Historically Speaking: Marking Out

“To look back upon history is inevitably to distort it.” – Norman Pearson

The Opening Chapter
Lately I have been having a bad couple of weeks, professionally and personally. I don’t need to and won’t get into any more than that, because this is a wrestling column not a personal blog. But one thing that always puts me in a little better mood is wrestling. I’m one of those fans that falls into that category that virtually all wrestling is good wrestling; it’s like pizza or beer or sex, even when it’s bad, it’s still good.

But there are moments that you get excited to be a fan. The moments get you talking and glad you are a fan. Those mark-out moments. We all had them when we were younger and lot less Internet savvy. Now it becomes more difficult to really mark out as a fan thanks to this “smark” cred we now have. (If you’re reading this column you are a smark.)

So to make myself feel a little more upbeat this week I am going to use my web space to reminisce about a few of my favorite “mark out” moments. These are some instances where I was truly excited, truly shocked or just truly glad to be a fan of this great pseudo-sport. Maybe it will get you thinking about your favorite wrestling moments and quit thinking about how bad wrestling supposedly is today. After all, what we are seeing now doesn’t hold a candle to 1995.

The Kid Wins!
Monday Night RAW was only a few short months old when Sean Waltman made wrestling upset history. Waltman had been on RAW the weeks earlier as The Cannonball Kid and The Kamikaze Kid, losing to Doink the Clown and Mr. Hughes. When he came out the third week, simply as the The Kid, it seemed like another squash, this time for Razor Ramon. So when Kid came off the top rope with a high angle moonsault press and got the 3 count on Ramon, my cousin and I lost it. I was only 10 at this point but even at that young age I knew the difference between a squash and a supposed “competitive” match. It really was a true mark-out moment, and was a phenomenal way to establish Waltman as a legitimate professional wrestling superstar.

In the old days of RAW that was often more excitement than would be featured on a couple weeks worth of programming, but the show would get even better. Marty Jannetty made his return to the WWF that night and challenged old pal Shawn Michaels for his Intercontinental Championship. And in another move that no one saw coming, Jannetty pulled out another amazing upset and won the Championship on his first night back. To have two completely unpredictable events like that happen on the same program was mind-blowing from its time and wouldn’t be repeated until the glory days of “Attitude.”

I would probably mark out for an unknown upset and returning star’s Championship win if it happened on a live RAW today, but to see it at age 10 I think it really solidified my love for this “sport.”

End of Hulkamania
Oh, I was never a Hulkamaniac as a kid. I hated that he never lost and just didn’t really “get him.” I was a Warrior guy. And then I became a Hit Man guy. So needless to say I was pretty pissed to see Hulk Hogan get that fifth World Title at WrestleMania IX. So after I heard the news that Yokozuna beat Hogan for the WWF Championship at the inaugural King of the Ring PPV I was a damn happy kid. I didn’t even really like Yokozuna that much; I was just damn glad the orange goblin wasn’t the Champion anymore, and it meant my man Bret Hart would get his belt back, which transfers right into my next memory

My First Live Event
It was October 1993 and my brother, uncle and cousin surprised me with tickets to my first ever WWF live event. I had no idea where we were going or what we were doing until he pulled up to the Sioux City Convention Center and I saw Bret Hart standing outside signing autographs for some other kids. My family encouraged me to go over there and get his autograph but I just stood there, frozen. By the time I got my wits he had gone inside the building.

The show was your usual 1993 WWF fare. Owen Hart and Marty Jannetty won a couple squashes. Tatanka beat Bastion Booger and Well Dunn wrestled in a tag match. I only remember that because of the heart-warming “faggot” chant that Well Dunn received from the Midwestern Iowa crowd. But the main event was Yokozuna defending the WWF Championship against Bret Hart in a cage match, complete with awesome old-school blue bars. In my eleven year old mind I was sure this would be the night that Bret won his belt back. I was out of my seat when I saw Bret jump to the floor after climbing over the cage, only to realize Yoko had rolled out of the door just seconds before, in a spot I’m sure they repeated on a nightly basis.

I have since been to a WCW house show, three WWE house shows, two live RAW tapings, three SmackDown! tapings and a handful of Iowa independent shows but I will never forget the excitement of the first time.

Bring Down the Walls
In the summer of 1999 I didn’t have Internet at my house. It took me actually paying for it myself in 2000 to actually get it. I relied on getting my wrestling Internet fix at school, and in the summer I was pretty dark about things. So I might have been the only person in the world that didn’t know what that countdown was for that was on RAW every week. Needless to say I was floored when the countdown hit zero, the music blared “Break the walls down” and the word “JERICHO” appeared on the TitanTron. I hadn’t seen him on Nitro in a couple months, but had no idea he was done with WCW and had signed with the WWF. It was really was a true mark-out moment. I would have been excited nonetheless if it would be Chris Jericho at the end of that timer, but to not know and actually be a surprise made it that much better. For once it was a legitimate surprise that paid off in the end.

The Tribe of Extreme Returns
I was really intrigued by the initial WCW invasion angle. I really was interested in it and wanted it to work. Within weeks it had already become not what fans were expecting and already seemed stale. So on that July 2001 episode of RAW when Rob Van Dam and Tommy Dreamer hit the ring I was excited. When the WWF cavalry of Raven, Rhyno, Justin Credible, The Dudley Boyz and Tazz arrived I was thinking it was more of the same. Once it became obvious who all these men were and Paul Heyman left the announce table to make it apparent that yes, ECW was back, I was floored. It was instant shot of good into this angle. When the 20-man tag match was announced I was intrigued. When Stephanie McMahon showed up as the ECW figurehead showed up I was curious.

By the next week the angle was back to the same old same old, but for that one hour of RAW I was absolutely hooked. I can still remember clearly seeing everyone slowly realize what all these men had in common and when Paul Heyman got up to confirm everyone’s suspicions, it was a great moment in wrestling history. Unfortunately that’s all it was; a moment. The ECW movement was buried within a week and six months of storyline potential was flushed out in an hour.

Maybe next week I’ll explain on the coulda, shouldas of the ECW invasion. For one great mark out moment to erased so quickly is a shame.

The Debut of Brock
My friends and I knew it was coming. Brock Lesnar, native of Webster, South Dakota, was coming to the World Wrestling Federation. My college roommate and I, grew up in another small town just 40 miles from Webster and lived next door in our dorms to a couple of guys from Webster. Needless to say we are glued to our TVs the night after WrestleMania XVIII when we got word from back home that this would be Brock’s night to debut. He had been in high school while we were still pre-teens but we knew of him well. Hell I was even at a couple of his U of M wrestling camps when I was in high school and got an autographed t-shirt. But when he finally showed up and destroyed a bunch of guys in a Hardcore Title match; handing out F-5s like they were candy, we were all rooting on our hometown boy like it was a hometown football game. When he came back in 2002 to defend the WWF Undisputed Championship against Triple H in a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, house show the place was packed to the rafters.

Matt’s Return and Bret’s “Return”
I have to lump these two instances from the summer of 2005 together because they were the last times I really came out of my seat while watching a live RAW. To see Matt Hardy finally return to WWE and get his hands on Edge was a surreal sight, especially after the tease from earlier when they played Matt’s music only for Edge to come out. The way the announcers and cameramen played it added to the realism of all of it. This was the sure-fire angle to make both men legitimate, main-event superstars. And then just like the InVasion angle, it all fell apart so fast. It’s hard to believe it’s been two years already since all of that. I don’t think Matt Hardy is ever going to be the top guy now, but two years ago at this time I would’ve bet on it in a heartbeat.

And just a few weeks later RAW emanated from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Shawn Michaels was conveniently a heel and Bret Hart had made peace enough with WWE to do a DVD and go into the Hall of Fame so rumors ran rampant about him appearing this night in his hometown. I even bought into the hype a little bit. So when his music hit to open the show I almost hit the ceiling in excitement. When Shawn walked out in his pink tie he got heat that Jeff Jarrett couldn’t get if he was on fire. I kind of laugh now about buying into the hype that Bret could show up, but just hearing the music was enough to get excited.

The Perspective
This was fun to write. I enjoyed thinking back to some of my favorite and most memorable moments from my wrestling fandom. I realized all these moments came from WWE so maybe I’ll do a part two of marking out later. There are plenty of moments from WCW that have now come to mind that would be nice to reminisce about, so stay tuned.

For this week the vault is closed

Linked to the Pulse
David B remembers the last time we all saw The Macho Man.

Blatt gives much deserved praise to this week’s ECW.

Andy Wheeler makes Unforgiven sound more fun than apparently really was. I don’t know; I didn’t see it.

Recent History
This is a new section I have devised where I can ramble through my thoughts on this past week in wrestling, whether it be the television shows, pay per views, or any news that came out. Kinda like Vh1’s “Best Week Ever,” but this should be less annoying hopefully.

~ A week later and I barely remember what happened on Impact

~ I saw the SmackDown! taping live last week so I didn’t watch this week. I’m sure it was probably more entertaining being there than watching it on TV.

~ Apparently I didn’t miss anything at Unforgiven. But having three World Championship matches and not one going on last seemed a bit odd. In fact the entire card structure seemed off – ECW opening the show, Triple H going on third, Mark Henry getting a legit main event spot – it just doesn’t seem right.

~ RAW was dreadfully boring this week. Hacksaw Duggan and Daivari in a flag match, on RAW, in 2007, was something I could’ve done without. But I like Daivari so I’m glad he’s able to take advantage of his time on RAW during these “well” times. I think it would’ve been funnier if instead of the Iranian flag he would’ve had the Michigan state flag. Triple H squashing five guys in one segment was f*cking insane. Would it have been so hard to just do a six man tag this week or next to give Londrick some sort of rub?

~ ECW has been absolutely amazing one-hour show with a roster of only twelve men. How is it that they can put on an entertaining and well-paced show when TNA can’t do it with a roster triple that size? I mean lately ECW has had four feuds going that all got some sort of time and logic. The Boogeyman – Vis story was built up well and it’s a shame it didn’t get a proper PPV blow off, other than the fact the match would’ve been atrocious.

This Day in History
I figured if we are talking history around here we should pay homage to what has happened on this very day in the years gone by. It will either make you long for the old days or be happy for what we have now.

1993 – Shinya Hashimoto defeated the Great Muta for the IWGP Heavyweight title
1993 – Jerry Lawler defeated Tatanka for the USWA Unified Heavyweight title
1997 – WWF One Night Only was held at the N.E.C. Arena, Birmingham, England
1997 – Shawn Michaels became the first ever “grand slam” winner in the history of the WWF (Heavyweight, I.C., European, Tag)
1997 – Shawn Michaels defeated Davey Boy Smith for the WWF European Heavyweight title
1997 – John Kronus & New Jack defeated Buh Buh Ray & D-Von Dudley for the ECW Tag Team title
1999 – Vince McMahon gave up the WWF Heavyweight title and declared it vacant
1999 – Mankind & the Rock defeated Undertaker & the Big Show for the WWF Tag Team title
2002 – Homicide defeated Slyk Wagner Brown for the Jersey All Pro Heavyweight Title

1951 – Greg “The Hammer” Valentine was born.
1958 – Arn Anderson was born.
1976 – Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley was born.

The Assignment
It’s important to know your history to know where you have come from and where you are going. Nova implemented history assignments for the students of the developmental territories months ago so they would know pro wrestling’s history and they would learn just how many moves Nova did create. I feel this is a smashing idea and every week I will assign a book or DVD for you to check out and learn from. They are not only educational but very entertaining.

No real rhyme or reason for my choice this week, but I just want to highlight Classy Freddie Blassie’s book Listen, You Pencil Necked Geeks. Blassie is a guy from the old school and so he has some fascinating stories about working the territories back in the old days. Long-time WWE scribe Keith Elliot Greenberg was his co-author or ghost writer and does really well with it. It really felt like Blassie was telling his stories. It came out right around the time Blassie died himself so it was good to get an old-timer’s story out while he could still tell it. It’s been a few years since I read this (it came out in the summer of 2003) but I remember getting through it in quick fashion while at work that summer.

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