Good day, everyone!
Welcome to week three of “Guys and Divas”; the only column on Inside Pulse Wrestling that puts its legs on one pant at a time.
I’ve got a real cracker of a column for you this week. In this week’s “Bonus Ball”, I’ll be taking a trip down memory lane to the show that started it all. Plus, the Rhodes Brothers make history and the latest adventures of the daughter of the “Superfly”, Tamina Snuka!
But first(!), some business.
I’d like to apologize to anyone who might have taken certain facets of my column thus far the wrong way. I’ve wanted to write something like this for a very long time, and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea about what I’m about or how I feel about the lively and thoughtful discussions that are no doubt in our futures.
I assure you that the use of the epithet “Kids” in the preface to last week’s “Bonus Ball” was merely a stylistic choice, as the whole segment was intended to be conducted in the style of a family meeting. I didn’t intend to put forth a tone of condescension or to imply that I’m “better” than anyone. It was, as I say, a stylistic choice and nothing more.
As my column progresses, I fully intend to engage in the comments. My request to not be pulled into arguments was a response to a specific commenter (who believe it or not, didn’t even return for week two, so it was pretty much all for nought) who I felt misinterpreted the gist of what I was saying. It obviously would have been better to address that commenter directly within the comments section, and that was my mistake and for that I am sorry.
I’m new here and I’m still learning when and where and how to address the things that happen around my column. I’ll get there, but I’ll need some patience in the meantime. I sincerely hope I can count on all of you for that.
In the spirit of that, I must stand firm on one thing however. I DO love the Divas division, and that comes from a long-standing, deep-seeded affection for the strong female figures I’ve known both personally and through various entertainment media. I agree that the Divas division and the way it is treated within WWE isn’t in the best shape right now, and I would never argue to the contrary. My position is simply that despite their flaws and the flaws of those who are in charge of their adventures, I care about these characters and the women who portray them very deeply. I know that’s not a very common sentiment, but it is what it is and that’s the place from which all my thoughts will spring forth.
So long story short (too late), I hope we can all move forward from all this and start a healthy dialogue about this thing we all love…and remember, the column’s called “GUYS and Divas”. I’m going to cover it all, and I hope you’ll all come with me as I do.
Thank you for your time.
…AND NOW, ON WITH THE SHOW!
This Monday night saw the crowning of new WWE Tag Team Champions and arguably the beginning of one of the most long-awaited storylines in years. Let’s raise a verbose but well-earned glass…to Cody and Goldust!
Capping off what I felt to be a really solid Monday Night Raw this week, we saw the long-running Tag Team Championship reign of The Shield’s Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns come to a decisive end at the hands of The Rhodes Brothers (Cody and Goldust)–with a little help from The Big Show.
What a match, too! All too rarely these days do I really feel like I’m watching characters fight for their lives. Perhaps it’s just the cynicism of adulthood and having watched this show for so long, but sometimes it feels like the performers are so consumed with trying to reach the predetermined result that they forget to take us on a journey.
Not these four men. Not this time. Cody, Dustin, Seth and Roman had me glued to my television and never sure where this could all go; not to mention how refreshing it was to see the Tag Team belts being defended in the main event, with very few strings from other storylines attached. If anyone has any doubt about the prestige of the “giant pennies” being alive and well, this match cemented their importance in a big way. (As I mentioned last week, the mens’ singles titles could use such a boost, and I hope they get it soon.)
After a perfunctory (yet, I’d imagine, quality) rematch sometime soon, it’s a safe bet that The Shield will return to their new roles as Triple H and Stephanie’s bodyguards and muscle with nary a dent. As for the Rhodes Brothers, I think we’re all abuzz about the possibility that the long-awaited Cody vs. Goldust Wrestlemania showdown is waiting in the wings.
Frankly, the recent reemergence of Dustin Rhodes in general has had me in a constant state of theorizing how we might find ourselves with that dream match. Will it just be another standard “tag team breaks up over a minor quibble” scenario or are we in for something really special and really personal?
I opt for the second possibility. I think the seeds were planted a few weeks back during the Dusty and Stephanie confrontation. After proposing that “The American Dream” decide which of his sons would be returning to the WWE ring, our Mrs. Levesque seemed to sum up the relationship between the legendary father and his two sons. Cody is the clean-cut golden child and Dustin is the troubled, often ignored and misunderstood rebel. I have to believe sometime in the next 6+ months, that dynamic is going to become a factor.
Now, the question becomes: who’ll be the face and who’ll be the heel?
From a sentimental perspective, I don’t see how Dustin is our heel. He’s the wily veteran getting a chance at redemption. I can’t fathom how that would lead to a villainous role. He’s got to be the face; the protective older sibling who worries that his kid brother’s getting a big head from all of his newfound success. Moreover, if we get this match, I’d say it’s highly likely it’ll be some sort of retirement shenanigan. Heel Cody defeats Face Dustin, whose career is ended…but then Cody reaches a hand down and lifts his brother up for a tearful embrace. He’s earned his respect and accepted a passed torch. A Wrestlemania classic, to be sure.
Regardless of how it all turns out, I think we can all agree that we’ve got great things in store courtesy of the sons of the son of a plumber.
…and speaking of multi-generational superstars, let’s head over to this week’s Divas segment for a look at one of the division’s best and brightest, and her new place in the WWE Universe.
April 15. I take my girlfriend to her very first live WWE event. She’s been watching the show with me for about six months at this point and has come to love it from her usual literary perspective; something I adore about her.
After what seems an interminable wait outside the Local Grocery Store Conglomerate Arena, we take our seats. It’s a perfect view: dead center (both vertically and horizontally) on the camera side. We’re getting a live panoramic view of what we see on our television screen every week.
A bit of pyro. Some videos touting WWE’s work with the National Guard. A DVD trailer or two…and then, it’s on.
The screaming guitar and the modified version of “Hart Attack” heralds Natalya to the ring. I’m ecstatic that not only are we going to see arguably the best Diva on the roster in action, but she’s not flanked by her lumbering then-on-screen boyfriend and their leprechaun pal. I wonder, can it get any better?
Then it gets better.
Tribal drumbeats ring out and out steps an Amazon in blue. My girlfriend’s eyes widen. I smile big. Tonight we’re going to see Natalya vs. Tamina Snuka, and it is going to be FANTASTIC.
My girlfriend is now enamored of Tamina, and why wouldn’t she be?–She’s big, loud, powerful and bloody gorgeous; like a Samoan Sigourney Weaver.
Sadly, this was pretty much the last we saw of her for a while. Plagued with injuries and having just earned a role in her cousin Dwayne’s upcoming Hercules film, Tamina took some time away from the ring. Meanwhile, the rivalry of former best friends AJ Lee and Kaitlyn and the debut of E!’s “Total Divas” monopolized the division’s airtime.
Now the dust has settled, and we’re kind of back to the standard Diva plot of the last few years. There’s a challenger. There’s a champion. A match is nigh…but oh, wait! What’s this? AJ’s got some muscle…and in the immortal words of Leon Phelps, it’s a lady!
Mark my words: AJ and Tamina will have a falling out…and the results will be glorious.
Here’s what I picture. The champ and her enforcer split (probably violently). Tamina remembers that she’s the alpha female of this proverbial canvas jungle. She challenges her former client for the butterfly belt (and to tag up on a comment from last week, I agree we need to get the Women’s Championship back in the mix like whoa). She dominates.
Now we have a monster heel holding all the marbles. Diva after Diva after Diva steps up to the plate, only to be flattened by a big boot and a Superfly Splash. It seems like no one can stop this second-generation lady-trouncing machine…
…and then, as gives rise to so many hidden characters in “Super Smash Bros.”, A NEW CHALLENGER APPEARS!
Who will it be? A newly-promoted NXT face? A returning Kharma? Or maybe it’s just the end of the line…and standing tall, waiting to take it all down: Natalya. I don’t know about you (although I can respectfully guess for some of you), but all this makes me pretty giddy for the next few months of Diva action.
Ta. Mi. Na.
Ta! Mi! Na!
TA. MI. NA.
TA! MI! NA!
Like music to my Diva-loving ears. This is going to be fun. I just know it.
Finally this week, I’m proud to present a new sub-segment here at “Guys and Divas”. Starting here, I’ll be periodically taking a look back at a formative, memorable or favorite moment in my life as a professional wrestling diehard.
This time around, we go to the root of all the madness: my first time watching wrestling on television. Buckle up, put some refuse in Mr. Fusion and hold tight. The proverbial DeLorean is on the move, for today…
THE BONUS BALL presents “WAYBACK CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING FEDERATION ENTERTAINMENT”
WCW Monday Nitro: April 20, 1998
This is where it all began for me.
It’s the night after WCW/nWo Spring Stampede 1998. The top stories:
- “Macho Man” Randy Savage is your new World Heavyweight Champion after defeating Sting in a No Disqualification Match. The nWo is beginning to split, and will eventually form two factions: Hollywood (black and white) and Wolfpac (black and red).
- Raven is your new United States Champion after defeating Diamond Dallas Page in a Raven’s Rules Match. He already has his first challenger in the thus-far undefeated (74-0, to date) Goldberg, and his own organization (The Flock) is dealing with infighting.
- Booker T is your new WCW Television Champion.
After fifteen years, I slipped into watching this episode like a glove. I thought the production design, the sound of Tony Schiavone calling the action or the sight of those chrome plated letters on either side of the stage would cause a bit of nostalgic jet lag…but I was thankfully mistaken.
What a different show this was, though. Compared to the WWE (or even TNA) of today, there was very little prose and matches seemed to flow naturally from one to the next. Characters defined themselves by their actions instead of their words, more often than not. It felt like a show about WRESTLING, and I had no idea how much I missed that.
I know I’ve stated numerous times thus far here on “Guys and Divas” that the main crux of my attention as a viewer of professional wrestling is in the writing, the theatricality and the storytelling. Watching this, I began to wonder if perhaps that was less about a personal predilection and more about the changing times. When I watched these shows as a young man, every second counted and the fights themselves gripped me far more than promos or interviews. Is it a product of aging? Of my years in the theatre? Or is it a defense mechanism I’ve developed to combat those who might sneer that at 26, I still make a point of watching a show about sweaty men faux-fighting and acting out a live soap opera?
Whatever the answer, as I watched, I started making a mental list of things I miss, things I don’t miss and things that left me conflicted.
- MISS: A prominent Cruiserweight division and a strong presence from the world of lucha libre. In this episode in particular, I was treated to a bout between “The Chairman of WCW” La Parka and the Ultimo Dragon. I recall watching matches like this one in a state of wonderment. When you’re a kid and you’ve got school the next day, every moment of your night counts, and I guess the presence of these acrobatic performers (traditionally during the 8 o’clock hour) was something I held very dear, and something I remember with great fondness.
- DON’T MISS: The Hogan of it all.
- CONFLICT: The grunginess. I remember when I started watching wrestling, it was viewed as something trashy on the level of “The Jerry Springer Show”. I’ve always been attracted to forbidden things, so I felt somewhat rebellious. To be fair, this was also when the business was at the to-date unmatched zenith of its popularity, so I wasn’t part of a shameful minority. Sometimes I miss that rush of feeling like “This is weird. I shouldn’t be watching this…but I’m still going to anyway.” Then I remember what that outward controversy meant backstage. These were the days before we lost so many talented men and women to the addictions that that environment tended to breed. As homogenized and squeaky-clean as this business may seem sometimes today, I feel better knowing that there is a concerted effort being made to keep these performers as safe and comfortable as possible. Does it result in a loss of spontaneity and unpredictability?–Perhaps; but I sleep better knowing I’m not always watching someone for the last time…and on that tip…
- MISS: Eddie Guerrero. It goes without saying, but GOD, he was something.
- MISS: Bobby Heenan on color commentary. Sure, Jerry Lawler gets off a clever one-liner now and again; but “The Brain” was a font of hilarious thought. So many times during this episode, Tony Schiavone would throw to commercial; and as the camera panned over to the Nitro logo sitting on the ground, Heenan couldn’t help but fire off one more ridiculous quip. Just fantastic.
- CONFLICT: Buff Bagwell. I miss him because I remember finding him ridiculously entertaining. I don’t miss him because he’s Buff Bagwell.
- DON’T MISS: The WCW Hotline. It got me into a lot of trouble when I was 12. Not a good memory.
- MISS: WCW’s sense of continuity. To use an example from this episode, at one point Schiavone mentions something from a pay-per-view two years prior that leads DIRECTLY to the then-current Nash/Savage contingent. I know it’s a small thing, but it made me really happy.
- MISS: The competition of two shows on a Monday night. True, the fairly recent attempt by TNA to be WWE’s new rival was a failure, but there’s something about that “other show” being around that really seems to up the creative team’s game.
All in all, it was fun to look back at the night where my relationship with this business kicked off and I look forward to revisiting more such events the third Wednesday of each month. Let’s get nostalgic up in this mother.
…and like that, the third installment of “Guys and Divas” comes to a close. I hope you all had fun reading it; and speaking of fun, I’ve got some homework for you, dear reader.
In the spirit of keeping the comments lively and interactive and fun, I’d like to hear from you on the following questions (in addition to your traditional thoughts and queries).
- I laid out my potential Cody/Goldust plot. Where do you think it could go? Do you think Dustin COULD be the heel?–Help me predict the future for the Rhodes Brothers.
- If not Natalya, who do you think could be the David to Tamina’s Goliath? Is there anyone in NXT who’s caught your eye?–Sound off on this potential Divas blockbuster.
- What was your first televised wrestling experience?–Share your memories of the first time you glimpsed the world of sports entertainment on your screen.
(OBVIOUS CONFESSION: I love a good bulleted list.)
As usual, join me for my weekly Monday Night Raw live-tweet (username: @biscuitman18; hashtag #GuysAndDivas) and again thank you for your patience and your thoughts. I really do appreciate you all.
Until next week, I’m Jeff Heatherly saying “Come on, Mary Todd Lincoln. I’ll buy you a drink.” So long, everybody!