column. Make the reader PISSED if you take a week off, or “mail it in”. Make ‘em think and care about what you write. That’s easier said than done, obviously.

Did I answer the question? I was very tempted to tell you to shove this question up your ass, because it’s silly and no one wants my opinion about the IWC. I should know – I did that “judge and jury” thing for years even outlined how to be successful at this sort of thing and a few years removed, it doesn’t matter. But since you asked, my advice to anyone doing columns is – I think I’ll save that for my next column. “Rules and Guidelines of the IWC” – or “How to do this properly”. Not only will it be informative, but it will be a re-post from 2003! Resting on Laurels. Both of my readers will understand. In truth, my “catered to” audience is about 5 people, including myself. At least that’s what I’m thinking when I write. Everyone else is along for the ride.

Maybe that’s the future – learn how to amuse yourself and four of your friends. Just keep in mind the people you think * should * be reading your columns are too busy with their own columns to care. Eventually you’ll have a bandwagon of your own.

Matthew Michaels: The future of the IWC is less focus on breaking news and rumors and more stock being put in opinion-writing and analysis. Traditionally, news posts have gotten the most traffic for the site, with the top personalities (for Pulse Wrestling, the Scotts, Erics, FLEAs, GRUTs, etc., of the world) being the top draws. New people break out, but truth be told, it’s tough to get people to read long columns and features right off the bat at a time when blogging is at an all-time high in popularity and pro wrestling is on the rise, but no where near as hot as it was when the IWC first broke out. It’s not very dissimilar to pro wrestling, actually: you have the main eventers (who occasionally give rub to the up-and-coming stars) and then you have newbies that need a gimmick or some “x” factor that gets readers to first click on them, and then convinces the readers to come back for more. The best ways to establish that “x” factor, “find your voice,” or establish yourself as a viable “worker?” Consistency (regular posts that readers can set their clocks to), quality (no typos or unprofessional grammar errors) and some sort of uniqueness that sets you apart from other writers. Another way? Writing regular news posts — which I feel will be transitioning to more “news-plus-some-snarky-opinion” posts — each day that get your name familiar with the masses. To volunteer for this, email me at matthew (at) insidepulse (dot) com!

The next big thing? For the Internet Wrestling Community it’s a smarter (I mean more intelligent) writing approach that long-time, hardcore fans can appreciate along with ACCESS to information not found elsewhere (exclusive interviews, regular coverage of live shows, multimedia content). But for IWC readers, the next big thing is already upon us: it’s the… uh… IMMAC?

Judge Blatt: The next big thing on the internet for wrestling fans is not MMA. Sorry MM. Mixed martial arts is a fad, like it was in the 90’s. MMA needs to enjoy it’s surge and attempt to keep on its feet when all of these fight startups start to eat themselves in consolidation. FLEA‘s point of view is similar to my own. I haven’t been around nearly as long as he has, but I was on board in the first month of IP and the core of quality is still on the site, we’ve trimmed fat and we’ve accumulated some good writers, but I dropped my [Deconstructing the Moveset] column in part because it was getting lost in the static of three daily columns. That, and I couldn’t keep dedicating that much time to the column when I started working a few 100 hour work weeks. Now my niche is the podcast, posting the News Dribble when I can, and the ECW coverage. It’s like I spoke to FLEA years ago about this exact question. Point for Widro’s drunk uncle for the win at 3-1.