Tuesday, May 07, 2013

#575. Frog Splash Monday

I'm going to start this week's wrestling thoughts with ROH.  Ring of Honor is the third largest wrestling promotion in the U.S.  Like TNA, it began in 2002, though it has primarily kept a focus on the wrestling over the entertainment factor that gives us folks like Brodus Clay (the latest big guy who dances) and Fandango (a regular-sized guy who also dances).  Although of course even ROH has storylines.  The current one involves another wicked faction (every faction in wrestling is wicked, even the legendary Four Horsemen) that's opposing Kevin Steen, whom I think the promotion briefly thought was going to be a watershed type of champion.  He recently lost the ROH world title to Jay Briscoe, one half of a brother combination that has no relation to the Briscoe brothers who were dominant in the '70s, Jack and Gerald (the latter eventually gaining more fame as a stooge of Mr. McMahon during the "Stone Cold" Steve Austin era along with Pat Patterson, not only the first Intercontinental champion but also gay).

Jay Briscoe as champion makes a ton of sense.  He's a homegrown star that the fans will absolutely recognize.  In recent years, after the loss of stars like Brian Danielson (who subsequently made a name for himself as Daniel Bryan), CM Punk, and Nigel McGuinness (who attempted to make a name for himself as Desmond Wolfe, but had to retire due to medical issues), ROH seemed to lose direction.  McGuinness has since returned to the promotion as an on-air (i.e. noncompetitive) personality, although he may be contemplating one last match.  I'd be happy to see that happen.  Another star who's returned recently is Paul London, a firecracker who was a star in the early days and quickly moved on, winning the ECWA Super 8 tournament (something Christopher Daniels alone can say he's done twice) and making a go of it in WWE.  One of his first matches in WWE was actually against Brock Lesnar.  That was a fun match.  Eventually, though, he got swallowed up in the dying cruiserweight division, and then in a tag team with Brian Kendrick, a combination that spent a great deal of time as Smackdown champions but never got an ounce of respect from the company.  And then London disappeared, perhaps because he smirked right before McMahon "died" that one time in 2007 (although everyone else was soon thinking about Chris Benoit, for entirely negative reasons).  It's just good to see London back on a stage where he can be widely appreciated.  And the whole promotion around him seems to be undergoing a renaissance, so that's nice.

It's always good to have a competitive environment.  The last time it was socially acceptable to talk about wrestling out in the open was during the Monday Night Wars between WWE and WCW.  Wrestlers were everywhere, and the snickering was kept under the table.  That was good.  TNA is once again turning to one of the stars of that era, Sting, to compete for its world title.  Sting may be getting on in years (he's over fifty), but he can still go in the ring.  Undertaker is younger than him, but competed in far crazier matches in his prime.  Some fans no doubt want to see that dream match, which WWE has attempted to make a reality in the past.  If it ever did happen, it would still be special. True fact: Sting was the tag team partner of the Ultimate Warrior when they were both learning the business.  It may explain the face paint (well, The Crow explains the face paint now, but still).  The funny thing is TNA's own Sting, A.J. Styles, is actively pursuing his own version of the Sting savior role circa 1997.  The funnier thing is that the company didn't wait as long to get Styles back in action, but the end result will no doubt be the same.  He'll be the big star of this October's Bound for Glory (a smaller version of WrestleMania), probably in a match against Daniels, who has been tormenting Styles for the past year.

Undertaker, meanwhile, competed on Raw and Smackdown two weeks ago for the first time in three years.  At that time, he was retiring Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania and then helping make his "brother" Kane's run as world champion more legitimate, losing to him at three consecutive PPVs.  This time he was helping to put over The Shield, and Dean Ambrose in particular.  The Shield is a faction of up-and-coming talent that has been in the spotlight since last fall.  They're basically a new version of the Nexus, which was another thing happening in 2010.  Ambrose is clearly being groomed for greatness.  This will be a very good thing.  Wade Barrett was the skipper of Nexus, and he was pushed too far too quickly.  Although they still have yet to lose, Ambrose and his two cohorts have yet to do much in singles competitive.  They keep doing matches together.  In Mexico, this is a regular thing.  It would make sense for Rey Mysterio, Sin Cara, and somebody else (it would be awkward to make the third Hunico, because he was the substitute Sin Cara, and that didn't end well).

Anyway, to speak of Fandango again, it's funny that he became a meme.  His debut was delayed for months, probably because they were trying to figure out how to pull this gimmick off, but it seems to be doing the work itself, along with a killer theme (slightly evocative of the old I Dream of Jeannie theme) and some Dancing with the Stars moves (and perhaps a killer new diva currently known as Summer Rae).  Some observers are concerned that WWE will screw it up, but they don't seem to realize that heels can be loved just as much as babyfaces.

Did I mention that Dolph Ziggler actually did finally cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase, won last summer?  He's finally a world champion, something "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig never did in WWE (much less WCW, although he did in AWA before appearing in either of them).  Ziggler is a heck of a lot like Hennig, although he doesn't have the Perfect Plex (which in hindsight is probably what ruined Hennig's back).  The WWE champion is still John Cena, who will be defending the title against Ryback (WWE's official Goldberg) in two weeks.  They're making Ryback a heel because they can't make Cena one.  If Ryback wins it'll hardly matter.  If Ryback doesn't win (he competed for the title in the fall against Punk, but didn't win thanks to good folks like The Shield), that will pretty much mean the end of that.

And yes, Mr. Dilloway, I know this stuff isn't "real."  It's still art.  I appreciate good art in whatever form it takes.  Perhaps you'd like to meet Damien Sandow?  But just to prove everything's cool, hey folks!  His books are ninety-nine cents this month!  No, I don't generally shill for other blogger buddy book writers, mostly because I believe in supporting books you love rather than people you like and because I don't automatically assume they're one in the same (and also because I really don't have the money to try and tell the difference indiscriminately).  In this case, Dilloway has been grumpy longer than I have, and I'm hoping that any success he receives will motivate him to write more of what I hope he'll write, which is some genuinely good stuff.  He's been feeling like he should quit writing.  And partly I agree.  There's stuff that feels like he's just writing because he's a writer, and then there's stuff he writes where it truly feels inspired and he seems engaged as a creative voice.  That I'll always support.  So if I can be a part of drawing that out of him, all the better, even if he hates me for suggesting that some of his material doesn't fit that category.  To be fair, I won't mention which material is which.  You're all adults (so far as I know).  You can make these decisions for yourself.


The Armchair Squid said...

Professional wrestling as performance art - never really thought of it that way before, but I suppose it is.

Tony Laplume said...

It absolutely is. If it helps, that's exactly how the late Roger Ebert saw it, too.

Maurice Mitchell said...

I'm not into wrestling but the return of Undertaker sounds epic.

Tony Laplume said...

He pretty much took the last two years off, only appearing at WrestleMania time. He will never be anything like a regular presence again, but two weeks ago was as close to that as it'll get, so that was just awesome. His body is so banged up, this sort of thing just didn't seem likely.


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