For Your Consideration…ROHbots Are the 21st Century Marks

Welcome to week 66.

Is it just me or was this a crazy-long week? I don’t know why but the hours just seem to move slower and slower. Maybe it’s because it’s summer. Maybe it’s because working at a job sucks. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because in a few short hours I will finally get to see DARK KNIGHT!!!

Man, I am so pumped for this movie. Based on everything that’s circulating out there, there is zero chance that this movie is going to suck, which is going to be a major accomplishment the way this summer has been going. Seriously, has there ever been a summer with such mediocrity?

“Iron Man” was the somewhat official beginning of the summer movie season and it was certifiably badass. That movie had everything you could have possibly asked for from a comic book movie and gave me so much hope that this summer would be legendary. Unfortunately, “Iron Man” was the exception, not the rule. “Get Smart” was not all that funny, not all that original and not all that entertaining. As a fan of the show, I might have had high expectations, but I tried my best to lower them to an appropriate level (and still it sucked). “Zohan” was yet another in a long string of poorly constructed Sandler movies, making me long for the days of “Billy Madison”. “Wanted”’s first 20 minutes were chock full of mindless fun, but then it decided to stop being mindless and that was when it went off the tracks. “Hancock” was brutally unentertaining and yet another example of how a simple premise can be completely effed up. Oh, and last but certainly not least was “The Love Guru.” I’m a Mike Myers mark from the SNL days. I own a VHS and a DVD copy of “So I Married an Axe Murderer”, “Wayne’s World” and “Austin Powers”. Hell, I even sat through “Shrek 2.” I thought nothing could kill my love of the work of Mike Myers. Then I saw “The Love Guru”, and I can say without hyperbole that it was the worst movie I have ever seen. Ever. And I have seen a lot of bad movies in my time. It’s not bad enough that the movie is unfunny and painful and outright embarrassing, but it also has to go and taint my enjoyment of anything Myers has ever done. How can someone go from so funny to so incredibly awful and not notice? It’s like watching an episode of “The Simpsons” from season 5 and then one from season 13 and trying to figure out how the hell they can look the same but be so completely different.

So, to you Batman, all I ask is that you rescue us from an abysmal summer. I’m not expecting summer of 2007, which was kind enough to give us “The Simpsons Movie”, “Knocked Up” and “Superbad”. All I want is to have that great theatergoing experience once. Replicate the feeling I had walking out of “Batman Begins” or “Spiderman 2”. This movie is bound to deliver the goods and the only thing keeping me from total geek nirvana is time.

On another note, the Emmy nominations came out today. It sucks that “Flight of the Conchords” and “Californication” weren’t nominated for best comedy, but I’m glad to see “Curb” and “Entourage” up there with “The Office”, as these are three consistently funny shows. I won’t get too deep into the Emmy list this week seeing as I have things to get to, but I just want to point out one scary fact. “According to Jim” has been nominated for an Emmy. Now it’s true that it’s only up for Cinematography, but still…it is now and forever known as “The Emmy nominated According to Jim.” Damn you, Emmy voters, damn you all to hell.

AH, got that out of my system. Now onto the wrestling.

TNA had a pay-per-view on Sunday. We did a Roundtable. I ripped the show to shreds based solely on the strength of its card and have yet to actually sit down and soldier through it. Rest assured, loyal FYCer, I have downloaded the broadcast and will sit through it just as soon as I can clear aside time in my schedule to consume the quantity of scotch necessary to make it palatable. Seriously, how the hell can people give this thing raves? Yes, they had a nice cruiserweight opener, but so did half of the WCW PPVs from 97 to 2000. What else did it give us? Oh yeah, it gave us more “turmoil with the title.” Newsflash folks, WCW did this same crap for years and where are they now? They exist in a vault in WWE headquarters, where people with a job much cooler than ours get to cherry-pick the few bright moments from the company’s history and air them on WWE 24/7.

Doing a pay-per-view without a finish is absolutely absurd when you’re trying to get fan loyalty. TNA was billing this as the “biggest match of the year”, which admittedly is a major stretch. I made it no secret that Booker T isn’t a main event guy anymore, and everyone in the Roundtable seemed to concede to the fact that Bookah was nothing more than a placeholder. Joe should have mowed him down and moved on to Sting or Nash. Instead? We have “ambiguity” with the title. We didn’t get the clean victory we needed. Hell, when the word “Victory” is in your show’s title, you should probably try to give the kids a finish.

TNA had a chance to make Joe look like the monster he used to be. Would the home crowd have been upset? Maybe. But why does TNA even care? They only run 12 shows a year out of their home base in Orlando, and if Houston is alienated by a Booker loss then they can pick someplace else to hold their show next year. They made a stupid homer decision to not job out Booker in front of his core fans at the expense of the company. Joe needed to look like a killer if his eventual win over Sting is supposed to mean something. Joe beating Booker would have been a huge feather in his cap, seeing as Booker T is not only a multi-time world champion but also a legit big name from the WWE (as opposed to a guy who served as a midcarder or has suffered so many injuries that a good sneeze would blow his head off). No, instead TNA decided to pull out the WCW wacky shenanigans card and openly mock the morons dumb enough to pay hard-earned money for this show. Well, I guess this means they realized that their only big money matches for Joe are Nash and Sting and wanted to get another chance at a Joe/Booker PPV main event. Huzzah.

Thankfully the WWE had a better week this week and is building up to what should be the surprise PPV of the year. Scoff all you want about Great American Bash PPV’s from WWE Past, but this show is about as stacked as it gets for a throwaway show. Triple H versus Edge alone should be worth the price of admission, seeing as these guys are two great workers who haven’t faced each other in eons. Then you’ve got the first (and possibly only) title defense by CM Punk as he goes against Batista. Good, bad or indifferent, it’s pretty cool to get to see Punk defending a major title on a PPV. And speaking of previous Punk belts, Mark Henry is defending the ECW belt against Tommy Dreamer. Sure, Henry sucks and sure, the ECW title is pretty meaningless, but who would have thought in 2008 that Tommy Dreamer would be competing for a world title on a WWE PPV? Even if (when) he gets flattened, it’s still a nice way for the WWE higher-ups to reward a longtime employee and hard worker. Moving on down, you’ve got the continuation of the sick Jericho/Michaels blood-feud that can trace its origins to before Wrestlemania. See, there IS long-term booking in the WWE after all. Screw the story, just let these two go at it. Throw in the Cena/JBL parking lot gimmick (which means we don’t have to watch these two try and wrestle) and the Divas title match and you’ve got a solid little show. Suck on that, TNA.

Oh, I should be nicer to TNA, shouldn’t I? After all, they were nice enough to…uh…nah, screw ‘em.

Speaking of being nice, Brad Curran, a fellow Pulse guy, wrote a column this week about Ring of Honor. More specifically, he wrote a column…gasp…criticizing Ring of Honor. I was pretty sure I was the only one at the Pulse to break that cardinal sin, so when I see a colleague enter the blazing inferno that is the anti-ROHbot applaud. Brad made some good observations and reiterated a lot of my criticism of the product, though I have a feeling he’s going to be raked across hot coals. I have watched the ROH product before (I even did a review of one of their first PPVs, which I’m sure is still in my archive, linked at the top of this page for your convenience) and while I have found things about it that irked me, overall it’s pretty good stuff. In fact, I enjoyed his column so much that I’m going too piggyback and make it the focus of my topic this week…

    For Your Consideration…ROHbots Are the 21st Century Marks

The issues Brad raises are those that any legitimate mainstream fan would have. First, there’s the issue over the cost of the product. As a wrestling fan, you have to make some tough choices when it comes to your wallet. Don’t believe me? Just look at the buyrates for PPVs compared to the weekly television ratings. RAW pulls in several million viewers, yet the pay-per-view buyrates are usually in the 200,000 range. Less than 10% of the people who watch the weekly free television shows are willing to plunk down the $40 or $50 bucks for the PPV. Why? Because even though we’re wrestling fans, we’re bigger fans of money. ROH’s perceived ego stems from the fact that in order to watch their product, you have to make a financial investment. Sure, they’ve uploaded select matches online and yes, now they have the VideoWire churning out some decent material, but overall it is a major hurdle to get into Ring of Honor. I don’t have any extra cash lying around, especially considering how freaking expensive law school is! By not having a television presence (something I said multiple times that would be easy for ROH to do considering the wide syndication of the Fox Sports channels…hell, some Ohio indie promotion has weekly national television for anyone with a satellite dish), Ring of Honor is blocking a majority of wrestling fans from watching their product. Yes, I could go online and find torrents of matches, but without a storyline context, the show doesn’t have the same flow to it. Also, despite being a forward-thinking company, ROH’s website doesn’t seem to have superstar profiles to make their stuff more accessible. I keep seeing all of these names pop up in reviews and recaps yet I probably wouldn’t know Tyler Black if I hit him with my car (though after finally seeing him, it’s hard for me to not think he looks a little bit like Crowbar).

Second, there’s the criticism of the overzealous fans. Brad’s assertion that every ROH match is suddenly a ***** classic is not without merit. Whether it’s on DVD reviews, live recaps or even on the Super Secret Writers Forum, we’ve been inundated with the term MOTY for pretty much every show. Now, it is possible that every show that ROH puts on has such a match. Remember, wrestling fans, there was a time when every WWE and WCW PPV had at least one incredible, off the wall match. Also, and this might be getting a little too deep into psychology for those of you without an advanced degree (though to be fair, it was only my minor), there is something conditioned in the ROH fans to get others share their passion. No, that’s wrong. They don’t want you to share their passion. They want you to be awe-inspired by what you could be watching. They have a club that is very exclusive and it has the best matches and the best workers and the best product and you can only get in if you’re willing to jump through their hoops and play by their rules. And here’s the sickest part, that’s totally okay. ECW did it for years, and I was just as guilty as the next ECW mark from back in the day. We love our product and embrace the fact that it’s the struggling underdog. I loved watching the WWE when they were getting shellacked by WCW and wouldn’t turn over to Nitro to save my life because I embraced the “us versus them” mentality. It made the shows more entertaining. It made watching wrestling feel less like a passive way to spend a Monday night and more like an active way to join my brothers in arms. ROH has replicated that feeling and is catering to that fan.

ROH fans are the 21st Century marks. That sentence encapsulates the entire thrust of their fan base, and I for one think it’s fantastic. Really. As “smart” wrestling fans, we’re conditioned to hate marks. “You like John Cena? Burn in hell!” “Think the Undertaker is the best wrestler on the planet? You suck!” Marks are what give wrestling fans a bad name. They show up to the arena in their Jeff Hardy cut-up sleeves and their Rey Mysterio masks, which is disconcerting when they’re 30. Since you’re reading this site, chances are you’re not a mark. Not a true mark. You watch the programming with a reserved sense of perspective; this is entertaining but I can see the gears moving. Watching WWE programming now is a lot different for you then when you used to watch it back in the Hogan era. You no longer cheer and jump and scream like a kid should, because frankly you know better and the shows don’t normally elicit that kind of reaction from you anymore. And that, in a way, kinda sucks. Watching wrestling used to be such a cool thing for kids to do, but when you reach “a certain age” (say, around the time you can drive), you can’t really mark out like you used to.

Ring of Honor is not the WWE. There are no elements of it that are directed towards children and no insulting gimmicks that make you cringe in fear. ROH is based around athletic competition for the most part, and when there is a feud, it tends to be tinged with a bit of reality. Jimmy Jacobs hates Austin Aries and it all sort of started over a girl. Hmm…makes sense. I’ve seen this go down in bars in downtown Fort Lauderdale on an almost weekly basis, so I can buy into it. Nigel’s a prick and people want to take his belt and beat the crap out of him because he’s an arrogant jerk who’s top dog. Okay, that’s relatable. There’s no bastard midget or mentally challenged redneck-cum-Pavlovian dog in sight. Giving people storylines they can relate to means they can become emotionally invested in what they’re watching and not feel like an idiot. Since we won’t feel embarrassed watching the storyline unfold, we can support one side or the other. That means its okay to cheer.

ROH allows wrestling fans to mark out in a safe environment. Everyone in the arena has that fake “I’m a true wrestling fan” aura about him (which oddly smells like BO), so if they guy who can rattle off every NOAH champion from the last two years marks out for a moonsault, so can you. No longer do you have to keep yourself coolly reserved; you can go just as insane as you used to for the Macho Man. Only now you’re doing it in a nurturing environment. That creates quite an allure for wrestling fans, who now shift their paradigm to “fans of workrate”. That’s why they’re applauding, right?

To ROH fans I say, “Embrace it.” Embrace the fact that you guys have carved out a world where it’s okay to mark out like 10 times during a match. Embrace the fact that people write about ROH wrestlers as if what’s going on in the ring is “real”. Christ, go back and read the ROH reviews and articles on this very site. Our writers (who are talented and enjoyable to read), write about these guys as if what’s going on in that ring is as legitimate as a baseball game. They are helping to bring back this mark culture that is no longer acceptable for the WWE and for TNA.

WWE programming is inherently evil because they don’t give the ROH fan what they want. I always say that the reason the WWE draws so much heat is that they have the tools necessary to blow away any ROH card ever simply by using the lower 1/3 of their roster but they choose not to. If they just let Paul London and Jamie Noble work a main event for 45 minutes without the WWE Main Event Style restrictions, I guarantee every ROHbot fan and writer would award it eight snowflakes out of a possible five. And that’s okay, but it’s not a legitimate review. It’s the review of a mark, and that’s great. I guarantee the “moment of the year” will be CM Punk winning the World Heavyweight Championship, because it appealed to every kind of wrestling fan. To the casual WWE watcher, this was a guy who won the MITB, worked his way up the card and vanquished the evil heel. To the ROHbot, it was a chance to rejoice as two of the four world champions right now are ROH alumni. To the ROH-hater…even you couldn’t dump on how awesome it was to see Punk win the big gold belt.

I like Ring of Honor. In fact, this October I will attend my first ever live Ring of Honor show, and quite frankly I can’t wait. Ever since I found out I was going to get to cover the show for Inside Pulse, I’ve been doing my homework. I’ve been watching shows, reading articles and scouring the ‘Net for show reviews. I’ve witnessed the ROH markdom first hand, and it brought a smile to my face. Ring of Honor has created an environment for those people who want to be pure fans to be pure fans. On the other hand (there’s that phrase again!), I found the work incredibly daunting. It wasn’t easy to find stuff beyond the safe world of Pulse Wrestling with the exception of Wikipedia, and therein lies the major issue with the company in my opinion.

Once you find ROH and find out that it’s for you, you become a blinded ROHbot who’s geeky love of the product is as pure as the driven snow. Unfortunately, it’s the journey that’s too difficult for most fans, especially when all they need to do to get their wrestling fix is turn on the television.

Agree? Disagree? Like getting smart-ass responses in your InBox? E-mail me at awheeler316@yahoo.com.

This has been for your consideration.

Join our newsletter

never miss the latest news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary for Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games!