Scott: All right, so the premise here is to debate wrestling with class and dignity. I called dibs on being the “Immovable Object” part of the tandem if only because I’m probably more stubborn, and I don’t know if I’ve ever been described as irresistible. But before we get down to actually debating a wrestling issue — and perhaps since we haven’t quite settled on an appropriate topic just yet — I think we should start with a brief bit of introduction. And since I decided to get the ball rolling, I’m going to roll it in your direction. When and how did you get into wrestling, how much do you consume at present and who is your all-time least favorite celebrity ring announcer?
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David: An introduction is probably a good way to start. After all, while you’re something of a known commodity in the blogging world (being associated with Fair to Flair, and having appeared on a few podcasts), I’m pretty much unknown outside of Twitter.
Honestly, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t like wrestling. I know that when I was 4 or 5 years old I watched Wrestling at the Chase (which was the St. Louis area wrestling show that ran for more than 40 years) on those rare Sunday mornings when we didn’t go to church. That said, I didn’t become a big fan until sometime in late 1986. My dad is probably most responsible, because he and I would watch Saturday Night’s Main Event together, and he was the one who brought home WrestleMania 2 from the video store. Those two things really kick-started my love of wrestling, and I was a hardcore fan of both the WWF and the NWA/WCW products until I went to college in 1995. Over the last 17 years, I’ve sort of run hot and cold with wrestling. I watched Nitro and Raw pretty religiously until WCW folded, but after the debacle that was “The Invasion” I got bored with wrestling and stopped watching. I would follow angles online, but didn’t really watch very often until around the 2010 Royal Rumble, when I got back into a regular viewing schedule.
Currently, I watch Raw every week and I try to catch the pay-per-views when possible. I watch Smackdown occasionally, and am working on watching it more regularly, especially since I feel like that show has been getting an upgrade as of late. I’m really excited about the additions of Damien Sandow and Antonio Cesaro, and their prospects for the future. I stopped watching TNA altogether last year, and hadn’t seen any of their programming until Slammiversary a few weeks ago. I’m just not sure if I’m ready to go back to being a full-time fan of theirs or not. I also try to watch NWA Hollywood online every week, as I think they’ve got a good product.
Burt Reynolds and the Bushwhackers
My least favorite celebrity ring announcer is probably Burt Reynolds at WrestleMania X. I was never a huge fan to begin with, although I did enjoy the “Cannonball Run” movies as a kid. Despite his statement to the crowd that he’s happier to be there than they are, his introductions seem really pedestrian and boring. I’ll take abject failure over pedestrian and boring. Burt Reynolds is an acclaimed actor, right? Then why does he sound like a high school sophomore in a public speaking class? At points he trails off and starts mumbling, which is ridiculous. The cadence of his speech doesn’t make much sense either. It’s almost like he was trying to impersonate an announcer of some sort, and did it badly.
Since I know you’ve always been a predominately WWF/E guy, what started your infatuation with wrestling, and why did you specifically get caught up in the WWF? Was it an access issue? Did you not get the Superstation when you were growing up?
Scott: If we’re going to disagree on things for the purpose of this website, perhaps it would be better if we had different fan origin stories. You’re only two years older than me, but we got into wrestling around the exact same time — 1986. My first vivid memory is watching one of the syndicated WWF shows at a neighbor’s house and seeing the Randy Savage-Ricky Steamboat larynx-crushing angle. I don’t know if I ran home and tried to figure out how to watch SuperStars and Wrestling Challenge on my own from that point on, but I was pretty well hooked. I know I was following stories in real time during the Mega-Powers angle because I clearly recall being desperately interested in the outcome of the WrestleMania V main event. Two years later I was subscribing to WWF magazine, my bedroom was awash in action figures and I knew almost everything any child could know about the WWF of the time.
However, my family did not have cable growing up. I had to beg some family friends to record the two-hour “road to WrestleMania” special leading up to WrestleMania VIII and Hulk Hogan’s first retirement. I would rent Coliseum Video tapes over and again and started to buy them as video stores unloaded old inventory. When I got a drivers license and discovered eBay, the collection jumped to triple digits. But that lack of cable as a kid made it hard for me to learn much about NWA/WCW.
Our local library had a few classic wrestling books, including one or two by famed photographer George Napolitano. That’s how I came to learn about the Von Erichs, the Freebirds, Bruiser Brody and the like — and to realize guys like Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes had a life before coming to the WWF, that the Bushwackers were really the Sheepherders and the Legion of Doom were actually the Road Warriors. Somewhere along the line I must have gotten some exposure to WCW TV because I learned of guys like Vader and Ron Simmons and Sting, though I didn’t try to watch regularly until Savage jumped in late 1994.
However, as I said on my upcoming appearance on the What A Maneuver podcast, even by 1996 I was still spotty enough in my global view to where I recognized Marc Mero as Johnny B. Badd but had no concept of Steve Austin or Brian Pillman except maybe seeing an old snapshot of the Hollywood Blondes. I still have not watched an entire Clash of the Champions, any of them, which is a great regret.
As for now, I DVR Raw and watch it later that night. I read Smackdown spoilers but rarely have time to watch the show, unless it’s live, in which case I make time. I am an active Twitterer and occasional blogger, so I am exposed in that way to TNA and a variety of smaller promotions. And while I respect the dedication of people who follow and discuss those promotions, I just can’t make time for them.
And now a question for you — do you remember anything about the WCW Thunder show we attended together in February 1998?
David: That night, especially the actual wrestling, is a bit of a blur. I remember I had to walk over to the Five Seasons Center by myself because I got out of class later than everyone else. I remember your “Sting is a Mime” sign. I remember the “Eddie Sucks (dick)” chant… talk about class and dignity. I remember it was in the middle of the illegal power bomb angle where Kevin Nash was getting arrested every night for jackknifing whatever mid-carder he happened to be wrestling. The matches are indistinct, although I did look up the card at one point on TheHistoryOfWWE.com, so I do have some notion of what happened that night. Apparently, this happened:
What I remember the most is even though Thunder was not, typically, a great show, how much fun we all had. It was great being at a live event with the guys we watched wrestling with every Monday and Thursday night. In my opinion, the greatest thing about wrestling is being able to share it with friends. If I think back to the times when I haven’t watched wrestling, it was at times when I didn’t have any friends who watched wrestling, and I didn’t have anyone to discuss it with. That camaraderie made that night special, and made it one of my favorite memories from the four years I spent in college.
Do you also find you remember the little things surrounding the event better than the event itself, or am I just an oddball that way?
Scott: You’re an oddball, but not for that. I could not name one match from that night without looking it up online. But I could recall almost the entire cards of the two WWF PPVs I attended (SummerSlam ‘94 and King of the Ring ‘96). I think a lot of that has to do with how weekly TV is booked vs. supercards. When we bought those tickets a few weeks before the show, we just assumed we’d see the guys we saw on TV every Thursday. We may have gotten some indication of the actual card on the preceding Thunder or Nitro episodes. But I don’t recall that, either.
I do recall going over to an electronics store with our friend Dan earlier in the day to meet Booker T. He was the TV champion at the time and we each got to hold the belt. That was a pretty spectacular experience. Honestly, we’d have gone over there no matter which wrestler was announced, but standing next to Booker T specifically was incredible.
I totally get what you’re saying about how wrestling is best experienced with friends. I was mostly following by reading Raw results and Smackdown spoilers for about two years. That changed when Randy Savage died and I tried to read everything I could about him. That kind of led me down the rabbit hole to wrestling bloggers and podcasters and Twitter folks I’d never known about. It’s really enhanced my enjoyment of wrestling new and old. I recall being super excited for the Royal Rumble this year because I couldn’t wait to watch it and be on Twitter at the same time — and it turned out to be a great experience.
Since we’ve crossed over 1,700 words in the “getting to know you” part, I figure we should move on to an actual debate. So in light of my last blog post and with the idea we’ll post this some time Monday, here’s my question to you: What should WWE writers do with John Cena’s character at this exact moment?
David: John Cena is a tough character to deal with, and I thought the Chris Jericho suggestion from your recent article was probably the best possible idea. But it would be boring for me to just leave it at that. As you pointed out, this is not the time for John Cena to take a vacation. With him being the face of the company, and the biggest merchandise seller, the business aspect of the WWE just won’t allow it. I know a lot of fans have grown tired of Cena’s in-ring work, and the Super Cena character that goes with it, so what if John Cena doesn’t leave television, but he stops wrestling? One of the scenarios you threw out in your latest Star of Savage piece was Cena could continue to have problems with the new GM. But what if WWE flipped that scenario on its head and made John Cena the new interim GM… with the stipulation he is not allowed to wrestle and be GM at the same time.
In this scenario, John Cena is still on television. He can still do Make-A-Wish fulfillments. He still pushes merchandise, because I have no doubt in my mind General Manager Cena would continue to wear jorts, T-shirts and baseball caps. In fact, they could craft new merchandise around him being the GM. One of the problems with Cena’s character as of late is they’ve had to bring guys in (Rock, Lesnar) to be credible threats to him. This solves that problem as well. This also gives us an interesting long-term story: who is going to push Cena to renounce his general manger position and get back in the ring, and what will they have to do to make it happen? That’s a story I’d be interested in.
Scott:That’s a pretty interesting suggestion. My initial reaction is to reject it out of hand because I think house show business would suffer if fans knew they wouldn’t get to see Cena wrestle.
Would Cena ever apologize for humiliating Laurinaitis?
But I do love the creative possibilities it presents. I’m drawn to the possibility of seeing Cena take over to wild initial success and support only for him to slowly realize it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, perhaps even going to far as to apologize to John Laurinaitis for how rude Cena was to him and begging him back on the job.
Of course, that sounds pretty similar to last summer when Triple H wrested control of day-to-day operations only to have the entire thing collapse beneath him. Not that it was all that well executed, but I’m wondering if it might be too soon to go back to the same well. All that said, I stand by my position there’s no one person who warrants a singles program with Cena. Rehashing a Nexus-type invasion wouldn’t be a great direction either, especially since Cena doesn’t really have the same position as he did back then.
Aside from the brief period where he dealt with losing to the Rock, I liked Cena best when he was portrayed as close to reality as possible — Vince McMahon’s ideal of a superstar. The kids still got to cheer him and the adults had reason to side with people who didn’t want Cena to be the face of the company. Maybe there’s some potential for a Cena-Daniel Bryan feud, with Bryan setting out to prove he deserves the same glory as Cena despite his obvious physical shortcomings. I could imagine some decent mic work coming out of that scenario.
But I’m kind of tired of talking about Cena. Let’s hit up one more guy before we wrap this up: Sheamus. I have never found him interesting or been able to understand why he seems to be so popular. Do we think he’s set to lose his belt to Alberto Del Rio at Money in the Bank? I could see Del Rio winning that match and losing the title the same night, possibly setting up another redemption story for him with a Rumble win. Or maybe Sheamus has to stay on top for some of the reasons Cena needs to stay active? What’s the big deal with this guy?
David: I know a lot of people who feel similarly about Sheamus as you do, but I am not one of them. I like him a lot, and I think he’s constantly improving, both in the ring and on the microphone. He’s had some really good matches, especially lately. The two-out-of-three falls match at Extreme Rules was great, and I thought he did a really good job selling Daniel Bryan’s offense in that match.
Does that mean I like seeing him with the World Heavyweight Championship? Well… yeah, I do. Of his three major world title runs (sorry, but I don’t count the WWECW title as major), this has been, by far, the best. Obviously, that makes sense considering he’s far more seasoned than he was in his first two runs. He’s having good matches, and like I said, he’s constantly improving. I think he’s got a shot at being a major player with the WWE for the long term. Now, does that mean that he’s got the potential to be the next John Cena, where he rises above the show? Probably not, but I see him being a main event performer for a long time to come. That said, I don’t know how much longer he’s going to hold the title. There are a lot of worthy contenders, and I could see any one of them taking the title from him in the near future.
Your thought about Del Rio winning and losing the title in the same night was interesting. The WWE hasn’t had that exact scenario play out with the briefcase yet, and I can see them thinking it’s time. The closest they’ve come was at MITB 2010, when they had Kane defeat Rey Mysterio after Mysterio defended his World Heavyweight title against Jack Swagger. I am not sure about Del Rio winning and keeping the title, though. Obviously, I don’t have anything but internet rumor to go off of, but I’m not sure how much traction Del Rio has backstage. He’s definitely a great wrestler, but is he what they need right now as a champion?
Scott: Your last paragraph gives me so much to go on, it’s probably best to just wrap it up for now. But I do see some future topics, including:
- The role of the World Heavyweight Title
- WWE as a place where the good guys almost always win
- Mixing up formats before they get stale (MITB and Royal Rumble seasons always get me in the mood for this discussion)
- And more…!
I think we’ve decided to try to put up new posts every Monday, though maybe that will shift based on the wrestling schedule and what all there is to talk about. As they say on the end of all those podcasts we listen to, we’d love your feedback via comments, tweets or email . Hopefully this site can be a fresh take on the wrestling landscape of today and yesteryear, or at least give folks something to read when they should be working.