Tag Archives: Mark Henry

Odds and Ends, Fits and Starts: Raw Regurgitated, 12/2

It’s hard to say if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that CM Punk was the person I least enjoyed listening to in a three-way conversation between himself, Kane and Stephanie. At the very least, Corporate Kane has very quickly become my new favorite gimmick remix, replacing long standing champion of my heart, Matt V1. That’s right, I’m a proud MFer.

Stephanie’s a pretty awful actress — which is more than okay considering that she still manages to be better than Dixie Carter and understands how to serve as corporate executive for a business that isn’t the professional wrestling equivalent of a sinking ship on fire — but she plays “awful/detached insanely rich person” like Meryl Streep.

The real problem with the WWE: They won’t let people get over by giving them nearly insurmountable odds against new stars so that they could get over with the crowd by doing the seemingly impossible. If they did that , they could use that narrative dynamic to sell one of the 6-8 PPVs — depending on how one feels about buying the Survivor Series and/or Extreme Rules every year– that don’t sell themselves, while making stars out of everyone involved. If only they did that, things would be so much better.

***

Odds that Dolph Ziggler would face Big E. this early in his IC championship reign for the belt at a PPV: 1,000 to 1. Odds that Damien Sandow beats Langston for the title at TLC: 1,000 to 1. Odds E. loses that belt to Dolph Ziggler at the end of his run: Pick ‘Em. Odds Ziggler faces E. for the Unified Undisputed World War Wrestling Championship Belt Title after Langston wins it: 1,000,000 to 1.

If they are doing “Summer Rae is a female version of Fandango in the ring” with this “dancing while wrestling” thing, it might be the best news in the history of wrestling, because Here Comes the Emmalution. But if they are just having her do this because that’s what they think ladywrestling should be, they might as well just keep the women of NXT down in Florida until they all retire.

Things that are beautiful, but not long for this world: sunsets, a refreshing breeze, #BadNewsBarrett

***

*** WARNING: YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE! *** PLEASE KEEP EYES AND EARS INSIDE OF KAYFABE AT ALL TIMES *** Man, they should just give Daniel Bryan a shovel, so he can dig his own grave, amirite? Anyone who thinks this Wyatt storyline isn’t fantastic — even with the fits and starts with Daniel Bryan’s whereabouts that 8% of the crowd actually worries about — is a bummer on the level of people who that John Cena has been the most popular performer in the company for the last ten years because of politics. And those people are as depressing as Hulk Hogan being the most popular performer in the world for 20 years because of politics.

And in all this Bray Wyatt “join me” business, while it’s hard to say what’s going to happen, the real interesting dynamic is whether Wyatt is trying to con Bryan, or whether he just wants him to turn heel. The former screams “Hero’s Journey,” while the other leads to a feud with CM Punk — after he nobly dispatches the Shield by himself in a parallel storyline.

This is pretty much the perfect “midcard” feud: it has tons of intrigue and even more stakes, but doesn’t involve a major title, won’t be featured at the end of any show and never be truly resolved, and still serves major purposes in terms of narrative momentum for both characters, marks a fundamental shift in the direction of their careers and, most importantly, will lead to much better things in the future for everyone involved.

Like Andy said last week, this is all highly interesting stuff with huge stakes, and it should be clear that this would be bogged down if the WWE or WHC was involved, especially in the ramp up to the most important “WrestleMania season” ever. They’ve figured out a way, in a manner not unlike Community or Arrested Development, to not just mix meta-commentaries into the product as a nod to those “in on the joke”, but to debate the very notions that the commentaries are pointing at.

Wyatt talking about “taking down the system because they don’t know what they have in you” is the exact same idea as the Bluths complaining about cuts to housing orders that sounded suspiciously similar to the ones made by FOX regarding the number of episodes they wanted to produce.  By making this about existential ideas involved in the modern interpretation of wrestling by its most vocal fanbase — “us vs. them” and shadow politickings — it’s allowed the Reality Era-storytelling to be folded back into the standard tropes of the industry, something that the Attitude Era, like grunge, just never had in it.

What “happens” backstage become, more or less, a new wall of kayfabe, a new layer of storytelling, a new tool to be used to leverage butts into seats. And they are doing so by pushing the fourth wall against every screen they can get their hands on.

That this — the incorporation of formerly radical ideas by the “establishment” — is more often than not what happens after revolutions should not be missed. They — meaning the WWE — are finally calibrating the effect of the internet to a time before Cyber Sunday or even Taboo Tuesday, and that’s a good thing. It coming with more complaining than you can shake a stick at? Something we should be used to by now. *** WARNING: YOU ARE NOW EXITING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE! *** PLEASE ENJOY YOUR COMPLIMENTARY SONIC MILKSHAKE ON YOUR WAY OUT***

WOAH. You can bury Edge and Chris Jericho, hotshot story lines to the top of the card before quickly discarding them in favor of much shinier new toys, and compare yourself to Harley Race and Hulk Hogan, but having Kane be a dick to Daniel Bryan is a bridge too far, Hunter.

***

As someone who has spent an entire life neck deep in white privilege — ICYMI: it’s great, for me anyways, thanks cultural hegemony! — it feels weird to get mildly indignant that a young man working toward his Ph. D is being put into a storyline with two of the most racial caricature-y characters in recent memory in which he’s been accused of stealing the others’ dance routine and companions, seemingly simply because they all happen to share a preponderance of melanin in their skin. But, yeah, this just feels kind of gross, even if it is just entertainment, and the all seem to A) not care about whatever weird racism pangs happen in my head and B) be genuinely enjoying themselves. The only saving grace is the the other guy in the feud (Tensai) was treated just as one-dimensional in Japan, so at least the U.S. isn’t the only one in the “depressing racial stereotypes” game, just the leader in the clubhouse.

Speaking of depressing racial stereotypes, if the WWE believes we are going to be fooled by this Sin Cara/Hunico switch just because it assumes we think all masked wrestler look alike, well … they are probably right.

***

And, finally, we’ve reached an impasse with the Shield six-man tags, as this was one of the first that felt “stale”. While it was a very good match with one or two spectacular moments, watching three guys work over one in the corner makes a lot more sense when it feels like they almost need to do it, not when it’s clear that one of them has beaten entire teams of other people by himself. Roman Reigns’ ascension seems like it will pretty much force the Shield to change how their matches are structured in order to keep the heat as the crowd builds anticipation for Reigns to go into full-blown destroyer mode after well-timed hot tags. Or, they could just keep running train.

The most important part of this match was not the re-dissolution of Kofi and Miz’s team or the solidification Ryback-Axel tag team, but the moment of self-actualization the two man achieved after they, as Jerry Lawler put it, “realized that maybe they weren’t Paul Heyman guys, but Ryback and Curtis Angl-Axel guys”. Namaste, Big Guys.

Ole!

***

Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate. Please don’t bring back Sexual Chocolate.

It’s so much fun to watch Antonio Cesaro to get moments of awesomeness like ending a “house of fire” hot tag with the sweet smell of Swiss Death.

***

I’m one of “those” people. I enjoy silly promos from Randy Orton about being people’s nightmares, I like when John Cena says “yadda yadda yadda, jack”, I even enjoy when he uses that silly finisher of his to put people through the table. And I’ve realized why: I like when the crowd reacts to things. And, when they are on, and put together in the right storyline, there is nothing on earth that the crowd reacts more to than Randy Orton and John Cena.

HAVING SAID THAT, if they do not end this thing with an undisputed champion, or at least one title — and it does not matter how they get there, even if it involves the return of the Yeti — they will have lost sight of what they are, and become what they hate. They’ll be WCW.

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Watch, Skip or Skim: Spoiler Alert with “Angry” Andy (11/27-11/29)

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Over the course of seven days, there’s a lot of wrestling on TV. But only some of it is actually worth watching. That’s where Spoiler Alert comes in: we break down the spoilers of all of WWE’s pre-taped shows to let you know what you should watch, and which segments and full shows you should skim or skip. This week, WWE lays the groundwork for some questionable storylines, and hopes you can stomach a holiday-themed Smackdown!

Main Event

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 (spoilers via Wrestlezone.com)

Alberto Del Rio d Dolph Ziggler

I’d be willing to bet this is a pay-per-view quality match.  These are two of the most talented guys on the roster, even if they’re not in the roles they should be.  Del Rio needs someone who can make him look like a vicious killer, and Ziggler sells like a madman… this is good booking.

Damien Sandow d Santino

Reports say this one is a simple squash, which is unfortunate for Santino.  That said, Sandow really needs some wins, and a loss will never hurt Santino.  That said, I’d rather see this match get 10 minutes on Raw, with the same outcome.

TRIPLE FREAKING H makes a rare Main Event appearance.  The King of Kings cuts a promo backstage, saying he wants one WWE Champion, and to unify the belts.  I like this, because it’s something important happening on an “unimportant” show, completely separate from the immediate legitimacy Triple H’s presence already adds to the show.

Kofi Kingston d Fandango

This match can only serve one purpose- to further the feud between Kofi and The Miz.  Hopefully The Miz is on commentary (said no one, ever) so he can help push the feud on the mic.

SKIM this show.  Del Rio-Ziggler should be great.  The Sandow match is totally inconsequential.  Triple H will be a special “A-Show” treat on the C-program, and Kingston-Miz is a solid mid-card feud in the making,

SUPERSTARS

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(spoilers via Wrestlezone.com)

Hey, remember Superstars?  Apparently, it airs Fridays on Hulu Plus.  This week’s show  was taped before Raw on Long Island, which means the crowd had to be REALLY hot for…

Zack Ryder d Fandango

Long Island loves Zack Ryder.  If he’s not on the show, the crowd chants “We Want Ryder!” all friggin’ night – so WWE got his appearance out of the way early.  If these guys are smart, they went Memphis for this bad boy.  The crowd is going to be hot either way, and it’s early in the show – take it easy and use the crowd to tell your story.

The Usos d The Real Americans

A friend at the show said this match was really good.  Considering who’s involved, I have no problem believing it.  Hopefully the crowd is just as good.

SKIM this show.  Watch or skip the opener, depending on your feelings on the guys involved.  But there’s no excuse to miss The Usos vs Cesaro & Swagger, on a show where they probably spent 15 minutes having an awesome match.

SMACKDOWN

WWE-Smackdown

(Spoilers via LordsofPain.net)

Randy Orton & Renee Young are in the ring, forcing Nick to watch the opening segment. (Editor’s Note: He’s right.) Orton brags about Survivor Series but walks out when asked about TLC.  Apparently, we won’t be talking about that OTHER World Champion.

Vickie Guerrero is hosting a Thanksgiving-themed eating competition backstage.  If this doesn’t end with her wearing a face-full of mashed potatoes, then I just don’t know wrestling anymore.

Mark Henry d Curtis Axel.  Quick match, with Big E Langston and Ryback ringside.  I hope this is leading somewhere.  4-way for the title at TLC?

Titus O’Neil wins the eating competition.  Millions of drumsticks, millions of drumsticks.  For some reason, victory here earns him a match against Antonio Cesaro, later in the broadcast.

Los Matadores & El Torito d The Plymouth Rockers

Get it?  Because it’s Thanksgiving.  Prepare to watch a midget bull take out three dudes dressed as pilgrims.

Tons of Funk d R-Truth & Xavier Woods

Apparently, Brodus Clay was upset that Woods stole his theme song, back-up dancers, and spot on TV.  The only way I’m ok with putting the floundering joke of a babyface tag team over the fresh talent from NXT will be if Clay and Sweet-T are turning heel.  But even then, there’s nowhere for them to go.  They’re not surpassing The Shield, The Wyatt Family, or The Real Americans.  They need to legitimize Woods – not have him squashed by the fat jobber tag team.

Bray Wyatt says Daniel Bryan is safe with him.  He says Bryan entered a man, but will leave a monster.  I’m ok with this.

CM Punk and Renee Young are in the ring.  Nick turns up his TV.  The Punker says he hasn’t heard from Daniel Bryan since he was kidnapped by the Wyatts.  He says he doesn’t know why The Shield attacked him on Raw… but thinks maybe they’re following orders from The Authority.

Antonio Cesaro d Titus O’Neil by DQ, when Darren Young interferes.  Yes, the heel won by DQ when the face tag partner interfered.  After the match, Titus pukes in JBL’s cowboy hat (HE ATE TOO MUCH.  GET IT?), and puts the hat on Michael Cole’s head.  Then he pukes on Zeb.  Little kids go nuts.  Everyone else reaches for the remote.

Goldust & Cody Rhodes d Seth Rollins & Roman Reigns in a tag title match.  The Rhodes boys win by DQ when Dean Ambrose interferes.  Punk comes out to clear house with a chair.  Then Vickie Guerrero comes out, and channels the spirit of Teddy Long.

Goldust, Cody Rhodes & CM Punk vs The Shield ends in a no contest when the lights go out.  The Wyatts are in the ring when they come back on.  The Usos and Rey Mysterio come out to even the odds.  Vickie comes back out once again, Playa, leading to….

Goldust, Cody Rhodes, CM Punk, Rey Mysterio & The Usos d The Shield & The Wyatt Family.

This cluster-f ends when Mysterio hits the 619 on Erick Rowan, who then eats a GTS from CM Punk.  Crowd goes home happy.

SKIM this show.  The tag team gauntlet of exponential growth sounds fun.  The Tons of Funk-Truth/Woods angle could turn into something.  Same with the IC title picture.  Everything else sounds like painful holiday show filler.  DVR is your friend.

@AndyMillerJMS

Bang for Your Buck PPV Review: Survivor Series 2013

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The WWE celebrated the 27th edition of the Survivor Series  in Boston last night, and well, at least nobody got screwed?

For those who missed the Hell in a Cell review, the criteria for these reviews is simple: “Did I get my money’s worth?” in terms of the individual matches and the PPV as a whole, using the tried and true “what was this trying to do, and how well did it succeed” test of “quality”.

Each match is rated plus or minus on a sliding scale between 1 and -1, with matches worth multiple rewatches being +1, a just-quite-PPV quality match +/- 0,  and things that make me reevaluate being a fan earning up to a -1 score. The higher the number, the better Bang For Your Buck on the PPV. We’ll (eventually) keep a running tally for each PPV, and a handy list of PPVs we review to give you (and us) a better idea of what we thought was worth the time to check out in terms of matches and PPVs. As for the scale, it’s not particularly complicated but here are the basic levels (on a per-match basis):

Review Guide

As always, we’re going to be using what I said during the What’s the Worst That Could Happen preview to see how close I was to “predicting” what unfolded, and how it stacked up to my beliefs of what they were “trying” to do. Enjoy!

The Miz vs. Kofi Kingston (Kickoff Match)

Best Case Scenario: The inevitable “You Wanna Know Why?” promo is short, the match is long enough to make both guys not look like, well, themselves. Miz  fakes an injury, then leaves  for six months to go shoot the direct-to-video sequel to the ABC Family Original movie The Christmas Bounty.

Although this doesn’t count for the PPV’s overall Buck Bang (I guess?), I’d be remiss to not mention how very solid this match was. Both competitors looked, especially before the commercial break  — yes, I know, but at least it was doing the free part — like the best possible version of himself. That they teased a Kofi heel turn was actually exciting, even if it didn’t make a ton of sense.

Rhodes Brothers, Usos and Rey vs. The Real Shield Americans in a Traditional 5-on-5 Survivor Series Match

What Nick Wants to Happen: A match half as good as the main event from this week’s Raw.

What Will Happen: The heels win, because of dissension from the face team. Rey Mysterio gets speared in half.

While dissension from the face team is always fun, I should have predicted “The heels win, because Roman Reigns” because “future megastar destroys entire group of people” is definitely better than the already super great “The Usos are feuding with the Rhodes boys”. This entire thing was beautiful, and while “the story” itself for the match wasn’t quite to the level of the main event from this week’s Raw, the execution of last night’s story — Roman Reigns is a grown ass man —  was as close to perfect as possible. Everyone got a proper spotlight, and while Reigns finished the match (and maybe the night) looking like the best man, everyone looked good to great, and that’s all you can ask for from anything, and especially a match like this. That it was in-and-of-itself an insanely enjoyable a-move-a-minute-without-being-a-spot fest  for a full 20 minutes before that almost seems unfair.

These are things that only the traditional Survivor Series matches can do, and why, for all the wandering away from the original conceit, they try to come back to it at least once every year and treat it like it’s one their most important shows.

Match +1.0

Big E. Langston (C) vs. Curtis Axel for the Intercontinental Championship

Best Case Scenario: Curtis Axel actually looks like he deserved to be Intercontinental Champion for the past few months, but the rising star of Big  E. burns just a little too brightly for Curtis to overcome. Also, Big E. makes the ref count to five. That would be awesome.

Although the crowd was the dribbling shits for this match, the performances were every bit as good as I had hoped. Big E. is a super duper star in the making, even if his post-match “I’m pandering to you” pander promo fell a little flat. Curtis Axel never really looked like he had a chance in this match, but he looked as good — if not better — than he looked the entire time he held the belt. Just being able to stay in the ring with someone like Big E. and not look like a scared little boy as 290 pounds flies all around the ring at you is an underrated skill, one that Curtis Axel did a yeoman’s job of projecting. That he got in most of his offense, and even a Perfectplex, means while they may not think he’s Intercontinental Title material, they definitely think he has a future. Not a masterpiece, but everything it needed to be and a little more.

Match +.4 | PPV 1.4

Total Divas vs. The Non-Total Divas in a “Traditional” 7-on-7 Survivor Series Match

What Nick Wants to Happen: Anything interesting at all the entire match.

This was not a “good” match, but it definitely wasn’t bad, and the “story” of the match was well told/mildly interesting. Which is nice. That they are turning Summer Rae into “girl who just dances”? Not so much. But pick your battles, and all that.

Match +/-0 | PPV 1.4

Ryback v. Mark Henry

My love for both of these performers is well-documented and knows no bounds. As Andy, who I watched the show with, put it: this works way better with Henry as the face. Now, Mark Henry could wrestle Khali and I think I would find it enjoyable, but him getting a solid 10-minute match with a guy that can do things like actually suplex him is pretty much what you want from a return match with him. This isn’t the type of match you show people who don’t like wrestling why it’s so awesome (see: the first match on the card), but as someone who paid for the PPV, it’s still nice to watch two guys Hoss it Out.

Match +.4 | PPV 1.8

 John Cena (C) vs. Alberto del Rio for the World Heavyweight Championship

What Will Happen: Cena will overcome impossible odds and beat Alberto del Rio with one arm. The injured one.

There’s a difference between being “predictable” and “easy to predict”. The result of John Cena matches are “predictable”, in the sense that it’s almost always clear when he goes to lose a match, which is almost never. Given the binary option of “win” or “lose”, “predicting” what’s going to happen in a John Cena match is simple. Being “predictable” is fine: Batman and Superman are predictable. But, being “easy to predict” means “I know what’s going to happen in the match, and more importantly, at the end” and that’s where the problems happen. John Cena is a superhero and we should not expect him to shockingly lose, pretty much ever. Him winning the match after power bombing Albert del Rio with his bad arm is not something we should expect to see. When it happens, it should be magical and inspiring, not “oh, of course.” “Oh, of course” is kryptonite for performers on Cena’s level, and it’s something he’s done a very good job of staying away from since he feuded with Punk two years ago. And while this match was totally enjoyable, it had potential to be really great, and more importantly, much less easy to predict.

Match +.4 | PPV 2.2

CM Punk & Daniel Bryan vs. Luke Harper & Erick Rowan

What Nick Wants to Happen: The Beard and the Best to take an epic shitkicking, but like Bret Hart and Timex before them, manage to take a licking and keep on ticking.

What Will Happen: Probably something close to what I want to happen. I’m special and Vince McMahon loves me.

Like the 5-on-5 match, this was exactly what it needed to be, and maybe a little more. Erick Rowan, and especially Luke Harper, are special talents and this match was a showcase for that. All four men looked as good as was humanly possible and even the pre-match vignette/Bray Wyatt promo was the type of stuff that makes him one of the most talked about superstars in years despite wrestling only sporadically since his debut/injury. There are teams that can stay together  forever, and while I would love to see Luke or Erick make it to the next level as a singles competitor, the Wyatt boys are definitely a pairing that I would not mind working together for a long long time. And while I’d prefer both of them to get back to singles  competition as soon as possible, this detour through the swamp is exactly what they needed in order to refresh themselves for the ramp up to WrestleMania season.

Match +.7 | PPV 2.9

Randy Orton (C) vs. Big Show for the WWE Title

Best Case Scenario: Randy Orton pulls out all the sto(m)ps as he reverts completely back into his serial killer/Legacy period. Triple H doesn’t come down to ringside, and nobody cheats.

There’s definitely something to be said for what they are doing with Randy Orton right now that I actually like more than almost anything on the show right now: they are making him crazy. Some of it is subtle, like the incompetence of Brad Maddox, Vickie Guerrero and Kane getting Randy Orton into all different types of fights, and some of it is glaringly overt, like the constant challenges from H and Stephanie for Randy to pick his game up.

With the way this match was booked, and the way that Orton played it, they are really building up the “heavy is the head that wears the crown” aspect of his title reign, which is wonderful, at least in the sense that it gives him a purpose beyond “thing the Authority uses to shank you in the prison cafeteria”. It also creates tension between Triple H, Stephanie and all of the members of the administration, including the Shield. But it begs a serious question: Why?

Why aren’t they just having Randy Orton be Murder Death Killer? This isn’t a rhetorical question, either. If the goal of this match/end of PPV angle with Cena was to get us to ask confused questions AND make sure we tune into Raw tonight, they did a GREAT job. But, if the goal was to create excitement beyond confused curiosity? Not so much.

Match +.6

Your Mileage May Vary on the Divas match, but for the most part, this was a very good card that did a lot to move a number of story lines/characters forward, helped establish a few performers — — Big E. and the Wyatts — as formidable competitors, while planting the seeds for Roman Reigns to be made king of the world. If the main event finish didn’t feel so wonky, this could have been the best PPV we reviewed, but because of what could most generously described as an “meh” finish, it’s toward the back of the middle of the pack for  the full card, even if it finds itself much closer to the top of what we’ve reviewed when it comes to a per match basis. While the matches on an individual level were  all PPV-quality, considering the PPV ended essentially 20  minutes short makes me feel like — and I can’t believe I’m saying this — having the Miz vs. Kofi on the actual card would have made me feel like I’d paid for a steal of a card, as opposed to one I just simply wasn’t disappointed in.

PPV 3.5 | Match Avg. .5

#TheNationWeek: Difference of Opinion

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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?

#TheNationWeek: Watch and Learn – Ryback, Mark Henry & Andre the Giant

Strongman

It’s #TheNationWeek at Juice Make Sugar, and we’ve decided to take a look at some young performers that reminds us of members of the stable that have come and gone before them, each of these guys has something to learn, and room to grow. For Mark Henry, “The Big Guy” Ryback is looking to work his way down the same path that The World’s Strongest Man and others before him have taken: the “strong man”.  Thankfully, we’re here to help them same way we would any other athlete: give him tape He Should Watch. And loving our readers like we do, we have some tape You Should Watch of the work that reminds us of his because what’s more fun than old wrestling videos? 

He Should Watch

There are a lot of folks who Ryback has “borrowed” from. Some of this is intentional — which apparently put him in the “doghouse” — and some of it is just genetic happenstance. But, as wrestling is wont to do, “genetic happenstance” mutates in meaning from “unavoidable chemical composition” to “gimmick”. Which, in the case of former Nation of Domination member Mark Henry and Ryback is, of course, “old time strong man”.

While Damien may have the surname, Ryback and Henry come from the mold of Eugen Sandow, the man for whom the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding trophy is named. Like the promoter Billy before them, both understand the legacy that strong men have not just in the wrestling , but their carnival cousin: vaudeville.

Both used spectacle to enhance the product’s appeal, with feats of strength frequently the main attraction for travelling carnival sideshows. The same goes for wrestling, especially in the hyper-muscular/masculine world of Vince McMahon.

And since reality is a relative term in the WWE, they can get away with fantastical concepts and evidence of their performer’s strength. While Mark Henry is very legitimately one of the strongest people who has ever lived, Ryback just has to look the part. He doesn’t have to actually be able to move trucks, in the same way Mark Henry doesn’t have to be able. He just has to look as good as Henry does pretending to:

When fantastical feats of strength are matched with *actual* feats of strength, like World Strongest Slams or Shellshocks on people the size of the Big Show, it creates the illusion of supernatural strength, which, for guys like Henry and Ryback, is the entire point.

You Should Watch

While guys like Henry seem born the way they make themselves out to be, men who look like Mark, but are the size of Ryback have to channel their genetic gifts in a way that means they can never become the spectacle of those a step above Henry — the true Giants — can be. There is obvious no better example of this than the greatest Giant, Andre.

Andre the Giant, even more so than Hulk Hogan, was the WWE’s truly transcendent national star, which is why his heel turn still overshadows Hogan’s nearly ten years later because watching him was worth the price of admission itself.

Even wrestlers the size of King Kong Bundy and Bam Bam Bigelow looked like “vanilla midgets” next to Andre.

And no matter how hard he tries, how many sets he does for his traps, how many cows he eats whole, Ryback will never be able to reach the magic and spectacle of Andre the Giant, but it’s going to to be fun to watch him try.

A Stable You Should Probably Know Better: The Nation of Domination

NoD

It’s the First 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’ll start by making The Nation a Stable You (Should) Probably Know Better, then give you the finer points of their oeuvre tomorrow with some Essential Viewing. On Wednesday, we’ll be asking you to  Watch and Learn. After Hump Day, we get our Buzzfeed  with a Top 10 List before finishing everything off on Friday with a Difference of Opinion (where JMS HQ hopefully doesn’t erupt in a giant race kerfuffle like that episode of Community.) 

Race is, of course a societal construct, but it is still a thing in society. There’s any number of things that are affected by “race”  — like “personal identity” and “your worldview” (see: privilege, White) — and within the context of those things, it is still necessary to acknowledge it.

faarooq_display_imageI didn’t know any of this when I was 9. So, when Ron Simmons — by then going by not just Faarooq, but Faarooq Asaad and wearing the worst ring gear in the history of wrestling (no, that picture on the right isn’t Photoshopped) — decided to form what was essentially the Nation of Islam in the WWF, I didn’t understand the gravity of what was happening.

As David Shoemaker’s brilliant piece — an excerpt from his pretty swell book — highlights, wrestling history is wrought with embarrassing examples of what could most generously described as “some racist ass shit”. Stars as prominent and recently relevant as Booker T — easily the most decorated African-American wrestler ever — had to deal with the type of overt racism insensitivity that most of us have only read about in history books. In a storyline that seems like it was pulled directly from 12 Years a Slave, T and his brother debuted their seminal tag team, Harlem Heat, as two “wrestling prisoners” who were WON IN A CARD GAME by plantation-owner-themed-wrestling-promoter Colonel Parker.

To go from that — which happened in 1993, a full year after the Rodney King riots — to a militant Black Power stable just 3 years later highlights precisely how schizophrenic professional wrestling can be when there is money to be made.

And boy, howdy, did they make some money.

Like the Montreal Expos of the mid-90s, the Nation of Domination is nearly as significant for its “on the field” performance as for the careers it helped spawn. Headlined initially by the aforementioned Simmons — the first African-American World’s Champion — the stable would help launch the careers of two more “first ballot” Hall of Famers, Mark Henry and The Rock, help Charles Wright (AKA Kama Mustafa AKA The Godfather) achieve his lifelong dream of being Intercontinental Champion — and manager of a strip club.

While there are stables that match the sheer star power of the Nation, few were more successful doing EVERYTHING that NOD managed to do in its relatively short existence: transition D-X past the Shawn Michaels era, turning Triple H-The Rock into super megastars through those feuds, created midcard stars like The Godfather and D’Lo Brown, while still managing to feel A) culturally significant and B) relevant to the storylines of the organization.

What allowed  the Nation to do this was obvious: while they were undoubtedly heels, what they were saying made sense. Wrestling treated pretty much every minority for much of its existence almost hilariously bad, only using them to fill in stock stereotypes or to appeal to very specific audiences as Stepin Fetchit caricatures of whatever group the poor sap represented.

“By Any Means Necessary”, while so obviously cribbed from Malcolm X, worked as a rallying cry for the group because it was their means of acquiring what they wanted — and not their belief that they deserved it — that made them heels. It’s hard to imagine that they thought it through to that level, but the Nation functioned largely in a symbolic sense as the line between heels and faces. And there was ample evidence that taking what they thought they deserved “by any means necessary” was precisely what young black performers needed  to do to get over in the company.

Ahmed Johnson — who you can check out by taking a look at #AhmedJohnsonWeek — shows you what a “face” African American looked like for much of the WWE’s history: someone unable to connect with fans because of any number of personality and health issues, presented essentially as an “amazing athlete with a rough upbringing” and little else.

Which is why, ultimately, the WWE needed the Nation just as much in front of the camera as it did behind the camera, and has most certainly paved the way for some of the young African American stars you see today like Big E. Langston and the Prime Time Players. Unable to figure out how to market young black men to a predominantly white audience, they needed a group of talented young men who happened to be black to show them how to do it: working to get what you think you deserve, and grabbing it, By Any Means Necessary.

When The Shield Met The Wyatts: Raw Regurgitated, 11/11

With Total Divas being an unmitigated success that goes out of its way to mess with the permeable membrane between reality, “reality” and kayfabe, is there any reason on God’s green earth we can’t get a couple of cameras to follow around Kane, Vickie and Brad Maddox for a season or two?

This crowd was shite. Like an Iowa crowd with an accent, they seemed to be trying to recreate the “magic” of that infamous (and infamously British) post-WrestleMania crowd, while completely missing that the “magic” was mostly that viewers had never seen a crowd be acknowledged for trying so hard to get itself over. And it worked, because it was organic. This crowd tried to artificially create that same feeling, and ended up coming across like all the things they say they hate about the WWE: manufactured, contrived and boring.

There’s been a very subtle transformation to the vanilla version of Goldust for Cody Rhodes. Vanilla in this case doesn’t mean “bad”, however, just “more palatable to a larger number of people”. He’s managed to incorporate bits of his brother’s work without it turning into a “Miz trying to put the figure four on people”. And that’s best for business.

Not only does this feel like the most over the Big Show has ever been, it’s one of the few times that a feud has made sense for him with a “normal” person. As a larger than life figure, outside of programs with other larger than life figures (like Mark Henry), most of stories over the years have revolved around things like “getting dosed with laxative” or “people laughing at him”. So it’s nice to see “got bullied by him and his cohorts to the point that he decided to destroy everyone” as a reason for  him to want to fight someone.

***

Nothing on earth would make me happier if 3MB’s gimmick has changed from “Shitty rock band” to “shitty rock band who they are turning into faces by having them be a gimmick that makes sense for whichever town they are in”. Though, it feels like that would be way harder to put on a business card.

Kane’s presence as a new (pardon the pun) “Authority” figure puts an interesting twist on one of the most tired tropes in professional wrestling. Instead of just being the heavy, there’s a sense of actual stakes to pissing off Kane that goes beyond professional inconvenience, like him breaking your face.

Juice Make Sugar’s Raw Regurgitated Reader challenge: during the next Damien Sandow match you see, drink every time the announcers make reference to Sandow’s “new attitude” or the reasons behind it AND try to not die of alcohol poisoning.

After that loss to Curtis Axel, Dolph Ziggler has to be thinking about joining Chris Hero on a couple of independent bookings, right?

***

It’s hard to say what’s weirder: Brad Maddox directly challenging Kane or the fact that Kane’s eyes are both the same color.

The day that this Tamina/AJ – Brie/Nikki storyline ends will be a good day. Until then, every day will be the worst day of our lives.

The motivation of the Shield continues to be “we go where the money is and we do what the money says”. It’s almost like they are an allegory for professional wrestling storytelling. Weird. Also, it’s kind of wonderful to see them working together like a sketch troupe. Makes you wonder how good Dean Ambrose is at “Yes, and…”

***

Her “Queen Farts-a-lot” gimmick was well, farts, but at least it seemed like Nattie’s storylines had hit rockbottom in terms of how pathetic a storyline involving her could be. But, her bickering with her obnoxious (and OBNOXIOUSLY Canadian) husband about her training with Fandango is the definition of the dribbling shits.

***WARNING YOU ARE NOW ENTERING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE***PLEASE KEEP EYES AND EARS INSIDE OF KAYFABE AT ALL TIMES*** It was nice to see how excited Cena seemed to be when Cesaro and he had a chance to work together. You’ll find no bigger defender of the John Cena brand than me, so take what I say with a grain of very biased salt. But considering the rub that Cena has given to guys like Big E. Langston and Antonio Cesaro, of the legitimate “faces of the WWE” —  your Rocks, Stone Colds, Hulk Hogans — he’s unequivocally the most giving. Part of that is that he’s not, no matter how hard he tries, a movie star in the way that the Rock is and Hogan/Austin tried to be. But it would be wrong to say that’s the only reason he is so giving. It feels largely that Cena knows precisely how lucky he is to be in the position he’s in. And yes, it seems silly to talk about how generous a guy is after he just beat the presumed No.1 contenders for the tag team titles by himself, but if you just acknowledge that he’s never going to “lose” in the grand scheme of things to anyone who isn’t CM Punk or Daniel Bryan or Randy Orton or Edge (or Tensai) (or The Miz) (or Dolph) and acknowledge that he does the best he can trying to make it so that everyone makes money within that context, his career is pretty remarkable in that respect. ***WARNING YOU ARE NOW EXITING A WRESTLING NERD DISCUSSION ZONE***PLEASE ENJOY YOUR COMPLIMENTARY SONIC MILKSHAKE ON THE WAY OUT***

Sometimes, you see rumors on the internet and hope they aren’t true. Then, you watch R Truth win cleanly on a roll up, and you know that whatever Ryback did to anger whoever he angered in the back was way worse than you thought.

***

As a John Cena-Alberto del Rio fan, it’s hard to articulate how excited I am for their Survivor Series match, but I’m not sure if it’s because they are two of my favorite performers in the company, or because it’ll be one of five times all year athat the crowd gave a shit about an Alberto del Rio match.

If you don’t think that the storyline for Lesnar-Taker at WrestleMania is “I’m going to make CM Punk watch the Beast do what the ‘Best in the World’ couldn’t”, you are a dirty mark.

For  those who think that Daniel Bryan is going to sink down to the “mid-card” because SummerSlam buyrates were down (which you may blame on Triple H if you didn’t understand how the time-space continuum works), he and CM Punk essentially beating the Shield in a handicap match before getting the upper hand on them AND the Wyatt Family (after some friends stop by to lend a hand) should tell you everything you know about how much the company Respects the Beard.