Historically Speaking: Then and Now

“History repeats itself because no one was listening the first time.” – Anonymous

The Opening Chapter
It’s early October, which means we are in the beginnings of the new fall TV season. Every year there are a lot of potential hits and a lot of shows that don’t make it very long or live up to their potential. Everybody has an opinion on what shows will be good and which are bad, or are just bad knock-offs of other previous and more successful shows. But in reality all shows are some sort of knock-off or retread or copy of some other idea.

My point with all this TV talk is that in storytelling there is a core group of story arcs and character types available and the creator’s job is to use the successful stories and characters to create more success. This is true in wrestling as well. A couple of months ago I talked about the some of the more successful character types in wrestling, but now I am going to take that a step further and talk about specific instances of how those characters are re-used and recycled to garner more success.

Look back to the WWF, circa 1989 – 1991. During this era of time, the company was a couple years removed from the hugely successful “rock ‘n’ wrestling” era and was now in a financial and mainstream downturn. If we look to the present day, it can be argued that WWE is now in the same type of situation; years off of the hugely successful “attitude” era and could be considered in a financial, mainstream and some would even argue creative downturn. But in those eighteen or so years the cast of characters really hasn’t changed all that much.

The Heroes
The heroes of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s were larger than life characters who were fan favorites among kids but most wrestled like they hadn’t learned a move in their life. They bode much the same way in today’s landscape

Unstoppable superhero who can do no wrong and just won’t go down:
1990: Hulk Hogan
2007: John Cena

‘Roided up freak who’s super strong, shakes the ropes and can get just a little “excited:”
1990: The Ultimate Warrior
2007: Batista

‘Roided up freak who’s light on the promo skills but is deceptively athletic and throws a mean powerslam:
1990: Davey Boy Smith
2007: Bobby Lashley

Former top star who’s getting in the end of career but is still damn over and can go when called upon:
1990: Dusty Rhodes
2007: Ric Flair
(I might be stretching it a bit here, but think about it, even though they were equals and top rivals in the NWA, Dusty was already a huge star in ‘70s when Flair was just getting his start.)

The Villains
The side of good isn’t worth their salt unless they have some formidable foes to make the battle exciting. Here’s how the best of the bad matched up

The royal couple, who played the idea of crown up just a little too much:
1990: Randy Savage and Sherri
2007: Booker T and Sharmell

You can’t really appreciate how big he is until you see him in person foreign guy:
1990: Andre the Giant
2007: The Great Khali

The undead, unstoppable, impervious-to-pain monster guy:
1990: The Undertaker
2007: The Undertaker
(Now that is some career longevity )

The “I’ve got money and am better than you” guy:
1990: “Million $ Man” Ted DiBiase
2007: John “Bradshaw” Layfield
(You can’t tell me that Orlando Jordan paired with Bradshaw in 2005 wasn’t totally by design )

The Supporting Characters
The top billing is what sells the tickets but you can’t keep the crowds entertained without some entertaining supporting characters. Those characters that entertained in 1990 are still the same characters entertaining in 2007, on both sides of the locker room.

The patriotic hard-nosed brawler:
1990: Hacksaw Jim Duggan
2007: Hacksaw Jim Duggan
(The guy has literally not changed one thing about his character in 20 years, as long as you can ignore that forgettable couple of months in late 2000 WCW.)

Token evil fat guy number one, this one’s from the streets:
1990: Akeem/One Man Gang
2007: Viscera/Big Daddy V

Token evil fat guy number two, this one’s just really mean and angry all the time:
1990: Canadian Earthquake
2007: Mark Henry

The talented evil guys with huge egos that can wrestle but will cheat to make it easier; they come in the ‘Hollyood pretty boy, cocky with ripped abs, and blonde sh!t talker models:”
1990: Rick “The Model” Martel, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect
2007: John Morrison, Randy Orton, Edge
(Can you imagine that six-man tag match? Or an ultimate heel stable with all six )

Token hard-headed foreigner Vince loves these:
1990: Haku
2007: Umaga

That guy that reminds you he’s smarter than you are:
1990: The Genius
2007: Matt Striker

Bald bad-ass in black tights:
1990: Bad News Brown
2007: Snitsky
(I know it’s not fair to put Snitsky in the same league as Bad News Allen, but their characters are pretty similar.)

The token redneck/hillbilly:
1990: Hillbilly Jim
2007: Jimmy Wang Yang
(Insert Trevor Murdoch if Hillbilly Jim would’ve been evil)

Evil foreign jobber:
1990: Boris Zhukov
2007: Daivari
(In fact, I think Hacksaw’s had flag matches with both of them )

Talented wrestler saddled with a humiliating, career-stunting gimmick:
1990: “Red Rooster” Terry Taylor
2007: “Eugene” Nick Dinsmore

Token face jobber that inexplicably kept a job for years and was always there when needed:
1990: Koko B. Ware
2007: Funaki

Pure wrestling fans’ dream date that didn’t get the push/recognition he deserves:
1991: Ricky Steamboat
2007: CM Punk

The crazy daredevil guy that’s over like crazy but can’t cut a promo to save his life:
1990: Jimmy Snuka
2007: Jeff Hardy

The solid technician that started in tag ranks and earned his way up the singles ranks:
1990: Bret Hart
2007: Matt Hardy

Former Intercontinental and Tag Champion who’s now every new bad guy’s first stop:
1990: Tito Santana
2007: Val Venis

Dusty Rhodes’ plucky young son:
1990: Dustin Rhodes
2007: Cody Rhodes

The Tag Teams
WWE doesn’t focus on tag teams right now but the ones they have now are all a throwback to those that found success in days gone by

The pretty boy high-flyers, one is blonde and one is brunette:
1990: The Rockers
2007: Brian Kendrick & Paul London

Those wacky foreigners:
1990: The Bushwackers
2007: The Highlanders

The under-pushed athletes, who just happen to cheat:
1990: Arn Anderson & Tully Blanchard
2007: Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin

Obnoxious guys stuck in a time warp:
1990: Rhythm ‘n’ Blues
2007: Duece ‘n’ Domino

Plucky underdog pretty boys:
1990: The Young Stallions or The Killer Bees
2007: The Major Brothers

Those goddam French-Canadians
1990: The Fabulous Rougeau Brothers
2007: La Resistance

The Perspective
Sometimes it’s true what they saw about the more things change, the more they stay the same. Characters don’t really die; they just evolve or get played by a new actor. I guess what role has brought success in the past will theoretically will bring success in the future. The WWF may have been bad in-ring wise in 1990, but at least we had the NWA and the final days of the AWA as alternatives. Now if you think WWE is bad all you have is TNA there to remind you what the WWF looked like 1999. At least Ring of Honor sells their DVDs for cheap.

For this week the vault is closed

Linked to the Pulse
Big Andy Mac does nice job of breaking down ROH’s ever growing collection of stables and explaining all their various purposes.

Glazer talks about how the talent pecking order should go with TNA’s new two hour show. I had very few complaints with the options he chose.

David B. brings up more last year WCW goodness. They had so many “so bad they’re good” angles in that last year. This one somehow ends up with Kevin Nash retiring.

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.

TNA was a refreshing change of pace this week. They took virtually the whole hour to focus on the tag and ladies divisions. They left the main eventers where they should be, in the main event slot. I just have one question, why is Sting so worried about Judas Mesias when he has a World Title shot in a couple weeks?

Jaime Noble and Shannon Moore got time again on SmackDown this week to continue some sort of Cruiserweight Title angle. More please

This is a helluva way for John Cena to go down. I really hope the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing is in play with Cena. He deserves his success. His injury and “Save Us.222” actually makes No Mercy an intriguing show for a change. This would be a really good way to get rid of the spinner belt as well.

ECW was solid again in this week. I’m glad the Miz-Balls feud got some more development to actually give the angle some more legs, but the Big Daddy V thing at the end left a bad taste in my mouth. Would’ve been so bad to let Tommy and Punk go at it at No Mercy with V menacingly standing by at ringside, ready to pounce the winner and kick off that program?

Managed to catch the Danielson-McGuinness match from Driven, and I was quite impressed and entertained just like everyone said I would be. I’m slowly combing through some more of ROH’s best matches and may become a ROHbot just yet.

I also managed to catch Royal Rumbles ’88 and ’93 for the first time ever this past week. Remember kids, free downloading and file sharing is illegal

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.

1960 – Hardboiled Haggerty & Len Montana defeated Tiny Mills & Stan Kowalski for the AWA Tag Team title
1981 – Sgt. Slaughter defeated Ricky Steamboat in a tournament final for the NWA U.S. Heavyweight title
1993 – Event – UWFI, Fighting Osaka Furitsu Gym, Osaka, Japan
1993 – Jeff Jarrett defeated Tommy Rich in a tournament final for the USWA Southern Heavyweight title
1993 – Moondog Spike & Mike Anthony defeated the Dogcatchers for the USWA Tag Team title
1996 – The controversial Austin/Pillman gun incident episode of RAW
1996 – Colorado Kid defeated Jerry Lawler for the USWA Unified Heavyweight title
1999 – Disco Inferno defeated Psicosis for the WCW Cruiserweight title

1948 – Linda McMahon was born
1961 – Bobby Fulton was born
1970 – Heavy Metal was born
1972 – Bo Dupp was born

The Assignment
It’s important to know your history to know where you have come from and where you are going. Back when Nova was in charge of the WWE developmental system he implemented mandatory history assignments for the students of the developmental territories so they would know pro wrestling’s history and they would learn just how many moves Nova created and apparently the best ways to get on-line prescriptions. I feel Nova had a great idea there 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.

Forever Hardcore, the alternative version of WWE’s Rise and Fall of ECW is just as good, and in some parts better than its competitor. What Forever Hardcore misses out on the video footage and photographs is made up for with much more candid dialogue from the participants and more information on the stories that WWE glossed over. New Jack going into detail about his bouts with Vic Grimes is highly entertaining and a story that James Mitchell relates about almost blowing himself up with Mikey Whipwreck while he was drunk is worth the price of admission alone. Plus it’s great to see Sabu cut straight-laced interviews while wearing his headdress and a polo shirt. There are also some very telling stories on what these guys really think of some of the WWE employed guys like Tazz and Tommy Dreamer. It’s a very different look and feel than a slick WWE produced disc but the content makes it well worth the over 2 hour running time. Wrestling history guys like me eat DVDs like this up.

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