Welcome to another all-encapsulating and always-engaging edition of Taking YOUR Wrestling Pulse.
For the previous installments, click here, here, here and here.
We are already up to Version 5.0 of these proceedings, and this week’s interview is with the man who has STOMPED his way into the sub-cockles of our hearts, Mr. Mike Gojira.
Mike, it’s good to see you outside of your usual turf, and since you find yourself on unfamiliar ground, let me make you feel more at home with this familiar-sounding first question:
Why does “Wrestling Matter” to you?
“Sub-cockles,” eh? Good to see you’ve expanded your vocabulary.
Why does wrestling matter to me? Well, I really enjoy the athleticism on display. Sure, the fights may be choreographed, but the level of technical prowess required to pull off the moves and holds just astounds me. Critics knock the business because they try to analyze it as a sport, but what they fail to see is the work these guys put into their craft.
The characters draw me in, and the atmosphere created by the fans legitimizes it in my eyes. I love a good back-and-forth encounter because I know the guys and girls in the ring are giving it their all for our entertainment.
Think about that: they’re doing all this for us. The fame, the money, the legacy; it’s all based on how we respond to them. It really is a popularity contest when you look at it.
I appreciate that. It provides an escape of sorts; how many of us wanted to be wrestlers when we were kids? It was never about how much money we’d make. It’s all about one word:
Wrestling matters because I can empathize with the performers. You want to see them succeed because of all the effort they put in.
So with all of that said, which character in pro wrestling really drew you in and made you a fan to begin with?
In other words, what’s your pro wrestling backstory?
Oh, without a doubt there can be only one answer to that question: The Undertaker.
I recall watching Superstars at an early age after Saturday morning cartoons, but I never really got into the product until my teens. I watched Rock ‘n Wrestling, I knew who Hogan and Savage and the Warrior were, and I knew Sergeant Slaughter mostly from his stint in G.I. Joe, but I was never fully invested until the mid-90s.
One of my earliest memories was a house show at MSG, where Bret Hart was defending the WWE Championship against Undertaker and, if memory serves, Bret used a chair on Taker to draw the DQ. Either that or there was outside interference (this was after Wrestlemania X) but in any case I remember being upset that Taker was screwed out of the title.
I would say mid-1995 was when I really spent time watching the product, as my friends were starting to notice it and we watched Raw and Summerslam at a friend’s house. I wasn’t sure if my interest would take hold or if this was just a phase I was going through…..
And then the Iron Man Match happened. That’s all she wrote. At 13 and a half, I realized that I loved professional wrestling. Perfect timing, too, as 1996 was the year the Monday Night Wars truly began.
It’s funny you should mention Taker as one of the main reasons you first became a fan because I actually have my own story about the Deadman:
My favorite wrestler growing up was the Ultimate Warrior (man I miss those kayfabe days when I was a kid), and as a result the two guys I wound up hating the most were Jake the Snake Roberts and the Undertaker. Jake, because of the training segments with Warrior that led to the “never trust a snake” payoff when Warrior was tortured. And Taker, because of the time he locked Warrior in an “airtight” casket and essentially buried him alive.
Anyway, I digress, and this next topic relates to both your wrestling fandom and your profession as a New York City schoolteacher.
For those who don’t know, Matt Striker was a New York City teacher who was fired because he used sick days to moonlight as a wrestler, and after WWE caught wind of this, he was summarily hired by them and hasn’t looked back since.
I’m sure you have a unique perspective on this story, so my question is: What are/were your thoughts on Matt Striker?
Also, as a follow up, how do you think he could have been more successful during his more active in-ring days with the “I’m Your Teacher” gimmick?
I honestly thought the Striker situation was hysterical. Here was a guy who was a huge wrestling fan doing the two things he loved the most: wrestling and teaching. Sure, he used his sick days, but you’re entitled to use them in any way you wish. It wasn’t interfering with his full-time position because he didn’t take a mini-sabbatical or go over his days. The Department of Education got their panties in a bunch and Striker ultimately wound up with the better part of the deal.
I enjoyed his time as a commentator because he comes across as extremely knowledgeable. He’s not smug or obnoxious like Cole and actually seems to be a fan first and an employee second. Why he’s not on Smackdown in Cole or Mathews’s place is something I’ll never understand.
The teacher/wrestler gimmick reeked of mid-90s “everyman” gimmicks that the ‘E threw at us ad nauseum. It was obvious from the start that the asshole teacher gimmick would never really take off.
Even if it was a dead-on impersonation of yours truly.
For my money, The Genius was the best “I’m smarter than you” gimmick of all-time.
There was one flashing moment where I thought Striker had a chance to make it bigger than he did, which was when he did those in-ring interview segments using the chalkboard to make his points. He even called out John Cena a couple of times, but if I remember correctly his most prominent feud wound up being with the Boogeyman and Striker must hold the WWE record for getting covered in worms as a result.
OK, moving onto today’s state of the wrestling industry, what one word or phrase would you use to label or define the “era” we currently find ourselves in and why?
And, as a follow-up and as a nod to your “Fave Five” feature from your Stomping Ground columns, I am going to give you five wrestling-related words and I want you to give me your thoughts about each one, and tell me if each one is ultimately favorable or unfavorable to you:
The 15-minute “cold open” / opening promo to start a show
Authority figures in wrestling
Triple threat matches
Comedy gimmicks in wrestling
WWE Ice Cream Bars
You pretty much know your in-ring career is on its way out the door if you’re feuding with the Boogeyman. Hell, Booker T jobbed to him to put Marty over and it didn’t work.
I think it’s tough to label this current era of wrestling. We can’t really call it PG because TNA has been trying to recreate the Attitude Era (and failed miserably) with their Russo-riffic storylines and Dusty finishes. It’s certainly no “Attitude 2.0” as some would have you believe. Perhaps we can call this the “Ambiguous” Era because the line between kayfabe and reality has been blurred so damn often in the past couple of years.
With the advent of the Internet, the business has been virtually unable to hide anything from public scrutiny. Real-life drama spills out into the ring (Kurt Angle and Jeff Jarrett, the Hardys, CM Punk’s issues with management). Hell, a guy I never thought would show up on TV, that being Johnny Ace, is now a prominent part of the top angle in the WWE. You hear stories about how much of a sleazeball this guy is to the Divas and the lower card, and now he’s on-screen as the latest McMahon stooge. ROH has even been working the ‘Net with Kevin Steen, who “corrupted” the company’s message board recently. It’s all about making the fans question what’s real and what’s not, because without that edge the business can’t snag new investments (read: children).
Think about that for a second. The tykes are what bring you the most money, but kids these days are a lot smarter than we give them credit. They’re also up on this whole “World Wide Web fad” and have easy access to spoilers and dirt sheets that we didn’t have when we were kids. How are you supposed to get these kids to believe in the product a la Santa Claus if the dirty laundry is out there for everyone to see? The solution is simple. Send out false information along with the real deal (shout out to RD Reynolds!) via viral marketing. Hell, that shit worked for Cloverfield, and it made me even more interested in seeing the film. Wrestlers are told to use Twitter to instigate feuds because the fans follow everything these guys and girls do. Social media is redefining kayfabe and I think that’s the best thing moving forward.
So yeah, we’re in the Ambiguous Era. Make sure you explain that to Rhett; I’m not sure he can pronounce that word.
So you want my Fave Five to make a quasi-appearance to boost your ratings? Sure, why not?
1. Cold Open: Honestly, if it’s relevant to a storyline and saves time so we can get actual wrestling out of it, go for it. It’s a toss-up because sometimes it comes across as a stalling tactic. Maybe shorten the length of the opening promo and it will always be favorable.
2. Authority: Like managers, authority figures definitely have their place in wrestling. Teddy Long has been doing a good job as GM because he stays OUT of the feuds. Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan? Not so much. Also, did anyone really believe that when Triple H “took over” he’d stay in the background? I mean, honestly, the guy can’t stay away from the limelight. He’s not a businessman first; he was and always will be a wrestler. However, we often need authority figures to legitimize matches and angles, so I’d say favorable.
3. Triple Threat: Back in the day I would have gladly given my right arm to see a Triple Threat match. Actually, scratch that; I need my right arm. My left arm. Yeah, the left. What was I saying? Nowadays, the concept of a Triple Threat match seems to involve one guy resting while two fight, a switch out, a hot spot with all three, back to one-on-ones, and a scrambling finish between all three. It’s too predictable and often the Triple Threat is used as a gimmick to prolong a feud. “You didn’t pin me, you pinned the other guy!” “You’re afraid to face me one-on-one!” “I would have beaten you if it weren’t for that meddling third guy!” I’d have to go with unfavorable.
4. Comedy: Without a doubt, we need comedy gimmicks in wrestling. The business is literally a circus. You need clowns to alleviate the crowd’s fears after a death-defying stunt, don’t you? The perfect place for comedy acts are backstage and just before a show’s main event. Definitely favorable.
5. WWE Ice Cream Bars: Good Humor and the WWE are idiots if they don’t capitalize on this. I’m sure it has to be agreed upon by both parties, and maybe already has. I feel like they’ll unveil them after Punk gets a really big win to cement his place as “the guy.” Mmmmmmm…….favorable.
You call it the “Ambiguous Era”, I call it the era of “CROSSING THE LINE for the sake of crossing the line”, or something like that.
Also, with 10 years in the IWC I don’t need your gimmicks to boost ratings Gojira. If anything, I’m giving you “the rub” that you need to elevate The Stomping Ground to new heights!
As for the five topics at hand:
Cold open: I agree this is a good tool if used in the right situations, I just wish WWE would switch it up more often and give us more opening matches to kick off their TV broadcasts. Sometimes I feel we get these 20-minute promos out of laziness more than necessity.
Authority figures: I agree Teddy Long has been pretty good for a long time now. As for Raw and Impact, there are just too many cooks in the kitchen for my taste.
Triple threat: Agree 100%. Triple threats are very overused these days. However, one of my favorite matches in WWE history is still Angle vs. Triple H vs. The Rock for the WWF title during the peak of the Kurt-Steph-HHH love triangle saga. That was brilliant.
Comedy and Ice Cream Bars: Both are also favorable to me, except when Hornswoggle is involved.
Let’s move onto TNA and three of their major storylines of late. What are your thoughts on the following:
Sting vs. Hogan at Bound for Glory
Robert Roode as the #1 contender challenging Kurt Angle at Bound for Glory
Jeff Hardy’s return, most notably the TV segments between Jeff and AJ / Jeff and Devon that aired this past week on Impact
Oh ho, I see we’re playing the “My Dick is Bigger” card! I’ve been a part of the IWC since ’96. Sure, I haven’t been a columnist for that long, but still…I think I’ve churned out more wrestling columns over the past 8 months or so than you have all career, Mr. “Once in a Blue Moon.” I guess now that you’ve got this interview series going, you might actually catch up!
Nah, but in all seriousness I will concede to you, almighty senior columnist. Happy?
I see you’ve mentioned the Triple H/Stephanie/Angle angle (Angle angle….that’s got to sound odd). It’s a shame the company never really moved forward with that. It’s one of those “What If?” storylines, like “What if Kennedy was McMahon’s son?” or “What if Kennedy cashed in Money in the Bank?” or “What if Kennedy didn’t injure Cena (which was blamed on a table RKO)?” Come to think of it, I think we already have our answer in the form of Mr. Ambiguous Anderson. Is he heel? Is he face? Is he marketable? These are tough questions, CB. WHY AREN’T YOU ASKING THEM?!
Speaking of TNA: What. The. Fuck.
Could they ruin any more wrestlers’ careers than they already have? The same arguments have been made time and time again. PUSH THE YOUNGER TALENT. Use the WWE guys to give the fresh faces the rub. Kurt Angle and Sting should be TNA Champion only to push younger guys to the top.
Look, let me cover this from all (Kurt) angles.
The WWE guys go to TNA for 3 reasons.
1. Lighter schedule.
2. More exposure in a smaller environment.
3. Deemed unworthy by the competition and crave recognition.
That’s it. You can’t deny that. The problem is that quite a few of these guys don’t know when to give up the spotlight. It doesn’t help when the bookers backstage boost their egos by overfeeding the made guys. The company is headed by an irresponsible woman who is clearly over her head. You want to make Jeff Hardy the top guy in your promotion? Okay, but WAIT UNTIL HE CLEANS HIMSELF UP. Don’t hire him out of the gate in a sleazy way to boost ratings. You’re dealing with a person’s life here. Giving him a contract after some very public drug allegations is akin to saying, “Here, take this needle. It’s a fresh one.” The decision to wait until he’s clean (and done with the court system) might wake him up; it might not. Either way it shows people that you give a shit about the performers who go out there and make you money, busting their asses to line your pocket. And yeah, I’m sure some will say that waiting would kill his momentum, but that can be built up again. It took him ten years to get to the main event in the WWE. The Hardys are a household name. A few months off would not have killed his rep to the point that he’d have to start at the bottom of the ladder.
With that being said (Blair Douglas), Jeff’s return has given me nothing but ennui.
I get flashbacks of WCW whenever I watch or read about the TNA product. However, there is one major difference: there is no war between the companies in a fight for ratings supremacy. TNA guys can’t afford to jump ship because the WWE in all honesty does not NEED them like they did over a decade ago. The business landscape has changed since then, too. WWE veterans are not guys from other territories who have bounced around the country and can afford to go wherever they please. These veterans are loyal, homegrown talent who know how to conserve their money. There’s no interest in jumping to TNA because the company is obviously in dire straits, though they’d never admit it.
Don’t feed me crap like “Gunner and Crimson are being pushed!” because they literally were pulled out of thin air. Gunner was a security guard if I recall, and Crimson was sold as Amazing Red’s brother just to give him the rub. Sure, they’re young and deserve a chance to prove themselves, but what about the others who have busted their asses and been given the shaft?
This leads to your comment on Bobby Roode. I like the guy; I think he’s worth pushing to the main event as he’s proven to be a versatile wrestler (he can be face and heel). I fully believe he’ll take the gold from Angle, and then feud with Bully Ray and Immortal before facing James Storm, another guy worthy of a big push. The real question is what happens after that? Does TNA learn from their mistakes or return to the status quo? I think we all know the answer to that.
Finally, you mentioned Sting vs Hogan. Sweet monkey Jesus, are you serious, bro? That shit failed at the height of their popularity when they needed an overbooked finish at Starrcade. There’s NO WAY this match will fare any better. Hogan is as limited in mobility as the Iron Sheik and Sting doesn’t have the energy to go more than 15 minutes any more. Hang it up, guys, please.
So how do you really feel about TNA Mike? 🙂
By the way, I did a Lost Storylines column not too long ago (that James Alsop absolutely marked out for) and one of the storyline tidbits I addressed was the Kurt/Stephanie “Room 814” situation following that very triple threat match from SummerSlam. We never really found out what happened in that hotel room, and the whole thing was dropped after Kurt mentioned it once on Raw.
So this is the part where I throw some names at you and you tell me your thoughts. I’m going with mostly folks from SmackDown since we haven’t let you pop off on the blue brand just yet:
The SmackDown brand itself – any general thoughts including your opinion on whether SD should permanently move to a live broadcast Tuesday nights.
Sin Cara 1 (Mistico)
Sin Cara 2 (Hunico)
Conquistador # 386
You’re just being facetious with that TNA comment, aren’t you?
Yes, I recall your Lost Storyline column. It’s funny you mention that, because about a month ago I considered writing a similar one. You beat me to it, and as everyone knows, I try to be original with my work so I won’t encroach on your domain, lest the fans complain, “Someone already did this topic!”
I’m a big fan of Smackdown, as there have only been a couple of hiccups on the blue brand recently. They have more actual wrestling and I prefer Smackdown’s roster. In terms of a permanent move to live TV on Tuesdays, it worries me because that would give the company a reason to turn Smackdown into a Supershow along the lines of Raw and muddle the wrestling with obnoxious 20-minute promos and Raw guest stars. If the company chooses to leave things the way they are, I will be content.
Plus, it would give me a reason to do the live Smackdown Report, which I am obviously being groomed for here at the Pulse. 🙂
Randy Orton: Smackdown’s John Cena. Seriously, I don’t mind him on TV. Just keep the belt off of him for a while, please.
Mark Henry: Depending on when this interview is published, Henry could be the World Heavyweight Champion. He won’t be the greatest champion ever (or even decent) but a change from the norm is a welcome change if you ask me.
Sheamus: NOW is the time to push Sheamus. I wasn’t a fan of the big man when he got shoved down our throats two years ago but he’s found his niche. I enjoy his little “When I was a lad” stories, too.
Wade Barrett: The winner of NXT Season One is a great heel. He’s the calculating, manipulative leader that I could see myself being had I become a wrestler. I guess that’s why I identify with his character. He could use more seasoning in the ring, but there’s no rush. I still wonder why they put him over Daniel Bryan, because it did nothing for him since Bryan keeps getting jobbed out. It’s not really a big win if your opponent is built up as a pushover, Money in the Bank be damned.
Justin Gabriel: Smackdown’s Evan Bourne. He has the potential to break out if he can tell a good story in the ring. The sky’s the limit for this kid.
Cody Rhodes: Those acting classes have really improved Cody’s believability. If the company truly believes in him, he should hold the Intercontinental Championship for a long period of time like they did with Orton. Again, he might not even be the champ at the moment this interview is published, and if that’s the case I can see him win the title back soon enough.
Ted DiBiase: He might be the Intercontinental Champion after Night of Champions, but it would be a tough sell as he hasn’t done anything of note since joining Smackdown. He needs to build up some wins.
Sin Cara (Mistico): A masked gimmick can only take you so far if you can’t go on the mic. I think it’s hysterical that one guy has a job because the original couldn’t pass a wellness test and the company is willing to give the imposter a chance after proving himself.
Sin Cara (Hunico): Obviously larger in stature than Mistico. I wonder how the company will pay this off after their inevitable meeting next month on PPV.
Conquistador # 386: Not as good as his brother, Masked Luchador # 798. I mean, he’s held numerous championships over several millennia, for sure, but does that really make you a legend? Do you recall the match Masked Luchador # 798 had with El Asso Wipo in 234 BC? That was off the hook!
I remember that card from 234 B.C. as that was when Hogan and Flair teamed up against the Luddites!
Seriously though, your love for SmackDown! really shone through in those comments, and I agree that they’ve been on a roll lately.
Sheamus’ “when I was a young lad” stories remind me of Betty White’s character Rose Nylund from the Golden Girls, when she would hilariously recall her fond memories from her hometown of St. Olaf. 1980s sitcoms FTW!!
It’s time for the lightning round Mike, so here we go:
Favorite ring entrance / theme song (can be together or separate)
Favorite finishing move, both today and all time
Favorite catch phrase, both today and all time
One thing missing from pro wrestling today that you’d want to bring back
Favorite storyline with the best payoff
Favorite LIVE wrestling experience / moment
I LOVE The Golden Girls!!!!
My favorite ring entrance will always be the Undertaker’s. There’s just nothing like it. It gives you goosebumps. As for theme music, that goes to Chris Jericho’s “Break the Walls Down.”
My favorite finishing move both today and all-time is the Tombstone Piledriver. Duh.
Favorite catch phrase? That’s tough. There have been a lot of really good one’s over the years.
As for favorite catch phrase of all-time, I’d go with Buddy Rogers’s iconic, “To a nicer guy, it couldn’t have happened!” It just oozes ego. If you want to go with today, that’s a tough one. I honestly can’t give you any one in particular.
One thing I find to be missing from wrestling today: motivation. I’m not saying that every wrestler is unmotivated, but it feels like there’s an overwhelming lack of interest in stepping up the game. Maybe it’s due to constrictions placed on the performers due to TV time limit, or maybe it’s just me. Allegedly the PPV bouts are supposed to be getting more time, but we’re still in a transitional stage so it’s too early to know for sure.
There have been many great storylines over the past years I remember fondly, but the one that still sticks out in my mind is the Ric Flair retirement angle. Everything from his promos to his underdog role in every match during the angle really resonated with me. Even the last moment, the now iconic “I’m sorry; I love you” from Shawn Michaels spoke volumes to me. That is what makes a storyline great: the emotional element. Maybe I should retract my previous statement and say that true emotion is missing from wrestling today.
Unfortunately, Flair has sullied his legacy in TNA. Eh, what are you gonna do?
I have TWO favorite wrestling moments/matches of all-time. The first and simply greatest was being at Wrestlemania XXV to watch the Undertaker/Shawn Michaels match. What a ridiculously lengthy emotional roller coaster ride that was! Two of the greatest in the business showing us that they can still go. Nothing will ever top that. I can’t even describe how it felt to be there for that.
I’m going to cheat here because the second moment I wasn’t actually there for, but it still resonates with me all the same: Wrestlemania XX, where Chris Benoit made Triple H tap out to win the WWE Championship and his subsequent victory hug with Eddie Guerrero. I don’t think I need to say any more on that.
If you think about it, the reason it’s so hard picking a catch phrase from today’s wrestlers is that no one really has a good catch phrase that is fun to mimic. Del Rio has the whole “…but you already know that” line down, but that’s not really one for the ages.
If anything, I would give a nod to The Miz for the “Awesommmmmmeeeeee” shtick, because I can see that being fun for the younger generations to replicate, plus it works in reverse for the crowd when booing / heckling this heel version of Miz (“Awfulllllllllll”)
Zack Ryder’s “Woo Woo Woo … You Know It!” also works, but other than that, who else has a simple yet effective catch phrase, anyone?
As for the live event experience, I actually was at the Garden for WrestleMania XX, and seeing Eddie and Benoit close the show embracing as heavyweight champions was certainly the greatest live moment of my wrestling life, you know, until the double murder suicide took it all away.
Regardless of all that, Mike Gojira, I want to say thank you for being a friend, traveling down the road and back again, your heart is true, your a pal and confidant.
And thank you for letting me take YOUR Wrestling Pulse.
Any final thoughts?
And if you threw a party, and invited everyone you knew, you would see the biggest gift would be from me and the card attached would say, “Thank you for being a friend.”
I wonder how many people out there are getting these references?
Thanks for the interview, and you’re welcome for boosting your ratings over a 3.0 this week. I’m sure you can blame the NFL for your lower ratings next time.
So long, and thanks for all the fish.
CB’s Take: Mike is a very articulate person and this interview definitely shows that. He makes great points about what’s missing in today’s pro wrestling landscape, but at the same time you can tell that he also sees the positive side of the coin as well.
Ultimately, I appreciate Gojira’s balanced approach to his wrestling fandom because while he is even-keeled, he still has that passion for the product that he would gladly emote if WWE or TNA ever gave him the chance.
Oh, and if the above interview wasn’t enough Gojira for you, feel free to click through the archives of Mike’s regular Pulse Wrestling column, The Stomping Ground.
This has been Taking YOUR Wrestling Pulse…
…Thatâ€™s all from me â€” CB.
Tags: Bobby Roode, CB's World, Cody Rhodes, Hulk Hogan, hunico, James Storm, Justin Gabriel, Mark Henry, Mike Gojira, Mistico, monday night raw, Night of Champions, randy orton, Raw, Ric Flair, Robert Roode, sheamus, sin cara, Smackdown, Sting, ted dibiase, TNA, undertaker, Wade Barrett, WWE