Friday, August 06, 2004

#86. Nomar Garciaparra, Wrestling, Amish in the City, Books, Moxie

Recently I found myself thinking about Mark Jindrak's latest gimmick, or more specifically the moniker "Reflection of Perfection." Do you think the estate of Curt Hennig is rearing to sue? or Shawn Stasiak? or if Lex Luger is wishing he'd thought of it (the mirror he could also sue over, I guess)? That's all, really, besides wondering why Smackdown needs to bring in John Heidenreich to play a role Kenzo Suzuki is already sort of playing, Nathan Jones and Sean O'Haire kind of failed at, and Ref to the Perf himself is also bungling over. The only guy doing good with it these days on Thursdays is Luther Reigns. I love that guy. Still struggling with issues over his not-quite-legendary-sounding name, but love the guy. He was quite good last week in that eight-man US title decider (unlike Suzuki, who has now been disqualified from two of these kinds of matches, which only justifies the rumors that the backstage doesn't know if he can cut it in WWE, but who is still a better story than Mordecai, who was sent back to OVW to, um, stew). I'd give ten Tyson Tomkos for one Reigns.

I wouldn't give up Nomar (No-mah to Jimmy Fallon, No-mar to George Wendt, and both should appear in SNL's season premiere to battle it out) Garciaparra, whom the Red Sox wronged and then dumped for players who will not help them better themselves but rather remain in the holding pattern of despair the team has been mired in for decades now. Can Red Sox Nation suffer for an entire century? I fear we'll find out...

Brock Lesnar, a.ka. The Next Big Viking, is proving the naysayers wrong (which I suppose is easy, since some form of naysayer is proved wrong every time something happens) and keeping up with the pre-season blitz. No, he hasn't made the team yet. Yes, he still has a pretty good chance. Coach Tice seems to like him...

Yah, I watched the premiere of Amish in the City. Not so different from your basic Real World or Road Rules. Except half the housemates are Amish, indulging their inner Rumspringa. The city kids wer pretty pathetic early on, but they decided to play nice, until the end of the two-hour episode it seemed. But I didn't catch the second episode, and probably won't catch the repeat tonight, and am on track to miss next week's third episode, too. Sometimes it's enough to know you'd more or less enjoy a thing and miss it than to more or less know you wouldn't and fiendishly enjoy not missing it. Then again, that last half doesn't sound too bad either...

I splurged and bought some more books the other day, including "Great White Fathers," which is sort of necessary for a project I'm working on (saying it's a book makes me sound exactly like the struggling writer I am), "Tales From the City," the Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda novel "Destruction of Illusions" (I'm of a handful remaining enthusiasts of that series, which seemed to get a good deal with Sci Fi until it turned out Sci Fi would still rely on hours and hours of Stargate, the quality of which to me is the same quality to which Andromeda is to most other people, instead of actually airing Andromeda), plus two additional books. I'm stockpiling books! Really, I keep buying them, knowing full well I won't be getting to them terribly soon. The last splurge was early last month at the Moxie Festival my hometown has made its reputation on. Moxie is a soft drink. If you haven't heard of it, know that if and when you do, and you manage to have a taste, there are two directions you can go from there: 1) you love the stuff or 2) you hate it. We don't abide those who merely tolerate it. Grrrr!

Theodore R. Long, I now write, getting back to the business of WWE wrestling. So he's the new Smackdown general manager. What's with Thursdays, anyway? Monday does perfectly fine retaining Eric Bischoff. So why has Thursday run through Stephanie McMahon, Paul Heyman, and Kurt Angle in the same timespan? Does it have something to do with the day? Or a general failure to find a stable personality? Personally, I'd love for Heyman to stick around full-time (though he's now behind Johnny H, it seems, the botched Undertaker arc seemingly put all the way behind the show) as GM. But he's about as unstable as you can get, past Psycho Sid ("Don' me...Psycho!" I think he said, while he spelled psycho wrong). Stephanie was grating at times, but not too bad. Angle was only biding his time. Long, meanwhile, now appears to have been traded from show to show to fill this eventual void. Or is he just another stopgate measure, like JBL (or was JBL planned all along?)? One thing's for sure, he's got his own style, and for now I'm not making a judgment as to whether this is to the detriment of the general manager role. Has Smackdown really been working toward the elimination of this element? Or does it just seem that way?

The one thing Thursdays have that Mondays don't is genuine heat for the secondary title. Edge is Intercontinental champion, and is headed toward Summer Slam ("summer games," Olympics apparently being a taboo word) with Batista and Chris Jericho (now working on the second half of...Edge and Christian, who should really have worked on a name for the tandem, at least for the benefit of those with flash photography, so they could, y'know, have a splashy label). Batista continues to have his day in the sun, finally (I look forward to the day Luther can similarly be unleashed, but he still looks too imposing in those suits for me to care). I wouldn't mind him winning. But the point is, there is not a lot going for the match, as compared to the United States championship.

Kurt Angle, former GM, had set his sights on two offending champions in his tenure, Eddie Guerrero and John Cena. He managed to unseat both, arguably fairly with Eddie and unarguably unfairly with Cena. The Doctor has made a number of enemies, in fact most of the Smackdown roster, during his first reign as US champion, and none greater than Booker T and RVD (though Rene Dupree comes close, and Suzuki for comic value next). So recently (last week) Booker T had the chance to steal the spotlight and the title, not to mention Rob Van Dam's thunder. Last night Cena beat Mr. Thursday Night to win his easily-foreseen right to challenge Booker at Summer Slam, which will be the first of a best of five series of matches which will hopefully cap one of Cena's feuds, arguably the fiercest one. Cena is already arguably Thursday's MVP, but now he's elevated the US title to the point where you could argue his feuds are more compelling than the heavyweight champion's.

And this is not even considering how lacklaster Undertaker is continuing to be in his newest feud, against champion John Bradshaw Layfield (when his book "Make More Money Now," was first published, he wrote under this name, and I had a hard time remembering the last name, since he'd never used it before in WWE, but as you can see I don't have that problem anymore). This gulf has nothing to do with Bradshaw. He's bringing the same as champion as he did while contender to the table. He's become a dependable presence. It's Undertaker who is making things worse than they need to be. For those who complained about Goldberg and his lapses in presence, Marky's being much worse about it. If he's getting too old, just step aside already and let others grab the opportunity, like he did more than a decade ago. (Though I suppose that rumored feud with Mordecai would have been more entertaining than it had any right to be as a result, as fans tried to decide who had less business being in the ring.) It's not that he can't wrestle anymore. Taker has been using innovative submission maneuvers lately, and that's a welcome development for the usual power player (in both respects). I'd love to see more of this new approach, but it appears more and more that he's taking his profile for granted. For all those who've complained about the Clique in the past, they made their moves invisibly. This guy's being as deliberate in his apathy as possible while flexing his sway. And please don't tell me he'll be making out with the WWE title after SS is done and over. Not with his work ethic of late will I put up with another reign of darkness (or dead reign).

Am I being hypocritical here, condemning Undertaker while cheering Goldberg for essentially the same behavior? The matters seem different enough. Goldberg (who fell victim to Eric Bischoff's transformation into Vince McMahon back in WCW and lost his career momentum; maybe the Thursday GM dilemma has an explanation somewhere in there) signed a very specific, very public contract with WWE that limited his in-ring performance schedule (to the detriment of his reputation with smart marks) and was still in a form of his wrestling prime when he took such a path, while Undertaker has, despite many false deaths leading endless rebirths, been on the decline for years now. His decision comes as but a symptom of the end, which looks all the more necessarily apparent than ever before...

In similar concerns there's Kurt Angle's in-ring return. Last night's match against Charlie Haas (hurt by team-up with Rico, helped by Rico's ailment) suggested a more deliberate style, if not quite what we'd be told to expect. He didn't change it, only modified it. Hopefully this works. If it doesn't Haas is ready and willing to replace him as Thursday's wrestling savant. So Charlie doesn't have Kurt's vocal personality. Neither did Chris Benoit, and look where that's gone. (Randy Orton as his challenger at SS looks either like another month in the bucket or Orton's premature ascension; Eugene's posh match, meanwhile, is great, while Hardy-Kane II, whatever the stipulation, sounds like Shane-Kane II to me). All we really need to enjoy Angle is Angle. His stint as GM proved that. His wrestling is icing on the cake now. He's Jesse Ventura 2.0. However longer he has as a competitor will be the writing, which will probably spell out either "Oh itt's true, it's damn true" or "What?" Or "Your Olympic hero." Or "Intensity, integrity, and intelligence." With the last one hopefully factored in wisely. In fact, all three.

Spike has deviously reunited with his brothers Bubba and D-Von Dudley, who have now officially completely departed from the last storyline they were in, as have Heyman and Undertaker (and poor Paul Bearer, from this life, too!), making that possibly the most meaningless storyline of 2004. Rey Misterio better have lost the cruiserweight title to a story that'll be going somewhere! Paul London and Billy Kidman have also graduated from Dudley University, and have beaten the Bashams to prove it! I'll bet Spanky is really smacking himself upside the head, seeing London's success after sticking it out.

Finally, there's OJ, Orlando Jordan. I know, I know, I recently said I'd lay off him for a while, but he made his Smackdown return last night, defeating Rene Dupree and showing up at the end of the show to lend a hand to JBL! You couldn't ask for a better night, especially if your name is Orlando Jordan. Tazz and Michael Cole even acknowledged the reason for his recent absence, and he got to have his entrance music played, too! The only problem would be the botched nature of the program finale. You could tell someone had screwed up, with all the time that needed to be eaten up. I think the chokeslam the midget (PC?) received was a compensation to this effect, and even that didn't take care of it. I'm tending to blame this awkwardness on the Undertaker, who without his voice can't carry a lot of time (and maybe that's the reason his return has been such a letdown, not that he was ever known for his words, in any form he's held). Maybe Bradshaw could have stumped up on the ramp with Jordan. Maybe Jordan came out too soon. I don't know. But next week still looks interesting.

That about covers it for this edition of the Scouring Monk. (Hopefully I have someone reading this nonsense...)

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