Guest Booker with Terry Taylor
“The UWF Sale to Crockett”
Reviewed by Joe Babinsack
Terry Taylor is definitely an experience hand in the professional wrestling world. Having learned at the direction of Bill Watts, having toiled in the Creative Departments of WCW, WWE and TNA, and having been a well respected talent in various promotions before that, he’s one of the rare individuals that have actually wrestled, booked and produced products.
I took in the Kayfabe Commentaries DVD with a lot of interest. While Terry Taylor’s highest profile role is also his most infamous, and the almost laughable Red Rooster, I am well aware of Taylor as a top notch player in Bill Watts’ promotions, both the Mid-South and UWF versions.
Terry Taylor was a top card babyface in the 1980’s, and before he landed in the WWF, he was very much respected, and someone who was considered a guy who could carry the UWF, who could challenge the likes of Ric Flair, and who could be expected to put on a great match when he hit the squared circle.
I’m also well aware of Taylor’s stints in a variety of creative roles, although in that direction, there’s a lot less of a profile, and quite frankly, a lot less of a connection to anything resembling greatness. But then again, that’s the nature of the business in the past decade and a half, in the mainstream promotions.
The first half of the Guest Booker DVD was high profile.
We learn about Taylor’s meandering history in the business, who he learned from (Watts, Kevin Sullivan) and what he learned and how he learned it.
For anyone thinking that they should/could/would be a booker in the business, Mr. Taylor delivers a lecture on the fundamentals, and this student of the game took a lot of it in.
The clips and phrases on the DVD cover scream out, and those are all appropriate to the education provided:
“A veritable booking master class”
“Think Shoot, but work… “
“Sell the Shoot”
“Talent earns their place”
“Heels lose on their feet”
“Babyfaces win on their backs”
No matter what anyone thinks of Watts or Sullivan, those guys earned their keep in the business.
On one hand, Bill Watts learned from the Old School, built a promotion that was cutting edge in the 1980’s, and if not for the doomed oil based economies of his region, he may have established himself as a major player into the 1990’s, and the wrestling world would likely have been a better place for that.
Kevin Sullivan is also rooted in the Old School mentality, but the diabolical Sullivan became a master in the political scenes of WCW. In a corporate environment where survival alone proved his power, the fact that Sullivan became an indispensible member of that highest profile era of WCW’s success, and that he remained a go-to guy for the Hogan related cabals that followed, showed a measure of capability well worth emulating.
Terry Taylor, as a guy who learned the business from such figures, sets a stage for what wrestling is all about both in the ring, in the creative committees, and most of all – with the political maneuvers that dominated the business since the time he became a “valuable creative force in the eyes of the bosses at pro wrestling’s majors.”
All of this comes through in the DVD, and for this, and for the myriad of insights, the various building blocks of a great professional wrestling product, and for all the educational/historical perspectives provided, there’s almost an hour of stuff here that is really, really good.
And then you realize what happens when a guy steeped in professional wrestling history, experienced in the ring and vastly talented for both working and booking, goes through the grinder of working for WCW, WWE and TNA over the past 15 years.
Nothing that Taylor says discounts his experience, but then again, when the transition from Terry Taylor’s background to Terry Taylor’s dismantling as a ‘Creative Force’ is explained, inadvertently or not, in explaining the nuts and bolts of the business after the modern era took control of professional wrestling.
Politics are what brought down WCW, and Taylor explains it all in vivid detail.
It is fascinating to hear the processes that went into writing WCW, and the processes almost inherent in destroying all the crafting, the plotting and the development intended to make a viable product.
It is fascinating more to realize that despite the superior control of Vince McMahon in his promotion, how that same situation merely repeats itself in the modern version of the product.
Painstaking storylines, storyboarding and attention to detail all get derailed after the powers that be, or the power that is Vince, simply refuse to go along with it all.
Taylor tells of his WCW experiences where sixteen segments are meticulously plotted out, but Big Name #1 or Big Name #2 decide that they aren’t playing along, and since they have either contractual power or the ear of a certain boss, or both, they simply derail the plans and make the logical illogical, and lessen the drawing power, the profits and the viability of the product.
Obviously and apparently obliviously, to the end, when considering the case of WCW’s existence.
Taylor talks of the benefits of having one person in control, but look what happens in that situation, with the WWE… Same thing, it’s just not the talent that pulls rank, it’s the owner that calls the shots, no matter the ramifications.
The sad part is, that once Taylor explains how he went from having a degree in pro wrestling booking and pro wrestling politics from two guys with absolute masters in those spheres, he basically moves on and displays the reality that he’s had the creative juices squeezed out of his brain, has had the leadership and gumption cut out of his soul, and even with the high, hittable fastball of the rebooking Crockett purchase of Bill Watts’ UWF, he’s more deferential to Sean Oliver than can be imagined.
How’s that for the legacy of booking committees?
But the rebooking takes place, and while I dispute the “compelling use of the expanded roster” tag line, there is interesting insight and compelling reasons to use this guy, that gal, those tag teams and various other considerations in the process.
Terry Taylor does know the process, but unfortunately, we get a mishmash of modern sensibilities overwhelming his gut instincts, a vast array of hesitant offerings (as if Sean Oliver would shoot down a well thought-out idea with a vicious, Vince-like “No!”) and that same-old, same-old sense that the best way to approach professional wrestling is mostly a roster stabilized by eliminated the weak links and then running that solid core into the ground.
Well, mostly, but Taylor does provide overarching concepts of heel owner (or maybe just a competitive owner approach) and weeding out guys and actually jobbing talent out instead of just paying them to do nothing or having them fade away or worse yet, play even-steven booking and destroying the whole roster.
So there is a mixed bag in the DVD. On one hand, we learn tremendous insights about wrestling and what it was, what it is, and if you read between the lines and actually learn from someone who learned the hard way– what it can be.
On the other hand, the Guest Booker concept is a fascinating “What If” storyline that elicits nostalgia more than fascination, brings up hindsight and rose-colored perspectives more than real and true rebooking of the age, and in the end, provides more of a glimpse of what the guest star knows about the business as a whole, instead of what they could really do if given the keys to the family car.
And yet…. There’s more to learn here through the sad reality of what wrestling has become than most of the Guest Booker offerings. And for that, it is compelling storytelling, but again, just not exactly the story that was intended to be told.
Which isn’t so ironic if you just pretend that Vince McMahon or Hulk Hogan decided to put the ki-bosh on the places where Terry Taylor would have otherwise poured his heart and soul into the creative aspect of it all.