Tag Archives: Steve Austin

#ECWWeek: Essential Viewing

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. This week we have Paul Heyman’s Extreme Championship Wrestling. This is Day Two of #ECWWeek, the fifteenth installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week Series. As (almost) always, we started by making ECW a Promotion You (Should) Probably Know Better. Today, we give you the finer points of the company’s oeuvre with some Essential Viewing AND a Highlight Reel . Tomorrow, we discuss the idea of ECW and Another Fan’s Treasure before quenching your thirst for Listicles with a Juice Make Sugar Top 10 List on Thursday. Finally we’ll sum everything up on Friday with a “Difference of Opinion” that will likely be closer to a “Difference in Levels of Disdain”. Let’s get Extreme?

In 1994, Jim Crockett Jr. himself approached Tri-State Wrestling Alliance/Eastern Championship Wrestling promoter Todd Gordon about carrying the standard for the NWA. Based on nearly 50 years of NWA tradition, the move should have been an honor for the relatively small territory.

But Gordon and new booker Paul Heyman understood that following the death of Jim Crockett Promotions, the appearance of the title on WWF television, and the belt shuffling at WCW’s Disney tapings, the NWA Title had been devalued past the point of no return.

So, they — along with “The Franchise” Shane Douglas — did this:

Douglas’ promo isn’t great, with a “substitute news anchor reading off the prompter” feel to it, but he hits the right bullet points, successfully creating the sense of rebellion and anti-authority sentiment that made this dimly-lit moment the spark from which ECW’s “revolution” was ignited.

ECW had the attitude from that moment forward, but what really made the company work was that they offered an in-ring product that neither WWF nor WCW could even approach. The ECW-style was rooted in the super hard-hitting, fast-paced style of early 1990s Japanese wrestling. Matches like this one — between Eddie Guerrero and Dean Malenko — is a perfect showcase of what ECW brought to the United States. Both men are nearly subatomic by the standards of height and bulk required in big-time operations of the day, but their work is so simultaneously smooth and physical that it seems like a well-choreographed dance performance compared to the awkward, herky-jerky main event style of the day.

If ECW was built on unapologetic, in-your-face attitude and high-level in-ring work, then Steve Austin was the perfect ECW star. He had only a short stint in the territory between his exit from WCW and debut into the WWF, but Steve Austin made the most of the time he had there. With the encouragement of Paul Heyman, Austin began developing the promo style that would make him one of the most successful wrestlers of all time.

Fifteen years before CM Punk, Steve Austin helped establish himself as one of the great characters in wrestling with this scathing shoot promo. Austin vented his frustration with the inner politics of wrestling, using impressions of Dusty Rhodes, Hulk Hogan, and Eric Bischoff that were as scathing and dead-on as Punk calling Triple H a doofus during his “Pipe Bomb” promo. Even if you were oblivious to the history of the Attitude Era, if you saw this promo from ECW in 1995, you would look at Steve Austin and say, “That’s a huge star.”

Austin put it well when he said that ECW was mostly “a bunch of violent crap.” The territory saw many great workers and historically significant moments, but everything was reduced in prestige and respectability by the fact that the company’s wrestlers treated each other like kidnapping victims in a snuff film. The unofficial motto of ECW was “more is more.” More spots. More risk. More violence.

When wrestling was at its white-hottest in 1997, both the WWF and WCW were borrowing heavily from the ECW playbook: outrageous injury angles, scantily clad women “spontaneously” bursting out of tight dresses, and a near-constant barrage of weapon shots and juice. Rather than reinvent themselves in the face of imitators, though, ECW decided to stick to the same tricks and turn them up to eleven.

The following match from Hardcore TV features three of the greatest tag teams in ECW history: The Dudleys, The Gangstas and The Eliminators. All three teams were crazy over, and fans loved their matches, but two of the three groups had the same gimmick: “guys who brutally beat up other guys” (The Gangstas had been involved in the notorious “Mass Transit Incident” less than six months earlier — I won’t link you to it, but you can look it up…). The result is a match that engages the crowd, but exposes the unsustainable nature of ECW’s booking for all to see. You could take this match “around the circuit” once, but how many times will fans pay to watch a six men sloppily beat the crap out of each other?

The escalating violence of ECW reached its crescendo at 1997’s Born to Be Wired in an ECW Title match between Sabu and Terry Funk. This match is possibly one of the worst ideas ever. It pits a then-53-year-old Funk against a then-seemingly-indestructible Sabu in a match that makes Funk look very old and Sabu look very destructible. The match, straight out of FMW, is every bit as gruesome as you would expect a match with barbed wire ring ropes to be.

The match’s signature moment occurs at the ten minute mark, with Sabu tearing open his bicep by flying into the barbed wire. Few moments embody the legacy and philosophy of ECW better. The match should have stopped for the sake of safety, but in the name of the religion of ECW (created in equal parts by Paul Heyman in order to control talent and stereotypical Philadelphians in order to feed their bloodlust), Sabu tapes his arm up with white athletic tape and finishes the match.

For all its fame, this match contains the most abysmal clean finish of all time. The two men become inextricably tangled in the barbed wire, with their clothes torn to the point that they seem in danger of being stripped naked. A terrified-looking Bill Alfonzo tries to interject, cutting the wire in hopes of freeing the men to the point where they can actually wrestle, but it doesn’t work. Ultimately, Fonzie and a referee have to gingerly lift and roll Sabu and Funk back in the ring in order to go home on the worst pin ever executed. You know what would have prevented all that? One iota of restraint.

***

ECW finally got a national television deal just as they were finding themselves unable to deal with the constant brain drain of talent leaving for WCW and the WWF. By early 2000, Taz(z), Raven, the Dudley Boys, and The Radicalz were all in the WWE and Lance Storm and Mike Awesome were in WCW. The result was a mixture of wrestlers with blind faith in ECW (Tommy Dreamer) and wrestlers that nobody wanted (Balls Mahoney). ECW, the company where wrestlers tore their bodies to shreds to make their home team relevant had failed supremely: they weren’t relevant, and the wrestlers’ bodies were still torn to shreds.

The dying days of ECW were hard to watch on many levels, but one redeeming feature was that ECW on TNN gave many talented, hungry workers a place to ply their craft on TV. This match between Taijiri and Psicosis is a gem in the coal dust, a wonderful, albeit feeble beat in the fading pulse of ECW.

#4HorsemenWeek: Essential Viewing

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It’s Day Two 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. Today, we give you the finer points of their oeuvre with some Essential Viewing. On Wednesday, we’ll be asking you to Watch and Learn. After Hump Day, we get our BuzzFeed on with a Top 10 List, before finishing everything off on Friday with a Difference of Opinion (or, more likely, a celebration of the Horsemen’s specific brand of awesome.) 

The entire Horsemen catalogue is Essential Viewing. They are the measuring stick for all wrestling alliances that came after them, cutting the best promos of all time, and working legendary matches that made them the quintessential heels for an entire generation in-and-out of the ring.

Because of their perfect mix of chemistry and the gravitas their in-ring credibility lent them, interview segments helped create the mystique of The Four Horsemen just as much as any five star match could. Everybody had their moment with the mic to get across their individual personality, but the segment always successfully communicated the group dynamic and the collective agenda. This early offering shows the Andersons, Flair, and Tully Blanchard all have time with the mic while displaying their shiny title belts:

The great target of the 1980s Horsemen was Dusty Rhodes. From a creative standpoint, Dusty was the perfect foil for The Four Horsemen. He was on par with the group’s leader Ric Flair in terms of promo ability and represented the honesty and fundamental goodness of which The Horsemen were bankrupt. Practically speaking, however, Rhodes, the booker of Jim Crockett Promotions at the time, knew a good thing when he saw it and kept himself as close to the white-hot Horsemen as possible. Even in light of these blatant political machinations, Dusty vs. The Horsemen was a great feud.

Rhodes and Flair main evented Starrcade ’84, but in the subsequent year, The Four Horsemen were assembled, which allowed the NWA to build towards another Flair-Rhodes showdown with a powerful, natural way to stack the odds against superface Dusty. In the buildup to Starrcade ’85, Flair and The Horsemen jumped Dusty in one of the most memorable moments in NWA history, breaking his leg inside a steel cage in a vicious attack that shocked the fanbase.

The injury angle got over like free money and catapulted Dusty towards a monumental title win at Starrcade. The bit was so good that it even worked the second way around less than a year later when The Horsemen broke Dusty’s arm in a legendary segment. The Horsemen kidnapped a cameraman, forced him to travel with them as they stalked Rhodes, and ultimately jumped The American Dream in the parking lot of JCP headquarters, smashing his arm with a baseball bat. (Dusty famously shouts “MAKE IT GOOD!” just before the moment of truth.) The segment was so revolutionary and gritty that fans watching on TV called local police to alert them of an assault in progress – seriously. The moment cemented The Four Horsemen as the most lowdown, despicable heels in the territory, and was so highly-regarded within the industry that it was copied over a decade later by the nWo.

Of course, these segments, in spite of their greatness, wouldn’t have meant a thing if The Horsemen hadn’t delivered in the ring with Dusty. As this match (oddly dubbed for Japanese broadcast complete with awesome Japanese commercials) illustrates, The Horsemen knew how to get heat and build anticipation for their opponents comebacks. The match sees Flair and the Andersons (The Minnesota Wrecking Crew if you will, daddy) take on Rhodes and The Rock n’ Roll Express, who were at the time just about the three biggest pure babyfaces in wrestling this side of Hulk Hogan.

Their offense, while smooth and expertly-executed, was never flashy, and the goal was always to build the next hope spot for their babyface opponents.  As seen in the above match, the Andersons worked a largely punch-kick style, an effective heel tactic of the era. However, The Horsemen came into their true prime with Ole’s retirement in 1987. This allowed Arn and Tully to become the group’s tag team in residence, which was good, considering Arn and Tully are a prominent part of the “greatest heel tag team ever” discussion.

Arn was big, strong, and no-nonsense, but could bump like a jobber – which is a compliment – while Tully was essentially a midcard version of Ric Flair. Arn looked as credible as anybody in the ring while Blanchard bumped, begged off, and strutted in a way that incensed the crowd. They were the perfect heels in that they were simultaneously dominant and beatable. Arn and Tully could — and frequently did — wrestle  jobbers and have a great match as easily as they could with two main eventers.

It’s a testament to Anderson and Blanchard that the golden age of The Four Horsemen ended the second they left for the WWF (where they were known as The Brainbusters and had a memorable feud with Demolition).

As the 80s became the 90s, it felt like the era of The Horsemen was over. During wrestling’s creative nadir in the early 90s, fans and promoters remembered the greatness of The Four Horsemen, and trying to recreate that instead of build something new felt like a good idea. Whether it was a face run incorporating Sting in the group or a heel run with “Pretty” Paul Roma, these incarnations never had the flair (no pun intended) of the original lineup.

In spite of their lack of sizzle, each subsequent group of Horsemen always fulfilled one fine tradition of The Four: they brought it in the ring. This match shows the least popular Horseman of all time (Roma) put on a great tag match with Anderson against “The Team I Really Wish Was A Real Tag Team,” Steve Austin and Steven (William) Regal.

The later versions of The Four Horsemen had some really talented members (Brian Pillman, Dean Malenko, HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED), but they always fell miles short of recapturing the original magic. Even as the act’s long-standing mystique fizzled, “The Four Horsemen” remained a brand that wrestling fans recognized and respected. When presenting the nWo as beatable finally seemed like a good idea two years too late, WCW used none other than The Horsemen (now featuring way-worse-than-Roma Mongo McMichael) as their logical opponents. By this time, though, WCW had strayed too far for any group, no matter how legendary the name, to make an impact. And so it was that along with WCW, The Four Horsemen ultimately died not with a bang, but a whimper.

#TheNationWeek, Watch and Learn: Big E., Ron Simmons & Steve Austin

Big E

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 Ron Simmons, Big E. Langston is looking to fill the same role as a former athlete turned tough guy.  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? 

You Should Watch

We were faced with a conundrum of sorts: do we mention Big E. Langston at any point during this week? The line between mentioning him and not mentioning him was less about offending anyone than taking the easy way out. In our minds, Big E. Langston, while big and also, black, doesn’t necessarily have any closer ties than anybody else on the roster the roster to the Nation other than skin tone. That is, until we realized that, for all the pumping up of Booker T, and flogging of the Rock, there’s been so few African-American WWE Champions.

Booker T may have been World’s Champion many times — at least five — over the course of his career, much of his success happened in the oddly (especially considering how he debuted) more progressive WCW, which had already put the belt on the man that  truly broke down barriers in modern wrestling, Ron Simmons. Or as he became known in the WWF (because Saba Simba), Faarooq Asad.

But much more importantly, they both represent a certain ideal in the wrestling world: former athlete turned tough guy. Big  E. is the uber John Cena: a nationally recognized lifting prodigy  who moves like a cat in the ring and is good on the mic without needing to be snarky.

While any number of things could be gleamed from Ron Simmons, looking back at the totality of his career, it’s clear that the most important thing could teach the young man is to be himself. He may have had more singles success as the All-American Ron Simmons, but any fan of the Attitude Era can tell you that he was never more beloved than as a member of the hard-drinking, roughneck Acolytes Protection Agency.

By most accounts a significantly more accurate representation of the man,  it allowed his deadpan personality to shine through.

And helped turn Ron Simmons from a historical footnote as the first  African American World’s Champion into a beloved figure in the history of wrestling, who happens to be African American. If Big E. wants to be seen the same way, he’d well served to make sure he always lets E. be E.

You Should Watch

While there’s perhaps no better example of what happens when some is allowed to be themselves than Faarooq as a member of APA, one name — with even more star wattage that Big E. seems to possess — comes to mind: Steve Austin. Now, it may seem like we are telling you that we think Big E. should be come an alcoholic, but we aren’t talking about Stone Cold, necessarily.

When it comes to reaching the holy grail of “be yourself-ness”, the zenith of Stone Cold’s career happened not in the bright lights of the WWF, but in the dimly-lit backstage tv studio at the ECW Arena. It was there, after getting fired from WCW by Eric Bischoff, that Steve let loose with a pipe bomb that made CM Punk’s look like From Justin to Kelly:

It’s significantly more incisive than anything Simmons was given the chance to say when he founded The Nation, but that’s not because Simmons wasn’t given the right script. There was simply something innate within Steve Austin that allowed him to, also entirely different material, produce promos like the infamous Austin 3:16 speech, that managed to feel every bit as real as the ones he did after losing his job over the phone.

Juice Make Sugar Presents: The #VarsityClubWeek 10 Best List – Athletes That Translated

Because we’re wrestling journalists — and Buzzfeed contributors —  we’ve decided that we needed to start creating a top ten list based on each Wrestler of the Week. We’ve decided to not include any criteria for the list, because we’ve been told by experts in the list-making field that it would just muddy our ability to explain why our list is right. You should understand, because you read us, that we know more about wrestling than you and what we think is best IS best. We promise. If you want, you can guess what why we’ve chosen these people the way we have in the comments. Where you belong.

So, without further ado, we give you the definitive list of the 10 Best Athletes That Translated:

1. The Rock

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Played football for The U, almost made it to the CFL.

2. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper

Golden Gloves boxer in Canada.

3. Kevin Nash

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Former college basketball player.

4. Paul Wight (The Big Show)

Played college basketball.

5. Goldberg

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Former professional football player with the Atlanta Falcons.

6. John Cena

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Former college football player.

7. Steve Austin

Former college football player.

8. Macho Man

A minor-league baseball player in the St. Louis Cardinals system.

9. Glen Jacobs

College football and basketball player.

10. Ric Flair

A two-time state wrestling champion who went to the University of Minnesota on an athletic scholarship.

A Wrestler You Should Probably Know Better: Shawn Michaels

HBK

It’s the First Day of #ShawnMichaelsWeek, a celebration of all things HBK and the eighth installment of our (patent-pending) Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. As always we’ll start by making Shawn a Wrestler You Should Probably Know Better. Tomorrow, we give you the finer points of the Michael Hickenbottom oeuvre with some Essential Viewing before marching through Wednesday with a GIF Parade paid for with Hidden Gems from the Showstopper’s catalog. After Hump Day we’ll make our Amazon.com-on-steroids dreams come true with “Juice Make Sugar Recommends…” before finishing everything off on Friday with a Difference of Opinion (where JMS HQ erupts in a Sweet Chin Music-fueled civil war.)

There’s a moment in the Undertaker-Michael casket match from the 1998 Royal Rumble when you actually see Shawn Michaels break his back. Whenever they used to play JR’s “bahgawd, he’s broken in half” in the Don’t Try This at Home montage, I never thought of Mick Foley flying off the Cell into a table. I thought about Shawn Michaels clipping the edge of that casket, and the disks in his back that were nearly caved in on impact. About him finishing that match without really being able to walk, of him going into Boston a few months later to help usher in the Attitude era by making Steve Austin look as good as he possibly could while also having to drag his own carcass around the ring.

I do that a lot with Shawn Michaels: processing things differently than they actually happened, trying to not let what was actually involved in the show that he and his co-workers put on change my mind about what I’m watching.

Ignoring that Michaels’s crippling pill addiction nearly cost the WWF the Monday Night Wars against WCW, that his stroke backstage did every bit as much damage as anything his buddy Kevin Nash did with the nWo, isn’t easy, though. It does, however, make marking out during his astonishing matches against The Streak feel less like watching mid-90s Bulls games, wondering how close this game was to one of the times Jordan gave a teammate a black eye at practice or lost a few grand at a blackjack table.

And looking back at him like that certainly does some good. Ignoring the things that went on around that period helps to make you love Shawn Michaels and all he’s given to the business. Seeing past his role in the Montreal Screwjob just months before that fateful Rumble match, or that it took Taker threatening to actually beat his ass for him to let Austin pretend to, helps you enjoy 2008’s Feud of the Year with Chris Jericho without reservations.

But those things did happen, and when you find out about them, they irrevocably shift the way you have to feel about him. You can still enjoy his work, still bask in his greatness. It just feels different. You go from asking the questions of him that we do of people like Gretzky and Brady — things like “What motivates them?” and “How do they keep at it?” — to the question that historians asked of Richard Nixon: “How can one evaluate [him], so brilliant and so morally lacking?”

***

There is, of course, a difference between the type of poor moral character that Michaels displayed backstage during the depths of his problems and, you know, breaking and entering in an attempt to rig a national election, but it still creates cognitive dissonance when looking back on his accomplishments.

That he’s so well respected by his peers — put at or near the top in most self-reflexive polls culled from his fellow workers,  including No. 1 on WWE’s 50 Greatest countdown — makes the situation even more confusing. Michaels is, by most accounts, the most gifted “ring general” in the history of the business. He’s “called” — planned out and relayed to his opponent upcoming spots, extemporaneously — nearly every significant match he’s ever been in, using (along with his opponents) a seemingly innate ability to read the crowd in order to improvise stories that the fans reacted to at a main event level for much of the last twenty years.

He is adored without reservation by most fans, beloved in a way most people  — like Hunter, his honest-to-God best friend — could only dream of, receiving a hero’s welcome every time he comes back. They know only of his considerable resume in front of the camera, that he’s Mr. WrestleMania, The Showstopper, The Icon.  And since the only goal of professional wrestling is to entertain us, it’s difficult to argue anything about his legacy and have people listen to you without making it clear that you are an idiot for even caring.

But Michaels serves, like many greats before him, a broader purpose. He was put on a pedestal, and nearly lost many people their jobs because of his inability to handle the pressure. Of his own admittance, he did many things he’s not particularly proud of, and when looking at his entire legacy, those things should be taken into account.

Do they define him? No. The entirety of anyone’s life is a complicated thing to discuss in 1200 words, and Michaels’ journey has assuredly not been an easy one, and he’s dedicated nearly the entirety of it to the business, something for which he should be commended. However, when people transcend the work they do, when they become an example for proceeding generations the way that Michaels has, there’s a responsibility to learn from the mistakes to make the future better. Whether you can do that and enjoy his work is up to you.

Just don’t think about it too hard.

#JeffJarrettWeek: Juice Make Sugar Recommends…

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It’s Day Four of #JeffJarrettWeek, a celebration of all things J-E-Double F J-A-Double R-E-Double T and the seventh installment in our patent-pending Juice Make Sugar Wrestler of the Week series. We started with A Wrestler You Should Probably Know Better, gave you the finer points of the Double J oeuvre with some Essential Viewing, then marched through Hump Day with a GIF parade. Today, we make our “Amazon.com on steroids” dreams come true with Juice Make Sugar Recommends… before finishing everything off tomorrow with a Difference of Opinion (where JMS HQ erupts in a Exploding Guitar-fueled civil war.)

Album

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Some Gave All, Billy Ray Cyrus

To some people, Billy Ray Cyrus embodied all that was wrong with the early 90s. To others, Cyrus represents all that is wrong with country music. In the year 2013, however, most people just think of him as the mostly-pathetic puddle of primordial ooze that spawned Miley Cyrus. While Billy Ray’s career and his hugely success album Some Gave All may be pop culture footnotes today, they’re footnotes that are impossible to ignore.

A young Double J represented those same early 90s excesses: long, bad hair; shallow, bad music; and over-the-top, goofy presentation. As both men aged, they began to insist upon themselves. “Don’t just think of me as the ‘Achy Breaky Heart’/’With my Baby Tonight’ guy! I want to be taken seriously!” Unfortunately, both learned too late that you can’t portray yourself as a cartoon character to make money and then suddenly flip the switch and decide to be a serious, respected artist.

Movie

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Closer

Mike Nichols’ Closer masterfully showcased the carefree excitement of new love, the strong inertia of old love, and the danger of lust. It follows the modern theatre convention (as it is based on a play) of taking a minimal number of characters and putting them in the tightest, hottest possible pressure cooker. The result: short periods of bliss followed by lengthy periods of unhappiness and a world in which the truth is philosophically important, but largely a downer.

There was definitely something of Closer in the Jeff-Kurt-Karen saga, in which Jarrett, still grieving the death of his own wife, snatched away Angle’s in a love triangle that played out both on TNA television and in the dirt sheets. The part that’s really interesting is that none of us outsiders will ever truly know if it was Jarrett playing Clive Owen’s heavy-handed lech Larry and Angle playing Jude Law’s sensitive, easily damaged Dan, or the other way around. Just like the end of Closer, it’s hard to tell if anybody gained any lasting happiness through the episode, or if it was all just an exercise in hurting each other.

TV Show

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The Simpsons

God, The Simpsons was a great show in its day. It balanced laugh-out-loud comedy with just enough emotional and philosophical truth to entertain its millions of fans in a light but lasting way.

Unfortunately, the show’s long run (typically a sign of success) resulted in massive overexposure and tremendously waning interest from those who had once been the show’s biggest fans. The show’s 24 years on television are equal parts a testament to its crowd-pleasing popularity and the shameless desire of executives to make money off the established name value. Fans of The Simpsons suddenly find themselves qualifying their love of the show with “only up to 199X” or “only seasons X-X.”

Much like The Simpsons, Jeff Jarrett had a long, sustained run of being incredibly entertaining. He provided fans with both laughs and emotional satisfaction when he was bounced around by top babyfaces. However, in the late years of WCW, he became massively overexposed and went from being fun-annoying to annoying-annoying. As The Simpsons’ empire grew exponentially in the marketing-conscious twenty-first century, Jarrett’s empire of self-indulgence grew with the founding of TNA in 2002. Both did the same thing: take something great and ram it down your throat until you choke on it.

Athlete

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Tony Romo

Tony Romo is a pretty good quarterback. Heck, he’s pretty consistently mentioned in the top-class of NFL quarterbacks. He’s the face of a franchise. The only problem: nobody likes him. Not even his own fans like him. Seriously, poll ten Cowboys fans on how they feel about Tony Romo. Eight of them will tell you how desperately the ‘Boys need to give the keys to the car to any other guy, and the other two are so blinded by brand loyalty that they can’t say anything bad about him.

Sounds like TNA, doesn’t it? Most wrestling fans, on a philosophical level, want there to be more than one viable big time wrestling company — it’s good for everyone. But do they want one that revolves around Jeff Jarrett? Heck no! Jarrett is a very, very capable wrestler, just as Romo is a very, very capable quarterback, but he’s not the face of a league. Unlike Tony Romo, however, Jeff Jarrett has (or had) the dangerous power to present himself as Peyton Manning. The result? A franchise guy whose fans mostly hate him.

Actor

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Steve Buscemi

Steve Buscemi is perhaps the premier actor of his type. He can play a wide range of characters, has decent star power, and brings an earnest, consistent effort to all his roles. He’s been in iconic movies from Reservoir Dogs to The Big Lebowski to Ghost World, and always elevates whatever he’s in to the best of his ability. That said, if you were producing a movie and you wanted it to make money, would you cast Steve Buscemi in the lead? Buscemi is talented, but his warts are too numerous and too noticeable to make him a real leading man.

Much like Buscemi, Jeff Jarrett is a fantastic midcard talent, but not a top tier main eventer. Jarrett has his distinct charms: he’s a great wrestler, a very good promo, and has been featured on TV for two decades, but would you ever mention him in the same breath as The Rock? Steve Austin? The Undertaker? Goldberg? Like Buscemi, Jarrett is absolutely the best third-from-the-top guy you’ll ever see. But the main event? No way. The name Jarrett on the marquis is just about as sexy as Buscemi. They’re great ingredients, but not a ready-to-eat dish.

Book

AtlasShrugged

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is one of the twentieth century’s most polarizing novels. If you want to gain a real (and sometimes upsetting) insight into your so-called friends, ask them how they feel about Atlas Shrugged. To right-wing Libertarian, Tea Party types, it’s the gospel of anti-government, hard-working industry. To social liberals, it’s the gospel of selfishness and Social Darwinism. The debate over its message aside, Atlas Shrugged has spawned decades of fruitful and passionate discussion and is a book that will be remembered for centuries.

Jeff Jarrett has easily been the most polarizing wrestler of the twenty-first century not named John Cena. He doesn’t really care what you think of him, as long as you keep sending the money. He’s happy to play hero to those for whom he is a hero, and happy to play villain to those for whom he’s a villain. Somewhere, deep inside himself, Jarrett knows who he really is and how he really feels about himself, and none of us will ever be privy to that.

Angling For a Comeback: The +/- #’s – Impact Wrestling, 10/10

TNAistheWorst

In hockey, basketball, and other sports I’m sure I’m forgetting, individual players are held accountable for their team’s performance during their time in the game through the plus/minus statistic. This week’s Impact review will attempt to score each segment as a hit (+1; a superior match or well-executed story-building segment), a miss (-1; offensive to the eyes or ears), or a push (+0; a segment that is wholly acceptable, but nothing memorable) in order to find an overall rating to the show.

Segment 1: Dixie Carter Promo

Positives: Dat crowd! You could barely hear Dixie for the first five minutes of the show, which is a good thing on a lot of different levels. There was good heat on her, which if you were a channel surfer just tuning in, would make you think TNA has a strong top heel.

Negatives: References to “Mr. Stephanie McMahon” and “Steve” brought this down a lot. So, you’re going to take time to establish a fantasy world in which the owner of a company is an evil ball-cutter, but then you reach outside of the fantasy into the “real world” to make things more serious? Cheap heat.

The way Dixie “avoided talking” about Hulk Hogan made it seem fairly certain that he’ll be back sooner rather than later. There were several other references like this sprinkled throughout the show, especially from Taz.

Segment Score: +0

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Segment 2: Austin Aries/A.J. Styles Backstage Promos

Positives: Both of these were very passionate, main event promos. In spite of his total lack of modesty (which is inherently heelish), Aries cut a great promo about why he is a top guy. A.J. was focused on the World Heavyweight Title and beating Bully Ray for the second week in a row, mentioning destroying Dixie Carter as his first order of business once he gets the title. Hurray for mission statements! First you get the Title. Then you get the power. Then you get the Dixie.

Negatives: Aries cut a babyface promo on babyface Jeff Hardy. How the heck is the crowd supposed to react to that?

Segment Score: +1

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Segment 3: Austin Aries vs. Jeff Hardy

Positives: The workrate and spots in this match blew anything WWE is willing to present on live TV out of the water. Aries and Hardy are the perfect sizes and speed to wrestle each other, and each works a style that accentuates the other’s positives. It really felt like both men, who’ve been out of the main event mix lately, came to this match with a message for management.

Joe in Ultimate X? That is intriguing. Considering how cluelessly TNA has presented Joe over the last three years, putting him back in the X Division mix is something fresh that can help him reestablish himself as a next-level badass.

Negatives: This was a “pay per view main event quality match” (as Mike Tenay says about every match). The only problem: there was all of fifteen minutes of build for it. Steve Austin literally quit WWE over being promoted that way.

TNA is using Jeff Hardy to shine Austin Aries?! I know the guy is Teflon, but is that really the best use of one of wrestling’s most over stars?

That was a great finish, but you save that. One day, in a big match, Austin Aries will do his finisher off the second rope, and people will think, “Eh. I saw that before in a match on Impact.”

Segment Score: +1

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Segment 4: Jesse vs. ODB

Positives: Nobody got hurt.

Negatives: You read that right. Jesse from Big Brother vs. Knockouts Champion ODB. It’s all well and good to portray ODB as unafraid of even the most gassed-up guy, but there’s a reason WWE has a strict “no man on woman wrestling” policy, and it goes beyond P.R.

Lei’D Tapa feels like a character created by someone who once saw one match featuring Awesome Kong and thought they could “improve upon” the idea.

Segment Score: -1

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Segment 5: EGO Hall of Fame Ceremony

Positives: The “fake” video package retrospective EGO did for Roode was incredible. It felt like a producer had actually watched the pay per view hype packages for TNA from 2002 – 2007 and was parodying them en masse. Whoever wrote the voiceover also really captured the way Kaz and Daniels talk. In short, it was funny.

Kurt Angle vs. Bobby Roode at Bound For Glory is a great match-up, and it gives TNA a redo on the finish they gave this match two years ago, when Angle went over to the shock and dismay of anybody who’d actually watched Roode’s rise as a singles star.

Negatives: As Nick would say, you’re entering into a serious wrestling nerd conversation here:

This segment felt like it went on forever. In the days when 90% of big time wrestling shows occurred in front of live arena crowds with no camera taping for TV, it made sense for the heels to hijack the show and drone on and on and on. This poured the heat on them so that when the babyface came out to shut them up, the roof would blow off the building because people hated the heel so much for being boring and self-centered. However, this strategy just isn’t effective anymore because the vast majority of Impact’s viewers (read: everybody except the two or three thousand people in the building) have the option of either listening to heels drone on and on and on OR watching, say, a football game, or, say Big Bang Theory. Having the heels talk forever was an effective strategy to build a pop for the babyface back in the day, but now it just leads to people changing the channel.

I correctly predicted in my preview that there would be babyface homophobic jokes in this segment, but I miscalculated who would deliver them. Game recognizes game, Kurt, you drunken, homophobic rogue.

Segment Score: +0

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Segment 6: Velvet Sky vs. Brooke [Tessmacher]

Positives: Chris Sabin has a future as a manager, if he ever wants to do it. His bit covering Velvet’s more curvaceous parts so they audience couldn’t gawk at them was hilarious, and it got really good heat.

Considering the principals, this match was a lot less terrible than it could have been. There were a lot of bells and whistles to make it work (Sabin at ringside, Velvet’s taped ribs, etc.), but this match actually managed to tell some kind of story — not a great one or anything, mind you.

Negatives: As the match started, my long-suffering fiance said, “Wait, neither of them can wrestle!” Correct.

It seems wrestling can’t go a week without a terrible distraction finish, and this was one of those. Really? If a manager could get so engrossed in talking strategy that he couldn’t even manage a “Hey, look out behind you!” that would make him the worst manager of anything ever.

Here’s the second week in a row I’ll make this point: Velvet is a heel now, but TNA keeps booking her in babyface spots. The Knockouts division desperately needs another face, even if she’s just a jobber to bump for the heels. You can’t build around one babyface champion and three heels.

So, Tessmacher is in a match at Bound For Glory now? Well, I guess it’s marginally better than Snooki at Wrestlemania. Marginally.

Segment Score: -1

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Segment 7: Bad Influence vs. Magnus & Sting

Positives: This was a solid ten-minute wrestling match. Three of the four wrestlers in the ring were really good workers, and the fourth is a legend with star appeal.

Over the last few months during his Main Event Mafia run, Magnus has gotten really good at pouring on the sympathy during the sell and building the hot tag.

TNA resisted the urge to create disharmony between Magnus and Sting. As much as it bucks conventional wisdom (including that often espoused by me), a face-face match at BFG makes the most sense as a way for Sting to help elevate Magnus.

Sting was actually involved in a crisply-executed, well-timed finishing sequence. Score one for the home team.

Negatives: Magnus did a great job selling in this match, but if he’s being built as the next big babyface star, is it really time to sell? TNA is walking a fine line between elevating Magnus and making him seem like the guy who gets his ass kicked all the time.

Segment Score: +1

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Segment 8: Knux & Bisch [seriously, that’s what they were calling him] vs. A.J. Styles

Positives: I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate, hate handicap matches… but this one really worked! A.J. cleanly beat two lackeys in a way that looked like it put the fear of God in the heel champ.

The beatdown at the end helped illustrate that Ray is going to put A.J. through hell to get the World Heavyweight Title, but the match before portrayed A.J. as a guy ready, willing, and able to walk through hell. This is the formula that works!

Negatives: I hope Garret Bischoff got a strong talking to when he got through the curtain. He was just awful in this match, and you could see the frustration on A.J.’s face as he picked him up off the mat multiple times. Knux is such a solid (if unspectacular) hand that you actively feel bad for him having to share his time in the ring with “Bisch.”

Segment Score: +1

NET +/- SCORE FOR TNA IMPACT WRESTLING 10/10: +2