The Ninjabot

An Old-School Wrestling Fan Watches Raw for the First Time in 10 Years

Posted on December 8, 2013 at 4:22 pm by Nathan Tolle

wwe1My introduction to professional wrestling came when I was about 8 years old, courtesy of Saturday Night’s Main Event, which taught me that Hulk Hogan was a wrestler and not a boxer like I previously believed. I remember being captivated by the high-flying athleticism of The Rockers, the goofy theatrics of The Genius, the sheer power of The Big Boss Man, and just the sight/concept of an ultimate warrior squaring off with the eighth wonder of the world. The day after I rented Wrestlemania V and from there on I was hooked, and I remained a passionate wrestling fan until about ten years ago. It was a combination of things that made me finally lose interest: the storylines in 2003 weren’t particularly engrossing, the objectification of women was getting on my nerves, the documentaries like Beyond the Mat were showing me the dark sides of sports entertainment, but most of all, so many of my idols were dying at relatively young ages: Ravishing Rick Rude, Mr. Perfect, The Junkyard Dog, Yokozuna, Crash Holly, Eddie Guerrero, and the list goes on and on. In 1997, I cheered loudest for The Hart Foundation: Owen Hart, Bret Hart, Davey Boy Smith, Brian Pillman, and Jim Neidhart, and just five years later, only two of those young men were still alive.

I watched Monday Night Raw on December 2nd because I was curious to see what it’s like now, and whether or not I could be drawn in once again. My first surprise came when I noticed that the show was now three times as long as when it debuted in 1993, so I knew I was going to need more coffee. A short video montage titled “Then, Now, Forever” kicked off the show, serving as a nice welcome back to old-school fans like me. I was worried that every single storyline was going to go over my head and I’d spend the next three hours feeling disoriented, and also that I wouldn’t know who any of the performers were, but soon after CM Punk stepped in the ring to give a promo, the first familiar face of the night stepped out: Stephanie McMahon, which made me happy because characters don’t get much more entertaining than the wacky, deranged McMahon family. But she also gave me my first groan of the night by referencing Degeneration X, an overrated attitude-era group that always annoyed the hell out of me. I also knew the next wrestler that came out—I assumed Glen Jacobs had finally been given a new gimmick, but no, it looks like Kane has gone corporate, a refreshing change even if he looks like Bull from Night Court.

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Alright, before I go any further, I have to address my biggest complaint of Raw because it’s something that annoyed me for the entire three hours: the commentating team of Michael Cole, The King, and JBL. Out of the entire roster from ten years ago, Bradshaw is about the last person I wanted to see, but I remembered him being somewhat-capable in promos so I was willing to give him a shot. It took me a long time to figure out whether he was supposed to be a face or heel commentator. The idea of having three good-guy commentators on Raw is ridiculous, but he was saying everything with a snarky, sarcastic tone without any conviction, so I had no idea what he was trying to do. Jerry “The King” Lawyer sounded bored all night, only taking pleasure in mocking Bradshaw for the many, many idiotic things he was saying. And Michael Cole was just like I remembered: harmless and mediocre. They need to do something to spice up the commentating on this show, even if it’s just The King resorting back to his dastardly, evil 90’s self. Or perhaps it’s just impossible to find someone new on the level of a Jim Ross, Jesse Ventura, Gorilla Monsoon, Bobby Heenan, or Jim Cornette.

My petulance increased with rap “music” being played in between every segment, by advertisements for a reality show called Total Divas, and especially by Twitter messages scrolling across the screen sporadically. UGH!!! Why in the hell are there lame, misspelled tweets from random strangers appearing during a wrestling match?

wwe2As dreadful as the Diva reality show looks, the Diva wrestling match was slightly better than I expected. It looks like they’ve picked the right girl to put the belt on because AJ at least has an interesting personality and lots of charisma. I was also really impressed with Natayla, and now that I’ve learned that she’s a member of the Hart Family–her father being Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart– it came as great news that she’s getting a title shot at the next pay per view.

My eyes widened and I felt shocked when the ring announcer called out, “BAD NEWS…” because I was pretty sure that Bad News Brown had passed away years ago. Nope, instead, it was Bad News Barrett, who is obviously trying to emulate one of my all-time favorites: William Regal’s blue blood snob. I always found great delight whenever a pompous, arrogant heel insults the crowd (especially in a place like Oklahoma City), but Barrett sadly failed to make me laugh.

The biggest pop of the night clearly went to Daniel Bryan and I assume this is a weekly occurrence. I have no earthly idea what is up with the whole “Yes! Yes! Yes!” thing but I found it really lame, unless everybody is chanting for the amazing progressive rock band Yes! In addition to being insanely popular, he’s also clearly a great wrestler so it would be really dumb if he’s not in main events in the near future. His feud with The Wyatt Family (I love the look of these guys and I felt like yelling “Yes! Yes!” when I saw those awesome sheep masks) was probably the most interesting storyline of the night.

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The quality of the wrestling matches was quite good, with fluid back-and-forth action (and a minimal of rest holds) made even more exciting by the superb camerawork and editing. I logically thought the tag team division in WWE was completely nonexistent so I was pleased to see multiple tag team matches throughout the night. However, I think the first four matches all ended with a roll-up, which got a little repetitive and made me anxious to see a finishing move.

I was thrilled to see Goldust in action, looking more athletically-gifted than ever, and getting a lot of love from the crowd. Seeing Mark Henry again also made me smile, especially when his dancing prompted chants of “Sexual Chocolate! Sexual Chocolate!” Speaking of dancing, I liked Albert’s comic-relief gimmick because it reminded me a little of the African Dream, Akeem, one of my childhood favorites.

For some reason, the lighting completely changed when Sin Cara faced off against Alberto Del Rio, making me wonder if my cat stepped on the remote and changed my TV settings. Maybe Sin Cara has an iron-clad contract that enables him to choose whatever aesthetics he wants for the match? I had to research Alberto Del Rio because he immediately seemed like the real deal to me and someone who I’d totally root for, so I was pleased that he has won numerous championships in the WWE, and that he wasn’t yet another extremely talented and promising wrestler who was stuck in the midcard and not getting his pushes because people like John Cena refuse to go away.

I honestly don’t know how any of you current WWE fans can put up with John Cena. It seems that he’s been in the main event tier for the past decade, and plays the exact same role year after year. Maybe there’s much more to it, but from my rudimentary understanding of current WWE, Cena just seems like an egotistical Marky Mark-clone who whores his merchandise every chance he gets, and who has the most irritating, grating entrance theme I’ve ever heard. It’s hard to take any wrestler seriously when he comes out practically wearing an entire merchandise booth; I hope there aren’t too many people idiotic enough to wear a U Anti-Stop Sign C Me wrist band.

But as much as I was annoyed by the commentary, Cena, tweets, and rap music, nothing compares to the horror I felt upon discovering that even after ten whole years, braindead audience members still feel the need to chant “What?” after every sentence in a promo. Unforgivable! WWE, I don’t think I’ll see you again for another ten years.

While the current product of WWE does very little for me, at least I can relive the Hulkamania era through the Attitude Era in a most entertaining and compelling way, courtesy of two very special podcasts that I have to give shout-outs to. OSW Review, hosted by a trio of young Irishmen, chronologically critiques the Hulkamania-era pay-per-view events along with various other influential moments in wrestling history, incorporating video, visual gags, clever pop culture references, and fascinating stories about what was happening behind-the-scenes. These episodes are all on Youtube and I guarantee they will teach you things you didn’t know, bring back a lot of awesome memories, and make you laugh so hard, you’ll startle your neighbors.

OSW Review: http://www.youtube.com/user/OSWreviewHD?feature=watch
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/oswreview

The same can be said about the Attitude-Era Podcast, which also brings us insightful and comedic round table discussions by intellectuals with pleasing European accents. These guys run through the pay-per-view events that took place from 1998 to 2001, occasionally making detours to discuss infamous and embarrassing events like the Wrestlemania Rage Party or the ill-conceived Brawl for All tournament. Their last episode was a special 97-minute tribute to the late, great “Two Time Slammy Award-Winning King of Hearts” Owen Hart, my favorite wrestler of all time.

Attitude Era Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/the-attitude-era-podcast
Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/AttitudeEraPodcast 

It’s been a real pleasure to re-live these wrestling events with the lads from OSW Review and the Attitude Era Podcast, and every time they post a new episode, it feels like Christmas morning to me.

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      You know what, rap is music whether you like it or not.

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