Originally Posted 7-19-03
Hello, my intended...
Remember when I said last time about there being another story? This is it.
As before, the wrestling fan is possessed of a very diverse, arguably thriving 'sub-culture'. I like to call them the 'Avatars'; though the standard term is 'Another Goddamn Fantasy Sports Geek' or alternately 'Another Goddamn FANFIC Writer' depending on the derision you're familiar with... In a nutshell, in case you didn't bother to read the last article, wrestling fans that actually portray their favorite wrestlers (or wrestlers of their own creation) in a sort of 'virtual federation'. I know of LOTS of Hulk Hogan and Jeff Hardy fans, folks, but damn few are 'fan enough' to assume their identity and guide their careers to vie for titles and glory in the scattered corners of the internet.
Now, folks, you might scoff, but some of the people I've seen out there did a damn fine job at it. If Triple H could cut a promo half as good as some people out in the blistering binary do 'as him' nobody would be complaining about his segments - or his championship. Not even ZENK. As ever, I'm not exactly a 'mark for myself' or my alleged 'talent', but I can do one thing pretty darn well.
Detect talent in OTHER people.
So, the first time I retired as a 'fantasy wrestler', which was because the federation I was in closed down. I could see the writing on the wall, since nobody there wanted me to rake them over the coals, among other things. I was even talking to the guy in charge fairly regularly and he would bounce ideas off me. We kinda self-destructed when some kid decided to play the New Age Outlaws, and did some shoddy promos against this guy named Zingali - who was a damn fine roleplayer (RPer, for short) and had a Mexican team called 'Los Hypnoticos'... The boss said he was gonna put the Outlaws over. I asked him why, since the Hypnoticos were a TON better than that hackery from the Outlaws. Now in all fairness, the kid running the NAO was about 13, but awful is awful. You could barely read it for the 'internet shorthand' and mispelling - and the kid had them cursing like sailors to boot, which I considered 'out of character' for them since inneundo was more their deal.
He told me that he felt the Outlaws deserved the win. I asked how he thought that, since the kid just started last week and it was his first match. Then I learned two things: First, the kid was his nephew. Second: The boss was a mark for the D-X. Folks, as an ex-dungeon master, that absolutely appalled me. The guy running the show in any game - especially a ROLE PLAYING GAME - has to be IMPARTIAL. Now, if you're running a game where the best guy wins, and then put someone over that is OBVIOUSLY not the better man in the matchup you're gonna have problems. Big ones. Anyway, he did it despite my advice against it, and the guy running the Mexican team quit. So did half the active roster. Including me.
The thing is, when you tell your guys that you're gonna 'do things how you like to do it', that's fine. It's your 'show'. But we only 'have to take it' if it's how we're feeding our families. Since we weren't getting money, it was simply a hobby. People don't enjoin in a hobby if it's not any fun to them, and they sure don't put any effort into their work if it doesn't mean anything when you're booking the winners. In short, it was bullshit. Nobody likes bullshit - just ask Vince McMahon's investors (if you can find any). Heh.
Now, the half of the roster that walked wasn't a family member or real-life friend to the guy in charge of the fed (go figure, right?), and it comprised of a luchadore named Tiger, a guy running an 'urban thug' gimmick, a guy playing Cactus Jack and RVD, a guy with a team of two priests, the guy with the Mexican team, and me. We were all pretty bummed it came to what it came to, since most of us were somewhat new to the whole 'e-fed' deal, and the experience kind of disappointed us. Since we didn't know each other except by 'AIM' and e-mail, I had suggested that I 'knew someone' that was planning to open a fed, and he'd probably need some talent to get things started. To say that they were warm to the idea is a cataclysmic understatement. The guy running the two priests even said he had a BUNCH of friends that would love to pitch in. I told them I'd let him know, but for myself was gonna just retire. It wasn't worth it to me, and being in a fed with a guy I 'knew' would be pretty hypocritical of me - which I'd rather not have happen.
So since I had a roster with more on the way, I had to decide on a direction... ECW was getting pretty big at the time, so I decided to pull a Russo and copy it, adding my own little spin here and there... I called it the Nightmare Wrestling Foundation because someone already used N.W.Federation, and I wanted to stress that wrestling was the focus, but with an 'extreme' sinister lean. To illustrate, one of the first promos cut was the urban thug dude, who hijacked a bus full of tourists to get to his 'new home'. As we progressed that wound up becoming a fairly TAME segment, overall, but I digress...
A 'virtual federation' comes in three main flavors these days.
'Serious', wherein you're trying to 'get over' as best you can because it's all about being the champ. These are the ones where good roleplaying counts the most. You can be anything you want, even a 'funny' person, but whatever you pick to be you better goddamn work it and work it HARD. There's people out there that will put up a new promo every HOUR if they feel they need to do it for the 'win'. Exactly, people with nothing better to do with their time. And when it's paired with a nigh-desperate need to be a 'winner'...? Well, you can run afoul of lots of people as they tend to take it the most 'serious', too. Some of the folks I went at (and over) back in the 'serious' days STILL won't talk to me. Back then, I was 'innovative' when I added stuff like MIDI and Java effects to the promos - nowadays you got folks creating 3-D polygon models for a Quicktime movie, or Flash animations with voiceovers and such. Of course, I'll be the first to tell you that having all the awesome eye-candy in the world doesn't mean squat if it's not on a good story with interesting characters - and if you doubt me, just rent 'The Phantom Menace'.
'Angle', wherein the workers put together their own feuds and matches - and the guy running the place just cuts and pastes it all into a show. The positives in this is that it's much less work for the booker to put the show up, so the shows are much more frequent. The negatives being that if everyone's writing their own matches, who in their right mind ever jobs? You get a bunch of segments eerily similar to the old 80's format, full of jobber squashes and 'what a great/scary guy I am' promos. IF anyone books themselves to lose (to work a feud, for instance), it's always in a way that makes themselves look awesomely over beforehand. You got it, the new home of the 90's style gang run-in screwjob. This is a relatively new deal, and as such I couldn't consider it at the time. However, from what I've seen of it, it doesn't look like a direction I could see taking. Don't get me wrong, I haven't got some villainous lean that insists I rule with an iron fist or anything, but history backs me up pretty good when it says letting the active workers book is a bad idea. Dungeon of Doom, anyone? Right, then.
'Parody' proves that a sub-culture can have it's OWN sub-culture. Roleplays are to be as funny as possible. Winning and losing doesn't mean anything. You'll win or job depending on which would be more funny. I met DK in the second parody fed I joined, which I went to when it was getting slow at the one I was in at the time. Now, admittedly, I dragged MYSELF out of retirement for that little run - and completely against my better judgement, too. I think it still stands as one of the best mistakes I ever made. It also helped me cement myself as the viciously sardonic personality you folks seem to think can write well. But, as this was also pretty new (as in completely unheard of) at the time, it wasn't available either.
The pieces were in place, now I just had to decide on a direction... In online feds, there's two 'main' methods of determining who wins, as follows:
The Sim: There are programs out there that basically take two guys and create a match. No kidding. It's basically a randomized script routine that inserts the name of whomever in various sentences describing the 'action', such as " Wrestler A ties up with Wrestler B . Wrestler A with a punch! Wrestler B blocks!" etc. etc. etc. Until one of them is pinned. You can supposedly alter the levels of whomever you have in there as a sort of 'bonus' for good RPs, but you could still lose out of the blue if the program decided that " Wrestler A is in an arm-bar, and Wrestler B goes for a rollup. Wrestler B has the TIGHTS! The referee doesn't see it! It's over!" For the most part, the e-fed people I've spoken with absolutely LOATHE the whole 'sim' approach, so that was pretty much out even if I had the forty bucks they wanted for the program.
Merit: Superficially speaking, if you've got some guy in there that can't spell the WORD 'wrestling' going against someone that does a decent presentation, it's pretty easy to get the winner. Of course, the part I hadn't considered was what happened when two fellas were BOTH good, but I figured as the booker I could keep that from happening for a while until I came up with better system. After all, Hogan worked for YEARS avoiding people that he wasn't sure would make him look good by having Vince make them 'good guys', right?
Then I came to my senses and decided that with as limited a roster as I had, I'd better come up with a new system now and save time... Or at the very least modify the Merit system to something that could be as fair and level as possible.
The Panel: I knew several people that were writers, and I knew several people that were wrestling fans, so I started calling in some favors. For brevity, I invented in 1998 the system that's in place now on the 'Idol' show - although admittedly, it was basically a knockoff of the one used in 'Star Search'. 'Use what works' is the Golden Rule of TV, after all. Heh. Three people would assess the work of the contestants that I would print up for them and assign point scores based on several factors, such as presentation (spelling and such), continuity, charisma, believability (within standard suspensions, of course) and 'heat'. These scores would be assessed and averaged for the overall score of the promo in question, and an aggregate score would be compiled prior to the matches to decide who went over; with the margin of points deciding how 'strong' they did so. Confused yet? Okay. Basically, if a guy was a ton better than the guy he faced, it was a squash. If they were pretty even, it would be a tight match with one guy finally pulling out the win, or a 'Sneaky Pete' deal if the guy was a heel.
We held our first card, and it went pretty well. Zingali added a 'foreign heel' to his lineup, named 'Dr. Midnight, the Asian Sensation'. We got a guy (sent from the fella that ran the priests) playing a 'technico' named 'En Fuego' to face the guy that was playing RVD, who dropped Cactus and added Sabu to his 'team' - but neither of them RPed, so it was a 'double countout'. We got some kid from somewhere that stumbled in and decided to join up, though to say he had more enthusiasm than abililty was another of my cataclysmic understatements. And another tag team from someone else that joined - and then didn't RP, so got outright demolished by the priest team.
It was a roaring success. I was beseiged with applications from the rest of the sizable crew that the priest's handler ran with, all of them eager to get to mixing it up in my little Nightmare. We had a mega-babyface that wanted to reinstate chivalry named 'Caster', we got a cocky bastard with a big mouth named 'Verbal', a guy that was a big muscular brute named 'Zeus' (but this one could work), a guy with a Marine gimmick named Sgt. Sledge, a guy that was 'the world's richest Communist' named 'Dollar Bill', a couple 'loony' types - Cedric 'the Asylum' Lett and 'Psycho' Phil McCracken, and a whole host of others... One guy even snuck the ICP in there, since I didn't know who 'Violent Jay' or 'Shaggy Too Dope' were at the time. (Sorry, Mike, but they jobbed like Buddy Lee Parker with asthma.)
So, with our first card out of the way, I was getting ready for the next one when I got asked 'the Question'.
'Where in the hell is BOBO?'
It seemed that the guys in the fed wanted to pit their skills against the guy that destroyed the old place. The guy that ran the priests apparently 'talked him up' as this unstoppable force of nature, and to their collective credit they all wanted a piece of him. I told them to forget it, because I knew the guy in charge and I wasn't going to have people comparing me to Hogan or Michaels, no sir. The luchadore guy asked me how the guy came up with the results, and I explained the whole 'Panel System', pretty much as above.
'So,' he said, 'since it's all just printed up papers they have no idea who any of the guys are, right?'
'So how would they know which of the guys YOU were if you didn't tell them?'
'.....Um. Okay, you got me there. So what do you want from me, buddy?'
'Why on earth would you want that? Your character is a LUCHADORE. Bobo outweighs him by nearly two hundred pounds, and can match him move for move!'
'Doesn't matter. I want to see this monster for myself. Nobody can be as good as Eric (the priest's handler) said that guy was.'
'You don't know what you're asking for, kid,' I warned him.
'Yes. Yes, I do.'
....No. No, he didn't. Bobo gave the little fella both barrels, and the judges loved him. And to make matters worse, the guy that ran the mega-babyface wanted to team up with the luchadore to take on the guys that lost to the priests in the first card, so the kid was in two matches on one night in a way that nobody's been before...
To put it in my usual cataclysmic understatement, it was on. We had a championship tourney - which Bobo won, much to my chagrin. However, as time went on, he won by less and less. The kids from Chicago were getting better as they went 'through the ranks', and when I booked myself against the Marine's former Drill Instructor (The D.I., amusingly enough) I figured that since the Marine's handler had basically been a JTTS (Jobber to the Stars, for the Smark Impaired), this one I could take it easy on. 'Phone it in', if you weel...
The 'locker room' went nuts. Hell, even the guy that ran the Marine was a bit astounded that he went over. I wasn't. I knew I had gotten lazy, and the guy - knowing what he was up against - went at it like never before, impressing the judges at his 'turning it up a notch'. It was the mat version of the Tortoise and the Hare. The kid that used to run Cactus Jack in the old fed had returned, and wanted to do a big 'unfinished business' angle with Bobo. I figured why not? Bobo didn't need the strap to be 'over', and the whole thing sounded interesting enough to me as two hardcore lunatics were gonna finally get the chance at each other that the earlier fed closed down 'to prevent'. So the kid asked to do a run-in, as a 'Remember me, you scumbag?' sort of deal, and that's how I wrote it up. Hell, Bobo's only other loss was because of the SAME old Drill Instructor on his tag-team getting counted out. I even made it a subplot how the old bastard 'had Bobo's number' to help put him over huge.
The roster went after the new champ like a school of piranha. He was champ for a tag match, and then dropped it his first defense. Remember when I said they didn't want to waste their 'good material' on me? Him, they gave it to in spades. The new champ instituted a 'No Bobo clause' in his 'contract', and I went about the feud with 'Cactus' as per we'd arranged, somewhat pleased that I could just be 'that guy' and let everyone else squabble about the title.
But then the guy running Cactus quit. His mom had apparently signed him up for softball to get him out of the house once in a while, and he couldn't find time to play online anymore. Sid Eudy would understand, huh? But this caused a backlash, as I was now in a feud with someone that wasn't RPing anymore. Then the murmurs began that I might have just 'decided' to drop the strap, and to the MARINE of all people. THEY were WAY better than the Marine EVER was, and Bobo CRUSHED THEM. Wassupwitdat? I tried to explain that I had no control over who won, as the judges were insulated (none of them were much into the whole 'internet' thing) from any 'influence' - especially mine. He won because he was the better man that day, period. If -I- could accept it, what the hell was their problem? Especially since they promptly thrashed him for the belt!
They didn't want to hear it. There was more grousing and complaining and et cetera, and after a while I'd just had enough...
I pulled the plug. It just wasn't any fun for me anymore. The champ at the time left with the strap for another fed, and it just sort of bottomed out from there... I was burned out, dog tired, and felt pretty darn disgusted with it all. I would have been happy just running the place, but they just HAD to have Bobo. So I was running the place AND doing an RP a day - sometimes more. I'd even tried to quit a few times, but they wouldn't be happy until someone - ANYONE - finally beat 'that bastard'. And then when it happened, they STILL weren't happy. I've been on the 'other side' of the internet critic spectrum, folks, and I don't envy Vince and the gang one iota. It's one of the reasons I try to find something positive in my reviews of the shows, or at least present a suggestion or ten about how it could be 'made better'. I've been there. I've asked, 'What the hell do you people WANT from me? I've given you everything you asked for and you're STILL bitching!' It's part of the 'unique perspective' I bring to the TRP table. Heh.
"But, Bobo," you may ask, "what's the point behind this long story?"
Well, it seems there's been several people asking about getting a fantasy fed started here in the hallowed halls of TRP. Dave tells me that many of you yearn for a chance to be wrestling fans of a whole different cloth... To be 'part of a show' yourselves. The readership of our little columns are on the 'smarter' end of the 'smark' spectrum, and know full well that wrestling is simply a bunch of 'made up folks' pretending to fight. If we can't get our entertainment value from Vince and his ilk, we've got two options: Walk away without entertainment, or entertain ourselves.
And if that sounds like a good idea to you, let me know...
You're welcome. See you SOON.