By this time next year, Jerry “The King” Lawler should have a reign as WWE Champion under his belt.
That’s a weird idea, isn’t it? In an era where there’s so much emphasis on making new stars and building up the next generation of talent, it would seem counterproductive to put the company’s most prestigious championship on a 62-year-old Hall of Famer who’s spent most of his WWE career at the announce position instead of the ring. Nevertheless, it should happen. Putting the title on Lawler gives WWE a chance to tell a story that’s not only compelling, but also inspiring and heart warming.
Despite being an announcer first, Lawler has always had a presence in the ring during his WWE career. Over the last 15 years or so that presence has increased and decreased depending on story lines, roster depth, and whether a young talent could benefit from working with him. Only recently have we seen him lock up with main eventers like the Miz and CM Punk. Lawler even challenged Miz for the WWE Championship on his 61st birthday in November 2010, then again at the Elimination Chamber pay per view the following February. And of course, his lengthy feud with Michael Cole made for some memorable and even emotional television, if not a fantastic pay per view match.
What this has all equated to is a gradual shift in the way fans have been trained to perceive Lawler. Three or four years ago, putting the title on Lawler would have been a cheap stunt to get some quick attention from old school wrestling fans. Now? You can certainly argue that it would still be a stunt, but it would also be the fruit bore from a seed planted and nourished over the course of several years. From a mark’s perspective, Lawler winning the title would still be a long shot, but it’s not nearly as far fetched as it was a few years ago.
Mind you, it can’t happen any time soon. CM Punk’s reign as WWE Champion needs to last through the year at the very least. My assumption is that he’s going to drop the belt to The Rock at the Royal Rumble, then we’ll see Cena take it at Wrestlemania. I’m thinking some time in the summer of 2014. Assuming Cena is still the all America hero at that point, you probably don’t want him to be the one Lawler beats. These days the King’s old school wrestling persona works best when it’s matched against a conceited, disrespectful villain who can cut scathing promos. That makes CM Punk the most likely candidate for the job, but we shouldn’t forget guys like Alberto Del Rio, the Miz or even Wade Barrett. Lawler could also be put into a multi-man title match, which would allow the creative team some leeway in terms of having him beat a current superstar.
But man, oh man…what a moment it would be. Fans have a much more personal connection with Jerry Lawler than they have with any other wrestler, because he spends most of his television time indirectly talking to them via the announce position. He’s been with us for so many amazing, memorable, funny, and even tragic moments. When Shawn Michaels, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and Batista won their first WWE Championships, he was there with us. When Mick Foley flew off the cage, he was there with us. When we mourned the loss of Owen Hart, Eddie Guerrero and Chris Benoit, he was there with us. Consider how many times we’ve invited him into our homes over the years. We know him so personally that to see him with the WWE Championship would almost be like seeing a brother or an uncle win it.
Having Lawler hold the title would also give the image-conscious and kid-friendly WWE a nice inspirational human interest story to feed to the press. A 60-something-year-old wrestler wins the big title after over 40 years in the business? That’s PR gold, right there.
Lawler obviously wouldn’t be a long term champion. Give him a month with the title, at most. But it has to be the WWE Championship, or more accurately, whichever title is associated with Monday Night Raw. They can’t chicken out and make him the Smackdown champ. No disrespect to Smackdown. But if they’re going to do this, they have to go all out.
Clearly, Lawler isn’t a saint. He’s had his issues over the years, mostly with women. But can you honestly tell me that after all these years, and all he’s done for the business, that he doesn’t deserve it? Imagine the crowd reaction. Imagine Lawler’s reaction! Think of the raw emotion that it would emit from all parties involved. It could very well go down in history as one of the most touching moments in WWE history. Would it fit in with the company’s youth movement? No. Would it make for some interesting television and a great story? Absolutely.
Rob Siebert was the Associate Deputy Chief of Breaking News and Noteworthy Events for the website formerly known as The Wrestling Daily. These days he is part of the “brain trust” over at PrimaryIgnition.com.
As one of the most iconic figures in the history of professional wrestling, legendary manager J.J. Dillon has experienced just about everything that the business has to offer. Whether he was in front of the crowds and cameras as manager of Ric Flair and The Four Horsemen, or he was working behind the scenes at WCW and WWF during the legendary Monday Night Wars, J.J. Dillon set an industry standard for the pop culture phenomenon known as sports entertainment.
Although officially retired from wrestling since February 2003, J.J. still makes occasional appearances with independent wrestling organizations from time to time, including Chikara and Ring of Honor. He recently published Wrestlers Are Like Seagulls: From McMahon to McMahon (Crowbar Press, 2005) which chronicles his experiences in the world of professional wrestling.
J.J. Dillon generously agreed to participate in an interview for The Wrestling Daily to share a little about his celebrated past and his current endeavors.
— Mike Bessler, September 2009
TWD: J.J., your book Wrestlers Are Like Seagulls is truly an impressive undertaking. Not only is the book packed with candid and insightful recollections of your decades in the business, but you’ve also included a wealth of great photos from your personal archives. Please tell us a little about the writing process for the project and how it felt to look back through time at your distinguished career.
JJ: I was introduced to Scott Teal by a close friend in the business. I had given passing thought about someday writing my memoirs, but never gave it serious thought until meeting Scott. The whole process took almost a year. We spent months recording extensive phone interviews.
I had kept detailed daily journals from the beginning of my career which gave us a documented basis from which to touch on details of each venue in the various territories I worked including the names of the wrestlers I worked with. Scott had our phone conversations transcribed by Philip Varriale, and Phil injected additional information about my career that added more depth to the final draft.
Scott broke my life story into chapters to make it easier to read, and added photos from my personal collection and photos of other wrestlers to coincide with references to specific individuals. (Scott Teal is a gifted author and a respected wrestling historian.) My story was told with brutal honesty including a hard look in the mirror at my own strengths and shortcomings.
I am very proud of the book. It has been very well received by all those that have read it. It is not available in book stores and you can only get a copy through www.jjdillon.com (or Crowbar Press), or at one of my personal appearances. I try to attend Cauliflower Alley Club each year, the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame functions, and at any other appearances, and I always try to carry a few books with me. For copies ordered through my website, I continue to sign (and personalize, if requested) the book at no additional charge as my way of saying thanks to all that have picked up my book.
TWD: In the process of delving into such a vast array of material, were there any “time capsule” moments in which you unearthed a particular memory or two that had been long forgotten? How did it feel to revisit some of the more difficult times in your career, such as your personal disputes with folks like Dusty Rhodes and Vince McMahon?
JJ: When I sat down in one-on-one exchange with Scott, as I reflected back I did tend to remember specific dates or matches in great detail. In real time, one is often so busy wrapped up in the moment that one doesn’t appreciate the significance or impact of what is taking place. As Scott and I discussed the whole of my career, I found that I did develop a greater appreciation for certain highlights of my career that I had never focused on before. I realized just how lucky and blessed I had been. I had a lot of help from many people along the journey and I felt it was important to acknowledge that help and I tried to thank each individual by name.
I’m glad you asked about Dusty Rhodes. I’d like to set the record straight. In Seagulls, I did say that I often found it difficult working with Dusty at times over the years because of his intense ego. I still stand by what I said. However, it would be wrong to characterize our relationship as a personal dispute ever at any time. To the contrary, Dusty was very kind to me and to this day I respect and admire Dusty. I want it known that I acknowledge my gratitude to “The Dream” and I attribute a large part of the success I enjoyed at the peak of my career to the opportunities available to me from working with Dusty. I have also come to understand that the ego is a big part of what has made Dusty an icon in the wrestling business. It is an essential part of the make- up of “The American Dream.” I consider Dusty a friend.
As for Vince McMahon; though at the time we parted company in 1996, our individual emotions were charged and intense, I don’t harbor any ill-feeling towards Vince. I appreciated that I was asked to participate in the WWE Horsemen DVD; that I was invited to the Flair retirement celebration on RAW in Orlando following the Flair-Michaels match (and I wrote Vince a personal letter congratulating him and the WWE for a job well done for Flair, and for inviting me to be a part of it); and that I was invited to participate in two recent taped sessions of the WWE Legends of Wrestling Roundtable that took place in Stamford. I guess time does soothe old wounds.
TWD: You’re best known for your work with The Four Horsemen through Jim Crockett Productions and NWA, but in the mid 1980s, you also did some work in the Memphis/CWA territory. I recently revisited some of the promos you shot for the old Championship Wrestling show in which you dish out some serious verbal abuse at Jerry Lawler and his devoted fans. You brought every last bit of your signature style and swagger to the Memphis territory and the fans seemed to respond well to your personality and presence. How much input and influence did you have on the creative process when you crossed over into Memphis and other productions and territories?
JJ: My role as Leader of The Four Horsemen was certainly the pinnacle of my career, but also just a snapshot of my career. Remember, I had over 3000 wrestling matches throughout my career. I had a great time the first time I appeared in Memphis at the studio with Lance Russell.
As is often the case with special moments in one’s career, it came about through a series of events. Lawler had worked a big show in Florida and faced Kendo Nagasaki for the Southern Title, and I managed Kendo at the time. Business was so-so in Memphis at that time, and Lawler had the Florida match with Kendo taped to air on Memphis TV. Kendo and I stole the title from Lawler and a return match was ordered for Memphis. I was asked to do a promo for Kendo for the Memphis rematch, but I didn’t appear myself.
It jumped the house significantly in Memphis and I think that Kendo and Lawler ended up getting three matches out of the deal. Each week I got a call in Florida to do just one more promo for Memphis. Lawler eventually took back the Southern Championship, and Jerry Jarrett wondered why they hadn’t created their own Kendo-like character. Kimala the Ugandan Giant was born.
Again, I was asked to cut a promo for someone I had never met or seen since it was a natural transition from Kendo. The new character continued to grow in Memphis as did my mystique. The fans started asking when they were going to see me in person in Memphis (remember, this is all before cable television changed the landscape). Arrangements were made with the Florida office for me to be booked a few dates in Memphis. My first appearance was the Memphis TV, and how could I miss with a front-story like mine prior to showing up? Jerry Jarrett gave me free reign, and the rest is history.
TWD: The Memphis/CWA area was a hotbed of pro wrestling in the late 1970s and early 1980s and an impressive roster of heel managers left their mark on the region during that period. From Jimmy Hart to Tux Newman to Angelo Poffo, some of the biggest and best names in the business did their share of memorable work in Memphis. Did you feel like you had to work harder to draw in the fans or did your reputation already generate a fair amount of heat for you?
JJ: As I already indicated, my work on the promos I cut from Florida for Kendo and for Kimala spoke for itself. You hear people say that they were in the right place at the right time and then capitalized on the opportunity. That is what happened with me in Memphis. I had a blast in Memphis, helped draw a few bucks and I was treated with the utmost respect and professionalism. They took good care of me. Jimmy Hart was there at the time and he briefly formed an unholy alliance with Jerry Lawler and Jimmy and I worked against each other a few times. Jimmy is a great talent and he went on to bigger and better things and is a credit to our business.
TWD: In your book, you mention that the last time you spoke or corresponded with Vince McMahon was prior to your departure from WW(E) in 1996. Was it a difficult decision to return to a WWE ring for Ric Flair’s farewell show in 2008?
JJ: It was not a difficult decision at all for me. I did say in my book that I would never again work for the WWF (now WWE), or for Vince.
For me personally, I see a distinction between appearing at the Flair farewell celebration (or to appearing on the WWE Ric Flair and The Four Horsemen DVD, or participating in the Legends of Wrestling Roundtable) and becoming to a full-time employee of the company (or a consultant, etc., on any basis). In fairness, I should make it clear that I have never had an offer or any type of overture for any type of employment from the WWE, nor do I ever expect any. I would never consider going back, so my feelings remain the same as they were in 1996.
I am not splitting hairs, and I’m not trying to search for some basis to justify my recent decisions. I knew that I owed it to my fellow Horsemen and to all the fans that supported me so well throughout my career, to put any personal feelings from the past aside and to do what was right for the business.
TWD: Your book also provides a candid look at some of the most infamous debacles in the history of pro wrestling, such as the 1998 “Road Wild” main event which involved the ill-conceived showdown between industry superstar Hulk Hogan and talk show host Jay Leno. You described this moment as “the beginning of the end” and “a sad day for the wrestling business.” With the recent introduction of regular “guest hosts” on Monday Night Raw, WWE has seemingly resurrected the idea of integrating celebrities into the wrestling world and a good deal of these appearances involve some degree of physical interaction with wrestlers as a kind of impromptu, on-the-fly booking. Has WWE learned from the mistakes of Bischoff and WCW or are they simply repeating a regrettable chapter in sports entertainment?
JJ: I don’t agree with a lot of the things Vince has done and the direction he has taken the wrestling business, but I also cannot ignore his success. The problem as I see it is that once you go down a certain road, you can’t reverse and pretend you were never there. I refer to the use and treatment of females, the all too frequent changes in title holders (as often as two or three times in the period of one show), and the emphasis on being perceived as purely sports entertainment.
If you acknowledge that everything is scripted, and if you show that the title (any title) no longer has any real meaning, how can you expect me to get emotionally involved in who is to be the winner of a title match when you’ve already demonstrated that the title itself doesn’t mean anything anyway? What are they fighting for, and why?
TWD: I recently spoke with someone who had the pleasure to meet you while working an indy show a short time ago and he was thoroughly impressed with your warmth and professionalism. He said that you went around the locker room and personally greeted each and everyone there, suggesting that your genuine interest in talent and staff is uncommon in the business today. Do you feel like you have a distinct or unique philosophy when it comes to pro wrestling? Who were your most important influences in the area of business relations and behind-the-scenes work?
JJ: I don’t know that I have a distinct or unique philosophy about professional wrestling, but I do have a distinct appreciation for how I got to where I am today. The purpose of doing this interview is not to sell my book, but you really have to read my life story from beginning to end to understand where I’m coming from.
I was never the biggest or the best, but no one wanted it more than I did or was willing to work any harder than I did. Even with hard work and dedication, I had the benefit of a lot of help from lots of people throughout my career. Please find a copy of my book even if you borrow a copy from a friend. I owe so much to so many. I’m hesitant to start listing names, because I can’t begin to list them all. They are listed in my book. You also have to be lucky, and I was often fortunate enough to be the right place at the right time. I also owe the fans everything. Wrestling fans are the best fans in the world, and the most loyal.
Whatever success I’ve enjoyed in the wrestling business, I owe first and foremost to the fans that supported me and supported professional wrestling throughout my career.
TWD: You seem to be very happy in your retirement, devoting as much time as possible to your children and grandchildren. But wrestling fans always enjoy seeing you back inside the squared circle and we’re always eager for the next chapter in your storied career to unfold. What can we look forward to in the coming months and years from the magnificent mind of J.J. Dillon?
JJ: I have slowed down a little bit. I look back on the era of the Horsemen and the lifestyle, and I wonder how did I do it? I had full, left-knee replacement two years ago. A year ago I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was detected very early, I had excellent treatment and today I am cancer free.
I continue to work full-time for the State of Delaware. I am active in Cauliflower Alley Club and again this year I will be the MC (along with Terry Funk) for the awards banquet in Las Vegas in April. I am on the board of the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Amsterdam, NY. We have our annual induction (the 11th) coming up in early June of 2010.
The PWHF is an amazing place. Just as every baseball fan must someday make a pilgrimage to Cooperstown, every true wrestling fan owes it to his or herself to make a similar pilgrimage to Amsterdam to see pro-wrestling’s only true brick and mortar Hall of Fame. I don’t have the words to describe it; you must see it for yourself. (If you go to www.jjdillon.com you will find convenient links to CAC and PWHF.)
I am also scheduled to appear at WrestleReunion 4 in Los Angeles the last weekend in January of 2010. I also look forward to the NWA Legends FanFest presented by Greg Price in Charlotte. I believe it is the first weekend in August. The Original Four Horsemen were all together this year in Charlotte and the turn-out and response was overwhelming. What an event! You never know when I may show up at one of the local events. Life is good for J. J. Dillon. I am blessed and I have much to be thankful for.
Please visit J.J. Dillon’s personal homepage to read more about his life and work. JJ. Is also available to be booked for personal appearances and he can be contacted through his official website. His book Wrestlers Are Like Seagulls: From McMahon to McMahon is available for purchase through Crowbar Press for $25 plus shipping.
(This article was originally published under the title, “Riding Shotgun with the Four Horsemen: TWD Interviews J.J. Dillon.” Minor revisions were made for publication on thebradyhicks.com.)
Mike Bessler was a co-founder of The Wrestling Daily. Like JJ Dillon, Mike has much to be thankful for.✭
It has been just over a week since I appeared on “In The Room” to discuss the ongoing issues at Wrestlers Rescue. While the interview was hurried and squeezed in at the end, important questions were posed—many directly to Wrestlers Rescue. They have yet to answer.
The fact of the matter is that the ongoing issues with Wrestlers Rescue are now bigger than a dispute with Kamala. There are now far more important issues than whether or not James “Kamala” Harris receives a payment from Wrestlers Rescue. The charity has serious issues with transparency and faces a slew of accusations from other wrestlers which range from embezzlement to fraud.
Let this be made perfectly clear: Wrestlers Rescue must address the issues put forth both in the interview and below if they are to be trusted as a charity in or out of the wrestling community. We as a society may operate our justice system on the premise of “innocent until proven guilty;” however, when a person or entity like Wrestlers Rescue continues to speak in vague terms, continues to dodge relevant questions, continues to not produce information which could exonerate it of wrong doing, and does all this while protesting that it has done nothing wrong, the onus to prove innocence is squarely on its shoulders.
Wrestlers Rescue, its representatives, its defenders, or others who may share my skepticism of the program are all welcome to contact me either directly or c/o thebradyhicks.com if one so wishes. Below is a point by point breakdown of questions the wrestling world should be asking of Wrestlers Rescue, reason why those questions should be asked, and explanations of why that is important.
Fraud is a gravely serious charge, and proving or disproving it is incredibly important, and goes well beyond any initial emotion one might have. Kamala getting a check is not even the issue any more. Wrestlers Rescue addressing the content below is. Please read until the end as this has been written to bring the more serious issues to light at the end, where they can be fully appreciated and understood.
— Ray Bogusz, August 2012
1. James Harris claims Wrestlers Rescue never sent him a check. Then changed his story later on to say that he received the check, but sent it back.
Fact: This is, sadly, true. Wrestlers Rescue did in fact send a check and it was in fact returned as proven by pictures sent out by Dawn Marie after the fact. The check was made out to James Harris (to be referred to as Kamala from hereon) from a New Jersey bank under the account “Pro Wrestling Relief,” not “Wrestlers Rescue.” (That slight change will be incredibly important later on.) There are, however, questions to be raised regarding the dates on the certified mailing envelope from Kamala, the date the check was cut, and steps Dawn Marie and Wrestlers Rescue took after allegedly receiving the check back.
One of the backbones of Kamala’s explanation for returning the check is that he had received bad checks before and did not want to bother with the hassle of another bad check. Dawn Marie and Wrestlers Rescue counter this claim with one of their own: They claim the money sent was in certified funds and therefore there was no reason for Kamala to fear of a bad check. Their claim appears to be dubious at best.
While Dawn Marie has tweeted a picture of the check, and a picture of a connected bank statement showing there were enough funds to cover it, the claim that it was in certified funds is—at best—tenuous.
Certified funds are typically issued in the form of a cashier’s check, which was not what was issued to Kamala. The check issued to Kamala appears to be the same as a personal checking account, merely tied to a non-profit. This in and of itself doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the funds are certified. They (cashier’s checks) also take a bit more effort to obtain, so unless bounced checks have been a problem for Wrestlers Rescue before, there was no reason to even do so in the first place.
Wrestlers Rescue can clear this issue up easily: Show documentation—or any sort of clear proof—that the check sent to Kamala was indeed in certified funds.
2. Wrestlers Rescue claims that it exists as a for profit LLC because it was not able to establish a 501c(3) in a timely enough manner to assist Steve Williams.
Fact: This is true, but it gives rise to a whole host of unseemly questions which absolutely must be addressed by Wrestlers Rescue if we as a community are to continue supporting them.
The first of these is: Why can I not make a donation directly to the 501c(3) non-profit via the Wrestlers Rescue website? As of this initial investigation, there is only an option to donate to the For-Profit LLC, and not the Non-Profit charity. This degree of separation is important because it means that there is room for money to otherwise go unaccounted for or for non-charitable causes. While Wrestlers Rescue is explaining this, they also need to explain why the charity doesn’t have its own website all together, and seems to only exist as a dispersal arm for the LLC.
3. Wrestlers Rescue claims that it used the left over funds for Steve Williams to found a scholarship in his memory.
Fact: This is another in a long line of instances where Wrestlers Rescue asks us to take them at their word, yet leaves us with no reason to do so. Searches for such a scholarship have been fruitless.
Thankfully, this is also another issue where Wrestlers Rescue could easily clear the air in their favor: Direct us to the scholarship in question. What is its name? Whom does it benefit? Where can I locate detailed information about it? What is its website? What schools promote it?
4. Wrestlers Rescue often points to Jimmy Snuka as an example of a wrestler they have successfully helped.
Fact: Unfortunately, Mr. Snuka is about as far as their success seems to go. When pressed for other success stories, representatives for Wrestlers Rescue speak in vague generalities and airy platitudes. They point to nothing specific and give no names. This can, again, be cleared up rather easily: Give us specific names of wrestlers they have helped. Who are they? Where can one contact them? This is essentially us asking for references, and in light of some of the accusations against the entity, does not seem all too overbearing a demand.
Unfortunately, that isn’t where concerns over Mr. Snuka’s involvement end.
The timeline for exactly what Mr. Snuka was to Wrestlers Rescue at any given point is fuzzy at best. As of this time, my understanding from interviews, articles, and independent investigation is that the timeline is as follows:
– Mr. Snuka is somehow directly involved with the charity.
– Mr. Snuka then leaves the charity rather abruptly.
– Soon afterward, Mr. Snuka is then the recipient of a donation from Wrestlers Rescue.
– Shortly thereafter, he subsequently rejoins.
The IRS has very strict, clearly spelled out rules for who can and cannot receive money from a 501c(3) charity. In a sea of legalese, the rule in question is spelled out in astoundingly plain language. Individuals who have a direct connection to the charity other than as a beneficiary thereof cannot under any circumstances receive funds. At the very least, Wrestlers Rescue is dangerously close to stepping all over their own regulations and tiptoeing close to bribery.
Wrestlers Rescue and Dawn Marie must answer the following:
A) What is the exact timeline for Jimmy Snuka’s involvement in the organization? Provide documentation.
B) What are the exact restrictions they are operating under regarding this rule? How long does one have to be not-involved with the charity before they can receive money according to the IRS? Documentation must be provided. Their word is not enough.
C) Are there special exemptions the IRS has provided given the nature of the organization? What are they? Again, documentation is required, not optional, if they are to be believed.
5. Wrestlers Rescue claims all tax documents are available on their website under the “Financial” banner at the top navigation bar.
Fact: This is not true. A significant number of vital tax documents are missing. Listed there are 1040 forms for the years 2008 and 2009. Even if what we wanted were 1040 forms, having them from 2008 and 2009 do nobody much good at proving Wrestlers Rescue’s innocence. Being accused of out-and-out fraud in 2012 and saying that you can show us tax returns from 2008 is absurd. It’s the equivalent of saying “I couldn’t have shot your sister yesterday; I was in Oklahoma in 1993!” Both statements might very well be true, but neither does much to help prove the other.
In this instance, however, even if we had the 2012 return we wouldn’t know what to look for. Handing us the returns for 2010-12 sometime early next year wouldn’t yield much of anything either. If you’re familiar with the series “Law & Order” think of a scene were ADA Ben Stone is pouring over tax returns he subpoenaed because he was looking for “something.” That’s sort of where we’d be. We’d be looking for something, but what or where it would be is still a mystery. We need something else.
All 501c(3) charities are required by law to file what is called a Form 990. This form details all incomes and expenses for the charity.
Wrestlers Rescue has never made this public, even though most other 501c(3) organizations will do so even when they aren’t accused of fraud.
They must—under no uncertain terms—release that information.
All of this combined paints a very damning picture for Wrestlers Rescue. I implore all of you to please keep this pressure on Wrestlers Rescue, both for the integrity of the reputation of the business you all claim to love, and for the well being of the wrestlers whom happen to be part of it.
More information will be made available as it comes to light.
Ray Bogusz can be contacted via Twitter (@wrestlekingray) or via email c/o thebradyhicks.com
When it comes right down to it, I don’t know if missing the boat on the whole Wrestlicious ad was completely our fault. As noted in “Rise and Fall…part two,” we were contacted by lotto tycoon Jonathan Vargas about the possibility that he’d take out some ad space on our now burgeoning hotbed of pro wrestling journalism. Content Director Jason LeBlanc, Chief Editor Ray Bogusz, and I tried to hammer out some prices for premium ad space at the very top of the site and we did reply to Vargas with what we thought were very reasonable prices but no deal ever materialized. Adam Testa, who joined TWD’s Administrative Committee as our Marketing Director, had tried to steer us in a direction that was more consistent with what he’d seen as a journalist but we were too excited to really get our heads around it all. Whatever the case, nothing ever came of it.
It might have been around this time that I was getting very sensitive to the financial aspect of things. I felt like I’d shelled out more than my share for our setup costs with the understanding that this was a collective effort and that expenses and profits would be shared. And while expenses were nominal up to this point, I was getting frustrated that my fellow administrators weren’t contributing to fees for the URL purchase, site hosting and the like. Moreover, we had also turned down another offer by an advertiser who wanted to pay something like $30 to put an ad on the main page for something like 60 to 90 days. Those who opposed this said that the offer was too low but to my mind, something is always more than nothing…and anything is always a good place to start. Expenses for the site would ultimately pick up yet again with the need for a better hosting plan. Truth be told, I did live in a two-income household at the time and, in fact, both my wife and I had some small part-time jobs that were bringing a little more to the family coffers but I didn’t think this necessarily figured into who should pay the bills for TWD. Besides, nobody asked me how much my house payment, outstanding medical bills, and the entire myriad of living expenses that go along with raising a small family figured into my overall financial picture. With all that in mind, though, here’s the truth of it: we had a crappy business model. Okay, maybe it’s even more accurate to say we had no business model. There were better approaches to consider (pooling resources before the project began, true shared ownership registered through a third part or service, etc.) but none of us could really see beyond our initial vision and excitement to build a foundation that was more stable than what we’d ended up creating. The end result was that we were constantly stressed out over a lot of things that could’ve been handled differently.
With our continued increase in traffic and the establishment of a dedicated fan base, there came a call for a site overhaul. In our present configuration, our main page could feature somewhere around 9 to 12 articles with additional links appearing in the sidebar(s). It seemed that quite a few TWD writers and readers felt that our general aesthetics could be greatly improved and a good deal of the criticism was that the site appeared drab and gloomy. I have to admit that I internalized the critique of my design and was even a little bitter about it. This was also one of the few things that Ray and I were in complete agreement on by this point (to my recollection, anyway), as we both liked TWD’s layout and appearance up to this point.
Adam also brought a journalistic flair to TWD that compelled him to go straight to the men and women of the industry itself for comments and for full-length interviews. One of the biggest interviews he landed was with Ring of Honor’s Tyler Black (now WWE’s Seth Rollins). It was really cool that ROH talent were directly communicating with our site and Adam’s piece on Black was particularly timely as it spotlighted Black’s imminent return to the ring after a neck injury. So, it seemed there would be a lot of eyes on the piece. Indeed, a lot of folks did read the article and, oddly enough, that created a few conundrums with regard to both TWD and Black himself. In the original draft of the article, Black had made a rather unflattering comment concerning ROH’s television deal with HDNet. In his 2012 intro to the re-publication of the article, Testa recalls:
The article originally contained a comment from Black about HDNet being a “stepping stone” to something bigger. The day after publication, Black sent me a text message, stating he had received heat from management about those comments and asking me if I could remove them.
If this was my real newspaper job, ethics would have prevailed, but for our fledgling site, it wasn’t worth burning potential bridges to take a moral stand over the issue. In the end, it paid off, as ROH plugged the revised article in their newswire.
The decision to revise Black’s quote(s) came pretty easily to us. I think there was some unspecified concern among Ray, Jason, and me that Adam’s journalistic integrity would put us at odds with our desire to go ahead and revise the piece in hopes of fostering a relationship with ROH I recall that all four of us came to agreement on the matter quite quickly and I think we were all quite relieved to have come to agreement with very little hullabaloo.
There was some discord behind the scenes, though. I’d say a fair amount of it was between Ray and me. It was probably more than that; we argued, after all, about damn near everything up to a point. We argued about whether an interview should be called an “interview” or an “exclusive,” we argued about what a “byline” really was. We argued about whether or not to put a disclaimer at the end of our articles. Hell, one time Ray and I even argued about the correct spelling of the phrase, “Que sera sera.” (For the record, I was correct but Ray got in the last shot of that one by saying that working with me made him feel like he was running a preschool. Something like that, anyway.)
Adding to my concerns about our business model was an odd decision by some of the administrators to start crediting original artwork and logos to “TWD Media.” I had no idea what in the freakin’ hell TWD was and I couldn’t seem to get anyone to explain it to me. My brain kind of filled in the gaps and I ended up thinking that this was some kind of way to undermine any possibility that there was collective ownership of TWD by making “TWD Media” a larger entity that would encompass TWD itself. (No word if it would’ve also included “The Motorsports Daily,” which was a pie-in-the-sky idea between ray and I that never got off the ground). The whole “TWD Media” flap made me feel like Michael Kiske’s memorable line in the song “Your Turn”: The thing that I once started isn’t mine anymore.
I was, for my part, trying to keep my uncertainty and the friction between some of the administrators under wraps and hidden from the writers’ bullpen. I can’t really remember how or when it ultimately came to their collective attention but I recall that some folks were surprised about the seriousness of the schism by the time everything was finally out in the open. Our political differences had a lot to do with the tension. I had come to expect that this would be a problem at some point but I was actually rather taken aback when our first really huge blow up over site matters ended up spilling into a disagreement over politics. I don’t know how the dispute started but I recall getting some grief because one of my Facebook friends had showed off a picture of his living room that included a framed picture of Mao Zedong. It was like a total non sequitur to me but since it was obviously such a sensitive situation, I resisted the urge to share the information that I keep a framed picture of Mao at Anyuan on my side of the bedroom. What frustrated me most is that I felt like I had to hold a lot back for the sake of everyone else. Any of my replies – even ones that seemed innocuous to me – usually tended to inflame things and I felt like everyone who knew what was going on secretly blamed me for each and every argument.
In hindsight, I know that everyone wasn’t against me. I know there was blame to go around, too. Surely it wasn’t all on me and it wasn’t all on Ray, either. Here’s the truth of the matter, though—it’s something about me that I’ve never really articulated in any amount of detail: I loathe neutrality. I feel the same way about neutrality that Charu Mazumdar felt about Centrism. I want people to take sides. I want contentious matters out in the open so they can be vetted, examined and dealt with. I hate tension. I prefer quick resolutions. Further, I prefer not to sound so moralistic that I believe that everything is either “right” or “wrong,” but I do view most things – especially in debates – along the lines of “correct” and “incorrect” ideas. I think that, fundamentally, most people tend to think they’re “right” or “correct” when taking a position and I’m certainly no exception. I’m also fairly absolute about things and I can be very, very difficult to deal with when I am accused of being in the wrong or otherwise mistaken or dishonest. I think this was definitely a factor in the problems with the administrative dynamics of TWD. Put rather bluntly, there were some very strong personalities at odds with one another…and I was surely one of them.
Still, TWD’s combination of timely news reports, in-depth analysis and thought-provoking opinion resonated with fans. We enjoyed interacting with an assortment of regular readers, most of whom were now visiting the site at least once a day. Once we started touting our work on Facebook, a handful of folks even sought out their favorite writers and sent “friend” requests, which isn’t nearly as creepy as it may sound. There was hate mail, too. Some folks looked at us as smarks and others were just run-of-the mill trolls. The thing of it was, the site was founded by three guys who’d bonded by trolling it up over on Bleacher Report. A lot of the headstrong, know-it-all loudmouths who tried to take shots at TWD were put down with overwhelming force. I think Ray and I blew about an hour and a half taking apart some guy from State College, Pennsylvania one night. That was a fun evening with some outlandishly hilarious insults flying hither and yon. It kind of says a lot about a relationship, though, when the only time you get along is when you’re tearing someone else apart.
So how’d we know the commenter was from State College? Well, the blogware that we used allowed us to see the IP addresses of folks who were posting to the site. From there, it was pretty easy to figure out where they were unless they were smart enough to use some kind of proxy service. It was both a blessing and a curse to have this kind of information at our disposal. On the one hand, it was helpful to know more about our readers, whether they were hostile or — as they were in most cases — good-natured and friendly. At the same time, though, this did foster some mild paranoia on our end. Some of us had been concerned about people sabotaging the site in one way or another and for a time, it became a regular thing to “look up” where this commenter or that e-mailer was posting from. I remember thinking it had gotten especially bad when a reader of the site wrote to us asking to become a regular contributor. Despite some impressive skills and credentials, a few of us (including me) thought it might be someone trying to infiltrate the site and cause trouble. I mean, just based on the guy’s name alone, I figured he had to be a provocateur of some kind. Really, have you ever known anyone with the first name Denim? As I recall, I think I asked Jason for a second or third round of info for the esteemed Mr. Millward before we formally brought him on board but Jason effectively put an end to my quasi-hysteria by telling me that he’d already told Denim that he was “in.”
We also came to regard other IWC sites as “competition” although when it comes right down to it, this was just a charitable way of saying they were “enemies.” I actually don’t have any problems with Jason taking shots at Lords of Pain (a.k.a. “Fjords of Shame”) in his hilarious S.C.O.R.E. columns. I also took a swipe or two at a WWE recapper that would always refer to himself “Your Personal Harvester of Sorrow” and that mouth-breather who’d always stick his “Hot Asian Bitch of the Week” cheesecake pictures into his wrestling columns. Yeah, be proud of that crap-ass idiocy, 411mania.com. Still, some of of the shots we took at guys like Joe Burgett, Matt Hester and his Ring-Rap.com site and even our old pals at Hit the Ropes were way over the top and completely uncalled for. Those guys were almost always complimentary and many of us would respond to their posts by making cracks about the quality of their work while hoping that they’d spontaneously fold in the shadow of TWD’s collective badassery. I remember it got especially out of hand in the comment thread of a pay per view recap one night when one of our contributors and someone from another site were threatening to physically assault one another (despite the fact that they lived hundreds of miles away from each other, mind you). That level of nastiness did suggest to me that it was time to cool things off and I did make some efforts to patch things up with that site’s administrator shortly thereafter. After TWD’s ultimate demise, I personally reached out to the guys from those sites I listed above and apologized for things that I had done to insult or offend them. Old pretty criticisms and rivalries aside, the fact that they were willing to mend fences without even the slightest bit of hesitation says a lot about them…and it’s all good.
While there were a number of problems with regard to those of us who were running TWD, the general construction and functionality of the site itself seemed satisfactory for quite a while. There were some glitches but we all thought that we were just getting an “up close” schooling on some relatively typical hiccups for an otherwise successful website.
In my mind, however, my personal mantra of “hope for the best but expect the worst” was causing me to anxiously fixate upon some of the site’s developing performance issues along with all of the recurring personal disputes and that was definitely taking a toll on my habitus mentis. Things took an even more discouraging turn when I received an ultimatum from our web hosting service: The skyrocketing volume of traffic TWD had been enjoying for the past few months was causing their server to crash repeatedly and knocking other sites off line in the process.
We would have some hard choices to make from here.
Mike Bessler was a co-founder of The Wrestling Daily. He hasn’t thrown up in at least four years, which has to be some kind of personal record.
In the fall of 2009, I was still relatively new to the worlds of both professional wrestling journalism and independent wrestling.
But as a writer and marketing director for TWD, I knew I had a special opportunity to use my real-life skills as a newspaper reporter and command of the English language to create feature articles that differed from the standard fare of dirt sheets and wrestling tabloids.
Being a new, young site without much of a reputation, it seemed the right mindset would be to be grateful and appreciative of any wrestlers willing to grant us an interview. Thus, it all began with “Through the Looking Glass,” an article examining the career of Minnesota-based Alison Wonderland.
That interview would be the launching pad for a variety of in-depth interviews to follow, featuring names like current Ring of Honor star Mike Sydal, CHIKARA founder Mike Quackenbush, Dragon Gate USA and EVOLVE promoter Gabe Sapolsky and wrestling legend Jesse Ventura.
But in the early days of the site, there were two interviews that jointly represented a milestone, both for TWD and myself personally. In October of 2009, Ring of Honor made a visit to Collinsville, Ill., a suburb of St. Louis (for lack of a better descriptor), and I decided to attend. This would be my first major independent wrestling event.
In advance of the show, I made contact with ROH about arranging an interview to help promote the event. While waiting for their response, I also took it upon myself to contact Tyler Black, who had been a personal favorite of mine since beginning to watch the company’s HDNet television show, through MySpace – yes, MySpace.
Black returned my message and was gracious enough to grant an interview. The story that resulted follows, but there’s more to the story than you’ll read here.
The article originally contained a comment from Black about HDNet being a “stepping stone” to something bigger. The day after publication, Black sent me a text message, stating he had received heat from management about those comments and asking me if I could remove them.
If this was my real newspaper job, ethics would have prevailed, but for our fledgling site, it wasn’t worth burning potential bridges to take a moral stand over the issue. In the end, it paid off, as ROH plugged the revised article in their newswire.
Granted, seeing one’s name in an ROH newswire is really a meaningless accomplishment, but to me, at that time, it meant the world. The same would happen a few days later when I published “The World’s Hero,” an interview with Black’s “Clash of the Contenders” opponent Chris Hero.
Now, nearly three years later, the scope of the wrestling world has changed. Black and Hero have both been signed to WWE, where they compete in the developmental system as NXT Champion Seth Rollins and Kassius Ohno. Ring of Honor has been bought out by Sinclair Broadcast – whether that be for the better or the worse is up to you.
As for me, I’ve moved on in the wake of the collapse of TWD. After a sabbatical from wrestling journalism, I returned full force, now writing for the Baltimore Sun’s Ring Posts blog and having a major backstage role with All American Pro Wrestling.
I’ve interviewed Jerry Lawler, Sheamus, Christopher Daniels, Cody Rhodes, Jeff Hardy and a contingent of other top-caliber and world-famous stars; I’ve had locker room chats with Colt Cabana, Dragon Gate star PAC, El Generico (albeit it difficult with his broken English-speaking skills) and “Tough Enough” contestant Matt Cross.
But when I look back at what’s gotten me to this point, I’ll never forget those men and women willing to talk to a nobody writer on a no-name website. I’m glad to see many of them have found more success in life than I will ever enjoy. They all deserve it.
In October 2009, with the assistance of Tyler Black, the revolution was published.
After being sidelined with a neck injury for more than a month, Tyler Black said Tuesday he’s ready to return to Ring of Honor Wrestling this weekend.
Black, 23, said his recovery has gone well, despite complications and the need to have his wound reopened and re-stitched a few weeks ago.
“I wrestled two smaller shows in the last couple of weeks and really feel like my neck is back to not-quite-100 percent, but it’s getting real close, and I had a good week in the gym,” Black said in a phone interview. “It’s always nice to get some ring time, and it worked out fine. I got thrown around a little bit here and there, but everything worked right – no side effects, no reoccurring injuries or problems with the neck. This weekend should be fairly exciting for me to get back in the swing of things.”
Black will face Chris Hero in his return match Friday at the Gateway Center in Collinsville, Ill., located outside St. Louis. The next night, he will begin his quest of revenge against ROH World Champion Austin Aries, who took Black out of action with a fireball to the face in ROH storylines, by challenging Aries’ ally Kenny King in Indianapolis. While he’s not feeling 100 percent yet, Black seems confident this injury won’t have a lasting impact on his young career.
“The neck itself is going to be an issue, as it is for a lot of wrestlers, for the duration of my career, but it’s not really something that hinders my performance or anything like that for the time being,” he said. “I’m not terribly concerned about it. You’re not going to see a different Tyler Black when you’re watching me. I’ll still be going out there giving 110 percent every time.”
During his recovery, Black only traveled with ROH for television tapings for the promotion’s Monday night broadcast on HDNet. The company tapes six episodes at a time, and he did not want to be absent from television for that extended of a period.
Though Black has only been out mere weeks, the landscape of ROH has changed, and the returning star recognizes the potential for growth and development in the new atmosphere. Two of the promotion’s top stars, “The American Dragon” Bryan Danielson and Nigel McGuinness, signed contracts with World Wrestling Entertainment, the largest professional wrestling company in North America.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet time for us because we’re sad to see Bryan and Nigel go, just like all the fans, because those guys are both locker room leaders. Bryan’s literally been with the company since day one,” Black said.
He continued: “But at the same time we’re really happy to see them go because it’s great for both of them. They’re able to transition to the next part, the next step in their career.”
“They’re going to have an opportunity to make a really big name for themselves on a grander stage and make money. I’m sure both of them would have loved to have had that opportunity if ROH would have grown, but the time comes when you’ve got to transition, you’ve got to make moves, and they did that.”
But the departing stars aren’t the only ones to benefit from the move, Black added.
“It’s also good for us because it gives guys like myself and some of the younger guys on the roster, like Kenny Omega for example, a chance to really step up and shine and really earn a position as a top-spot kind of guy in Ring of Honor – that is a sought-after position in the company and in the wrestling world,” he said.
Black, a two-year ROH performer, said his time has come to establish himself as a legitimate contender to carry the company on his shoulders and one of the best wrestlers in the world. To accomplish this goal, he desires to expand his experiences, earn bigger wins and compete in more high profiles matches. For about the past year, he’s worked toward that goal, finding himself in the ROH world title picture.
“Being around the belt and having high profile matches with top contenders or world champions are something I’ve gotten used to and grown accustomed to, and hopefully at some point down the road, take that belt from Austin Aries or whomever and I can hold the flag, I can wave the banner and I can actually be the top guy in the company and be someone they want to build around for the future,” he said.
And when he makes it to the top and looks back on the path he took to get there, Black will find himself reminiscing about the same men whose departures will likely help open doors for him.
“I really think my matches against Bryan Danielson have been really memorable for me just because he was someone I looked up to when I was younger, and I also think that my title matches with Nigel going into the Take No Prisoners pay-per-view a while back was a real big deal for me,” he said.
“Then we did the main eventing in New York at the Hammerstein Ballroom, which was really kind of exciting for me, as well, something I was really proud to be a part of.”
Another highlight of Black’s career came on March 21 when he faced former Age of the Fall partner Jimmy Jacobs in the main event of ROH’s debut show on HDNet. The launch of a national television deal helped secure the promotion’s place as the No. 3 company in the United States.
“It was cool being in the first main event,” Black said. “That’s important for Ring of Honor, and for wrestling in general, to really start to establish a third party besides WWE and TNA and build some company from the ground up that really deserves some credibility, and I think it’s cool to kind of be the guy that kicked that off. I know Jimmy was as excited about it as I was.”
Some wrestling fans and pundits questioned the broadcast’s ability to succeed on a network not readily accessible to many cable subscribers, but Black, as a performer on the show, looks at it in a different light.
“TV’s great for us,” he said, noting that the deal helped bring the company into the national spotlight even with a limited audience. Recently, the company and network switched up its scheduling, choosing to air ROH programming on Monday nights prior to WWE’s flagship Monday Night RAW.
“I think it kind of helped the wrestling world take direct notice that, ‘You know what? We’re not just going to sit by and let WWE run the show,” Black added. “We are hands down, in my opinion, a better wrestling than anything that’s on TV. You can take the two hours of RAW and the two hours of Impact and put them together and you’re not going to get a single match that’s as good as what we’re putting on. I really think we put in the effort.”
Black’s long-term goals for himself and his career are simple.
“I want to work hard, travel the world and make money, and meet fans, meet people and just enjoy my time in the wrestling business and the people and beautiful artform of professional wrestling,” he said.
He remains under contract with ROH through September 2010, and the next year will help him decide what may lie in his future.
“I’m sure we’ll see some developments with the direction of the company within the next year and see what kind of interest I have from the other parties, but for the foreseeable future, I will be with Ring of Honor,” he said.
But for now, Black’s attention remains focused on this weekend and his return to the ROH ring.
Adam Testa was the Marketing Director of TWD. He keeps his “surprised face” in a drawer and he only puts it on when absolutely necessary.
When you talk about the meteoric rise and equally rapid collapse of TWD, the discussion inevitably begins to bring up different articles which, for whatever reason, just seem to live on in people’s memories. Nearly all of these columns in question were the watershed moments for TWD’s brief existence. They were pieces of writing which, while not always Fitzgerald, were in their own way incredibly well composed. Each had a sort of obvious importance to the writers, and often to the site as a whole. Among these few esteemed columns are:
Adam Testa’s interview with Tyler Black where Adam did such a good job interviewing Black, he accidentally killed the latter’s push in RoH. None of that, by the way, was Adam’s fault. The fact that a relatively major promotion like RoH was paying that kind of heed to us was amazing; the interview was also top notch.
Keith Ensminger’s review of “The Rise and Fall of WCW,” for all we know, actually garnered attention from WWE.
Jason Le Blanc, Mike Cranwell, Scott Beeby, and others’ joint effort in producing the TWD 50 was both a phenomenal feat of coordination and writing prowess, but also got us a tweet and direct link share from Chris freaking Jericho. Jericho pimping the site is honestly the highlight of TWD for me, and I can say that—for me—there was no cooler feeling during its existence than when we received that mention.
To that end, I’ve always wondered why I get included in that list for, of all things, a column typically only known as “That Tolcat Article.”
I don’t think it’s the best writing I did for the site; that sentiment lies with the collection of drubbings I gave Dixie Carter. It’s also not the piece I was proudest of overall. That sentiment lies with my article calling Deangelo Dinero a hypocrite, among other things; I’d wanted the site to be about tackling topics that other sites either couldn’t or wouldn’t, and that was a perfect example of what I wanted—especially because it had that “wow, he really went there” factor going for it.
Instead, the column by me which people remember the most, and by a mile I might add, is a scathing reply to an email sent by an obvious Kurt Angle Apologist whom happened to go by the name of Tolcat. As far as I’m concerned, its greatest attributes were that I had worked in some of my better digs and that I was in rare form with my use of pictures that day.
At any rate, I suppose this article would probably be the one to start with if different columns I wrote are going to be reprinted here. Give the people what they want, right? Below, you’ll find the complete “Tolcat Article,” including original pictures and captions, just as they appeared on TWD the first time around. If that sounded like I was advertising a restored film, I sort of was. Finding these old columns of mine in tact is wrestling journalism’s equivalent of finding complete and ready for restoration copies of every film Theda Bara ever starred in. I hope reading it (or reading it again as the case may be) is as enjoyable for you as my experience getting to relive it was for me.
One of the things that makes me so proud to say I’m one of the three founders of this site is that we seem to attract a particularly bright breed of reader. All of our writers–and the vast majority of our readers–are an absolute pleasure to interact with on a daily basis, and I wouldn’t ask for anything to change.
Unfortunately, Co-founder JLB and myself attract a particularly unwelcome demographic, no matter how hard we try to write at a level that should be driving them away. This group is known as the “Blindingly Stupid” and to be honest, they give us a lot of headaches. It’s not like this is a new problem though. A long time ago–before TWD was even an idea–the aforementioned JLB and myself paired with a certain “Magnificent Bastard” who shall remain nameless, and terrorized the Internet Wrestling Community’s lowest common denominators as a sort of “Wrestling Journalism” version of the Fabulous Freebirds. Hell, we even had a name: The Mega Jerks.
Even back then, despite the fact that we were utterly merciless to anyone who even happened to glance across our swathe of destruction, it seemed as if people just continued to line up in droves to be picked apart by our almost incessant vocabularical onslaught. Could some of this have been from a few incredibly cognition challenged individuals who just weren’t going to learn, thus causing all parties involved to engage in an unending moonlight dance? I guess that’s probably true–there are some horrifyingly retarded individuals out there who think they know everything (or anything) about pro wrestling…just ask the folks at wildtalkradio, who used to host some idiot’s show entitled “The Wrestling Report.”
However, that can’t possibly account for all the activity we got trolling around the infinitely choppy seas of the world of online wrestling journalism, nor can it account for the equally infinite amount of hate mail us admins (particularly JLB and myself) manage to get throughout a given week. No, I submit that some people actually enjoy reading columns where TWD staff takes anger filled individuals’ incredibly stupid emails and tosses them around like chew toys in a virtual cage of trained attack dogs.
It’s happened in spades with our omission of Kurt Angle from the recently completed TWD 50, and after Jason published a two part look at why Kurt Angle was left off “The 50” in response to a particularly mind-numbing comment, I figured that if we got any further email on the subject, that it would either be from someone looking for attention or from someone who’s head is so chock full of bird droppings that I’d have to contemplate starting a campaign to investigate whatever company had their heads so far up their own dickholes that they were dumb enough to accidentally hire someone who has an IQ on par with a sea cucumber.
If I had gotten the first one, I’d have probably blown it off as some hack attempting to get his name on a website that in under half a year, has managed to become a reputable and established source for wrestling news, coverage, and opinion analysis. The email would have been deleted from my inbox and that would have been the end of it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I got the second one.
Below is the email received via the administrative address at approximately 10:00 am, November 28th, more than 24 hours after JLB published his two volume, point by point explanation of why Kurt Angle was left off the TWD 50. It is reprinted verbatim.
I just happened to see your headline drawing people to your site by completely underrating Kurt Angle.
I realize you’re trying to get attention from the other marks, but to not have Kurt Angle in the top 50? He’s in the top 10, if not top 5, of wrestlers today. Who is actually better? Randy Orton? The Miz? Big Show or the anonymous charisma-challenged greased body-builders that frequent the WWE?
Most wrestlers would tell you that Angle is one of the stiffest workers out there, just like Taz, Conan (yes, Conan), the late Chris Benoit and Findlay (before WWE turned him into the Doink-like stereotype he is today) were. He has one of the best work ethics, is not afraid to take a bump.
Not putting people over?! Didn’t you see him wrestle Matt Morgan, and Desmond Wolff? How about The Pope? Angle had great matches with all of these, and wrestled two great wrestlers in one night! And his mike skills have gotten a lot better, more Flair like in his approach. Once he started wearing the suit was the beginning of Angle taking a page or two from the great Nature Boy’s book.
P.S.: I love how you say the e-mail goes to the “committee”. Does that mean it goes to Mom’s computer in the den?
Ahh, the joys of having serious issues. I guess I’ll start with the “P.S.” statement at the end, since I’d rather flow into more serious stuff through the end of this column.
To answer your question bluntly: Maybe. I mean, it would kind of depend on what your definitions of “den” and “mom’s computer” happen to be. I do have a blocked off workstation at my apartment where my computer sits, and my computer is the one I received as a graduation present from my parents. So, I guess in the same loose sense that Kurt Angle is a physically gifted wrestler, it does go to my mom’s computer in the den. The only way it could possibly *not* go there would be if you meant that it gets forwarded to my Mom’s email, which I then sneak on to after she falls asleep. In that sense, you’re completely wrong because it actually gets forwarded to my “corporate e-mail address” and there I find that we actually have some common ground to stand on before I get to the meat of your email, because I see that you have emailed *me* from *your* corporate address.
A closer inspection reveals that you work for a company called “The Pompeo Group” which helps with executive recruiting. I’m kind enough to list a little about myself on *my* corporation’s page, and had been hoping to learn a little more about *you* on yours. To be honest, I had been hoping to read something around the lines of “TolCat helps place fellow Down Syndrome patients in executive janitorial roles at McDonalds’ across the globe. He is motivated every day by Kurt Angle and his unbelievable talent. Who needs a spouse when you can watch Kurt Angle struggle to get to his feet after a cover, then put a guy over by shaking his hand? Word is Bond.”
Alas, I couldn’t find *anything* about you on the staff bio page, nor were you among those listed on the contact page. This either means you’re totally irrelevant at the company, or you’re such an embarrassment that you’re hidden away so nobody can accidentally come into contact with the radioactive brand of moron you happen to be. I’ll bet on the second.
I’ll close out this section with a question of my own. I assume that your email is on a corporate server, so if I “accidentally” reprinted your email address (which I am perfectly free to do), and “accidentally” encouraged the thousands of loyal TWD readers to sign you up for bestiality and child porn, could you “accidentally” get fired and would that be funny? I guess I’m more asking if that would be funny to you, because it’d be side-splittingly hilarious to me, especially since I can’t think of anyone less deserving of a paid position *anywhere* than someone as dumb as I’m about to expose you to be. Idiot.
I just happened to see your headline drawing people to your site by completely underrating Kurt Angle.
One of the best ways to tell if someone is a complete dolt, or very drunk, is to see if they are reading imaginary headlines on the website.
Personally, I love imaginary headlines. They can say whatever you want them to say, that way you can respond however you wish, and you won’t come off like some completely illiterate jackanape…at least you won’t come off that way in your own head. Unfortunately, that headline has never appeared anywhere on the site. In fact, the two articles that spawned both JLB’s responses and, in a way, this one were actually titled: “TWD 50: Future 50’ers and Honourable Mentions” and “TWD 50: 10-1: WWE, TNA, New Japan, Dragon Gate and more.”
Holy shit on a shishkabob! I don’t even see his name anywhere in the titles. It’s not even hidden somewhere with randomly placed capitalized letters that would spell out something like “A N G L E S U C K S.”
What’s next? Imaginary TV where you tell us about Angle’s great matches in 2009? Imaginary radio where you call in to the now-in-development TWD radio and regale Jason and I with your chimp like thoughts on the world of wrestling while futilely attempting to convince anyone with an unbruised cerebral cortex that Kurt Angle is God’s gift to wrestling? I can’t flipping wait!
“I realize you’re trying to get attention from the other marks, but to not have Kurt Angle in the top 50? He’s in the top 10, if not top 5, of wrestlers today. Who is actually better? Randy Orton? The Miz? Big Show or the anonymous charisma-challenged greased body-builders that frequent the WWE?”
I’m glad you got imaginary conclusions from your imaginary headline, because that’s not what we were going for at all. In fact, I’m pretty sure the last thing we wanted to do was attract a bunch of TNApologists to the site so they could tell us how good Kurt Angle is and how awesome TNA is. For one, neither of those statements is even remotely true, and two, TNApologists are about as annoying as the hypocritical “Go Green” commercials NBC runs while it pumps out Sunday Night Football broadcasts.
Even if that happened to be what we were going for, why in God’s good name would we have picked Kurt Angle as our lightning rod? There are infinitely more popular wrestlers out there right now than Angle whom didn’t make the list, or were placed far enough down that they could have been omitted and gotten better heat for us (again, assuming that that’s actually what we were going for). John Cena’s left toe outsells and outdraws Angle, and he’s not there. Why wouldn’t we have picked him, or even Christian? He’s ranked pretty low on the list, yet I could write a column entitled something along the lines of “Christian’s Chest Appears Sweaty and Fuzzy” and it would garner at least 9000 hits. Not to spend too much time reiterating points JLB already made, but since you obviously didn’t read his two part S.C.O.R.E. column, I’ll remind you that Angle doesn’t result in TV ratings either. TNA is still struggling to consistently stay above a 1.0 ratings share on a week to week basis. Ironically, that was the same situation it was in before Angle came to the company. It’s almost as if Angle has had little to no effect on the ratings. Could that possibly be because his skill set has deteriorated to the point that his matches are virtually unwatchable, thus rendering any benefit he may have brought utterly and completely useless?
As for your question of “who is actually better” I’ll direct you to the pages bar at the top of the site, where you can see full archives of each installment of “The 50” and therefore read about no less than 51 wrestlers who are better than Kurt Angle. This isn’t to say that Angle is the 52nd best wrestler in the world, just that there were a minimum of 51 wrestlers in the world who had a better year than him…and Misawa died in June for Christ’s sake.
The funniest part of this particular section is that you then ask “who is better” and follow that up by giving three examples: Randy Orton, Miz, and Big Show. The funny part? None of them made the list either!
Since I *now* know that you didn’t even bother to read the actual list, allow me to inform you that for our purposes, none of them were ranked either and in fact, only The Miz was able to garner any real support at all. One must wonder why you’d be shooting off emails about something you didn’t even read.
Most wrestlers would tell you that Angle is one of the stiffest workers out there, just like Taz, Conan (yes, Conan), the late Chris Benoit and Findlay (before WWE turned him into the Doink-like stereotype he is today) were. He has one of the best work ethics, is not afraid to take a bump
The fact that he is not afraid to take a bump does not in any way mean that he should. Angle is dangerously close to killing himself in the ring, and the slightest tick to his rapidly balding hobo head will probably kill him. This is what happens when you’ve had a “Broken Freaking Neck” numerous times and have never been enough of an adult to actually take the proper time to heal yourself. This really shows up in his work when the TNA announcers describe him as in “top shape” and “physically dominating” all while the official is attempting to help him stagger to his feet on his nearly useless knees.
That particular scenario happened this past Thanksgiving, prompting my dad (who honestly does try to give wrestling a shot) to comment: “Look at that fake shit. That is the least believable thing I’ve ever seen. This is why I don’t watch wrestling.” Kurt Angle: World Class Wrestling Ambassador.
Also, TolCat, “being stiff” is not a compliment in regards to wrestling. Unless Kurt Angle is looking for a career as a piece of lumber, he shouldn’t be aiming to be stiff.
Not putting people over?! Didn’t you see him wrestle Matt Morgan, and Desmond Wolff? How about The Pope? Angle had great matches with all of these, and wrestled two great wrestlers in one night!
I’m still not 100 percent certain how Kurt Angle put “Desmond Wolff” over. It’s not like he was some new guy on the scene. You see, I’ve been watching the aforementioned man of a canine moniker wrestler under the name “Nigel McGuiness” in Ring of Honor for years. He was pretty over then, and to be frank, he seems like he could be pretty over now against anyone on the TNA roster…even the irrepressibly irrelevant Rhino/Rhyno.
Why do I get to question his ability to put over Matt Morgan and “The Pope” too? Well…he hasn’t. Sure, he managed to work some decent matches with them, but they’re not exactly world beating phenoms being pursued by promotions across the globe. If Morgan and Dinero were such hot commodities, WWE, ROH, NJPW, NOAH, AAA, and even PWG would be fighting tooth and nail to get them to sign on.
As it stands, Dinero is a jobber and Morgan is drifting along aimlessly as he has for much of his career.
Plus, TNA’s ratings wouldn’t be in the toilet if Angle had made them stars. In fact, both Morgan and Dinero will be lucky to even be remembered in 30 years. I highly doubt that by that time, anyone will care that they worked a few good but not memorable matches with Kurt Angle at a random career point.
Hell, does anybody outside of the Impact Zone even care the slightest bit about Deangelo Dinero? I mean really…he’s pretty irrelevant. You could even switch Matt Morgan in that question instead and the result would be the same.
Thank you, Kurt Angle, for giving both of them such a great rub! With the obvious fame and popularity they’ve gotten thanks to you putting them over, both Dinero and Morgan can now go to any other promotion in the world and accomplish precisely dick.
And his mike skills have gotten a lot better, more Flair like in his approach. Once he started wearing the suit was the beginning of Angle taking a page or two from the great Nature Boy’s book.
Hold the damn phone, because this might the dumbest thing I’ve ever read, and I once read a paper telling me that global warming was causing global cooling.
Aside from the fact that you seem to think microphone is actually spelled “mikerophone” I’ll go ahead and tell you that Angle’s similarities to Flair end with the fact that they happen to share the same profession.
Kurt Angle came to fame after winning a gold medal at the 96 summer Olympics with the same aforementioned broken neck. He went to WWE for a few years as a fairly good draw, continued to get hurt, continued to not rehab properly, and continued not being able to get anybody over. Remember the World’s Greatest Tag Team? In case you forgot (everyone one with a life probably has) it was made up of Charlie Haas and Shelton Benjamin. They tried getting a rub from Angle, and look how far their careers have gone. Do you think Shelton Benjamin is set to light the world afire like someone who has gotten a rub from an all time great would? Didn’t think so.
Then again, Kurt Angle isn’t an all time great. Flair is. Ric Flair dominated the industry for the better part of three decades. He completely redefined the position of a heel in a way that at the time was only paralleled by the mannerisms of and reactions drawn by fellow 80’s mega star, Macho Man Randy Savage. Flair completely changed the face of the sport and for better or worse, had a direct hand in making some of the biggest stars of this or any other era. Hell, The Four Horsemen was the launching pad for some of the best careers in the entire history of the business.
Flair was also an absolute marketing machine. Sure, Angle can cut a good promo and all, but for the better part of 20 years, Ric Flair’s promos were consistently in the top two or three in the world for a given year. If Billy Graham revolutionized the wrestling world that would become the 80’s, Flair revolutionized that and helped create what we would come to know as the Attitude Era 90’s.
Even physically, Flair was and is infinitely better than Angle. At Wrestlemania XXIV, Flair showed that if it was just for one night, he could work a hell of a match. Angle often looks a lot like Flair did down the stretch. The problem is that Flair has 20 some years on Angle. That’s also about how many years Flair has in comparison to Angle career wise. Angle didn’t even start wrestling professionally until 1998, and not in WWE until 1999. That means he’s got a whopping 11 years experience and he’s about to fall apart. That’s not just a sign of somebody totally uncut for the business, that’s a sign of somebody who either can’t or refuses to take proper care of himself in favor of a bigger short term pay day because he’s too dumb to think long term and too selfish to bother being around long enough to put anyone over. What a guy. Flair has had some of the best longevity in the business. Even as he shits liquid feces all over his career down in Australia, Flair still looked infinitely better than Hogan, and at times, better than Angle. Again, the problem is that Flair is also infinitely older than Angle.
In closing, I’d like to say that the above letter was written by a complete dumbass. It’s one thing for people to like Kurt Angle, it’s another to bury you head in the sand and insist he’s something he isn’t…and never was. Angle doesn’t have the list of guys he put over into stardom. He doesn’t have a sustained career filled with excellent matches throughout. His promos are not going to be remembered the same way as “Jet Flyin’, Limosuine ridin,’ stylin’ and profilin’ ” and “I am the Lord and Master of the ring andyou’re going to find that out, one athlete to another, right now. You can’t compete with me, no, history beckons the Macho Man” will. Kurt Angle will become a footnote in wrestling. Happy if he gets some sense and walks away. Sad if he continues attempting to kill himself. He isn’t one of the 50 best now. He won’t be one of the 50 best next year. And he sure as hell isn’t one of the 50 best of all time. He never was.
Ray Bogusz was the editor of TWD. All opinions expressed here are his and not that of TWD as an entity. He is also 1/3 of a group formerly known as the Mega Jerks. They still kick ass.
I told my brother Danny that I was having trouble figuring out what to write about for this installment of “Witticisms”. After all, it’s been a while…Had to dust off the old keyboard, and yukyuk — make us laugh clown — here we go again. When I told him that I was stressing out about my writer’s block, there was a pause on the phone, and only in his dry, apt sense of truism disguised as humor that all listeners from our now defunct Sorta-Nerd-Talk-Radio show came to love, he said, “Who gives a s***, you realize you’re writing about WRESTLING, don’t you?”
And therein lies the crux of what a farce my shtick first on Bleacher Report, and then, when I turned “legitimate”, as a columnist on The Wrestling Daily, actually was. Here I was trying to make people laugh with making jokes about wrestling, while the very idea of writing about wrestling is the joke in and of itself.
My mom took me to a hair appointment once. She sat there with all the other ladies, getting their hair curled, or dried or whatever those helmet things are, and they were discussing Days of Our Lives. “Oh, I heard that this guy is coming back”…”I think that this girl should leave that guy, and she should become bad again”…”You know who from General Hospital I’d like to see on Days of Our Lives?”
The thing is, if they were talking about well-muscled men in tights, rolling around a ring together, and they typed these opinions up, or had a radio show about it, I guess we could call my mom and these women wrestling journalists. The IWC, in essence, is one big World Wide Web of ladies sitting in a beauty shop, waiting for their hair to dry.
Raw 1000 Quick Hits
After Animal spoiling his return over the weekend, the only way I was getting excited about hearing “Ohhhhhh, what a rush,” was if Hawk was live there saying it.
I was so pumped when Punk did something really cool and unexpected, since I’ve been waiting for over a year for him to do something like that again.
Nothing says 1000 episodes of Raw more than “Charlie Sheen”. The plan going in was for Daniel Bryan to get verbally abused by a drug addict — Randy Orton was still on suspension, though.
My favorite part of the whole returning legends angle was that moment before they came out… right before the music hit, when you could pretend that the haggard looking fossil that limped out wasn’t going to make you wonder where the last twenty years of your life has gone.
Hulk Hogan was supposed to make a surprise appearance. He was on the way there. He got his son Nick to drive him. I can’t imagine what could have gone wrong.
I have to admit I’m a little sick of an all-time great coming back sparingly while still being idolized more than all the other guys who are putting the time and effort in day after day. No, I’m not talking about The Rock. I’m talking about The Undertaker. He’s had the same number of matches as Vader in the last year.
So, when is The Undertaker coming back again? The buildup to the next WrestleMania? Is it going to be, gasp, a triple threat match between him, and D-Geriatric X, Triple H, and Shawn Michaels? Well, if they have to, hopefully they’ll take any one of my suggestions:
1. It could be a ladder match: at the top of the ladder could be Rogaine, or Depends, or a “This is awesome” chant.
2. I’d be afraid that the ring would not be big enough to fit their egos, but even more afraid it wouldn’t fit their enlarged prostates.
3. Maybe a Casket Match – To finally find out which of these guys is the best at burying other wrestlers… that might actually put “The Streak” at risk.
Commenters, if TNA fans could yell “You Still Got IT!!!!!” at a pregnant Jim Anvil in recent years, then you could go easy on me too.
Michael Scanlon was the Raw Recap Specialist and Chief Humor Correspondent for The Wrestling Daily. He’s still got it.
As I sit down at my computer to start this article, I can’t help but think how great things are turning out for wrestling fans at the moment. It’s a time of celebration with the various anniversary celebrations going on throughout the “big two” wrestling promotions. We’ve just recently crossed the 10 year mark for TNA which was capped off with their annual Slammiversary PPV and WWE’s Monday Night Raw just surpassed 1000 episodes. Let me repeat that: 1000 episodes! That is a huge feat by anyone’s standards, but I’m sure we’ll hear more about from my fellow TWD writers in the days to come.
It’s a special time with multiple appearances of former superstars, successful returns and memories of days gone past. Between The Rock and Brock Lesnar there is a real feeling of nostalgia in the air and the older WWE fans finally have wrestlers to get behind besides internet poster boys CM Punk and Daniel Bryan in the hopes that they smash John Cena back to a time when he was relevant and not being stuffed down our throats at every opportunity.
On a sobering note it’s also refreshing that there has been an absence in the headlines of wrestlers dying due to substance abuse compared to previous years. Whether that means awareness on the subject is improving or not isn’t up to me to say, but I’m just glad there’s been a lull in this black spot of pro wrestling’s past.
For those of you who were not familiar with TWD back in the day, we wrote about all aspects of pro wrestling from the top promotions all the way down to the Indy and international scene. A well balanced coverage was the ultimate goal with an underlying hope of opening our reader’s eyes to some of the lesser known wrestlers in the business. I believe we achieved that in a short time span but in the past couple of years there has been a definite lack of exposure for the guys and girls trying to climb the ladder to success. It’s about time that changed.
Take a look at the aforementioned CM Punk and Daniel Bryan as prime examples of wrestlers on the independent circuit working their way up through the ranks and wrestling wherever they could week in and week out to spread their name and what is essentially their brand. The hard work that these two superstars put in from back then up until the moment they were contacted by WWE has now paid off in spades as they main event pay-per-views and compete for the WWE and/or World Heavyweight Championships on a regular basis. Not too many other individuals can say the same but that number is increasing if the current trend continues.
For as long as most wrestling fans can remember, WWE has adopted a policy of bigger is better to try and push the cliche of superstars being bigger than life characters. In recent years however we have seen the emergence of more and more of the wrestlers and superstars with smaller frames and a varying amount of styles. There’s the high-flying all or nothing method of wrestling that Jeff Hardy, AJ Styles, Rey Mysterio and the like follow as well as the technical performances of Austin Aries, CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. There’s also multiple wrestlers who have borrowed moves from several styles, but the underlying thought is that gone are the days that the power bomb is the go to move in the ring. Nowadays you’re more likely to see more submissions and counter moves. The landscape of pro wrestling is constantly changing and now is no exception.
“Manufactured” superstars such as John Cena, Triple H and Hulk Hogan are becoming more of a rarity to the mainstream promotions which in my opinion can only be a good thing. That being said there will always be a place for that style of wrestling and variety is the key to making pro wrestling an exciting spectacle.
It’s for that reason that the Indy scene is key to the bigger promotions not collapsing or plateauing, but rather growing and expanding as the next generation of fans are introduced to the sport that everyone reading this article enjoys to watch.
All of the great wrestlers and sports entertainers found themselves in high school gyms, bingo halls or alternatively small venues at some point early in their career. It’s where they ply their trade and put in the blood, sweat and tears that may one day lead them to wrestling on your television each week. The truth is only a very small percentage will go on to the big leagues, but there is magic to be made in the minors, so get out there and support your local talent.
While we have all been found guilty of pandering to the latest storylines after getting sucked in by the characters involved and classic lines delivered, it’s important to step back every once in a while and recognise just how the wrestlers involved got to the stage they are currently at and where they came from. We haven’t always been this well off as wrestling fans, so enjoy what we have right here and now.
Here’s to another one. Cheers!
Scott Beeby was a contributing writer for The Wrestling Daily. He gets slightly annoyed when you ask him to “talk like an Australian,” but he’ll still do it…because he’s freakin’ Australian.
If you’re an actor, that’s one of the first questions you ask yourself before approaching any given scene. What’s my motivation? What is it that makes my character do the things he’s doing? What is he trying to accomplish? What’s his end goal? What drives him through the scene? It can be something as mundane as making a sandwich, or as vast as solving world hunger. It all depends on the character and the scene.
Regardless of what you want to say about the sport element of professional wrestling (and I’m not discounting that at all), the fact is that pro wrestlers are actors. In many ways, they’re the best kind of actor because they have to give a fresh performance every time they appear on their stage. But just like any other actor in a scene, wrestlers need to fuel their characters with motivation. Thankfully, this isn’t too hard as every pro wrestler has two core motivations that are with them from their very first match to their final night in a ring:
1. Overcome your opponent and win the match. Pretty obvious, right? It’s the fuel for almost every segment of every wrestling show, ever. Sometimes it gets pushed into the background when you’ve got a character with a more sadistic edge (Kane comes to mind) or if they’re playing up the personal animosity between two wrestlers more than the actual wrestling match. But usually it all comes down to winning, whether the match is on that night’s show, or they’re building to it at a pay per view.
From there, we build toward our second motive, which can be a bit subdued depending on a wrestler’s placement on the card…
2. Become Heavyweight Champion. No matter what promotion they work for, where they are on the card, no matter how their skills stack up to everyone else’s, every wrestler’s end goal must be to become that promotion’s Heavyweight Champion. It’s why you work so hard to win your matches, so you can advance up the card and inch closer and closer to the big title. Tag team titles, Intercontinental titles and the like are all great, and definitely carry their own brand of prestige. But at the end of the day, they all play second fiddle to the ultimate prize. It’s the holy grail, the ultimate honor. It signifies that you’re the best at what you do. This is especially true when it comes to WWE, the brightest and most widely seen stage in the industry. A professional wrestler can’t get a higher honor than to hold the WWE Heavyweight Championship (or whatever belt happens to hold the top spot on Raw). Stone Cold Steve Austin used to say something to the effect of: “If you’re not here to win the World Wrestling Federation Title, then you’re in the wrong line of work.”
With all of that being said, let’s take a look at the matches that have main evented every pay per view broadcast by WWE this year…
ROYAL RUMBLE: Royal Rumble Match
ELIMINATION CHAMBER: John Cena vs. Kane in an ambulance match
WRESTLEMANIA: John Cena vs. The Rock
EXTREME RULES: John Cena vs. Brock Lesnar
OVER THE LIMIT: John Cena vs. John Laurinaitis
NO WAY OUT: John Cena vs. The Big Show in a steel cage match
MONEY IN THE BANK: John Cena and four other guys in a ladder match
SUMMERSLAM: John Cena vs. CM Punk for the WWE Championship
Let me emphasize that I’m NOT a Cena hater, nor do I believe that the Heavyweight title needs to be the main event at each and every show. Sometimes the belt has to take a back seat to dream matches (Cena/Rock, Cena/Lesnar), matches that involve authority figures and could change the status quo (Austin/McMahon, WWF/Alliance, Cena/Laurinaitis…maybe), or even sometimes just to break up the pattern a bit. But it’s been a whole year, and thus far the only time we’ve seen the WWE Championship (presumably) positioned to be in the main event of a pay per view is when John Cena, the main who’s main evented each and every pay per view, is in a position to challenge for it. That’s bad for a variety of reasons.
Though Punk has (out of the character) shrugged off his placement on the card, saying it’s the quality of his matches that ultimately makes him a main eventer. While I understand and respect what he’s saying, the championship’s placement on the card DOES matter. One or two big shows in the sub main event position is one thing. But when it becomes a consistent pattern it starts to subtly tarnish the value of the title.
Ric Flair talks about this from an old school perspective in his book, To Be The Man. In so many words, he says the champion should always be the last person we see enter the arena at a show. He’s the most important person there. He holds the holy grail. He’s the champion! Flair added that he couldn’t picture a promoter telling a champion like Harley Race that he had to go out first so Shawn Michaels could dance around in his chaps.
Fundamentally speaking, we’re seeing this problem with John Cena and CM Punk right now. To be fair, it’s not necessarily a problem that’s exclusive to Punk. Any babyface would have a hard time keeping his spot with Cena on the same card. Either way, the booking is subconsciously (or perhaps not so subconsciously) telling us that the WWE Championship is NOT the most valuable prize on the show, John Cena’s attention is. Kane attacks Cena? He’s in the main event despite having been gone for months. Big Show punches Cena at a pay per view? Instant top of the fold headline. At this month’s Money in the Bank pay per view, a match about wrestlers trying to earn a shot at the title got the top spot on the card, over a match that was actually being contested for the title. Why? Because John Cena was in it.
This is one of the reasons people don’t like John Cena. He’s gotten so big that he overshadows almost everything and everyone else on the show, making all their battles to be the champion and stand on top of the proverbial mountain effectively obsolete. If one guy gets treated like the champion whether he’s got the belt or not, then what’s the point of even having a championship at all? And if there’s no point in having a championship, then there’s no point in having all these wrestlers wrestle. So why even show up?
I understand that professional wrestling exists in a bizarre, impossible surreality. But if left unchecked, little details like these have the ability to deflate tension from scenes and story lines by unintentionally placing doubt in the audience’s mind about the importance of some of the things that are at stake when we’re watching. If we’re doubting whether or not something’s important, we inevitably start to not care about it. And not caring about something that’s supposed to be the Holy Grail of professional wrestling?
Yeah, that’s a problem.
Another problem? The fact that this big Irish guy is walking around with a big gold belt claiming he’s the World Heavyweight Champion, a title bestowed upon the best wrestler on Smackdown. But given that Raw and Smackdown wrestlers can seemingly go where they please these days, and the roster split is essentially nullified, that’s a pretty confusing scenario that leaves the program in an even more unfocused place.
But that’s another story for another day…
Rob Siebert was a contributing writer for The Wrestling Daily and he is a co-founder of PrimaryIgnition.com. He also sings and dances for money.
Preface for the remaining parts of this series: I am providing recollections of events and situations in rough chronological order to the best of my recollection. Where possible, I am seeking assistance and feedback from other “TWD Originals,” and checking old correspondence and documents to confirm certain aspects of the story. As previously noted, I will consider editing or revising text if important and substantive shortcomings are brought to my attention. To read part one of this series, click here.
Part Two: Moderato
The original site layout for the Wrestling Daily pretty well finalized a week or two before launch. It was a newspaper-like layout with a grey background which was apparently necessary to prevent eyestrain for the legions of TWD faithful that were expected to spend hours upon hours poring over our online awesomeness. Over the course of the preceding months, I’d purchased a dedicated URL for the site and hosting plan, set up e-mail accounts for everyone, created basic design elements and press releases to herald the coming revolution. In the meantime, the TWD bullpen was hard at work on their inaugural pieces.
Our August 2009 debut was stretched out over the course of three evenings. The 12 of us divided ourselves into three teams of four writers each and every night for three nights, each team posted their four articles. Among the selections in our maiden series of offerings included: Kurt’s objective defense of McMahon’s role in revolutionizing the business of pro wrestling; an analysis of the pros and cons behind the use of “canned heat” at live wrestling shows; and my “Lessons from the Old School” piece that revisited Ric Flair’s first and only appearance at the Championship Wrestling studio in Memphis, Tennessee (still archived on my personal site). The three-day extravaganza yielded a great mix of material that included in-depth analysis, news and opinion pieces. Above all else, the material was coherent, insightful and thought-provoking. We’d declared ourselves to be a “new standard in pro wrestling journalism” and we’d already taken bold steps towards that rather lofty goal, mindful of our collective desire to steer stay clear of the typical, fan-generated, wild-eyed speculation and conjecture that ran rampant in virtually every nook and cranny of the IWC. Even Tenechia’s rant-styled “Ramblings of a Wrestling Fan” columns were poignant yet provocative by virtue of her journalistic desire to foster spirited discussion and debate. By and large, the “TWD Editorial Roar” was offered by TWD’s Editor to this same end and—while controversial—the column was never boring and always unpredictable. These characteristics were the heart and soul of TWD at the most basic and compelling of levels. Indeed, despite all the bickering and infighting that was to eventually come, the product that we offered to our devoted readers and casual browsers proved to be consistently superior, not just at the beginning of TWD but all the way through to the untimely and unfortunate end of TWD.
Truth be told, I don’t remember exactly I noticed the earliest signs of problems behind the scenes. At some point prior to the establishment of TWD, the guy who would become the site’s editor and I had realized that we had rather significant differences of opinions when it came to politics, ideology, values and personal boundaries. Moreover, the two of us had agreed well before the project was even a concept that we wouldn’t let these differences get in between our friendship and any collaborations we’d undertake on Bleacher Report and beyond. We definitely lost sight of that. I was especially shocked when he called me one evening shortly before (or maybe right after) the site launch and explained that he had spoken to Jason—TWD’s other co-founder and the site’s Content Director—and that they had significant concerns that I’d try to politicize the site. Specifically, my micro-publishing endeavor Erythros Press and Media, LLC was mentioned as it was noted that there was concern that I had intended to festoon the TWD site in communist-themed iconography. Exactly where this had come from and why it was even raised as a topic of discussion was a complete mystery to me. I was certainly proud of my efforts and relative successes with respect to writing, publishing and distributing texts on a variety of subjects related to the study of the radical left but at no point had I ever even so much as suggested that there would be any overlap between that my politically-themed projects and TWD. Never. And having the matter raised, implicitly critiqued and ultimately inferred that I should somehow be ashamed of something that was so very important to me was, quite frankly, a roundhouse punch in the gut that set the tone for a lot of mutual distrust and intrigue down the road.
Nevertheless, TWD’s efforts gained steam and recognition quickly. One of our top priorities following launch was to get the site into the Google News feed and we succeeded in doing so with our first application. This effectively placed TWD work alongside of articles from much larger and more well-established sites like 411mania.com, prowrestling.net and pwtorch.com. We could see the difference in web traffic in real time, too. We had a counter on the site’s sidebar which showed how many readers were online at any given moment. Additionally, I’d installed Google Stats code on the site and seen consistent increases in traffic from day to day and week to week as we pulled in visitors from all over the world.
Particularly opinionated folks shared their feedback about our efforts by posting comments to the site and sending e-mails to writers and administrators. The response from readers was overwhelmingly supportive and enthusiastic, with a few exceptions. One of our earliest scraps was with a rather persistent fellow who was rather agitated with our review of WWE’s Rise and Fall of WCW DVD. In the comment section of the article, he took issue with a handful of issues with the review, eventually becoming so incensed that started calling the reviewer “retarded,” among other things. Interestingly enough, our blogware provided us with the IP addresses of folks who posted comments to the site (unless they used any kind of masking service, which happened in a few other instances later on) and it happened to turn out that our angry commenter was posting his tirades from…wait for it…Stamford, Connecticut! Eventually, the controversy died down and we never figured out if the angry guy was really a WWE employee or if we’d just experienced some kind of geographical coincidence. But it was certainly clear to us that a lot of people and organizations were tuned into TWD, for better or for worse and the possibilities for the future of TWD seemed endless.
Our breakthrough came with a considerable amount of schadenfreude on September 11, 2009 when Jeff Hardy – fresh from his release from WWE – was arrested on a slew of drug-related charges. I can’t remember which TWDer took the initiative to grab Hardy’s mugshot and post a thorough rundown of the situation along with some analysis and commentary, but that particular move quickly directed a staggering amount of traffic to TWD, thanks in most part to the fact that we were in the Google News aggregator. We watched our numbers climb moment by moment and at one point we were drawing hundreds and hundreds of visitors at a time that day—up to 750 at a time, if I recall correctly. This was a watershed moment for the site as we were enjoying more attention than we’d ever experienced up to that time. Heavy traffic continued for the next couple of days and people who visited the site seemed to genuinely appreciate what they were seeing on TWD, even if they didn’t always agree with our assessments of things. Lots of folks stuck around, bookmarking TWD, registering as a commenter and checking back each day for updates. I guess it all worked out, especially for Hardy who only did about 5 minutes of jail time at the end of it all and—despite some subsequent missteps since then—still enjoys a pretty prominent place in the wrestling business.
After only a couple of months in operation (maybe even less than that), we lost our first member of the TWD family. It was an odd situation, to say the least. It was the guy who wrote our DVD reviews and created our “Action Figure Theater” cartoons who stepped away from the project abruptly. One evening posted a series of cryptic messages on Facebook about having just come into a large sum of money (suggested to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $7,000, as I recall) and about a day later, he sent us his resignation by e-mail and then unfriended everyone from TWD. That was it. Not particularly messy but very weird and somewhat of a surprise. It was kind of like a net-based version of The Rapture in which the angel Gabriel appears in the form of an insurance settlement check.
A short time later, we parted company with Kurt over something that I can only recall as an unfortunate misunderstanding. There were definitely some issues surrounding power and control with respect to how the whole TWD machine worked and I really don’t think that Kurt’s departure was for the best in a lot of respects. But to his credit, Kurt was decent to everyone evolved, doing his part to mend fences quickly and ensuring folks that he had no axe to grind. To my mind, Kurt is a lot like Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear; he’s a great big evil teddy bear that smells like strawberries. Or beer. Or probably strawberry beer, if that’s possible. In any event, I still have a lot of platonic, sweaty man-love for The Mighty Krut.
Although we lost guys, there were a few folks knocking on the door for their own slots in the TWD bullpen. Among them was Rob Siebert, an experienced newspaper writer and wrestling fanboy extrordinaire. Rob was referred by Adam Testa, who’d met the esteemed Mr. Siebert while they were both studying journalism at Eastern Illinois University. Rob brought exceptional creativity and writing prowess to the TWD team. I have no problem asserting that Rob was one of the best of the TWD talent pool with regard to his writing abilities and insight. I don’t think anyone else should have a problem with me saying this, either. His “Inside the Wrestler’s Studio” series was one of the most celebrated features in the TWD spectrum and, to this day, I’ve not seen anything like it on the ‘net or in print. Moreover, when we decided to start posting daily “newz” summaries and breaking news bulletins (we had resisted doing this in the beginning but found it to be a necessary change in direction in the wake of the Hardy scandal), it was Rob who stepped up and agreed to spearhead this facet of our daily operations. Like the rest of us—every last one of us in the TWD family—Rob had his foibles, but in retrospect, I think he deserved far greater recognition as an integral part of TWD’s short-lived success, especially considering that he received a lot of scorn and criticism that he shouldn’t have had to endure. Rob was one guy who didn’t let the fall of TWD slow him down too much. In fact, a short time after the project ended, Rob and some of his fellow nerds co-founded the Internet pop culture clearinghouse, PrimaryIgnition.com, which is still going strong today.
Things continued looking up for us as we started hearing from folks who were interested in taking out advertising space on TWD. Thanks to Jason’s passing reference to Bakugan in one of his articles, we received an inquiry from a toy company. We heard from some kind of fighting/boxing site that wanted to buy some space on our main page as well. But one of the most intriguing and promising proposals came from Jonathan Vargas who was setting up Wrestlicious and wanted to discuss the possibility of putting a banner at the top of TWD. While Jason, TWD’s Editor and I were thrilled with the possibility of this, we also realized that we didn’t have a clue about online advertising rates and how to draft an “ad card,” which was what Vargas was specifically requesting. Adam Testa, who was writing some fantastic stuff for TWD at the time, had some bona fide journalistic chops and seemed like the best person to help us with this kind of thing. It didn’t take long for the three of us to agree that we’d “promote” Adam to TWD’s “Marketing Director” to help us negotiate all of the challenges that were shaping up before us.
To be sure, it was a terrific idea to bring Adam “into the fold” as a Co-Administrator of TWD, as his experience and insight were true assets to the effort. It was unquestionably the right thing to do for the site. Unfortunately, this was one of the last times that the three TWD co-founders would find it quick and easy to agree upon much of anything for the duration of our work together.
Mike Bessler was a co-founder of The Wrestling Daily. He believes that the universe is a fairly random and chaotic place and he maintains a healthy appreciation for serendipity and happy coincidences. ✭