Wow, two weeks already? It’s amazing how time flies when you’re having fun. But alas, my break in Florida is over and its time for me to get back to work, producing W101’s hottest rising column EVER!!! *cheap heat*. So as Bo Selecta would put it – “Lets get crackin’ with the knackin'”. This weeks chosen subjects are: Brian Pillman, MLW, and who WWE should fire…
But before I start – a plea to all you knowledge buffs out there in “Internerd” land. I’m in the midst of preparing a pretty big column entitled “The History of NWA:TNA” which is right now a little side project. If anyone has any links to good resource sites for NWA:TNA information, wrestler debuts, signings, and especially backstage rumours, problems, potential signings that never came about and so on, please could you hit me up at Mitchell@wrestling101.com or PM me on the TWO forums (Username: DraVen) so that I can add to my currently large selection of resource notes. Anyone who has a copy of any PW Press or Wrestling Observer newsletter with detailed coverage of NWA:TNA could also be of assistance. I’m more than willing to splash out a bit of dosh for an issue or if you would be so kind as to relay the given information to me, that would also help. Either way, any help would be much appreciated.
The Loose Cannon = Greatest Heel Ever?
Many of you who joined the wrestling fanbase during the peak of Attitude may not remember this guy. Those who watched WWF exclusively before then may know him from a feud with Goldust but not much else. But those who’ve followed wrestling extensively and are still with us through these tough times will know exactly what I’m talking about and I don’t think many of them will disagree with me. Introducing… Brian Pillman.
Yes, he of Hollywood Blonds fame in WCW. Alongside Steve Austin (yes, THAT Steve Austin), the brave victim of throat cancer (the reason behind his raspy voice) achieved a fair bit of success as a tag team, one which many predicted would go on to become the future of the business. But no matter what he did, he always remained mid-card at best. Sure, he had cracking contests in the light-heavyweight division with such dazzling wrestlers as Jushin “Thunder” Lyger, but it only served to make people realise he was a great talent going nowhere. The talent, the charisma, it didn’t elevate him any higher… until his darker side was unleashed. Introducing… The Loose Cannon.
Ah yes, the Loose Cannon. A creation of Pillman, endorsed secretly by Eric Bischoff, the character was the talk of the town as almost everybody fell for it. It was so ahead of its time, it was unbelievable. Up until that point, heels had consisted of smart men who tried to outsmart the babyfaces (see Ted DiBiase, Bobby Heenan, and Ric Flair). But the Loose Cannon was special because it revolutionised the way we look at not only heels, but the business in general. It all began with a heel turn on Ric Flair, aligning himself with Arn Anderson, before Flair turned heel and reunited the 4 Horsemen. As the weeks progressed, Pillman was seemingly starting to lose his mind. At one point, during a match at Clash of the Champions XXXII, he grabbed Bobby “The Brain” Heenan for no reason whatever, causing the announcer to scream “What the fuck are you doing?”, before leaving. His attire was also cause of concern, at one point causing Arn to have a stern talk with the former “Flyin’ Brian”. But most concern stemmed from his feud with Kevin Sullivan, which had turned personal. In one tag match, the two refused to sell for each other, and Anderson had to break out of character to tell Kevin to “snap out of it”. Then came the moment that would solidify Pillmans name in history forever. Introducing… bookerman.
It was Superbrawl 1996. Sullivan and Pillman had been signed for a “Respect match”, which was basically a variation of an I Quit match, with strap match rules also in effect (or something like that – WCW was hard to understand at that point). The two had been feuding for a while, and with the rumoured real life tension between the two, everyone expected the match to be very interesting indeed. But oh boy, no one expected it to be as interesting as it was. About a minute or two in, Pillman grabbed a microphone and said “I respect you, bookerman”, before leaving to the backstage area, laughing his head off. The crowd, the announcers, and pretty much everyone bar Sullivan and Bischoff were legitimately left in a state of shock and confusion. Not long after, Pillman was “fired”. Everyone thought that Bischoff was doing the right thing and punishing Pillman, but in fact, Easy E had given Brian the all-clear to go and make a name for himself in another company. Pillman was out, and off to a new home. Introducing… Extreme Championship Wrestling.
See, in WCW, he had set the tone for his new heel character. But through Paul Heyman and ECW, Pillman took the gimmick to a height absolutely unheard of. A lot of people were still left in the dark about the gimmick, and genuinely thought that Pillman was dangerous. And he certainly played to it.. so well in fact that it’s still considered one of the greatest gimmicks of all time, and my pick for greatest heel gimmick ever. It’s genius. How many heels do marks believe are dangerous? Quite a few. How many heels do smarks believe are dangerous? Not many. That Pillman fooled both sets of fans is a testament to not only the character but himself for playing it as well as he did. Anyone who has seen ECW videos from that period will know how the whole thing played out. One of the most high profile feuds he encountered was against Shane Douglas. The heat was off the charts and Pillman was atop of it. As Douglas drew babyface heat by being “The Franchise”, Pillman was all up in his face, taunting him, pulling women and children in front of him to protect himself from attack, and even calling him out and then retreating for no reason whatsoever. He was setting out riots in the ECW Arena, threatening to take a piss in the ring, attacking fans with forks, and even turning up on WCW TV, all in the name on heel heat. And it worked. Bischoff even offered Pillman a main event PPV spot, but was turned down simply because of problems with his throat. He was a tortured sole off-screen, and diverted all of his aggression into the Loose Cannon, and was having a wail of a time doing it. He wanted heat. He got it. He wanted legitimate fear from those around him. He got it. And he was still talented, until a fatal vehicle accident put paid to that. But from its creation to its end, the Loose Cannon was and still remains one of the most talked about and revolutionary ideas in wrestling, maybe for the better, maybe for the worse. But the impact it had on marks and smarks alike cannot be denied.
How do you like your wrestling? Rare, medium or HYBRID?
As the WWE falls to record lows in terms of ratings, attendance, merchandise sales and overall product, the independent scene is booming. The hardcore fans have Combat Zone Wrestling and IWA – Mid South. The technical fans have Ring of Honor. Even us Brits have Frontier Wrestling Alliance, NWA-UK Hammerlock, FCW, the list goes on. But I crave something different. I crave big time stars, up-and-comers, hardcore wrestling, high flying wrestling, Mexican wrestling, Japanese wrestling, an entertainment factor whether from mic work or storylines, and people I know and enjoy watching. Normally, I’ll stay complacent with even just a few of those factors in a wrestling show, but when I can find ALL those factors in one show, you better believe I’m gonna take notice.
Major League Wrestling has come a long way from it’s humble beginnings in 2000. Not making much of an impression, except maybe the wrong one, Court H. Bauer had to think differently about how to make something out of MLW, rather than be labelled “just another ECW-wannabe”. I mean, thats initially what it was. When I first learned about MLW in Power Slam magazine, thats exactly what I thought. But that was before I got my hands on MLW footage (god bless chatrooms). I managed to weasel my way into a copy of Underground TV from The Sunshine Network, based in Florida, and I was mightily impressed. The production looked really good for an Indy company with a limited budget, and Joey Styles has always been a favourite of mine, a guy who I study a lot when practising my announcing technique. The matches themselves were also great, originating from the MLW: Reload event. I was overjoyed to see some favourites of mine in action: La Parka, Vampiro, Fuego Guerrero (Amazing Red, to you and me), and Raven. It was especially refreshing to see a Raven promo start the show off. I knew nothing about the Raven/Vampiro feud going into it, but I instantly became intrigued by it, just from two minutes of listening to Scott Levy tell Vampy that he’s “still waiting”. And don’t get me started on Steve Corino.
This guy is a superstar in MLW, pure and simple. He is a heat magnet, and the Extreme Horsemen, up until PJ Walker and Barry Windham joined, had an air of legitimacy to them, like you actually felt their heel energy and got caught up in it. Just a typical old school stable, with a typical old school leader cutting typically old school promos which were amazingly effective. How many men do you know that can cut a fantastic promo while driving down the lane in his vehicle, and even remember to point out that the camera is there, and give reasoning for the camera to be there? Just the little things make Steve Corino that goddamn fantastic in his role. I can’t think of anyone who could ever replace the “King of Old School”. And he can wrestle too. That makes the taste of Steve Corino all the more sweeter. Whether he’s up against Mike Awesome or Terry Funk, Corino gives his all and makes people believe in his matches. It’s a talent not many others share, although Satoshi Kojima comes close. Kojima has been pushed well under Bauer and has developed quite a following with the MLW faithful. He is a talented Japanese worker and has opened my eyes to the world of puroresu moreso than I had been opened to before. The talents of Dick Togo and Jimmy Yang caught my eye too. Super Crazy and La Parka re-impressed me after a while of not having seen them on my TV set. Christopher Daniels, Jerry Lynn, SAT, D’lo Brown, CW Anderson, Simon Diamond, CM Punk and Homicide are all impressive athletes and no doubt add so much to MLW in and out of the ring. And the main event scene looks good too. So I’ve had my eyes opened to puroresu, lucha libre, technical wrestling, high flying action, and hardcore, hard hitting main event brawls, all on one show. Can’t ask for much more than that.
Ok, so they’ve hit a few rough patches, and even had to cancel some shows recently, but they’re back, and ready to kick ass and take names once again. The restructure of MLW may have disappointed some, but it was a necessary change that I hope and pray will benefit in the long run. Some of the talent has been dropped in favour of lesser-known stars, but the names synonymous with MLW are still there – Corino, Funk, Steve Williams, etc. And they’ve even brought in some other names, such as Low-ki. So I’m certainly not going to complain. Afterall, this is the company who brought us War Games, King of Kings, and a whole host of other great pay-per-views, not to mention a potential Raven/Vampiro feud (which I can only presume was scrapped due to problems with Vampiro). Boasting the roster that they do, and having seen the evidence for myself, I’m not going to argue with MLW. In fact, quite the opposite. ALL HAIL MLW!!!
Who really should be on the firing line…
By now, we all know about the impromptu firing of Dustin “Goldust” Runnels. Debate has sparked up as to why an entertaining performer was considered for firing while other less deserving and entertaining athletes remain on the payroll. I thought I’d join in with the debate, and throw my two cents in as to who I think SHOULD have received the chop.
A-Train – why is this guy still employed? If sports-entertainment is all about entertainment (seemingly), then how does A-Train fit into that equation? He’s done practically nothing of interest since his debut and can’t seem to get over, as nice a guy as he might be backstage. I know he’s a WWE-made wrestler, and Vince obviously takes pride in that, not to mention that he’d big. But there’s a difference between pushing somebody and pushing somebody at the expense of your business. You don’t push people who aren’t over. You get them over, and then push them. A-Train can’t get over, so he shouldn’t be pushed. It’s unfortunate, but sadly a proven fact in the history of wrestling.
Stevie Richards – unlike A-Train, actually can get over, and has done several times in his tenure at the WWE. This for me would be considered a “mercy fire”. The guy is super-talented, and very charismatic, but he’s going to get nowhere in the WWE. He’s small, he’s considered a Shawn Michaels-ripoff, and Stephanie McMahon just about knows that he’s employed by her daddy. It’s not the best of situations for Stevie. The guy needs to be let out of his misery. He has no future here. Let him join Raven and The Blue Meanie on the independent circuit and rejuvenate his passion and drive. It saves everyone the hassle.
Nathan Jones – oh boy, what can I say about this guy that hasn’t already been said? The guy was brought in because of his size, then went and made the WWE regret the day. I’ve had the misfortune of seeing this man live, and even a tag team match couldn’t hide his brutally dire wrestling ability. Yet WWE continues to bring him in and try to motivate him to get better. Talk about dragging a dead horse.
I could go on and on with various names such as Billy Gunn, Rodney Mack, and Sable, but at the end of the day, we all know they’re going nowhere. So lets just hope that Goldust finds every success on the independent circuit and sticks it to the WWE brass.
Top Ten… Commentary Combinations (in my opinion)
10) Mike Tenay & Don West
9) Jim Ross & Jim Cornette
8) Vince McMahon, Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler
7) Joey Styles & Joel Gertner
6) Michael Cole & Tazz
5) Joey Styles & Cyrus the Virus
4) Tony Schiavone, Mike Tenay & Larry Zbyzsko
3) Gorilla Monsoon & Jesse Ventura
2) Jim Ross & Jerry Lawler
1) Gorilla Monsoon & Bobby Heenan
As NWA:TNA morale sinks lower, thanks to “Triple J” Jeff Jarrett, the top brass must consider how to combat Jeff Jarrett’s so-called ego and calm the woes of the other stars… oh wait, Jeff Jarrett IS the top brass. Well, that just speaks volumes to me.
The CM Punk/Raven feud is finally coming to a conclusion, and I for one can’t wait to see it end, and for Raven to stop putting over this kid. As nice as it is to see a veteran take his time to make a young “stud” look like a million bucks, CM Punk is overrated in my opinion, and should start to move on and see how his new found drawing power can hold up with other big stars such as Steve Corino, Terry Funk, and so on and so forth. If his drawing power remains and carries through with him throughout the independent circuit (not just Ring of Honor), then all the power in the world to him. But we’ll wait and see first.
Who is the best manager in wrestling today? Many would point to Theodore Long, or Ric Flair. I’d personally go for Father James Mitchell, whose promos never cease to amaze me. A man of my own heart.
Is it finally time for Chris Benoit to cross the sacred bridge, over the troll that lives beneath, to join his peers on the greener grass on the other side? I hope so, but unfortunately, think not. Let’s hope WWE will (to quote the Wolverine himself) prove me wrong.
Is it me or has RAW been an outstanding show for a few weeks now? Just last year, the same was being said for SmackDown. Nice to see some improvement though. Credit to the WWE. Let’s just hope the momentum can remain going into 2004.
Ok, thats it for another episode. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed, send comments if required, etc. Until next time, peace out.