Hello, my intended...
First off, I know I'm late with the Friday article. I apologize. I was watching Roddy Piper's shoot interview, and pretty much fell asleep shortly afterward. Not that it was boring, mind, as I consider it the best five bucks I ever spent, but I work for a living and sometimes that tuckers a guy out. More on that later... For now, I can only hope that I made this worth the extra wait.
Now, folks, I know I could probably go off for a good dozen paragraphs on what's wrong with wrestling today. A couple on Triple H and politics, a couple more on the fact that they don't have a fucking clue on how to use the talent they have. But you know, Zenk's pretty much got the whole Cripple H thing sewed up, and while I might toss in during his vacation, I think most of what I do will be along a different tangent.
As in, what's right about it...
Now, most of you figure that'll probably be good for four, maybe five sentences; but you know, I just love a challenge... Heh.
So, going by the last piece I did regarding Dory Funk Jr., I decided that it may be decent to focus on a different person each week. A person many of you know, and most of you have already formed opinions about. Good or bad, wrestling is wrestling, and the people that work their hearts out or sell their bodies/souls to get over and entertain us many times do so without much fanfare. Some even get raked across the coals because they didn't do a 'good enough' job to suit us. Not even getting into Jericho's harangue about several critics panning his match with RVD and telling the net to collectively go pound sand, but I can't help but feel that there's a grain of truth to what the man said... In an attempt to be 'objective' or see the business from a 'non-mark' perspective, we sometimes deny ourselves the enjoyment that we expect them to provide for us, and then we turn around and act like it's THEIR fault.
Objectively speaking, that's bullshit.
Personally, I am aware that the lowliest midcarder in the locker room is a better 'sports entertainer' than myself. He might not be a better fighter, or a better talker, or whatever, but the truth of the matter is that he's getting paid to do it, and I'm NOT getting paid to piss on it. Does that make him or her a better person than I? No. But by the same token it doesn't make me - or any of us - better than they. I've learned a lot from toiling away at the building trades and in martial arts, and I know I bring a fairly unique perspective to the table. I was pretty close to getting into the business a few times, and decided that the pay wasn't what I needed, and the benefits sucked ass. A doctor isn't really gonna care you were a tag-team champ when you come in to get a stinger worked on, after all... A few years, twenty at most, is all most people can expect to get out of wrestling, and then what? The temp agencies don't care how good a promo you can cut, and neither do the bankers.
Book deals? Shit, everyone is doing those 'tell all' books now, and a few from REALLY established names have done okay - but when you have a smaller amount of people who know/care who you are, it's a little tougher to turn a profit. So it's still a crapshoot. I mean, nothing against her, but if she wasn't showing tit on her website would anybody give a red-assed monkey shit about anything Missy Hyatt had to say? Do we really care who she went down on? For chrissakes, she's almost as old as most fans' MOMs, and hardly any of these newer fans know her from a can of spraypaint... Who gives a shit about seeing her tits? They wanna see someone that they KNOW show tit, such as Molly, Lita or Nidia... And in all honesty, if all we wanted was to see tit, we can do that all over the net for free - and better ones than hers to boot.
But I digress....
So, figuring a guy gets in when he's twenty and is washed up when he's thirty-five or forty, I can't help but be impressed. Because they KNOW that and STILL go in. Figuring only about a good hundred or so work for the 'majors' and get any real money, you can't help but wonder why anyone would go in knowing everything is stacked against them. How many inspiring people go at it hammer and tongs in the indies in front of a couple hundred people for as few bucks as the promotor can get them to take..? And that they do it in some cases 300+ nights a year.
I recently listened to an interview with Bobby Heenan, and was so stunned that the man went most of his life without one speck of medical coverage that I got choked up. All those people that gave him shit, and I was one of them, and he did it knowing he was one bump away from dying in the gutter the whole time... That's goddamn impressive any way you slice it.
Perry Saturn was never really 'over' with the fans, but that didn't stop him from working his heart out every time he got in the ring. There's a list of people like that a mile long, and I think it would be decent to give them some recognition for what they've done for us all... Whether we realize it or not.
I made an analogy in the forum here comparing wrestling with carpentry and under further scrutiny, that really holds up... The construction trades are the most dangerous professional fields one can enter. We comprise a little under fifteen some percent of the total working class, and yet make up close to EIGHTY percent of all job-related death, disease and disfigurement. Sure, it's dangerous. Sometimes the money isn't all that hot, or the conditions you have to work in are shitty. Hell, some nutjob can show up and decide to shoot me out of the blue. I know all these risks, but I love the work and accept these risks as 'part of the job' and do the best I can. I might not get alot of recognition for what I contribute, but a few people tell other people that 'He does good work' or 'He's one of the best', and that translates into more work. So I do understand alot of what these guys have to deal with... Except I don't have a bunch of people all over the internet pissing on me (at least not YET), and I do have a medical plan and retirement fund.
That said, I think I'll start with a bit more controversial a character than the Gunslinger... Someone that just about everyone has already made their minds up about...
That someone: Paul Heyman.
Sure, he's had a few labels bandied about... He's had people at turns question his sanity, his sexuality, and his competence, but there's one thing you just couldn't question... His dedicatation. Admittedly, while Paul Heyman's business acumen was spottier than a dalmation with measles, you could tell he cared about the business - and he made others who worked with him care, as well. Call it what you will, even scoff at it like Ross remarking on how he 'got everyone drinking the Kool Aid'. You could tell Paul held it together as long as he could with what he had, and a little past it with what he didn't. That's dedication to duty on a level not seen since the Charge of the Light Brigade. He knew he was done months before he closed the doors on ECW, and still kept it going 'for the fans'.
I find it somewhat strange that most people consider Heyman lower than a snake's balls. Sure, I suppose he's done a few things that didn't exactly endear him to many 'insiders', such as Hyatt, Honkytonk Man, Dory Funk Jr., and similar... But who hasn't done something that offended SOMEbody? There are people I've worked with that I wouldn't bother to take the time to walk across the street to piss on if they were on fire - and am pretty sure there are people that I've worked with that hate every molecule of oxygen that keeps me alive; so I can't expect anyone else to love everyone that they ever worked with. Professionals can work with anybody, and TRUE professionals can even work with people that they hate the shit out of vehemently. So, one would surmise that I consider Hyatt and Dory to be true professionals as they've been pretty vocal about hating Paul, and still worked with him. This is an accurate conclusion. In fact, Heyman and Hyatt's arm-wrestling match is one of my favorite old WCW segments.
But that's getting ahead of ourselves... My first sighting of Paul Heyman was during the mid 80's/early 90's run of WCW, when he was playing the standard 'New Yawk city slicker' manager that just pisses off everybody in the Southern territories, named Paul E. Dangerously, doubtless as a play on the Michael Keaton flick that was pretty popular at the time. Paul was running around with a mobile phone and he'd use it every so often to smash the bejeepers out of the faces or some E-Grade sitcom player. He was great, in a desperate psychotic way that really sold him as a manager. His mannerisms and speech were over-the-top, but only enough so that you enjoyed watching his 'plans' come together or fall apart. I mean, when you consider that the Dangerous Alliance predated nWo and was EXACTLY the same gimmick (group of outsiders trying to destroy the place and take it over, for the slow class) as opposed to the Four Horsemen who were 'insiders protecting their spots', Heyman looks like a fucking Renaissance Man.
Where else could you find THAT many heel stables but in WCW? The Horsemen, The Midnight Express, the Freebirds, the Russians, and the Dangerous Alliance were in WCW at the SAME time... How the hell could the faces be expected to cope with THAT much heel coming at 'em from all sides? Because he was up against impossible odds, and still made a go of it. Ah... Those were the days when you could actually cheer for a face...
Not that I did. I like the heels. Always have.
Paul, in short, never overshadowed the talent he 'represented', and was always trying to pull something to get under the skin of everyone - and usually succeeding. Ross and Shiavonnie sucked as co-commentators, plain and simple. But when they threw Paul in? Well, they were still no Heenan and Monsoon, but not for lack of trying on Heyman's part. You could tell Ross didn't like Heyman, and not in a storyline sort of way. In an Eddie Van Halen hating David Lee Roth sort of way... The vibe that I got was that Ross didn't approve of either Heyman or how bland he looked in comparison to him. So Ross went up north to Vinnie and stayed there, later having his face fall off... Twice. But when you saw Paul E. Dangerously hopping around like a madman, you could get the feeling that Paul Heyman was having the time of his life. Personally, when I get the feeling that the guy is out there having fun with it, I take it as a cue to enjoy myself.
We call that 'making a connection'. Paul could make you hate his guts in eight words or less, and that's talent any way you look at it.
But the time came that they released Paul, and about that time I started to REALLY get annoyed with wrestling, so I stopped watching. Not that Paul leaving made me disgusted with wrestling... No, that was the fault of Ole Anderson, Vince McMahon, Kevin Sullivan, Cheetham the Midget and Lost in Cleveland, but we'll save that for another time... I drifted, as many of us 'long time fans' did during our 'away time'; but I found myself checking in now and again when I remembered the stuff was on, and then checking RIGHT back out when I saw how bad it sucked feeling VERY justified in my walking away from it.
Some time afterward, I was flipping through the channels and decided to catch some ESPN2, since they usually showed forms competitions (fellow martial artists doing kata both with and without weapons) and I was in the mood to see something different...
And that's exactly what I got. Eastern Championship Wrestling. It was, in a word, awesome. Totally different from the whole 'character driven' dreck that was on the WWF/WCW, and - holy shit, it's LOCAL. Call what for tickets? Swanson and Ritner? That's ten minutes from my house! I never missed a show for five years... I was there when Douglas spiked the NWA belt. I was there when we threw the chairs into the ring on top of Public Enemy, one of them plonking Terry Funk upside the head. I was there when Tommy Dreamer got caned twenty strokes from the Sandman, and asked for more every swing. I was there to see BamBam and Taz go through the ring. I was there for Shane Douglas' last match before we went to Atlanta where he wrestled Taz for nearly an hour with a broken arm. I was there for all of it. These guys did everything 'right', and the bloodthirsty bastards that we are just ate it up. Shit, we even went to the dollar store on the corner to get cheapo frying pans and cheese graters these guys could use on each other!
And the man that brought that to us was none other than Paul Heyman... The first time I saw him on the ESPN2 I went, "Hey! Paul E. Dangerously! I wondered what happened to that guy... No shit! I think I'll give this a chance." And I never regretted it. He took what could be called a 'bunch of hasbeens' such as Jim Snuka, Matt Borne, Mr. Hughes, Road Warrior Hawk, Terry Funk and Scottie Flamingo and a bunch of relative unknowns like Steve Richards, Tommy Dreamer, Sandman, Taz and Rob Van Dam and built a promotion that changed the face of wrestling. He got these guys over in PHILLY for chrissakes. We boo fuckin' Santa, remember?
Paul Heyman did his job both as a manager and a booker... He enhanced the talent and got them over without making himself the real focus. Nash, Sullivan and Rhodes could never book without making themselves or their buds the star. Cyrus, Jimmy Hart and Sinister Minister couldn't manage anyone without hogging the spotlight. Heyman managed to do both, and people actually think that doesn't count for anything...?
Heyman has a talent for enhancing the positives of a worker. Even the FACES got over with Heyman, as you really got behind someone that was gonna come after Paul E... Not because they were especially dangerous, but because Heyman SOLD that they were. Him running in a blind panic from Lesnar, him shitting his pants as Edge started after him, these are subtle little things that a manager does to get someone else over, and I haven't seen anyone do it as well since Heenan. And when he talks up the guys he manages, it's poetry. For chrissakes, if 'anybody' could get the Giant over as dangerous after he jobbed to Jeff Hardy and Spike Dudley - why didn't they?
I mean, what the fuck have most of his detractors done for the business? Who did Ross manage? Doctor Death for a week...? What did Ross ever book that got over? How the fuck are we supposed to believe that his announcing is the best when all he really does is say the same thing in triplicate between PPV shills and sprinkle in some hillbilly slang in that didn't even get over down SOUTH?
And Lawler? The only places I've seen him hold championships were the ones he owned, which I guess makes him as good a booker as Thesz or Gagne... Who has he managed? Kat? What's he famous for? Slapping Andy fucking Kaufman, and....? Right then.
Honestly, does it really matter that Heyman got the dough for ECW from his mom? Or that they did the 'promos' in the basement of her house while she ironed? It was an Indy for crying out loud; but can you name another indy that got their belt recognized as a World Title from PWI? You wouldn't be cheering for RVD now if it wasn't for that 'faggot' working 'bush-league' from his 'momma's house'. Steve Austin? He was a DUD in WWF, a fucking drone. Ringmaster? A quick tune-up in ECW, and everyone's going bugshit about the Rattlesnake and 3:16... Then you have the cruisers... Who else was pushing cruisers and workrate? Who else gave national USA exposure to the likes of Lance Storm, Sabu, Shane Douglas, Masato Tanaka, Tajiri, Super Crazy, Hayabusa, or any of the other workers? By allowing the wrestlers to 'be themselves' and helping sell it, he made STARS. 'Use what you have as well as you can' is a rule that Heyman PERSONALLY wrote in STONE, and people don't think he accomplished anything?
Objectively speaking, that's bullshit.
You're welcome. See you SOON.