Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Fan's Hope For Closure

So Tommy Dreamer cuts a promo on TNA and actually made me cry a little bit.

Now everyone and their dog who's following this TNA/ECW development has an opinion, ranging from hell yeah to please God fuck NO! about whether or not this One Last Stand idea for Hard Justice is a good idea or a trainwreck waiting to happen.

The feeling Im getting from this TNA/ECW thing is that Tommy wants one night to remind the fans what Vince spent three and a half years doing his damnedest to make people forget; The heart and spirit and creativity of the original ECW. One Night Stand SHOULD have been ECW's closure, it SHOULD have been their last stand. But then WWECW came along and while yes, a handful of new stars emerged from the wreckage, WWECW was a trainwreck from beginning to end. It made Paul Heyman so bitter he left wrestling altogether. His only wrestling connection now is occasionally ranting in Britain's the Sun paper, and he mostly runs Girls Gone Wild/Maxim type stuff now.

WWECW all but destroyed ECW's legacy. Up until late 06 you would still get ECW chants like wildfire when a badass spot was pulled off that reminded fans of ECW's heyday. But by early 07, the chants were dwindling. Younger fans disregarded WWECW as a B-Show and barely paid attention. Older fans migrated away with a sour taste in their mouths. And ECW was forever stained by the stink of Vince running it, and very few people believe that wasn't Vince's intention all along, to bury it.

Tommy Dreamer doesn't want the fans to remember zombies and vampires and Abraham Washington. He wants people to remember this.

And I can't fault him for that. The real ECW can't ever truly be revived nor should it, but as a hardcore ECW fan from as early as I could figure out which pub carried the MSG network on Sattelite, I do want the blasphemy that was WWECW (On SyFy!!!) to NOT be the last thing fans associate with ECW. If Tommy and company can pull off one night, and be at the top of their game and do the best they can to just entertain the fans without any agendas, they will have succeeded in providing a little syrup to sweeten the mouth after the bad taste Vince left in it.

So Tommy and his friends want one night to undo the damage and have the send-off that ONS was supposed to be. I can get behind that. And if it organically grows into better long-term booking for TNA and a stronger company direction, I'm all for it. And on the off chance it succeeds and Dreamer can cinvince Paul to come run the booking and convince Dixie to give Paul full unhindered creative control, we will see something new and exciting emerge from ECW's last smoldering ashes. Because Paul is smart enough to not try and recapture the past, like Bischoff and Hogan and Russo keep trying to do. Paul will look towards building the future. Will there be traces of ECW in anything Paul does? Of course, he was the force behind it. But Paul will not try to turn TNA into ECW Version 3. Paul will make TNA a better version of TNA.

IF Tommy can convince him to try.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The 5 Stupidest Wrestling Gimmicks That Still Got Over

We've all seen it. It's one of our biggest shames as wrestling fans. The promoter of any wrestling company, (not just Vince, though he is most guilty of it), thinks up the most buttfuck STUPID idea for a wrestler's gimmick or character, convinced we fans would eat it up. Examples come to mind from many feds.

WCW for example had a long storied history of gimmicks that made most fans want to drive sharp implements into our grey matter through our eyeballs. From a masked Tag Team called the Ding Dongs to Kevin Nash's (I took drugs to make it) forgettable stint as Oz, WCW seemed determined to compete with the then WWF's track record for mind-numbingly stupid ideas, such as Duke "The Dumpster" Drose, The Goon, and Abe "Knuckleball" Schwartz, which wasn't even the worst of the gimmicks Steve Lombardi has been saddled with in his WWE carreer.

And then there were those rare times when a wrestler debuted with a completely stupid gimmick we were disgusted by as always, and we would boo as always. And then suddenly we were booing not because the gimmick sucked but because the guy was legitimately drawing heel heat, or worse, we were CHEERING.

Sometimes, even a stupid gimmick can get over huge in the hands of the right man. So here in no particular order except however the fuck I choose to do it are the worst wrestling gimmicks that actually succeeded.

#5; Irwin/Irving R. Shyster AKA IRS (Mike Rotunda)

So it's the early 90's and Mike Rotunda has rejoined the WWF. He's been gone since his brief but successful tag-team run with Barry Windham in the mid-80's. For reasons known only to Vince, he decided Rotunda's personality, suited to a heel role, seemed to say "Obnoxious tax collecter". Now I suppose one could see to a point the inherent logic of the character. Everyone hates the Tax Man, so it garaunteed cheap heat. People were going to boo the shit out of IRS no matter what. But this by ANY stretch of the imagination should have been a one-note character that would be gone in 6 months after a face squashed him.

The first few vignettes preparing for his debut listed him as Irving which, also for reasons known only to Vince, was changed to Irwin after 3 vignettes. Maybe he had a friend named Irving who took offense? We'll never know.

Rotunda however, has always been good in the ring and great on the mic, and managed to stretch 4 goddamned years out of this albatross, to the point that the character STILL gets recommissioned every so often for a cheap nostalgia pop. Rotunda as IRS didn't just settle for the cheap heat of playing a tax collector, he gave us concrete reasons to absolutely fucking LOATHE him.

Hell he was so good at making us hate him that he actually got people to briefly give a shit about Chris "Tatanka" Chavis, who was, as some of the folks on Inside Pulse like to say, Pissed-Off Racial Stereotype #12, the "whooping Indian". Chavis was devoid of any personality or charisma, and as a face no one cared, until Chief Jay Strongbow presented him with a ceremonial Native Headdress for some reason and IRS destroyed it because Tatanka refused to pay a "Gift Tax" on it.

For giving longevity and genuine heel heat to a one-note cheap heat paint by numbers gimmick, Mike Rotunda makes this list. One question though.... why did NO ONE ever just yank his tie that he kept on WHILE wrestling?

#4; The Honky Tonk Man (Roy Wayne Farris)

Seriously? A Goddamned Elvis Impersonator? THAT'S the best Vince could come up with for the cousin of Memphis Royalty Jerry "The King" Lawler? Well, this WAS before the WWF/USWA working relationship, so maybe making Roy into a bad Elvis impersonator was a jab at Lawler. After all Elvis was supposedly the King. (No I'm NOT an Elvis fan, why do you ask?). This is yet another silly stupid gimmick that should have vanished after 6 months maximum. Especially given he was supposed to be a face. Fans turned on it pretty quick though, and it could easily have died right there, if not for Roy's natural charisma pulling off a cocky heel vibe that made the fans care.

As we all know, to succeed as a heel, you can't just get cheap heat and last very long. No heel ever thrived just saying "(insert local sports franchise here) sucks!". Sure he gets booed, and the fans cheer if he gets beaten, but otherwise they get no reaction because the fans have no reason to care. No, to SUCCEED you have to make them hate you so goddamned much they will pay good money JUST to see someone kick the crap out of you.

And Roy did this in spades. He all but perfected the cowardly heel routine once he had the Intercontinental belt, managing to set a still unbroken record for longest IC title reign due to constantly getting himself counted out or disqualified, further enraging fans and making them want THAT much more to see him get his ass kicked eventually.

Roy lived his gimmick so seriously that he not only got it over hardcore beyond anyone's expectations, he went so far as to sing his own theme music, which lead to the second WWF Wrestling Theme album. But his wasn't just a silly fluff song like those of Hillbilly Jim and Junkyard Dog on the first one; Roy actually took guitar and singing lessons to ensure the song was actually GOOD, and hearing it every time he came out only further enraged fans because his very voice drove them nuts. Roy as Honkey could often get drowned out by boos after getting only a few words out.

Like IRS, Honky still gets called back to TV from time to time for nostalgia pops, and has reached the point of being cheered when he shows up. The saddest thing about Honky? For a gimmick that wasn't expected to go very far, more was spent on some of his Elvis Jumpsuits than on most of Ric Flair's robes. One of Honky's jumpers was rumoured to have cost 50 grand to make. I know if I had 50 grand I wouldn't be spending it on one ugly mass of sequins.

#3; Abyss (Christopher J. Parks)

The only man on this list to have ever scored a World Championship reign of any kind, Abyss is the odd occurrance of a stupid gimmick wrestler that took nearly a decade to finally become the joke he should've been by all rights from the start. This can't be blamed on HIM so much as the retarded booking. Actually I take that back; it's an insult to mentally retarded people to cal TNA's booking retarded. Retarded people are smarter and make more sense.

As what could only be described as the bastard gay love child of Mick Foley and Glen Jacobs, this Mankind/Kane halfbreed had rip-off written all over him. In fact I think in the beginning when TNA was, for some inexplicable reason, a weekly PPV, he actually did get chants along the lines of "Fo-ley riiip offff! (clapclapclapapap)".

And then he bled.

Abyss won over the crowd on pure giant iron balls, taking every week what Foley only pulled off at most twice a year to build up to his biggest beatings. Any batshit crazy crap Foley had accomplished by his first decade in the business, barbed wire, tacks, etc, Abyss crammed into his first year. In his first six months alone he could have fed a family of four vampires.

If the WWE HASN'T learned anything it's that wrestling fans loves them some blood and violence. And Abyss was a bloody violent muhfuggah until TNA's booking ruined him. He was violent, destructive, and had no hesitation about being pummelled by, wrapped in or slammed on multiple sharp cutty hurty things. He may in fact be one of the few men in wrestling history to out-bleed Foley and out-WTF??? Sabu.

#2; Goldust (Dustin Runnels)

No, that's not Lady GaGa there. That's Dustin "Rhodes" Runnels, son of the American Dream Dusty Rhodes, in the first real "Gay man" gimmick since Adorable Adrian Adonis. Vince Russo in all his manly glory, *coughdouchebagcough* decided to use DustIN to insult DustY, by turning the son of the Common Man in the least manly thing in the business. Also, Russo thought he could score cheap heat by playing into the high homophobia of the target audience, for which Russo had only contempt as a Jersey douchebag.

And if he'd slapped the gimmick on anyone but Dustin it'd have crapped out in a few months like most of Russo's pointless garbage.

But Dustin was ALWAYS better than anyone gave him credit for, and he was salivating over the chance to truly finally separate himself from his father. Runnels was willing to bust his ass doing damn near anything to escape from Dusty's shadow, and Goldust was about as far from "The Common man/son of a plumber" as you could get.

Dustin DID play on the Homophobia of the audience, but he was goddamned brilliant at it. The psychology in his Royal Rumble match with Razor Ramon with brilliant, doing everything he could to just plain UNNERVE Razor into making mistakes. And his creepy promos made your skin crawl.

And he had longevity with the character, moreso than the other WWF/WWE folks on this list, as he's still on the roster today, because his character evolved. First he took the character to the furthest extremes in his TAFKA phase with Luna Vachon as his manager. When all the true creepiness and homophobia had been squeezed out of the character, (pun intended), he changed Goldust into a comedy act. Unlike Santino, who tries too hard and overdoes everything, Goldust kept his comedy bits simple and to the point; You always knew what the joke was and he never overstayed his airtime.

There was of course a few brief periods where Dustin left the WWE, but Goldust followed him wherever he went. In WCW, Russo, who was pissed that Goldust had become such a success when he intended it to a rib on Dusty, decided to punish Dustin with an even creepier gimmick, saddling him with a ghostly demonic Uncle Fester (the Child Molester) look and gimmick, complete with vignettes filmed outside children's bedrooms. Dustin saw through this crap and took his career into his own hands with one of the best worked-shoot promos ever, having convinced management the character would bite them in the ass but forced to compromise and blame Vince MacMahon and not Russo. Russo further made him agree to trash the Goldust character, which he agreed to do but after leaving WCW explained all of this and returning to Goldust in 2002.

He also had a brief Goldust inspired run in TNA as Black Reign, which we will quietly pretend never happened. I'm looking at you Glazer. Seriously. IT NEVER HAPPENED. I will titslap anyone who claims otherwise.

Now go buy a copy of CrossRhodes. It's awesome.

#1; Doink The Clown I (Matt Bourne)

The reason for this is obvious. Wrestling fans hate when people call wrestling a circus. Or at least at the time we still did. And this was a fucking clown in wrestling. When Doink first started appearing in the crowds on Challenge and Superstars, most serious wrestling fans reacted the same way Glazer does when Mark Henry's music hits; gratuitous self-beatings and repetition of the phrase "Make.... the hurting... STOP...."

And then this happened.

Do you get that? New fans won't remember this shit, but it was fucking awesome. Let me clarify; Most serious fans hated Crush too. He was a bargain basement Hulk Hogan clone after already having destroyed Demolition by phasing out Bill "Ax" Eady. He was being shoved down our throats every week in eye-hurting neon. And this guy in a clown outfit who by all rights we should want impaled on a dull signpost, takes off his arm and beats the shit out of him with it. Brian "Crush" Adams suffered a legit concussion from this attack, that's how vicious it was.

And that was because of one "Maniac" Matt Bourne.

Yes we all know Doink went to shit when Bourne was fired over his rampant drug use and they slapped the costume on Steve Lombardi and paired him with a midget to help begin Bamm Bamm Bigelow's slow decline into mediocrity. But while Bourne was in the costume, Doink fucking ruled.

First of all he was DAMNED good in the ring. He was smooth, fluid, and technically proficient. Watch him have a classic here on an old RAW with Curt Hennig.

On top of that Doink was legitimately frightening. Matt Bourne's cold serial killer facial expressions and manic mood swings made him seem genuinely dangerous, something to be feared. Doink could fucking HURT you. He tapped into the common fear of clowns many people have as children and sometimes retain as adults. He was Pennywise and the Joker, but far more real. And he had arguably the best heel theme of all time next to Demolition's Derringer theme. When people heard it they were unsettled, as something that began so carefree almost immediately devolved into something dark and threatening.

You'll notice that video is pretty much a highlight reel of Bourne's sharp moveset and schizophrenic facial expressions.

Doink makes Number 1 because he took the single stupidest gimmick and got it the most over. Evil Doink kicked ass, period.

Honorable Mention Paul Burchill's Pirate Gimmick

Adding this as an honorable mention because even though it got over hugely and WAS a stupid gimmick, it didn't last long enough to count as a true success, with Vince stupidly shelving it after only a scant few months because apparently he's never heard of Captain Jack Sparrow and was oblivious to the insane pops Paul was getting. Including it as an afterthought because, honestly, this just absolutely rocked.

Sadly the poor bastard would have his career destroyed by Vince's recurring obsession with getting an incest storyline onto Raw. Granted they wisely shelved the incest aspects before he and Katie Lea got TOO intimate, but everyone KNEW the gimmick's original intent and that was enough to destroy Paul's career.

NEXT WEEK; Wrestling's top missed opportunities, including Hogan/Flair in the WWF and Reckless Youth being paid to sit on his ass for a year.

We now return you to whatever life you're living.