Thursday Sports Entertainment News Report 10.24.13: Stealing From The Best
Posted by Sean Kelly on 10.24.2013
News and thoughts on CM Punk's rumored attitude issues, The Shield's admitted lack of direction, Triple H's controversial RAW promo, Jim Ross' thoughts on the limits of comedic wrestling gimmicks and more!
Greetings, folks, and welcome to another edition of Thursday Sports Entertainment!
I had no intention of doing another column this week. But then I started thinking about last week's discussion on wrestling characters and I came upon something I had to share. That will come later in the column, though.
It warms my cold, shriveled heart to know that many of you missed me. I missed you too. Believe it or not, a quick "nice column, bud" goes a long way to bolster the mood of hacks like me that put our brain droppings out there for you to read.
It also comes as no surprise that many of you are interested in knowing the thoughts of one Awesome Ladybug Girl. She hasn't been watching much wrestling since she discovered Monster High, although she does occasionally ask about it. I'll have to carve out a few hours in the schedule to watch some good old sports entertainment with my soon to be SEVEN year old. My, how time flies.
Enough about me, onto what can only loosely be described as news!
WORLD (WRESTLING ENTERTAINMENT) NEWS TONIGHT
Dean Ambrose spoke about the Shield in a recent interview. Here are the highlights…
On The Origins of the Shield: "No one really came up with The Shield. It's an organic thing," Ambrose said. "We've never said, ‘This is what The Shield is going to be.' We just go out and let things flow. We do a lot of stuff off the cuff. We are unpredictable, and that's what makes us so dangerous."
So…they never planned out The Shield. Uh, ya think? Mr. Ambrose's statement confirms what I was saying last week about the group. They debuted as "the hounds of justice" but never really defined what justice was. Then they were revealed to be under the employ of Paul Heyman to preserve CM Punk's championship reign - so then they became thugs for hire. They promptly went back to being the hounds of vague-justice only to revert back to being hired muscle. Okay, then.
I'm all for flexibility in a person's or group's storyline, but there has to be some sort of framework in place to be flexible against. Taking three awesome talents and throwing them out there with no direction is the worst kind of plan there is. So, Dean Ambrose, you're telling me that WWE's official strategy is to hope that you fall ass backwards into something of quality? Wow, that place is even more messed up than I thought.
At the end of RAW last night, Triple H ran Daniel Bryan down again, saying that he is not worthy of being "The Face of WWE". There are some backstage who think that HHH was burying Bryan as a performer instead of slamming him in a more obvious villainous way that would see Bryan getting revenge later.
I had mixed feelings when HHH cut that promo when he derided Bryan, Jericho, Edge, etc. for never being "the guy." It actually made me think of CM Punk's promo on The Game when he rightly said that HHH was frustrated because Punk was now "the guy" but Hunter never was.
Here's my unsolicited opinion on all this. If the storyline concludes with Bryan proving Triple H wrong and having a respectable reign as WWE champion, then it's not such a big deal. However, if they pull out the rug from under the Flying Goat (TM JBL) then Triple H was burying Bryan with that promo. But no matter what happens, Triple H needlessly insulted some of the greatest performers WWE has had in the last 10 years.
But here's the thing - Triple H is right. Jericho, RVD, Edge and company never were "the guy." They were very popular and have had respectable, lengthy careers, but they were never the A+ players that Stephanie McMahon is always going on about. Guys like Austin, Rock, Undertaker and HBK were "the guy." The rest were sideshow attractions. Harsh, but true.
What's ironic is that Triple H was never "the guy" either. To be one of the top people, you need two things: a sustained push from the company and the adoration of the crowd. Triple bonus points if you can cross over into mainstream pop culture. You can't deny that the aforementioned Superstars (Austin, Rock, Taker & HBK) meet these criteria. However, Triple H does not. Yes, he had an A+++ push from WWE, but he never connected with the audience like the others did. It's an easy argument that Mick Foley was more of "the guy" than Triple H ever was. Think about it. Foley could hold the crowd in the palm of his hand back in his heyday. He starred in Chef Boyardee commercials and was a #1 New York Times Bestseller. His Hell in the Cell match is the stuff of legend. Hunter can't compete with that.
The funniest thing of all is that I believe Triple H thinks he was the guy. He really, honestly does. I don' t think he's deluded enough to think he was bigger than Stone Cold or The Most Electrifying Man in Sports & Entertainment, but you can be sure he thinks he's in the same conversation as them. When Triple H inserts himself into the moneymaking storylines, I don't see it as him trying to leech popularity or "heat" from another performer. I honestly think he believes he's helping the other guy by giving him the privilege of squaring off against HHH. If the program is successful, then The Cerebral Assassin is the altruistic guy who wants to help the business. If the feud doesn't work, well Hunter can't be blamed if the other guy couldn't keep up his end.
Jim Ross On Comedy in Wrestling: "On a different tangent, and just my two cents, another kiss of death in the pro wrestling business is to drape the comedic cloth over a talent and allow him/her to wrap themselves in "humorous attire" so to speak. When did a comedy act ever headline a major event ala WrestleMania? Comedy acts screams 'prelims' and TV show 'filler.' Organic comedy is a completely different animal but attempting to write comedy and then have an untrained actor/comedian pull it off without the audience rolling their eyes is challenging....at best."
I disagree. While I agree that being purely a comedic wrestler probably won't result in main event matches, it can serve as a launching pad for someone with the skills to pivot to being a serious competitor. Guys like Mick Foley (Mr. Socko), Kurt Angle (The three I's, abstinence), and Daniel Bryan (anger management) all shot to the stratosphere of the main event while strapped to the comedy rocket. Currently, I don't think Zack Ryder or Santino Marella could carry a WWE title match, but with the right booking, anything is possible.
Konnan said that some people in WWE think Punk has a "huge head" and Punk used to "hate" John Cena for similar behavior.
He added: "To me, it's like, alright, you waited all this time to become a big star, and all those guys that had a big head, that you hated, like Cena. And now you have a big head. You need to bring your s**t down back to ground. I was told by my source in WWE that CM Punk has a big head and he's conceited."
I could see it. Punk has always had a chip on his shoulder and that probably gets amplified when he's under the main event microscope. It's like anything else in life, when you're campaigning for the top spot you can complain about all the problems with the top guy, but once you get that spot, things are different. Look at Barack Obama. Putting all my political feelings aside, I can safely say that he campaigned against Gitmo, government surveillance and raising the debt ceiling. Now that he's in office and better understands the complexity of the Presidency, he's keeping Gitmo open, expanding surveillance and repeatedly raising the debt ceiling. The same thing goes for Punk - once he got into the top spot, he realized the pressures and responsibilities that accompany the position and is changing his views. It's understandable.
Okay, I'm running late. Enough with the news.
STEAL FROM THE BEST
Last week we delved into the unimpressive state of wrestling characters, but I'm the kind of guy who doesn't like to just point out problems. No siree. I'm the kinda guy that likes to offer solutions. So this week, I'd like to offer WWE some suggestions on how they can improve their product by ripping off some of the greatest characters of all time.
There's an old expression when it comes to imitation - "if you're gonna steal from someone, steal from the best." Why set your copycat standards low when you can aim for the ripoff stars? After all, pro wrestling has been ripping off pop culture for decades, and why not continue with this grand tradition? Here are some notable examples:
-The Road Warriors were straight out of the move "The Road Warrior"
-Honkey Tonk Man is as close to Elvis Presley as a wrestler can get
-Sting's look and character are derived from The Crow
-Razor Ramon was Scott Hall's take on the Scarface character Tony Montana
-And who can forget loveable goofball Pirate Paul Burchill aka Captain Jack Sparrow?
Of course, there are many others. So I got to thinking - why not have current underdeveloped WWE Superstars emulate some of the greatest characters that entertainment has to offer? To be clear, I am not suggesting that these become people's gimmicks. With one exception, this list is focusing on character traits rather than gimmicks. And so to that end I came up with a list of the Top 10 Characters that Wrestling can rip off!
10. Ron Burgandy from Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy
Ah, Ron Burgandy. The overconfident buffoon. The sayer of many an improvised side-splitter. The mustachioed moron. What a great character to emulate. It would take a certain kind of wrestler to pull this role off. He would need tremendous improv skills, impeccable comedic timing and the overconfident swagger of a McMahon. If done correctly, this guy would be inventing ridiculous catchphrases every week and would be rolling in the subsequent merchandising dough. Since this is primarily a comedy act, the Superstar playing this character would likely be a midcard mainstay, as comedy acts tend not to rise to the main event unless there's a big change in character. But still, wouldn't you want to watch some glorious buffoonery for a few minutes every week? I know I would.
9. David Brent from The Office
Sticking with the comedic roles, we have David Brent from the original Office series. This character would be totally oblivious to how annoying and lame he comes across to everyone else. He'd constantly be looking at the camera with a bit of a wink and a nod. In his mind, he's a future world champion but in reality he'd be the single most inept and irritating member of the roster. Much like the Ron Burgandy character, the Superstar embodying David Brent would need solid comic skills to pull it off successfully.
8. Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory
I put Sheldon Cooper on here not as a scientific genius, but as someone suffering from OCD, asperger's syndrome, whatever it is that makes him Sheldon. Someone who is so particular about everyday things to the point of driving everyone else crazy. Maybe the wrestler has to start the match in a particular spot. Or he has to tap the turnbuckle three times before he can tag in. The possibilities are endless. The person playing this character would spend a lot of his time coming up with new intricate rituals for his character to perform. He'd be the annoying babyface you have to root for because he just can't help how he acts. He'd have no social skills whatsoever and would constantly, and hilariously, struggle to establish relationships with the other wrestlers.
7. Sherlock Holmes/Dr. Gregory House from Sherlock / House M.D.
I lumped these two together because they are essentially the same character, as Dr. House was based on Holmes (in fact, his name is House because it's a reference to "homes," which sounds like "Holmes"). Anywho, what defines these two characters is that they are geniuses. They can solve any mystery because they notice things most people don't. Their superior observational skills and deductive reasoning make them formidable detectives. Now imagine if a wrestler had such abilities. Perhaps he notices "tells" before his opponents deliver certain moves. Or he's able to detect deception before anyone else. And let's not forget the personality traits that accompany such genius. This isn't the overblown heel caricature "I'm superior because I'm smarter" routine that Damien Sandow does every week. It's the frustrated, "why is this so difficult for you?" mentality that both Holmes and House enjoy.
6. Lisbeth Salander from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Remember earlier when I said there was one exception to my "no gimmick" rule? This is it. The only female character to grace the list is the punk hacker from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth Salander. First, let's explore the gimmick. In this modern age of high tech production values, social media, Wikileaks and Anonymous, it logically follows that WWE should have a hacker on their roster. There were actually shades of this on RAW, where the Big Show was somehow able to broadcast onto the Titantron from a remote location. Now imagine if a young girl were able to cause all kinds of cyber ruckus. She could send out (kayfabe) tweets from Vince McMahon's Twitter account. Or hack into the audio feed over Cole & King and provide her own snarky commentary to a match. Or make all the T-shirts on ShopZone $1.99. Anything that involves technology is open to attack.
Now let's focus on the character. WWE's Divas are mostly cookie cutter happy babyfaces or mean heels. Their looks are the generic, dime-a-dozen model type you can find on any street corner in L.A. Harsh? Maybe. But true? Absolutely. As for their personalities, nearly all of them are interchangeable. This is where Salander comes in. I think it would behoove WWE to have a strong, no-nonsense yet damaged female on their roster. One with piercings and crazy hair. A loner. There's a whole subculture of people that would identify with this character. Give her the hacking gimmick and you've got one of the most unique Divas out there today.
5. Tony Soprano from The Sopranos
They could have a lot of fun with this one. Tony Soprano was a walking contradiction. He was the head of a ruthless crime family yet had severe mommy issues. He was responsible for several brutal killings yet had panic attacks. Tony was supposed to embody an old school alpha male but had to see a tiny, female therapist. Now imagine if a wrestler had this persona. Take a muscle head like Ryback. What if this monstrous guy had panic attacks? Perhaps he suffers guilt from all the pain he inflicts on people. Maybe he can attend therapy in a series of webisodes, much like Team Hell No had to undergo anger management treatment. Take the expected cliché and turn it on its head. It'd certainly be different.
4. Rush Limbaugh/Bill Mahr from Moronic Political Shows
The only two real-life people on the list, although one could easily argue that they are playing amped-up caricatures of themselves on the air. I always thought a fringe political character would work well. The closest they have is Jack Swagger, but he doesn't have the chops to pull it off (although Zeb Colter in his prime probably could). Someone who is so diehard left wing that he's a babyface in blue states and a heel in red states, or vice versa with a right winger. This performer would take the issues of the day and use them to praise or criticize whatever town he's in, depending on their red/blue state affiliation. We all know that person in our lives who's super political to the point of being obnoxious, and this would be that guy.
3. The Joker from The Dark Knight
I know what you're thinking. "But Sting tried this already and it didn't work." No he didn't. Sting's smeary makeup job may have looked like Heath Ledger's portrayal of the killer clown, but Mr. Borden's act was less Heath Ledger and more Ceasar Romero. I'm not talking about the wacky, slapstick Joker - I'm talking about the twisted agent of chaos who wants to watch the world burn. He doesn't make dastardly plans, he rails against the world and wants to take down as many people as possible in his epic quest for self-destruction. There's nothing more dangerous than an unpredictable man with nothing to lose. This character would require supreme charisma from a master in subtlety.
2. Wolverine from X-Men
The grizzled loner. Someone with a dark, mysterious past. A man who barely suppresses his animalistic rage but still has love in his heart. An old school tough guy who's a capital "M" Man. I think the closest we've come to this type of character in recent years is the Undertaker. While his primary gimmick has been all the macabre, undead stuff, underneath all the pyro and smoke we all know there's a badass that commands respect. This type of character resonates across all genres , whether it be Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name or Marvel Comics' Wolverine, people are drawn to dangerous, enigmatic, no-nonsense badasses. And I think WWE sorely needs this type of character.
1. Walter White from Breaking Bad
Yep. To me, the most fascinating character in pop culture history is the chemistry teacher turned meth cooker turned kingpin. Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan pitched the show as "Mr. Chips becomes Scarface" and the trip was a fascinating, surprising and shocking journey from hero to ultimate villain. I think that it's possible for WWE to construct a similar long term storyline for one of their top babyfaces. Imagine taking a smiling, (relatively) weak babyface like Kofi Kingston and sloooooowly turning him into one of the most feared men in professional wrestling. The brilliance of the Walter White character is that he wasn't the toughest, strongest, or even smartest person on the series. Walter White's strength was that he was the most manipulative SOB in the Southwest. He was someone that used his opponents' weaknesses against them when his back was against the wall. I would love to see WWE take this formula and apply it to their crazy sideshow. Who's with me?
So, did I miss anybody? What pop culture icons should WWE steal from?
YOU'RE IN FOR A REAL TWEET
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Thank you for making Thursday Sports Entertainment your go-to destination for Wrestling News, Opinions, etc. Let me know your thoughts on which characters should be copied for our sports entertainment enjoyment. I probably won't be back for a while, so as the great Steve Austin says, "I'll catch yer ass down the road."