For Your Consideration Secondary Titles Breed Superstars

Welcome to week 20.

First off, I want to thank everyone for the overwhelming response to last week’s column where I gave my list of the top 20 “Simpsons” episodes. It was definitely one of the most fun things I’ve written for the Pulse, and I’m glad you folks appreciated it.

So what did I think about the Simpsons movie? I thought it was about as close to perfect as a Simpsons movie could be. Now I think I can attribute this to the fact that I viewed this movie differently from a lot of people. For instance, I have a friend named Dan who was less than impressed with the movie (do understand that this friend of mine has numerous times extolled the virtues of “White Noise 2” the direct-to-DVD sequel to the painfully bad “White Noise”). He said that the move was just sorta like an over-long episode of the show. My answer to that fair criticism was simple, “That’s all that the fans wanted.”

If you’re a longtime Simpsons fan then you know the pain that true fans have endured for the past decade. In the past ten years, we have watched the Simpsons degenerate from the funniest show on television to one of the funnier cartoons on Fox. South Park stole the Simpsons spot as the most “controversial” cartoon on television, and with it’s significantly shorter lead time, it also became more topical. The “South Park” guys could read something in the newspaper on a Monday and have it animated by the following Monday. The Simpsons need a full year to crank out an episode. The Simpsons were also trumped by the earlier episodes of “Family Guy” in the department of irreverence. Family Guy was out there and threw nonstop references to anything they could think of. Ultimately, the novelty wore off, but for a time people turned to “Family Guy” when they wanted a funny Fox cartoon.

Part of the blame for the downfall of “The Simpsons” can be tied to the spin-offs. Well, technically, “The Critic” and “Futurama” weren’t spin-offs, but they did take away the focus from the show. Suddenly, the guys that helped keep the plates spinning were off on other projects, and the “new guard” that came in kept throwing fewer strikes and more wild pitches. (Well, what if Marge rescues manatees? What if Moe gets a facelift? What if Comic Book Guy f*cks Skinner’s mom?) With Matt Groening focusing his time on getting the underappreciated “Futurama” off the ground, the less-competent staff began to rely on tired jokes and outlandish plotlines. They forgot the cardinal rule with the Simpsons: it can be a far-out plot as long as it’s kept grounded and funny. And I mean real funny. Not, “Hey, we need a joke. How about if we show Lenny doing something and then go, ‘Look, its Lenny! He’s doing stuff!’”

The Simpsons movie staff was the best collection of writers (sans a certain red-haired talk show host) ever assembled. It was an all-star team of the people that created every classic moment that we as fans love (and no one became addicted to brain and nerve tonic or was turned into a chicken). The Simpsons movie, in my opinion, was an apology of sorts. It was also a reminder that there are still people that know how to handle the characters that we know and love. “Hey guys, it’s us! The people that made the funny episodes that you loved. Look, we can still be funny only it’s gonna cost you eight to twelve dollars.” And the sad part is that we didn’t care about the money. The film brought in over seventy million dollars in one weekend. Simpsons fans still remember the glory days and we all went into the theater hoping against hope that this movie would fit nicely between say seasons 5 and 6.

As for the film itself? I went in and was actually nervous about the movie. That’s right, I was nervous about seeing a f*cking cartoon. I was hoping that this movie would do what it promised. I knew this was my last chance to get a classic Simpsons episode. And I can safely say it was a classic Simpsons episode. I think the exact moment I knew we were in good hands was when I heard Homer say the word “Jebus”. That put me at complete ease. From that point on, I just let the movie wash over me. It was well paced despite its length. It had the quintessential Simpsons plotline: Homer screws up, the family is teetering on the brink of collapse and then we get our resolution. The movie again showed that you could have an outlandish plot (giant domes, moving to Alaska, governmental schemes to create landmarks) and still keep it grounded. This was a very small story set on a grand scale. It was a simple tale about a family trying stick together combined with a tale about the possibility of a mass extinction of a town.

I also think that the movie was just that much better because I got to see it with my two best friends, Devon and Eric. Watching the Simpsons is just that much more enjoyable when you go with people who love it as much as you do. My friends and I are constantly quoting the show and the fact that we were able to share the movie experience together was f*cking amazing. A lot of people have literally grown up with the show, and this film felt like a culmination of sorts, so getting to watch it with people I’ve grown up with just amplified the experience. If you have die-hard Simpsons friends, I recommend going to see it in a group. (On a side note of just how stupid we are, we were throwing out random quotes and someone mentioned Skittlebrew. Skittlebrew was a drink that Homer dreamt about with Skittles and beer, and upon discovering that it didn’t exist he bought a sixpack of beer and a package of Skittles. In honor of the film, we went out and bought some Skittles and showed up at a random party with free beer and brewed up some Skittlebrew. I learned 2 things: 1) putting small pill-shaped tablets into your drink will lead to a lot of strange looks, especially when you offer the cup to a girl and 2) Skittlebrew is f*cking delicious.)

Alright, enough of the Simpsons. On to more important matters, like secondary wrestling titles. That was a terrible, terrible transition. I am a hack. A f*cking hack. I should change my name to Lagana. Eh, onto the column

For Your Consideration Secondary Titles Breed Superstars

This column might seem like a no-brainer, yet the concept still seems to elude certain companies based in Orange County Florida. You see, the secondary title is the most important tool a wrestling company has at its disposal. Secondary titles are what builds your future main eventers and what keeps the crowd locked into what should be a dull match. Yes, for reasons that escape me, TNA doesn’t have a true secondary title.

Now, before I get angry e-mails, I know that TNA has the X-Division title, but I think we can all agree that the X-Division title is pretty much a Cruiserweight title on steroids. Yes, Joe held the belt, but he was sort of being positioned as an exception more then the rule. And yes, Mike Tenay always says that it’s not about weight limits. Good for you Mike. I could say that the ECW title is the most prestigious belt in wrestling until I’m blue in the face, still wouldn’t change the fact that it isn’t.

Those that read me know that I’m not a TNA guy. Far from it. I think that TNA is a monument to wasted opportunity. They have a decent roster that they constantly fail to push properly. They have feuds that have the potential to make a fortune yet they consistently drop the ball. I’ve been critical of ROH because I honestly believe that they are close to becoming great. I’m critical of TNA because they’re just being f*cking stupid.

Professional wrestling history is a lot like world history, those that don’t know it are doomed to repeat it. You can learn a lot from wrestling history, especially when it comes to trends. I swear that if anyone on Creative watched WWE 24/7 they would find ten ideas worth stealing, but that’s for another column. There is one thing, however, that is an unarguable point, and that is that a secondary title is too useful not to have.

I am not advocating a return to the mid-80’s NWA title situation where there were 34 f*cking belts. I don’t need to see a US Title, North American Title, TV Title, UWF Junior Heavyweight Champion or the Saskatchewan Hardcore International Title all on the same show. However, TNA only having one heavyweight title belt is seriously damaging the company.

Arguably the greatest wrestling match of all time, Steamboat/Savage, was fought over the Intercontinental title. Same as the famous Shawn Michaels/Razor Ramon ladder match. Same as the great Hart/Perfect Summerslam match. The US Title gave us the classic Magnum TA/Tully “I Quit” match. There are countless amazing matches that are connected with a company’s secondary title. Why? Because the belt exists solely as a way to bring up new stars.

When the company puts gold around someone’s waist, it means that they have confidence in the guy. Sometimes, that confidence is misplaced (cough-Santino Marella-cough). However, more often then not, the guy holding the title is the heir apparent to the main event.

Fans are predisposed to care about a guy wearing a shiny gold belt around his waist. Gold equals support. The IC title was thrown around the waist of HBK, Hart, Hunter, Austin and the Rocky before they all got their push to the stars. And why were these matches always the better matches? Because the guy in the ring had something to prove. He needed to show the powers that be that he could carry the ball. A successful IC run meant world title gold. A botched IC run meant being Maria’s male valet.

There is another side to these belts, however. When management has no idea what to do with a guy, they just throw a belt on him. Look at Jeff Hardy or Shelton Benjamin or currently Umaga. Ironically enough, Umaga’s haphazard title run might lead to a decent feud with Jeff. The IC title was what helped Jeff Hardy gain legitimacy as a singles superstar when he fought Triple H for the strap. Having a placeholder champion might lead to apathy, but at least you could bill a match as being a title match even if the match had Carlito and Eugene.

The most obvious example of a successful midcard champion is MVP. Porter took the ball and sprinted to the top. Unfortunately, MVP’s title win will forever be buried due to the fact that he won the gold from He Who Must Not Be Named. Now, the WWE is trying to turn MVP/Hardy into the old Rock/HHH IC feud. You know that MVP will be a world title contender, same as Matt Hardy, so their feud is a precursor for bigger things. MVP is going to be the heel that Mister Kennedy would have been had he not suffered his injuries. He is making the most of his US title run, probably only comparable to Cena’s run in terms of impact.

Now, onto TNA. TNA has a mangled midcard that is pretty stalled and pretty convoluted. TNA is still only an hour-long show, which makes getting faces on there kinda difficult. You know on each show you have to represent your champion Kurt Angle, you have to throw in a little X-Division stuff and then show the tag champs. That’s three of your five segments right there.

TNA needs to give their midcard something to do. Guys like Tomko, Lance Hoyt, Robert Roode and James Storm are just sort of drifting. Give them a title to feud over. Let TNA build someone new up. How’s the easiest way to get someone to care about a guy? Big shiny belt. Keep the X-Division title with the cruiserweights and let the future world champions practice holding a belt. If TNA doesn’t start building these guys up as legitimate then they’re going to be left with no choice but to give the title to Rene Dupree.

A secondary title helps rope in stray cattle. It gives people a reason to exist. Does anyone really think that Chris Masters is getting the world title belt tomorrow? No chance. Does anyone thing that he could wind up US Champ? Sure. That’s the magic of the secondary title. Every week on ECW Tazz keeps saying that if you don’t want to be world champ then you need to get out. It makes perfect sense that there should be a driving force keeping guys competing. Obviously, not everyone can be in the world title hunt due to a lack of skills/age/experience, but pretty much everyone is in the secondary title hunt. TNA needs that if they’re going to establish anyone that isn’t a WWE castoff.

This has been for your consideration.

P.S. I want to give a shout-out to the awesome folks at yrockonxpn.org. They are a great Philly radio station that you can listen to FOR FREE on iTunes. Simply go to the radio section on your iTunes menu, select alternative music and click on yrockonxpn. The staff works for free so you know they love music and they are amazing when it comes to requests, they are prompt and effective. I threw some random stuff at them and it was on in minutes. (FYI, Guster is the greatest band in the world, feel free to request anything by them). Alright, enough whoring for other sites. Next week I’ll post some link from the Pulse, so in the meantime, go to the wrestling section and read every column. Every one. No excuses.

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