Wrestling's Most Controversial Moment
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
One of my most favorite ‘history of wrestling’ companies has launched a new format, soliciting votes on their website and creating a DVD for the final results, replete with the input and commentary by professional wrestling luminaries mostly already known to the Kayfabe Commentaries fanbase.
That’s a dozen stars for you to hear from.
While I’m always irritated by the “VH1” style of top 100, that’s because we have two annoying dynamics working: for one, we’ve got third rate comedians talking about subjects they can only know from reading cue cards (or teleprompters); for another, the listings are always arbitrary, seldom logical and almost invariably have the commentators telling us why that entry should be number one, not number 63.
But I digress.
By the way, I’ve changed up my format as well. So in the vein of TNA’s “Wrestling Matters” I point the reader back to my ‘header’, where I’ve incorporated MS Word’s amazing “BOLD” feature. Yes, I’m welcoming myself to the 21st Century, as if I didn’t just roll out my Facebook page. And Yes, Bryan, I’ll be friends with you as soon as I figure out how to request that.
If I were a typical reviewer, I’d just spill out the top five and ruin all the fun, but since I’ve been schooling myself on how to be a real reviewer, just sit back and be entertained and wait, wait, wait for my relevance.
Ok, I’m ready.
Getting back to the annoyances of ‘nobodies’ commentating on surveys that often don’t make sense, this isn’t one of those situations. We have a dozen celebrities ranging from Chyna to Bill Apter, which in my terms ranges from a B- to an A+ respectively.
Most of the cast of commentators shine as insightful in what they say, knowledgeable in what they obviously know, and entertaining in the lack of the first two. Of course, I’m probably speaking of Chyna, to a lesser degree Maria Kanellis, and a weird combination of all three with Danny Doring.
Doring? Ok, he’s a middle C on the wrestling celebrity gauge. Higher than me, let’s be honest.
I could continue with the whole grading thing, but I know I’ll wear out my welcome very quickly. Let me just say that Road Warrior Animal and THE Honky Tonk Man are my faves next to Apter, and Barry Darsow and Matt Bourne are intriguing in their commentary.
JJ Dillon usually makes sense, and Tammy Sytch is always fascinating.
Kip James plays it a little safe, and Doring even jokes about playing the company line to get a call.
But really, truly, the crazy thing is The Masked Superstar. From previous DVDs, I’m sure this has got to be Bill Eadie, but why put the hood on? It’s a crazy dichotomy, but nowhere near as the jolt of watching a George Romero documentary on Bruno Sammartino only to see the Battman appear….
How it happens isn’t the mystery, it is why.
All I have to say in following up is that if I never hear Chyna speak again on pro wrestling subjects, well, that would be nice.
I want to be nice.
What I observed from the DVD in my role as reviewer is on scary thing: the current situation of the industry isn’t so bad, because we still have talent who learned from the old school and knows the underlying importance of business, maintaining certain aspects of the game, and working tirelessly to self-promote or hold the promoters to a certain standard.
We do have talent, however, that never saw those days.
Those people are scary. And the future is scary because ten and twenty and more years from now, no one will be around to defend kayfabe and the tried-and-true aspects of the business and at least give a logical approach when confronted by nonsense, or controversies, etc.
When Chyna, for example, sees nothing controversial in a booker penciling himself in as a WCW World Champion, because that’s just the way wrestling is, well, that’s a scary concept.
The Honky Tonk man is sometimes vilified for saying no to that Randy Savage title change, but in the end, who was hurt by that decision? Who was helped? That’s a definitive case of a talent working for his best interest, and it seems like it worked for Wayne Ferris. He was even asked to be in the mythical Hall of Fame, so there’s no hard feelings there, huh?
(He also turned it down reportedly because the $5000 he’d get but the loss of several months of signings and appearances wouldn’t be worthwhile for him)
Anyway, that’s the nature of the beast.
Thankfully only Chyna spouts out that kind of perspective here.
On the other hand, we get some tidbits of information, some glimpses of bigger stories, some context for various controversies and surprisingly enough, an anti-VH1 vibe in that several commentators try to say why certain controversies aren’t really controversial.
So what are the controversies?
In no particular order, we’re talking about the New Jersey Tax/exposure of wrestling, the show going on after the tragic death of Owen Hart, the infamous Montreal Screwjob, the ECW Crucifixion angle, and the Vince Russo Title win.
It’s an interesting array of situations, all of which elicit emotion and/or second-guessing.
The only one I thought questionable was the Raven/Sandman angle, not because of the angle but because of the lack of defense for it. Most of the views were that they crossed the line, some didn’t know of it, and I think the Kurt Angle aspect of it was missed.
If Angle wasn’t at that show and deciding whether or not to become a pro wrestler, it likely wouldn’t have blown up so much, but Kurt was a talking head at a Pittsburgh TV station at the time, and had reason to distance himself from the sport and ECW at the time. There’s a what-if here that could have been explored – what if they never did the angle and Kurt got caught up with ECW and not the WWE? Obviously the dollar amount would have paled, but it’s something to think about if an Olympic Gold Medalist was the featured performer of a renegade promotion at the time when it hit the national scene.
Montreal’s been analyzed ad nauseam, and remains controversial if only due to the defense of Vince, or the defense of Bret. Some takes worth hearing, but nothing terribly new to the discussion.
(My take: they should have compromised. Wow, that’s original. But if push comes to shove, I side with Bret – Vince gave him creative control and should have gave a graceful exit. I’m still confused by all the workers who rail against that power Hart had. It was real by most legit reports, so pretending that it didn’t exist is mystifying.)
Owen’s death is super controversial because while there’s no solid defense of stopping the show, the ramifications of stopping the show are never really touched upon. The “riot” defense is laughable, but there would have been a major dollar figure lost, it’s almost certain that some lawyer would do a lawsuit about getting refunds, and how would that impact the guys on the PPV? Not that I’m wanting to defend Vince here.
The Tax issue was so minor in the big picture, and yet so destructive in terms of what the game is, was and should be about. Once Vince pulled the carpet out, it wasn’t a big problem, but in the third decade later we’re seeing the underlying problems. Once again, look at the perspectives of Old School/Modern era talent on this DVD and you can tell the differences between people who look at the business and people who follow the script.
It’s ironic that a business decision has divorced most wrestlers from being interested in a business relationship to both fans and promoters.
The Vince Russo thing?
As much as I’m annoyed by Chynna’s take, she’s right. Pro wrestling is overly scripted today, so following the script isn’t exactly controversial.
But …. Well, let’s not get too controversial.
Check out Kayfabe Commentarie’s Wrestling's Most Controversial Moment for some interesting perspectives, a look back at some truly controversial events, and an interesting take on Old School versus Modern sensibilities, whether or not they that was intended.