We'll 'E' the Worker
Originally Posted 7-13-04
Hello, my intended...
Once again, it's your old buddy Bobo here with his usual musings and acerbic humor that helps you cope with being a fan of 'wrestling today'. But today, I think I'll go in a different direction. Who knows? It might not suck....
When wrestling was in it's last 'boom time' during the mid-90s, it was brought to my attention by one of my brothers that there existed something that was sort of familiar to us. In the old days of the Image BBS and Commodore 64s, one of the 'big' things was 'The War Board'. It was indiscriminate flaming of everyone else in a sort of online version of 'king of the mountain'. I was pretty darn good at it, actually, but had long since 'outgrown' such things, I had told him.
"You don't understand," he said, "this is different."
"How so?" I had asked.
"Well, while it IS sort of the same with the making fun and stuff - it's not particularly YOU that's doing the talking..."
"I don't get it," I said. "If I'm not talking, what's the deal?"
"You know how we used to play those RPGs? Dungeons and Dragons and such?"
"Uh huh," I sighed.
"And the players took on the roles of fighters and barbarians and clerics and whatnot?"
"Get to the point, man," I grumbled. "You really don't need to explain D&D to me."
"Well, the point is: in THIS, you play a WRESTLER."
"Like in the WCW or WWF?"
"That seems like a huge waste of time, bro... I mean, with the D&D and stuff, there were rules of play and et cetera... You had to roll so high to hit and whatnot. I don't see how that translates to 'being a wrestler'. How do you play?"
"That's the funny part. You play by cutting promos and stuff, like on TV. And whoever does it best wins. You have your guy do interviews and skits and such, and generally just rake your opponent over the coals. Psychological warfare, like that whole Rude vs. Jake deal where Rude was airbrushing Jake Roberts' old lady onto his tights..."
"Don't remind me, bro. That was SAD. But more to the issue - how does that affect ME?"
"You'd be great at it!"
"And you figure this because?"
"You're a mean mofo. You've got years of experience with hurting people's feelings, and generally withering their self-esteem for mere amusement. Add in that you've studied not only wrestling, but a ton of other martial arts and such. Further, you're exceptionally skilled with creating and playing characters of all kinds. Then you gotta consider all that psychology and philosophy and the rest of that long hair stuff you read - pairing up with your near total recall of everything you've ever seen on TV or heard on the radio. That's a huge set of advantages to level with laser precision at a bunch of schmucks that are pretending to be Sting or Hulk Hogan."
"So why bother?"
"It'd be hilarious."
I then took some time to create a 'persona'. While I was certain I could 'portray' any of the stars in any of the federations with the ease generally available to a guy that (as a gamemaster for dozens of pen and paper RPGs) was used to portraying entire worlds full of people at a time. Sure, my Randy Savage, Big Van Vader, Ultimate Warrior, Stan Hansen and Hogan impersonations were spot-on, but I just felt that their characters weren't suited to me. I'd rather not go into the specific details of the character creation process at this time, but if you're interested you can check it out here. Suffice to say that the character I created back then is the one that currently calls himself Mr.Fiendish in this very column. It's quite a bit of me in there, an 'alter-ego' as it were. Many of the great characters that exist are a reflection of sorts to their creators.... Jim Henson's Kermit, Victor Hugo's Valjean, Walt Kelly's Pogo, Scott Adams' Dilbert... Not that I'd lump myself in there with those guys for a second, mind you, it's just for examples.
Bluntly, I completely messed up the curve of 'virtual-wrestling talent'. Not that it was all that hard, since I knew I had more years roleplaying experience under my belt than most of the folks that usually enjoined in these pursuits had walking the earth. It was comparable to trying to get a high school debate club member to outtalk a congressman with a law degree.
With comparable results.
Now, people, I've never been a mark for myself. Ever. Anyone that's read me regularly knows that I've got about as much ego as an Eggo. For chrissakes, I still can't understand why anyone reads my stuff to start with, but that's neither here nor there.
The online version of the wrestling scene gave me a new appreciation for rhe 'real' one. We had guys that kissed ass to get ahead. We had guys with a million 'suggestions' for the next show. We had guys that turned on their friends. We had primadonnas that bitched about losing. We had guys bitch if they weren't winning 'strong enough'. Tag teams and other alliances would form or shatter almost at random. And everyone wanted to be the top guy - the measure by which the other guys were judged - by any means necessary. I'd seen screwjobs. I'd seen backstabbing. But mostly, I'd see the top guys shit a cat when they got a look at the 'next big thing' and use every trick they knew to 'hold their spot'. Shenanigans aplenty, folks. I understood where they were coming from, too. They'd worked the 'territory' for a long time before they got the brass ring, and would be DAMNED if that Bobo dude would just show up out the blue and take it all away from them.
For Bobo's part, he knew it was all just a 'work'. The belts were just pictures on the computer screen, objectively speaking. They didn't matter. What did matter to me was entertaining the fans. You could love me or hate me, but I'd always give you a good show. And everything that was put in my way, I would turn around and make it part of the act. I could systematically disassemble any opponent into nice little blocks of mockery fodder. There were a few standard rules involved, of course. No outright racial slurs or similar defamation (as such could get one's site yanked) although you COULD hint at it. No harassing the workers outside of the promotion (Yahoo stalking, AOL ambushes and such). Nothing 'actionable' in the legal sense (outright death threats for example). Gratuitous cursing was frowned on, as some of the talent was 'minor league' if you get my drift, and we didn't want angry parents filing complaints about the stuff in little Billy's mailbox; though it WAS allowed if it was your 'gimmick' - provided you replaced certain letters with asterisks, you worthless piece of s**t f**khead. Not too hard a set of commandments, really. Unless you were ten or something...
Bobo's character was - at heart - that of a smart, mean person. So I made him a Smart mean person. If someone used a 'real' wrestler, Bobo would call them by their real name preceded by 'brother' as most wrestlers refer to each other to avoid having to remember names. For example, if someone was playing Hulk Hogan - Bobo would call him Brother Bollea. It worked both ways, too. If a wrestler used their real name, Bobo would call them by their crappiest gimmick name - for example calling Chris Benoit the Pegasus Kid, or Kevin Nash 'Master Blaster Oz'.
So I went about my merry business as is my wont. To give you some idea of how I progressed, take a look at some of my older articles... and then imagine YOU were Jim Ross. Yikes, indeed. So it quickly became clear that in the online equivalent of Larry Zybysko's Game of Human Chess I was pretty much Deep Blue. If you had a gimmick, I would lampoon it. If you had a style, I would parody it. If you worked it, I would take it away and club you insensate with it. And if you got mad? I'd just pour it on HARDER.
The 'secret' with my character was that once I knew what made you lose your cool, you were sunk like the Bismarck. I proceeded as if it was a 'real fight'. Make 'em mad. Mad people don't think clearly. Then they get sloppy. Then you make it worse. And worse. And then you win.
Bobo won a lot. In all modesty, I went on a goddamn romp that was the online equivalent of Goldberg's streak. I even had one promoter tell a guy that he was putting him over me in our upcoming match because 'Bobo has won enough for now', and the guy told him HE would quit if he was put over, since it was so crystal clear Bobo was cutting the better promos it would tarnish his character - and his reputation - if he won 'with any help from the boss'. Some guys take their reputations pretty seriously, even if it IS 'just a show'. As before, I didn't really care, since I knew it was all a work - and a work darn few folks even saw, at that.
Sure, I was over. Sure, I was winning... But I wasn't happy. The other talent were slowly adopting a 'mean' style more comparable to the hellaciously not-nice that I presented. Guys were attacking innocent folks in their promos in order to get over as 'vicious', and even the babyfaces started going all Image Comics; my chief rival at the time (a mega-babyface) even JOINING my 'Dark Stars' stable (Mercy Not Included). It's standard procedure to adopt what works in wrestling, as any indy guy can tell you. If it's over, especially. This left me with a dilemma... My gimmick was being adopted by others, and thus diluted. I was fully aware of what would happen if I let people make themselves the 'Demolition' to my 'Road Warriors', and had to come up with something fast to keep the character fresh... One of the guys in the promotion (Cedric 'The Asylum' Lett) did a deal with a sort of 'talk show' format, much like Charles Nelson Reilly in that crappy Piper movie 'Body Slam' - only entertaining, and less gay. I'd also never bothered to make fun of it... Invitation enough for me.
So, I said to myself... What would be the most illogical direction to take when you've got a mass-murdering, escaped convict, monster on the rampage that's criminally insane for your character? Turn him face, of course! But, in order to not dissolve the 'team' which (besides myself) was composed of a thug-type soldier with an 'urban flava' (Gas Chamber, the Walking Death Sentence), a cocky heel in a devil costume that led a 'Demon Gang' (Azmodeis), and the aforementioned 'ex-babyface' (Caster, the Ring Wizard), I decided to turn us all face at once... Sorta.
I called the show 'Better Living Through Violence'. It ran six episodes, and was the first real stirrings of my present 'dark comedy style'. New Year's Eve, 1998... A day that will live in infamy. Heh.
Unfortunately, it was never long before I seemed to totally demoralize my opponents to the point that they 'held back' their 'A Game' because they felt since there was no way in hell they could win anyway, why use up their good material? It sorta pissed me off, to tell the truth, because I have that pesky warrior zen deal where I felt like winning didn't matter if the other guy wasn't trying to win as well... Not that winning mattered all of a sudden, but principle ALWAYS did. To put it in more relatable perspective, imagine taking a four touchdown lead in a video football game, and then the other guy just stops playing defense. He doesn't quit or anything, he just lame ducks it to cheapen the already ensured victory. I consider it poor sportsmanship.
The only way anyone can get better at something is by challenging themselves, or those on a higher level than themselves. Sure, you usually get your head handed to you by whomever it is, but you do something else too: You learn where you're 'weak' and can use that information to improve. Possibly even inprove to the point that when you come back to the guy that used to tear you up, you'll have a nice surprise for him - like a silver platter for handing him HIS head. It works, folks. Anyone who's ever played 'Street Fighter' or a similar 'versus' game can relate. And if you've ever 'returned' after much quarters and practice and 'dethroned' the guy that used to wipe the arcade with you, you can see my point pretty clear. I hope so anyway, as this is a lot of darn text for you to go 'Uh... Huh?" now. Simply put, that was the other part of my whole warrior zen deal - train the next generation so that they can carry on the fight.
It was apparent that I could only do so much in the trenches with the other guys. I had to find some way to bring more folks up to the next level, and there was only one way to do it.
Run my own promotion.
But that, as they say, is another story... Heh.
You're welcome. See you SOON.