Thursday, May 26, 2011

R.I.P. Macho Man Randy Savage

"Best there is... past, present and future! Ohhhhh yeahhhh!"
"Macho Man" Randy Savage

I remember the feeling I had when I got the Tweet that Macho Man Randy Savage had passed. It was more a feeling of melancholy thinking about my younger years when pro wrestling was, to steal a phrase, running wild. I had fallen in love with the product put out by Vincent McMahon Sr then known as the WWWF as it was all that was readily available on TV to those of us in the Northeast. It was pretty formulaic with Bob Backlund fighting off whatever challenger the holy triumvirate of "Classy" Freddie Blassie, The Grand Wizard of Wrestling, or Captain Lou Albano would throw at him typically having to get past Bruno Sammartino (or later Pat Patterson) on the way in or the way out of the program then disappearing to be brought back fresh at another time. One of these challengers was a young "Incredible" Hulk Hogan who would be brought back several years later to create Hulkamania and change the industry forever

At the same time this was happening 2 events occurred in my life; I discovered wrestling magazines and I got cable TV. My eyes were opened to the fact there was a whole world of wrestling outside the Northeast I knew nothing about. NWA territories like Florida and Georgia, Dallas and San Antonio, St Louis and Kansas City, the AWA and the crazy world of Tennessee wrestling featuring Jerry Lawler's CWA and Angelo Poffo's ICW. I remember for the first time seeing pictures of Randy Savage in a George Napolitano mag in a feature on the bloody feud with he and Ronnie Garvin. I was fascinated with his look to say the least. One week watching the old Georgia Championship Wresting (1983) they announced one of the teams for a tag tournament they were having was Randy Savage and Magnum TA. They showed a highlight reel of the Macho Man and I was hooked. He was just so different looking, athletic, and had an aura of intensity to him

Fast forward to 1985 and the WWE. Hulkamania is officially running wild and Vincent K McMahon is in the process of gobbling up all the stars from all the territories to take the company national. Savage made his debut that year on the old Tuesday Night Titans show with the gimmick of the established managers in the company vying for his services and him eventually choosing Elizabeth (his real life wife but storyline browbeat manager). His early push came with him battling for and eventually holding for some time the Intercontinental title back when it was considered a major deal. For me the greatest memory of this era was after 5 years of attending monthly matches at the old Boston Garden I had FINALLY seen a title change. Yes, they were once a rarity (note: I had sadly missed the card a couple years earlier when Tito Santana beat Don Muraco for the I/C belt). He would go on to remain the company's perennial #1 or #2 guy for the next decade, mostly as a face but often a heel. His Wrestlemania III match with Ricky Steamboat is still considered a classic for the time and to me one of my favorite matches ever. Like many of that era he became a cultural icon beyond the ring most notably as a spokesman for Slim Jim. Eventually he jumped ship to WCW forever destroying his relationship with VKM who had a special place in his heart for the Macho Man. While he did some recent work with WWE on their latest video game he remained a solitary man never really coming back into the loving arms of the company. Sadly his induction into the WWE Hall of Fame will have to be posthumous

What stood out to me with Macho Man was his charisma and star power. It wasn't until years later as I became "smarter" did I appreciate his athleticism and what a good worker he was. His presence...from entering to Pomp and Circumstance to the outfits to the intensity with which he worked...was on another level to me exceeding even that of the Hulkster who I had become completely ambivalent towards. I think the clincher for me was his interview style which could be summed up as Dusty Rhodes or Superstar Billy Graham on acid and cranked up to the Nth degree. Hell, he even used some of the same lines as both of them but with a totally unique delivery. To this day my wrestling friends and I still impersonate his "thinkin, thinkin, thinkin that...YEAH" and "Elizabeth...Elizabeth...Elizabeth...will you marry me". Even after he "retired" and worked on commentary he was often the best part of the show in a surreal sort of way

I was sad to hear of his untimely death and shocked to see the attention it got. I mean, the news was everywhere in both wrestling and straight media. He had been so far out of the limelight that I never saw that coming. I guess as wrestling is in a "not cool" to non-fans right now I underestimated how many people still embraced that era that was WWF in the 80's. I think the thing that stood out to me were a twenty-something guy at the bar handing out Slim Jim's and yelling OH YEAH, the announcers on Bellator Fighting Championships, an MMA organization, paying tribute on several occasions, and C.M. Punk, a heel character but a real student of the game, dressing in vintage Macho Man style on RAW right down to the pink and yellow and "CM PUNK" written on his ass. The WWE, as they are prone to doing, put together one of the best tributes to any wrestler I have ever seen

Rest well Macho Man and thanks for all the entertainment you brought me as a young man and the memories I still remember vividly into my 40's. I'm still diggin it, OHHHHH YEAH!!!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Tough Talk

I admit it, I love the new Tough Enough. I kind of rolled my eyes when I heard they were bringing it back. The fear was while at the time of the original MTV version reality TV was new and raw and that in 2011 everything they would do on Tough Enough would have been done a million times over already. And to a point this is all true. The show has flaws. Bringing in wannabe "superstars" at such varying degrees of experience and be able to judge them all fairly seems crazy. I think if they were going the indy wrestler route go that way all the way. If they were going no experience, go that way as it's more an even playing field. Character development is also lacking except what we see in training. We need more footage from the house with interaction much like we saw on the best, most star making seasons of The Ultimate Fighter. However, all those flaws aside it is worth watching the whole show just to see Stone Cold Steve Austin's evaluations. These are priceless. I have no idea how much of this is "enhanced" but you get the feeling this is a guy who cares more about the industry that he made his living in then in being a nice guy. Some of his reactions to some of the things said are just beyond awesome. "Permission to speak" and "Melina versus Alica Fox" are the 2 moments so far that I view as unforgettable. You also get the feeling that Stone Cold is indeed the one making the cuts, not the WWE which, if true, is even cooler

In the end the success of the show sits squarely in SCSA's broad shoulders. The man still has so much charisma it's scary and there is no one current that comes close (The Rock is the exception but unless he's back full time he doesn't count). A second season without SCSA might not hold my interest so I await to hear if there will be a season 2 and if he is coming back. For now I will enjoy the rest of the season and see how the winner is marketed and if he or she (OK< he most likely) will be the next Maven, next Linda, or the next John Morrison

Saturday, May 07, 2011

A win is a win, right?

When making the decision whether or not to buy UFC 129 I thought long and hard about the pluses and minuses before I'd put up my hard earned money. While I was intrigued by the card, the history in the making etc it really came down to the main event. And, based on that main event, I didn't buy the PPV. Bottom line for me was it just didn't seem like an exciting fight on paper. I haven't been excited by any of GSP's recent title defenses and Jake Shields fights have never been really exciting. So, it begs the question is it more important to keep winning or to potentially lose in an exciting manner? If you ask Ben Askren winning by any means is most important. I Guess if you're the defending champ then winning is the only thing that matters. But like many of you I'd rather see guys just go out there and throw caution to the wind. I think in some respects as the skill of fighters in UFC continues to increase a lot more high level fights will become the strategic chess matches we've seen recently as opposed to the all out wars that continue to entertain on the under card. And in maybe the strangest coincidence of all the heavyweights to me continue to have some of the most entertaining fights and highest percentage of finishes. Go figure

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oh Captain My Captain

The recent passing of WWE Hall of Famer Captain Lou Albano brought back a rush of nostalgia taking me back to my infancy in the world of pro wrestling (NOT sports entertainment). As a kid growing up in the Northeast all that existed was the WWWF (soon to become the WWF) with it's formulaic and, as far as we were concerned, extremely entertaining version of pro wrestling. Bob Backlund was the champ. Bruno, recently coaxed out of the color postion, was the guy you had to beat to get to Backlund or involved in the grudge matches. Most of the programs revolved around 3 matches in 3 months in all the major arenas (the initial meeting which the heel would win by countout or something to that effect, the rematch with some kind of inconclusive finish, and the blowoff in a steel cage or another gimmick match). The lead heel charges were usually managed by one of 3 men. "Classy" Freddie Blassie who usually had the giants (Big John Studd, Hulk Hogan) and who most of us had no idea he was once a headliner all around the world, The Grand Wizard of Wrestling who typically had more "skilled" heel opponents (Superstar Graham, Stan Stasiak) and who most of us had no idea was once known as Abdullah Farouk in Detroit, and Captain Lou Albano who tended to concentrate on tag teams and "character" wrestlers (The Wild Samoans, The Moondogs). Captain Lou to me was the most entertaining of the 3. His flabby physique flaunted by his open shirts, rubber bands around his beard and through his cheeks and his cliche driven promo's made him my favorite non-wrestling character. Of the "3 wise men of the WWF" he was also most likely to get physically involved usually taking a bump for the baby faces on the rare non-squash T.V. matches of the era. At live events, he was a bleeder of Tommy Rich proportions always selling the ire of the face team

As a young man, he was impossible not to be fascinated with. He never drew the anger with me that TGW did as he was too funny. His wrestlers were always "often imitated, never duplicated", he was always "in the best shape of his life and could suplex from his knees" and he called VKM "Junior" long after he made it known he LOATHED" being called that. His interviews were often done while he was eating, say, a meatball sub which was all over his bare, ample belly. I think, other then his always great interviews, I most remember Lou from the famous Snuka/Albano/Stevens/Rodgers angle and, of course, the whole rock-n-wrestling era which everyone will be writing about. His long, storied career, from the Sicilians to the Samoans, from NRBQ to Cyndi Lauper was one to be in awe of. He was one of the guys who bridged the gap from Sr. to Jr., WWWF to WWF, Bruno to Hogan, and from pro wrestling to sports entertainment.

I know in the most recent Wrestling Observer hall of fame voting he didn't fare well and reading Mr. Meltzers comments on him to me really show the East Coast/West Coast bias in wrestling. I hear about Ray Stevens, Roy Shire and the Cow Palace and I think beer belly, who, and rodeo. I hear Captain Lou, TGW, Classy Freddy Blassie, Landover, MD and the Boston Garden and I think of my favorite time in my life loving pro wrestling. I wasn't "smart", hell I wasn't even a "smark" yet but I looked forward to every Saturday morning at 11:00 A.M. Lou was the single most entertaining character of the era, baby or heel, and, in my humble opinion, a sure fire, non-wrestling hall of famer.

Rest in peace Captain Lou and Kappa Dilly Dilly

Thursday, July 23, 2009

All Hail Undisputed Heel, Brock Lesnar

Love it or hate it, Brock Lesnar is your UFC Heavyweight Champion. Upon winning in dominant fashion over Frank Mir, he then went on a tirade cutting a heel promo far better then anything he did when he was in the WWE. And, man, did it spark a firestorm. MMA purists hated it. Pro wrestling fans loved it. Dana nearly shit his pants when he dogged UFC's #1 sponsor, Bud Light. Me, I loved it. I am both a huge pro wrestling fan and a huge fan of the sport of MMA. I think MMA, UFC in particular, can learn a little from Vincent Kennedy McMahon and even Don King. MMA will remain a popular sport but will likely have growth potential without personalities to draw in the casual fan. Hero's and villains have always drawn in the casual fan. Look at a young Muhammad Ali or later year Mike Tyson. Hell the biggest drawing PPV of all time was people who wanted to see all time baby face Oscar De La Hoya beat all time big mouth Floyd Mayweather. Even in UFC, love him or hate him, Tito Ortiz drew as everyone wanted to see him get his ass kicked. The problem with UFC is other then the countdown specials and The Ultimate Fighter, there is no real forum to get over the fighters personalities, just simply their in ring personalities. I think Brock has gone out of his way in every after fight interview to get himself over as the heel. He doesn't hug or talk all nice nice about his opponent after talking shit about him for weeks (which seems to be an unwritten rule in MMA). He plays a role which is part character, part who he is.

The biggest issue with Brock Lesnar as champ will be his style as it is dominant but boring. It harkens back somewhat to the days of Mark Coleman and the ground and pound. UFC's real problem will be finding realistic opponents for him to fight that the public will pay to see and I don't think there is anyone under contract right now that fits that role. Could it be the hopes of UFC fans to see a dominant, obnoxious champion be defeated lie in the hands of a Russian and most dominant heavyweight ever, Fedor??

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Ultimate Show

So, while I wasn't impressed with this season's T.U.F. I was totally blown away by the Ultimate Finale. The Nick Diaz/Joe Stevenson match was a joy for grappling/submission purists as there was very little stand up. Diaz never ceases to amaze me with his ability to escape even the tightest hold. Lytle/Burns was entertaining in a rock-em-sock-em sort of way. I love how Lytle has taken on the "gimmick" of going for one (or both) of the nightly bonuses every time he fights rather then looking for the win in a boring fight. And Sanchez/Guida? What can I say? I loved every minute of it. Diego looks back at the top of his game and Guida, well, seriously, it doesn't seem to matter if he wins or loses, he'll always have a spot in UFC, at least in free shows. This was the best top to bottom show I've seen in forever. Great job Dana White and company!!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Ultimate disappointment?

I have been a fan of UFC's The Ultimate Fighter from jump street. I found it fascinating as both a mixed martial arts fan but felt it also offered something unique to fans of reality TV (which I am not). At it's best it has introduced many people "on the fence" to the world of MMA and create several stars some of whom have become mega stars. I think it has become one of, if not the most important marketing tool Zuffa has. So, why am I left feeling flat this season? I guess for me, the early seasons introduced not just fighters but personalities. You loved or hated these guys depending on their personality. You got to see some great and some not so great fighters and when they debuted on a UFC show, everyone knew who they were. Fighters were picked based not just on fighting but on personality, etc. Recently, they have taken the path of better fighters, better fights. Well, I think there's a problem there. First, in this day and age, I think it's getting harder and harder to find that great untapped talent they were able to find several years ago as most "name" guys (think Div I wrestlers etc) are scooped up by some organization right away. Secondly, by the "win and you're in" concept you may (not always, but may) end up with better fighters but you also lose the potential of some real TV stars which is really what they want and need. Anderson Silva, even at his dominant best, can barely draw flies at the top of a card. Yet his fight with Forest Griffin will do huge numbers because Forest is a TV star. It's really just that simple.

Looking at the current season here's what I see; No breakthrough stars at all, Cameron Dollar being the closest thing wit all his anxiety and self doubt. The only strong personality is Demarques and he comes off more as a dick then anything. Jason Pierce is miserable but not entertaining miserable like Mac Danzig, just plain miserable. Dan Henderson comes off like a super nice guy but the show hasn't really made him into any more or less of a star. Maybe the one thing they have done well is make Mike Bisping a tremendous heel in the U.S. to counter his hero status overseas. He comes off as wayyyyyy more unlikable then he did when he was on the show itself. Unfortunately, there has been no underlying heat between him and Hollywood Hendo to create more buys. Then again, with the card they are fighting on, does UFC really need more buys?

In the end it's hard to quantify my feelings. I love MMA for the pure sports aspect. However, as a fan of pro wrestling and boxing, I know personality and promo ability sells fights. I think there's a happy medium somewhere. I am intrigued to see what next season with Kimbo on board will bring