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Here endeth the first lesson



13 November 2003

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Rejoice, for a saviour has come.  He will cure the sick Federation.  He will bring the moneychangers back to the temple.  He will make the dead walk (hopefully right out of the building, in the case of the Undertaker).  Yes these are certainly strange times indeed when the Messiah of Smackdown is a portly, balding gentleman with an over compensatory pony tail, but that’s the case.

My brethren, Paul E Dangerously is moving among us in a mysterious way and fixing to make us all believers again.  We all knew he was around, but I for one never thought that he would be trusted with such a high-profile job; after all, since the humbling of ECW he’s been treated like a second-class citizen by the WWE-drafted in to lead the small, Philly contingent in the Invasion angle, keeping the colour commentary seat warm for the clearly returning Jerry Lawler and used as a mouthpiece for the green-as-grass Brock Lesnar.  But, Vince has dug deep and made an objective move to appoint Paul E, because, let’s face it, he could have handled the duties himself.

Mr Heyman has proved he can turn a Federation around before.  He took the moribund (here comes that dictionary again!) Eastern Championship Wrestling from Tod Gordon and turned it into the hot-as-the-sun Extreme Championship Wrestling.  He found a niche and marketed it till it bled…and, ultimately, until it was saturated.  The problem with a one-dimensional appeal is that, once others leap on the bandwagon, over-exposure leads to boredom.

But there is one thing I can never forgive Paul E for.  He helped to demystify wrestlers.

I recently watched Mid Atlantic Wrestling’s Hardcore Cup 2003; it’s presented from a school gym dubbed the “MAW Arena” by two screeching, hyperventilating commentator; it’s actually a very good event.  The first four matches are no-rope barbed wire affairs with the usual stips (Taipei death, TLC covered in barbs, bed of nails etc), and they get pretty brutal-for instance, Corporal Robinson staples a dollar bill to his unfortunate opponent’s tongue (and it stays there for the rest of the match).  After these first round matches, Brad Bradley and CM Punk turn up a very hot, straight wrestling match with some superb pure moves.  But I found my mind drifting back to the hardcore matches-the chair shots, the dollar bill, the DRILL TO THE SKULL, for God’s sake!  You see, the visceral (come on, keep up) will always seem more immediate than real wrestling.

Paul didn’t just cheapen wrestling moves, he cheapened the wrestlers too.  It doesn’t take athletes to swing a chair, take a face full of broken glass or fall off a ladder.  In ECW, it seemed as though anyone could do it (Balls Mahoney, puhlease!), and wrestlers became secondary to fighters.  This exposure to ordinary blokes “wrestling” eventually led fans and those keen to put grappling down to the conclusion that there was nothing special about wrestling, anyone could do it, even blokes fighting in a carpark.  It degraded wrestlers and therefore wrestling-a perfect opportunity for those who wanted to deride it.

It wasn’t his fault really; he’s just a great marketing man, booker (remember the build-up to Taz v Sabu?) and writer.  He could do wonders for Smackdown.  If he’s allowed he work, that is.  He’s lucky that Steph is in the first bloom of her marriage with HHH (wonder if he makes her carry his bags, like he had to with the clique?), but Big Vince is still around and by booking himself on another PPV, he’s shown that he hasn’t got enough love yet-just like those bullies with rich daddies in school/college/daily life, he thinks that if he gets in our faces enough, we’ll eventually come to love him-Vince had read this column enough times by now to understand that although we admire his business acumen, that’s all he can show us, and his presence is not required-particularly when it drops a proper wrestler to the bench.  We will only grow to love you when you back off Vince-take a hint this time.

But Paul E recently stood up to the Big Suit on Smackdown.  He talked to him as his equal.  This is progress, and shows that Paul may be allowed the space to make some big changes on the programme.

Of course, we must all be on the lookout for false prophets-and that’s just what Paul Heyman is.  How long will it be before spliced Steph is back on the scene?  Weeks, I reckon.  She’ll work the outsider pathos angle for a while and then win the power struggle for the GM role.  Heyman out.

He’s just a caretaker you see; it’s another way to fool the fans.  He’ll shake it up for a couple of weeks and bring the fans back ready for normal service to be resumed.  Of course, Steph will be able to change any improvements he’s made-like the series of “Dallas” that was explained away as a dream, all the good things Heyman will do (and there are bound to be some) can be expunged (that’s wiped out, you trogs) at will.

To avoid disappointment, I would stop watching Smackdown for the nest few weeks.  Or try not to get too excited about anything you see.

Am I just crying out in the wilderness here?  Somehow, I think so.  Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Cynic

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