Goldstein On Rasslin – Top 8 Wrestling Pet Peeves Of 2013

@AngeGold’s Top Eight Wrestling Pet Peeves of 2013

Hey RASSLIN’ fans, somehow I found a chunk of time in between my life as an exhausted morning TV producer and comedy writer, and saying yes to pretty much any wrestling podcast that would have me as a guest in 2013 to throw down my Top Eight Wrestling Pet Peeves of 2013.

Why end the year on such a negative note? Well, c’mon, it’s more fun to work as a heel. Also I’m as passionate a wrestling fan as you’ll find and I’m getting older which means complaining about how much better everything used to be… especially how my RASSLIN’ is produced, comes easier to me than breathing. But let me just warn you right out of the gate, I offer very few solutions to these thorns in my side mostly because I don’t claim to be a know-it-all. All I do know is what I like and what I don’t like about how my wrestling sausage is made. Hopefully you’ll agree with me, but if you don’t, that’s ok too, that’s what Twitter is for. So here goes, my Top Eight Wrestling Pet Peeves of 2013. I’d love to hear what you think, follow me on Twitter @AngeGold and hit me back with yours! Thanks and enjoy!

#8 – Legal Storylines:
We get it, lawyers are the most hated people on the planet so it should stand to reason that if a heel threatens a babyface with a flimsy lawsuit or trots out his two-bit lawyer (David Otunga, in most cases) to back-up his dastardly cause with some threatening legal mumbo-jumbo – such acts of extreme cowardice should garner that heel, nuclear heat. Furthermore, taking legal action in a wrestling storyline should be the ultimate show of gutlessness by a bad guy – The most chicken-shit weapon in a chicken-shit heel’s arsenal. Problem is, true, ticket-selling, seat-filling, holy sh*t moment inducing heat happens when a heel operates above the law, not when he hides behind it. The most chicken-shit heel of all time, Ric Flair never had to threaten Dusty Rhodes with an injunction prohibiting him from using his “Bionic Elbow”, instead, he simply had his Horsemen slam the American Dream’s arm in the door of his Mercedes in the Crockett parking lot. For the kids reading, HHH shouldn’t have had to sue the Big Show to get him to stop interrupting his main events with WMD’s. Wouldn’t it have been more compelling if he enlisted the Shield or the Wyatt’s or hell, even 3MB to break the giant’s frying pan of a hand instead? (Sorry, I got carried away with that last one) Bottom line is, wrestling used to be an outlaw sport conducted in the Wild West. Now, too often it resembles just another legal drama on USA. Sure, lawsuits and injunctions and holding titles in abeyance help move storylines along on paper, but in a wrestling ring they just get in the way.

#7 – “Better Than You” Promos:
To say wrestling promos today have become cookie cutter would be an insult to fun-shaped metal molds that cut thru cookie dough. And there’s no more iron-clad piece of proof than the “I’m Better Than You” promo. MVP, Randy Orton, Kurt Angle, Bobby Roode, even the vaunted CM Punk have all used some form of the biggest verbal crutch in promo-cutting since telling someone what the “bottom line is”. And that’s just off the top of my head. Sure it’s direct and to the point and allows for zero confusion among fans as to the reason we should despise the person boasting it, but its simplicity is belied by its sophomoric lack of sophistication. Look no further than the thousands of red-faced Ric Flair promos on Youtube. Every single one of them expresses the exact message I’m raging against but does so with a resonance born from the originality, personal detail, and specific word choice Ric employed. Instead of just telling his opponent, “I’m better than you!” Ric would say something like, “If you can beat me, wooooo, I’ll kiss your boots!” Just typing those words made me want to pay to see Ric prove it. And that’s the point. Wrestling promos are fighting words. The verbal equivalent of taking ten paces, turning, drawing, and firing your pistol. Unfortunately most wrestlers today show up to their gunfights armed with butter knives.

#6 – Ambulance Rides
If you’re a wrestler and didn’t take an ambulance ride on TV this year you should probably re evaluate your standing with your employer. Just look at the who’s who of professional wrestling’s elite that got loaded into the back of an emergency vehicle in 2013; from Zach Ryder, to Dusty Rhodes, to a wobbly HHH, to Jeff Hardy, John Cena, Ryback… even Garrett Bischoff got the full strapped to a head board, tossed on a gurney, and slid into an ambulance treatment. Seriously, ambulance rides became more commonplace on wrestling TV than kickpads at an indie show. And for what? To sell the devastation of an angle? Whatever happened to just “leaving him laying in a pool of his own blood?” That seemed to work just fine for the first 100 years of the sport. Now all of a sudden we’re in the “reality” era so we need to follow the story outside the ring? Well, let me tell you something BROTHER: all shoving a downed wrestler into an ambulance does is undercut the credibility of the rest of the pain the heels on your roster are dishing out. Ok, so when Ryback spears you, you need immediate medical attention but when Roman Reigns does it, you don’t? C’mon man! They’re like flipped jeeps in A-Team episodes. Sure it looks bad but nobody ever gets seriously injured and they just show up back on TV the next week.

#5 – The Second Hour of RAW:
I’m exhausted just writing about this. For someone who in his mid-30’s, still feels pangs of guilt if I miss RAW or watch it on DVR, man is it excruciating watching 170 minutes of Sports Entertainment just to get to the ten minutes (plus run-over) of meaningful RASSLIN’ at the end of the night. But it’s not the much maligned third hour of RAW that kills me. It’s the middle 60 minutes of unabashed filler that occupies the second hour that just stomps a mud hole in my soul. Here’s the deal. You have to watch the first hour or else you’ll miss the all-important ACT 1, where wrestler X cuts a promo, is interrupted by opposition Y, (or multiple Y’s) and then authority figure Z descends upon the stage to set up the main event, a full two and half hours later – or you know, in the time it would take you to watch two full episodes of Scandal (Don’t judge!). And you have to watch the third hour or else you’ll miss WWE seemingly begrudgingly throw its universe a bone, and actually play out an old school, molten hot, compelling wrestling angle. But that second hour of RAW is like throwing in a Harlem Globetrotters game at halftime of Heat/Spurs. Between the Santino and Khali schtick, Miz TV, Fandango going over on pretty much anyone the internet dubs “the next” guy, and the 20 minutes we spend every week watching Sin Cara’s full music and entrance… watching Monday Night RAW live, in real-time has gone from being appointment television to a chore. That can’t be best for business especially when you’re up against stiff competition like Monday Night Football, March Madness, or even the Bachelor. (Stop Judging!) Look, WWE is known for doing things bigger and better than everybody else. It’s their trademark. But yo, real talk, as a 5’8” Jewish dude I can tell you, bigger isn’t always better. What’s up ladies?

#4 – Run-Ins Accompanied by Ring Entrance Music:
Just this week on the final Smackdown of 2013, as the Shield put the boots to John Cena, both Mark Henry and Big E. Langston rushed to the ring to make the save. But not until, one-by-one, their full ring entrance music accompanied their every heroic step. As viewers, we’re to presume that Mark and Big E were just casually watching the show backstage as the dastardly events transpired in the ring when they both decided they’d seen enough. “Should we run out there and help John Cena?” Big E asked urgently. “Damn right!” said the World’s Strongest Man, “but first we have to stop in Gorilla and let the truck know when to cue our ring entrance music.” You know because that just screams impromptu! Look, we all know wrestling is a TV show with producers and directors and sound cues… but it’s also supposed to look like the confrontations are happening spontaneously. Sure, music cues add production value but sometimes, most time, less is more. I mean really, does anything snap a viewer out of their suspension of disbelief faster than “Funk is on a Roll” blasting during a Brodus Clay run-in?

#3 – Curtis Axel:
Let me say this first and foremost. This isn’t about Joe Hennig, the hard-working, up-and-coming, third generation future superstar. This is about the development of his on-screen persona. From jump street WWE has mishandled this poor kid. They debuted him as part of Nexus under the named Michael McGillicutty – which was a tribute to his mother. Very sweet gesture but nobody bought in. The second you tell us he’s the son of Mr. Perfect, Curt Hennig, we become so pre-occupied with wondering why the f*ck his name is McGillicutty, we stop paying attention to what he’s doing in the ring. At least I did. Flash to 2013: Time to make it right, and they ALMOST did. WWE took Joe Hennig, a third generation natural talent, with all the tools, pedigree, and seasoning you want in a budding superstar – I mean, c’mon, he was Rock’s handpicked, in ring training partner for goodness sake – you pair him with star-maker Paul Heyman, bill him as the next “Heyman Guy” at a time when the Heyman brand was hotter than the half-naked Hustle Booty Temp Tat chicks on his website, and you got yourself a sure-fire, can’t miss stud, right? WRONG. What do they do? They stick him with the ultimate job-guy name, Curtis Axel – a mish-mash moniker in homage to his grandfather Larry “The Ax” and his father Curt. Too little too late… and an egregious violation of the first rule of wrestling nomenclature: Never, and I mean never can a wrestler be taken seriously with an object noun for a last name. No Swinger. No Angel. No Breeze. No Ace. And certainly no Axel. The only time it’s ever worked was Steamboat – but honestly the dude was so good, it wouldn’t have mattered if his name was Ricky “The Dragon” Hamburger. Look, I get WWE’s name-change policy, they want to own the rights, in perpetuity to all their intellectual property. Makes perfect sense. But sometimes, especially in the case of those with legendary lineage, they’re cutting their nose to spite their face. I’m willing to bet that if WWE let him keep his name, as they did with Randy Orton and Cody Rhodes, and let him embrace his bloodline, Joe Hennig would sell a hell of a lot more ppvs and plushy dolls than someone named Curtis F*CKING Axel. (PS, I do have one personal critique for Mr. Axel: Dude, just shave your head already. The thinning hair with gelled bangs look is worse than your name. You look like a before pic from a Rogaine Foam commercial)

#2 – Calling a PPV a PPV:
This is perhaps my most ticky-tack pet peeve and the surest sign that I’m becoming more of a curmudgeon for old-school Rasslin’ than JR and Jim Cornette combined. Nothing reminds me more that I’m just a customer in a giant, corporate Ponzi-scheme to rape me of my hard earned money in the name of sports entertainment than when a wrestler tells me what he’s going to do to his opponent at the next “pay-per-view.” It’s just like the “I’m better than you” promo: Downright lazy and a lackluster way to promote a tentpole wrestling event. Speaking of James E. Cornette, he’d whack himself silly with his own tennis racquet if he ever caught himself referring to his date with the Road Warriors and Paul Ellering at “Night of the Sky Walkers” as “the next pay-per-view.” It’s like referring to a bris as a “ritualistic penis chopping”, sure that’s exactly what it is, but the fancy name leaves out all the gory details and helps put the butts in the synagogue seats. We don’t need to be reminded that we’re paying $65 every 3 weeks to watch John Cena wrestle Randy Orton for the 11,000th time. We get more than enough of a reminder every time we pay our cable bill.

#1 – The No-Compete Clause:
Think about the most memorable wrestling storylines from the 80’s and 90’s. How’d they capture your imagination? Pretty sure it had something to do with the element of surprise, right? I mean, aren’t mystique and intrigue the linchpins to the whole idea of staging fake fights in the first place? Think about it: When Hall & Nash showed up in WCW; when the Radicalz showed up in the WWF; when Bobby Heenan introduced Ric Flair as the “real World’s Champion” on the Funeral Parlor; or what about 12/27/83, the day Hulk Hogan showed up on “Wrestling at the Chase” under the WWF flag to squash Bill Dixon on the undercard when he was already booked in the main event against Nick Bockwinkel at an AWA live event hundreds of miles away – setting in motion the birth of Hulkamania? What do all these moments have in common? Jaw-dropping, holy sh*t surprises in the form of one talent leaving one wrestling promotion and showing up, unannounced in another one, that’s what. So ya, even though the territories are dead and it makes complete and utter business sense to force your roster to sign 90-day no compete clauses to avoid this exact type of ship-jumping, it completely tombstone piledrives the biggest, most effective surprise a wrestling company used to have up its sleeve. Now the only plot twist that can whip the fans into a frenzy is when Wade Barrett starts calling himself “Bad News Barrett”. Seriously, all we’re left with today are chintzy vignettes teasing the debut of this guy and the return of that guy. The thrill is gone, all in the name of the corporatization of professional wrestling.

Feel free to post your thoughts, opinions, feedback and comments below.