Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nat Geo Slammed is a Hit

(This post was originally published on The Wrestling Blog.)

National Geographic aired Slammed: Inside Indie Wrestling last night. Being that it was Wednesday and no other wrestling action was on, I felt it was my solemn duty to watch. I was curious how Nat Geo would handle the subject of indie wrestling. Would the fans be depicted as ignorant rednecks and the wrestlers shown as Neanderthals? Would it even show the promoters’ perspective – a view not seen in many shows or even in the movie The Wrestler?

I have never wrestled, nor have I ever put together a show, nor have I promoted one. Despite that, I know quite a bit about indie wrestling, especially the Florida scene. I have been backstage throughout events at several different promotions and even tried to put together a documentary on former ECW manager Bill Alfonso (long story, maybe one day I’ll write about it).

That said, within the first five minutes, I loved Slammed.

The show starts with an indie fed having trouble with talent showing up on time. Promoter Dapper Johnny Falco of National Wrestling Superstars is on the phone with wrestler Danny Gimondo (aka Danny Inferno). Inferno claims to be lost and that he “found the directions on the website”. Falco then asks another behind-the-scenes guy if the directions were on the website. I did social media for All-Stars Wrestling of Florida, a small indy fed in the Tampa area, for six months, so of course I was curious about the NWS website and their web presence. Like most indie feds, it is poor, very, very poor.

Here is their website (which still wishes people a “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”) and here is their Facebook, which doesn’t have any videos of their matches, announcements of new shows or any pictures from their profile. In this day and age, that’s pathetic. The fact that the promoter doesn’t know what’s on the site said everything I need to know right from the start. Why promoters don’t hire local college kids to do their site or run their social media is beyond me. Newsflash: it would look great on a resume. It’s an unpaid internship where you get to be as creative as you want.

But I digress…

After introducing Danny Inferno at NWS, Slammed weaves the story of the wrestler, his quest to re-join the high ranks of wrestling celebrity, the continued story of NWS and their continued attempt to break even – which I now I know is an almost impossible quest for indies nationwide. All this time, I thought not drawing was just a Florida thing.

Along with Danny Inferno – who we learn was once in the WWE developmental – we are also given the story of Michael Paris (aka Shiima Xion/Zema Ion). Both of these wrestlers, one young and exciting, the other the old grizzled stocky veteran, are trying to make the Ring of Honor roster in an attempt to make living wrestling. Slammed shows both men at their home, in training, and then at the RoH tryout, where they are watched by none other than Jim Cornette and wrestling internet community superstar David Lagana.

Meanwhile at NWS, Nat Geo captures an often heard but rarely seen battle of egos between wrestler and promoter as a 150-lb. grappler named JD Smooth is forced to take on two Kamala-looking monsters. Of course, the diminutive hero doesn’t want to be squashed, but the promoter gives him no choice, leaving him with the eternal command of promoters everywhere: “Entertain me.”

After the NWS show, we hear the promoter again lamenting the poor turnouts of his fed. Unfortunately, that’s the catch-22 most indy promotions find themselves in – they don’t draw without a big name and big names cost money, meaning more fans need to show up. Fail to get the required attendance once and you’ll spend months climbing a mountain, wishing the next show will help you finally break even.

Slammed ends with the ROH try outs of Danny Inferno and Michael Paris. Both go well, as we hear Jim Cornette talk highly about both wrestlers. Unfortunately, however, Slammed does not give us a epilogue and tell us that Paris is now Zema Ion of Impact fame and Inferno is still wrestling for NWS (although he is on Twitter and his following is growing).

Overall, I thought Slammed did a great job of showing the independent wrestling scene. Although it was only an hour, it showed that there is much more to pro wrestling than the WWE/Impact and that wrestlers don’t fall out of the sky blessed with the ability to bodyslam. If you are reading this blog, odds are you know pro wrestling is hard work and making it in the business takes determination, luck, and a little bit of crazy. Kudos to National Geographic for shining a light on this seldom seen sliver of sports entertainment.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Ode to Roommates by Dean Rice

Back in June, I wrote about some of my favorite wall posters. After I posted this, my old college roommate commented that I forgot one very important piece we hung in our apartment.

Although back in the day we did not know the author of this great essay on roommates, I found it was a writer named Dean Rice on a satirical website called Effenheimer.com. Sadly, that site has since closed although the essay is posted on Everything2. Because it was so important to us, I figured I would re-post the essay here for prosperity. Everything below is Rice's work. If he ever finds this, I hope he doesn't mind.


by Dean Rice

I swear to god, every time I go home, my roommate has touched my shit.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not all about possessions, but it would be nice if the guy would have the goddamn common courtesy to get my con permiso, if you know what I mean.

I didn't spend three years in the Navy with no privacy sleeping four guys to a bunk so I could go to college and have my stuff fucked with by some sickly, pale looking socialist from Shaker Heights, I tell you what.

For example, I don't know if you are picky about this shit, but when I watch a porno, I want the god damn thing left where I stopped the tape, am I wrong?

There is nothing more frustrating than coming home from a night at the bar, finding no one home and your favorite spank tape has been forwarded to some part where they're just talking about how "these car repairs are gonna cost more than I thought" and shit. You've got precious few minutes to yourself when you share a dorm room and when you need a good whack, the last thing you need to be doing is scanning for the next doggy style when you left it cued up to the best one. Is this just me? Am I on the wrong track? Am I crazy? What country is this anyway?

Another thing I can't fucking stand is when the guy leaves his fucking water bottle in MY dorm fridge. There ain't hardly enough room in there for my sixer of Bud Ice and a chicken pot pie or two for when I come home from the bar and want a salty snack.

Get a drink out of the goddamn fountain you yuppie prick! Comes right out of the fountain colder'n shit. You telling me you need to keep water in my fridge 24-hours a day just in case you need a sip of cold H2O you fucking gel-haired puss?

I was in the Navy for four years before I came to school and I never needed ice-cold water and I WORKED for a living defending my country from barnacles and waxy build-up, you pussy college boy.

I came home from the bar one night and grabbed a potpie and the damn thing was mushy. I thought, "Oh, fuck, my fucking fridge is fucking fucked up!"

Then I checked and the fucking thing was turned down to "6." I clearly remember setting it on "7" when I got the damn thing specifically to freeze my potpies and snickers. I never turned it down. So I asked my roommate what the fuck he thought happened... he tells me he had ice in his water so he turned the temp on my fridge down.


So I told him all calm and rational that if he had ice in his bottled water, he might try letting it sit out on his fucking desk like a normal human fucking being! Then I told him he owed me 63 cents for the fucked up pie. It was only 49 cents, but I figured what the fuck, I might as well get him to pay me for a good one.

And he uses my hand towel. That's just not hygienic and I should know since I was in the Navy for three years with some of the most unhygienic specimens of humanity before they kicked me out for smoking weed on the flight deck.

I tell you, the next time that scrawny wussy boy jacks around with anything of mine, I'm gonna beat him like a bitch and throw his ass out in the hall.

Am I wrong? Am I over-reacting? Has the train left the station without any passengers?

Does John Denver shit in the woods? This is America, right? This isn't communist Russia?

I didn't get on the wrong bus back in Appleton and end up in Canada with the lumberjacks, did I?

I didn't fucking think so!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hunting versus Sniping

I was talking to a friend of mine the other night and the subject of hunting came up. I am not a hunter, nor have I ever hunted. I am not against hunting per se, but I do have a little problem with what most people call "hunting".

From what I know of hunting, most people sit in "deer stands" and other strategic positions and wait for their prey to mosey across their path. That's not hunting.

That's sniping.

There is no sport to waiting for your target to pass before blowing their brains out.

Hunting should be sporty. There should be a certain chance the prey could live. Hunters should have to track down their prey like the old Indian trackers of yesteryear. I'd like to see hunters have to pass a certain block of tests before donning their camo and rocking their rifles.

They should have to do at least some of the following:

- They should be able to identify animals by their feces.

- They should be able to hear the ground and tell when an animal - any animal - is within 100 yards.

- They should be able to differentiate between the tracks of the male and female species of the animals in which they want to hunt.

- They should be able to walk for 5 miles. If golfers can walk, so can hunters. As a matter of fact, the only activity with less activity than some hunting is fishing, which is basically aquatic sniping.

- They should be able to identify which type of weapon is most effective to kill an certain type of animal.

Or if they do want to stay in one place and snipe their prey, they shouldn't be able to shoot anything until they are in their position for at least five days. They should have to lay in the mud and wallow in their own waste.

They should have to have to prove they really want that turkey.

Also in the same conversation with the same friend, he told me there are people who purposefully hunt bear with a pistol. And then they complain they had to shoot the bear repeatedly before it dies or they brag about how they outran a pissed off bear with a bullet hole.


Kinda like John Candy's "Bald Ass Bear" in "The Great Outdoors".

There is no point for that.

Either pick the weapon you need or leave the damn bear alone.

Personally, if I was hunting bear, I would use something automatic or a rocket launcher. And if I missed, I'd call in an air strike.

Perhaps even a napalm strike like in "We Were Soldiers". I'd burn Smokey and the rest of the bears before I let one bear chase me.

Maybe that's why I don't hunt. Not only am I unwilling to smell turkey poop, but I don't have any napalm.

You know, maybe that's why I usually don't have good mornings.

CM Punk, Social Media, and WWE's New Nightmare Era

(This post was originally published on The Wrestling Blog.)

Before he created the highly successful Scream franchise, horror director extraordinaire Wes Craven was at the helm for New Nightmare. It was his final foray in the Nightmare on Elm Street canon and the last original movie in which Freddy Krueger is the lead antagonist. Although well-acclaimed according to Wikipedia, Craven’s New Nightmare grossed less than any of the previous six films which include movies where Freddy is resurrected by dog piss or uses a Nintendo power glove to kill a young teen.

Despite its mediocre take, New Nightmare broke ground in a very unique way. Although not as refined in its introspection as Scream, New Nightmare was the first film to break the esteemed “fourth wall” and claim a sense of reality in the movie. To use a Star Wars reference, New Nightmare is to Scream what Episode III’s General Grevious is to Darth Vader - an effective yet imperfect prototype.

In the movie, Robert Englund, Heather Langenkamp, John Saxon, and the rest of the cast play themselves as director Wes Craven is “writing” the latest and final chapter in the Nightmare saga. As Craven writes, the actors find themselves dragged back into the world of Elm Street to face a darker, more evil, more realistic Freddy than had ever graced the screen. Until the final scenes, where Langenkamp – then effectively the Nancy character from the series – takes on Freddy in a furnace room, the line between reality and Hollywood fantasy is effectively blurred. The offices of New Line Cinema are as much part of the New Nightmare movie as nightmarish fantasies of the previous Elm Street films.

Recently, the screenwriters at the WWE have torn a page from the Craven handbook. Through one-time indie wrestling star CM Punk and the use of social media, the WWE has created a storyline that has brought reality to pro wrestling and pro wrestling to reality in a way that is both unique and unprecedented.

Back in June, CM Punk made a speech that knocked the wrestling community on its head. Prior to this year’s “Money in the Bank” pay-per-view, he made a speech that called out all the flaws of the WWE, from bad booking and signings to political hob-nobbing. It was as if Punk was reading directing from the “dirt sheets” and other pro wrestling bulletin boards, blogs, and social media outlets. Disguised as Punk “lashing out at the company he hates” before his “contract ran out”, the promo was perhaps the realest staged event in WWE history. Punk was no longer frolicking in fantasy, he was clearly gallivanting in reality as addressed items the WWE had clearly tried to ignore for years.

Following “Money in the Bank”, Punk continued to slide into our reality through the use of social media. His famous tweet of the WWE belt in his refrigerator, while meant to be a slap in the face to the WWE powers that be in their fantasy world, had a much larger albeit more subtle meaning. By putting the belt in his fridge, Punk took the title as far away from the fantasy world of TV as possible. We all have refrigerators; they are as normal as ovens or kitchen sinks. The belt was no longer in a wrestling ring guarded by behemoths of the squared circle. It was sitting next to Punk’s leftovers and protein shakes.

Punk’s use of Twitter was only the latest of a remarkable run of social media usage by company. In the past year, the WWE and their personalities have been praised in multiple publications for using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media forums as a way to continue the discussion of and with the WWE Universe. Their use of the mediums have pushed their stories and fantasies beyond Monday Night RAW and Smackdown and turned them into 24/7 dramas. Kayfabe has become perpetual.

The WWE’s use of social media to push their stars was gradual, but once the company realized the potential, they jumped on the mediums in full force. Not to be underestimated, of course, is the rise in popularity of “Long Island Ice Z” Zack Ryder. Whether through the inventiveness of Ryder or the WWE social media team, Ryder, a one-time marginal character, became an Internet phenomenon through the release of Youtube shorts and influential tweets.

As Ryder became a cult classic for the Internet Wrestling Community, other wrestling superstars were taking more conventional routes to social media stardom. Some used Twitter to communicate fueds, others to promote their products, and others to push motivational catch phrases to fans. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, for example, signed with social media maven Amy Martin’s Digital Royalty, a brand that specializes in big-time sports personalities.

As a quick aside, one of the more interesting parts of Punk’s famous promo was his mention of The Rock, who Punk deliberately addresses as “Dwayne”. Through his third/first person addressing styles, The Rock was perhaps the first wrestler to easily switch from his fantasy persona to his real persona and have the crowd understand which was which, sometimes even during the same promo.

But the biggest WWE social media coup de grace didn’t even occur in a WWE ring. It occurred when CM Punk showing up in an indie show in Illinois. This wasn’t Ric Flair wining and dining and limousine riding, this was a WWE Champion hobnobbing with the common wrestling fan and the common indie wrestler in a common forum on a common street in a common town. Punk might have been at All-American Wrestling in Chicago, but he might as well have been in CZW in Philadelphia or wXw in Minneola, Florida. For the wrestling diehard, to see him in an independent ring meant instant credibility. It meant he took their love seriously. Although he was perhaps thousands of miles away, Punk had come to see them.

CM Punk’s visit was also as unscripted and un-kayfabe as possible. It was only possible because he was so real. He was a populist, anti-establishment, anti-corporate, anti-fabricated anti-hero. He was even more rebellious than "Stone Cold: Steve Austin, a man who frequently flicked off Vince McMahon, drank beer and swore like a sailor. Compared to Punk, who had the WWE by the balls by holding the championship and doing things WWE superstars were not usually allowed to do – like visit indie shows – Austin was as manufactured as Hulk Hogan.

Hulk Hogan could never have visited an indie show. Although he might have started out in relative obscurity in Japan and the early days of WWWF, at the height of his popularity, Hulk Hogan was a cartoon, as fictional as Bugs Bunny and as unrealistic as Pee-Wee Herman. The rest of Hogan’s ilk, especially those of the Rock n’ Wrestling Era, were just as comical. Were we really supposed to believe Junkyard Dog lived in a junkyard and that Nikolai Volkoff was friends with Mikhail Gorbechov?

And can you imagine the Rock n’ Wrestling Connection on Twitter? Would they have tweeted their adventures on the Saturday morning cartoons? In this era of truth and upfrontness, the WWE’s character gimmicks would not have been able to capture the attention of the masses. They would have been dismissed as a gimmicky joke.

Although the masses would have put aside unrealism in the case of Junkyard Dog or Nikolai Volkoff (see the retweeted random “musings” of The Iron Shiek”), Hulk Hogan has become a completely different story. As the years progressed, the once cartoonish He-Man was dragged into reality. He became Langenkamp’s “Nancy”, but instead of fighting the Iron Shiek, Hulk was bearing the Hogan name in VH1 reality shows and hocking rental furniture on the side. And he was dragging his family along for the ride. They were no longer Bolleas, they were and will always be Hogans.

Through social media, CM Punk has been able to become the anti-Hogan and lead a revolution in realism. As Craven revolutionized horror with New Nightmare and even more so with Scream, moving it away from kitschy slasher sequels and over-used one-liners, the WWE has pulled away it’s curtain and used it to catch new fans and re-invigorate the interest of fans who might have fallen off the wagon.

For a business that specializes in fantasy, the CM Punk-Social Media-“Shoot-Reality” Era is a moment that will change the game forever.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ghosts from the isles and the Isles of Personality

Another night of talking about something neat I found online:

Over at a blog called Under the Saltire Flag, Kei Miller writes about the strange pattern of Caribbean ghosts. According to folk lore, in order to prevent many spooks in Trinidad, Jamaica, and Guyana from disrupting the sleep of grown-ups and children, you are supposed to leave out something for them to count, such as rice or even the words of the Bible.

Miller speculates that the ghosts suffer from OCD.

Then, over at CultureBy.com, anthropologist Grant McCracken discusses the idea of people segmenting their lives to fit different sections of their life. McCracken writes about writer Brit Marling, who went from an analyst at Goldman Sachs to writing, staring, and producing for a show called "Earth 2". Surely, she did not use the same skill set in both careers. As McCracken postulates, she had to transform and skip from one Earth to her own personal "Earth 2". I also like the term "isle of personality" to describe this phenomenon.

Sort of like I have done with "Jordi Scrubbings". My traits have to live on different isles. It would be cool to do a thing that would bring them all to bear, but if not, I will pick and choose the tools I need to be successful in the work place.

The goal overall is not to "be" my job. I'm personally trying to avoid falling into the life of The Wizard in the cinematic classic Taxi Driver.
Look at it this way. A man takes a job, you know? And that job - I mean, like that - That becomes what he is. You know, like - You do a thing and that's what you are. Like I've been a cabbie for thirteen years. Ten years at night. I still don't own my own cab. You know why? Because I don't want to. That must be what I want. To be on the night shift drivin' somebody else's cab. You understand? I mean, you become - You get a job, you become the job. One guy lives in Brooklyn. One guy lives in Sutton Place. You got a lawyer. Another guy's a doctor. Another guy dies. Another guy gets well. People are born, y'know? I envy you, your youth. Go on, get laid, get drunk. Do anything. You got no choice, anyway. I mean, we're all fucked. More or less, ya know.
So taxi drivers are going to drive or shoot pimps because it is who they are, ghosts are going to count rice because it's who they are, and I am going to be who I am. Although considering I need a job, I am flexible. But like Meatloaf, I won't do that.

Whatever the hell that was.