Pulse Wrestling Answers #041

It’s been a rather busy week back in the real world, so there haven’t been as many PWA updates as I would have liked. Luckily for one and all, a lazy Saturday afternoon gives me a chance to catch up on the backlog. Luckily for me, the radio just started playing John Lennon. Let’s roll.

First of all, allow me to preface the Q&A with a quote from the one and only Mr David Meltzer:

”Many in the wrestling business are now relieved that this story is over. But that clearly points out the biggest weakness in the business today. The inability to plan and see the picture long-term. This story isn’t over. It’s just begun. The story ends when the business cleans up its act, not when this round of media coverage dies down because the trial is over. As long as steroids are a controlled substance–illegal–now for non-therapeutic distribution, purchase and usage, and the business remains based on steroided-out physiques as the norm and freakishly steroided-out physiques as the ultimate goal, there will be more arrests, more trials, and more bad publicity. The business, economically speaking, will survive the first one with little damage short-term and even less long-term. The second one will damage a little more, and with each successive case, the damage will grow. But real life, of which dollars are only a small factor and sense should be the overriding factor, is seeing incalculable damage done on a daily basis. Incalculable, because we just don’t know… Steroids are implicitly encouraged. McMahon can just pretend it doesn’t exist and ride out the storm, which should go away by the end of this week. But it really won’t go away at the end of the week. It’ll just go on a hiatus. But the more they fight, the more damage will be done to the health of their employees, and inevitably to the wrestling business as well. Or they can look at it from simply a health consideration. Change the rules for the short-term loss and the long-term health of the business.”

That was written in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter dated 8th July 1991. Over 16 years later, he could put the above in next week’s issue and it would still be just as accurate. That so little has changed in that time-span is, quite frankly, diabolical. This time around the ‘trial’ is a Congressional investigation prompted by a father murdering his wife and seven year-old son. 16 years from now, how many more tragedies will have unfolded within the wrestling world? Vince McMahon might not have blood on his hands but it is his hands that have the power to stem the flow. Let’s hope that for once he doesn’t keep them clenched into fists ready to rally against any and all well-intentioned parties who may dare to criticise his business. The wrestling ‘wars’ ended a long time ago. He won them. This is now not a fight, it’s a movement. This is not just about Vince McMahon. Hell, it’s not even just about the wrestlers. It’s about the wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends and lovers of individuals who continue to be coerced into a certain lifestyle out of an outdated and inherited sense of what sells. So don’t just sit back and wait and watch and see how Vinnie Junior wriggles out of this one, or how many times Jeff Hardy can get suspended, or how screwed up Chris Masters’ body gets, or who wins the wrestling dead pool next time around. This situation developed because it allowed people to make money. As buyers, we do indeed hold sway over what happens next. The next time you want to buy a wrestling product – a ticket, a T-shirt, a DVD, a book, an action figure, a PPV, whatever – think long and hard about who gets your money and what they will use it for. Vince McMahon listens to only two things – himself and money. If his money changes, perhaps he would too. If we all want to see change then we have to actually change ourselves first of all. It sounds trite but it’s true.

Anyway, the soapbox is going away so it’s quite safe to send in your questions on all things wrestling for next time. For this time, read on…

“I was reading your response to the question about people turning down a “promotion” in wrestling. I’m not an insider or anything, but I’ve always heard of two you didn’t mention.

In 1990/91 I’ve always heard Ric Flair was ready to drop the WCW Title to Scott Steiner. They even main evented the Clash of the Champions in Jan’91. I heard Scott didn’t want it because he knew he brother Rick would be left in the cold. I suppose he figured they could still get a big contract from WWF together still and at the time I bet were making really good money for their trips to Japan.

And in 2000, at either Uncensored or Superbrawl, WCW wanted to put the World title on Jeff Jarrett. But Jarrett didn’t want to be known as the World Champion when WCW was doing the worst business in their history so they kept the title on Sid.

That’s just what I’ve heard. Sid got a raw deal when Russo was brought into WCW since he was set for a even bigger push, even promised a PPV main event win over Hogan.

Speaking of Hogan, he was probably responsible for more people not getting the promotion WWF and WCW wanted to give people than anyone.

Take it easy”
– Paul Schaefer

Scott Steiner can suck the post-coital sweat from my balls after I’m done shafting his sister a brand new orifice and be glad for it, since he’d finally be contributing something resembling a valuable service to existence and thus at long last validate his mother getting spunked up the prizehole by his father after a myriad of coital positions one dark night many moons ago. Fuck him. But yes, the story goes that reigning champion Ric Flair and restored booker Dusty Rhodes both finally found someone they could both agree with being made champion. That person was Scott Steiner, who Flair had ironically helped get into the promotion in 1989 after Rick Steiner told him of his brother’s amateur credentials. By 1991, Scott had already surpassed his brother and was being earmarked for better things as a solo act only to try and cling to the team out of loyalty. His window of opportunity passed, and then the shit hit the fan with Flair jumping to the WWF with the belt later that year. Shortly afterwards, Scott suffered a major arm injury that meant tag matches were still his best option. By 1992, both Steiners were low-balled on a new contract offer by Bill Watts and were basically kicked out of WCW. By the time they got back to the promotion, after an underwhelming WWF run, Scott was far keener to try and get some singles success before it was too late. He did, though apparently Rick got rather jealous and they had a massive argument about it. Nowadays they have patched things up but Ric Flair is not too fond of Scott at all due to his erratic, roid-fuelled behaviour in the last few years of WCW.

Here’s an amusing anecdote from Flair’s book, To Be The Man, which involves everybody’s favourite monosyllabic black man:

”I remember the Steiners amusing themselves by taping up ‘Hacksaw’ Butch Reed’s hands and feet. Reed was such a fun-loving guy that he didn’t care. Then I asked Reed’s tag-team partner at the time, Ron Simmons, ‘When are they gonna do that to you?’

Simmons looked me dead in the eye: ‘Never.’

‘Well, what would happen if they did try to f*ck around with you?’

‘Flair, I’m unf*ckable.’”

Damn right he ain’t.

As for Jarrett, well, not wanting to be known as the lamest WCW Champion in history and then becoming one of the lamest WCW Champions in history might rank as one of his greatest victories but it is practically as hollow a triumph as owning his own promotion and putting himself over a washed-up, fatted-out Raven. I’m sure Jarrett is still quite happy to recognise them when he calls himself a 10-time world champion.

And if R.E.M. have not taught us anything else, which they haven’t, it’s that Monty got a raw deal, not Sid. Actually, that’s not true. R.E.M. have also taught us that:

(a) throwing yoghurt at air stewardesses is not likely to go unpunished
(b) singing a song with the Muppetts does nothing for your musical credibility
(c) singing a song with Placebo does nothing for your musical credibility
(d) the musicians can get as fat as they want as long as the singer stays thin
(e) the singer can be as bald as he wants as long as he makes the band look fat
(f) Andy Kauffman was in a wrestling match, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Seriously though, who gives a fart in the wind if Sid got politicked out of a push? By that point his erratic behaviour and non-existent reliability rendered any potential push absurd. Hogan certainly screwed a few folk out of pushes in his time but the ones to feel sorry for are the likes of Steve Austin, whose promising young stint in WCW as curtailed when he was made to job the United States Title to Jim Duggan in an embarrassing fashion. Of course, had Hogan not been shunted out of the WWF and snapped up by WCW, such a thing may never have happened and Austin may never have wound up being fired by WCW in time to capture the zeitgeist in the WWF – especially since that may never have leaded to Hall and Nash ditching the WWF to return to an eager WCW, leading to the Madison Square Garden ‘curtain call’ that cost Triple H his first big opportune push, which in turn led to the Austin 3:16 speech that sold a million T-shirts. And if that had never happened, who knows who Triple H may have wound up marrying? Chaos history is fun, kids.

Anyway, if you’re wondering quite why Flair is down on Scott Steiner nowadays, allow me to refresh your memory:

“Hey Iain,

Question for you, well, kind of a two parter really. Watching wrestling growing up, normally watching it via Silvervision VHS tapes or bits and bats on SKY round at my mates, I always found the show more enjoyable, if a one Mr Vince Mcmahon was commenting! I was pretty young at the time but always thought he made the matches more enjoyable and exciting than they actually were. Imagine my shock and disgust as I grew older, and more interested in the IWC etc, i discovered that he is pretty much universally slated by writers on the IWC and just fans in general. Why is this? Why did/do people not rate him much as a play by play guy? I sometimes watch old tapes back, or old RAWs online and still cant fault the guy really. Hes not brilliant is he, but i dont think hes utter shite.

The other thing I was pondering, still on the subject of commentary, is how were commentators picked for particular shows back in the day? These days you have the king and j.r on raw and cole and jbl on smackdown, and this has pretty much been a constant for ages (excpet for taz on smackdown). You know what your getting when you watch a ppv, or a weekly show, its pretty much a given who will be commentating. What ive noticed when watching pvp’s back in the day though is that one time you’ll have vince and jesse, then tony schivanoe (sp!?) and jesse the next pay per view roddy piper and vince, gorilla and the brain, vince and the brain, j.r macho man and the brain, then the next pay per view will be back to vince or gorilla etc. There never seemed to be the constant that we have today. Am I imagining this, or did it just depend on what mood vince was in on the day or something? If he felt like commentating, he damn well commentated.

Thanks, take it easy”
– Ben Kenyon

Vince McMahon was sent to a small territory to work as the ring announcer by his father in the early ‘70s, which was probably a case of Vince Sr giving him a thankless task to try and dissuade him from staying in the wrestling business as he did not want his son to get involved in it. Vince Jr stuck with it though, bagging a spot as the play-by-play man when regular commentator Ray Morgan was retired/fired in a cost-cutting measure. It wasn’t long after that until Vince Jr began to grow more and more powerful within the promotion, eventually buying out his father and taking over the world. He still kept doing the play-by-play, presumably because he still got a kick out of it, but of course he was kept far busier with business than in the early years and so more announcers were hired. Commentator line-ups were rather more random in those days than they are now, although as the PPV age developed there were certain combinations that were made to be the primary choices. Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura, which then became Gorilla Monsoon & Bobby Heenan after Ventura left. When Monsoon became too ill to continue, it was then Vince McMahon & Bobby Heenan (Vince had still been commentating on major TV shows all this time). Heenan jumped ship to WCW, so it was then Vince McMahon & Jerry Lawler. As Vince became more of an on-screen character, the fired-and-hired JR was eventually given the ball to run with and it became Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler. That combination has more or less lasted to the present day, albeit with both of them being fired at various points in recent years. Michael Cole is still earmarked to take over from JR as the lead announcer at some point and has recovered rather well from his disastrous early efforts, though it is really JBL that makes the Smackdown commentary tolerable. Joey Styles was one of many who were tapped to take JR’s spot in the interim, and then fell backwards into the new ECW project alongside Tazz.

As for why Vince is mocked so much for his commentary efforts… well, it’s all a matter of personal taste really. He locked into his style very early on in his career and didn’t deviate from it much at all, even by the ‘90s. Most wrestling announcers wind up becoming caricatures, like good ol’ JR or Tony Schiavone did, but Vince pretty much came that way from the get-go. He could never wrap his head around the technical aspects of wrestling, he could never keep up with fast-paced, mat-based action, and he could never remember the names of any but the most basic of holds and, let’s face it, his voice sounded like Kermit having an orgasm. There are only so many times that you can hear ‘WHATAMANEUVER’, ‘ONETWOHEGOTHIM-NOHEDIDN’T’, ‘OHMYGOODNESS’, and that phoney ‘HA-HA-HA’ laugh before it really starts getting old. You can hear him getting good and riled up in this gratefully overlooked Heavenly Bodies vs Spark Plugg & 1-2-3 Kid match from 1995:

To give Vince his due, he did a good job at selling the excitement of the match. The problem was that he very rarely stopped doing that, preferring to just yell a lot of nonsense even when merely stating the obvious.

But I think we can all agree that Shawn Michaels would be a very useful colour commentator whenever Jeebus makes him stop wrestling altogether.

“Hey there, I just read your column for the first time, and I had a few tidbits that I remember from various podcasts that relate to your answers.

– Kurt Angle said he didn’t think ECW should have apologized live for the crucifixion angle, he just said don’t associate it with him and his appearance on the show or something. I wasn’t following wrestling at that time, so when Kurt said this in 2000 or so (On WOL on eyada, the same show where he basically gave away the entire direction of the company for the next 6 or 8 months) he may have changed his story since it originally happened.

– Regarding stepping away from the big time, Raven was apparently making so little in WWE that going back to working indies, before TNA, he was making more than before. Partly because the promoters would often pay for travel, but also because he could sell merchandise on his own and keep all of the profits, and most of the money was under the table (which history has proven is not a wise thing to announce on the radio….). Rob Van Dam was almost swayed by this, perhaps not realizing his downside contract and spot on the card was paying him WAY more than Raven was making.

– I believe it was Wrestlecrap’s RD Reynolds who speculated that the humiliating Mark Henry angles were to try and get him to quit, as he had a Big Show-like contract; guaranteed for a lot of years and a lot of money. Good for him sticking it out, especially a couple LONG stints in OVW.

– It seemed that for a long time, EVERY time a WWE worker did a mainstream fluff interview, they would always say there wanted to wrestle 2 more years. Booker T and Trish Stratus were two in particular that I remember. It reminds me of the period of time after WCW went bust, and a whole bunch of guys were talking about starting a new company; the standard quote from every one of them was that they were ‘in negotiations with Clear Channel’. That probably meant ‘we called somebody there’. Same with all the old-timers looking to get a job after WCW went bust; they all tried to make it sound like they were in the process of hashing out a contract with WWE and would back back within 6 months.”
– Steve K

Thanks for those, Steve. You can download the aforementioned Kurt Angle WOL, from 15th June 2000, here. His ECW visit came at a time when he was rather naïve about professional wrestling and thus took Paul Heyman at face value when he said ECW was a more legitimate form of wrestling that would appeal to Angle. He turned up and commentated on a Taz/Guido match and hung around to watch the rest of the show. Of course, that included Raven hanging Sandman up on a crucifix with the blessing of Sandman’s young son. Angle felt that he probably ought not to be associated with such stunts at a time when he relied on making speeches and appearances in schools and community groups, etc. to earn a living. He got rather upset about Heyman misleading him and told him that if his appearance and the crucifixion aired on the same show then he would contemplate taking legal action. In any event, the crucifixion skit didn’t go over well with the rest of the live crowd and so Heyman changed his mind about it and even had Raven go out to apologise. As Angle notes, the apology had nothing to do with him. Still, it certainly was not something Angle approved of and the same goes for the Austin/Undertaker crucifixion in the WWF in 1998. However, Angle seemed to be sensible enough to recognise that there are indeed different strokes for different folks, particularly among the wide mosaic of styles in professional wrestling. People can watch what they like and skip what they don’t. Then again, he goes on to put over Stone Cold as a role model for children, so maybe the painkillers were already starting to take an effect on him.

Raven making more money working for the indies doesn’t surprise me, really. The same is probably still true of any undercard WWE worker with any sort of name value. Someone like Paul London could, I imagine, be making quite the tidy profit by taking a similar path. Never underestimate the allure of the ‘big-time’ sensation, I suppose.

Mark Henry undergoing ‘humiliation booking’ sounds about right. Now that they have renegotiated a more sensible contract for him, they’ve taken to booking him in a more believable manner. It still doesn’t erase the memories of yesteryear though. Thankfully, the chances of him becoming world champion would appear to have dried up.

To be fair, Trish Stratus did wind up leaving wrestling – for now at least. Booker has been dropping hints about retiring for about four or five years now. Perhaps he would have had the King Booker gimmick not come along in time to refresh the business for him. He clearly loves the role. Sharmell said in a recent interview that he puts on his faux-royal accent at home, which just raises a whole load of imagery that I don’t want to know about. He and Stevie Ray have been doing just fine with their Pro Wrestling Alliance indie promotion and training school in Houston, which Booker appears to be hoping will get turned into a full WWE developmental territory in due time. There have been rumours circulating about Booker perhaps, maybe, possibly again making noise about retiring due to his name coming up in the latest steroid scandal. Even if he were to hang up his boots, he’d be a dead cert to stick around the business with his school and perhaps an agent spot in WWE too. Hell, even as a non-wrestling on-air character he would be entertaining. That’s the crux of wrestling ‘retirements’. They still don’t cut the ties.

“Hey Iain,

“Things are looking up.”

After Vince won the ECW title at Backlash, he and Shane were taunting the ECW guys. Shane said, “Hey Sabu, things are looking up!”

When Sabu was released, he had a 90 day no-compete clause, which is up in two weeks.

So, unless the WWE can sign Chris Jericho in the next few days, my money is on Sabu.

You probably know all this, but I just wanted to be on the record so I can tell the world, “I told you so!”

I so rarely get to do that.

– The Mutt

It’s as valid as any other theory, I suppose. The odds of WWE bringing back someone of Sabu’s age, reputation, style, temperament and reliability during such a turbulent period of business remain pretty damn large. Apart from anything else, he is ‘a Heyman guy’. Under Stephlaw, anybody who has ever had a pleasant encounter with Heyman is evil and must be punished accordingly.

So what other candidates for kayfabed McMahon-hood are there? Here are all the possibilities I’ve seen mentioned:

Bobby Lashley? If this storyline was originally meant to benefit one of their favourite young upper mid-carders in Ken Kennedy, it makes a certain degree of sense that they would simply transfer it to another one now Kennedy is ‘unavailable’. Lashley is still injured but then this sort of thing wouldn’t have to lead to a match immediately. It would also tie in nicely with the Lashley/McMahon encounters from earlier this year, not to mention finally see them push ahead with a heel turn for young Bobby. Then again, he’s not exactly very ‘well’ either is he?

Shelton Benjamin? His tag partner is out for a while. He has a memorable on-screen mother that could wage verbal war on the McMahons. He has a shiny new hair colour. Um, that’s about it really. I doubt Vince would want to be associated with somebody who currently looks so bloody stupid to be honest.

Triple H? The vast, vast majority of the audience are already aware that he is McMahon’s son-in-law, yet they’ve not brought that into the on-screen storylines yet. Rumour has it that they might, and even if they didn’t WWE ‘canon’ has already established that he was once married to Stephanie, so there’s a whole load of veritable incest to be brought into play. And we all know Vince was chomping at the bit to do an incest angle with Stephanie in 2003. Could he get to live out his fond desire to pretend that his daughter is sleeping with a relative in 2007? Wouldn’t put it past him.

Kenny Dykstra? If you can no longer have Ken McMahon, why not have a Kenny McMahon? And things always look up for cheerleaders. And it might help explain why Vince was so randomly fond of the Spirit Squad last year. I don’t think anybody could fail to find this underwhelming, or pretend that Dysktra was ready for such a big spot. Not even Eric S. Then again, the thought of him frothing about his illegitimate son turning out to be a McMahon’s illegitimate son tickles me pink.

Hornswoggle? Leprechauns look up an awful lot. The McMahons have Irish heritage. I’m sure that I saw Vince wearing a green suit one time. He is arguably the fourth most over babyface on Smackdown these days. I’m sure he’d be quite happy to pretend to f*ck Stephanie. And it would only help Finlay. We have a winner.

Rey Mysterio? I’m not sure if this would make Dominik a McMahon or not, but Rey does an awful lot of looking up too. And they were meant to have done a Rey/Vince feud in the summer before the booking pages went up in flames.

Chris Masters? What if it was all true and at last we’d have an explanation for Masters getting hired in the first place? Hmm…

Gary? He makes lots of people look up an awful lot. And, c’mon, the chance to hear Vince speaking Gary’s language should not be passed over so quickly.

Umaga? He always looks up. Cannibalism is a positive decision. Again, it could help to explain why Vince took such an interest in Umaga earlier this year. I mean, besides the chance to maybe blow on his belly and make him squeal like Homer with Spider-Pig.

Harry Smith? Read all about it here.

Ted Dibiase Jr? Who could pass up the chance to see the debut of the Billion Dollar Man with the Billion Dollar Belt?

Steve Austin? Because they JUST CAN’T LET IT GO. Everybody who suggests this seems to think it’s because JR says things are looking up when Austin comes out. He doesn’t. He truly doesn’t.

Elijah Burke? Things might be looking up since he has those daft 4-UP symbols on his attire. I seem to recall it was some vague boxing/MMA reference but perhaps they co-opted it. But why would WWE writers do something so sensible? Or even watch ECW?

Big Daddy V? Oh, now he gets renamed with ‘daddy’ and the first letter of Vince’s name? How convenient. It seems Vince was very excited by the thought of a black One Man Gang when the gimmick change was discussed. Rather odd considering he turned the One Man Gang into a would-be jivin’ black man. This must have been on his mind for years.

Snitsky? He disappears from TV at a rather opportune time, doesn’t he?

Kane? He needs a more convoluted backstory, I reckon. They should try to work an evil twin into it somewhere.

Ken Kennedy? You betcha. I find it hard to believe that they would scrap several months of booking plans and the chance to elevate somebody they are rather keen on, and who has at least done a memorable job in toeing the company line in recent difficult media appearances, simply because of an enforced suspension that up until very recently they would have been quite happy to ignore. The most likely course of action is that they will unveil somebody random as the son very soon, either a comedic option like Hornswoggle or a hand-picked ‘hoss’ like Snitsky. From here they can work in Triple H and reveal the marriage to Stephanie as she and Shane get more and more involved. Then Vince will eventually admit that his ‘son’ was just a sham to protect his real son, his real chosen successor and hand-picked heir, which will indeed turn out to be Kennedy. After that comes the steady build to a big match with Triple H, possibly held off on until WrestleMania 24.

Okay, I’m calling it quits here because I’m in dire need of a nap. Lazy Saturday afternoons are fine after a busy Friday night with lots of expensive vodka – but there has to be a nap involved somewhere.

Keep the questions coming in for next time.

I’ll leave you with a video to terrify the souls of the innocent with:

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