Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Happy Sant Jordi Day

In Catalonia, an area of Spain, they throw parades and celebrate a day in honor of Sant Jordi (Saint George). According to the almighty Wikipedia, the day is also known as El Dia del Libre, or The Day of the Book.

Wikipedia also states that "Historically, men gave women roses, and women gave men a book to celebrate the occasion—"a rose for love and a book forever." In modern times, the mutual exchange of books is also customary."

Conveniently, I have a book published. The Man Makes You Work: How the Rich and Powerful Hold Down Everyone has gotten great reviews on Amazon. I have also sold many in person. People like it.

It would make a great Sant Jordi Day gift.

Have a very enjoyable and happy Sant Jordi Day!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Review of The FCW Story on WWE Network

From 2008 to 2010, I frequently attended Florida Championship Wrestling events at the FCW Arena on Dale Mabry Boulevard in Tampa, Florida. Longtime readers of this website might remember my writings about FCW and the group of friends I hung out with there. As a wrestling fan, I enjoyed the fact that WWE trained the next generation of superstars five minutes from where I lived.

The closeness of FCW to my place meant that not only was the entertainment close, but so were the athletes. I would frequently see current WWE champion Drew McIntyre walking his then-girlfriend's dog in my complex. Other wrestlers and referees were commonly seen, whether they were at the local pizza place, the grocery store, the burrito restaurant, jogging, or getting their mail. To paraphrase the old Sesame Street song, FCW athletes were the people in my neighborhood.

So it was with great interest that I finally watched WWE's newest documentary, The FCW Story, on the WWE Network. The FCW Story described the rise and fall of FCW, from its very humble beginnings as a bar show in New Port Richey, Florida, to its disbandment after the creation of WWE's NXT brand. The documentary ran for approximately an hour and half and featured many interviews from current WWE superstars who trained at FCW, from Seth Rollins to the Bella Twins to the aforementioned Drew McIntyre.

There was a lot to like about The FCW Story. First and foremost, I liked that they talked with Steve Keirn, owner of Florida Championship Wrestling and Tampa wrestling legend. Keirn gave a rundown of the history of professional wrestling in Tampa, which is vitally important in understanding the local identity of FCW. What I did not realize was how much Keirn actually ran. FCW was basically an independent promotion using WWE talent. The organization itself was not owned by the WWE. That explains a lot about why FCW was run the way it was and why things happened the way they did.

After introducing Keirn, The FCW Story used first person interviews to tell how FCW operated before they secured the warehouse on Dale Mabry Blvd. FCW would run weekly shows at Bourbon Street, a sports bar in New Port Richey, nearly an hour north of Tampa. Bourbon Street was known for independent wrestling and the crowd there was lively and knowledgeable. The good crowd and the grassroots approachability of early FCW led to wrestlers and fans creating nascent friendships that many took with them to Tampa when the organization found a permanent home.

While I enjoyed The FCW Story, not mentioning the connection with the fans was a glaring omission in the documentary. WWE loves to taut the NXT fanbase, even showcasing a video in which Triple H visited fans at a local restaurant after a show. While Triple H discusses a "bonded community around NXT", there were plenty of fans who bonded over FCW. Steve Keirn knew us, the wrestlers knew us, and even the legendary Dusty Rhodes knew us.

(True story: one night after an FCW show, Dusty Rhodes pulled up near us in his pick-up and signaled for me to get closer. Recognizing who it was, I walked over. Dusty then personally thanked me for coming to the shows and supporting FCW. That is a wrestling story that will stay with me forever.)

The accessability of the talent is missing today with NXT. As a WWE product, NXT is highly controlled. Athletes are brought in, they perform, and they leave. NXT does not have the grassroots, independent vibe that FCW had.

One of the segments in the documentary I also really liked was the former FCW wrestlers talking about their do-it-yourself trials and tribulations. They discussed putting up flyers, posing for programs, and assembling and disassembling the ring whenever they traveled. Those experiences made them into who they are today, both physically and mentally.

It was powerful to hear the former FCW wrestlers talk about ring labor. I have seen other developmental wrestling promotions mandate ring construction to teach aspiring superstars that they are no better than the ring crew. The manual labor teaches the humbleness essential in the wrestling business.

(Quick aside: there was a really good article on Brock Lesnar on days before WrestleMania 36. In the article, former WWE trainer Danny Davis stated that Lesnar would build and breakdown the ring during his training days in Ohio Valley Wrestling. If Brock Lesnar is not too big to break down a ring, no one is.)

I wonder if humbleness is being lost in the huge stand-alone facility that is the WWE Performance Center. How are they teaching humbleness for the business when all the rings are permanent fixtures? What other menial jobs do they put trainees through?

There were a lot of other great parts in the FCW Story. The development of promos was very interesting, especially the evolution and development of Bray Wyatt. Although I was disappointed they did not interview him - perhaps due to the complexities of his current character, seeing Windham Rotundo evolve from Duke Rotundo, chubby tag partner of his brother, to Husky Harris to wild haired cult leader of the Wyatt Family was fantastic. That growth should be its own story eventually. While there have been many great athletes and champions, Bray Wyatt is easily the best character to come out of FCW.

Interestingly, Windham Rotundo is another FCW alumni I met and interacted with often. When he first joined FCW, he resembled other Florida independent wrestlers and I suggested he work with them, especially after FCW invaded Afa the Wild Samoan's wXw in 2009. Years later, Rotundo was sitting at a table next to mine at the Tampa Improv during a performance of comedian Bert Kreischer. Between acts, I chatted with Rotundo and congratulated him on his success. He remembered me at FCW for my big afro wig and chants. He is definitely a class act.

(Quick aside 2: The invasion angle was a story that was not told in The FCW Story, but really should have been. Or it should be its own mini-documentary. In August 2009, both FCW and wXw were running shows in Leesburg, Florida, population 23,000. wXw invaded FCW and a week later, FCW invaded wXw. Current WWE stars Tamina Snuka and Kona Reeves can be seen on the wXw side and Bray Wyatt, Byron Saxton, and others can be seen working for FCW. I was personally at the FCW invasion. The next week, I went to an FCW show wearing a wXw shirt. Dusty Rhodes himself told me I was wearing the wrong shirt.)

As a fan who was there for much of FCW's existence, I really enjoyed The FCW Story. It brought back great memories of a time when the greatest up-and-coming wrestling talent in the world trained in my backyard. Even though they are now global superstars, FCW made them my neighbors.

The FCW Story might mean more to me and my friends than to the average wrestling fan, but I still recommend it to anyone interested in the development of WWE stars. How WWE trains their performers now might be totally different, and FCW might never come back, but for me, the memories will last forever.

Here are a few of my blog posts on FCW:

So Long, From the Sunshine State - A Review of the Final FCW Event in Tampa

Snowman of the AfroSquad Writes about Wrestling

The AfroSquad and Florida Championship Wrestling

Wordly Lament

Eagerly I write words
Thousands, millions
Each word means nothing
to a newborn child
Who knows nothing
but love and hunger
Content and despair
The only essential emotions
Yet I write more words
As if they mean something

- Written on 2-20-2007

mage credits: nothing:

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Mad Bunny

Here is a poem I wrote in 2006.

Down he hops past Hickory Shop
The mad bunny on the run

Nobody try to stop him
The mad bunny has a gun

Why mad bunny? Why shoot up the shop?
The mad bunny kills for fun

Tougher than leather, sweeter than ham
The mad bunny on the lam

Away he hops to fields of carrot gold
The mad bunny has a plan

(To be continued ...)