Guilty pleasures are the things that people like even though all conventional wisdom says they shouldn’t, given everything else about them. For example, it’s fine for a brain-dead 11 year old girl with no taste to like the boy band One Direction; for the conductor of the Adelaide Players String Ensemble (not their real name) to like 1-D, it’s a guilty pleasure (hi, Rachael! [her real name]). I have a friend who is a movie reviewer whose favourite films are Gandhi, Rabbit Proof Fence and The Killing Fields; his guilty pleasure is Adam Sandler’s The Waterboy. I have another mate whose guilty pleasure is a drumstick from KFC.
Now, the only reason I explain this is because when I told some-one what I was doing for this column, he asked what that term meant exactly. He’s not a stupid guy – far from it – but he’s young and the whole concept of feeling a little bit guilty for liking something that goes against your image or what you stand for is apparently an alien concept to many in today’s society. But I’ll bet it’s something you can all relate to.
And so to wrestling. My preferences for more old school style wrestling – with in-ring psychology, stories told in the ring, clean skills, and realistic looking strikes and blows – is well-known to my readers and probably boring to everyone. I’ve also let readers know that, due to my gymnastics background, a spot-fest lucha libre match is also something I enjoy.
But also well-known to readers is my disdain for gimmick and garbage matches, for stupid characters (personal gimmicks, if you will), for poor skill execution, for matches that are more style over substance, for storylines that are just stupid insults to intelligence, for all things Undertaker, and a variety of other gripes. I am nothing if not a grumpy old man who knows what he likes and, by gum, he’s going to make sure he gets it.
But, you have no doubt by now guessed, I do also have quite a few guilty pleasures of my own in professional wrestling…
I guess I should say that to many people who have known me for a long time, they consider professional wrestling in general my “guilty pleasure”. So be it. But here, on the Pulse, that’s “normal” so we’ll let it slide.
And so, without further ado, here is my top 10:
(First, an honourable mention because it’s more the concept than the execution that I like:
10) Shawn Michaels v Hulk Hogan, Summerslam 2005.
I shouldn’t like this. I have always found Hogan a two-dimensional wrestler and Michaels a guy who was over-rated for a lot of his output. You had two politicians in the ring. But I find this one of the funniest matches I’ve seen. Michaels’ overselling and Hogan seeming completely oblivious to it all is just insane. The match is as basic as they come but I prefer this to either of the Hogan-Rock matches and still have fun watching it.
9) Paul Heyman’s promo at One Night Stand 2005.
So 2005 WWE is my guilty pleasure, huh? Well, in my recent discussion on promos in wrestling I did not really mention Paul Heyman. I found a lot of his stuff a little bit over the top for my personal taste, liked what little I saw of the Dangerous Alliance, didn’t see much of ECW at all, and so he sort of passed me by. But here, it all gelled. His anger, his resentment, and the fact he was given a live mic resulted in the sort of promo filled with insider knowledge and contemporary, funny jokes that had the crowd – at the Ballroom and at home – eating out of the palm of his hand.
8) Hell Comes To Frogtown (1987).
Okay, maybe not a surprise considering the love I have for bad movies, as I think I may have mentioned once or twice in the past. But Hell Comes To Frogtown is a film I actually really enjoy. I think Piper is one of the greatest wrestling actors, and the frog make-up is certainly better than some films I’ve seen recently. Sure, you can see the landing pads in one of the falls, and the whole story concept is so over-the-top as to be ludicrous to the extreme. But, dammit, this is fun.
7) Piper destroying the Flower Shop.
This is exactly the sort of thing I cannot stand. A battle over talk segments? Seriously? But Piper with the baseball bat just laying waste to the entire Flower Shop set of ‘Adorable’ Adrian Adonis was one of the most intense things ever. I already said it above – the man was a great actor. And this was one of the best non-wrestling segments I think I’ve ever seen.
6) Ivan Putski.
And the video has my all-time favourite jobber in it: Iron Mike Sharpe! Now Putski was not a big guy height wise, but he was the first wrestler I remember watching who was jacked. He was built like a brick shithouse and he was strong, but he could also take a beating. He moved like he was made out of wood, his selling could be arbitrary and his facial expressions varied from bewildered to angry. But there was something about Polish Power that I really liked.
5) Mankind v Undertaker, Hell in a Cell, King of the Ring 1998.
After CB picks himself up off the floor because I put an Undertaker match in my list, I’ll admit that even I’m surprised. This match was all bumps looking for flow. It was a glorified stunt show. There was no real story beyond Foley taking a beating until he finally… lost. Undertaker hardly moved (though, to be fair, he was injured). There was virtually no wrestling skills or moves used at all. And yet I am engrossed by it. My son and I watch it together and still wince. There is something about this match that takes it beyond. I think it is the reality of it all. Whatever, here it is.
4) Brock Lesnar v The Big Show, the ring collapse (Smackdown June 12, 2003).
Cheesy as all hell, but it still sends tingles down my spine watching it. First off, kudos to the Big Show for taking a top rope superplex, knowing what was about to go down. Second, the reactions of the referee made it look so cool! Sure, it’s been done since, and before then we had Taz and Bam Bam Bigelow go through the entrance ramp in ECW, but that whole image of the entire ring folding in on itself is just brilliant. Also, final kudos to the guys who organised it. They did their job just brilliantly.
3) Jack Evans’ corkscrew 630 senton.
This move is just there to show off. I know it, he knows it, everyone knows it. But, damn!, if it ain’t an impressive move. Part of my liking of it is that when I was a gymnast a running 540 (1 and a half front somersault into roll) was one of my tumbling moves and I could do a 630 (1 and three quarter somersault) on a trampoline, so I know how hard the basic rotational move is. But to then add that half twist (Arabian twist) at the start and do it so you land on some-one… ow! For everyone involved.
Final two, and they’re both matches. I could put these in either order, but at the moment, this is the current order I’d leave them in. Next month, it could change.
2) Diamond Dallas Page v Goldberg, Halloween Havoc 1998.
Goldberg’s best match ever, and DDP showed with this match he could hang with the best of them. When I first saw it I was sure I only liked the match because it followed that abortion that was “Hogan v Warrior II: The Crappening“. But further views told me that this match, while not a technical masterpiece at all, was actually a lot of fun. Two faces putting their all out there, a hot crowd and a good, clean finish. And Goldberg pulled off a back flip (back handspring or flic flac) with better technique than RVD. This is a great match in my opinion and I think it is often unfairly overlooked, though I do understand Goldberg and DDP (at least while he was in WCW) often polarise people.
1) Kurt Angle v Shane McMahon street fight, King of the Ring 2001.
Another match that I just should not like. Garbage wrestling, stunt moves, botches (Shane being dumped on his head), over-the-top violence, Shane kicking out of moves that should have killed him. But this match is one that entertains me. When I teach writing classes on how to write fight scenes, I use this match and I’m still not sick of it. I think Shane is a madman and this match is the height of this insanity. I should hate this match and everything it stands for. But I don’t. I can watch this again and again. From Angle offering Shane the takedown position all the way through to the super Angle-slam, it’s just great.
So, what about everyone out there? Any guilty pleasures in wrestling you’re going to admit to?
And that’s this View!
Tags: big show, Brock Lesnar, DDP, Diamond Dallas Page, ECW, goldberg, Hell in a Cell, Hulk Hogan, Ivan Putski, Jack Evans, King of the Ring, Kurt Angle, Lucha Libre, movies, one night stand, Paul Heyman, Roddy Piper, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Shane McMahon, shawn michaels, Smackdown, street fight, Summerslam, TNA, undertaker, WCW, WWE, WWF