Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Monday, October 08, 2007

#153. Watchmen, Paperback Reader, Who Watches

I'm thinking somewhat sacriligiously: I'm reading Alan Moore's Watchmen for the first time, and have thus been thinking maybe this year's NaNo, and capper to the previous three years' will be called, or subtitled Who Watches(?).

In other news, Paperback Reader has, at least for the moment, decided it doesn't actually want me to continue writing for it. Maybe not Bart himself. But definitely the site. Weird...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

#152. PWI 500 2007

So, having digested much (okay, all) of the new PWI 500, I wish the magazine could do more. I wish it came with a DVD, like music magazines and computer magazines do, with matches featuring the top ten finishers. I've never seen Mistico (#3) in action. He's the latest international sensation I know only by name and picture. Wrestling's such a funny thing, though. It's a deep enough culture that a bunch of people would be crazy enough to compile a list of the top 500 wrestlers, every year, but not lucrative enough, or whatever, to be truly represented like it should be. It's still all about the territories, with Mexico and Japan, say, losing out to most audiences, like baseball, I guess.

Anyway, Edge (#2) made it in the top ten, and Batista didn't. I'm okay with it. Edge had a wider pool of talent to contend with, having operated on both Smackdown and Raw, and was as such able to, because of his mobility, cover a lot of ground. It wasn't really that great of a year for him, at least not as compared with the same period in the last PWI 500. He just happened to surge through his last few months (during which I hated him vehemently, because he'd stolen a bunch of other wrestlers' thunder, not the least being Mr. Kennedy, who lost his Money in the Bank for no reason). Batista, meanwhile, spent the entire grading period either holding or pursuing the World championship. This sounds really good on paper, but it also means, as some have pointed out, he had a nearly unlimited number of title shots throughout that year. He was in every single Smackdown main event, from King Booker's reign to the Undertaker to Edge, even to the Great Khali. He was their only opponent. It's ironic, too, because this happened after seemingly everyone on the Smackdown roster got injured. Batista, of course, originally lost his title because of injury (as John Cena has just now done as well...if WWE is guilty of anything, it's not knowing when to take the pressure off of any one star when they could really use a break...it's how The Rock made a career, right?), and by the time he returned, Rey Misterio's reign had become Booker's, and everyone's pants had been caught around their ankles. They were in the awkward position of not actually knowing what to do with Batista. After he'd gone to rehabilitate, WWE got Kurt Angle one last championship reign, and they used it to push Misterio as well as Randy Orton, but Orton's interests were elsewhere, and so were Angle's. Smackdown ended up with Misterio as champion, with no real program, so it took the title off him and put it on another veteran who'd waited his turn so patiently, King Booker.

But Booker was never going to be champion that long. Then someone came up with the worst possible scenario for Batista as champion, and that was to pin him against a reinvigorated Undertaker (counting all the way back to his match with Angle at No Way Out just before WrestleMania 22, for WrestleMania 23. People had already seen Smackdown with champions of seemingly every orientation. Batista, when he returned, face a public that had moved on.

So between the fall of 2006 and summer of 2007, when so much had been squeezed from the brand, Batista faced the unlikely possibility of proving himself all over again, and his contenders just kept falling. Somehow he became an MVP no one quite appreciated. He took the brand on his considerable shoulders, and for that, because of his unwitting dominance of the title scene, whether as contender or champion, everything the fans had loved him for, when he'd captured, two years earlier, the top spot on the PWI 500 over Cena, they'd completely forgotten. Somehow, between the winter of 2006 and summer, everyone had started assuming, rather than becoming exactly what he would, Batista was actually nothing more than the new Goldberg, Brock Lesnar. The Goliath whose interest could be easily toppled. Goldberg, that dude spent two solid years tuned in, and then went the Warrior route when everyone started forgetting. Lesnar, he was another two year wonder. Well, Batista's on his third year, and he was the only one of the three to have an origin, a before. That's why he's better than people say, better than #13.

But that's exactly where he should be. Hey, the guy above him is Samoa Joe, whom PWI itself admits competed in last fall's most invigorating feud with Kurt Angle. For now, wrestling fans can be enamored of lightweights like Christian Cage (#7), and Bobby Lashley (#9). Those guys don't have the upside of Batista. He's older than both of them. And he's going to be making news long after them.

Angle was robbed at a mere #4. But his historic championship rush is but a precursor of the stuff he's going to continue doing for TNA. Shawn Michaels (#6), Undertaker (#5), they're worth their spots. Perro Aguayo (#8)? A somewhat familiar name, that's all. Takeshi Morishima (#10), please convince your Ring of Honor superiors to release more footage. ROH could be the new ECW, and we, the fans, really don't have the chance to say so.

Speaking of ECW, there's that new version running Tuesday nights, and everyone's saying that it has no business calling itself that. Tough cookies, folks. ECW, the original ECW, wasn't really just about the "extreme." It was about providing an outlet for stars no other promotion would use, even though they deserved it and could put together a show just as entertaining as could be found in WWF or WCW. "Extreme" was a fad, but ECW was meant for the long haul. "Extreme," as the New Jacks, the Sabus, the Tazes, the Tommy Dreamers, the Sandmans, the Justin Credibles defined it, it was about tenacity, a sheer force of will, not just the blood and the gore. It was about the blood, but it was also about the sweat, and the tears. Go back over the history and tell me I'm wrong. Go ahead and look over the talent that was discovered there, not just the names you still associate with ECW, but with those whose careers owe a huge debt to its philosophy. ECW made it safe for the next generation.

The new ECW, it's doing the same thing again. It's just that it's a WWE brand now. Smackdown may still be the place WWE grooms its upcoming talent, but probably, as always, the big stars that will inevitably make their way to Raw, the Carlitos (the flack he catches now, trust me, it's inconsequential), the Mr. Kennedys (ditto), even the John Cenas. Elija Burke is no John Cena, but he's a real talent. John Morrison is no John Cena, but he's a real talent. CM Punk? I think once the fans calm down and let ECW be what it's going to be, this brand is going to be able to exhale, be itself, and prove that it's worthy of existence. It's ECW. It's not the old ECW. But the old ECW wasn't, either.

If anything, TNA is the old ECW, a show with a not-incredible sense of creating TV shows, stars that have perhaps more heart than ring sense, and it's also the old WCW, which had such a great sense of stealing talent worth banking on.

Anyway...That's more wrestling thoughts. Sorry, nonwrestling-thoughts-interested readers.


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