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#JCPWCWWeek: Difference of Opinion (Ish?)

After having so much fun with the stables last month in celebration of the Survivor Series, we’ve decided to turn this December — and all Decembers in perpetuity — into Promotions Month. For a curtain jerker, we have WCW and its predecessor, Jim Crockett Promotions. This is the Final Day of #JCPWCWWeek, the fourteenth installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week Series. We mixed it up by giving you a crash course in JCP and WCW and asked you to Essentially View a Promotion You (Should) Probably Know Better. We exposed some harsh truths with the debut of Lies The WWE Told Us and quenched your thirst for Listicles with a Juice Make Sugar Top 10 List. Now, we end everything with a Difference of Opinion, where JMS HQ actually doesn’t erupt into a civil war. But if we did, it would take place inside of a Doomsday Cage.

Nick: This was a weird week for us. I’ve written extensively about WCW and you are a pretty big JCP fan: Although our press times wouldn’t tell you it, this was actually a pretty easy week for us.

Dave: Well, I’m not old enough to be a real JCP fan, but I appreciate the hell out of what I’ve seen. And I feel like this week and last we had a lot of good stuff to say, so times be damned, I felt like it was important to unload both barrels.

Nick: So, the opposite of next week’s promotion, ECW?

Dave: I love several ECW stars (Sabu is one of my all-time favorites), but the promotion as its story lines are the most overrated body of work ever.

Nick: Yeah, and I feel like WCW and JCP especially are “underrated”, inasmuch as that kind of thing exists.

Dave: Agreed! You took the words out of my mouth. Bagging on WCW is so en vogue that people forget the good years JCP/WCW put together.

Nick: Like, “Roy Hibbert” underrated And even when they were “crap”, it was still good. The FPOD wasn’t “bad” in and of itself, at least for me. It’s that it was indicative of a real sickness in the company itself, but it’s not the first time somebody’s thrown a match for a buddy.

Dave: As I wrote in my comment on your FPOD post, I think it was outrageously unnecessary… but not the dump on the chest of wrestling that a lot of people make it out to be.

Nick: And I’ve seen those late-period WCW PPVs. There are some REALLY good matches. 3 Count is REALLY REALLY REALLY GOOD.

Dave: Yeah, the quality of in-ring work was always insanely high outside of the main event in WCW. But most of their main eventers were either miles past their prime or larger than life characters who couldn’t deliver physically.

Nick: What’s weird is that almost all of the WCW fans I know NEVER gave a shit about the main event. At least in the sense that it being good was more of a bonus.

Dave: I feel like most of the WCW fans I know were in it for the match quality. Unlike WWF/E fans who love to engage in the top story lines.

Nick: As a life-long WWE mark I can attest to that. And I think that’s where WCW got into trouble. It wasn’t when they decided to get in the Hulk Hogan business, it was when they let him try to tell them to be like WWF. Where he ran roughshod over everyone with the idea that “the fans will love it, brother.”

Dave: Hey, look! It’s the same mistake TNA has been making the last decade!

Nick: That’s the most notable thing about JCP. It’s SO MUCH DIFFERENT than WWE.

Dave: Oh yeah. It’s SO sports-like.

Nick: Like, if you’re TNA, why aren’t you just recreating JCP now?

Dave: I couldn’t agree with you more.

Nick: And, I get it, WCW was primarily a television show first and a wrestling company second, but I totally agree with the guys on the Rise and Fall of WCW DVD, if JCP had stayed in the mid-Atlantic, they’d still be in business, probably national at this point. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if Magnum TA didn’t get into that car accident.

Dave: Magnum could definitely have been their Hulk Hogan. And, as you said, the Crockett name was so beloved in the Carolinas that their business could have stayed viable, but they got greedy, especially when they got the Road Warriors, and wanted to promote Chicago. JCP turned a great profit until they overextended themselves, whereas WCW intentionally operated at a loss in order to make money for TNN/Turner. People bag on Bischoff and Turner for handing out huge contracts, but the fact of the matter is that the expectation of WCW never to make money on its own. Which makes it unique in the history of big time wrestling.

Nick: Yeah, the difference between the WWF and WCW was always that WWF’s business, as I alluded to earlier, was the WWF and WCW’s business was “the wrestling show of a television network.” Whether or not they made any money was irrelevant. Things didn’t have to be sustainable, they just had to move the needle. And for a while, it worked. They were better at being “televised wrestling” than the WWF was at being the WWF. And it’s because they only had to be concerned about getting people to watch.

Dave: Right, they didn’t have to deal with nearly the same budgetary constraints.

Nick: Like, Bash at the Beach 1996 is the Platonic ideal of what a wrestling PPV is supposed to be. It’s almost a perfectly constructed wrestling show, and a singular moment in the history of wrestling. Purely in terms of “spectacle for which you would pay to see”, WrestleMania III is the only other one in the discussion. And that’s a TERRIBLE show, with one good match and one palpably important match, but that match is what made Hogan (spoiler alert) being the Third Man in ‘96.

Dave: This may be an unpopular opinion, but Hogan was much less of a piece of shit in WCW than he was in WWF. There were things he refused to do and guys he refused to put over, but it wasn’t like WWF where he wanted to be the only big star.

Nick: WrestleMania IX is 100X worse than the FPOD: It shits on his successor while making himself look like a million bucks, at least he just looked like an asshole after the Fingerpoke.

Dave: Yes, because WMIX actually involved undermining the five-year future of the company, whereas FPOD was done against another well-established top star with that guy’s consent (in fact, I think Nash had a hand in booking it.)

Nick: But, like I said, the FPOD of doom IS super important, because it is them blatantly giving up. They were literally saying “we can’t come up with something more interesting than Foley winning, so let’s just see how much heat we can get for something”.

Dave: The sad part is, the majority of wrestling writers still think that way: “How can we get the most heat on the heels?”

Nick: Which is the least WWE thing ever. The WWE is OBSESSED with “giving the people what they want”.

Dave: Rather than “How can we get heat on the heels to make the baby faces look good” And then when a company actually takes care of a top face (Cena), “smart” fans resent the hell out of it (as you and Andy have covered many times).

Nick: Exactly, people say “John Cena is Superman” because he never loses, but what they don’t get is that he never loses, because he’s Superman.

Dave: Yeah, you want to see Speed Racer in danger of losing the race, but he shouldn’t actually lose.

Nick: Daniel Bryan, Spiderman, is going to have to let Gwen Stacy die every once in a while. And CM Punk is always be angry, just like Batman.

Dave: It’s almost like these are time-tested archetypes…

Nick: And while I love that style, I think the real tragedy of WCW’s demise is that there will never be a truly viable alternative to that style in North America. There’s never going to be a professional wrestling organization that feels like a sports league again.

Dave: Absolutely. WWE has redefined the business in a way that has forever changed the discussion in a way that favors them.

Nick: Because they are Wrestling. When people say wrestling, they don’t mean TNA.

Dave: Right. Or ROH. Or Chikara. Or PWG…

Nick: You would be hardpressed to find someone who isn’t friends with a wrestling fan that has even heard of TNA. Most people in the country knew what WCW was.

Dave: Yeah, it’s pretty sad, but it’s a problem that seems impossible to solve.

Nick: So, to be clear, you don’t see TNA signing John Cena after they get bought by TNT when they lose the rights to the NBA, then get Punk and finally have Daniel Bryan/Big E. Langston to “invade” a few years later?

Dave: …Yeah, I think that’s safe to say. They’re still miles more successful than Pro Wrestling U.S.A., though.

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#JCPWCWWeek: Essentially Viewing A Promotion You Should Probably Know Better, Part Two

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After having so much fun with the stables last month in celebration of the Survivor Series, we’ve decided to turn this December — and all Decembers in perpetuity — into Promotions Month. For a curtain jerker, we have WCW and its predecessor, Jim Crockett Promotions. This is Day Two of #JCPWCWWeek, the fourteenth installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week Series. We mixed it up by making JCP and WCW a Promotion You (Should) Probably Know Better in two parts. Yesterday, we talked about the transition from JCP to WCW, and today we’re giving you the finer points of JCP’s oeuvre with some Essential Viewing then finishing the epic story of the great lost promotion of our time. On Wednesday, we’ll expose some harsh truths with the debut of Lies The WWE Told Us. After Hump Day — and throughout the week — we’ll be quenching your thirst for Listicles with a Juice Make Sugar Top 10 List and a couple of odds, before ending everything with a Difference of Opinion, where JMS HQ erupts in a civil war, which will take place inside of a Doomsday Cage.

It’s fundamentally impossible to provide an Essential Viewing of pre-80s Jim Crockett Promotions: there isn’t a lot of decent-quality surviving tape out there because it was over thirty years ago, and (as fans of Dr. Who know) it wasn’t uncommon practice as a cost-cutting measure to tape over old shows in the days of syndication and even if the video had survived, to internet generation types who post videos of wrestling online, anything before the computer revolution might as well be a blurry daguerreotype of a Civil War soldier’s ass.

And so, in spite of thirty years of prior history, we’ll touch on the biggest (and last) decade of JCP’s existence: the 1980s, before Nick provides undeniable video evidence that they took all of the greatness they had in North Carolina, moved to Atlanta, became WCW and crapped all over it.

In the 1970s, Wahoo had been a huge part of the Mid-Atlantic’s transition from featuring mostly tag teams (as I covered yesterday) to being a territory with legitimate main event singles matches. McDaniel legitimized first the Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship through his feuds with Johnny and Greg Valentine and then later the United States Title when it became JCP’s top singles title (not counting the traveling NWA’s World’s Champion.)

So when he took on Flair — who for anyone that managed to watch wrestling outside of the WWF’s considerable shadow was the 1980s in professional wrestling — it was undeniably fascinating, even if only to see the spectacle of the territory’s top star of ’75-’80 wrestling the top star of ’80-’88.

The fact that Flair and Wahoo held the World and U.S. title belts respectively places this match in the fall of ’81 during Flair’s first run as “The Man.” and while the match isn’t either man’s best, as Wahoo was past his prime at this point, Flair was a fantastic athlete at the time (as he was for much of his career) and coming into his own as a character. Furthermore, it’s interesting to see the tricks that Flair took from Wahoo and made his own: the way he paces the match early, the stiff chops to pop the crowd, the well-timed color, among others.

As the 80s took shape, Ric Flair’s talent and charisma were so evident that the Crocketts would have been fools not to hitch their wagon to him. Pushing Flair became the top priority of JCP (and by extension the NWA who they largely steered) to the point that the first Starrcade was literally called Starrcade ’83: A Flair For The Gold (which should have carried the subtitle: Spoiler Alert, He Wins).

In the build to Starrcade, the Crocketts cast Flair as the hometown boy about to make good by taking on big bad Midwesterner Harley Race. Flair wasn’t as magnificent a babyface as he was a heel, but he knew what to say and do and how to play to the fans in the Mid-Atlantic. This set of promos from the build-up to Starrcade shows Flair cutting promos on Race and pledging assistance and brotherhood to babyface (and once and future rival) Ricky Steamboat.

As we touched on last week with our Tully Blanchard feature, Jim Crockett Promotions at its height wasn’t just about Flair and Dusty, it was about robust cards filled from top to bottom with some of the greatest role players of all time. The mid-to-late 80s were a deep era for tag team wrestling in both the NWA and the WWF, and one of the Crocketts’ most valuable acts at the time was The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express.

Neither Ricky Morton nor Robert Gibson was a total package as a wrestler, but as a team they were one of the top ten acts of the 1980s. Even on worn out old tapes, their matches sound like Beatles concerts with near-constant high-pitched feminine screams throughout. Ricky Morton got the heat on heels with his selling as well as anybody every did, and Robert Gibson cleaned house in a way few wrestlers of his size ever could. If men (or in this case tag teams) are to be measured by the mark the make on history, The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express are one of the most important tag teams of all time. Easily half of the babyface tag teams that followed them from The Rockers to The Hardy Boyz were direct imitations of the The Express.

This match sees The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express take on NWA Tag Team Champions Ivan Koloff & Krusher Krueschev (two evil Soviets played by a Canadian and a guy from Minnesota). The match is ‘80s tag team psychology at its best and helps illustrate how good both wrestlers and promoters were at giving the fans what they wanted to see at this point.

As our journey finds us in 1985, it would be impossible to write anything about Jim Crockett Promotions resembling Essential Viewing without talking about Hard Times. As we covered last week, The Four Horsemen broke Dusty Rhodes’ ankle in maybe the biggest injury angle of all time. When Dusty came back, he cut the now-legendary Hard Times promo, connecting his own suffering as a wrestler to that of working class Americans whose industrial jobs were suffering in the early days of Reaganomics. Hard Times is to wrestling as Born in the U.S.A. is to rock music. Was it presumptuous for the rich and famous Rhodes to compare himself to struggling laborers? Probably. Did it get him white hot over? You know it!

In the latter half of the 80s, Jim Crockett Promotions’ goal was to wrap up the pantheon-level Dusty-Horsemen feud in a way that created the next big star to lead the NWA. The Crocketts and booker Dusty Rhodes were heavily invested in pushing Terry Allen, known as Magnum T.A. (Tom Selleck pun? Yeah, we’re in the 80s.) as the next top babyface in the territory. Allen brought a lot to the table: he had a good look, could talk so well he often did color commentary, and understood how to build sympathy and build a comeback.

Dusty rubbed Magnum T.A. the only way he knew how: by putting him storylines with the great Dusty Rhodes. Rhodes’ self-centeredness aside, the plan worked, and following a fantastic feud with Tully Blanchard (some things just keep coming up, don’t they?) that culminated in their brutal, amazing I Quit cage match at Starrcade ’85, Terry Allen looked well on his way to becoming the next face of Jim Crockett Promotions.

This match shows Magnum at the height of his babyface powers taking on Nikita Koloff. Nikita was not a great worker, but he had tons of Cold War heat and played his character well. This match displays everything that was right with Terry Allen. If you close your eyes and imagine an alternate course of history, you can see how the guy who wrestled this match could have gone on to do big things.

Unfortunately for JCP, wrestling fans, and most of all, Terry Allen himself, Allen was involved in a horrific car wreck in the fall of ’86 that left him paralyzed and ended his career. In addition to being a tragedy on a human level, Allen’s accident was a kick between the legs to JCP and the NWA, who were close to putting their eggs in his basket.

In an interesting turn of events, with Magnum T.A. unable to wrestle, Dusty and the Crocketts decided to turn his rival Nikita Koloff babyface. In a move that shook the foundations of Cold War wrestling booking, Koloff showed sympathy for his injured opponent and essentially claimed to fight in his honor in spite of their political differences.

Two years later, Jim Crockett Promotions would be out of gas and out of money. The loss of Magnum T.A., the cost of jet fuel, and the company’s decision to serve two masters by promoting nationally while still trying to stay a regional company all came together into a thick, meaty stew of failure. The Crocketts, The Horsemen, and Dusty Rhodes had created some of the greatest wrestling moments of all time during the ‘80s, but they had been crushed by the weight of their own ambitions. Even though Ted Turner acquired JCP’s roster, title belts, and lineage, something died when the last great regional promotion became a cable TV show.

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After making it through much of the pre-nWo fiascoes following the transition of the organization from the wrestling offshoot of a promotions company to the wrestling offshoot of a media company.

Even though it marked a paradigm shift as massive as anything the industry had seen before, Hulk Hogan turn into “Hollywood” Hogan at 1996’s Bash at the Beach wasn’t even the most remarkable thing that happened that night, nor would it have the longest-lasting impact on the industry. That distinction belong to the first match of the night, a lucha libre barnburner between Psicosis and Rey Mysterio, Jr:

The bout, which ends after a top-rope powerbomb from Psicosis being reversed into a hurricanrana by Mysterio, gives a delicious slice of the true lesson/legacy of WCW, and its predecessor, Jim Crockett Promotions, the idea that being a global phenomenon in the world of professional wrestling means doing everything, and doing it well. A card from the golden era of post-NWA WCW — essentially between the ‘96 Great American Bash, from just one month before this match to July 6, 1998, when Goldberg defeated Hulk Hogan on an episode of Nitro (for free) — is like remind you of what most of the cards for WWE PPVs look like today, with an eclectic mix of performers, gimmicks and story lines that scream “there’s something here for everyone, we promise!”.

But, as we talked about yesterday, this was the Terry Bollea show. Instead of allowing the things that needed to happen to build a company around the wattage and heat that came from the nWo’s name on the marquee, Bollea — along with Nash, Hall and eventually Vince Russo — would do seemingly whatever it took to keep their names in lights.

The nuts and bolts story of WCW’s downfall is well-tread, even by yours truly. There are pressures points that are brought up constantly: ending Goldberg’s streak with a cattle prod, the Fingerpoke of Doom, Ric Flair being declared insane and ending up at a mental institution, the Russo-Hogan incident, Ed Ferrara’s raison d’etre:

Which makes sense, as these moments, and the moments like them are “what” caused WCW to fail. The “why”, comes from a much different place, though. Someone in charge thought most of these were a good idea, whether it was for the company, for wrestling or for themselves. That’s the only explanation for letting people like Chris Jericho, William Regal, Eddy Guerrero, Dean Malenko, HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED and Brian Pillman go, even after matches like these:

Unlike JCP, who was put out of business WWF largely through backroom political/business maneuvering and machinations, WCW’s “lost” the battle against Vince McMahon much more than he won it. And because of this, WCW’s demise meant something much larger. Ending the way it did didn’t just mean that the WWE had lost a competitor for cultural hegemony. It meant it had lost competition for cultural hegemony, period.

By proving unable to beat out WWE even with piles of Ted Turner’s money, it created a vacuum both inside the industry — by leaving almost the entirety of recorded wrestling in the hands of one entity — and wreaked havoc on any other high-profile media company — the only people who could possibly match WWE’s production values and marketing muscle — ever trying to reach for the throne again.

We’ll spend more time this week talking about what that all means, but ultimately, it means that professional wrestling is worse off for what happened to WCW, and because of that, we’re all worse off. Period.

A Promotion You Should Probably Know Better: JCP and WCW, Part One

After having so much fun with the stables last month in celebration of the Survivor Series, we’ve decided to turn this December — and all Decembers in perpetuity — into Promotions Month. For a curtain jerker, we have WCW and its predecessor, Jim Crockett Promotions. This is the First Day of #JCPWCWWeek, the fourteenth installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week Series and we’re going to mix it up, by making JCP and WCW a Promotion You (Should) Probably Know Better in two parts. Today, we’re talking about the transition from JCP to WCW and tomorrow, in addition to giving you the finer points of the company’s oeuvre with some Essential Viewings, we’ll finish the epic story of the great lost promotion of our time. On Wednesday, we’ll expose some harsh truths with the debut of Lies The WWE Told Us. After Hump Day — and throughout the week — we’ll be quenching your thirst for Listicles with a Juice Make Sugar Top 10 List and a couple of odds and ends, where JMS HQ erupts in a civil war, which will take place inside of a Doomsday Cage.

The history of Jim Crockett Promotions is in some ways the chronological inverse of the history of the WWE. JCP started out as, well, a promotion company. Jim Crockett Sr. put together wrestling cards starting in the 1930s, but he wasn’t just in the wrestling game, he was in the live event game. JCP helped bring popular music acts of the day to the Charlotte, North Carolina area while also organizing and marketing legitimate sporting exhibitions in a region that did not yet have any professional teams. When the NWA formed, Crockett was granted exclusive rights to promote in the Carolinas and Virginia (branded as “the Mid-Atlantic”). This instantly made wrestling the moneymaking backbone of JCP because they didn’t have to compete with other promoters for talent – they owned wrestling in the Carolinas.

Looking back, it’s fascinating to think that JCP started out promoting music and legitimate sport and then transitioned into wrestling in order to have absolute control over a particular market. WWE, the biggest wrestling company of all time, started as a powerful wrestling promotion with absolute control over a particular region, but sought to branch out into more competitive arenas such as movies and sport. Jim Crockett Sr. promoted outdoor sporting events seventy years before the XFL – and he was much more successful at it!

Before Jim Crockett Jr. became NWA President in the early 80s, JCP was known mostly as a tag team territory. Tag team wrestling was extremely popular with fans in the 70s because the format provided natural drama and, in an era with fewer professional sports teams, babyface tag teams gave fans a local brand to believe in.

More fundamentally, tag team wrestling was extremely popular with promoters because you could pack a card with wrestlers and keep costs down. The line of thought went something like this: “All the workers know I have 100 beans to pay out for my main event. If I have a singles main event, I will pay each of those men 50 beans, which will set the precedent that wrestlers can expect to make 50 beans per night. If I have a tag team main event, each man gets 25 beans, which is an amount I’m comfortable paying people.” The goal was control, and in the tag team era, Jim Crockett Promotions were masters of it, which helped them become one of the most profitable and powerful promotions in the country.

In the early 80s, largely due to Jim Jr.’s presidency of the NWA, Jim Crockett Promotions scored several major coups.

The company partnered with Dusty Rhodes, one of the creative masterminds of the day, to put together Starrcade, wrestling’s first nationally-televised supercard. Dusty understood the importance of bringing wrestling national, and the Crocketts had the money to make it happen with the production values the show would need to get over.

The Crocketts built the entire show around hometown hero Ric Flair winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Harley Race. Flair had held the title before, but the platform created by the pageantry of Starrcade made his win one of the biggest moments many NWA fans had ever seen. It also, more importantly to the Crocketts, gave meant that “their guy” would be the champion, giving the promotion a significant amount of control over the title. This meant even more money for the promotion, as they could make extra money booking Flair out around the world and control the overall direction of the NWA.

The final coup that put JCP on the top of the heap was reclaiming the Saturday afternoon timeslot that Vince McMahon had snatched away from the NWA on the legendary “Black Saturday.” This put Mid-Atlantic Championship Wrestling on a nationwide cable system and made them partners with Ted Turner, the most influential businessman of the era in television.

David Crockett and Jim Jr. were not the savvy, bottom-line businessmen that their father had been, however. They were just as into living The Four Horsemen lifestyle as The Horsemen, and while they were drawing great gates, the expenses of their superior production values were catching up to them. Famously, the Crocketts bought two private jets to shuttle their stars around the country to various shows. While the price of jet fuel alone did not tip the balance sheet towards loss, the use of the jets was the ultimate example for how the company had fallen into 1980s excess.

Ultimately, the expenses and the aggressive growth of the WWF caught up to the Crocketts, and by late 1988, they were struggling to keep the lights on. Their television partner, Ted Turner, who loved professional wrestling and felt it an important building block of his network, bought the company for a song as it teetered on bankruptcy (an action that would be repeated less than 15 years later) and renamed it World Championship Wrestling.

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And transition from JCP to WCW is a strange one, significantly stranger than the one between Dave and I for this piece.

For all the pomp and circumstance that the lifestyle of the Horsemen entitled, anyone watching a  JCP show wasn’t going to find much in the way of WWF-style Sports Entertainment. A rugged bunch of Good Ole Boys, like the aforementioned Horsemen and Dusty, along with highly athletic performers like Sting and the Steiners formed the backbone of the preeminent wrestling company in the US.

Which is why it was so odd when WCW decided to get into bed with Hulk Hogan, the avatar for Vince McMahon’s Grecian wet dream/vision for what professional wrestling was supposed to be. And along with Hogan — and Randy “Macho Man” Savage, who actually received a fond farewell from then-only-a-announcer-on-TV Vince McMahon after leaving the company for the greener pastures of Ted Turner’s money — came the exact type of over-the-top spectacle tied in a stale storyline that had left the WWF in financial shambles for several years after Hogan’s departure.

Even things like a three-story Doomsday Cage (no, not the Dave Arquette one from Ready to Rumble/Vince Russo’s WCW) match would be overshadowed in terms of weirdness, contrivance and, most importantly, public ridicule by things like a Monster Truck Sumo Match ON TOP OF A BUILDING. That the reason for the (pardon the pun) over-the-top location was so that The Giant (The Big Show, Paul Wight) could pretend to fall off the roof before coming back during the main event (read: aborted match-cum-Hulk Hogan promo) to win the WCW championship BY DISQUALIFICATION.

Needless to say, fans were not buying into an even worse version of the exact things they hated about Hogan, no matter how many times he flexed. Which is why what happened at 1996’s edition of Bash at the Beach felt so epic (which it was), unprecedented (which it essentially was), and like a portent of positive things to come and the possible end of WWF’s reign as the top promotion in the top market for wrestling in the entire world (which it absolutely was not).

While Hogan turning on the frenemies like Randy Savage and the fans appeared to be the important part of what happened, much more significant was him turning on “the company Up North”, and by extension, his entire legacy of as the Immortal Hulk Hogan. In turning heel, he was rejecting not just his former character, but the notion that his success was due to anyone other than Terry Bollea. Tomorrow, we’ll see just how well that turned out.

5,000 Views, All Thanks To You

We reached 5,000 views last month, a Juice Make Sugar milestone. This has been a lot of fun so far, and in the next few months we’ll be ramping up everything: adding more original video content, a podcast and, if we can get it together, a full site redesign (as opposed to our schizophrenic theme switches every few weeks.)  For now, we’ll just leave this video, in celebration of #4HorsemenWeek:

#4HorsemenWeek: Difference of Opinion

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It’s the Final Day of #4HorsemenWeek. In celebration of this month’s Survivor Series, we’re taking a look at famous stables from the wonderful world of wrestling. This is the thirteenth installment in our patent-pending Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. As always we started by making The Horsemen a Stable You (Should) Probably Know Better. Tuesday, we gave you the finer points of their oeuvre with some Essential Viewing. Today, in addition to filling in the blanks from the past two days (Happy Thanksgiving!) we have an actual Difference of Opinion (and not, as suspected, a celebration of the Horsemen’s specific brand of awesome.) 

Dave: Hey, Bray. *Brah Damn you autocorrect.

Nick: Bray is fine. My nickname in high school (not the one I gave myself, The Nickster) was Dr. Cornelius. So being called a fat guy from Florida isn’t that bad.

Dave: Wow. That’s a cross-generational burn right there. I’m impressed anybody we went to high school with was even aware of Planet of the Apes. (Outside of the Simpsons Dr. Zaius joke)

Nick: Charlton Heston is an American icon. And people love talking animals.

Dave: Truth.

Nick: And there are no greater American icons than the Four Horsemen.

Dave: If you’re talking 1980s wrestling, are The Horsemen collectively as big as Hogan?

Nick: I think in the wrestling fan zeitgeist, yes. In the zeitgeist zeitgeist? Not so much. I blame Notre Dame more for that, though. Or God.

Dave: I think in terms of being an act on top of a promotion, they were better than Hogan, but as you say, in terms of empire-building cultural icons, they’re not close to him. It’s a funny comparison to start making (which is why I made it right away).

Nick: Well, when you have something like the Horsemen, you don’t compare it to Oregon or LSU, you compare it to Bear Bryant. They are oddly timeless in a way because they are just hyper indicative of a specific era in time. They weirdly remind me of the Road Warriors in that way.

Dave: Oh yeah, nothing’s more 80s than The Horsemen. Private jets? Check. Conspicuous consumption? Check. Cocaine. Check.

Nick: I actually don’t think they checked the cocaine, David. I think they brought that directly on the private jet.

Dave: *Rimshot*

Nick: But when talking about their greatness, are we talking about the original team (give or take an Anderson) or the entire “franchise”?

Dave: It’s funny you bring that up because it’s a dilemma I was having all week. I think when you say “The Four Horsemen,” people think of Arn, Ole, Tully, Flair, and J.J. Dillon. And that lineup was undeniably great. But, honestly, it’s not even fun to talk about Lex Luger or Barry Windham or Steve freaking McMichael being Horsemen. The second the group stopped being something organically awesome and started being a brand to get over guys and angles, it lost a lot of its mystique.

Nick: To the level that the nWo did? Or was this more of a Corporate Ministry “this is a little contrived” situation?

Dave: If anything, I’d compare it to The Corporation, in that today’s “The Authority” is still basically The Corporation in it’s 10th incarnation.Some incarnations have been very good (The original, The “McMahon-Helmsley Regime”) and others have been bad (Austin Loves Vince, Anything involving Linda)…

Nick: Ignoring the heights, then, is there any “franchise” that is on the Four Horsemen’s level?

Dave: No, I don’t think anything’s even close. Look at Arn Anderson, he’s an awesome tough guy midcard wrestler, but because he was a member of The Four Horsemen, he’s this pantheon star. Even failed Horsemen like Paul Roma’s names will be remembered forever because they were Horsemen.

Nick: And you’re saying people don’t say the same things about The Mean Street Posse?

Dave: I’ll say this: Pete Gas sounds like something you get after eating spoiled vegetarian food.

Nick: *Rimshot* I know we talked about this “off air”, but what about The Shield?

Dave: If I could groan through the computer screen here, I would. Look, The Shield are talented guys, and they are over, but they are not even on the same planet as The Four Horsemen.

Nick: How so?

Dave: Well, for one, The Shield are lackeys. They do other people’s dirty work. Not only were The Horsemen not lackeys, they didn’t want lackeys of their own. They were all about handling business “like men,” to use the jargon of the time. Also, and I touched on this in Monday’s A Stable You Should Probably Know Better, The Four Horsemen brought prestige and a “must-see” feel to all the titles they held. And, honestly, I’m digging down deep to find more forgettable title reigns than The Shield have had.

Nick: The Shield definitely did that with the Tag Team belts.

Dave: See, I completely disagree. They dropped them to the right team (The Rhodeses), but I thought their title reign was boring. There’s a difference to being serious title holders and just standing there with the belts on your shoulder to “raise your profile.” To me, it felt like they were just standing there with the belts.

Nick: The crowd seemed to vehemently disagree.

Dave: Right, but as I said before, their heat has largely been an extension of being lackeys for people like Heyman and the Authority, so it wasn’t really even all their heat.

Nick: Isn’t that, as you’ll touch on today, a function of the era, though? They had to bring in them as Heyman’s mercenaries (which is what they’ve been “branded” as, at the very least) and the reason the belt profile wasn’t raised is because no one raises the belt’s profile no one can raise a belt’s profile anymore.

Dave: Well, I think there are “generational differences” as you point out (such as the prestige/portrayal of all non-top champions), but if we were doing the “lick your finger and stick it in the air” test, I think it would be pretty foolhardy to say The Shield were nearly as over as The Horsemen. Could The Shield carry the WWE for three years?

Nick: Well, they’ve only been around for a year, and there’s acceleration now because of the amount of content that comes out, but they’ve been the “Big Dogs in the Yard” for nearly entirety of the last year.

Dave: See, I think we’re hitting on a major problem that emerges when you’re talking about wrestling. They’re *booked* to be the “Big Dogs in the Yard,” but do they actually cause you to suspend disbelief and buy into that? In spite of their great matches with Daniel Bryan, did they ever seen like a threat to him? Would you be scared for John Cena if he crossed paths with them? I think they’re booked to feel like The Four Horsemen, but I think the final presentation falls well short of Horsemen-calibur.

Nick: Yes? I mean, I do. Reigns just destroyed the guy who they call The Best in the World. And won a Survivor Series match by himself. I think what I am saying is that if you don’t think the Shield are on the same planet as The Horsemen. Then you’d pretty much have to believe that nothing will ever be. Is that how you feel?

Dave: I think the original line-up of the nWo (Hall, Nash, Syxx, and Hogan) was close… I think the Triple H, Road Dogg, X-Pac, Billy Gunn version of DX was sort of close also… But in the final analysis, I think The Four Horsemen are just their own deal. Everything that came afterwards is inherently a cheap imitation.

Nick: Even the other Horsemen.

Dave: Exactly.

#TheNationWeek: Difference of Opinion

NationOfDomination

It’s the Final Day of #TheNationWeek. In celebration of this month’s Survivor Series, we’re taking a look at famous stables from the wonderful world of wrestling. This is the twelfth installment in our patent-pending Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. As always we started by making The Nation A Stable You (Should) Probably Know Better, then gave you the finer points of their oeuvre tomorrow with some Essential Viewing. On Wednesday, we gave everyone the opportunity to Watch and Learn, then After Hump Day, we got our BuzzFeed on with a Top 10 List. Finally, we’re finishing everything off today with a Difference of Opinion (where JMS HQ hopefully doesn’t erupt in a giant race kerfuffle like that episode of Community.) 

Nick: Boy?

Daron: Howdy

Nick: Are you busy for the next 15-20 minutes? Or, at any point today? I want to talk to you about #TheNation for Difference of Opinion.

Daron: Of course.

Nick: Not because you are black. If it was because you’re black, I’d pick someone better. It’s because you’re old.

Daron: Awww, you always know how to objectify a girl for just the right reasons.

Nick: I was worried that was a long walk for a “you’re old” joke but it seems like it was worth it.

Daron: If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that the beauty of having known someone for so long is in being able to set up a joke from a mile away. I think we were talking about how corporations are taxed once, and I wove into an excuse to call Dustin fat.

Nick: To be fair, that guy deserves it.

Daron: I mean, sure. But the point is about the journey

Nick: Speaking of the journey, which was a bigger deal for you: Barack Obama getting elected president or The Rock joining the Nation?

Daron: That is genuinely tough, seeing as how I was a mark for Ahmed. And anybody messing with my Pearl River Powerhouse was on the shit end of my favor.

Nick: Ahmed got messed with a lot. By Faarooq. By calorie intake.

Daron: Barack was certainly more surprising, but I was more emotionally affected by Rock’s betrayal of Ahmed. Also, because he was still that squeaky clean not-so-cool guy at the time Although, he had begun doing the Urinage, which I thought was awesome

Nick: Yeah, looking back, it’s very weird to think about The Rock as Rocky Maivia. Not because it feels fake, but because if you were capable of the former, why would you ever act like the latter?

Daron: Because back then, right before the attitude era, the company thought there was still money to be made in faces. At least old school eat-your-vitamin faces Though, they weren’t out of line for thinking that. It was essentially them thinking, “If you work hard, act honestly, and remain reliable, you can make it in this world,” and hoping people would resonate with it. They always had before. Who knew they wanted a bank robber?

Nick: A handsome bank robber. Who did a weird thing with his eyebrows.

Daron: And bragged about it.

Nick: The best part of looking back at the Nation for me, was how upsetting all the heel turns were.

Daron: Oh man, Mark was an Olympian! How could someone who went to the OLYMPICS be a bad guy?

Nick: *Smash cut to Kurt Angle circling a Burger King screaming “I GOT HER CELL PHONE”*

Daron: touche

Nick: Given your advanced age when this was happening, did it resonate with you at all? I was confused by it, because I was super white. I was definitely intrigued, but more in a “I can’t believe they are saying these things!” than a “yeah, fucking white people!”. They were actually saying things like “this shit is racist”.

Daron: To be fair, I remained largely oblivious to the socio-cultural ramifications and/or undertones of things they said I mean, I heard them. And I can remember Farooq saying a few things while being a mite perturbed. But my usage of “mite perturbed” should give you some insight into how in touch I am with The Struggle ™. The absolute most exciting thing about the presence of the Nation to me was the fact that their initial creation spawned two other groups who could all fight each other. it was way more about faces and heels than races or feels.

Nick: So your favorite moments involving the Nation were the race wars?

Daron: Stable Wars, Nick. They were the Stable Wars. That is genuinely all I saw.

Nick: Which for me, is weird. Growing up, they were the “Black Power” stable. And while I definitely think the WWE has moved away from that as their legacy, it’s odd to see someone who watched it along with me not get the “racism” pang every time you see the No KFC graffiti they did in their locker room.

Daron: Completely missed that. Mind you, I may have also only been able to watch Superstars and Shotgun at/around that time

Nick: No cable?

Daron: I had fuzzy cable channels, so I heard what was going on and caught the recaps on Shotgun Saturday nights. To me, The Nation was the power group who had all the best finishers.

Nick: You were a fan of the Sky High?

Daron: Thing. Of. Beauty. And the Dominator is just one of the meanest moves ever. Rock Bottom, Pearl River Plunge, the Lo-Down. Even Mizark’s splash was impressive because, well, Mizark. DoA were the tall biker dudes who used to have different gimmicks 5 years prior: Crush, Eli and Jacob Blu with a feisty Dutch Mantell as Uncle Zebediah. And Los Bouricuas were the guys who did spinning wheel kicks and head scissors all the time. This might all actually be because I spent a lot of the time just listening to what was happening and not seeing it or because I was too thick for my own good. Either way.

Nick: Does that mean that The Nation doesn’t feel that important to you as a wrestling fan? In other words, one of the many reasons The Nation felt like a group worth doing for Wrestler(s) of the Week was because they were the first prominent black stable.

Daron: It was important, but not because they were the first black stable. Like I said, that little niche was about the Stable Wars to me. It also helped spawn DX, which, good or bad depending on where you sit. I was largely unfamiliar with Ron Simmons’ work in WCW at the time

Nick: In other words, them being black was entirely neutral attribute for them?

Daron: I can’t say entirely neutral, but it wasn’t why my butt was getting put in the seat. I didn’t like them because they were black and I happened to be black. I liked them because they had a Great theme song and a ton of talent

Nick: Does that extend to other performers? In other words, was it just that you couldn’t see them? Or, going behind the curtain, does your fandom of Shelton Benjamin or MVP work the same way?

Daron: I chalk it up to being largely oblivious to social undertones…and overtones.
I liked Shelton because he was part of WGTT and came in under Kurt and I liked MVP because his gimmick was Hilarious. I can say that for them, as with Ahmed, I did hope they were successful because they were black because I’m still waiting on the first black WWE champion. Just to see who does it first.

Nick: Whether or not you “like” them is separate from whether or not you want them to be successful. Would you root for Kofi to have more success than, let’s say Justin Gabriel?

Daron: They go hand in hand, but they are two separate criteria I “like” Heath Slater, but I don’t ever want him near a big belt. I hope Kofi is successful, but I think he’s a piece of shit

Nick: You want them to set precedents in a business that essentially requires them?

Daron: I just like it when records are broken

Nick: It’s not even a sentimental thing?

Daron:
I would have been as enthused by Ahmed beating Taker for the belt as I was when Shawn took it to the house at the Rumble. Because neither had been done before. In the case of a black wrestler being champion, sentimental, no. Emotional, a little more now, since I’m aware of more things. Which, actually, ties me back to the original question. I am fully aware of the significance of Barack Obama being elected president and why that’s a huge deal. I get the sentiment involved .But I’m not really affected by the sentiment as much I am able to just live vicariously through the reactions of others for whom it’s monumental.

Nick: Wait, I’m confused: you are saying you are an individual who enjoys the happiness and interest of others?

Daron: Basically.

Nick: But not necessarily based on your personal attachment to them based on things like skin color? This doesn’t make any sense.

Daron: Let me give you an example: One of my favorite moments ever was when Miz got the belt. Because we all KNEW how much that meant to him, and it broke through his character at the time in his reaction. That it affected him so much affected me. I didn’t think it was somehow a win for me, since I was rooting for him Much the same way that I wouldn’t consider it a win for me if, going back to it, Ahmed beat Taker for the belt I would be able to recognize that others considered it a big deal for their varying reasons and appreciate the moment for those reasons.

Nick: That sounds kind of new age, but I guess I have to accept it.

Daron: It’s not new age, I’m just oblivious to things and have to piecemeal emotional reactions. Like laughing at the joke that went over my head after everyone else already started

Nick: So, stripped of anything we just talked about, and in the larger idea of wrestling as a whole, how do you feel about The Nation in terms of their place in history?

Daron: Their place in history, huge. While they grossly misused Ron Simmons, they gave us Mark, Dwayne, and almost gave us Ahmed. And, in the larger historical sense it was probably the best “black” gimmick the company has ever had. Much better than, “you’re black, here’s a rap intro. Now go do that stuff I’ve seen you guys do on tv”

Nick: Wait, is that what Cryme Tyme was?

#TheShieldWeek: Difference of Opinion

TheShieldBW

It’s the Final Day of #TheShieldWeek. In celebration of this month’s Survivor Series, we’re taking a look at famous stables from the wonderful world of wrestling. This is the tenth installment in our patent-pending Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series, and as always we started by making The Shield a Stable You (Should) Probably Know Better. On Tuesday, we gave you the finer points of their oeuvre with some Essential Viewing. But then we changed everything up. We gave Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Dean Ambrose their own days. Today, along with giving Dean the spotlight with Watch & Learn and his own GIF Parade, we have a Difference of Opinion (where JMS HQ erupts in a Triple Powerbomb-fueled civil war) and everyone’s favorite, a 10 Best list of the Top Military Gimmicks.    

Andy: Ready when you are. Just forgive any slow responses.

Nick: I’m used to them from you. #Boom Sorry. #AirBoom. God, I miss Evan Bourne. If Seth Rollins ever leaves the Shield, I want them to replace him with Evan Bourne

Andy: You’ve had worse ideas. And he’s definitely capable of being the pretty-boy heel with super flashy moves. It worked out nicely in ROH.

Nick: Could he fit into the group dynamic? I think that — and how handsome Wrestling Tumblr thinks they are — may be the main reason for their ridiculous success. Everything seems to fit with them.

Andy: I think the bigger part of it is their appeal to the wrestling audience en masse. You’ve got Roman Reigns as their unbelievabe bruiser, Seth Rollins as the flyer (and bump-taker) and Ambrose as the charismatic work horse.

Nick: So, are you saying others could have been this over with this gimmick? Are you saying that could have been a The Shield’s “Mark Jindrak”?

Andy: Could it have gotten over? Sure. As over as it is now? Probably not. And forget Evolution – Mexico is the best thing that ever happened to Mark Jindrak.

Nick: Is that where Rollins is heading after this whole thing finishes or do you think he can be worth something in the E? Other than as the Rich Man’s Dolph Ziggler, I mean.

Andy: It really depends on his character. If they let him develop one, and a motivation for his actions, I think he can get over beyond “the jumpy Shield guy.” We’ve talked about how Ambrose has “it,” and how Reigns is destined for a title shot… but Rollins is going to have to fight for it. Otherwise, Tyler Black will be making his Impact Wrestling debut in 2014.

Nick: Who out of the other two has the bigger career, do you think? It’s obviously hard to project into the future, but is this an Orton-Batista situation where Ambrose and Reigns have equally successful careers following this run?

Andy: I feel like they WANT it to be Reigns, but I think it’s Ambrose. I think Reigns pulls a Batista and disappears after a few years, but Ambrose is Orton. He’s the guy that (pardon the pun) evolves with time, and stays at or near the top of the card.

Nick: Yeah, they love Reigns. For obvious reasons. He’s Vince McMahon’s wet Samoan dream, I hope he can handle the pressure. And stay healthy, of course.

Andy: He seems to be doing well so far. Hopefully, he stays injury-free, and avoids short-sighted Tweets.

Nick: What’s been strangest to me through this entire thing is that they’ve only briefly teased Reigns turning face, but you just know it’s coming.

Andy: The more subtle it is, the better. They don’t need to rush this, at all.

Nick: Oh, agreed. But they have such a tendency to hot-shot this stuff. It’s probably their greatest flaw, even if it’s so clearly a function of the business.

Andy: They should learn from Ryback. And Orton’s initial face turn out of Evolution. If you hot shot it, you can do serious damage to these guys’ characters and careers. And most importantly, their connection with the crowd.

Nick: Yeah, the crowd already likes these guys, there’s no need to turn them into Shiny Happy People out of the gate. They can still be dicks for a little while.

Andy: I like the bit of ambiguity they’ve been playing with. Telling Orton to screw off, brawling with the Wyatts… but still annihilating babyfaces.

Nick: Yeah, I wrote about this at the beginning of the week, they have been mercenaries the entire time. Them lying about being mercenaries was the only thing that made them “bad” guys. Lying isn’t cool, the WWE Universe hates lying. Defiling corpses, alcoholism, misogyny? That’s fine. But be honest about it, for crissakes.

Andy: You’ve got a point there. Which is terrifying.

Nick: Speaking of being afraid, very afraid, how long of a run do you think they have left as presently constituted? I give them WrestleMania AT BEST. Which, mind you, is six months or so away, but still. I can’t imagine a world without the Shield.

Andy: Mania would actually be best, probably. All the part-timers disappear, and these guys can step up and fill some of those positions. That can be Reigns’ or Ambrose’s frst chance to battle for the World Heavyweight Championship.

Nick: The Prestigious World Heavyweight Championship??

Andy: If it’s in Cena’s hands, it matters. Reigns vs Cena or Ambrose vs Cena could be really, really good.

Nick: Are you saying that Ambrose needs to eventually move past being US champion? But, Andy, RIC FLAIR WAS US CHAMPION.

Andy: US title only matters as often as he defends it.

Nick: In other words, you believe that Ambrose — and Reigns/Rollins — have actually added prestige back to the US and Tag Team titles?

Andy: I think so. It felt like a really big deal when Cody and Goldy won the tag belts. Depending who takes it, the same should happn whe Ambrose loses the US title. And hopefully, he looks good in defeat.

Nick: Handsome, anyways. Is that their ultimate legacy? Bringing prestige back to the mid-card? Or is it the Six-man tag revolution? Or something else entirely?

Andy: If nothing else, they revitalized the idea of a powerful midcard stable. They came in, shook things up, KILLED main eventers credibly and still managed to build the mid-card around them. And they’re far from done.

Nick: And if there’s anything that you’d want to be your legacy, it’s bringing back the glory days of the Varsity Club and the Dangerous Alliance. It’s enough to make you believe that anything is possible…

Andy: BELIEVE IN DA SHIELD

Nick: Got you to say it. You now owe me 50 dollars.